We’re officially in the second half of the 2018 NFL season, and teams are on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.1 points per game. The action continues with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
With six teams on bye and six in prime-time games, we are without the following quarterbacks:
- Thursday Night Football: Raiders (Doug Martin, Jalen Richard) at 49ers (Matt Breida, Alfred Morris)
- Sunday Night Football: Packers (Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams) at Patriots (James White, Sony Michel)
- Monday Night Football: Titans (Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry) at Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott)
- Byes: Bengals (Joe Mixon), Colts (Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines), Giants (Saquon Barkley), Eagles (Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood), Cardinals (David Johnson), Jaguars (Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon)
For analysis on the smaller slates, consult Chris Raybon’s premium strategy guides (released throughout the week).
In writing this piece, I’ve relied primarily on the FantasyLabs Models. This breakdown is less of a comprehensive analysis of each running back and more of an introduction to this week’s players via our large suite of analytic DFS Tools. We’ll start with four high-priced running backs, follow with two rushers at the top of our individual Pro Models and finish with the rest of the slate’s fantasy-relevant backs.
For updates on spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
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Highest-Priced Running Backs
This week, four running backs have top-five positional salaries on DraftKings and FanDuel.
- Todd Gurley: $9,500 DraftKings; $11,200 FanDuel
- Melvin Gordon: $8,200 DraftKings; $8,600 FanDuel
- Kareem Hunt: $7,700 DraftKings; $8,500 FanDuel
- Alvin Kamara: $7,300 DraftKings; $8,000 FanDuel
Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams (-2) at New Orleans Saints, 60 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) isn’t listed on the injury report and is fully expected to play.
The undefeated Rams are entrenched as the No. 1 team in The Action Network’s NFL Power Rankings. They’ve hit their implied Vegas totals in an NFL-high 17-of-24 games under beard model and head coach Sean McVay since last season. They are significant +160 favorites to win the Super Bowl.
The Rams averaged a league-high 29.9 points per game last season, and this season they have improved to an average of 33.0. That will almost certainly regress, but this offense is as good as any unit in the league. The Rams lead all teams with their 30.5-point implied Vegas total.
In the McVay era, Gurley has easily been the best running back in football, leading the position with 28.7 DraftKings points per game, 3,244 yards and 34 touchdowns from scrimmage. Gurley has an 83.3% market share of snaps, and he’s the unquestioned alpha on the best team in the league. Barring an injury, he’s a mortal lock for 18-plus opportunities (rushes and targets), a threshold he’s hit in every game with McVay.
Last week, Gurley had ownership rates in excess of 20% in guaranteed prize pools, and he responded with his fourth consecutive game of 30-plus DraftKings points. We’re once again projecting him to be one of the slate’s most popular players, which makes sense: Gurley is the only back with at least 25.0 DraftKings points in every game this season.
Gurley led the league (in 15 games) with 37 opportunities inside the 10-yard line last season, and he’s on pace to shatter that mark in 2018. Through eight games, he has 30 carries and five targets inside the 10, and that doesn’t take into account his three successful two-point conversions. With his goal-line opportunities and scoring prowess, it’s not a surprise that Gurley leads all non-quarterbacks with his +200 odds to win the 2018 MVP award.
The Rams are playing their fourth road game in five weeks, which is certainly unfavorable, but it’s probably not a reason to downgrade Gurley. While most players tend to struggle on the road, Gurley has significant reverse home/away splits under McVay.
- Home (10 games): 24.2 DraftKings points, 75.3 yards and 0.8 touchdowns rushing, 50.8 yards and 0.3 touchdowns receiving on 4.1 receptions and 5.5 targets
- Away (12 games): 32.4 DraftKings points, 103.8 yards and 1.25 touchdowns rushing, 48.5 yards and 0.58 touchdowns receiving on 4.2 receptions and 5.5 targets
The sample isn’t large, but Gurley’s +11.83 DraftKings Plus/Minus as a visitor is outstanding. Plus, if a team has to be on the road, there’s pretty much no better place to play than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, otherwise known as the Coors Field of fantasy football. Unsurprisingly, the Saints-Rams matchup easily has the slate’s highest over/under.
On paper (or in spreadsheet), Gurley has a tough matchup against the Saints, who rank fifth with a Pro Football Focus (PFF) rush-defense grade of 84.4. For the season, the Saints have held opponent backfields to a bottom-four mark of 19.0 DraftKings points per game.
On top of that, the Rams will seemingly be incentivized to throw the ball: Not only will they need to score points to keep pace with the Saints’ offense, but defensively the Saints have a funnel unit that ranks second against the run with a -28.0% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA but 29th against the pass (29.8% DVOA).
But the matchup probably doesn’t matter for Gurley because of the focused way in which the Rams use him. Of all backs with 10-plus carries per game, Gurley has faced fronts of eight or more defenders on a league-low 9.47% of his runs (Next Gen Stats). When the box is loaded, the Rams audible to the pass. As a result, Gurley tends to get the ball in matchup-neutralizing situations. If a team is running primarily when it has advantageous fronts, the overall strength of the opposing run defense matters less.
Plus, Gurley is an integral part of the passing game, easily ranking top-eight among all backs with his 42 targets, 31 receptions, 351 yards receiving, 330 yards after the catch and four aerial touchdowns. As a receiver, Gurley’s in a great spot, as the Saints are 30th in pass defense against running backs (27.2% DVOA). The team’s two primary coverage linebackers, A.J. Klein and Demario Davis, have allowed a combined 84.4% completion rate in their coverage.
On Sunday morning, I might look to bet the over on Gurley’s rushing touchdown prop. In 23 games with McVay, Gurley has scored 24 touchdowns on the ground. To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 169-80-6, good for a 66% win rate.
Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
With his high usage, three-down ability and multi-touchdown upside, Gurley has position-high median, ceiling and floor projections in our Models and is first on DraftKings with his 10 Pro Trends.
Melvin Gordon: Los Angeles Chargers (+1) at Seattle Seahawks, 48 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Gordon (hamstring) is expected to play after practicing fully on Friday.
Gordon (hamstring) suffered a practice injury in Week 7 and was forced to miss the London game. Coming off a Week 8 bye, Gordon had a limited practice session on Wednesday and is questionable to play. Soft-tissue injuries can take significant time to heal, so we’ll want to see Gordon get in a full practice before feeling confident in him as a DFS option. Monitor Gordon’s situation as the week progresses.
When healthy, Gordon is always in play. As good as Gurley has been this season, MG3 has been the better of the two on a salary-adjusted basis (+10.25 Plus/Minus vs. +8.68). While Gurley is “only” tied for sixth fourth at the position with 0.63 fantasy points per opportunity in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring, Gordon is first with 0.74. With 30-plus DraftKings points in four of his six games this year, Gordon more than holds his own.
But this week he has a subpar matchup. Like Gurley, Gordon is something of a matchup-agnostic player — but it’s hard to roster an expensive back when he’s dealing with an injury and facing a tough opponent. The Seahawks’ defense is missing many of the marquee players who made the unit a feared force just a few years ago, but it has seemingly been rebuilt on the fly this season. The Seahawks are second overall in defensive DVOA (-12.9%) and sixth in run-defense DVOA (-13.7%). Every non-Gurley back they’ve faced they’ve held to fewer than 20 DraftKings points.
It’s not ideal for Gordon that the Chargers are road dogs and playing in Seattle, where the raucous fans provide the Seahawks with a true home-field advantage, but as a team the Chargers should be rested and ready coming out of the bye, and Gordon is a splits-agnostic player, scoring roughly the same number of fantasy points regardless of his home/road and favorite/dog status: He’s one of only three backs (along with Gurley and Le’Veon Bell) with 250-plus carries and 50-plus targets in each of the past two seasons.
The only issue with Gordon is the triangulation of his salary, health and matchup. If he reportedly returns to full health later in the week, and if perhaps multiple questionable Seahawks defenders — linebacker K.J. Wright (knee), defensive tackle Jarran Reed (hip), edge rusher Dion Jordan (knee) and strong safety Bradley McDougald (shoulder) — find themselves unable to play, the Gordon will be a much more desirable option.
Also on the Chargers:
- Austin Ekeler: $4,300 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
Starting in place of the scratched Gordon, Ekeler turned his 17 touches into only 68 scoreless yards in Week 7, but for the season he’s fifth among all backs with 0.64 PPR points per opportunity. While the second-year undrafted back is likely to regress in efficiency, he’s a viable fantasy contributor in every slate:
- College production: 7,072 yards and 63 touchdowns from scrimmage in 40 games
- Physical profile: 5-foot-9, 199 pounds with a 4.43-second 40 time and 6.85-second mark in the three cone
- NFL role: Latter-day Danny Woodhead
Ekeler has had at least six opportunities in 14 career games (including every game this year). He’s averaged 12.3 DraftKings points in those 14 games, and for the season he has a +4.44 Plus/Minus and 85.7% Consistency Rating. That makes Ekeler an attractive tournament play, especially as a contrarian differentiator in lineups with Gordon.
This year, even though they’ve both been productive, Gordon and Ekeler have been rostered together in a low percentage of Millionaire Maker lineups.
- Week 1 (vs. Chiefs): Gordon (14.71%) + Ekeler (0.07%) –> Together in 10 lineups (0.00%)
- Week 2 (at Bills): Gordon (19.21%) + Ekeler (3.20%) –> Together in 881 lineups (0.33%)
- Week 3 (at Rams): Gordon (6.54%) + Ekeler (3.58%) –> Together in 452 lineups (0.18%)
- Week 4 (vs. 49ers): Gordon (21.99%) + Ekeler (4.87%) –> Together in 2,798 lineups (0.59%)
- Week 5 (vs. Raiders): Gordon (27.60%) + Ekeler (5.14%) –> Together in 1,729 lineups (0.73%)
- Week 6 (at Browns): Gordon (15.94%) + Ekeler (2.63%) –> Together in 1,260 lineups (0.29%)
Gordon and Ekeler make for a high-upside, low-owned pairing. Most people will stay away from the MG3-Ekeler stack because of negative backfield correlations, but their inherent upside makes them viable together. This week they will likely have a shared ownership rate approaching 0.10%.
If Gordon is unable to play because of his injury, Ekeler will be a popular plug-and-play fill-in.
Kareem Hunt: Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5) at Cleveland Browns, 51.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Tyreek Hill (groin) isn’t listed on the injury report and is fully expected to play.
Long gone is the memory of Week 1, when Hunt had 49 scoreless yards on 16 carries and no receptions. For the season, Hunt is averaging 106.8 yards and 1.25 touchdowns on 16.8 carries, 3.4 targets and 2.9 receptions per game. Even with backups Austin Reiter and Andrew Wylie starting at center and right guard, Hunt’s a locked-in top-six fantasy back.
Although they suffered their first defeat against the spread last week, the Chiefs have dominated this season. On a per-game basis, they have…
- Outscored their implied total by 8.7 points (No. 1 in NFL)
- Exceeded their game total by 8.9 points (No. 2)
- Surpassed their spread by 8.6 points (No. 1)
The Chiefs lead the league in scoring at 36.3 points per game, and Hunt has been a prime beneficiary with 16-plus opportunities in every game this season.
And Hunt has a great matchup this week. Although the Browns are third in defensive DVOA (-11.7%) under coordinator and now interim head coach Gregg Williams, they rank 27th against the run (-0.1% DVOA) and have allowed a top-six mark of 30.5 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields. In their three games against backs of Hunt’s caliber, they’ve been destroyed.
- James Conner (Week 1): 38.2 DraftKings points, 31-135-2 rushing, 5-57-0 receiving on six targets
- Melvin Gordon (Week 6): 38.0 DraftKings points, 18-132-3 rushing, 2-18-0 receiving on four targets
- James Conner (Week 8): 41.2 DraftKings points, 24-146-2 rushing, 5-66-0 receiving on six targets
Additionally, the Browns could be without middle linebacker Joe Schobert (hamstring), who missed Weeks 7-8 and is yet to practice this week. An unheralded 2016 fourth-round draft pick of silent hero Sashi Brown, Schobert leads not just the team but also all NFL linebackers with his 91.2 PFF coverage grade. His absence is especially problematic since the team is also without backup middle linebacker James Burgess (hamstring, IR). Without Schobert locking down the middle of the field in coverage, the Chiefs could funnel receiving opportunities to Hunt, who has a 15-196-4 receiving line on 18 targets over the past three weeks.
With his three-down skill set, Hunt has a position-high 14 Pro Trends on FanDuel.
Alvin Kamara: New Orleans Saints (+2) vs. Los Angeles Rams, 60 O/U
The Rams are 25th against the run (-1.6% DVOA) and have played against primarily committees, but it’s notable that not one running back they’ve faced has scored even 17 DraftKings points against them. Kamara always has the potential to put up a big game, but with Mark Ingram taking touches, Kamara’s odds of having a big game are drastically diminished.
Last year, after Adrian Peterson was traded to the Cardinals, Kamara played 14 games with Ingram (including the playoffs). For the first four games of the 2018 season, Kamara had the backfield to himself, and then Ingram (suspension) returned in Week 5 to split the backfield once again. Kamara’s various opportunity and production splits are telling.
- Kamara without Ingram (2018, four games): 36.3 DraftKings points, 14 carries, 11.8 targets, 8.8 receptions, 152.8 yards and 1.5 touchdowns from scrimmage
- Kamara with Ingram (2018, three games): 16.3 DraftKings points, 12 carries, 4.7 targets, four receptions, 63.3 yards and one touchdown from scrimmage
- Kamara with Ingram (2017, 14 games): 20.7 DraftKings points, 8.8 carries, 5.7 targets, 4.6 receptions, 100.1 yards and 0.87 touchdowns from scrimmage
From the first month of the season to the second, Kamara’s per-game average plummeted exactly 20 DraftKings points. That’s horrendous, but it’s also understandable: With Ingram playing 31.3 snaps per game, Kamara saw two fewer carries and 7.1 fewer targets. In a split backfield, Kamara simply lacks the opportunities necessary to produce as he did in Weeks 1-4.
On top of that, his Ingram-based production this year has fallen short of his 2017 marks, and that has nothing to do with opportunity. Last year, Kamara averaged 14.5 opportunities per game in his backfield split with Ingram. This year, 16.7. Kamara is getting enough work. He’s just not as efficient with it as he once was. Last year, he led the league with his 6.1 yards per carry and trailed only Gurley among three-down backs with his 10.2 yards per reception. This year, those numbers (4.4, 8.4) are good but not great.
He has six carries, one target and three touchdowns within the 10-yard line over the past two weeks, so it’s possible that Kamara is starting to emerge as the unquestioned lead back in the committee, but he’s a hard player to trust for cash games.
In GPPs, though, he warrants strong consideration, especially since he’s playing in such a fantasy-friendly venue: The Superdome has an A-graded 57-40-2 over/under record with Drew Brees at quarterback, good for a 14.9% return on investment for over bettors since 2006, when Brees joined the Saints (per Bet Labs).
Also on the Saints:
- Mark Ingram: $5,000 DraftKings; $7,400 FanDuel
After opening his career with three middling seasons, Ingram has been the No. 12 fantasy running back since 2014 with his 16.6 DraftKings points, 14.5 carries, 3.9 targets, 3.2 receptions, 89.9 yards and 0.65 touchdowns per game. He’s always gotten his opportunity and production within the confines of a committee.
Since returning in Week 5, he’s averaged 13.2 DraftKings points, 13.7 carries, 2.7 targets, 2.3 receptions, 69 yards and 0.67 touchdowns. His production and usage have decreased, but not significantly so. He’s still a key component of this backfield committee. Since Ingram returned, the Saints have had a 54.6% rush rate, which leads the league if extrapolated over the entire season.
Ingram has a position-high 99% Bargain Rating on DraftKings, where he’s the No. 1 back in the CSURAM88 and Koerner Models.
Model Running Backs
Besides Ingram, there are two running backs atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
- Christian McCaffrey: $7,800 DraftKings; $7,900 FanDuel
- Latavius Murray: $5,100 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
Christian McCaffrey: Carolina Panthers (-6) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 55 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Torrey Smith (knee) is out.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, guest Evan Silva highlighted McCaffrey as one of his favorite cash-game plays this week. It’s easy to see why Evan is bullish on McCaffrey.
Any concerns there might have been at the beginning of the season about how McCaffrey would do in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense as a lead back have been allayed by his year-to-date performance.
- Week 1 (vs. Cowboys): 14.5 DraftKings points, +0.08 Plus/Minus, 10-50-0 rushing, 6-45-0 receiving on nine targets
- Week 2 (at Falcons): 30.9 DraftKings points, +14.78 Plus/Minus, 8-37-0 rushing, 14-102-0 receiving on 15 targets
- Week 3 (vs. Bengals): 24.4 DraftKings points, +6.02 Plus/Minus, 28-184-0 rushing, 2-10-0 receiving on two targets
- Week 5 (vs. Giants): 20.3 DraftKings points, +1.35 Plus/Minus, 17-58-0 rushing, 5-35-1 receiving on six targets
- Week 6 (at Redskins): 13.6 DraftKings points, -6.02 Plus/Minus, 8-20-0 rushing, 7-46-0 receiving on eight targets
- Week 7 (at Eagles): 14.0 DraftKings points, -4.10 Plus/Minus, 7-29-0 rushing, 6-51-0 receiving on six targets
- Week 8 (vs. Ravens): 21.6 DraftKings points, +5.48 Plus/Minus, 14-45-1 rushing, 4-11-1 receiving on six targets
McCaffrey has widely variable game-to-game usage and has just three touchdowns, but he’s still the No. 9 fantasy back with 19.9 DraftKings points per game.
Last season, he scored at a 3.6% per-touch rate. Whenever his 2018 rate of 2.2% progresses to the mean, McCaffrey could be a GPP winner.
Impressively, McCaffrey’s production has come despite roster issues around him. Continuity is crucial along the offensive line, and three of last season’s starters are not on the field: Left tackle Matt Kalil (knee, IR) was sidelined before the regular season, right tackle Daryl Williams (knee, IR) has missed most of the season and 2017 All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell is on the Jaguars. Even so, McCaffrey has become more efficient as a runner, averaging 4.6 yards per carry this year compared to 3.7 last year.
McCaffrey’s in a great spot this week against the divisional rival Bucs, who are dead last with a 22.5% defensive DVOA. On top of that, they are 29th in pass defense against running backs with a 25.4% DVOA, which is great news for McCaffrey, who has 7.2 targets per game for his career.
And the Bucs are literally limping into this game. They will definitely be without middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (knee), strong safety Chris Conte (knee) and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (shoulder), all of whom are on injured reserve. Backup middle linebacker Jack Cichy (ankle) is also out. Slot corner M.J. Stewart (leg) seems unlikely to play, given that he exited last week early and is yet to practice this week.
Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (calf) and edge rusher Vinny Curry (ankle) both missed Weeks 7-8. Curry got in a limited practice on Thursday, so he might suit up, but McCoy sat on Thursday after getting in a limited session on Wednesday. McCoy’s midweek downgrade suggests that he will miss Week 9. And edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (ribs, foot) hasn’t practiced at all this week. The Bucs could legitimately be without half of their defensive starters.
For tournaments, use our Lineup Builder to stack McCaffrey with quarterback Cam Newton. Since 2014, No. 1 backs on average have had a 0.39 correlation with their quarterbacks. With Newton, McCaffrey has had a robust 0.79 correlation on account of his receiving prowess: He leads the team with 52 targets and 44 receptions. The Panthers-Bucs game has a slate-high 70.16 pass-funnel rating: McCaffrey could get a lot of high-leverage touches in a shootout.
McCaffrey has a position-high 96% Bargain Rating on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 back in every single one of our Pro Models. For good measure, he’s also the top DraftKings back in the Levitan Model.
Latavius Murray: Minnesota Vikings (-5) vs. Detroit Lions, 49 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Running back Dalvin Cook (hamstring) is expected to play 8-12 snaps. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs (ribs) is expected not to play.
The spread opened at -7 but has since moved down even though the Vikings have gotten the supermajority of the tickets and the money. In other words, the Vikings are on the wrong side of reverse line movement, which means that caution is warranted when it comes to Murray, especially since running back Dalvin Cook (hamstring), who has missed the past four games, has practiced on a limited basis this week and might return to action.
Assuming that Murray has the backfield to himself, he’s in a good spot. The Lions have allowed a top-five mark of 30.8 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields. In fact, running backs have accumulated a league-high 136 yards per game against the Lions, which is especially pertinent to Murray, who is less of a three-down back than a ground-and-pound grinder.
In Week 8, the Lions acquired run-stuffing nose tackle Damon Harrison from the Giants. While he should improve the team’s run defense, the Seahawks ran all over the Lions last week. Harrison had seven tackles in his first Lions game, but the Seahawks backs had a combined 37-139-1 rushing performance. Even with “Snacks” on the defensive front, opponents will probably still be able to run on the Lions for the rest of the season.
It’s worth keeping in mind that, although Murray is a rotational runner, he’s not the average backup. Since his 1,000-yard rushing campaign in 2015, Murray has averaged 12.7 DraftKings points on 14.1 carries and 2.5 targets per game. In 2015-17, Murray had 70 carries inside the 10-yard line. In that time, he and Devonta Freeman were the only backs with 20-plus such rushes each year. With his size (6-feet-2, 223 pounds), Murray is built to score goal-line touchdowns. As it happens, he has four rushing scores over the past three games.
Murray is on the positive side of his historical splits as a home favorite, averaging 16.3 PPR points per game in that situation since 2015. With the Vikings, Murray has averaged 13.7 PPR points in 17 games without Cook, and that number jumps up to 16.3 if we look only at his five Cook-less games this year.
Murray is the top DraftKings back in the Bales, Raybon, SportsGeek and Freedman Models.
Also on the Vikings:
- Dalvin Cook: $5,300 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
Cook has missed the past month with a lingering soft-tissue injury, and even though he’s practiced limitedly, he seems likelier than not to sit in Week 9, rest over the Week 10 bye and return in Week 11. Even if he plays this week, he’s likely to be extremely limited. Cook has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry this season.
Running Back Rundown
Here’s a quick look at the remaining fantasy-relevant backs on the slate.
James Conner: Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) at Baltimore Ravens, 47.5 O/U
- $7,200 DraftKings; $8,000 FanDuel
Conner has been stupendous filling in for starting running back Le’Veon Bell (contract dispute), averaging 27.5 DraftKings points per game this year to Bell’s 2014-17 mark of 24.5, but Conner could struggle this week. The division rival Ravens have held opposing backfields to an NFL-low 15.7 DraftKings points per game. Against the Ravens in Week 4, Conner had his worst game of the season, turning nine carries and seven targets into just 9.4 DraftKings points.
On the plus side, the Ravens-Steelers game is the only one on the slate with two top-12 teams in situation-neutral pace. Perhaps it could produce more points than expected.
Tarik Cohen & Jordan Howard: Chicago Bears (-10) at Buffalo Bills, 37 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin) is questionable after practicing on a limited basis on Friday.
- Cohen: $6,200 DraftKings; $7,200 FanDuel
- Howard: $4,700 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
Cohen saw just 7.3 opportunities for 44.7 scoreless yards from scrimmage per game in Weeks 1-3, but he has since averaged 15.5 opportunities for 122 yards, one touchdown and 24.5 DraftKings points per game with a +14.29 Plus/Minus. Those numbers are certainly noisy with the vicissitudes of big-play randomness, but his enhanced usage augurs well for the future.
Howard sees inconsistent week-to-week usage, but he has 12-plus opportunities in each game this year and seven carries inside the 10-yards line in the three games since the Week 5 bye.
Last year, the Bills allowed a league-high 29.1 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields. This year, they are almost as bad, allowing 28.6 points per game.
Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson & Kapri Bibbs: Washington Redskins (-1.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons, 48 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Thompson (ribs) and wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle) are out. Wide receiver Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) is questionable but seems likely to play after limited practice on Thursday and Friday. Let tackle Trent Williams (thumb) is out.
- Peterson: $6,000 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
- Thompson: $5,400 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
- Bibbs: $3,500 DraftKings; $4,600 FanDuel
After missing Weeks 6-7, Thompson (ribs) returned to action in Week 8 only to exit the game early after aggravating his injury. He is yet to practice this week and seems unlikely to play. Dating back to last season, he is the No. 12 fantasy back with 15.0 DraftKings points per game and a +3.70 Plus/Minus.
Peterson (shoulder) is also dealing with an injury, but he’s yet to miss a game this year and fully expected to play. In the midst of a renaissance campaign, Peterson is averaging 105.4 yards and 0.71 touchdowns from scrimmage per game, but he’s been a highly game script-dependent player. In victory, he has 20.5 DraftKings points per game with a +10.70 Plus/Minus. In defeat, 7.1 and -4.48.
In his two games without Thompson, Bibbs has averaged 9.2 DraftKings points with two carries and 3.5 targets per game.
The Falcons have allowed a league-high 37.9 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields.
Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick & LeGarrette Blount: Detroit Lions (+5) at Minnesota Vikings, 49 O/U
- Johnson: $5,600 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Riddick: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,200 FanDuel
- Blount: $3,400 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
With Riddick (knee) out for Weeks 7-8, Johnson played the majority of snaps in each game and saw significant action as a runner (27 carries) and receiver (11 targets). He will lose some work when Riddick returns, but Johnson has 10-plus touches in each of his past six games, and he’s hit his salary-based expectations in each of them, averaging 14.8 DraftKings points and 97.8 yards per game. Johnson is the slate’s most north/south runner with a 3.05 Efficiency Rating (Next Gen Stats). The backfield committee isn’t going away, but Johnson is locked in as the lead back.
Riddick strung together two limited practices on Wednesday and Thursday. He seems likelier than not to play this week.
Blount scored three touchdowns inside the five-yard line in Weeks 5-7, but in Week 8 he saw a season-low three carries. His goal-line role is probably secure, but he’s the least talented back on the roster and perhaps on his way to short-yardage relegation.
The recent trade of No. 1 wide receiver Golden Tate could signal the team’s desire to rely more on the running game, and the Vikings could be without linebacker Anthony Barr (hamstring), who missed Week 7 and is yet to practice this week.
Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman & Devontae Booker: Denver Broncos (-1) vs. Houston Texans, 46 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Freeman (ankle) is expected not to play.
- Lindsay: $5,500 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
- Freeman: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,400 FanDuel
- Booker: $3,700 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
With the exception of the Week 3 Ravens game, from which he was ejected in the first half, Lindsay has averaged 12.7 carries, three targets, 2.6 receptions, 92.4 yards and 0.57 touchdowns per game. He’s only 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds, but he’s the clear lead back. Last week without Royce Freeman (ankle), he put up a career-high 20.2 DraftKings points on 21 opportunities.
Freeman leads the team four red-zone rushing touchdowns, but he has faced boxes with at least eight defenders on a league-high 54.93% of his carries (Next Gen Stats) and is unlikely to play this week after exiting Week 7 with an injury and missing Week 8. He’s yet to practice this week.
In Freeman’s absence last week, Booker set season-high marks with a 43.8% snap rate and 13 opportunities, which he turned into 101 yards.
With the recent trade of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, it’s possible that under HC Vance Joseph (the worst ATS coach in the league) the team could rely more on the run and use Lindsay and Booker more in the passing game.
Kenyan Drake & Frank Gore: Miami Dolphins (-3) vs. New York Jets, 43.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) is out.
- Drake: $5,300 DraftKings; $6,900 FanDuel
- Gore: $3,500 DraftKings; $5,400 FanDuel
On a game-to-game basis it’s impossible to know exactly how Drake will be used, but over the past month — despite the absence of left guard Josh Sitton (shoulder, IR) and center Daniel Kilgore (triceps, IR) — Drake has 14-plus opportunities in each game, averaging 19.4 DraftKings points, 93.8 yards and one touchdown per week over that time with a 100% Consistency Rating.
A great receiving back, Gore is being used almost exclusively as a runner, averaging just one target per game for the season. An uninspiring runner for the past half decade, Gore has 10.5 carries per game this year and 12.3 over the past month.
Lamar Miller & Alfred Blue: Houston Texans (+1) at Denver Broncos, 46 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) is out.
- Miller: $5,200 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
- Blue: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,100 FanDuel
Miller is coming off back-to-back 100-yard, one-touchdown performances and now faces a Broncos funnel defense ranked second against the pass (-15.3% DVOA) but 28th against the run (0.0% DVOA). Miller has 14-plus opportunities in every game he’s played this season. Since last season, Miller has 14.2 DraftKings points per game in quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 13 starts.
Blue had 28 touches in Week 5 as the lead back, but in Miller’s starts, Blue has averaged 8.3 carries and one target for 4.6 DraftKings points per game.
LeSean McCoy & Chris Ivory: Buffalo Bills (+10) vs. Chicago Bears, 37 O/U
- McCoy: $4,900 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
- Ivory: $3,900 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
McCoy did almost nothing for the first month of the season, but in his three non-concussed games since then he’s averaged 13.6 DraftKings and 99 yards on 17.3 carries, 5.3 targets and 3.7 receptions. Of course, he’s yet to score a touchdown, and with Nathan Peterman returning to the starting lineup, the Bills might not have the ball long enough for McCoy to get even 10 touches, especially against a Bears defense ranked first with a -15.9% DVOA.
Ivory is a competent backup and injury fill-in, but he has just 6.2 carries and 0.8 targets per game in McCoy’s six healthy starts.
Tevin Coleman & Ito Smith: Atlanta Falcons (+1.5) at Washington Redskins, 48 O/U
- Coleman: $4,800 DraftKings; $6,600 FanDuel
- Smith: $3,700 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
Coming off the bye, Coleman has averaged 14.5 PPR points, 15.9 carries and 2.3 targets in his seven career games without Devonta Freeman (groin, IR). Smith has 7.2 carries and 2.4 targets in his five Freeman-less games and on the season has managed to steal five carries inside the 10-yard line.
Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny & Mike Davis: Seattle Seahawks (-1) vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 48 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Carson (hip) is reportedly a game-time decision.
- Carson: $4,700 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
- Penny: $3,700 DraftKings; $4,800 FanDuel
- Davis: $3,400 DraftKings; $5,100 FanDuel
The Seahawks have a league-high 52.2% rush rate, and over the past month — since Carson (hip) returned from his Week 4 injury-induced absence — they’ve gone to extremes with the running game, sporting a league-high 64.5% rush rate.
Carson was added to the injury report on Thursday with the same injury that sidelined him in Week 4. If he’s unable to play Penny will likely get some run with Davis serving as the lead back. In his last four games, Carson has dominated the backfield, averaging 17.4 DraftKings points, 108.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns on 22.5 carries and 1.3 targets per game.
Penny has played literally zero offensive snaps in two of the past three weeks. He’s sadly starting to shape into one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory.
Davis filled in for Carson in Week 4 with a dynamic 124-yard, two-touchdown performance. Since then he’s averaged a respectable but non-actionable 9.3 carries and two targets per game.
Alex Collins & Javorius Allen: Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 47.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and right tackle James Hurst (back) are out, and left guard Alex Lewis (neck) is questionable. He has missed the past two games, but he practiced limitedly on Thursday and Friday and seems likely to play.
- Collins: $4,600 DraftKings; $6,200 FanDuel
- Allen: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,400 FanDuel
Collins (foot) has averaged 15.9 opportunities per game with the Ravens since last season, but he missed Thursday’s practice after getting in a limited session on Wednesday, so his status for Week 9 is truly questionable and trending to doubtful.
If Collins sits, Allen will probably play as the lead back, although he’s likely to lose snaps and touches to Ty Montgomery, who was acquired this week from the Packers and is probably the superior player.
Montgomery is ineligible for the DraftKings and FanDuel main slates this week.
Nick Chubb & Duke Johnson: Cleveland Browns (+9.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 51.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Antonio Callaway (ankle) suffered an injury in the Thursday practice and sat on Friday. He is officially questionable but seems unlikely to play. Wide receiver Rashard Higgins (knee) got in limited practice sessions on Thursday and Friday and could play through his questionable tag after missing the past three games.
- Chubb: $4,500 DraftKings; $6,600 FanDuel
- Johnson: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,200 FanDuel
Head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley have been fired. Teams generally see something of a bounceback after the in-season dismissal of underachieving coaches. Interim OC Freddie Kitchens has no play-calling experience at any level, but he was the running backs coach before his recent promotion, so he might opt for a run-heavy approach.
In his two weeks as the lead back since the Carlos Hyde trade, Chubb has been adequate-ish, turning his 18 rushes and 2.5 targets into 77.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. But as a receiving nonentity, Chubb is at risk of losing snaps and touches if the Browns find themselves in a pass-heavy game script.
In the wake of Hyde’s departure, there was some optimism that Johnson would see an increased role within the offense. That wasn’t the case in Weeks 7-8. Johnson led all running backs with 1,741 yards receiving in his first three seasons, but he’s yet to have more than six touches in a game this season.
On the plus side, the Chiefs are last in the league with their 61.3 run-defense grade. They have allowed a top-two mark of 33.7 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfields, and they will be without linebacker Anthony Hitchens (ribs) and maybe edge rusher Justin Houston (hamstring) and safety Eric Berry (heel), both of whom are questionable and have missed multiple games in a row.
Isaiah Crowell, Trenton Cannon & Elijah McGuire: New York Jets (+3) at Miami Dolphins, 43.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/4): McGuire (foot) has been activated from injured reserve and is expected to play. Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Robby Anderson (ankle) are both questionable and reportedly optimistic about playing after missing multiple weeks of action.
- Crowell: $4,200 DraftKings; $5,700 FanDuel
- Cannon: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel
- McGuire: $3,000 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
Crowell is in a tough spot as a road dog, especially given his radical scoring splits this season. When he’s scored a touchdown, he’s had 25.8 DraftKings points per game with a +16.77 Plus/Minus. When scoreless, he’s averaged 5.0 and -3.37.
Cannon has filled in for the injured Bilal Powell (neck, IR) over the past two games, but he’s likely to be replaced in the backfield rotation by Eli McGuire (foot, IR), who has been practicing for the past two weeks and is tentatively expected to be activated this weekend.
Peyton Barber & Jacquizz Rodgers: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6) at Carolina Panthers, 55 O/U
- Barber: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,800 FanDuel
- Rodgers: $3,000 DraftKings; $4,500 FanDuel
Despite being the starting running back for an offense averaging 28.7 points per game, Barber has scored seven-plus DraftKings points in just two of seven games this season. Of all the starting backs in the league, he without question has been the stone-cold worst. His bifurcated production (+0.98 DraftKings Plus/Minus, 28.6% Consistency Rating) is astounding. Barber (ankle) is dealing with an injury, but he practiced in full on Thursday and is likely to play.
Despite his mediocrity and inconsistency, there is room for optimism with Barber. He has played 54.6% of the offensive snaps and gotten 65.6% of the team’s backfield opportunities. In his 12 games since becoming the lead back in Week 13 of last season, Barber has averaged 16.4 opportunities per game, and he could see even more this week with second-round rookie Ronald Jones (hamstring) doubtful to play.
In Jones’ place, Rodgers will likely function as the pass-catching and change-of-pace back.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 9 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.
Pictured above: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22)
Photo credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports