The Quarterback Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit the NFL homepage.
Week 9 is a lot like Week 8 — except without Tom Brady. Of course, a FantasyLabs user won $1,000,000 on DraftKings last week, so maybe Week 9 will be alright. The Patriots, Steelers, Chargers, Vikings, Bears, and Browns are on bye. The Bills and Jets (Thursday night) and Lions and Packers (Monday night) are also absent from the main slate, as are the Raiders and Dolphins (Sunday night) on DraftKings. As the ’90s poet once said, “Hearts and thoughts, they fade — fade away.”
For analysis of the Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night games, see Joe Holka’s Thursday night breakdown and Justin Bailey’s prime time breakdown (out later this week). Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 10-game DraftKings and 11-game FanDuel main slates.
The Greatest NFL Rookie in the History of the Universe? RIP: Deshaun Watson
With the truncated slate and the absence or regression of a few studs, the top of the quarterback salary scale is dominated by just one player: Deshaun Watson ($8,100 DraftKings, $9,600 FanDuel).
UPDATE: 11/2 – Watson suffered a non-contact injury in practice today and will undergo a season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL. Tom Savage ($4,600 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel) is expected to start for the Texans. Needless to say, the Watson injury hurts the entire Texans offense. DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Lamar Miller have been substantially downgraded in their projections. There is the possibility, though, that they could be contrarian plays in tournaments. The market could overreact to the Watson injury: The Texans are still significant favorites at home against a Colts defense allowing the most points in the league to opposing teams.
A few weeks ago I argued that Watson might be the greatest first-month rookie in the history of the universe, and since then he’s done nothing to suggest he isn’t. Even though Watson has played only 6.5 games, he leads all quarterbacks with 19 touchdowns passing, 269 yards rushing, and an 81.8 Total QBR. Excluding his partial Week 1 outing, Watson is the No. 1 fantasy quarterback with 29.36 DraftKings and 28.36 FanDuel points per game (PPG), +13.01 and +11.73 Plus/Minus values, and 100.0 percent Consistency Ratings. Only three players in NFL history have thrown at least 10 touchdowns in the first seven games of their rookie campaigns, and only Watson has thrown for more than 12. The rookie record for most passing touchdowns in a season is 26, shared by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson; Watson is on pace for 43.4. Even with his unexpected Week 1 appearance and hasty Thursday Night Football Week 2 start, Watson is currently fourth among all modern-era rookie quarterbacks (with at least six starts) with his 8.43 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A), trailing only Dak Prescott (8.60), Robert Griffin III (8.59), and Marc Bulger (8.58). With a league-leading 30.71 PPG, the Texans are first by a mile with their +10.54 Vegas Plus/Minus and +14.86 Over/Under Differential.
Despite his elevated price, this week Watson will likely be Deshaun Chalkson. The Texans have a slate-high implied total of 31.0 points as -13.0 home favorites, and they’re second on the slate with a 49.0-point over/under. Additionally, Watson has a great matchup. Absolutely dreadful on defense, the Colts are last in the league with 30.75 PPG allowed and a -6.5 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus, and they’re 30th against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). Even worse, their two highest-rated Pro Football Focus (PFF) defensive backs — free safety Malik Hooker (knee) and cornerback Rashaan Melvin (concussion) — are out: Hooker is on Injured Reserve and Melvin missed last week. Melvin might return this week, but without Hooker and Melvin in Week 8 the Indy dime package had five players with poor PFF grades below 60.0. Wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are market share monsters — Watson is highly correlated with Nuk and Fuller, having thrown 73.7 percent of his touchdowns to them — and they should have ample opportunity to exploit the weak Colts secondary. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Watson with Nuk and Fuller in tournaments.
With a Konami Code floor and big-play ceiling, Watson has the most Pro Trends and highest median projections in our Models. He’s the highest-rated DraftKings and FanDuel quarterback in the Bales, CSURAM88, and SportsGeek Models.
Russell Wilson ($7,300 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): Three of his five starting linemen have PFF grades lower than 50.0, but the Seahawks have solidified their left tackle position by trading for Duane Brown, and after a slow start Wilson has been on fire over his last four games, throwing for 330.4 yards and 2.8 touchdowns per game on 127-of-192 passing and adding 120 yards and a touchdown rushing on 22 carries. The Seahawks are implied for 26.25 points as -7.5 home favorites against the Redskins, who have allowed the fifth-most points to opposing teams with 25.71 PPG. Quarterback pricing is skewed on this slate, but Wilson leads the position with a 43 percent FanDuel Bargain Rating. We’re projecting Wilson to be popular.
Matt Ryan ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): I can’t not include Ryan, because . . . I mean . . . whatever. The Falcons have massively underperformed this year, ranking 30th with a -5.61 Vegas Plus/Minus. Ryan has failed to hit salary-based expectations on FanDuel in every game. He’s hit them just once on DraftKings. The Falcons are still a good team — they’re second with 6.24 plays and 36.8 yards per drive — but Ryan’s 2017 AY/A of 7.6 has regressed from last year’s 10.1 toward his career average of 7.4. This is who he is. The Falcons are +1.0 road underdogs against the Panthers, who have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks with 13.7 DraftKings and 12.9 FanDuel PPG.
Drew Stanton ($4,700 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel): Starting for the injured Carson Palmer (arm), Stanton is coming off a bye and gets the benefit of facing the 49ers, who have allowed the second-most points to quarterbacks with 22.1 DraftKings and 20.9 FanDuel PPG. Even before the season-ending injury to free safety Jimmie Ward (arm) and trade of cornerback Rashard Robinson over the last week, the 49ers had one of the worst secondaries in the league. With a strong quartet of wide receivers and almost nonexistent projected ownership, Stanton is an intriguing contrarian option.
Jameis Winston ($5,800 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): The Buccaneers are theoretically in a good situation at the Coors Field of fantasy football, but the Saints defense — which was a bottom-five unit in four of the five previous seasons — has become solid, especially against the pass, ranking fourth in pass DVOA. The outside cornerbacks in particular have stabilized the pass defense, as the rookie Marshon Lattimore and second-year Ken Crawley have emerged as top-20 PFF cover men. Winston (shoulder) is dealing with an injury to his throwing arm and had one of the least efficient (3.16 AY/A) performances of his career last week.
Andy Dalton ($5,000 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): The Bengals are implied for 17.5 points as +4.5 road dogs against the Jaguars, who are first in pass DVOA with the league’s best duo of cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye and last in rush DVOA. Even with a game script that might otherwise skew toward the pass, the Bengals could opt for a run-heavy attack.
Cam Newton ($6,300 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): Although Newton started the season slowly, over the last five weeks he has 22.78 DraftKings and 21.38 FanDuel PPG. The Panthers are -1.0 home favorites against the Falcons, who are 25th in pass DVOA and 32nd with 6.7 plays per drive allowed. Because Newton spreads the ball around and depends on his rushing production more than the average quarterback, the trade of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin might not be as damaging to Cam’s prospects as we’d expect it to be.
Kirk Cousins ($5,700 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Cousins has no reliable wide receivers, star tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) is expected to miss Week 9, and the Redskins offense is dealing with numerous injuries to starting linemen: Left tackle Trent Williams (knee) is doubtful and left guard Shawn Lauvao (stinger), center Spencer Long (knee), and right guard Brandon Scherff (knee) are questionable. It doesn’t help that the Redskins are implied for only 18.75 points on the road against the Seahawks, who are sixth in pass DVOA. Cousins is having his most efficient season yet with an 8.4 AY/A, but this year he hasn’t gotten the volume (33.9 pass attempts per game) that he got last year (35.9). As a +7.5 dog, Cousins might get a volume boost with a pass-leaning game script.
Alex Smith ($6,500 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel): Smith leads the league with a 9.79 AY/A, three 300-yard/three-touchdown games, and a 51.0-point over/under. The Cowboys are 29th in pass DVOA against tight ends, and cornerback Anthony Brown has allowed 24 receptions and four touchdowns on 39 targets. Smith could have a big game thanks to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
Jacoby Brissett ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): The Colts are +13.0 road dogs against the Texans, who are 30th in pass DVOA against non-No. 1 wide receivers and have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks with 22.0 DraftKings and 20.5 FanDuel PPG.
Carson Wentz ($6,100 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): In the span of eight games, Wentz has gone from uncertain second-year starter to star quarterback. He has already thrown more touchdowns this year (19) than he threw last year (16), and he’s third with a 70.5 Total QBR. Last year Wentz had a bottom-four AY/A (5.7); this year, he has a top-three mark (8.4). This week, however, Wentz will likely have diminished ownership. Even though the Eagles are implied for 25.75 points as -8.0 home favorites, Wentz has an ostensibly tough matchup against the Broncos, who last year were first in pass DVOA and this year still have two of the NFL’s top cover men in left cornerback Aqib Talib and slot cornerback Chris Harris Jr. Nevertheless, the Broncos have been less imposing this year, allowing 15.2 DraftKings and 15.0 FanDuel PPG, but they’ve been owned at only 0.7 and 0.2 percent in main slate tournaments on DraftKings and FanDuel. With the ownership discount he’s likely to receive, Wentz is a pivot play on the other big home favorite quarterbacks. On the Week 9 Daily Fantasy Flex there was disagreement regarding Wentz: Some Coors Lights are now at stake.
The Model Quarterbacks
Other than Watson, there are two quarterbacks atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek):
- Drew Brees ($7,000 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel)
- Dak Prescott ($6,700 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel)
The Saints are home at the Superdome and implied for 28.5 points as -7.0 favorites against the Buccaneers, who are 31st in pass DVOA. In previous seasons, this would’ve been a #SmashSpot for Brees and his receivers. This year, however, the Saints have become more of a running team, ranking 13th with a 43.5 percent rush rate. As a result, Brees is averaging just 35.4 pass attempts per game compared to 41.5 for the previous five seasons. Brees is still playing well — his 2017 AY/A of 8.0 is superior to his half-decade (2012-16) AY/A of 7.8 — but Brees’ average of 278.7 yards per game is his lowest mark in a decade. He has the position’s highest ceiling projection on DraftKings on account of his 300-yard upside — but that upside isn’t as high as it used to be. Nevertheless, Brees is the highest-rated FanDuel quarterback in the Levitan Model.
Through no fault of his own, Dak had the worst non-Week 17 game of his career last week, attempting just 22 passes as the Cowboys walloped the Redskins 33-19. In his four previous outings, though, Dak scored 14 touchdowns and averaged 26.8 fantasy PPG with 100 percent Consistency Ratings. Even though the Cowboys have already tied last year’s mark of three losses, Dak is still playing at a near-elite level, ranking second with a 74.0 Total QBR. If running back Ezekiel Elliott (suspension) misses the week, the Cowboys will likely employ a Dak-centric offense against the visiting Chiefs, who are -1.0 favorites. Even though the Cowboys are dogs, Dak is in a good spot: He’s at AT&T Stadium, where he benefits from extreme home/road splits (22.32 DraftKings and 21.96 FanDuel PPG at home; 17.09 and 16.59 on the road), and the Chiefs are exploitable through the passing game. Although they have a top-20 cover man in shutdown left cornerback Marcus Peters, the Chiefs are weak in the secondary with a dime package that features five defensive backs with poor PFF grades below 60.0. For people who want high-end Konami Code capability without paying up all the way, Dak is the choice. He’s the highest-rated DraftKings quarterback in the Levitan Model.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the quarterbacks for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 9 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
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