NFL Week 9 DFS Cheat Sheet: Five recommended plays for all contests

2KB9DP1 New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) carries the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, October 27, 2019. (Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto)

• RB Saquon Barkley (63.6 PFF rushing grade), New York Giants @ Las Vegas Raiders: Barkley is in for a high-volume outing against Las Vegas’ injury-plagued linebacker corps.

• TE Dalton Kincaid (67.6 PFF receiving grade), Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals: Kincaid is an elite FanDuel TE1 against Cincinnati’s bottom-six tight end-coverage unit.

• Dominate your fantasy league in 2023: For up-to-date fantasy draft rankings and projections, check out PFF’s fantasy rankings tool!

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) lineups require smart matchups analysis and rostership leverage opportunities to succeed. The analysis below details five fantasy assets capable of gaining significant leverage on the field. 

WR:CB Matchup Chart

RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants @ Las Vegas Raiders – $8,600 on FanDuel

Barkley (63.6 PFF rushing grade) is an elite, high-volume FanDuel RB1 against Las Vegas’ injury-depleted and talent-poor run defense. He can be locked into both cash-game and GPP-tournament lineups as a near-shoo-in to lead the league in Week 9 rushing attempts. 

Las Vegas’ 19 rushing attempts defended inside their own five-yard line are the second-most among NFL teams, per PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart.

Barkley’s 81 rushing attempts since returning from a high-ankle sprain in Week 6 are 25 more than the next closest NFL running back. Among 35 NFL running backs with at least 25 rushing attempts in Weeks 6-8, Barkley's 10 missed tackles forced tie for No. 3 and his four explosive run plays tie for No. 9. His 3.7 yards per rushing attempt tie No. 20 and his 2.9 yards after contact per rushing attempt rank No. 16 but his middling efficiency is of little concern, given the astronomical workload. 

Las Vegas’ Nos. 1-3 linebackers suffered injuries over the last two weeks, prompting interim general manager Champ Kelly to sign New Orleans Saints (72.6 PFF run-defense grade) practice squad linebacker Jaylon Smith (61.6 PFF 2022 run-defense grade) on Thursday morning. 

Las Vegas linebacker injuries and potential availability:
LV Linebacker Injuries Injury – Date Suffered Week 9 Status PFF Run-Defense Grade
LB Divine Deablo Ankle – Week 7 Likely Inactive 52.8
LB Robert Spillane Hand – Week 8 50/50 77.2
LB Luke Masterson Concussion Likely Inactive 76.3

Las Vegas’ two-time defending Pro Bowl edge rusher Maxx Crosby (90.7 PFF run-defense grade) is notably playing through ankle and knee injuries. He ranks No. 1 in run-defense tackles (28), stops (20) and tackles for loss or no gain (eight).

The injury cluster serves as a harbinger for Las Vegas’ near-league-worst run-defense unit.

Las Vegas’ running back run-defense data among NFL teams:
NFL Run Defense vs. RBs Las Vegas Raiders
PFF Run-Defense Grade 63.3 (No. 15)
Average Depth Of Tackle 4.59 (No. 30)
Positively-Graded Run-Defense Play % 60.8% (No. 31)
Missed Tackles 37 (No. 27)
Positive EPA % Allowed 47.4% (No. 30)
EPA Per Play Allowed 0.053 (No. 30)

Barkley is a high-volume RB1 against Las Vegas’ disastrous front seven.

TE Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals – $5,200 on FanDuel

Kincaid (67.6 PFF receiving grade) is an elite FanDuel TE1 against Cincinnati’s bottom-six tight end coverage unit. The expectedly high-scoring affair creates week-winning potential for the position’s No. 6 scorer (26.5 half-PPR points) over the last two weeks.

Kincaid can be used in both cash games and GPP tournaments, garnering matchup-based flex-position consideration. 

The game’s 49.5-point FanDuel over/under is Week 9’s second-highest game total and Buffalo is implied to score 24 points.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Buffalo a 5.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, tying for the 10th-best on the week. Cincinnati edge rusher Trey Hendrickson (91.6 PFF pass-rush grade) is nursing a Week 8 foot injury and ranks top five in NFL sacks (8.0), pass-rush win rate (23.7%), quarterback pressure rate (19.8%) and pass-rush productivity (12.4), ranked among 64 NFL edge rushers with at least 135 pass-rushing snaps

PFF’s TE matchup chart gives Kincaid a 32.0% receiving matchup advantage rating against Cincinnati linebacker Germaine Pratt (46.3 PFF coverage grade), the second-best on the week.

Buffalo’s tight end co-starter Dawson Knox (53.3 PFF receiving grade) landed on injured reserve following his Week 7 wrist injury, allowing Kincaid to consolidate positional target-earning opportunities.

In Weeks 7-8, Kincaid was one-of-nine NFL tight ends to earn at least 10 first-read targets and one-of-13 NFL tight ends to earn at least two splash zone targets. As detailed in Week 9’s WR/CB Matchups to Target and Avoid, the term “splash zone” denotes the area of the field both between the painted numbers and at least 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Targets thrown into the splash zone bear significantly higher fantasy-point value than those thrown along the sideline at an equivalent depth. The concept was first studied by Underdog Fantasy’s Hayden Winks (then at Rotoworld) and later received its moniker from Legendary Upside’s Pat Kerrane. 

Among 32 NFL tight ends with at least 30 receiving snaps in Weeks 7-8, Kincaid is the only player to produce four missed tackles (No. 1) and four explosive pass plays (tying for No. 4). 

Cincinnati’s tight end-coverage data among NFL teams:
NFL-Team TE Coverage Cincinnati Bengals
PFF Coverage Grade 49.1 (No. 31)
Catch % Allowed 80.0% (T-No. 27)
Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap 8.76 (No. 30)
15+-Yard Pass Plays Allowed % 19.6% (No. 29)

Kincaid is an elite FanDuel TE1.

RB Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons vs. Minnesota Vikings – $7,100 on FanDuel

Atlanta’s No. 1 running back Bijan Robinson (71.5 PFF offense grade) is a mid-tier RB1 with high-volume potential against a struggling Minnesota team. Robinson’s affordable $7,100 FanDuel salary is $2,100 short of the positional maximum, facilitating creative GPP tournament roster construction. Head coach Arthur Smith’s erratic decision-making drops Robinson’s floor past the typical RB1 threshold; a factor to consider in cash games. 

Atlanta is a 4.5-point home favorite, ensuring a high-volume outing for Atlanta’s backfield. Minnesota’s fill-in rookie quarterback Jaren Hall (75.6 PFF passing grade) is unlikely to push Atlanta’s offense toward a pass-heavy approach with No. 1 wide receiver Justin Jefferson (89.5 PFF receiving grade) on injured reserve.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Atlanta a 49.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, No. 1 on the week. Atlanta’s top-graded offensive line (80.5 PFF run-blocking grade) should have little issue bullying a Minnesota front seven likely missing edge rusher Marcus Davenport (52.3 PFF run-defense grade, injured reserve) and interior defender Dean Lowry (54.9 PFF run-defense grade, groin). 

Among 31 NFL running backs with at least 70 rushing attempts, Robinson ties No. 1 in missed tackles forced per rushing attempt (0.27) and ranks top five in both yards per rushing attempt (5.1) and yards after contact per rushing attempt (3.3).

Nos. 2 and 3 running backs Tyler Allgeier (71.9 PFF offense grade) and Cordarrelle Patterson (54.1 PFF offense grade) are earning larger roles but Robinson remains both the primary passing-down and green zone running back. Among 32 NFL running backs with at least 100 receiving snaps, Robinson ranks No. 13 or better in yards after the catch per reception (8.3), missed tackles forced receiving (six) and explosive receiving plays (three). 

Robinson is one of just nine NFL running backs to earn at least 10 first-read targets. His season-long sum could rise significantly with No. 1 wide receiver Drake London (77.5 PFF receiving grade, groin) unlikely to play.

Minnesota fortuitously allows the league’s highest catch rate (93.9%) to opposing running backs.

Robinson is an affordable, mid-tier RB1.

QB Gardner Minshew, Indianapolis Colts @ Carolina Panthers – $6,500 on FanDuel

Minshew (49.4 PFF passing grade) is a GPP tournament and extreme-contrarian cash game option against Carolina’s generous secondary. 

The game’s 43.5-point FanDuel over/under is Week 9’s fifth-highest game total. Indianapolis’ own defensive injuries will help Carolina’s offense efficacy, increasing the odds of a low-key shootout. Indianapolis’ defensive injuries include linebacker Zaire Franklin (59.6 PFF defense grade) and Nos. 1 and 2 cornerbacks JuJu Brents (66.5 PFF coverage grade, quadriceps) and Dallis Flowers (70.6 PFF coverage grade, injured reserve). Indianapolis nose tackle Grover Stewart (77.2 PFF run-defense grade) is serving a six-game performance-enhancing-drugs suspension.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Indianapolis a 5.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, tying for the 10th-best on the week, and a 36.0% run-blocking matchup advantage rating, the third-best on the week. Carolina’s defense 26 rushing attempts defended inside their own five-yard line are the most among NFL teams and Minshew (62.5 PFF rushing grade) is averaging 1.75 scrambles per game over the last four weeks. He scored two rushing touchdowns against the Cleveland Browns (64.2 PFF run-defense) in Week 7.

Among 34 NFL quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks, Minshew’s 2.61-second average time to throw ties for No. 9 and his 75.0% adjusted completion rate ranks No. 18. 

As detailed in Week 9 WR/CB Matchups to Target and Avoid, Carolina’s cornerbacks are among the league’s worst in wide receiver coverage and free safety Xavier Woods (74.1 PFF coverage grade) suffered an abdomen injury during Thursday’s practice, severely jeopardizing his Week 9 availability.

The Carolina cornerback corps’ wide receiver-coverage data among NFL-team cornerback corps:
NFL-Team CB Coverage vs. WR Carolina Panthers
PFF Coverage Grade 29.9 (No. 31)
Catch % Allowed 74.3% (No. 31)
Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap 6.79 (No. 30)
15+-Yard Pass Plays Allowed % 16.8% (No. 30)

Minshew is a high-upside GPP tournament quarterback who offers extreme-contrarian cash-game consideration.

WR Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers – $7,500 on FanDuel

Nacua (83.7 PFF receiving grade) is a cash-game and GPP-tournament WR1-differentiator play against a Green Bay secondary missing two-fifths of its early-season lineup. Skittish FanDuel users will likely steer clear of Los Angeles pass catchers while quarterback Matthew Stafford (81.3 PFF passing grade) nurses a UCL sprain in his throwing-hand thumb. Nacua’s affordable $7,500 salary is $1,500 short of the positional maximum. 

Los Angeles backup quarterback Brett Rypien’s (44.6 PFF passing grade) 2.33-second average time to throw ranks No. 4 among 36 NFL quarterbacks with at least 10 Week 8 dropbacks. Head coach Sean McVay will rely on Rypien’s quick release by funneling quick-hitting targets to his elite wide receivers, should Stafford be unable to play.

Nacua maintains a fruitful role despite slot receiver Cooper Kupp’s (78.1 PFF receiving grade) post-injured reserve return to the lineup in Week 5. Among 34 NFL wide receivers with at least 120 receiving snaps, Nacua ranks No. 10 in yards per route run (2.24) while tying for No. 5 in both target rate (25.9%) and explosive pass plays (nine). 

Nacua’s 23 first-read targets over the last four weeks tie for No. 17 and his six splash zone targets tie for No. 13 among NFL wide receivers. His respective 61 and 19 target totals rank top-four on the year. Green Bay placed safety Darnell Savage (54.2 PFF coverage grade) on injured reserve in Week 8, creating a lane for explosive pass plays via Nacua’s reliable splash zone usage.

Green Bay traded part-time shadow-coverage cornerback Rasul Douglas (79.6 PFF coverage grade) to the Buffalo Bills (81.2 PFF coverage grade) prior to the NFL’s trade deadline, thrusting rookie Carrington Valentine (54.1 PFF coverage grade) into a starting role. Among 97 NFL perimeter cornerbacks with at least 25 perimeter wide receiver-coverage snaps, Valentine’s 17.2% explosive pass plays allowed rate ranks dead last.

Among 75 NFL perimeter cornerbacks with at least 55 perimeter wide receiver-coverage snaps, Green Bay cornerback Jaire Alexander’s (62.8 PFF coverage grade) ranks No. 59 or worse in catch rate allowed (78.6%), yards allowed per coverage snap (2.74) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (6.9%). He is likely slowed by a nagging back injury.

Among 33 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 40 slot receiver-coverage snaps Green Bay cornerback Keisean Nixon (59.2 PFF coverage grade) ties for No. 18 in catch rate allowed (72.7%) and ranks No. 15 in yards allowed per coverage snap (1.63).

Nacua’s inside (41.8% pre-snap alignment slot rate)/outside (58.2% perimeter rate) in Weeks 5-8 provides him access to all three. 

Nacua is a cash-game and GPP-tournament WR1-differentiator play, operating as a featured offensive weapon. 


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