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NFL Week 9 PFF Preview: Players to watch, fantasy football advice and betting projections

Lamar Jackson will host Tom Brady and the undefeated New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football, Patrick Mahomes' likely return from injury will come against a high-flying Minnesota Vikings team and Garder Minshew is a 1.5 point underdog at home against Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans. Wee 9 in the NFL is going to be a good one.

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San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals

Players to Watch

San Francisco tight end George Kittle leads all at his position and ranks third among all qualifying offensive players in yards per route run (2.89) entering Week 9. He's easily been the NFL's best tight end through the first eight weeks of football and should continue to roll against a struggling Cardinals defense.

Fantasy Football Preview

Kyler Murray has had a down last two weeks, with only 324 passing yards and no touchdowns across the two weeks. And things get even harder for the rookie this week, as he and the Cardinals take on a 49ers defense that has allowed 11.5 fantasy points to quarterbacks since their Week bye. No, that’s not a per-game number.

Betting Preview

The 49ers find themselves as 10-point road favorites over their division rival in the NFC West. With a 5-2 against the spread record, the 49ers continue to find backing in the betting market. Greenline gives San Francisco almost an 80% win probability but expects they may have some trouble covering this wide spread on the road. 

Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Players to Watch

Leonard Fournette shares the NFL lead among qualifying backs in yards after contact per attempt (3.8) with Raiders' Josh Jacobs and Seahawks' Chris Carson. Now, if he could just find the end zone…

Fantasy Football Preview

If Leonard Fournette gets 20 touches without a touchdown Sunday in London, he’ll break the record among active players for most touches in a season with no more than one touchdown at 218. If his bad luck last a few more weeks, he could threaten the all-time record (Rodney Hampton’s 269 touches in 1996). That’s more of a fluke than anything else, and you’d expect Fournette to start finding the end zone more often, but it’s interesting to monitor.

Betting Preview

Our 11th-ranked Texans head to London to take on our 19th-ranked Jaguars in a game with a -1.5-point spread for Houston. The line has moved slightly towards Houston, but Greenline still has a strong lean on both the spread and total in this matchup. 

Washington Redskins @ Buffalo Bills

Players to Watch

A whopping 40% of Josh Allen‘s targets of 10 or more air yards have been charted as uncatchable in PFF's ball location charting. Only five other quarterbacks with 50 or more attempts of 10-plus air yards have thrown a higher percentage of uncatchable targets than Allen on said throws.

Fantasy Football Preview

Adrian Peterson has 57 rush attempts over the last three weeks, tied for sixth-most in the league. His overall PFF grade in that span is a fifth-best 78.2 (out of 48 qualified backs). Among 11 backs with more than 40 carries in that time, Peterson’s 4.8 yards per carry is the best. Obviously, Peterson’s lack of involvement in the receiving game will keep him from having massive fantasy value, as will steady unfriendly gamescripts, but at least until Derrius Guice makes his return, Peterson is worth monitoring and stashing in fantasy.

Betting Preview

This spread has moved sharply away from Buffalo, crossing the key number 10 and settling into a -9.5 home favorite. In this matchup of two offenses ranked in the bottom fourth of our opponent-adjusted metric, could the lowest total on the slate be playable? Greenline thinks so with both a spread and total play being some of the best bets to target in Week 9. 

Tennessee Titans @ Carolina Panthers

Players to Watch

Kyle Allen enters Week 9 with the lowest PFF passing grade on clean dropbacks (61.4) among the 31 NFL quarterbacks with 100 or more clean-pockets on the year. He has thrown four touchdowns and three interceptions when kept clean this season.

Fantasy Football Preview

Everyone hurried to declare Corey Davis “back” after his productive Week 7 game with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, only for Davis to fall flat in what should have been a great matchup against Tampa Bay in Week 8, with Davis totaling only a pair of catches for nine yards while three different Titans (Jonnu Smith, Tajae Sharpe and A.J. Brown) caught touchdown passes. Against a Carolina defense that allowed both Tampa Bay and Jacksonville wide receivers to put up 50-plus fantasy points in Weeks 5-6 before the bye, Davis gets one more chance as an interesting option, but the leash is short.

Betting Preview

Ryan Tannehill has boosted this anemic offense up to our 20th-ranked team since taking over for Marcus Mariota in Week 7. Bettors seem to be fading this recent play, moving the Panthers out to -4 favorites at home. Greenline has a lean in the other direction with the Titans a better overall team according to our ELO rankings. 

Minnesota Vikings @ Kansas City Chiefs

Players to Watch

Mecole Hardman has been electric to start the 2019 NFL season. He leads all qualifying offensive players in yards after the catch per reception (10.8) entering Week 9. He also ranks first among the same group of pass-catchers in passer rating when targeted (153.3).

Fantasy Football Preview

Through the season’s first four weeks, the Vikings’ run-play percentage never fell between 46 and 64%. Over the last four weeks, it hasn’t fallen outside 52-60%. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that number rise against the Chiefs Sunday, especially if Patrick Mahomes makes his return. Before Mahomes’ Week 7 injury, we saw the Colts and Texans work to keep the ball out of the star quarterback’s hands, culminating in the Chiefs having the lowest time of possession in a game all year against Houston in Week 6. Don’t be surprised if Sunday is a big Dalvin Cook game.

Betting Preview

A lot of information on this game is waiting on the new of Patrick Mahomes with no total currently listed at any books. Some books have made the Chiefs 2.5-point home dogs with the assumption that Mahomes sits out another week. This is a spot we would wait for more clarification before risking anything with so much currently unknown. 

New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins

Players to Watch

Le'Veon Bell hasn't wowed from a box-score perspective in recent weeks, but he's still forcing missed tackles and gaining yards after contact with reckless abandon. He enters Week 9 ranked third among all NFL backs with 30 or more carries in forced missed tackles per carry (0.26).

Fantasy Football Preview

Remember ultra-workhorse Le’Veon Bell, the guy who averaged almost 25 touches a game through Week 5 and peaked with a 31-touch Week 2? That guy’s been absent in recent weeks, as Bell has only 43 touches across the last three weeks (13.3 per game), a number that is only 21st in the league behind three players who had a bye in that span. And with Bell averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry, neither the quantity nor the quality has been there lately.

Betting Preview

The Jets talked about trading away their roster at the deadline but failed to make any moves and now must rebuild the angry pieces against the tanking Dolphins. The betting market has liked what Ryan Fitzpatrick has brought the past two weeks with this line moving down sharply from an opening 4.5 point print. The Dolphins are still three-point road dogs, but is Greenline backing them for a third straight week or has the market adjusted too much on this play? 

Chicago Bears @ Philadelphia Eagles

Players to Watch

There isn't a lot to like in regards to Mitchell Trubisky, but his passes downfield are truly some of the worst. He ranks dead last among qualifying quarterbacks in PFF passing grade on throws of 10-plus air yards (44.2) entering Week 9. ‘Bisk has completed just 21-of-55 attempts for 444 yards, two touchdowns and two picks throwing 10 or more yards down the field.

Fantasy Football Preview

In one or the other of the last two weeks since the team’s bye, Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller has set season-highs in offensive snaps, targets, receiving yards, yards per reception, passer rating when targeted, yards after the catch and PFF grade. He’s still not a fantasy monster by any means (8-of-12 receiving for 131 scoreless yards over those two weeks), but after he was barely involved in this offense over the season’s first month (4-of-8 for 28 yards in Weeks 1-4), Miller is suddenly worth monitoring.

Betting Preview

The rest of the football world has finally caught onto what PFF grades have been telling us for some time, which is Mitchell Trubisky is far from an elite quarterback. The Eagles have rebounded from a slow start but still post a 3-5 against the spread record. Something has to give in this matchup with Greenline giving the Eagles a 69.6% win probability. Is that enough to cover the spread is a different question entirely?

Indianapolis Colts @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Players to Watch

T.J. Watt enters Week 9 ranked second in the NFL in PFF pass-rush grade at 91.4. Totaling 37 pressures in 223 pass-rush snaps, Watt also ranks fourth in pass-rush win percentage (21.1%) and ninth in pressure percentage (16.6%).

Fantasy Football Preview

How much difference can one player make on defense? Well, in Weeks 1-2, the Steelers averaged only a 42.4 coverage grade on slot targets, allowing 209.5 yards on slot targets for a 157.2 passer rating. They added Minkah Fitzpatrick between Weeks 2 and 3, and if we give Fitzpatrick a week to get his feet under him with the new team and look at the numbers starting in Week 4, the Steelers have had a massive transformation. The team’s slot coverage grade has risen to 79.1, with only 87.0 slot yards allowed per game and a 64.6 passer rating against. The Colts haven’t really had a devoted slot receiver this year, but expect T.Y. Hilton (who leads the team with 11 slot receptions) to spend more of his time outside.

Betting Preview

Pittsburgh won but failed to cover against the worst team in the league on Monday Night Football. Bettors don’t seem to be holding it against them, as this game opened as a pick 'em but has moved in the direction of the home team. The total has also dropped slightly, but has it come into betting range according to Greenline?

Detroit Lions @ Oakland Raiders

Players to Watch

Matthew Stafford enters Week 9 ranked second in clean-pocket passing grade (92.4) among the 31 NFL quarterbacks with at least 100 clean dropbacks to start the season. On said dropbacks, he has completed 125-of-171 passes for 14 touchdowns and four interceptions while averaging an NFL-high 10.8 air yards per target. Oakland's defense has struggled to find pressure on quarterbacks since Khalil Mack left in 2018 and should hand Stafford his fair share of clean-pocket dropbacks.

Fantasy Football Preview

Across the last two weeks, the Lions have gotten 136.5 PPR points from the wide receiver positions, nearly 40 points ahead of the second-best team (Jacksonville, 97.7). The only wrinkle? It’s been wildly unpredictable. Marvin Jones had 43.3 points in Week 7, 6.2 in Week 8. Kenny Golladay had 3.1 in Week 7, 30.3 in Week 8. Only Danny Amendola (18.5, then 17.5) has offered consistency. Ultimately, Golladay is still the name you want from this depth chart, especially against an Oakland team giving up the sixth-most points to opposing receivers, but be aware things can always swing.

Betting Preview

Our sixth-ranked Raiders offense hosts the 11th-ranked Lions offense in a game that bookmakers expect to be high scoring. Both teams have defenses ranked in the bottom half of the NFL, but we still have our doubts about the 50.5 total getting hit in this contest. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Seattle Seahawks

Players to Watch

Russell Wilson should be the favorite to win MVP honors at season's end with his stellar start to the 2019 season, and a huge reason for that has been his play under pressure. He leads all quarterbacks with at least 50 pressured dropbacks in PFF passing grade when under pressure at 85.1.

Fantasy Football Preview

The Seahawks talked this offseason about getting Chris Carson more involved as a pass-catcher after he totaled only 20 receptions and 22 targets in 14 games a year ago. And at the start of the season, that looked like it was happening, as Carson averaged 3.8 targets, 3.5 receptions and 25.0 yards in Weeks 1-4. And then it went away — despite plenty of work overall. In the last four weeks, Carson has averaged only 2.8 targets, 2.0 receptions and a measly 12.3 receiving yards. He’s a strong running back overall, but with that part of the game eluding him and the Buccaneers having an elite run defense, he could have a down week this week.

Betting Preview

Another expected shootout but this total has been bet down considerably since an opening print of 53. The line movement has dropped over a point between these two teams ranked 25th or worse in our defensive ranking metric. With no lean on the spread, Greenline has a solid play on this total with hopes that it doesn’t continue to drop further. 

Cleveland Brown @ Denver Broncos

Players to Watch

Myles Garrett enters Week 9 with an NFL-high 91.8 pass-rush grade. He's totaled 35 pressures in 202 pass-rush snaps through the team's first set of games and is showing no signs of slowing down as he prepares for a bad Broncos offensive line.

Fantasy Football Preview

You could argue no receiver in the league has been more consistent this year than Courtland Sutton. He has had 6-8 targets in every game and 62-92 yards in every game since Week 2. He’s had at least 8.0 PPR points every week. Even in Week 8, his first game without Emmanuel Sanders, Sutton’s situation didn’t really change, with six targets and 72 yards. This week comes his big test, with Brandon Allen and his zero career regular-season snaps taking over at quarterback.

Betting Preview

This game could be ugly throughout with Brandon Allen set to take over for Joe Flacco at quarterback. The Browns' 31st-ranked defense should provide little resistance. This total has dropped over three points since the open but still might not be playable on either side according to Greenline. 

Green Bay Packers @ Los Angeles Chargers

Players to Watch

Aaron Rodgers‘ 95.3 PFF passing grade on throws of 10 or more air yards leads all quarterbacks with 50 such attempts. Targeting receivers 10 or more yards down the field, Rodgers has completed 52-of-94 passes for 1,239 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception.

Fantasy Football Preview

Austin Ekeler entered the league in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. Since then, all he’s done is be (by PFF grade) the best receiving running back in the entire league. Ekeler has a 93.9 receiving grade since the start of 2017 (best at the position), the second-most receiving touchdowns with 11, and his 132.5 passer rating when targeted is second only to Kareem Hunt’s 138.3. In four games this year since Melvin Gordon made his debut, Ekeler’s overall workload has dipped, but his receiving hasn’t — he’s tied for the RB lead in targets (29) and has the outright lead with 27 receptions.

Betting Preview

The top two offenses according to our opponent-adjusted offensive metric face off in Los Angeles. With the 10th-best defense, the Packers find themselves at fifth overall according to our ELO rankings. The Packers have held strong as three-point road favorites with Greenline giving them a 58% win probability. 

New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens

Players to Watch

Three of the NFL's 10 highest-graded defenders in coverage play for the Patriots. Devin McCourty ranks third in the NFL and leads the team with his 89.7 coverage grade, but Jamie Collins Sr. (87.7) and Jonathan Jones (87.4) aren't too far off, either.

Fantasy Football Preview

The obvious answer about Julian Edelman this year is that he’s been gamescript-proof, considering he’s averaging 9.6 targets per game (with three games in the double-digits) despite the Patriots going 8-0 and winning most of their games comfortably. But what if he isn’t? What if, against the best opponent the Patriots have faced all year, Edelman gets even more targets? That’s unlikely, but it’s just as unlikely for a receiver to have 37 combined targets over three weeks when his team has won by a cumulative 68 points, and that has happened. Could Edelman’s ceiling be even higher?

Betting Preview

Our game of the week features the first and seventh overall ranked teams according to ELO. These offenses are both ranked in the middle of the pack with the Patriots defense the clear differentiator with an obvious number one defensive ranking. The market has moved slightly away from the Patriots, but this spread would only become playable if New England dropped the hook. 

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants

Players to Watch

Dak Prescott leads all NFL quarterbacks with 100 or more clean dropbacks through Week 8 in PFF passing grade when kept clean at 92.6. He has completed 129-of-169 passes for 1,587 yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions on clean dropbacks so far this season.

Fantasy Football Preview

Monday will be Evan Engram’s sixth career game against the Cowboys. He’s averaging 72.4 yards and 17.2 PPR points against them in his career. In all other games, those numbers are 48.4 and 11.1, respectively. For some perspective, the current fantasy TE1, Austin Hooper, is averaging 73.9 yards and 17.6 PPR points per game.

Betting Preview

The NFC East matchup on Monday Night Football opened with the Cowboys as nine-point road favorites but has been bet down to seven or 7.5 in most spots. These teams are separated by 18 places in our ELO rankings and 16 places according to our offensive ranking metric. Greenline sees little value in the spread at 7.5 but could find some value with the total at 48. 

Cris Collinsworth

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