With most teams halfway through the season, the NFL has another big Sunday in store this week with 11 games on the main slate on DraftKings. In Week 9, the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles are on their scheduled bye weeks, while the fantasy-rich New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers are all playing in primetime and not on the main slate. For the second week in a row there are eight of the 11 games kicking off at 1:00 p.m. ET with just three games in the late window. In two of those late-game showcases, the Arizona Cardinals are back off their bye against the Miami Dolphins, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will try to stay unbeaten in a very favorable matchup against the tail-spinning Dallas Cowboys. The other late game is an AFC West battle between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers, which is one of four divisional matchups lined up for this week’s main slate.
As you get your DraftKings team assembled for Week 9’s main slate, make sure to take a look at the affordable plays listed below that come loaded with upside. Each week, I dive into the bargain bin and give you my favorite cheap plays based on recent form, matchup and expected opportunity. Check out the plays I like the most this Sunday.
($6,000 and under)
Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers, $5,700 – Last week, Carr led his team to a win in blustery conditions in Cleveland but only managed 112 passing yards with a touchdown and added 41 rushing yards for 12.58 DKFP. In his prior five contests, though, he had posted over 20 DKFP four times and thrown multiple scores in every game since Week 1. Even after playing through the wind, Carr is in the top five in the NFL in completion percentage and has a 14:2 touchdown to interception ratio. He is in the top 10 QBs in the NFL in QBR, and his Effective Yards indicates he has actually played better than his raw numbers show.
This week, Carr will have no weather issues indoors at SoFi Stadium, where he’ll take on the Chargers, who have allowed the second-most DKFP to opposing QBs in the NFL this season and have given up big games to Gardner Minshew II (thumb) and Drew Lock ($5,200) the past two weeks. Los Angeles has given up 14 passing touchdowns in their past six games, and Carr should be able to take advantage of the matchup and bounce back with a strong showing as a good value option this week.
Drew Lock, Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons, $5,200 – After a disappointing Week 7 loss to the Chiefs, Lock and the Broncos fell behind the Chargers big at home, and Lock only completed 9-of-15 passes for 58 yards in the first half. However, the young QB turned things around with a monster second half, throwing three touchdowns and 190 yards to lead a big comeback and finish with 20.82 DKFP. It was by far his best performance of the season and a good reminder of why the Broncos think they have found their franchise QB.
His inconsistent play may not all be behind him, but at least he now seems to be trending the right direction coming into a great matchup this week in Atlanta. The Falcons have given up the 10th-most DKFP to QBs this season and are giving up an average of 323.8 passing yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game. No team in the NFL has given up more passing touchdowns than the Falcons, who have given up 20 touchdowns despite a decent showing last Thursday against Teddy Bridgewater in rainy Carolina. In each of their previous four games, they had surrendered over 300 yards passing, so Lock has plenty of upside if he plays like he did in the second half and gets the same defense that was shredded by Kirk Cousins ($6,200) and Matthew Stafford ($6,600) for 300-plus yards.
Other Options: Tua Tagovailoa ($5,500), Kyle Allen ($5,300)
($5,000 and under)
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts, $4,900 – Dobbins had his first 100-yard rushing game in the NFL in Week 8 despite Baltimore’s 28-24 loss to the Steelers. With Mark Ingram ($4,800; ankle) inactive, Dobbins led the way with 66% of the offensive snaps while Gus Edwards ($4,800) played 32%. Edwards actually had one more carry than Dobbins, and each RB got two red zone looks. However, for the most part, Dobbins was the more effective player, taking his 15 carries for 113 yards and adding an eight-yard catch on his way to 16.1 DKFP.
The Colts have been solid against the run, but I still think Dobbins has a lot of upside for a player under $5K. Ingram has struggled to get much going even when healthy, and Dobbins has made the most of his limited opportunities. With Ingram’s availability uncertain since he is dealing with a high ankle sprain, Dobbins could get another game with an expanded workload. While Indianapolis has not given up much yardage on the ground, it has allowed four RB touchdowns over their past three games. Baltimore’s offense is run-heavy and has shown it can be effective even against top defenses, and getting the lead back in that system coming off 100-yard game is something definitely worth considering.
Editor’s Note: Dolphins RB Matt Breida (hamstring) has been ruled out for Sunday’s game vs. the Cardinals.
Matt Breida, Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals, $4,000 – After salaries were released, news broke that Myles Gaskin (knee) will be sidelined for three weeks with a sprained MCL, so Breida has an opportunity to play a much more prominent role this week in Arizona than originally expected. Gaskin had seized the starting job in Miami and played 88% of snaps in Week 8 with Breida playing just 16% of snaps as the only other RB involved. Breida only had 1.3 DKFP by taking four carries for 13 yards against the Rams, but he did have some more productive games earlier this season with 6.9 DKFP against the 49ers and 7.8 DKFP against the Seahawks in his change-of-pace role. Without Gaskin, Breida could be in for a big workload, although Patrick Laird ($4,000; ankle) could get some work while Jordan Howard ($4,000) is another option after being a healthy scratch the past three weeks. Breida has shown flashes of fantasy potential in the past and entered the season with the third-highest per-carry average in the NFL since 2017. There were some in Miami calling for him to have a larger role even before Gaskin’s injury since he does have big-play potential. Without Gaskin, Breida will likely be the option that is more involved in the passing game, setting him up for potential PPR production although Howard could vulture some short-yardage work. Trade deadline-acquisition DeAndre Washington could figure into the mix down the road, but he’ll be a long shot to be involved this week against Arizona. Breida had one of the best games of his career last season against the Cardinals, when he had 78 yards on 15 carries in addition to a couple of catches for 14 yards in Arizona during his time with the 49ers. He will have to seize the job, but if he can take advantage of his opportunity to do so this weekend and help take pressure off of Tua, he could be a great value at just $4K.
Other Options: Justin Jackson ($4,900), Wayne Gallman Jr. ($4,500), Chris Thompson ($4,000)
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($5,000 and under)
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants at Washington Football Team, $4,800 – Shepard has totaled 14 catches on 18 targets in his two games since returning from IR and is still playing through both shoulder and toe issues. He looked solid on Monday night of Week 8, though, catching 8-of-10 targets for 74 yards and 15.4 DKFP. He has double-digit DKFP in each of the three games he has been able to complete, and he led the team in targets, catches and receiving yards in their 25-23 loss to the Bucs. He got one of the two looks to WR in the red zone against Tampa Bay and has four of the six passes targeted to WR in the red zone over the past two weeks since his return.
Shepard missed the Giants’ first game against Washington but seems locked into a significant workload for this rematch. He isn’t much of a deep threat at this point but does get plenty of possession-style targets and catches, making him a solid option due to PPR potential.
Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons, $4,700 – Jeudy stepped into a larger role for the Broncos with Tim Patrick ($4,900; hamstring) sidelined in Week 8, and both WR will be in a good matchup this weekend against the Falcons if Patrick is able to return. Jeudy led the team with a career-high 10 targets and caught four of those for a career-high 73 yards on his way to 11.3 DKFP. He only has two red zone looks all season but has been used as a downfield threat with an average depth of target of 13.8 yards, which puts him in the top 25 WRs in the NFL.
He has been getting plenty of snaps all season and starting to develop a connection with Drew Lock. The two of them make an interesting value stack against the Falcons. Atlanta’s defense has allowed nine WR touchdowns and an average of 211.9 receiving yards to WRs per game. Last week, the Falcons got a little help from bad weather in Carolina, but in the dome this week the Broncos should be able to attack deep and continue to develop the Lock-to-Jeudy connection they hope will be a key piece of their future for years to come.
Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans, $3,900 – Another rookie receiver stepping into a more involved role is Bears fifth-round pick Darnell Mooney. Mooney has established himself as both a red zone option and a deep threat, averaging 15.7 yards per target, which is 13th in the NFL. Mooney snagged a three-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter against the Saints and also hauled in a 50-yard reception just before halftime that was the Bears’ longest offensive play of the season. Mooney still out-snapped Anthony Miller ($4,000) 65-to-53, but Miller actually got more targets, leading the team with 11. Mooney hauled in five of his six targets for 69 yards and 17.9 DKFP, giving him multiple catches in all eight games in his NFL career.
Mooney’s emergence allowed the Bears to part ways with Ted Ginn Jr. even after the suspension of Javon Wims, so look for Miller, Mooney and Allen Robinson ($6,900) to continue to get a ton of snaps and workload against the Titans this week. Tennessee’s defense has been one of the best matchups for WRs in the NFL, giving up 199.7 receiving yards per game to WRs to go with 10 touchdowns in seven games. They have allowed eight WRs to produce over 65 yards in their four games since the bye week, and I think Mooney will be able to reach that level in this contest, making him a good value play with nice touchdown upside.
Marvin Hall, Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings, $3,800 – With Kenny Golladay (hip) not expected to play this week and possibly out for a while, Hall could be in a nice spot to step up across from Marvin Jones Jr. ($5,100) on the other side. Hall is coming off a huge game against the Colts in which he hauled in 4-of-11 targets for a career-high 113 yards and 18.3 DFKP. He played 69% of offensive snaps, which was more than Danny Amendola ($3,700), who played 67%, and Quintez Cephus ($3,000) who didn’t even get on the field. Cephus started in Golladay’s place back in Week 1, but Hall seems to be ahead of the rookie right now.
Hall has been an under-the-radar deep threat for the Lions for the past few seasons but hasn’t usually gotten enough reps to be a fantasy option. Last season, Hall and Matthew Stafford ($6,600) showed a strong connection, hooking up on long passes of 58, 49, 47 and 34 yards before injury derailed Detroit’s offense. Hall is third in the NFL in average depth of target at 22.5 yards, which places him just ahead of Henry Ruggs III ($4,900) for comparison. He gets a good matchup against the Vikings, who are allowing the third-most yards per pass attempt (8.5) in the NFL so far this season. Hall is a HR threat for the Lions and can give your lineup a high ceiling at a bargain rate.
Other Options: Tim Patrick ($4,900), Mecole Hardman ($4,800), Randall Cobb ($4,500), David Moore ($3,100)
($4,000 and under)
Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team vs. New York Giants, $3,700 – Thomas started the season strong but then disappeared for a few games before catching touchdowns in each of his two most recent contests before Washington’s bye week. He had 13.2 DKFP in Week 6 against the Giants and followed that up with 16.0 DKFP against Dallas in Week 7. He was second on the team behind only Terry McLaurin ($6,500) for targets, catches and receiving yards in that contest with with the Cowboys and his three receiving touchdowns on the season lead the team.
With Kyle Allen ($5,300) continuing to lead the offense, Thomas should remain a key part of the passing game. He’s a hulking target and has already gotten seven red zone targets this season. The Giants not only gave up a touchdown to Thomas in Week 7, but they also allowed six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown to Tampa’s TEs last week.
Jordan Akins, Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars, $3,300 – Akins is expected to be able to return after the Texans’ bye week after missing three straight games with an ankle injury and a concussion. Before the injury, he was clearly the team’s top TE, playing ahead of Darren Fells ($4,200), who has been solid while Akins was out. Before the injury, Akins hauled in 14-of-15 targets for 168 yards and a touchdown over four games. If Akins regains his role, he should return to his production as a key safety-valve for Deshaun Watson ($7,100) in this great matchup.
The Jaguars have allowed the fourth-most DKFP to TEs in the NFL, mostly due to allowing seven TE touchdowns in seven games before their bye week along with an average of 63.3 yards per game to TEs. Akins is a low-cost option set up to succeed as long as he’s cleared to return as expected.
Other Options: Dalton Schultz ($3,600), Trey Burton ($3,500)
($2,800 and under)
Dolphins DST, Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals, $2,800 – The Dolphins were my only bargain DST play last week, and they stepped up with a massive game against the Rams with a pair of return touchdowns and 23 DKFP. The Dolphins’ DST has now produced at least 12.0 DKFP in three straight contests and is averaging 9.9 DKFP per game, which is fourth-highest on this slate. They aren’t in nearly as good a spot going on the road to Arizona, but the Cardinals have turned the ball over nine times in their seven games while allowing 1.3 sacks per contest. Even though they don’t have quite as high of a ceiling, they are still a solid play under $3K.
Giants DST, New York Giants at Washington Football Team, $2,700 — The Giants’ defense wasn’t quite able to keep Tom Brady in check on Monday Night Football, as the Bucs squeaked out a 25-23 win. New York had a fumble recovery, two sacks and 4.0 DKFP against Tampa and will look for an even better showing against Washington this week. When the Giants faced Allen in Week 6, they had an interception, a fumble recovery, a touchdown and 14 DKFP. They have actually been able to get at least 9.0 DKFP in three of their eight contests this season and will be a strong value play if they have a similar performance this week.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.