Commanders Defense Spells Good News for Kirk Cousins
NFL Week 9 - Week 8 was a particularly kind week to the plays of this column, and it's time to keep that momentum flowing. Six teams are on a bye week, but the NFL has made sure that there is still some good fantasy gold to be had, so without further ado, let's jump in.
Justin Herbert $7200 @ Atlanta Falcons (49.5 over/under)
A bye was just what the Chargers needed with Justin Herbert's rib injury having impeded him at times during the opening seven weeks of the season. The Chargers have the fifth-best road offense according to DVOA and now will take on an Atlanta defense that is dead last in passing yards allowed, with 237 more than the next nearest team. The Falcons have allowed an average of 353.7 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns over their last four games.
Usage Suggestions: Herbert is a fine play for cash games, and in tournaments he can be stacked with either of Josh Palmer or Austin Ekeler. With Donald Parham playing more recently, it's been harder to trust Gerald Everett, but Parham will miss Week 9 and in tournaments, Everett is a fine play.
Tua Tagovailoa $6700 @ Chicago Bears (45.5 over/under)
The Tua Tagovailoa experience this season has been very boom or bust for fantasy scoring. In the three home games Tagovailoa has played, he has scored an average of 15.7 fantasy points, whilst on the road, he has averaged 43.0. That sample size is quite small and I'm not predicting another monstrous game necessarily, but the Dolphins have had no problem going on the road and now will face a Bears passing defense that ranks 18th in DVOA and just lost Roquan Smith. The Dolphins have shown they can be an intelligent offense and will find ways to scheme passes to their superstar receivers, and Tagovailoa can continue his hot streak here.
Usage Suggestions: It feels unlikely that many managers will opt to use Tua in cash games and double-ups, but he has enough going for him in the passing game that I don't mind it. For tournaments, it can be hard to predict which receiver will have the bigger day, but taking either Waddle or Hill looks fine.
Kirk Cousins $6200 @ Washington Commanders (42.5 over/under)
The Vikings have been somewhat quietly going about their business on their way to a 6-1 record, and Kirk Cousins has been a top-12 quarterback in four of his seven appearances this year. The Vikings are finding ways to win that they didn't under Mike Zimmer, and whilst Cousins hasn't had any true eruption games, he has been a steady force and had four games of 18 fantasy points or more. The Commanders allow the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and are far more stout against the run, where they rank second in defensive DVOA, as opposed to the pass where they rank 28th.
Usage Suggestions: Cousins is a fine play in both cash and tournament settings. It's likely that Cousins and Justin Jefferson are a common pairing, so be mindful of the rest of your team if you take that approach in large-field tournaments. Pairing them with Terry McLaurin should capture a large amount of the points available in this game.
Aaron Rodgers $5900 @ Detroit Lions (49.5 over/under)
There's a hint of sadness that comes with seeing Aaron Rodgers price below the $6,000 mark. It's uncommon to find MVP-caliber quarterbacks down in this range, but the sad truth is that Rodgers doesn't look like one these days, regardless of what the Packers' in-house grading says. The Packers haven't looked like a good team in the passing game, but they get the ultimate get-right opponent in the Lions, who have the league's worst defense in passing DVOA and allow the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
Usage Suggestions: The Packers offensive strength is still the ground game, and because of the risk of them concentrating on that, I find it hard to consider Rodgers for cash games, but in tournaments he makes for interesting stacks with Romeo Doubs and Robert Tonyan, particularly if Allen Lazard misses out.
Josh Jacobs $7300 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (47.5 over/under)
Week 8 brought Josh Jacobs' worst fantasy performance of the season and his first single-digit fantasy score since Week 2. Jacobs gained 23 of his 43 rushing yards before the Saints opened the scoring, and then Jacobs saw just seven more attempts in his lightest workload since Week 1. The Raiders weren't doing much correctly, but moving away from Jacobs, who has been a bright spark, seems like it was a mistake. The Jaguars rank 20th in rushing defense DVOA, have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs, and have allowed an average of 1.8 rushing touchdowns over their last five games.
Usage Suggestions: Jacobs' price has come down from last week's $7,500 but it's still a little pricey, particularly if you're looking at cash games or double-ups. I prefer Jacobs for tournaments this week and would consider pairing him with Evan Engram, who has a favorable matchup.
Travis Etienne $6300 vs. Las Vegas Raiders (47.5 over/under)
On the other side of this matchup is another running back who is lighting things up with a bigger role than we might have expected. In the two games that Etienne has seen 75% or more of the snaps, he has touched the ball a total of 46 times for a combined 281 total yards, along with two touchdowns. The Raiders are a better rushing defense (18th) than passing defense (31st), but they're still a bottom-half defense that just allowed Alvin Kamara to rush for three touchdowns and also see nine targets in the passing game. Etienne projects as our top running back this week in our fantasy projections.
Usage Suggestions: I'm not a fan of playing opposing running backs on the same lineup, but if you're creating a lot of lineups, I don't hate it in this instance. Etienne is easier to pair with Davante Adams, or possibly take a flier on Mack Hollins, who has had back-to-back double-digit performances.
Kenneth Walker $6200 @ Arizona Cardinals (49.5 over/under)
Over the last three weeks, Kenneth Walker ranks third in rushing yards (316), first in touchdowns (four), and second in missed tackles (17), and he is the PPR RB5 in that period. In short, Walker is playing excellently. The Seahawks have the league's third-best offense on the road according to DVOA, and the Cardinals have the league's third-worst defense at home, so there seems little reason to consider fading Walker, particularly when in Week 6 Walker scored 19 PPR points against this Cardinals defense.
Usage Suggestions: Walker is a fine play in cash games, and if you're playing him in tournaments, he can be correlated with either DeAndre Hopkins or Zach Ertz, who have good matchups.
Raheem Mostert $6100 @ Chicago Bears (45.5 over/under)
It didn't take Chase Edmonds being traded away for us to know that the Dolphins saw Raheem Mostert as the better running back. Mostert has seen 61.1% of Miami's running back opportunities this season, and even with the addition of Jeff Wilson, Mostert's role should be secure for now as he ranks 10th in DYAR and sixth in success rate amongst running backs and looks set for another usable week in fantasy as the Dolphins face a Bears defense that has allowed a league-leading 14 rushing touchdowns. Chicago ranks 28th in rush defense DVOA and has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs.
Usage Suggestions: Mostert's price is getting a little expensive for cash games, where beyond all else we want reliability. I prefer Mostert in tournaments, where the touchdowns will be leverage away from the Miami passing game.
Deon Jackson $5200 @ New England Patriots (39.5 over/under)
On Friday Jonathan Taylor was ruled out for Week 9 as he continues to struggle with an ankle injury and with the Colts struggling this season there seems little sense in rushing him back. In the two games that Deon Jackson has played more than 50% of the snaps he has averaged 19.5 total touches and proved particularly reliable in the passing game where he has seen 14 targets and caught all of them. New England have allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs over the last three games, but they are still a bottom six team in rushing defense DVOA. Sometimes volume alone is enough for a running back to get there and with Jackson clearly the lead back this weekend he's an okay play.
Usage Suggestions: Because of New England's recent history against running backs I find this an easier play for tournaments than in cash games this week, but with Josh Allen and Austin Ekeler the type of plays we want in cash the savings might make it a neccessity.
D'Onta Foreman $6000 vs. Cinncinati Bengals (42.5 over/under)
Chuba Hubbard is set to miss out for the Panthers for the second week running, leaving Foreman to be the clear lead back again after a week where he saw a 73% opportunity share. Foreman has back to back games with 118 rushing yards and now faces a Bengals side that ranks 15th in rushing defense DVOA. If the Bengals are able to build up a lead then it's likely this game could move away from Foreman, but at $6000 it's still a fine play.
Usage Suggestions: I would be more comfortable playing Foreman in cash games than Deon Jackson but the difference is not substantial. Foreman can be paired with Higgins for a game correlation or played solo.
Justin Jefferson $8600 @ Washington Commanders (42.5 over/under)
The Vikings travel to the Commanders in a game that sets up well for the Minnesota pass-catchers, and Washington will have its hands full trying to stop Jefferson, who is the PPR WR4 on the season and ranks fourth in DYAR. Amongst receivers to have played every game they could this season, only Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs average more receiving yards per game than Jefferson's 107.4. The Commanders allow the fifth-most points to wide receivers and it's hard to imagine them slowing Jefferson down this week.
Usage Suggestions: Jefferson is a fine play in all formats. For tournaments, stacking Jefferson and Kirk Cousins together will be a popular pick; look to expand on that and add Terry McLaurin into the stack.
DeAndre Hopkins $7900 vs. Seattle Seahawks (49.5 over/under)
Since DeAndre Hopkins returned from suspension, he has seen an absurd league-leading target share of 37.5%. Hopkins is showing no signs of rust and if anything looks a better player than he did during 2021, when things were bumpy for the Cardinals. The Seahawks defense has been improving but they still rank 26th against WR1s, and sheer volume alone will be in Hopkins' favor in this matchup.
Usage Suggestions: If I'm spending up in cash games, I would prefer to get to Justin Jefferson. Instead I would prefer to roster Hopkins in tournaments, where we can stack him with Kyler Murray and a Seahawks pass-catcher as a bring-back.
Tee Higgins $7300 vs. Carolina Panthers (42.5 over/under)
The Bengals are a better team than they displayed on Monday night against a Browns team that has had their number in the last couple of years. The ground game is yet to appear for Cincinnati, and they rank 22nd in run offense DVOA, but they do better in the passing game where they rank 14th. The Panthers' defensive strength is against the run, where they rank seventh. Unfortunately for them, they rank 27th against the pass, and it seems far too likely that the Bengals will make them suffer through the air this weekend. With Ja'Marr Chase still not healthy, Tee Higgins will be the focus of the Bengals attack and seems primed for a big day.
Usage Suggestions: Higgins is a good play in both cash games and tournaments. For tournaments, Higgins can be stacked with Joe Burrow, or correlated with DJ Moore, who has seen reliable production lately.
Amon-Ra St. Brown $6600 vs. Green Bay Packers (49.5 over/under)
With T.J Hockenson traded to the Vikings, it's hard to imagine it's not good news for Amon-Ra St. Brown now that Jared Goff has lost one of his near-line-of-scrimmage targets. St. Brown, who runs 60.5% of his routes from the slot, should now be able to hoover up even more volume in easy catch scenarios, and we have seen how good he is at turning those into big yards-after-the-catch gains. Green Bay ranks ninth in pass defense DVOA and has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to receivers, but sometimes bankable volume is enough, and in St. Brown's four full games this season he has totaled 43 targets.
Usage Suggestions: Normally St. Brown would be a cash play at this price, but because the matchup isn't perfect I would rather roster him in tournaments this week. Correlating St. Brown with Aaron Jones, who has a friendly matchup, seems like a good way to capture a lot of points.
Terry McLaurin $5900 vs. Minnesota Vikings (42.5 over/under)
Over the last two weeks, only eight receivers have scored more PPR points than Terry McLaurin, who has put up his best two performances of the season with Taylor Heinicke at the helm. The Vikings have the 11th-worst grade in pass defense DVOA and have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to receivers this year, particularly struggling against WR1s, where they rank 32nd.
Usage Suggestions: With eight targets in back-to-back games and at least 70 receiving yards in each, McLaurin is cheap enough to consider for cash games. As mentioned elsewhere in this article, in tournaments McLaurin can be used as a bring-back on Cousins and Jefferson stacks. Stacking McLaurin with Heinicke will be a much less common option than Vikings stacks but could be just as profitable.
DJ Moore $5800 vs. Cinncinati Bengals (42.5 over/under)
The Bengals are down to just three healthy cornerbacks this weekend leaving the Panthers pass-catchers a much friendlier matchup than they could have been dealt. Moore has averaged 9.4 targets per game dating back to week 4 and is just one touchdown away from equalling his career-high of four. Over the last three weeks the Bengals have allowed the eleventh-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and barring a PJ Walker meltdown, this feels like another strong week for Moore.
Usage Suggestions: Moore is cheap enough to consider for cash games and fine for tournaments, but he likely will be heavily played and you'll need to be mindful with the rest of your lineup. Whilst Foreman is an equally good play, I wouldn't opt for both players in the same lineup unless you're creating a large amount of lineups. Corellating Moore with Tee Higgins is an obvious but great looking move all the same.
Jakobi Meyers $5400 vs. Indianapolis Colts (39.5 over/under)
Despite all of the turmoil in New England, Jakobi Meyers has had a rather nice season, and there aren't many pass-catchers for the Patriots whom you can say that about. Meyers leads the team in receptions (35), and if it wasn't for the success of Rhamondre Stevenson, perhaps more would be made of the fact that Meyers ranks 11th in PPR points per game. The Patriots face the Colts this week, and while Stevenson is still a fine play because of volume, the Colts do rank sixth against the rush, which is better than the pass where they rank 20th, struggling particularly against WR1s, whom they rank 29th against.
Usage Suggestions: The Patriots are a tricky team to predict and they could easily veer into a run-heavy script here if they get a lead against a Sam Ehlinger-led team. For those reasons, I would be more comfortable rostering Meyers in tournaments, primarily as a single uncorrelated play that would give leverage off of people who rostered Rhamondre Stevenson.
Joshua Palmer $5100 @ Atlanta Falcons (49.5 over/under)
Most teams get healthy during a bye week, but the Chargers luck hasn't fallen that way and Keenan Allen has reaggravated the hamstring injury that has kept him out since Week 1. Mike Williams is still on IR, which leaves Joshua Palmer and DeAndre Carter as the Chargers' top two receivers. When Mike Williams missed a game in 2021, we saw Palmer used as the more vertical receiver in the offense and he returned 15.3 PPR points. At $5,100 that kind of return would be plenty this week.
Usage Suggestions: Palmer can be stacked with Justin Herbert and is a borderline cash play.
Allen Robinson $5000 @ Tampa Bay Buccanneers (42.5 over/under)
Things haven't quite been what the Rams had hoped for in 2022 and Allen Robinson started the season off in a particularly disappointing fashion. There are signs of hope, though, as Robinson has had 10 receptions for 117 yards in the last two weeks. Robinson leads wide receivers in targets inside the 10-yard line (10) and in another timeline perhaps if he would have caught another touchdown or two things would look even rosier. Tampa Bay ranks sixth in pass defense DVOA, but against WR2s they rank 21st, which should favor Robinson.
Usage Suggestions: Robinson has let us down enough times for us to know this isn't a cash game play. In tournaments, Robinson can be correlated with any of the Bucs' pass catchers or even Leonard Fournette.
Robert Tonyan $3800 @ Detroit Lions (49.5 over/under)
The Packers' wide receivers are a hard-to-predict bunch, but Robert Tonyan is a somewhat stable force, leading tight ends in receptions over the last three weeks with 18 and his 22 targets is second to only George Kittle in that period. The Lions have allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this year and rank dead last in DVOA vs. tight ends.
Usage Suggestions: Tonyan has displayed enough of a floor in recent weeks that at a cost of below $4,000, I don't mind him in cash games. For tournaments, Tonyan makes for a good stacking partner with Aaron Rodgers.
Dawson Knox $3500 @ New York Jets (46.5 over/under)
Over the last three weeks, only two teams have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Jets have. Dawson Knox has seen a drop-off in production from last year's breakout season, but he has back-to-back games with touchdowns and has caught 100% of his red zone targets, which is the kind of reliability quarterbacks remember.
Usage Suggestions: Knox is a fine play in both cash games and tournaments.
Evan Engram $3300 vs. Las Vegas Raiders (47.5 over/under)
Over the last three games, Evan Engram is the PPR TE4 and has averaged a respectable 11.7 points. Vegas have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year and Engram can have another solid day here.
Usage Suggestions: I like tournament builds where Engram is correlated with Raiders running back Josh Jacobs.
Stack of The Week
After an unsuccessful trip to the budget shopping aisle in Week 8, when we tried to make use of Daniel Jones, this week we'll aim a little higher. Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, and Terry McLaurin will count for 41.4% of your total salary, but for all of the reasons laid out in their respective write-ups, I believe it's worth every dollar.
Fade of The Week
Initially, this week's selection was Jonathan Taylor but with the news that he'll miss out with his ankle injury, we'll pivot to another running back, D'Andre Swift. Swift only had ten touches last week but Dan Campbell said that they had probably given him too many touches. Sadly despite Swift's efficiency and high ceiling he is a very dangerous play at the moment and at $6400 he's just too much of a risk.