The amount of information you need to sift through on a weekly basis to build some competitive lineups can seem overwhelming. You’re in the right place to get through all of that information in no time, and we have another item for you to add to your arsenal. Each week, we’ll break down the best and worst rushing and passing matchups for Sunday’s main slate of games.
This will allow you to quickly zero in on the top anchors for your lineups, and we’ll also point out which players you’ll want to avoid as you fill out the rest of your roster. There’s a ton of choices to examine on a weekly basis. The goal of this article is to help you narrow the field of targets down substantially.
Let’s get right to it, starting with the week’s top matchups.
Matchups to Exploit
Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense
The Arizona Cardinals welcomed the San Francisco 49ers to town back in Week 4, and the home team secured the victory in an 18-15 snoozefest. The rematch is on tap for this week, and things are markedly different for both clubs in comparison to where it was five short weeks ago. For the 49ers, C.J. Beathard is keeping the seat warm until the newly-acquired Jimmy Garoppolo gets up to speed, and Brian Hoyer is across the country as the new backup quarterback for the New England Patriots. The Cardinals season went from bad to worse when they took a trip across the pond to face off with the Los Angeles Rams, as Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending shoulder injury during that 33-0 thrashing.
Drew Stanton is the next man up for the Cardinals, and signs point to the club leaning a bit more heavily on the run game moving forward. It’s perfect timing in that regard, as the 49ers have had some serious trouble stopping the run in 2017. While they slightly mitigated the damage last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, that came on the helps of being shredded by Ezekiel Elliott for 219 combined yards and three scores. That doesn’t mean that we can expect a similar performance from Adrian Peterson this week, but the veteran showed that he had quite a bit of pep left in his step with a stellar performance in Week 6 of 134 rushing yards and two scores. However, he came back to earth in a big way during the blowout against the Rams, but that's mainly because the Cardinals could get nothing going on offense. The Cardinals come in off of the bye, and we’ll err to the side that says the vet will come out swinging against a beatable defense.
Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense
The Baltimore Ravens looked thoroughly impressive their last time out on the field. The club obliterated the Miami Dolphins to the tune of 40-0, and it was such a bad beating that it prompted some major changes for the losers. While the Ravens looked fantastic in that tilt, we shouldn’t mistake that as sign that they’ve metastasized into a super team in under the radar fashion. There’s a lot of chinks to be found in the armor, and the club’s run game defense is one of the more notable ones. Prior to the Week 8 thumping of the Dolphins, the Ravens had allowed a 100-yard rusher in three of its previous four games. Le'Veon Bell, Jordan Howard, and Latavius Murray all turned the trick against the Ravens, while the fourth club they faced during that span - the Oakland Raiders - ran for 93 yards usng the committee approach.
For this week, the Ravens face off with a Tennessee Titans club that looked out of sorts on offense in their last outing against the Cleveland Browns. They've had a bye week to right the ship since then, and that could very well lead them back to the formula that works best for their offense as a whole: a heavy dose of running the ball. They have one of the league’s top two-headed monsters at their disposal in the form of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, so there’s a ton of upside to find for fantasy purposes. The problem lies within which one to choose. We’ll lean towards Murray for safety as he’s got a slight edge in carries on a year-to-date basis, but we’ll note that Henry offers up some contrarian appeal for tournament lineups.
Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense vs Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense
The long-running Ezekiel Elliott saga has taken yet another turn, and he'll be suiting up in Week 9 after all. Regardless, there's still some appeal to be found in the Cowboys passing attack this week, but our enthusiasm is slightly tempered with Elliott back in the equation. Dak Prescott is more than up to the task when given the opportunity to make things happen, and he has an appealing matchup on the docket to prove it once again.
While the Kansas City Chiefs are clearly one of the top teams in the league at this point in the season, there are weaknesses to be found. One of them comes in the form of the club’s pass defense, which has allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game. In addition to the yardage, four opposing signal callers have tossed multiple touchdowns against the Chiefs this season. The majority of the damage has been done by opposing wideouts, so that let’s us zero in even better on one of the week’s more appealing fantasy matchups. We can fire up Dak Prescott and pair him with Dez Bryant, but we’ll take a pass on Jason Witten for this week.
Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense at Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense
We don’t have to look too far to find the next matchup to target. On the opposite sideline, Alex Smith and company have an equally appealing matchup at hand. The Cowboys have looked better against the pass in successive victories over the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins, but that came directly on the heels of four consecutive subpar performances. However, there’s a caveat to the recent success. The victory over the 49ers came at the expense of rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, while Kirk Cousins didn’t stand a chance last week behind an offensive line that was missing starters.
Similar to the Chiefs, the Cowboys have been strong against opposing tight ends but weak against opposing wideouts on a year-to-date basis. That actually works out well, as we can save money by pivoting off of the normally expensive Travis Kelce for a more affordable option at the position. Instead, we can pair Alex Smith up with the affordable Tyreek Hill and see if that duo can make some noise in this potential shootout. Vegas has pegged this game with an implied total of 51.5 points, and there looks to be plenty of fantasy goodness to glean.
New Orleans Saints Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense
Don’t look now, but the New Orleans Saints are winning games by pounding the rock and playing strong defense. Yes, outside of a pair of debacles in the first two weeks of the season, the defensive side of the ball has been a strength of the Saints this season. That’s worked out fantastic for the club’s record, which currently stands at 5-2, but it’s slightly depressed what we can expect from Drew Brees and company on a week-to-week basis. Brees hasn’t completely fallen off the may by any means. Four games with multiple touchdown passes and two 300+ yard performances is nothing to sneeze at, it’s just that we’ve become spoiled by his productivity in years past.
This week marks a fantastic spot for the Saints offense of old to come to life, even if it’s only for the first half of the game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had problems in the secondary all season, and don’t let the fact that they held Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in check last week fool you. That game was slightly impacted by the wind, and Newton did not play well. There’s nothing to worry about on the weather condition front this week, and there’s no reason to believe that Brees can’t pick this unit apart. Even if we have a half of football in which we see the gunslinging Brees of old before the Saints try to slow things down, that’s plenty of time for the Saints to do some damage. Michael Thomas is the safest stacking option with Brees as he leads the club in targets by far, but we wouldn’t talk you out of taking a contrarian dart throw with Ted Ginn Jr or Brandon Coleman.
Matchups to Avoid
Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense
The Denver Broncos have been struggling on offense, and that’s prompted a quarterback change. Brock Osweiler is taking over for Trevor Siemian, and we’ll have to wait and see if that turns out to be the right move on a long-term basis. One thing we can be pretty confident about is that the Broncos have problems at hand no matter how you slice it this week, as they travel cross country fo face off with the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles run defense has been nothing short of stellar through the midway point of the season, and there’s nothing to suggest that a Broncos club with a new signal caller at the helm will be the one to expose the unit. We would expect the Broncos to lean even more heavily on the running game as they right the ship on offense, but this matchup doesn’t bode well for them. Add in the fact that the Broncos have been slowly moving towards a running back by committee approach, and we can consider this an easy pass for DFS purposes.
Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Houston Texans Rushing Defense
The Indianapolis Colts as a whole are struggling, but the team’s lack of productivity in the running game is still sticking out like a sore thumb. They have the talent at the position to get the job done, but the team’s poor overall play and struggles along the offensive line do not add up to a productive atmosphere for backs to thrive. The aging Frank Gore is starting to cede carries to youngster Marlon Mack, who has flashed some impressive signs for the future. This week, the Colts face off with a Houston Texans squad that remains strong against the run. While the Texans have been exposed through the air a few times this season, they haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 1. We’re not optimistic that the Colts will break that streak, and we’ll look elsewhere for running back value in Week 9.
Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense
The crowded Eagles backfield got a little more crowded with the acquisition of Jay Ajayi at the trade deadline. Quite frankly, there’s no clarity on how the carries will shake out now that he’s in the fold. While we can assume that LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood will remain in the mix, we can’t say for certain until we see an Eagles game or two to get a handle on the rotation moving forward. Either way, the Eagles face off against a Broncos squad that remains stout against the run. For some perspective, the Broncos were able to hold Kareem Hunt in check last week, and they’re the only club that has pulled that trick for a complete. We’ll pass on the Eagles for this week for those reasons, but we’re intrigued by this backfield moving forward as we gain more clarity on the workload split.
Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense
There was a time when opponents would see that the Jacksonville Jaguars were on the schedule and not be any more concerned than they normally would be. Those days are over. Prior to the season, there were plenty of schools of thought that suggested the Jaguars had the pieces in place to develop into an elite defensive unit. Those thoughts have come to fruition, at least as far as the Jaguars passing defense is concerned. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye have been holding things thoroughly in check in the secondary, and the pass rush has been pretty ferocious. On the season, the Jaguars have had two games in which they’ve sacked opposing quarterbacks a ridiculous 10 times. None of that bodes well for Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and company this week, and we’ll keep them off of our short lists as a result.
Tennessee Titans Passing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense
We touched on this matchup earlier by noting that the Titans may be able to find some success on the ground against the Ravens. They’re going to have to, as the Ravens have been holding opposing signal callers and pass catchers thoroughly in check this season. The Ravens had one abysmal game this season against the Jacksonville Jaguars over in London. In that game, Blake Bortles tossed four touchdowns. The rest of the Ravens opponents this season have only tossed four on a combined basis. No quarterback has thrown for more than the 244 yards that Bortles managed in that game either, and we can safely chalk that debacle up as an anomaly. Marcus Mariota and the Titans passing game is struggling to begin with, and this doesn’t look like the week when it will begin to bear fruit.
Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime via email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.