BJ VanderWoude: Currently, there are only three games with a projected total of 48+ points on the schedule for week 9 (Tampa Bay vs New Orleans, Indianapolis vs Houston, Kansas City vs Dallas). Of those three games, which is the one with the least predictable game script that could cause problems for owners in week 9? Is there one that stands out as with the most predictable game script?
Justin Bonnema: Tampa Bay at New Orleans stands out to me as one that could cause problems. I’d love to jump on Drew Brees and Michael Thomas stacks, especially given how awful the Buccaneers’ defense has played this season, but the Saints are one of the best at running the ball and it’s having an impact on Brees’s ceiling. But if this game becomes a high-scoring one, as the over/under suggests it will, perhaps this is the week to go with quarterbacks and receivers instead of running backs. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers’ offense is always a candidate to pull a disappearing act.
Phil Alexander: The least predictable game of those three has to be Tampa Bay at New Orleans. The Saints have generally been winning by running the ball and playing well on defense, leaving less fantasy production than we're accustomed to from Drew Brees and his pass catchers. New Orleans pass play percentage from a year ago was the fifth-highest in the league, but now it's down to the 12th-lowest. Still, the Saints are in the dome, Tampa Bay's pass defense is terrible, the over/under is 50-points, and these teams did play to a 31-24 shootout the last time they met in 2016. It's certainly possible Brees -- who is still playing at an elite level -- destroys the Buccaneers and brings Michael Thomas along for the ride.
Jameis Winston's murky status makes this game even more difficult to call so early in the week. Dirk Koetter wouldn't commit to Winston being available for Week 9 due to a sprained shoulder. If it's Ryan Fitzpatrick behind center for Tampa Bay, there's a strong chance the Saints once again won't have to pass much to beat their opponent handily. Mark Ingram II would appear to be safe in either game script, but he fumbled twice in the second half of a close game last week. We've seen Ingram lose playing time for less, making Alvin Kamara the most trustworthy play on the Saints, especially in full PPR formats.
As far as most predictable, I'm not sure who comes out on top, but we can assume Kansas City at Dallas will be high-scoring. The fantasy production for the Chiefs is heavily concentrated on Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. All three profile as high exposure plays this week. Dallas will be without Ezekiel Elliott, but Dak Prescott will have no trouble moving the ball through the air against the Chiefs, who have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. After watching Antonio Brown (8-155-1) and Amari Cooper (11-210-2) blow up recently against Kansas City, it wouldn't be shocking if this were Dez Bryant's best game of the season. Fortunately, DraftKings didn't have a chance to adjust Bryant's salary to reflect the presumed heavier workload, leaving him underpriced at WR9.
Jason Wood: I'll be honest, I don't love any of these games in terms of predictability. Let's start with the game my compadres have already cited, Tampa Bay versus New Orleans. As they've so eloquently pointed out, there's much to question here. The Saints are FINALLY running the ball and, to no one's surprise other than Sean Payton, are winning games, as a result. I also think it's important to note how much Brees is spreading the ball around. Michael Thomas hasn't been the elite, every week starter we all expected. Ginn has been productive some weeks, missing in action for others. Now we're hearing that Willie Snead IV my finally have earned his way out of the dog house. Then we turn our attention to the Tampa Bay side of the ledger. Winston isn't playing well and is hurt. Even if he plays, it's hard to have faith in the offense given the inconsistency. And New Orleans defense isn't the sieve we all thought it would be.
Where I'll disagree with Phil and Justin is the predictability of the Chiefs vs Cowboys game. Yes, both offenses are elite. No, that doesn't argue for predictability this week. As we go to print, it looks like Ezekiel Elliott will begin his six-game suspension. We don't know how his absence reverberates through the rest of the team. Will Prescott throw more, or will the offense struggle to sustain drives? Which running back will get the most snaps? The Chiefs are less of a question mark, or are they? Kareem Hunt was a bargain for the first few weeks, but he's struggled to deliver value lately. He's priced as a top option, yet Hunt has fallen from elite to "very good" in the last few games. Did you know he's only RB8 over the last month in PPR formats? Without the touchdowns, Hunt isn't worth the salary. Travis Kelce is also banged up, and I would argue the Chiefs offense won't be as productive if he can't play his normal amount of snaps.
Last, and maybe least, is Indianapolis versus Houston. It's impossible not to love Houston in this matchup. But that's the problem, isn't it? Houston is going to be the chalkiest of chalk this week. I'm more inclined to roll with the likes of Lamar Miller and Ryan Griffin this week instead of the Watson, Hopkins, and Fuller. Meanwhile, what can we expect from the Colts? Jack Doyle starred this past week but was missing-in-action beforehand. T.Y. Hilton has been up and down. The running game isn't productive enough to support a committee but that's exactly what the coaches are doing with Marlon Mack and Frank Gore. I'm steering clear.
Devin Knotts: Kansas City vs Dallas has the least predictable game script as it very easily could go under this week. With Ezekiel Elliott suspended this week, Dallas could try a variety of running backs which the more a team runs the more the clock runs and less overall plays. Conversely, they could just go and throw the ball with Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant, so it is difficult to know and likely dependent on if the game is close. If the game remains close, I expect this to be a lower scoring game with both teams running the ball, but if Kansas City gets out to an early lead, this could turn into a shootout where both teams are passing.
Chris Feery: I’m also feeling a little skittish about the game between Tampa Bay and New Orleans. In years past, we could’ve easily circled this game as a potential shootout and moved on to dissect the rest of the week’s matchups. This year? Not so much. The Saints are winning by running the ball and playing some impressive defense. That formula has led to them being an intriguing contender in the NFC, but it hasn’t translated into a boon for fantasy output. Drew Brees is no longer a plug-and-play option when he’s suiting up at home as a result, but we obviously have to still consider him just in case. The Buccaneers secondary is rather horrid, although they did hold Cam Newton and the Panthers in check last week. I’ll definitely have some exposure to Brees and company in GPP lineups, but I’m not as overwhelmingly confident as I would’ve been in years past.
Justin Howe: Buccaneers-Saints definitely makes me wary. As the other guys have pointed out, there’s a clear path to an easy Saints win that’s both built and maintained on the ground, and could leave Drew Brees in 250-yard, 2-touchdown territory. Mark Ingram II (and to a lesser extent, Alvin Kamara) are deep-fried gold in virtually any game script, but if Jameis Winston either can’t go or can’t throw, Brees could disappoint heavy ownership the way he did in Week 6.
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