Game environment is the foundational starting point in making fantasy decisions. As such, I’m going to break down each game on the slate into three categories: Binge, Stream and Skip.
Games you want to “binge” are like the show you can’t miss; you’re watching as soon as it goes live and might just crush all the episodes in one weekend. These are the start-all-your-guys fantasy games and ones with season-defining storylines.
Games you want to “stream” are like the shows you certainly watch start to finish, but perhaps you’re finishing it over time instead of one shot. While these games might not feature a ton of “must-starts,” we can pick and choose our spots, and the teams are likely to matter in the NFL playoff picture.
Lastly, the games you want to “skip” are like the shows you’re leaning toward passing on, but you might catch an episode here and there (or might stick to reading recaps online to stay up with the culture). There will be a non-obvious player or two who stands out in these games, but overall, they aren’t the best environment for fantasy football.
Let’s dive into my Week 9 Fantasy Football Viewer’s Guide.
MIAMI DOLPHINS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Chiefs are coming off a loss that was so unlike any game we’ve seen in the Patrick Mahomes era. The quarterback certainly didn’t play up to standards while dealing with flu-like symptoms but the other deep issues of this attack reared their ugly head. Rashee Rice continues to be the focal point of fantasy talk but even he hasn’t broken out to a full extent because he’s just not there as a player yet. And he’s clearly their best wideout. That made it feel impossible for the Chiefs to come back in a game against the Broncos last week. Which is mega-troubling heading into a matchup with the Dolphins.
Nonetheless, I have faith in the Chiefs overall and see them hanging in this one despite the warning signs.
Miami’s offense has yet to prove it can dominate a good opponent. And make no mistake, despite their offensive troubles Kansas City is a great opponent to measure against. The Chiefs defense ranks fifth in EPA per play allowed and fourth in success rate. Chris Jones can dominate a game and Miami’s offensive line is not at full strength. Tua Tagovailoa has been solid regardless of conditions but when you can disrupt the timing of this offense, the unit loses some of its teeth. This is still a “start all your guys” fantasy game but I’m ready to believe almost anything in regards to the outcome of this contest. That goes for the final score, player performances or narratives coming out of it. That is the best kind of NFL contest.
Keep an eye on: Tyreek Hill's usage. How could it be anything else? His usage will be fascinating to track as he’s done a good bit of everything so far this season and will be chomping at the bit to dice up his old team.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Jaylen Waddle's target share in Weeks 1-4 was 18%; in Weeks 5-8 it’s up to 28%. This coincides with two poor Miami rushing performances the last two weeks. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Hill’s role will never change in this attack but the counterpunch is either going to be the run game or Waddle. Right now, the receiver is the focal point.
Don’t be surprised if: Isiah Pacheco bounces back. We rarely see the Chiefs in negative game script but that’s what we got out of KC last week against the Broncos. While the Dolphins can put points on anyone, I’m not betting on that script twice in two weeks. Miami ranks 28th in rushing success rate allowed so Pacheco should be a focal point of the game plan.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS at BALTIMORE RAVENS
The Seahawks and Ravens offenses were two of my favorite units to discuss in the offseason. I wouldn’t say either has hit their peak yet this season, at least not consistently. The Seahawks are more culpable of this than Baltimore, who have at least dominated a good opponent offensively this year. Geno Smith has played well but has been guilty of at least two to three game-wrecking plays per week. That’s been an issue, especially in the scoring area, and especially when looking at DK Metcalf. However, I still think this team gets going offensively at some point from a raw points total because the non-red-zone efficiency metrics have been excellent. I’m just not sure this matchup in Baltimore is the week they get right. The Ravens rank second behind only Cleveland in EPA per play allowed.
The Seahawks defense is also underrated, ranking 10th in the same metric and success rate allowed as well. It’s part of what makes me think this contest could be a lower-scoring slobber knocker of a contest rather than a fantasy football bonanza. You still have high hopes for Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews but I’m tempering ceiling projections for others in the passing game. I can’t wait to watch this game either way.
Keep an eye on:Rashod Bateman’s playing time. He started the year limited and has made mistakes this season. However, in the last two weeks, his legs have been back under him, plus he’s consistently separating and making big plays when called upon. If he can fully get his career back on track it would be a huge boost to this offense considering his skill set is far different from rookie Zay Flowers'.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Gus Edwards through Week 8 has 426 rushing yards and five touchdowns. That’s more rushing yards than Tony Pollard, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and both of the Lions' running backs (individually). Also, he has more touchdowns than all of those mentioned minus David Montgomery, of course. Edwards has taken over this backfield and finally looks fully healthy and explosive coming off some knee issues. While he’s susceptible to game script taking him off the field in passing situations, it should be a safe week for him considering how I view this game unfolding.
Don’t be surprised if: Kenneth Walker continues to lose work to Zach Charbonnet. It’s not like Walker is doing anything wrong, the rookie is just earning more work:
— The Coachspeak Index (@CoachspeakIndex) November 2, 2023
Charbonnet is an efficient runner and asset in the passing game. He is going to be a factor for the rest of the season. Walker will be fine but the days of him getting 18-plus touches may be over. Welcome to the rest of our lives, Walker fantasy managers.
DALLAS COWBOYS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
This one could easily be the game of the week and that’s despite all of the excellence on the schedule ahead. Dallas is coming off, in my opinion, its clear-cut best game offensively and found a formula that works — more on that in a bit.
The Eagles still aren’t quite firing on all cylinders but A.J. Brown continues to dominate and take over games. DeVonta Smith got home on a busted coverage last week and with Brown playing like he is, eventually favorable looks will continue rolling in Smith's direction. Jalen Hurts had a season-low in rushing yards and attempts last week, which is no surprise. He’s just not healthy. When he is closer to 100%, I expect this unit to instantly vault into the top three across the NFL.
I can see this game being a bit lower-scoring than we’d like and the eventual shootout taking place in the rematch in Dallas. However, it’s still going to be must-see TV no matter the script.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: CeeDee Lamb led all wide receivers in target share (41%) last week. He also saw a season-high in targets when lined up outside. That allows Dallas to be the best version of itself offensively:
Love that we got some in-breaking and vertical targets on the perimeter from CeeDee Lamb last week. Needs to happen more.
There is nothing about his game that says he needs to play in the slot, he just happens to be a weapon in there.
But he can dominate reps as the X receiver… https://t.co/AfG18en7og
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) October 31, 2023
In this offense, the primary read is often going to be the outside X-receiver. It makes all the sense in the world to line your best player up at that position, especially when he’s a star-level separator who can win at all three receiver spots. This is a formula that will allow Dallas to be the best version of itself on offense.
Player in a great fantasy spot:Brandin Cooks. With Lamb taking more reps outside, Cooks lined up in the slot on 40% of his routes run. That gives him some favorable matchups to exploit, especially this week against the Eagles.
Don’t be surprised if: Tony Pollard continues to underperform expectations. For one, the Eagles have one of the toughest fronts to run on across the NFL. Also, Pollard is in a bit of a bind right now where it’s likely necessary to lighten his workload to get the most out of him from an efficiency standpoint. Of course, that just takes away some of the expected fantasy points so many are chasing right now. Pollard may be better off if Rico Dowdle were assigned more of those grinder carries going forward.
BUFFALO BILLS at CINCINNATI BENGALS
While there are so many excellent games in the binge category this week, my chief option here is the Sunday Night Football affair.
The top game to:
on what looks like an electric Week 9 NFL slate. pic.twitter.com/d3UMtO08vj
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) November 3, 2023
We have two offenses peaking at the right time (more on Buffalo specifically in a moment). For the Bengals, it’s simple: Joe Burrow is healthy now. He’s coming off season highs in completion rate (87.5%), yards per attempt (8.8) and perhaps most importantly, rushing yards and attempts (6-43). It appears that the calf is no longer an issue. A gorgeous bit of timing coming off the bye and just in time for this electric, possible shootout affair. Neither defense has played to expectation so far this season as the Bills have struggled with injury. We should get plenty of points in this one.
Player in a great fantasy spot: Tee Higgins. He is finally going to have his first big game in weeks. The Bills traded for Rasul Douglas to help plug their leaky secondary as Kair Elam was placed on IR. We’ll see if that works. Higgins’ snaps were back up to normal and he recorded a season-best 11.5 yards per target last week. His and Burrow’s health are intersecting at the perfect time.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Bills fallout without Dawson Knox (injured reserve):
• 78% 11 personnel; 53.8% (26th) coming in
• Josh Allen season-high 3 designed runs
• Dalton Kincaid season-high route participation (85%)
• Khalil Shakir season-highs in routes (70%) and target share (15.3%)
— John Daigle (@notJDaigle) October 27, 2023
This allows the Bills’ offense to be the best version of itself. The multiple tight end sets and especially the Bills’ “11.5 personnel” looks are always better in theory than real games. Teams were just matching Dalton Kincaid in the slot with a nickel corner which, no matter what you think of him as a player, is a bad matchup. Now that Dawson Knox is out and Kincaid is just a true tight end, it’s no shock he’s coming off his best game. Khalil Shakir taking the field instead of another tight end makes a huge difference. He’s a good player who can line up in the slot or out wide, which brings a trickle-down impact to Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. The Bills should operate this way the rest of the season — just spread and shred.
Don’t be surprised if: James Cook’s passing-down role continues to dwindle. Leonard Fournette will inevitably steal passing-game work. However, the bigger impact will be felt by the new look of this offense. Cook was the primary checkdown option in the 11.5 personnel looks but now, with receivers running shorter routes, he’s dropping down the pecking order.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS at ATLANTA FALCONS
Quarterback (perhaps sickening) intrigue keeps this game in stream over skip.
The Vikings will walk into this game with Jaren Hall and I’m not so convinced Joshua Dobbs will unseat him right away like others. Not anything to do with Hall but the reason Dobbs was an instant hit with the Cardinals was his familiarity with Drew Petzing’s offense after their time together in Cleveland. Kevin O’Connell’s offense asks quite a bit from the quarterback and Kirk Cousins was excellent in executing those assignments. It may take Dobbs some time and either way, the ceiling projections must be lowered on T.J. Hockenson and Jordan Addison.
On the Falcons' side, I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking Taylor Heinicke is a massive upgrade or a stable starter. We know he’s not. He’s quite high on the “writes checks his arm cannot cash” scale. However, there are some areas where he can run the offense smoother than Ridder, even if the latter passer is more physically gifted.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Desmond Ridder’s 9.4% sack rate was the eighth-highest among quarterbacks this season. Heinicke dropped his sack rate from 7.1% to 6.8% from 2021 to 2022 and took just one in last week’s game. Ridder took five in the first half. The biggest difference in the Falcons' offense from preseason projections to on-field reality has been the offensive line play, in both the run and pass game. Ridder has made that issue worse by taking sacks where we already have evidence Heinicke can avoid sacks.
Don’t be surprised if: We see the best of Kyle Pitts in this game. Heinicke will push the ball downfield and give his guys chances in contested situations. That would have been an ideal fit with Drake London but he won’t play in this game. The vertical shots are on the table for Pitts; I think ODU’s Finest takes them.
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Dalton Del Don has gaslit me into thinking this matchup could be quite good for fantasy football. Washington’s offense is frustrating but there is still talent across the board here. The defensive trades at the deadline hamper an already-beatable secondary. New England pushing the ball downfield against this unit to guys like Jalen Reagor or JuJu Smith-Schuster seems farfetched to me but the matchup is right.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Kendrick Bourne was leading the Patriots with a 27.4% air-yard share and 19.5% target share. There are very few strong candidates to replace that workload. My favorite option is Demario Douglas, the rookie slot receiver.
He won’t offer a ton of juice down the field but could get there in fantasy on reception volume alone. Douglas has been crucial in their pre-snap motion RPO looks and Mac Jones has publicly stated that’s how he wants the offense to run.
Don’t be surprised if: Jahan Dotson has another big game. Curtis Samuel has been ruled out and that thins out the target distribution. Dotson is also simply too good of a player to be kept down for long. We just need Howell to stay upright and avoid sacks; that’s the only thing holding Dotson back from weekly boom games.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS at HOUSTON TEXANS
The Bucs and Texans are two of the worst rushing teams in the NFL. The pass-attempt figures should be quite high in this game. That leads me to believe we will see a ton of big performances across both of the passing games.
Baker Mayfield has averaged sub-6.0 adjusted yards per attempt the last three games. He is certainly turning back into a pumpkin and the shine is coming off this entire offense. That makes Mike Evans and Chris Godwin boom/bust WR2 or 3 candidates going forward. This is a week I’m willing to chase the boom.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
The Texans have the lowest dropback rate in the league on first down (40.4%).
They are averaging 3.4 yards per 1D run, 30th in the league.
They ran on 16-of-23 1D yesterday for 3.9 YPC.
They are 15th in success rate (44.9%) and 12th in 1D/TD rate (29.2%) when they throw on 1D.
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) October 30, 2023
The Texans have been much better on offense than expected this season. However, this particular issue has been holding them back. I wonder if we see a different approach with Dameon Pierce out this week. It would benefit the offense to be more aggressive passing on early downs. Stroud can handle it.
Don’t be surprised if: Tank Dell and Nico Collins rebound. The Bucs play more zone coverage than any team in the NFL. Stroud and co. can slice up this version of coverage, especially with Dell on vertical looks.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Panthers will take on another team that also took a rookie quarterback after them but will avoid facing Anthony Richardson, of course. Gardner Minshew is a passable starter in relief of an injured player and has kept this offense afloat.
Bryce Young is coming off the best game of his young career with a season-best 8.23 adjusted yards per attempt last week. The offense looked much smoother and faster with Thomas Brown running the show and calling plays instead of head coach Frank Reich. That’s good to see if we are ever going to get breakout performances from anyone like Jonathan Mingo, whom I thought looked good last week, but for now, it’s still Adam Thielen or bust on this offense. That includes the running backs. While Chuba Hubbard has supplanted the wildly underperforming Miles Sanders, it’s still a bad run game.
Player(s) in a great fantasy spot:Colts wide receivers Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs, who popped up in the injury report Thursday but is expected to play. The Texans wide receivers disappointed last week because the Panthers played extremely passive deep-drop zone coverage to take away the deep ball, daring Houston to run on them. It was a great plan because Houston cannot run the ball. Carolina won’t be able to replicate that against the Colts' run game. Wide receivers against this cornerback room is still an exploitable matchup.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The Colts lead the NFL with a 19.1% no-huddle rate. Colts’ games have become pretty fun back-and-forth affairs because their defense is exploitable and their offense plays fast while Gardner Minshew is unafraid to take chances.
Don’t be surprised if: Zack Moss continues to play a big role. Jonathan Taylor managers are just going to have to get used to seeing Moss. He’s played too well to be completely removed from the proceedings; it would send an atrocious message to the locker room to bench him completely. Shane Steichen even tossed out “hot hand” when explaining Moss’ usage. Also, Taylor has collected 217 total yards in the last two games while possibly dealing with an injury last week. So if this is your biggest problem, congratulations.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS at NEW YORK JETS
The matchup could have big implications for the AFC’s seventh playoff seed down the line as these two will likely hang around the fringes of that discussion all season.
The Chargers continue to test trust and patience. Traveling cross-country to play a defense that lines up in man coverage more than anyone this season looks like a ripe spot for this offense to slog to a sub-24-point performance. The Chargers don’t have enough receivers who can beat man coverage; even Keenan Allen has gone under 90 yards in every game since Week 4 with the vertical ceiling taken out of this unit post-Mike Williams. I’m expecting Austin Ekeler to catch a ton of passes in this game.
The Jets are sitting pretty at 4-3 and are enjoying breakthrough seasons from young players on both sides of the ball. Despite the wide gap in quarterback play for these two operations, I am not shocked at all my level of confidence is much higher in projecting the Jets right now.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Breece Hall has the fourth-most breakaway runs this season, per PFF, despite having just the 29th-most carries. He’s been one of the best backs in football since Robert Saleh told us straight-up that he was no longer on a pitch count. Hall’s big-play ability is an offense generator all on its own and this is a great matchup to show the national audience what he can do.
Don’t be surprised if: Garrett Wilson clears 100 yards receiving. We don’t need to fall all over ourselves to praise Zach Wilson for offering up south-of-league-average play behind center but that’s what we’re getting. It’s an improvement over where he was previously, for what that’s worth. In this current iteration of the offense, where Garrett Wilson has seen 61% of the team air yards and a whopping 47.5% of the first-read targets since Week 5 (per Fantasy Points Data), we don’t need to act surprised when this budding superstar offers up big games on the regular.
ARIZONA CARDINALS at CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Cardinals look like they’ll begin the Kyler Murray experience next week even after sending Joshua Dobbs to Minnesota. For now, rookie Clayton Tune starts which makes me pretty uninterested in risking any Cardinals player in fantasy lineups. The Browns will have Deshaun Watson back under center, reducing the questionable nature of their offense — but just slightly.
Player in a great fantasy spot: Amari Cooper. While it hasn’t always been pretty, Cooper still averages 16.9 expected fantasy points per game the last three weeks with P.J. Walker, per Fantasy Points Data. The opportunity has been there even if Walker has been a mess. I’ll chance Cooper in lineups because the Arizona cornerback corps is a weak spot and Watson is back. Elijah Moore is also at double-digit EFP and I wonder if the Donovan Peoples-Jones trade opens up more outside routes for him.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The Cardinals rank 27th in dropback success rate this season. We all bent over backward to praise the work Josh Dobbs was doing at times this season, and we were right to do so. However, this was still a bad passing unit. I think the talent is there with some of these players so I can’t wait to see it … next week, with Murray. Not this week.
Don’t be surprised if: This is not actually a three-man backfield. Jerome Ford played deep into last week’s game, which could speak to their confidence in his health. When he’s right, I don’t think Pierre Strong has a big role.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) November 3, 2023
LOS ANGELES RAMS at GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Rams have been a fun passing team all season but appear to be without Matthew Stafford for at least this game, and maybe longer. This unit was already middle of the pack efficiency-wise despite Stafford playing well. I’m viewing Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua as WR3s in fantasy until he returns. The Packers have been anything but fun the last few weeks. Nothing is working in their offense right now and it’s everyone’s fault, not just Jordan Love.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Christian Watson leads the team in first-read targets since Week 5 with just 22.5%, per Fantasy Points Data. Watson’s play is emblematic of the issues in this offense. A young player like him needed to show tremendous growth from Year 1 to 2 after he was a vertical shot, YAC merchant, volatile receiver as a rookie. They needed him to be a true WR1. That has not happened.
Don’t be surprised if: The run game falls apart without Stafford. No matter what you think of Stafford’s play this year, it’s been clear defenses have defended this team with respect to his game. It’s hard to imagine that’s going to be the case with Rypien. I understand the projected opportunity for Darrell Henderson Jr. and Royce Freeman but the quality of chances in this offense is about to go way down.
CHICAGO BEARS at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Despite some Tyler Bagent enthusiasm across Big Football Media, the Bears' offense was exposed for being a rather lifeless unit on Sunday Night Football last week. Game scripts can make this three-way backfield messy and DJ Moore isn’t getting the same downfield looks he did under Fields. The Saints, despite having some really good receiver talents, are one of my least favorite offenses to break down for a variety of reasons.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:Chris Olave ranks second behind A.J. Brown in air yards this season. He ranks 19th in receiving yards. While Derek Carr has been bad and addicted to the checkdown, sabotaging plays all on his own because of it, Olave also has to wear some of the blame here. He’s good enough to get right at any moment, and I think that’s right when it comes to predictive analysis. However, his play — quitting on routes, playing at half-speed, mistakes, etc. — is at least a part of the reason we arrived at the point he makes for a fantastic buy-low. I say all this as the lead lobbyist for Big Receiver.
Don’t be surprised if: Rashid Shaheed turns in another big game. Number one, Shaheed is a baller. The dude can play and run some real routes, not just sprint down the field. Also, as Scott Barrett has noted, he is much more productive against zone and cover-three defenses because he just has to split safeties in the deep game:
Rashid Shaheed (2022-2023)
+ per @FantasyPtsData
vs. Man Coverage: 1.58 YPRR (81st-best of 178)
vs. Zone Coverage: 2.68 YPRR (9th-best of 213)
Faces the Bears this week, who play zone coverage at the 11th-highest rate in the league (74.1%) pic.twitter.com/ULPWceKyfE
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) November 1, 2023
The Bears make for a fantastic matchup for Shaheed. He has a low floor but the ceiling makes sense to chase in Week 9 given the matchup.
NEW YORK GIANTS at LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
The Josh McDaniels era is thankfully over after he oversaw yet another disastrous, predictable and avoidable-mistake-filled run of an NFL franchise. I was ready to declare the Raiders as a “just playing out the string” operation but my buddy James Koh changed my perspective on the rest of their season. Josh McDaniels is a certified energy vampire, sucking the life and belief out of a locker room. It’s already been reported that the vibes are much better inside the building just a few days after McDaniels and his bad ideas have been cast to the side:
The Raiders signing Jimmy Garoppolo to be their unquestioned starting quarterback was a bad idea at the time and looks worse now. The thing is, everyone knew it was a bad idea... except the people who made the decision. pic.twitter.com/lZ5BPoSqYM
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) November 2, 2023
The Raiders have some excellent front-line talent and if Antonio Pierce is able to bring more belief and effort from guys 6 to 53 on the roster, we may see a slightly more hopeful product out of Vegas. We watched a similar situation unfold last year in Carolina when Steve Wilks replaced Matt Rhule.
STAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Since the start of the 2010 season, only two teams have finished a game with negative net passing yards.
1/2/2022 — Giants (-7) at Bears
10/29/2023 — Giants (-9) vs. Jets
— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) October 29, 2023
It was an all-time hapless performance from the Giants last week in a game that featured more punts than points. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones returns to the team after a multi-week absence and should get star left tackle Andrew Thomas back. That last part, at least, is a huge deal.
Don’t be surprised if: Davante Adams sees 10 targets. With Mick Lombardi also being shown the door along with McDaniels, it sounds like former Washington offensive coordinator and current Raiders pass-game coordinator Scott Turner may take the play-calling duties in Las Vegas. I was always a fan of the way Turner designed offenses even if there were issues with the sequencing. The unit is intentionally designed to go one-read quite often. The Raiders, in an effort to make Adams happy he stayed with the team, got rid of the operation he likely didn’t believe in and will go out of their way to make sure he’s THE guy on Sunday.