NFL Predictions Week 9: Fantasy Guide, Odds Projections and Expert Tips

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 3, 2018

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 30:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots (R) congratulates fellow quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers after their game at Lambeau Field on November 30, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Patriots 26-21. (Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images)
Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images

The NFL's Week 9 slate already proved the unpredictability of fantasy football.

On Thursday night, undrafted rookie Nick Mullens piloted the San Francisco 49ers to their second win of the season with 16-of-22 passing for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Major props to anyone with the foresight of starting him during his first NFL action.

But chances are, you probably didn't have a lot of action in the battle of then-one-win squads. That just means your Sunday schedule is probably extra busy, with can't-miss matchups like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints and, in the nightcap, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots.

We'll examine all the remaining action below while providing the odds, per OddsShark, and offering some expert fantasy pointers.


Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-6)

While we're sending our best wishes out to all Matthew Stafford owners this weekend, we aren't very optimistic about his chances here.

For starters, he'll have to make do without Golden Tate, who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and left Detroit as the Lions' leader in targets (69), receptions (44) and receiving yards (517).

Stafford also draws an improving Vikings defense that's top 10 in scoring and sixth against the pass over the last four weeks, per ESPN's Matthew Berry.

On the other side of this matchup, the Vikings are the kind of puzzle that could keep fantasy owners guessing up until the last minute. Both Dalvin Cook (hamstring) and Stefon Diggs (ribs) have drawn the dreaded questionable designation.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Lions 13


Chicago Bears (-10) at Buffalo Bills

Mitchell Trubisky's real identity is about to surface. Will he continue on the run that's seen him total 1,223 passing yards and 13 scores through the air over his previous four contests? Or might those performances appear as simply capitalizing on exploitable defenses now that he's up against a Buffalo defense that has yielded the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks?

The Bills' offense has been a cesspool for fantasy production. Buffalo ranks dead last in points (10.9 per game) and second-from-the-bottom in yards (246.4).

Prediction: Bears 17, Bills 9


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-6.5)

Get as much shares of both passing attacks here. The Bucs have been as generous as defenses get toward fantasy quarterbacks, and Cam Newton is cruising right now (13 passing touchdowns against four interceptions, plus three rushing scores his past six outings).

Tampa could also get a lift after going back to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who opened the campaign with three consecutive 400-yard efforts then nearly rallied the Bucs late last Sunday by connecting on 11 of his 15 attempts for 194 yards and two scores.

Peyton Barber could be a sneaky-good play here if you need help at running back. He's rushed for at least 82 yards in two of his last three games, and he'll be the featured rusher with Ronald Jones II out due to a hamstring injury.

Prediction: Panthers 31, Buccaneers 24


Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5) at Cleveland Browns

The Chiefs are essentially a fantasy gold mine every week. They have the NFL's highest-scoring offense (36.3 points per game), second-most passing yards (2,483) and 12th-most potent rushing attack (919). There's no reason to think they'll stumble against a Browns defense allowing 26.3 points per game (24th).

While Kansas City's defense is nearly just as generous (25.6 points per game), it's tough to tell whether Cleveland can take advantage. The Browns ousted both their head coach (Hue Jackson) and offensive coordinator (Todd Haley), which is a ton of turnover for rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield to process.

"For me it's definitely something new," Mayfield told reporters. "It caught me off guard. ... It's surprising on all fronts. It doesn't matter if it's one or both, it's surprising to me."

Prediction: Chiefs 38, Browns 23


New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-2.5)

The Jets surrender a robust 114.9 rushing yards per game (21st). In Week 2, against these same Dolphins, the number was 135 yards. That should be all the motivation Miami needs to give both Kenyan Drake (4.9 yards per carry) and Frank Gore (4.6) healthy workloads.

This might not be a bad week to give Sam Darnold a shot. While he's been more miss than hit lately—three games of sub-50-percent passing in the past four weeks—he might have more weapons at his disposal, with both Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Robby Anderson (ankle) being game-time decisions.

The pair combined for 10 catches in that Week 2 meeting, when Darnold connected on 61 percent of his passes for a career-high 334 yards.

Prediction: Jets 17, Dolphins 13


Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5)

Le'Veon who? Second-year rusher James Conner has made the Steelers all but forget about their still-holding-out Pro Bowler by tallying the league's third-most rushing yards (599) and second-most rushing scores (nine).

While the Ravens have proved the toughest fantasy matchup for opposing running backs, it has surrendered 110-plus rushing yards in three of the last four weeks, including the 154 and two scores it yielded to the Panthers just last Sunday.

Baltimore, meanwhile, might consider putting plenty on Joe Flacco's plate. Pittsburgh allows the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and Flacco delivered 363 yards and two scores when these AFC North rivals locked horns in Week 4.

Prediction: Steelers 27, Ravens 24


Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins (-1.5)

Only two teams allow more points per game than the Falcons (30.3). While we shouldn't need to tell you to play Adrian Peterson, you might need some nudging toward Alex Smith. He hasn't been the most fantasy-relevant signal-caller this season, but he has pounced on some beatable pass defenses like the Saints (275 yards) and the Colts (292 yards), both of whom allow fewer passing yards per game than the Falcons (306.7, 30th).

Unless the bye weeks force you to do otherwise, this looks like a tilt to avoid for Falcons' rushers. The Redskins haven't allowed anyone to rush for more than 61 yards per season—and they've gone against Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey in just the past three weeks.

Prediction: Redskins 26, Falcons 20


Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle Seahawks (Even)

Good quarterbacks can punish this Chargers defense. Jared Goff burned them for 354 yards and three touchdowns, and Patrick Mahomes needed just 15 completions to put 256 yards and four scores on them. While Russell Wilson doesn't have the volume of an elite, he makes the most of his opportunities. He's a respectable 14th in completion percentage (65.9) and a good sixth in rating (112.8).

If Melvin Gordon can go, L.A.'s two-headed rushing attack could be primed for a big day. As NFL.com's Elliott Harrison noted, the Chargers are getting double-digit yards on 20 percent of their runs. That's a worrisome number for a Seattle defense allowing 4.5 yards per carry (23rd)

Prediction: Seahawks 30, Chargers 23


Houston Texans at Denver Broncos (-1)

DeAndre Hopkins owners should be in for a good Sunday. With Will Fuller out, Keke Coutee fighting a hamstring injury and Demaryius Thomas learning a new offense, Hopkins should be targeted early and often. This is also a more favorable matchup than people may realize.

"While Denver has been solid against the pass this year, they've allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to Hopkins' primary side," Dalton Del Don wrote for Yahoo Sports.

With Thomas out of Denver, rookie second-rounder Courtland Sutton should accelerate his emergence. He's had at least 50 receiving yards or a touchdown grab in each of his last five games, despite never finishing with more than six targets or three receptions.

Prediction: Texans 27, Broncos 19


Los Angeles Rams (-1.5) at New Orleans Saints

The over/under for this contest is hovering near 58 points. The Rams and Saints rank second and fourth, respectively, in points scored. They also both land outside the top 12 in yards allowed.

It probably isn't possible to have too much fantasy exposure to this matchup. It has elite rushers, top receivers and possibly the best quarterback matchup on the docket—on the same day Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers square off.

Prediction: Rams 35, Saints 31


Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots (-5)

Brady vs. Rodgers should be phenomenal—in real life and the fantasy realm. Brady has topped 320 yards in three of his last four games. He tossed for 277 and two scores in the other. Rodgers has 13 touchdowns to just one interception on the year and has twice cleared the 400-yard mark.

While almost every part of the passing game looks intriguing, Jimmy Graham stands out more than most. New England allows the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends and has been exploited by athletic players at the position like Eric Ebron (105 yards, two touchdowns) and Trey Burton (126 yards, one touchdown).

Prediction: Patriots 38, Packers 34


Tennessee Titans at Dallas Cowboys (-5)

Oddsmakers don't like the fantasy potential here, with the over/under set at just 40. Considering the Cowboys and Titans are 26th and 30th in points per game, respectively, it's tough to gripe with the total.

That said, plenty of eyes will be on Dallas' offense as Amari Cooper makes his debut.

"It's going to open up for everyone," Ezekiel Elliott told reporters. "A guy with his speed and ability is going [to] draw a lot of attention, and I think it's going to help everyone on offense."

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Titans 17


Statistics used courtesy of ESPN.com and NFL.com. Fantasy scoring info courtesy of Yahoo Sports.