DraftKings Chalk, Pivots & Punts: Week 9
Welcome to NFL Week 9 friends! Let’s recap what we’re doing here. This is a weekly piece on Daily Fantasy plays for Draft Kings with a focus on GPPs, in particular, the main slate. The articles will indicate who I think will be the chalk plays, who some pivots or contrarian plays are to get off the chalk, and some punt plays that could either save on salary or are just so far below the radar they might be tournament winning plays if all goes well. Instead of saying “Player A” is chalk, pivot to “Player B,” there will be a chart showing my data for the match-ups with the chalk/pivots/punts listed after that. In this article, pivots can be a pivot from one player to another player at the same position, from one position to another, or just a way to pivot to the other side of a game that everyone else might be stacking.
Simply put, the pivots will not always be direct pivots, more like other ideas to consider in the macro-view of the slate. Each game will have a brief write up and will include the team’s projected point total and spread as of the time of writing. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the Sunday main slate.
Above is the Vegas implied totals and lines for each game, as well as match-up data I have compiled for pace, opponent fantasy points allowed, and raw Yards & TD data vs. the positions we are looking at for building our DFS rosters. Red is bad, orange is beware, yellow is more neutral, and green is good. The dark green shade is better than good.
Below is my Chalk, Pivots, and Punts Chart based on my opinion of the slate and what the field will likely be on this week.
Websites I use to research are:
- Daily Roto for Snaps, Targets, Carries, and Red Zone Opportunities (Promo code: “grid10” Save 10%)
- The Quant Edge for WR/CB Match-Up Data (Promo code: “gridironexperts” Save 10%)
- Pro Football Focus for WR/CB and OL/DL Match-Up Data
Plus I have a spreadsheet of my own that I use to keep track of defensive points by position (ie. WR1, WR2, Slot, etc) and multi-TD games allowed.
Now, let’s dig into each game and see what the good chalk is, where to pivot, and if there are any good punts on the slate. Note, in previous weeks I had the games listed in order as they appeared on the Draft Kings slate. Games are listed in order of Vegas implied point totals since the higher scoring games are where we tend to focus our attention first when constructing rosters.
Los Angeles Rams (30.0/-1.5) at New Orleans Saints (28.5/+1.5) [58.5]
The top two teams in the NFC are matched up here in a game that could decide home field advantage throughout the playoffs if New Orleans can win, and end of the season records play out in their favor. The Saints have been very stingy against the run this year allowing an NFL low 74 yards per game at a league low 3.2 yards per carry. Perhaps that is why we’re seeing a slight drop in Todd Gurley’s ($9500) salary. I wouldn’t downgrade Gurley in this match-up though. Gurley still leads the NFL in red zone opportunities, gets the lion share of touches out of the backfield for his team, and sees 5 targets per game. He is one of the few workhorse backs in the league, and even if the Saints stuff him in the run game he’ll get plenty of work in the passing game on his way to another 30 point (plus or minus a couple) game.
Cooper Kupp ($6000) should be back for this one and will draw the best WR match-up of the group against P.J. Williams in the slot. He’ll be my top WR target in this game and high on my player pool list for the slate. Brandin Cooks ($6700) should draw the second most favorable match-up against Eli Apple who was just traded to the Saints prior to last game and is still trying to figure it out with them. Robert Woods ($7000) won’t be as high on my list as he has for the past few weeks, and I probably won’t roster him much (if at all) this week because of the other match-ups within this game and across the slate. Jared Goff ($6000) should be busy with the way the Saints stop the run. The Saints will also be without rookie pass rusher Marcus Davenport for a few games, giving Goff more time to sit back and make his reads.
Drew Brees priced at $6100 in a home game is a steal. The Saints have to win this game if they have any hopes of making everyone come through Nawlins come playoff time. He’s coming off a down game last week, which may help us get him rostered at a lower ownership percentage if folks are bitter with recency bias. Of course, the Rams are in win now mode and added another pass rusher to their already stellar defensive line when they traded for Dante Fowler. Fowler may not make an impact in this game, but Donald certainly will. That means Brees will likely be getting the ball out quick to guys like Alvin Kamara ($7300) and Michael Thomas ($7600). There could also be opportunity for Tre’Quan Smith ($4200) to catch a few bubble screens or quick slants and use his ability to create yards after the catch. He will also serve as the deep ball specialist if NO can manufacture the time for him to get deep on a few routes. Mark Ingram ($5000) could be used to slow down the pass rush and get a few extra carries in this one. Brees, Kamara, Thomas, Gurley, Kupp, and Cooks will be near the top of my list for roster construction this week, and I would expect most of them to be pretty chalky. Ingram and Tre’Quan make for interesting pivots though and should be considered.
Tampa Bay Bucs (24.25/+6.5) at Carolina Panthers (30.75/-6.5) 
Well, that escalated quickly. Winston’s tenure in Tampa may have come and gone. Or, as Rex Ryan suggested, Tampa ownership will stick with Winston and clean house at GM and the coaches. Either way, the new QB6 or better for the rest of the year is going to be Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5500), again. Carolina did an effective job shutting down the Ravens pass game last week, and could do so again versus the Bucs. The last four games between these two have been tight, low scoring match-ups making the implied total for this seem a bit high. If the Bucs are going to get there it will be on the arm of FitzMagic. Donte Jackson has been playing shut down at corner, and this week he’ll draw the pair of Desean Jackson ($5000) and Chris Godwin ($4400). Those two will not be on my player list due to this match-up. Mike Evans ($8100) against the Bradberry Blanket is where I’ll look for production from the Bucs this week. Him, and O.J. Howard ($4300). Howard faces the team allowing the most points to the TE position on the slate, although it should be noted most of that comes from road match-ups against Ertz and Hooper. The running game is too unstable and Carolina’s strength is run defense, making the backfield to risky to punt with.
Cam Newton ($6600) only averaged 14 points in the two games against the Bucs last year. The match-up does appear to be ripe for him to pick them apart this year though. Norv Turner’s presence has helped Cam excel this year. Cam is pricey but makes an excellent pivot down from Mahomes if you’re spending up at QB this week. If Joe Mixon can put 28 on the Bucs defense, imagine what Christian McCaffrey ($7800) is going to do to them. CMC is in my top tier of RBs for the week, and probably most everyone else’s, too – meaning he’s likely going to be chalky. Greg Olsen ($4700) may also carry fairly high ownership while facing the second most forgiving team to TEs on the slate and the highest rated TE match-up by a mile per PFF. The WR position will be one to monitor. If Torrey Smith ($3500) plays, it could get muddy. The main thing I’m looking at is who will play in the slot. Tampa Bay is allowing an average of 20 points per game to the slot WR position. That means we can buy 20 points for $4300 (D.J. Moore) or $3500 (Curtis Samuel). If Smith doesn’t play, Moore will line-up outside with Samuel in the slot, providing a great punt option. Coach Rivera said he wants to get him more reps going forward. If Smith does play, then Moore is likely to take snaps away from both Smith and Samuel and cannibalize the value we want from Moore and Samuel.
Overall, I want some exposure to this game, but get the feeling it’s going to disappoint. Common opponents tend to drive final scores down, which is what these two teams have done for the past couple of years. Cam, CMC, and Olsen will all be near the top of my list, with Mike Evans and O.J. Howard on there somewhere, too.
Kansas City Chiefs (31.25/-10) at Cleveland Browns (21.25/+10) [52.5]
After the Rams/Saints game, this is the next spot I will target for high exposure on my rosters this week. Kansas City is lighting everyone up, and the Browns will not be exempt. Meanwhile, the Browns have fired all their offensive coaches and when this happens it typically lights a fire under the player’s asses. I’ll get to the Browns side in the next paragraph, though. Patrick Mahomes ($7100 – QB1) is tearing the league apart, so this game should be interesting with interim HC Gregg Williams taking over. Williams is an old school, defensive minded coach that has a questionable history (see Bountygate). He’ll have the defense fired up for this game, no doubt. Whether they can actually stop Andy Reid’s play calling is another story. I’m betting the Browns will not be as successful as they want to be, but may be able to slow them down a bit. Mahomes probably won’t throw 4 TDs in this one, but should still get two or three. Comparison of what Conner and Gordon have done to the Browns lately indicates Kareem Hunt ($7700) is probably good for a TD or two as well.
Tyreek Hill ($8000) has been volatile this year with two weeks above 42 points, 2 weeks of 20 points, and 4 weeks of less than 15 points. He is priced at his ceiling, which is great when it hits, but leaves you short when it doesn’t. I don’t think Denzel Ward is going to shadow any one of the Chiefs receivers, and will likely see a little bit of all of them, meaning Hill should get plenty of cracks at the scrub corners on this roster. Hill’s pattern has been 40 points, 20 points, then three games of less than 15. If that pattern continues, we just had the 40, 20, and one game of less than 15. This could be another less than 15, but I doubt it. He’s a high risk/high reward player that I’ll probably use if I have a bunch of line-ups in large field GPPs, but if I’m rolling with just a few line-ups in smaller field tourneys I’m leaving him off the roster. Sammy Watkins ($4900) is coming off his best game of the year and needs to be considered since his price is much more manageable for the risk. Hill and Watkins have not had a good game at the same time, it’s been either/or. Watkins is by no means a safer play than Hill, but if he fizzles, it will cost you less. Travis Kelce ($6600) is steadily cruising along at 17.7 DK points per game, and in most weeks is within a couple of points of that average. Other than Jared Cook, the Browns have held the TE position in check, but they haven’t played a team with a solid #1 TE that gets the majority of the team’s targets for the position since Jared Cook. This could be Kelce’s breakout game this year.
Browns gonna Browns. It’s probably for the best they let Hue go, and probably Haley, too. Leaving Greg Williams in charge with a guy who hasn’t run an offense before is not an optimal way to finish out the year though. New OC Freddie Kitchen was the RB coach prior to his new role as play caller. With old school relic Williams in control, I’m guessing that means more Nick Chubb ($4500) and Duke Johnson ($3800). Both guys are practically free this week and are in a good spot. I’ll be pivoting and punting one or the other in some line-ups this week for sure. Chubb will probably be chalk based on the match-up data and the new narrative in Cleveland. Johnson will probably come in with lower ownership. The change should also give Baker Mayfield ($5600) some freedom to make adjustments at the line, but it’ll be interesting to see the play calls that come in and just how much they will turn him loose. Teams are throwing the ball against the Chiefs more than anyone else on the slate with 42 attempts per game. If Baker gets anywhere near that amount he’s going to crush value at his salary. KC is allowing 22 points per game to the QB (top 5 for the slate), 16 points to TEs (4th on the slate), and 36.3 to the RB position (highest of the slate). A Baker, Chubb, David Njoku ($4600) stack might be a nice way to approach this game from the Browns side. Jarvis Landry ($6500) has come down on salary, but should still see high volume. He’ll be on my list, but not as a priority play this week. Both offenses present the same stack combo I will target from this game: QB/RB/TE.
Detroit Lions (21.75/+5.5) at Minnesota Vikings (27.25/-5.5) 
After the Lions traded away Golden Tate, the receiving corps got a little easier to predict. It’s going to be the Marvin Jones ($5300) and Kenny Golladay ($5500) show for the rest of the year. Luckily, both were priced on DK prior to the trade. The Vikings don’t present an easy match-up for either guy, but the volume should be there for one or the other to produce a solid game. Jones is coming off a fantastic game which will put a lot of people on him this week. I’m not looking at either guy as a primary option, and may not have my mind made up one way or another until Sunday, but am currently leaning toward Golladay for the lower ownership, and for his size against Trae Waynes. If healthy, Rhodes could be a problem for Jones. New slot WR Brandon Powell ($3000) is a low floor, and probably low ceiling punt that we should wait a week on before throwing that dart. It’s either going to be Powell or T.J Jones ($3000) in the slot going forward. Minnesota is tough against RBs, so Kerryon and Riddick would be contrarian plays for large tourneys. The common opponent element is in play here as well and the last two games between these teams in Minnesota resulted in 14 to 7 and 22 to 16 scores with Detroit winning both games. Overall, I wouldn’t dig too deep for DFS plays from the Lions this week.
The match-up chart for the Lions defense seems to indicate teams are running the ball up and down the field but are forced to score through the air. I’m keeping an eye on Dalvin Cook’s ($5300) status during practice this week to see if he plays. If he does not, then Latavius Murray ($5100) will again horde snaps and touches and will be a great play. Snacks Harrison didn’t make an impact last week, but it’s possible he will this week. I’m not going to downgrade Murray too much for that possibility due to the workload he is getting. If Cook plays, it’s going to devalue both players. Cook is rumored to be on a 15-20 play “pitch-count” if he plays. Adam Thielen ($8900) continues to boast the highest floor of all WRs this year, with 100 yards and a TD in 5 straight weeks – which he’s also done in 6 out of 8 weeks this year. No matter how many line-ups you’re building, he has to be among the highest exposure in them. In general, Detroit has been tough on WRs this year, but there have been a few guys to get the best of them, and most of it is through the slot, where Theilen plays, but they’ve also allowed a couple of big games to Davante Adams and David Moore. This would indicate Thielen and Stefon Diggs ($6800) are both worthy of targeting this week. Diggs is dealing with a rib injury, so keep an eye on that. He’ll be on my player list, but won’t be top priority. If it weren’t for Gronk, Kyle Rudolph ($3600) is probably the most disappointing TE this year. He would be a contrarian play if you used him this week, since Detroit is tough against TEs allowing just a combined total of 26.9 points to the trio of Gronk, Kittle, and Graham. Minnesota at home plays good defense, so the Vikings DST ($2900) is worth rostering here.
Los Angeles Chargers (23.75/E) at Seattle Seahawks (23.75/E) [47.5]
Seattle is typically a tough place for opponents to come in and get a victory, but the Chargers have had a week off to put a game plan together for this one. Philip Rivers ($5600) is still one of the smartest QBs in football and has exceed his average DK points per game of 22.6 in 5 out of 7 games this year. The two where he didn’t were on the road. Seattle has not allowed a 20 point game to a QB yet, so this could be a tough one for Rivers to hit 20+ points, and there are better options in this price range. Melvin Gordon ($8200) is the second highest priced RB on the slate, but if the Chargers are going to win, they’re going to have to do it by riding Gordon. Todd Gurley is the most similar back the Seahawks have faced, and they allowed him to score 33 points. Gordon has scored 30 or more points in 4 out of 6 games. He is a direct pivot down from Gurley on rosters you cannot afford to get to $9500 with. I’m going to try and find ways to get Gurley and Gordon on the same roster, but if that doesn’t work, Gordon and CMC will be the next two I want to build around. Keenan Allen ($7300) is priced too high for my liking, and Tyrell Williams ($4200) and Mike Williams ($3800) don’t see enough volume to warrant high priority, but I will consider both of them as punt/salary savers this week.
The Chargers have a pretty solid defense, and nothing sticks out on the match-up chart here. However, Russell Wilson ($5900) is playing phenomenal right now. He’s not throwing many passes, but they are counting for a lot when he does. He’s thrown 3 TDs in each of the last 3 games and his passer rating (although doesn’t count for fantasy points) has been no less than 125 in those three games. Wilson is a “bet on talent” play and is reasonably priced for the slate. His ownership will be low because people see Seattle as a running team and because guys like Goff and Brees are only $100-$200 more. He’s worth the pivot off of those two in some of your line-ups this week. He can be easily paired with Doug Baldwin ($5300) or David Moore ($3900) for a cheap stack to help fit in some of the horse-backs on your roster. I prefer these two WRs over Tyler Lockett ($5200) because Lockett is likely to see the most of shutdown corner Casey Hayward this week. Moore’s price of $3900 provides fantastic cap relief and he is becoming one of Wilson’s favorite targets. Moore has 4 of Wilson’s 9 TDs over the last 3 weeks. Chris Carson ($4700) is also in play at his under-priced salary. There is no reason to think Seattle won’t be able to continue imposing their will in the running game here.
Atlanta Falcons (23.5/+1) at Washington Redskins (24.5/-1) 
This is going to be a tough match-up for the Falcons. Washington’s defense has been a bit of a surprise this year. They’re getting 3 sacks per game, forcing fumbles, and are 8th toughest in points allowed per game. Washington is allowing the second fewest rush yards per game in the NFL and aren’t that easy to throw on either. And now they’ve added Ha Ha Clinton-Dix via trade. None of the Falcon players individual match-up looks like a must play. I’m fading the Atlanta side of this game, except for maybe throwing Julio Jones ($7900) into a couple of line-ups as a “bet on talent” play.
For as good as the Washington defense has been, their offense has been equally as bad. Usually, we want to start the pass catching backs against Atlanta, but it appears Chris Thompson ($5400) is not going to play in this one. That leaves Adrian Peterson ($6000) to take on the majority of backfield work, with Kapri Bibbs ($3500) likely to mix in for some passing game snaps. The two games Thompson missed prior to last week gave Bibbs a bump in usage, but nothing that warrants a look here. Peterson is the top option for the Skins this week. I don’t mind Jordan Reed ($4800) as a pivot at TE. He’s priced in a group of 4 TEs that should see higher ownership. With Crowder looking like he’ll be out again, that leaves a lot of opportunity for Reed to produce. As a punt option and for salary relief, I am legitimately considering Alex Smith ($5000) this week. Smith’s numbers have been unusable for most of the season, but this match-up presents an opportunity for him to put up a 20+ point game.
Pittsburgh Steelers (22.5/+2) at Baltimore Ravens (24.5/-2) 
This is the second meeting for these two teams this year. Second meeting games between common opponents often produce lower scores than the fist meeting. That wasn’t true of this series last year, but the second meeting was in Pittsburgh. This year it’s in Baltimore. Both of these teams are at the top of the list in fewest yards allowed from scrimmage to opposing RBs and Ben Roethlisberger has not been very good in Baltimore over the past few years. This makes everyone in this offense hard to trust this week. The only guy I will consider here is Antonio Brown ($8400) as another “bet on talent” play, but not as a priority play this week.
On the Baltimore side, running is going to be tough for them as well, and with Alex Collins hurt, Javorius Allen usage waning, and the recent trade for Ty Montgomery, I have no interest in this backfield. I would expect Joe Haden to follow John Brown ($5800) as much as possible after he torched the Steelers for 116 yards and a TD in Pittsburgh. This would make it more challenging for Brown to have a similar game here. Haden shadowed A.J. Green and Julio Jones in the Steelers games against those teams, and held both to 15.5 points or less. The match-up to exploit with the Steelers is at their #2 CB spot where Coty Sensabaugh and Artie Burns have been getting roasted. If Haden shadows Smoke, then it;s going to put Michael Crabtree ($4800) into a great match-up. Both of Crabtree and Brown were held to 3 catches last game against the Steelers, and Crabtree has only 1 game above 20 points on the year so it’s not a safe play, but given the match-up and price, Crabtree will be on my list for the week. TEs have had success against the Steelers, but Baltimore is using a TE by committee approach this year and which TE catches the TD is a bit of a dice roll. Mark Andrews ($2600) seems to be the most likely one to do it, but you’re really reaching if you roster him this week.
Houston Texans (23.5/-1) at Denver Broncos (22.5/+1) 
Houston is at the top of their division and felt they needed to make a move after losing Will Fuller for the year. It just so happens that the guy they traded for gets to play the team that just traded him in his first game with his new team. Demaryius Thomas ($4500) is a nice punt option in his “revenge game”. Of course, DeAndre Hopkins ($8300) is always in play and Denver doesn’t have anyone that will be able to keep him from having a big game here. Denver has been getting grounded out by the running game this year, and Lamar Miller ($5200) has hit his stride in the last few games. Miller should be able to keep that going in this balanced Texans offense. Ringleader Deshaun Watson ($6300) seems to be over his rib/lung injury and should also find himself able to put up solid production in this game. Scrambling QBs (Mahomes, Tyrod, Fitzpatrick) have scored an average of 29.2 points against the Denver defense this year. The Texans DST ($3000) is also on my radar this week.
Welcome to Courtland Sutton ($3900) chalk week! His price was established prior to the Thomas trade, and you can bet you’ll see a lot of him in other line-ups as a perceived free square. I’ll certainly have some exposure, but will keep it minimal to try and leverage against the field if he doesn’t produce what we seem to expect here. Emmanuel Sanders ($6400) is likely to see plenty of targets in this one with Demaryius gone. Sanders will see plenty of the Honey Badger in the slot, which is not ideal for his production, but he is their best receiver and should see enough volume to warrant consideration. Tim Patrick ($3000) comes in as the deep punt play with Hamilton out for this game. He’s a risky play, but if you need salary relief he could get you 9-12 points in this one.
Phillip Lindsay ($5500) has been the most productive of the RBs this year and will likely be the most productive RB in this one due to his pass catching ability. Houston shuts down the run, so the path to points for RBs comes from their passing game role. In recent weeks Houston has allowed an average of 23 points to pass catching backs Hines, Drake and Yeldon. Royce Freeman ($3800) is coming back off injury, and is a fade for me based on the match-up. Case Keenum ($4900) is really tempting because of price, and would make a nice stacking partner if you’re on Sutton. That combo will only cost 16% of the salary on DK.
New York Jets (20.5/+2.5) at Miami Dolphins (23.0/-2.5) [43.5]
This game has a bunch of questionable tags heading in, so it is hard to get a good read on who will play. Luckily, both teams are so bad, there’s only a couple guys on either side we should consider when healthy. For the Jets we’ll want to use their running game against the Dolphins who struggle to stop the run and can’t cover RBs out of the backfield. Isaiah Crowell ($4200) is in play as a cheap RB pivot, and either Trenton Cannon ($3600) or Elijah McGuire ($3000) are your punt options as the pass catching back. McGuire is questionable, and would be a boost to Cannon’s value if he does not play. Cannon out-snapped Crowell 54% to 46% of the offensive snaps last week. If Xavien Howard sits, then I like Robby Anderson’s ($4300) chances of having a good game.
For the Dolphins, we want to look at the passing game first, since that’s where the Jets defense tends to funnel the action. To further refine that, we want to attack the Jets with slot WRs. Danny Amendola ($4700) is that guy. Kenyan Drake ($5300) is capable of big plays and usually needs to be in consideration for our player pool. Brock Osweiler ($4900) is a reasonable punt option, especially if Stills plays adding to the arsenal he’ll get to work with. Kenny Still ($4300) typically struggles versus the Jets, but did have a nice game in Miami against them last year, catching two TDs. He’ll be a low owned punt option in this one.
Chicago Bears (24.0/-10.5) at Buffalo Bills (13.5/+10.5) [37.5]
This game features two of the better defenses in the league, and the offense will be hard to come by. Tarik Cohen ($6200) is the primary DFS option for the Bears here. The Bears DST ($4100) is the best defense on the board this week, and would be worth paying up for when you can since the Bills will be rolling with INT machine Peterman in this game.
I’d like to be able to consider LeSean McCoy ($4900) at his salary, but the Bears are so strong versus the run and the RB position, it would be a contrarian play to roster him. I do like the Bills DST ($2300) as a cheap punt option against Trubisky.
This is a good week to build stacks from the Rams/ Saints and Chiefs/Browns games and then cherry pick guys in good spots from the other games. There’s a lot of value at WR again this week, and it’s even possible to build a roster with Gurley-Gordon-CMC and not hate the rest of the line-up. Roster construction should be a fun exercise this weekend. Good luck this week, and thanks for reading!
Good Luck Week 9!