NFL Week 9 Fantasy QB Breakdown: Cam Newton Is a Cash-Game Lock

NFL Week 9 Fantasy QB Breakdown: Cam Newton Is a Cash-Game Lock article feature image

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cam Newton

  • Matthew Freedman breaks down every starting quarterback's daily fantasy value for Week 9 of the NFL season
  • Cam Newton and Jared Goff are two potential plays for Sunday. Below is a deep dive on both QBs.

See the full version of this piece at FantasyLabs.

We’re officially in the second half of the 2018 NFL season, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.1 points per game per team. The action continues with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

With six teams on bye and six in prime-time games, we are without the following quarterbacks:

  • Thursday Night Football: Raiders (Derek Carr) at 49ers (C.J. Beathard)
  • Sunday Night Football: Packers (Aaron Rodgers) at Patriots (Tom Brady)
  • Monday Night Football: Titans (Marcus Mariota) at Cowboys (Dak Prescott)
  • Byes: Bengals (Andy Dalton), Colts (Andrew Luck), Giants (Eli Manning), Eagles (Carson Wentz), Cardinals (Josh Rosen), Jaguars (Blake Bortles)

For analysis on the smaller slates, consult Chris Raybon’s premium strategy guides (released throughout the week).

In writing this piece, I’ve relied primarily on the FantasyLabs Models. This breakdown is less of a comprehensive analysis of each quarterback and more of an introduction to this week’s players via our large suite of analytic DFS Tools. We’ll start with two high-priced quarterbacks, follow with one passer at the top of our individual Pro Models and finish with the rest of the slate’s starting quarterbacks.

For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.

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Highest-Priced Quarterbacks

This week, there are two quarterbacks at the top of the positional salary scale on DraftKings and FanDuel. Of the two, Cam Newton easily has the better matchup.

Cam Newton: Carolina Panthers (-6.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 54.5 O/U

UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Torrey Smith (knee) is out.

  • $5,800 DraftKings; $8,100 FanDuel

On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, guest Evan Silva highlighted Newton as his no-doubt cash-game quarterback for the week. It’s easy to see why Evan is bullish on Newton.

While there were concerns at the start of the season about how well offensive coordinator Norv Turner would be able to adapt his Air Coryell system to Newton, the 2015 MVP is on pace for career highs with his 66.4% completion rate and 8.9 carries per game. He’s also being sacked at a career-low rate of 4.0%. Even though he doesn’t have a true No. 1 alpha receiver, he does have:

  • An elite pass-catching running back in Christian McCaffrey
  • A reliable and longtime middle-of-the-field option in tight end Greg Olsen
  • A contested-catch playmaker in wide receiver Devin Funchess
  • A veteran field-stretcher in wide receiver Torrey Smith
  • An emerging 21-year-old first-rounder in wide receiver D.J. Moore
  • A Percy Harvin clone and versatile offensive weapon in wide receiver Curtis Samuel

Newton has the players around him to succeed. In his five healthy seasons, he’s been a top-four fantasy quarterback, and he’s looking to accomplish that feat again with his average of 25.1 DraftKings points per game.

What’s perhaps most amazing about Newton’s performance is how he’s been able to overcome the roster issues around him. Continuity is crucial along the offensive line, and three of last season’s starters are not on the field: Left tackle Matt Kalil (knee, injured reserve) was sidelined before the regular season, right tackle Daryl Williams (knee, IR) has missed most of the season and 2017 All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell is on the Jaguars.

Even so, Newton is on pace for one of the best campaigns of his career.

Unsurprisingly, a large portion of Newton’s value comes from his rushing production. On a per-game basis, he leads all quarterbacks with 5.6 expected fantasy points as a runner (per the RotoViz Screener). First on the team with four rushing touchdowns and second with 62 carries and 309 yards on the ground, Newton is basically his own short-yardage back, which isn’t surprising: He’s first among all quarterbacks in league history with 58 rushing touchdowns and second to only Michael Vick with 39.9 yards rushing per game. Newton is viable in almost any game environment because of his running ability.

And he’s more than viable this week: He’s outright desirable.

While Newton has been a splits-agnostic player throughout his career …

  • Home/Away (58/58 games): 24.1 fantasy points vs. 24.4
  • Favorite/Underdog (63/53 games): 24.3 fantasy points vs. 24.2
  • Division/Non-Division (40/76): 24.1 fantasy points vs. 24.3

… he is in a smash spot this week as a big home favorite against the divisional rival Bucs, who are dead last in the league in pass defense with a 43.8% DVOA and have allowed quarterbacks to score a league-high 28.6 DraftKings points per game. They have allowed 300 yards and/or multiple touchdowns to every passer they’ve faced. They’ve also allowed the two running quarterbacks they’ve played against to go for more than 40 yards rushing each: Mitchell Trubisky for 53 yards and Baker Mayfield for 43.

Newton could be without Smith (knee), who missed Week 8 and is questionable for Week 9, but that might actually benefit the Panthers because it will force them to give Moore extra playing time.

The Bucs defense is also not without its own injury concerns: Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (shoulder), strong safety Chris Conte (knee) and linebacker Kwon Alexander (knee) are all on IR. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (calf) and starting edge rusher Vinny Curry (ankle) both missed Weeks 7-8 and are questionable, too. And rookie slot cornerback M.J. Stewart (leg) exited Week 8 early and is uncertain to play.

On top of that, it’s possible that the Bucs have the league’s worst trio of starting cornerbacks. Brent Grimes was a Pro Bowler with the Dolphins in the 2013-15 seasons, and in 2016-17 he had above-average Pro Football Focus coverage grades of 87.4 and 75.2. This season, though, Grimes has been a liability in the five games he’s played, allowing a 17-241-1 passing line on 24 targets.

As for Stewart and Carlton Davis, both are second-round rookies with potential, but right now they have poor PFF coverage grades of 55.8 and 59.3. One day they might be good, but so far they’ve combined to surrender a 51-620-7 passing line with no interceptions on 70 attempts.

It’s notable that, while the Bucs have had one of the league’s worst defenses since 2016 (under head coach Dirk Koetter), Newton has surprisingly struggled against them over that span:

  • Against Bucs (three games): 13.8 DraftKings points, -5.00 Plus/Minus, 183.7 yards and 0.67 touchdowns passing, 1.67 interceptions, 34 yards and 0.33 touchdowns rushing
  • Against all other teams (35 games): 21.0 DraftKings points, +1.25 Plus/Minus, 225.5 yards and 1.49 touchdowns passing, 0.83 interceptions, 37.5 yards and 0.40 touchdowns rushing

Still, I don’t want to put too much weight on a three-game sample, especially since the Bucs are the worst they’ve ever been this season and Newton didn’t have Turner as his coordinator in the previous games.

If you roster Newton in guaranteed prize pools, you might want to use our Lineup Builder to stack him with McCaffrey, who leads the team with 52 targets and 44 receptions. In Week 8, even though they combined for 49.6 DraftKings points, Newton and McCaffrey were rostered together in just 0.34% of Millionaire Maker lineups. Since 2014, NFL quarterbacks on average have had a 0.40 correlation with their No. 1 running backs. With McCaffrey, Newton has a 0.77 mark.

Newton leads all quarterbacks with his three Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he has position-high median and ceiling projections and is the No. 1 overall option on all our Pro Models. For good measure, he’s also the top DraftKings quarterback in the Bales, CUSRAM88, Raybon and Freedman Models.

Model Quarterback

Besides Newton, there’s one quarterback atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.

Jared Goff: Los Angeles Rams (+1.5) at New Orleans Saints, 59.5 O/U

UPDATE (11/4): Wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) isn’t listed on the injury report and is fully expected to play.

  • $6,000 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel

The undefeated Rams are entrenched as the No. 1 team in The Action Network’s NFL Power Rankings. They have hit their implied Vegas totals in an NFL-high 17-of-24 games under beard model and head coach Sean McVay since last season. They are significant +160 favorites to win the Super Bowl.

But apparently that’s not good enough for the betting public. Although the Rams opened as -1 favorites, they are -1.5 dogs as of writing (see live odds here).

The Rams averaged a league-high 29.9 points per game last season, and this season they have improved to an average of 33.0. That will almost certainly regress, but this offense is as good as any unit in the league, and the non-acting Ryan Gosling lookalike at quarterback has a lot to do with it: Goff has at least 300 yards and/or multiple touchdowns passing in 14-of-16 regular-season starts since last season’s Week 8 bye. Deployed in a high-efficiency, fantasy-friendly way, Goff has used play action on a league-leading 38.4% of his attempts. The 2016 No. 1 overall pick is one of only three quarterbacks this season to be, at worst, a league-average passer to each section of the field. The other two are Rodgers and Philip Rivers (per Next Gen Stats).

While Goff has completed just 58.6% of his pass attempts over his past three starts and will play his fourth road game in five weeks, he has also been without his fair-haired doppelgänger and slot wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) since the first half of Week 6, and McVay is reportedly optimistic that Kupp will return this week. Plus, if a team has to be on the road, there’s pretty much no better place to play than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, otherwise known as the Coors Field of fantasy football. Unsurprisingly, the Saints-Rams matchup is tied for the highest over/under of all time.

Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jared Goff

Even on the road, Goff is in a good spot against the Saints defense, which is a quarterback-friendly funnel that ranks second against the run (-28.0% DVOA) but 29th against the pass (29.8% DVOA) and has surrendered a top-four mark of 26.7 DraftKings points per game to quarterbacks. It’s fair to wonder if the Saints pass defense is as bad as those numbers suggest. After all, in 5-of-7 games the Saints have held opponents to fewer than 24 points, and in four games they’ve held quarterbacks to fewer than 20 DraftKings points with a 25% Consistency Rating. At times, the 2017 defense that was fifth in pass DVOA (-11.3%) has been almost visible.

But here’s the thing: Those four games were against the mediocre-at-best quartet of Tyrod Taylor (Week 2), Eli Manning (Week 4), Alex Smith (Week 5) and Joe Flacco (Week 7), and those four collectively had a positive Plus/Minus (+0.22). So in the aggregate, four subpar quarterbacks did what their salaries suggested they would do — and in the other three games, the Saints were dominated by above-average (but not elite) quarterbacks.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (Week 1): 45.3 DraftKings points, 417-4-0 passing, 12-36-1 rushing
  • Matt Ryan (Week 3): 43.2 DraftKings points, 374-5-0 passing, 4-12-0 rushing
  • Kirk Cousins (Week 8): 24.7 DraftKings points, 359-2-1 passing, 2-3-0 rushing

It’s possible that the recent addition of 2016 first-round cornerback Eli Apple will improve the secondary — but that’s not especially likely, given that Apple underachieved with the Giants last season (59.0 PFF coverage grade) and was acquired for just fourth- and seventh-round picks. In his first game with the Saints last week, Apple allowed an 8-79-0 passing line on eight targets and 48 coverage snaps. He’s unlikely to be the savior.

And No. 1 cornerback Marshon Lattimore is yet to regain the form that won him Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, when he allowed just 583 scoreless yards and a 53.8% completion rate on passes in his coverage. This season, quarterbacks have completed 65.7% of their attempts against him for 315 yards and two touchdowns. And there’s no need to detail the depths of slot man P.J. Williams’s shortcomings. Among starting corners he has a bottom-two 30.7 PFF coverage grade. In just 193 coverage snaps, he has allowed a 25-352-5 receiving line on 32 targets.

And as if all of that weren’t bad enough, the Saints are 30th in pass defense against running backs with a 27.2% DVOA. The team’s two primary coverage linebackers, A.J. Klein and Demario Davis, have allowed a combined 84.4% completion rate in their coverage.

Even if Kupp doesn’t return, the pass-catching entourage of wide receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds, along with Todd Gurley, should be capable of allowing Goff to exploit this pass defense.

Last week, Goff had a position-high 13.43% ownership rate in the low-stakes $500K Slant on DraftKings, and we’re expecting him to be popular again this week. Goff has a position-high 10 Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the No. 1 quarterback in the Levitan, Koerner and SportsGeek Models for the second week in a row.

See the full version of this piece at FantasyLabs.

Positional Breakdowns & News

Be sure to read the other Week 9 positional breakdowns.

For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.

After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.

Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.

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