Monday Night Football
Buffalo @ Seattle
Vegas Projected Score: Seahawks 25.5, Bills 18.5
Bills-Seahawks sets up as a low-scoring affair between struggling, injury-marred offenses and two of the NFL’s top defenses in a game with Week 9’s fourth lowest game total (44). And I would bet the under. Russell Wilson hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 4, has one multi-touchdown game on the season, and has flopped in two pristine matchups against the Falcons (QB22) and Saints (QB24) since Seattle’s Week 5 bye. Just 2-of-8 quarterbacks to face the Bills have finished inside the top-ten fantasy quarterbacks. As Wilson is battling knee and ankle injuries and laying box-score eggs as both a passer and runner, it’s to the point in season-long leagues that we need to make Wilson prove himself before starting him, and consider it a positive if he produces even if he is on our bench. … Already shutting down the run, the Bills got back NT Marcell Dareus last week and stamped out New England’s ground game, holding LeGarrette Blount and James White to a 20-58-1 (2.90 YPC) rushing line. New Orleans’ Week 8 time-of-possession dominance (36:24) skewed Seattle’s results, but it was concerning to see Christine Michael log season lows in touches (11) and snaps (51%) after getting off to a hot start on the first two drives. Passing-down specialist C.J. Prosise set season highs in playing time (42%) and touches (8) and led the team in receiving (4-80), albeit largely on the strength of a 43-yard trick-play pass thrown by WR/TE Tanner McEvoy. On Wednesday, coach Pete Carroll promised Prosise’s role has increased. Prosise is suddenly playable in PPR leagues as a bye-week flex. Michael remains the favorite for lead back work, but we need to scale back expectations in this tough matchup after his workload was reduced.
Wilson’s targets since Seattle’s Week 5 bye: Jimmy Graham 24; Doug Baldwin 20; Jermaine Kearse 16; Tyler Lockett 11; Michael 8; Prosise 7; Paul Richardson 5. … Seahawks skill players flopped against the Saints because they barely had the ball. While yards and points may still be tough to come by against the Bills’ defense, Seattle should have the ball much more this week. None of their pass catchers’ matchups stand out, however. Buffalo is yielding the NFL’s sixth fewest catches (26) and 12th fewest yards (372) to tight ends, although Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett combined for 9-144-1 receiving against them last week and Graham can be similarly tough to handle. Graham still has at least eight targets in four of his last five games and is a top-five TE1 start. … Baldwin has been frustrating lately, but his Week 9 matchup is unimposing against a Bills defense that got hit by Julian Edelman (4-37-1) and Danny Amendola (3-29-1) in the slot last week, Jarvis Landry (5-78) in Week 7, and Tavon Austin (7-59) two games before that. Seattle’s passing offense has been slumping, but Graham and Baldwin are high-end NFL players we want to keep betting on in season-long leagues. … In chronological order, Lockett’s snap rates since Seattle’s bye are 64% > 78% > 62% with corresponding target totals of 5 > 2 > 4. Lockett’s usage renders him nothing more than a long-shot dart throw, but it should be noted that Buffalo has been torched by a perimeter wideout in each of its last three games, yielding 3-76-1 to Torrey Smith, 5-100-1 to Kenny Stills, and 4-91-1 to Chris Hogan. Bills RCB Stephon Gilmore is having a rough season.
Season-long owners forced to start Tyrod Taylor at Seattle will have to hang their hats on his rushing production. The Seahawks have allowed just five touchdown passes in seven games and just one multi-touchdown-pass game since midway through the 2015 season. Taylor’s legs have indeed kept him afloat in tough matchups and he enters Week 9 with at least five rushing attempts in 7-of-8 games. Taylor has shown a safe floor with top-16 fantasy quarterback finishes in six of the last seven weeks. It’s obviously fair to question his ceiling in this difficult draw. Taylor is viable only in two-quarterback leagues. … As you might expect, Seattle has been lights out against the run this year, ranking No. 2 in run-defense DVOA and stymieing enemy backs for a combined 165-558-2 (3.38 YPC) rushing line. As a LeSean McCoy owner in several spots, I selfishly hope the Bills give him another game off and hold McCoy out through their Week 10 bye so that he can be healthy for the stretch run. In McCoy’s Week 8 absence, Mike Gillislee (15 touches, 55% snaps) operated as Buffalo’s lead back with Jonathan Williams (5 touches, 24%) and Reggie Bush (4, 33%) changing the pace. Assuming McCoy is out, Gillislee is playable in season-long leagues on the lone premise that we know he will get touches. On Friday, however, Bills coach Rex Ryan strongly indicated that he expects McCoy to play.
Taylor’s 2016 targets in games where Robert Woods has played but Sammy Watkins has not: Woods 37; Charles Clay 27; Marquise Goodwin 20; McCoy 15; Walt Powell 14; Justin Hunter 8; Gillislee 5. … Although he is technically Buffalo’s de-facto No. 1 receiver, Woods has cleared 60 yards in 1-of-5 games missed by Watkins. Woods runs most of his routes in the slot, where Seattle has been extremely stingy this year. Larry Fitzgerald is the only slot receiver to top 60 yards against the Seahawks, and he needed 14 targets to finish at 70 scoreless yards. Seattle most recently checked Willie Snead (6-56-0). Woods is always a weak play and this week is no different. … Same goes for Clay against a Seattle defense yielding the NFL’s fourth fewest catches (25) and seventh fewest yards (285) to tight ends. … All you need to know about the rest of Buffalo’s receivers is that they were desperate enough to beg Percy Harvin out of retirement. In Week 8, the Bills were literally led in targets by something literally named Walt Powell.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 20, Bills 16
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