We were able to reach the NFL's midpoint in week nine and it sure was invigorating. Pittsburgh nearly wrecked its chances at a perfect season, but Ben Roethlisberger put together an MVP-level performance to vanquish Dallas.
Although Buffalo's upset of Seattle was a shocker (more on that later), the biggest head-scratcher was New Orleans' humbling of Tom Brady and Tampa Bay. Add in Green Bay's win over San Francisco, and the top of the NFC seems to be with the Saints, Packers and Buccaneers, who have all taken turns beating up on each other.
The Seahawks will be back, though, as Russell Wilson is still on pace to throw for a record 56 touchdown passes.
Wilson has several players nipping his heels in the MVP race, with Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen all getting back into the mix. Mahomes' Chiefs keep stacking wins and could be on the verge of repeating if the AFC doesn't step up.
Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tennessee and Buffalo will see if they can do anything about it. Even after those top-tier teams, though, the Chiefs still have a conference loaded with teams like Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Cleveland and Miami.
My waiver wire picks of the week go to Atlanta's Olamide Zaccheaus, New England's Jakobi Meyers and Giants RB Wayne Gallman. Don't sleep on them now, they may be the keys to a fantasy championship.
It's hard to ignore the showings QBs like Lamar Jackson, Drew Brees and Deshaun Watson put together, but I've gotta send another shoutout to Minnesota's Dalvin Cook. A second-straight game with 200-plus scrimmage yards and two or more TDs puts him in a class with only Jim Brown and Deuce McAllister. Not too shabby.
Now, we're on to week 10.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins' defense made Tua's first start against the L.A. Rams an afterthought, so seeing him go tit-for-tat with Kyler Murray last week was much more exciting. The Alabama product went 20 for 28 with 248 passing yards, 35 rushing yards and two TD tosses, touting a 122.3 passer rating and an 87.7 QBR (average score is 50).
Having weapons like DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki has been fruitful, and even though Preston Williams is heading to the IR, Tua should be fine due to his nature as a distributor. Four players in the Arizona game garnered four or more targets while seven different receivers nabbed at least one pass.
Next on the slate is the L.A. Chargers, who continue to amaze with their feats of defeat. The 2020 NFL Draft's No. 5 pick will play a defense that's yielding 21.5 fantasy points per game to QBs, fourth most in the league.
The Bolts D is not awful, but it's struggled in certain areas. The unit has the third-lowest turnover rate in the league (6.6%) and is tied for the third-lowest interception total (4) while allowing a 4-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio (16 TDs, 4 INTs) and three 300-yard passing games.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Hear me out here. I know Cook's been the hottest RB since November started, but this is a bad matchup. In three career games against Chicago, he only has one game of reaching 70 scrimmage yards (46.7 per game average), a 2.53 yards per carry average, one total TD and no more than 35 rushing yards in any outing.
The Bears still have a rather elite defense. They're tied for the ninth-lowest yards per carry average allowed in the NFL (4.1) and have only given up six rushing TDs — tied for the second-lowest total in the league. Chicago is allowing 16.6 fantasy points per game to RBs, the 11th best mark in the league, despite giving up the fifth-most carries overall (208).
I think another factor here is the Bears forcing the ball out of Cook's mitts and into the right hand of Kirk Cousins. Facing loaded boxes more times than not, the Vikings offense may see a trickle down in how it can operate. And playing a defense that's ranked second in TD passes allowed (10) and fourth in passer rating allowed (84.0), respectively, a tough day for Cousins could mean a tough one for Cook.
Obviously, Cook's most likely the top back on your roster, but there are better options this weekend.
SLEEPER OF THE WEEK
New Orleans D/ST
NOLA packed a mean punch in its 38-3 win over the Buccaneers, as the defense forced three turnovers, recorded three sacks and held Brady's bunch to 194 yards of offense. Despite a propensity for giving up big plays, the Saints defense has showed well all season, currently ranking as the 10th best defense in ESPN leagues.
New Orleans is tied for eighth in the league in total sacks (22) and ninth overall in passer rating allowed (99.1) and tackles for loss (41).
The Saints will take on a depleted 49ers team that will still be without George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Tevin Coleman and Jimmy Garoppolo. Deebo Samuel's status is also unclear, but Trent Williams and Brandon Aiyuk should both return to the lineup.
Nick Mullens will be under center, but that shouldn't have the San Fran fans inspired. He's been OK in Jimmy G's absences this year, but he also has three games with a QBR of 16 or lower.
BILLS FANTASY OUTLOOK
Buffalo shocked the football world, fending off Russ and the Seahawks in a classic shootout. Allen was magnificent (31 for 38, 415 passing yards, 3 TD passes, 1 rushing TD, 138.5 passer rating, 79.3 QBR), pouring out an emotional performance the day after his grandmother passed away.
The third-year QB got back into the MVP discussion, becoming the first player with multiple 400-yard, three-TD pass, zero-INT, 130-plus passer rating games in the same season. He's also the first Bills QB with those numbers and a rushing TD in the same game.
I'm not gonna discredit Allen for abusing the 'Hawks historically bad defense because he showed out with the MVP frontrunner on the opposite sideline. Whether it was Stefon Diggs (nine receptions, 118 yards) high stepping, John Brown (eight receptions, 99 yards) smoking corners or Gabriel Davis (four receptions, 70 yards, 1 TD) showing his mettle, the Bills passing attack shook off seven sacks to secure the W.
This game was the second straight example of OC Brian Daboll adapting to the defense Buffalo was playing. Rather than sticking to the run, like the Bills did against New England's undersized front, Buffalo exposed a pass defense that was supposed to be improving with Carlos Dunlap III and Jamal Adams back in the fold.
Defensively, it wasn't about stopping Russ, who still amassed 390 passing yards and three total TDs. But he had one of his longest days in a while, taking five sacks and turning the ball over four times. The Bills also added 16 knockdowns, the most on any QB thus far this season.
This game reminded me of the 2014 win over Green Bay, when the Bills shocked Rodgers in what was his second MVP season. Sunday's win was not perfect, but it was a step in the right direction, and it showed that Buffalo still has some remnants of what was once an elite defense.
I think the game plan against AZ has to be similar to what it was with Seattle. Murray will play the role of Wilson, while DeAndre Hopkins will step in for DK Metcalf, who the recorded seven grabs, 108 yards and one score last week.
We could have another shootout on our hands as two of the league's top passing offenses collide. The Cardinals will lean on Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald and others, while the Bills look to Diggs, Brown, Davis and Cole Beasley.
It should be a simple formula to this game. Whoever's offensive line can protect and pave the way for a little bit of a running game, as well as the QB who protects the football best, should come out on top.
To be honest, this was one of my favorite matchups coming into the season. Take a seat and get your popcorn ready.
Respond to sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to listen to the GNN Sports Podcast, on Spotify, Anchor, Apple Podcasts and more.