Week 14 NFL DFS Starting Points: Vegas Lines
You know that targeting the highest scoring games and particularly the teams with the highest implied totals makes sense in fantasy football. This analysis will highlight exactly which situations are the best to take advantage of and which you might want to avoid within those games. We’ll also highlight a couple games to use caution with as well as some less obvious targets. The focus is on Sunday games, since both main DFS sites have eliminated Monday and Thursday games from their big tournaments.
The high scoring games:
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Total 51.5, Saints -2.5
No surprise, as I think the Saints have been featured here every week except their bye. Drew Brees leads the league in passing yards and touchdowns and the Bucs are an average pass defense at best. While Brees is on the road and coming off a terrible game at home in one of the best passing matchups, I think he’ll be a fairly popular—and effective—DFS play this week given the overall total here and the Saints implied team total. With no clear cut must play QB, I’m happy to take a shot with Brees. Even though he’s the most expensive QB this week, he’s cheaper than he has been at other times this year…
The Saints supporting cast has been frustrating at best. I can’t get behind either Mark Ingram or Tim Hightower, given the propensity we’ve seen for the Saints to balance the work and ride the hot hand in recent weeks (the Detroit game was an anomaly that I’m not taking too much away from). On the plus side, Ingram will have an extra week to get that toe healthy and should be the lead back. As far as receivers go, Brandin Cooks bounced back with seven catches on nine targets in the dismal Week 13 showing, while Willie Snead saw six targets and Michael Thomas, our most expensive Saints receiver, five. Even Coby Fleener saw more targets than he had in the past seven weeks. If you’re inclined to stack the Saints, I’m still in on Thomas and/or Cooks.
On the other side, New Orleans has been one of the most generous defenses in the league, allowing the third most points per game. Jameis Winston hasn’t been a flashy play over the past few weeks, but he’s been quietly grinding out reasonably valuable performances in his last six games. I expect a big one here, and at $8200, Winston might be the most popular QB play in Week 14. You’ve got to love Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, his #1 and #2 guys. In the backfield, it sounds like preliminary news on Doug Martin is positive, and he would rush into the seventh-best running back matchup for fantasy. I don’t love the price on Martin, but he could make a very interesting tournament option this week.
San Diego at Carolina
Total 48.5, Panthers -1
The high total and narrow spread here suggests I should be higher on players from these teams than I currently am. Both teams’ running backs and wide receivers have been a little volatile this season (to say the least) in terms of usage and production. Trying to hit on the great Jonathan Stewart game has been futile for me, although the numbers say it’s easier to run on the Chargers than it is to throw on them. San Diego leads the league in interceptions (15) and has also forced 14 fumbles. That makes Cam Newton, a volatile player in his own right, a bit risky despite the high point total here. Kelvin Benjamin has really failed to live up to the hype his first two games of the season created, with only one touchdown in the last eight games. Greg Olsen is the safest option from the Panthers this week, not Ted Ginn Jr., though Ginn is doing a great job of impersonating a WR1 lately. His price is still very much tournament-worthy and that’s how I’m approaching Newton and the Panthers this week: Olsen in any format and Newton, Benjamin or Ginn in tournaments only. I want to believe in the Anthony Gates touchdown record hype, but the Chargers aren’t making it easy. Hunter Henry isn’t fully going away, and Gates looks more like an afterthought than a primary target. I have to look elsewhere for TE this weekend.
Rivers has been more consistent and should be able to take advantage of a Panthers defense that has allowed opposing QBs the seventh-most fantasy points this season. I like him to produce similarly to Brees for a bit less of the salary cap. His receivers, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, and Travis Benjamin, vie for touchdowns and red zone targets with Melvin Gordon, who is one of the better goal-line backs this season. Williams is the safest of the bunch, while Benjamin seems to be taking a back seat to Inman since he’s back on the field. Carolina is equally generous to opposing wide receivers, making it likely that one or more of these receivers exceed value Sunday. Gordon gets a tougher assignment, as the Panthers have allowed only six rushing touchdowns all season. That said, Gordon’s been getting it done most weeks and there’s a negative to almost every running back this weekend.
The low-scoring games:
Minnesota at Jacksonville
Total 39, Vikings -3.5
This game falls into the rare “full offensive fade” category for me. The low scoring outlook combined with one very good defense and two bottom third offenses tell me to just look elsewhere for my fantasy value. The Vikings defense is an obvious play this week, as they have been for much of the season. The Jaguars give up the fourth-most fantasy points to their opponents’ defenses this year. As bad as Jacksonville is, they don’t rank in the top ten in fantasy points allowed to any position either. Sam Bradford and Minnesota just aren’t built to be prolific scorers, and shouldn’t have to be with their strong defense this week.
Arizona at Miami
Total 43.5, Dolphins -1
Despite being the small home favorite here, I also won’t be chasing any Dolphins in DFS this week. Arizona is a bottom five matchup for quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends. You might consider Jarvis Landry, who got back into double-digit targets in Week 13 (catching 11 of 14 passes thrown his way), but as you’d imagine his value is much higher in PPR formats.
On the other side of the ball, Miami is unlikely to limit the unstoppable David Johnson, Week 14’s most expensive player by a lot. If you can work Johnson into your lineups, I’m not saying no. In addition, Miami has actually allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs, and that, combined with his high volume approach to the position this season, have me in on Carson Palmer as a tournament play. The strong correlation between implied team total and QB fantasy performance, not to mention his interception rate, makes him too risky for cash games, but a nice upside option for the price.
High team totals you might miss:
Houston at Indianapolis
Total 47, Colts -6
It’s not as good a matchup as the Jets, but the Colts looked good on Monday night and Vegas likes them to continue to roll when they host the Texans Sunday afternoon. Though the numbers don’t favor the passing game, this team goes as Andrew Luck goes, so if you’re looking to go against the grain a bit, Luck may be the answer again this week. In fact, Houston is a bottom five matchup for tight ends and wide receivers, so using T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and the resurgent Dwayne Allen in tournaments only is the way I’d approach it. Frank Gore has not seen the end zone in three weeks and we’ve seen some of his high floor fall away as his targets have evaporated over that span. He’s still going to get a goal-line chance or two, so if you need someone at his price point to round out a cash game lineup, I don’t hate it, but think there are better ways to build a lineup.
Chicago at Detroit
Total 43.5, Lions -8
Chicago had a tough time passing in the snow in Week 13, which may be part of the reason Vegas is so high on Detroit. The Bears are an average passing defense and a top five run defense (in fantasy points allowed), so look for Matt Stafford to bear the responsibility for scoring in this one. Detroit profiles the same—you can throw on them (unless you’re Drew Brees), but they are very good at stopping the run. The obvious way to go here is with Stafford and Golden Tate, who seemed to be in perfect sync with him last week in New Orleans. Matt Barkley would be a cheap tournament play given what we’ve seen from him so far and the generous matchup, but I don’t like any of his receivers enough to trust them for DFS.