Week 2 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. All salaries listed are for FanDuel.
The high scoring games:
New England at New Orleans, Total 53.5
Both these offensive powerhouses were stunned in Week 1, when their defenses were upset by the Chiefs and the Vikings, who both showcased their young talent to great effect this past weekend. So, we can assume that this game should allow both quarterbacks to bounce back from a fantasy perspective. The Patriots lost Danny Amendola to a concussion, which seemed to disrupt their game plan/flow somewhat last week. Expect Tom Brady to get a whole lot more comfortable with Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett by Sunday. Hogan is usable as a cash game option, while I’m limiting exposure to the $4800 Dorsett to tournaments until we see his effectiveness. Brandin Cooks could be poised for the best game of the Pats receivers, as the Saints still appear quite vulnerable to speedy outside wideouts. Oh, and it’s a revenge game of course.
The New England run game looked good in Week 1 with Mike Gillislee taking a lead role and James White picking up the passing down work. White should take on a significant portion of the Amendola role, and is a great play at just $5700 this weekend. That said, Gillislee is still very affordable and is just as capable as Dalvin Cook at ripping off the big gainers on the ground vs. a notoriously porous Saints run defense (third-most fantasy points allowed to running backs last season).
Rob Gronkowski was a non-factor in Week 1, for fantasy purposes anyway, and while that won’t be true every week, we can stop paying over $8K for him in DFS cash games.
On the other hand, Drew Brees is still just about as safe as it gets for DFS cash games. His high volume and efficiency generates stat lines that don’t kill your lineups even when he has what was a terrible game like Monday night (still almost 16 fantasy points). I have no problem rolling with him at QB this Sunday. I also expect a better performance from Michael Thomas, one of my 2016 regulars in this and my Bargain Bin articles. I’m not too keen on his salary, the fifth-highest among wide receivers, but if you find a way to work him into your lineups without sacrificing too much elsewhere, you should be rewarded. We saw the trouble with too many mouths to feed as Brees divided targets between Ted Ginn Jr., Tommylee Lewis, Brandin Coleman and Coby Fleener, making all of them hard to use with confidence. I like Ginn to score this week if you’re picking one of the bunch.
After allowing just seven total touchdowns to running backs last season, the Patriots gave up three to Kareem Hunt and one to Charcandrick West in Week 1…I like both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara (at $4700) a lot for Week 2 thanks to their additional work in the Saints passing game. Neither defense gets any consideration from me this week.
Green Bay at Atlanta, Total 53.5
At the risk of sounding redundant, neither of these teams lived up to expectations in Week 1 either, paving the way for more fantasy bounce backs. Aaron Rodgers was solid, with over 300 passing yards against a good Seattle defense. I expect him to throw for that plus three touchdowns this week. It still isn’t necessary to pay over $9K for Rodgers, but I do think he’s way better than average this weekend. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, who was my pick of the Packers receivers last week in this article, should be the beneficiaries of a big Rodgers game. I’m still not buying Davante Adams at his too-high salary, but he could pay it off in large field tournaments if he gets open and hot early (e.g. if Desmond Trufant is covering Nelson).
Ty Montgomery is arguably the top play from this team. I’ve come around relatively slowly on Montgomery, but there’s no arguing with his talent and versatility and the fact that this is the matchup running backs dream about. The Falcons have led the fantasy points allowed to running backs list for years, and were just torched by Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard last week, indicating that not much has changed in that department. $6500 for Montgomery is a steal.
With so much talent on this offense, newcomer Martellus Bennett feels like the odd man out. He did get six targets vs. Seattle last week, and has been a credible end zone threat in his career, so don’t ignore the possibility of a 12-15 fantasy point day for Bennett. $5800 isn’t a salary to drool over, but it’s reasonable given his QB and the total here.
Matt Ryan could/should also have a better game this week. Like Rodgers, he also surpassed 300 passing yards in Week 1, with a single touchdown (to Austin Hooper, of all people…), but vs. the Bears and at his price, that didn’t seem good enough. Though Russell Wilson struggled vs. these Packers in Green Bay, their secondary and pass rush are beatable, and the defense is more fantasy friendly when on the road. I’m fine with Ryan’s $8200 price tag this week.
I’ll also be going back to Julio Jones in a couple tournament lineups. I was burned in Week 1, when the Bears did a good job of limiting the stud wideout, but my memory is short and Jones could easily pick up 150 yards and two touchdowns this weekend. I’m leaving my man Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu alone this week, though either could score any given week, but will also give Devonta Freeman another shot. At home, he offers as much potential as anyone at the position and has a high enough floor for any contest.
Back to Hooper: two targets for 128 yards and a touchdown is a once in a career stat line, so I won’t be chasing it in Week 2. I’m sure that Hooper will develop into a reliable and advantageous part of this offense, but this week I’m going with the core—Ryan, Jones and Freeman.
The low-scoring games:
Cleveland at Baltimore, Total 41
The Ravens dominated in Cincinnati in Week 1 though from a fantasy perspective, Ravens dominance is far from alluring. The line frankly surprises me, because Cleveland arguably has more talent than Baltimore right now and looked surprisingly good at times last Sunday vs. what is expected to be a quality Steelers defense for 2017. Let’s tackle the heavily favored Ravens first. Joe Flacco, not elite, gets a great on-paper matchup this week, but the slow and low volume approach of this offense limits his upside. He appears comfortable with Jeremy Maclin, but again, the ceiling is pretty low for both players. It’s with little enthusiasm that I acknowledge that Flacco and Maclin should both have decent floors at reasonable salaries if you’re looking for that piece in your lineup.
I’m not buying the Browns as our number one run defense after shutting down Le’Veon Bell in Week 1, and it’s clear the Ravens are going to rely on the ground game with Terrance West. West is a strong cash game play for Week 2, and Javorius Allen is a good bet to continue seeing significant carries (he had 21 in Week 1). At $4900, you could do worse than Allen vs. Cleveland in your RB slot, especially if you think some of the high priced WRs bounce back this week like I do.
The correlation between team total and quarterback production is a very positive one, so I’m going to hold off on pulling the trigger on DeShone Kizer this week, after liking him as a value play in Week 1. The Ravens defense might be as good as they looked at the Bengals last week, which would expose the inexperience of this Browns offense on the road. Kenny Britt was a massive disappointment, and is un-rosterable until further notice, while Corey Coleman carries the same risks as Kizer vs. Baltimore on the road. I’m passing on the second year prospect this week, and hopeful his price drops after a quiet day. Isaiah Crowell must stay heavily involved if this offense is to succeed at all, as balance is going to be essential for Kizer. That’s probably even more true this week on the road. Again, it’s not a great DvP spot for Crowell, but I do think the volume/opportunity will be there for him and a touchdown is certainly possible.
Buffalo at Carolina, Total 42.5
Carolina is heavily favored at home vs. the Bills and could fall under the next subheading of teams with a high team total you might miss under this low game total. Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin should find more success than they did last week, but this offense is still clearly going to lean on its running backs. Buffalo was a top 10 fantasy matchup for running backs last year, and it looks like both Jonathan Stewart (my preference again this week thanks to his lower salary and every down potential) and Christian McCaffrey are good plays at home in Week 2.
This line bodes poorly for Tyrod Taylor, Jordan Matthews, and even my Week 1 tight end crush, Charles Clay, this week, but remember, the San Francisco offense that these Panthers shut down so effectively last Sunday is perhaps not an honest benchmark of their defensive prowess. For that reason, and because the Bills played well in Week 1, albeit against the Jets defense, I’m okay with using Taylor and Clay again in a tournament lineup. LeSean McCoy was a high-end running back bright spot last weekend, and as long as he’s healthy we should expect him to remain a top performer. To boot, despite the overall struggles the 49ers exhibited vs. Carolina, Carlos Hyde was fairly effective as both a rusher (five yards per carry) and receiver (6/6 for 32 yards) against them.
High team totals you might miss:
San Francisco at Seattle, Total 43.5
No one disappointed me more than Russell Wilson last week, not even Carson Palmer and that’s saying a lot. However, short memory intact, the Seahawks are home against a very beatable 49ers team. Boasting one of the highest team totals of the week, Wilson, Doug Baldwin, and perhaps even Jimmy Graham are worth another shot in all lineups this weekend. Wilson’s and Baldwin’s salaries are sixth and ninth, respectively, among their positions but ending the week in the top three is very possible for both of them. That’s solid value. I’m still avoiding the Seattle run game, which might improve this weekend vs. last year’s most fantasy-friendly run defense, because I’m still unsure who the best option is. If you’re hell-bent on using a Seattle back, I think it’s Thomas Rawls if he plays or Chris Carson if he doesn’t. Seattle’s defense will be among the most popular plays this weekend with good reason—at home, with their talent, against Brian Hoyer and company.
The aforementioned Carlos Hyde is the only 49ers skill player I’d consider and there are truly higher upside options at RB. I can’t see his range of outcomes exceeding 6-14 fantasy points.
New York Jets at Oakland, Total 43.5
Oakland owns the highest team total of the week and very much like in Week 1, I can’t get enough Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. For those that are fed up with the Cooper/Crabtree decision, feel free to go with solo Carr. After dropping three consecutive end zone targets last week, I was very nearly done with Cooper myself. However, he saw 13 targets in that game and Carr is clearly making (or made) an effort to look for him in the red zone. Marshawn Lynch looked good in his Raiders debut and his price is fair enough for either a cash game or tournament lineup.
On the Jets side, Matt Forte and Bilal Powell are canceling each other’s value with a nearly equal split of the running back duties, while the largely ineffective pass game surprisingly was centered around newcomer Jermaine Kearse. His nine targets, if repeatable in another game where the Jets will almost surely playing from behind, are worth the cheap salary ($5400).