Week 5 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 Tampa Bay, Total 55.5
I was one of a few people who thought Cam Newton would overcome his slow start, for one week at least, while visiting New England in Week 4. Going into that game, the Patriots were the league’s most generous fantasy QB defense, allowing 8 passing touchdowns by opponents. This week they maintain that top spot, having given up three more to Cam through the air, plus a rushing TD. So the first player to highlight this week for all DFS contests has to be Jameis Winston. While he started slow in Chicago in Week 2, he is coming off back-to-back 300+ yard passing games in which he’s thrown five touchdown passes. Those were against the Vikings and Giants, more formidable secondaries and pass rushes than he will see this week. His $7700 salary is enticing to say the least. As with Newton last week, the difference in fantasy output between he and Tom Brady will not justify the difference in their salaries. That makes Brady the contrarian play, though with the Bucs allowing the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year (and remember, we’re talking about Mike Glennon, Case Keenum and Eli Manning), Brady should be in at least one tournament lineup this week.
The attraction for this Thursday night game with its high point total is the passing game. With Winston or Brady, make liberal use of Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, DeSean Jackson and Chris Hogan. The run game of both teams is murky at best, with Mike Gillislee cooling off after his hot start, receiving just 12 carries and failing to score in each of the last two games. James White makes for a better PPR play if he’s going to see in the neighborhood of 10 targets again, while for the Bucs, I expect a time share between newly activated Doug Martin and mediocre Jacquizz Rodgers. Between the receivers, much has been made of Hogan’s role compared to Cooks. This is something that will even out, and I expect a big game for Cooks this week. Mike Evans is matchup proof as his volume of targets and ability to come down with contested throws continually demonstrates. His top wide receiver price tag is rough, but Winston is cheap enough to make it possible. If you like the idea of a bargain bin flier, Adam Humphries is the guy. At $4700, he was the receiver Winston looked to to move the chains more than once vs. the Giants, and he now has 12 catches on 17 targets in the last two games.
Tight ends are another opportunity to get exposure to the passing offense in this game. Consider not only Rob Gronkowski (double digit fantasy points in his last three) who is below that $8K threshold I like to see, but also Cameron Brate (who did not disappoint against a Giants defense that forces balls to tight ends). O.J. Howard had a beautiful long touchdown catch in Week 4, but doesn’t have the target volume I want to see with Brate on the field.
Green Bay at Dallas, Total 52.5
By now you know that high implied team totals bode well for quarterbacks, so among the top options on the main Sunday slate are Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott. As we saw above, it’s likely that the price difference ($1800) between Rodgers and Prescott doesn’t reflect so large a fantasy output differential. Rodgers has averaged 21.4 fantasy points per game (range 17.5-25.8) with three 300+ yard games and three multi-touchdown games, leading the league with 10 passing TDs. Prescott has yet to throw over 270 yards, but averages 20 rushing yards per game. He also has three multi-touchdown games (nine total touchdowns). The defense vs. position statistic favors Rodgers, as the Cowboys have allowed some big passing games and high scores from Trevor Siemian and Jared Goff, but as with the Patriots game, I like having some exposure to both QBs in this one.
Which receivers to pair them with? Jordy Nelson when healthy is a no-brainer, but the $8600 salary is very tough to do with Rodgers. He’s fine as a high-end solo option in cash games, while Randall Cobb ($6600) is much easier to fit in a tournament stack. Davante Adams is reportedly doing well, but can’t be expected to play after the vicious hit he took Thursday night. Though the designation is doubtful, I’m hoping they hold him out at least one game. For Dallas, it’s not so simple. Dez Bryant has been inefficient to say the least, though he has faced a brutal cornerback schedule and it’s been anything but easy for him. Terrence Williams has the most consistent target share (5-6 per week), while Brice Butler is getting some priority looks, and has caught two touchdowns in the last two games. Cole Beasley has yet to produce a DFS-worthy line, and my take on the Dallas offense situation is to use Prescott alone…
…And by alone, I mean with Ezekiel Elliott. This is a perfect example of a team I expect to score a lot of points and think I can cover those points with a QB-RB stack. It makes even more sense in the context of a murky wide receiver group like this one, where any one of the four guys I mentioned could have the big day. Elliott has been in the rock solid to rock star range, and should make for a nice alternative to Le’Veon Bell (see below), whom I expect to be highly owned.
The low-scoring games:
Buffalo at Cincinnati, Total 38.5
Living in Western New York, the most popular conversation right now involves the Bills leading the AFC East, so there is much surprise and indignation that the Bills aren’t favored here. This is where it’s very important to separate hype from reality. The reality is that the Bengals have more talent than the Bills right now plus are playing at home. I love that the Bills are finding ways to win huge games-especially on the road-but their offense is limited, and even more so with Jordan Matthews set to miss significant time. LeSean McCoy hasn’t lived up to his price tag since Week 1, and though partly that can be explained by tough matchups (Denver, Carolina), I expected more in the win at Atlanta. Charles Clay has seen his price go up, and will for the first time not make an appearance in the Bargain Bin this week. I’m fading all the Bills this weekend.
Both defenses are just average, with neither standing out in terms of passing or rushing, though the Bills are tied for fourth in sacks (11) and interceptions (6). I’d be surprised to see Andy Dalton throw more than two touchdowns this week, and the Bengals running back situation didn’t get much clarity last week. Joe Mixon has the volume (17 carries) but did virtually nothing vs. the Browns, while Giovanni Bernard is maintaining a strong presence in the pass game. Jeremy Hill is the odd man out. Tyler Kroft is interesting. We know Dalton likes his tight end, but I’m not sure Kroft has done enough to warrant being the seventh-most expensive tight end this week. I’m not chasing one great game. A. J. Green is back over $8K, deservedly so, and remains the Bengals’ top playmaker and DFS option for Week 5.
New York Jets at Cleveland, Total 39
Two bad teams get to play badly together. It’s not as appealing as the chocolate and peanut butter jingle, but is it a total fade? Bilal Powell had a breakout game with Matt Forte sitting out in Week 4, and the Browns aren’t a scary run defense by any means. Isaiah Crowell is in a nice spot, but isn’t getting nearly enough volume to make him worth rostering. There is not a receiver in the game over $5600 and that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the passing games of these two teams. A Josh McCown/Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, who has been extremely efficient in his two games, mini-stack is reasonable in a cheap tournament, but the ceiling is lower than several other combinations this week. Both of these teams are in the top 10 in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses. The Jets are the stronger unit, looking particularly good with three interceptions and just 20 total points allowed in the past two games (defensive touchdowns are not counted against team D/ST).
High team totals you might miss:
Jacksonville at Pittsburg, Total 44
The implied team total for the Steelers tops 26, making Ben Roethlisberger an interesting option. While the Jaguars are currently the league’s worst QB matchup in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, Big Ben at home has a chance to topple that trophy and redeem his mediocre play so far this season. He’s not an option I trust for cash games and I’ve discussed how much I believe in what Jacksonville has built on defense, but like Newton last week, Roethlisberger will have a 4-5 TD game soon. It will be at home, and when he’s favored by this much, I like the idea of using him in a big GPP with Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant, who also wants to make a statement. That said, the much safer and more popular play should be Le’Veon Bell. As staunch as Jalen Ramsey and the Jags D has been vs. the pass, opposing rushers have enjoyed a relatively easy go of it. Jacksonville has allowed 594 rushing yards, most in the league, along with four rushing touchdowns. Bell is looking more and more dialed in every week.
For the Jaguars, Leonard Fournette is the best option, and the only option. Pittsburgh is giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs, and they’ve faced Cleveland’s and Baltimore’s lackluster running backs in addition to Dalvin Cook and Jordan Howard/Tarik Cohen. Fournette has been among the most consistent fantasy running backs so far this season and can be had for a significant discount relative to Bell (though in this case, the price difference might more accurately reflect a production difference).
Arizona at Philadelphia, Total 45
Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffrey made a statement with an opening drive touchdown in San Diego, though Casey Hayward ultimately did limit Jeffrey’s fantasy day. Back at home against a traveling Cardinals team that ranks eighth vs. WR this season, not to mention the Eagles’ near 26-point team total this week, I think this duo makes for another sneaky tournament option. In contrast to receivers, Arizona has limited tight ends pretty substantially—only Jack Doyle managed more than 35 yards receiving against them—making the expensive Zach Ertz a fade for me this weekend. Nelson Agholor may make a surprise appearance in the Bargain Bin tomorrow, but Jeffrey is cheap enough for almost any tournament lineup at $7100.