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. DK=DraftKings, FD=FanDuel.
The high scoring games:
Note: Thursday Night Football (Colts at Patriots, Total 51.5, Patriots -10.5), Sunday Night Football (Cowboys at Texans, Total 45, Texans -3.5), and Monday Night Football (Redskins at Saints, Total 52.5, Saints -6.5) are all worthy games to play either on a Primetime slate, a Thursday-Monday slate, or a showdown (single game) slate.
Atlanta at Pittsburgh, Total 57.5
There are no shortage of potentially high scoring games on the main slate either, starting with this one in Pittsburgh. Last week, the question was whether Big Ben Roethlisberger and company at home were enough to overcome Baltimore’s quality defensive ranking. I thought yes, but I was wrong. Even though the Ravens had previously shut down the Bills and Broncos, I thought Ben could have an Andy Dalton like night against them, but no. We will learn whether Roethlisberger is right this week for sure. At home vs. the league’s fifth-best QB matchup (and fifth-best overall fantasy matchup), Roethlisberger is the most expensive QB on DK, and fourth-most expensive on FD. Of course, pricing is bunched, with Matt Ryan just $100-300 cheaper than Big Ben, and facing the third-best fantasy matchup for QBs. Either of these guys should be great in any format, but I expect Big Ben to have lower ownership at the higher price and coming off the dud in Week 4.
James Conner’s and Juju Smith-Schuster’s salaries are creeping up, but Antonio Brown is the most expensive WR on both sites. He and Smith-Schuster rank second and third (behind Adam Thielen) in targets this year, but Smith-Schuster has a big catch rate advantage and Smith-Schuster’s catches have gone for significantly more yards (about four more yards per catch, on average). We expect Brown to be covered by the opponent’s best cornerback, Desmond Trufant this week, so I see no reason to not roster Smith-Schuster again in a great game script and WR matchup. Paying up for Brown should be reserved for tournaments only. Vance McDonald is the Steelers TE you want, and he’s cheaper than Jesse James on FD.
The Falcons are humming right now, and Calvin Ridley is a big reason why. With six touchdowns – a league-leading six touchdowns – he has been exactly what Ryan needed. Contrast Ridley’s TDs with Julio Jones, the league’s leader in receiving yards, but with zero touchdowns. Jones has double the targets, catches and yards, but six fewer fantasy points than Ridley (FanDuel scoring). Is there still a salary discrepancy, you ask? Why yes, there is. Ridley is $2K less on FD, and $2.7K less than Jones on DK, where admittedly, Jones’ extra catches help in PPR scoring (but not nearly $3K worth). Ridley was among the highest owned WRs last week in a similarly good matchup, and should be again this week. Sometimes coaches don’t use players the way I think they should (e.g. Kerryon Johnson), but I can’t fathom any reason the Falcons would turn away from Ridley at this point. Mohamed Sanu is, as usual, a desperation salary saver in a big game. If you’ve been playing DFS long enough, you know to put Jones in one tournament lineup, because he will eventually have a 200 yard, 2 TD game.
Tevin Coleman getting vultured by Ito Smith is a lot like Devonta Freeman getting vultured by Coleman, right? It’s annoying, and Coleman’s salary isn’t too forgiving anymore. It sounds like the Falcons are trying to have Freeman ready for this week, which I would view as a three-man committee to avoid at all costs. Take the passing game from Atlanta! But note, that as bleak as TE might be, I’m still not behind Austin Hooper’s fluky production.
Oakland at LA Chargers, Total 53.5
I didn’t see Derek Carr throwing the ball 58 times in Week 4 and almost (but not quite) evening out his TD:INT ratio (now 6:7, up from 2:5) against the Browns. Can Carr, Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook repeat a 45-point effort? I doubt it, but they are an inexpensive tournament stack with solid potential this week.
The good news for Carr and Amari Cooper fans is that the Chargers’ defense hasn’t been nearly as good as the Browns’, despite how it looked in San Francisco last week. The Raiders will never make my cash game lineups, but I do like the upside game script for the passing game.
Both defenses are top five in points allowed (right around 30 points per game), and the Chargers are decent home favorites. Unlike Oakland, they do deserve cash game attention. Melvin Gordon is utterly matchup-proof and a favorite play at the top end of the salary spectrum this week. His expanded role in the passing game (10 targets in Week 4) adds to his value despite Austin Ekeler remaining involved. Philip Rivers was more conservative than expected last week, but didn’t really need to do a ton with a well-working run game and moving the chains with short passes underneath. Keenan Allen continues to disappoint me, and probably a few other diehard fans, week after week, but Mike Williams was a surprising let down in Week 4. I see a bounce back for both him and Allen, with a 4 TD, 300-plus yard Rivers game. As bad as TE is, I’m not trusting Antonio Gates this season. Period. And as long as Gates is around, Virgil Green isn’t going to be productive either.
The low scoring games:
Tennessee at Buffalo, Total 39
Well, Bills fans had one great week. That’s more than a lot of seasons afford them, so remember USA Bank Stadium!! They were back to the usual in Green Bay last week, and Vegas once again doesn’t hold out much hope. Josh Allen, Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin don’t get terrible on-paper matchups, but they’re just terrible. I thought you couldn’t go wrong with a WR1 on a bad team (in season-long fantasy), but you can. Benjamin is coming off his best game of the season…34 receiving yards. Jones has more yardage, but his target volume is all over the place (one in Week 3, seven in Week 4). There’s no one to trust here, and using the Bills in any format is a waste of your money.
Tennessee mounted an impressive comeback win over the Eagles last weekend, and Marcus Mariota appeared to be able to feel his hand as he threw some perfectly placed balls in the direction of Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor. Davis saw a season-high 15 targets last week, while Taylor’s target share has steadily increased to nine. If Week 3 was any indication of how this team will look going forward, I’m buying all three of Mariota, Taylor and Davis this week. The Titans running backs also deserve a mention, as Buffalo ranks eighth in fantasy points allowed to the position. Well, at least Dion Lewis deserves a mention. He’s been more consistently involved than Derrick Henry, who saw only eight carries in Week 3 as game script favored the pass game. You could argue that the opposite will be true this week, but Lewis is still inexpensive enough to pay off his salary early and I’m not giving the Titans so much credit that I think they’re running away with a blowout win in the first half.
Arizona at San Francisco, Total 41
I liked C.J. Beathard last week, and he didn’t disappoint for just over minimum salary. Vegas has him and the 49ers favored over an Arizona team that wasn’t much better with Josh Rosen under center in Week 3. Beathard nearly reached 300 passing yards, threw two touchdowns and rushed for 19 yards in Week 4. He added two interceptions, but the real surprise was the lack of a connection with Marquise Goodwin. It was largely George Kittle and Pierre Garcon out there garnering targets (8 and 7, respectively), and don’t overlook Kendrick Bourne, who went 3/4/75/1 in Week 3. Kittle shapes up to be one of the highest owned and best producing TEs of Week 4, while I think most people will be out on Goodwin this week, me included. The low total on this game makes rostering a low-usage receiver a poor decision, even if his salary is cheap (this applies to Bourne and Goodwin, unfortunately).
Not to slow play this blurb, but Matt Breida is actually the best option from this game if he’s healthy. His salary is reasonable, his usage and production greatly outpaces Alfred Morris’, and the Arizona Cardinals represent the league’s most generous rushing defense for fantasy.
On the Arizona side, I’m holding out hope that Rosen can eventually establish enough of a pass game – with Christian Kirk most likely – that David Johnson can become fantasy-relevant again, but until that happens, I’m out. As I said above, a low-total game, on the road, with the NFL’s lowest scoring team by a wide margin, is not a place to go looking for DFS plays.
High team totals you might miss:
Miami at Cincinnati, Total 49.5
The Bengals keep finding themselves in nice spots and several of the off-season changes they implemented, not least of which involved an offensive line upgrade, are paying off with a 3-1 record. Vegas has them as big favorites at home against a Miami team that had looked pretty good on the defensive side until New England. We should expect another great effort from Giovanni Bernard or Joe Mixon this week as Miami has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this week, but both are on the injury report and you’ll need to monitor this workload heading into game time Sunday. Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd have a real connection, and Boyd, like Ridley, has done enough to be closer in salary to A.J. Green than he is. He’s an auto-play in any format again this week.
The Bengals have also been one of the most generous teams to play against for fantasy. That puts guys like Ryan Tannehill (sixth-best QB matchup), Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson (10th-best WR matchup) in tournament contention. Tannehill had been reasonably good through three weeks, but was atrocious in New England. Expect low ownership, but a better effort from him in Week 5. Kenyan Drake, however, is a guy I’m giving up on along with the hope that Mike Gesicki would find a breakout role anytime soon.
LA Rams at Seattle, Total 51
The total is almost high enough to make the high total part of the column, but that’s the way this season is going—so much scoring! The Rams are rosterable in all formats, and I mean all the Rams, from Todd Gurley to Jared Goff and any of the three receivers. Too many Rams you say? I’d prioritize Gurley in cash games and Cooper Kupp from among the receivers. He’s been the guy Goff looks at the in red zone, ranking third in targets among wide receivers inside the 20-yard line.
I’m not going out of my way to roster any Seahawks, though Russell Wilson has been fine outside of Week 4, and Doug Baldwin went right back to hoarding targets (7). The running back situation is murky at best with a surprise game from Mike Davis in Week 4. Chris Carson is likely to be back, and Rashad Penny is still lingering too. Tyler Lockett and Brandon Marshall are definitely losers with Baldwin back (despite the loss of Will Dissly), and this Rams defense isn’t one to bet against. Fade the Seahawks this week.
NY Giants at Carolina, Total 44.5
The heavily favored Panthers might go a bit underlooked coming off their bye week. I’m especially interested in Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey. Their salaries are high, which will reduce ownership, but I could see them both on winning tournament lineups. I’m not taking any receivers from Carolina, but their defense is interesting.
The Giants disappointed in Week 4 DFS unless you limited yourself strictly to excellent value Sterling Shepard and matchup-independent Saquon Barkley. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., as well as bargain tight end Rhett Ellison were all terrible. OBJ still has zero touchdowns on the season, despite ranking third among receivers in receptions. For his price, you need touchdowns. I’ll be avoiding the Giants and their low team total this week, with the possible exception of Barkley, when he fits.