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. DK=DraftKings, FD=FanDuel.
The high scoring games:
New Orleans at Tampa Bay, Total 57.5
With two of the highest scoring and least defensive-minded teams in the league facing off, it’s no wonder this game gets top billing. As long as people can have short memories for the disaster of last week’s Thursday showdown slate, the Saints are in prime position to bounce back here. After a couple of down weeks, I will be paying up for Alvin Kamara again (though he’s the fourth-most expensive back rather than the most this week). Mark Ingram saves you $2K over Kamara, but is, as always, far less trustworthy. Given the top 5 RB matchup the Bucs offer, I’m ok with using Ingram in tournaments. Michael Thomas is a no-brainer if you decide to spend at WR, but I’m avoiding the secondary options for Drew Brees. Keith Kirkwood has a touchdown in back-to-back games, but it should be Tre’Quan Smith assuming he’s fully healthy for this week. Tight end Dan Arnold is interesting, given the dreary state of TE, with his minimum price tag and the high total here.
Both QBs are in play in a game with as many points as Vegas expects to be scored here, but are any other Bucs besides Jameis Winston making your lineups? Both Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries scored in Week 12, and New Orleans is the best WR matchup in terms of fantasy points allowed, so they and Mike Evans certainly deserve consideration. It’s impossible to play Evans in cash games, but both Humphries and Godwin are affordable and reliable enough for any contest. Peyton Barber may score, but his efficiency is gross and this is a pass-heavy game script for Tampa Bay.
Baltimore at Kansas City, Total 53.5
This is a very interesting line. It says a lot about Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, to be honest. The Ravens Defense ranks in the top 3 against every position, allowing the fewest real points per game. Their game totals usually hover around 40 points, regardless of opponent. Meanwhile, the Chiefs average 37.0 real points per game, most in the league, and typically spend so much time scoring that their opponents have little chance to keep up. We saw that dynamic change a bit without Kareem Hunt in Week 13, but I also think Vegas is respecting Jackson with this spread, especially given that KC is at home.
Jackson and Gus Edwards (if healthy) are viable in any format this week, while I’m still not willing to risk John Brown, Willie Snead or Michael Crabtree in cash games. If you’re a multi-entry tournament player, I do like the idea of rotating the three of them in around your core GPP lineup, because there have been some valuable targets, especially for Brown (though Jackson’s deep accuracy clearly needs some work).
It makes sense to play Mahomes more on DK, given the more narrow salary range they employ (meaning you’re not paying as high a premium for him as you will on FD). He’s proven himself matchup-proof, but I don’t think you have to roster him vs. this Ravens Defense. A player I won’t have a lot – any? – exposure to is Tyreek Hill. He’s done the disappearing act at various times this season, and if there’s a Chief besides Mahomes to trust, it’s Travis Kelce for me. To spend as much as I have to get Hill, I’d rather splurge on Thomas or DeAndre Hopkins. Spencer Ware disappointed relative to our lofty expectations, but as a point per dollar play in his first start of the season, he was fine. The matchup this week is brutal, and there is other great RB value (Jaylen Samuels and Jeffrey Wilson), so I think Ware’s ownership takes a big dive. He’s a possible GPP target.
The low scoring games:
Detroit at Arizona, Total 40.5
Detroit was one of my long shot tournament stacks last week, and that did NOT work out well. Here against Arizona, one of the best pass defenses in the league, I’m not doubling down on them. With no real run game and a rag-tag bunch of pass catchers, it’s hard to even place all the blame on Matt Stafford. Whatever the root causes, the Lions are uniformly unappealing this week.
The Cardinals placed Christian Kirk on IR this week, which in theory improves the outlook for Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald hasn’t been battered and banged up this season, but that’s largely because Josh Rosen doesn’t attempt many passes. He’s lucky to see 5/50 at this point. I also can’t recommend David Johnson this week. Not only is there a ton of RB value (or guys like Kamara, Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey to spend up on), but his brief return to a more active role in the passing game has fallen completely by the wayside. He has at least 20 rushing attempts in three of the last four games, but only eight targets totalin the last three. For $7K, no thanks.
New York Jets at Buffalo, Total 38.5
I’m sure the Bills will be much higher owned this week than last. We knew you could run on the Dolphins, we just didn’t expect it to ALL be Josh Allen… Allen was Week 13’s top QB with an effective arm in addition to his 135 rushing yards. He also had a rushing TD called back on penalty. His salary shot up on both sites. My take is that the Bills are still the Bills. You can stack them in a tournament, where I’d consider Allen with both Zay Jones and Robert Foster over LeSean McCoy, but you can’t trust them. Allen could have three turnovers and this could easily be a 6-10 game. Keep expectations in check.
The Jets are waiting to see Sam Darnold’s progress through the week before naming a QB. It doesn’t really matter to me, as I’ve been off the Jets’ pass game all season. I do think the return of Isaiah Crowell is interesting. Just $3600 on DK, Crowell had 21 carries in Week 13. Buffalo has been among the best pass defenses in the league this season, but allows a near league-average 107 rushing yards per game. Crowell ($5800) isn’t nearly as good a bargain on FD. If you can pass on Crowell, and you can, the Bills D/ST is an affordable option facing one of the lowest scoring and most turnover-prone teams in the Jets.
High team totals you might miss:
Pittsburgh at Oakland, Total 51.5
The Steelers are on the road, which may give you pause for historical reasons, but this year Big Ben Roethlisberger has been nearly identical at home and away. The matchup with Oakland should assuage any nerves, anyway. The big news out of Pittsburgh is that James Conner will NOT play in Week 14. That gives a big opening for Jaylen Samuels ($3700 DK, $4600 FD), who is as big or bigger threat in the pass game. There is a tiny bit of concern that Steven Ridley will get goal line carries or otherwise cut into Samuels’ workload, but Samuels is the more versatile and talented back. He should be popular but worth it.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is still averaging nearly 10 fantasy points more on the road than at home, opposite of Antonio Brown (a four-point difference). He’s not that much less expensive than Brown, and I think there are other expensive WRs (already mentioned Thomas, Hopkins…) I like more than these two. One risk is a blowout (as Vegas expects) and the other is god forbid, a Ryan Switzer vulture. Roethlisberger and Samuels are the plays I prefer.
Cincinnati at LA Chargers, Total 47.5
Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler are the names to watch this week. Both are currently expected to be highly owned against the league’s most generous fantasy defense (most fantasy points to QBs and RBs). Philip Rivers is usually an afterthought in DFS, because his salary is always right in the middle, where it wouldn’t take much more to get to Mahomes or you could save just that few hundred you need to upgrade from Hill to Hopkins or something. The point is, he’s never all that highly owned and he should be this week! His TD: INT ratio is great, and he’s thrown for 2 or 3 TDs in every single game this season. I only hope that Jeff Driskel can muster enough offense to keep Rivers throwing the ball.
One more thing…
Three other games with solid fantasy potential to get your week’s research started are Atlanta at Green Bay, Carolina at Cleveland and Denver at San Francisco. None quite fit the mold of this article, but there are some intriguing options in all three games for tournaments (Jarvis Landry and Baker Mayfield, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley) as well as cash games (Jeffrey Wilson, Phillip Lindsay, Cam Newton, Curtis Samuels and Christian McCaffrey).