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 betting lines are courtesy of Westgate Sportsbook.
The high scoring games:
Kansas City at New England, Total 48.5
There are two game of the week candidates; this one and the Bills vs. Ravens. Three teams feature formidable defense, Top 5 in points allowed, while all but the Bills are Top 6 in points scored this season. If we’re being generous, San Francisco at New Orleans is up there in interest as well but both those other games have a lower total than this one (43-44 points). I’m honestly not sure how to work through this game, but here’s my thought process.
I’ve been avoiding offenses facing New England – they boast the fewest fantasy points allowed to QB, RB, and WR – and rostering the Chiefs against pretty much everyone. Patrick Mahomes is matchup-proof, Travis Kelce is matchup-proof, and I don’t think even the Patriots have anyone that can keep up with Tyreek Hill. Yet New England shuts down team after team. It’s made more of a quandry given the salaries the Chiefs’ players demand, with Mahomes, Kelce and Hill all Top 1-4 in pricing this weekend. I’m going to reserve them, and Sammy Watkins, who is the next highest target-getting for the Chiefs by far, for tournament lineups only. After leading the team in carries in Week 13, Darwin Thompson, also a trendy pre-season pick, might be popular value this week. I’m fading the running back situation for the Chiefs, due to the murkiness of the time share and the opponent.
On the other hand, I’ve not rostered many offensive Patriots’ players this season. But this might be the game that forces them to be more aggressive. Tom Brady is having a bad stretch. Over the past three weeks, he is fantasy’s QB26. But on the season, he’s QB12 (DraftKings scoring). He actually leads the league in passing attempts and ranks third in completions, but they’re very short (average 6.7 yards). He’s been helped statistically by three rushing touchdowns, and somehow is finding a way to get things done with a rotating cast of characters around him. Julian Edelman is a constant, I guess, but this past week was James White’s best effort of the season as he scored 25 percent of his season total fantasy points vs. the Texans. Kansas City is the best fantasy matchup for RBs, so is this Sony Michel’s week? It’s also worth noting that KC’s pass defense has really stiffened up lately and they now allow the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. To sum up, I can see using Brady solo in cash games or GPP lineups, or with White, but am saving Michel for GPPs and fading the wide receivers.
Carolina at Atlanta, Total 47.5
I think you go with the usual suspects here. I like the potential for a nice bounce-back game for Christian McCaffrey, while his counterpart on the Falcons could take advantage of the second-best RB matchup for fantasy. That should be Devonta Freeman, who returned from a short absence to 21 carries in Week 13. I loved Curtis Samuel last week as a bargain, and though his price has come up, he really is carving out a consistent role for the price. That’s extra-true if Greg Olsen misses the week with a concussion, which seems prudent at his age. I’m fine with using Samuel again, or paying up for D.J. Moore, who might, could he possibly??, finally be living up to the billing. It stands to reason that if you like the skill guys, you probably like the QB and I am also in on Kyle Allen this week. He’s had back-to-back good games, accounting for six touchdowns and two turnovers in that span, and Atlanta is the No. 3 QB matchup for fantasy. Let’s go Panthers!
Aside from Freeman, I’m not really high on the Falcons. I know that goes against the line, but at Matt Ryan’s salary I’m not thrilled with his home splits nor am I trusting in Julio Jones’ being able to bail him out. The Panthers gave up 311 passing yards to Ryan a few weeks ago, but only one touchdown pass. He was totally ineffective the following week vs. Tampa Bay, but bounced back vs. the Saints, though did turn the ball over three times in Week 13. I just don’t know which Ryan I’m going to get here. Calvin Ridley has become the No. 1 receiver for Atlanta, and Russell Gage and Christian Blake are making a push too, with nine targets apiece last weekend. Any receiver except Ridley loses any sense of value if Jones –or Austin Hooper – does play this game. Hooper is a tournament play in his first game back, given that his salary has picked up right where it left off (second or third-most expensive TE).
Indianapolis at Tampa Bay, Total 47.5
Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, death and taxes. What are things we can count on for $200, right? OK, so Breshad Perriman and O.J. Howard made appearances in Sunday’s win over Jacksonville, but from a wide angle view of the season, those three have been solid plays week in and week out. Indianapolis is a middle-of-the-road defense, so if you can afford these Bucs, go for it. High scoring, favored, at home…all good signs. Ronald Jones was vultured by Peyton Barber twice last week, which sucked, and reminded us why this backfield is not trustworthy. I’m not buying Howard as a stable option, and I guess DraftKings isn’t either, given that his salary is still $3200 there. He does offer some nice salary relief in the right tournament lineup but don’t ignore the risk.
The Colts are looking to get Marlon Mack back this week, but it’s sounding more like T.Y. Hilton might be done. Even though Tampa somehow stymied Matt Ryan and Gardner Minshew the last two weeks, they remain fantasy’s No. 2 QB matchup and top WR matchup (while absolutely shutting down opposing running backs, so no Mack attack for me this week even if is back at 100 percent). Jacoby Brissett’s new favorite target has been Zach Pascal, but with the loss of Chester Rogers, both Jack Doyle and Marcus Johnson saw increased roles in the offense. Doyle’s price shot up, and FanDuel preemptively raised Johnson’s salary, but he’s still very playable on both sites. Pascal will probably be a cash game staple of mine this week, while if Hilton is out, Brissett, Doyle and Johnson round out a full Colts stack for tournaments.
The low scoring games:
Cincinnati at Cleveland, Total 40.4
There are scenarios where this game could go way over the total. John Ross’ return to the Bengals could provide a dimension they’ve been missing, Joe Mixon has been playing better, Tyler Boyd is producing…everyone except the tight ends is getting their stuff together. Oh, the dropped touchdowns and how they hurt Andy Dalton value seekers like me last week. They did come away with their first win of the season, however, and will be looking to build on it if you ask me. The Browns are an ok defense, but certainly not one I’m avoiding. If you want to save with a cheap Bengals stack, it’s tournament worthy in my opinion.
The Browns will be far more popular options, given that they are big home favorites and functioning fairly well over the last three weeks. Baker Mayfield, who suffered a bruised and numb hand in Week 13, but played through it with a glove on, should be fine for this game. Pair Mayfield with Nick Chubb and/or Kareem Hunt to take advantage of the positional weaknesses in cash games, or stick Jarvis Landry or Odell Beckham Jr. in a tournament lineup.
High team totals you might miss:
Washington at Green Bay, Total 42
With the highest team total of the week, I doubt you’re missing the Packers, especially coming off such a nice game in Week 13, but just in case: Don’t miss on the Packers. That includes Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, but also maybe I’m starting to trust Allen Lazard a bit. Last week he was my risk/reward stack option with Rodgers and Adams and he came through. The running back situation for the Pack is still a mess. They wanted Aaron Jones to do more, and gave him more opportunities but it seemed like every play he made was called back. He finished with 1.7 YPC on 11 carries, and 13 receiving yards on six targets. Jamaal Williams still out-scored him and neither were worth the salary dollars they cost you, but especially not Jones, who rightly made the Fades column last week. I’d put him there again, too, as I think this is a much better pass-game set up.
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Detroit at Minnesota, Total 43.5
The Vikings get interesting now, with Dalvin Cook listed as questionable and Adam Thielen’s status forever up in the air. Detroit is the fourth-overall best fantasy matchup, giving up the second-most fantasy points to running backs and seventh-most to QB and WR. You probably can’t go wrong. Kirk Cousins is QB11 this season with a 24 TD:4 INT ratio, but the cat is out of the bag: his salary is the fourth-highest this week. Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph, who is going to trick us into drafting him in season long leagues again next year with this late-season surge (four consecutive games with a touchdown, three consecutive with 13-plus half-PPR fantasy points), are both very playable here. Diggs averages about nine more fantasy points at home than on the road, and Rudolph’s salary is still way under what it should be given what he’s doing with Thielen out. If Cook remains out, expect everyone’s favorite rookie running back Alexander Mattison to be 100 percent owned this week. I’d be fine with that, btw.