Week 15 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 England at Pittsburgh, Total 49
In many respects, these are two very equal teams…both score right around 28 points per game, for instance. However, where they differ, such as by passing yards and defense, Pittsburgh comes out way on top (Ben Roethlisberger is second in passing yards per game, Steelers Defense allows fewer rushing and passing yards per game than New England). So especially considering the Steelers are at home, this line is a bit puzzling. Big Ben gets a top eight QB matchup and is deservedly one of the most expensive options this week. Use him at will.
I also won’t be shy about rolling with Jaylen Samuels again this week on the strength of his 7-for-7 receiving day. Though Steven Ridley made good on his goal line carry for the touchdown in Week 14, Samuels dominated the workload. With this game’s high total and competitive nature, I favor the more versatile Samuels, who is still very affordable ($5500 FD, $5200 DK). Pittsburgh receivers are going to vary week to week. It could easily be another JuJu Smith-Schuster week (12 targets, 2 TDs in Week 14) as the Patriots nearly always scheme to limit their opponent’s best player (Antonio Brown). Vance McDonald caught all four of his targets last game, but I think we can do better this week in his price range or below.
On the Patriots side of the ball, let’s start with trust. I trust Julian Edelman and Sony Michel. Their volume has been indisputable. Michel has been vultured by James Develin at the goal line the past two weeks, but is still seeing around 20 carries per game. He’ll score. Josh Gordon and Cordarrelle Patterson were both heavily involved in the loss to Miami las week, but Patterson is going to be highly volatile and impossible to trust. Gordon has been and remains a tournament only option for me with 150/2 upside.
Rob Gronkowski gets a top four TE matchup this week, and I still don’t want to use him. He’s hurting out there and for all his talent, he has had two good games this year, Week 1 and Week 14. His salary bumped up to boot, so like Gordon, he’s a Pats stack consideration only for me. Could this be a James White game? He’s only had one viable fantasy performance in the last four weeks…and has looked like an afterthought. Is Bill Belichick lulling opponents to sleep on the sneaky back? He’s worth a tournament spot here and there, but I still wish he were cheaper ($5700 DK).
Dallas at Indianapolis, Total 47
This is another somewhat confusing line, as the Cowboys are in the midst of a five-game win streak, two of which came on the road. The Colts are also having a winning second half of the season, but this line is basically saying that defense doesn’t matter. The Cowboys have been incredible, allowing the second fewest points per game this season (right behind Baltimore). Dallas is a bottom five fantasy matchup for both running backs and wide receivers, so although the game total and Colts’ implied team total is high, I’m using Andrew Luck, Marlon Mack and T.Y. Hilton with an abundance of caution given their salaries. It’s not a bad spot to reach for some value with Zach Pascal or Chester Rogers, who both saw six targets in Week 14. Eric Ebron is a top TE play once again, as the Cowboys have been vulnerable to that position, allowing over 15 PPR fantasy points to opposing TEs this season.
Amari Cooper was one of my favorite plays last week and he did not disappoint. His DK salary has skyrocketed now, however, and his home road splits and even weirder NFC East divisional opponent splits (I know, no such thing) would indicate some regression is due. On FD, he’s still a reasonable $6600, and the way Dak Prescott is playing is encouraging for him and Ezekiel Elliott, who is always in play if you can afford him. A road underdog Dallas stack isn’t the worst idea this weekend. Michael Gallup was a favorite bargain option, who saw nine targets that turned into only 24 receiving yards in Week 14. Better games are ahead for him as his price stays low. Tight end Blake Jarwin came on strong with a season high seven catches on seven targets. If you’re stuck at TE, he’s one of two bargain options I like (the other is Ian Thomas; check the Bargain article on Wednesday).
The low scoring games:
Detroit at Buffalo, Total 39
The Bills are home favorites over a Lions team that has scored 22 points or fewer in seven consecutive games. That is indeed worse than Buffalo with Josh Allen at the helm. Allen is proving that he can be useful in real and fantasy football on his feet even before he works out his strength/accuracy formula on some of those deep throws. Averaging well over 100 yards rushing per game in the last three games, Allen is no longer a bargain option. He’s been a top DFS play despite the low game totals, and even though I prefer to shoot for QBs with at least a prayer of 300-plus passing yards (for the DK bonus) and three passing TDs, it’s hard to argue against Allen’s floor. Detroit should set up a lot like Miami in terms of rushing opportunities, and I won’t make the mistake of thinking it could be LeSean McCoy taking advantage this week. Allen is the only Bill to use here, unless you’re dying to play receiver roulette with Zay Jones and Robert Foster (or god forbid, Isaiah McKenzie).
I’m 100 percent out on the Lions. Buffalo is a strong D/ST play this week, that’s for sure. It’s hard to imagine, but Kenny Golladay’s stat lines have gone steadily down and Theo Riddick has failed to fill any of the multiple voids in Detroit’s offense over the past few weeks.
Washington at Jacksonville, Total 36.5
Josh Johnson was surprisingly, startling good, or maybe it was just the juxtaposition with Mark Sanchez that made it seem so. No, he actually produced 25 fantasy points in about 20 minutes of real football with 240 total yards and two touchdowns. Now, Jacksonville is a much tougher test, but Johnson will start again, and does have that rushing edge we like in a cheap QB. Like we usually do with dual threat QBs like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, Johnson is a solo play vs. this defense.
Cody Kessler looks to remain the Jaguars starter despite his lack of success in both scoring points and producing fantasy assets around him. It’s not for lack of attempts however, as he threw a whopping 43 times in Week 14. Donte Moncrief and Dede Westbrook are tempting vs. a Redskins Defense that allows the sixth-most fantasy points to receivers, but even at their bargain salaries I can’t deem either trustworthy given the QB situation. Even Leonard Fournette couldn’t get anything going Sunday, though it should be a little easier for him vs. Washington. Overall, I think you’ll find better options at just about every price point and position than what you get here.
High team totals you might miss:
Arizona at Atlanta, Total 44
I know the Cardinals are bad, but Atlanta just extended their losing streak and streak of scoring 20 or fewer points too. Of course if the Cardinals score single digit point again, this spread is possible, but I’m not getting too excited about Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Tevin Coleman or anyone else in Atlanta. Aside from their own inability to get in the end zone, Arizona has been a stout pass defense, allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs. While Arizona continues to rank high in fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs, Tevin Coleman simply isn’t getting enough work to translate to points. In fact, Ito Smith saw more total touches than Coleman last week. It’s a completely non-viable RB committee situation there.
Given the state of the Falcons’ defense, it might be tempting to consider the value available from Arizona this week. Josh Rosen, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson all have a theoretical chance to make a big impact in DFS tournaments this weekend. It’s been difficult for this group to put it together in a game though, so this one is for multi-entry enthusiasts only.
Tampa Bay at Baltimore, Total 46
After several “can’t lose” fantasy matchups, this is when we worry about the Buccaneers. No one here compares to Patrick Mahomes, and Tyreek Hill had one of his freakish games on 14 targets vs. Baltimore last week. Even though the overall total is the third highest, it’s skewed strongly in the Ravens’ favor. Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate may be the only Bucs you even consider. Jameis Winston was largely inaccurate, sending nine uncatchable balls to Chris Godwin last week (per Pat Thorman of PFF) and it’s not going to get any easier for them vs. Baltimore’s strong pass rush and stingy secondary.
The Ravens Offense, however, lands in a dream spot with Tampa allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to every position except TE (ninth, still >15 fantasy points per game). However, there are some personnel issues to iron out and keep and eye on. Lamar Jackson and Joe Flacco, both potentially less than 100 percent, could split QB duties this week which would make both unplayable. Kenneth Dixon made some big plays the past two weeks, and that limits Gus Edwards’ value. Edwards still had 16 carries, so from a volume standpoint, I still like him. Touchdowns are likely this week, but I’m mixing Dixon in for Edwards in some GPP lineups. The Ravens receivers are still coming around to a new QB; I’m not ready to buy any of them even in this great spot.