In this weekly article, we’ll use the early betting lines from Vegas to take a deeper look at which games to target and avoid for NFL DFS. Implied team totals have positive correlations with fantasy output, especially for quarterbacks. Plus, we’ll highlight some potentially under the radar teams with high implied team totals despite a lower over/under. Note that these lines will probably change over the course of the week, which is why we call it ‘starting’ points.
Baltimore at Tennessee, Total 55 (Sunday)
Defense may not always win championships, but it certainly brought a lot of teams to the postseason this year. One huge exception is the Tennessee Titans. Baltimore players get great matchups across the board, and since both of these teams ranked in the Top 7 in points scored, Vegas likes this to be both high scoring and competitive. The Ravens D was definitely good; there are no Top 20 fantasy matchups to be found for Tennessee. However, we’ve seen Derrick Henry run at will against anyone and everyone, so I’m in no way ruling him out of my lineups based on DvP.
Getting back to the Ravens, Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown, J.K. Dobbins and Mark Andrews are all very playable. The caveat is can you afford them? Jackson and Josh Allen (see below) are priced as 1A and 1B this weekend, at the tippy top of QB salary scales. If you’re going to prioritize spending, Jackson is a very safe bet. He’s been on fire since Week 13, scoring at least three total touchdowns in all but one of those five games (NY Giants, and he had two scores). You’ll have an easy time fitting Dobbins, who really went off in Week 17 against the Bengals. Since Tennessee is the best playoff RB matchup, there is no reason to fade Dobbins, and I love pairing him with Henry for a little game stack.
Marquise Brown and Myles Boykin both caught touchdowns in Week 17, and that made six in the last six games for Brown. He’s only $5400 on DraftKings, a salary that stands out as a dare to use him. Boykin could be nothing more than a big multi-entry GPP play this week, and I consider A.J. Brown more of a tournament play too. His salary is up and his usage and productivity varies week to week. Corey Davis is often getting as many targets as Brown (in two of the last three games) but is priced thousands lower. If you were desperate for a WR in his salary range, Davis has as much upside as anyone in this Wild Card weekend.
Indianapolis at Buffalo, Total 51.5 (Saturday)
Buffalo gets one of those good defenses, but Vegas likes their second-highest scoring offense to take care of the Colts this weekend. It’s worth noting that even though Indy still finishes the season with very respectable defensive numbers/rankings, they have slipped over the second half of the season. I mentioned Josh Allen by way of his top salary above, but like Jackson, he has earned it. The floor that his rushing ability provides is worth a couple thousand extra. Stefon Diggs, leading receiver this season, is the highest priced receiver you can roster this weekend. Is he worth it? I think it depends entirely on whether you want Henry or not. It’s hard to do both with a top QB. I’d rather have Henry, personally, but also love Diggs. It’s truly a salary problem to solve, not a matchup worry or analysis-based diss on Diggs.
The value answer to Buffalo’s offense is Isaiah McKenzie, who should once again fill in for Cole Beasley this weekend. McKenzie was outstanding in the regular season finale, against another highly respected defense, scoring three total touchdowns. John Brown also caught one, and is a fringe GPP play for me. The Bills’ running backs are a full avoid for me. It’s impossible to know who, if anyone, will be hot, and even if you choose right, Allen is still the top option at the goal line.
The Bills’ D isn’t bad, but in this field of playoff teams, they come off as one of the better DFS matchups. They have been especially weak in the middle of the field, so opposing tight ends and slot receivers have done well against them. T.Y. Hilton has cooled off (not surprised), but could have a resurgent role for the Colts this week. He’s someone I’d consider as a comeback with a Bills stack. The other option for this kind of lineup is Jonathan Taylor, of course. He’s not cheap, but he is the kind of back you want – high volume, goal line, high point total game, fairly soft matchup.
Philip Rivers hasn’t scored 20 fantasy points since Week 11. That’s probably enough said. There have been better matchups that he has failed to take advantage of, with low volume and short yardage passes. Considering he has three turnovers and only two TDs in the last two games, it’s a no for me.
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LA Rams at Seattle, Total 42.5 (Saturday)
This is shaping up to be more of an avoid than I originally felt. The Seahawks have a defense problem: The Rams allow the fewest fantasy points to QBs, WRs and overall. They gave up the fewest real points per game this season, were second in sacks, and had the third-most takeaways. It’s formidable for Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, who have all pretty much struggled to reach value in the last six-to-eight games (minus Lockett’s Week 17 and Metcalf’s nice game vs. Philadelphia). Chris Carson won’t have it any easier, but his salary is a lot easier to swallow. He, too, has failed to put up big numbers in the second half of the season, but if you need to save at RB, he should be ‘the guy’ for Seattle in a bad weather game.
Meanwhile, the Rams have an offense problem. Jared Goff remains questionable, and John Wolford wasn't exactly awe-inspiring in his relief last weekend. Cam Akers is a possibility, regardless of whom quarterbacks this Rams team. The Seahawks are a better passing matchup, but still came in the middle of the league in terms of fantasy points to running backs. My preference is to take a D/ST from this game, maybe with an affordable running back. The Seahawks are super-affordable on all three sites, while the Rams on DraftKings are a steal at $2900.
New Orleans vs. Chicago, Total 47 (Sunday)
The Saints are the biggest favorites of the weekend, and Drew Brees is nearly as cheap as Philip Rivers on DraftKings and Yahoo. Brees has two 20-fantasy point games in the last three weeks, so while I don’t put him in the category of Jackson or Allen, he is a viable salary-saver given this implied team total for New Orleans. The biggest question in this game is whether Alvin Kamara will be able to play. It helps that the game is Sunday, but it is still a stretch that he’ll achieve clearance by then. Even if he plays, I’d rather pay up for Henry or save slightly on Taylor. On the positive side of things, Michael Thomas should be back for this game, and well-rested at that. He and Brees make for a tournament mini-stack with plenty of upside that won’t use much of the salary cap.