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.
Atlanta at New Orleans, Total 51.5
New Orleans is the fourth-highest scoring team in the league, and Atlanta is the second-most generous in terms of overall fantasy points allowed to opponents. It shapes up to be an extra good matchup for Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas. Even with a full week to practice together, Thomas and Winston will be reserved for my tournament lineups. Jared Cook is also in play for New Orleans, given that Atlanta is the league-best TE matchup. Despite not seeing a ton of action the past two games, Cook is still averaging nine PPR fantasy points per game and is a nice mid-range salary this week. Contrary to previous seasons, the Falcons are one of the better teams at defending the run this year. By no means should we fade Alvin Kamara, however, because he plays such a huge role in the pass game, and because Winston is not Drew Brees. Expect the Saints to establish the run.
This puts Matt Ryan into an interesting position. The game has a great total, and the Falcons are not huge underdogs on the road. It has been much easier to pass on the Saints than to run on them (second-fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs), making Ryan one of my favorite QB picks this week. With four solid consecutive games from Julio Jones prior to the team’s bye, I’m ready to trust again. We await further practice reports on Calvin Ridley before making a call on his value this week, but foot sprains can be tricky injuries, and I’d use caution before spending up on Ridley (especially with Jones healthy and playing well). If you’re looking for a second Falcons’ receiver, I’d look to Hayden Hurst. Hurst was quietly averaging 13 fantasy points per game (between 10-15) in Weeks 6, 7, 8, and 9. Defending against pass-catching tight ends is not something the Saints do well, as they average the fifth-most fantasy points allowed to the position.
Green Bay at Indianapolis, Total 51.5
This is going to be a very interesting game, I think. A high over/under and narrow spread says both sides should be valuable this week. But a closer look reveals that both defenses have been pretty formidable. Both teams rank in the bottom five for fantasy points allowed to QBs, and Indy fits that description for RBs and TEs as well. The Colts allow the fourth-fewest real points per game this season, and fewest overall fantasy points to opponents. You have to ask if Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones are matchup-proof on the road, at their salaries. I’m not convinced enough to trust them in cash games this weekend.
The way to successfully attack Green Bay has been on the ground. Fortunately for their real football team, the Colts have plenty of running backs. That’s what makes it so frustrating for us. Nyheim Hines has been the best back of the three, but with everyone getting a chance to carry the ball, either of Jonathan Taylor or Jordan Wilkins is a fair bet to break a big play and/or score this week. My level of trust is highest for Hines, then Wilkins (who had 20 carries in Week 8) the Taylor (who has had the fewest touches and is the only one to fumble in the last three weeks). Remarkably, Hines is still cheaper than Taylor on Yahoo and DraftKings, and super affordable on all three sites. You could take a chance on Michael Pittman for a cheap WR3 this weekend. He has been trending on a steep curve up the last two games, in which he saw 7 and 8 targets, catching a total of 11 passes from Rivers these last two weeks.
Cincinnati at Washington, Total 46.5
Football Team minus-1.5
Neither of my avoid games are a full avoid. They simply feature low scoring offenses and a couple above average defenses. But this one also features some potentially high volume passing. Joe Burrow is near the top of the league in pass attempts, and Alex Smith attempted 55 passes in Week 10. The Bengals are a great matchup for Smith, Terry McLaurin, and Logan Thomas. I prefer this group to Burrow, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, given that Washington is the second-worst fantasy matchup for wide receivers. Boyd can be trusted more than Higgins, but I think you’re playing more for a decent floor than a high ceiling with him this week.
We’ve seen some great performances from running backs coming back from injury lately (Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb), so keep an eye on Joe Mixon’s status this week. He was still pretty far from playing last week, but we could potentially get him at a very low roster percentage like we did Cook and Chubb their first week back. Stay tuned. If Mixon is out, I don’t mind rostering Giovanni Bernard again this week.
Miami at Denver, Total 45
The best play here is probably the Dolphins’ D/ST. Not only are they favored on the road in a low scoring game, they are actually a good football defense. They allow the fifth-fewest real points per game, and are tied at third with 15 total takeaways this season. That’s even more enticing when you consider that no team has turned the ball over more than Denver this season (not even Dallas, one behind). Denver has 21 giveaways so far. The Miami offense has been good too, averaging nearly 30 points per game (ninth in the league). Tua Tagovailoa’s salary is super affordable as is the rest of the Miami offense. I could see using DaVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Salvon Ahmed alone here and there or as a bigger tournament stack. I’m pretty much avoiding Denver this week, but a score or two by Melvin Gordon would not surprise me at all. He could be a sneaky good tournament play ($6400 FD, $5100 DK!, $18 Yahoo).
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LA Chargers vs. NY Jets, Total 47
Justin Herbert survived the aforementioned Miami defense, sort of, for fantasy anyway. He salvaged his day with a rushing touchdown, but passed for only 187 yards. He should have a much easier time this week, as the Jets give up the third-most real points per game and the matchup is reflected in his salary – he is in the elite company of Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson, generally around the third-most expensive QB this week. With the Jets not being able to defend the pass at all (fourth-most fantasy points to QB, ninth-most to WR, fourth-most overall), I’m definitely comfortable with Herbert, Keenan Allen and possibly even Hunter Henry (did you see he finally caught his second touchdown?!) or Mike Williams. Remember when we were wondering if the Chargers RB answer was Justin Jackson or Joshua Kelley? Now we know that the answer is Kalen Ballage, and he, too, will get no argument from me for usage in any DFS lineups this weekend. He finished Week 9 with 15 carries and three targets, and upgraded to 18 carries and 6 targets in Week 10. His production has been great for the salary, and yes, the Jets are a good matchup for him.
Minnesota vs. Dallas, Total 46.5
Dallas was off last week, but don’t forget how historically bad their defense is, allowing more points per game than any other team. The best fantasy matchups go to receivers, so it was good to see Kirk Cousins connecting well with both Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson on MNF. Jefferson is the best value on FanDuel among the three sites, while Thielen is the best value on DraftKings. Cousins has too low of a ceiling for me to generally roster in DFS, but he has had his moments. He’s a long-shot GPP QB play. Dalvin Cook should also have an easier time vs. Dallas than he did against the Bears Monday night, but I don’t consider him a must-play here.
The contrarian approach to this game is a Dallas pass-game stack. Minnesota wasn’t able to make Chicago look as good as many expected, but they do give up plenty of yards and scores through the air. I was somewhat impressed with Garrett Gilbert’s ability to move the ball. His completion percent wasn’t great (53) nor was his TD:INT ratio (1:1), but he’s had two more weeks to work with the offense and this is a great opportunity for him, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb to break out for a surprisingly good effort.
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville, Total 49.5
Jacksonville is really rising to the top of my fantasy matchup charts. They’re now in the Top 5 to QB and RB, indicating great matchups for Ben Roethlisberger and James Conner. Conner has been horrible the past two games, and his salary is down as a result. Even against the Bengals, a bad run defense, in a game the Steelers held a big lead throughout, he saw only 13 carries. He’s riskier than I’d like given the salary and matchup. Roethlisberger should be one of the more popular QB plays this week. My take is to go solo-Ben, as it’s too hard to predict which WR(s) will go off any given week. If you’re a multi-entry player, swap out JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson to cover all the bases. I’d go by salary if I were choosing just one. They’re pretty bunched on FanDuel and DraftKings, but Johnson is only $18 on Yahoo.