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. This weekly article focuses on the Sunday main slate of NFL games.
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Seattle at Arizona, Total 48
This week, along with talent and matchups, you can’t forget motivation. The playoff picture is a major driver for these two NFC West games being among my favorites to target. The Cardinals need to win and have the Rams lose to claim the division; otherwise, they are a Wild Card team. Kyler Murray, Zach Ertz, and James Conner, if he’s healthy, are all great plays. Seattle is the No. 2 RB matchup and No. 8 TE matchup. Ertz is enjoying an average of 11 targets per game in the last three games, with an 88 percent true catch rate. He isn’t scoring as many touchdowns as other TEs in his usage range, so his salary is a lot lower than the stars of the positions. He’s my favorite play from this game, and the TE that will be in the majority of my lineups this weekend. Conner was close to returning for Week 17, so it seems likely that he’ll be back in action this time. That means a no-go for Chase Edmonds, as the Cardinals have been decisive about Conner’s lead role when both are active, especially at the goal line. I’d view Christian Kirk as a safe play as well, given his salary ($6200 FD, $6000 DK, $17 Yahoo) and target share. He’s well ahead of A.J. Green and Rondale Moore in fantasy points per target (2.06) and his role has expanded with DeAndre Hopkins out.
Seattle might not have a shot at the post-season this year, but I’m guessing they’ll be trying to play spoiler to a division rival. Rashad Penny is coming off his best game of the year, maybe ever, and based on his volume alone is worth a look if you’re shopping in the mid-tier RB section. He carried the ball 25 times in a huge win over Detroit, and while we certainly can’t expect the same results against a much better Cardinals’ defense, he can reach value on a lot less than 170 yards and three touchdowns this weekend. The box score finally showed DK Metcalf’s greater target share and involvement in Week 17 (three touchdowns on nine targets), but Tyler Lockett is also in the mix and which one of these two will have the bigger fantasy day is generally up in the air. Arizona has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season and my guess it’s Metcalf in line for the bigger day this week as their slot coverage has been a bit better than their outside coverage. I’d view Russell Wilson as a tournament choice at QB this week, preferring some of the players with more motivation and more rushing potential in cash games.
San Francisco at LA Rams, Total 44.5
Both of these teams have something to play for: the Rams can clinch the division with a win and San Francisco secures its Wild Card spot with a win but if they lose and the Saints win, the spot goes to New Orleans. Matthew Stafford has thrown six interceptions and three touchdowns in his last two games, both wins for LA. Those were both road games and a quick glance at his splits shows that he has been much more careful, and therefore a little better for fantasy, when playing at home as he is this weekend. The 49ers are no one’s idea of a great matchup, but they aren’t oppressive and I’m certainly not avoiding Cooper Kupp for any reason other than price. In fact, he sneaks into the Top 10 in terms of fantasy matchups for WRs, along with teammates Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson if you need a lower salary option. Both OBJ and Jefferson were right behind Kupp in targets in Week 17, but the trend has been for Odell to be the safer WR2 in this offense. Sony Michel’s recent string of high-volume games may have a set-back if Cam Akers returns for Week 18. The 49ers started the year as a sieve of a run defense, but have allowed only one 100-yard team rushing performance since Week 9. The Rams, in Week 10, were held to just 52 rushing yards between Michel and Darrell Henderson. I’m decidedly cool on Michel this weekend.
A lot depends on the availability of Jimmy Garoppolo from the 49ers side of the game. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk both saw six targets from Trey Lance last week, but George Kittle was a disaster with only two looks. Lance only attempted 23 passes, and one went for an interception in Week 17, so Garoppolo’s return would be welcome for this entire pass game. Stay tuned as the week progresses.
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Washington at NY Giants, Total 38.5
Football Team minus-6.5
There is nothing to play for here and it could be a lackluster game from both sides. Taylor Heinicke does have some potential bonuses, for beating the Giants and playing 60% of the snaps on Sunday (thanks to Anthony Amico for the player incentives), which he should accomplish. However, it might be on the strength of the Football Team defense that they win this game, and that is the only DFS play I’d consider from this game. Jake Fromm, who was benched in the first half due to poor play in his last start for the Giants, is certainly tempting, especially since there is really no one else to turn to, or reason to do so. On FanDuel, however, they are the most expensive D/ST unit and you can do fine on that site with a lower spend.
New Orleans at Atlanta, Total 40
The season is also likely over for both of these teams and I expect them to go quietly into the off-season with relatively little fantasy value to be had. Kyle Pitts has a chance to break the rookie TE receiving record with 59 receiving yards, which I hope he does. Still, unless he scores, he’s not really worth the roster spot and the Falcons’ offense is so bad right now it’s not something I’m counting on. The Saints’ defense is a possibility here given the low total. New Orleans allows the fourth-fewest points per game while Atlanta scores the sixth-fewest points per game. The Saints also rank near the top of the league in sacks (2.7 per game). On offense, Marquez Calloway is the preferred WR target for Taysom Hill, coming off a 10-target game, and gives the Saints their best chance at success in the pass game after Alvin Kamara. Speaking of, Kamara had his first receiving touchdown since Week 7 last week and his first overall touchdown in the last three games. He would be a decent GPP play at a significant discount from Taylor.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville, Total 44.5
This is kind of the game of the week, because if the Colts lose we could have all hell break loose Sunday night. No one is really expecting that to happen, of course, but let’s not forget, the Colts are definitely playing to win. Luckily for them, Jacksonville gives up the second-most real points per game and the eighth-most fantasy points per game. Carson Wentz and Michael Pittman Jr. get Top 10 fantasy matchups and make for a nice, mid-priced mini-stack. If Wentz comes out hot in what will be the Colts’ best fantasy opportunity in a while, we could finally see a game that resembled Pittman’s early season dominance. Jonathan Taylor is probably not worth the price in tournaments, but should be a lock for 18-22 fantasy points in cash games.
Buffalo vs. NY Jets, Total 43.5
Buffalo is motivated, and should be even more serious about this game after seeing the Jets nearly steal Week 17 from under Tampa Bay. Or maybe they learned that lesson from Jacksonville a few weeks ago… at any rate, Josh Allen is one of the best QB plays any week and this is no exception. The Jets are the premier run matchup but also rank sixth to opposing QBs. Allen should exceed value with ease here. You could pair him with Devin Singletary who kept his impressive streak of 15-plus fantasy point games alive at four. His involvement in the passing game has been inconsistent but he’s had more than 20 rushing attempts in two of the last three games. Look for Dawson Knox to bounce back from a goose egg on two targets against Atlanta, and if you want a cheap play from this game, I’d consider Cole Beasley. He had six targets in his first game back and is a master at moving the chains when the Bills need him.
Tennessee at Houston, Total 43
The Titans are most likely going to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but they have to win to secure the bye. Fortunately, Houston isn’t likely to put up much of a fight. The Texans give up the sixth-most real points and fifth-most fantasy points per game to their opponents. Tennessee is winning without Derrick Henry, which is huge for them. D’Onta Foreman has been great, with three rushing touchdowns in his last four games and is still reasonably priced for this game. He struggled a bit vs. San Francisco, but the whole Titans offense except A.J. Brown was a bit lackluster in that game. He’s a solid DFS option this week. Brown went back to seeing only five targets in Week 17, however, making his floor/ceiling combination more amenable to GPP lineups than cash game lineups. The Titans’ D/ST is an interesting possibility as well, given that Houston has scored the third-fewest points per game. They don’t rank super high on sacks or turnovers, but part of the reason is that the offense is on the field so little (ranking 29th in time of possession). They missed the earlier season opportunity, but should put up some decent fantasy numbers for the price this week.