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.
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Tampa Bay at New Orleans, Total 50.5
Tom Brady, the oldest player in the league, currently leads all players in total fantasy points (half-PPR scoring). Only Josh Allen averages more fantasy points per game. He averages three passing touchdowns per game, struggling only against the LA Rams and NE Patriots so far this season. New Orleans is a good pass defense, giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position, but Brady is not a matchup-based player. With a healthy corps of receiving options, with Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown status unknown as of now, Brady should be a priority QB play this weekend. Chris Godwin would be my favored option, since Marshon Lattimore will likely be shadowing Mike Evans. Also, there’s that Bradyism of making sure every guy gets their due, and Godwin is due for the big multi-TD game. For real, Yahoo has Evans and Godwin at the same salary ($25), but Godwin is a nice discount on DraftKings ($6400) and FanDuel ($7200). This is the Bucs’ last game before their bye week, so even if Gronkowski is available, I wouldn’t trust him for DFS. Rib and lung injuries aren’t the kind that do well taking the kinds of hits Gronk is accustomed to in the middle of the field, so he could be used as a decoy or in a more conservative blocking role. We’ve seen good things from Leonard Fournette the past couple weeks, until the Chicago game got out of hand at least, but I think the Bucs will struggle to run effectively against the Saints. They’re allowing an average of 80 rushing yards per game, and only 63 yards per game at home. You have better RB options that an increasingly expensive Fournette this week.
On the Saints side, I’m considering them only in GPPs. Jameis Winston has been good in great matchups, most notably the Football Team in Week 6, but mediocre against good defenses. The Bucs have been one of the best in the league over the past few weeks, allowing an average of 15 points per game since Week 4. They’re coming off a three-interception game vs. Chicago, and I would not be surprised to see them take a couple balls out of Saint’s receivers’ slippery hands. The return of Tre’Quan Smith wasn’t as good as hoped for, and Marquez Calloway, well you know the story there. Both are unusable. This offense exists because of Alvin Kamara, and he’s the guy I’d consider in a mini-GPP stack with Winston. Kamara is pricey, and you can bet the Bucs will be going all out to limit him. His numbers against them the past two seasons aren’t awful, but neither are they good enough to justify his salary, which is why I can’t use him in cash games.
Tennessee at Indianapolis, Total 49
This is a first appearance for both of these teams in this space. With a lot of the higher profile offenses either being big favorites, playing island games, or on bye, we get a Carson Wentz and Ryan Tannehill game. Their stats to date are eerily similar, with basically identical completion percentage, attempts, passing yards and rushing. Wentz averages 17.5 fantasy points per game and Tannehill averages 17.2. The biggest difference between them is touchdowns. Wentz’ 11-1 TD:INT ration is far better than Tannehill’s 7:5 mark, but Tannehill has three rushing touchdowns to Wentz’ one. The efficiency that made Tannehill a fantasy star last year truly was unsustainable, and this offense, despite the high-profile receiving group, has reverted to a Derrick Henry show. Henry is worth spending up on, and in fact, in a full game stack, I’d use both Henry and Jonathan Taylor. They are fantasy’s RB1 and RB2 through the first seven weeks, though only Yahoo has them priced as such. Taylor is $2000 less than Henry on FanDuel and $1700 less on DraftKings. The first time these teams met wasn’t a highlight for either running back, but to expect the same result we saw before is foolish. Since that game, for example, Taylor has scored six TDs and averaged almost 30 fantasy points per game.
I prefer Wentz to Tannehill here as well, because the Colts’ defense has finally started showing signs of the prowess we saw at the end of the 2020 season. They’ll make it a lot harder on Tannehill than the Chiefs just did. Wentz is the lower salary option, coming off a nice game despite the bomb cyclone in San Francisco in Week 7. In addition to Taylor, I’m intrigued by one of Michael Pittman Jr. or T.Y. Hilton. Hilton dominated the game they played together in Week 6, catching all four of his targets for 80 yards. However, Pittman is clearly the future here, is a lot more durable, and though he’s more expensive than Hilton, should have the better output if Hilton is less than 100 percent. Mo Alie-Cox may be separating himself from the TE pack in Indy, and MyCole Pruitt scored in Week 7, but there are better TE options out there this week.
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San Francisco at Chicago, Total 39.5
Both of these teams were atrocious for fantasy in Week 7, though a couple players stood out. Khalil Herbert continues to do work for the Bears, amassing 100 rushing yards vs. the Bucs in Week 7, while Elijah Mitchell was a welcome return for the 49ers, as he also gained over 100 rushing yards. Deebo Samuel is the player I’m most likely to use, as he has been successful under the worst of conditions this season, and the Bears in fact allow the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers. As bad as Jimmy Garoppolo has been, he has been able to put the ball on Deebo this season. Otherwise, consider either D/ST a great play. The Bears ($3700 FD, $2700 DK) are home, averaging three sacks per game, and facing a 49ers team that has surrendered 11 turnovers this season. The 49ers ($14 Yahoo) get a Bears team that takes the most sacks in the league (3.7 per game) and scores the third-fewest points per game. Both can be a nice salary saver on the right sites.
Buffalo vs. Miami, Total 48
The Bills’ D/ST should also be in consideration as they have truly been one of the best in the league from a real and fantasy standpoint. At home vs. Miami, one of the lower scoring teams in the league (despite a nice game from Tua Tagovailoa vs. Atlanta in Week 7), who also ranks high in turnovers, the Bills should be a quality, if expensive, option. Josh Allen is one of our top dollar-per-fantasy-point QBs in the Optimizer this week, and as noted above, leads everyone in fantasy points per game. He’s not an essential play as the most expensive option available on all three sites, but I doubt he lets you down. I’m hoping for a Stefon Diggs breakout game in Week 8. He’s been fine, don’t get me wrong, but only two touchdowns on the season and just one 100-yard receiving game aren’t spectacular numbers. Miami ranks eighth in fantasy points allowed to QB and third to WR, so an Allen-Diggs mini-stack could pay off even its high cost.
LA Rams at Houston, Total 47.5
I was disappointed in how I played the Rams in Week 7. Even in a win over Detroit, the best RB matchup of the decade so far, Darrell Henderson did not pan out well for me. In fact, this one was all Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp as usual, and as good as they are, even the Rams’ defense didn’t do much in the fantasy department. Note taken. This weekend the Rams get another dream matchup, with Houston’s DvP to QB, RB, and TE all in the Top 10 for fantasy. Stafford, Kupp, Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee are in play, though Higbee is a little pricey on Yahoo ($19). Woods caught all six of his targets in Week 7, but hasn’t come close to Kupp’s target share in the last two games. He’s a sneaky salary saver this weekend who could perform over his salary-based expectation. I will go back to Henderson in some lineups as well. It’s hard to imagine him not producing a bit better in another plus spot after his first six games were so good. Rams D/ST is expensive enough that I prefer the home Bills or Broncos if I’m spending up or one of the cheaper options I’ve highlighted to save.
Cincinnati at NY Jets, Total 43.5
Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase destroyed anyone who faced them in any fantasy format in Week 7. They are fun to watch. Chase is the WR2 on FanDuel and Yahoo, though you can still get him at a bargain $7500 on DraftKings. Burrow remains outside the top tier of QB salaries on all three sites, and is another potential option in this game. Joe Mixon should also be in any RB conversation as the Jets are the best RB matchup out there. They’ve allowed over 100 rushing yards in every game so far this year, but while their WR DvP is low, they’re coming off allowing Mac Jones and the Patriots over 400 passing yards. I’m not scared of any Bengals skill players this week, including C.J. Uzomah. Uzomah has been a touchdown magnet the past few weeks, excluding a Packers loss, scoring five times in the last four games and going over 90 receiving yards twice in that span. The Jets have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. The Bengals D/ST allows the fifth-fewest real points per game and averages 2.7 sacks per game (tied with Arizona for fifth in the league). Meanwhile, the Jets are the lowest scoring team so far, taking sacks at the third-highest rate (3.3 per game) and turning the ball over twice per game (tied, second-most in the league). Use the Bengals D/ST!