DFS players, are you ready for another action-packed, high-scoring weekend of NFL DFS football?
By this time of the week we usually have a pretty good idea of where some of the chalk is going to fall for Sunday’s NFL DFS games. What I am going to try to do is help you figure out which chalky plays you want to eat (the good chalk) and which of those you may want to fade or limit exposure to (the bad chalk). It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to a lineup full of all low-owned players. I think this week is going to be all about getting the more popular plays right and finding the right sneaky plays to fit in around them. So I’d like to start with the two most popular games to target (those with the highest Vegas totals) and how you should approach them.
Bengals @ Falcons
This game is getting a ton of buzz around the industry and for good reason. The Vegas total is now up to 54 on some sites and could go higher by kickoff tomorrow. With two good offenses and two bad defenses, everyone is expecting this game to be a shoot-out, and I do, too. Matt Ryan, Gio Bernard, Calvin Ridley, and Tyler Boyd are all going to be chalky plays and cash game staples for a lot of lineups. I absolutely would NOT fade this game, so how can we still get exposure to this game, but build some GPP lineups that will look different than everyone else’s?
Well, you could start by going with Andy Dalton over Matt Ryan. Dalton is considerably cheaper on both Fanduel and Draftkings and could pile up the receiving yards and TDs against a Falcons defense that got shredded by the Saints last week. A Dalton-Bernard-Boyd stack is really affordable and would allow you a lot of salary cap to spend up at a few positions. And with Bernard being heavily involved in the passing game, he could easily snag a receiving TD from Dalton.
But don’t forget about A.J. Green! Green had 4 TD catches in his first two games on 11 catches and 17 targets and was targeted 8 times for 5 catches before leaving the Carolina game early with an injury. A Dalton-Green-Boyd stack is one way to get exposure to the majority of the Bengals passing attack, and a Dalton-Bernard-Green stack should be in play as well. I have no problem rostering 3 Bengals in GPP lineups this week and I’ll be mixing and matching those 4 main players.
On the Atlanta side, their #1 wide receiver Julio Jones is also likely to be somewhat overlooked as many DFS players will be drawn to rookie sensation Calvin Ridley after his massive breakout 3-TD game last week. Anytime you can get an elite receiver like Julio in a game with this much shootout potential at lower ownership, you should do it! The Falcons situation is similar in that they have an excellent pass-catching back in Tevin Coleman who should dominate the snap count on Sunday while fellow backfield mate Devonta Freeman continues to be hurt. I would mix and match Ryan with all 3 of these players in your stacks, to ensure that you have a chance at locking in the majority of the Falcons scoring output.
The last you should remember is that game-stacking is ideal when we have games with such gaudy Vegas lines. The two highest correlated players from each team are the opposing quarterbacks (which you can’t roster both unless you are playing that FD superflex slate). So be sure to “run it back” with a receiver or lead back from the opposing team (Ex: Dalton-Bernard-Boyd-Ridley, which is likely to be a popular stack)
Saints @ Giants
The other game that is going to be incredibly popular is the New Orleans Saints at the New York Giants. The Saints offense has been incredibly explosive early this season, averaging over 34 points per game in their first 3 games. However, their defense has been atrocious and they come into Sunday’s matchup ranked dead last against the pass. I’ve been watching this Vegas total go up all week and it’s sitting at 52 now, 4 points higher than the third highest total on the board (Miami at New England). Drew
Drew Brees is expensive this week, but I think he’s worth paying up for. He’s 5-2 lifetime against the Giants with 20 TDs and only 4 INTs. And who could forget the 7 TD game that he had when he led the Saints to a 52-49 win when these two teams met in 2015? He’s operating at another level right now and could easily be the QB1 when the dust settles Sunday night.
Alvin Kamara is incredibly expensive this week, but he is absolutely worth paying up (and should be locked into your cash lineups). 31 touches last week against the Falcons and a whopping 20 targets in the passing game is simply incredible. Even on FD where it’s only .5 PPR scoring, it’s hard to recommend fading a player as dynamic as Kamara who’s touching the ball that many times.
Michael Thomas is the highest priced wide receiver and could be the lowest of the big three Saints in GPPs. He has emerged as one of the best wide receivers in the game, leading the NFL with 38 receptions and a ridiculous 95% catch rate. He knows how to get open, Brees looks for him, and he catches nearly everything thrown his way. He has double-digit receptions in every game this season and could easily break the slate and go for 30+ fantasy points.
A Brees-Kamara-Thomas stack is nearly impossible on DK as it leaves you only 4100 per player for your other 6 positions, but on Fanduel it’s more viable as it leaves 5500 per player and there’s plenty of value available to make it work. One Saints player who you could consider mixing in here is tight end Ben Watson, who quietly has seen his targets increase each week from 4 to 5 to 6 last week when he secured 5 of those for 71 yards. He’s a red zone threat and should be completely forgotten about with everyone focusing on the big three.
Now, let’s talk about the Giants. Eli Manning should be the least popular of the 4 quarterbacks in these two potential shoot-outs. People hate playing Eli in DFS. He’s painful to watch at times as he can’t move at all anymore and his offensive line has been beaten up by pass rushers early on. But man, he’s got some weapons and I absolutely would not sleep on him or this Giants offense.
Sterling Shepard is going to be the chalkiest Giant as his price is just too cheap for his role in the offense with Evan Engram out. Last week he finally busted out with a 6-80-1 line against the Texans and he should be a pretty safe cash play. Stacking Eli with Odell Beckham is one way to get some leverage as that pairing should be lower owned than some others despite the upside of this matchup. Beckham has yet to find the end-zone but has been targeted a whopping 34 times in the first three games. With players paying down at receiver, I think both Thomas and Beckham at the top end of the salary scale are lower owned than they should be.
I didn’t mean to bury the lead here, but how good is Saquon Barkley? The rookie back has been heavily involved in the Giants offense with 24, 27, and 22 touches in their first three games. The Giants clearly want to get him the ball in open space as he’s caught 21 passes on 27 targets, second among running backs only to his opponent Alvin Kamara. If the Giants are going to keep up with the high scoring Saints, Barkley is going to need to have a big game.
The sneakiest Giant to target in this game is going to be tight end, Rhett Ellison. He played 87% of the offensive snaps last week with Evan Engram out and caught all 3 of the passes thrown his way for 39 yards and a touchdown. He’s not going to put up any crazy catch numbers, but at only 4100 on FD and 2700 on DK all he needs is a TD to easily smash value. Mixing up your Manning stacks with two of Shepard, Barkley, Beckham, and Ellison is one way to try to lock in all the Giants scoring plays.
Pivots from other games
As tempting as it to make a bunch of lineups with players from only those two games (and trust me, I’m going to try to do it in some), there are some other really good plays that are likely to get overlooked with a ton of ownership being eaten up by the four teams we already discussed.
I was all over Zeke last week and he had a really solid game considering how few touches he had (19) and the negative game script he found himself in as the Cowboys trailed Seattle throughout the game. The Cowboys offense is pretty uninspiring and they will likely lean on Zeke early and often to get the chains moving. He leads all NFL running backs with a 95% snap count. In many ways, he is the Dallas offense. He should be able to pile up the yards against the poorly-rated Detroit run defense and get back in the end zone this week. With all the Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Barkley and Bernard love, I think Zeke somehow gets overlooked and could smash this week.
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If you’ve watched any Lions games this year, you should know that Kenny Golladay is not a 5800 dollar player on FD. He’s a big physical receiver with great hands and he seems to have earned his quarterback Matt Stafford’s trust as he’s been targeted 28 times in his first three games. He’s averaging 6 catches a game and has scored 2 TDs. I have had him penciled into lineups since Monday night and I’m going to make sure I have some shares against a banged-up Dallas defense.
Deshaun Watson loves Will Fuller. In their last 7 starts together, they’ve connected for 9 touchdowns. That’s nuts. And Fuller isn’t just a short passing game target monster, his ADOT of 15.9 on 20 targets tell us that he’s getting looks down the field. He makes big plays for the Texans in the passing game and is in a good spot this week against a mediocre Indianapolis secondary. The fact that he’s getting priced up among the mid-tier receivers should only help to lower his ownership.
You know who has more targets than Odell Beckham and Julio Jones? That’s right, Jarvis Landry. And he’s finally got a QB who can get him the ball consistently now that Baker Mayfield is the starter in Cleveland. I thought this pairing would be chalky earlier in the week, but the buzz around the Browns has died down a little. The Raiders secondary shouldn’t scare anyone off of this matchup and I’m going to have plenty of this duo in case they go crazy against the Raiders on Sunday.
I admit, my first inclination was to load up on Melvin Gordon and the Chargers running game against the 49ers. With the Chargers being big favorites this week, and especially now that the 49ers are without their starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo, I think most DFS players may choose the get their LA exposure through Gordon. However, I think the way to attack this 49ers defense is through the air and I am going to have some exposure to the gunslinger himself, Philip Rivers. Chargers WR Mike Williams is only 6300 on FD, the same exact price as Calvin Ridley. All he’s done is catch 11 passes on 15 targets and 3 TDs in his first three games and he could be even more involved in the passing game if Keenan Allen is limited at all due to injury on Sunday.
I’m seeing a lot of hype for Michel this week, but I’m staying away. I know he should get more looks this week with Rex Burkhead but I really don’t trust Belichick to feed his rookie running back, nor do I trust the Patriots defense to play well enough for the game script to favor a run-heavy approach by New England. Give me James White over Michel all day. White has a defined role as the passing down back, the trust of his QB, and could have the game script work in his favor if the Pats have to rely on their passing game heavily again this week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Offense
I watched every minute of the Tampa-Pittsburgh game last Monday night. It got a little hairy late in the game, but my Steelers held on for a much-needed victory. “Fitz-Magic” was more like “Fitz-Tragic” in the first half, turning the ball over 3 times and letting the Steelers build a big lead. Now, he did end up with over 400 yards and 3 TDs, nearly bringing the Bucs back in the fourth quarter but that was against the Steelers horrible secondary.
I think Chicago’s defense is much better than Pittsburgh’s and let’s keep in mind that Fitz had his other big games against a porous Eagles secondary and the Saints leaky sieve of a defense. I’m all over the Bears defense in this matchup as I think that they can cause some turnovers and get some sacks of Fitzpatrick, even if he does throw for some yardage. With 14 sacks, 5 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 defensive touchdowns it’s hard not to get excited about the Bears defense against the free-wheeling Fitzy.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to read my article. Best of luck in your contests this weekend. I am thrilled to be part of the staff here at FantasyCPR and I look forward to providing you with the best NFL and NBA content this season. Hit me up on twitter @ThunderDanDFS!