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MSG Week 4 DFS Breakdown

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Welcome to “The Breakdown,” a deep game-by-game breakdown that covers game theory as well as player/game analysis for the full NFL weekend slate. If you have been with me from a past life, welcome back! I know there are many game-by-game articles out there, so I truly appreciate the loyalty.

For those that are new, here is a basic guide. The “CORE” plays are for a DFS player that is building a single entry or three-max GPP lineup. The “core” plays can be used in cash, but I always send out a Sunday a.m. “cash core” update (I put it at the bottom of this article) to narrow down the player pool even further. Most optimal cash lineups will be centered around opportunity opened up by injury, so no sense of spending hours tinkering. Reserve your cash game entries with the plan of modifying on Sunday morning.

I encourage you to read the whole article, as there is a lot of roster construction and other strategy tips you will miss. I also have on-going jokes and other fun things I slip in to see who is reading and who is not. OK, enough with my BS, let’s get into Week 4.

#FTNDaily

All odds come from FanDuel Sportsbook as of the start of the week.

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

AZ -3.5. O/U: 51.5
AZ: 27.5 | CAR: 24

Pace and playcalling 

Carolina has slowed down from a top-three pace team in 2019 to 21st through three games of this season. One thing of note is the increase in pass rate without Christian McCaffrey. In Week 1 they passed at a 54% rate, which increased to 63% in Weeks 2 and 3. Considering last week was their first win, the increase in pass rate has more weight. 

Arizona is still a fast-paced team, fourth in neutral situations and sixth overall. They get up to the line fast but are passing less frequently than the 2019 version (12th in 2019, 20th in 2020). They are even running heavy when down, which likely is attributable to Kyler Murray’s scrambling, but this is a run-first team and has been since Week 10 of last season.

These teams are 20th and 22nd in points per drive, 17th (AZ) and 22nd in points per game, so the oddsmakers are counting on the defenses helping this one get to its big total. 

Cardinals

Carolina created some QB pressure last week against the rookie Justin Herbert in Los Angeles, but they are still in the bottom two or three in every pass rush category. That is a good thing for Kyler Murray, who was awful last week as a passer. If you watched the game, you know he could have thrown another two interceptions on top of the three he actually threw. But like so many have preached, QBs who run are cheat codes. He picked up 8.9 fantasy points on the ground last week, which — combined with 270-2-3 — gets him another top-10 QB finish, giving him QB5/QB5/QB10 on the season. On some plays, he looks like Joe Montana, Tyrod Taylor on others. Again, pressure is the key, averaging 30.6% under pressure and 70.7% clean. That has him ranked dead last in QB rating under pressure (17.0 passer rating), with all three of those INTs coming under duress. Carolina has given up so much production to RBs (70% rush TD rate, first) that QBs have struggled, with Derek Carr, Tom Brady and Justin Herbert averaging only 15 fantasy points per game against them. That does not make them good against QBs; it’s just the RBs being greedy. Carolina is allowing a 70.6% completion rate and the 28th pass DVOA. Still, the attractive part of this matchup is Murray running in the open field against this run defense. For those new to my cash game core on Sundays, I should tell you I am very rarely going to pay up at QB in cash games. Only special circumstances allow it, such as the recent Atlanta/Dallas and Seattle/Dallas games. That puts Murray into the GPP-only category for this week, despite the juicy matchup.

Kenyan Drake is cheap on DK again, because he has been terrible (87th in expected points added). His line hasn’t been great either, which was the driving force behind his huge end-of-the-season run last year. Even more concerning is his falloff in target share, dropping from 4.9 per game (12th) to 1.7 (56th). What gives us hope is volume and the matchup — the Panthers have allowed 44.5 DK points per game to running backs after allowing 31 last year (most and second-most). Drake is fifth in RB attempts at 18 a game and has seen an increase in red-zone rush attempts. If there is ever a spot for Drake to smash, this is it. He will likely be a cash-game core and a GPP fade on two of my three, three-max teams. 

DeAndre Hopkins is a usage hog, matching his days in Houston, seeing a 35.9% target share and 43% of AZ’s total receptions. Hopkins has caught 32 of his 37 targets (first), for 356 yards (first). He only has one TD (so is only the WR3 on the season), but he is getting 50% of red-zone targets, so the TDs will come. His matchup with Donte Jackson is nothing to fear, but I hate paying $8.5k for a WR so I doubt he will be on any of my main LUs with his high ownership. 

(Note: Hopkins is listed with an ankle injury. He is going to play, but that’s another factor to make us feel better about fading the superstar.)

Christian Kirk returned to practice in a limited capacity Wednesday, which puts him on track to play. That puts Andy Isabella back in the extreme risk category, since he only played 46% last week in his breakout, compared to 71% for KeeSean Johnson. Isabella turned 18 routes into 4-47-2 on four targets. 

Chase Edmonds is responsible for Drake’s falloff in targets, seeing 3.7 per game. His 6.7 touches per game aren’t enough to play in DFS, even in this matchup, but I would not be surprised to see him go off here. If we fade these high-owned Cards studs, we need Edmonds and some other random TDs to make us happy. 

Panthers

Teddy Bridgewater is exactly what Joe Brady was looking for, an accurate QB (79% adjusted completion rate, third in expected completion percentage), allowing his talented WRs a chance to actually catch the ball. He is averaging a solid 290 yards passing; he just hasn’t thrown more than a TD in any game (two total). The Cardinals have passed the eye test, and they check out per DVOA, ranking seventh overall. They are also sixth in adjusted sack rate, which is the equalizer. Bridgewater has an 87.5% completion rate (107.6 passer rating) when clean and 29.2% when under pressure (52 passer rating). 

Carolina is still targeting RBs at 26.5%, slightly up from 25.6% in 2019. The tight ends have taken the hit, with their target share dropping from 18.8% to 5.9%. That is a bummer because I like Ian Thomas. After getting over 5.0 targets per game over the last five games of 2019, he is only seeing 1.3 per game this season. 

D.J. Moore is my most owned WR across all my fantasy and best-ball teams. I know his 13.6 fantasy points per game so far is not enough for where we selected him, but I promise you the explosion is coming. I am not alone in this thought process, because Moore is projected to be the most popular WR on DK this week. It is a point-per-dollar thing as much as anything, they simply mispriced him, making his P/E ratio jump off the page in everyone’s models. He started the year at $6.6k, which is still a reasonable price, but now he has been driven down to $5.6k, which is simply an error. I do not expect Patrick Peterson to shadow Moore, who moves all over the formation, including about 20% from the slot. Teams have been shying away from Peterson (sixth-lowest target rate against), but when they have thrown at him the completions have followed (127.0 passer rating in coverage for more than 2.2 fantasy points per target). That means Moore should have success regardless of where he lines up with Dre Kirkpatrick allowing 77% of passes thrown his way to be completed). 

Last note on my boy Moore — he needs to play better, or we are going to have a reassessment on him being in the club. We blamed his inefficiencies last year on Kyle Allen, but this year he has a 66.7% true catch rate, 102nd among all WRs. What that means is 21 of his 26 targets have been catchable, but he only has 14 receptions. I think he will improve on that and thus the incoming positive regression. He is a lock in DK cash. 

Robby Anderson has been efficient (83% catch rate after 55% in 2019). He is a great leverage play on the Moore teams in GPPs at a third of the ownership. He is playing full-time snaps, running a route on every Panthers passing play. This LSU offensive scheme (as discussed many times) sets up these speed guys with short to intermediate crossing routes that relies on the athleticism of the WRs. Anderson is fifth in YAC after finishing 62nd on the Jets in 2019. He is also being moved around the entire formation (as seen below, per NFL Next Gen Stats). 

He and Mike Davis should have big games against the interior pass defense of the Cards, with both heat maps lining up well. Davis played 76.5% of the team snaps last week, racking up 21 touches for 91 total yards and a score. He has 17 targets in two games (26% target share), playing the McCaffrey role in this offense. He also has 7 red-zone touches but has yet to get an opportunity inside the 10, making him a better play on DK (full PPR). The Cards have not faced an offense that has featured the RB pass since Week 1, but in that matchup in San Francisco, they got shredded for 9 receptions for 162 yards and 2 TDs by the 49ers RBs. 

Curtis Samuel is firmly behind Anderson, Moore and Davis in usage, but with 4-plus targets and a few rush attempts per game, he could troll those three. He is up to $4.8k on DK, which is too close to his receiver teammates. 

(Note: Both Arizona starting safeties Budda Baker and Chris Banjo are likely OUT, giving all these Panthers players a bump. The Cards will run out UDFA Curtis Riley and fifth-rounder Deionte Thompson in their place.)

CORE PLAYS: D.J. Moore (better for cash), Mike Davis, Kenyan Drake (better for cash) 

GPP ONLY: Kyler Murray, Robby Anderson, DeAndre Hopkins, Teddy Bridgewater

Baltimore Ravens at Washington Football Team

BAL -13. O/U:47
BAL: 30.5 | CIN: 16.5

Pace and playcalling

These two offer extreme contrasts in terms of pace of play, with the Football Team ranking second overall in neutral pace. Fast does not mean good — Washington is dead last in yards and sixth in points per drive. They are tied with the Jets for 4.5 yards per play, averaging 20.7 PPG. 

Ravens have the “angry team” narrative, and it’s strong. This is a rough spot for any team, but a young team with a shaky QB is a recipe for disaster. Ravens opened at 12.5 favorites, which has been bet up to 14 with both the public and the money pouring in on Baltimore.

Baltimore plays slow — 28th overall and 29th neutral — which really cost them in their comeback attempt against KC, taking nearly 40 seconds on numerous plays in the second half when attempting to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. They are not set up (as we saw against Tennessee in the playoffs) to play from behind. That should not be an issue this week, with Washington’s offense being so anemic. Baltimore should be able to stick to the run-heavy script (29th rush rate). 

Ravens

Lamar Jackson is going to go off here; he is just priced so far above the field he can only be used in GPPs. It is much easier to build Jackson stacks on FD, with their pricing structure being so soft this season. The Ravens OL has taken a step back from 2019, which is partially to blame for Lamar coming down to earth in his last two games. They have the fifth-highest pressure rate allowed, which has Jackson looking like Dwayne Haskins. He has the biggest dropoff from the No. 2 clean pocket completion rate (87.5%) to 19.7% when under pressure. Ronnie Stanley participated in a light Ravens practice Wednesday, but he was not on the field Thursday because of a shoulder injury, which is not good for this split. Still, Lamar can easily finish as QB1 (DE Chase Young is doubtful for Washington and DT Matt Ioannidis is gone for the year). Kyler Murray posted 8-67-2 on the ground against Washington, which is why we are paying up for Lamar (MME, he won’t make a three-max this week). 

Mark Andrews is in the classic DFS “next week” tilt spot to all those who got burned Monday and in Week 2 in Houston. He has been a disaster since his 22.8-point Week 1, averaging 4.5 fantasy points per game in the last two. Washington has allowed 3 touchdowns to TEs in their three games, including 8-119-2 to the Philly TEs. Andrews is leading all TEs with a 35% RZ targets share and 3 goal-line targets. 

Lamar’s heat map (per Sharp Football) compared to WASH D heat map plus Andrews’ confirms this is a smash spot for the TE.

 

The Ravens backfield was at least logical last week, with J.K. Dobbins leading the way as the Ravens played catch up. The three backs split 16 touches relatively evenly, with Gus Edwards being the best runner (4-39-0). The Ravens have already said this will be a week-to-week proposition, with gamescript leading the way. Another reason why the Baltimore passing attack may not produce enough in this spot is that the Washington D is shaping up as an extreme rush funnel, allowing 187 total RB yards and 3 TDs to Cleveland. The problem this week is that no Baltimore back has more than 10 rush attempts in a game this season, so unless you are playing 150 LUs I would not mess around here. 

Marquise Brown and the rest of the Ravens WRs are deep GPP options as well. Brown has exactly 6 targets each week, which is not enough volume to justify his price point as a primary play (71st in routes run). We know his M.O. — if he gets behind the defense and connects for a long score (2 deep targets per game) we are happy; if not it is an empty 4-52-0 (his three-game average). 

Injuries 

Football Team

Dwayne Haskins (12.9 fantasy points per game) is as advertised: Shitty. He is 34th in adjusted completion, 34th in a clean pocket, 32nd under pressure, 29th in deep-ball accuracy, and 31st in ANY/A. Baltimore has been surprisingly bad at pass defense, a strength in 2019. This is mostly due to a dropoff in QB pressure, despite blitzing at the second-highest rate. Washington is middle of the pack in pressure rate allowed, thanks to having the fastest release time this season. Again, fast does not mean good (last in completion percentage above expectation, per NFL NextGen). 

Antonio Gibson is still stuck in a committee (52% snap count in a loss), but it looks like we may have gotten Peyton Barber out of the way, leaving it a two-man team with J.D. McKissic being the passing-down back. McKissic has run 56 routes this season, the seventh-most of all RBs, compared to 42 routes for the rookie (31st). Still, the spread between their target share is very close (9% to 7%). Since the Week 1 “Barber game” (10 RZ touches), he has 4 RZ touches and their only two goal-line rush attempts. He has scored in two straight, which is carrying his fantasy points — remove the scores and you are left with 6.8 fantasy points per game. 

Logan Thomas is killing me — every week his underlying stats have him pointing up, and then he does next to nothing. He is running a route on all pass plays, ranking fourth in TE routes, third in targets, second in TE target share (24.2%), third in TE red-zone targets and weighted opportunity. He has three drops in three games, compounded by his QBs inaccuracy (30th catchable target rate). Ravens have allowed TEs to catch 23 of 25 targets for 78.3 yards per game and two scores. I believe in my process, so am going to stick with it and play some LT this week at much lower ownership. 

When folks say “GPP only” is a copout, I present you Terry McLaurin. F1 is as talented as any young WR in the league, but since he is tied to Haskins, he is going to experience massive fluctuations in output (11.1, 12.6 and 27.7 fantasy points this season). 

Jimmy Smith matched up with Travis Kelce for about 36% of plays last week, so it is possible Smith shadows for a portion of the game. Either way, Tyreke Hill, Mecole Hardman and Brandin Cooks all torched these outside CBs, proving once again that speed is the great equalizer (F1 ran a 4.35, compared to Hill at 4.34). Unfortunately, the McLaurin is in the shop with a thigh injury, showing up late on the injury report, which is never a good sign.

Injuries 

CORE PLAYS: Mark Andrews (love in GPP), Ravens D, Logan Thomas 

GPP ONLY: Lamar Jackson

Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys

CLE +4.5. O/U: 55
CLE: 24.5 | DAL: 30

Pace and playcalling

The 2020 Cowboys are playing at a glorious, league-leading neutral and overall pace. Going over 5 seconds per play faster than the second-place Washington Football Team. 

Dallas is first in plays run and third in plays allowed, they run at the second-lowest rate, and their opponents have passed at the sixth-lowest rate. All this is why Dallas has been so fantasy-friendly for all — the Boys are averaging 29.3 PPG and allowing 32.3, third-most. 

A big reason for this insane pace is the Cowboys’ bad defense, which has allowed Dallas to play with a lead for only seven plays total. On those seven, they ran on four. Ideally, we want Cleveland to come out and score early to get this one into another back-and-forth game. 

Cleveland is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, 25th in overall pace. Their goal will be to replicate what the Rams did to Dak Prescott & Co. in Week 1. Los Angeles ran the ball at a 66% rate (second-highest), which held Prescott to 39 attempts and their lowest output of the season. This is Cleveland’s preferred way to play anyway (47% neutral pass rate). 

Browns

Baker Mayfield is being managed in this rush-heavy offensive scheme, seeing his pass attempts per game fall more than 5 per game. This is Kev Stefanski’s M.O., so no one is surprised. They have had two easy matchups with Cincinnati and Washington, which allowed them to do their thing, running at a 60% rate, by far the highest (23 pass attempts per game). In Week 1 against Baltimore, they were forced out of it, passing at a 60% rate (39 pass attempts). The oddsmakers clearly think this is the script will play out, setting the total at 55 points. Mayfield is more appealing to me on FD, where he is in that last tier of QBs in terms of price. I am usually not anywhere close to playing this guy, but Dallas is just so bad at pass defense, it’s hard to scratch off his name, so I will throw in a few game stacks in lower-dollar GPPs. 

Nick Chubb (RB8) and Kareem Hunt (RB14) are easily the best 1-2 RB combo this season, and they are who the Browns want to run the offense through. They average a combined 33.7 touches per game. This week, Hunt may be out which would make Chubb a top RB play on the slate. Kevin Stefanski wasn’t ready to rule him out, but, “…put the plan in Monday, Tuesday, we’re mindful of guys we may or may not have and then we have guys that have to be ready to step in should somebody not be available.” 

Per PFF, three of the Browns’ top four offensive grades went to offensive linemen in Week 3 (Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin). The line has improved dramatically, allowing the sixth-lowest pressure rate after struggling mightily in pass protection last year. 

I will update this again after official news, but you can expect Chubb to be the chalk if Hunt is ruled out. D’Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard would be the guys who would get some of Hunt’s workload, as they aren’t going to play Chubb for 100% of offensive snaps when he is at 53% for the season. 

I will also update the Cleveland passing options, since Odell Beckham was added to Thursday’s injury report. I expect him to play (he was a full participant Friday), but keep an eye on it, for Beckham purposes and how it might affect Austin Hooper and Jarvis Landry. The Cowboys have allowed 607 receiving yards to opposing wideouts, and 7 TDs for the second-most FPPG allowed (it should be 8, but DK Metcalf … well, you know). 

Dallas could get Demarcus Lawrence back this week, which could help the struggling secondary with increased pressure. Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) was moved to IR last week, and now CB Trevon Diggs (shoulder/knee) was downgraded to limited Thursday. 

(Friday update: OBJ is fine and will be a full go. He should dominate these remaining Dallas CBs and could get the bump in targets/passing rate with the Browns likely trying to keep up with the Dallas machine. Since OBJ has been in CLE, he has had extreme splits based on quality of opponent, with his breakout games coming against the likes of Cincinnati, Miami and the Jets, to name a few. Daryl Worley and his 4.62 40-yard dash speed is about as good a matchup as Beckham can ask for.)

Cowboys

Dak Prescott will face the toughest challenge he has had this year (per DVOA), but I’m not sure it matters much. Dak is on another level from a yardage pace, averaging 396 passing yards and 24.7 rush yards per game. He is second in accuracy, ninth in ANY/A, and third in deep ball attempts per game. The biggest risk for Dak is protection against a good Cleveland front seven. He has seen his completion rate fall from 78.4% to 39% under pressure. He needs his big LT Tyron Smith back and got some good news on that front when he returned to practice (limited). CLE has allowed 8 passing TDs, which trails only (you guessed it) Dallas. 

With the 33.48-fantasy-point explosion last week (and the 43.8 against ATL), Dak added onto the 50-plus over/under split I mentioned earlier this season. He has now played seven games in his career with a 50-plus total, averaging 7.39 more fantasy points in those situations (per our NFL Splits tool). Mayfield has also been better (logically), but the bump only got him to 20 points per game, which illustrates the different ceilings these two have. Considering Dak is the cheapest of the big five; he is a top-three play once again. 

Amari Cooper has been incredibly consistent so far, finishing between 17.6 and 19.1 fantasy points in each game. That has always been my biggest issue with him, taking the low-floor games between the blowups. Well, the blowup is coming, only he is giving us high-end WR2 numbers in the meantime. The only reason he is not in the WR1 category is TDs, his target share is up to 25.4% from 20.7% last season to lead the team. He also leads in air yards, receptions and yards — he just hasn’t scored yet. Denzel Ward has been great, but he does not shadow and is banged up. 

Michael Gallup finally got in on the mix last week, with a season-high nine targets against Seattle. Think of him as the HR hitter, with a 17-yard aDOT that will have these big fluctuations. Both he and Cedrick Wilson benefited from Cooper and CeeDee Lamb getting banged up. Both Cooper and Lamb played a season-low snap share, which paved the way for Gallup and Wilson. This is a reminder of process over results — if Cooper or Lamb each get one of the Russell Wilson scores and Metcalf doesn’t lose his mind, we win a lot of money again. 

CeeDee Lamb has also been shut out of the end zone, which has him the WR33, despite being 14th in receptions and 15th in yards. Unlike Gallup, he is the singles and doubles hitter, with a 5-59-0 floor this season and a 6-106-0 ceiling. He has the best matchup this week and is still criminally underpriced on FD. He should be the first name you click on over there. Per our Advanced DvP tool, Cleveland has allowed the second-most yards per game to slot WRs (9.3 targets per game) despite playing Baltimore and Washington (32nd and 29th passing offenses). Tyler Boyd shredded them for 7-72-1 on 8 targets, which is similar to the line I am expecting from Lamb. 

Cedrick Wilson could get rewarded with a few extra snaps, especially if they use more 4WR sets like they did last week (16%, after not using the alignment in Weeks 1 and 2). 

Dalton Schultz hopes like all of us that the four-WR Cedrick Wilson experiment was a one-time event, but even with it he played his normal snap share. I think see him back in our lives this week against Cleveland, who can’t stop any TE that isn’t named Logan. Cleveland has a much better defensive line, so I expect Schultz and Blake Bell to be out there a bit more. Schultz still saw six targets last week (4-48-0), after the 10-target explosion at home against Atlanta and should come in at ultra-low ownership. He is under $5k on FD, making him a strong GPP play there. 

I don’t have much Ezekiel Elliott, who is projected to be very popular this week (second, behind Lamar Jackson at 23%). Zeke is a beast and can always be the guy that scores all the TDs, but at his price point and that ownership, he isn’t ending up on any of my main builds. I would rather play Dalvin Cook at the same price point or just eat the Kamara chalk. That said, I plan on submitting 150 lineups this weekend, so will get about 10-12% (half the field). 

Injuries

  • CLE S Ronnie Harrison was also added to the report Thursday as “did not practice” with an unspecified illness. I would assume he would have just been put on IR if it was COVID, but this is 2020 so, ‘ya never know. Cornerback Denzel Ward (groin) and left guard Joel Bitonio (back) returned on a limited basis. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods said that if Ward moves around well Friday, he might be able to play. He left the Washington game in the second quarter and replaced by Kevin Johnson, whom Woods said “had a little rust.” This is a big injury to monitor.

CORE PLAYS: Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Nick Chubb (monitor Kareem Hunt’s status), CeeDee Lamb (FanDuel cash lock, also like him on DK) 

GPP ONLY: Dalton Schultz, Michael Gallup (will update this for the Cleveland passing game)

Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears

IND -2.5. O/U: 44.5
IND: 23.5 | CHI: 21.5 

Pace and playcalling

With so many games in the mid-50s, this one opened at 45 and has since bet down despite the public betting the OVER. That means the pro money is coming in hard on the under, with both teams 18th or lower in points per drive. Indy plays slow with a lead, ranking 32nd in second half pace. They have only been down for about 30 plays this season, but they did play much faster in that situation. 

The Colts rank first in defensive DVOA, the Bears sixth. That makes this the premier matchup if you like defense. Nick Foles is not the answer — I think he is good for Allen Robinson, but to think he is the QB the Bears have been waiting for is nuts. That guy is playing QB for the Patriots in KC this week. 

These teams have missed the fewest and third-fewest tackles on the season, so expecting outlier offensive performances is not optimal on a slate full of teams that can’t cover or tackle. 

The Colts are first and Bears second in passer rating against. 

Colts have only been behind by 7 or more for eight plays, but they did pass on seven of them, so this game needs Chicago to get a lead to have any chance (49% pass rate when up by at least 3 points). 

Colts

Philip Rivers has brought his low ceiling with him from Southern California, finishing as the QB22, QB28 and QB24. Now he has lost both of his talented young WRs, leaving just T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal and the tight ends and running backs for the veteran. That lowers his potential to reach an acceptable DFS ceiling, so … moving along. Like I said above, the one vulnerability is the Bears rush D (4.93 RB yards allowed per carry), so get ready for another Jonathan Taylor-based gameplan. I know he scored last week to salvage the day for the chalk, but I feel good about the fade. Taylor only got 14 touches and 62 total yards as the pass-funnel Jets got blown out. His passing work has developed sharp splits in three games, with him seeing 3 targets in his two wins compared to 6 in the loss at Jacksonville. So unless the Bears can surprise and run out to a lead, Taylor is going to get his fantasy points from yards and TDs. What was lost last week in the Atlanta game was this Bears rush D, which allowed a previously quiet Falcons rush attack to post 23-138-2 and another 3-27-0 through the air. 

Nyheim Hines saw 5 targets last week, as the Colts lost Michael Pittman and are already without Parris Campbell. It makes sense to utilize his receiving skills with all the “sizzle” lost from those two dynamic WRs being out. That does not mean we want to play him in DFS, just an observation on how Indy may distribute the available targets. 

Pascal will get more snaps/targets, but I have no interest. Jack Doyle returned last week, which makes Mo Alie-Cox a thing of the past. I really like him, and think they should make him the alpha in this offense on the passing side, but he and Doyle ran a total of seven routes last week, with Cox getting 3 targets (3-50-1). Even more annoying for Mo is Trey Burton should be back for Indianapolis in a REVENGE GAME (haha). Expect to see all three of these guys a good bit, as Indianapolis likely lines up big with multiple TEs with the WR injuries.

Alie-Cox is someone to add in season long. He is first in YPR, YPT and yards per route run, getting more than 3.0 fantasy points per target. They should make him the No. 1 passing option in this offense, a la Travis Kelce in KC. 

Daurice Fountain — a third-year fifth-rounder who blew out his ankle in his rookie training camp — will play in three-WR sets. He is not anyone for DFS, but I wanted to mention him as someone we will see more of while Pittman and Campbell are out. 

Bears

The Colts have had one of the softer schedules, playing the Vikings, Jets and Jaguars, three teams that are likely headed for last-place finishes. Thus we need to be careful before declaring the Colts D a complete DFS fade, though I think we are safe to do it this week. Especially considering the number of studs at QB on this slate in games with 50-plus totals. There is contrarian, and then there is walking uphill in the rain. I think targeting Foles and the Bears offense is the latter.

 

David Montgomery is interesting to discuss at least, since Tarik Cohen is lost for the year. They could turn to some Cordarrelle Patterson in passing situations, and to spell Montgomery for 3-5 carries a game, but this should be his time to shine. His routes run and targets (3 per game) have increased already this season, and now another 3 RB targets open up. If we can get 20-plus touches a game (16.3 per game in 2020), Monty is a solid play at his price point. The Bears offensive line is much better in run blocking this season, jumping to seventh in adjusted line yards after finishing 29th in 2019. 

Allen Robinson had been pretty vocal about his distaste for Mitchell Trubisky, so it was a nice surprise to see Foles target him 6 times (4-54-1, with another TD being wiped away) after taking over. ARob dominates his team’s target share and air yards. One thing he has not captured is the red-zone usage crown. That goes to Jimmy Graham, who has seen a 31% RZ target share and leads the NFL in targets inside the 10. Foles looked his way a team-high 7 times when he took over. Indy is 32nd in points allowed to TEs, but again, their schedule has been a joke. 

CORE PLAYS: N/A 

GPP ONLY: Allen Robinson, Jonathan Taylor, David Montgomery, Jimmy Graham

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals

JAX +3. O/U: 47.5
JAX: 22.5 | CIN: 25.5

Pace and playcalling

These bad-team matchups are always fun to figure out for DFS. They have a massive range of outcomes, from a turnover-riddled game that finishes 23-17 to a full-blown shootout that changes the slate. Most people (myself included) think this has a good shot at the sneaky shootout, so the total has moved from 47.5 to 49 at some books, with both the public and money betting it heavily. 

For as much publicity as the Seattle and Dallas secondaries have received, the Jaguars pass defense is going under the radar. They have allowed opposing QBs to complete 80% of their passes (last), after allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick a 90% competition rate last Thursday. They also wear the crown of worst pass DVOA, allowing 8.3 YPA (also last). Not often will you see the high competition rate and high YPA against, but here we are, your 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars. 

The biggest issue Cincinnati faces is the slow pace of Jaguars, operating at the slowest neutral and 25th-slowest pace when behind. Jacksonville passes at a 65% rate when down at least 3 and 64% when down at least 7. They have played with a lead for the fewest plays this season (4), despite stealing a win in week one, so there is no data to know what they would do with a lead, but my guess is “milk the clock and run.”

Cincinnati has only played 33 snaps with a lead, and logically dialed it back to a 55% pass rate, but this is Joe Burrow’s offense, passing 69% overall and 75% when down even 3 points or more (most of the season). 

Cincinnati has run the second-most plays per game and allowed the fourth-most. It feels like the Bengals should produce big totals, but their games have gone under 57.9% of the time dating back to last season (1-2 this year). 

These teams have seen their opponents pass at the second- and third-lowest rates, losing a combined four of six games. 

Jaguars

We need good Gardner Minshew to show up, so our Burrow stacks can smash. Minshew has shown massive volatility in his short career, with eight games already as a top-12 QB on DK and six ranking QB26 or lower. So far, he is 2-for-3 this season, putting up a respectable 20.32, a big-time 28.46 and an 11.6-point stinker last week against Miami. 

DTs Geno Atkins (shoulder) and Mike Daniels (elbow) are both out for Cincinnati, leaving an already vulnerable front seven in some trouble. They are allowing RBs more than 30 DK points per game, despite Philly leaving about 20 FP on the field with Miles Sanders. LB Logan Wilson is still in concussion protocol and will also be OUT. Starting CB, Mackensie Alexander is also OUT, leaving this defense without several key starters on all levels. 

Enter James Robinson, who has surprised as the RB with the ninth-highest usage rate through three weeks. Robinson has 319 total yards to go along with a TD per game. That has him as the RB6 in PPR, averaging 21.6 points per game on DK. The price climb has been steep but justified, with him go from min-priced in Week 1 to $6.5k this week against the Bengals. The offensive line checks out, ranking eighth in adjusted line yards. He is all that we wanted Leonard Fournette to be; he just doesn’t have the name brand to garner ownership. Despite being in a smash spot against a depleted Cincinnati defense (4.95 adjusted, 5.24 RB yards per carry), he is still projected to be a contrarian play. With their prices lining up on both sites, I will have more exposure on FD (larger cap, better value). Remember, this Cincinnati D is more depleted this week and is just one week removed from allowing the Browns backs 32-210-2 and 3-24-1. This is not a dynasty article, I could not care less about that for DFS. One week is all we care about. 

I am a founding member of the D.J. Chark fan club, and I am glad he is back and hope he smashes for my best ball and seasonal shares. In addition to the new workhorse RB, Chark also has Chris Thompson, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, Laviska Shenault and Tyler Eifert to battle with for target share. Prior to him going out, he was at a sad 11.1% target share. With Minshew picking up 20 yards a game with his legs, I would recommend playing him naked and run it back with Tyler Boyd, who correlates the best to Minshew of all the Cincinnati WRs. 

Bengals

Joe Burrow is third in red-zone and goal-line pass attempts, he has a terrible A/YPA (33rd), but remains in the top-14 in attempted air yards, so it is not because of lack of effort (4.7 per game, eighth). His deep ball percentage is just brutal, currently just seven percentage points above mine. Even with that, however, he is so good in short and intermediate routes, that he ranks ninth in catchable target rate. After a brutal Week 1 matchup with a relatively healthy Chargers defense, Burrow has gone on to a QB9 and QB12 finish. The Jaguars are dead last in expected points (per FTN Data), allowing 23.9 actual DK points a game to QBs, despite facing the third-fewest pass attempts this season.

Looking at his distribution of targets, Burrow is throwing to his WRs at the seventh-highest rate, while only throwing to the backs at the 23rd- and 24th-highest rates respectively. 

Tyler Boyd was used as their primary receiving option over his past week, racking up 13 and 8 targets to lead him to consecutive top-10 finishes in PPR formats. Throwing out that first game with the Chargers on our air yards tool, you can see Boyd is the alpha, doubling A.J. Green and Tee Higgens in targets. D.J. Hayden has not been targeted a lot, but when he has, he is allowing more 3 FP per target, which is obscene. 

Higgins played 22%, 65% and 79% of snaps to open his career. The 79% last week was more than Green (76%), signifying what could be a true changing of the guard in Cincinnati. T-Higg also ran a route on a career-high 82.7% of Burrow’s attempts, posting a 5-40-2 line on 9 targets. Higgins is a big dude, standing 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. It makes sense that he got three goal-line targets, given his profile. What his presence does more than anything is make Green even harder to use. He has had a brutal stretch of CB matchups, so should be able to get loose finally against rookie, C.J. Henderson for his first TD of the season. 

Both Higgins and Green make me like Burrow more naked or with just Boyd on a three-max; then you can make a Burrow/Green and Burrow/Higgins teams in a lower-dollar GPP. 

in addition to all the WRs (Mike Thomas and Auden Tate both played at least 22% of snaps last week with John Ross a healthy scratch), there is also TE Drew Sample, and the RBs to compete for TDs. Burrow has a ton of ways to go now, which becomes a nightmare for stacking in DFS. In addition, he is running five times a game and has three red-zone carries, which is yet another slice of TD equity lost for the rest. 

Joe Mixon has gotten off to a slow start, finishing as the RB49, RB27 and RB34. That’s brutal for those who invested a high pick in him in seasonal (like me). The volume is there — he was sixth in opportunity share in 2019 and is sixth now (20 touches per game). I suppose those usage rates and low price has his ownership projected about two-thirds what I had expected. The Cincinnati OL is #NotGood, ranking 30th in adjusted line yards, which has them 31st in yards before contact. The Jacksonville rush D has improved a lot from 2019. I suppose the 2019 version is still fresh in people’s minds, but this Jags team is ninth in rush DVOA (sixth-fewest adjusted line yards allowed). They slowed down Jonathan Taylor (2.4 YPC) and Derrick Henry (3.4 YPC), making Mixon a fairly easy fade for me at his high ownership (second-fewest missed tackles, which was the Achilles heel of 2019 Jags). 

CORE PLAYS: James Robinson, Tyler Boyd 

GPP ONLY: Joe Burrow/Boyd (stack 1), Burrow/A.J. Green/Boyd (stack 2), Burrow/Tee Higgins/Boyd (stack 3)

Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

LAC +7.5. O/U: 45
LAC: 17.5 | TB: 27

Weather 

In the middle of writing up this game, I realized there is an 80% chance of rain predicted for Sunday afternoon, “It’s just the elements,” Bruce Arians said. “That’s what we love about football. The elements play a factor, and we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, there’s no lightning delay.”

Pace and playcalling

The Chargers got the memo and are now playing at the sixth-fastest pace. That’s quite a contrast from the No. 32 neutral pace in 2019. Tom Brady has always played fast, so not surprised to see the Bucs maintain a solid top-12 pace in all situations. 

This game and Chicago/Indianapolis are the only two matchups with defenses in the top-12 in DVOA. These teams are fifth (TB) and sixth in yards per drive allowed, and third (LAC) and sixth in points per drive. 

There has been a historical run of games going OVER the total, which is likely attributed to the historically low penalty and (more specifically) holding rates. The Chargers have not participated in tall the fun, with all their games going UNDER. 

This game opened at 45.5 and has since been bet down to 42.5 despite the public being on the over. That means a lot of sharp or what I like to call “BIG” money is coming in on the under. Not all big whales are sharp, a lot of these guys are still using worthless splits when we have mounds of meaningful analytics to work with. 

Chargers

With Justin Herbert as the starter, LAC is throwing on 73% of their plays. Like last year, TB is funneling opponents into the pass with a strong run D (second in RB yards allowed per carry). The same is true for LAC’s opponents this season. Los Angeles is top-12 in adjusted line yards allowed, which has their opponents passing at a 62.23% rate, up 10% from 2019.

Herbert has posted 330 and 311 passing yards in his first two starts, bringing Keenan Allen back to WR1 status in the process. 

Per PFF, Kennan Allen had the “highest xFP of any WR in Week 3” (13-132-1). He saw 39% of team targets last week and has an 86 WOPR in the two weeks with Herbert. Sean Murphy-Bunting has been solid in the slot for TB, but when Allen is getting this kind of volume (Mike Williams is OUT), he is going to put up big production regardless of matchup. They move him all over the formation with one of the more complex route trees of any WR, which makes him a tough cover (as you can see in the Next Gen route chart above). Allen had 36 red-zone targets in 2019 with Philip Rivers (third). He’s on pace for 48 this season. 

Buccaneers

It’s Ronald Jones SZN once again, with Leonard Fournette on the shelf. The Chargers are not a great RB matchup, unless they are going to throw the ball to Jones (7.5 RB receptions allowed in the last two). Brady loves to throw to his RBs (27.6%), and with Chris Godwin out, why not use Jones more? Despite being in line for the bulk of the work, and being only $4.8k, no one wants to play this guy (estimated at 5% ownership). It was just last week that Mike Davis posted 91 total yards and 8 catches with a TD against this Chargers D. It makes sense, with LAC putting a lot of pressure on QBs, that the checkdown would pop. If Jones can catch 3-4 balls and pick up another 65-plus yards on the ground (68 is his rushing prop), he is going to smash his price tag. 

We will see more of LeSean McCoy and possibly the debut of rookie third-round pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Vaughn has yet to play a snap on offense, but per Bruce Arians, “He’s more than ready,” McCoy will eat into some passing-down work, but as a 7-point home favorite, there a strong case for Jones.

Mike Evans saw 10 targets (7-104-1) in the one game Godwin missed. Usually, Evans in a situation where all the targets should flow his way would be the uber chalk, but this is 2020 and there are 5-6 incredible games on this slate with 50-plus totals so Evans is going to come in at 10% (+/- 3%). Tampa Bay has moved Evans inside on about a third of his routes and will likely do it at that rate or higher with Godwin out. That will free Evans up from Casey Hayward and Michael Davis and put him in front of Desmond King now that Chris Harris is on IR. Evans should be able to dominate the 5-10 King, who ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash when he came out of Iowa. I understand Hayward is a tough matchup for some, but he also does not match up well with Evans. Per PFF, Hayward allowed more FP above expectation in shadow matchups last season, so don’t worry about him. Evans is a top-five WR option this week. 

Scott Miller and Justin Watson were both full participants on Friday, so they should play with Evans in three-WR sets (58%). I have interest in either on this slate where I already have so many WRs on my wish list. 

CORE PLAYS: Mike Evans, TB D 

GPP ONLY: Ronald Jones 

Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans

MIN +4..5. O/U: 54.5
MIN: 25 | HOU: 30

Pace and playcalling

  • Minnesota runs at the 24th highest rate (56%), which falls to 46% when up by a FG or more.
  • Houston has only played 29 snaps with a lead, and continued passing at 62% (67% overall, 71% when down by a field goal or more)
  • Minnesota wants to play slow (31.5 seconds per play in neutral situations), but will go very fast when down (20.95, fourth).
  • Texans are dead last in QB pressure rate allowed, but Minnesota is 29th in adjusted sack rate.
  • Minnesota has only run 52.7 plays per game (32nd) and HOU 54.0 (31st). Conversely, they have allowed the 30th- and 26th-most plays per game, respectively.
  • Both of these are encouraging the run, ranking first (Houston) and fourth in rush rate allowed.

Vikings

  • These teams have allowed the most and second-most (Houston) scores and points per drive.
  • Houston has allowed a 70.65% competition rate against, Minnesota 69.81%.
  • These teams are 32nd (Minnesota) and 30th in field goals allowed against, with the Vikings allowing 4 FGs per game.
  • The Houston D has allowed 44.5 yards per drive (last).
  • Houston has had the worst opposing schedule in the first three week, playing the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers.

Dalvin Cook when healthy and playing is an elite RB1. In 29 career games where he has played 30+ snaps, he is averaging 20.32 fantasy points per game, compared to 10.4 in five games where he was banged up and shared snaps. His opportunity share could be higher (68.7%), but he just scores fantasy points consistently. This week he has a top-three matchup — Houston is allowing the most rushing yards after getting trounced by James Conner (18-109-1). They also allowed big games to Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25-138-1), Mark Ingram (9-55-1) and Gus Edwards (10-73-0), coming out to 33.4 fantasy points per game allowed to the position. The lack of targets for Cook is annoying, because we know how good he is in that role, but his efficiency as a runner is elite, averaging 2.92 yards created per carry (sixth), and he plays in an offense obsessed with running the ball. There is some fear Alexander Mattison gets more run if this thing shoots out, but it may also mean Cook gets up to his 2019 target share (4.5 per game, 3.0 this season). Houston was famous for RB passes allowed last season, but teams have only targeted their backs against this season five times per game.

The big difference for Cook this season and why I am so high on him this week: The offensive line is dominating, ranking second in adjusted line yards gained and first in RB yards per carry at 5.88. Houston is 28th in the adj line yards allowed and 30th in RB yards at 5.82. 

Kirk Cousins has six interceptions in three games, which is magnified when you factor in he is only 29th in pass attempts at 26 per game. That is actually down 3.6 attempts per game from last season, when the complaint was low volume. He is only getting 5.3 adjusted yards per attempt (30th), despite being third in deep ball attempts per game. Even in a game where he connected with Justin Jefferson for 7-175-1, Cousins finished as the QB13. The big shift with Jefferson was a move to the outside, which elevated his snap count to 78% and pushed Olabisi Johnson to the bench and Chad Beebe into the slot for 34% of snaps. Minnesota ran 58% three-WR sets in Weeks 1 and 2 in an effort to get Jefferson on the field as the slot WR, so the move also allowed them to run just 34% three-WR sets, the lowest of any team in Week 3. Playing outside also changed his route tree, per NextGen Stats. 

Jefferson will go at our old pal, Vernon Hargreaves, who we attacked repeatedly while he was in Tampa (26.4% target rate against). Jefferson feels very point-chasey, given no team has needed to pass much against Houston, and Minnesota already passes at such a low volume. That said, it is a good matchup with Adam Thielen in shadow coverage with Bradley Roby (15% target rate against). 

Thielen is getting 7 targets per game because of this low volume. Now he has a competent WR playing opposite in two-WR sets, which puts him back in the 2019 situation when he had Stefon Diggs. He is and will remain very TD dependent, seeing two of Cousins’ four red-zone attempts (3 TDs). Without those TDs, he is averaging just 9.8 FPPG. 

Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith are stuck in a committee situation at tight end, splitting routes and targets. No need to mess around with these guys unless you play the showdown slates. 

Injuries 

Texans

David Johnson has been hurt by negative gamescript and Houston’s low play volume, averaging 14 touches per game. His opportunity share is third-highest, magnifying the lack of play volume. Houston only targeted RBs at a 15% rate last year, and that’s at 14% this season, which is in the bottom three. This offense just doesn’t look to target their backs, which is an issue if we are playing Johnson for it. There is some hope — he ranks second in routes run, averaging 30 per game. The Texans don’t have too many playmakers on offense — they really need to find a way to get him the ball via the pass. The matchup and price for Johnson is so good that I am going to have him on one of my three-max teams on DK (Minnesota has allowed RBs to catch 15 of 18 targets). 

Will Fuller was added to the injury report with the dreaded hamstring, so I will come back to update the Houston passing situation Saturday. Call it a hunch, but it feels like this is the week Deshaun Watson finally breaks out. It’s more than a hunch though, as the Vikings CBs have allowed a ton of production on the right side of the formation. 

Brandin Cooks is popping in our model, which makes sense when looking at this game as a shootout spot combined with his $4.5k salary (Minnesota is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to WRs). 

Randall Cobb is in a similar spot, running 72% of his snaps from the slot. Cobb and Watson have gotten on the same page after he cost us all money on his Week 1 prop. Since then Cobb has hauled in 9 of 10 targets for 154 yards and a TD. 

Minnesota has the sixth-lowest adjusted sack rate and has three bad CBs, which is the perfect recipe for a get-well game for Watson. Pressure is his equalizer, with him being the No. 1 QB in a clean pocket (97.9% completion rate) and 16th under pressure (38.8%). If this OL can protect now that they are done with Kansas City/Baltimore/Pittsburgh, Deshaun should smash. 

Injuries 

CORE PLAYS: Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson/Will Fuller 

GPP ONLY: Brandin Cooks, David Johnson (would be a cash game play in most weeks), Randall Cobb, Kirk Cousins/Justin Jefferson/Adam Thielen stack (MME)

 

New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions

NO -4.5. O/U: 54
NO 29.5 | DET: 24.5

Pace and playcalling

Detroit plays at a solid pace, between 26 and 32 seconds depending on the situation (16th in neutral situations). They passed at a 56.45% rate last week in a win, but turned it up to 66% when down by a field goal or more (33 plays in Week 3) and pass 72% when down at least 3 this season (fourth-highest rate). 

If the Lions were to get ahead, they are going to run (53% when up at least 3, and 50% in limited plays at 7-plus), so we want the Saints to jump ahead so we can get Stafford throwing. 

Saints passed at a 65.52% last week in a shootout loss to GB, but their pass rate plummets to 48% when up by a TD or more (69% pass rate when down at least 3). These are short samples but are logical splits that will hold up. Both of these coaches are more than happy to get a lead and run heavy. 

Saints are similar in pace — nothing dramatic to report, they are going to stay within the league-average pace.

Saints

Everyone who called Drew Brees dead watched the veteran complete 80.6% of his passes for 288-3-0 last week. He was not good/accurate against Vegas, but losing the league’s best WR can have that effect on a QB, and I feel like that was not factored in enough. Brees smartly looked Alvin Kamara’s way on 40% of pass attempts and let him do the rest. Brees is appealing at $5.8k and $7.7k in tournaments. 

Detroit is 31st in pressure rate, allowing 22.5 FPPG to opposing QBs, with Green Bay and Chicago doing most of their damage on the ground (29th in rushing yards percentage allowed), running at the eighth-highest rate against. So again, it is all about the script for Brees and the receiving options — if we get good Matthew Stafford and an aggressive Detroit offense, a discounted Brees could be the nuts. Detroit is 31st in pressure rate, which is a bad combo against Brees, who with time can rip apart a secondary when given time in the pocket to go through his progressions. So far this season, he has a 117.0 passer rating (83.8% adjusted completion rate) when clean and 60.0 under pressure (New Orleans is third in QB pressure allowed). 

Over these past two seasons, while the Saints were operating in this version of the Sean Payton offense, Brees has excelled in games with totals of 53 and above, averaging a ridiculous 27.79 fantasy points per game on DK. When you remove the two games played on grass, it shoots up to 29.94. Another split in his favor: Over his last 32 games, he is averaging 7.97 more fantasy points per game indoors. Most of those are home games, but this is 2020 and there are no fans and we are seeing home field advantage lose its edge. 

Alvin Kamara has been this year’s Christian McCaffrey, catching 22 balls for 234 yards and 2 receiving TDs in two weeks with Michael Thomas out. Those are WR1 numbers, but Kamara also rushed for 19 times for 137 (2 TDs), vaulting him to 36.6 FPPG on DK (RB1), which is 14 FP higher than RB2 Ezekiel Elliot. He is averaging a ridiculous 10.5 yards after the catch (first). His usage rate (opportunity share) is actually down this season, with him losing two carries a game. He picked up 3.5 targets and 2.5 RZ touches per game, which puts him second in weighted opportunity. What (somehow) seems to be going overlooked is the Thomas factor. We only have these two games to look at, but he has a 3.5-target boost without Thomas. If you pull in Kamara’s last two seasons with Thomas, he saw 7.15 targets per game (-4.36 from these last two games). That said, he was still a total badass with Thomas, averaging 20.99 FPPG on DK in their last 33 games together. With Thomas out, he is a lock-button play in all formats. 

With Thomas out again, I think Tre’Quan Smith (9-128-0 on 13 targets) has done enough to get more playing time/targets, making Emmanuel Sanders even harder to use (only 10.5% target share without Thomas).

With Jared Cook out, there are whispers of Josh Hill. But I think it’s Adam Trautman that could surprise — he ran 17 routes and saw two targets after Cook left the game. I am a sucker for a $2.5k TE on DK, so I’m keeping my eye on reports from NO. Per SaintsWire.com, Trautman could be “on the fast track toward a bigger role in the offense.” It makes sense when looking at his profile — he was taken in the third after dominating at Dayton. He was the PFL Offensive Player of the Year when he posted 70-916-14 his senior year.

Lions

Matthew Stafford has not looked like his 2019 self (second in adjusted YPA), going from a league-leading 6.9 deep attempts per game to 2.7 (17th in adjusted YPA). I think a lot has been due to playing without Kenny Golladay, who returned last week to play 74% of snaps (6-57-1). Golladay had a 10.9-yard aDOT last week, compared to 15.2 in 2019. I expect that to keep climbing as he gets in tune. Stafford is $100 more than Brees and $800 more than Ryan Ftizpatrick, who has ranked higher, but he should be in your player pool for stacks if you multi-enter. The Saints so far have faced Tom Brady (22.46 fantasy points), Aaron Rodgers (25.00) and Derek Carr (22.66), leaving them ranked fifth in fantasy points allowed to the position. This has been the deal for a few years — NO has a strong run D (3.68 adjusted line yards) and a good offense, which keeps teams passing (second-highest pass rate against in 2019). 

Marvin Jones is back to his WR2 role. He saw only 3 targets last week, fewer than Danny Amendola and No. 2 TE Jesse James. Jones also has to contend with the running back and TE T.J. Hockenson, who matched Golladay with 7 targets. The second-year TE is the one player in the group with underlying metrics pointing up. He is third in yards per target among all TEs, getting 2.26 fantasy points per target (sixth). We saw the Raiders attack the middle of this defense with Darren Waller on national TV, but you may have missed the Tampa Bay TEs posting 6-47-1 and GB putting up 9-104-2 with Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger and Marcedes Lewis. That makes them the most TE-friendly defense after three weeks at more than 28 fantasy points per game. Hockenson is my favorite Lions player this week, with his snap count shooting up to a season- and career-high 82%. Hopefully, the James troll TD last week will keep people off Hockenson. Detroit played more two-TE sets (up 15% from Weeks 1 and 2), which I am not sure we can count on every week as Golladay rounds back into form. 

Lions RB are a hot mess, changing from week to week with the game in Arizona reaching new levels of madness. Adrian Peterson led the way on 40 snaps (23 touches), then Kerryon Johnson (20 snaps and 4 touches). That left D’Andre Swift, by far their most talented back and this year’s second-rounder, relegated to special teams (never a good sign) and six total snaps. I read from a Detroit beat writer that Matt Patricia is doing this to keep defenses guessing, which if true will also keep us guessing. Avoid this situation like a group of coughing people without masks. 

CORE PLAYS: Alvin Kamara

GPP ONLY: Drew Brees, T.J. Hockenson, Kenny Golladay, Matthew Stafford 

Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins

SEA -6.5. O/U: 54.5
SEA: 31 | MIA: 23.5

Weather

It’s Florida, so there’s no point to worry about it early. That said, there could be thunderstorms, so it’s a situation worth a look Sunday morning. 

Pace and playcalling

Seattle still plays at an annoyingly slow pace (30th neutral, 31st overall), they are just passing more and have been matched up in three high-scoring games which is hiding the same annoying tendencies that have pissed me and everyone else off. They have played 22 snaps down 7-plus and took 37 seconds per play on 11 run plays. Yes, it is still Pete Carroll — Russell Wilson has just been so good and the situations so perfect. When up at least 7, they have passed at a 58% rate, fifth-highest in that scenario this season, which I will concede, but otherwise, same old Seahawks, just with the worst defense they have ever had with Wilson. 

Miami would love to play slow as well (36 seconds with a lead and 31 seconds in neutral, 25th). They pass at a 55% rate overall but turn it up to 65% when behind. The game to look at that is closest to how this one projects, which is Week 2 against Buffalo, when Miami passed at a 69% rate. 

They too have had their pace dedicated by script, snapping the ball at a full 10 seconds per play when trailing by 7 or more. Miami falling behind and unleashing Ryan Fitzpatrick, which would keep Seattle aggressive, is the ideal situation. 

Miami has been a bit lucky, ranking 22nd in points per drive but 12th in yards per drive. In comes Seattle, who is second in points per drive, trailing only Green Bay at over 3 points per drive.  Miami dropped back just 25 times last week in a win against Jacksonville and 52 times in a loss against BUFF. 

Injuries have become such a plague on this season. Seattle brings its struggling secondary into South Beach without safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar. CB Shaquill Griffin is listed as questionable but should play. Jordyn Brooks, who was starting because linebacker Bruce Irvin went on IR, joining fellow starters CB Marquise Blair and defensive end Rasheem Green.

S Lano Hill (back) and cornerback Neiko Thorpe (hip), who both missed last week’s game are also doubtful.

Seahawks

Russell Wilson has only played in four career games with a total over 52 and has slayed in them, averaging 31.56 fantasy points. It is what I call a logical split. The issue with Wilson has always been pace and script, so makes sense he goes off in high total games. Miami is last in YPA allowed, letting QBs complete 72% of their passes (fourth-most fantasy points per game allowed). They got absolutely destroyed by the Bills and Josh Allen, which is the likely outcome here. What makes this matchup even more appealing is the Seattle D, which unlike Buffalo’s is god awful. That should get this one to its lofty game total of 54.5 points. 

I waited until the end of the process to write about Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, since the tilt from Metcalf’s “TD/not a TD” needed all the time it could get to subside. I play one lineup in high stakes, so when your top WR tosses one away it leaves a mark. Being a DFS player, especially in the daily sports (NBA, MLB) takes a relief pitcher mentality. If you give up a big HR, it’s over the second it hits the stands and you are on to the next day. There just isn’t time or energy to focus on the loss. As long as your process was right, take your L and move along. DK was the best WR on the slate, in terms of volume, price, matchup. We can’t let that form a bias that keeps us from playing Metcalf. OK, let’s bury it forever and look ahead to Week 4. 

Metcalf has exactly 4 catches per game, which is living on the edge. But he is just so beastly that his four catches are not equal to a normal four catches, averaging 24.8 yards per catch. He has 3 TDs (should be 4), and none from inside the red zone. He has zero red-zone targets this season compared to 4 for Lockett (3 inside the 10). Metcalf now has TDs in six of eight games, is knocking on the door to the 150-2 TD performance, getting a full target more per game than he did in 2019. Byron Jones is OUT, putting DK in another smash spot against Noah Igbinoghene and Xavien Howard, who does not have the size or speed to hang with the 6-3 superhuman. Howard has shadowed once this season against John Brown, another WR with much better speed, and it yielded 7-57-0 on 8 targets. Igbinoghene is 5-10 (which means 5-9), so has next to no chance to slow down Metcalf. 

Lockett is back to his hyper-efficient routine we saw in 2017-18, catching 83% of targets sent his way this season, plus the increased red-zone usage. Miami is allowing 10 targets per game inside, versus 10 total to both the left and right side. That is where UDFA Jamal Perry hangs out, who along with Nik Needham is in for a long afternoon. The issue with Lockett has always been volume, but now he has 8 targets a game and a top-two matchup, per Jeff Ratcliffe’s WR/CB matchup tool. For those looking to fully fade Seattle, god speed. 

Chris Carson, who left last week’s game with a knee injury, practiced fully Friday. He and Carlos Hyde (also listed as questionable with a shoulder injury but also will play), are the biggest risks to the Seattle passing attack going off. Still, I can’t imagine Carson gets a full workload, and even expect to see Travis Homer on some passing downs, so I am going to be fading these guys outside of some Carson in MME.  

Greg Olsen is also more in the way than anything else at this point, receiving two RZ targets while Metcalf has none. Imagine throwing to a guy with two bad knees when you have a cyborg at WR. He put up a 5-61-0 game on 6 targets last week, but I have no interest. Both Jacob Hollister and Will “the thrill” Dissly are also getting snaps, with Hollister snagging a TD last week on his only target. 

Dolphins

Per Pro Football Talk, the 1,319 passing yards allowed by Seattle are the most in NFL history through three games. I won’t list off all the ways this secondary is awful, because the list is long, but it is like nothing I have ever seen … And now the unit is banged up. One stat I will share, the Seahawks have allowed 16.7 slot targets per game, which is 4.4 more than second-place Atlanta. On DK, they have allowed 79 fantasy points per game, with the next team being Dallas with 53 (I lied, two stats). 

We have seen Ryan Fitzpatrick reach a GPP-level of production in his last two games, hitting 25 and 27 fantasy points. Their offensive line is bad in run blocking again, which is also the strength of the Seattle D (fourth in adjusted line yards allowed). That, along with Wilson going nuts, has Seattle’s opponents passing at the league’s highest rate (over 70.5%). I thought he was going to be the chalk, but Kyle Murray has him around 7%. 

Fitz has a really nice set of pass catchers to work with, especially now that Myles Gaskin has emerged as a solid option out of the backfield. Gaskin creeped into the top-20 in opportunity share after playing a career-high 78.6% of snaps last week. He is running a ton of routes (21.7 per game), peaking at 28 routes in the Buffalo game. His 5 receptions per game is fourth among all RBs (he’s fifth in targets), which should be his role again as a 7-point underdog. The one drawback is that the Dolphins keep using Jordan Howard at the goal line. Howard has a league-leading 8 GL carries, which is just insane. 

DeVante Parker has been OK, averaging 4.5-56.6 and 1-TD in three games (17.7% target share). Miami has a lot more mouths to feed with Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki all active. He will run into Shaquill Griffin, who has been one of the biggest culprits to Seattle’s defensive woes. Teams have averaged almost 7 receptions and 106 yards just against Griffin (20 fantasy points per game allowed in coverage). He is my favorite to stack with Fitz.

Gesicki has run 78% of his routes from the slot, which puts him in the best matchup of the game for any Miami pass catcher. His snap share was annoying last week, as the Dolphins got a lead and went with their blocking TEs —  as, again, Gesicki is a slot WR. That script also knocked Isaiah Ford’s snap share down, but I expect both of them to return to what we saw against Buffalo. Gesicki is a red-zone favorite, scoring in six of his last nine games with Fitz. He gets another bump with Jamal Adams on the shelf.

CORE PLAYS: Ryan Fitzpatrick/DeVante Parker, Russell Wilson (GPP, don’t like to pay up at QB in cash), Mike Gesicki, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Myles Gaskin (prefer on DK)

GPP ONLY: Preston Williams, Chris Carson, Isaiah Ford 

New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams

NYG +12.5. O/U: 47.5
NYG: 16.5 | LAR: 30

Pace and playcalling

This game opened with the Rams as 9.5-point favorites, a number that has skyrocketed up to 12.5. 

These teams offer two contrasting styles, with the Giants passing it at the highest rate this season and the Rams the lowest. Rams are averaging 29.7 PPG (seventh), while the Giants have had a rough go, playing the 49ers, Steelers, and Bears to open 2020, leading to 12.7 points per game. And this week is arguably the worst of those four matchups for the G-Men, which is really saying something. 

Opponents have gotten leads on NYG and then gone run-heavy (fifth-highest rush rate against), which again sets up well for the Rams. 

Giants

Daniel Jones has been under pressure at the sixth-highest rate. LAR is 12th in pass DVOA and 25th in rush DVOA. But Saquon Barkley is on IR and Dion Lewis (two touches for 10 yards), Wayne Gallman 18 snaps (six touches for 14 yards), and Devonta Freeman 15 snaps (five touches for 10 yards) are not the answer. 

Rams

The Giants have faced the seventh-fewest pass attempts but are 24th in yards per attempt (7.9 Y/A) and 25th in yards per completion (11.9 yards) while facing Ben Roethlisberger (in his first start back), Nick Mullens and Mitchell Trubisky. Per DVOA, we want to attack the Giants through the air, with them ranking 30th in pass and eighth in rush DVOA. They have just been run over with volume as a result of losing their last two games in decided fashion. Giants have allowed 153.3 total yards per game to opposing backfields (4 TDs). 

Darrell Henderson has been a top-12 scorer in each of the past two games, averaging 120.5 total yards and game and a TD. Cam Akers is OUT again, setting him up for another big game (11 red-zone touches in two full-time games). 

Malcolm Brown is not dead. He will be active and played 49% of snaps last week, the same as Henderson. That said, Henderson out-touched him 21-7, after doing it 13-11 in Philly. The caution here is script, the 13-11 script was a blow out in Philly. If the Giants fold up shop, do we know Sean McVay is going to keep using the second-year player? Brown is the guy I would use after giving Henderson his career high in touches in order to (almost) pull out a come-from-behind win. If the game gets to that point, it is likely Henderson did some damage, but those saying he is unfadable in GPPs are going a bit far. I am not talking you out of Henderson; I am just playing devil’s advocate about a player that will be popular. Our ownership projections are only showing 8%, but I expect that to be at least 2x by kickoff now that Akers is officially out. 

If I am right about the public gravitating to Henderson, playing a Jared Goff stack is a nice way to get leverage on the field. He is a bit of a pain in the ass to stack, with Tyler Higbee, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp all being studs, and all having the ability to post 100 yards and a couple TDs. 

Woods has already has two solid games with 20 FP on DK but will once again draw the tougher matchup. Again, as I wrote last week, this offense uses so much motion and screens, reverses, close or even behind the line of scrimmage, the CB matchup doesn’t matter as much. He also doesn’t stay outside like a traditional No. 1 WR, lining up inside for more than 40% of snaps. 

CORE PLAYS: Darrell Henderson, Rams D

GPP ONLY: Jared Goff/Tyler Higbee/Robert Woods, Goff/Higbee/Cooper Kupp

Buffalo Bills at Las Vegas Raiders

BUF -3. O/U:51.5
BUF: 27 | LV: 24.5

Bills 

I will add a fuller rundown of this matchup/game after we get clarity about Zach Moss. If he is out again, Devin Singletary becomes close to a lock-button play with the Raiders dead last in adjusted line yards allowed per carry. Singletary played 89% of the team snaps and posted 121 total yards. His downside is tied to Josh Allen’s red-zone prowess. Last week after Singletary was shut out of the end zone, Allen simply called his own number on an RPO and took it in for the score. I talk about this every week, but it is amazing that Allen continues to match Ezekiel Elliott in terms of rushing TDs since the start of 2019. I got burned bad last week trying to chase the better matchup instead of the better player when I stacked John Brown with Allen. Brown was shut out completely after averaging 5-70-1 in his first two games. Instead, it was slot WR Cole Beasley (6-100-1) and Stefon Diggs (4-49-1) who produced and didn’t ruin the Allen stack. 

Diggs and Allen are a solid GPP combo every week, but especially in a juicy matchup with LV in the dome. Diggs should run most of his routes at Trayvon Mullen but will also go inside for about 25% of his snaps to pick on Lamarcus Joyner. With most teams, script is a huge part of the equation for a stack to go off, but the way the Bills are playing, I feel like they are just going to do their thing regardless of the matchup. Diggs has 9.3 targets per game and that is after a down week where Jalen Ramsey was on him for about a third of his routes. 

Raiders

Some of the shine is off Josh Jacobs, making his price and ownership on DK looking mighty attractive. Buffalo has allowed over 5 adjusted line yards a carry and is funneling teams into the run due to a strong pass D. It’s only Josh Allen and the offense that have prevented this rush D from being even more exposed, especially when you consider the Bills have faced the Dolphins and jets, two teams at the bottom of every rush statistic. The one game they were tested was last week against the Rams, where we saw Darrell Henderson and (a little) Malcolm Brown post 160 total yards on 28 touches.

Jacobs has 13 targets in the three games, despite LV winning two of the three. Last week in a game that got away from them in New England, he saw his massive volume (26 carries per game in the first two weeks) plummet to 16 as the Raiders played catchup and used Jalen Richard for a season-high 31% of snaps, sending Jacobs to 58% after he had topped 70% in the first two. 

WRs Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs are OUT, paving the way for Hunter Renfrow to get more target shares in a matchup that already favors slot WR. 

The Bills have allowed plenty of production to the slot so far — 6-110-1 (12 targets) for the Jets, 9-77-0 (10 targets) for the Dolphins, 11-120-1 (14 targets) for the Rams. When lining up the heat maps of Renfrow and the Bills pass D, it’s a perfect fit. The one warning and why I am trepidations to go all in on Renfow is that the Raiders only play in three-WR sets for 55% of snaps, and that was with all their rookie WRs healthy. Nelson Agholor is more of a slot WR (41% slot rate), as is Zay Jones, making this an offense full of slot WRs. I would think the Raiders would go more one- and two-WR sets, which means Renfow loses snaps or lines up outside. Last week in the second half in New England, the Raiders shifted to 56% two-TE sets, leaving Agholor on the field for 88% of snaps compared to 63% for Renfrow. 

After getting the Bill Belichick treatment last week, Darren Waller is projected to be very popular, currently above 20% in our FTN ownership projections. I think that is a bit high, and he is a little low on Renfrow (5%), but we shall see. Ownership projections are more an art than a pure science. We talked about Buffalo getting Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds back a week ago and they certainly helped, holding Tyler Higbee to 2-20-0 a week after he scored three times in Philly. The Bills were also good against opposing TEs last season, and unlike many modern TEs, Waller only lines up in the slot for 5.6% of his snaps. I was all set to be on Waller prior to research, but the combo of high ownership and matchup have me not as high. I will get some exposure, as his volume could be in that 12- to 15-target range which is hard to find at $5.2k. 

CORE PLAYS: Josh Jacobs, Josh Allen/Stefon Diggs, Devin Singletary (cash if no Zack Moss)

GPP ONLY: Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, John Brown

 

 

SUNDAY AM UPDATE

Top Stacks: 

SEA/MIA (Don’t overthink this. Stack it)

NO/DET 

CLE/DALLAS

sneaky stack – BILLS/RAIDERS

 

CASH Core (FD): Fitz – Alvin – Cook – Boyd  – CeeDee – JRob – Hock – Ravens 

CASH Core (DK):  Fitz – Kamara – Mike Davis – Renfrow – Kenny G – Ravens 

 

The guys I have a lot of not in the CASH CORE (3-Max + SE): Stafford, Dak, JRob, Henderson, D. Paker, Will Fuller, Amari, OBJ, SEA Passing/Gaskin, Gesicki, Trautman (DK)

 

Underweight – Lamar, Russ (again, yikes), Nuk, Zeke, Drake, DJ Moore (scary), Keenan Allen, Mike Evans 

Low(er) owned one-offs: Allen, Mark Andrews (so many TEs, using in flex on some teams), Diggs, Jacobs, Robby Anderson, Singletary (keep in flex for late swap if Moss is in), Waller 

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