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Week 5 Game-by-Game DFS Breakdown

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Welcome to the game-by-game DFS breakdown. In this write-up, I’ll walk you through the players, stacks, one-offs, etc., that I’ll be targeting weekly in DFS. My aim here is that you can apply this encyclopedia of stats and my word vomit to a variety of slates with everything from showdown, to cash, and your GPP entries.

With plenty of words ahead to peruse, let’s dive into the action for Week 5. 

Green Bay Packers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

GB -3, O/U 50

Pace and playcalling

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This game sets up to be painfully slow. The Packers and Bengals are 28th and 31st in neutral-script pace. Green Bay is in the middle of the pack (16th, 57.7%) in passing rate, so there are no surprises there. Cincinnati, however, could be changing its tune with some small regression to the 2020 model. Zac Taylor’s offense was still walking in the mud (29th) pace-wise in Week 4, but the team’s passing rate rebounded in a big way. In Weeks 1-3, they only threw on 51.8% (28th) of their plays in close games, but last week that number climbed to 63.8% (sixth). There’s no hope for the pace in this game, but there should be enough passing volume to support the skill players. 

Injuries

Green Bay

  • Kevin King (CB) – (Concussion – LP / LP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • Jaire Alexander (CB) – (Shoulder – DNP / DNP / DNP ) – Status: OUT
  • Aaron Jones (RB) – (Ankle – LP / LP /  ) – Status: No Designation

Cincinnati

  • Chidobe Awuzie (CB) – (Groin – LP / LP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • Joe Mixon (RB) – (Ankle – DNP / DNP / DNP ) – Status: Questionable
  • Tee Higgins (WR) – (Shoulder – LP / LP / FP ) – Status: No Designation
  • Larry Ogunjobi (DT) – (Knee – LP / LP / DNP) – Status: Questionable

Packers

Aaron Rodgers can carve up any defense, but he’s not in play for GPPs this week because of various factors. First and foremost, the Packers’ pace is hurting his ceiling. Over the last three weeks, he has been averaging 31 pass attempts per game, and even if your name is Rodgers, it’s difficult to put up a massive point total with that volume. The Bengals’ defense is also better than we thought they would be entering the season. They are 11th in pass defense DVOA and, more importantly, sixth in red-zone pass defense. Cincinnati has allowed the fifth-fewest passing touchdowns (five) this season. If Rodgers isn’t going to toss for 300 plus, we need him to throw for three or more touchdowns, and this doesn’t look like the spot for it. Considering all of these reasons, his price (QB3 DK $7,100, QB5 FD $8,000) is unjustifiably high this week. 

Last week, Aaron Jones was limited with an ankle issue in every practice. It’s unknown whether this played a factor in AJ Dillon‘s Week 4 workload, but the big fella split the early-down carries with Jones. Jones still held the upper hand in the red zone and passing game, but it bears watching as he’s been limited all week in practice. He’s a difficult player to roster, though, considering the matchup. The Bengals are ranked fifth, fourth, and 11th in adjusted line yards, second-level yards, and open field yards allowed. Per FTN Data, Cincinnati has the fifth-highest stuff rate and is 15th in gash rate. Add in the fact that the Packers’ offensive line has struggled (26th second-level, 28th open-field) to get these backs seams for big plays and that leaves me underweight on Jones this week. Like Rodgers, his lofty price tag (RB5 $7,900 DK, RB5 $8,400 FD) is too much to pay for this matchup.

Week 4 usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Aaron Jones 15 3 4 25
AJ Dillon 15 0 1 10

With Marquez Valdes-Scantling on IR, the Packers featured Davante Adams (39 routes, 59% wide, 41% slot), Allen Lazard (37 routes, 83.8% wide) and Randall Cobb (25 routes, 92% slot) as their starting trio. Adams usage remains elite with 35% of the targets (38% air yard market share) and 41% of the first read targets. He’s also seen a 24% red zone target share. Per our Shadow Index, Awuzie was shadowing in Weeks 1-2 and doing a good job against high-level competition. 

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If Awuzie is able to suit up, look for Adams to see him on the outside (40% LWR) and Mike Hilton when he rotates into the slot (34.1% slot). Awuzie has allowed a 52.6% catch rate and 81.7 passer rating in coverage. Hilton has been the weak link in the Bengals’ pass defense that the Cheeseheads should look to expose. Hilton has allowed an 87% catch rate and 115.4 passer rating. This is why Cobb is the second option for a mini-stack in this game. Last week he saw a 17% target share (22% of the air yards) with one red-zone target. Allen Lazard will start as the outside receiver opposite Adams. Last week he saw a 9% target share. He’ll line up against Trae Waynes for most of the game. In his first game back, Waynes allowed both of his targets to be secured. In his last extended action (2019), he gave up a 70% catch rate and 105.6 passer rating. I doubt time has helped him age gracefully. Lazard is thinner, so I’ll reserve my exposure to showdown. 

Robert Tonyan isn’t in play this week. Tonyan has only seen an 11% target share (16% red zone target share), and with the pace concerns plus the matchup, the ceiling is likely not there. Cincinnati is 16th in DVOA against the position allowing the fourth-fewest receptions (13) and receiving yards (111) to tight ends. 

Bengals

The same concerns surrounding Rodgers exist for Joe Burrow. The Bengals’ molasses pace has stifled his passing attempts. After four weeks he’s averaging a staggering 26.8 pass attempts per game, although because of the pass rate increase last game he did attempt a season-high 32 passes. The Packers are 15th in adjusted completion rate and fifth in yards per attempt (6.4) permitted. This defense has shown some leaks near the goal line though, allowing the fourth-most passing touchdowns (10). Green Bay ranks 30th in red zone passing defense (71% success rate allowed), so this is a spot we can look to for a mini stack or a one-off. Cincinnati is tenth in red zone rushing rate (43.3%), but it’s possible that could be shifting. Last week they threw on 63.1% of their red zone plays. 

The Packers aren’t the most inviting matchup for opposing running backs on the ground. Despite sitting at 22nd in adjusted line yards, they rank 12th and fifth in second-level and open field yards allowed. Opposing running backs have only generated the sixth-lowest yard after contact per attempt (2.0) and eighth-lowest gash rate (7.8%) versus this defensive line. Joe Mixon’s availability is still up in the air because, as we learned the hard way last year, Zac Taylor’s practice reporting can’t be trusted. If Mixon can’t go, we can’t assume Samaje Perine becomes the unquestioned workhorse back. Perine played well last season with 3.13 yards after contact per attempt as a ball carrier, but Chris Evans could factor into the passing downs. We want the targets against a team that is also 11th in red-zone rushing defense (44% success allowed). Green Bay is 24th in DVOA against pass-catching running backs. Unless we get clarity before Sunday that Mixon will be a full go or that Perine will be the three-down back, this is a situation to avoid. 

Full-season usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Samaje Perine 9 0 4 21
Chris Evans 0 0 3 9
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If you’re looking to pair a player with Adams or Cobb for a mini-stack, Ja’Marr Chase or Tyler Boyd are your targets. Chase (59% LWR) will match up with Kevin King for most of Week 5. Chase has handled a 23% target share (46% of the air yards) and leads the receivers with 30% of the first read targets. King has been a matchup to target for years and has allowed an 83.3% catch rate and 158.3 passer rating this year. Stokes has been more challenging, permitting a 52% catch rate and 60.3 passer rating. With Jaire Alexander out, Stokes could slide over to the other side and match up with Tee Higgins. Tyler Boyd is in play regardless. Boyd has commanded a 28% target share, 24% of the first read targets, and a 28% red zone target share. He draws the most favorable matchup outside of King against Chandon Sullivan in the slot. Sullivan has allowed an 87.5% catch rate and 134.1 passer rating this year. Higgins has led the team with a 50% end zone target share and 42% of the red zone targets. If he’s back he’s the least desirable of these three receivers. If Higgins is out, the Bengals will split his role up again as they did in Week 4. Trenton Irwin (14 routes), Mike Thomas (10), and Auden Tate (6) all got into the mix opposite Chase in Week 4. 

This is a good week to go back to C.J. Uzomah in a mini-game stack or showdown. Uzomah crushed last week (5 receptions, 95 receiving yards, 2 scores) and while it might feel like point chasing, the matchup is present for him to pay off again. Last week he saw a 19% target share (15% of the air yards). Green Bay is ranked 28th in DVOA (per Football Outsiders) versus the position. They have conceded the seventh-most receptions (25) and second-most receiving touchdowns (three) to opposing tight ends. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: Davante Adams
GPP only: Randall Cobb, Ja’Marr Chase (if King plays), Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah
Showdown only: Allen Lazard, Chris Evans

Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings

MIN -9.5, O/U 49

Pace and playcalling

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The Lions will be the pace and passing-rate anchor in this game if it stays competitive. Detroit is 20th and 27th (53.3%) in neutral pace and passing rate. The Vikings continue their metamorphosis from caterpillars to high flying pace and passing butterflies. Minnesota is second and sixth (63.2%) in neutral pace and passing rate through four weeks. If the Vikings can build an early lead, the passing volume here could shock people. Anthony Lynn has been willing to cut loose when trailing, ranking ninth (74.1%) in passing rate.

Injuries

DetroitT.J. Hockenson (TE) – (Knee – DNP / LP / LP ) – Status: Questionable

  • Penei Sewell (T) – (Ankle – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Trey Flowers (LB) – (Knee – LP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • D’Andre Swift (RB) – (Groin – LP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Jamaal Williams (RB) – (Hip – LP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable

Minnesota

  • Dalvin Cook (RB) – (Ankle – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Michael Pierce (DT) – (Elbow – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT

Lions

The Lions have been scaling their neutral passing rate back in an attempt to hide Jared Goff. This isn’t the formula we seek for DFS. After Week 1, Goff has fallen short of 21 fantasy points in every game. If the Lions are trailing this week, the passing rate from Detroit could offer some mini-game stack options. 

D’Andre Swift’s dud (12 touches, 49 total yards, zero touchdowns) wasn’t a fun experience, especially after Dan Campbell proclaimed to get him more work. Even after that letdown this week we go back to Swift because the matchup is perfect, and many will shy away after being burned. Yes, Swift will split work with Jamaal Williams, who looms as an early-down specter watching and waiting to poach red zone opportunities, but the reasons to play Swift lie in-game script and receiving ability. The Vikings are a plus matchup on the ground for both backs with the ninth-lowest stuff rate (42.5%) and the 11th highest gash rate (10.4%). That will help Swift with the work he gets on early downs, with Detroit Lions projected as a road dog he should eat in the passing game. The Vikings are 27th in DVOA against short passing and pass-catching backs. Double Detroit running back lineups are viable in showdown, but in GPPs and for the main slate, Swift is the play. 

Full season usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Jamaal Williams  42 12 14 50
D’Andre Swift 41 13 29 110

Quintez Cephus, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond are the starting Detroit wide receivers leading the way. Cephus will run on the perimeter on 87.9% of his routes. Over the last three weeks, he’s seen a 12.3% target share (two red-zone targets). He’ll split routes against both Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler. Peterson has been terrible this year, allowing a 66.7% catch rate and 141.4 passer rating. Dantzler, however, has picked right up where he left off last season, allowing a 33% catch rate and 46.1 passer rating. The two receivers I like the most from the group are St. Brown and Raymond. St. Brown will play from the slot against Mackensie Alexander, who has allowed a 75% catch rate and 106.3 passer rating inside. The Lions made an effort to get St. Brown going last week with a 22% target share (led the receivers). The matchup is right for that to continue. Raymond is coming off a big two-touchdown game last week, and since Week 2, he’s seen 41.3% (18.6% target share) of the team’s air yards. He’ll also spend about 42% of his snaps in the slot. St. Brown and Raymond are viable in a mini or game stack only. 

The matchup is right for Hockenson to have a solid game. The Vikings are 27th in DVOA against the position and have allowed the eighth-most receiving yards (253) to tight ends. Hockenson leads the team in first read share (24%), end zone target share (28%), and red zone target share (23%).

Vikings

Kirk Cousins is in play for GPPs this week. Cousins has posted 25 or more fantasy points in half of his games this season with their top six pace and passing rate in close games. The Lions are atrocious against air attacks ranking 30th in pass defense DVOA. Detroit has conceded the eighth-highest adjusted completion rate (78.8%) and the highest yards per attempt (10.5) by a wide margin. The next closest pass defense in yards per attempt allowed is nearly a full yard (0.9) below them. The Lions have been gashed deep, allowing the eighth-highest deep completion rate (43.5%) and second-most deep passing yards (414). 

Dalvin Cook is off to a terrifying start to the week with back-to-back DNPs. He has stated he is not 100%. If he suits up this week, he could easily see his early-down volume-limited while he absorbs most of the passing-down work. The Lions are an above-average matchup for this ground game. The Lions are 27th and 18th in second-level yards and open field yards allowed, and while those numbers are fantastic, there are some more middling numbers as well. Detroit has the 15th highest stuff rate (47.3%) and the 13th lowest gash rate (9.1%) allowed. Overall, they have allowed the ninth-most rushing yards (531) and third-most rushing touchdowns (6). If Cook comes in as popular, then I’ll be underweight. If he is sub 5%, then I’ll have more interest in GPPs. If Cook is ruled out, I’ll have Alexander Mattison on one of my three-max teams, which will likely match the field. As evident below, Mattison saw a massive workload when Cook was out previously. You can also tell by Ameer Abdullah’s routes and his small inclusion in the passing game last week that there’s a path to this going wrong if Minnesota’s Swiss cheese defense fails them.

Week 4 usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Dalvin Cook 9 2 6 21
Alexander Mattison 10 1 0 8
Ameer Abdullah 0 0 1 4

Week 3 usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Alexander Mattison 26 7 8 19
Ameer Abdullah 5 0 0 14

Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are your main GPP targets in the Vikings’ passing attack. Jefferson has seen a 24% target share (43% air yard share) while leading the team with 30% of the first read targets. Thielen is right behind him with 22% of the targets (29% air yard market share) and is second on the team with a 27% first read share. Jefferson and Thielen will both operate outside on nearly 75% of their routes. Jefferson is running 41.6% as an LWR and Thielen the RWR on 40.7% of snaps. Jefferson will line up across from Amani Oruwariye for most of the game, who has allowed a 68.8% catch rate and 79.9 passer rating. Thielen will match up with Bobby Price, who has given up a 50% catch rate and 84.0 passer rating. K.J. Osborn is in play in MME and large field tournaments if you need the salary. Osborn (65% slot) has seen a 15% target share, but he has no red-zone role (zero red-zone or end-zone targets). He has the best matchup on the board with A.J. Parker in the slot. Parker has permitted an 83.3% catch rate and 154.9 passer rating. Jefferson (28.7% slot) and Thielen (22.2% slot) will also get a few snaps against Parker throughout the game. Jefferson is the priority stacking target as he leads the team in deep targets. Osborn also has two deep targets (Thielen, one). 

Tyler Conklin is also a secondary stacking option in this game. Conklin has a 14% target share and an 18% red zone target share. Conklin has become an integral part of this offense. Among tight ends he’s 11th in routes run (111) and tenth in targets (22). The Lions are 32nd in DVOA against the tight end position. They have allowed the eighth-most receiving yardage (251) on only 19 receptions (17th). If you’re picking between Osborn and Conklin, I lean Conklin for his red-zone role. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: Justin Jefferson, D’Andre Swift
GPP only: Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook (Alexander Mattison if Cook sits), Adam Thielen, Tyler Conklin
Showdown only: Jamaal Williams

Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

PIT -1, O/U 39.5

Pace and playcalling

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The passing rates for both of these teams should be quite good in this game, but the pace for both teams will cap the upside here. Denver and Pittsburgh are seventh (63.2%) and third (65.2%) in neutral passing rates. With Drew Lock taking over for Teddy Bridgewater, the team didn’t shy away from the passing game even last week. In the second half of their game last week, down 17-7, Denver called passing plays on 85.7% of their snaps. As I mentioned, though, both passing attacks will need to be efficient (good luck) because their attempts will have a limited ceiling with their 30th (DEN) and 24th (PIT) rankings in pace. 

Injuries

Denver

  • Teddy Bridgewater (QB) – (Concussion – DNP / LP / FP) – Status: Questionable
  • Melvin Gordon (RB) – (Leg – DNP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Diontae Spencer (WR) – (Chest – DNP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Patrick Surtain (CB) – (Chest – DNP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable

Pittsburgh

  • Cam Sutton (CB) – (Groin – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Chase Claypool (WR) – (Hamstring – LP / LP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • Juju Smith Schuster (WR) – (Ribs – LP / FP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • Cam Heyward (DT) – (Neck – LP / FP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • Chukwuma Okorafor (OL) – (Concussion – FP / FP / FP) – Status: No Designation

Broncos

The Steelers pass defense isn’t what it once was, but I’m still not getting too cute and playing Drew Lock, or Teddy Bridgewater if he plays. Pittsburgh has allowed the 13th-highest yards per attempt (7.5) and eighth-most passing touchdowns, but they have also given up the sixth-lowest adjusted completion rate (71.9%). The Steelers also boast the fifth-best pressure rate (29.7%). Weighing all of this plus also including Denver’s pace concerns, I’ll target this offense for one-offs and nothing more. 

Melvin Gordon has to miss this game for me to want to roster anyone from this backfield. The usage has been too razor-thin, and the matchup is not one we should look to attack. Also factoring in is this could be a Lock-led offense (yuck). Denver’s offensive line has done a tremendous job at getting its backs into space though ranking third in open-field yards. This is huge because the Steelers have been a team over multiple seasons that have been prone to giving up big plays on the ground. This season they are 11th in explosive run rate allowed but 23rd in open field yards allowed. Per FTN Data, they have the ninth-highest stuff rate (49.5%) and the 11th lowest gash rate allowed (8.7%). There’s too much value at the running back spot when all is said and done to consider these backs. 

Full season usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Melvin Gordon 51 10 11 73
Javonte Williams 46 9 9 51

After injuries decimated this receiving depth chart, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and tight end Noah Fant remain to lead this offense. Sutton saw a 22% target share (43% air yard market share) in Week 4 as the team’s field stretcher (17.6-yard aDOT). Sutton has seen 25% of the first read targets and 20% of the red-zone work. Sutton will line up against James Pierre on approximately half his routes. James Pierre would get the start in his sted. Pierre has allowed a 64.3% catch rate and 116.7 passer rating in coverage. Patrick will match up with Joe Haden on the other side of the field. Patrick saw a 16% target share (20% of the air yards) in Week 4. Patrick has garnered 17% of the first read share and 15% of the red zone looks. He’s been the target in the short and intermediate areas of the field (11.6-yard aDOT). Haden has been beatable this season, giving up a 69.2% catch rate and 117.5 passer rating. Patrick or Fant are my primary mini stack targets for Denver. 

Fant led the team with a 27% target share last week and should be the focal point for the Broncos’ passing attack this week. His low aDOT (6.1 yards) is how you beat this defense ranked ninth in DVOA against the deep, but they are 26th against short passing. The Steelers aren’t an insurmountable foe, ranking 15th in DVOA against the position. Fant leads this trio with a 30% red zone target share. 

Steelers

I won’t play Ben Roethlisberger. Nope. You can’t make me against a pass defense ranked seventh in DVOA (per Football Outsiders). No, not against a defensive line with the ninth-highest pressure rate (27.2%). 

Najee Harris also doesn’t make the GPP pool this week. The matchup is brutal no matter how you break it down. The Steelers line ranked 32nd in adjusted line yards and 28th in second-level yards will get mauled all day. The Broncos are seventh, second and first in adjusted line yards, second-level yards, and open-field yards allowed. They have the fourth-lowest explosive run rate and second-lowest gash rates allowed. Harris can’t even call upon his pass game usage here against a team ranked second in DVOA (per Football Outsiders) against pass-catching running backs. Harris is a lock for 17-20 touches in this game. I just don’t expect him to do much with them.

With a low total and an inefficient Steelers offense that is 27th in yards per play (4.9) and 29th in net yards per pass attempt (5.5), the only move is chasing raw volume. That leads us to Diontae Johnson. Johnson is the only receiver I’ll roster from this offense. He’s seen a 31.3% target share (36.3% of the air yards) and is fifth in weighted opportunity among all receivers. He’ll match up with either Patrick Surtain (if he plays) or Kyle Fuller on 93% of his routes on the perimeter. Surtain has allowed a 68.2% catch rate and 88.8 passer rating. Fuller has given up a 56.5% catch rate and 97.9 passer rating. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: N/A
GPP only: Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, Diontae Johnson
Showdown only: N/A

Miami Dolphins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TB -10, O/U 48

Pace and playcalling

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This game might seem like a gross one with the Buccaneers heavily favored and a strong Dolphins’ defense, but it has the highest pace and passing rate ceiling of the entire slate. The Dolphins and Buccaneers rank first and fourth in neutral pace this year. Yes, you might have to reread that to believe it. Both teams sit inside the top five in play volume in competitive game environments. Miami (fifth, 63.4%) and Tampa Bay (second, 67.7%) also reside in the top-five in passing rate in neutral situations. If the Buccaneers run away with the game, Miami will bump up their passing rate (70.2%, 13th). 

Injuries

Miami

  • Will Fuller (WR) – IR – OUT
  • Byron Jones (CB) – (Quad/Achilles – DNP / LP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • DeVante Parker (WR) – (Shoulder – LP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Xavien Howard (CB) – (Shoulder – FP / LP / FP) – Status: No Designation

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dolphins

As bad as the Buccaneers defense has been, I can’t roster Jacoby Brissett this week. With his anemic 4.9 yards per attempt (34th) and 68.0% clean pocket completion rate (28th), his path to upside is impossible to fathom. With the pace and passing rate of this offense against a defense that is 30th in adjusted completion rate (81.1%) and dead last in passing yards (1,355) and passing touchdowns (11), we can find some suitable mini stack and run back options.

OK. Well, lesson learned last week. The Week 3 thinning of the running back herd was a smokescreen. In Week 4, Brian Flores deployed all three backs again with Malcolm Brown’s three-yard slow-mo runs and a cloud of dust leading the way. The Buccaneers run defense is elite no matter what metric you look at. Tampa Bay is second, fifth, and fourth in adjusted line yards, second-level yards and open-field yards allowed. There’s no way I would roster any of these rushers even in showdown. There’s being contrarian, and then there’s paying the rake. 

Week 4 usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Malcolm Brown 8 4 1 10
Myles Gaskin 2 0 0 9
Salvon Ahmed 3 0 2 2

With Will Fuller now out for a few weeks, this passing tree has been trimmed to three main branches. DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki will form the nucleus of this aerial attack in Week 5. With Brissett under center, Parker has led a 22.5% target share and a 41.5% air yard share. He leads the team with two red-zone targets over the last two games. He’ll run 90.5% of his routes on the outside, but the question is who will match up against him this week. The Buccaneers secondary is in shambles. Jamel Dean is iffy to play this week (I’ll continue to update this article as we get more news). Dean has conceded a 50% catch rate and 94.1 passer rating. If he can’t suit up. Parker will rip Richard Sherman and Pierre Desir apart on the perimeter. Fresh off the street, Sherman allowed all eight targets in his coverage last week to be secured with a 117.7 passer rating. Desir is a corner I’ve picked on in DFS for years. Last season he allowed a 75% catch rate and 115.5 passer rating. If Dean misses Parker becomes one of my favorite plays of the entire slate. 

If they both suit up, then I’ll gravitate to Jaylen Waddle (77.4% slot), who is a strong play in his own right. Waddle has a 20.5% target share with Brissett, but his 2020 Deebo Samuel-esque 3.4-yard aDOT means he needs serious volume and possibly a touchdown to crush for us in DFS. He’s a better DK play (where it’s full PPR) than FD or SuperDraft, which are 0.5 per reception, although Waddle’s 1.55 multiplier on SuperDraft is nice. Waddle is in play no matter what the outside corner’s health is for Tampa Bay because we ensure he faces Ross Cockrell. Cockrell is a reception allowing machine giving up a 70.5% catch rate and 125.6 passer rating (two receiving touchdowns). 

Mike Gesicki has a 23% target share (26% air yard share) with Brissett. Over the last two weeks, he’s run a route on 71.7% of Brissett’s dropbacks averaging (nine targets) 7.5 receptions, 71.5 receiving yards with a score. He’s been the TE3 and TE7. He faces a Buccaneers defense that’s 25th in DVOA (per Football Outsiders) against the tight end position. Tampa Bay has allowed the second-most receptions (28) and receiving touchdowns (three) to opposing tight ends. Gesicki is a viable one-off. He’s too cheap across all sites (TE10 $4,200 DK, TE12 $5,600 FD, TE14 1.55 multiplier SD). 

Buccaneers

Tom Brady is one of my favorite quarterback plays of the slate. Brady faces a Miami pass defense that is 30th and 27th in explosive pass rate and deep passing DVOA. Against Andy Dalton, this might not be a big deal, but against the Avocado Assassin, this is a coffin nail. Brady is 10th in deep-ball completion rate (42.9%) and has the third-most deep ball attempts this season. Per FTN Data, Miami has allowed the sixth-highest deep completion rate (47.8%) this season, the fourth-most deep passing yards, but they have yet to allow a deep passing touchdown. That changes this week when Brady torches them at home. 

Leonard Fournette is in play for GPPs, and if Giovani Bernard is out again this week, he will be a core play. 

**Update: Gio Bernard is trending toward playing.**

Last week with no Bernard, Fournette owned the backfield seeing 23 touches and rolling up 138 yards while playing 82% of the snaps. Over the first three weeks of the season, the backfield work was more split up while Fournette still held the majority share. The Dolphins represent a plus matchup on the ground allowing the eighth-highest yards after contact per attempt (2.7) and the ninth-highest gash rate (11.1%). This has culminated in Miami surrendering the sixth-most rushing yards (547) and eighth-most rushing touchdowns (five). Fournette could also get some passing game work, but against a team that’s ranked third in DVOA against pass-catching running backs, you’re playing Fournette for his rushing equity and what he provides otherwise is icing on the cake. 

Week 1-3 usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Leonard Fournette 24 9 14 66
Ronald Jones 15 1 3 18
Giovani Bernard 0 2 15 47

Week 4 usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Leonard Fournette 20 3 5 37
Ronald Jones 6 2 0 5

If Brady goes nuclear this week with deep shots, it will be by feeding Mike Evans and Antonio Brown. In the three games Evans, Brown and Chris Godwin have played together, Brown leads the team with eight deep targets, followed by Evans with five and Godwin with three. In those games, Evans leads the team with a 22.3% target share (28.6% air yard share) and six red-zone targets (tied with Godwin, Brown one). Evans (LWR 46.6%) will run nearly half of his routes against Bryon Jones. Jones has allowed a 55.0% catch rate and a 76.3 passer rating. Brown (49.5% RWR) will operate on the perimeter opposite Evans against Xavien Howard, who has been beatable this season. Brown has seen a 16.6% target share (27.3% air yard market share). Howard has allowed a 60.9% catch rate and 102.4 passer rating this season. Godwin (68.4% slot) has an 18.6% target share and will work inside against Nik Needham. Needham has given up a 64.3% catch rate and 86.6 passer rating. 

With Gronkowski out, Cameron Brate will act as the lead tight end again. Brate matches up  against a defense ranked 20th in DVOA (per Football Outsiders). Miami has allowed the second-most receiving touchdowns to tight ends (three). Last week Brate ran 31 routes (O.J. Howard, 15) with a 14% target share. Brate has a red zone target in each of his last three games. He’s viable in a Brady stack if Gronkowski sits.

DFS Plays

Core plays: Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown
GPP only: Cameron Brate, Leonard Fournette
Showdown only: N/A

New Orleans Saints vs. Washington Football Team

NO -2, O/U 43.5

Pace and playcalling

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The Washington Football team will be weighed down by the tortoise that is the New Orleans Saints offense. Sean Payton continues to play slow and lean on the ground game to an extreme. The Saints’ former high-flying ways aren’t on life support. They are dead. This team sits at 32nd in neutral pace and passing rate (42.6%). This team has been a massive disappointment on the offensive side of the ball. Washington’s passing rate (19th, 55.9%) won’t blow you away, but their pace (fifth) should offer enough in the way of volume to carry their skill players. 

Injuries

New Orleans

  • Erik McCoy (OL) – (Calf – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Terron Armstead (OL) – (Elbow – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT

Washington

  • Dyami Brown (WR) – (Knee – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Antonio Gibson (RB) – (Shin – DNP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Curtis Samuel (WR) – (Groin – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Brandon Scherff (OL) – (Knee – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Cam Sims (WR) – (Hamstring – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • J.D. McKissic (RB) – (Ankle – LP / FP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • Benjamin St. Juste (CB) – (Concussion – LP / FP / FP) – Status: No Designation

Saints

Anyone contemplating playing Jameis Winston this week, please let me stop you right there. No. He’s not in play. Winston has averaged 21.5 passing attempts per game this year as Sean Payton tries to play keep away from the opposing teams. The Washington secondary has struggled. There’s no doubt about that, but unless we’re projecting another five-touchdown performance on 20 passing attempts, you can’t roster Winston this week. The Saints missing Erik McCoy and Terron Armstead possibly will severely hinder their blocking as well. New Orleans is allowing the tenth highest pressure rate (28.0%) this season. Now they get a defensive front blitzing at the sixth-highest rate (30.9%) and generating pressure at the 10th-highest rate (27.0%). This is going to be an ugly game. 

Alvin Kamara won’t make my single-entry or three-max builds this week. This week he’s only worth sprinkling in MME. This year, the Saints’ offensive line has been underperforming, ranking 22nd and 31st in second-level yards and open-field yards. Add in the injuries, and this is a recipe for disaster against a Washington front that ranks eighth, ninth and 16th in adjusted line yards, second-level yards and open-field yards, respectively. The Football Team has the seventh-highest stuff rate and ninth-lowest gash rate this year. Anyone pointing to Washington’s 31st ranking in DVOA against pass-catching backs also needs a tablespoon of context. First, Kamara’s pass game role dried up to nothing last week, and he didn’t even record one target. Second, Washington’s ranking is more variance than signal. In Weeks 1-2, they held Austin Ekeler targetless and Saquon Barkley to two receptions (three targets) and 12 receiving yards. Yes, they have allowed five receiving touchdowns to opposing running backs, but four of those came against the Falcons with Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis getting in the end zone. This defense has shut down other elite receiving backs to prove that in a four-game sample, only one disastrous showing should not lead us down the path of touting their defense as one to target. 

I won’t be rostering any pass-catchers from the New Orleans Saints passing attack. Marquez Callaway is the only receiving option with above a 15% (15.5%) target share, but that’s not saying much. Callaway has one game with more than four targets (five) and 41 receiving yards (74 yards). This passing attack is on life support right now, and while the matchup is good, I don’t believe Payton breaks the mold and lets Winston start slinging the rock around in Week 5. 

Football Team

Taylor Heinicke had himself a day against the Falcons last week. This isn’t a week to go back to him though. The Saints are sixth in pass defense DVOA allowing the 11th-lowest adjusted completion rate. Yes, they have also allowed the eighth-most passing yards (1,178), but it’s been ugly volume. New Orleans has seen the fourth-highest passing attempts (164) in the NFL because their stout run defense has forced teams to take to the sky. The Saints secondary is allowing the 12th-lowest yards per attempt (7.1). Heinicke will be forced to throw this week, but he’s more likely to end up with a solid yet unspectacular stat line. 

Banged-up versions of Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic are easy fades on this slate. The Saints rank fourth, third and sixth in adjusted line yards, second-level yards and open-field yards. While Gibson and McKIssic have had their share of big plays this season, the Saints likely won’t allow any highlight-reel carries this week. New Orleans has allowed the third-lowest explosive run rate through four games. The Saints are 14th in DVOA against pass-catching backs, so there’s a path to productivity there. Their production in that area came via Christian McCaffrey (five receptions, 65 receiving yards) and Saquon Barkley (five receptions, 74 receiving yards). Barkley can attribute a large chunk of his production to one play (54 receiving yards) that came late in the fourth quarter. There are too many good spots to attack to at the running back position this week to go here. 

The entire Washington receiving depth chart is dealing with injury outside of Terry McLaurin. McLaurin is likely the only player I’ll look to in this game, and he’s a viable one-off this week. McLaurin is seventh in target share (29.5%) and air yard market share (44%) among all wideouts. This week he’ll run about 72% of his routes on the perimeter against Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo. Lattimore has allowed a 52.6% catch rate and 83.9 passer rating. Adebo has been playing like a rookie so far, allowing a 67.7% catch rate and 121.0 passer rating. Curtis Samuel isn’t starting the week right with a DNP after playing only 37% of the snaps (four targets last week) in his first game back. With all the depth chart injuries, Adam Humphries could see more looks this week, though. This season, Humphries has an 11.7% target share, playing 77.8% of his snaps from the slot. He’ll match up with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who has allowed a 68.8% catch rate and 91.9 passer rating. The Saints have allowed the sixth-highest completion rate to first reads (73.2%). McLaurin leads the team (37%) in this metric, and Humphries is third (12%), but with a beaten-up depth chart that could change in Week 5. 

The Saints are fifth in DVOA against the tight end position this season after ranking second last year. With Logan Thomas out, I’ll be avoiding all Washington tight ends on this slate. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: Terry McLaurin
GPP only: Alvin Kamara (large field, MME)
Showdown only: Adam Humphries

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Carolina Panthers

CAR -3, O/U 45

Pace and playcalling

The Philadelphia Eagles continue to do things we love for DFS. Philadelphia is third and eighth (63.6%) in neutral pace and passing rate. With Jalen Hurts‘ mobility, these numbers offer him a high weekly floor and massive slate-breaking ceiling. The Panthers have defied their continued disappointing pace (29th) and passing frequency (25th, 54.1%) with efficiency. Carolina is 12th in net yards gained per pass attempt (7.1) and 13th in total yards (1,550). Last week against a team in Dallas that could push them all game, the Panthers did increase their passing rate to 58.5% in neutral script. This week that showing offers hope against a Philadelphia offense that’s ranked fifth (6.5) in yards per play. 

Injuries

Philadelphia

  • Lane Johnson (OL) – (Personal – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT

Carolina

Eagles

The matchup doesn’t look pretty for Jalen Hurts on papers, but diving deeper, I do want some exposure to him in GPPs. The Panthers are fifth in pass defense DVOA, but when your first three games come against Zach Wilson, Jameis Winston and Davis Mills, it’s possible your defensive stats can get fluffed. Dak Prescott completed 63.6% of his passes last week with 8.5 yards per attempt. The only reason he didn’t melt this secondary down is he only threw the ball 22 times. Not only does Hurts’ rushing offer him a ceiling against a team that is now 20th in explosive run rate allowed, but he can access a passing ceiling via play-action. This year, Carolina’s defense against play-action has been good overall, but again we need to remember the quarterbacks they have faced. In Week 4, Prescott featured play-action on 36% of his dropbacks completing all eight passes for 10.8 yards per attempt and two of his four passing touchdowns. This season Hurts is 11th in yards per attempt (10.1) on play-action tosses (25.9% of his dropbacks) with the fifth-most play-action passing yards in the NFL (413). Hurts has QB1 overall upside in any given week. I want exposure to that. 

The Eagles have skewed heavily toward the passing game in neutral scripts, with the eighth-highest pass rate (63.0%) this season and the second highest (71.4%) over the last two weeks. This has rendered Miles Sanders useless in DFS. His early-down role has evaporated with only nine rushing attempts over the last two games. Sanders still leads Kenneth Gainwell in routes (52 vs. 34) over the last two games, but he’s losing the target share battle (six targets vs. 10). He’s been staying in more to pass block (16.2%) versus Gainwell (9.5%). In Weeks 3-4, Gainwell is third on the team in target share (14.5%) and second in red-zone targets (three). If you’re looking to stack this game, Gainwell is in play against a defense ranked 29th in DVOA against receiving backs (per Football Outsiders). Carolina allowed the third-most receptions (93) and 11th-most receiving yards (629) to backs last year. 

DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor are still the only full-time receivers in this offense, with Quez Watkins splitting slot snaps with Greg Ward. Smith still sports elite numbers across the board with a 23.2% target share and 44.5% air yard market share. He’ll run over half of his routes as the LWR against Donte Jackson, who has given up a 68.3% catch rate and 104.9 passer rating. If you’re only single-stacking Hurts, it needs to be with Smith. Reagor still has a 15.7% target share this season, but he’s seen the passing game move away from him over the last two weeks (11.5% target share). That could be rectified this week against C.J. Henderson or Rashaan Melvin. It’s unclear if Henderson will take over the full LCB duties this week after splitting with Melvin in Week 4. Henderson has been wretched this year, allowing an 85.7% catch rate and 158.3 passer rating. Melvin hasn’t been much better, allowing a 71.4% catch rate and 96.1 passer rating in coverage. Reagor is in play, but considering his target share, he’s not a must and more viable in showdown or a game stack. 

Dallas Goedert (61 routes) and Zach Ertz (59 routes) continue to split routes over the last two games and are a coin-flip decision. If picking one, my small lean is Ertz, who is second on the team in first read share (16%) and quietly leads the team in red-zone targets (four) since Week 3. The Panthers are 16th in DVOA (per Football Outsiders) against the tight end position, so anyone outside of Smith is game stack only. 

Panthers

Sam Darnold crushed last week in DFS, but I’m not going back to him this week, especially since Christian McCaffrey could be back. The Eagles are not a bad matchup for opposing passers, allowing the second-highest adjusted completion rate (81.5%) and highest first read completion rate (76.0%). They have also conceded the 12th lowest yards per attempt (7.1). Carolina’s low pace and passing rate will limit Darnold because his outlandish rushing touchdown pace (five) won’t continue. The Panthers will also look to run the ball in close more if McCaffrey is back. Weeks 1-2, they called running plays on 45% (ninth) of their plays inside the 20. Over their last two games, they have passed on 66.6% (11th) of their plays in the red zone. 

If McCaffrey is back, he walks into a smash matchup against Philadelphia. 

**Update: Christian McCaffrey is doubtful. This doesn’t change my thoughts on Chuba Hubbard.**

The Eagles have allowed the second-most rushing yards (601) in the NFL. Per FTN Data, they have the third-lowest stuff rate and fourth-highest gash rate. If he’s healthy enough to play, then I’ll be treating him like the same player that averaged 29.5 touches and 26.2 DK points (22.7 FD) per game over the first two weeks. If McCaffrey sits, I won’t be rostering a Carolina running back. Last week confirmed Chuba Hubbard fans’ worst fear: The backfield dissolved into a three-way committee, with Hubbard losing a handful of carries to Royce Freeman and the routes to Rodney Smith

Week 4 backfield usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Chuba Hubbard 13 1 2 10
Royce Freeman 3 0 0 6
Rodney Smith 0 0 5 20

DJ Moore SZN continues in Week 5. Moore is a core play. He is sixth in target share (30.5%) and 14th in air yard market share (38.2%) among all receivers. He’ll line up over 80% of his routes on the outside against Darius Slay and Steven Nelson. Slay is conceding a 63.6% catch rate and 105.5 passer rating. Nelson is giving up a 72.2% catch rate and 122.5 passer rating. The Eagles are playing zone on ~62.5-63.6% of their snaps. Moore leads the team in targets (14) against zone and yards per route (2.98) against the coverage with a 71.4% catch rate. 

Robby Anderson is also rosterable for GPPs. The Panthers made good on their word to get him involved again with a 28% target share (40% air yard market share) in Week 4. Anderson will play on the perimeter on about 70% of his routes and move into the slot for the remainder against Avonte Maddox. Maddox has allowed 71.4% of the targets in his coverage to be secured with a 107.1 passer rating. Terrace Marshall is off the DFS radar until he begins to see consistent volume (currently 12.5% target share). 

Captain Fitbit (Ian Thomas) and Tommy Tremble split routes last week, with Thomas leading the way 23 versus 18. They drew four targets combined with Thomas seeing one in the red zone. Neither are on the radar as this offense runs through the backfield and its wide receivers. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: DJ Moore
GPP only: Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Kenneth Gainwell, Robby Anderson, Christian McCaffrey (if he plays)
Showdown only: Zach Ertz

Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

TEN -4.5, O/U 48.5

Pace and playcalling

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The Jaguars have remained a top-10 team (seventh) in neutral pace. They face a Tennessee team below average (18th) in play volume in close games this season. In the FTN pace tool, I was surprised that Jacksonville has dropped off the map in terms of passing rate over the last two weeks (28th, 44.7%). This makes my early week thoughts of a Trevor Lawrence stack less appealing. Ryan Tannehill continues to try and make the most out of his 54.1% passing rate (24th) in neutral script. Overall, this game could disappoint despite the healthy total. 

Injuries

Tennessee

  • A.J. Brown (WR) – (Hamstring – LP / FP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • Julio Jones (WR) – (Hamstring – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Taylor Lewan (OL) – (Toe – DNP / DNP / FP) – Status: Questionable
  • Racey McMath (WR) – (Quad – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Bud Dupree (WR) – (Knee – LP / FP / FP) – Status: Questionable

Jacksonville

  • Tyson Campbell (CB) – (Toe – LP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable

Titans

The matchup for Ryan Tannehill is enticing, but sadly the upside for GPPs isn’t there unless A.J. Brown and/or Julio Jones suit up. Brown is trending in the right direction though, so we’ll reevaluate after final injury designations are known. The Jaguars are 32nd in pass defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders). They have given up the third-most passing yards (1,283), second-most yards per attempt (9.6), and sixth-highest first read completion rate (72.9%). Tannehill has only one game (Week 3, 21.4) with more than 20 fantasy points this season. If Brown does play it’s possible to get most of Tannehill’s production through the air by just playing Brown. 

The weekly dilemma to play the Big Dog or not continues. Derrick Henry has opened this season on a ridiculous tear, averaging 31.8 touches, 158.8 total yards and a touchdown per game. Fading Henry has not gone well through four weeks outside of Week 1. The reasons to fade him are present again this week. Jacksonville has been a top-shelf run defense this season, ranking 13th, sixth and second in adjusted line yards, second-level yards and open-field yards allowed. The Jaguars have also allowed the lowest explosive run rate and third-lowest gash rate in the NFL. Henry saw his routes per dropback decrease last week (Weeks 1-3, 42.8%) to 33.3% as Jeremy McNichols ran more routes than him (32 vs. 19). McNichols drew an absurd 10 targets, so we’ll need to see if that continues and Henry’s early-season target share evaporates. Henry is in play for GPPs again, but depending where his roster percentage comes in at I will probably find myself underweight. 

With A.J. Brown back, then the answer for this passing attack is to play Brown and walk away. In Weeks 1-2, Brown had a 22.5% target share (36.5% air yard market share). He’ll face Shaquill Griffin and Tyson Campbell on approximately 72% of his routes if he suits up. Griffin has moved around the formation weekly depending on matchups allowing a 63.6% catch rate and 86.4 passer rating in coverage. Campbell has been a fantasy point spewing machine allowing an 80.8% catch rate and 131.6 passer rating. Brown has also seen slot time (27.9%), so he will get a handful of targets against Tre Herndon, who has given up an 87.5% catch rate and 157.3 passer rating. Brown can smash.

Anthony Firkser is viable in a game stack or showdown. Last week the thesis was correct, as he ran a route on 71.9% of Tannehill’s dropbacks, but he only saw a 10% target share (one red-zone target). The Jaguars are a team to target again with tight ends this season. They rank 30th in DVOA against the position allowing the tenth-most receiving yards (245) and second-most receiving touchdowns (three). 

Jaguars

The Titans are a plus matchup for Trevor Lawrence and the passing attack. Tennessee ranks 25th in pass defense DVOA and has permitted the 10th-most passing yards (1,123), seventh-highest yards per attempt (8.3) and eighth-most passing touchdowns (eight). The passing rate concerns for Lawrence and Tennessee’s ability to pressure leaves him out of my GPP quarterback group this week. The Titans rank 12th in pressure rate, and Lawrence is 29th in pressured completion rate. Lawrence is 10th (17) in quarterback hurries. 

Last week, Carlos Hyde was a surprise inactive after showing up sore, and James Robinson reprised his 2020 role with 19 touches, and 95% of the snaps played. We’ll have to see if Hyde will be riding the pine again, but if that’s the case, Robinson is too cheap on DK (RB15, $6,000). The matchup is not pretty for Robinson against Tennessee, who has allowed the fifth-lowest explosive run rate and 11th-fewest rushing yards (314). The Titans have allowed the seventh-most rushing touchdowns (four) and rank 27th in red zone rushing defense, allowing successful plays on the ground 70% of the time. 

With D.J. Chark’s injury, the target tree has been narrowed to Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault as the prime targets. Jones has been the go-to receiver for Lawrence this season with a 22% target share, 28% first read share, and 80% of the end zone targets (44% red zone share). Jones will run around 73% of his routes against Janoris Jenkins (45%) and Chris Jackson (28% slot). Jenkins has allowed a 70% catch rate and 107.6 passer rating. Jackson has given up an 88.9% catch rate and 107.6 passer rating in coverage. Shenault will run nearly 70% of his routes from the slot against Jackson. Last week after Chark went down with an injury, Shenault stayed in the slot instead of moving outside. Shenault has a 19% target share and 11% of the red zone targets this season. If you’re picking one receiver for a mini-stack in this game, it’s Jones, hands down. Tavon Austin entered three-wide sets in Chark’s place after the injury. He’ll be sacrificed on the opposite side of Jones to Kristian Fulton. Fulton has been a tough assignment all season, allowing a 37.5% catch rate and 71.7 passer rating. 

The Jacksonville tight end situation was a mess in Week 4 with the arrival of Dan Arnold. Arnold (11 routes), Luke Farrell (4), Jacob Hollister (4) and Chris Manhertz (7) all got in on the action. Maybe Arnold takes over primary duty in his second game with the team, but that’s impossible to forecast, and with the decreasing passing rate, it’s just too thin of a play. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: Derrick Henry (cash), Marvin Jones
GPP only: A.J. Brown (if he suits up; Josh Reynolds if he’s out), Derrick Henry, Laviska Shenault 
Showdown only: Anthony Firkser

New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans

NE -9, O/U 39.5

Pace and playcalling

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This game will be as disgusting as the low total implies. The pace will be average, as New England and Houston are 17th and 15th in neutral pace. The Patriots are shockingly first in neutral passing rate (69.7%). Even if you look to this passing game for plays, the biggest question is how long this will be a neutral game environment for those receiving options to pay off. Once New England gains a sizable lead, they’ll lean on the run (59.5% positive script rushing rate, 14th). The Texans are doing everything in their power to hide Davis Mills by passing on only 52.2% (28th) of their plays when the score is close. They do, however, ramp up the passing rate once down (tenth, 66.6%). 

Injuries

New England

  • Trent Brown (OL) – (Calf – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Shaq Mason (OL) – (Abdomen – LP / LP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Kyle Van Noy (LB) – (Groin – DNP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Jonathan Jones (CB) – (Neck – LP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Jalen Mills (CB) – (Hamstring – LP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable

Houston

  • Rex Burkhead (RB) – (Hip – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Danny Amendola (WR) – (Thigh – LP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable

Patriots

The Houston Texans pass defense is ranked eighth in DVOA, but that’s slightly misleading. They have allowed the eighth-most yards per attempt (8.1) and 12th-most passing yards (1,105) while facing 136 passing attempts (20th). Part of the reason why is because their run defense has been so bad. Houston is ranked 31st in rush defense DVOA. Despite New England’s interesting passing rate, Mac Jones doesn’t make the cut. He’s yet to surpass 16 fantasy points in any game this season, and this particular one could get out of hand fast and nerf the passing game. 

**Update: The Patriots offensive line is extremely banged up. I wasn’t high on Harris to begin with and I’m still not.**

The game script and matchup are set up well for this to be a Damien Harris game. Houston has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards (548) and most rushing touchdowns (eight). Per FTN Data, the Texans have the seventh-lowest stuff rate (41.4%) and have surrendered the seventh-highest gash rate (12.9%). New England’s vaunted offensive line is banged up and hasn’t been playing up to their potential, ranking 30th in adjusted line yards and second-level yards. Harris has not been an explosive runner, ranking 48th in evaded tackles and 52nd in juke rate, but he could get there on pure volume in this matchup. If he runs for 100 yards with 1-2 scores, he’ll pay off as a value across every site (RB24 $5,500 DK, RB19 $6,500, 1.55x on SuperDraft). Harris is also coming off a game in which he tied a season-high with 13 routes. Anything he does in the passing game should be considered icing on the cake. 

The only interesting passing game options from this game for the Patriots are Jakobi Meyers and Jonnu Smith. Meyers has easily been their leading receiver with a 25.2% target share (32.7% air yard share). Meyers will play around 72% of his snaps from the slot matching up with Desmond King. King has been a travesty in slot coverage allowing a 77.8% catch rate a 127.8 passer rating. Smith faces a Houston pass defense ranked 29th in DVOA against the tight end position. 

Texans

Brandin Cooks. That is the only name worth taking the time to type for the Texans. Cooks leads wide receivers in target share (37.7%) and air yards market share (57.5%). These high marks can lead to 100-plus yard outings like Weeks 1 and 3 or middling performances like Week 4 (seven targets, five receptions, 47 scoreless yards). It’s likely the latter against a New England pass defense ranked second in DVOA, but if you’re looking for a mini-stack correlation with Harris or Meyers, then your only option is Cooks. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: N/A
GPP only: Damien Harris, Jakobi Meyers, Brandin Cooks
Showdown only: N/A

Chicago Bears vs. Las Vegas Raiders

CHI -5.5, O/U 44.5

Pace and playcalling

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The Bears’ pace and passing rates take the aerial game out of the equation as a GPP stacking option. Chicago has ranked 31st in neutral script pace with Justin Fields under center. Even last week, with Bill Lazor taking over playcalling, the passing rate bottomed out to comical levels. Chicago only threw the ball on 23.5% of their neutral-script plays. That is so insane I had to check it multiple times. The Raiders, on the other side, have looked nothing like the Raiders of old. Currently, Las Vegas is 13th and fourth (64.2%) in neutral pace and passing rate.

Injuries

Chicago

  • Akiem Hicks (DL) – (Groin – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: Doubtful
  • Khalil Mack (LB) – (Ribs/Foot – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • David Montgomery (RB) – OUT (Knee)
  • Darnell Mooney (WR) – (Groin – LP / LP / FP) – Status: No Designation

Las Vegas

  • Johnathan Abram (S) – (Shoulder – LP / LP /  ) – Status: No Designation
  • Damon Arnette (CB) – (Groin – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Peyton Barber (RB) – (Toe – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Josh Jacobs (RB) – (Ankle – LP / FP / FP) – Status: No Designation
  • Trayvon Mullen (CB) – (Toe – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT

Bears

Justin Fields isn’t even in the same area code of my GPP player group unless things drastically change with Chicago’s offensive design. The pace and passing rate are strangling him. The mobility of Fields has also been handcuffed with six rushing attempts total in his two starts. As Chicago’s starter, he has 37 total pass attempts and 11.1 total fantasy points in his two games. I can’t believe I even just typed that. I’m distraught now. 

While Chicago’s steadfast approach to establishing it has bludgeoned the passing attack, this is good news for the ground game. David Montgomery was the workhorse back in this backfield before the injury, and now that mantle belongs to Damien Williams. Williams is the chalk you should eat across every site (RB21 $5,600 DK, RB28 $5,800 FD, 1.55x SuperDraft). The Raiders are that juicy of a matchup. Las Vegas is allowing the second-highest explosive run rate. They have given up the tenth-most rushing yards (529) and fourth-highest gash rate per FTN Data. Williams should also have a productive day through the air on check-downs versus a team that is 22nd in DVOA versus receiving backs that have allowed two receiving touchdowns (third-most) to backs. 

Week 4 backfield usage

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Damien Williams  8 3 2 8
Khalil Herbert 3 0 0 0

Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson are the only passing-game options to consider with this low-volume passing attack. In Fields’ two starts, Mooney has seen a 30.5% target share (39.5% air yard market share). He’ll run around 37% of his routes (RWR) against Casey Hayward, around 35% against Nate Hobbs in the slot. Hayward has been shutdown this season, allowing a 38.5% catch rate and 46.6 passer rating. Hobbs has been an easier matchup allowing an 86.7% catch rate and 90.0 passer rating. Robinson has a 24% target share with a 30.5% air yard share with Fields. He’ll match up with Amik Robertson on the outside on ~38% of his routes. Robinson can smash Robertson if he draws the start, which has allowed a 90.9% catch rate and 151.3 passer rating in his career. Robinson will also slide inside for ~35% of his routes out of the slot against Hobbs.

Cole Kmet can’t be rostered with the passing volume as it stands. He has a 19% target share over the last two games. Las Vegas has allowed the eighth-lowest receiving yardage total (141) to opposing tight ends. 

Raiders

Derek Carr and this Raiders passing attack are sneaky targets for GPPs. The Bears’ pass defense is ranked 10th in DVOA, but they’re frauds. They can be beaten deep, ranking 22nd in DVOA against the deep ball. They have allowed the fifth-highest yards per attempt (8.5) and have permitted the 10th-highest first read completion rate (69.6%). Since Matthew Stafford shredded this defense in Week 1, completing 76.9% of his passes for 321 yards and three scores, they have faced a run-heavy Bengals team, Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield. Carr likely won’t make my three-max builds, but I’ll have him on one team if I run 5-10 lineups. 

I won’t be rostering Josh Jacobs this week. The Raiders’ offensive line has been terrible at run blocking, ranking 28th in adjusted line yards and 29th in second-level yards. The matchup is not overwhelmingly bad for Jacobs, as the Bears rank 16th in explosive run rate allowed and have the 11th-lowest yards after contract per attempt allowed (2.25). The huge problems for Jacobs are his line and his health. He doesn’t look like a fully healthy player, and the numbers bear this out. Last week in a beautiful matchup, he had only 2.0 yards after contact per attempt (13 carries) and forced only two missed tackles. If the Raiders win this game, it will be because of their passing game. 

Henry Ruggs and Darren Waller are the primary stacking options here with Carr. Ruggs will run about 31% as the RWR, 36% of his route from the slot. These are the best matchups on the board against Chicago. Ruggs has a 16.5% target share and leads the team in air yard market share with 31%. He also leads the team in deep targets (eight), followed by Waller (seven). On the perimeter, Ruggs will line up against Kindle Vildor. When he moves into the slot, Duke Shelley will try and contain him. Vildor has allowed a 75% catch rate and 156.3 passer rating. Shelley has conceded an 84.2% catch rate and 102.4 passer rating. Hunter Renfrow is also mini stack viable (or showdown) if you’re looking to save salary. Renfrow has a 19% target share and is a distant fourth in deep targets (three), but he too can eat Shelley alive. Bryan Edwards is the lone person left out in the cold in this game. He has lined up as the LWR on about 45% of his routes, which is a coffin nail in this game against Jaylon Johnson. Johnson plays RCB (82.3%) almost exclusively as the Bears don’t move their corners around. He’s allowed a frightening 42.1% catch rate and 42.7 passer rating. 

Waller is a main cog in the passing game with his 24% target share, role in the deep passing game, 50% end zone target share, and 40% red-zone target share. The Bears ranked 19th in DVOA against the tight end position last year. They allowed the sixth-most receiving yards (932) and third-most receiving touchdowns (12) to the position. This year they held T.J. Hockenson to four receptions (eight targets) and 42 scoreless yards, but Tyler Higbee had five grabs (six targets) and 68 receiving yards. Waller is easily the most talented tight end they have faced yet in 2021. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: Damien Williams (Cash/GPP), Darren Waller
GPP only: Derek Carr, Hunter Renfrow, Henry Ruggs, Allen Robinson
Showdown only: N/A

Cleveland Browns vs. Los Angeles Chargers

LAC -2, O/U 47

Pace and playcalling

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For the second week in a row, Cleveland faces a team that is a stark contrast to their offensive philosophy. The Browns are 26th in neutral pace and sport the NFL’s third-highest rushing rate (48.4%) in close games. The Chargers are 12th and ninth (62.8%) in neutral pace and passing rate. 

Injuries

Cleveland

  • Jadeveon Clowney (DE) – (Elbow – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Jack Conklin (OL) – (Knee – LP / LP / LP) – Status: No Designation
  • Troy Hill (CB) – (Toe – DNP / LP / LP) – Status:  Questionable
  • Greg Newsome (CB) – (Calf – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • David Njoku (TE) – (Knee – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • JC Tretter (OL) – (Knee/Back – DNP / DNP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Denzel Ward (CB) – (Neck – DNP / LP / LP) – Status: Questionable
  • Jedrick Wills (OL) – (Ankle – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: Questionable

Los Angeles

  • Chris Harris (CB) – (Shoulder – LP / FP / FP) – Status: Questionable

Browns

Baker Mayfield and his partially torn labrum aren’t playable in DFS. Last week he displayed why, completing only 45.4% of his passes against a burnable Minnesota secondary. He missed on multiple passes throughout the game. 

It’s Week 5 and I sit here and contemplate going back to Nick Chubb with the ever-looming and more productive Kareem Hunt hanging around. After a short thought collection period watching the cursor blink … yep, I’m going to roster Chubb in GPPs this week. Looking at the breakdown below Hunt has run hot. Chubb has hit a dry spell — despite seeing 22 and 21 carries the last two weeks, he hasn’t managed to convert on any of his red-zone chances. With Mayfield hindering this offense, the Browns could look to lean on the backfield and more specifically Chubb in a get-right spot. This isn’t to say Hunt isn’t a viable GPP play, because he definitely is. I’ll ride with a player that I think has a higher ceiling this week though in Chubb. 

Chubb has continued as one of the best pure rushers in the NFL this season. Among rusher with at least 10 carries, he’s fifth in yards after contact per attempt (3.49), third in runs of 10-plus yards (10) and leads the NFL in missed tackles forced (18). Now he gets a Chargers run defense that’s 25th in second-level and open-field yards. They are also 24th in explosive run rate allowed and are allowing the fifth-highest gash rate (13.4%).

Weeks 1-4

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Nick Chubb 69 17 4 49
Kareem Hunt 43 10 15 57
Player Opportunities per game Total Touchdowns DK ppg FD ppg
Nick Chubb 14.2 3 15.7 14.2
Kareem Hunt 13.8 3 16.8 15.3
           

Since his return, Odell Beckham has appeared primed for a blowup week with his 27% target share and 47% air yard share. I pray it’s not this week, because I don’t have much interest in him outside of a game stack. The Chargers are fourth in pass defense DVOA. They have allowed the fourth-lowest passing yards (828) and seventh-lowest yards per attempt (6.5). Beckham runs close to 81% of his routes on the outside and will match up with Asante Samuel and Michael Davis. Samuel is giving up a 63.2% catch rate and 60.5 passer rating. Davis has been more pliable, allowing a 63.2% catch rate and 104.9 passer rating. With the matchup against a tough defense on paper and Mayfield’s injury effecting his abilities, this doesn’t feel like the week he goes off. 

Austin Hooper becomes an interesting game stack or showdown play if David Njoku misses. The Browns have been a three-headed monster at tight end, with the team splitting routes between Hooper (71 routes), Njoku (64 routes), and Harrison Bryant (37 routes). Hooper has a 14% target share and a 40% red zone target share. The Chargers rank 20th in DVOA against the tight end. They have allowed the position the seventh-most receiving yards (257) and second-most receiving touchdowns (three). 

Chargers

Justin Herbert is quietly in a smash spot this week. The Browns got carved up by Patrick Mahomes in Week 1 as he completed 75% of his passes for 337 yards and three scores. This Browns secondary is ranked 28th in DVOA against deep passing and now faces Herbert, who was fourth in deep passing touchdowns last year. Kirk Cousins melted down last week as he was pressured on a whopping 53.7% of his dropbacks. He only completed six of his 19 pressured attempts. The Browns could be without Jadeveon Clowney, which will impede their pass rush, but also the Chargers offensive line is allowing pressure only 21.6% (13th-lowest) of Herbert’s dropbacks. Herbert has been cool under fire, ranking seventh in pressured completion rate with the eighth-highest pressure passer rating per FTN Data. This game sets up for a very natural game stack with Herbert facing a pass funnel defense and Chubb on the other side staring down a run funnel defense.

Austin Ekeler is an easy fade for me this week against the Browns’ run defense. Cleveland ranks third, first and third in adjusted line yards, second-level yards and open-field yards allowed. They have allowed the second-lowest explosive run rate through four games. They have also done a solid job against pass-catching backs despite ranking 20th in DVOA. They have allowed the fourth-lowest receiving yardage total (105) to running backs. 

Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are co-alphas in the Los Angeles passing attack. Their market share numbers are almost identical at each level as you scroll across. 

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Williams will operate outside on around 84% of his routes against Denzel Ward (if he plays) and Greedy Williams. Ward has allowed a 60.9% catch rate and 86.9 passer rating. Williams has given up a 55.6% catch rate and 45.8 passer rating. If Ward cannot play, Williams will see A.J. Green, a 2020 UDFA who has seen one target in his NFL career in coverage. Allen will work inside on about three-fifth of his routes against Troy Hill. Hill has conceded a 53.3% catch rate and 69.3 passer rating this season. 

Jared Cook is stack viable with Herbert. Cook has a 14% target share and four red-zone targets this season. Last week he ran a route on 75.6% of Herbert’s dropbacks. This year, the Browns are ranked 12th in DVOA against the position, but they haven’t played a noteworthy tight end since Travis Kelce in Week 1. Kelce posted six receptions with 76 receiving yards and two scores. The Browns were ranked 28th in DVOA against tight ends last season. 

DFS Plays

Core plays: Nick Chubb, Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams
GPP only: Kareem Hunt, Jared Cook
Showdown only: Austin Hooper 

New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys

DAL -7, O/U 52

Pace and playcalling

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The Giants are 19th and 13th (60.1%) in neutral pace and passing rate. Over the last two weeks, they have leaned a little more in their passing game, ranking tenth (61.3%) in passing rate when the score is within eight points. Dallas has continued to run fast, ranking eighth in pace in neutral situations, but their passing rate has fallen off the map. We keep waiting for the Week 1 pass-heavy team to return, but they are 20th (55.8%) in neutral environment passing percentage after four games. 

Injuries

New York

  • Sterling Shepard (WR) – (Hamstring – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT
  • Darius Slayton (WR) – (Hamstring – DNP / DNP / DNP) – Status: OUT

Dallas

  • Dorance Armstrong (DE) – (Ankle – DNP / DNP / DNP ) – Status: OUT
  • Amari Cooper (WR) – (Hamstring – DNP / LP / LP ) – Status: Questionable
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB) – (Knee – DNP / LP / LP ) – Status: Questionable
  • Randy Gregory (DE) – (Knee – LP / LP / LP ) – Status: Questionable
  • Carlos Watkins (DE) – (Knee – LP / LP / LP ) – Status: Questionable

Giants

Daniel Jones is cash and GPP worthy this week. He has scored 21 or more fantasy points in three of four games, so he fits the bill for both formats. I’ll continue to reiterate this Dallas defense is immensely overrated. They allowed the second-most passing yards (1,344), ninth-highest yards per attempt (7.9), and sixth-most passing touchdowns (nine). They are surviving off turnovers, specifically interceptions (first, eight interceptions). Jones has the seventh-lowest number of interception-worthy throws (three) this season per FTN Data. The lucky streak could stop this week. Jones should look to attack this secondary deep where they rank 21st in DVOA. After four games, Jones has the 12th-most deep passing yards (219) and fourth-most deep passing touchdowns (three). 

Glimpses of vintage Saquon Barkley have been spotted as the team has let him loose over the last two weeks. Since Week 3, Barkley has averaged 20 touches per game with 110 total yards while playing 86-89% of the snaps. Over the last two weeks, he is tied for seventh in missed tackles forced (seven) and has run the second-most routes (66) behind only Najee Harris. The Cowboys offer a blow-up spot for Barkley. Dallas has allowed the fourth-highest yards after contact per attempt (2.83), fourth-lowest stuff rate, and 12th-highest gash rate per FTN Data. With his 18.5% target share since Week 3, Barkley is stack viable with Jones. 

Kenny Golladay has been the teams’ No. 1 wideout leading the way with an 18% target share and 30% air yard market share. He’s also seen a 23% first read share. Golladay has worked as an outside receiver on 84.7% of his snaps. 

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Per our Shadow Index, Trevon Diggs hasn’t followed a receiver on more than 54% of their routes since Week 1 when he was stuck on Mike Evans like glue. Diggs has been the bright spot for this secondary, allowing a 50% catch rate and 42.9 passer rating. 

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Golladay will match up with Diggs some, but he’ll also see ample routes against Anthony Brown on the other side, who has been quite terrible. Brown has allowed a 66.7% catch rate and 103.6 passer rating in coverage. Golladay is the primary stacking option with Jones. Golladay leads the team in deep targets (four). If you’re looking to double-stack him, then it will be with Barkley or Kadarius Toney in addition to Golladay. Last week, Toney saw a 25% target share and 25% air yard share operating out of the slot (62%) and as the RWR (22%). Toney will also see routes against Brown, but also Jourdan Lewis inside. Lewis has allowed a 63.2% catch rate and 78.2 passer rating. Last week, John Ross got in on the action, running 53.5% of his routes as the LWR. Ross could get sacrificed to Diggs in this game.

The Giants’ tight end situation is a mess, with Evan Engram (59 routes) and Kyle Rudolph (29 routes) splitting the role over the last two games. Engram holds the upper hand with ten targets (Rudolph, three), but as usual, he’s done very little with the volume (48 receiving yards). Even in-game stacks, it’s hard to roster Engram at this juncture. We’ve seen him continue to disappoint in this offensive scheme and squander his opportunities. The Cowboys are a good matchup, ranking 30th in DVOA, allowing the sixth-most receiving yards (261) and second-most touchdowns (three) to the position. 

Cowboys

Rostering the Dallas Cowboy passing attack this week comes down to two factors: Amari Cooper‘s final injury designation and how popular they will be. Deciding what to make out of the Dallas offense in this matchup makes me squirm in my chair. There’s a path for Dallas to break out the big guns and go aerial assault, and there’s equal merit that they could continue their ground-and-pound approach. The Giants have allowed the highest adjusted completion rate (82.4%). They sit at 14th in passing yards (1,078) and yards per attempt (7.4) allowed. New York’s secondary is 29th in red zone defense, allowing successful playing 68% of snaps inside the 20. There’s a path to Prescott ripping this defense into pieces through the air, but there’s also risk. We wouldn’t be considering him if we took away the Prescott name with the production he’s had over the last three weeks. 

Dak Prescott Weeks 2-4 per-game averages:

Pass attempts Passing yards Passing TDs DK ppg FD ppg
25 221 2.3 18.8 18.5

Although social media was ready to bury Ezekiel Elliott, he’s proven over the last three weeks this is still without question his backfield. Over that span, he’s averaged 19.4 touches and 118.7 total yards per game. This week he faces a defense that is ranked 17th and 23rd in second-level yards and open-field yards allowed. They have the 13th lowest stuff rate, but they also have the 11th best mark in gash rate. It’s a mixed bag for Elliott against the Giants, much like for the passing attack. Also, the Giants rank 16th in red zone rushing defense which is another factor that offers no help in determining how we approach this. This all comes down to how the field approaches these situations. If the passing attack is popular, I’ll gravitate to the Dallas ground game and vice versa. 

Weeks 2-4

Player Rushing attempts Red-zone opportunities Targets Routes
Ezekiel Elliott 53 11 6 63
Tony Pollard 34 3 4 19