In this weekly article, we’ll use the early betting lines from Vegas to take a deeper look at which games to target and avoid for NFL DFS. Implied team totals have positive correlations with fantasy output, especially for quarterbacks. Plus, we’ll highlight some potentially under the radar teams with high implied team totals despite a lower over/under. Note that these lines will probably change over the course of the week, which is why we call it ‘starting’ points. This weekly article focuses on the Sunday main slate of NFL games.
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Buffalo at Tampa Bay, Total 52.5
After watching a brutal MNF game, it hardly seems possible that Buffalo is still the fifth-highest scoring team in the league. We also shouldn’t forget that the Bills rank as the least fantasy-friendly defense for opposing QB and WRs, while ranking as the fifth-worst TE matchup. The Bucs are the highest-scoring team in the league, but the Bills give up the second-fewest points per game. The weather in Tampa Bay is going to be far better than we experienced Monday night, and Vegas is betting on offense over defense. The game has a lot more playoff implications for Buffalo than it does for the Bucs, but everyone should be playing all out on Sunday.
Josh Allen is the more expensive QB on all three sites, and the most expensive player on Yahoo. Tom Brady leads all QBs in fantasy points, but he, Allen and Justin Herbert are basically neck-in-neck with about 23.5 fantasy points per game. I’m finding this a really difficult decision, which is probably going to end up with some exposure to both QBs in tournament lineups and a more affordable option in cash games. My expectation, given this early line and their statistical histories, is that both will be good plays this weekend. I think the skill players can be mixed into both tournament and cash game lineups, with Leonard Fournette being a priority play. He’s the fourth-best fantasy RB in half-PPR scoring, and most of his production has come in the last month or so. He’s behind only Jonathan Taylor in red zone rushing attempts, and leads all RBs with 15 red zone targets this season. With Taylor providing the blue print for beating the Bills on the ground, I hope to see Fournette very busy come Sunday. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and Stefon Diggs can be used in any format where you can afford them based on volume and upside. I’d prioritize them in this order: Diggs, Godwin, Gronk, Evans. Dawson Knox gets a good on-paper matchup and had two red zone targets last night. Despite the bad conditions, Knox should have caught at least one touchdown ball. I’m not in love with his salary anywhere, but I do think a bounce-back game is in his future.
Dallas at Washington, Total 48.5
My favorite cash-game QB is Dak Prescott. He gets the league-best QB matchup with the Football Team, a unit that is giving up the third-most overall fantasy points to opponents as well. Prescott has had more than his share of ups and downs this season, but should come out on the higher end of his range of outcomes this week. CeeDee Lamb is the obvious WR to pair him with, though it was Michael Gallup who caught the lone Week 13 touchdown pass. Amari Cooper is the GPP play, as his salary and production have been getting lower and lower. Fully healthy, he could have a slate-breaking game in this matchup. I’d avoid using either of Tony Pollard or Ezekiel Elliott when both are active. It’s tough to predict touchdowns but if you are dying to use one of the Cowboys’ backs, it should be Pollard, who is out-playing Elliott and is cheaper on all three sites.
For the Football Team, Terry McLaurin is the standout play, with Dallas being a much better run defense than pass defense. Taking advantage of the home field, high over/under and narrow spread, you might consider pairing McLaurin with Taylor Heinicke in certain GPP lineups. Dallas ranks seventh in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. Heinicke had a great run earlier in the season, and is sort of rounding back into form with six touchdowns in his last three games. If this turns into a shootout between division rivals, he could end up being a great value play. John Bates is a desperation salary-saver at TE if Ricky Seals-Jones doesn’t return this week (Logan Thomas will miss several weeks). He caught three of four targets against Las Vegas.
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Seattle at Houston, Total 42
Not a total avoid, because the Seahawks defense is definitely in play. Seattle has come on stronger in the second half of the season, and now ranks sixth in points allowed. They also might see a boost in sacks, considering that Houston allows their QB to be sacked almost three times per game. However, it’s hard to rely on the Seattle offense in such a low scoring game that Vegas expects them to win easily. Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett have been on the same page, but it’s been weeks since DK Metcalf scored. Metcalf’s salary has dropped but not really enough to be overweight on him, even in GPP lineups. Lockett has been the preferred play for volume and big play ability, but I feel like the tide should be shifting back to Metcalf soon. I’m going for limited exposure as I’m just not sure this game will be competitive enough to get Metcalf over value. Gerald Everett has been getting a lot of targets, and exceeded 10 fantasy points in two of the last four games. He’s another TE punt option against a friendly Houston defense.
Kansas City vs. Las Vegas, Total 49
In an important division rivalry game, Vegas likes Patrick Mahomes and Co. to put on an impressive show. With one of the highest implied team totals of the week, will Mahomes again destroy the Raiders? The Week 10 win in Vegas was the lone bright spot in the second half of Mahomes’ season. He threw five of the seven touchdown passes he’s had since Week 6 in that one game. Expecting a carbon copy repeat is not realistic, but fading Mahomes in a great game environment is scary too. I’ll likely take a middle-of-the-road approach, using Mahomes in tournaments and when I do, pairing him with Travis Kelce. The Raiders are the No. 2 TE matchup for fantasy, and Kelce was great when they played earlier in the season. He didn’t catch any of the five TDs, but caught eight of ten passes for 119 yards receiving. The Raiders’ secondary has held opposing receivers to the fifth-fewest fantasy points this season, so I’m assuming they are going to focus on keeping the lid on Tyreek Hill, which could create more opportunity for Kelce. I bet he gets back in the end zone this week.
It’s a great matchup for Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who missed the first game in Las Vegas. In his first week back, he got the bulk of the carries, but both he and Darrel Williams averaged about 4.0 YPC and caught three of three targets. Williams had a huge role in the pass game vs. the Raiders earlier. I don’t think either back needs to be rostered this week but they both meet my “last player, salary fits” criteria though.
Tennessee vs. Jacksonville, Total 44
Whenever we see Jacksonville and a spread like this, I usually think D/ST. However, the Titans’ D is not all that. They don’t rank highly in sacks or turnovers, and frankly allow as many fantasy points per game as the Jags. Both of these offenses are turnover machines, with 21 apiece. The good news is that the skill players come cheap. Dontrell Hilliard is probably the best target ($5300 DK, $17 Yahoo). In his two games with the Titans in Weeks 11 & 12, he had one dynamite receiving effort and one great rushing effort. In fact, Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman both had great rushing performances against New England in Week 12. This is a much friendlier matchup, and I think some exposure to both backs is a nice way to save salary this weekend. Ryan Tannehill should be somewhat serviceable as well, but there are so many high-quality options that he’s not high on my list right now. The lack of good receivers is a real issue for Tennessee.
LA Chargers vs. NY Giants, Total 44.5
Our NFL DFS Optimizer loves Justin Herbert this weekend, and why not? He’s as productive as Brady or Allen, hasn’t had the recent dips in production other high-end QBs have seen, and is a huge favorite at home vs. New York, the team allowing the fifth-most points per game to opponents. Herbert feels like a bargain on DraftKings ($7100) and Yahoo ($34) but is playable everywhere. Beyond that, Austin Ekeler is an always-play-when-you-can kind of player, in a strong on-paper matchup. We liked a Mike Williams bounce-back game last week and got it as he finally topped 100 receiving yards, although it was Keenan Allen with the TDs. A lot about this game depends on whether Allen can clear the COVID protocol in time to play Sunday; stay tuned.