This weekly article gets us ready for NFL DFS by considering some of the safest stacks, contrarian stacks, and a mini-stack or two. The premise is based on research showing the degree of correlation between one player’s fantasy output and another in his game. Among the strongest correlations are QB-QB(opponent), QB-WR1, QB-WR2, QB-WR1(opponent), QB-TE, and RB-D/ST. These are for the main slate on Sunday.
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The Cleveland Browns’ run game is as safe a play as you can make this season. Both Chubb and Hunt have scored at least double-digit fantasy points in all but one game this season. Hunt is half-PPR RB5 and Chubb is RB8 (in DK scoring, Chubb is 11th, Hunt is 6th). This game is expected to be high scoring and close. The Browns are small home favorites but the important word there is small – Chubb and Hunt have been excellent in their more competitive games. Chubb has at least 20 carries in each of the last three games, and Hunt is averaging almost six targets per game in that span, in addition to double-digit carries. The Browns will definitely look to pit their strength (run game) against Arizona’s, which brings me to Murray. He really needs no justification, does he? Maybe some people will worry about his injury designation (right shoulder) or his lackluster performance in Week 5, but not me. I like him solo in a matchup that favors the opposing quarterback; Cleveland has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to QBs, but allowed the fifth-fewest to opposing RBs. The problem isn’t that I dislike the Cardinals’ wide receivers, on the contrary, I love them all and so does Murray. It’s too hard to pick out the weekly star in this offense. DeAndre Hopkins feels too expensive given what we know Christian Kirk, A.J. Green and Rondale Moore can do, but he’s the one if you want to increase this stack.
Author's note: With Nick Chubb ruled out on Friday, I'd pivot to Odell Beckham Jr. Will the squeaky wheel get the grease? This is the week to bet on yes. If you're simply looking for a RB replacement, I like Jonathan Taylor in the similar salary range.
I feel like this stack is being unduly influenced by the excitement on Monday Night Football in Week 5, but I can’t help myself. The over/under on this game has risen substantially to now 52 points and the Ravens, small home favorites, have one of the higher implied team totals this Sunday. That’s always a nice correlation with QB fantasy points, and Jackson is now leading all QBs in rushing yards while averaging over 300 passing yards per game. We can’t expect another four passing touchdowns this week (he doubled his previous mark in Week 5), but we should expect maybe two passing and one rushing here. Brown and Andrews should remain the primary, highest volume receivers, especially if Sammy Watkins remains out. Tournament players might consider Rashod Bateman, who would make his debut in Week 6, as a min salary risk/reward option. Ekeler is one of my favorite plays in all formats this week, regardless of whether you stack this game. He’s currently RB2, behind only Derrick Henry, and averaging 21.6 fantasy points per game (half-PPR). He’s caught an amazing 23 of his 25 targets, and been a workhorse on the ground as well averaging over five yards per carry. He’s topped 30 fantasy points in the last two games, something that got overshadowed by Justin Herbert’s league-leading fantasy day last week.
Finally, we get to the game with the most potential for fantasy fireworks. Kansas City and Washington rank first and third, respectively, in overall fantasy points allowed and are the two top QB matchups for fantasy. Sportsbooks have the over/under on this game between 54-55.5 points. With Tyreek Hill being so expensive and still not practicing, plus exhibiting some boom/bust tendencies this season, I’m choosing Hardman and Kelce to round out the Chiefs’ stack with Mahomes. Hardman saw only one fewer target than Hill last week, and caught nine of the 12 passes thrown his way. Costing about half to one third of Hill’s salary, Hardman makes it possible to roster both Mahomes and Kelce. Given that the Chiefs have the higher team total and better real life QB, I’m not putting Taylor Heinicke in my cash game lineups, but I do like him in tournaments and am using him over Teddy Bridgewater in a 2QB seasonal league. As noted, the Chiefs appear to have given up on playing defense in 2021. Washington’s best offensive weapons, Gibson and McLaurin, are great additions to this stack or any lineups this week. Both are currently in the Top 13 at their respective positions, averaging around 14 fantasy points per game. I particularly expect a nice bounce-back effort from McLaurin this week.
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What makes both of these stacks contrarian is going against the QB-implied team total correlation. Houston is a 10-point underdog at Indianapolis this Sunday. Yet, Indianapolis is not fielding the defense many of us expected, as evidenced by their utter collapse Monday night. Meanwhile, in his third start, Mills was impressive against the capable Patriots’ D. He threw for over 300 yards with three touchdowns. This is likely his ceiling, and we’ve seen the floor (68 yards and four interceptions), but I’m thinking he comes into this game with some confidence. As New England is prone to do, Cooks was largely a non-factor in the Week 5 effort, catching only three of five targets for 23 yards. Chris Moore and Chris Conley were both beneficiaries of touchdown passes from Mills, and assuming that Danny Amendola is out again, it’s Moore I’d rather roster. He’s coming off a big 100-plus receiving yard day as a result of catching all five of his targets. We can assume that the Texans will be in passing mode, so if Mills can stay mistake-free, this cheap stack will really pay off. As bad as Houston’s offense has been, their defense has allowed opponents the sixth-most points per game. They aren’t one of the best fantasy matchups, but I still lIke Taylor here. He’s never really highly rostered, and while coming off the great MNF game will elevate him a bit, I think this is a game that a lot of people will ignore.
Dallas is a better defense at home, and they are better at stopping the run than the pass. They’ve given up an average of over 300 passing yards per game but Jones will be by far the least mature QB they’ve faced. For his part, Jones is steadily improving, hopefully enough to take advantage of the Dallas defense which has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to his position. Our NFL DFS Optimizer has him as a better value play than guys like Justin Herbert, Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodger. He’s not afraid to throw the ball, which he will have to do in this game, which is one reason I like him. He has two games with over 40 pass attempts, and seems to be figuring out how to get his tight ends involved. He’s thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of the last three games, though he’s also prone to interceptions. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith could both be utilized more, in my opinion, but at least Henry saw eight targets in Week 5, including one for a touchdown, making it two in a row for him. Meyers is the target hog on this team, which is why I have him in this stack. With high volume comes more catches and opportunities to score. Kendrick Bourne has also been effective, if you want to a) save some salary or b) be really contrarian. The game has a pretty high point total, and the visiting Cowboys are not as big of favorites as you’d guess (minus-3.5). Expect Dak Prescott to have to work to stay ahead of the crafty Pats, and his go-to guy is Cooper. I put the slash up there because I know some people really distrust Cooper and are high on Lamb, especially coming off the better fantasy week. It’s actually the public dislike of Cooper that drives me to roster him more often than Lamb. They both have the same upside and risk, though I think they’ll both be better than fine in this game.
Mini-Stack of the week:
Darrell Henderson and LA Rams D/ST
The Giants are going to be hurting on offense this weekend, and while I think there are some nice bargain possibilities if Daniel Jones ends up playing (John Ross and Evan Engram), the Rams’ defense leaps out as a great play. They’re averaging 2.8 sacks per game, and aside from Arizona, have done a good job in limiting points scored. Henderson has been a really steady contributor every game he’s played, even though he hasn’t topped 100 rushing yards yet, his work in the pass game is making up for it. He’s priced less than he should be (on DraftKings and Yahoo), especially when you consider that the Giants give up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. For DK, our Optimizer has him as the best fantasy point per dollar play at RB.