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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Tampa Bay at Atlanta, Total 50.5
Given that Tom Brady is one of the best fantasy QBs in the league, again, and Atlanta is one of the most fantasy-friendly defenses, it’s no wonder we love this game for DFS in Week 13. The Falcons rank third in overall fantasy points allowed, fourth to QBs, seventh to RBs and eighth to WR while allowing the second-most real points per game. Brady is the fourth-highest priced QB on FanDuel and DraftKings, which feels like a bargain. You’ll have to pay maximum salary on Yahoo ($42). Leonard Fournette was the highest scoring player in Week 12, and while an exact repeat performance seems unlikely, he should still be able to reach value in this game. He has the fourth-most targets among running backs, and is averaging 15.5 half-PPR fantasy points per game. His salary is up, but Fournette is a fine play this weekend. The fact that Fournette did it all last week was a bummer for Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. They saw five targets apiece, but it didn’t amount to much and both were big fantasy busts in a close and high scoring game. We loved Rob Gronkowski here last week and he was the only Bucs receiver to come through in DFS. While I can see rolling with a conservative Brady/Fournette mini-stack this week, I also will be getting some exposure to the unusually affordable Godwin and Evans in GPPs. Gronk makes for a fine play, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spend up and force him into lineups.
For as generous as the Atlanta defense has been their offense hasn’t done much of anything good for DFS players outside of Cordarrelle Patterson, who made an immediate impact upon returning for Week 12. I can’t trust Matt Ryan, Kyle Pitts is doubled and/or dropping balls, and who really wants to trust Russell Gage in their lineups? Pitts and Ryan get the best on-paper matchups, with the Bucs’ run defense being among the best in the league, but this also projects as a pass-heavy game script for Atlanta. Still, a Ryan/Pitts/Gage GPP stack is very risk/reward. I will say that the first time these teams met, Ryan passed for 300 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions and had Calvin Ridley at that time. Continue to trust Patterson for cash games and be reserve any other Falcons for GPPs.
LA Chargers at Cincinnati, Total 50.5
The player that jumps out most in this game is Joe Mixon. No longer a mid-tier sleeper play, Mixon and his salary are at the top of the page now. Still, he’s a lot cheaper than Jonathan Taylor, which is something. The Chargers have failed to stop the run all season, and the Bengals are feeding Mixon the past two games (58 total carries), both wins. Everyone knows that the Chargers’ secondary is a force to be reckoned with, so as much as I love Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, I feel like Mixon is the safe play this time. Tee Higgins will probably enjoy higher than usual rostership this week, coming off a big 100-plus yard receiving game vs. a depleted Steelers defense, but I’m not buying in on his rising salary. Burrow has shown the willingness and ability to target the open guy, which could be C.J. Uzomah this week. TE is another blind spot in the LA defense, and Uzomah is a boom or bust option. His last big game was vs. another DvP target for tight ends, Baltimore.
The Bengals are a pretty neutral defense, though playing at home should be an advantage for them in December. Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler are coming off an ugly loss to Denver in Week 12, but should be better for fantasy this weekend. Ekeler is almost never a bad play, and if you can fit him with ease into lineups, go for it. I’m less enthusiastic about Allen and Williams, but if you’re keen to target one of them, I’d save salary and go with Williams.
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New York Giants at Miami, Total 42
Whenever two of the lowest scoring teams in the league face off, it’s best to look elsewhere for DFS value. Myles Gaskin is tempting, coming off two good weeks in another favorable fantasy matchup, but his salary is only tempting on Yahoo. Jalen Waddle is a possibility too, but given the low scoring expectation here, my expectations are low relative to the cost. You might be best to only consider either of these defenses, which are pretty affordable everywhere. Both are coming off nice games, but Miami has notably held their opponents to an average of about 11 points per game over the last four games (all wins) while averaging about four sacks and 2.5 turnovers per game. The Giants have been opportunistic too, with at least one sack and one interception in every game since Week 4. Three of their last five games have yielded 13-17 fantasy points (Carolina, Las Vegas and Philadelphia).
LA Rams vs. Jacksonville, Total 48
The Rams’ D/ST is the play that I expect to be highest owned this weekend regardless of salary. On Yahoo, they are a $4 discount off the highest priced unit, which is significant. The offense came off the bye in pretty good form; they were well-balanced and all the regular skill players were fine, but none stood out as having a spectacular game. No worries; that was Green Bay, this is home vs. Jacksonville. Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and even Odell Beckham Jr. or Van Jefferson can be in play this week. With a lot of running back value this week, I’m okay with spending top dollar on Kupp. He’s the safest of the most expensive receiver group given his volume and this matchup. Darrell Henderson, Jr. is questionable with a quad injury, but will probably end up playing. It’s a great spot for a healthy Henderson too, or Sony Michel if he ends up inactive.
Minnesota at Detroit, Total 46.5
Alexander Mattison is the fourth-most expensive RB on FanDuel, sixth on DraftKings, and 18th on Yahoo. It’s hard to spend $8700 on him (FD) or even $7600 (DK), but at $18, he should be rostered in all Yahoo lineups. I’m not saying don’t spend on him; it really depends on the rest of your lineup build. He is a high floor, high upside play, but will be popular. This is not only the dream matchup, Mattison has played this role many times for the Vikings. He is a reliable backup to Cook and can handle the heavy workload they should be feeding him in this game. Kirk Cousins is a high floor QB and I have no real problem with him on a fairly blah slate for the position.
Indianapolis at Houston, Total 46
The Bucs did their best and were arguably successful in containing the best running back in the league (97 total yards and one rushing touchdown for Jonathan Taylor). Houston has allowed 100-plus rushing yards in all but two games this season (Miami and Jacksonville), so I think it’s safe to say Taylor is going to be a top RB play this week. He tops the salary charts on DK and FD ($1 less than Brady on Yahoo) but again, I think there’s enough value to work him into cash game lineups. It’s a good game for Carson Wentz and Michael Pittman to rebuild some of their chemistry too, in a far more friendly secondary than they’ve seen the last two weeks. I’d like to see it, but I can’t yet trust Jack Doyle to be a regular part of the Colts receiving stat line. He’s just barely cheaper than Uzomah, and I have more faith in Uzomah at this point if you’re looking to save at the position.