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 Indianapolis, Total 51.5
Here we get offense galore. Tampa Bay is the highest scoring team while the Colts are the fifth-highest scoring. Neither defense is particularly worrisome, and Indianapolis has turned out to be one of the best passing/receiving matchups. Tom Brady, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, with perhaps a little bit more Rob Gronkowski next week, should be popular and productive. Evans and Godwin are very similarly priced and have been similarly productive. Both could and should be within 15-25 fantasy points in a good matchup like this. Touchdowns are the potential differentiator and we can’t predict those. Except I will predict a Gronk Smash this week. He looked fine in Week 11, catching six of eight targets for 71 yards. The Colts rank fifth to opposing TEs in fantasy points allowed, and I suspect Brady will want to see his favorite TE in the end zone after a weeks-long hiatus.
The Bucs defense started the season hot, and still rank in the bottom five in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs, but otherwise, their numbers have fallen off a bit. Am I concerned about Jonathan Taylor? I think I learned my lesson last week, when Buffalo was the absolute worst RB matchup. I also don’t believe another five-score performance is on tap, but Taylor remains a tournament consideration just in case the Bucs can’t or won’t sell out to stop him. Given his salary, I’m having a hard time contemplating him in cash games on FanDuel or DraftKings. The cheaper side of the passing game involving Carson Wentz and Michael Pittman is another way to go. Take advantage of their lower salaries while coming off a bad fantasy day in Buffalo (thanks to Taylor) with expectations for a nice bounce-back game for both.
LA Rams at Green Bay, Total 48.5
Here we have an interesting matchup between the Rams, who are getting it done more with offense (despite an insanely talented defense) and the Packers, who have allowed the fifth-fewest points per game this season. Though they got blown up by the Vikings last weekend, Green Bay is allowing only 11 points per game at home this season (11 fantasy points per game). Before seeing the high total and thinking of the old Packers’ defense, I’m using restraint on Matthew Stafford and especially Cooper Kupp, the most expensive player on DraftKings, and most expensive receiver on the other two sites. The Rams are coming off two bad losses, both far better QB matchups than the Packers are. Stafford/Kupp is a GPP risk/reward pairing for me this weekend. As a value option from this offense, I prefer Van Jefferson to Odell Beckham Jr. It would be fun to be wrong on that but Jefferson has been pretty consistently involved with 6-7 targets in each of the last four games (double OBJ in his first game with the team). The Packers have given up fewer than 90 total rushing yards to opponents in each of their last four games, so given the likely shootout nature of the game and Darrel Henderson’s waning dominance for the Rams, I think you can do better at RB, and probably for less salary cap.
I kind of feel like most of the Packers are in play this weekend. Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and A.J. Dillon don’t have stellar matchups, but they do have stellar usage. There is concern about Jalen Ramsey, but in the playoffs last year, Adams put up nine catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Not terrible. Allen Lazard also scored in that game, but he remains questionable for Week 12. Marques Valdes-Scantling was phenomenal when Lazard missed last week’s game in Minnesota, catching four of 10 targets for 123 yards and a score. Like Jefferson, he’s a risk/reward value play in a great game environment if Lazard is out. Dillon would be a viable play if Aaron Jones (wisely) takes another week or so to recover from an MCL sprain. For a team with a deep playoff run in mind, it makes zero sense to rush Jones back with Dillon playing well. His pass-catching abilities give him an extra boost on DraftKings. As a total punt D/ST play, I don’t hate the Packers. I noted their improved numbers at home, and the weather report, though early, isn’t great for a Southern California team.
Minnesota at San Francisco, Total 48.5
The Vikings scored 34 points vs. Green Bay last week but narrowly lost the game. No one was a loser in fantasy however, as Kirk Cousins made everyone worth their salaries. Justin Jefferson was the standout star, with 40 PPR fantasy points, but Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen were also over 20 fantasy points apiece. I’d use any of them again this weekend in San Francisco. The 49ers rank 11th vs. opposing QBs, and don’t have any prohibitively bad DvP numbers. For what it's worth, Cousins, Cook and Thielen all have significantly better fantasy numbers on the road this season. I say that more so as to take the road trip out of the equation. In a competitive game, I have zero concerns filling my lineups with Vikings.
The best way to take advantage of Minnesota is through the air. They give up the sixth-most fantasy points to QBs and third-most to WRs. Deebo Samuel should once again be a top option, and we’ve seen lately that Brandon Aiyuk still lives! Samuel has double-digit PPR fantasy points in every game this season, while Aiyuk has hit that mark in three of his last four, finally coming up big in the end zone vs. Arizona and Jacksonville (two of the last three games). It’s worth noting that George Kittle has been back for three games, and he too, has been terrific, scoring in each and averaging five catches on six targets per game. Given that this is a team that prioritizes the run game, and has run the ball successfully too, kudos to Jimmy Garoppolo for keeping three receivers fantasy-relevant. Kittle is the most expensive TE, Samuel is very pricey and Aiyuk is creeping up. I think Kittle is the priority, because TE is pretty barren with several good ones on bye or playing non-Sunday games. Garoppolo is a high-floor option, but not necessary even if you’re stacking this game. He has thrown two touchdowns in each of the last three games, but the yardage isn’t really there too often with him.
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New York Jets at Houston, Total 44
Ugly game alert! Houston is the lowest scoring team in the league and the Jets are fifth-lowest. However, the Jets allow the most points per game while Houston allows the fourth-most. Both teams turn the ball over at an excessively high rate. Will bad defense trump bad offense? Unfortunately for the Texans, you really want to run the ball against the Jets but Houston is not running the ball often or well. Do you trust Rex Burkhead, even in this dreamy matchup? I don’t but he could be a GPP winner with three touchdowns. On the other hand, Joe Flacco was actually decent last week but now finds himself ruled out due to COVID protocols. Houston gives up the 10th most fantasy points to QBs, ninth-most to WRs and second-most to TEs. Rookie Elijah Moore has shown nice chemistry with Flacco, and Corey Davis is now questionable, but Zach Wilson is firmly on my do not trust list, even in a great matchup. I do really like Ty Johnson to pick up the slack with Michael Carter out. His role in the receiving game makes him more valuable on DraftKings, but his salary makes him usable anywhere.
New England vs. Tennessee, Total 44.5
Tennessee lost to Houston last week. New England destroyed the Falcons last week, on Thursday Night Football, so they’ve had some extra time to recover and prepare for this important game. Mac Jones, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne get some of the best matchups in the league, with Tennessee allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs and most to WRs. Here’s the issue, the Patriots have won big in their last three games, with defense and the run game playing a big role. New England isn’t forcing Mac Jones to do anything rash, and in those wins he’s attempted 26 or fewer passes. To at least four receivers, if we count Hunter Henry, which we totally should. It’s not a lot of volume to go around and here the Pats are big favorites again. You might think to go after Damien Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson, but I think they are pretty likely to continue to split reps to keep both healthier for the long run. That means neither has obvious, trustworthy value this week. Plus the one thing Tennessee has done well is limit opposing running backs. You could take a shot on Jones, Henry, or Meyers as a ‘price is right’ tournament play, or just go with the Pats D/ST. Tennessee takes an average of 2.8 sacks per game and turns the ball over fourth most (tied with four other teams at 17 turnovers). New England allows the fewest points per game, second-fewest fantasy points per game, and has the third-most takeaways this season (21).