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.
Kansas City at New Orleans, Total 51.5
The Chiefs are the second-highest scoring offense while the Saints rank seventh in that category. Both defenses rank in the Top 8 in terms of points allowed, while the Saints also rank third in fewest fantasy points allowed to their opponents. Vegas believes good offense trumps good defense in this one, even on the road. It’s true that Patrick Mahomes is in his groove lately, scoring between 22 and 35 fantasy points per game since Week 8. He has averaged close to 400 yards per game passing (384 to be exact), without ever dipping below 300 in that span. He’s under $8K on DraftKings, where that 300-plus bonus is extra nice.
Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are the Chiefs you’d want to pair with Mahomes, again thinking that even though the Saints’ defense is formidable, it’s a bit more scary for running backs than receivers…and these two are matchup-proof. You’ll want to check back and consult the bargain article this week, because starting with a three-man Chiefs stack leaves you only $4200 per remaining player on DraftKings, for example. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is back to being the clear number one back in KC, with 16 carries and six targets in Week 14. Even though Jalen Hurts and Myles Sanders just had some success running on New Orleans, I’m not high on CEH this week…too many options that are in better situations to succeed than he is facing the 31st ranked run defense for fantasy.
The big question on the Saints’ side of things is whether Drew Brees will be back or if Taysom Hill gets another start. Hill has stepped in with little disruption to the Saints winning plan (everything about that Eagles game was surprising) but given his high salary, I don’t think he’s near a must-play as a home underdog. The Saint I am willing to pay for this week is Alvin Kamara. Regardless of who is under center, the Saints stand the best chance of competing with Kamara having the ball in his hands often this week. He had been a bit down from a fantasy perspective the first three weeks of Hill’s reign, but showed signs of life in Week 14 with seven catches on 10 targets and a rushing touchdown. His salary can officially be considered low for him.
Houston at Indianapolis, Total 51
Houston is not a team to target at the moment. They are in disarray on offense, and their defense is one of the most porous, allowing the most fantasy points to running backs, and ranking fourth in overall fantasy points allowed. Turning all my attention to the Colts, then, Philip Rivers and T.Y. Hilton have run into some sweet matchups and have taken advantage. All signs point to that continuing this week as Hilton has managed three big games in a row with no soft tissue injuries. Rivers is picking his spots with Hilton, and those spots are end-zone encompassing. Jonathan Taylor is also ‘back’ as the main man in the Colts backfield. With back-to-back games with 22-33 fantasy points, expect Taylor to be the most popular running back in DFS this weekend, despite the salary hike he’s earned. Did I say, Houston is the most generous run defense for fantasy? Nyheim Hines makes for a cheaper pivot where you still get the upside of the matchup in PPR formats. A simple Colts stack might include just Taylor and the Colts’ D/ST. This defense is formidable in real life, ranking third in takeaways (22), and fantasy, giving up the seventh-fewest fantasy points. Deshaun Watson takes a ton of sacks (3.1 per game), and though he has done a good job protecting the ball lately, Keke Coutee and Duke Johnson both lost fumbles in Week 14.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta, Total 51
Brady has had his best games against weak pass defenses. Matchups with LA Chargers, Las Vegas, and Carolina (Week 10) stand out. Atlanta ranks No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to QBs, so although Brady is coming off a ho-hum performance in an easy, defensive win over Minnesota, he should be a priority play, at least in tournaments. Multi-entry formats allow you to shift between Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as well as Rob Gronkowski. All get excellent matchups and prices have dropped relative to where they were earlier in the season. I’m clearly in on the pass offense for the Bucs, so Ronald Jones Jr. is not really a player I’m looking hard at. The Falcons aren’t a great run defense, but like I said above, I think there are more attractive RB options this week.
The standout Falcons lately have been Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. Ridley has scored in two of the last three games, and gone over 100 yards receiving in each of the last two. Gage threw a TD in Week 14, but even putting the trickery aside, has seen 5, 8 and 7 targets in the last three weeks. He’s a reasonable bargain chip in a high scoring and competitive game. If you believe in miracles, Hayden Hurst gets the best on-paper matchup with the Bucs (10th best TE matchup)…but Hurst rarely sees more than 3-4 targets per game and even when he does, underwhelms with what he does (e.g. 8.8 PPR fantasy points on eight targets in Week 12). He’s a dart throw, risk/reward(?) kind of play I’d use maybe in one tournament lineup.
Editor's Note: Looking for an added edge? Dominate all season long with our DFS Toolkit. Use our Lineup Optimizer to come up with winning lineups for DraftKings, FanDuel, and Yahoo! Click here for more!
New England at Miami, Total 41
It still gives me pause to see New England an underdog to an AFC East opponent after writing this column for so many years. Miami’s and New England’s defenses are red hot, allowing the second- and seventh-fewest real points per game. Miami’s unit leads the league in takeaways with 25, but the Patriots have harsher fantasy numbers, ranking 30th in fantasy points allowed to QB, 28th to WR, and 30th to TE. Also of note, Miami has a lot of questions of health on offense. Mike Gesicki was hurt during his best game of the season, as were Jakeem Grant and Davante Parker. Lynn Bowden and Mack Hollins saw nine targets each as a result, in the loss to Kansas City. Thus, while the Dolphins are favored, I’m having a hard time justifying any of their key offensive weapons in this matchup. Rather, I’m perfectly comfortable rostering either D/ST from this game.
LA Rams vs. NY Jets, Total 44
Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods deserve to be in cash game lineups this weekend, as do the competent starters from any team facing the Jets. No team allows more fantasy points overall than the Jets, with top marks to QBs, TEs, and WRs. This trio is far more affordable than the Chiefs threesome cited above. Here, again using DraftKings for comparison, rostering Goff, Woods and Kupp leaves you $5000 per remaining player. The Rams’ D/ST is rightly the most expensive unit available this weekend, though they’re easiest to pay for on Yahoo and FanDuel, where there isn’t such a big drop-off to the Colts, Ravens or Dolphins.
Baltimore vs. Jacksonville, Total 47
The Ravens played Monday night in what could easily be billed as the best game of the year (so far). Lamar Jackson was unstoppable, except perhaps by his own shoes and a mysterious cramp in the fourth quarter, both of which he recovered from in style. He rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another against the Browns, one of the league’s best teams. For Week 15, Jackson gets the Jaguars, who give up the second most overall fantasy points and don’t discriminate against any position. J.K. Dobbins looks like the Ravens’ best running back, but Gus Edwards is still very much in the mix with two rushing scores in Week 14 (as is Jackson himself, of course). It’s tough to rely on one of them for DFS if it’s not Jackson. Marquise Brown came through with another touchdown, but rostering him is a roller coaster. The drops are agony, and the limited number of passes Baltimore attempts are a source of worry. The same can be said for Mark Andrews, though maybe you don’t have to sweat the drops as Andrews’ catch rate is fine (65 percent) on low volume. Given Andrews’ has six receiving touchdowns and Brown has five, the targets from Jackson are high-value when they come. Still, I have no issue with a solo Jackson lineup for cash or tournaments this week.