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.
Carolina at Atlanta, Total 55
The lack of defense expected in this game inflates the total in a way that’s interesting for both teams. Let me start at QB. Teddy Bridgewater saw some anticipated TD regression in Week 4, going for three scores (two passing, one rushing) against Arizona. That had been his biggest concern, and one that should stay behind him this weekend in Atlanta. The Falcons have been the most generous team in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs and given up the second-most points in the league. Bridgewater is a full-go for me ($7100 FD, $5900 DK, $25 Yahoo).
For the Falcons, Matt Ryan is continuing a trend dating to at least last season, in which he performs well against trash defenses but struggles against capable units. Carolina ranks 30th in fantasy points allowed to QBs and is third in forced turnovers. Ryan has outscored Bridgewater by an average of just 1.5 fantasy points per game. I don’t think his extra salary is justified, especially given the matchup disparities. Instead, when facing Carolina, look to the run game to move the chains and breach the end zone. Carolina is second in the league in fantasy points to running backs, and especially generous to pass-catching backs. Atlanta hasn’t utilized their backs as much as they could in the passing game (eight targets for Todd Gurley, nine for Brian Hill), but with injuries to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley (who was clearly hampered Monday night), maybe that changes.
I like both Gurley and Mike Davis, who also faces a favorable defensive scheme, for DFS this week. Their salaries are nearly identical on FanDuel, while Gurley is significantly more costly on Yahoo and significantly cheaper on DraftKings. The real bargain of this game could be Brian Hill. Hill does have one more target than Gurley, and has absorbed about 22 percent of the RB carries.
I could see wide receiver production going any number of ways this week. I probably like Robby Anderson best of the bunch, though if Calvin Ridley’s practice reports are stellar, I’d buy back in. Russell Gage is interesting with Julio Jones far from certain to play, though given my concerns about Ryan and the Carolina pass defense, I’m hesitant to invest. Ian Thomas gets the best TE matchup, with Atlanta allowing a league-high seven touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Thomas was a sleeper pick late in season-long drafts, but has only nine targets on the season. Five of those came in Week 4 – two in the red zone, and he was able to convert one for a score. He’s a very affordable risk/reward TE play this weekend.
New York Giants at Dallas, Total 54
The Cowboys are obvious ‘hits’ this week, as in hit Add to Lineup, with Dak Prescott leading all players in fantasy scoring on the strength of 1690 passing yards and 12 total touchdowns. The defense has been letting this team down big, and they enter Week 5 a disappointing 1-3. That should improve against a Giants team that has scored fewer points than any other. Aside from Prescott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, I’m considering Dalton Schultz, who appears to be ahead of Michael Gallup most weeks in the pecking order. Of course, Dak throws so much that anyone can have a big game any time, but my trust level follows this order.
The bigger news here is that, like the Browns last week, the team facing Dallas is almost always going to be cheaper and just as good from a fantasy perspective. Bold statement, I know, given we are talking about Daniel Jones, Devonta Freeman, Evan Engram, Darius Slayton and Golden Tate. Slayton is the Giants’ highest scoring player in PPR fantasy, with 52.6 points on the season. That’s the 81st ranked performance among all positions, 26th among WRs. Daniel Jones has been a massive disappointment, averaging 12 fantasy points per game, and kicker Graham Gano is the Giants’ third-highest fantasy scorer. Sad! But let’s focus on the positives. Wide receivers have thrived against Dallas, so Slayton and even Tate out of the slot should both be considered in all formats. Engram ranks third among TEs with 30 targets this season, but has caught only 57 percent of them (only Logan Thomas has a worse catch rate), and worse, they’ve averaged only 4.4 yards in depth. It’s hard to make an impact at that rate. Still, if there were a week to take a GPP shot with Engram as your TE, this would be it.
Freeman rushed 11 times in Week 4, and caught all four of four targets from Jones. The team claims his role will increase, making him an interesting play this week. Game script definitely favors the pass game of the Giants, but Cleveland just proved it’s quite possible to move the ball with your running backs against Dallas. Freeman is the minimum salary on Yahoo ($10), and should easily be worth it there. He’s not overpriced on FanDuel ($5500) or DraftKings ($4600) either in my opinion.
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Total 45
Well avoiding Philly needs no explanation whatsoever if you’re a football fan. Aside from their utter lack of ability to move the ball against weaker, more depleted defenses, they face one of the best (and well-rested) in Pittsburgh this weekend. The Steelers don’t necessarily need to be avoided, but there are certainly teams with more upside. Two Pittsburgh players I am intrigued by are James Conner and Eric Ebron. Ebron is coming off his best game of the season in Week 3 – they both are – and Philadelphia ranks third against TEs for fantasy points allowed. I think Conner could fly a bit under the radar this week but possesses that 20-plus fantasy point upside that usually costs more of the salary cap ($7000 FD, $24 Yahoo, but $6900 is high on DK). It should be informative to see how the Steelers' WR snaps and targets are distributed with four healthy bodies on the field (or eligible to be, at least), but I’m taking a wait and see approach when it comes to my DFS lineups.
Kansas City vs. Las Vegas, Total 57
The Chiefs were low-key Monday night, a fate that befalls many teams that face the Patriots. The Pats used a ton of clock, kept Patrick Mahomes and Co. out of rhythm and then failed to do anything on offense that would necessitate Chiefs’ offensive heroics. Pretty easy win for KC. That could also be the case in Week 5, but I anticipate the game flowing quite differently, with a much faster pace and potent fantasy potential for Mahomes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Helaire gets the league-best RB matchup and given that he is handling the vast majority of RB duties, should be in line for a spectacular game. He’s a cash-game lock regardless of salary (it’s only really painful on Yahoo).
I think FanDuel gets it right, pricing Mahomes as the highest salaried QB this week; consider him a bargain for the small percentage of the cap you save on him with DraftKings or Yahoo pricing. Still, even if I hadn’t seen that look on his face Monday night, I’d say Mahomes is going to be looking to exceed even this super-high implied team total and be very worth the investment.
Kelce is the top-scoring fantasy TE so far, though that bar feels low this season. On paper, Las Vegas has been formidable against TEs, but they haven’t played a team that has a focal TE all season (BUF, NE, NO, CAR). It would be a trap to fade Kelce based on the limited fantasy points scored by TEs against the Raiders this season. If you fade him due to salary concerns – his is up there at TE 1 or 2, I get it. But I think he has both a high floor and high ceiling in this game.
If you’re thinking Derek Carr garbage time, playing from behind, pass-heavy game script, consider that KC is allowing the second-fewest points per game, averages 3.0 sacks per game, and is tied for third in the league in turnovers. This is actually a good defense. They give up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to QBs and fewest to opposing wide receivers (do the Raiders even have any of those?). Running backs have done all right vs. the Chiefs, especially pass-catching backs. Josh Jacobs is the ONLY player to even slightly consider rostering here, and there are players I like more for lower salary.
Baltimore vs. Cincinnati, Total 51
The Ravens aren’t quite repeating Lamar Jackson’s magical 2019 season, but they still rank seventh in points scored and fourth in points allowed, well above average on both sides of the ball. When it comes to fantasy points allowed, both teams are in the middle of the league at all positions. Baltimore actually cracks the Top 10 QB matchups, good news for Joe Burrow. Given Joe Mixon’s Week 4 game, and Burrow’s steady high-volume pass attack, I would bet the Bengals to keep this closer than 13.5 points.
No one here is really off-limits, except maybe A.J. Green and Mark Ingram. Jackson costs an arm and a leg, but expect him to post the best rushing numbers for the Ravens in this matchup. I’m on the fence but leaning toward the regression for Marquise Brown. The target share, the air yards, everything but the fantasy points are there. One problem is the Ravens extremely low pass volume; Jackson ranks 28th in the league in attempts. That’s fewer than the king of low volume, Kirk Cousins, or Ben Roethlisberger, who’s only played three games. Brown only needs to connect on a couple of deep shots to earn back his Hollywood nickname. I’m not ready to roll him out in cash games, but when the game script and matchup are favorable, he’s got to be in GPP lineups. The choice at top TE is difficult, but Mark Andrews deserves to be in consideration for his steady, upside role in this offense.
Also target: New England Patriots (minus-8.5 vs. Denver), San Francisco 49ers (minus-8 vs. Miami) and LA Rams (minus-9 at Washington)