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.
Note: at the time of this writing, only DraftKings had contests and salary information for the Week 6 Main Slate available, so there are no references to FanDuel or Yahoo salaries.
Atlanta at Minnesota, Total 55.5
The Falcons are the every-week headliner here, as they have been among the league’s most generous defenses, allowing the third-most points per game. This week, their opponent is almost as kind. The Vikings rank fifth in most points per game allowed. Defense is clearly off the table here, and both offenses should thrive in very fantasy-friendly matchups.
Kirk Cousins takes the best QB matchup for fantasy, while Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are solid receiving options. Thielen regained prominence with 13 targets and two catches for touchdowns in Week 5, while Jefferson was the No. 2, earning five targets which he converted for a more modest 23 yards. The issue is always the same with this passing offense; Cousins is 2020’s QB21 right now, ranking 23rd in passing attempts. The only QB with fewer attempts through five games is Lamar Jackson. The low volume can be a killer for fantasy value if a good amount of the throws aren’t lasered into the end zone. Adding to the potential insult, Thielen is DraftKings’ WR3 ($7300) and Jefferson is $6000. The upside is there for both of these guys, but be wary of rostering too many Vikings just based on the matchup.
One way to go cheap here is with Irv Smith Jr., who was highly touted coming out of college and perhaps emerged as a legitimate target in Week 5 when he had four catches for 64 yards on five targets, almost half his season total and more than Kyle Rudolph. One way you can’t go cheap is with Dalvin Cook’s backup. DraftKings has Alexander Mattison priced at $7200 for this fantasy-friendly matchup with Atlanta, making him the third highest-salaried back on the slate. Mattison rushed 17 times for 112 yards and caught all three passes thrown his way against Seattle Sunday night, and on paper at least, this is a better matchup for him.
Matt Ryan is not making it onto many of my DFS squads this year. He actually ranks fourth in passing yards and third in attempts, but just 19th in fantasy points among QBs. Only seven touchdowns and three interceptions haven’t helped his fantasy numbers. The silver lining would be that his salary was super low, but no, DraftKings has him as the fifth-highest priced QB for Week 6. No thanks. Calvin Ridley was back in form, catching 8-of-10 targets for 136 yards, but no scores in Week 5 as the Falcons lost yet again. Still, when he’s fully healthy, he’s been worth the salary. The only other Falcon I’m considering is Todd Gurley, who has been one of this season’s pleasant surprises. His salary is in the affordable range ($6300), but he’s scored five touchdowns this season, and is coming off his best game of the season (against Carolina, of course). Notably, he caught four of five targets in that one, and had his first 100-yard rushing game.
Detroit at Jacksonville, Total 54.5
It may play a smaller role this year given that everything has been crazy, last-minute and shuffled, but traditionally, teams coming off a BYE week are rostered at lower percentages. We are very much “what have you done lately” kinds of people. I love this spot for the Lions, and Vegas gives them one of the better team totals this week. Matthew Stafford is averaging about 255 yards per game and two touchdowns per game, with only three interceptions in four games. His two weeks with Kenny Golladay back were his best, but he’s been a steady option every week. With a very reasonable salary and one of the best QB matchups for fantasy, I’m very bullish on Stafford this week. Pairing him with Golladay is too easy given that Golladay is already the Lions highest scoring receiver despite playing two fewer games than everyone else. I’m not touching the run game – could Detroit have used the BYE to get D’Andre Swift comfortable in a lead role? We’d love it to be the case, but I’m doubtful. However, on a week when people will flock to Mark Andrews at TE, T.J. Hockenson could quietly be an equally good but lower priced option. He has caught 15 of 20 targets in four games, with two touchdowns and an average of 11.1 PPR fantasy points per game.
For the Jaguars, roll with James Robinson in the fourth-best RB matchup. His salary is climbing but it’s doable. If D.J. Chark misses Week 6 with his ankle injury, which we won’t know until later in the week, I’d love the lower salaries of Laviska Shenault and Keelan Cole. They are tied for a team-high 28 targets and Gardner Minshew has proven democratic in his target distribution.
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Washington at NY Giants, Total 43
Avoid the offenses, that is. I’m going to use the Giants’ D/ST again; they did not disappoint against the turnover prone Cowboys for their salary last week, and Washington is also one of the higher turnover teams (they have eight, tied for third-most). Further, Washington QBs are sacked at the second-highest rate in the league (4.2 times per game). Not to pick on this game too much – although they are the second- and third-lowest scoring teams in the league, but my other favorite D/ST plays this week is the Football Team’s. Washington is averaging 3.0 sacks per game, and the Giants’ Daniel Jones has been sacked 3.2 times per game, both well above league-average. The New York Giants also have one more turnover than Washington – nine (tied for second in the league), providing more upside for Washington D/ST.
Chicago at Carolina, Total 44.5
I won’t say full avoid with this game, but do beware of the low point total. Carolina is the best running back matchup, and it would be borderline crazy to not have some David Montgomery exposure. My hesitation is that matchup isn’t everything; Montgomery has had plenty of great spots and failed to take advantage of them (Detroit, Atlanta stand out as examples). Since Nick Foles took over, Montgomery has had fewer rushing attempts (10 per game), but more targets (six and eight in Weeks 4 and 5). Certainly not all in on Montgomery, but yes to a couple lineups.
The Panthers’ Mike Davis was Week 5’s best fantasy running back, so although Chicago’s defense has been really solid, especially against the pass, I’m considering Davis a PPR priority. He’s now put together four outstanding efforts (especially on PPR sites), with an average of 22-23 fantasy points per game.
Baltimore at Philadelphia, Total 46.5
Lamar Jackson is still DraftKings’ most expensive QB, despite coming off as more efficient than prolific. He still ranks second (behind Kyler Murray) in rushing yards (before Josh Allen plays Tuesday night), and has an impressive nine passing touchdowns on the fewest attempts by any starting QB in the league. He had great games against Cleveland and Washington, and this implied team total suggests another one is in store. It helps justify Jackson if you also consider that Marquise Brown gets a Top 8 WR matchup with the Eagles, and is coming off his first 10-target game of the season. After a hot start followed by a forgettable Week 2 & 3, Brown looks like he’s back on track with Jackson and ready to boost the highlight reels. As noted above, Mark Andrews is going to be popular with Travis Kelce and George Kittle off the main slate. No issues rostering all three star Ravens in this spot.
Miami vs. NY Jets, Total 47.5
It took me a minute, but I came around on the idea of rostering Dolphins this week. First, the Jets have scored fewer points than any other team in the league, while allowing the second-most. Miami is one of the higher scoring teams in the league after Week 1, and averaging 27.2 points per game including a dismal Week 1. They’ve played a friendly schedule, but the Jets are, as I already pointed out, nearly the friendliest. I think it’s possible this line is inflated given the magical performance Ryan Fitzpatrick is coming off vs. the 49ers, but there are still reasons to think they could repeat. Fitz ranks eighth in completion percentage, and fifth in rushing yards among QBs. His 7:5 TD:INT ratio isn’t great, but two rushing touchdowns have helped him maintain value. Other Dolphins to consider (and not necessarily in a stack with Fitzpatrick since there are many QBs to choose from this week) are Myles Gaskin, Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker and Preston Williams. Gaskin has 18 red zone rushing attempts and four targets to Jordan Howard’s 8 RZ touches. I love Gaskin’s DK salary. Williams and Gesicki have been the receivers that Fitzpatrick looks to most often in the red zone. Parker had the best Week 4 stats, while it was Williams in Week 5. The problem with buying into the Dolphins is that they can’t all be great, so you’re picking more or less at random against this defense. Salary doesn’t completely sort it out: Gesicki is just barely cheaper than Andrews at TE, which is still expensive, and Parker is much more expensive than Williams. Let salary be your guide, but try to build lineups that mix and match Miami skill players to ensure a hit on the big producer. All things considered, I prefer Gaskin, Parker, Williams and Gesicki in that order.