We have another interesting week as two high-powered offenses (New England and Pittsburgh) are both on bye, and several games have low totals. Stud wide receiver A.J. Green has a miserable matchup against the elite Jacksonville pass defense, and DeAndre Hopkins must be downgraded after Deshaun Watson’s season-ending ACL tear. Furthermore, only one high total game (Chiefs at Cowboys) has a narrow spread. As always, I’ll do my best to find the top cash game plays at each position, but this is shaping up to be a week where you can get very creative in tournaments, and may want to reduce cash game exposure. Let’s dive into my top FanDuel and DraftKings picks for this weekend. Keep up with the latest news via the RotoGrinders DFS Alerts app - we’ll push injury news directly to your phone for free with a DFS spin.
Cash Game Targets
Michael Thomas vs Buccaneers
Drew Brees at home, especially against a woeful secondary, used to be one of absolute locks in daily fantasy NFL. However, the Saints seem to be more content with running the ball when they have a lead. They’re no longer an extremely pass-heavy offense, but given the state of this slate, this is still one of the most secure spots this week. The Saints take on a Bucs defense that ranks 31st in pass defense DVOA. The Saints are going to put points on the board, and Thomas is the most likely receiver to be involved in the scoring. He’s been the most consistent Saints receiver, is the number one option, and draws a matchup that is just too good to ignore.
Of course, there is a game script that sees him disappoint. If the Saints jump out to an early lead and he doesn’t find the end zone, they may be content to run the ball in the second half, limiting the passing game. Further, with the Saints being very tough on the pass (still can’t believe that’s the case this season) and weak against the run, the Bucs could go with a run-heavy plan to shorten the game. If it’s looking like Thomas is going to be a very popular tournament option, I’m quite comfortable fading him.
Dez Bryant vs Chiefs
Dez is my favorite receiver play on the entire slate as he’s underpriced on both FanDuel and DraftKings, and is involved in what appears to easily be the most fantasy-friendly game on the main slate. He’s taking on a Chiefs team that ranks 20th in pass defense DVOA and 29th against number once receivers. Kansas City is getting shredded through the air this season, and given Bryant ranks number one in red zone targets out of all receivers this season, this is just a fantastic spot. He’s an absolute must play for me in cash games this week, and the upside potential is very high for tournaments as well. This one is shaping up to be a shootout between two very good offenses and two questionable defenses. Make sure you have plenty of exposure to this game.
Julio Jones at Panthers
Rostering Julio Jones is often maddening because he’s an amazing talent that should see as much usage as guys like Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins. Atlanta’s coaching staff should be ashamed of itself for not doing more to get the ball into the hands of their best player. Given Jones’s price relative to his targets and involvement, it’s nearly impossible to justify using him in cash games. The fact that Atlanta’s offense just hasn’t been clicking this season certainly doesn’t help.
However, the Panthers are tough against the run, and even though they rank seventh against the pass as well, their DVOA ranking against number once receivers is 22nd. Let’s also not forget that this is the same Carolina team that Jones shredded for 300 yards last season, so while the upside is second-to-none, his floor simply doesn’t justify forcing him into cash game lineups. Until we see Atlanta’s coaching staff get a clue, Jones is a tournament play only, but one that must be considered each week.
DeVante Parker vs Raiders
Parker is set to return to action this week, and he couldn’t ask for a better matchup than a Raiders team that ranks 32nd in pass defense DVOA. Both the Dolphins (28th vs the pass and 3rd vs the run) and Raiders are awful at defending the pass, so expect to see a more pass-heavy approach from both teams. This should result in more possessions and more opportunities for fantasy points. Also, given the Dolphins just plain stink, they’re likely to be playing from behind and forced into more passing situations than they’d probably like. Further, top running back Jay Ajayi was traded to the Eagles, leaving behind a much less talented committee of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. Behind a miserable offense line, don’t expect the Dolphins to get anything going on the ground this week.
I can’t trust Parker in cash games, especially coming off an absence, but I love him as a tournament option that I hope will go over-looked.
Cash Game Targets
Travis Kelce at Cowboys
Like Dez Bryant, the stars are aligning for a huge game from Kelce. Dallas ranks 19th in pass defense DVOA, but they really struggle against opposing tight ends (29th). Their defensive scheme tends to funnel passes toward the middle of the field. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Kelce cracks double digit targets in this game. He’s expensive, but the lack of elite options at other positions makes paying up for him in cash games a viable strategy.
Jimmy Graham vs Redskins
Seattle’s offense is often tough to peg, but their inability to run the football behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league at least forces them, at some point, to become more aggressive with the passing game. The fact that Washington has a solid defense and has done a great job of limiting opposing side receivers favors Graham this week. Washington ranks sixth and seventh against number one and two receivers, respectively, but 28th against tight ends. The fact that Graham is the most heavily targeted receiver in the league inside the 10-yard line certainly doesn’t hurt either. He’s a strong cash game play with plenty of upside in tournaments as well.
Jack Doyle at Texans
The injury to Deshaun Watson brought the line in this game closer, but the Colts are still heavy road underdogs despite the Texans being forced to start Tom Savage. This is one of those very poor quarterback vs very poor defense situations, but given Houston still has talent on that side of the ball, I’m inclined to agree with Vegas’s assessment.
We should see the Colts fall behind, and even if they don’t, I’m not expecting them to be able to do much on the ground against Houston’s sixth-ranked run defense. If they want to move the ball, it’s likely to be through the air, and given Doyle has been heavily targeted for several weeks now, I like him quite a bit despite Houston’ being tough on tight ends this season. The Colts are going to have to lean heavily on the passing game in this one, and the odds that Doyle sees at least eight targets are very good.
Jared Cook at Dolphins
Jared Cook has taken on a more prominent role in Oakland’s passing game, mostly at the expense of Michael Crabtree. He’s averaging nearly six targets per game, and with the Raiders taking on a Miami team that is very strong against the run, but terrible against the pass, I expect him to see an extra look or two. The Dolphins rank 19th in DVOA against the tight end, which is good enough for me to take a shot on Cook in some tournament lineups.