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 lower over/unders. Note that these lines will probably change over the course of the week, which is why we call it ‘starting’ points.
Atlanta at Dallas, Total 52.5
While it is doubtful that Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage exceed their Week 1 output against a superior opponent (and on the road), it was enough of a show for Vegas to tag this game with its highest point total of the week (tied). Though neither the Cowboys nor the Falcons were among the top scorers (Atlanta was 14th with 25 points and Dallas only scored 17), the offensive potential of these two teams makes this game a DFS priority. Dak Prescott is more expensive than Matt Ryan on all three sites, but with a significantly higher team total, and Atlanta coming off a defensive performance that made Russell Wilson the top fantasy QB, is tempting. On DraftKings, the salary separation is only $200, making the decision between Prescott and Ryan (in favor of Prescott) easier.
The good news is that it should be hard to go wrong with the playmakers on either side of this game. I like where Julio Jones is priced ($32 Yahoo, $7400 DK!!, and $8200 FD) this week, although last week all three receivers had the same nine catches on 12 targets, Jones is still the alpha in this offense. Using Ridley as part of a game stack or stand alone cash game savings is fine with me this week, but I’d like to see Gage do it again before fully trusting his Week 1 outcome. This might be a better week to take a shot on Hayden Hurst, even if he burned you last week with his meager output on such an explosive day for the rest of the team. Dallas was a plus matchup for tight ends last year, and though Tyler Higbee didn’t get too much of a chance to show off in Week 1, he didn’t struggle to take advantage of the opportunities he got vs. Dallas Sunday night (3-of-4, one especially nice 21-yard play). Todd Gurley would make for a pivot mid-range RB play; I don’t think he’s worth the salary in most lineups.
Everyone should think about rostering Michael Gallup this week in a GPP, at a very reasonable salary across the board, because I suspect there might be some attempt to make up for that bad OPI call Sunday night. Of course, Amari Cooper is the WR1, but isn’t necessarily priced as such if this game goes as predicted ($7000 FD!, $22 Yahoo!, and $6300 DK). CeeDee Lamb looked great in his debut, and as the team will be without Blake Jarwin (Dalton Schultz will be the primary receiving tight end in his absence), Lamb isn’t an awful bet to repeat a six-target game. One of the reasons I love this game is that you can find a player in it at every salary to round out lineups. I’ll pose no argument to spending up on Ezekiel Elliott if that fits for you.
Baltimore at Houston, Total 52.5
I’m decidedly heavier on the Ravens side of this one. Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown lost no time reminding people they were a top offense on Sunday, and the defense allowed fewer points than any other team. I’m going to say that Andrews and Brown are both underpriced, which makes them both perfectly priced for cash games this week. I’m not going to chase J.K. Dobbins’ two touchdowns. I think Jackson or Mark Ingram are as likely or likelier to repeat that line than Dobbins, but I’m not trusting Ingram either.
On the Houston side, RB is where I’m looking. Not only did David Johnson look great in his first game with the Texans, but Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 132 rushing yards (and 15 receiving yards) in what was a dim bright spot for the Browns last weekend against Baltimore. Johnson is almost must-play level salary on Yahoo ($20) and DraftKings ($5800) but still worth a look on FanDuel ($7200). Another bargain option might be Jordan Akins, who looked ready for a bigger role than he got in Week 1. Any other Texans, including Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller V, and Brandin Cooks are only making tournament lineups for me.
New York Jets vs. San Francisco, Total 42.5
You’d have to be a real gambler to take on a Jets stack this weekend, though I’m sure it will happen. Sam Darnold is no Kyler Murray, and definitely doesn’t have a DeAndre Hopkins to throw to, and even Murray struggled at times against this tough Niners defense. Murray managed a win and a good fantasy day thanks to his legs, but again, Darnold doesn’t have that kind of game. With LeVeon Bell getting hurt and Chris Herndon being a non-factor, Darnold relied heavily on Jamison Crowder in Week 1. Crowder was a PPR option for much of last year, and I guess if you were desperate for a final receiver in his salary range, you could go that way. The best plays in this game are 49ers D/ST and Raheem Mostert in my opinion. Maybe some Jerick McKinnon in PPR. So if you’re thinking about Josh Adams when Bell is out, I’m thinking McKinnon for the same price instead.
Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo, Total 41.5
The Jets and Miami look like the teams to avoid, and I have a feeling I’m going to be putting them in this section a lot this season. The same combination of bad offense and bad defense plagues Miami, and not so different from San Francisco, the Bills are a formidable opponent. They are bound to disrupt Ryan Fitzpatrick just as much or more than they did Darnold in Week 1. Myles Gaskin is a name I’m hearing – Gaskin might be the Dolphins lead rusher, with nine carries and four targets in Week 1, and Matt Breida gets a revenge game this week. Let someone else deal with this headache, which also includes Jordan Howard, who scored in Week 1 but averaged fewer than one yard per carry. Remember Buffalo is very much in New England/San Francisco territory on the defensive side of the ball. So Miami is a whole fade for me this week. Best plays here are Josh Allen and Bills D/ST.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina, Total 49
Tom Brady failed the eye test multiple times on Sunday, but walked away with three total touchdowns and a good fantasy stat line. It is apparently part of the Bucs QB job description to throw picks, and Brady obliged with two, which allowed the Saints an easier path to victory. He did, however seem to recognize that O.J. Howard has value in a high-volume passing offense, and Howard showed why we’ve all liked him so much for so long. That is a situation I’m monitoring closely, and Howard will be in more of my Week 2 lineups than higher-priced Rob Gronkowski. Chris Godwin looked great as usual, though a questionable Mike Evans got the late touchdown catch. They’re similar salary, but Godwin is worth the extra spend if you can do it.
The intriguing and for me, anyway, gutsy play for the Bucs is Ronald Jones Jr. He looked every bit the lead back in Week 1, but Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy are still there. Carolina did nothing to dispel the notion that they can’t stop the run against Las Vegas in Week 1, and it seems foolish to not attack this matchup again with Jones.
The Bucs are the big favorites here, but look for more from me on the Panthers later this week!
Kansas City Chiefs at LA Chargers, Total 48.6
When the Chiefs are on the main slate, you can’t miss them because they sit right there atop the positional salary lists. Patrick Mahomes got his job done last Thursday, but didn’t even finish as a Top 10 fantasy QB. A 75-completion percent with three touchdowns and no picks is a great stat line, but he relied heavily on rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire and ended up with only 211 passing yards. I’m not ultra-confident in the Chargers keeping enough pressure on to evoke a huge Mahomes game, but I am convinced he will be great enough for cash game lineups. You can save $500 on Mahomes over Jackson on both FanDuel and DraftKings, money that could be well-spent elsewhere. It’s Week 2 and I’m already a broken record. Travis Kelce, when healthy, deserves a spot in any lineup. Whether you can make the sacrifices at WR/RB to fit him is up to you.
Yahoo made CEH their second-most expensive running back this week. I’m expecting very low ownership of him on that site, which is appropriate. I’m also pumping the enthusiasm brakes on him in this particular matchup. The Chargers need to sharpen up offensively to hang in here with a team like the Chiefs, but their defense is already looking good. Joe Mixon was unable to do much against them despite relatively high volume (19 carries). Of course, I will continue to start Edwards-Helaire in season-long leagues, but I won’t be paying up for him in DFS this week. As far as receiving options for KC? Sammy Watkins is a Week 1 god; my advice is to go back to Tyreek Hill this week.