You know that targeting the highest scoring games and particularly the teams with the highest implied totals makes sense in fantasy football. This analysis will highlight exactly which situations are the best to take advantage of and which you might want to avoid within those games. We’ll also highlight a couple games to use caution with as well as some less obvious targets. All betting lines are courtesy of MyBookie.
The high scoring games:
Baltimore at Kansas City, Total 55 points
If you’re stubbornly waiting for Patrick Mahomes and/or Lamar Jackson to fail, stop. They are both for real. Yes, their salaries show it, but rostering either one of them is a win for your lineups, especially given the QB landscape in Week 3. Maybe the real question is who will be better this weekend as they face off in the game with the highest point total by far?
Given what we know about the two defenses, my money is on Jackson to be the better fantasy point per dollar option. But both could easily account for 3-4 TDs, as has been the case in each game so far. Baltimore’s defense has held opponents to just 13.5 points per game, with six sacks and three picks so far. Of course, their opponents (Miami and Arizona) aren’t exactly offensive powerhouses, but this is still a talented unit that should make things a little harder for Mahomes. On the other side, the Chiefs Defense has given up an average of 18 points per game (to Jacksonville and Oakland). Vegas has the Chiefs as pretty big home favorites, and we do appreciate the implied team total:QB fantasy points correlation, so if you can squeeze the extra $600-700 for Mahomes, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Sticking with the Chiefs for a moment, Sammy Watkins is his usual boom or bust self so far, and Travis Kelce is coming off the kind of game we expect (7-of-9, 107 ReYds, 1 TD). Both Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson stepped up in Week 2, proving reliable on their six targets apiece and accounting for three Mahomes’ TDs. While Watkins was disappointing in Week 2, he still had a whopping 13 targets, and should definitely be on your radar this week. All four of these receivers are playable, when you consider that neither LeSean McCoy nor Damien Williams is healthy heading into Week 3. I don’t think the Chiefs are ready to dump a full workload on Darwin Thompson yet, and I definitely don’t think the run game is going to do much against a Baltimore defense that has allowed 41 total rushing yards this season. So go all in on the pass-catchers, or sprinkle them around different lineups to get some exposure to whomever will the THE GUY this week (I’m going back to Watkins).
I was going to say that Baltimore looks much more like a pass-happy offense than a run-first team, but though they’re fourth in the league in passing yards (318 per game), they’re first in rushing yards (223 per game). Jackson accounts for a significant part of that number, rushing for 120 yards in Week 2 in addition to passing for 272 yards. With Mark Ingram banged up and a pretty even distribution between Justice Hill and Gus Edwards, I’m leaning on Jackson and his favorite receivers, Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews this week. Brown has 18 targets on the season, and ranks third among WRs in receiving yards. No other wideout on the team has more than four targets. Andrews is right behind Brown with 17 targets, and he’s caught 16 of them for a league-leading (among TE) 220 receiving yards and two touchdowns. This Jackson-Brown-Andrews group is the easiest stack of the week for cash game lineups.
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Houston at LA Chargers, Total 48 points
The line on this game seems optimistic given that both teams are averaging just 20 points per game so far this season, and early bettors are in fact hammering the under (per MyBookie). That is some cause for concern if we’re thinking about going heavy on this game, but there aren’t any other games with a point total over 50, so I at least want to focus on a potentially close one. Sometimes, like with the game above, it makes sense to stack, but here I think we’ll strategically use players from this game as one-off fillers in GPP lineups.
Austin Ekeler is the standout name on the Chargers side of the ball, and he leads all running backs in fantasy points. With more receiving yards (163) than rushing yards (124), his versatility has allowed him to score four times through two games. Justin Jackson was more involved (and effective) in Week 2, but I don’t see this as a steady progression and am totally comfortable taking Ekeler as the sixth-seventh most expensive back again this weekend. Houston ranks 11th-worst against the pass and ninth-worst against the run so far this season, making dual-threats like Ekeler more appealing.
On the passing side of things, I can always see using reduced-salary Philip Rivers in a tournament lineup, and Keenan Allen is one of the most-targeted receivers in the game. On DraftKings, he doesn’t need to score to reach value. Mike Williams made it through Sunday’s loss ok, and had some highlight catches that convinced me he’s healthy. Watch his status this week, but barring a setback, he’s a good bet for 7-8 targets and a score on Sunday.
On the Texans side, Deshaun Watson is a tough player to use this week. His high salary and low volume worry me. He threw three TDs in Week 1, zero in Week 2, and although he had a rushing touchdown, he managed only 159 yards in the air vs. the Jaguars. The Chargers aren’t a much more friendly pass matchup, giving up just 209 passing yards per game so far, and you know they’ll be trying to take away DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Both receivers should be considered tournament options only. The team admitted Keke Coutee was rusty (for the first time in his career returning from injury), and I’m not high on him or Kenny Stills as the slot receiver for the Texans to face off with Desmond King of the Chargers.
Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde are a true running back committee. Neither has scored, ceding red zone rushing touchdowns to Watson in both games so far. They take enough volume from each other that neither inspires trust. Of course, either back could score and score multiple times any given week, but it’s not enough to count on, and the Chargers just stifled the Lions run game in Week 2, a vast improvement over their Week 1 performance.
The low scoring games:
Oakland at Minnesota, Total 42.5 points
Oh, Oakland, why did you have to be so Oakland-y against the Chiefs in Week 2? I mean, they were good enough, but not excellent options, and now both Josh Jacobs and Tyrell Williams are dealing with potentially significant injuries. Ugh. And facing the Vikings. The Vikings are allowing an average 16.5 points per game so far, and have faced two superior offenses in Atlanta and Green Bay. They are tied for the league lead in turnovers too. There’s really no upside Raiders play this weekend considering that even Darren Waller’s salary has come up.
The Vikings, on the other hand, should be fantasy gold this weekend at home against a Raiders Defense that has given up more passing yards than any other team so far. Most of it was to Mahomes, but still. If there was a week to stack the Minnesota passing game, this would be it. Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs could all have ceiling weeks. All have been disappointing thus far as the Vikes rely on Dalvin Cook and, to a lesser extent, Alexander Mattison, to move the chains and score the touchdowns. Diggs got one score in Week 2, and would have had another but for a penalty. That’s a good sign, despite his overall low catch rate and lack of reliability, and again on the positive side, he is apparently fully healthy. Thielen is the 1A in Minnesota but has also been disappointing relative to his salary so far. The public isn’t putting any trust in these two, so now’s the time to take advantage of a beautiful matchup at lower ownership. The public, smartly, should be rostering the Vikings D/ST at a high rate this weekend, but they're a solid mid-range pick, so no complaints from me!
Denver at Green Bay, Total 43 points
These two teams have allowed a similar amount of yards per game (315-337.5 YPG), but the Packers have held opponents when and where it counts, allowing just 9.5 points per game. Denver’s defense has given up an average of 20.5 points per game to Oakland and Chicago. I’m not saying the Denver secondary is a pushover, but I agree with Vegas that Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Co. should be able to put some points on the board. I also think the Packers Defense is more effective at home, even when it’s not zero degrees outside. Did you start to believe in Jimmy Graham after Week 1? I hope not, as he was not targeted in Week 2. This is a situation I simply avoid. Aaron Jones is tempting after a nice showing against Minnesota (150 total yards and a touchdown), but his high salary and the Packers tendency to under-utilize him make it a risky play. For me, it’s Rodgers and Adams and that’s all for this week.
High team totals you might miss:
New York Jets at New England, Total 43.5 points
No one is missing this, the largest spread I've seen since I started doing this column four years ago. As good as it is, it's hard to know which Pats to trust. Rex Burkhead or Sony Michel? Antonio Brown or Josh Gordon? Will it take Tom Brady one quarter or two to establish a large enough margin of victory to rely on the run game? The one sure-fire play is the Patriots D/ST. They've allowed three total points through two games and the Jets are starting Luke Falk. Falk actually didn't look like a disaster, but the Pats defense is stifling this year.
Miami at Dallas, Total 47.5 points
OK, OK, you’re not missing this one either, the second biggest spread I’ve seen. It’s a very wide spread, but also seems so safe. Bettors are overwhelmingly on the Cowboys and the under so far, which comes as no surprise given that Dallas ranks fifth with 33 points per game and Miami has put up 10 total points so far. Maybe it’s not SUCH a stretch that Miami has an implied team total of 13.5 points, considering that Washington and the NY Giants scored at least 17 points apiece on the Cowboys. For our purposes, all this points to the liberal use of the Cowboys and a total avoid, as always, of the Dolphins.
Ezekiel Elliott should feast here, and if things get too out of hand, I’d expect Tony Pollard to get involved as well. Elliott is the only safe RB play, however. Dak Prescott has been too good for our good…he’s the fourth-most expensive QB this week after throwing seven touchdown passes with only one interception in the first two weeks. He’s been incredibly efficient on about 30 attempts per game. That has translated to 14 targets and two TDs for Amari Cooper, making him the third-highest priced receiver this week on DraftKings (sixth on FanDuel). With Michael Gallup out, Devin Smith becomes a bargain flier, although Prescott is still looking for Jason Witten, who is one of the cheaper tight ends to average double-digit fantasy points in 2019. Don’t forget Randall Cobb either, although it never feels great slotting him into your lineup with all the flashier guys in his range.
Pittsburgh at San Francisco, Total 43 points
Do the Steelers still have a road curse if Big Ben isn’t playing? Is the 49ers defense actually ok or is Tampa Bay just that bad? What about the SF offense? Who are they? There are a lot of questions in this game, but I am following the oddsmakers lead here and expecting the 49ers to be the more valuable fantasy assets this week. At home, coming off a nice win in which Jimmy Garoppolo accounted for over 300 yards and three touchdowns with a single interception, this balanced offense should overcome what has been a very disappointing Pittsburgh defense. Marquise Goodwin and George Kittle are the names that come to mind first, but Goodwin is more than capable of disappearing, and Deebo Samuel is emerging (seven targets in Week 2, which he turned into five catches and a touchdown). Kittle’s salary is falling and it’s only a matter of time before he tops the fantasy charts. I like that to happen this week. The running back quagmire worked well for the Niners, as both Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert ran wild over the Bengals. Look for more of the same kind of workload split this week, although I doubt the results will be as flashy. Pittsburgh is giving up 440 passing yards per game so I’m investing in the air game, which could include Mostert on DraftKings at least.
Pittsburgh would certainly make for a contrarian option this weekend, as the entire offense adjusts to Mason Rudolph under center. He had a nice connection with Vance McDonald and at least one long completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is on fantasy life support through two weeks. His salary is down enough for one more chance in Week 3. It’s possible James Conner gets a boost but I’m not betting on that on the road against SF with his questionable knee status. Finally, I’m slightly upgrading James Washington and severely downgrading Donte Moncrief, who seems to have forgotten how to receive footballs in his hands this year.