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.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans, Total 49.5
I expect this game to be heavily targeted by DFS players this week, not only because of the point total, but because of the novelty of Tom Brady on a new team. Drew Brees is pretty much QB 3 on every site, but Brady slips a bit on FanDuel and Yahoo. With prized DFS weapon Chris Godwin and a healthy Mike Evans, not to mention his all-time favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, Week 1 is a great week to go all in on the Bucs. As was the case last year, Godwin and Evans have almost identical salaries, and are the bargain receivers in this game (Michael Thomas tops the WR salaries by a substantial margin on all three sites). Gronk is actually at bargain level ($5500 FD, $4900 DK, $16 Yahoo) and this is one week I will for sure have some exposure to him (either his salary will go up or he’ll get hurt, right?).
The excitement around the new-look Bucs may lead the favorites, and team with one of the highest implied totals for Week 1’s main slate, to be rostered less than they should be. Brees is expensive, Thomas is expensive, Alvin Kamara is expensive…I get it. Tampa Bay isn’t known for their defense, ranking in the Top 10 in total offense against. However, they were actually much more stingy against the run, giving up just two rushing touchdowns last year. This week, I’d much rather splurge on Thomas and/or Brees than Kamara. Taking advantage of a Bucs defense that allowed the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers last year is the way to go with this game. A cheaper way to get some of the Saints’ passing offense is to roster Emmanuel Sanders ($5600 FD, $5700 DK, $20 Yahoo) or Jared Cook ($5900 FD, $5500 DK, $20 Yahoo). The Bucs ranked eighth in fantasy points allowed to TEs.
Seattle at Atlanta, Total 49
Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and D.K. Metcalf have been priority picks in season-long leagues and best balls all month. Wilson is QB2 on FanDuel and DraftKings, but fourth on Yahoo. There is also a similar salary distinction between the more expensive Lockett and Metcalf on FD and DK, but they are separated by just $1 on Yahoo. A lot of people might fade the WRs here, choosing to just go with solo Wilson to avoid the inevitable regret of a wrong choice (rostered Lockett, get monster game from Metcalf or vice versa). That’s why they’re such good best ball targets. Both could have a 30-fantasy point game any given week. I really like Metcalf on the two sites where he is discounted, and probably will do the mini-stack of him with Wilson a lot this week.
Chris Carson is an interesting player this week. His salary is very easy to fit ($7200 FD, $6200 DK, $18 Yahoo), and traditionally Atlanta has been an easy team to run on. They toughened up there in 2019, so the matchup isn’t as automatic as it used to be, but Seattle’s commitment to the run game is one of the strongest in the league (sixth in rushing attempts in 2019).
It feels like Atlanta is being overlooked this season and probably this week for sure. One of the downsides of nothing really changing – they still feature Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley on offense, is that there isn’t much to get excited about from a fantasy perspective. They did add Hayden Hurst at TE and Todd Gurley at RB, but we are so over getting excited about Gurley, aren’t we? Not so the DFS sites, who have everyone priced to perform in this first week of football. Jones is WR2, Gurley is priced almost identically to Carson, Ryan is QB 4-5, except on Yahoo, where he checks in eighth ($29). Ryan and the Falcons led the league in pass attempts last year, making a healthy Jones an interesting pivot from Thomas in the high-end wide receiver market. Our NFL DFS Optimizer loves Jones this week, rating him the highest dollar per fantasy point value on DraftKings.
Dallas at LA Rams, Total 52
The highest total on the big main slate (for Yahoo only) features a Cowboys team that led the league in yards last season (431 yards per game on offense). They bring back all of their skill players including Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Prescott is just the fifth-most expensive QB on Yahoo this week, Elliott is their RB3, and both Cooper and Gallup are $23. It’s quite possible to use a Cowboys stack and mount a late day comeback in one of the big tournaments on Yahoo.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Jared Goff is priced just $2 more than Jarrett Stidham…no respect for Goff this week. And while season-long drafters flocked to Cooper Kupp ($21) and Robert Woods ($16), both are great values this first week. The Rams have quietly been one of the top scoring teams in the league several years running, and generally have made for solid DFS plays. Given that there are still a lot of questions at running back in LA, I’d avoid that situation and turn to Tyler Higbee, who is getting respect on Yahoo as the fifth-highest salaried TE ($20).
New York Jets at Buffalo, Total 39
These are always tough for me to do, being from Western New York and all. The loyal fans in my 100 mile radius would love to believe the Bills are going to usurp the Patriots for one reason or another, year after year. This year, it’s the loss of Tom Brady from the division and the addition of Stefon Diggs. I’ve been a Diggs fan since he came into the league and am excited to see what he can do in Buffalo with Josh Allen this year. The only scenario in which I’m rostering the Bills Offense in Week 1 is a large field, multi-entry GPP. They are heavy favorites, but there are enough questions about how this offense is going to function – Devin Singletary/Zach Moss split?, role for John Brown, last year’s fantasy WR15?, will Dawson Knox take a step forward? – to give me pause. Allen is pretty much always a safe bet, given his rushing ability (he’s led the league in QB rushing touchdowns the past two seasons). He’s terrific value on DraftKings. I’m also going to advocate for Moss over Singletary if you’re inclined to target this game with a classic RB/DST mini-stack. Moss has impressed during training camp, and all reports indicate he is more likely to get the goal line work.
The Jets are going to have to rely heavily on LeVeon Bell this game, which on the one hand makes Bell intriguing, but on the other, it leaves the Bills’ very talented defense with just one job. Bills’ DST will be rightly one of the most highly rostered of the week as the Jets’ passing offense is hamstringed by the slew of WR injuries (yes, pun intended).
Miami at New England, Total 43
Despite the low total, this will be a game I watch closely for DFS purposes. First, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels haven’t managed a QB with the mobility of Cam Newton and I’m interested to see what extent they unleash his former rushing ability in Week 1. The uncertainty there eliminates Newton from cash game contention for me but his lower salary ($7300 FD, $6100 DK, $26 Yahoo) makes him a great GPP target. Second, the Patriots will rely on James White, Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry to move the chains, and they are all reasonably salaried this week. Harry is most intriguing, as we haven’t seen him in a prominent role and the recent training camp reports claim he has developed a strong rapport with Newton. But don’t overlook the steady PPR goodness of White and Edelman either! Third, the Patriots’ defense was one of the best in the league last year, but are the fourth- or fifth-most expensive option on FanDuel or DraftKings this week.
The fourth thing I’m watching is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Our Lineup Optimizer ranks Fitzpatrick as the best value QB this week, and loves pairing him with Davante Parker. This combo opens up basically anything else you want in your lineup this week: Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas? Doable. From Week 7 on last season, Fitzpatrick averaged about 22 fantasy points per game.
San Francisco vs. Arizona, Total 47.5
This section of the article is to point out the high team totals of a couple heavy favorites on the slate. Jimmy Garoppolo’s Niners have one of the highest team totals of the week, and he is one of the cheaper QB options on the main slate. Raheem Mostert and George Kittle provide a solid support system, but Deebo Samuels’ status is up in the air. I’m most high on Mostert (more in the Bargains article), given that Garoppolo and SF averaged only 237 passing yards per game last season (17th in the league). But then consider that Arizona was the league’s best fantasy QB matchup last season. I’m unhelpfully divided on how much Garoppolo exposure I’m going to end up with. FWIW, our Lineup Optimizer hates Garoppolo, projecting only around 12.5 fantasy points which makes him one of the worst dollar-per-point values. Bottom line: some Garoppolo, Kittle and Mostert exposure is prudent, but how much is up to you.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland, Total 48.5
No one is accidentally overlooking the Ravens this week. Expect Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews to be highly owned despite their salaries. It’s Week 1 and there is value to be had. Our Tools have Jackson as the third-best QB value, but don’t love any other Ravens. That’s a bit of a disconnect and opens my eyes to some potential value plays that might be rostered at a lower rate. These include Mark Ingram, Marquise Brown, and Miles Boykin.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville, Total 45
Count me among those who aren’t excited for Philip Rivers in Indianapolis. To be fair, I’ve never been super excited about Rivers, so this is nothing against the Colts. However, where he’s priced this week, between Newton and Bridgewater, near Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, or Derek Carr, my tendency is to pick one of the other guys over Rivers. Vegas says that might be a mistake, and the line has moved a full point in the Colts’ favor since opening at -7. Remember that implied team totals (Colts’ is 26 points) correlate well with QB fantasy performance, with anything over a 24.5-point total typically signaling a positive fantasy return. With a healthy T.Y. Hilton in the mix, in addition to Parris Campbell and Jack Doyle (keep an eye on his health status this week), Rivers might be a sneaky good play. However, Marlon Mack and Jonathan Tayler are shaping up to be a formidable backfield tandem and this team could be much more of a run-first offense. I’m not all in.