Week 2 NFL DFS Starting Points: Vegas Lines
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:
Kansas City at Oakland, Total 52
If there were any doubts out there that the Chiefs would pick up where they left off in 2018, they were laid soundly to rest as Patrick Mahomes and Sammy Watkins picked apart the Jaguars Defense. Travis Kelce was a disappointment in the win, catching only three passes (though for 88 yards) on eight targets. Especially when Tyreek Hill left the game early, I expected more. Granted, the Jaguars boast a strong secondary and they were clearly concerned with the star tight end, which aided in Watkins’ big day (and being left totally alone on one of his big TD catches). Mahomes is dealing with an ankle sprain, and while I think he’ll be fine come Sunday afternoon, you will want to watch his week carefully given his sky-high salary.
The pass game after Kelce and Watkins is up for grabs, with Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson in line to become more involved. I can guarantee Hardman has higher ownership this week, despite not recording a catch on his lone Week 1 target (novelty and athleticism). Of course, Robinson was not any better, catching one-of-two targets for zero yards, but you can have him at minimum salary with lower ownership. The safest bet is on a huge Kelce bounce back and that’s where I’m investing this weekend. Oakland has historically been a fantasy-friendly matchup for good tight ends.
Speculating on the run game for the Chiefs is rampant, but the most likely outcome is a continued time share between LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams. I’m avoiding both. Josh Jacobs, on the other hand, was stellar in his NFL debut, rushing for 80 yards, catching a pass and scoring twice. Against a Chiefs Defense that ranked third last year in fantasy points allowed to running backs, Jacobs (at a salary set prior to his first game) is a bargain.
Derek Carr is arguably the best play of this game, given his deep bargain salary and the precision he showed in Monday night’s win over Denver. Kansas City just let rookie Gardner Minshew play a nearly perfect game against them, giving up 350 combined passing yards and three passing touchdowns. Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller appear to be capable of making up for the loss of Antonio Brown, with six and seven receptions, respectively. Carr, Williams, and Kelce is a solid core for Week 2. For this reason (and the fact that Denver failed to stop Oakland drives, sack Carr, or get any kind of turnover Monday night) I’m ruling out the Kansas City D/ST this week, despite the wide spread.
New Orleans at LA Rams, Total 54
The Saints pulled out a thrilling win Monday night in what was arguably the best game of the week. Given their historical home/road splits (and the Rams ability to put up 30 points on the road in Carolina in Week 1), the Saints are the small underdog in LA for Week 2. However, against LA, the Saints cover the spread 70 percent of the time, and the over has hit in 87.5 percent of the recent matchups. New Orleans has outscored the Rams by an average of 3.6 points and Drew Brees has passed for an average of 318.8 yards per game in the last five meetings (per MyBookie). It wouldn’t surprise me to see the betting public on the Saints this week.
For fantasy purposes, this should be a great game. We saw what Alvin Kamara did against the Texans Monday night, and what Christian McCaffrey did to the Rams in Week 1. Kamara has to be a top RB play, regardless of salary. Also, while Brees did a nice job of getting Jared Cook, Ted Ginn Jr. and Tre’Quan Smith involved, Michael Thomas remains the dominant receiving threat. Thomas in cash games; Ginn in tournaments is what I’m planning.
I really liked a solo Jared Goff in tournaments last week, sadly for me, but it’s a strategy I won’t abandon yet. The high total here and a home matchup for Goff still spell fantasy points for the QB, who is surrounded by talent. Robert Woods was the most productive and the most targeted of the three receivers, followed by Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks. They’ll all have big days, but I’m not predicting the when and where…
The RB situation is another avoid for me. What’s good for teams and players is frequently not great for fantasy, and that’s what the Todd Gurley/Malcolm Brown time split has become. Plenty of people will bet on a carbon copy performance by Brown, but it’s just as likely to be Gurley who gets a red zone carry and score this week. Although Brown’s low salary limits the risk associated with rostering him, Gurley out-touched Brown and had better efficiency, for what it’s worth (6.9 YPC on 14 carries).
The low scoring games:
Chicago at Denver, Total 40.5
Let’s start by acknowledging the obvious play: Bears D/ST. In their favor, it’s the lowest game total of the week, against a team that was beaten by Oakland (who recorded three sacks of Joe Flacco Monday night), and they are a talented unit that really got after Aaron Rodgers last Thursday (five sacks, only 213 total yards of offense). The one downside is that they’re on the road, but I’m offsetting that with the fact that the majority of DFS players are likely to home in on the Patriots for less of the salary cap. Strong lower-ownership plays are worth more than strong, highly-owned plays in large field tournaments. I’m leaving it at that for the most part, but I also like David Montgomery in a bounce-back spot here. Josh Jacobs ran wild against Denver Monday night, and Montgomery’s salary is tempting in GPPs.
Buffalo at New York Giants, Total 43.5
The Bills pulled out an impressive come-from-behind win over the Jets and their stifling pass defense was a big reason. They were in Sam Darnold’s face all day. While Eli Manning looked better than I expected in Dallas Sunday, I’m largely avoiding the Giants pass game this week. This is a continuation of Bills pass defense that limited opposing passers to the fewest and receivers to the fourth-fewest fantasy points in 2018.
The one area of weakness displayed by the Bills secondary was to Jamison Crowder in the slot, a role that could be played by Evan Engram in Week 2. With Sterling Shepard in the concussion protocol and Golden Tate still suspended, things are thin in New York. Engram, Saquan Barkley, and Cody Latimore are Manning’s top options. Among them, rolling with Barkley or Engram in a Josh Allen/John Brown lineup makes for an interesting tournament core. Alternatively, Devin Singletary is still priced right and even I’m on the bandwagon of “they have to give him more work”.
High team totals you might miss:
Arizona at Baltimore, Total 47
Wow, Baltimore. There are some fluky Week 1 stat lines, but there are also some it pays to heed. Lamar Jackson was excellent irrespective of the Dolphin’s ‘defense’. If he maintains his downfield accuracy against a similarly weak Cardinals’ secondary, Marquise Brown has an excellent chance at another day of long TD pass receptions. Mark Ingram was also stellar in Week 1, but I’m less enthusiastic about the Baltimore run game this week. The Cardinals are more susceptible through the air, and the Ravens were quick to put the ball in Gus Edwards’ hands once the game was out of hand. Load up on Jackson, Brown, and the Ravens’ D/ST with confidence.
On the other side, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson still have it and Christian Kirk needs to find it. Was there a less efficient wide receiver in Week 1? Kirk saw 12 targets, but caught only four for 32 yards. Gross. He’ll have better weeks, but it probably won’t be this one. Leave Kyler Murray and the Cardinals gang on the shelf against one of the best defenses in the league this week.
New England at Miami, Total 47.5
I mentioned the Patriots’ D/ST above because I think they will be the most popular option this week. With this point spread and what we saw of Miami in Week 1, not to mention the slight discount they offer from Ravens and/or Bears, I’m not arguing against it! So we’re steering well clear of Miami players this week but who on the Patriots can you trust?
Tom Brady has been visiting the fountain of youth, and with Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman pouring the drinks, it’s not hard to see why. The two shared fabulous chemistry with Brady against the Steelers in Week 1 (Edelman led the receivers with 11 targets, Gordon had three critical catches). Even Philip Dorsett looked good, catching all four of his targets including two touchdowns. How Antonio Brown influences this dynamic remains to be seen, but it’s hard to envision a scenario where it’s bad for Brady. I think Dorsett will be the biggest loser eventually, but I also expect Brown to be limited in his Patriots debut. So, Brady and Edelman are your safest picks in the pass game. Gordon is and will usually be a good GPP target as long as he stays relatively cheap. I’m fading Dorsett and Brown this week.
The running backs were a big surprising, with Rex Burkhead leading the group with 16 total touches (eight carries, eight targets). Sony Michel was wholly ineffective with 14 yards on 15 carries, but this isn’t the reason for Burkhead’s involvement, which was steady throughout the game. Burkhead also out-carried Michel (by one) in the red zone. James White did his usual thing, but didn’t score, which is clearly what anyone in this backfield needs to do to find fantasy relevance. I’m staying away.
Jacksonville at Houston, Total 44.5
At first glance I was a bit surprised by this spread, given that I was impressed by how the Jaguars played Sunday, before and after Nick Foles left the game. Gardner Minshew was perfect for a while, ending up going 22-of-25 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. He favored D.J. Chark and Chris Conley, players he likely took more preseason reps with, and both exceeded value in Week 1 while Dede Westbrook was a tad disappointing. Of course, the Texans Defense is superior to the Chiefs and Minshew is no Drew Brees, who only narrowly eeked out a victory Monday night in this matchup.
So it’s hard to rely on the Jaguars this weekend, especially the pass game. I’d be willing to go back to the QB-WR1-opposing RB game stack here though. Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Leonard Fournette (who isn’t exactly Kamara-like, but did catch four passes for 24 yards in Week 1) make for a high upside correlation grouping while still allowing you to mix in pieces of the other top games.