Welcome to the NFL Monday/Thursday Slate Breakdown, where we identify the best plays for our lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Cleveland Browns @ San Francisco 49ers
Vegas: SF -5, 47.5
QB: Baker Mayfield has not exactly set the league on fire this year. He has not thrown for more than one touchdown in any game and he also has at least one interception in every game with a disastrous 3 in the opener. He is attempting about 35 passes a game, but completing only 20 of them. He has racked up good yardage totals with about 300 yards in three of his four starts. The 49ers defense has also been stingy, giving up the 8th fewest points to opposing QBs, even though teams have seen more success trying to pass on them. I think the Browns would like to run the ball and control the clock, but that’s even tougher to do on the 49ers. If you believe the Browns will be trailing as I do, this could set up for a higher volume passing spot for Mayfield. Remember though that he hasn’t been great and while that may lead to a lot of garbage time yards, it has more of a chance of ending in a turnover than a TD based on his season so far. Struggling young QB in a tough matchup is not an ideal play.
RB: Nick Chubb is about the closest thing to a must-play running back on this slate. I know the matchup is one of the worst on the slate, but Chubb is the guy with the most predictable touches on any of these 4 teams. He has no less than 20 touches in any game, including ones they played from way behind. He’s seeing 17+ carries and at least 3+ catches every week. He had a monster game last week where he found the end zone three times. Does this game set up well for him? Not at all. No one has really run the ball well against them. They held James Conner and Jaylen Samuels to like 50 yards after shutting down Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard in Week 2. Tampa doesn’t really have a run game anyway, but Week 1 wasn’t much better for opposing offenses. I thought about fading him because of the matchup, but you have slim pickins on this slate. In a showdown lineup I couldn’t do it, but I guess if you wanted to pay up everywhere else you can find some RBs who can approximate or beat his raw score if SF bottles him up like they have other opponents.
WR: Odell Beckham is super talented, but he’s only really returned value one time all season. That was a huge ceiling game, but the other three contests have been poor. This offense just isn’t that good. Now the softest spot to attack or at least the spot that has had the most success against the 49ers is WR. Jarvis Landry out-targeted and out-produced Beckham in Week 4, but Beckham has been the better play every other week so far. He is a GPP play here, but not one I am heavily investing in. I will have some exposure because his ceiling is the highest on the slate, but at the ownership level and price I don’t think he’s the best option. I would actually prefer to play Jarvis Landry. Landry also has not been great as the offense as a whole has looked bad. With David Njoku out though, he saw the targets creep up. He has been seeing at least 7 a game, and that number has jumped to averaging 10 targets over the last two contests. Landry is a better DK play with the full PPR, but the increased target load is something to consider. He’s now the only reliable target over the middle of the field with the TE carousel of guys like Ricky Seals-Jones and Demetrius Harris filling in for Njoku. Again, not the softest matchup, but WR defense has been the way to attack the 49ers with how tough it is to run on them. Antonio Callaway is back, but Rishard Higgins still is the better play. Neither of them project for massive volume and would only be considered as a GPP flier or Showdown slate option hoping for a low priced long TD catch. I’d have to make a ton of lineups before I get there though.
TE: We have seen production with Njoku out from both Demetrius Harris and Ricky Seals-Jones. RSJ does seem to be the better play if you wanted to take a chance on one of these guys. I am not going to do it though. RSJ came out of nowhere and had a long TD last week. Harris had a few red zone looks the week before. Neither guy is going to see high volume, and frankly I’m not even sure it is RSJ’s job. Too much uncertainty and too low a floor for both makes this a spot to just avoid.
DEF: The bright spot for the Browns is that defense so far. They create a lot of pressure. They have amassed 14 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, and 4 interceptions in 4 games. They have averaged double digit fantasy points over the last three weeks. Week 1 was a disaster for this defense against a run heavy Titans squad, but they have dialed up pressure and created turnovers since then. They also have given up some points, so it’s not like they have shut people down (my Jets excluded). For fantasy, I don’t mind them due to the pressure created. That gives us opportunities for positive fantasy scoring plays. Unfortunately, the Browns project to play from behind, which could mean a more run heavy attack like they saw in their worst performance, Week 1.
Top Plays: Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry
Secondary Plays: Odell Beckham, Browns D
GPP Only/Showdown Flier: Baker Mayfield, Rishard Higgins
San Francisco 49ers
QB: Jimmy Garoppolo has not been asked to let it fly much this year. His season high in attempts is just 32 and he’s only averaging 28 passes per contest. After a Week 1 where he did not need to do much, he did throw for 275+ yards in each of the last two contests. He has managed at least one TD in every game, but he’s lacked any kind of upside. He has completed 69% of his passes, but also has four interceptions, with at least one pick in each game. He had a 3 TD game and two games where he threw for just one score, watching random RBs get into the end zone for the rest. He’s probably safer than Baker, but has a lower ceiling. I’m likely to use one of the two on a showdown lineup with some of the receivers, but they are not elite options at all.
RB: The RB situation here is a mess I would rather try to avoid. Tevin Coleman has been out, but may return here. He’s a game-time decision so that muddies the water even more. Coleman was originally the “Starting RB” for this team, but it looks like a full on committee approach. Matt Breida has done the running with Coleman out. Jeff Wilson has done the mop up duty at the goal line and vultured a lot of those fantasy points. Raheem Mostert has done some good work in the passing game. Coleman’s return could even screw that up more. He was slated to be the goal line guy, does have good hands, and was supposed to lead the team in touches. It could mean a lesser role for all of the other backs and none of them had much upside to begin with. If Coleman misses again, Wilson is my favorite. Breida has looked god between the 20’s, but fantasy upside comes from TDs and catches. Wilson has been the TD guy with 2 in each of the last 2 games, but he does little else. Even with 8-10 carries and getting into the end zone twice, he hasn’t managed to crack 16 fantasy points and he’s no longer minimum price. Breida and Mostert get all of the touches outside the red zone with each seeing double digits the last two games without Coleman. Breida has slightly more and done more with them, but Mostert did have one big week when he got into the end zone. The fact that all of these guys get some touches and work makes it hard to trust any of them. I could see a 49ers RB making his way onto a high scoring lineup, but the chances of you having the right one are less than 50%. SF has been pounding the run and giving the RBs touches, but the volume has been too spread out to really love any of them. Remember, this has all been without Coleman. He’s technically the #1 RB in SF and could be reinserted tonight. I prefer Breida the most of the three, but only if Coleman doesn’t play. Wilson has GPP/Showdown appeal if Coleman sits for his TD equity, and Mostert is actually seeing more touches than the other RBs on this slate and isn’t throw away either. I do not know what to expect from Coleman if he plays, but it would not be a spot I’m high on him getting heavy usage either. His presence would have me off all of these guys.
WR: The RB situation is murky and the WR spot is not a ton better. Deebo Samuel has emerged as the top WR here, but everyone still sees snaps and targets. This has also been a low volume passing attack to date, so sharing a low number of targets does not exactly flatter any of them. Plus the most consistent of the targets on this low volume attack is actually the TE, leaving little for the WRs to chew on. Samuel leads the team with 14 targets and his 7 target game was a high for this group. They have 8 targets from Kendrick Bourne, Rickie James, and Marquise Goodwin. Dante Pettis is at 6. Now remember, they have only played three games, but that’s still under 5 targets a game for leading WR option Deebo Samuel and less than 3 per game from everyone else. Samuel is the safest and likely highest upside receiver of this group, but other teams have much better and more consistent options. Pettis is dealing with an injury, but looks likely to play. The 49ers are shuffling guys at all the skill positions, so no one really stands out. On a showdown slate, I do think having exposure to one or two of them could lead to a big return at lowish ownership, but none are top options. Samuel is the safest and cheap enough to include, but he’ll also likely be the chalkiest and none of them are a lock for production or high volume. Plus the Browns pass defense creates pressure.
TE: George Kittle has not been putting up sick numbers yet, but he’s still a major part of the offense. His 21 targets through three games are a team lead and he’s see 8 and 10 targets in 2 of those games to lead the team. He’s had a decent 50+ yards in all 3 games, but has not flashed his upside yet. He led all TEs in receiving yards last season and is currently well below those averages from a year ago. Again, we have not really seen the 49ers have to throw it a ton as they are content to pound the run and throw as a secondary option so far. Game script has also allowed them to do that. Kittle being the highest targeted guy would benefit most if they do end up in a negative game script, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I like him best of the guys to pair with Jimmy G if needed, but he’s no slam dunk on this slate. The matchup is softer than the one Evan Engram has against the Patriots, but I do think that game sets up better for high Engram usage. Kittle is actually my second favorite TE on the slate, but he does have a high floor and upside, rivaled only by Engram.
Defense: So Tampa Bay, Cincy, and Pitt without Ben Roethlisberger are not exactly the murder’s row of NFL offenses, but is Cleveland? The 49ers D has been up to the tasks thrown in front of them so far. No one has over 20 points scored and they have 9 sacks and 7 turnovers created in just three games. They created a turnover in every game so far and had at least 2 sacks, so this is a high floor, high ceiling defense. Baker has turned it over in every single game so far and the offensive line is not playing well. SF projects for a lead here and are at home, so this defense could have a big day against a struggling and so far underwhelming offense. I think the Patriots D will be the chalk on this 2 game slate, but both of the defenses in this contest are in play and if you believe in Vegas and the 49ers winning, they set up for the better game script to score fantasy points on D.
Top Plays: George Kittle, SF D
Secondary Plays: Deebo Samuel, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson (If no Tevin Coleman), Jimmy Garoppolo
GPP Plays/Showdown: Any of the WRs mentioned above. Marquise Goodwin is my favorite GPP play due to his ability to stretch the field and end up with an HR long TD catch. Raheem Mostert (If no Coleman)
New York Giants @ New England Patriots
Patriots – 16, 44.5
New York Giants
QB: Daniel Jones had the monster debut with 300+ yards passing and a couple TDs. The next game against the Redskins he did not need to do much. The Vikings had a big lead last week and he was asked to do a lot and did not deliver. This week the game script should also be asking a lot of him, but the matchup is brutal. He’s a rookie QB facing a Patriots team that has eaten those for breakfast. The good news is that he will likely be asked to throw 35-40 times this one. The bad news is that he was asked to do that last week and was inaccurate and unsuccessful. The Patriots D has been one of the best in the league and they face a Giants team that will largely be one dimensional with Saquon Barkley out and Wayne Gallman doubtful due to concussion on a short week. I like this kid and really hope he does well. The problem is this spot is brutal for him. He does have some wheels and could rack up a few yards with his legs. He is likely to have to drop back maybe 40 times here with the Giants playing from behind. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he faces a tough defense that also knows his offense is one dimensional. They will be gearing up to stop the passing attack and that’s not likely to end well. He may get to value based on volume, but I would expect a turnover filled, inefficient performance from him.
RB: So we teased this a bit already, but the Giants RB situation is in shambles. Barkley is most likely out. Gallman left early in the first quarter of the Sunday game with a concussion and Jon Hilliman is the only other RB on the roster. I would not doubt we hear of the Giants making a move to get another one as Hilliman became the guy seeing all the touches after Gallman went down. He did little with them as he ended with 9 carries and one catch on two targets for a total of just 24 yards. This matchup is brutal to begin with and it’s not like he has shown any upside. He’s very cheap this week and could end up the featured back. If he falls into the end zone or even just has a couple catches and some decent yardage he won’t kill your fantasy team. Those are both big ifs though. The game script sets up for them to play from behind and he basically played the entire game Sunday and still did nothing. In fact, he was the least used Giants RB so far in the passing game, so I can’t even say he’s a lock for targets. Could you squeeze him in at $3200 on the DK 2 game slate and pay up for stud WRs around him? Sure, but I honestly feel like he’s more likely to end up with 5-6 fantasy points than he is to get 15. He’s had 10 touches and struggled to put up any kind of useful stat line. Outside of a TD, which has low equity given the low projected team total of 14, I don’t see him making value even for the cheap price tag.
WR: The good news is that the Giants should be pass heavy much of this game. Not only do they have no reasonable running game options, but all expectations are they fall behind. The bad news is that no one expects them to be efficient or even successful in a tough matchup. Still you have to think at least one or two of these guys produce something. Sterling Shepard is easily the top play among the wide outs. He’s seen 9, 9, and 10 targets the last 3 weeks, coming down with 7, 7, and 5 catches for 100, 75, and 50 yards roughly over the last three games. Could see a tough matchup here, but I would guess they rotate guys around to take advantage of softer spots. Darius Slayton had the TD and a solid 5 targets last game. He caught 4 for 62 yards and that TD. He out-produced Golden Tate, who was fresh off the suspended list. Tate only had 3 catches for 13 yards, but he did have 6 targets. That is one more than Slayton. I think Tate is going to see his role increase and Slayton is not going to catch an endzone pass every week. I prefer Tate to Slayton this week too. He’s not a slam dunk play against a tough defense, but he’s still cheap and does have the chance to improve. If Stephon Gilmore ends up shadowing Shepard, the targets could be a big jump for Tate here. The other guys like Cody Core and Cody Latimore seem to be on the back burner with Tate active, so avoid them in all formats.
TE: Evan Engram is arguably the best TE option on the slate. I do like him over Kittle, but that is why I said arguably. Through 5 games he has 48 targets for more than 9 games and twice saw double digits. He’s averaging about 75 yards per game about 6.5 catches per contest. Again, the Patriots D is good, so efficiency may not be there, but the volume should remain steady. Engram has good hands and speed, making him basically another WR option. The Giants game script sets up pass heavy and Engram is going to be a big part of whatever they do. He’s cheaper than Kittle, too. I prefer him as my #1 TE option, but those guys are close and clearly ahead of the rest of the TE field on this slate.
Defense: Listen, they have not been good on D and then the matchup is even worse. Gamescript sets up bad, the opponent is good, and this is by far the worst possible defensive option on the entire slate, even at the lowest price.
Top Plays: Evan Engram, Sterling Sheppard
Secondary Plays: Daniel Jones, Steve Hilliman, Golden Tate
GPP Fliers/Showdown: Darius Slayton
New England Patriots
QB: Tom Brady has thrown the ball quite a bit for the QB of a team that has bludgeoned four of the five opponents they have faced. He only slung it 28 times against Miami, who they beat 43-0, but he did have over 260 yards and 2 TDs in that one. Every other game he’s been around and actually averaged 40 pass attempts despite winning most of those by 20+ points too. The only bad game he had without at least 23 fantasy points was the Buffalo game and the Giants defense is about the complete 180 degree opposite of the Bills. The Giants are giving up massive passing game numbers to everyone, so I can’t see Brady not carving them up here. He’s the priciest QB on the slate, but has the highest floor and honestly the highest ceiling. He is likely to throw the most passes on this slate even if they are blowing out the Giants and he’s also likely to end up with the highest completion percentage and most completions. The Patriots are slated for 30 points and with a projection like that, Brady should put up his share of fantasy points.
RB: The status of Rex Burkhead on a short week is a big deal here. Sony Michel will handle the ground work and James White will get the passing down stuff if Burkhead can’t go. Burkhead cuts into the production of both of those guys, but more of Michel’s touches so far this year. The game does set up well for Sony to have a big day on the ground. White is just consistent and always gets some work in the passing game. He’ll get his production from catches and get his upside if he finds the end zone. I think both of those backs are in play, but I lean Sony given the fact this is a game where 15+ carries is likely for him. He could rack up yards and TDs in that scenario, especially if the Patriots are well ahead in the second half as most analysts predict they will be. White has a high floor with the catches, especially on a PPR site like DK. Sony is the better play on both sites, but by a wider margin on FD given his skill set and the way he is used.
WR: Julian Edelman is a consistently solid performer. He has a high floor and can also flush the upside. He’s the highest volume pass catcher in this offense and should carve up that porous Giants secondary. He’s my favorite option in all formats. Josh Gordon sees a few less targets, but tends to have a higher aDOT and more TD equity down the field. The Giants defense has been torched by WRs all season. We could go through the list, but honestly it’s really not been bad for any of their opponents. Mike Evans and Adam Thielen put up monster numbers in recent weeks, but even the trio of Cowboys WRs smashed them in Week 1 with John Brown in Week 2 being solid as well. Josh Gordon is more of a GPP play for me. He’s been good, but not really great. He’s averaging only 4 catches for over 50 yards. Again, not bad, but not a huge fantasy upside. That’s not to say he can’t catch a TD or two in this one against a weak secondary, but he’s not the most likely guy for the monster upside. Phillip Dorsett was playing pretty well this season, but was forced out of the game early against the Redskins. He has found the end zone three times and has caught most of the balls that have been thrown his way, with the exception of the Bills game. It’s a short week, so the injury is a concern. Jakobi Meyers got the playing time after he went down. He saw just 2 targets, making one catch on the day and even if Dorsett sits, I don’t see a lot of upside for him. I do think if Dorsett sits, that means touches funnel to the other guys who already see high volume, so that could be a benefit. Dorsett has been seeing a good number of targets, especially since AB was let go.
TE: Not much to love here either for the Pats, which only goes to funnel more targets to the RB and WR options. Ben Watson was activated off the suspended list this week (zero snaps), so I assume he makes his Pats debut here. Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo have been holding it down in his absence, but neither is highly targeted with 1-3 targets a game going to TE options. Izzo has some bigger plays down the field with LaCosse basically doing nothing of fantasy note yet. It remains to be seen if Watson has a bigger offensive role than the two guys holding it down for him so far, but none of these guys look like starts over the likes of players like Engram and Kittle.
Defense: This is a real nice spot for a ball hawking defense against a rookie QB that is playing without his best offensive weapon. The Giants may be without any kind of decent run game in this one, which could be a disaster for them. If they are forced to throw and have no balance, they become very easy to defend. No offense has put up over 10 points against them in five games this year. The Jets had 14, but that was via a punt return and a pick 6, with this vaunted defense off the field. They had 5 or more sacks in each of the last four games and 11 interceptions on the year. They average just shy of 5 sacks a game with just over 2 turnovers, 10 points or less allowed, and have scored at least 10 DK points in every game so far this year. They are the most expensive defense, but you can see why. With the offense putting points up early and often, they are able to pin their ears back and go after QBs when teams are forced to abandon the run. This is one of the best defenses the team has had since the days of them beating the Rams for the Super Bowl. No knock on them as another big score is likely.