@MagicSportsGuy breaks down everything you need to know ahead of Week 1’s Main Slate matchups: Don’t set those DraftKings or FanDuel lineups without it!
*Attaching the intro/bio from the PrimeTime article, skip to the game by game breakdowns if you read it yesterday*
This is my 5th year covering the NFL on either Guru or Elite and I know many of you have been with me from the start, so I want to thank you. There are a ton of NFL touts out there, so the fact you keep reading my stuff means a lot.
For those who are new and are wondering who I am, here’s a quick bio:
In 2014/2015 I entered two teams into the SiriusXM “Salary Cap” Challenge, which was a full-season contest that kept the accumulated score from all participants. DFS was still a baby, so SXM had its own game that incorporated 50 “industry experts” and the public (SXM subscribers), in a salary cap based challenge. I ended up coming in 1st and 3rd place with my two teams, narrowing defeating Drew Dinkmeyer for the title. This got me on air, with Hansen, Mans, Flowers, and the NFFC guys to talk about my process and how I was able to do so well against 9,000 participants. While on air with “the Guru” I made a prediction that I would qualify for the StarStreet NBA live final (that night!) by using a low owned Blake Griffin, and sure enough…I won that too.
I used that appearance to try and get a job with Hansen: I wrote him a letter telling him I would like to be his DFS writer for the 15/16 season, and that I would work for free. He agreed, and even paid me! I then worked for Rotogrinders and Fantasy Insiders for a season, while also writing for Fantasy Guru. I kept running into this Tommy G guy at live finals, and we became friends. Two years later we started Guru Elite, and the rest was history.
Here is my fantasy “resume”:
SiriusXM Salary Cap Champ
10 DFS finals (6 NFL, w/ one third place finish)
4 years as a top-100 ranked NFL/DFS player (3 years as top-50)
Top-50 tPOY finish (‘17)
Multiple NFFC/FFPC seasonal titles
Top-10 finish in FantasyPros DFS contest
Top-30 finish in Westgate SuperContest
Three $100,000+ profit days in NFL DFS, one $150,000 day in NBA GPP (‘17)
Currently 65% in MLB prop bets (411-220-1)
Now that you know who I am & how I got here, time to explain this breakdown: Unlike most game-by-game articles in the industry, I mix in DFS and betting tips (props and sides/totals) in addition to breaking down every viable fantasy player for that week. I am an analytics/statistics guy who relies on data to make decisions, so you will not hear me recommending a bet/player based on a trend from 5 years ago.
“You have too many players listed at the bottom, how do I know who to play!?”
The first thing I recommend is to actually read the article, I know in 2019 that is a lot to ask: We are busy and have short attention spans, but if you want to truly get my take on the slate, reading it in its entirety will be beneficial. That said, if you don’t have time or just don’t like to read, you can look at the recommended players and put them in your player pool.
Lineup Construction Basics
In my opinion (unless you are a MME player), the single entry & (especially) three-max entry GPPs are still the sweet spot in DFS. I will also play cash (NFL only at this point), but I submit “team one” from my “primary” three GPP teams in cash, since that is what I consider to be my “optimal” lineup. I don’t worry about ownership percentage too much on that team, I just play the guys I think will score the most points.
For those saying “you can’t win a GPP with that mentality”, I will say you are right AND wrong.
What GPP you are playing? If it’s the $400 3-max with 208 entries (or fewer), I would argue you CAN win playing your optimal lineup.
If it’s the milly maker or a LARGE field GPP, then I totally agree: It’s next to impossible to roll out a chalky/cash lineup and take down first place.
That said, playing my “optimal” lineup has been profitable in the milly maker from a pure ROI standpoint. So many teams in the milly are dead on arrival, taking insane chances on 4-6 players who have a very low probability of success. When my optimal wins in cash games, it will cash the Milly Maker also (usually rather easily).
Due to the sharp level of competition, it’s the higher-buy-in GPPs which have higher cash lines (regardless of the public’s opinion, it’s a fact), and the truly consistent GPP players understand it’s not just about “fading chalk”, but rather fading “bad chalk”. You will rarely see a GPP winner with nothing but sub 10% guys, but rather a combination of chalk that hits PLUS 2-4 low-owned players.
Dalvin Cook is that guy for me in week one. Barring injury, I can’t see a scenario where he does not exceed 3x (18 FP on DK), with a ceiling of 5-6x.
How I Build Lineups
Normally I will have 2-3 players in lineups two and three who are parts of “game stacks”. One may be “chalky”, though most people are scared to do full game stacks, so you’ll be surprised at the ownership more often than not. The final team is a game stack that is a little more under the radar, though nowadays, with 900 fantasy websites evaluating the same slate, is any game really “under the radar” anymore? I guess everything is relative, if it is a “lower owned” stack, or even a popular stack for that matter, and the game goes off, you are going to be profitable more often than not. It’s when you ALSO nail the lower-owned “one-off” plays you have WITH your popular stack that you win a GPP.
Personally, I play 20-50 teams a week on most weeks, so I am using every player I put in the article. I won’t play a guy I am not recommending, so when I am making lineups after the article is done, and see a player on one of my teams that didn’t make it into the article, I will add him and update you on Twitter. Nothing would make me more annoyed as a subscriber than seeing a tout playing a guy he didn’t recommend.
A quick note before I dive into the slate:
I have a bunch of player and win total props up on Elite Bets. If you have the cash flow to sit on bets for the season, then take advantage of this soft market.
If you have not seen Vlad’s or my SuperDraft articles, or visited/signed up for SuperDraft yet, why not?! It looks like they will have overlay and are giving out a great bonus to the #EliteMafia. The multiplier element adds a lot of strategy/game theory, allowing you to go with all studs at a low multiplier, or find value plays with a higher multiplier.
Ok, enough with the BS…on to football!
Falcons @ Vikings
MIN -4, o/u 47.5
Implied Team Totals: ATL: 21.5 | MIN 26.5
Lots of conflicting data on Xavier Rhodes. According to PFF, Rhodes was the 101st CB last season, but that “grade” did not translate to the field. He only gave up 10 or more FP four times last season, with two being to Davante Adams. He only allowed a 57% catch rate in coverage and a 7.9 FPPG (18th). He also continued to garner the respect of his opponents, allowing just 5.5 targets per game. Looking back at Julio Jones versus Rhodes, (or Julio vs. a Zimmer D) and it is not good for the future HOF’er. He is averaging 10.2 FPPG, versus 21.25 in his career. At $8.1k/$8.5k, I don’t see me rostering him outside of a couple of ATL/MINN game stacks.
Obviously, Matt Ryan and Julio are very closely correlated, so he too has struggled against this scheme. It is not just scheme, of course, the Vikings have had a solid (to very good) defense for quite a while now. I almost always find value at QB, so paying up for Ryan (FanDuel especially), in a road matchup is something I don’t want to do.
Falcons used their 14th pick on RG Chris Lindstrom to go along with LT Jake Matthews (great pass blocker, so-so in the run), 30-year old LG James Carpenter (terrible run-blocking grades last two seasons) and C Alex Mack (Pro Bowl stud, but now 33). They should be able to protect fairly well again, but I am not convinced the run blocking will be much better this season (24th).
Austin Hooper is in a good spot against a VIkes team that finished 30th in TE DVOA defense. Hooper is not even 25 years old yet and already has a TE8 finish (71/660/4) on his resume (14% target share/87 targets). New OC, Dirk Koetter has a long reputation of utilizing his TEs, from the most talented (Tony Gonzalez) to the mediocre (Cam Brate/Mercedes Lewis), he has always thrown it to his TEs. ATL brought in a former head coach and former ATL OC Mike Mularkey to be the TEs coach. That lets us know they are all-in on developing Hooper. With so many potent options, he will be inconsistent, but he is very cheap and my favorite passing option this week in MIN.
Trae Waynes is a solid CB2, that gets overshadowed by Rhodes. He will get be on Calvin Ridley in primary coverage.
Going to MIN is not a favorable spot for a RB either, on top of that, I am a little worried about Devonta Freeman’s explosiveness/ability to run as “hard” as he did during that 2016 season.
Dalvin Cook has rocketed up draft boards as the summer progressed. The Vikes went from a 66% pass rate under DiFilippo to 52% over their last three.
Here are his splits, before and after Stefanski (3 games)
Before: 18 carries, 3.3 targets/2.8 catches per game for 109.6 total yards
After: 10.9 carries, 4.9 targets/4.0 catches for 71.1 total yards
No one was more affected by the philosophy change than Thielen, who only got 4 targets a game in those three games. Under DeFilippo, Thielen was one of the leagues most targeted WRs, at over 10 targets a game (Nuk, 10.2 targets per game). I don’t think he will be as low as four, but I also don’t think he is going to come close to averaging 10 per game for a 13 game stretch. They added a second TE that can steal a few red-zone targets, added Josh Doctson, and we are in line for another year of progression in Diggs.
The same logic applies to Kirk Cousins, who quietly put up 4,300 yards and 30 TDs last season. His attempts fell from 40 per game to 27.3 with the change. If Ryan/Julio can get it going in MIN, they could force the Vikings to pass more, but I think that is a less likely scenario than Cook getting his 20 touches and 100 total yards.
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Chiefs @ Jaguars
KC -3.5, o/u 51.5
Implied Team Totals: KC: 27.5 | JAX 24
Pat Mahomes starts a difficult 2019-20 schedule in Jacksonville against what should be a plus defensive unit once again. Jacksonville did a good job of putting pressure on Mahomes last year, holding him to one of his four games at 20 FP or fewer (20.82 FP – QB17 in Kansas City). They added a solid edge rusher (Josh Allen) and LB Quincy Williams in the first and third rounds, so they should get after Mahomes in this one.
With so many GREAT QB options I want to use, all at a significant discount from the MVP, I haven’t used him in anything but a game stack. That said, this is one of the best games on the slate to stack, so I have built quite a few of them.
Damien Williams is the big loser in the LeSean McCoy acquisition. But in week one I think he will get the majority of work. This is depressing for me to write since I invested quite a bit in Williams at DRAFT. Dude averaged 27 FPPG over his last five. I have mentioned that this Jags LB core is thin and not as good as we are used to, so I think DWIll and Kelce can have success in the middle of the field. Hopefully, he uses this game and his 12-15 touches to go off, break a long TD pass on a short throw and make it harder on Andy Reid to take him off the field. With such a high ceiling, I will have a few shares of him in my game stacks. But he won’t make my 3 primary teams.
Kelce is my TE1, but that isn’t news. He is in his own tier after posting 103/1,336 last season. A stat line that any WR1 would be happy with.
Did anyone else realize KC finished DEAD LAST in adjusted line yards allowed to RBs last season and rush DVOA (5.28 YPC)? They were also bad in the passing game against RBs, allowing the 28th FPPG.
As a response, KC Chiefs restructured their defense. Steve Spagnuolo was brought in, his plan is to move to a 4-3. This may have a positive result over time, but generally, it takes a few weeks to happen.
Still just 24 years old, Leonard Fournette appears to be primed for a bounce-back season under DeFilippo, who has been talking up the RBs usage in the passing attack (84.6 catch rate/3.2 targets per game in 2018). KC replaced their DC, bringing in Steve Spagnuolo in to replace the 3-4 to a traditional 4-3 but didn’t do much personal wise to make much of an impact. Frank Clark comes over from Seattle, but other than that it is essentially the same front seven. At $6.1k/$7.5k (FD), he is currently locked into my cash lineups.
I also like Dede Westbrook in this spot, quite a bit. So much so that I want to run him out with Fournette in cash. KC is going to score, so JAX is going to have to stay aggressive. Dede is their clear “#1”, even though he operates mostly from the slot. If you saw how Difilippo used Adam Thielen in Minnesota, it is hard to not be excited about Dede’s breakout year.
Nick Foles day? I can definitely see it at his low price and great expected game script. KC was dreadful away from Arrowhead last season and the last three seasons. KC did very little to improve a dreadful secondary. This is the unit that led to KC allowing 34.8 PPG away from Arrowhead last season (19.4 at home). This is no one year trend; they allowed 25.5 PPG away in 2017 (17.7 at home) and 23.1 in 2016 (16 at home).
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Tyreek (only in game stacks)
Sammy (same as Tyreek)
Ravens @ Dolphins
BAL -6.5, o/u 38.5
Implied Team Totals: BAL: 23.5 | JAX 14.5
With Lamar Jackson under center, Baltimore’s pass attempts fell from 44.33 to 23.57 per game. With that, their rush attempts increased from 26.67 to 45.14!
BAL passed at a 45.31% rate over their last three games (last). They struggled in the RZ all season, but especially after they went so run-heavy (20th in RZ TD rate, 55.74%). That got even worse over those last three, where they scored a TD on 22% of RZ visits. Jackson will need to improve on this to take the fantasy jump I think he will.
Jackson’s floor on DK was 16.6 and 17.7 FP (as a starter). He faces a Miami defense that is in a major rebuilding mode AFTER parting ways with Cam Wake, Ziggy Hood & Sylvester Williams.
Raekwon McMillan missed the entire preseason but insists he is good to go. He and famous bong-maker, Jerome Baker will be counted on to stop Lamar as Miami’s two best run-stopping LBs.
Miami played Josh Allen twice last year + a game against Trubisky (47 yards) that led to them giving up the most rush yards to opposing QBs. That stat as a “ranking” can be highly misleading since your schedule will dictate how many running QBs you face, but Miami is likely to top it again with a week one game with Lamar, two more against Allen, and a game in Dallas.
TE Coach, Greg Roman was promoted to OC, Roman was in Buffalo with Tyrod Taylor, another athletic QB. think Roman will try to increase the passing % a bit, but this offense will resemble the “Lamar O” we saw at the end of 2018. They will need to stay in two TE sets, as it allows them to RPO/disguise run/pass better.
I like Mark Andrews and want him to be the guy, but what I want and what coaches do are two different things more often that not. Since they want to go run-heavy out of multiple TE sets, they also use Hayden Hurst and blocking TE, Nick Boyle. In an ultra-low volume passing offense, I just can’t recommend a guy that could end up playing a third of his team’s snaps. I have a bunch of him in best ball, so counting on the talent rising and his playing time going up, but in week one it is safer to stay away.
I like Miles Boykin to step up as the #1WR this season. It won’t be much of leap, considering Mr. “4/40” Willie Snead and Seth “I’ve never scored more than 10 fantasy points” Roberts in his way. Like the TEs though, week one is not the week to do this. When you roster a running QB, you DO NOT need to stack him. Why ruin your 25 FP game from Lamar with a 5.2 from Snead?
A stack I am deploying is the BAL RB stack. Ravens ran a TON of plays (70.2/1st) while limiting their opponents to very few plays (9th fewest). That means Mark Ingram is going to GET FED, in addition to Lamar. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will get mixed in for 8-10 touches, but when you run the ball this much (35 carries a game last 3), that’s ok. Lamar can get 10-12, Ingram 15-20 and Hill/Edwards split the rest.
Miami allowed their opponents to convert 42.86% of their third-down conversions, which should spell disaster against BAL. They also allowed the 4th most rushing yards and 2nd most total yards to RBs in 2018.
Miami has one of the lowest implied team totals, so its hard to get excited on a full slate.
Baltimore lost Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, and Za’Darius Smith, so you have to expect some regression from 2018, especially in their pass rush and LB play. I don’t believe this is the week to exploit them.
The CB trio of Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, and Brandon Carr, plus Earl Thomas III and Tony Jefferson make up one of the best secondaries in the league. Micheal Pierce was the 5th highest graded DL per PFF.
If you really want a couple plays from this game to run it back with, go with Kenyan Drake or DeVante Parker.
With Kenny Stills in HOU, I would have said Albert Wilson is in play, but he is dealing with a hip injury and I have my rule about speed WRs with leg injuries.
This may surprise you, but BAL was only 26th in takeaways last season after being 1st in 2017. I think they are a fine play against one of the worst offensive lines in football, but their sack rate was also down significantly. As the most or one of the most expensive Ds week after week, this is something to pay attention to as the season rolls on.
Mike Gesecki is also a player I will be watching closely, but I haven’t rostered him yet after making 20 lineups.
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Bills @ Jets
NYJ -2.5, o/u 40.5
Implied Team Totals: BUF: 19 | NYJ 22
Josh Allen has a very appealing matchup to start the 2019 season. If you didn’t hear yet, Allen was your fantasy “QB1” for the last 5 weeks of 2018. The Jets have some good players on D, but that didn’t stop them from being the most generous defense to opposing QBs over their last five weeks (32.9 FPPG).
Jets added C.J. Mosley, and drafted Quinnen Williams to go along with Jamaal Adams and Marcus Maye, but their CBs and other two starting LBs are a weakness.
Jets were solid against the run in 2018, leading to teams throwing it on 63% of plays (74.6%, last three games).
Bills OC Brian Daboll said Frank Gore, Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon will have “all have roles, which may be defined by what they can on a week to week basis.”
Singletary is expected to “split early-down work with Gore”, while T.J. Yeldon should take up a lot of the work on pass downs. It’s a LOW floor/LOW ceiling situation, especially in a matchup that favors the pass
Teams targeted their WRs at nearly a 70% clip last year (1st), while the BIlls targeted their WRs at the 9th highest rate.
John Brown is a guy I probably have on 30 best ball teams, I think he can catch 60-65 balls at about 15-16 YPR. Quick math tells me that is around about 1000 yards to go along with 5-6 TDs. Neither the slow-footed veteran, Trumaine Johnson (hamstring injury/probable), or Darryl Roberts has a chance to run with Smokey. He has averaged 15 YPR in his career and Allen averaged 5.4 pass attempts of 20+ yards per game last season.
The Falcons released Brian Poole, and the Jets signed him quickly. He is listed as their starting slot cornerback so will be matched up with the BIlls new slot WR, Cole Beasley. He’s a thumper with coverage ability and fills a void. Jamal Adams raised his level of play during his second year and earned a Pro Bowl invite. The LSU product looks like a complete safety who hits in the box, tracks down the action all over the field and breaks up passes in coverage
Zay Jones had a big game last year versus the Jets, but that was as the slot guy, matchup up with Buster Skrine. He will be lesser owned than Brown, but he is clearly behind him in my ranks.
Strange for me to recommend a defense after telling you I like an offense. But that is who Josh Allen is. He has an extreme range of outcomes, with turnovers being a factor. He can still be a good fantasy QB while throwing a pick-six, taking a couple of sacks and losing a fumble.
Gregg Williams is the defensive coordinator now. He’ll stick with the 3-4, which is good since you know I don’t like defenses shifting from a 4-3 (or vice versa) in the first couple weeks.
Robby Anderson has been limited in practice (calf). I don’t play speed receivers with leg injuries in DFS. If he plays and goes off I will tip my cap to the 3% who took the chance. He is scheduled to see a Tre’ Davious White shadow which also makes it a less than optimal matchup.
Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and CB Tre’Davious White helped the Bills finish 2nd in pass DVOA. Along with UDFA standout, Levi Wallace and Kevin Johnson (while he’s on the field), this should be a top-5 secondary again.
Quincy Enunwa will play opposite Robby Anderson. He would have some appeal if Anderson is out, but not much.
Jamison Crowder would be my choice as a correlation play if you want to stack Allen, other than Lev Bell.
Bell is a huge wildcard for me this week, I was not a fan in seasonal/best ball at his high ADP, without the plus offensive line and AB/Ben, I just don’t see him being that productive. That said, as a true three-down back. Even if Ty Montgomery gets some passing down work, Bell is going to get fed. You just don’t give a guy $27,000,000 guaranteed to not use him. Buffalo’s strong pass D leads teams to run (31st lowest opponents pass rate). They also allowed the 6th most targets to RBs in 2018. Whether you like him long term or not, Bell is a top-5 play at RB this week in PPR formats.
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Allen/Brown (stack ’em!)
Titans @ Browns
CLE – 5.5, o/u 45.5
Implied Team Totals: TEN: 20 | CLE: 25.5
Derrick Henry had the kind of splits you would expect in an RB that leaves the field in passing downs. He simply needs game script to flow his way, otherwise, he doesn’t get the volume he needs to start breaking down a defense. Henry is your old school RB, that will see his production increase when he has more carries. No one wants to tackle this guy on his 20th carry. When he gets 15+ carries (9 games), he is an RB1, averaging 19.64 FPPG. Under 15 carries and he is averaging 7.2 FPPG (37 games).
To add to the reasons to avoid Henry, TEN lost Taylor Lewan, their best offensive lineman. That would make it more of a “Dion Lewis” game, but with so many value RBs on the board he isn’t someone I would roster unless I was a MME player.
Denzel Ward is no longer on the injury report, which is great news for this Browns D. He shadowed in 6 of his 13 starts last season, so there is a chance he locks on to Corey Davis.
If you want a correlation play from TEN, Delanie Walker and Adam Humphries are your guys (in that order). Both are cheap and run routes inside, where the Browns are most vulnerable.
Freddie Kitchens took over the offense last year and off they went, averaging 395 yards per game. That would have put them 5th, between PIT and NE if it were for a full season. They averaged 5.8 YPP for the season, but 6.8 YPP over their last eight games (KC, 6.7 YPP, 1st). I care much more about Kitchens and this talented Browns offense than I do about these RIDICULOUS, “Browns can’t win in week one” stats compiled over the last two decades while half of this roster was in elementary school. I can’t emphasize enough how archaic it is to handicap a football game played in 2019, by what guys in 2002-2017 did. If teams have similar rosters, coaches, schemes, then we can absolutely see how a play is used/performed in that matchup.
Browns now add one of the league’s best WRs in Odell Beckham Jr., to go along with Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb, instantly making this a top offense in the league.
Odell Beckham is my WR1 on the slate (is that definitive enough?). Adoree Jackson is scheduled to shadow, so I am hoping the public shy’s away from OBJ and his high price tag (most expensive WR) in his first game with a new team. Beckham has been dealing with a hip injury during the preseason but doesn’t carry any injury designation.
Jackson is coming off of foot surgery, which is a scary thing for a player that relies on quickness/agility. He is hardly a “shut down” CB anyways, allowing over 7 targets, 4.5 catches and 65 yards a game last season in coverage. TEN as a team allowed 8.8/73.5 to #1 WRs last season, and OBJ is better than all of the WR1 they faced (besides Nuk). There is also some narrative I like here. I just can’t see a gameplan or scenario in which Baker/Kitchens don’t get this guy going. We all know (they do too) that OBJ has a volatile personality (diva), so getting him off and running in week one is critical. Not to mention, he’s really fucking good, so why wouldn’t you get him 10+ targets.
Baker put on a display in Kitchen’s offense in his last two 2018 games, that coupled with OBJ have people VERY bullish (350/3 vs BAL and CIN).
TEN quietly allowed a healthy 4.82 adjusted line yards per game. I say “quietly” because it didn’t yield many fantasy points, so was off our radar. They will need last year’s first-round pick, Rashaan Evans to get better in coverage, but he is a promising young LB. Brian Orakpo is gone, Wesley Woodyard is 33 and Harold Landry III is JAG. When you look at the personnel, it is not a very impressive group. This unit actually had the biggest gap between DVOA and on-field performance, giving up the 3rd fewest points per game while finishing with the 19th overall DVOA (21st pass/15th run). This is either luck and regression is coming, or Mike Vrabel and Dan Peas are just really good.
Prior to a Week 17 matchup in BAL, Chubb was awesome to end the season (115 total yards, 7 total TDs in the previous seven games). He now has a clearer path to targets with Duke Johnson in Houston, though I do think we will see Dontrell Hillman mixed in on third downs. Chubb did this with a VERY low usage rate. He finished at just a 47% snap share (29th opportunity share). This did increase under Kitchens, but he never got into the “Zeke/CMC” class. If his usage is going to go up to that level, so will his production. At $6.4k on DK and $7.4k on FD, he is a GREAT play in all formats. With his potential TD upside and OBJs yardage/receptions, I will stack them together.
Jarvis Landry has been a WR that needs volume to succeed. His targets fell off under Kitchens and now gets his former college teammate to compete with. He does get a bump however with Antonio Calloway OUT (suspension) and Duke in Houston (they combined for a 24% target share). He will see both Logan Ryan (slot) and Malcolm Butler (2-WR sets).
You can say almost the same thing about David Njoku, fewer targets under Kitchens, but a bump from the loss of the WRs. Titans covered the TE well in this scheme, so he is not a guy on my radar this week.
Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins had big games along with Baker to end 2018 and is only $3.2k on DK and MIN PRICE on FD ($4.5k). He is the kind of WR that can send you flying up the leader board if he and Baker connect for a long TD pass, perfect for your “second” Milly Maker Browns stack (OBJ/Chubb being the first).
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Baker (there are value QBs I prefer more, but I wouldn’t hate on someone using Baker in cash)
Redskins @ Eagles
Philly – 10, o/u 45.5
Implied Team Totals: Eagles: 27.5 | Redskins: 17.5
Wash has the lowest implied team total on the slate, with the juice on the UNDER (-135). The line opened at 7.5 and has moved all the way to 10. The Eagles are loaded on both sides of the ball while the Redskins … aren’t loaded at either. I keep looking for a diamond in the rough here, but it is looking bleak.
Last season, Wash operated at the slowest pace in the league (neutral situations), and 21st overall (27th fewest plays per game). They ran at a 59% rate on first down (1st), and 57.19% overall. You would expect new OC Kevin O’Connell to want to pick up the pace/throw more (especially on first down), but he doesn’t have the personnel to be anything other than power running team. Anyone can run their version of the “Chiefs offense”, but good luck having success with it if you don’t have enough speed/talent or a QB. I would expect some new wrinkles and at least an attempt to be more aggressive, but in the end, you know it will be a steady dose of Darius Guice, Adrian Peterson in an attempt to put Case Keenum in manageable third downs.
The Eagles’ front seven lost Michael Bennett and Jordan Hicks. They were not very good in pass rush, finishing 26th in adjusted sack rate. They get a break though, with big LT Trent Williams holding out. Williams is a top-10 (maybe top-5) LT and is being backed up by Donald Penn, one of the lowest graded tackles by PFF last year.
Philly was tough against the run (6th), so it will be a tough matchup for these RBs on the road without Williams.
Chris Thompson is somewhat interesting, as a double-digit dog. Like we were reminded on Thursday night, as much as we want a young RB (Guice) to get all the work, it still depends on a (usually dumb-ass) football coach to carry it through. Thompson claims to be healthy, which besides game script, has always been his biggest downside. However, when he plays and utilized, he is PPR gold. In 14 career games with 6 or more targets, he is averaging 16.46 FPPG (7.4 in 37 games with 6 or less).
WASH moved on from Josh Doctson (signed with MIN), leaving the WR corps VERY thin.
Wendall Smallwood was signed by Wash. Gruden said they claimed him primarily for his special teams abilities.
I actually like Paul Richardson Jr., but I see him as more of a complimentary WR than a team’s X (WR1). He is only 175 pounds, which has made him vulnerable to injury (missed 26 games in 5 seasons). I would be more comfortable if he was in the slot then matched up with a team’s best CB.
Skins drafted WR Terry McLaurin in the third round. He has decent size (6-0”, 208) with big-time speed, running a 4.35 40-yard dash at the combine (95th percentile height-adjusted speed score). Doctson being shipped out clears a path for playing time, but this isn’t the week.
Trey Quinn will see Avonte Maddox in the slot. I can see him getting a ton of targets in this one, running short routes that will allow Keenum to get rid of the ball quickly.
Washington finished 4th in sacks & 11th in adjusted sack rate. Their plus pass rush masked the fact that Josh Norman and the rest of this secondary is just mediocre.
Fabian Moreau hasn’t practiced this week (ankle), and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix is in Chicago. That leaves this secondary thin, and not very good. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will likely fill in if Moreau sits, but he is 33 years old and has dealt with a lot of injuries.
Washington finished 11th in Football Outsiders pass DVOA ranks, but they allowed 27 passing TDs (T-10th most) on 7.6 YPA, while allowing the 23rd most FPPG to WRs.
Landon Collins should improve their safety play, but Montae Nicholson is a liability still.
The front seven should again be this team’s strength, loaded with first-round talent in Ryan Kerrigan, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and now edge rusher, Montez Sweat. Problem (like with many pass rushers) is they are susceptible against the run
WAS had a 4.97 adjusted line yards per carry (29th). Opponents caught on to this late, running over 50% of the time against them over their last three games. They hoped Ruben Foster would help, but he’s already on IR. Look for Philly to come out and pound it.
This figures to be a “Jordan Howard” game, as a double-digit home favorite. I, like most, don’t get very excited about playing Howard, but you can’t ignore his price and matchup. He is $4.2k on DK and $5.8k on FD, and should be low owned with all the excitement built up around Miles Sanders.
In regards to Sanders, I love the kids profile and fit in this offense, behind this great line. But like is about usage, not wishes. We all wish we could pencil him in for 12-15 touches, but that probably isn’t going to happen. Here is a recent interview from Doug Pederson about his RB usage.
Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach, Doug Pederson:
“I believe that the National Football League season is a grueling, grinding season, particularly on running backs,” Pederson said. “If you don’t have a couple of guys that you can really kind of hang your hat on, it’s hard to get through. It’s hard to get through a season. “So, for us here, it’s worked and we’ll continue to do that. We also ask our guys to play special teams. So, that’s another aspect of the running back position. So, we want to make sure that they’re fresh when it’s time to be fresh, especially late in the year.”
The Eagles also rostered Darren Sproles and Corey Clement. I would guess both see some playing time, with Sproles still being the primary “passing down” back. Sanders really is tempting at $3.9k on DK, knowing he could hit 3x with one long TD pass, but he is not a guy that will make it on to one of my 3 main lineups.
Last, but not least, are the combo of Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz. At just $5.7k on DK, Wentz makes one of the strongest QB plays on the slate, especially in cash games. Wentz was incredibly consistent after returning from injury last season, posting eight games with 22 FP or more in his last 10 starts, including a 308/2 line against WASH in Philly.
Ertz is a top TE play and should come in low owned with so many great value options below and Kelce/Kittle above. Washington’s middle LBs (Josh Harvey-Clemons and John Bostic are no match for Ertz in space.
Josh Norman almost 32, and got beat regularly last season, allowing 2.1 FP per target. He still wasn’t targeted often (3rd fewest), which drives that number up. Looking further, he allowed a 113 QB rating and 16.1 YPR in coverage, so teams should stop looking at the jersey.
Alshon Jeffrey had mixed results last year against WASH. He had his way with Norman in shadow coverage (week 17 – 4/40/1, 5/59/1 overall), but I always put a * next to week 17 performances. He has been nursing a bicep injury throughout the preseason and has been limited in practice. He is a fade for me.
DeSean Jackson broke his left ring finger in practice last week, but has practiced in full and is a go. If you are a believer in #narrativestreet, this one is for you. Not only is DJax returning to Philly, the team he started his career with. It is also a “sort of” revenge game. I say sort of because a true revenge game is just the first game after leaving a team/in the next year. Here are DJax’s 3 career revenge games.
DeSean Jackson’s Statistics in Career Revenge Games:
2014 vs Philly (11 targets – 5/117/1)
2014 vs. Philly (6 targets – 4/126)
2018 vs Wash (8 targets – 5/67)
Nelson Agholor will operate from the slot again, he ended the season with his best two performances of the season (10/156/3). If Moreau is out he will have the best matchup of the three WRs, if you want a 1% owned WR to stack with Wentz, he is your guy.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside is the wild card of this group, the rookie has a big frame that can play outside, with excellent contested catch-ability. He is a serious athlete (all-state basketball, ran track), and was a big-time performer at Stanford (63/1059/14 TDs last season). I would not be at all surprised if he eats into Jackson’s/Agholor’s snap share as the season progresses, but he is a tough guy to roll out in week one.
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Ertz (Ertz is playable in cash, but I rarely pay-up for TE. I will only have him in GPP, linked up with Wentz.)
Jordan Howard (prefer on FD)
Miles Sanders (prefer on DK, large-field GPPs)
Agholor (Milly Maker)
Rams @ Panthers
Rams – 2.5, o/u 50
Implied Team Totals: Rams: 26 | Panthers: 23.5
The Rams did not shadow last season. Expect veterans Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to stay on their sides with Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot.
Robey-Coleman and Talib are still top-20 CBs, but Peters has been very inconsistent. He was a major liability for most of last season, then had a nice 4-5 game stretch to end the season. He then allowed a 70% catch rate, a 108.9 passer rating, and over 16 YPR in coverage.
DJ Moore does not stay in one spot, lining up from the X, flanker, and slot about 33% each. So there is no “primary matchup”. He finished with 82 targets (15% target share), but only one game with 100 yards and a WR10 or better finish (28.7 FP vs. DET). Other than that game, he was rather pedestrian, making his ADP in fantasy and price in week one all about talent and situation.
With Devin Funchess in Indy (1st in target share among CAR WRs), 16% of team targets and 27% of air yards are up for grabs.
They signed Chris Hogan, and get back Greg Olsen. But I don’t think either of those guys will get targeted like Moore and Curtis Samuel.
Samuel finished 2018 strong, averaging 12.3 FPPG over his last seven games (7 total TDs). The TD rate is due to regress, 7 TDs on 39 catches (56% snap share) is going to be hard to replicate. That said, the target share should increase. He is priced right at $5.9k on FanDuel, just $300 less than DJ, around other stronger WR options like Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook, making him a GPP play only. However on DK, at just $4.2k, versus $5.5k for DJ. I am starting to talk myself into using him in cash over there.
Jarius Wright will play the slot when they are in 3-wide sets, with Hogan mixed in. CAR will also use a lot of two TE sets, which I expect quite a bit in this matchup with Olsen back alongside the talented youngster, Ian Thomas.
Rams D did a good job against opposing RBs in the pass, holding them to the third-fewest yards (4th DVOA vs. RBs). Corey Littleton was a big reason, grading out as the 4th best coverage LB. But (like the entire unit), he struggled against the run, finishing as one of the worst LB cores in that regard per PFF. Bryce Hagar is very similar, strong against the pass, bad against the run. When you start looking into these guys you start to understand how they finished 23rd in adjusted line yards (4.91 RB yards per carry). Rams added Eric Weddle, who has been one of the best safeties for years and hasn’t missed a game in three seasons. That said, they are getting him on the decline. At age 34, we have seen his play start to decline over the past two seasons.
Panthers traded up to get Greg Little with the 37th pick. Little is a prototypical LT with good size, but also good speed/quickness to handle today’s athletic EDGE rushers. He should be an upgrade instantly over Matt Kalil, who was recently cut by Houston.
With offensive line coach, John Matsko at the realm. CAR finished 11th in adjusted line yards (4.55) and 9th in adjusted sack rate in 2018. With the addition of stud center Matt Paradis, plus Little, makes this one of the best offensive lines heading into 2019
That is VERY good news for Cam Newton and Christian McCaffery.
CMC was awesome everywhere, but he was unstoppable in CAR, averaging 17 carries, 6.5 targets per game and 140 total yards. His positive home splits cost Cam 2 FPPG (20 FPPG vs 22 on the road), which is not as much as you would expect when a RB averages 28.1 fantasy points a game (DK). Rams were a run-funnel D last season (27th rush/9th pass), and I expect it again this year. CMC is gonna smash.
Panthers D is what caused the fall-off last year, giving up 6 yards per play (28th). Their pass rushed fell from 3rd best to 20th. They signed Gerald McCoy to team up with Kawaan Short inside and drafted EDGE rusher Brian Burns with the 16th pick. The FSU product is a freak athlete who should complement the big boys inside/create pressure from the edge.
The added pressure should take the pressure off the secondary that got lit up so many times last year. Donte Jackson looks like the real deal, but he was exposed a lot in his rookie season and is far from a shutdown CB.
They get Ross Cockrell back in the slot after he missed 2018, but who knows how he will play after a year off. He will draw Cooper Kupp, who is my favorite Rams WR this week. Per Jay Glazer on Kupp:
Jay Glazer on Cooper Kupp:
“All his test scores, coming out of his breaks, agility, quickness, every test timed better than it was before he tore his ACL,” Glazer writes. “It’s incredible.”
Last year before Kupp was hurt, he was great, averaging 17.1 FPPG on DK (WR9). He also had a big effect on Jared Goff. With his slot receiver, Goff averaged 9.65 YPA vs 7.3 and an extra 70 yards a game (26.4 FPPG vs 22.4)
Either Jackson or shadowed in 12 of 16 games, so it would not shock me to see Jackson lock on to Brandin Cooks, as he is the only CAR DB with the speed to hang with him. He and Robert Woods are GPP only for me this week, paired up with Goff or as a run-back in a CAR stack.
The obvious wild card in this game (and this season) is Todd Gurley. We literally got no significant news on Gurley all preseason, yet people continued to drive his ADP up and Darrell Henderson’s down all summer.
I like what CAR did on D, adding Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin, and Burns without losing much other than an aging Thomas Davis. They were one of the better run defenses last season, especially at home. With an expected snap share/touch decline, and the addition of a dynamic pass-catching back behind him, I am off Gurley this week on my primary 3 GPP teams. I will just have exposure to him in my game stacks.
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Giants @ Cowboys
DAL -4, o/u 47.5
Implied Team Totals: NYG: 21.5 | DAL: 26.5
For in-depth analysis on NYG, Dallas and the changes they made on offense/defense, please reference my NFC East guide.
Saquon Barkley is my RB1 on the slate. He is very good at “the football”.
Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram should get a massive workload this year, but especially in week one with Golden Tate suspended.
Cowboys are very simple for me this week also, get a couple of shares of Zeke in lower $ tournaments, just to get a little exposure in such a great matchup. I see no way he gets that 90% opportunity share that has made him such a beast in DFS, so at his ultra-high price, I would rather roster CMC or Saquon.
Dak was a beast in DFS to end 2018, thanks to Amari Cooper. I like Amari here, but I am a little concerned with all his ailments, so I actually prefer Michael Gallup as my primary guy to link up with Dak. Run it back with Saquon, Engram and or Shepard and you have a nice game stack.
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Shepard (one of the best value WRs on DK)
Engram (top-2 play at the position, price factored in)
Gallup (won’t play without Dak)
Amari (won’t play without Dak)
Colts @ Chargers
LAC -6, o/u 45
Implied Team Totals: IND: 19.5 | LAC: 25.5
Jacoby Brissett had a pedestrian 5.9 ANY/A in 2017 (24th), compared to Luck’s 7.2 (13th).
The Colts offensive line is MUCH better, as is the entire team and coaching staff. They were 2nd in adjusted sack rate and 4th in adj. line yards last year after 18th in 2017, so is the combo of Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines in comparison to Frank Gore and Mack in his rookie season.
The biggest losers in the Luck retirement are the WRs. TY Hilton averaged 6.8 targets per game with Brisset in 2017 (60 YPG), finishing the year under 60 catches and 1000 yards (16 games). Last year he posted 76/1270 in 14 games (90 YPG). Less volume and less efficiency (Yards per route fell from 10th to 22nd), coupled with more receiving options in Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell, N. Hines, and the two TEs spell trouble for Hilton given where everyone drafted him. He will still have a few big games if you have him in Best Ball, but I am done drafting him. I am sure someone will be willing to take him before I am.
The D also took a BIG leap forward in 2018, leaping the DVOA ranks from 27th to 10th. With Luck gone, they will be leaned on heavily.
The LB core was a weakness in 2018, so they drafted Ben Banogu & Bobby Okereke in the 2nd and 4th round. Banogu profiles like a blue-chip pass rusher, while Okereke has the ability to play all three downs
I expect a 60/40, maybe 65/35 split between Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, with game script deciding who gets the bigger share. Colts were really bad against RB receptions last year, and he has a bigger ceiling so Ekeler is my choice this week.
This is a good Colts D that should be even better, so I am having a hard time clicking on Keenan Allen. He did not play at all during the preseason (ankle).
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Bengals @ Seahawks
SEA -6, o/u 44.5
Implied Team Totals: CINN: 17.5 | SEA: 27
SEA still has solid LBs in Bobby Wagner (arguably the game’s best) and K.J. Wright, but that is where it ends. Shaq Griffin and Tre Flowers finished with sub-par grades per PFF (54th and 68th), and the rest of the secondary is filled with mediocre players.
SEA lost Frank Clark and Earl Thomas, the last members of the “Legion of Boom”. They scored, however, when they got Clowney from Texas for a bag of peanuts.
Tyler Boyd should be in store for a massive workload with AJ Green sidelined. This WR core is so thin, that Boyd should be a lock for 8-12 targets minimum. I really hope CIN plays Josh Malone and John Ross on the outside, so Boyd can eat up 4th round rookie, Ugo Amadi.
Joe Mixon is also in a good spot with AJ OUT. It is just a usage/talent thing with Mixon. Sure I am worried about CINN falling behind in SEA, but this is back that had the 7th highest usage rating last year and now has the target share leader on the bench. Gio Bernard will be in the mix, but I can’t ignore a low-owned, talented back who is in-line to get 20-25 touches. They stunk last year also and he managed to average over 104 total yards a game (18.2 FPPG on DK).
The Hawks finished with a 45% pass rate, 20% behind GB, who passed at the highest rate. SEA operated at the 26th fastest pace but sped it all the way to 6th when down by 7 or more points. That gives some hope for RW3 fans, as this year’s version of the defense could lead to a lot more deficits.
After only getting 13 carries in his first two games in limited work, Chris Carson averaged 19.5 carries a game. The issue in PPR leagues was the 1.7 targets per game. Schottenheimer is claiming to want to give Carson 50 targets, which is 2x from last year’s total. With an 80% catch rate, you can add 18 catches and 144 yards to his almost 100+ total yard average (7 of 12 games after week 3 with 100+).
The WR core is paper-thin following Doug Baldwin’s retirement, leaving Tyler Lockett as the only guy left.
DK Metcalf has recovered quickly and is now likely to play in Week 1. That is a big break for RW3 with David Moore injured and Jaron Brown as the only other WR left with any NFL experience.
Russell Wilson is amazing and scored at a ridiculous rate last season (TD every 12 pass attempts, Mahomes was 11.6). But even he will have a hard time if the offense is this low volume and his only viable target is a Lockett.
(All Formats / Full Slate)
RW3 (no prob with Russ in cash, but I am using either Carson or Lockett so no Russ for me outside of GPPs, where I will have a good amount. I actually like the Carson/Russ/Lockett stack in GPPs, hoping for the 37-10 blowout)
John Ross (Milly Maker, #narrativestreet dart throw)
49ers @ Buccaneers
TB PK, o/u 50
Implied Team Totals: SF: 25 | TB: 25
I don’t like historical trends that look at different players/different coaches and schemes, but it is hard to ignore a trend I saw about SF traveling east (12 straight losses by an average 15 points per game). Again, I have a hard time investing my money because of past results from different teams (remember, a jersey is just laundry, it is the player under the jersey that matters).
I went on and on (and on) about the Bucs home/road splits last season, with them allowing 13 points more a game away from TB. Some of it was scheduling, but a lot was the Bucs starting to play better towards the end of the season, especially at home.
This game has a TON of DFS options, and for good reason. But it is no secret, and thus will be the highest owned game stack on the slate. It’s not like this is Brady vs. Manning, so don’t be scared to fade it on a GPP lineup or two. For my three lineups, I will have one TB/SF stack, with a couple lower owned one-offs to try and create some differential in those other lineup spots.
Jimmy G’s props for the season (3999 yards, 25.5 TDs) are 275 yards and ½ of a TD off of Winston’s. I personally think that is a little off, and would take the Winston side, but this is just week one we are worried about. At $800 less and lower ownership, I can make a case Jimmy G is the QB to own in your game stack.
Mike Evans has been dealing with a quad injury and MISSED Friday’s practice. That is BIG news for this slate. Chris Godwin was already going to be ultra-chalk, but if Evans is out it will be next level. I will update this article after I process this a little more.
Jimmy Ward (Safety) also missed practice, which would give a bump to OJ, Godwin, etc.
Again, I will update this game and tweet when I do.
(All Formats / Full Slate)
Dante Pettis (practiced in full)
Lions @ Cardinals
DET -1, o/u 47
Implied Team Totals: DET: 24 | AZ: 23
Kerryon Johnson faced a stacked front on 23.7% of his 118 carries and came away with an impressive 4.9 YPC. He got 3.8 targets per game with Theo Riddick in town getting his 5 per game.
TJ Hockenson has the quickness and athleticism to buck the “rookies can’t produce trend” that gets repeated at nausea in this industry. The big TE is also a great blocker, which should help the 20th ranked run-blocking unit. At $3.1k he has made it into a few of my lineups, especially AZ/DET stacks
Matt Stafford should be low owned in an exciting matchup against a Cards D without Patrick Peterson. Pair him up with Marvin Jones and/or KJ.
In 9 games with Marvin Jones and Johnson, Stafford dropped back 36 times for 260 yards and 1.8 TDs (21 FP). In the seven games without Jones, he dropped back 32 times for 198 yards & 0.7 TDs per game (12.8 FP). It makes sense when you see how often Stafford looked to Marvin in close range (54% EZ target share was 1st prior to the injury). This may not be a fluke either in relation to Jones, in 2017 Stafford finished as QB8 in fantasy (Jones played all 16 games, and was 6th in RZ target share (42%)
Kenny Golladay saw 4 targets less per game with Jones on the field. Now they add a legit TE and hired an even more run-heavy coordinator.
As a reaction to finishing last in points per game, the Cardinals overhauled their coaching staff and roster. Kliff Kingsbury and his “air raid” offense have been widely covered over the off-season, so I won’t go too deep. We know it will be a VERY fast-paced/up-tempo, no-huddle approach, featuring RPOs for Kyler Murray to do his thing.
The offensive line is going to be the issue. They allowed the second-most QB pressures and the 4th most hurries last year. They added J.R. Sweezy and Marcus Gilbert, but I don’t think those guys are going to be enough. If Kyler is running for his life, it will make it difficult to execute the offense as designed. It will create broken plays/scrambles, but it could also lead to a trip on to the IR.
The offense line issue looms for David Johnson as well, if the offense can’t block and the defense gets them out of running situations, he won’t be getting his “35 carries” as he told the press was possible. Luckily for DJ, he could catch a ton of balls in that scenario. He is just two years removed from a 120 target/80 catch season.
Larry Fitzgerald continues to defy father time, even with horrific QB play he has remained a viable fantasy asset (23% target share, led team), especially when playing at home (+4 FP at home). He also has some help again, with the young and talented Christian Kirk (20% target share), and the rookie, Andy Isabella.
They also signed TE Charles Clay and Michael Crabtree to give them two more veteran options in the spread offense to go along with the young talent (Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella)
(All Formats / Full Slate)