The NFL Game Breakdown will be a weekly analysis of every game on the NFL schedule in extreme detail. From targets to game flow and other matchup variables, this article will be your one-stop-shop for everything you could ever need to prepare for DraftKings NFL contests.
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PAGE 1: MIN @ ARI, ATL @ CAR, BUF @ PHI, DET @ STL, IND @ JAX, NO @ TB
Week 14 has all 32 teams across the league taking the field leaving plenty of action to be analyzed and plenty of players to be chosen from. Let’s take a deep look at the various matchups across the NFL this weekend.
Vikings @ Cardinals
Point Total: Cardinals -7
The Vikings are dealing with several injuries on defense at the moment, including numerous injuries to their front 7 and their current starting safety, Antone Exum, whom they just placed on IR. This does not bode well for the Vikings defense this Thursday when they go on the road to Arizona. Carson Palmer has only put up less than 25 fantasy points on DK once in his last 5 games which included meetings with the vaunted Bengals and Seahawks defenses. The Vikings have been hard to score against all year but just got trounced by Seattle last week and haven’t had much time to recover. This could get ugly for MINN as their defense really isn’t prepared right now to handle the explosiveness that the Cardinals bring on a weekly basis. I’d be fine considering Palmer as a QB play this weekend in your primetime and Thurs night rosters, he should be safe for another big game.
Here’s the Cards passing targets over their past two games:
As mentioned last week in this article John Brown has really started to pick things up recently and looks 100% healthy now, he torched the Rams last week for 113 yards and just missed a massive game last week. With the Vikings safety’s all injured its very possible Brown is able to get free for some big plays this week downfield as their backups might have trouble keeping up with Brown’s speed when providing help. I’d stay on Brown and especially like him as a stacking option this week with Palmer for tournaments… Matchup wise I think you can also consider Michael Floyd this week as he’ll be getting Xavier Rhodes in coverage. Rhodes is by the lowest graded corner on the Vikings per Pro Football Focus and Floyd actually got the most targets of any Cardinal receiver last weekend. He’s got plenty of upside too and at $3800 is the cheapest of this elite WR trio… Larry Fitzgerald continues to be a force every week as well, but with Brown and Floyd playing so well I might pass on him for pricing reasons. At $7400, Fitz is nearly 3k more than Brown and $3600 more than Floyd, both of whom out-produced him last week. All in all, I love the Cards WRs this week but if using them heavily I would look to roster value plays Brown and Floyd more than the expensive Fitzgerald.
Cards RB David Johnson officially arrived last weekend and showed why many people, including myself, were excited that he’s finally starting. Johnson showed excellent burst last week and at 225lbs or so also proved to be very hard to take down. Against this very injured, very beat up Vikings front—who allowed 150+ yards rushing last week—Johnson has every opportunity to replicate his production from last week and then some. At only $4300 he should see 65-70% of the snaps again and be a big part of the offense. He’s an absolute must play in my mind if you’re making any Thursday lineups.
The Vikings were nearly shut out last weekend and get an equally tough test this week. Truth be told I hate the Minnesota offense for fantasy as its very one-dimensional and pretty easy to shut down for teams who have good run defenses. The Cards haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since week 4 when Todd Gurley burst onto the scene and avenged that performance last Sunday by holding the rookie to just 41 yards. With the Cards offense likely to put ARZ up big at some point I expect Adrian Peterson to potentially have his workload cut into again as the Vikings will need to pass more to keep up. Peterson’s a very risky play this week and not one I’ll have much exposure to.
The Vikings passing game is basically non-existent as they haven’t had a WR go for over 66 yards since week 8. I’ve professed my love for Stefon Diggs as a player in this article before but playing him versus Patrick Peterson (who he’ll likely matchup against) is fantasy suicide. If you really need a Thursday night play from the Vikings you could think about Mike Wallace who will likely be getting the mediocre Jerraud Powers in coverage, but avoiding this pass game altogether is easily the best move.
Gameflow: It’s hard not to see a repeat of week 13 for the Vikings. They’re playing another tough NFC West opponent with a good run defense and a hot offense. The Vikings don’t have time to get healthy or fix their passing woes on a short week and I see little evidence to suggest that they’ll offer much resistance. Expect a Cards victory and a fairly easy one at that.
Cardinals 30 Vikings 13
– Carson Palmer $6500
– John Brown $4500
– David Johnson $4300
– Cardinals D $3500
– Michael Floyd $3800
Falcons @ Panthers
Point Total: 46.5
Spread: Panthers -7.5
The Atlanta Falcons have been on a road to nowhere lately. QB Matt Ryan has 5 TDs versus 6 INTs in his last three games and has been un able to overcome mediocre competition all season. Ryan’s also been even worse on the road than he has been at home failing to throw for more than 2 TD passes in a road game this season. The Panthers have one of the best passes rushes in the league and are now up third in the league as a team in sacks. You can avoid Ryan and tread cautiously with any Falcon pass catcher this week.
Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones hogged the targets last weekend as the two combined were the targets for 27 of Ryan’s 43 pass attempts. Freeman racked up a healthy 10 receptions and with Ryan’s arm looking “Peyton manning-ish” of late I’d suggest that the trend of Freeman as a popular check down target will continue. This issue with Freeman this week is mainly price as he’s still the highest priced RB on DraftKings at $7700. With the Panthers featuring a great tackling LB in Luke Kuechly I’ll probably just avoid Freeman but realize that he does offer some sneaky upside thanks to his ppr usage. A big game isn’t likely but it is possible.
Julio Jones has been the most targeted WR in the league thus far in 2015 but teams are starting to limit him around the red zone when the field becomes compressed. Jones hasn’t scored in four straight games and with his QB failing and him going up against the leagues top graded cover corner in Josh Norman (per Pro Football Focus) Jones is strictly a tournament target and someone to avoid or use lightly this Sunday… The only other Falcon receiver to think about for fantasy, TE Jacob Tamme. Without Leondard Hankerson (out for the year) in the lineup Tamme has averaged 5.4 rec. and 59 yards receiving. The Panthers have actually been somewhat vulnerable to decent pass catching TEs and at $3400 Tamme could at least be consider for tournament purposes. He might be ATL’s best chance at moving the ball this Sunday.
Cam Newton has been fantastic this season for fantasy but doesn’t have the most giving of matchups this week as Atlanta has only given up over 300 yards to a QB once this season (week six versus NO) and only allowed 3 passing TDs in their last 4 games. While it might sound blasphemous to fade Cam given his level of play you can’t expect 5 TDs every week and the ATL offense is a lot more disciplined and talented than New Orleans. I’ll be expecting a quieter game from Cam fantasy-wise in week 14 and probably avoid him altogether as he’s now the second most expensive QB on DraftKings at $7500.
Here’s the passing targets for the Panthers from their last two games:
The Panther WRs were fantastic plays last week against the coverage allergic Saints DBs but this week is a very different story. Atlanta’s secondary has been fantastic at limiting WRs all season and have only given up one TD to a WR in their last 5 contests. Ted “hands of stone “Ginn has a decent matchup as he’ll likely matchup with ATL’s worst corner in Jalen Collins but I still wouldn’t expect the fireworks you saw last week. I’d simply avoid the Carolina WR group for week 13… TE Greg Olsen has been the only consistent fantasy receiver in Carolina this year and matches up well against the Falcons who’ve given up an average of 7 receptions to the TE position over their last two games. ATL’s linebackers are no where near as athletic as their corners and Olsen could have his second big game in a row here, I’ll be considering him for all my rosters in week 14.
At RB Jonathan Stewart has now taken 20+ carries in 8 straight games. The way to attack the Falcons is via the RB as they’ve now allowed RBs to gain over 300 yards against them in their last two contests and have given up 5 TDs to RBs over their last 3 games. Stewart is in a fantastic spot here and will be one of my highest rated RBs this week for fantasy. At $5800 he has big game upside for tournaments.
Gameflow: While I expect Atlanta’s defense to at least keep this game close I don’t expect too much of a fight. Matt Ryan has been un able to carry this team when they’ve needed him the most and now that their run defense is showing huge cracks things could get worse before they get better. Carolina’s D should rebound at home here, expect an easy Panthers win.
Panthers 27 Falcons 13
– Jonathan Stewart $5800
– Greg Olsen $6900
– Panthers D $3400
– Jacob Tamme $3400
Bills @ Eagles
Point Total: 47
Spread: Bills -1
This is a matchup between two diametrically opposed teams on offense as the Eagles rank first in terms of pace of play according to Football Outsiders, while the Bills rank 24th. Tyrod Taylor has now thrown for 3 passing TDs in two straight games and gets an Eagle defense who has allowed an average of 3.6 passing TDs over their last 5 games. When you add in Taylor’s running ability and the fact he will see more opportunities/snaps this week due to the style of play of his opponent, he makes for one of the highest upside options at QB and someone I’ll consider using a ton this week.
Despite only catching 12 passes over his last 3 games Watkins does have two straight 100 yard receiving games and 3 TDs over his last 2 games as well. Against the Eagles Watkins will likely matchup with rookie CB Eric Rowe who was decent in week 13 but will be hard pressed to keep the dynamic Watkins under wrap. Since week 9 Watkins has averaged 8 targets a game but given the Eagles fast pace could easily break double digits here. Targeting the Bills number 1 WR this week against the team who’s given up the most points to WRs on DraftKings this season is a no brainer and I’d definitely include him in your plans for week 14… At RB this an obvious revenge game for Lesean McCoy but the matchup on paper suits him too. The Eagles have given up 5 TDs to RBs in their last 4 games and McCoy has now taken over 80% of all the snaps the last two games for the Bills and looked very much like the player he was in Philly a few years ago when he scored 20 TDs. He’s playing great and at $6100 has as much or more upside than many of the RBs ranked ahead of him in salary. Like Taylor and Watkins, McCoy is also someone I’ll make sure to have exposure to this coming Sunday.
Sam Bradford has been playing better than people realize of late and now has a 105.6 passer rating over his last three starts. The issue with Bradford of course is that his output has been incredibly low all season as he’s only broken the 300 yard mark twice. One thing to note is that Bills pass rush has been horrible this season and are only 29th in sacks so far as a team in 2015. The extra time could give the improving Bradford a boost this week and while I wouldn’t recommend having huge exposure to him he’s at least worth considering as a contrarian pick this week.
Here’s the distribution of Bradford’s passing targets over the past two games:
With injuries to Ryan Mathews and ineffective play by DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles has remerged as a ppr force and played the most snaps of any RB the past two weeks. Sproles saw his most work in a while week 13 and with the Eagles needing wins I won’t be shocked to see Philly give their most versatile and reliable backs more work this week. The Bills have given up 4 TDs to RBs in their past three games, with two of those being off of receptions, an area where Sproles excels. At $3500 Sproles is the only Philly RB I’d consider this weekend and in tournaments he’s shaping up like a decent value play with some real upside this weekend… The only other Philly player I’m considering this week is WR Jordan Matthews. The Play of Buffalo’s secondary has really been poor of late and Matthews, who plays the slot a lot, will match up with Nickell Roby who’s ranked near the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ grading system for CB’s. Matthews doesn’t get enough targets to be considered as a cash game (HU, 50/50) play but he can be considered in big field tournaments. His QB is trending upwards and this matchup is very much in his favour.
Gameflow: This is without a doubt one of the most interesting games of the week and could have real fantasy value too. The Eagles played inspired last week but they still have holes on defense that I expect the Bills to be able to exploit. That being said, the Bills have been one of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams of the season and I think expecting them to win a big game on the road against a now confident Eagles team is also pretty risky. I think the Eagles offense gets rolling a bit this week and they end up taking this game in a mild upset.
Eagles 26 Bills 23
– Sammy Watkins $6100
– Tyrod Taylor $5400
– LeSean McCoy $6100
– Darren Sproles $3500
– Jordan Matthews $5500
– Sam Bradford $5100
Lions @ Rams
Point Total: 41
Spread: Rams -1
The Rams offense has been historically terrible the past few games and have not recorded a passing TD since week 8. Rookie RB Todd Gurley’s production has been hurt by the lack of diversity and production on offense as he’s only recorded 18 carries over the last two games—only two of which were from inside the red zone. Since week 10 the Lions have been spectacular as a defense versus the run allowing no RB to gain more than 42 yards rushing against them in a single game. The Rams fired their OC this weekend so maybe that sparks their offense but it would take a lot more than that for me personally to roster Gurley his weekend. I’d bench him indefinitely and really consider the Lions defense as a value play at $2700.
In the passing game TE Jared Cook has actually been the leading target getter of late for STL and is averaging 7 targets and just over 7 fantasy points over his last 3 games. At $2500 he’s the bottom barrel min-price this week on DraftKings and would offer you some roster flexibility if you used him. The Lions are allowing an average of 6 receptions to the TE position over their last 4 games which does make Cook slightly intriguing if you’re looking to use a $2500 TE. I’m loosely recommending him as an extreme value play for tournaments.
As for the Lions they’ll be facing a Rams defense who’s really been slipping of late. After allowing just 5 passing TDs to QBs through the first 9 weeks the Rams have now allowed 9 passing TDs in their last 4 games. With that being said this game has a low point total and outside of two explosion games (that were both at home) Matthew Stafford hasn’t been great this year and only averaged 14.5 fantasy points on the road. While I like targeting teams that are struggling like the Rams I’m not sure there’s enough upside here to make Stafford anything more than a very risky tournament play in week 14.
As for the DET receivers here’s the distribution of targets over their last couple of games:
The STL corners are trending in the wrong direction right now having allowed 4 TDs to WRs over their last three games and have struggled to limit to production of elite WRs like AJ Green. With Detroit throwing the ball more than any team in the league Expect Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to take advantage of this struggling group. While Johnson has been the preferred red zone target and produced a couple big games fantasy, Tate actually has 5 more receptions than Johnson over the last three games (23-18) and is much cheaper at $4500 (compared to $7400 for Calvin). I like both of these players for tournaments but think Tate is by far the better value play and has a better shot at paying off his meager salary.
At RB I don’t hate the way Ameer Abdullah has played of late but he’s still losing a lot of snaps to passing back Theo Riddick. At $3500 Riddick has clearly been Stafford’s third option in the pass game of late and offers intriguing ppr upside versus the Rams who’ve allowed the third most receiving yards in the league to RBs. He’s an intriguing value play and someone I’d consider if I needed a min price flex with some upside this weekend.
Gameflow: The Rams are really headed no where fast and with cracks now starting to show up in their once vaunted defense I think the Lions should be able to put the final nail in the coffin here. The Lions, outside of one lousy play, played great in week 13 and I think they take out the frustration of losing on a 1 in a 100 passing play on the hopeless Rams. This might be ugly, but I’m predicting a Lions win.
Lions 21 Rams 13
– Lions D $2700
– Golden Tate $4500
– Jared Cook $2500
– Theo Riddick $3600
– Calvin Johnson $7400
Colts @ Jaguars
Point Total: NA
The Indianapolis passing defense has not been great lately especially on the road where they’ve allowed 9 passing TDs in their last 3 games. The Jaguars Blake Bortles meanwhile has put up some big fantasy games this season and now has three games of 300 yards or more and 2 TDs or more in his last 5 starts. Much of what Bortles has done this season has been fueled by his own defenses poor play as Jacksonville has played from behind most of the year. With that being said the Colts have not been good at rushing the QB (5th worst in team sacks) and could easily give up another big game here. The Jags pass game is a decent stacking option this week and Bortles is someone I’d consider for tournaments.
AT WR it appears as if Allen Hurns will play in week 14 which is potentially bad news for Allen Robinson. Hurns destroyed the Colts for 11 rec. 116 yards and a TD week 4 and with Hurns likely matching up against the anemic Darius Butler or Greg Toler in coverage this week there’s every chance for another big day here. I’d definitely have my eyes on him this weekend and consider him as a play in all formats… At $8000 Allen Robinson is now the 5th most expensive WR on DraftKings. Robinson matched up with CB Vontae Davis on 39 of his 54 pass routes in week 4 (per Pro Football Focus) and should see a lot of the solid Davis this week as well. Even though Davis has admittedly struggled of late against elite WRs Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, I’m still not expecting Robinson to come close to his 40+ fantasy point performance from last weekend (given the matchup and the return of Allen Hurns). With Indy giving up 7 TDs to WRs in their last 5 games I’d still consider Robinson, especially to pair with Bortles, but realize that he may not have the ceiling he did last week against the Titans… The sneaky play on the Jags this week might be TE Julius Thomas who has 4 red zone targets and 3 TDs in his last 3 games. The Colts have certainly been susceptible to pass catching TEs in the red zone allowing 5 TDs to the position over their last 7 games. I’d consider Thomas as a tournament play and a great high upside option at only $4200.
AT RB not many RBs are getting a bigger workload than TJ Yeldon who played on over 85% of the snaps again in week 13 and also saw 4 red carries. What I also love about Yeldon is that he’s now a consistent force in the pass game as he’s averaging 4 rec. over his last 4 games. Even though he’s not a big play threat, the consistency, volume and ppr points all make him a great target this week versus the Colts. I’ll be bumping him up on my rankings this week and think he’s a great play in all formats at only $4900.
It’s still not a 100% certainty that Matt Hasselbeck will start at QB for Indy this weekend and if Charlie Whitehurst does start I’d probably downgrade most of the players in this offense. Still with Jacksonville fielding a weak secondary you can still consider the Colts receivers as plays and so here’s their targeting over the past two weeks:
The Jacksonville secondary has been one of the worst in the league at allowing TDs to WRs and have now given up 10 TDs to the position in their last 8 games. TY Hilton was shut down last week but with Jacksonville’s pass rush being not quite as ferocious as PITTs he should get a few more opportunities in this game. Hilton has easily been the most targeted WR in this offense with Luck out and against this completely burnable Jags secondary has upside to make him a tournament recommendation for me in week 14… At $4600 I hate how inconsistent Donte Moncrief has been this year but also realize that with Hilton pulling off coverage he’ll have a great shot at finding the end zone against this weak Jags cover group. He’s also a value play I’d consider in tournaments… All in all, the way to attack the Jags is through the air and even with question marks at QB I think considering the Colt WRs as options and ignoring their run game is the right strategy for fantasy.
Gameflow: I’m expecting a more wide open game than the first time these two teams met and think this could be a good game to target for fantasy purposes. The Colts haven’t been great on the road and with Matt Hasselbeck beat up this could be a really tough spot for Indy to get a much needed win. Ultimately I’m going to go with the Jaguars here even though I don’t trust them at all. They’re the less beat up team and should be fired up for a big divisional game.
Jaguars 27 Colts 24
– T.J. Yeldon $4900
– Julius Thomas $4200
– Allen Hurns $5500
– Blake Bortles $6000
– Allen Robinson $8000
– T.Y. Hilton $5900
– Donte Moncrief $4600
Saints @ Buccaneers
Point Total: 50.5
Spread: Bucs -4
This an interesting situation for fantasy purposes as the low volume passing offense of the Bucs is taking on the complete dumpster fire of the Saints passing defense. Jameis Winston has looked more composed of late but only thrown more than 20 completed passes in 2 of his last 5 games. The Bucs have been run heavy all season and rank 4th in terms of rushing plays called per game. I love the matchup and price on Winston as the Saints are allowing an average of 4 passing TDs a game over their last 5 matchups. Ultimately you have to favour matchup over style in a game like this and at $5400 I think the improving Bucs QB is a pretty safe play this week even if his offense might limit his upside a tad.
Here’s how Winston’s passing targets have bene distributed over his last two games:
All three of these players are in play for fantasy purposes this weekend. The Saints have fielded one of the worst corners in football all season in Brandon Browner and it’s likely that both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson will see time against him in this game. While Evans is likely the better play at this point in the two’s respective careers he’s also a lot more expensive at $7200. The two have both actually scored fairly similarly for fantasy purposes of late, with both men posting three straight games with points totals between 10-20 points on DK. I’d consider both men for use this weekend but obviously consider Jackson the better value play and possibly the lower owned player in tournaments as well… AT TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins should also get considered this week as his price tag is a mere $2700 and he will be going up against the team who has given up the most points to TE’s in fantasy on the year. I really like the fact ASJ got 6 targets in his return while playing on just 30% of the snaps. Expect his usage and targets to go up this week. A big play or two is certainly possible.
AT RB Doug Martin has looked fantastic all season to me and been a huge part of the Bucs resurgence. Martin has seen an uptick in carries and usage of late and has now averaged 20 totes of the ball over his last 4 games. While I wouldn’t necessarily put anyone off using Martin this week it is interesting to note that the Saints have only given up 100 yards rushing to a back once all season. Still, the fact that teams have moved the ball so easily versus New Orleans means increased red zone carries and so the opportunity for a big day still exists here. I’d consider Martin a high upside tournament play at RB and would not be shocked if he ends up being the highest scoring player from the Tampa offense this weekend.
As for Tampa’s defense they’ve been quite stellar against the run of late and haven’t allowed a rushing TD since week 3. RBs have racked up huge days versus them in the air though and they’ve now allowed an astounding average of 8.33 receptions to RBs over their past 3 games. Mark Ingram is out for the year for the Saints who will now turn to a combination of CJ Spiller and Tim Hightower. I expect the Saints to go pass heavy in this game and to give Spiller a little more work. At $3000 I would 100% consider Spiller for tournaments as there’s certainly still some big play potential with the speedy running back and even a small bump in work means he’ll have a chance to pay off his meager salary.
As for the New Orleans passing game WR Brandin Cooks is now averaging 19.1 points over his last 6 games and been the most consistent player in the New Orleans offense. Cooks more than held his own last week against the tough Panther secondary and will get Jude Adjei-Barimah in coverage this week who ranks near the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ CB rankings. With the Saints passing the ball a ton and Cooks playing at such a high level I think a massive game here for Cooks is a distinct possibility. Make sure you get some exposure to him this weekend… As for QB Drew Brees he’s now thrown the ball 38 or more times in all but one game this season and will have upside against a weak secondary, and a team that is only average in terms of rushing the QB. I like pairing Brees with Cooks in tournaments and think there’s a good chance you could see a big day from the veteran QB. With everyone focused on the Bucs skill players this QB/WR stack might go overlooked.
Gameflow: The Bucs have been playing very solid football of late and look like a team on the rise. That being said, there’s cause for concern here from a matchup perspective as the Saints passing game is humming of late and could take advantage of the Bucs weaker secondary. With that being said the loss of Mark Ingram hurts New Orleans and I don’t know if they have the personnel to overtake this younger, deeper squad. I’ll take Tampa in another close game.
Bucs 28 Saints 26
– Vincent Jackson $4500
– Jameis Winston $5500
– Brandin Cooks $6200
– Austin Seferian-Jenkins $2700
– Drew Brees $6800
– C.J. Spiller $3000
– Mike Evans $7200
– Doug Martin $6200
NFL GAME BREAKDOWN – PAGE 1