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 3: CIN @ SF, DEN @ PIT, MIA @ SD, ARI @ PHI, DET @ PHI
Bengals @ 49ers
Point Total: 40.5
Spread: Bengals -4.5
“Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy.” – Han Solo
AJ McCarron found out quickly last week that playing in the NFL isn’t the same as watching from the sidelines as the Steelers picked him off twice in defeat. Outside of his two INTs though McCarron actually looked pretty solid in relief last week and considering the elite receiving weapons on the Bengals I think he’s got some real upside in this matchup. McCarron looked competent all preseason (some were even calling for him to start) and at $5400 he’s cheap enough that you can fit in a ton of elite weapons with him. I’d consider him if you need a cheap QB or were looking to target the Bengals specifically this week for tournaments.
Here are the passing targets from the Bengals last two games:
With no Andy Dalton the Bengals possibly without TE Tyler Eifert in this game expect McCarron to lean heavily on A.J. Green this week. Green received 10 targets last week with McCarron at the helm and has a nice matchup versus CB Kenneth Acker whose been just average all season. With many people scared off of Green due to his QB change I’d definitely make him a target this week in tournament lineups, I like this spot a lot for a big game… At RB Jeremy Hill predictably had a huge regression last week versus the Steelers and I won’t be shocked if he struggles here again. The 49ers have been much better against the run at home than they have been on the road and Hill has not looked explosive to me all season. With Hill struggling I wouldn’t be shocked if Giovani Bernard saw a bit more work both as a runner and receiver. While I’m not a huge fan of either back this week at $4500 Gio has looked like the better runner to me all year and could have a big game if McCarron boosts his ppr usage by using him as a safety valve.
As for the 49ers there aren’t really any plays I’m big on in this game. The Bengals defense may have had difficulty with the explosive Steelers last weekend but they still have an elite pass rush and a solid secondary (although CB Adam Jones may miss this week as well). RB Shaun Draughn continues to see a ton of work as the lead back but he’s not really been all that effective outside of catching a few passes each week and I wouldn’t want to count on him finding the end zone against an elite team like the Bengals. At QB Blaine Gabbert has been an effective game manager but is allergic to throwing down field and would need a broken play or two to rack up serious fantasy points. My suggestion this week is simple, consider the Bengals D as a play at $3400 and don’t roster anyone from San Fran, there’s simply not enough upside in my estimation to warrant playing anyone from this team.
Gameflow: With a tiny point total and a small spread (4-5 points) most people will be expecting a close game, especially with McCarron at QB. I’m of the opinion that McCarron isn’t that big a downgrade and would venture to guess the Bengals will be pretty up for this game after losing to their division rival last week. Look for the Bengals to jump out early and grab a nice road win here.
Bengals 27 49ers 10
– A.J. Green $7900
– AJ McCarron $5400
– Bengals D $3400
– Giovani Bernard $4500
Broncos @ Steelers
Point Total: 44.5
Spread: Steelers -6
“Welcome, young Skywalker. I have been expecting you.” – Emperor Palpatine
The Steelers welcome young Brock Osweiler to town this week and the new Broncos starter might be in for a rough day. The Steelers defense has stepped things up a notch lately and are now fifth in the league in sacks as a team and have recorded 5 turnovers in their last two games. While their secondary still has flaws I’m not sure if Osweiler and his WRs will be in a position to take advantage. The Broncos have just two passing TDs as a team in their last three games and looked out of synch as a team at times last week. Demaryius Thomas received a 15 targets last weekend but had some terrible drops as well. Still, I don’t hate Thomas as a play this week as a he’s clearly been Osweiler’s favorite target since taking over and the matchup is definitely in his favor as the Steelers have given up the most yards to WRs this year of anyone in the entire league. I’d avoid Osweiler but consider Demaryius as a tournament option in week 15 as he could easily bounce back versus this weak Pitt secondary.
At TE Vernon Davis has integrated himself into the offense and came away with 9 passing targets and 7 receptions last weekend. Against this Pitt D, which can have trouble keeping track of the TE, Davis is definitely in play if you need a cheap TE play this week. He’s still only $3200 in price on DraftKings and has actually out produced Emmanuel Sanders since Osweiler took over.
The Pittsburgh run defense has been great all year and essentially shut down the rushing attack of the Bengals last weekend. The Broncos run game has been hit or miss all season and with CJ Anderson still hurting and Ronnie Hillman looking ineffective I’d avoid both this week. Denver s a team could be in a bad spot if forced to pass early in this game and I think the Steelers defense might actually be a sneaky play. As mentioned previously Pittsburgh has been effective in getting turnovers recently and at only $2700 they might be the best defensive target for under 3k in week 15.
Denver has been stifling against opposing QBs this season allowing 2 or more passing TDs just 4 times in a game all season. With a wicked pass rush and top rated corners Chis Harris and Aqib Talib manning the corners there’s not much sense in contemplating rostering Ben Roethlisberger this weekend as he simply doesn’t have the normal upside he would against most other teams. I’d avoid him and most Steelers this weekend as the Broncos will likely cap the fantasy potential of Pittsburgh players.
Here’s the breakdown of passing targets from the last two games Pittsburgh has played
This entire Pittsburgh receiving core might be hard to roster this weekend. The Broncos have given up exactly two passing TDs all year and are just hard to score against period. While Antonio Brown is capable of going off against anyone at $8700 he’s way too expensive for me to trust even in tournaments as the chances of him putting up another monster 35-40 point game versus Denver are so remote that my preference would be to avoid him altogether. I still expect Brown to see 7-8 receptions this weekend but don’t see him busting the long plays which have given so much fantasy potency in past games… While I do like the targeting on TE Heath Miller from last week his price went up to $3700 and given that he doesn’t do much after the catch I think there’s better TEs with more upside to chose from in the “sale bin”, and so I’d avoid him too… As for Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant they’ve both been playing on over 60% of the snaps every week but are somewhat dependant on busting “big plays” since they don’t see as much targeting as Brown. Seeing as the Broncos give up almost no scores to WRs this isn’t the spot or the time to use them in my opinion and they’d also be best left on the sidelines.
Gameflow: Even though I’m somewhat down on the Steelers offense this week I do see them as being able to pull out this game. The Steelers defense has been quite strong at home this year and will give Brock Osweiler as much trouble as Denver’s elite unit gives to its opponent. While I doubt we’ll see any huge performances the Steelers have so many weapons on offense that they should find a way to move the ball enough to get a win this Sunday.
Steelers 24 Broncos 17
– Steelers D $2700
– Vernon Davis $3300
– Demaryius Thomas $6800
– Antonio Brown $8700 (possible correlation play with Steelers D)
Dolphins @ Chargers
Point Total: 45
Spread: Chargers -1.5
“Never tell me the odds!” – Han Solo
Both the Dolphins and the Chargers now face insurmountable odds of making the playoffs making this game meaningless for the players but interesting for fantasy. The Chargers passing offense has slowed to a crawl the past couple of weeks but has always perked up against weaker competition this year. Miami has allowed 9 passing TDs and over 900 yards passing in their last three games and have looked frightfully incompetent defending against the pass at times. Philip Rivers price has dropped way down to $5500 but he’s still thrown over 40 times in two of his last three games. The matchup this week is 10x better than Rivers last two opponents (Denver, KC) and given Miami’s inability to stop the pass of late I’d definitely consider Rivers for tournaments in what could be a wide open, defense-less affair.
Here are the Chargers passing targets from their last two games:
The Chargers are incredibly thin at WR right now and there’s various injuries to keep an eye on: Stevie Johnson is still injured and looks likely to miss this game although that could change; Javontee Herndon is also banged up but likely to return to practice this week; Dontrelle Inman meanwhile, who missed last weekend’s game, is expected to play and would probably start alongside Malcom Floyd if he did. I mention all this because out of all the receivers I mentioned the one I have the most interest in for fantasy is Dontrelle Inman. Inman’s 6’3 and probably the most athletically talented of anyone the Chargers have left. He’s only min priced ($3000) and will matchup with one of the terrible Miami CBs, all of whom he’ll have a 4+ inch height advantage over. Watch the injury news but if Inman plays (and Johnson sits) he’d be my target from the WR core… A TE I think you also have to love this spot for Antonio Gates too. At only $4600 Gates should see at least 8 targets in this game and has put up some decent ppr stats versus much tougher defences the last two weeks. Given the state of the Dolphins D San Diego should have a better shot at getting into the red zone in this game and I like Gates chances for a TD in this game if that happens.
Miami RB Lamar Miller had a stellar first half last week, scoring two TDs on just 10 or so carries. Miller reportedly suffered a bit of an ankle tweak and was pulled early but sounds like he’ll be fine for this matchup. Miller gets a tasty matchup in week 15 as the Chargers have been easy to run against and just finished giving up over 100 yards to the Chefs RB duo on just 18 carries. I’d watch the news on Miller but if he practices this week he’d be a main target of mine. Both the projected workload and matchup lineup for a possible big game this week.
At receiver the Dolphins have gone extremely heavy to WR Jarvis Landry of late. In fact, the shifty receiver has received targets of 17-5-18 over the last three weeks and is now averaging over 13 in his last three games. With Landry mostly playing the slot it’s likely he’ll avoid the Chargers shut down corner Jason Verret, and that makes him viable for a big day in this game as well. At $6300 he’s someone I’d consider in all formats this week as his ppr scoring alone could be off the charts… As for other receiving options DeVante Parker is clearly second in the pecking order after Landry but still only seeing 5 or so targets a game and will likely be matched up with the aforementioned Verret. With Verret grading as one of the strongest coverage corners all season on Pro Football Focus I’d recommend looking elsewhere for value plays as this matchup doesn’t dictate a huge day incoming.
Gameflow: Of the all the meaningless games this week this one might be the most interesting for fantasy. Both of these defenses have been lit up at times this season and yet both of these offenses still have weapons to hurt the other teams with. I always side with the better QB (Rivers) in these games and given that this might be the last NFL game ever played in San Diego (narrative street!) I‘ll take San Diego in a shootout.
Chargers 27 Dolphins 24
– Lamar Miller $6300
– Jarvis Landry $6300
– Antonio Gates $4600
– Philip Rivers $5500
– Dontrelle Inman $3000
Cardinals @ Eagles
Point Total: 50.5
Spread: Cardinals -3.5
“The Force is strong in my family” – Luke Skywalker
The Cardinals offense is certainly running strong at the moment. All of Carson Palmer’s receiving targets are healthy and he now has one of the best receiving RBs in the league playing with him on a full time basis. Against this weaker Eagles secondary I think Palmer makes for one of the safest plays on the slate this week and at $7000 is someone I’ll be considering paying up for in a lot of rosters, he might be the safest play of the week at QB.
Here are the passing targets from the Cards offense over their last two games:
This offense has four legitimate considerations at RB/WR this week for fantasy. RB David Johnson will again be the featured back with Andre Ellington out and played on over 80% of the snaps in the Cards week 14 win. Johnson’s price has risen but his usage in the pass game (5 targets per game) and talent makes him a must consider for me. The Eagles have given up a TD of the passing or rushing variety to RBs in each of their last 5 games and I fully expect Johnson to find the end zone again in this game, he’ll be someone I’ll consider using in all formats… At WR Larry Fitzgerald is the most expensive WR of the three listed above and hasn’t seen the end zone since week 8. While I love the consistency you get with Fitz I think using Michael Floyd at $4400 is a better play this week. Floyd has been getting a ton of love from his Head Coach for his play and has actually out targeted Fitzgerald 21-17 over their last two games, consider him for use this week as well… For tournaments I think John Brown will be the most under owned player of this group and is coming off a nice game where he scored a 40+ yard TD. The Eagles secondary is weak everywhere but Brown will likely be seeing a lot of the especially burnable, DFS friendly, Byron Maxwell in coverage. I love Brown’s upside here and think a massive game could be on hand, he’s a great tournament play for week 15.
On Philly there’s not a ton of plays I would consider. AT RB the snap counts from last week looked like this: Ryan Mathews 20, DeMarco Murray 25, Darren Sproles 27. With no clear lead back deciphering which of these three will find the end zone or break a play is not something I want to do this week when making lineups. Given Arizona’s ability to stop the run I do like this spot for a decent game for Darren Sproles as a receiving option and given that he played the most snaps of any Philly RB he’d be at least a tournament consideration, especially for those people looking to stack this game or play in a primetime league. This game could devolve into a shootout at some point and Sproles would be the biggest beneficiary of all the Eagles RBs if that happened.
As far as the Eagles pass game goes no Eagles WR has put up more than 60 yards receiving in a game since week 9. At TE you have to like the increased usage on Zach Ertz and at $3200 he definitely is intriguing as a play this week given his low price. The Arizona secondary is tough on WRs and so Ertz (along with the Eagles RBs) might be the best way for the Eagles to move the ball this Sunday.
Gameflow: This game has a ton of importance to Philly and do not ask me why or how but I think the Eagles are going to win this game. Philly has looked very improved on defence the past couple weeks and their pass rush and improved run stopping could mean trouble for an ARZ team who likes to throw deep. The secondary is a concern but I think Philly holds down ARZ enough to squeak bye. Probably my least confident call of the week.
Eagles 24 Cardinals 23
– Carson Palmer $7000
– David Johnson $5700
– Michael Floyd $4400
– John Brown $4900
– Zach Ertz $3200
– Darren Sproles $4200
Lions @ Saints
Point Total: 50.5
Spread: Saints -3
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” – Star Wars
A long time ago the Saints offense might have been a lock to put up 40+ points in this game with Drew Brees at the helm. Now I think they still make for a good play this week but it will be hard to identify which Saints players make for the best fantasy targets. In his last 3 home games Brees himself has put 13 passing TDs and given that the Saints are three point favorites, and projected to put up about 27 points, I think he makes for a great and probably overlooked play this week at QB. Definitely consider Brees as a cash and tournament play, his home stats have always been better than his road ones.
Here are the passing targets from the Saints last two games:
The return of Willie Snead to the lineup really hurt Brandin Cooks targeting last week. This week however I am banking on a return to form for Cooks as Snead is going to draw excellent cover corner Darius Slay in coverage most likely. With Cooks working against the beatable Nevin Lawson I see him as a great tournament play as his ownership will not be in line with the upside he brings to this game. Cooks has four TDs in his last four home games and offers elite upside this week, make sure you prey on others recency bias and consider him for tournaments… I also think TE Ben Watson makes for a great play in this game and someone you could pair with Brees in a stack. Watson’s led the Saints in targets the last couple of weeks and against a possibly uninterested Lions defense could be in for another one of those monster games we saw early in the season. At $4800 he’s pricy but someone I’d consider for tournaments and as a play to pair with Brees.
While we all love the volume RB Tim Hightower received last week it’s probably unrealistic that he’ll see anywhere near 25 carries again. At $3900 Hightower is cheap but will get a tough matchup with Detroit who, outside of getting burned by the great Todd Gurley last week, has been improving as a run defense throughout the year. I get using Hightower as a value play but he’s not Todd Gurley and I expect he might struggle here, I’ll likely be avoiding him week 15.
The Detroit offense has had some explosion games this season and certainly is in a good spot here versus the Saints who’ve allowed the most points per game as a defense this year. Matt Stafford continues to throw the ball a ton every game and so at $6100 he’s got upside in a game with one of the highest point totals of the week. However, Stafford’s far from a lock for a massive game as he’s only gone over 21 fantasy pts twice on DraftKings all season (both times were at home). I like Stafford as a play at $6100 but I’ll be keeping exposure limited and to larger field tournaments.
As for the Lions receivers, here are their targets from the last couple of games:
With Calvin Johnson possibly banged up or possibly just being lightly used for rest purposes, Golden Tate has taken over as the main target in this Lions offense. Tate has seen double digit targets in back to back games and will probably see similar usage in this game which projects for a lot of scoring. At $5500 Tate’s price has gone up but I still think he’s a bargain this week as his trend in targeting and the matchup suggests a big game is possible here. He’d be my main target this week if looking for exposure to the Lions offense… At $6900 there’s a ton of talk about Calvin Johnson rebounding in this game as he’s projected to see a ton of Brandon Browner in coverage (arguably the worst CB in the league coverage wise). However I do have my concerns. Johnson continues to miss one or two practices a week and is reportedly playing through “ankle pain” which really worries me. I’ll still have exposure to Johnson since the matchup is great but am wary that another limited game could be incoming.
AT RB for the Lions I do think this game sets up well for either (or both) of Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah to have a big game. As bad as the Saints have been against the pass they’ve been equally bad against the run and allowed the second most DraftKing points to RBs this season. Riddick is probably the safer play since he accumulates so many ppr points and might see more snaps if the Lions get behind. At $4000 I’d definitely consider him this weekend if looking to game stack the Lions in a tournament, he could see plenty of work if the Lions need to move the ball late.
Gameflow: This should be a semi-fun if meaningless way to end the week. With both New Orleans and Detroit out of it for playoff purposes I expect we’ll see a little more wide-open play than usual. New Orleans played great on the road last week and should be able to ride that momentum against a Lions team who’s struggled on the road all year. We could see a ton of scoring but in the end I’ll say the Saints laugh and score last.
Saints 30 Lions 28
– Brandin Cooks $5900
– Golden Tate $5500
– Drew Brees $6600
– Calvin Johnson $6900
– Theo Riddick $4000
– Matthew Stafford $6100
– Ben Watson $4800