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: DEN @ KC, NE @ BUF, TEN @ CLE, HOU @ CAR, ARI @ CHI
Broncos @ Chiefs
Point Total: 42
Point Spread: Chiefs -2
Peyton Manning got off to a shaky start in week 1. What was troubling wasn’t necessarily his bad play but the fact he got sacked 4 times in one game. By comparison last year Peyton was the least sacked QB in the entire league going down only 17 times all season. The Chiefs also recorded 5 sacks against Houston in their opener and did well to limit Manning last year as he only averaged 18.42 fantasy points against them in two starts. The opportunistic LB core of Justin Houston, Derrick Thomas and Tambi Hali could feast in this game, I’m not interested at all in Peyton week 2 as the fourth highest priced QB on DraftKings but might consider the Chiefs D.
Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas received 11 and 10 targets respectively in week 1. Both of them averaged under 9 yards per reception in week 1, not great especially considering their abilities after the catch. Here’s what they did last year vs the Chiefs:
Even with a slowed down offense you have to figure Peyton and Demaryius are going to hook up a few times this year around the goal line. DeAndre Hopkins burned the Chiefs secondary, who is missing top cover corner Sean Smith, and Thomas also burned the Chiefs himself for multiple TDs in 2014. I like Demaryius as a bit of a contrarian tournament pick coming off a slow week… strategy note—don’t play Demaryius with the Kansas City D!
At Running Back CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman both received 12 carries in week 1 with Hillman outgaining Anderson 41-29 in yardage. Anderson suffered some kind of “sprain” to his foot in this game. News is that he is OK and won’t miss any time but it’s still concerning, especially since Hillman outperformed him in week 1. If Anderson is healthy you could consider him, but considering this is a road game with the Bronco’s as underdogs there’s likely more upside in other RBs this week … I want zero to do with TE Owen Daniels (2 targets in week 1) for fantasy. Even if he does get more work eventually he was too slow three years ago and is still splitting time with Virgil Green.
The Denver defense was on full display in week 1, limiting Joe Flacco to 117 yards passing, while the highest receiver on the Ravens checked in at a gaudy 25 yards. This week is a different test however as they will be on the road and facing a KC offense with a full complement of offensive weapons. TE Travis Kelce went full Zeus week 1 producing 31.6 DraftKings points against a Houston D that was very solid against the TE last season. Denver actually gave up the 7th most points to TE’s in 2014 and given that elite corners Chris Harris and Aquib Talib might be busy shutting down KC WRs all night Kelce could be in for more targets and more fantasy goodness.
As for Kansas City WRs you really have to love the attention Jeremy Maclin got in week 1 as he led all KC receiving targets with 8, five more than WR Albert Wilson. As much as I’d love to roster Maclin for week 2 this game points to neither the Chiefs passing a ton or a ton of points being scored. Aquib Talib, who limited Steve Smith to 2 rec. and 13 yards, and is also slated to face off against Maclin in this contest. While I doubt Talib will have the same kind of success against the younger/faster Maclin it’s still a tough matchup. I’m avoiding Maclin until week 3.
Running Back Jamaal Charles made up for an average rushing day (3.6 ypc) in week 1 by catching 5 balls on 8 targets and scoring a receiving TD. The Bronco’s rush defense allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to RBs 2014 but the most receptions… in week 1 Ravens RBs also caught 9 passes against them. This actually bodes semi-well for Charles on Thursday as he has really struggled to run the ball well against the Broncos but should still remain useful for fantasy due to PPR scoring. At $7600 he’s expensive but still someone I’d consider playing as I believe the Chiefs will really focus on getting him involved and avoid the Bronco’s elite secondary.
At $6300 and $1300 cheaper than Peyton Manning, QB Alex Smith is a play to also consider. The Bronco’s may have gotten to Joe Flacco last week but Smith is a much more mobile QB and his O-line will not be playing in the thin air at Denver. Still, out of respect for the low point total and the Bronco’s secondary I am recommending you pass on Smith week 2, there’s simply more upside in other games.
Gameflow: This should be a close divisional battle between two very high quality teams. I did make Peyton Manning out as a lost cause at the start but he could flip the script for a week, have a decent game and carry the Bronco’s to 2-0. I think the more likely scenario however is that the home crowd and Chiefs defense is just too much for Manning and the Kansas City offense eventually gets rolling just enough to score a win.
Chiefs 20 Broncos 17
– Travis Kelce $5100
– Jamaal Charles $7600
– Kansas City Defense $2900
– Demaryius Thomas $8400
Patriots @ Bills
Point Total: 45
Spread: pick ‘em
As predicted here last week, the Bills defense limited QB Andrew Luck and shut down the Colts run game. Patriot Quarterback Tom Brady had a great first week but now has to go on the road against arch nemesis Rex Ryan and one of the top three defenses in the league. Brady’s targets in week 1 were as follows:
As you can see with Branden LaFell out both Gronk and Edelman’s targets were high and I expect that to remain this way until he returns. Buffalo was stifling vs TE’s in 2014 allowing the fewest fantasy points to the position and only 2 TDs all year. Still this is Gronk were talking about and last year he still racked up 7 rec. and 94 yards v. the Bills. Don’t expect another 3 TDs, but he’ll get his somehow… The player I’m more interested in this week is Edelman. With Gronk likely clearing out a ton of space for Edelman again this week—and possibly even drawing Stephon Gilmore in coverage—Edelman should be free to work underneath, meaning 10+ catches is within his grasp (again). He’s not the prolific red zone target Gronk is but at $6700 Edelman could crack 20 points on DraftKings (again).
At RB LeGarrette Blount returns but RB Dion Lewis might still be a large part of the game plan in week 2. Against tough run defenses last year the Patriots limited Blount’s carries (14-against Seattle, 12-against Detroit) and used Shane Vereen more. With Lewis now in the Vereen role I like him at only $3400 in this game and think he has a great chance he hits value. As for Brady don’t let a great week 1 make you nostalgic here, the Bills are QB killers and allowed the second fewest points to the position in 2015. I’d leave Tom Terrific on the bench week 2.
QB Tyrod Taylor paid off for those who chanced him at min price last week, and even though he is now $6200, I think there’s a chance for an even bigger game for him this week. Taylor averaged 10.3 yards per completion (3rd highest amoung all QBs week 1) while still completing over 70% of his passes, shockingly good percentages for a QB who was never known as a traditional pocket passer. The Pats also gave up 134 yards rushing week 1 and with the game projected to be close expect Taylor to possibly rely more on his feet when it gets down to crunch time and rack up valuable rush yards. I’m thinking Tyrod has an even better week 2.
WR for the Bills is likely going to be a guessing game most weeks. The Bills rushed 36 times while only throwing the ball 22 week 1. Percy Harvin led all Bills WRs with only 5 targets but converted one of his chances into a big play TD. Harvin’s only $4500 and still excellent value for what he brings to the table, expect him to be near the lead in touches again… Sammy Watkins on the other hand caught zero passes on just 2 targets week 1. Still, I like Watkins to rebound in this game. The Patriots D just got burned for 133 yards and a TD by Antonio Brown and while Watkins might not be at his level, he is good and won’t have Vontae Davis breathing down his neck against the Pats. I’d consider using Watkins in a low-owned, contrarian stack play with Taylor in tournaments… As for TE Charles Clay, he was actually second on the team with 4 rec. I like Clay but with all the other options at the TE position that emerged week 1 I think there’s players with more upside and will likely be leaving him on the bench week 2.
At RB Lesean McCoy averaged a paltry 2.4 ypc on 17 attempts week 1, but did have a 12 yard TD called back by a penalty which would have made his day much better. Considering what DeAngelo Williams did last week against the Pats you have to love the matchup. In 2014 the Patriots gave up some big games to RBs and QBs on the ground, including week 7 where they allowed the Geno Smith and the Rex Ryan coached Jets to accumulate over 200 yards rushing. You have to give McCoy a chance at redemption this week for fantasy.
Gameflow: This should be a really close game. I think the Patriots will find the going tough on offense (just like the Colts did) but are excellent game planners and could easily come up with a way to send Rex Ryan and crew home with a loss. As for the Bills, there’s still a ton of question marks on offense and how they play on that side of the ball should determine this outcome. Ultimately I think the Bills are for real, have the better D and are playing at home. They should grind out a tough victory.
Bills 23 Patriots 20
– Julien Edelman $6700
– Dion Lewis $3400
– Lesean McCoy $6600
– Tyrod Taylor $6200
– Sammy Watkins $6200
– Rob Gronkowski $7300
Titans @ Browns
Point Total: 41.5
Spread: -1 Titans
The Browns look like they will be starting Johnny Manziel at QB this week. At only $5200 Manziel is not expensive on DraftKings, and he did throw for 182 yards and a TD week 1 (plus ran for 37 yards). This isn’t projected to be a high scoring game and I expect Cleveland to really limit Manziel’s exposure by running it more. Last year Cleveland starting QBs (Manziel and Hoyer) only threw for multiple TDs in a game once. It might be tempting at his price but try to resist starting Johnny Football in fantasy this week.
The Titans defense gave up 4.7 ypc to Doug Martin last week and could be susceptible to the run, which I expect the Browns to do a lot of in this game. In week 1 Browns RB Isiah Crowell barely out-snapped rookie Duke Johnson 35-31 and so an even time split seems to be forming. The Browns seem committed to giving Johnson the ball and at $3400 he’s $1000 less than Crowell and should offer the same or similar upside. I semi-like Johnson at his cheap price-tag against Tennessee who gave up the second most fantasy points to RBs in 2014 and will consider him in tournaments.
No player on the Browns caught more than 3 balls in week 1. Travis Benjamin led the Browns in receiving with 89 yards and a TD, but he’s part of trio which includes Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins who all have very similar skillsets and are very interchangeable on offense. If I was going to gamble on a Browns WR it would be Andrew Hawkins (2 rec, 24 yards week 1). He played 70% of the snaps week 1 (more than Gabriel or Benjamin) led the Browns in receiving last season and is only $3300 on DraftKings. I’d consider him as a cheap, upside play in tournaments only.
QB Marcus Mariota is coming off a game in which he torched the Bucs for 4 TDs on only 16 attempted passes. As much as you have to like Mariota’s price of $6000 this week he will undoubtedly be a popular target. The point total here projects a close hard fought game with Tennessee slated to score only 20.5 points. Even though the Browns got semi-lit up week one they still have a strong secondary anchored by the elite Joe Hayden and solid Tramon Williams. I don’t necessarily think Mariota will struggle but I see fantasy points being hard to come by for everyone, I don’t see the upside that was there against the atrocious Bucs last week and am fine leaving Mariota off my rosters week 2.
At RB Bishop Sankey had a big game in week 1 scoring two TDs but actually played less snaps than newly acquired Terrence West (26-25). Sankey looked good but it’s still a little concerning that he’s essentially going to be in an even timeshare with West who narrowly missed getting into the end zone himself and had 3 red zone snaps inside the 5 yards line. I still like Sankey if forced to pick between the two as he’s the more effective runner but note West will limit his upside.
The receiver target totals from week 1 shaped out like this for the Titans:
At WR the connection between Kendall Wright and Mariota that I noted here in week 1 was on full display against the Bucs as Wright caught a quick timing route from Mariota early and was gone for a 52 yard TD. As the slot receiver Wright should avoid Joe Haden for the most part and will see more of K’Waun Williams. I like Wright and his matchup again this week and expect him to improve on his 4 receptions from week 1… TE Delanie Walker injured his hand in week 1 but appeared to avoid breaking any bones. If he plays he would be the only other receiver I’d consider for the Titans, be sure he’s 100% before using him as a hand injury could really limit his effectiveness as a receiver.
Gameflow: I expect this game to be low scoring and close. The Browns should really be committed to running the ball and keeping QB Manziel limited in his responsibilities. They could have success running it against a mostly poor Tennessee defence. Given that the Browns are at home and have a strong secondary I don’t expect fireworks again from Tennessee. Still, I consider Mariota the far better QB and Tennessee the slightly better team so I see them squeaking out a close contest.
Titans 19 Browns 16
– Kendall Wright $5000
– Duke Johnson $3000
– Bishop Sankey $4500
– Andrew Hawkins $3000
Texans @ Panthers
Point Total: 40.5
Spread: -3 Panthers
Texans coach Bill O’Brien has decided to employ major “strategery” in this game and avoid naming a starter until kickoff. Ryan Mallet replaced Brian Hoyer in the 4th Q week 1 and threw for a tidy 8/13, 98 yards and a TD in garbage time, if he starts week 2 he’ll have a tough test against a strong Panthers D who recorded 5 sacks against Jacksonville. Houston’s O-line struggled to protect their QBs against the Chiefs similar tough front week 1, allowing 5 sacks. I’d consider benching whoever starts for the Texans and target the Carolina D again this week.
The Texans threw the ball an uncharacteristic 47 times week 1 meaning many of the WRs had inflated target totals, here is their distribution below:
It’s really doubtful you’ll see these totals each week as the Texans were one of the lowest volume passing teams in the league in 2014. Still, you have to love the fact that Hopkins was targeted a ton and also received 4 red zone targets (3 more than anyone else). Hopkins will likely have CB Peanut Tillman on him who can match Hopkins in size but likely not his speed. At $7400 I’d be wary of fading Hopkins until Arian Foster returns as the Texans might be ineffective running it and look to Hopkins more frequently.
The Texans RB situation was also thrown off by the game flow week 1. Jonathon Grimes led all Houston RBs with 43 offensive snaps, followed by Alfred Blue with 22 and Chris Polk with 14. Again, I wouldn’t expect this distribution most weeks. Even though Grimes was on the field for 43 snaps he only received 6 carries to Blue’s 9. The more concerning issue though is the fact that all three were used and that neither were very effective. With Grimes the clear passing option Blue’s upside becomes very limited and is also effected by the presence of Polk. This is simply a situation to avoid.
With a depleted receiving core QB Cam Newton relied more on his feet in week 1 rushing 14 times for 35 yards. While the yards per carry is not impressive the number of carries is. Carolina clearly is not afraid to use Cam as a runner and TDs will eventually follow. The Texans allowed yardage totals of 58 and 61 to non-runners Blake Bortles and Derek Carr in 2014 and that’s enough to make me consider Cam as a tournament option for week 2.
From a strategy standpoint, if you’re using Cam Newton this week I’d probably consider pairing him with TE Greg Olsen. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce went wild for 6 rec. 106 yards and 2 TDs against Houston and that bodes well for the fortunes of Olsen who was basically an after-thought for Carolina week 1 (1 rec. 11 yards). In 2014 Olsen was held to less than 5 catches in just 5 games and Coach Ron Rivera has talked up the need to get Olsen the ball. Look for a bounce back from Olsen in week 2.
At RB Jonathon Stewart had 18 carries and 4 receptions week 1 yielding little work to other backs. His 4 red zone carries was also encouraging although it should be noted that Cam Newton had 2 red zone carries himself, these two will cut into each other’s upside all year. The Texans did well to limit Jamaal Charles to 3.6 ypc in week 1 but did allow him to catch 5 receptions. Stewart stays on my radar as a play due to the fact he’s involved in the passing game and will see a ton of snaps regardless of game flow.
Gameflow: I think Houston might be in trouble without Arian Foster. Their run game was ineffective week 1 and if that trend continues they don’t have the personnel at QB to save them. The Panthers D is healthy and at home again and will give whoever starts at QB for the Texans a ton of problems. Look for the Panthers to get rolling a bit more on offense and get to 2-0.
Panthers 23 Texans 10
– Greg Olsen $4900
– Panthers D $3300
– Jonathon Stewart $5500
– DeAndre Hopkins $7400
– Cam Newton $7200
Cardinals @ Bears
Point Total: 45
In week 1 QB Carson Palmer was having a fairly average day until the end when David Johnson unexpectedly broke a 50 yard short slant for a TD, putting Palmer over 300 yards passing on the day and bringing him up to 3 TDs. The Bears D actually limited Aaron Rodgers to under 200 yards passing week 1, although he did torch them for 3 TDs. Even though the Bears D are hardly luminaries they look improved under John Fox. I’m not as high on Palmer as I was last week when he was at home in a dome, he’s a risky tournament option only for me this week.
Here is the Cardinals receiving targets from week 1:
WR John Brown started off red hot in week 1 but was actually shut down completely after the first quarter. Brown’s price went up DraftKings this week making him a more risky play for me but one I’d still consider in tournaments as there’s simply too much big play potential. He’ll probably get the completely burnable Alan Ball in coverage who will have lots of trouble keeping up with the 4.33 speed of Brown… I was shocked by the usage of TE Daniel Fells week 1. I’m not advocating chasing him for week 2 but keep on eye to see if this was more than a one week blip… The Cards also sent numerous deep balls JJ Nelson’s way. Eventually one is going to connect with the sub 4.3 speedster, with him returning punts there’s worse ideas than using him together with the Cards defense in a tournament as a positive correlation play.
With RB Andre Ellington out week 2 Coach Bruce Arians has stated RB Chris Johnson will be his “lead dog” but I don’t know how the Cards can ignore the talent on rookie David Johnson who stands 6’1 224 and runs with the same or better explosiveness as Ellington. There’s zero doubt that CJ2K might appear to be the safer week 2 play at $3800, as he is guaranteed some work, but there’s more upside with the rookie. I’m recommending him (David Johnson) as an upside play for tournaments at $4200.
Even in a game with a high point total where the Bears trailed late in the game Jay Cutler still failed to deliver for fantasy week 1 throwing a measly 225 yards and an INT. The Cards passing D looked much improved against the Saints and did well shutting down Brandin Cooks but did allow Drew Brees to accumulate over 300 yards passing. Cutler is cheap ($6000) and has great weapons at his disposal but is a ticking time-bomb in terms of INTs and fumbles. I don’t see enough upside to recommend him.
Here’s how the Bears receiving targets shook out week 1:
WR Alshon Jeffrey looked pretty healthy leading the Bears in targets (12) and receptions (5) and is now slated to have Patrick Peterson covering him week 2. Peterson played fantastic in against the Saints but has struggled against bigger receivers like Jeffrey in the past (Calvin Johnson has decimated him). I’m not scared of this matchup and like a 100% healthy Alshon as a lower-owned tournament play … The best fantasy option for the Bears week 2 might be TE Martellus Bennett. Arizona has traditionally struggled defending elite TEs and allowed the 6th most fantasy points to the position in 2014. Bennett is easily number 2/3 in the pecking order for Jay Cutler’s attention and has lots of upside in this matchup… At RB Matt Forte ran wild week 1 against a semi-porous Packers run D. He gets a tough matchup week 2 though as Zona only allowed Mark Ingram to rush for 24 yards on 9 carries. Forte’s 8 targets in the passing game do make him viable for use this week as the Cards did allow Ingram to catch 8 passes for 98 yards receiving. I expect Forte to be heavily involved in the pass game and be a strong play once again.
Gameflow: This is probably going to be a closer than expected game. The Bears ran the ball well week 1 and were slightly unlucky to lose their game. The Cards beat up the inept Saints but didn’t do so convincingly. I’m calling for a close back and forth game, a few big plays for fantasy and the Cards to pull out a squeaker on the road.
Cardinals 24 Bears 2
– Martellus Bennett $4500
-David Johnson $4200
– Carson Palmer $6700
– John Brown $5100
– Matt Forte $7700
– Alshon Jeffrey $7500
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