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: WAS @ NYG, PIT @ STL, SD @ MIN, TB @ HOU, PHI @ NYJ
Redskins @ Giants
Point Total: 44
Spread: – 4 Giants
Eli Manning improved from a fantasy perspective week 2 but a big game still eluded him. The Redskins have been tremendous thus far against opposing QBs but their secondary is still the weakest part of their team. Last year Eli burned the Skins for 6 TDs in two games while averaging 26 fantasy points, and he’ll bring upside to the table once again as you’ll have to go back to game 6 in 2014 when Eli last threw less than 30 times in a game. I like Eli’s upside for tournaments this week at home in an absolute do or die game for the Giants.
The snap count for the Giants RBs are sitting like this after week 2:
As predicted Shane Vereen is the RB who best fits with the Giants passing scheme. While he may still lose carries at or near the goal line his PPR upside is unquestionable and he is now up to 12 catches and 122 yards receiving for the year. The Skins have been great against the run so far which likely spells bad news for Rashad Jennings who was completely ineffective in week 2. Since most of Vereen’s damage is being done as a receiver out of the backfield I’m high on him this week as his price is still extra affordable at $4200.
The Giants finally did it, they released WR Preston Parker. I don’t know why but Eli Manning had targeted Parker an obscene 11 times over two games (he only converted 5 of those into passes). Parker’s absence should mean more targets for TE Larry Donnell (6 targets in week 2) and WR Odell Beckham going forward. With this being a must win week I fully expect the G-Men to get the ball in the hands their best player (Beckham) as much as possible. Odell will once again be at or near the top of my WR rankings. As for Donnell he did burn the Skins last year for 3 TDs in a game, he’s definitely moved into sneaky gpp territory for me with Parker gone.
Kirk Cousins has done a good job of not losing games thus far in 2015. This Skins have really been limiting his pass attempts and hence he’s only had 2 INTs in his first two games (decent for him). The Giants defense is not great against the pass, but their awful against the run too and so I expect Washington to continue limiting Cousins pass attempts. Cousins is cheap, but he’s still not someone I’ll be chasing.
The better matchup to exploit for Washington is likely with at RB. Matt Jones ran wild last game against a good Rams front, out touching Alfred Morris 19 to 18 in the process while also seeing 3 targets in the pass game. I’d say the likely scenario here is that a timeshare develops between these 2 with it being extremely difficult to guess who will get goal line work and the bulk of the carries. I want to go all-in on Matt Jones in week 3 against a weak Giants rush defense but know Morris is still the starter so would not play him (Jones) in anything but tournaments for the time being.
Here’s how the Skins receiving targets shaped up week 2 with no Desean Jackson:
Right now it’s pretty clear that WR Garcon and TE Reed are the two primary targets for Kirk Cousins. Against the Giants weaker LB core I could easily see Reed, who’s looked phenomenal to start the year, have a big game. Last week older slower TE Jacob Tamme got loose for 77 yards against the G-Men and it’s not out of the question you could see a much bigger day from Reed. I still like Garcon too against a secondary that got burned badly by Julio Jones last week, and a double digit reception night isn’t out of the question for him either if the Skins get down early.
Gameflow: It’s hard to say but the Skins have looked like the more competent team so far this season. Their defense has been extremely tough and they’ve managed the ball well on offense. Still, this is a Thursday road game and a letdown spot of sorts. The Giants need a win badly and I can’t see them not feeding Odell Beckham until he hurls in an attempt to get a win. Ultimately I see the Giants prevailing but their defense allowing the Skins to score a few points of their own in the process.
Giants 28 Redskins 24
– Odell Beckham $9000
– Shane Vereen $4200
– Jordan Reed $3800
– Eli Manning $7000
– Larry Donnell $3100
– Pierre Garcon $5200
– Matt Jones $4000
Steelers @ Rams
Point Total: 47
Spread: -1 Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger had a fantastic week 2. He’s now thrown for over 300 passing yards in 9 of his last 11 games and also had more than 30 pass attempts in 15 of his last 17 games. The scary part about Ben’s week 2 is that he could have had an even bigger day but Deangelo Williams scored 3 times, cutting down his production. The Rams may still be one of the scarier defensive fronts in the league but their secondary is hurting a bit with starting CB Janoris Jenkins nursing a knee injury. I’m all about riding the Big Ben wave although I’m likely limiting him to tournament action.
RB Le’Veon Bell makes his return this week and is likely to pick up where he left off in 2014. The Rams got annihilated by rookie Matt Jones last week and so far have allowed 4.5 ypc to RBs in 2015. I expect Bell to get a healthy workload and be extremely involved in the pass game. Considering how few strong fantasy performances we have seen from RBs thus far in 2015 Bell’s versatility makes him worth paying the $7500 he’s priced at on DraftKings.
There’s not enough superlatives to express how good WR Antonio Brown is. Brown has now been targeted 23 times in 2015 and converted 18 of those into receptions and fantasy points. The Rams as a team were the 8th worst against the WR position in 2014 and as mentioned previously their top corner is possibly out for week 3. Play him … There were a lot of people suggesting WR Marcus Weaton would be the big benefactor with Martavis Bryant out but the real winner has been TE Heath Miller, Miller is now up to an astounding 7 red zone targets in 2 games and a clear second in overall targets with 15. The Rams are pretty steady against the TE but did allow a TD to Jimmy Graham in week 1 and 6 catches to Jordan Reed in week 2. I’d keep riding Miller as a cheap option at TE, he’s getting multiple chances at a TD every game and his price is still only $3500.
I whiffed on Nick Foles as a cheap QB play last week but that won’t deter me from liking him again in this matchup. The Steelers secondary is not good; as evidenced by them giving up 6 TDs and 600 yards passing in 2 games. I am not in love with the Rams receivers but at only $5200 I still see more than enough output and opportunity in a game with a point total of 47 to consider Foles again. He’s a bit of a gamble as a cheap cash game option, but a great tournament play.
The Rams receiving and year to date targets through week 2 look like this:
As you can see Foles is really using TE Jared Cook as a primary receiving option. While the connection has yet to pay off for a TD that is likely due to lack of opportunity and game flow. From a PPR perspective Cook has still been solid and is only $2800 on DraftKings this week, meaning a mere 9 points would see him reach 3x his salary. I love the attention Cook is getting from Foles and think he’s a great option in a soft matchup… As for the WRs, I like the increased attention WR Kenny Britt received last week and the fact him and Foles finally connected on a big play. I could see Britt paying off big time in this matchup against the awful Steelers secondary, he’s a perfect low-owned, cheap tournament option… I am avoiding the RB position in St. Louis until further notice. The Rams duo of Benny Cunningham and Tre Mason have averaged 2.95 ypc in their first two games, and to make matters worse you might see Todd Gurley make his debut this week and steal a few touches. It’s not a spot I’m willing to gamble on for fantasy purposes.
Gameflow: The Rams have not been able to run the ball at all, but the Steelers have not been able to stop the pass. Conversely the Rams just got hammered on the ground by Matt Jones last week and Lev Bell is making his debut. I think you might see a bit of a shootout develop and in that scenario I’ll take Big Ben and crew to pull out a win on the road.
Steelers: 33 Rams: 28
– Jared Cook $2800
– Antonio Brown $9000
– Le’Veon Bell $7500
– Ben Roethlisberger $7200
– Nick Foles $5500
– Kenny Britt $3800
– Heath Miller $3500
Chargers @ Vikings
Point Total: 45
Spread: -2.5 Vikings
The Vikings have a very underrated secondary and really did a good job putting pressure on Matthew Stafford in week 2. QB Phillip Rivers actually had some big games vs tough rush defenses last year—356yards 4 TDs 3 INTS v San Fran—but has taken a more balanced approaches against better pass defenses—27 pass attempts last week against the Bengals. Rivers is playing well but I don’t think there’s enough upside for me to recommend him in this matchup.
The position I would target on the Chargers is RB. Here’s how some of the snaps and red zone touches have played out for them thus far in 2015:
As you can see the red zone work has been exclusively Danny Woodhead’s. Woodhead is also more involved in the pass game making him a perfect target in cash games as he’s cheap ($4000), and much less likely put up a really low score—compared to Melvin Gordon. Gordon did look much better in his second pro game and from a strategy standpoint there is merit in using him for this matchup in tournaments. Carlos Hyde, a similar type back, cleaned house against the Vikings week 1 and if Gordon gets on a roll he could produce a massive game. It’s risky, but Gordon does make for a decent tournament play week 3.
At WR Keenan Allen got pretty much shut down last week by the Bengals solid secondary and he again gets a tough matchup in week 3 against CB Xavier Rhodes. At $6800 Allen’s price is just a little too much for me to gamble on in a potentially rushing-dominated affair… The WR I could target for fantasy is Stevie Johnson, who’s now converted 11 of 12 targets into catches thus far and is turning into Phillip Rivers favorite quick-out/screen option when blitzed. Johnson is only $4200 and actually leads the team with 3 red zone targets through 2 games… I would also definitely take a gamble TE Ladarius Green in tournaments this week. Green still saw 6 targets in week 2 and is up to 12 now for the year. Carolos Hyde exposed some speed issues with Minnesota’s LB’s in week 1 and I expect Green could do the same in week 3. **Green now appears likely to miss week 3, giving a bump to Stevie Johnson as a play.
With Adrian Peterson getting a bigger workload week 2 QB Teddy Bridgewater’s numbers decreased drastically, as he attempted fewer than 20 passes and had well under 200 yards passing v Detroit. I like Bridgewater as a real-life quarterback but don’t really like the fantasy output you get with him. Even his big games usually aren’t massive and since coming into the league he’s still yet to throw for more than 2 TDs in a game. Against a tough San Diego pass defense this week I’ll pass.
I have very similar feelings this week about the Minnesota WRs. TE Kyle Rudolph led all Viking receivers last week with 5 catches for a whopping 30 yards (and a TD). The Chargers have allowed two TDs to TEs already so perhaps Rudolph isn’t a horrible play, but I just don’t like the upside as he’s too slow to make a difference after the catch and very Touchdown dependant for fantasy. The Chargers have done well at limiting any big days from opposing WRs, shutting down the likes of Calvin Johnson and limiting AJ Green to 3 catches and a TD last week. I’ll pass on all the Vikings WRs too.
RB Adrian Peterson saw the field for 80% of the snaps in week 2 and touched the ball 31 times (29 carries and 2 rec.), way up from week 1 where he was only on the field 64% of the time. With the Vikings offense being so much more effective last game and now going up against a rush defense who has been gashed in consecutive weeks by Gio Bernard (over 100 yards rushing) and Ameer Abdullah I can’t see the Vikings backing down off Peterson’s usage. I expect Peterson to find the end zone and perhaps have a monster fantasy day in this game.
Gameflow: This is an interesting game due to some of the matchups. Neither team has been great against the run this year meaning the RBs for both teams might take centre stage. Don’t be shocked if one of or both of Melvin Gordon and Adrian Peterson have big days on the ground. Ultimately I think I have to give Minnesota the advantage since they are at home and looked like the more solid defensive unit last week, but I legitimately think this game could fall either way.
Vikings 24 Chargers 22
– Adrian Peterson $7500
– Danny Woodhead $4400
– Stevie Johnson $4300
– Ladarius Green $3300
– Melvin Gordon $5000
Buccaneers @ Texans
Point Total: 40.5
Spread: -6.5 Texans
The Bucs smartly kept the ball out of QB Jameis Winston’s hands as much as possible week 2 and it led to a narrow victory over the hapless Saints. Winston looked a tad more composed and wasn’t under pressure for most of the day but still only produced 207 yards and a TD on 21 attempts. The Texans haven’t exactly been defensive luminaries the first two games but they will be at home, in an absolute must win and going against a below average O-line. I want nothing to do with Winston in this game fantasy wise and everything to do with the Texans defense.
Here’s the targets and red zone looks for Tampa’s Receivers through 2 games:
With TE Austin Seferian Jenkins out 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury there should be more targets for WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson going forward. Jackson has been a bit of a target hog with Evans out/limited but the tide may turn this week. With Tampa Bay a big underdog and likely to be in some garbage time throwing situations I would not be opposed to rostering Either Jackson or Evans in tournaments. Evans at $6000 would be my preference as he’s got multiple TD upside and will be extremely low-owned after he burned people with a big fat goose-egg last week.
The Bucs ran Doug Martin 21 times in week 2 and he compiled 78 yards and 2 receptions. The issue for Martin in this game will likely be the same one he faced week 1, game-flow. The Bucs are projected to be down big at some point and Martin has only seen three targets in the passing game thus far… compared to a combined 9 for the backup RBs. I don’t like this matchup or the price on Martin enough for me to consider him this week.
Ryan Mallet’s first start went pretty much as expected, bumpy. Mallet wasn’t awful but he only completed 46.6% of his passes and turned it over once. Still, that was against a tough Carolina secondary and on the road… the matchup this week for Mallet is much more palatable. The Bucs secondary got torn up week 1 against the Titans and with the Texans at home and needing a win I think Mallet makes for a pretty decent tournament pick at only $5000. He could find the end zone multiple times in this one.
One other reason why I like Mallet in this matchup… the complete farce that is the Texans run game. With Arian Foster still out (and almost certain to miss week 3) the Texans ran the ball with 4 different backs in week 2 and complied a meager 55 yards on 22 carries. Chris Polk emerged as the “leader” getting only 38 yards on 14 carries. My advice is simple, avoid everyone at this position for Houston for fantasy until Foster returns.
As for Houston’s receiving options, here’s how Ryan Mallet distributed targets in his first start (week 2):
As long as Arian Foster is out expect WR DeAndre Hopkins to keep getting a ton of targets. The Texans have thrown the ball on 71% of their plays thus far in 2015 and I’d expect the pass heavy approach to continue until Foster returns. I love Hopkins this week against a weak secondary that allowed a big game to Kendall Wright and will be much more giving than the Panthers were in week 2… I think you can also consider Cecil Shorts this week at $3500 if Foster sits. Shorts is up to 20 targets through 2 games and has the talent to bust a big play against a bad team like the Bucs. I like him as a high upside tournament option.
**Note: As of writing DeAndre Hopkins now questionable with a concussion, bump up both Houston WRs if he can’t go.
Gameflow: I like the Texans to take it to the Bucs in this game. Even with a poor start to the season I feel like Houston is simply the better team on defense and should be able to get enough pressure on Winston to force turnovers. I also would look for a little spark on offense in this game too with the Texans needing a win and getting a much easier matchup. Garbage time might keep it close but I still think Houston wins pretty easily.
Texans 27 Bucs 17
– DeAndre Hopkins $7400 (check health)
– Texans Defense $3200
– Ryan Mallet $5000
– Mike Evans $6000
– Cecil Shorts $3500
Eagles @ Jets
Point Total: 47
Spread: -2.5 Jets
Sam Bradford has now thrown 4 INTs and 2 TDs through 2 games with the Eagles and averaged a measly 14.55 fantasy points in that span… to put that in perspective, last season Mark Sanchez averaged 18.84 fantasy points in 8 games. Bradford is not playing well and now gets a Jets defense who has limited opposing teams to just 17 points through 2 games. I do expect the Eagles to get rolling at some point but I’m not exactly willing to bet on it happening this week. Don’t be shocked if you see Mark Sanchez come into this game if Bradford struggles early. My suggestion is avoid Bradford altogether for fantasy.
Through 2 weeks of play here are where the Eagles receiving targets stand:
WR Jordan Matthews has been the unquestioned number one in this offense and also the only receiver on the Eagles who has more than 1 red zone target (4 through two games). The Jets may shadow Matthews with Darrelle Revis for some of the game but considering how much the Eagles move around personnel don’t be shocked if Matthews still gets loose for some decent gains. I still don’t know if there’s enough fantasy upside with Matthews at his price ($6900) and am recommending you pass on him this week as there seems to be better plays elsewhere… I’m intrigued by the fact TE Zach Ertz and RB Darren Sproles are tied for second in team targets. With New York’s secondary being so solid I won’t be shocked if both of these players end up being key in week 3 and I like Ertz’s chances to see a few red zone targets. Both are good value options in a game with a pretty high point total… I liked the narrative street reasons for playing RB Demarco Murray last week but was completely wrong about him for fantasy. Now he gets the Jets who have been great against the run in 2015 under new coach Todd Bowles. He’ll break out eventually I’m sure but I’d still avoid until further notice.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a stabilizing influence so far for the Jets in 2014 throwing 4 TDs against only 2 INTs. For all of the issues with the Eagles secondary they have still been quite good at pressuring the Quarterback and limiting any huge games against them. Still, at only $5100 in salary there is definitely some potential upside with Fitz as a cheap tournament play. Regardless of whether the Eagles bounce back as a team the fast-paced Philly offense will still gift Fitzpatrick a ton of plays and set him up for some potential fantasy Fitz-magic. I’ll be dabbling with him where possible.
It appears as though Eric Decker will miss week 3 with a sprained knee meaning Brandon Marshall, who already leads the Jets with 19 targets and 3 red zone looks, should get even more work. CB Byron Maxwell, the Eagles big free agency signing has been a bust thus far allowing other teams #1 WR to score an average of 28.4 fantasy points against. I love Marshall in all formats this week and would be shocked if he saw fewer than 8 targets.
At RB Chris Ivory actually played fewer snaps than Bilal Powell in week 2 (32-37) due mainly to the fact he is nursing a sore groin. As mentioned previously the Eagles have actually been pretty stout against the run limiting opponents to just 3.18 ypc and allowing zero rushing TDs through 2 games. With injury still a concern I’m more than fine fading Ivory who isn’t cheap at $5000… On the other hand, at only $3000 Bilal Powell has now received 9 targets through 2 games and will likely see another bump in usage (passing wise) if Eric Decker misses more time. I’d definitely consider Powell as a tournament option at his min-priced salary.
Gameflow: I don’t know what to expect from the Eagles in this game. I doubt we’ll see a huge turnaround but I do think a better effort has to be forthcoming. The Jets dominated the Colts Monday but still only won by 13 points and were on the receiving end of some good breaks. I think you’ll see both offenses struggle at times and a possibly lower scoring affair, but ultimately the Eagles save their season with a less than convincing win.
Eagles 23 Jets 20
– Zach Ertz $3500
– Brandon Marshall $6200
– Darren Sproles $3800
– Billal Powell $3000
– Ryan Fitzpatrick $3000
NFL GAME BREAKDOWN – PAGE 1