Welcome to the Week 3 Game Breakdown. As mentioned last week, every game we get deeper into the season allows us to find out a little more about each of these teams. Hopefully we can glean some useful facts this week to help you take down one of the huge tournaments on DraftKings!
Tampa Bay at Atlanta – THU, SEP 18
Over/Under: 46 Points
Spread: ATL -6
The Thursday night contest pits a pair of NFC South divisional rivals against each other in Atlanta. The Falcons had an exciting win at home to kick off their year then fell last week to the Bengals in Cincinnati. They looked lost at times on offense just one week after Matt Ryan threw for over 400 yards vs. the Saints defense. This week they’ll welcome a Buccaneers team that is 0-2 right now and has some glaring issues that are very exploitable. We’ll start up front because I think that’s where this game is won and lost tonight. The Buccs defensive line has already lost Adrian Clayborn and Michael Johnson to injury and now should be without Pro-Bowl DT Gerald McCoy for this Thursday Night Game (he’s questionable but hasn’t practiced so I’d expect him to miss this game on a short week). That means they are short three traditional starters on the D-line and it opens up two things for this Falcons offense. First, a rather pedestrian Falcons O-line should be able to finally get a solid push and create holes for the ATL Running Backs. The only issue here is the time share that these backs have been under. Take a look at their opportunities over the first two games of the season:
|ATL RB||Tm Snaps||Snaps (RB)||Snap %||RuAtt||RuYd|
No one has played higher than 40% of the snaps and none of their backs have seen enough carries/yardage through two games to justify even playing them in one. There is a great opportunity here for the Falcons to get their gameplan started on the ground but predicting which direction they’ll go is going to be a huge challenge. I’d lean towards using Steven Jackson because the Falcons are 6 point home favorites and should be running conservatively at the end of the game to preserve a lead. Rodgers probably has the most upside though as he’s used in the passing game fairly often.
Second, Matt Ryan should have time to find open receivers down field since Tampa should struggle to create a viable pass rush without blitzing. Ryan has a 99.9 QBR when not pressured over the last two seasons compared to just a shade above 70 QBR when under pressure. He is expected to have his full arsenal of weapons with Roddy White probable to play and Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester all healthy. We saw Hester serve as an essential piece of the Atlanta passing game in Week One but he fell to just one target last week while Douglas, White and Jones all saw 8 or more (Julio continues to see the most after 13 targets in Week Two). Speaking of Julio, there are a couple of potential scenarios that we could see tonight for him in coverage. Usually Julio lines up as the LWR in this offense with Roddy White lining up as the RWR and Harry Douglas as the Slot RWR in three wide sets. That puts Julio on the opposite side of the field as the Buccs top corner, Alterraun Verner who lines up as Tampa’s LCB in Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 defense. The whole point of a Cover 2 is to use zone coverage to bottle up receivers so I don’t think they’ll move Verner to align with White on the outside. There is a ton of pressure on the safeties to keep Jones contained on deep routes as well, and I would guess that the Falcons try to exploit the main weakness of any Cover 2 defense by sending Harry Douglas over the middle into the gap between the two safeties which forces Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson to make a decision whether they want to leave a corner in man coverage on Julio over the top or leave a window for Ryan to put the ball in for Douglas (or Hester or White) on medium routes across the middle. Given the injuries up front to the Buccs, I see both of those options being open throughout the game since Tampa won’t be able to create much of a pass rush. Their safeties are talented but they stand little chance against a receiver like Julio Jones when Matty Ice has plenty of time to analyze the situation.
For the Tampa offense, it looks like Bobby Rainey will again start at running back despite Doug Martin being healthy enough to at least take the field on Thursday. They should see a time share but either one could be in a position to post huge numbers against this Falcons defense. Atlanta ranks 32nd vs. running backs through the first two weeks of the season while allowing, on average, 141.5 rushing yards and 2.5 rushing touchdowns per contest. They’ve also had issues containing backs who catch the ball, as seen with Gio Bernard having 5 receptions for 79 yards last week and Pierre Thomas netting 6 catches for 58 yards the week before. Martin and Rainey are both capable of being involved in the passing game so their upside is even higher in this game. The biggest question mark here is who will see the majority of the touches for Tampa’s offense. Martin has been banged up and they seem likely to limit him to about 50% of snaps on Thursday night. This dynamic likely makes taking either Rainey or Martin a tournament option at best.
There should be some great opportunities for the Buccaneers through the passing game as well. According to PFF, Atlanta has the 5th worst team pass coverage rating in all of football this season and they were absolutely demolished by Vincent Jackson a year ago:
Week 7: 22 Targets, 10 Receptions, 138 RecYd, 2 RecTD
Week 11: 12 Targets, 10 Receptions, 165 RecYd, 1 RecTD
Now there’s another talented receiver in the mix and a new QB who has been less inclined to force feed Jackson the ball, but that shouldn’t limit the upside of VJax too much in this matchup. He’s still seen 16 targets through two games while Evans is at 13 targets through two. The Buccs also didn’t throw the ball much last week (22 pass attempts) so I’d fully expect them to be more aggressive in Atlanta while likely chasing the Falcons from behind. Coverage wise, it’s tough to tell what the Falcons will throw at VJax but may have been a bit clearer if A.J. Green had stayed healthy last weekend. Instead we’ll look at Week 1 against the Saints and how they handled a much lesser #1 WR in Marques Colston. Colston was covered by 5 different ATL defenders when targeted which leads me to believe you won’t see Desmond Trufant in true shadow coverage this week although he could see a good amount of Jackson who lines up on either side of the field. Trufant has had a solid start to his season and while he’s not a good enough corner to avoid, the matchup the Buccs really want to exploit is anyone going against Robert Alford and Robert McClain. Both corners have negative coverage ratings through two weeks of play and I’d expect Alford in particular to see a decent amount of both Jackson and Evans depending on where they line up wide.
San Diego at Buffalo – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 45 Points
Spread: BUF -2.5
For the Chargers, we saw a team on the road in Arizona who struggled to move the ball against one of the better defenses in the league in Week 1. Then we saw a team that had 284 passing yards and 3 PaTD’s against the best secondary in football at home. This week, they get by far their easiest matchup against the Bills, who are still a solid defense but not quite the caliber of either Arizona or Seattle. The Chargers will however be going into this game without their #1 RB as Ryan Mathews was injured last week and will be replaced on any rushing downs by Donald Brown. Danny Woodhead might see a small uptick in carries but he should still be used primarily as a pass-catching back. That pass-catching role could be the key against Buffalo this weekend as the Bills allowed 8 receptions for 71 yards to Matt Forte in Week 1 followed by 5 catches for 38 yards to the Dolphins in Week 2. As far as pure rushing, the Bills may have some weaknesses that have yet to be exploited by opponents this season. PFF has them rated as the 7th worst rush defense through the first two games yet they’ve only allowed an average of 77.5 rushing yards per contest to opposing backs. Donald Brown showed last season he has a nose for the end zone and the Chargers coaches came out this week and said that he’s expected to play the same role that Mathews did in this offense, which could mean 15-18 carries depending on how the game plays out.
Through the air, there are some intriguing matchups to get two but I have to start with the renaissance of Antonio Gates. Through two games this season, Gates has 13 catches for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns. This was the year most expected Ladarius Green to take over for an aging Gates but, at least through the first two weeks, Gates has been stellar. Gates could also be the key in this game since Buffalo’s linebacking corps is not terrific when it comes to pass coverage. In Week 1, Martellus Bennett had 8 catches for 70 yards and a TD. Last week they allowed 7 receptions, albeit for only 31 yards, to Charles Clay. This struggle vs. tight ends is a trend we saw towards the end of last season, as they ranked 25th against the TE position over the last 5 games of 2013-14. Since that time, they’ve allowed 5 receiving TDs in 7 games to opposing TEs. With Gates playing well and Rivers seeming hell-bent on getting him the ball (17 targets through two games) Gates is again in play this weekend.
After Gates, the Chargers receivers seem to be in a “best matchup gets the looks” rotation. Keenan Allen is still the #1 but San Diego actually attacked Richard Sherman last week by throwing to Eddie Royal 10 times and he had a monster game. In Week 1, it was Allen who saw 9 targets with Royal and Malcom Floyd getting 6 a piece and Floyd finding pay-dirt. While Allen remains the most talented receiver of the bunch, it’s abundantly clear that Rivers feels comfortable with all three of his wideouts and won’t shy away from using them at will. That brings us to the matchups vs. BUF. Allen will most often line up to the right of Rivers but also has 10 targets this season over the middle of the field in short range passes. It’s safe to say he’ll see Corey Graham on the majority of snaps with Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore picking up Floyd depending on where he’s lined up. Graham has been solid this season, but Gilmore was average last week in his return to the Bills lineup and McKelvin was torched in Week 1 against the Bears. That leaves us with Eddie Royal in the slot against Nickell Roby. Royal is tied for 4th in the NFL this year with 16 targets out of the slot and has far and away the juiciest matchup of the Chargers wideouts. Roby has been thrown at 8 times through 2 games, allowing 7 receptions for 85 yards and an opposing QBR of 110. He has been brutally bad and if Royal should be coming out of his skin to get into this matchup after torching arguably the best corner in football last week in Richard Sherman.
Moving over to Buffalo’s offense, a 2-0 start has been sparked by an offensive unit averaging 26 points per game so far. The total daily fantasy value from this offense hasn’t really been there yet though, as their attack tends to be relatively balanced across the board. This goes especially for Spiller and Jackson out of the backfield, as they continue to see a time share and last week each accounted for 12 carries a piece. Week 1, they did use Spiller a bit more but the fluctuation in Week 2 is a good sign that this RB by committee approach could be difficult to predict all season. The one area where both Spiller and Jackson should be able to get involved is in the passing game. Opposing RBs are averaging 8.5 receptions per game for 62.5 receiving yards and 1.5 RecTD through two games. Stepfan Taylor, Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin have all found the end zone on passing plays. Spiller does get involved in the passing game, but if we’re choosing one or the other I think the nod goes to Jackson this week because of the matchup. Jackson has 7 targets through two games and maybe most importantly, he has 9 red zone opportunities (rushes or targets) through two contests compared to just 2 for Spiller. Jackson is the go-to-guy inside the 20 and usually that’s the guy you want to own, but this week that is even more critical. The Chargers are one of two teams in the NFL who have a 100% TD-allowed rate in the red zone so far this year. They have really struggled in that area of the field so you want to find guys like Jackson who are going to see a ton of red zone opportunities this weekend.
The other piece to the Bills offensive attack is Sammy Watkins, who exploded last weekend to the tune of 5 catches for 117 yards and a TD. The Bills are pretty thin at WR beyond Watkins so we’ll focus on his matchup for this weekend against the Chargers. PFF has the Chargers secondary rated as the 8th best in coverage over the first two weeks of the regular season. They have completely shut down Larry Fitzgerald (while being tagged a bit by Michael Floyd) and then stalled the Seattle offense in the passing game in Week 2, holding Russell Wilson and company to just 202 yards through the air. The matchup that interests me the most is how San Diego lined up against Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in Week 1 vs. ARI, since Seattle doesn’t have a receiver that can really compare to the playing style and talent level of Watkins. Watkins average depth of target this year is 14 yards, which indicates most of his looks are down the field against corners and safeties. Arizona used Michael Floyd as their deep threat in Week 1 (20.5 average depth of target on the season). Floyd had success vs. San Diego at times and was able to convert a few big plays into 119 receiving yards on 5 catches. Floyd most often saw Shareece Wright in coverage and tagged him personally for 3 catches and 88 receiving yards on 4 targets. I’d expect Wright to see a lot of Watkins this weekend and if Manuel can hit him, there should be 5-6 chances for Watkins to explode for big yardage in this contest.
Tennessee at Cincinnati – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 42.5 Points
Spread: CIN -7
The Titans head to Cincy to take on the Bengals this weekend and should have their hands full against a Bengals defense that has looked pretty good so far this season. Last week the Titans struggled to put points on the board against a borderline high school caliber defense in the Cowboys, so it’s hard to see much value in Titans offensive weapons against a much more talented Bengals D. Their running backs mustered just 70 rushing yards combined vs. the Cowboys as the Titans were forced to throw on nearly every down in the latter half of the game, as they trailed Dallas big. I can see a similar scenario coming into play this weekend as TEN sits as 6 point underdogs in Cincy. For that, I’ll just take the Titans running game off the board this weekend and focus mostly on their passing attack led by Jake Locker. Locker was heavily reliant on TE Delanie Walker last week as he threw in his direction 14 times and Walker hauled in 10 balls for 142 yards and a TD against a terrible linebacking group. The Bengals linebackers are much more talented but the fact that Vontaze Burflict is back in concussion protocol means there could potentially be an opening for Walker to have another decent game this weekend. Burflict was injured in the 2nd quarter of Week 1 and the Bengals D then allowed Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels to clean house, totaling 100+ receiving yards on 13 catches. He’s one of their best LBs in coverage and his absence certainly improves the outlook on Delanie Walker.
As far as the wideouts go, the matchups don’t look ideal for Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. Both struggled to find space against the Cowboys and both corners for the Bengals, Leon Hall and Terrance Newman, have positively graded out on PFF this season. Hall in particular has been stout, ranking as the 7th best corner in coverage according to PFF. Expect Hall to pick up the deep threat in Justin Hunter on the majority of snaps, since Hall also had both Julio Jones and Torrey Smith in coverage on most downs through Weeks 1 and 2. That leaves Kendall Wright with Terrance Newman on most plays, but look for both Wright and Hunter to see a healthy dose of Hall and Newman throughout this game. The best hope for value here is Kendall Wright as he plays most similarly to the “X” receiver role that helped Steve Smith have a huge Week One vs. CIN. In that game, Smith had 7 receptions for 118 yards and a score and both Newman and Hall struggled to keep him at bay after the catch. Smith is a more physical WR than Wright, but both play similar roles in their respective offenses.
For the Bengals, there’s an injury dynamic on both sides of the ball that should affect the fantasy value of this game. A.J. Green is very questionable to play and has most recently said he hopes to play but is unsure at this time whether or not that’s possible. If Green goes, he could be looking at a juicy matchup against a Jason McCourty-less Titans secondary. McCourty went down last week with an injury and Dez Bryant had a field day. McCourty wasn’t spectacular against Dez either, but Bryant had 6 catches for 62 yards and a TD against defensive backs other than McCourty in Week 2. McCourty has been limited all week in practice and his status is going to be extremely important to watch for this weekend. Even if Green doesn’t go, the Titans without McCourty opens up great matchups for Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Tate. Sanu had 3 grabs for 84 yards and a TD last week as well so if Green sits he could be a nice tournament play this weekend. If Green plays, he’s a risky option because of the injury but could be viable in some tournaments as well.
The more impressive variable in the Bengals offense thus far has been the ground game. Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill were on full display last week as Gio tallied 169 total yards (90 rush, 79 receiving) and a TD while Hill ran for over 70 yards and a TD of his own. This was the thunder and lightning that the Bengals coaching staff talked about all preseason. Further, this is the perfect matchup for the Bengals to take full advantage of both Hill and Gio. The Titans were one of the worst teams in terms of DvP vs. Running Backs last season. This season, they’re allowing 123 rushing yards per game to opposing backs. They bottled up Jamaal Charles in Week 1 but that seemed to be an anomaly as Andy Reid really just failed to get his featured back involved in the offense. The more typical Titans defense emerged last week as DeMarco Murray took 29 carries for 167 yards and a TD. Murray had far and away the most success blowing up the middle, as he turned 8 carries behind the center into 67 yards and a TD. That should play right into the hands of Jeremy Hill who is a bulldozer out of the backfield and can run right over struggling NT Sammie Lee Hill (they’re unrelated). Hill is cheap again this weekend and could be a premiere play as the Bengals try and rush the ball defending a lead with the more powerful back. Expect him to see somewhere in the 15-20 carries range. That doesn’t mean Bernard isn’t a viable option though, I just view Hill as the better dollar for dollar target.
Baltimore at Cleveland – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 41.5 Points
Spread: PICK EM
I was trying to figure out how Vegas got this game to a Pick Em line but considering how impressive the Browns were at home against New Orleans last week, I suppose I can see an AFC North battle coming down to the wire between these teams. The Ravens are getting some extra rest (and some much needed time out of the media spotlight) after taking down the Steelers on TNF last week. As with most AFC North battles, expecting a ton of points could be a pipe dream but there should still be reasonable value available on both sides of the ball.
One of the biggest surprises last week was the emergence of Owen Daniels instead of Dennis Pitta in the red zone for the Ravens offense. Clearly Gary Kubiak is going to shove the ball down his tight end’s throat but utilizing a fellow former Texan in Daniels was a small surprise. Just one week after Pitta saw 15 targets, he was awarded just 4 vs. the Steelers to Daniels’ five targets. Why does this matter so much? Well because Jimmy Graham hauled in 10 catches for 118 yards and 2 TDs last weekend against this Browns defense. The matchup is extremely juicy and this linebacking corps is not well equipped to handle above average pass catchers at the TE position. As far as the battle between Pitta/Daniels goes, look for Pitta to bounce back nicely this week. Regardless, the Ravens should target one of their two tight ends about 10-12 times minimum per game so the floor on Pitta is relatively low.
After Pitta, the Ravens passing game seems to be going through Steve Smith who’s playing the “X” receiver role for Kubiak. As many have pointed out over the last couple of weeks, that “X” role is highly coveted in a Kubiak run offense and it’s easy to see why Smith has 25 targets through two games this season. What’s not so easy to understand is why the deep-throwing Flacco has been targeting Torrey Smith so rarely. Smith has 10 targets through two games including an extremely disappointing 3 target game against the Steelers last week. Smith could be in for a long game again this weekend, especially if the Browns decide to run Joe Haden after him all day like they did in the 2013 season. In Week 2 of last year, Haden shadowed Smith and held him to 4 catches for 46 yards. In Week 9 these teams met again without Haden and Smith had 5 grabs for 78 yards. This year, the Browns haven’t used Haden in as much of a shadow role though, and seem to be buying into the Richard Sherman model of using a CB on one side of the field. That means Haden will get chances at both Torrey and Steve Smith depending on where they line up. Matchup-wise I think the Browns are better off if Haden is on the more physical Steve Smith and leave Justin Gilbert to cover Torrey Smith, since both Torrey and Gilbert are 6’0” each and Torrey doesn’t play a very physical style. Steve on the other hand could be a huge problem for the rookie CB Gilbert.
Moving over to the Browns offense, they somehow are averaging 26.5 points per game so far this year despite not really having any marquee players at their disposal. Jordan Cameron has been hurt, although it looks like he’ll be able to take the field again this weekend. Ben Tate remains out and that leaves Terrance West as the go-to-guy in the backfield. And of course Josh Gordon has been suspended which leaves them with a severely depleted receiving corps. Yet the points are being posted and it means there are some decent value plays you can take advantage of from this squad. Both Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins saw double digit targets last week, although you could argue that one of the two will see a severe drop off with Cameron returning to the field this weekend. All of these guys may also hinge on the status of a couple of Ravens defensive backs this week. Lardarius Webb, the Ravens #1 CB is questionable after missing Weeks 1 and 2 although rumblings appear to have him playing for Week 3 vs. CLE. Asa Jackson was also questionable earlier this week but has made it through concussion protocol and is expected to be in the lineup come Sunday. If both of those two guys play, this seems like a passing game worth avoiding. If Webb in particular sits, then you could see Hawkins emerge as a solid value play.
Green Bay at Detroit – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 53 Points
Spread: DET -2.5
In a weekend jam-packed with lackluster games, this one stands out as a fantasy gem. First, it has the highest over/under of the weekend. It also pits two high-powered offenses against each other on turf in Detroit. With that expectation in mind, we can start by breaking down the Packers coming in on the road. Green Bay struggled down the stretch vs. Seattle in Week One and opened up at home against the Jets with a disastrous first half. They did come around towards the end of the 1st half and into the 2nd half to pick up the W vs. NYJ, but still it wasn’t exactly the dominating performance most were expecting. Rodgers picked it up late though and finished his day with 346 yards passing and 3 PaTDs. The biggest beneficiary from that monster day was Jordy Nelson who had 9 grabs for 209 yards and a TD on 16 targets. Within that is another dynamic where Randall Cobb, usually a PPR machine, only saw 6 targets but hauled in two touchdowns of his own. While Cobb’s total usage has been dwarfed by Jordy’s this season, it’s interesting to see that both have 5 red zone targets and both had 3 red zone targets last week. Jordy is still the safer play, but when it gets down to the goal-line Rodgers has had success this year finding Cobb. As far as who they will lineup against, look for Nelson to see a lot of Darius Slay the LCB for Detroit. Nelson runs the vast majority of his routes on the right side of the field where Slay lines up. While I don’t see Slay as anywhere near a shutdown corner, he has still been above average this season while holding receivers he’s directly in coverage against to 6 catches for 56 yards on 15 targets. This means Rashean Mathis will likely be in coverage on Jarrett Boykin and Randall Cobb gets a relatively unknown Nevin Lawson along with help from some of the Lions safeties in coverage. Cobb seems to have the best matchup to exploit, although Nelson should certainly lead the team in targets again. Both seem like viable options for me.
As far as the rushing attack for the Packers goes, I think this is the second week in a row you have to take a pass on Eddie Lacy. Last week he faced a stout Jets front seven and managed just 43 rush yards on 13 carries. On the road, I wouldn’t expect Green Bay to get a big lead here and get Lacy the kind of touches he needs to have a productive day against another stout front 7 in Detroit. Neither of the RB1’s the Lions have faced this season have topped 50 rushing yards and while Lacy is certainly more talented than Jonathan Stewart and Rashad Jennings, the weak numbers vs. DET are more a variable of an elite defensive line than a poor opponent.
For the Lions, it should be exciting to watch how Calvin Johnson handles his matchup with the Packers secondary. Green Bay’s defense was terrible last week until Eric Decker went out for the Jets, so getting an actual elite QB and WR against them should lead to some fireworks. Calvin is going to move around a bit and will likely see Sam Shields in coverage for the majority of plays. Shields actually had moderate success against Megatron last season in the one game he played vs. GB, holding him to 3 receptions for 46 yards on 7 targets with an INT. The problem was Calvin getting matched up against other corners and taking advantage. On three targets against defensive backs not named Sam Shields last year, Calvin had 65 receiving yards, 3 receptions and a TD. Shields may be able to slow him up a bit, but expect the Lions to be prepared for that and to move Megatron around to put him into matchups against guys like Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett. Haha Clinton-Dix should play an intrigual role as well in helping over the top against Megatron.
While the Packers focus on the best receiver in football, there should be the typical crowding-out effect that helps the other skill position players. In this one, I’d expect both Joique Bell and Reggie Bush to see a nice uptick. Last week, Bell again took the majority of snaps, playing 42 offensive downs compared to Bush’s 31. He had 10 carries for 36 yards and 6 catches for another 61 yards. Bush meanwhile mustered just 26 rushing yards on 6 attempts and 6 receiving yards on 2 catches. The time share is still present, so neither makes a great cash game play but Bell seems to have the most upside for tournaments right now. His involvement in the passing game makes him a huge asset for DFS purposes on DraftKings. He also was utilized on 5 of Detroit’s 8 red zone attempts in Week 1 vs. NYG (he wasn’t involved in either of the measly two RZ attempts DET had last weekend vs. CAR). Considering Green Bay has ranked 23rd against running backs through the first two games of the season and is allowing 108.5 yards per game on the ground, it’s safe to say the Detroit RBs are in a pretty good position for this game.
Dallas at St. Louis – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: PICK EM
Another Pick Em game with a relatively low over/under pits the Cowboys and Rams against each other in St. Louis. The Cowboys defense held up surprisingly well last week against the Titans, holding them to 234 passing yards and 73 rushing yards for the day. The Rams offense is probably less explosive than Tennessee’s though so don’t be surprised if the Boys have another decent outing in Week 3. The one matchup that St. Louis has to try and exploit is Zac Stacy against the Dallas front seven. Dallas has been ravaged by injuries on their front seven and while the Titans only mustered those 73 RuYd vs. them, they were able to do so on just 11 total carries. Seeing as Vegas has this game set to a “Pick Em” line, I don’t think the Rams should fall too far behind early and that means they can get a healthy dose of touches to Stacy. Stacy himself was productive last week while managing 71 yards and a TD on 19 carries vs. Tampa Bay. At home, I’d expect those touches to spike a little bit and wouldn’t be surprised to see him put home a big day behind 25 or so carries. With Dallas allowing over 5.1 yards per carry on the season, a 100+ yard day and the three point DraftKings bonus isn’t out of the question.
There isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the Rams passing game so I’ll keep this brief. Tavon Austin is unlikely to play which pushes Stedman Bailey into the slot receiver role. Neither of the former WVU standouts have been great so far in their time in the NFL, so don’t expect that to change much. Shaun Hill remains questionable and it looks again like Austin Davis will start at QB. The only person who has benefitted thus far from Davis at the helm is Brian Quick who has 9 targets in each of the first two weeks. He’s had a 7 catch, 94 yard game (16.4 DK fantasy points) and a 7 catch, 71 yard game (14.1 DK fantasy points). The problem with quick is it’s hard to see him really excelling well beyond that 17 fantasy point ceiling and his floor is pretty low with Austin Davis manning the QB position. I could potentially see the play in a tournament if you’re banking on a touchdown or two, but don’t love that upside with a really low floor for most games.
Moving over to the Dallas offense, DeMarco Murray has been sensational so far this season and is definitely one of the most viable running back plays this weekend. He now has 20+ carries for 100+ rushing yards and a TD in each of his first two games this season, including that impressive Week 1 vs. the 49ers. The Titans defense was a bit of a puff matchup and the Rams likely fall much closer to the Titans than the Niners in terms of run-stopping prowess. Last week, Bobby Rainey ran for 144 yards on 22 carries against this front seven without Chris Long (who is most notably a pass rusher but is still a key part of their defensive line). Rainey was also able to get involved in the passing game with 3 catches for 30 more yards. After allowing 170 total yards to Rainey, DraftKings players have to be licking their chops to get after Murray this weekend.
In the passing game, the key cog to the Dallas offense is likely Dez Bryant who gave owners a scare last week after going down early before returning to the game and dominating. He finished his day with 10 catches for 103 yards and a TD. After seeing how St. Louis matched up with Vincent Jackson last week, we can probably assume that Janoris Jenkins gets the majority of matchups vs. Dez in Week 3. Jenkins has been reasonably successful this year but hasn’t faced a QB/WR pairing nearly as strong as Dez and Romo yet in 2014. Looking back at last season he was boom or bust, with a handful of games where PFF gave him extremely negative grades in coverage and a handful of games where he was well above average. Overall, he’s a middle-of-the-pack corner who shouldn’t be a huge issue for Dez and Romo.
Oakland at New England – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 46.5 Points
Spread: NE -14
The Raiders head to Foxboro for New England’s home opener. The Patriots trounced the Vikings last weekend 31-7 behind an impressive defensive and special teams effort. What wasn’t nearly as impressive was the NE passing offense which mustered only 146 passing yards. Brady has yet to prove he’s on the same page as some of his receivers and that’s lead to a disappointing 56.4% completion rate. The only receiver he’s been able to rely on has been Julian Edelman who had 6 more grabs for 81 yards and a score last weekend. Edelman is going to see the bulk of the targets, especially outside of the red zone until Amendola, Dobson or Thompkins are able to get open. Luckily, they’re staring at a juicy matchup to get the ship righted this weekend against Oakland. Oakland’s secondary hasn’t allowed a ton of yards yet but they’ve also been blown out twice and neither of the first two QBs they’ve faced have had to attempt over 30 passes. I expect NE to be all over the Raiders in this game as well, which means they won’t likely pass much either but there’s still some value to be had in the passing game. Rob Gronkowski was rarely used last weekend but should continue to play a higher percentage of snaps as the season progresses and is at a terrific price point on DraftKings this weekend. Edelman could have 6-10 catches even if New England threw the ball only 20 times, so don’t expect him to fall off much.
The more intriguing matchup comes on the ground for New England as they get to face a Raiders defense that has allowed both opposing RBs to tally 100+ rushing yards this season. Stevan Ridley had a great Week 2, totaling 100+ yards on his own and is a really sound value RB to target this weekend. Ridley should see a bump as well if Shane Vereen is unable to play, although it looks more likely that Vereen dresses than not after being limited in practice this week. The Raiders front seven is an absolute joke and the spread here indicates that New England should be playing with a significant lead, so if Ridley can keep from coughing up an early fumble he should make for a really nice tournament play come Sunday.
For the Raiders, there’s not a whole lot to talk about offensively as they’ll have to get through a defense that made Matt Cassel look like a high school quarterback for most of last week. Darrelle Revis went into shut down mode on Greg Jennings, which makes sense from a physical standpoint. Instead of lining the stronger Revis up against Patterson, they pushed Logan Ryan towards Cordarrelle on most snaps and Ryan was fantastic. In fact, Ryan has a higher coverage rating on PFF so far this season than Revis. Expect Revis to see James Jones in coverage for the majority of snaps this week which is bad news for the only Raider who has presented any daily fantasy value through the first two weeks. He has touchdowns in his first two games and had 9 grabs on 14 targets for 110+ receiving yards and a score while trying to come back last weekend against the Texans. Looking ahead, taking advantage of Jones in blowouts could be a really viable strategy but this secondary doesn’t seem likely to yield a whole lot to top receivers and it’s more likely you see guys like Denarius Moore or Andre Holmes come through with decent games as the Raiders throw the ball late.
Minnesota at New Orleans – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 49.5 Points
Spread: NO -10
Last weekend was a prime example of how the Saints offense struggles away from the SuperDome down in New Orleans. Sure they scored 24 points but they still dropped a contest to the lowly Browns in which they were favored by 6 points. This weekend they get to hit the turf and play in front of the home fans though, so you shouldn’t be overly concerned about Brees and Co. The matchup with the Vikings is juicy from a lot of angles, but the Saints potential on the ground in Week 3 is what is exciting me the most. First off, Mark Ingram is going to miss this game after going down with an injury last weekend. That means Khiry Robinson should assume the majority of Ingram’s carries with Pierre Thomas continuing the same role he had in the offense in week’s prior (the passing downs back). Robinson will likely see 15+ carries in this one if the Saints are able to put together a lead as the Vegas line would suggest. Ingram had only seen 24 carries through the first two weeks but was immensely successful with 143 rushing yards and 3 TDs. His touches were low since New Orleans lost both of those games but it would be a pretty drastic surprise if the Saints were unable to take care of business at home against the lowly Vikings. Speaking of the Vikings, they allowed 141 yards rushing to Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley last weekend on 31 total carries. In week one they were better in terms of yardage allowed to the Rams but STL still averaged 4 yards per carry (16 RuAtt, 64 RuYd).
Through the air, Jimmy Graham stole the show in Week 2 while Marques Colston wilted through a number of double teams the Browns threw his way. Colston didn’t even see a single target as he was shaded toward all game and Cleveland decided to let Graham beat them. It was a plan that nearly fell short as the Saints mounted a furious comeback but overall panned out. The good news for Colston (and all Saints WRs) is that the Vikings don’t have the same talent level at corner as the Browns possess. Colston should lineup either wide right or in the slot (has come out of the slot on 64% of snaps). When coming out of the slot, look for Captain Munnerlyn to pick him up in coverage. Munnerlyn was great in Carolina last season but has regressed in 2014, perhaps due to a poorer defense surrounding him. Munnerlyn is the primary slot corner for Minny and has allowed 6 receptions on 6 targets out of the slot so far this season for 69 yards and a TD. Still, Munnerlyn is no push over and his ability to be physical could frustrate Colston who is no stranger to disappearing for long stretches. Next we have Brandin Cooks, who also lines up in the slot at times but is there much less often than Colston (only 32% of snaps from the slot). He’ll more often be lined up wide left of Brees and faced up against Xavier Rhodes. The matchup is somewhat similar to what the Patriots exploited last weekend with Julian Edelman. Rhodes was in coverage on 4 of Edelman’s targets and allowed 3 receptions for 54 yards. Overall, Rhodes was tagged for 4 catches in coverage on 6 targets for 67 yards which earned him an extreme negative coverage score on PFF. Cooks is in a terrific spot here and is averaging 7 targets per game through the first two weeks and could see a few extra carries out of the backfield with Ingram out. Last but not least there’s Jimmy Graham. Luckily the Vikings had to deal with Rob Gronkowski last week (albeit a limited Gronk) so we should have some picture as to what they’ll throw at Graham. The Vikings let their linebackers and safeties cover Gronk on the majority of snaps with Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith and Gerald Hodges being in coverage. Look for a similar rotation of guys to cover Graham this week. This doesn’t really upgrade or downgrade Graham and my expectation of him this weekend is to see a pretty typical “Jimmy Graham day”.
Moving over to the Vikings offense, they’ll need to play their second game without stud RB Adrian Peterson. Last weekend, the Vikings pushed an emphatic drive down the field to open the game which was highlighted by a 25 yard screen pass to Matt Asiata for a TD. After that it was all downhill as Cassel was picked off four times against an opportunistic Patriots defense. Cassel was forced to drop back to pass 48 times and was constantly under pressure as Chandler Jones created an edge rush. Greg Jennings was locked down on the outside by Darrelle Revis and Cordarrelle Patterson struggled to contribute as Logan Ryan stalked him around the field. The Saints defense hasn’t been very good this season though so the passing game could see a decent uptick in garbage time if this one gets out of hand. Matt Ryan torched this Saints secondary for 448 yards in Week 1 and Brian Hoyer managed the game well while accumulating 204 passing yards of his own. Maybe most importantly, they’ve yet to force a single interception. This defense was extremely opportunistic last season so while I wouldn’t expect them to continue that trend, it still makes you feel a little optimistic towards some of the Vikings receiving options. In particular, Cordarrelle Patterson should be able to find himself in strong matchups throughout this game, especially when lined up wide right (where he has started both of the first two weeks) against LCB Keenan Lewis. Lewis has been absolutely smoked in the first two weeks of 2014, allowing 10 catches on 15 targets for 103 receiving yards and a TD. When Patterson goes wide from the left, he’ll likely see Patrick Robinson who hasn’t been great so far this year either. Robinson has been targeted 10 times, allowing 8 catches for 115 yards and a TD.
Houston at NY Giants – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 41.5 Points
Spread: HOU -2
The 2-0 Texans head to New York to take on the 0-2 Giants as two point road favorites in a game with a relatively low 41.5 over/under. Houston’s offense has been able to take advantage of some good matchups in Weeks 1 and 2 while using Arian Foster far more than anyone ever expected. The belief is still that Foster can’t hold up at this pace and he’s bound to drop off eventually, but I wouldn’t necessarily buy into that for Week 3 in particular. Foster is leading the NFL in carries at 55 and is second in rushing yardage behind only DeMarco Murray. The Giants allowed Andre Ellington to tally 91 yards on 15 carries last week and 124 total yards across all RBs from the Cardinals. Despite that performance, NYG actually rates out as the 4th best rush defense on PFF which confuses me a bit. Overall, I think Foster is a relatively safe play as long as he continues to get touches. At some point this season, his touches will drop off a bit but for now he’s being overworked by Bill O’Brien and that’s great news for daily fantasy purposes.
Looking at the Texans passing game, Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to produce enough early against the Raiders last week to win the game handly and didn’t have to drop back much. He tallied 139 passing yards and 2 PaTDs on 23 dropbacks. He should have to pass a little more in this game as I expect this to be one of the closer battles of the week. That means more targets for Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins on the outside. Johnson has 16 targets through two weeks and Hopkins has 10, but the Texans really haven’t let this passing game loose yet (not that letting Fitz loose is always a good idea). Still, this offense has limited receiving weapons so you can guarantee that Johnson will almost always see the bulk of targets with Hopkins providing some relief. With that in mind, Johnson has a tasty matchup against this Giants secondary. In Week 1, Calvin Johnson was able to exploit Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie most often (5 rec, 126 yards, 1 TD on 7 targets) while torching Antrel Rolle as well (2 rec, 38 yards, 1 TD on 3 targets). The Lions offensive weapons are pretty close to what the Texans will bring in considering there is one elite WR accompanied by weaker other options. The Giants failed to stop Calvin in that one and while I wouldn’t put Johnson anywhere near Calvin’s status anymore, I’d expect Andre to post some good numbers in this tilt.
Moving over to the Giants, it’s been a really disappointing start to 2014 for an offense that hoped to bounce back from some 2013 struggles. Eli Manning continues to turn the ball over and PFF has their rushing attack ranked in the bottom 6 of NFL teams so far. There are two dynamics at play in this game, since the Texans have proven to be an opportunistic defense but they have also been vulnerable at times. The turnover issues for Eli are a major concern against this Texans defense so while I wouldn’t target him, I would definitely consider using some of the receiving weapons. Victor Cruz has been an enigma as he drops pass after pass and continues to not be involved in the red zone game plan. Cruz hasn’t found pay dirt since Week 4 of the 2013 season while Eli registered his first multi-TD game in Week 2 since Week 12 of 2013. Still, Cruz had 5 catches for 60 yards on 10 targets and if he’s seeing double digit targets consistently you can expect good things from him. The Texans defense is far from stout in the secondary as well, especially after James Jones torches them for 9 grabs and 122 receiving yards plus a TD last weekend. In Week 1, Pierre Garcon had 10 grabs for 77 yards with DJax tallying 8 grabs for 62 yards. Looking at last week in particular, the Raiders threw a number of corners at James Jones including A.J. Bouye (4 targets, 4 Rec, 43 RecYd), Kareem Jackson (3 targets, 1 Rec, 11 RecYd), Darryl Morris (2 Targets, 2 Rec, 13 RecYd, 1 RecTD), and Johnathan Joseph (3 targets, 2 Rec, 45 RecYd). They have some talented defensive backs but the Giants should be able to put Cruz and Reuben Randle in positions to succeed against this secondary depending on where they line them up. Randle may have a bit more upside here with a cheaper price tag but don’t shy away from targeting Cruz despite all of the recent struggles.
Washington at Philadelphia – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 50.5 Points
Spread: PHI -6.5
The Eagles and Redskins do battle in Philadelphia this weekend and the story of the week right now is split between Darren Sproles willing the Eagles to a Week 2 victory and Kirk Cousins replacing RG3 behind center for the Skins. Let’s start with Sproles and the Eagles offense. I’m inclined to believe that his first two weeks are more flukey than anything else, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad Week 3 play. Look, Sproles has ALWAYS been better on the turf and the only thing I regret from last week is not remembering how much faster he is on turf than on regular grass. He’s a great fit in this offense but his elusiveness is exponentially higher on turf. Beyond Sproles, this game figures to be really high scoring and the Redskins defense has had more than its fair share of struggles this season. We can start with the matchup for Shady McCoy who has quietly remained productive with the 2nd string RB has gotten the bulk of the publicity. He still has 153 yards through 2 games on the ground and 64 more yards through the air, with 20+ carries in Weeks 1 and 2. The Redskins gave up 103 yards to Arian Foster in Week 1 on 27 carries before holding a horrific Jaguars rushing attack to 8 total yards on 7 carries. McCoy and the Eagles aren’t the Jags and should be able to move the ball efficiently on the ground.
In the passing game, it’s hard to know what type of battle the Eagles should be in for this week considering Washington has had the fortune of facing the two worst teams in football last season to start their 2014 campaign. Houston and Ryan Fitzpatrick are far from a potent passing attack and the Jaguars are, well, the Jaguars. The juicy matchups have led the Skins to being the 5th best defense vs. Quarterbacks through the first two weeks of football. That’s not exactly a number I’d expect to hold although it’s possible they are slightly improved from their bottom-10 ranking a season ago. The biggest question mark is how they will hold up against the uptempo Eagles offense here. In Week 1, Houston ran 61 offensive plays vs. WAS. In Week 2, Jacksonville ran 52 offensive plays vs. WAS. The Eagles are averaging 78 plays per game so far this season including a whopping 87 plays run while trailing against the Jaguars in Week 1. Defenses wear down over the course of a game and being on the field for anything north of 65-70 snaps is going to take a toll on a thin Redskins secondary. On the outside, David Amerson and DeAngelo Hall were in charge of slowing down Andre Johnson in Week 1 and I’d expect that duo to contribute in coverage against Jeremy Maclin in Week 2 with Ryan Clark helping over the top. Clark has been a terrific addition to this secondary who may play the essential role of keeping the Eagles receivers from hauling in the big plays. The return of Brandon Merriweather is also an underrated upgrade for this secondary as Baccari Rambo had been absolutely thrashed through the first two games of the season. As I mentioned last week, Jeremy Maclin is being used much more often as a vertical threat than he ever was with Andy Reid and much of the short range passing game has fallen to the Philly RBs and TE Zach Ertz. Ertz may have the best matchup of all the PHI skill players as the Skins ranked in the bottom 5 against Tight Ends a year ago. They have some talent at linebacker in Brian Orakpo but are ill equipped to handle all of the Philly weapons and I think Orakpo shades towards McCoy/Sproles which leaves Ertz a little more free.
Moving over to the Redskins, I think they’ll try to establish the run early and approach the Eagles in a similar manner to what the Colts used in Week 2. The Colts came out in two and three tight end sets and slammed the ball down PHI’s throat while running the clock down and keeping that high powered offense off the field. With a strong running game led by Alfred Morris, there’s little doubt that this will be the intended plan of the Redskins offense. The Colts were able to contain the Eagles offense with this strategy and if not for some untimely errors, they likely would have won that game with this strategy.
But the best laid plans often fall apart and if the Redskins are unable to keep this game close and the Eagles offense under wraps, we could see Kirk Cousins forced to throw the ball a ton. There are a few directions Cousins can look, although those options dwindle if DeSean Jackson is unable to go. There has been a lot of talk about DJax in Jay Gruden’s offense and how his ability to open things up over the top make him the most viable fantasy option on that team. We saw it in Week 1 and I still think DeSean was set to have a monster Week 2 before leaving with an injury. So let’s look at this game in two scenarios. Scenario #1: DeSean Jackson plays. The Redskins look to open things up in the play action game by pounding the ball with Alfred Morris and hope to connect on some deep routes to DJax against the weak Eagles secondary. Scenario #2: DeSean Jackson sits. Pierre Garcon sees a nice uptick in targets (again assuming the Redskins are forced to abandon the run early and throw a lot) and again we see Logan Paulsen (TE) put up a nice game like he did last week. All in all, it looked last week like Paulsen gained the most from the DJax injury as the 2nd receiving option for Cousins.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 45.5 Points
Spread: IND -7
The Colts are suddenly 0-2 after failing to close out their MNF game in Week 2 and failing to complete the comeback at Denver in Week 1. Good news here is that they’ll head to Jacksonville to take on a Jaguars team that is also 0-2, and is much less likely to find themselves above .500 by the end of the season. Through two weeks of play the Jaguars have allowed an average of 305 passing yards plus two passing touchdowns while ranking 28th in the league against the QB position. We’ll start there since the offense in Indianapolis still runs through Andrew Luck despite their approach last week of running the ball against the Eagles. This game should end up with the Colts running away with it late, although I will say that on the road in the NFL anything can happen. Assuming the game goes according to its Vegas script (IND -7) then Luck shouldn’t be throwing too late into the contest so don’t expect more than 30-35 passing attempts from him. That should be enough to do damage against this Jaguars defense that is 6th worst in the NFL in pass coverage ratings on PFF. Looking specifically at matchups, the Jaguars let their corners play a side and that should mean somewhat predictable matchups for the Colts receivers. T.Y. Hilton has been lining up wide right and that would align him with Dwayne Gratz for the majority of plays. Gratz has rated out as the 55th best qualified corner in coverage on PFF through the first two weeks, allowing 7 catches for 95 yards and a TD on 12 total targets. That’s a matchup for Hilton to absolutely exploit and his target totals have been consistent, with 11 targets in each of the first two games this season. Nicks, when on the field, will line up to the left side of Andrew Luck (he’s played about 50% of snaps this year) and will see Alan Ball in coverage. Ball was pretty solid in 2013 and has had reasonable success again this season, holding opposing receivers to just 7 grabs for 67 yards and an INT on 17 targets. That matchup for Nicks, and Wayne when he’s lining up wide left, is definitely going to be less exploitable. Speaking of Wayne, he started last week as the slot wide right receiver but also plays a decent number of snaps wide left, specifically when the Colts roll out their two tight end offense. He’ll see a bit of Alan Ball and a bit of Will Blackmon coming out of the slot. Blackmon may be the matchup that the Colts want to exploit this weekend, since he’s allowed 10 receptions on all 10 targets thrown his way for 116 receiving yards through the first two weeks.
Moving over to the Jaguars, the Chad Henne lifestyle is far from exciting but most of the time it’s at least respectable. He had 193 yards passing, a TD and an INT in Week 2 against the Redskins after a solid 266 PaYd, 2 PaTD game in Week 1. Those numbers don’t jump off the page but when you consider that the Jags have literally 0 running game and a horrific offensive line, it’s more than serviceable. This week he gets two pieces of good news and one piece of bad news in terms of his available weapons. Cecil Shorts and Allen Hurns are both probable to play but Marqise Lee is doubtful for this game. Shorts has always been a PPR dream and IF he can stay on the field for the duration of this game he should be able to have reasonable success in a role similar to what Jeremy Maclin played last weekend vs. Indy. Last season with Henne under center for the majority of games, Shorts tallied 122 targets in 13 games played (including a few games where he left early). With the Jags sitting as dogs in this one, he should see at least double digit targets in some garbage time. I’d expect Hurns to remain as the RWR for the majority of snaps and Shorts to see his playing time as the wide receiver to the left of Henne. That means he’ll have a much tougher matchup than Hurns with Vontae Davis on the outside. Davis is definitely one of the better corners in the NFL and should be able to slow down Shorts unless the Jags are willing to move him away from Davis. If Jacksonville is smart, they’ll try and move Shorts (or exploit Hurns) against Greg Toler who was taken advantage of for a touchdown in Week 2. No matter what way you slice it though, the Jags receiving options are tournament plays only and whether you’re considering Hurns or Shorts, know that they have an extremely low floor.
San Francisco at Arizona – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 42 Points
Spread: SF -3
This weekend is the first of two games between two NFC West teams who hope to prove they are the 2nd best team in that division behind Seattle. Many expected these two teams to fall off a bit this season but Arizona has started out 2-0 including an impressive Week 1 win against the Chargers. They followed it up with a win against the Giants in New York and now return to the West Coast to host their divisional rivals. The biggest storyline here is the status of Carson Palmer as he is looking unlikely to play in Week 3, leaving Drew Stanton as the probable starter. Stanton managed the game well last weekend but ARI took some big plays from their special teams and used those to keep Stanton out of the forefront. Stanton will have to be much more noticeable on Sunday to give the Cardinals a shot against this 49ers defense. It’s a 49ers defense that has fallen off quite a bit from last season, and there are a few matchups where ARI can really capitalize. On the outside, the best matchup may go to Larry Fitzgerald who should see Jimmie Ward in coverage, the rookie CB who allowed 3 TDs to Brandon Marshall last weekend. Fitz has a 4 inch size advantage on Ward and was targeted 10 times last weekend with Stanton at the helm. Michael Floyd should see mostly Chris Culliver and/or Perrish Cox in coverage, both of whom are above average CBs. Also worth noting, Rob Housler is unexpected to play this weekend and while the TE isn’t heavily involved in the offense, there could be a few extra targets to go around to Floyd, Fitz and RB Andre Ellington out of the backfield.
Speaking of Ellington, he could fly under the radar this weekend despite a lot of things working in his favor. First off, the suspension to Jonathan Dwyer should somewhat increase Ellington’s workload. I still see Stepfan Taylor assuming a Dwyer-esque role but am not sold that Ellington won’t see his snap count bump at least a bit. Next, while the 49ers shut down Matt Forte last weekend (just 21 yards rushing) they struggled against DeMarco Murray in Week 1, allowing him to run for 118 yards and a score. The 49ers front seven has been ravaged by injuries and suspensions and is nowhere near the force that ranked in the top 5 last season in defense vs. running back splits.
For the 49ers, the biggest question mark is Vernon Davis this weekend who is currently listed as questionable. Why does Vernon matter so much? Because the Cardinals are beyond terrible against the TE position. They’ve started this season much like they started the 2013 campaign, allowing 80+ receiving yards to each of the first two tight ends they’ve faced. Larry Donnell had 7 catches for 80 yards last weekend and 2nd string TE Daniel Fells found the end zone on his one reception. Not to mention, Vernon torched this Cardinals defense a season ago:
Vernon Davis – Week 6: 8 catches, 160 yards, 2 TD
Vernon Davis – Week 17 3 catches, 45 yards, 1 TD
It’s a late game so knowing whether or not Davis plays is going to be a challenge but luckily you have the late swap option on DraftKings. If you wanted to leave yourself with $200 in leftover salary you could swap Davis out for Martellus Bennett in the Monday Night Football game. Other cheap options beneath Davis (playing at 4 PM or later) include Travis Kelce, Charles Clay or even 3rd string TE Derek Carrier.
Kansas City at Miami – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 42.5 Points
Spread: MIA -4
The Dolphins return home to take on an 0-2 Chiefs team that has really struggled on both sides of the ball. Holding Peyton Manning to 242 and 3 PaTD isn’t really all that disappointing, but allowing Jake Locker to throw for 260 yards and a pair of TDs is really poor. The main storyline for Miami this week was the loss of Knowshon Moreno for 4-6 weeks. That leaves Lamar Miller as the featured back, but don’t forget that Miami brought back Daniel Thomas this week so Miller may not see that 80% of snaps workload we’re all hoping for. If there’s one thing the Dolphins coaching staff has proven over the last two years it’s that they love the RB by committee approach. If Miller is having success, he could definitely put together a nice game with 15-18 carries but if he struggles in the early going you could see Thomas come on and take the majority of running down snaps. Either way, there’s yards to be taken against a ravaged Chiefs front 7. In Week 1, they allowed around 150 rushing yards across four different Tennessee running backs. In Week 2, they allowed 91 rushing yards to Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman.
Back to the passing game though, I think Tannehill is in a really good spot here. Mike Wallace should find himself against Marcus Cooper on the majority of snaps and last week that was a great matchup for Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Cooper was targeted 9 times and allowed 7 receptions for 132 yards and a TD in his 2014 debut. Cooper was significantly better last season and it’s not the first time Peyton Manning has torched an above average corner, but I think his issues (and the entire KC secondary) run much deeper. The Chiefs are really banged up in their front seven and they’re struggling to create a pass rush right now, which is allowing opposing QBs to take their time and pick apart even better corners. Last week the Chiefs, without Mike Devito or Derrick Johnson, only hurried Manning 4 times on 29 drop backs with 1 sack. Tannehill wasn’t great last season under pressure, completing just 44.2% of passes but was great when given time, completing 66.1% of passes with a 19 TD to 7 INT ratio. Tannehill should get plenty of time in this game and that could mean big games for both him and Mike Wallace on the outside.
Moving over to the Chiefs, the main storyline will be whether or not Jamaal Charles will play. If you want to roll the dice on Charles, I certainly can’t blame you just make sure you have another player going in the later games so you can swap Charles out for his backup, Knile Davis, and upgrade the other position. Matchup wise, I think the Chiefs running backs are really the only two guys you can consider in this lackluster offense right now. KC doesn’t have the weapons on the outside and until they start giving Travis Kelce more playing time, it’s going to be tough to rely on him in anything other than large field tournaments. The Dolphins did struggle a bit up front last weekend, allowing 100+ rushing yards to the Bills and they are sitting in the middle of the pack in terms of defense vs. running backs this season. Charles or Davis could see a ton of touches if this game stays close throughout and both get heavily involved in the passing game, which is hugely valuable on DraftKings.
Denver at Seattle – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 48.5 Points
Spread: SEA -4.5
Often times in the NFL you’ll find that the most intriguing matchups aren’t necessarily the ones you want to be targeting players in. Other times you’ll find that there are games where a shootout is all but a given and you can use 4-5 players from one game. Then you have games like this Super Bowl rematch, with two teams that are polar opposites and you might not find out who breaks first until they actually take the field. The Broncos head to Seattle to try and avenge a miserable defeat at the hands of the Seahawks in the SB last February. The Seahawks, who are near unbeatable at home, will try and cement their reputation as the best team in all of football after a relatively bad loss on the road in San Diego in Week 2.
Let’s start with the Broncos offense since the lasting image from last season’s Super Bowl was a disheartened Peyton Manning getting hit, intercepted and abused by a red hot Seattle defense. In that game Manning, who had previously been known for spreading the ball around to all of his receivers, got a bit of tunnel vision on Demaryius Thomas and threw his way 18 times. The Broncos were able to move DT to the opposite side of the field as Richard Sherman and effectively took Eric Decker out of the game in the process. Sherman was targeted 5 times throughout the entire game, allowing 2 catches for 10 yards. Let’s just start with this assumption, whoever goes wide on Sherman’s side of the field is going to have a long day. I know that anything can happen and Manning as a great QB but until someone goes into Seattle and throws it down Sherman’s throat, I’m avoiding anything in his way. I’d imagine that John Fox sends Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders his way on the majority of snaps and tries to get Thomas in matchups with linebackers, safeties and Byron Maxwell, the right corner. DT was used in the slot at times and that allowed the Broncos to get 9 of DT’s 18 targets on either linebackers or safeties. Moving over to Sanders and Welker (who returns this week), having both on the field should be interesting to see this weekend. Welker took 80% of snaps out of the slot last season so I’d expect the Broncos to be OK using Sanders out wide, where he’s taking around 50% of his snaps in 2014. My best guess is Sanders is forced to Sherman and taken out of the game plan. That puts Welker on an unproven Marcus Barley (played 32 coverage snaps from the slot last weekend) and a series of linebackers and safeties. The last piece of this puzzle might be the most important and that’s Julius Thomas. Thomas was invisible in the Super Bowl with 4 catches for 27 yards. He can’t be invisible this weekend, especially after Antonio Gates ripped the Seahawks for 7 receptions, 96 yards and 3 TDs last weekend. There’s enough blame to go around on how Gates was able to have so much success, but linebackers Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner each had multiple targets in coverage of Gates and not one of those passes fell incomplete. Of all the Broncos, I think Orange Julius is sitting in easily the best position this weekend.
Moving over to the Seahawks offense, this could be a rare opportunity for Russell Unleashed, or a non-watered down version of the 3rd year QB. Wilson hasn’t often had the opportunity to throw the ball, with only four games of 30 or more pass attempts in the last two years of regular season play and zero games with 35 or more pass attempts. IF the Broncos are able to move the ball a reasonable amount, Wilson and this offense should be forced to throw much more often. I doubt we see him hit 35 attempts, since I fully expect the Seahawks to come out and try to run the ball down Denver’s throat early to control clock, but we could see him around that 30 marker. Here are the four game where Wilson attempted 30 or more passes last season:
Week 1 vs. CAR: 25-33, 320 PaYd, 1 PaTD, 16.8 FP
Week 5 vs. IND: 15-31, 210 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT, 15.4 FP
Week 6 vs. TEN: 23-31, 257 PaYd, 0 PaTD, 10.28 FP
Week 13 vs. NO: 22-30, 320 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 24.4 FP
Keep in mind those are only numbers through the air and don’t include any additional damage he may have done with his legs. Those numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, but the closest comparison you can draw to the upcoming Denver game is that Week 13 bout with New Orleans last season where Carroll let him air it out and he was terrific. Denver’s defense has been above average so far this season, but they are still allowing over 300 yards passing per game to their opponents and Wilson’s top weapon, Percy Harvin, could find himself in a REALLY juicy matchup with Bradley Roby on a number of plays since Harvin is running from the slot on 80% of downs this season and Roby is the Broncos primary slot corner. Through two games Roby has been targeted 17 times, allowing 13 receptions for 143 yards.
Pittsburgh at Carolina – SUN, SEP 21
Over/Under: 42 Points
Spread: CAR -3
The Steelers get some extra rest this week as they come off a Thursday night loss to the Ravens in Week 2 and head to Carolina for Sunday Night Football in Week 3. For Pittsburgh, it’s been brutal to watch them defensively and ProFootballFocus has their overall defense rated as the 2nd worst through two games this season. Their rush defense has rated out as the worst in football to this point, their pass rush is 2nd worst and their pass coverage is 9th worst in the NFL on PFF. That makes some of the Carolina skill position players a little more appealing than the 41 point Vegas O/U indicates. We’ll start with the passing matchup since I personally think Kelvin Benjamin is in a terrific spot in this game. PIT has allowed 8 catches and 87 yards to Andrew Hawkins followed by 6 catches and 71 yards to Steve Smith. Benjamin should draw the interest of Ike Taylor in shadow coverage in this game and that means Benjamin gets a 3 inch advantage on Pittsburgh’s aging corner who was torched all of last season and in Week 1 for 4 catches and 47 yards plus a TD on 6 targets. Taylor is far from the shut down corner he once was but the Steelers don’t really have anyone else who can physically match up with the size of Benjamin on the outside. Expect Kelvin to bully Taylor, specifically in the red zone.
On the ground, I will keep this brief again despite a really tasty matchup with that defense rated 2nd worst in the NFL by PFF. The Panthers expect to get DeAngelo Williams back and that again means a three headed monster at running back that is near untouchable for daily fantasy purposes. If Williams sits again, I really like Jonathan Stewart’s chances at having a solid game while getting the vast majority of touches but if Williams plays then you can expect a rotation of RBs for Ron Rivera and company and none of them really have the upside you’d want out of a tournament play running back.
Moving over to the Steelers, it could be an uphill battle as the Panthers defense has been terrific through two games. Carolina has the 2nd highest rated overall defense via PFF through the first two weeks and did a tremendous job of keeping a high-powered Detroit offense in check at home a week ago. In that game, Calvin Johnson was able to still get his 6 grabs for 84 yards but he only did so on 13 targets. Melvin White and Antoine Cason picked him up on the majority of snaps and I’d expect that Antonio Brown sees similar treatment this weekend as the only elite receiver available for Big Ben to throw at. The other potential option for Roethlisberger is Markus Wheaton, who has 15 targets through two games for 11 catches and 135 receiving yards. I really like Wheaton and would be all over him in a better matchup, but this is a Panthers defense that has the 2nd highest pass coverage rating so far on PFF. Overall, it would be surprising if the Steelers were able to go into Carolina and throw for a ton of yards against this secondary.
Where there might be some room available is the screen game with Le’Veon Bell. Last week we saw Joique Bell (no relation) haul in 6 passes for 61 yards. Last season we saw the Panthers allow the most receptions to opposing running backs with 114 receptions allowed during the regular season. Bell has 12 targets through two games of this season and could provide some PPR upside for play on DraftKings. With those 12 targets, Le’Veon has hauled in 11 catches for 136 yards. Getting involved in the screen game has been a strong suit of the 2nd year backs so far and the Steelers should be able to find an advantage against this defense here. The Panthers are great at getting after the quarterback, but some of their linebackers fall victim to over pursuing and that could lead to a 5-6 catch day with 60+ receiving yards for Bell on top of whatever he’s able to produce on the ground.
Chicago at NY Jets – MON, SEP 22
Over/Under: 45.5 Points
Spread: CHI -2.5
The Bears drew the short end of the straw a bit as they are forced to come all the way back across the country from San Francisco on Sunday Night Football to play on Monday Night in New York. Traditionally, teams that play back to back primetime games like this struggle in the back end and I can only imagine that goes doubly for teams that are forced to travel across the country in both directions for the two games. It’s not something that should largely weigh on your decisions this weekend, but more an idea to keep in mind when considering the remainder of this particular game breakdown.
The Bears passing game should be able to take advantage of a really poor Jets secondary, much like Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers did in Week 2. The Jets could also be without Dee Millner (again), who is arguably their most talented defensive back. Assuming Millner sits, or is at least limited like he was in Week 2, Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls should man the outside coverage against Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. In last week’s tilt, Jordy Nelson took advantage of Allen, Walls and Millner at various times and none of these guys are nearly talented enough to hang with the likes of Marshall or Jeffery. Still, that may not even be the most exciting part for the Bears passing game. The biggest upside lies in moving Brandon Marshall into the slot, where he’s taken over 50% of snaps this season with 5 receptions for 47 yards and 3 TDs. The Bears typically bring him into the slot in red zone situations to utilize his size against smaller slot corners. Well, 6’4” Brandon Marshall, meet 5’10” Kyle Wilson, the Jets slot corner. Wilson has had a tumultuous go of it so far in his NFL career and last week the Packers exploited him for a TD with Randall Cobb out of the slot. Look for Marshall to have a huge impact in the red zone while torching a less talented and much smaller slot corner in Wilson.
Moving over to the Jets offense, much depends on the status of Eric Decker as really the only reliable pass catcher in this attack. He’s listed as questionable right now but is expected to play. If he does go, he’s in a good spot against a defense that allowed 7 catches for 82 yards and a TD to Michael Crabtree in Week 2. The more likely impact players here are the running backs for the Jets though, who have an enticing matchup vs. CHI’s rush defense. Last season the Bears allowed the most rushing yards per game to opposing RBs at 141 per contest. This season they kicked things off by allowing 170+ rushing yards to the Bills and 63 rush yards on just 13 carries to Frank Gore last weekend. If the Jets are able to keep this contest relatively close, I expect their backs to have big games. The next question there is which back is most likely to break out. Chris Johnson is probable and his elusiveness plus big play ability likely makes him the best candidate for a huge game. Chris Ivory is going to try and loosen the defense by running over them and honestly could be a better match up for a soft Bears front seven. I’d consider either of them as decent options for large field tournaments on DK this Sunday.