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.
Want to see a specific game breakdown? Jump to the applicable page!
PAGE 3: SF @ ARI, CHI @ SEA, BUF @ MIA, DET @ DEN, CAR @ NO, KC @ GB
49ers @ Cardinals
Point Total: 44
Spread: -6.5 Cardinals
After a nice week 1 the 49ers defense got torn up week 2 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Part of the issue was that the 49ers got zero pressure on the QB recording zero sacks (after getting 5 week 1). The Cards O-line on the other hand gave up zero sacks to the Bears in week 2 and QB Carson Palmer proceeded to tear them up by throwing 4 TD passes. I like Palmer to likely see little pressure in this game and to ultimately have a big game against a below average defense.
Palmer’s passing Targets through two weeks look like this:
The San Fran defense allowed 7 passing plays of 15 yards or better in week 2 and got completely burned by the big play. WR Larry Fitzgerald may have caught 3 TDs vs. the hapless Bears but this week big play and 4.33 speed WR John Brown looks like he might be the better play on the Cards. Brown is slated to go up against Kenneth Aker in coverage who grades out as the 8th worst CB by Pro Football Focus so far in 2015. I could see Brown post a monster game week 3 and love him at only $5100… Fitzgerald, who is more expensive at $5800, is also a decent target although expecting him to score 3 TDs every game is foolhardy. He’ll be a solid PPR option though and is still very affordable.
At RB the word out of Arizona is that rookie David Johnson should continue to see a bigger role as the season progresses. Johnson scored a TD on the opening kick of the game last week and also took in a 5 yard run later. He averaged 8.4 ypc on 5 rushes, while veteran Chris Johnson took 20 carries and produced a measly 7.2 fantasy points. I think the Cardinals will eventually start upping David Johnson’s workload in this game and possibly end up with a big lead at some point (making him even more likely to see carries). I love David Johnson for tournaments and suggest you forget about Chris Johnson until further notice.
Last year QB Colin Kaepernick averaged 20.83 fantasy points in his two starts vs. Arizona. While I wouldn’t be shocked if he put up a similar type of game in week 3 I am not expecting him to have nearly the same type of padded numbers you saw from him in week 2, especially against a much tougher Zona defense. I’m looking elsewhere for tournament options and leaving Kaepernick out of my week 3 fantasy lineups.
At RB Carlos Hyde got knocked out of the game in week 2 but looks good to go for the 49ers in week 3. As much as I like Hyde as a talent the Zona run defense is superb and has only given up 137 yards on the ground. Still, with Reggie Bush out I would expect Hyde to see most of the snaps this week and so he might still pay off his $5400 salary through receptions and goal line work. I don’t love Hyde but like him enough to consider him in tournaments as a volume play.
Here’s how Colin Kaepernick’s targets have shaped up through two weeks into the year:
In a matchup that makes a ton of sense, it’s quite likely that top CB Patrick Peterson will be on Torrey Smith this week, given Peterson’s ability to match Torrey’s speed. Peterson was very responsible for shutting down Brandin Cooks week 1 and I’m definitely avoiding Torrey in week 3… With Peterson likely on Smith I could see things opening up for Anquan Boldin in this game. Zona has shut down some good WRs already in 2015 but they have allowed team’s second/third WRs to score. Boldin has been the most targeted 49er through two games and in a matchup where the 49ers are projected to be behind late, he also carries some serious PPR upside. At $5400 I’m more than willing to invest.
Gameflow: The 49ers crashed down to earth last week and the aftermath should continue into week 3. The Cardinals are one of the most complete teams in the NFL and I expect them to be pretty revved up for a very meaningful division clash. I think you’ll see San Fran’s defense and offense get completely exposed in this game and Zona walk away with the easy win (and lots of fantasy points).
Cardinals 35 49ers 13
– Carson Palmer $6600
– John Brown $5100
– Larry Fitzgerald $5800
– David Johnson $4000
– Cardinals Defense $3100
– Anquan Boldin $5400
Bears @ Seahawks
Point Total: 43.5
Spread: -14.5 Seahawks
This is the largest point spread we have seen all year. The Seahawks defense gets a Jay Cutler-less Chicago team who just got pummeled at home by Arizona and will also be welcoming back all-pro safety Kam Chancellor. With Jimmy Clausen starting at QB this is potentially one of the best spots you’ll see all year for a fantasy defense. While nothing is ever a slam dunk don’t be shocked if you see a big fantasy point total and a near shutout performance, roster Seattle’s D at will this week.
You should expect RB Matt Forte to get a huge workload in this game, but I’m not sure how effective he’ll be against an angry Seahawk D who’s only given up two 100 yard rushing performances and 7 rushing TDs in their last 23 games. I love Forte but even with an advanced workload he’s going to be hard-pressed to hit value at his price-tag of $7300. I can’t recommend him.
At WR Alshon Jeffrey missed Wednesday’s practice and looks like he’ll also likely also miss this game. That means that you can expect to see a lot more of Marquess Wilson and Eddie Royal, if they play (all three missed practice Wednesday). Royal actually had 7 catches in week 2 but only for 41 yards. There’s not much need to go into more detail at this position, the Bears WRs are all hurting and have a horrible matchup, there’s simply no upside here, avoid them all… The one Bear receiver you could consider this week is TE Martellus Bennett. The Bears figure to be down a lot in this game at some point and that does mean lots of passes. The Seahawks have typically struggled a bit against the TE and did allow 85 yards to Jared Cook in week 1 and a TD to Richard Rogers in week 2. I could see Bennett being the only viable option for the Bears Sunday and having a decent game.
QB Russell Wilson started the season with two tough matchups at Green Bay and St. Louis but gets a much easier one week 3 against Chicago. The Bears have already given up a gawdy 7 TDs through the air in two games and so a multiple passing TD game is quite possibly for Wilson here. There’s always the chance that the Seahawks defense and the run game gets all the scores but I still think Wilson’s a pretty safe bet this Sunday. Expect him to post his second solid fantasy total in a row and for the Hawks to run up the score a bit if given the chance.
Here’s what Russell Wilson’s pass distribution has looked like through two games:
The Bears have given up 7 receiving TDs already in 2015 and are a great target this week for a passing offense who has only found the end zone 3 times through 2 games. Doug Baldwin might be a really nice-safe value play this week at only $4000. He’s averaged 9 targets through two games and could easily see 5 catches and some red zone looks… I would also recommend TE Jimmy Graham and WR Tyler Lockett as high upside tournament options this week. Graham is reportedly very “pissed off” about his role in the offense thus far. It’s a narrative that could result in more targets for him and multiple TDs against a bad opponent. Rookie Tyler Lockett also might see a few more looks as the Hawks try and integrate his talent into the offense more too. He’ll have a soft matchup and at $3400 only needs one big play (which he’s more than capable of) to pay off.
Even though the Bears have been pretty steady versus the run this year (for them) it’s still likely that RB Marshawn Lynch will have a big game. Lynch has split time with Fred Jackson a little bit but is still the main carry back seeing 78% of all snaps through two weeks. I expect Lynch to find the end zone this week and be a big factor as Seattle runs out the clock in the fourth quarter. He’ll be a top three RB for me.
Gameflow: I expect the Seahawks to come out fast and furious and likely put their foot on the throat of the Bears early. Don’t be shocked if this one gets out of hand by halftime. For fantasy purposes you should see some big games from Hawks players but also might have to fear that some get their workloads reduced if the spread gets too big. Expect Seattle to romp.
Seahawks 42 Bears 7
– Marshawn Lynch $7500
– Doug Baldwin $4000
– Seattle Defense $3400
– Russell Wilson $7000
– Jimmy Graham $5800
– Tyler Lockett $3400
– Martellus Bennett $4600
Bills @ Dolphins
Point Total: 43.5
Spread: -2.5 Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill had a nice effort in a losing cause last week but now faces a Bills team who, despite last week’s performance, has truly been a nightmare for opposing QBs. Before last week the Buffalo defense had only given up two other 300+ passing performances against them in their last 17 games and only once did they allow more than 2 TDs to be thrown on them in that same span. I see a defensive struggle as likely in this game and don’t love the price or upside with Tannehill this week.
It’s possible that RB Lamar Miller (ankle) misses or is limited for this game. If he does then Damien Williams, who is a very capable backup, would get most of the snaps but have a tough matchup against the Bills who have only allowed one 100 yard rusher against them in their past 18 contests. Still, at only $3000 if Williams gets the start he could also be very involved in the passing game (and is a great receiver) as the Dolphins will likely look to employee the same strategy that allowed the Patriots to beat the Bills—and allowed Dion Lewis to rack up nearly 100 yards receiving. I’d recommend Williams for play on DraftKings if Miller is out but avoid this situation if both are active.
Here’s Ryan Tannehill’s pass distribution through two weeks:
One of the biggest surprises on the year thus far has been the emergence of WR Rishard Matthews as the number two WR in Miami. Matthews has put together two solid games in a row now and could see an extra boost in this game if TE Jordan Cameron (groin) can’t play Sunday. Matthews is still only priced at $3800 and often plays the same slot-possession role that Julien Edelman (11 catches last week) does. I like Matthews as a cheap target on DraftKings this week if Cameron can’t go… I love the usage on Jarvis Landry this year but the Bills are tough on number 1 WRs and have allowed only one 100 yard receiving game against them in 2014. I’m probably avoiding Landry this week as his price has gone up to $6400 (from $5900 last week) and I don’t think he carries the same upside against the Bills he would in a softer matchup.
Bills QB Tyrod Taylor may not have won the game for Buffalo in week 2 but he did have a monster fantasy game. Taylor’s numbers were very Michael Vick-esque, and it’s possible you see more of this type of performance going forward from him. I’m not as in love with Taylor this week as I was last, mainly due to the lower point total and fact Miami’s defense has been decent in limiting opposing QBs. I’d still be ok with using him a tournament lineup though as the upside is there with his feet every week.
Miami’s run defense has been pretty bad thus far in 2015 and that bodes well for Lesean McCoy to finally breakout. The Dolphins gave up well over 150 yards total rushing in week 1 and still allowed the pretty average TY Yeldon to run for 70 yards in week 2. McCoy ceded some snaps to rookie Karlos Williams week 2 but has still been on the field for just under 70% of all the Bills snaps in 2015. He should be rested and ready for a big game coming off of only 15 carries in week 2, and at a mere $6100 I think he might offer the best value of any of the top RBs this week.
Here’s how Tyrod Taylor’s passes have been directed through two weeks for Buffalo:
At $6100 it’s really hard for me to recommend Sammy Watkins as a play. With no one in the Bills passing game getting over 7 targets a game yet there simply isn’t a whole lot of volume going around to realistically expect him to pay off a salary that big. I’m fine avoiding Watkins altogether for this game… Percy Harvin on the other hand is only $4400 and leads the team in targets overall making him a much better value and a little more reliable. While I don’t trust anyone in the Bills passing game enough to use outside of tournaments, Harvin is certainly capable of busting a big play or two and paying off for you. He’s a decent large field pay at WR.
Gameflow: I expect a tight battle between two pretty evenly matched division rivals. Even though the Bills are on the road I think they are ultimately the superior team, especially on defense, and will be able to slow down Miami enough to pull out a win. Expect Lesean McCoy to get a ton of usage and rack up a lot of yards as the Bills play conservative but ultimately end up pulling out the win.
Bills 23 Dolphins 20
– Damien Williams $3000 (if Miller out or limited)
– Lesean McCoy $6100
– Rishard Matthews $3800
– Percy Harvin $4400
– Tyrod Taylor $5800
Lions @ Broncos
Point Total: 44.5
Spread: -3 Broncos
After getting beat up in week 2, Matthew Stafford looks like he’ll be back under centre just in time to face the possibly best defense in the NFL. The Broncos are scary good on defense right now having yet to yield a passing TD, while recording 4 INTs and 6 sacks on the year. The Lions offense on the other hand has been really bad with Stafford already throwing 3 INTs through 2 games and grading out as the worst overall passer on Pro Football Focus. To put things bluntly, this could get ugly. Bench Stafford this week and roster Denver’s D where possible.
The Lions running back snap counts look like this through 2 games:
As we can see it appears that the Lions are at least deploying rookie RB Ameer Abdullah more often than the other two backs, but still aren’t giving him the workload needed to make him consistent for use in fantasy. While I don’t like the matchup for any of these three I do think Abdullah could find at least some success against Denver (much like Jamaal Charles did) by breaking a big play in this game. At $4500 I can’t recommend him as anything more than a tournament play because of the matchup (and spotty usage) but will say that he is the kind of high-upside, low-owned play that could give you a massive boost in large field tournaments.
As for the Detroit WRs my thinking is quite simple… avoid. Denver’s secondary is the best in the NFL and even though they’ll be going up against a future hall of famer in Calvin Johnson that still doesn’t make up for the fact that Detroit hasn’t been good passing the ball in 2015 against much weaker teams. I’m just not interested in paying up for Johnson ($7900) or Golden Tate ($5700) knowing there’s almost no chance they produce a monster game… Detroit TE Eric Ebron brought in 5 catches off of 10 targets last week and looked to be squarely a part of the offense for the first time since he arrived in Detroit. At only $3300, and with Denver concerned about shutting down the Lions WRs, Ebron is worth considering and certainly capable of posting a similar line this week.
Peyton Manning threw for over 2 TDs for the first time since week 1 of the 2014 season in Denver’s furious last minute Week 2 comeback. This week he gets a Detroit pass defense who got lit up week 1 against San Diego. Peyton didn’t exactly look good in his week 2 win but he did prove that when he has time he can still pick apart a defense. Ultimately I simply don’t think there’s enough upside with him at his higher price tag ($7400) and would look to other QBs before him this week to fill out my rosters.
As you can see Peyton’s attention has been dominated by two players for the most part. While Demaryius Thomas is undoubtedly still a great red zone target it should be noted that Emmanuel Sanders leads the team with two TDs (and two red zone targets). I think this is a trend you might see continue this week as Sanders is getting the burnable Rashean Mathis in coverage… the same back Keenan Allen slayed for 15 catches week 1. It’s always going to be a bit of a guessing game between Thomas and Sanders (as to who gets the most points) but this week I think you have to play the matchup and go with Sanders. At $7600 I won’t be shocked if he hits double digit targets and receptions and love the upside and consistency he is bringing for fantasy.
Denver’s RB position is a very dicey spot for fantasy purposes this week. On the one hand you have to like the matchup as the Lions have now been burned for over 350 total yards by RBs in two games. On the other hand you have an almost equal timeshare brewing between CJ Anderson (58% of snaps week 2) and Ronnie Hillman (42% of snaps week 2). At $6200 in salary Anderson may be a risky play but would carry huge upside if the Bronco’s give him one more shot at being the lead dog in this game. Given the matchup Anderson is getting and the desire in Denver to get the run game going, I think Anderson makes for the perfect target for your large field tournament lineups as he could provide multiple TD upside at extremely low ownership.
Gameflow: I’m actually pretty shocked that Detroit is only a 3 point underdog in this game and won’t be surprised at all if that spread grows by game time. I expect Denver’s D to give Detroit all kinds of problems and possibly knock Matthew Stafford and his sore ribs from the game. Also look for the Denver run game to get rolling against a poor Detroit rush defense as Denver cruises to victory.
Broncos 27 Detroit 14
– Denver Defense $3000
– Emmanuel Sanders $7600
– Ameer Abdullah $4500
– Eric Ebron $3300
– CJ Anderson $6200
Saints @ Panthers
Point Total: 45
Spread: -3 Panthers
Drew Brees is questionable for this week, which is the reason why Vegas has not set odds or a point total for this game yet. The backup to him is Luke McCown who has compiled a 58% completion rate with 9 TDs and 14 INTs in his career. Regardless of who plays this is a situation to avoid this week. Brees will not be 100% and likely un able to throw well down field and McCown is extremely limited in talent. I’d consider the Panthers defense big time this week, especially if we see McCown.
Brees injury/absence will likely effect the receiving targets too. Brandin Cooks has been a big fat disappointment through two games, although part of that may have been the injury Brees was dealing with. While it’s possible he’ll see more work on sweep plays or high percentage screen passes a lot of his upside will be gone playing with an injured Drew Brees or below average Luke McCown. Consider Cooks as a very low-owned tournament option based on talent but don’t over-commit, he’s in a bad spot this week for fantasy… as for the rest of the Saints receivers, the unknown quantity at QB makes recommending Branden Coleman or Marcus Colsten impossible. Neither have been targeted a ton up till now and I don’t like their upside against a good Carolina defense anyways. Avoid both.
Here’s the Saints snap count for RBs from week 2:
Last week RB CJ Spiller returned to the lineup for the Saints but only played 7 snaps. Still, Coach Sean Payton told the media this week that Spiller suffered no setbacks week 2 and that his snap count would continue to rise. With Mark Ingram averaging only around 3 ypc thus far in 2015 I won’t be shocked at all if Spiller gets a much bigger workload week 3. Ingram is too expensive for me to roster against a good Carolina defense at $5900 this week but I’d consider Spiller as a high upside play at $4800 for tournaments.
Cam Newton is now up to 24 carries on the year and 111 yards rushing (with 1 TD). The Panthers have obviously decided to let him roam a bit more freely with his feet given their poor options at WR. Newton has traditionally had big games vs. the Saints in the past and last year he burned them for 2 rushing TDs and 126 yards rushing over two games. I love the upside in this spot for Cam and think he could push to be a top 3 QB in fantasy for week 3.
Here’s a look at how Newton’s targets have shaped up through two weeks:
I’ve harped on WR Ted Ginn being a very viable play for the past two weeks at his very affordable price tag and I’ll continue to beat that drum this week. Ginn is only $3300 on DraftKings and is seeing an average of 8.5 targets over his first two games. He also gets a soft secondary this week who is missing its best corner and safety. Ginn is a fantastic fantasy bargain and will continue to be so until his price gets adjusted, play him in all formats… As for TE Greg Olsen, you have to love the targeting he is getting but hate the conversion rate. Olsen only caught 6 of the 15 balls thrown his way in week 2 and is obviously being blanketed by opposing teams who don’t have to worry about Kelvin Benjamin beating them deep anymore. Still, I expect Olsen to eventually have some big games if he keeps seeing that many balls thrown his way. His matchup this week is very exploitable and he’ll be a top TE target of mine in week 3.
Jonathon Stewart continues to see most of the workload for the Panthers and played 72% of all snaps week 2. The issue with Stewart is that he is being sniped/pipped by his QB who is running the ball almost as much as he is, especially around the goal line. I like the matchup this week, and expect to see a semi-breakout game from JStew, but I’d still only use him in tournament play. He might be a good pairing with the Carolina defense as you could capitalize on the positive correlation of Carolina likely only allowing few points on defense and needing to run out the clock late in the game.
Gameflow: With the Saints backs against the wall you could see a bit of a fight from them this week and a closer than expected game. Still, if Drew Brees sits or is super limited that may end this one right from the start and make a Carolina blowout very likely. Either way I still think Carolina wins, it’s just going to be hard to tell if it will be an easy-Breesy cakewalk or a tough semi-shootout.
Panthers 27 Saints 21
– Cam Newton $6800
– Tedd Ginn Jr. $3300
– Greg Olsen $4800
– Panthers D $3100
– CJ Spiller $4800
– Jonathon Stewart $4900
Chiefs @ Packers
Point Total: 49
Spread: -7 Packers
The Chiefs defense got burned for three TDs against the weak-armed Peyton Manning last week and will still be without star CB Sean Smith (suspension) in week 3. I love Aaron Rodgers for fantasy in this game as he’ll be at home against a weak pass defense in one of the highest game totals on the slate. He’s the highest-priced QB at $8000, but also has some of the highest potential for fantasy in week 3.
Here’s the distribution of Rodgers passes from Week 2:
With Randall Cobb now a full month removed from his preseason shoulder injury you are seeing him start to dominate the touches in this offense. Cobb will be getting a KC defense who allowed similar shifty-slot WR Emmanuel Sanders to burn them for two TDs and consistently beat them down field in week 2. I think Cobb could very likely have similar or even more success against this group in week 3, and so he’s a must play for me this week on DraftKings… While Cobb is my clear choice from this receiving group the other fantasy play I might consider in tournaments is rookie WR Ty Montgomery. Davante Adams did not practice Thursday and is nursing a sore ankle. Montgomery played great in relief work last week catching 4 of the 5 targets thrown his way while also showing off great hands in the process. He’s only $3000 on DraftKings and would be a great/cheap tournament play with upside were Adams to miss this game.
One reason why I’m so high on the Packers passing game is that the KC defense has been stout against the run. Last week they limited the Bronco RBs to just 61 yards on 21 carries and have yet to give up a rushing TD in 2015. Eddie Lacy is nursing a sore ankle but is expected to play vs KC. If he can’t go backup James Starks would get the start and is only $3000 this week on DraftKings. I’d avoid Lacy regardless of health as his price ($7200) is far too expensive for me to pay for in a bad matchup. If he misses you could consider Starks for tournaments as his PPR usage could still allow him to pay off his meager salary.
The Packers have now allowed opposing QBs to run for 109 yards against them in two games and so seeing the athletic Alex Smith run for 20-40 yards on the ground in this game would not surprise me. He’s by no means a slam dunk but Smith definitely has tournament upside in a game with a projected 49 point total and should be motivated to put an awful week 2 behind him. I’m a buyer at only $6000 this week.
Here’s how Smith’s targets have broken down after the first two games:
The triumvirate of RB Jamaal Charles, TE Travis Kelce and WR Jeremy Maclin are all in play for me this week. This is a potentially high scoring affair and a semi-must win for the Chiefs so I expect all of these players to be involved somewhat. From a matchup perspective Charles perhaps has the best of all three as the Packers did allow Matt Forte to run wild versus them in week 1. Charles should be extra motivated to put two awful fumbles behind him and could easily be the top scorer at RB in the NFL this week… I also love WR Jeremy Maclin as a tournament play. Maclin still leads KC in targets and actually did pretty well last week going up against a tough Bronco’s secondary. Don’t be shocked if this is Maclin’s breakout game, he’s is now up to three red zone targets through two weeks and it’s just a matter of time before he finds the end zone… Also don’t be afraid to roster TE Travis Kelce. He may have been quiet last week but the Packers have allowed big games to the likes of Martellus Bennett in the past. He’s a fine option in what could be a shootout as well.
Gameflow: I could see this being a somewhat high scoring affair with both offenses having good days. Ultimately I think the Packers are the better team although Kansas City’s defense may make me regret those words. I think ultimately Aaron Rodgers will prove to be too much and you’ll see KC lose to an elite QB for the second week in a row, possibly in heartbreaking fashion once again.
Packers 28 Chiefs 24
– Randall Cobb $7300
– Aaron Rodgers $8000
– Jamaal Charles $7400
– Travis Kelce $5000
– Jeremy Maclin $6000
– Alex Smith $6000
CONTINUE READING THE NFL GAME BREAKDOWN
NFL GAME BREAKDOWN – PAGE 3