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 1: BAL @ PIT, NYJ @ MIA, JAX @ IND, HOU @ ATL, CAR @ TB
Ravens @ Steelers
Point Total: 43.5
Spread: -3 Ravens
Michael Vick will get the start at QB for the Steelers in this game against a reeling Ravens defense who allowed Andy Dalton and Derek Carr to drop 734 yards and 6 TDs on them in consecutive weeks. Even though the Ravens look like a soft matchup Vick has tended to crumble under any sustainable pressure late in his career and last week the Ravens did record 3 sacks, 2 hits and 17 hurries on Andy Dalton at home. Even at min-price I don’t recommend using Vick who is way past his prime and not the running option he used to be.
Last week Vick attempted 6 throws in limited action, here’s how they were directed and their result:
Vick attempted exactly one pass that travelled further than 7 yards through the air. It’s a small sample size but also a pattern that he showed itself last year in New York when his average yards per attempt was a measly 5.88 YPA (according to Pro Football Focus). With Vick unwilling to throw downfield the fantasy value of stud WR Antonio Brown shrinks considerably. Brown had been averaging 15 yards per reception in 2015, but with Vick so unwilling to throw past 10 yards you can expect these deeper route opportunities to shrink up for Antonio. I’m 100% a seller on Brown this week and can’t justify paying $9200 for him on DraftKings.
The player who could potentially benefit from Vick’s presence is Le’Veon Bell. Bell was targeted on 3 of Vick’s 6 throws last Sunday and figures to be a favorite target of Vick given how well he works as a receiver out of the backfield. I also expect him to get 20+ carries as the Steelers try to limit Vick’s responsibilities. The Ravens have been decent against the run in 2015 but Gio Bernard, a similar pass catching threat, had a decent day against them last week. Volume should still make Bell a decent fantasy play week 4—but keep him to tournaments only.
After a terrible week 1, Joe Flacco has now thrown for 746 yards and 4 TDs in his last two games. Flacco gets the completely burnable Pittsburgh secondary this week who gave up numerous big plays in weeks 1 and 2. The Ravens have been completely unable to generate a running game in 2015—averaging 3.3 ypc as a team over 68 attempts—and against a good Pitt run defense I think you should again expect Flacco to again come out firing. A big fantasy day is certainly possible and at only $6000 Flacco makes for a great week 4 value play.
Here’s how Flacco’s targeting looked last game:
This is the second week in a row Steve Smith Sr. has received over 15 targets in a game, and he’s also now up to 8 red zone targets on the season, double any other Raven. Outside of Julio Jones there’s no other WR in the league getting this much attention from his QB. At $6200 Smith is also still priced well under most other elite options, I’d play him this week… In terms of other Ravens receivers TE Crockett Gilmore will miss Thursday’s game with an injury meaning Maxx Williams will get all the targets at TE. Kamar Aiken has been brutal to start the year and Williams did out target all other Ravens receivers not named Smith in week 3. He’d be a decent, low priced option for me at TE this week.
As mentioned previously the Ravens run game has been brutal the past two weeks. Justin Forsett is still dominating the snaps (80% week 3) but is also still priced at an expensive $6000. You could play the odds that with so much on the line the Ravens get their run game rolling this week, but with the Steelers playing so well vs. the run on D I’m not even going to attempt to make that argument. I’d avoid Ravens RBs.
Gameflow: I had the Steelers targeted as the favorites to win the AFC North this year but that all went out the window last week. Michael Vick at QB is going to bring down the effectiveness of the most lethal weapons the Steelers have, and I don’t know if the Steelers defense is good enough to win grind it out type contests with consistency. I expect the Ravens defense to get going this week and for Flacco to continue his good play.
Ravens 27 Steelers 17
– Steve Smith $6200
– Joe Flacco $6000
– Le’Veon Bell $7700
– Marlon Brown $3000
Jets @ Dolphins
Point Total: 41
Spread: -2.5 Jets
The Jets defense has been stifling against the pass thus far in 2015, allowing under 200 yards per game. Ryan Tannehill may have accumulated over 600 yards passing in weeks 2 and 3 but some of that was padded by garbage time. The Dolphins are reeling and need a win but an offensive explosion isn’t likely here. Tannehill’s price has dropped to a now paltry $6200, but even with the savings I don’t see enough upside in a likely low scoring game to play him.
Speaking of price drops, Miami RB Lamar Miller has also seen a large reduction this week, dropping to $4700, and under $5000 for the first time this year. Miller has been a huge disappointment in 2015 but has still been on the field for 64% of all offensive snaps, and also seen 4 red zone carries + 11 targets in the passing game. The Jets D gave up a lot of yardage last week to Ryan Mathews (and is still without DL Sheldon Richardson), so I won’t be shocked if the Fins go run heavy. I like Miller as a low owned GPP play and think he’s got some upside this week.
Ryan Tannehill’s targets for last week and on the year are as follows:
As much as I’d love to recommend WRs Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews, I’m not using either for play this week. Matthews is the clear number 2 option for Ryan Tannehill, but it’s very likely he’ll see a ton of Darrelle Revis in what I think will be a low scoring game. Not a good for fantasy. Jarvis Landry typically plays the slot which means he should avoid Revis, but at $6500 Landry has also seen a clear jump in price since week 1 (when he was below $6000). Against a great pass defense in a low scoring game, he just doesn’t seem worth it… I actually like TE Jordan Cameron as a tournament option though. Cameron is second on the Dolphins in red zone targets and has just missed connecting with Tannehill on a few big plays so far in 2015. His price dropped all the way down to bargain status at $3400 and I love the potential upside he offers.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 58 times last week as the Jets got behind early and had to abandon the run. Fitzpatrick responded by throwing three picks and as a result I’d expect the Jets to employ a more run heavy approach in week 4. The cheap price on Fitzpatrick makes him tempting but barring a complete Dolphins offensive explosion I’d be surprised to see Fitz throw it more than 30 times and am OK leaving him on the bench for week 4.
The Jets sat RB Chris Ivory last week but he is reportedly much better and looks like he’ll be ready for week 4. The Dolphins run defense is very vulnerable and has given up two 100 yard run games already in 2015—both to power backs who run similarly to Ivory. With the Jets a small favorite using Ivory this week makes sense and as long as he’s healthy I expect him to get a big workload. He’s decent value at $4800 although the injury concern means he should be left to tournaments only.
The Jets Eric Decker missed week 3 and is questionable to return week 4. The receiving targets from week 3 looked like this without him:
If Decker misses this game I am completely fine recommending Brandon Marshall again as a play in all formats, even with his price increase (from $6200 to $6800). The Dolphins were burned by big WR Allen Robinson in week 2 and I’d expect Marshall to be able to beat Brent Grimes or any of the other Dolphin CBs they try to put on him. Ryan Fitzpatrick knows who his best receiver is and will target him constantly (regardless of coverage). As for the rest of the Jets receivers this group is best left untouched. The targets from last week were all over-inflated due to game flow, I’d avoid and look for better options in other games.
Gameflow: This should be a close game between two teams who put up stinkers in week 3. As much as I hate to admit it the Dolphins are still probably the more talented team and should have received a wake-up call after getting trounced at home by the Bills. The Fins defense isn’t great but it’s good enough to limit the Jets pop-gun offense and allow Ryan Tannehill and co. to put up just enough points to gain the W.
Dolphins 24 Jets 20
– Brandon Marshall $6800
– Lamar Miller $4700
– Chris Ivory $4800
– Jordan Cameron $3400
Jaguars @ Colts
Point Total: 48
There’s no denying that Andrew Luck has started the season slowly, but a tough schedule and team injuries are somewhat to blame. This week he faces a Jacksonville defense who let Ryan Tannehill throw for 359 yards against them two weeks ago and are ranked 8th worst on Pro Football Focus in pass coverage. If Luck gets protection this could be the week he gets things right. I’m not shying away from using him in week 4.
I’ve listed all Luck’s targets from week 3 and all the Colts red zone targets for the entire year:
All of the Colts receiving options are in play for me this weekend… WR Donte Moncrief saw a slight price increase this week on DraftKings but he’s still very affordable at only $5000. With Moncrief seeing a team high seven targets week 3, and now near the top in red zone looks, I think he makes for a decent cash game play week 4… I am much more interested in WR TY Hilton though for tournaments. As good as Moncrief has looked Hilton is still the best deep target in this offense and has a 15.1 yard per reception rate in 2015 according to Pro Football Focus (compared to 11.8 for Moncrief). Hilton is more expensive at $6700 but that will also help drive the ownership levels on him down in big tournaments making him a perfect target… At TE Coby Fleener saw an uptick in targets last week but still didn’t do a ton. If Dwayne Allen is healthy for week 4 though I’d consider him. In one game played he received 2 red zone targets, more than Fleener has on the entire year.
With two rookies working behind him Frank Gore saw 76% of the snaps week 3 and found the end zone twice. Gore is great value as his price is still only $4700 for week 4 and the Colts could be running the ball a lot late to salt this game away. Even if they aren’t, Gore will be involved in the pass game and dominate red zone touches. This is a great spot to use Gore and hope Indy’s offense catches fire.
Jags QB Blake Bortles has yet to throw more than 2 TDs passing in a single game since entering the NFL, he’s also only ever thrown for over 300 yards passing once. I post these numbers mainly just to remind people that Bortles does not have “big game” upside even in blowouts (as we saw last week). His career completion rate is well under 60% and he struggles mightily with accuracy on throws more than 15 yards—as evidenced by his INT last week. Stop trying to make Bortles happen and stop using him in fantasy.
Here was the target distribution amoung Jacksonville WRs for week 3
As much as I like WR Allen Robinson his price is almost the same as last week ($5500) and he will likely have CB Vontae Davis shadowing him for the most part. Davis is simply one of the best pure shut down corners in the game (second on PFF in coverage for 2014) and limits Robinsons upside big time… As much as I’m off Robinson I am mildly interested in both Allen Hurns ($3900) and TE Clay Harbor ($2500) for tournament play. Hurns should get lots of snaps as Marqise Lee and Rashad Green continue to be injured. Outside of Davis, the Colts secondary is banged up so a decent game for Hurns is certainly possible… TE Harbor is an excellent receiver and his price is dirt cheap. He received 3 red zone targets last week, and with how banged up the Jags are at WR don’t be shocked if they work him more over the middle and in the red zone in this game.
At RB there’s not much to say for the Jags. They are 9 point underdogs and don’t project to be running the ball much. Even when the Jags did run 25 times against the Dolphins “workhorse” TJ Yeldon could only manage a paltry 2.8 ypc. Avoid all Jag RBs until further notice.
Gameflow: There’s a small chance the Jags pull out a shocker here. The Colts have real issues with their O-line and are banged up in the secondary. But the Jags are still the Jags and even though the Colts have looked bad through three games things can change in the NFL in a hurry. I think the Colts get rolling in this game and put up a number on Jacksonville that silences the doubters for at least a week.
Colts 35 Jags 17
– Andrew Luck $7800
– Donte Moncrief $5000
– Frank Gore $4700
– TY Hilton $6700
– Allen Hurns $3900
– Clay Harbor $2500
– Colts D $2800
Texans @ Falcons
Point Total: 47
Spread: -6.5 Falcons
The Texans allowed Alex Smith to pass all over them in week 1 and then faced two pretty bad passing offenses (whom they still allowed TDs to). For all their talent, Houston has actually had trouble getting to the QB thus far in 2015 only recording 4 sacks through 3 games. If Matt Ryan—who’s been superb to start the year—gets time he will pick the Texans apart and possibly record his first really big fantasy game of the year. You have to love Ryan this week in all formats at only $6900 on DraftKings.
Here’s the week 3 and the year to date targets for the Falcons receiving core:
As you can see the Falcons pass game is basically just Matt Ryan and Julio Jones playing catch at this point. Julio’s price is now $9300, but he’s being targeted on more than half of Matt Ryan’s throws. At home against a defense who just allowed Mike Evans to drop 100 yards receiving on the last week you’d be nuts to fade him… As for the other receivers, Roddy White ($4000) and Leonard Hankerson ($3700) are now priced within $300 of each other. White has failed to catch a pass in each of the past two games but still out-snapped Hankerson 65-48. White’s two catch-less games have both been on the road, so maybe a return home gets him going. He’s a deep tournament sleeper for me week 4.
At RB it is now the Devonta Freeman show in ATL. Freeman is not only getting all the carries but he’s actually been the third most targeted Falcon in the pass game too (including three red zone targets). The Texans have been excellent against the run so far in 2015, and even though I don’t expect Freeman to score multiple TDs this week at only $5200 he’s still got value as the workhorse back in an effective offense. Consider him for play in all formats.
Ryan Mallett’s now thrown 97 times over the past two games but only accumulated 472 yards in that span. The Falcons defense started slow last week but has actually been very good against the pass in 2015 allowing only three passing TDs thus far. Still, as 7 point dogs Houston could easily be forced into passing 40+ more times in this game to keep up with a fast paced Atlanta offense. He’s risky but at only $5000 and with lots of potential garbage time on the horizon, Mallett is a tournament option this week for fantasy.
The state of the Texans running game will depend on the health of Arian Foster. As of writing this Fosters status was unclear but if he was cleared and ready to see a full workload he’d be a huge play against a Falcons defense who just let Joseph Randle run wild for quarter in last week’s game… If Foster can’t go I would avoid the rest of the RBs for Houston and also possibly consider using the Falcons defense. Alfred Blue is only $3900 and had a monster game last week (out of nowhere) but is hardly trustable. The Texans don’t figure to run the ball 30+ times as 7 point underdogs and Blue is still not seeing any work in the passing game.
If Foster doesn’t play I would give a fantasy bump to a couple Texans receivers, specifically DeAndre Hopkins who has been the clear “bellcow” for this team with Foster out. Hopkins is now up to 41 targets through 3 games, 12 more than anyone else on Houston. While many may lay off Hopkins this week due to ATL’s talented CB Desmond Trufant, the Falcons have already given up massive games to WRs Odell Beckham and Jordan Matthews in 2015. I’m not worried about the matchup and love Hopkins for tournaments this week, he has massive upside in a potentially high-scoring affair… The other consideration at WR on the Texans might be Cecil Shorts. As Houston keeps throwing the ball a bunch the athletic Shorts keeps getting a bunch of targets (almost 10 a game). Shorts is only $3500 and if Foster sits I would consider him as a tournament option.
Gameflow: I can’t see the Texans slowing down the passing attack of Matt Ryan/Julio Jones and that means the Texans will again be forced to pass a ton to try and keep up. On the road in a loud dome that’s not a good place to be if Ryan Mallet’s your QB. Atlanta’s defense shutout the Cowboys in the second half of week 3 and they should be even better this week at home. I think the Falcons steamroll the Texans and move to 4-0.
Falcons 34 Texans 21
– Julio Jones $9300
– Matt Ryan $6900
– Devonta Freeman $5200
– DeAndre Hopkins $7300
– Ryan Mallett $5000
– Cecil Shorts $3500 (if no Arian)
– Roddy White $4000
– Falcons D (if no Arian)
Panthers @ Buccaneers
Point Total: 39.5
Spread: -3 Panthers
The Panthers defense has been pretty stout so far this year limiting opponents to just 48 points through 3 games. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston and the Bucs have only scored 49 points themselves through 3 games while facing some very soft competition. Winston only completed 47% of his passes week 3—the second time in three games he’s had a completion rate under 50—for 261 yards and again threw a bad pick. This game has an over/under of 40 and a potential monumental mis-match brewing between Winston and the Carolina D. Expect to see a pick six in this game and target the Panthers as a main defense for week 4.
Here was Winston’s targeting from week 3 with a healthy Mike Evans:
The targeting on Mike Evans might look great for fantasy (and it is) but hold your horses. The Panthers have been stout against WRs in 2015, allowing only 1 TD to the position thus far, and Evans will potentially be seeing a lot of emerging stud CB Josh Norman (who shut down DeAndre Hopkins week 2). At $6400 Evans will probably see a bunch of targets again this week (since his QB doesn’t mind throwing into coverage) and that alone makes him a tournament option, but he’s still someone I’d advise having very limited exposure to.
As good as I think Doug Martin has looked in 2015 last week he received zero red zone touches and zero targets in the passing game. Martin is simply never going to get enough carries or goal line work to pay off for you as the Bucs generally have been abandoning the run game by halftime and not getting into the red zone often. I’d simply keep avoiding this running game altogether and look for better value and elsewhere.
QB Cam Newton is now up to 31 carries through three games, an insane amount for fantasy purposes given how well he runs the ball. With Cam’s price still only up to $7000 for week 4 you have to think another big day might be ahead. My only worry is that in a game with a low point total where the Carolina D could dominate Newton and the Panthers play a tad more conservative than last week. Cam is still in play for me this week, but I’m keeping him to tournament play only.
Here’s how the Panther’s overall targeting and red zone targeting has looked for 2015:
Greg Olsen had a monster week 3 and as you can see his red zone targeting means that there is likely a lot more TDs coming. Olsen was unlucky not to catch a TD in the first couple weeks but exploded with two last weekend. Olsen is now $5400 on DraftKings (second highest price at TE) but at an average of 3 red zone targets a game he might have the highest upside of any one not named Gronk. Play him this week … I’ve harped about how good a value Ted Ginn is all year and I again love Ginn as a play. Ginn is averaging 8 targets through 3 weeks and is still only priced at $3400 on DraftKings (almost the min for WR). I think he’s safe for use in all formats week 4 as he’s the only Panther seeing consistent targets outside of Olsen.
I would simply avoid the RB position on the Panthers. A healthy and motivated Cam Newton is running more than he has since his rookie season and stealing a ton of red zone opportunities. Main carry RB Jonathan Stewart has also not looked great running the ball so far in 2015, and is averaging only 3.5 ypc with zero TDs on the year. It’s possible Stewart gets rolling against the Bucs but it’s far from a given and not something I’d gamble on, avoid for fantasy.
Gameflow: The Panthers are by no means an elite team but they are very solid and have some serious playmakers on defense. The Bucs had every opportunity to win last week but couldn’t move the ball… at all. I think you’ll see the Bucs get smashed again in this game. Newton should be able to move the ball enough to stake the Panthers to a lead and Jameis Winston should provide the rest of the scoring for the Panthers.
Panthers 24 Buccaneers 7
– Panthers Defense $3300
– Greg Olsen $5400
– Ted Ginn $3400
– Cam Newton $7000
– Mike Evans $6400 (be careful)
CONTINUE READING THE NFL GAME BREAKDOWN
NFL GAME BREAKDOWN – PAGE 1