The NFL Game Breakdown will be a weekly analysis of every game on the NFL schedule in extreme detail. From targets to game flow and other matchup variables, this article will be your one-stop-shop for everything you could ever need to prepare for DraftKings NFL contests.
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PAGE 3: GB @ SF, MIN @ DEN, STL @ ARI, DAL @ NO, DET @ SEA
Packers @ 49ers
Point Total: 48.5
Spread: -8 Packers
The 49ers are 8 pt. underdogs in this game which means that once again you might see Colin Kaepernick have a chance to rack up garbage time numbers. Kaepernick was awful last week against the Cards but now gets the Packers whose defense has been solid but has also given up the most rushing yards to QBs in the entire league. I’m not a fan by any means but Kaepernick does have fantasy upside in this game and at only $5500 could easily pay off his salary and more in garbage-time. I’d recommend him in tournaments only.
With 49ers so bad in the pass game week 3 it was really hard to glean anything significant about their receivers. The Packers secondary is solid but, as we saw last week, they do tend to play very soft when they have a lead. With Vernon Davis currently questionable it’s possible that both Torrey Smith ($4600) and Anquan Boldin ($4800) see an uptick in targets if he sits. In a must win game I could see Kaepernick trying to reconnect with Boldin who has burned the Packers in the past for massive games. While I’m not super-high on any San Fran receivers I would consider the ageless Anquan for a tournament play in a potentially higher-scoring game.
Main-carry RB Carlos Hyde has had two lackluster games since his week 1 explosion but still looks great running the ball to me. He’s $5100 this week and even though the point spread says the 49ers will again be in pass only mode again at some point don’t be shocked if Hyde has a decent game. The 49ers will likely do everything they can to limit Kaepernick’s pass attempts and Hyde could really benefit fantasy wise… News out of San Fran is that Reggie Bush appears ready to return. Bush could make for an intriguing tournament play in a game where his receiving skills could be put to good use. At $3800 he’s a huge unknown but still someone to at least think about this week if you’re targeting this game…
The Packers Aaron Rodgers picked apart a weak KC secondary last week and now gets an equally disjointed SF defense who Carson Palmer just dismantled. I’ll keep this one short and sweet… I had Rodgers 1st in the rankings last week and I like him about the same week 4. San Fran is reeling and Rodgers should put up his second straight big fantasy game here, don’t overthink it, just play him.
Rodgers targets from week 3 looked like this:
Randall Cobb was the target monster we all thought he’d be last week. Back to full health Cobb is going to rack up points from the slot all year and also be a prime red zone target (he had 5 last week). I doubt any one on San Fran will be able to slow him and I’ll make Cobb a must play again week 4… With Davante Adams hurt and likely to miss this game James Jones has become the clear number 2 option for Rodgers (thanks Giants!) and the only real outside threat in the offense. At only $5300 he’s a definite value play and someone I’d also consider in all formats… If Adams misses the game the potentially big value play on this team week 4 will be Ty Montgomery. Montgomery’s a very strong looking young receiver who is only $3000 and played 87% of the snaps in week 3 (and scored a TD). Don’t be shocked if he’s an even bigger part of the game next week and don’t be afraid to consider him as a tournament option.
After a small ankle sprain week 2 Eddie Lacy played last week and looked very effective when he was in. The Packers limited his snaps but could very easily look to employ Lacy in a bigger role week 4. The semi-washed up Chris Johnson just burned the 49ers for over 100 yards and two TDs and so it’s quite possible that Lacy ends up being the big play for fantasy from this offense. I love Lacy in tournaments this week as a contrarian play to counteract the likely over-owned Packers passing options.
Gameflow: We’re about to find out exactly how bad a team San Francisco is. At home after a humiliating loss the 49ers should bounce back and give the Packers a decent test, but whether they have the personnel to truly challenge a team like Packers anymore is a big question. I’m going out on a limb and saying this game is a little closer than people think but that Rodgers and the Pack ultimately get through without much trouble. Look for a bit of back and forth action but ultimately a Green Bay win.
Packers 30 49ers 24
– Aaron Rodgers $7900
– Randall Cobb $7400
– James Jones $5300
– Eddie Lacy $6900
– Ty Montgomery $3000
– Colin Kaepernick $5500
– Carlos Hyde $5100
– Anquan Boldin $4800
Vikings @ Broncos
Point Total: 43
Spread: -7 Broncos
The Bronco’s pass defense has been stifling this year surrendering only one passing TD and allowing the second fewest passing yards through 3 games. The Bronco’s have not only allowed the fewest points to WRs and QBs for fantasy purposes but they’ve also yet to surrender a TD to the WR position. When you add in the fact that Teddy Bridgewater (despite playing well) has been a complete bust for fantasy purposes this year and averaged only 24.6 passing attempts per game you start to see the potentially historic lack of upside that exists for all Vikings receivers in this game. I am quite simply avoiding Bridgewater and all of the Vikings receiving options this week. The Denver D is that good.
OK wait, here’s one Hail Mary option to consider. Charles Johnson looks like he might miss this game, which means that WR Cordarrelle Patterson could potentially play in his stead. Patterson is one of the most gifted runners after the catch in football, and if he actually plays don’t be shocked he does something stupid like run for a 70 yard TD. He’s a complete boom or bust play but I had to mention him.
I expect the Vikings to employ a lot of RB Adrian Peterson in this game. While that sounds like good news also remember that the Vikings are big underdogs and could potentially be trailing in this game. The Vikings have actually been employing a decent amount of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon in the pass game and there’s a small chance Peterson has a lessor performance because of it. While I still think Peterson has upside in this game (the Bronco’s aren’t killer against the run) there’s enough of a chance he flops that I’ll say you should keep AP to tournament only lineups.
The Bronco’s offense got semi-on track last week as QB Peyton Manning had his second multi-TD game and first 300+ yard passing effort of 2015. Manning has looked better after a rough week 1 but will be taking on a Vikings defense who has done pretty well to limit big passing games against them in 2015. As the 4th highest priced QB I’m not a fan of “past-his-prime” Peyton Manning this week in a potentially defensively dominated contest.
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes went down early in last week’s game with a concussion but is already practicing as of Wednesday and looks likely to play and matchup with Demaryius Thomas. Rhodes has traditionally been good at covering big time WRs and while I don’t expect a complete shutdown his presence is enough to make me avoid Thomas in a projected low scoring game… WR Emmanuel Sanders on the other hand will likely have the now 37 year-old Terrence Newman covering him. It was telling last week that as soon as Rhodes went down Keenan Allen was able to accumulate a big day for fantasy vs. the Vikings. Don’t be shocked if Sanders picks up where Allen left off and posts a huge game himself, I like Sanders in this game as a potential big fantasy play week 4.
At RB for the Bronco’s here’s how the snaps and carries worked out week 3:
I’m honestly not sure what to write about the Bronco’s running game. This is a good matchup as the Vikings were gashed week one on the road by Carlos Hyde but it’s really tough to tell you which RB to play. Avoiding this situation altogether is likely the best bet for fantasy, although I will say that Ronnie Hillman has looked like the better back to me thus far and is still 1.2k less than Anderson in salary at $4700. If you’re planning to gamble here I’d definitely go with the better value in Hillman.
Gameflow: This should be a somewhat low scoring affair between two solid defenses. While I could see the Vikings having some success running the ball it’s still very difficult to imagine them putting up enough points on what is right now the best defense in the NFL (sorry Seahawks) to get a win. It’s much more likely that Peyton and the Bronco’s play keep away for most of the game while their defense simply stymie’s the Vikings and ultimately leads the Bronco’s to a win.
Broncos 23 Vikings 13
– Broncos D $3300
– Emmanuel Sanders $7700
– Adrian Peterson $7800
– Ronnie Hillman $4700 (watch news to see if he’s starting)
Rams @ Cardinals
Point Total: 42
Spread: -7 Cardinals
The Cardinals Carson Palmer has averaged 24.47 fantasy points in his first three games of the year but has only faced weak competition so far. Going back to 2013 Palmer averaged 17.08 DraftKings points against NFC West opponents and given the Rams success last week in limiting the Steelers I think we could see the Palmer fantasy train slowed down a bit this week. I’m off Carson in what I foresee as a defensive struggle.
The targets and red zone opportunities for the Cardinals receivers have shaped up like this through two weeks:
As you can see Larry Fitzgerald is clearly the lead dog again in Arizona. Fitz has been getting all the love from Palmer in the first three games but will now be going up against a defence that has only allowed one receiving TD all year. At $6500 Fitz has seen a huge jump in salary on DraftKings this week and I’m fine fading him in what is a poor matchup… With Fitzgerald likely getting hounded/doubled by the Rams secondary it’s quite possible that this is the game WR John Brown finally breaks a big one. I am not ruling him out of my tournament lineups this week as he’s still affordable at only $5100 and has big play upside many in his range do not.
At RB it is looking possible that RB Andre Ellington returns this week. If he does than Bruce Arians has said he still expects Chris Johnson to see 15-20 touches a game. Truth be told I’m not sure I want any part of this run game. While I love the upside with rookie David Johnson he didn’t have the surge in carries I was expecting last week. Further the Rams did a good job limiting the Steelers run game so I am not exactly sold on Chris Johnson replicating his success from week 2 even if he does get all the carries. I’ll simply be avoiding this group week 4 and looking elsewhere for RBs.
St Louis has now scored a paltry 16 points in their last two games. QB Nick Foles who had a soft matchup last week gets a much tougher test against Patrick Peterson and the Cards secondary who have allowed the 8th fewest passing yards in 2015 and now lead the league with 7 INTs. Through three games Foles has really struggled against easy matchups but did play well against the Seahawks. I won’t be shocked if Foles plays better than people think here but I’m still not recommending him… avoid.
As for the rest of the Rams offense the fantasy pickings are quite slim at both RB and Receiver. Kenny Britt cracked 100 yards receiving last week against a bad Pittsburgh secondary but may see some or both of Patrick Peterson and Tyron Mathieu (who is currently the best graded corner on Pro Football Focus), Britt’s a clear fade for me… As for TE Jared Cook, after being targeted 15 times through 2 games he only caught one pass week 3 and was a complete non-factor. Cook has tons of athleticism and fantasy potential but the Rams can’t ever figure out how to unlock it. Limit your usage on Cook to long shot GPP plays only (or just avoid altogether)…
With all three RBs healthy the running back usage on the Rams looked like this last week:
The Rams running game is non-existent at the moment and also a complete three-headed split. I’d like to recommend rookie Todd Gurley but he still looked tentative/not 100% in his first game back from major knee surgery. Don’t get fancy here, the Cards have only allowed 3.07 ypc in 2015 to RBs and the Rams RBs have shown us nothing thus far… avoid them too.
Gameflow: This game should break down as a bit of a defensive struggle. The Rams may not look good against weak opponents but they almost always play division rivals extremely tough. Even though Vegas has the Cards as huge favorites I won’t be shocked if the spread is 3 or less at the end. Even though part of me wants to predict a Rams upset (like I did week 1) I’ll avoid the temptation and say the Cards squeak out a close win and get to 4-0.
Cardinals 20 Rams 19
– Arizona D $3400
– John Brown $5100
– Jared Cook $3000
Cowboys @ Saints
Point Total: 46
Spread: -4 Saints
As of writing this Saints QB Drew Brees was still questionable with shoulder soreness, but he appears to be on track to play. It may sound slightly crazy given how bad the Saints have been on offense in 2015 but if Brees plays don’t be shocked if he puts points on the Cowboys whose defense was decimated last week by Atlanta and doesn’t have the same Romo-led, ball control offense to help limit their exposure. I’m throwing caution to the wind here and saying you should consider a Brees/Cooks stack at home (if Brees gets the start).
Here was the Saints receiving targets from last week with Brees out:
Brandin Cooks play in week 3 was much more encouraging as he converted all 7 of his targets into catches. Cooks has yet to break off a long play or score in 2015 but at home, against a reeling defense this could be the time it happens. Cooks is also only $6100 now (down from $7100 week 1) and as mentioned previously he’s risky but is someone I’d consider using in tournaments this week if Drew Brees returns.
At RB for the Saints Mark Ingram continues to rack up targets in the passing game (he’s second on the team with 20). Last week, even with CJ Spillers return, Ingram played over 60% of the snaps and saw 3 of the 4 red zone carries. Right now Ingram is the only back worth considering on the Saints in my mind. He’s still priced reasonably at $6000 and has a higher floor than most RBs since he gets lots of targets and goal line work. After seeing RB Devonta Freeman light up Dallas last week Ingram should be fully on your radar in all DraftKings formats week 4.
Last week we saw how big the drop off in the passing game will be with Brandon Weeden now playing QB for the Cowboys. TE Jason Witten led Cowboy receivers with 6 rec. for 65 yards but outside of Cole Beasley (4 rec.) no other Cowboy WR caught a pass. Even at min-price against a bad defense there’s simply not enough upside for me to recommend Weeden who I could see imploding now that he’s on the road. Avoid Weeden—and all Cowboy WRs—and don’t be shocked if Matt Cassel steps into this game at some point.
The one receiver you could consider playing here is TE Jason Witten. As I mentioned last week in this column Witten led all receivers in Weeden’s last start from 2014 and repeated that feat in week 3. I actually think the Saints will be ahead at some point in this game and so Witten could see even more targets than he did last week and pay off in DraftKings PPR scoring.
The snap count for the Cowboys RBs looked like this last week:
The biggest shock from this group came from the fact Lance Dunbar complied 10 catches and 100 yards as a receiver. While it might be foolhardy to expect a repeat performance I’d suggest it’s quite likely you see him pile up targets again. Weeden was incapable of completing passes to his WRs and Dunbar could see even more of the field this week if the Cowboys get down early (which I am projecting they might). I like Dunbar again week 4 as a great value-tournament option… While Joseph Randle lit up the Falcons in the first half of week 3 he was actually shut down completely in the second half. There’s also news out of Dallas that Christine Michael might be active this Sunday meaning a cut in snaps for Randle. While the matchup is tempting I’m not chasing the points here and will be avoiding Randle for fantasy until I see how Michael works in.
Gameflow: With no spread or game total this game is hard to predict. It does sound like Drew Brees is going to play though and that might change the complexity of this game a ton. Dallas should be semi-reeling this week after a tough loss at home where they imploded on defense in the second half. I like the Saints (if Brees plays) to continue this trend and pull off an upset, and possibly score a decent amount of fantasy points, week 4 at the dome.
Saints 27 Cowboys 14
– Mark Ingram $6000
– Jason Witten $4400
– Drew Brees $7400
– Brandin Cooks $6100
– Lance Dunbar $3600
Lions @ Seahawks
Point Total: 43
Spread: -10 Seahawks
The Lions defense has been OK against the run but has already allowed Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning to land big fantasy games against them in 2015. I think Seattle QB Russell Wilson makes for a great tournament play and could see a big bump in production if Marshawn Lynch, their typical goal line option, misses this game. I love Wilson’s upside for tournament play this week in a big home game and think he’ll be extremely overlooked in fantasy.
As of writing Marshawn Lynch was about 50/50 to play in this game. If he does miss it would mean that the Seahawks would be rolling with a tandem of Fred Jackson and UDFA Thomas Rawls at RB. Rawls actually ran it up last week for 104 yards on 16 carries against the Bears and would be great value at only $3000 in salary if Lynch misses. Given the timing of this game (Monday night) my thought would be to simply avoid Lynch altogether as his injury may really limit his playing time, even if he does suit up. I’d consider Rawls though as he would project as a very high-upside “flex” play who you could consider late-swapping on DraftKings if Lynch plays.
In terms of passing the significant Seahawks targets from week 3 looked like this:
It wasn’t shocking to see TE Jimmy Graham get more involved last week and I expect that might even carry over into this week as well. Detroit got burned by Ladarius Green week 1 and I could see Graham having similar success. While I’m still wary of the fickle nature of the Hawks passing attack if Lynch misses a huge multi-TD game for Graham-Wilson is possible… As for the rest of the group there’s no one seeing enough consistent targeting for me to recommend. Rookie Tyler Lockett looks good (and had another return TD last week) but isn’t involved much in the passing game at all right now and is an avoid for me until further notice.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford gets a Seahawk defense this week who has given up an average of 9.1 points over their last 6 home contests. Stafford’s yet to throw for more than 300 yards in a game and also only has 5 TDs on the year to offset 5 INTs. This simply isn’t a matchup where you can seriously contemplate a turnaround might happen for Stafford, or Detroit, on offense. Avoid him this week and don’t feel bad about it.
My displeasure with Stafford as an option will also spill over into Detroit’s receiving core. Calvin Johnson led the Lions with targets last week with 13 and looked close to being his dominant self again. The issue of course is that he’s now playing one of the best secondaries in the league. I’m not suggesting you go out and play Johnson a ton this week but in a must win, season-on-the-line, game for Detroit I won’t be shocked if Johnson produces regardless of the matchup. At $7500 he’s an expensive but low-owned tournament gamble that could be massive if he goes full-Megatron Monday night… As for other Lions receivers Golden Tate is still getting targets but has had a really slow start to the season and could see just as much of Richard Sherman this week as Calvin. I’m avoiding him until I see this Lions passing attack get going.
At RB the Lions snap count and red zone touches now sit like this through 3 games:
The Lions have actually been playing rookie Ameer Abdullah the most of all their backs but haven’t exactly been employing him in the most efficient manner. Abdullah has only ten targets and 21 carries through three games, basically one games workload for true feature backs. Against Seattle who has the best run defense in the NFL, I’m not confident the Lions will give Abdullah enough touches to make him viable for use in fantasy and hate his matchup. Just avoid this backfield altogether.
Gameflow: In danger of going 0-4 I expect Detroit to put up a bit of a fight. This may allow them to keep things close for a while and maybe even hold the lead at some pint but ultimately I think the Seahawks offense gets rolling in this game and makes it a clear victory by the end. Expect the 12th man to be in full effect Monday and for the Hawks to get back to .500.
Seahawks 30 Lions 22
– Russell Wilson $7100
– Seahawks D $3700
– Jimmy Graham $6000
– Thomas Rawls $3000 (if no Lynch)
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NFL GAME BREAKDOWN – PAGE 3