Week 1 Advanced Matchups

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Week 1 Advanced Matchups

Table of Contents

  1. ATS and Total Wagers
  2. Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  3. Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
  5. Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
  6. San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions
  7. Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
  8. Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
  9. Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team
  10. New York Jets at Carolina Panthers
  11. Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
  12. Denver Broncos at New York Giants
  13. Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
  14. Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
  15. Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
  16. Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams
  17. Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders

Benjamin Franklin is credited for providing, in my opinion, a most valuable lesson that I have purposefully imposed on my own children: “a failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” We can apply that wisdom to an infinite number of situations in life.

The statistics tell us that we’re more likely to discontinue a nicotine, heroin, or even social media addiction than turning a profit in DFS. Failure is built directly into the game. Need proof? Just take a look at the percentage chance that you’ll cash out in DraftKings’ NFL $5M Fantasy Football Millionaire contest in Week 1. Only 304,500 out of 1,194,000 entries (25.5%) will profit. And that profit rate is consistent across all GPPs.

If we’re being honest — and we are — how much of that 24-26% is dedicated to individuals who carelessly throw together an off-the-cuff lineup without dedicated research? More importantly, how much of that number is dedicated to those that not only research every conceivable angle, but dedicate 100% of their office time to those decisions? It’s relatively safe to assume that, since you are reading this, you fully realize the odds are stacked against you unless proper preparation is followed to the letter.

If you’ve read my previous work, you are already aware how much of my DFS analysis centers on the defensive coverage schemes (aka shells) an offense will face. Once we have knowledge of a defense’s featured coverage shells, the history of results vs. those schemes provides invaluable insight into a QBs or receiver’s weekly upside.

But what about the teams that hire new defensive coordinators (DCs)? Patience. We must always wait until at least the second week of the season before we can make high-level assumptions on a new DCs coverage rotation. And every DC in the NFL avoids showing their hand during the preseason. That said, we can sometimes pull hints at coverage data during the first quarters of the preseason games when teams are, for the most part, evaluating their actual in-season contributors. The remainder of the Week 1 profile projection must be collected from that DCs previous posting.

In addition to providing the same invaluable passing game analysis from last season, Advanced Matchups is evolving to also encompass offensive ground game study. In fact, each and every team will now be analyzed to provide more Advanced Matchups than ever before. As a premium subscriber at Fantasy Points, you’ll also have access to an Advanced Matchups that will be updated throughout the week.

With all of that out of the way, let’s jackknife our way into the Week 1 analysis.

Against the Spread Picks

Tennessee Titans (-2.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers (-7.5) at Detroit Lions
Denver Broncos (-3.0) at New York Giants
Los Angeles Rams (-7.5) vs. Chicago Bears
Miami Dolphins (+3.0) at New England Patriots
Minnesota Vikings (-3.0) at Cincinnati Bengals

Total Wagers

Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons (Over 48.5)
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans (Over 52.0)
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions (Over 45.5)
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals (Over 48.0)

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8:20 PM EST (Thursday Night Football)

Tampa, Florida

Raymond James Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 90℉

Humidity: 66%

Environment: 100℉

Wind: Negligible

Wind Gusts: Negligible

Chance of Precipitation: 30%

Vegas

Betting Line: Buccaneers -8.5

Over/Under: 51.5

Moneyline: Buccaneers (-426), Cowboys (+331)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Cowboys:

RG Zack Martin (Out - COVID-19)

OT Brandon Knight (Out - COVID-19)

Buccaneers:

RB Giovani Bernard (Full Practice - Questionable - Undisclosed)

WR Chris Godwin (Full Practice - Questionable - Undisclosed)

WR Antonio Brown (Full Practice - Questionable - Undisclosed)

TE Rob Gronkowski (Full Practice - Questionable - Undisclosed)

DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Full Practice - Questionable - Undisclosed)

FS Jordan Whitehead (Out - Hamstring)

Matchups to Target

Tom Brady, TB ($6.7K DK | $7.8K FD) vs. Cowboys’ Cover 1 | 3 | 4

The GOAT will face a revamped Dallas defense under the direction of new DC Dan Quinn. Last we saw Quinn, he served as HC of the Falcons that resulted in a 46-44 overall record. We can look back on film from his days as the Seahawks’ DC to, unsurprisingly, recognize that his Cowboys will use a solid amount of Cover 3. But we also know, even though Raheem Morris ran the defense during Quinn’s tenure in Atlanta, that Quinn also values the usage of top-10 NFL rates of Cover 1 and Cover 2. And first quarter play during the preseason reinforces this projection. It’s a trio of schemes that will account for over 80% of the defensive looks Tom Brady will see on Thursday Night Football.

There are only a handful of players that have shown that, when they are hot, none of their previous historical scheme shortcomings can get in their way. BREAKING NEWS: Brady is among that gifted handful. No need for transcendence here — Quinn’s new-look defense will serve points on a platter to Tommy Terrific. When opposed by Cover 1 on 26% of dropbacks over the last three seasons, Brady has accumulated 30% of his passing yardage, and 34% of his total TDs. He ranks fourth-best with 0.5 FPs/dropback (FP/Db) over that time with an 18% increase in air yards/attempt (AY/A) vs. Cover 1. Brady ranks eighth-best with 0.4 FP/Db with a 13% spike in YPA when facing a Cover 2 defense. Cover 2 also stands as the shell where Brady has produced his highest passer rating (101.2).

Finally, Brady has completed over 70% of his attempts, with a 10% increase in YPA, and a 95.3 passer rating against Cover 3 — third down on his list of “preferred” coverages. With a disgustingly-skilled O-line, three of the very best WRs in the NFL, and multiple playmakers at both TE and RB, if it weren’t for the high-powered offense of Dallas, I’d commit a chunk of change ATS in favor of the Bucs. In all Thursday-to-Monday contest types, Brady must be considered among the top-five options at QB against a secondary with a question mark at outside corner opposite Trevon Diggs.

Chris Godwin, TB ($6.2K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Jourdan Lewis, DAL

We can expect to see Chris Godwin, who ran around 70% of snaps from the slot last season, mainly defended by Jourdan Lewis. Anthony Brown will also likely be found across from him on one of every five snaps within situational packages. Either way, Dallas will have its hands full attempting to contain the explosive 25-year-old. A top-20 WR on an efficiency level, Godwin isn’t particularly adept at defeating man coverage, but emerges as one of the best in the business when attacking zone schemes. That’s particularly true when secondaries fall into a Cover 2. Godwin has averaged 0.59 FPs/Route (FP/Rt, fourth-best) and 2.95 yards gained/route run (YPRR, seventh-best) against Cover 2 over the last three years. It’s expected the Cowboys will utilize a top-five rate of Cover 2 this week.

Then we have Cover 3. During that same three-year time frame, Godwin generated a third of his receiving yardage on only 23% of routes. With 2.54 YPRR and 0.45 FP/Rt, his combination of success vs. Cover 2 and Cover 3 will present him with salivating opportunities on half of his total routes Thursday. We could hit the pause button on exposure if Godwin would be facing a top slot corner. Unfortunately for Dallas, Lewis was no better than slightly above average last season, and Brown fell well below that mark. Several Sunday options at WR stand above Godwin in Cash and Single-Entry (SE) contests, but a GPP stack of Brady and Godwin is certainly enticing.

Antonio Brown, TB ($5.8K DK | $5.7K FD) vs. Anthony Brown, DAL

I very nearly left Anthony Brown off of the line above across from Antonio Brown. Mostly due to my disbelief that the Cowboys actually plan to feature Brown at left corner. Brown ranked 71st among 89 qualified outside CBs in yards allowed/coverage snap (YPCS), 72nd in FPs/coverage snap (FPCS), 61st in air yards/coverage snap (AYCS), and 63rd in passer rating allowed on targets into his coverage. We need to give Dallas somewhat of a break for continuing to use Brown in a starting role. They drafted Kelvin Joseph in the second round this season, but a preseason groin injury has him on IR.

A sequence of events unfolded that could see “Brown on Brown” for 50% of snaps on Thursday night. And Antonio has done nothing but eat against Cover 1, Cover 2, and Cover 3! The type of numbers that begs the question: would Brown still be commanding elite respect in his Age 33 season if his attitude/legal troubles never emerged? His rep among the fantasy nation has definitely seen quite the decline. Don’t make the same mistake.

Brown has generated the 14th-highest FP/Rt against Cover 1, 10th-highest vs. Cover 2, and fourth-highest opposed by Cover 3 among all WRs over the last three seasons. He makes for a particularly outstanding value on FanDuel at only $5.7K. I really want to trust Brown in Cash/SE but, due to other phenomenal WR options on Sunday, I feel much better targeting him as an overlooked GPP option this week.

CeeDee Lamb, DAL ($5.7K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Buccaneers’ Cover 2 | 4 | 6

If we were judging NFL WRs based on sheer upside, CeeDee Lamb’s would only be surpassed by, at most, five others. We know from camp reports that Lamb will no longer run nearly 95% of his routes out of the slot. It’s actually expected that he’ll be featured on the outside, kicking Michael Gallup into the slot. But we simply do not have enough information telling us where he’ll play the most to determine the most significant corner matchup. What we do know is that DC Todd Bowles’ scheme rotation includes a little bit of everything. The three coverages that interest me the most for Lamb are top-10 rates of Cover 2, Cover 4, and Cover 6.

We also know that Lamb will see some combination of Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis, and/or Sean Murphy-Bunting on Thursday. It’s a corner collection that proved to be of championship caliber, slowing down even the most-skilled wideouts. It just so happens that Lamb possesses that type of skill.

We also need to keep in mind that Lamb was only able to work with Dak Prescott in 4.5 games during his rookie season. So his coverage results have yet to entirely take shape. But we know his skills stood out against schemes with multiple deep defensive backs. And he’ll face a Tampa Bay defense that will offer that type of alignment on over 40% of his routes. Even with all-world athleticism/skill/potential, betting against this intimidating Bucs’ defense is too risky in Cash/SE. But Lamb is an outstanding GPP target this week.

Blake Jarwin, DAL ($3.4K DK | $4.5K FD) vs. Buccaneers’ Cover 2 | 4 | 6

If the Buccaneers’ pass defense showed a dent in its armor last season, it would be in allowing the fourth-highest completion rate in the league (69%). And that played directly into permitting the seventh-most receptions/game (5.4), 10th-highest FPG (13.9) to opposing TEs. During Blake Jarwin’s 2018-19 seasons, he excelled against Cover 2 and Cover 4.

In fact, over the last three seasons, no TE has submitted a higher FP/Rt average vs. Cover 2 over Jarwin (0.69). Taking that success further, on 113 routes against Cover 2, Jarwin has provided Prescott with a perfect passer rating (158.3). When attacking a Cover 4 the last three years, Jarwin ranks sixth-best among all TEs with 0.45 FP/Rt, ninth with 10.4 air yards/target (AY/T), and 14th with 1.76 YPRR. Providing plenty of salary relief in Thursday-to-Monday offerings, Jarwin is an excellent quasi-punt in GPPs, with an eye toward devoting those precious salary dollars to RB or WR.

Matchups to Avoid

Ezekiel Elliott, DAL ($6.7K DK | $8K FD) vs. Lavonte David, TB

No Zack Martin. While all of the stars have aligned for La’el Collins to finally return to the field, if he should happen to be unable to take the field, Ty Nsekhe and/or Terence Steele would be tasked with filling in at right tackle. Martin’s absence alone is simply not the situation where you want to invest in pricing as the RB11/RB6 against a championship defense that limited opposing RBs to the seventh-lowest FPG (20.6) last season.

Yes, Ezekiel Elliott is fully capable of elevating that floor with his receiving ability. Yes, the Bucs were far more vulnerable to RB receiving-based production than ground-based. But Zeke will be tracked by elite off-the-ball ILB Lavonte David, limiting his yardage potential. And we want more than a decent floor, we want upside. Nsekhe and/or Steele would be unable to replace the top-10 run blocking presence of Collins. The absence of Martin from the right side of the O-line also limits the concept options for Dallas. Much brighter days are ahead for Elliott this season. We just need Martin anchoring that O-line before committing our DFS dinero.

Final notes on Tampa Bay

The one matchup that concerns me for Tampa Bay WRs is Trevon Diggs vs. Mike Evans ($6.5K/$7.6K). It will be a pick-your-poison deal for Quinn with the positioning of his most talented corner. And I expect he’ll want speed-on-speed for a large number of snaps. Diggs got off to a slow start to his rookie season, but hit his stride over the second half. Evans is not a straight avoid, he’s simply seated below Godwin and Brown this week.

Giovani Bernard ($4.2K/$4.9K) is a hard fade. And I nearly positioned Leonard Fournette ($4.9K/$6.4K) and Ronald Jones II ($5.1K/$5.9K) under the avoid banner. I’m expecting Dallas’ addition of Micah Parsons to reform the run defense that permitted the 14th-most FPG to opposing RBs last season. And Bernard’s presence cuts the floor out from underneath Fournette and RJ2.

The Cowboys defended TEs quite well last season. With O.J. Howard ($3.3K/$4.9K) back in the fold with Cameron Brate ($3.6K/$4.5K), it’s best that we see how the opportunities are distributed before exposing our lineups to Rob Gronkowski ($3.9K/$5.2K).

Final notes on Dallas

You don’t need me to tell you that Dak Prescott ($6.2K/$7.6K) is in play in GPPs every week, independent of his opponent. So I won’t. He also gets a bonus with the absence of FS Jordan Whitehead. The most difficult challenge when targeting receiving options set to face Tampa Bay is attempting to figure out how Bowles will defend them.

When we know shadow-free, single coverage is on the docket for Amari Cooper ($6K/$6.6K), he becomes a prime target. “Shadow-free” being the key since it’s very likely that Bowles attaches Carlton Davis to Cooper. Davis’ 2020 metrics were smeared when he allowed an 8/204/3 line to Tyreek Hill in Week 12. In the eight other games where Davis was tasked with trailing a wideout, he allowed just a 3.1/30.4/0.13 line, or 6.9 FPG. Knowing a Lamb breakout is coming, I simply do not trust Michael Gallup ($4.9K/$5.8K).

Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons

1:00 PM EST

Atlanta, Georgia

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: Dome

Humidity: 49%

Environment: Dome

Wind: Dome

Wind Gusts: Dome

Chance of Precipitation: Dome

Vegas

Betting Line: Falcons -3.5

Over/Under: 48.5

Moneyline: Falcons (-181), Eagles (+153)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Eagles:

RG Brandon Brooks (Limited Practice - Probable - Knee)

OG Landon Dickerson (Limited Practice - OUT - Knee)

ILB Davion Taylor (Full Practice - Questionable - Calf)

SS Rodney McLeod (Limited Practice - OUT - Knee)

Falcons:

DT Grady Jarrett (No Practice - Probable - Personal)

OLB Brandon Copeland (Full Practice - Probable - Hamstring)

Matchups to Target

Matt Ryan, ATL ($6K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Eagles’ Cover 2 | 3 | 6

The Eagles’ defense is undergoing a scheme overhaul under new DC Jonathan Gannon. Spending the last three seasons as the defensive back’s coach under Colts’ DC Matt Eberflus, I am anticipating that Philadelphia will go from a Cover 1-heavy defense to a Zone-heavy rotation featuring Cover 2, Cover 3, and Cover 6. And the opening quarters of the preseason (>80% Zone) reinforce that assessment. However, the growing pains were pretty apparent during that preseason action. The Eagles’ preseason defense did not inspire confidence, particularly against the run.

When it comes to Matt Ryan, you either move him from his spot, or you force him into obvious passing situations by stalling the run. But that stout 2020 pass rush from Philly did not show up during the preseason. In actuality, Gannon shifting the scheme should eventually pay off. This will not be the week. New HC Arthur Smith and OC Dave Ragone have constructed this Falcons’ offense with elements of the Air Raid, intermingled with classic Pro Style components. Ryan will need to be considered in Week 1 GPPs based on the anticipated volume alone. And his career consistency against each of the NFLs most common coverage shells will provide him with an elevated floor.

Calvin Ridley, ATL ($7.9K DK | $8.1K FD) vs. Darius Slay, PHI

It’s very likely that we see Darius Slay travel with Calvin Ridley this weekend. But he’ll mostly do so within a Zone scheme, rather than the one-on-one approach we’re accustomed to seeing. After permitting the eighth-most FPG to opposing WRs last season, it’s no surprise to see the new regime attempt to shake things up. But these are the types of changes that will not take root overnight. And Ridley did not finish fourth in FPG last season by accident. He has established himself as a steady threat to all coverage types.

While Ridley is a bit on the pricier side of the individuals I’ll be recommending, I’ve come to the conclusion that this will be the week to spend up for the WR position. With the anticipated bump Ridley will see in excess of the eighth-highest target share he received last season, it’s very likely we’ll see Ridley priced even higher over the upcoming weeks. Ryan-Ridley stacks are certainly in play and Ridley is safely inside the Cash/SE discussion.

Kyle Pitts, ATL ($4.4K DK | $6K FD) vs. Rodney McLeod, PHI

Looking at the personnel trends from last season, you could make a compelling argument that the Atlanta staff envisions using Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst in a continuation of the multi-TE set rate Smith employed with the Titans. On the other hand, even classifying Pitts as a TE is essentially due to having no better way to describe the athletic phenomenon. He not only just finished the most outstanding collegiate career we’ve ever seen from a TE and the only TE to ever be a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, he also packs the speed and explosion of a generational WR into a 6-foot-6, 246-pound frame with an 83.4” wingspan.

Let’s spit facts: Atlanta likes Pitts so much that they selected him higher than any TE in the NFL Draft era. On Sunday, he’ll instantly step into a role as the No. 2 option, seeing targets from a future Hall--of--Fame QB with plenty of tread left on his tires. And he’ll primarily be defended by a strong safety only nine months removed from ACL surgery (Rodney McLeod). Even if McLeod’s ACL somehow allows him to play at 100%, we know the Falcons will shift Pitts all over their formation to fabricate overwhelming mismatches. Despite each of those exceptional factors working in his favor, Pitts is priced as the TE8/TE8. Hmm…

Update: Expect Pitts to be one of the highest-owned TEs this weekend. So much so that it may be unwise to fade him in Cash/SE.

Update: With McLeod ruled out, a large chunk of the responsibility of containing Pitts will fall on second-stringer K’Von Wallace. Yummy!

Matchups to Avoid

Miles Sanders, PHI ($6.5K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Deion Jones, ATL

When you think back to the defensive results from the Falcons last season, the fact that they paced the league in passing YPG obliged undermines a pair of important factors. First, Grady Jarrett and Dante Fowler Jr. powered Atlanta toward ranking within the top-15 in QB pressures/game. Second, not only did they limit opposing teams to the 10th-lowest rushing YPG, they restricted RBs to the second-fewest pure rushing FPG. One of the keys to that success is a collection of cornerbacks willing to tackle in run defense. The loss of Keanu Neal will certainly be felt, and the majority of the FPG they tolerated to RBs came through the air.

Another key to the Falcons’ ground game deterrence is stacking the box with eight defenders at the fourth-highest rate. It just so happens that Miles Sanders ranks 48th out of 66 qualified RBs in FPs/attempt against an eight-man box. Even when I factor in such factors as the rate of negative runs, yards gained after contact, and the rate of FPs gained before contact, Sanders’ stacked box outlook only improves to 40th. He is clearly a RB who greatly prefers additional space to work. And the one avenue available to him to elevate his floor (passing game) is likely to be closed off after surrendering his receiving role to Boston Scott, with Kenneth Gainwell mixing in, following a concerning spate of drops during training camp.

Final notes on Philadelphia

The Eagles’ O-line is set to see the return of several key components. We may actually see Jalen Hurts ($6.4K/$7.6K) gifted with some clean pockets, using his legs to attack rather than in defense of pressure. I feel much more comfortable in exposure to Hurts in a spot where he should succeed (Atlanta commissioned the seventh-highest pure rushing FPG to opposing QBs last season) than I am paying up to reach for DeVonta Smith’s ($4.5K/$5.3K) ridiculous numbers at Alabama last season in his first taste of NFL action. It’s true that A.J. Terrell failed to impress during his rookie season. But we can expect to see significant improvements from the 2020 first-rounder. And he’ll want to show up against last year’s Heisman winner.

While he doesn’t have much in the way of actual NFL production either, Quez Watkins ($3K/$4.6K) does have the benefit of leaving his rookie season in the rearview. With Jalen Reagor kicking into the slot, Watkins will use his 4.35-speed against the underwhelming presence of Fabian Moreau. In season-long formats,

Dallas Goedert ($4.8K/$5.9K) is without question the Philadelphia TE to roster.

Be that as it may, it certainly appears as though Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman is determined to convince TE-needy teams that Zach Ertz ($3.8K/$5K) is the top TE on the market by throwing volume at him at a rate as to indicate he’s, at least, still on Goedert’s level. For our purposes, we know the Philly passing attack heavily features its TEs, and Ertz is an excellent value even if he ends up working into the skilled coverage of Erik Harris more than we’d like.

Final notes on Atlanta

Mike Davis ($5.4K/$6.2K) should find little resistance from an Eagles’ defense in mid-transition. Davis will be one of the top-10 highest owned RBs on Sunday. His receiving upside will be a major asset against Philadelphia’s secondary scheme transition. And Russell Gage ($5.3K/$5.7K) will likely see a healthy target share in a game anticipated to see plenty of offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills

1:00 PM EST

Orchard Park, New York

Highmark Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 74℉

Humidity: 67%

Environment: 73℉

Wind: 9 MPH

Wind Gusts: 17 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 25%

Vegas

Betting Line: Bills -6.5

Over/Under: 48.0

Moneyline: Bills (-293), Steelers (+235)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Steelers:

WR James Washington (Full Practice - Probable - Finger)

OC Kendrick Green (Full Practice - Probable - Thumb)

DT Tyson Alualu (Full Practice - Probable - Elbow)

OLB Alex Hightower (Full Practice - Questionable - Groin)

Bills:

WR Emmanuel Sanders (Limited Practice - Questionable - Foot)

WR Isaiah McKenzie (Full Practice - Probable - Shoulder)

DT Star Lotulelei (No Practice - OUT - Calf)

DT Harrison Phillips (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

CB Taron Johnson (Full Practice - Probable - Hand)

Matchups to Target

Stefon Diggs, BUF ($7.6K DK | $7.9K FD) vs. Joe Haden, PIT

As you’ll see multiple such examples in this write-up, paying up at wideout — particularly in, but certainly not limited to, Cash/SE — is the road I recommend in Week 1. The first elephant in the room to clear is the knee strain for Stefon Diggs. Everything points to a full workload after practicing in full since August 24. With that settled, let’s shift to his scheme history. Diggs will see the Steelers in a Cover 2 and Cover 6 on one-fifth of combined snaps. They do present challenges, but we can still find comfort in Diggs still being targeted on those reps with the third-highest target share last season.

It’s the routes/targets facing the Steelers’ Cover 1 and Cover 3 (over two-thirds of snaps) that present Diggs with an output ceiling as high as a skyscraper. Over the last three seasons, Diggsy ranks inside the top-five of all WRs with 0.7 FP/Rt and 3.39 YPRR vs. Cover 1. On 25% of routes, he’s spawned 35% of his receptions, 39% of yardage, and 43% of his total TDs against the scheme. Combined with a top-15 ranked 0.48 FP/Rt against Cover 3, Joe Haden and company will be working overtime attempting to slow him down. We only need to look back to Week 14 of last season when he dropped 29.1 FP on Pittsburgh to find a stellar example.

Chase Claypool, PIT ($5.6K DK | $6K FD) vs. Tre'Davious White, BUF

If training camp reports are to be believed, Chase Claypool indicated he was the most dominant player on the Steelers’ offense. That is not the type of information we should take lightly when Diontae Johnson is sharing the field. Make no mistake, unlike last season, Claypool will be the 1A or 1B option alongside Diontae in this attack for Ben Roethlisberger. Yes, Claypool received the money looks, but Johnson was the clear target hog, when healthy, last season. The rookie label Claypool previously shouldered has been trashed, and new OC Matt Canada comes in searching for immediate success from the playmakers that stand during preparation.

Priced as the WR15/WR15, Diontae is an excellent value ($6.3K/$6.6K), but Claypool lands as the WR23/WR27, and with egregious TD-scoring upside. I might be skeptical if I knew Tre'Davious White would travel with Claypool on anything approaching half of his routes, but we just don’t know. And that was not the case when these teams met last season — White rarely traveled in 2020. The Buffalo secondary is one that commands earned respect. But it’s the sophomore emergence, scoring upside, anticipated role/volume spike, and insane athletic measurements that have forced Claypool into the DFS discussion in all — not just this — weeks this season.

Najee Harris, PIT ($6.3K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Tremaine Edmunds, BUF

You already know Najee Harris is gonna be a problem. Not just with an expected carry share rivaling anyone in the NFL, but with excellent receiving chops to elevate his floor. If the Bills were not the least impressive run defense last season, they were not far off from receiving that label. It was a defense that permitted the highest rushing first down rate at 30.2%. The overwhelming factor that padded their FPG allowance to RB numbers can be found in their offense scoring so many points as to revert opposing teams into up-tempo mode, mostly abandoning the run. This is a smash spot for Harris, working behind what appeared to be a vastly improved O-line this preseason.

Matchups to Avoid

JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT ($6.2K DK | $6.4K FD) vs. Taron Johnson, BUF

No, JuJu Smith-Schuster has done nothing on the field to deserve the “Avoid” label. He’s scored at least 17 FPs in each of his last two games against Buffalo. And he’ll even face the coziest matchup vs. Taron Johnson out of the slot. But, whereas JJSS benefited from Claypool being perceived as the rookie, and from the relationship he established under former OC Randy Fichtner. Both of those benefits have expired.

The days of featuring Diontae and Claypool are upon us. The fact that JuJu was relegated to signing a one-year prove-it deal with the Steelers after seeing nothing on the free agent market provides a multitude of information. Smith-Schuster will certainly still be involved, but gone are the days of eclipsing 100 targets when this WR corps is at full health.

Final notes on Pittsburgh

Take a moment to look at the pics for yourself, Ben Roethlisberger ($6.1/$7.1) has worked very hard this offseason, dedicated to fitness in his Age 39 season. I’m not yet ready to claim he’ll return to his 2018 form, but we need to prepare ourselves for that possibility. As has already been opined, Diontae Johnson ($6.3K/$6.6K) must always be in the GPP discussion. But he will see plenty of Levi Wallace, a corner who pestered Johnson in that Week 14 showdown. Eric Ebron ($3.9K/$5.2K) is being criminally undervalued this season. He’ll provide DFS value at multiple stop-off points. If Matt Milano is unable to play, Ebron comes front-and-center as a person of interest.

Final notes on Buffalo

I will not waste your time promoting Josh Allen ($7.4K/$8.1K). He can be counted on to provide weekly top-three QB production, with only his salary limiting his ownership. With T.J. Watt coming to terms on a contract extension, we can confidently cross Zach Moss ($4.7K/$5.3K) and Devin Singletary ($4.7K/$5.3K) off our lists. You can never count out Cole Beasley ($4.4K/$5.5K). He’ll face a promising match in Justin Layne, but I see several other underpriced WRs with superior upside.

One of those is Gabriel Davis ($3.4K/$4.9K), expected to see plenty of reps vs. Cameron Sutton. Davis appeared to be far more dynamic than Emmanuel Sanders ($4.1K/$5.3K) this preseason, and Sutton did not appear set for a starring role during his preseason action. Sutton’s play was so concerning that it resulted in Pittsburgh dealing for Ahkello Witherspoon.

Update: If Emmanuel Sanders is ruled out with the foot ailment that has him listed as questionable, get ready to fire up some Gabriel Davis action!

Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals

1:00 PM EST

Cincinnati, Ohio

Paul Brown Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 82℉

Humidity: 61%

Environment: 85℉

Wind: 9 MPH

Wind Gusts: 17 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 14%

Vegas

Betting Line: Vikings -3.0

Over/Under: 47.0

Moneyline: Vikings (-163), Bengals (+139)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Vikings:

RB Alexander Mattison (Full Practice - Probable - Ribs)

WR Dede Westbrook (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

TE Tyler Conklin (Full Practice - Probable - Hamstring)

LT Christian Darrisaw (Limited Practice - OUT - Groin)

ILB Anthony Barr (No Practice - OUT - Knee)

Bengals:

CB Trae Waynes (No Practice - OUT - Hamstring)

Matchups to Target

Kirk Cousins, MIN ($6.3K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 1 | 4

If the narrative that Kirk Cousins should be considered among the top-5-7 QBs in the game has eluded you, then allow me to pry open those eyes. First things first, simply take a look at his general production over the last three seasons when he’s fenced the edge of completing 70% of attempts with a 3-to-1 TD/INT ratio. When a team fails, it’s always the QB that is assigned the blame. And that’s usually appropriate. In the case of the Vikings, Cousins is simply not responsible for the dearth of O-line talent, or the shortcomings of their defense.

When Cousins opposes the Bengals on Sunday, he’ll face a defense featuring the eighth-highest rate of both Cover 1 and Cover 4. Over the last three seasons, Cousins ranks first overall in FP/Db, passer rating, and increase in YPA when working against Cover 1. And he’s not bad at all vs. Cover 4, ranking inside the top-12 in FP/Db and passer rating. The absence of the clear CB1 for Cincinnati (Trae Waynes) only magnifies the potential for Cousins. As with every Minny victory, the most pressing issue in exposure to Cousins is not his play, it’s the effectiveness of the run defense from the opposing team. The possibility that Dalvin Cook ($9.1K/$9.4K) hogs the offensive reps is a concern against a poor Cincy run D, but that will be offset if the Bengals’ offense can stand their ground. See Joe Burrow below.

Justin Jefferson, MIN ($7.7K DK | $7.8K FD) vs. Eli Apple, CIN

When you decide upon lineup exposure to Cousins, you do not make that decision without a planned stack with one-or-both of his Cover 1 maneaters. Jefferson didn’t just emerge from his rookie season as one of the most dominant (top-three) WRs against man coverage, he also mauled Cover 3 (top-five) and Cover 4 (top-15) shells. He emerged on the scene in such a fashion that I can confidently state, provided intact health, Jefferson is on an early path toward a seat in the Hall of Fame.

With Waynes ruled out, the responsibility of defending Jefferson and Adam Thielen falls upon Eli Apple and Chidobe Awuzie. Let’s maintain a semblance of kindness in just relaying that Apple and Awuzie ranked among the bottom 10% of 89 qualified corners, across the board, in efficiency last season. When teams tried to use single coverage against Jefferson last season, he replied in kind with a YPRR average that led all WRs. He’s costly, worth every single penny.

Adam Thielen, MIN ($7K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Chidobe Awuzie, CIN

We saw Adam Thielen score 14 TDs last season. And Thielen teamed with Jefferson to provide Cousins with the most dominant Cover 1 trio in football last season. That last part is italicized since another trio emerged in the AFC South — more on them later — that might give them a run for their money. Nobody is going to confuse Thielen as a future Hall of Famer since he didn’t emerge until later in his career, but that does not indicate he should be discounted in DFS.

It’s already been established that coverage from either Awuzie or Apple is not going to slow this passing offense down. And Cincinnati DC Lou Anarumo is not going to change his stripes. With a massive Cover 1 workload on the docket, wrap your head around Thielen posting the seventh-highest FP/Rt, and 11th-highest YPRR in one-on-one matchups the last three seasons. On 22% of routes against Cover 1 over that time, Thielen has produced 28% of his receptions, 33% of his yardage, and 38% of total TDs. Again, if the Bengals can mount an offensive, the Vikings’ passing attack could break the slate.

Joe Burrow, CIN ($5.7K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Vikings’ Cover 1 | 2 | 4 | 6

It goes without saying that the catalyst to Cincinnati keeping pace with the Vikings’ offense falls on the arm of Joe Burrow. What will be one of the most important details emerging in this game is the intended direction of the Minnesota coverage scheme under second-year co-OCs Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer. Normally we would assume the scheme would be maintained.

However, GM Rick Spielman added Bashaud Breeland, Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, and Tye Smith this offseason. As I passed along in Minnesota’s Franchise Focus, the common factor between those four CB additions is they come from defenses that played Cover 1 at the 13th-, first-, eighth-, and ninth-highest 2020 rates, respectively. A shift toward featuring Cover 1 is on the horizon.

When Burrow worked against a Cover 1 during his rookie season, as he did at LSU in 2019, he quickly emerged as one of the most efficient in the business. He completed 72% of attempts, saw his FP/Db rise by 10%, air yards/attempt by 21%, and produced a top-10 passer rating. Overall, Burrow’s campaign was held back by ranking 23rd in air yards/attempt. But keep in mind that Justin Herbert ranked 45th. Still, Burrow’s numbers would follow a precipitous incline with the addition of a field-stretching threat, opposite the deep skills of Tee Higgins. And Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin addressed that need with Ja’Marr Chase. It’s never a positive spin on offensive production when an O-line struggles, but Burrow has been provided with more than enough weapons to put plenty of points on the board Sunday.

Final notes on Minnesota

Dalvin Cook ($9.1K/$9.4K) is every bit as valuable as any of the other top-priced RBs this and every week. The other Viking I have my eye on is Tyler Conklin ($2.9K/$4.4K). He’ll see a good amount of Vonn Bell, who is a skilled run defender, but falls outside other impact strong safeties in coverage. The only factor holding me back from a straight Conklin recommendation is the limited data, and the fact he’s dealing with a hamstring tweak. But you can certainly do worse with your budget at TE.

Final notes on Cincinnati:

Personally, Joe Mixon ($6.2K/$7.2K) is not my flavor. And the receiving numbers we want to see from him to elevate his floor will be capped with a healthy Eric Kendricks patrolling the sidelines. Tread carefully with his price tags. Do not confuse the fact that I didn’t push any of the Bengals’ talented wideouts as an indication I’m anticipating they’ll fall beyond value. That’s simply due to unknown factors beyond my own research informing us how the touches will be distributed.

Without knowing where Ja’Marr Chase ($4.8K/$5.5K) and Tee Higgins ($4.7K/$6K) will align, or if Patrick Peterson will be tasked with shadowing one WR, any attempts to project are clouded. And one of those two outside WRs will face off with Bashaud Breeland’s impressive skills. Tyler Boyd ($5.2K/$5.9K) may not provide impressive run after the catch numbers, in my eyes, he’s the clear possession receiver among the group — that’s a valuable title on DraftKings. And Boyd will see the easiest matchup of the group from Mackensie Alexander.

San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions

1:00 PM EST

Detroit, Michigan

Ford Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: Dome

Humidity: 62%

Environment: Dome

Wind: Dome

Wind Gusts: Dome

Chance of Precipitation: Dome

Vegas

Betting Line: 49ers -8.5

Over/Under: 45.5

Moneyline: 49ers (-395), Bengals (+308)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

49ers:

QB Trey Lance (Limited Practice - Probable - Right Finger)

WR Brandon Aiyuk (Full Practice - Probable - Hamstring)

WR Jalen Hurd (No Practice - OUT - Knee)

OG Aaron Banks (Full Practice - Probable - Shoulder)

DT Javon Kinlaw (No Practice - Doubtful - Knee)

DT Kevin Givens (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hip)

DE Nick Bosa (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

DE Dee Ford (Full Practice - Probable - Back)

ILB Dru Greenlaw (Full Practice - Probable - Hip)

CB Jason Verett (Full Practice - Probable - Foot)

CB Emmanuel Moseley (No Practice - Doubtful - Knee)

Lions:

RB D’Andre Swift (Full Practice - Probable - Groin)

TE T.J. Hockenson (Full Practice - Probable - AC Joint)

LT Taylor Decker (No Practice - OUT - Finger)

DT Michael Brockers (Limited Practice - Questionable - Shoulder)

DT Nick Williams (Limited Practice - Questionable - Elbow)

DT Levi Onwuzurike (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hip)

Matchups to Target

Brandon Aiyuk, SF ($5.7K DK | $6.5K FD)vs. Amani Oruwariye, DET

We all want to instantly play with our new toys. Unfortunately, we’ll be forced to be patient for Trey Lance’s official opportunity to lead the 49ers. When he is given the keys to the offense, that video-game right arm will instantly fuel Brandon Aiyuk’s lid-lifting skill set. While Jimmy Garoppolo’s arm strength falls well short of Lance’s, several factors provide us with plenty of optimism for Aiyuk, particularly in this vanilla matchup:

  1. Garoppolo is clearly the better of the two in reading, dealing with NFL pressure.
  2. Jimmy G ranks 20th out of 59 qualified QBs vs. Cover 1.
  3. Amani Oruwariye and the rest of the Detroit corners.

As long as Aiyuk is able to avoid any interference attempts from Oruwariye (13th-highest interference rate among 89 qualified outside CBs), he’ll be working against a bottom-50 coverage defender. Coming in as an exceptional value, the singular concern is when in the game San Francisco puts the game out of reach. In the modern NFL, assumptions on game script are difficult, especially in Week 1 when offenses are way out in front of defenses.

Final notes on San Francisco

Against the Lions, everyone pops out as facing a smash spot against the defense that allowed the highest FPG to entire opposing offenses (108.9). So, until we actually see Detroit’s offense show signs of success, we need to be extremely careful with lineup investments in opposing passing game options (i.e. Jimmy Garoppolo ($5.5K/$6.9K), Deebo Samuel ($5.9K/$6.3K) vs. Jeffrey Okudah, and George Kittle ($6.3K/$7K) vs. Tracy Walker).

The two other SF skills that I have my eye on are Raheem Mostert ($5.8K/$6.1K) and Trey Sermon ($4.5K/$5.2K). But we just need to account for the fact that Jamie Collins Sr. was actually quite good in coverage, and the Lions added one of last season’s top-five off-the-ball ILBs — from a coverage perspective — in free agency, Alex Anzalone. As long as we limit our passing game expectations, Mostert and Sermon should find little resistance running through, around, and over the Lions’ run defense.

Final notes on Detroit

Until I see it, I will not devote a single DFS dollar to a Detroit player not named T.J. Hockenson ($4.9K/$5.7K). But I’m even mostly shying away from Hock this week. No thank you to Jared Goff ($5.1K/$6.5K), Tyrell Williams ($4.4K/$5.4K) against Jason Verrett, and even my personal mancrush, Amon-Ra St. Brown ($3K/$5K).

One might come to the conclusion that, if the Lions do fall behind, D’Andre Swift ($6.9K/$6.4K) might come into some value through the air as Detroit abandons the run. Just realize that Fred Warner, perhaps the top coverage LB in the NFL, will have a say in that scenario. This is also not the week to trust Jamaal Williams ($4.5K/$4.9K).

Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans

1:00 PM EST

Nashville, Tennessee

Nissan Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 88℉

Humidity: 52%

Environment: 92℉

Wind: 9 MPH

Wind Gusts: 18 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 10%

Vegas

Betting Line: Titans -3.0

Over/Under: 53.5

Moneyline: Titans (-153), Cardinals (+131)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Cardinals:

TE Darrell Daniels (Full Practice - Probable - Toe)

OLB Dennis Gardeck (No Practice - OUT - Knee)

Titans:

WR A.J. Brown (Full Practice - Probable - Rest/Knee)

WR Josh Reynolds (Limited Practice - Questionable - Foot)

LB David Long (Limited Practice - OUT - Hamstring)

CB Chris Jackson (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hamstring)

Matchups to Target

Ryan Tannehill, TEN ($6.5K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Cardinals’ Cover 0 | 1 | 4

As promised, the addition of Julio Jones to Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown put the Vikings’ Cousins-Jefferson-Thielen on notice that their title as the NFLs top Cover 1 trio was in danger. Whereas Cousins is, at best, the current QB5 — in both true-life NFL and fantasy terms, a hill I’ll die on — Tannehill is locked in as the QB4 behind the GOAT Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. The secret to his ascension is the mastery of not only Cover 1. Tannehill also ranks inside the top-five in results over the last three seasons against Cover 2, Cover 3, and Cover 4! It’s a claim only shared by Mahomes — who happens to include Cover 6 in his repertoire.

Sans Cover 6-heavy challenges, until we start seeing Tannehill priced inside the top-four QBs, you might as well expect to see me promote Tannehill as an elite option on a weekly basis.

Tannehill will face an Arizona defense that ranked with the highest rate of Cover 1 last season. During the last three years, Tannehill ranks fifth-best with 0.49 FP/Rt, fifth-best with a 101.2 passer rating, and has thrown 27 TDs to eight INTs. And those numbers were compiled prior to the arrival of Quintorris Lopez Jones Jr. And it’s commonly forgotten that Tannehill supplements his floor with his legs (4.1 pure rushing FPG ranked sixth-best). That talent should come into play facing a Cardinals’ defense that recognized the fifth-highest pure rushing FPG to QBs last season.

A.J. Brown, TEN ($7.1K DK | $7.8K FD) vs. Robert Alford, ARI

As is the case with Cousins, you target Tannehill with an accompanying stack with either A.J. Brown and/or Julio Jones. It’s advised that you receive definitive word calling for a full workload for Jones from his undisclosed injury. But it’s expected that Jones and Brown, who had offseason surgery in both knees, will be ready to rock on Sunday. Based on last season’s alignment metrics, Robert Alford will be assigned to cover Brown the most. The last time we saw Alford, he played 15 games for the Falcons while allowing a 138.9 passer rating. He missed the last two seasons with a broken leg and a torn pectoral muscle. I find it highly unlikely that he’ll return from a pair of serious injuries, six previous seasons of average play to reinvent himself as a lockdown corner.

No matter what shape we find Alford, Brown is one of the most physical WRs in the league. He’s also among the most efficient and ranks in the top-five vs. Cover 1. During his two-year career, Brown ranks fourth-best with both 0.74 FP/Rt and 3.43 YPRR against Cover 1. And pay close attention to these numbers: on 30% of career snaps vs. Cover 1, Brown has tracked down 45% of receptions, 45% of his yardage, and 50% of his TDs! To say “the Cards will have their hands full” might be better extended to include “of his jersey” as a perfect descriptor of Arizona’s only avenue toward containing AJB.

Matchups to Avoid

Kyler Murray, ARI ($7.6K DK | $8.4K FD) vs. Titans’ Cover 1 | 2 | 4

With some matchups to avoid, it’s not entirely about identifying egregiously poor stylistic settings. Sometimes, overpricing is churned into the formula. In the case of Kyler Murray, he’ll face what appeared during the preseason to be a significantly improved Tennessee defense. Does a preseason showing indicate we should expect the Titans to outscore their in-season opponents at the same 81-33 rate? Of course not. But specific details from those games could indicate big things in 2021 for Tennessee. The most significant issues for the Titans’ D last season centered around a mediocre run defense and pathetic pass rush. The preseason Titans not only improved in run defense, they appeared to be one of, if not, the very best.

Their pass rush was invigorated by 2021 fourth-rounder Rashad Weaver and we’ve yet to even see the impact Bud Dupree will impart. With all of their defensive flaws, Tennessee limited opposing QBs to the ninth-fewest pure rushing FPG. Assuming that metric holds up, we’ll be relying on Murray’s passing numbers for value. The Titans retooled their secondary over the offseason with Janoris Jenkins through free agency and phenom Elijah Molden via the draft. They’ll team with 2020 second-rounder Kristian Fulton and Breon Borders to oppose offenses with a significant hurdle. Of course, Murray has already shown himself to be one of the NFLs top QBs, but I will not be investing in him in this matchup priced as the QB2/QB2.

{TWEET|

#Titans' Bowen: If you see Bud Dupree at practice, you don't think he's a guy coming off ACL injury.

— John Glennon (@glennonsports) September 9, 2021

}}

Anthony Firkser, TEN ($3.2K DK | $4.7K FD) vs. Deionte Thompson, ARI

To the shock of everyone outside of the organization, the Titans seem perfectly content with Anthony Firkser as their lone receiving threat at TE. Considering he concluded the 2020 season ranking sixth in YPRR (1.77), it seems they made a solid call. We don’t have a ton of data on Firkser, but what we do have points our exposure interest toward matchups with Cover 2- and Cover 6-heavy defenses. Arizona does not align with those parameters. Toss in a healthy dose of Deionte Thompson and Budda Baker and the value odds are stacked further away from his favor. The price is right — the matchup is not.

Final notes on Arizona

After it seemed Kliff Kingsbury was set on featuring Chase Edmonds ($4.6K/$5.9K) out of his backfield, James Conner ($4.5K/$5.5K) was brought in to muddy the waters. Is Edmonds still the RB1 or simply an H-back type whom we should view as a floor play? Since Conner’s frame technically precludes him to a healthier workload, should we view him as the early down plodder? Nobody, even the Cardinals’ own staff, knows how this one is going to play out. Easy fades.

We know DeAndre Hopkins ($7.8K/$8.2K) is going to eat. And he’ll likely get his fill working across from “Jackrabbit” Jenkins’ grabby coverage (fifth-highest interference rate). As good of a result as I am expecting for Nuk, is it going to be that much better than the other elite options on the slate to warrant his WR4/WR3 price? Too rich for my blood. One thing we know for sure is that Hopkins’ second-highest target share (29%) is going nowhere anytime soon. If anyone has unlocked the formula determining the remaining target distribution to A.J. Green ($3.8K/$5.4K), Christian Kirk ($4.5K/$5.2K), and Rondale Moore ($3K/$4.9K), I’d love to hear it. I’m fading Arizona WRs across the board in this spot.

Final notes on Tennessee

To pay up for Derrick Henry ($8.8K/$8.9K) or not? That is the question. Priced as the RB3/RB3, I expect to see a matchup with a bottom-five defense. The Cards ranked 14th in FPG, sixth-fewest pure rushing FPG licensed to RBs last season. We should not simply hand over 18% of our budgets because Henry is a good player. Where’s the upside?

Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts

1:00 PM EST

Indianapolis, Indiana

Lucas Oil Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: Dome

Humidity: 51%

Environment: Dome

Wind: Dome

Wind Gusts: Dome

Chance of Precipitation: Dome

Vegas

Betting Line: Seahawks -3.0

Over/Under: 49.0

Moneyline: Seahawks (-155), Colts (+131)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Seahawks:

QB Geno Smith (Full Practice - Probable - Back)

RB Chris Carson (Full Practice - Probable - Neck)

RB Rashaad Penny (Full Practice - Probable - Calf)

WR D’Wayne Eskridge (Full Practice - Probable - Toe)

OC Ethan Pocic (Full Practice - Probable - Hamstring)

CB D.J. Reed (Full Practice - Probable - Foot)

CB Sidney Jones IV (Full Practice - Probable - Groin)

SS Ryan Neal (Full Practice - Probable - Oblique)

Colts:

QB Carson Wentz (Full Practice - Probable - Foot)

WR Parris Campbell (Full Practice - Probable - Achilles)

LT Eric Fisher (Limited Practice - OUT - Achilles)

LG Quenton Nelson (Full Practice - Questionable - Foot/Back)

DE Kemoko Turay (No Practice - OUT - Groin)

CB Xavier Rhodes (No Practice - OUT - Calf)

Matchups to Target

DK Metcalf, SEA ($7.5K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Xavier Rhodes or BoPete Keyes, IND

We see some odd pricing for this matchup. It’s understandable to view variance based on founded uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ offense. It’s a factor that permeates over to Seattle’s offense. But nothing on the Indianapolis side was going to influence DK Metcalf as a top-10 priced WR. When Metcalf willed his way to 26.6 FPs against the Jalen Ramsey-led Rams’ secondary in the divisional round of the playoffs, he submitted notice that his development had advanced to another level. We find quite a bit of DFS comfort in the ability to eliminate high-priced options when they face insurmountable odds. But the individuals that are able to transcend all challenges become somewhat of a burden.

Whether you consider Metcalf a burden or rejoice in his output, he must be considered in all matchups. After a considerable string of production limitations on opposing WR1s, the WR FPG analytics for Matt Eberflus’ defense took quite a hit over the second half of last season. Xavier Rhodes still concluded the season in the top-15 in YPCS, FPCS, AY/CS, and passer rating on targets into his coverage. But we know Rhodes will not be traveling with Metcalf. DK rivals A.J. Brown in physicality, while matching the speed of Julio Jones. No matter which side of the field Metcalf attacks, it’s only a matter of time before he springs for an explosive play.

Update: Now that Rhodes is ruled out for Sunday’s game, Metcalf is my WR1 of Week 1, and a MUST START in Cash/SE. Feel sorry for the Colts’ secondary.

Matchups to Avoid

Russell Wilson, SEA ($7K DK | $7.8K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 4 | 6

The factors that drop Russell Wilson to the avoid list are continued inadequacies along Seattle’s O-line, the imposing pass rush of Indianapolis, and the expectation that we’ll see Eberflus make the necessary adjustments to return his defense to the top of the league ranks. The Professor is masterful at attacking Cover 1, Cover 3, and Cover 4. Wilson’s numbers dip when working against Cover 2. But his struggles facing Cover 3-Seam and Cover 6 are significant. As it so happens, the Indy defense does throw out a top-15 rate of Cover 3, but their other featured schemes include: Cover 2, Cover 3-Seam, and Cover 6.

Update: With news of the Rhodes injury, Wilson will still see massive challenges from the Indianapolis front seven, but a potential outside corner duo of Rock Ya-Sin and T.J. Carrie or BoPete Keyes will not strike fear into anyone’s eyes. I still prefer a couple QB options priced below Wilson, but he is certainly worthy of consideration in all formats.

Jonathan Taylor, IND ($8K DK | $7.9K FD) vs. Bobby Wagner, SEA

It seems the pricing for Jonathan Taylor mirrors the opinion of the season-long fantasy community more than a strong Week 1 matchup. Yes, Taylor shredded over the final six weeks last season. But we must always consider the quality of the opponents. JT averaged 29.2 FPG against Houston (two meetings), Las Vegas, and Jacksonville. Essentially a who's-who of horrendous 2020 run defenses. In his four games facing defenses actually competent against the run, he averaged 12 FPG. That’s a far cry from the 24/19.8 FPG we’ll need from him to cover value.

The Seahawks limited opposing ground games to the fifth-fewest pure rushing FPG, YPG, and YPC. And it would be unwise to expect the 4.7 pure receiving FPG remaining a part of Taylor’s game. Carson Wentz has not targeted his RBs anywhere near the rate of Philip Rivers. For those still confident in Taylor succeeding in this spot despite those red flags, I do wish the best of luck.

Final notes on Seattle

For all of the same reasons I am fading Wilson, Chris Carson ($5.9K/$6.7K) will not be found exposing my lineups with DLs DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard holding down the fort. Tyler Lockett ($6.7K/$6.8K) will be able to shake the steady coverage of Kenny Moore II when he shifts outside, and it’s the coverage of Rock Ya-Sin that could be pressured for production.

TE Gerald Everett ($3.4K/$4.8K) is the other Seahawk receiver that deserves attention. I am envisioning a big role in the Seattle offense for Everett. He’s reasonably priced and holds some promise in a spot where he likely sees a lot of work against Khari Willis.

Update: Lockett also shoots up the ranks since he runs plenty of routes stationed outside.

Final notes on Indianapolis

Where to begin…. It’s tough to say if we’ll see the historically bad Seattle Cover 3 from early last season, or the vastly improved version that pestered DFS degenerates at the tail end. If Carson Wentz ($5.6K/$6.5K) offered anything of value against Cover 3 during his career, it might’ve been tempting to invest in the former. He doesn’t, I’m fading. There’s also no reasonable history of Wentz targeting RBs, so no Nyheim Hines ($5K/$5.4K) for me.

Here’s where the options get interesting. One of Michael Pittman Jr. ($4.1K/$5.3K), Parris Campbell ($3.7K/$5K), or Zach Pascal ($3.7K/$4.9K) is likely to produce a solid game. At their salaries, that presents the potential for excellent value. We have nothing on Campbell due to his injury history, and he’s dealing with a sore Achilles this week. Based on their history vs. Cover 3, Pittman is not only the most accomplished, he is also expected to be the go-to option. I’m not going overboard with my exposure, but Pittman will grace several of my GPP lineups.

Wentz has a history of targeting TEs. But he also has a history of playing with accomplished TEs. Neither Jack Doyle ($3.2K/$4.8K) or, to my chagrin, Mo Alie-Cox ($2.9K/$4.7K) fit that description. Perhaps a hail mary punt from the nosebleed section, nothing more.

Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team

1:00 PM EST

Landover, Maryland

FedEx Field

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 83℉

Humidity: 59%

Environment: 89℉

Wind: 5 MPH

Wind Gusts: 9 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 15%

Vegas

Betting Line: Chargers -1.0

Over/Under: 44.5

Moneyline: Chargers (-123), Washington (+102)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Chargers:

RB Austin Ekeler (No Practice - Probable - Hamstring)

RT Bryan Bulaga (Full Practice - Probable - Groin)

Washington:

WR Curtis Samuel (No Practice - OUT - Groin)

Matchups to Target

Keenan Allen, LAC ($6.9K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Torry McTyer, WAS

Washington limited opposing WRs to the third-fewest FPG last season. WFT limited QBs to only 15.1 FPG (third-fewest), 180.5 passing YPG (second), 5.8 YPA (second), 10.9% completion rate on targets of 20-plus yards (third), and 30.4% passing first down rate (first). They lost Ronald Darby to Denver in free agency, but added William Jackson III. With that overwhelming collection of evidence, why would I tout Keenan Allen? First of all, running over half of his routes out of the slot will allow him to stem his routes outside of WJ3 and Kendall Fuller’s zones. The majority of his slot routes will be defended by either Torry McTyer or 2021 third-rounder Benjamin St-Juste. Neither should present a significant challenge for WR of Allen’s caliber.

We can count on the Football Team carrying over their high rates of Cover 3 and Cover 4. Washington is able to utilize the riskiest coverage against the pass in football (Cover 4) due to their overwhelming pass rush, and elite corner skill between Jackson and Fuller. But Allen has made a living out of exploiting these schemes, Cover 4 in particular. Ranking inside the top-five among all qualified WRs over the last three seasons, Allen’s engineered 2.47 YPRR and 0.58 FP/RT. The odds will be stacked against Justin Herbert blowing up in this game. When he comes to the realization of the difficulty in attacking his outside WRs down the sidelines, it’ll be Allen and Austin Ekeler’s time to shine on the underneath stuff (provided Ekeler plays, of course).

Terry McLaurin, WAS ($6.4K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Michael Davis, LAC

Nobody is talking about Terry McLaurin. Everyone should be talking about Terry McLaurin. Plagued by inefficiency under center during his two seasons in the NFL, never have we even been presented with a glimpse of Scary Terry’s ceiling. Alex Smith (5.39), Dwayne Haskins (6.86), and Kyle Allen (6.38) each failed to average at least seven air yards/attempt — an “accomplishment” that would’ve only ranked them 22nd-best. In six of the last seven seasons, Ryan Fitzpatrick has averaged at least 9.0 air yards/attempt. The upside of the entire WFT passing attack is about to be revolutionized simply by installing a QB willing to look downfield.

Michael Davis, projected to be the corner playing the most over McLaurin, provided the Chargers with their best coverage on the outside last year. That’s not saying much. He ranked 46th in YPCS, 32nd in FPCS, and 46th in AY/CS. With LAC working out of a Cover 3 at the league’s highest rate, he’ll have his hands full with F1 on Sunday. When he’s facing Cover 3, Fitzmagic’s air yards/attempt jumps by 15%, and his passer rating by 12%. It’s that level of aggressiveness that will begin the process this Sunday of elevating McLaurin’s already impressive 2.02 YPRR and 0.40 FP/Rt vs. Cover 3 during his career.

Antonio Gibson, WAS ($5.9K/$7K) vs. Kenneth Murray, LAC

Only a handful of Week 1 price points shocked me as much as seeing Antonio Gibson at only $5.9K on DraftKings. The vast majority of the best values on both platforms can be excused away due to the early release of pricing. Nobody can talk me down on this one. Gibson would have threatened for the NFL crown in both rushing yards and TDs had he avoided the turf toe ailment in Week 13 that essentially crippled him the rest of the season. Yet he’s available at the RB17 price?

Think back to Week 11 last season — more specifically, to the infamous one-week DFS opportunity when Taysom Hill held TE eligibility. Everyone was on Hill that week, across both platforms. Exposure to the insanely high ownership percentage attached to Hill didn’t stand in the way of the lineups that took down the milly maker on both sites. Hill’s guarantee for maximum dollar efficiency (25.2 FPs at only $4.8K on DK) forced everyone to roster him on both platforms. Forget the Chargers’ run defense, forget about game script. We know Gibson is destined to be the highest-rostered RB on the DK slate. And exposure to Gibson with a guarantee to hit value is not quite at Hill’s level, but it’s not all that far behind. Fade at your own risk.

Matchups to Avoid

Mike Williams, LAC ($5.5K DK | $5.7K FD) vs. William Jackson III, WAS

As has already been stated, it’s guaranteed that Washington carries their high rates of Cover 3 and Cover 4 into this season. As is the case with over 70% of teams, Washington also played Cover 1 at greater than 20% of snaps. It’s the addition of William Jackson III that leaves me curious to see if DC Jack Del Rio will tinker with his defense to utilize WJ3 as a true shadow. The potential for WJ3 slipping a glove over him depresses Williams’ appeal even further, in addition to how stingy this zone defense is in the first place.

Final notes on Los Angeles

If Justin Herbert ($6.7K/$7.6K) blows up against the air tight Zones of Washington, it’ll provide another notch on his belt toward his ascension to elite status. The most pressing situation for the Chargers this week is the status of Austin Ekeler’s ($7K/$6.9K) hamstring strain. We received the following update on Thursday:

Update: Ekeler is expected to play. I have no concerns deploying him in a game where he’ll see a ton of receiving volume.

Even facing a top cover LB in Cole Holcomb, Ekeler was set for significant work to offset the issues targeting WRs along the sidelines. No other RB on the depth chart would come anywhere close to offering Ekeler’s upside if he were to sit. One of the beneficiaries of Ekeler’s potential absence could be Jared Cook ($3.8K/$5.2K). But WFT simply shut down opposing TE production last season.

Final notes on Washington

It must have been a stomach-dropping experience for the WFT staff to see Curtis Samuel ($4.9K/$5.5K) pull up with a limp in practice on his final route Wednesday. His absence would not provide an optimal start to the season, with Samuel regarded as one of the missing components in unlocking Terry McLaurin’s full potential. A Samuel-less Washington would leave us all pondering the distribution of his touches, both through the air ond on the ground. It doesn’t do much for the upside of Ryan Fitzpatrick since, while he’s been efficient, he hasn’t produced the type of numbers vs. Cover 3 to hold out interest. It’s very possible that much of the volume could move up the ladder to McLaurin and Gibson.

If not, Logan Thomas ($4.6K/$5.6K) could be the primary beneficiary. Prior to the Samuel news, I was torn on the potential of Thomas since he may see Derwin James on enough routes to matter. Without the requirement of watching Samuel closely, that could present as a likelier decision from Los Angeles’ new DC Renaldo Hill. If he intends to cover Thomas with Kyzir White, the FPs should pile up. Whoever is tasked with filling in for Samuel, they’ll face a good amount of Asante Samuel Jr.. Nobody is getting out of bed to roster Cam Sims ($3K/$4.5K). 2021 third-rounder Dyami Brown ($3K/$4.7K) would be another story.

New York Jets at Carolina Panthers

1:00 PM EST

Charlotte, North Carolina

Bank of America Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 89℉

Humidity: 50%

Environment: 90℉

Wind: 9 MPH

Wind Gusts: 18 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 11%

Vegas

Betting Line: Panthers -4.0

Over/Under: 45.0

Moneyline: Panthers (-202), Jets (+168)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Jets:

RB La’Mical Perine (Full Practice - Questionable - Foot)

WR Jamison Crowder (No Practice - OUT - COVID-19)

WR Keelan Cole (Limited Practice - Questionable - COVID-19)

LT Mekhi Becton (Full Practice - Probable - Concussion)

FS Sharrod Neasman (No Practice - OUT - Hamstring)

Panthers:

WR Shi Smith (No Practice - OUT - Shoulder)

Matchups to Target

Elijah Moore, NYJ ($3K DK | $5K FD) vs. Stantley Thomas-Oliver III, CAR

Even with a slight adjustment in the market (0.5 points) that currently presents Carolina as a five-point home favorite, 72% of the money has still been devoted in favor of the Panthers. The total also dropped by 1.5 points, currently calling for 44 total. I’ll go over the deal with Zach Wilson below, but the early release of pricing could offer us a solid basement punt from Elijah Moore. The one domino we would need to see fall is Jamison Crowder ($4.6K/$5.9K) failing to gain clearance from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Few NFL WRs provide the level of limited appeal than Keelan Cole ($3K/$4.8K) in this analyst’s eyes. Moore is fully recovered from the quadriceps strain that limited him in camp, and he’s the most explosive WR on the Jets’ roster.

Update: With Troy Pride Jr. landing on IR, Moore’s matchup only shines brighter facing the 221st-overall pick from the ‘20 draft (Stantley Thomas-Oliver III).

D.J. Moore, CAR ($6.1K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Isaiah Dunn, NYJ

On the other side of the ball, a string of factors are presenting D.J. Moore as a contrarian play in GPPs. The first of which is the common narrative being tossed around that the recent extension signed by Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall’s preseason emergence spells trouble for Moore’s immediate and/or long-term workload. We’ll stay on topic by focusing only on Sunday. The only result these speculative rumors are achieving is sending Moore’s ownership numbers down the stairs. Make no mistake, Moore will be the go-to WR for Sam Darnold on Sunday.

Another factor working out great for DJM’s upside is his expected alignment placing him across from an “Or” situation at CB for New York, akin to a college depth chart. One or more between Isaiah Dunn (Rookie), Brandin Echols (Rookie), and Jason Pinnock (Rookie) would be responsible for covering Moore if the scenario holds up. It seems new Jets’ DC Jeff Ulbrich will roll the dice, playing the hot hand hoping one of these late-round/UDFA rookies can keep pace with Carolina’s 2017 first-rounder. Love it.

Matchups to Avoid

Zach Wilson, NYJ ($5K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 3

I truly want to get behind Zach Wilson as a cheap GPP punt this weekend. Everyone wants to see this kid succeed as a small school underdog. The “want” is overwhelmingly crushed by the “likely.” The New York O-line is likely one of the worst in the league. Every report from joint practices indicated Wilson was stalked by defenders effortlessly slicing through the blocking up front. So frequently, in fact, at the rate his blocking failed to protect Wilson, he would have faced injury concerns had defenders been permitted to hit the young QB.

Everyone witnessed the level of efficiency Wilson achieved in preseason action. It’s impressive to see the composure nonetheless, but Wilson faced second- and third-string corners on two-thirds of those preseason snaps. All the while being protected by his first-string O-line. Don’t take any of this as negatives on Wilson, only that we simply need significantly more data before any opinions are formed.

Final notes on New York

Heading into a smash spot against a defense that surrendered the eighth-most FPG to RBs last season, any indications in seeing the carry distribution leaning in favor of either Tevin Coleman ($4.9K/$5.4K) or Ty Johnson ($4.4K/$4.7K) would be significant. We have none, and don’t expect anything in time to matter. When Michael Carter ($4K/$5.3K) manages to carve out his own role, the entire backfield will be rendered as a strict fade.

Another Jet who appeared to be in in-season form was Corey Davis ($4.9K/$5.8K). But, in addition to all of the same reasons working against Wilson, Davis provides a higher floor over Moore, it’ll just cost us twice the dollars to acquire. And it’s very possible Davis could face off with 2021 first-rounder Jaycee Horn.

After Moore, the other New Yorker catching my eye is Tyler Kroft ($2.5K/$4.7K). The recipient of a pair of preseason TDs from Wilson, Kroft could play the entire game on Sunday at “chipper” chicken prices.

Final notes on Carolina

You can count on the fact that I’ll have a handful of Sam Darnold ($5K/$6.5K) lineups squared away. Nothing Darnold provided during his time with the Jets will point us toward trust. And my interest has nothing to do with a strict view of revenge. It has everything to do with the matchup. As a five-point home favorite, superior offensive weapons, and a far better O-line, Darnold is a lock to cover floor value at 15/16.3 FPG.

After detailing the reasons to fade a pair of high-priced RBs in less than stellar matchups (Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor), Christian McCaffrey ($9.5K/$10.4K) is one that actually deserves his immense price tag. The Jets allowed the seventh-highest pure receiving FPG to RBs last season, playing directly into CMC’s wheelhouse. Whether or not you can squeeze his salary under the budget is another story.

Robby Anderson ($5.7K/$6.2K) will return to face his former team, but will draw the most difficult matchup from Bryce Hall. Among rookie WRs, Terrace Marshall Jr. ($3K/$4.9K) is far from the worst WR punt. While Javelin Guidry gave the Jets’ brass enough evidence to deal Blessuan Austin to Seattle, Marshall’s massive frame could be too much for the 5-foot-9 Guidry to handle in Man situations in the slot.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

1:00 PM EST

Houston, Texas

NRG Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 89℉

Humidity: 54%

Environment: 97℉

Wind: 9 MPH

Wind Gusts: 22 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 30%

Vegas

Betting Line: Jaguars -3.0

Over/Under: 45.5

Moneyline: Jaguars (-175), Texans (+147)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Jaguars:

CB Tre Herndon (No Practice - OUT - Knee)

CB Tyson Campbell (Limited Practice - Questionable - Calf)

Texans:

QB Deshaun Watson (No Practice - OUT - Not Injury Related)

DT Maliek Collins (Limited Practice - Probable - Knee)

DE Whitney Mercilus (Limited Practice - Probable - Hamstring)

ILB Kevin Pierre-Louis (No Practice - Questionable - Thigh)

FS Lonnie Johnson Jr. (No Practice - OUT - Thigh)

Matchups to Target

Marvin Jones Jr., JAX ($3.6K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Vernon Hargreaves III, HOU

Marv is one of the truly special values on DraftKings, begging to be flexed with nearly guaranteed floor scoring. For all we know, Marvin Jones Jr. could turn out to be the Jaguars’ WR1. And he’ll only cost a song to roster. Alignment expectations place him across from the generous coverage of Vernon Hargreaves III. We saw VH3 rank 73rd in YPCS, 73rd in FPCS, and 75th in passer rating allowed on targets into his coverage. And we’ve yet to even see the potential volume he would allow if QBs went after him, supported by the fact that he only ranked 25th in AY/CS.

With Lovie Smith installed as Houston’s new DC, we can expect a scheme rotation of Cover 2 (aka Tampa 2), Cover 1, and Cover 3 — essentially the same collection the Texans used last season. Wouldn’t you know it? Jones has done his finest work over the last three seasons when facing Cover 2. The three-year data displays a 16% increase in YPRR and 25% increase in air yards/target when Jones is opposed by Cover 2. On 16% of total routes over that time vs. Cover 2, Jones has created 23% of his yardage, and 23% of TDs. That’s more than enough evidence in support of including Jones in your Sunday DFS plans.

James Robinson, JAX ($6.4K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. Zach Cunningham, HOU

If it wasn’t immediately apparent, allow me to point out that James Robinson is priced to be one of the top values on the FanDuel slate. While I am a bit more excited about a small collection of backs on DraftKings, he’s still heading into an outstanding spot against a Houston run defense that couldn’t get out of its own way last season. One of the more compelling arguments calling for JRob exposure is the alarming missed tackle rate the Texans suffered a year ago.

Fueled by the 3.2 yards after contact average from Robinson during his rookie season, if the Houston defense shows they’ve yet to study tackling fundamentals, Robinson could blow up. And we simply cannot overlook the fact that they allowed 160.3 rushing YPG (last), 1.50 TD/game (second-to-last), 48% rushing third-down conversion rate (fourth-from-last), and a 3.45% rate of 20-plus yard runs (fifth-to-last). The potential might even be enough for Carlos Hyde ($4K/$4.8K) to enter the value discussion.

Final notes on Jacksonville

If only Trevor Lawrence ($6.2K/$6.8K) were priced similarly to his fellow QB rookies. He may still do enough to hit value, I just will not be wagering my cash on it happening. In no way representing the coverage “skill” on display from Houston defensive backs, only from a standpoint that the Jaguars are likely to run the ball directly down the Texans’ throat toward NFL victory No. 1 for both Lawrence and HC Urban Meyer.

There’s a big difference between proven studs such as Stefon Diggs missing all of training camp to get healthy in time for Week 1, and D.J. Chark Jr. ($5.8K/$6.1K) doing the same with little to show on his NFL resume since his rookie season. If you want a second Jacksonville receiver with upside, look no further than Laviska Shenault Jr. ($5K/$5.6K). I prefer Jones’ salary by a wide margin, but we’ll likely see the Texans in Cover 1 enough to kick the meter in Shenault’s favor. When everything slows down for Laviska, the kid is going to be a single-coverage baller. On 25% of career routes facing Cover 1 during his rookie season, Shenault pulled in 38% of his receptions, 40% of his yardage, and 20% of TDs.

Final notes on Houston

It’s already been decided that Tyrod Taylor ($5.3K/$6.8K) will be a fade over the remainder of his Houston career. Breaking News: word out of the Texans’ camp states they will place a heavy emphasis on the run. Breaking News out of Wes Huber’s camp to Houston: you actually need to have the potential to build a lead for anyone to care what you’ll do with your three downs prior to punting. Mark Ingram II ($4.4K/$4.7K), NO! Phillip Lindsay ($4.7K/$5.2K), NO! David Johnson ($5.7K/$5.7K), NO!

In all seriousness — as taking shots at this version of a football franchise is just too easy, if you’ve convinced yourself that plugging a player from the Texans into a lineup with any amount of money attached is a solid investment, send me a DM on Twitter (WesHuberNFL) so I can convince you otherwise. And, yes, that includes Brandin Cooks ($5.3K/$6.3K) and Nico Collins ($3.6K/$4.9K). Make them prove their value before you give them your hard-earned money. Trust should be earned.

Denver Broncos at New York Giants

4:25 PM EST

East Rutherford, New Jersey

MetLife Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 80℉

Humidity: 59%

Environment: 83℉

Wind: 6 MPH

Wind Gusts: 13 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 20%

Vegas

Betting Line: Broncos -3.0

Over/Under: 41.5

Moneyline: Broncos (-160), Giants (+136)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Broncos:

WR Courtland Sutton (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

TE Noah Fant (Full Practice - Probable - Leg)

TE Albert Okwuegbunam (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

OLB Von Miller (Full Practice - Probable - Ankle)

OLB Bradley Chubb (Limited Practice - Questionable - Ankle)

Giants:

RB Saquon Barkley (Limited Practice - Questionable - Knee)

WR Kenny Golladay (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hamstring)

WR Kadarius Toney (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hamstring)

TE Evan Engram (No Practice - OUT - Calf)

TE Kyle Rudolph (Limited Practice - Questionable - Foot)

TE Kaden Smith (Limited Practice - Questionable - Knee)

LT Andrew Thomas (Limited Practice - Questionable - Ankle)

DT Danny Shelton (Limited Practice - Questionable - Neck)

ILB Justin Hilliard (Limited Practice - Questionable - Foot)

CB Adoree’ Jackson (Limited Practice - Questionable - Ankle)

CB Josh Jackson (Limited Practice - Questionable - Calf)

Matchups to Target

Javonte Williams, DEN ($4K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Blake Martinez, NYG

How in our gifted green Earth is Javonte Williams priced at the minimum on DraftKings? The prices were released early, but everyone has expected Williams to share the load with Melvin Gordon III since the day he was the second RB off the board in the 2021 draft. Do I really need to expound on this?

Matchups to Avoid

Jerry Jeudy, DEN ($4.8K DK | $5.5K FD) vs. James Bradberry, NYG

Another of the “new” toys we all want to utilize is Jerry Jeudy working with a QB with the accuracy to take advantage of his sharp route precision amd sudden movements. Every factor is working into Jeudy’s favor toward a breakout season. Every factor… after Week 1, that is. With Courtland Sutton working his way back from an 11-month-old ACL tear, it’s very likely that we’ll see James Bradberry shadowing Jeudy this week. And a Bradberry shadow is nothing to joke about. Bradberry limited his coverage last season to the seventh-best YPCS, sixth-best FPCS, commanded QB respect with the eighth-best AY/CS, and closed out his groundbreaking season with the seventh-best passer rating on targets into his coverage. I have no doubt that Jeudy will avoid being shut out, but we will need to wait another week to put action on Jeudy.

Sterling Shepard, NYG ($5.1K DK | $5.5K FD) vs. Bryce Callahan, DEN

We need to wait for the final decision on Kenny Golladay’s status to determine where Sterling Shepard will align, and in turn informing us of the defender we can expect to see him face the most. If Golladay is unable to play, Shepard will kick outside and see plenty of Ronald Darby. Far from an impossible situation. But if Golladay is able to give it a go, Shepard will remain in the slot. That is simply the last place you want to work when the Broncos are in town. That’s Bryce Callahan country.

Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with Callahan’s work. He stood above all 52 qualified slot CBs during the 2020 season in YPCS, FPCS, and passer rating on targets into his coverage! If every QB that faced Callahan last season simply threw every one of the 52 intended targets he saw directly into the ground, they’d be rewarded with a 39.6 passer rating for their efforts. Those same 52 throws at receivers under the watch of Callahan collectively “awarded” them with a 46.9 passer rating.

Update: Stay VERY FAR AWAY from Shepard! You have been warned.

Final notes on Denver

We want Teddy Bridgewater ($4.8K/$6.6K) directing this offense for his accuracy, not his DFS potential, at least until he is facing Cover 1-heavy defense. I suppose Melvin Gordon II ($5.3K/$5.6K) is still in play for value against a defense that gave up the 11th-most FPG to RBs last season. He’s still the same MG3 that’s split the workload in previous seasons. Even if Courtland Sutton’s ($5.2K/$5.8K) knee is feeling well enough to hit top gear, he’ll still fall short of Adoree' Jackson-speed. It’ll actually be interesting to watch the pair work against one another in their return from injury-plagued seasons.

The explosive capability of KJ Hamler ($3.1K/$5.1K) is something we may see utilized this season. But it’ll need to be of the catch-and-run variety with Bridgewater’s noodle arm. It may be difficult to hear, but the scheme strength for Noah Fant ($4.3K/$5.4K) during his young career has been Cover 3. And that will do him little good with Teddy at the helm. He needs Drew Lock to reemerge as the starter to maximize that potential.

Final notes on New York

Don’t trick yourself into believing either Daniel Jones ($5.3K/$6.7K) or any of the Giants’ WRs are in play against the Broncos’ tricky mix of Cover 0 (all-out-blitz), Cover 6, and Cover 3-Seam. Saquon Barkley ($7.8K/$8.5K) makes for an intriguing option in his long-awaited return, especially with folks scared about potential reinjury or a limited workload. He’s just outrageously overpriced for the matchup this week. It appears Evan Engram ($4.1K/$5.1K) will be unable to take the field. With Kyle Rudolph also iffy, Kaden Smith ($2.5K/$4.1K) was setting up as a solid punt until he also popped up on the injury report with a bum knee.

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

4:25 PM EST

Foxboro, Massachusetts

Gillette Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 76℉

Humidity: 65%

Environment: 76℉

Wind: 12 MPH

Wind Gusts: 22 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 21%

Vegas

Betting Line: Patriots -3.0

Over/Under: 43.5

Moneyline: Patriots (-176), Dolphins (+149)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Dolphins:

RB Salvon Ahmed (Full Practice - Probable - Back)

WR Will Fuller V (No Practice - OUT - Suspension)

WR Preston Williams (Limited Practice - Questionable - Foot)

WR Albert Wilson (Full Practice - Probable - Quadriceps)

TE Adam Shaheen (No Practice - Doubtful - COVID-19)

LT Austin Jackson (No Practice - Doubtful - COVID-19)

RT Liam Eichenberg (Full Practice - Probable - Thigh)

ILB Elandon Roberts (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

Patriots:

WR Nelson Agholor (Limited Practice - Questionable - Ankle)

OT Yodny Cajuste (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hamstring)

OLB Ronnie Perkins (Limited Practice - Questionable - Shoulder)

DB Jalen Mills (Limited Practice - Questionable - Ankle)

Matchups to Target

Myles Gaskin, MIA ($6K DK | $6K FD) vs. Dont’a Hightower, NE

It seems the “nudge” delivered by Miami’s staff on Myles Gaskin in the form of working him late, behind Malcolm Brown in the first preseason game hit the mark. He came out the following week firing on all cylinders, combining 27 rushing yards and a TD with a 4/44/1 receiving line. Now HC Brian Flores is referring to him as the Dolphins’ bell cow.

If Flores can be believed, a return to the 70% range of the backfield touches from early last season would deliver Gaskin as quite a value. The Patriots’ defense ranked 16th in FPG permitted to opposing RBs. However, they did allow the seventh-most rushing YPG (131.4). With Gaskin’s receiving ability, a featured role should present his skill set with a clear path to hitting value.

Jakobi Meyers, NE ($5.1K DK | $5.4K FD) vs. Nik Needham, MIA

We can attribute a portion of the three-point spread in favor of New England to the venue. The rest of that number certainly highlights how much the populus (75% of the cash split) is supporting Mac Jones’ impact during his first NFL start. There is no denying that Jones’ presence in the lineup favors a long list of his playmaking teammates, none more so than Jakobi Meyers. During Jones’ monster 2020 season with Alabama, Jaylen Waddle was on pace for crazy numbers before breaking his ankle. Prior to the injury, Waddle did the majority of his work from the slot. When Waddle went down, we all know what DeVonta Smith went on to achieve. What may not be common knowledge is that Smith shifted inside to run the majority of his routes from the slot during the Crimson Tide’s championship run.

Do I need to remind you who will be the primary target out of the slot for the Pats? If you missed all of the daily reports from the Patriots’ training camp and joint practices, they passed along that Meyers established himself as the clear go-to WR at every available opportunity. When Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are dealing with Miami’s impressive outside corner duo, Meyers will work against Nik Needham. During the 2020 season, Needham ranked outside the top-30 qualified nickel corners (52 total) in each of the four important coverage metrics. Needham will need — no pun intended — to be much better than that to contain the present day version of Meyers. He may not find the end zone for the first time in his NFL career, but Meyers is a lock to see eight-to-10 targets on Sunday.

Matchups to Avoid

Nelson Agholor, NE ($4.5K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Xavien Howard, MIA

Everyone willing to wager their money on the NFL should be fully aware of the magnitude of the challenge Nelson Agholor will face in Xavien Howard on Sunday. If Howard isn’t the top cornerback in the NFL, he’s behind only Jalen Ramsey. Xavien’s coverage is the type that eliminates individuals from the box score entirely. If Howard ends up shadowing Agholor, you may as well insert Michael Thomas into your lineup in Agholor’s place. You’ll make the same profit.

Update: If Agholor is unable to play, Gunner Olszewski would fill in on the outside. It would likely result in Howard shifting his glue-like attention onto Kendrick Bourne. Just to be clear, avoiding Bourne would be a pretty good idea.

Final notes on Miami

Is there a more universally disrespected player than Tua Tagovailoa ($5.4K/$6.6K)? Unlikely. If Tagovailoa produces a breakout season, an extremely long list of opinions will have aged poorly. Without Stephon Gilmore on the field, this is actually not a bad spot for Tua exposure. But his upside will improve upon Will Fuller V’s reinstatement next week. Since the Pats assign only Gilmore to travel coverage, New England’s top cover corner (Jonathan Jones) will actually do most of his work across from Jakeem Grant ($3.9K/$4.5K).

DeVante Parker ($5.5K/$6.1K) will align on Jalen Mills’s left side, and Jaylen Waddle ($3.6K/$5.2K) will deal with Jonathan Jones out of the slot. It’s unlikely that Jones realizes the challenge he’ll face from Waddle on Sunday. Since Waddle was unable to test during his Alabama Pro Day, most are unaware he would’ve challenged Ja’Marr Chase’s results had he been healthy enough to do so. With the Patriots offering the league’s sixth-highest rate of Man coverage in place without Gilmore, Miami receivers will have the advantage. That includes Tagovailoa-favorite Mike Gesicki ($4.5K/$5.5K) against strong safety Adrian Phillips.

Update: Not looking good Mills. The most significant factor that the money is clearly overlooking with New England still listed as three-point favorites with over two-thirds of wagers in their favor is the state of the Patriots’ secondary. If Mills is out, we can confidently bump up Tagovailoa, Parker (vs. Joejuan Williams), and Waddle. The Pats would be in some trouble if they are forced to insert newly-acquired rookie Shaun Wade. If Tagovailoa comes out firing, that may end up being the case.

Final notes on New England

The odds that were stacked against Mac Jones ($4.4K/$6.2K) taking the starting job are represented by his hilariously low salary on DraftKings. If we had a single game of footage with Jones showcasing efficiency across from a first-string defense, deploying The Joker on Sunday would be a literal no-brainer. But Miami’s defense is a considerable challenge for any QBs first start. Good luck to those who attempt to save a few hundred dollars with Jones in Cash/SE. Minimizing risk at all cost is the singular rule in Cash. Stick to it. Believe in it. Trust in it.

Jones’ presence under center transforms Damien Harris ($5.2K/$5.8K) from a between-the-20s back to full lead duties. The Dolphins may not offer the best opportunity to deploy Harris after limiting opposing RBs to the third-fewest FPG last season. The same applies to James White’s ($4.4K/$4.8K) present value, Week 1 outlook. It’ll require more than a week to determine, but Sunday will be the first step in ascertaining whether the Patriots’ significant investment in Jonnu Smith ($4.1K/$4.9K) and Hunter Henry ($4.7K/$5.3K) was credible. The duo will be met by the elite coverage of Eric Rowe teamed with former Patriot Jason McCourty. Neither have been efficient with their career routes against Cover 1 — the scheme the Phins employed at the league’s third-highest rate last season.

Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints

4:25 PM EST

Jacksonville, Florida (Neutral Location)

TIAA Bank Field

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 90℉

Humidity: 56%

Environment: 97℉

Wind: 6 MPH

Wind Gusts: 14 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 25%

Vegas

Betting Line: Packers -3.5

Over/Under: 49.5

Moneyline: Packers (-186), Saints (+156)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Packers:

TE Jace Sternberger (No Practice - OUT - Suspension)

DT Tyler Lancaster (Limited Practice - Questionable - Knee)

OLB Preston Smith (Full Practice - Probable - Concussion)

OLB Za’Darius Smith (No Practice - Questionable - Back)

Saints:

WR Tre’Quan Smith (No Practice - OUT - Hamstring)

DT David Onyemata (No Practice - OUT - Suspension)

CB Bradley Roby (No Practice - OUT - Suspension)

CB Marshon Lattimore (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

CB Ken Crawley (No Practice - OUT - Hamstring)

Matchups to Target

Robert Tonyan, GB ($4.2K DK | $5.4K FD) vs. Malcolm Jenkins, NO

If Robert Tonyan simply replicates his Week 3 line from facing the Saints last season (5/50/1), he’ll hit 20% over value on DraftKings and even value on FandDuel. Tonyan is another example of early pricing providing us with value (FD). When the salaries were released, Aaron Rodgers was in the thick of his standoff with the Green Bay front office. The Saints’ defense was carved up by opposing TEs at the tail end of last season. They bled 16.7 FPG (fifth-most) to their inline counterparts over their last four weeks. Even if they made adjustments to correct the issue, wagers in favor of Rodgers finding his favorite targets are typically well invested.

Marquez Callaway, NO ($3.4K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Kevin King, GB

Looking for the premium example of taking advantage of early pricing? Look no further. The issue with exposure to Marquez Callaway in GPPs is that he’ll be the highest-owned WR, potentially of any player independent of position on the slate. In Cash/SE, DO… NOT… FADE… Callaway! Even if he outright flops, 80%-plus of the competing lineups will deal with the same result. At his price point and massive expected ownership, even if Jaire Alexander decides to shadow him, Callaway is still a MUST in Cash/SE.

Matchups to Avoid

Tre'Quan Smith, NO ($4.9K DK | $5.5K FD) vs. Jaire Alexander, GB

The WR that, based on alignment history, is set to work across from Jaire Alexander the most is Tre’Quan Smith. The bad: Alexander closed out a breakout 2020 season ranking third-best in YPCS, third-best in FPCS, with the seventh-lowest AY/CS, and with the top passer rating allowed on targets into his coverage among the 89 qualified outside CBs. Also the bad: Smith only had his name entirely removed from the injury report yesterday with some mysterious “leg” ailment. The good: nothing. Expose at your own risk.

Update: Smith took the decision to fade him out of our hands. The reps he will vacate make Lil’Jordan Humphrey a person of interest as a GPP punt, and Deonte Harris exposure is looking very nice.

Final notes on Green Bay

There’s zero reason to sugar-coat Aaron Rodgers ($6.8K/$8K) as a viable option, particularly on DraftKings where he’s priced as the QB6. That positivity cannot be extended to the talented RB duo of Aaron Jones ($6.8K/$7.4K) and AJ Dillon ($4K/$5K). No defense obliged fewer FPG (17.6) to opposing backfields than New Orleans last season. If you roll with Rodgers, do not forget to stack him with Davante Adams ($8.3K/$8.6K).

Passing attacks facing the Saints in future weeks will need to deal with both Marshon Lattimore and recent acquisition Bradley Roby. YIKES! For those filling out 150 multi-entry GPP lineups, Allen Lazard ($4K/$5.6K), Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($3.7K/$5.2K), and Randall Cobb ($3.9K/$5.4K) each provide solid contrarian double stacks with Rodgers and Adams.

Update: If Lattimore is unable to work through the new knee ailment that landed him on the injury report Thursday, the Saints would be without both of their projected Week 1 starting corners (Ken Crawley). He’s the highest priced WR on the main slate, but we are all aware of the type of damage Adams can do against overwhelmed defensive backs (i.e., Week 7 of last season when Roby was injured early, after which Hargreaves permitted him to plant 47.6 FPs on Houston).

Final notes on New Orleans

Everyone will be watching to see how Jameis Winston ($5.2K/$6.7K) fares in his start for New Orleans. It’s odd to see Winston priced so reasonably considering the counting stats he assembled with the Buccaneers in 2019. Nobody should hesitate creating GPP entries with a Winston headline. In addition to being the most aggressive QB in the NFL (league-leading 11.0 air yards/attempt over the last three seasons), the Packers’ scheme rotation offers an excellent stylistic match. Winston ranks sixth-best against Cover 2 with 0.41 FP/Db, accompanied by a 16% spike in YPA. He ranks 12th-best with 0.38 FP/Db when facing Cover 6, paired with a 10% boost in air yards/attempt.

Perhaps no other teammate of Winston's benefits more from his winning the job than Alvin Kamara ($8.6K/$8.6K). And do not forget that Kamara put up 47.7 FPs (14 receptions!) when these teams last met. The recent release of Latavius Murray opens the door for Tony Jones Jr. ($4K/$4.5K). But he’ll need to be deployed in matchups with a higher chance of seeing a positive game script. Deonte Harris ($3.2K/$5.3K) could be a sneaky GPP play, possibly working against rookie Eric Stokes. Juwan Johnson ($3K/$4.5K) would be a solid value if held the proper TE eligibility. Johnson has emerged as the frontrunner at TE ahead of Adam Trautman ($2.9K/$4.6K).

Update: Johnson’s upside also elevates with landing on IR.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs

4:25 PM EST

Kansas City, Missouri

Arrowhead Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 84℉

Humidity: 45%

Environment: 89℉

Wind: 4 MPH

Wind Gusts: 10 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 10%

Vegas

Betting Line: Chiefs -5.5

Over/Under: 54.5

Moneyline: Chiefs (-246), Browns (+200)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Browns:

WR Odell Beckham Jr. (Limited Practice - Questionable - Knee)

WR Rashard Higgins (Full Practice - Probable - Hamstring)

OC J.C. Tretter (Limited Practice - Questionable - Knee)

OLB Jadeveon Clowney (No Practice - Questionable - Illness)

CB Troy Hill (Full Practice - Probable - Hamstring)

CB Greedy Williams (Full Practice - Probable - Groin)

SS Ronnie Harrison (Full Practice - Questionable - Ankle)

FS Grant Delpit (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hamstring)

Chiefs:

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Full Practice - Probable - Ankle)

WR Mecole Hardman (Full Practice - Probable - Oblique)

RT Mike Remmers (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (Full Practice - Probable - Hand)

OC Austin Blythe (No Practice - OUT - Sports Hernia)

DT Derrick Nnadi (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hip)

DE Frank Clark (Limited Practice - Questionable - Hamstring)

SS Tyrann Mathieu (No Practice - Questionable - COVID-19)

Matchups to Avoid

Odell Beckham Jr., CLE ($5.4K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Charvarius Ward, KC

Provided he’s able to gain clearance in time to play, we can count on Odell Beckham Jr. demanding his full helping of targets. If he doesn’t get his way, we’ll get to see him throwing a colorful hissy along the Cleveland sideline. It’s always possible OBJ manages to collect one or two of those targets for 60-or-so yards. Perhaps he’ll find a way to reach the paint. That outcome — a best-case scenario at that — would still fall short of seeing him hit value on either platform.

We may never see a return to the days of Beckham eclipsing 100 yards with slate-breaking reception numbers and TDs. He’s been a shadow of his former self for longer than he provided us with the elite production hopeful followers still grasp at in hopes of a return. The Browns have already evolved beyond the need for Odell. But he is a Brown nonetheless. He’ll find himself facing a talented opponent in Charvarius Ward if he does make his return. Ward limited his coverage with the 14th-best YPCS, 14th-best FPCS, and the top overall mark in AY/CS.

Final notes on Cleveland

When you are considering Baker Mayfield ($5.9K/$7.1K) exposure, make sure the opposing defense will play a high rate of Cover 1. If the opponent only features Zone shells, look elsewhere. The Chiefs played Cover 1 at the 13th-highest rate last season. That’s plenty enough for Mayfield to do some damage, and particularly if he ends up falling into a negative game script. It’s never the best idea to write off Nick Chubb’s ($7.2K/$7.7K) chances of hitting. He is one of the most gifted backs in the NFL. But you’ll need some salary relief elsewhere to fit his salary under the cap. Kansas City allotted opposing backfields with the ninth-most FPG, so Chubb exposure is certainly in play. The same can not be said for Kareem Hunt ($5.5K/$6K) after seeing his production fall off over the second half last season.

We can expect to see Jarvis Landry ($6K/$6.4K) lead Cleveland WRs in scoring on Sunday afternoon. L'Jarius Sneed is certainly no slouch in coverage, but Mayfield will need to establish rhythm through the air if the Browns are to hang with the Chiefs on the road. Perhaps the most intriguing receiving option for Cleveland is Austin Hooper ($4K/$5.1K). The KC defense handed FPs over to opposing TEs last season. And word out of Cleveland states they are determined to expand Hooper’s role in the offense. Should Mathieu fail to clear his name from the reserve/COVID-19 list, don’t forget to bump Hooper even further up your ranks.

Final notes on Kansas City

He’s Patrick Mahomes ($8.1K/$8.8K). If you can afford him, you roster him. Exactly the same applies to Travis Kelce ($8.3K/$8.5K) and Tyreek Hill ($8.2K/$8.5K). It’s just nearly impossible to stack them in a competitive lineup. Only time will tell if Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($6.6K/$6.8K) is able to stay on the field. His frequent injuries have become quite the annoyance. When he is set to miss time, Darrel Williams ($4.8K/$5.1K) is an outstanding pivot. CEH is expected to play in Week 1, and in a contest where a ton of points will be flying around. He’s obviously someone to consider but, for the GPP enthusiasts back home keeping score, Edwards-Helaire will be one of the top-10 most owned RBs on the main slate.

Update: Speaking of injuries, Mecole Hardman’s returned to practice in full from the oblique strain that landed him on the injury report. His presence will places a damper on Byron Pringle’s ($3.3K/$4.7K) upside.

Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams

8:20 PM EST (Sunday Night Football)

Inglewood, California

SoFi Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: 70℉

Humidity: 75%

Environment: 69℉

Wind: 6 MPH

Wind Gusts: 16 MPH

Chance of Precipitation: 3%

Vegas

Betting Line: Rams -7.5

Over/Under: 46.5

Moneyline: Rams (-382), Bears (+300)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Bears:

RB Damien Williams (Full Practice - Probable - Abdomen)

WR Darnell Mooney (Full Practice - Questionable - Back)

DT Eddie Goldman (No Practice - Doubtful - Knee/Ankle)

DE Khalil Mack (Full Practice - Questionable - Groin)

DE Robert Quinn (Full Practice - Questionable - Back)

SS Teshaun Gibson (Limited Practice - Questionable - Shoulder)

SS Deon Bush (Full Practice - Questionable - Shoulder)

FS Eddie Jackson (Full Practice - Questionable - Wrist)

Rams:

DT A'Shawn Robinson (Full Practice - Probable - Knee)

Matchups to Target

Matthew Stafford, LAR ($6.2K DK | $7.4K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 4 | 6

While his production efficiency doesn’t reach the extent of a Patrick Mahomes or Ryan Tannehill, Matthew Stafford is among an exclusive group of QBs without a single coverage weakness. He’ll oppose a Chicago defense Sunday night that features the same tricky scheme rotation as the Broncos. Plenty of Cover 6, Cover 3-Seam, and slight differences elsewhere. One of those differences is a higher rate of Cover 4.

Stafford ranks with the 12th-highest FP/Db against Cover 4 and seventh-highest against Cover 6 over the last three seasons. When Chicago chose not to stand in the way of Kyle Fuller signing with Denver, they sealed a future fate that exists with Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor featured as their outside corners. It’s a Chicago defense that shouldn’t be feared on the level of some of their previous rosters.

Robert Woods, LAR ($5.7K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Kindle Vildor, CHI

While an optimal Rams’ stack could ultimately be found to be Stafford and Cooper Kupp, it’s Robert Woods who appears to have the cleaner path to production. Alignment history informs us that Bobby Trees will see plenty of 2020 fifth-rounder Kindle Vildor on Sunday Night Football. We don’t have enough of a sample size from Vildor to provide reliable ranks alongside qualified outside corners, but we do know he permitted a 124.1 passer rating on throws into his coverage on 21 targets. Whereas Kupp is a Cover 1-specialist, Woods cuts his teeth on the tricky zone schemes with multiple deep defensive backs leaving the middle of the field open. His absolute speciality just happens to be Cover 4. With 0.41 FP/Rt and 2.11 YPRR, Woods should be considered as an underowned, contrarian play in Thursday-to-Monday formats, and as a must-start in Sunday night-to-Monday offerings.

Matchups to Avoid

Andy Dalton, CHI ($4.9K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Rams’ Cover 4 | 6

Does it need to be said? This is a butal matchup for Andy Dalton’s first game with Chicago. Not only is the Rams’ pass rush set to chew up both the Chicago O-line and Dalton, any attempts to hit his WRs anywhere in the intermediate-to-deep range will be met by the top secondary in the NFL.

Dalton performed admirably for Dallas last season. He was even able to show some unexpected scheme flexibility at times. But far from enough to shake the label as a QB you only consider against either a Cover 2- (primary strength) or Cover 1-heavy defense. The Rams played Cover 2 at the second-lowest rate and Cover 1 at the lowest rate last season. Yeah, the matchup simply could not be scripted any less appealing.

Allen Robinson II, CHI ($6.1K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR

During the source of this article series, whenever you see Jalen Ramsey’s name on a line across from a WR, no explanation should be necessary. He ranked fourth-best in YPCS, Fourth-best in FPCS, with the fifth-lowest AY/CS, and certified the 10th-lowest passer rating on throws into his coverage. Oh, and he achieved those ranks against his opponent’s WR1s. It’s a tough draw in the first week of the season for Allen Robinson II. 🙁

Final notes on Chicago

He’s set for a monster season with beat writers calling for up to 20 touches/game, yet David Montgomery ($5.7K/$7.1K) is an easy fade in all game types. Devote your dollars elsewhere. It’s concerning to see Darnell Mooney ($4K/$5.5K) pop up late on the injury report with a back injury. Regardless, Darious Williams does not offer much of a reprieve for those who avoid Ramsey.

Final notes on Los Angeles:

It appeared Darrell Henderson Jr. ($5.6K/$6.4K) would finally see a workload that mattered until the Rams acquired Sony Michel ($4.8K/$5.2K). Michel has made a living out of watering down backfield upside. As described above, Woods may have the better schematic matchup, but Cooper Kupp ($5.5K/$6.2K) will also work against a youngster with untested coverage (Duke Shelley) and questionable results on the snaps he has played.

For those undertaking the multi-entry GPP task in the Sunday night-to-Monday offering, don’t forget about DeSean Jackson ($3.2K/$5.3K).

He’ll face the heart of the top coverage components on the Bears’ roster (Tashaun Gipson and Roquan Smith), but Tyler Higbee ($3.9K/$5.4K) is certainly priced attractively.

Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders

8:15 PM EST (Monday Night Football)

Las Vegas, Nevada

Allegiant Stadium

Weather

Game Time Temperature: Dome

Humidity: 15%

Environment: Dome

Wind: Dome

Wind Gusts: Dome

Chance of Precipitation: Dome

Vegas

Betting Line: Ravens -4.0

Over/Under: 50.0

Moneyline: Ravens (-209), Raiders (+175)

Notable Injuries/Possible Key Inactives

Ravens:

RB Gus Edwards (No Practice - OUT/IR - Knee)

RB Justice Hill (No Practice - OUT/IR - Achilles)

CB Marcus Peters (No Practice - OUT/IR - Knee)

CB Jimmy Smith (Limited Practice - Probable - Ankle)

DT Derek Wolfe (No Practice - Doubtful - Ankle)

Raiders:

RB Josh Jacobs (Limited Practice - Questionable - Toe)

OT Alex Leatherwood (Full Practice - Probable - Shine)

OG Richie Incognito (No Practice - Doubtful - Calf)

DE Clelin Ferrell (Full Practice - Probable - Back)

DE Carl Nassib (Full Practice - Probable - Pectoral)

Matchups to Target

Mark Andrews, BAL ($5.3K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. K.J. Wright, LV

While preseason games offer little reliability, one example of their value was showcasing Mark Andrews as being in in-season form. He appeared to be healthier than at any time last season, catching several long throws in difficult over-the-shoulder sequences. Nobody expects preseason coverage to challenge a talent such as MANdrews, but it was an impressive showing regardless. Finding him priced so far below Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle was an immediate attention draw.

The Raiders are currently in the midst of a coverage scheme makeover that appears set to feature a Cover 3. The recent addition of K.J. Wright was an excellent choice to guide that transition. Las Vegas was actually stout against TEs overall last season. But they fell off over the final four games, surrendering 14.6 FPG (12th-most). Andrews brings along the second-highest FP/Rt and YPRR average over the last three seasons against Cover 3. We also know he’s attacked the scheme with a vengeance as evidenced by ranking fourth with 11.3 air yards/target. Pivoting off the big three TEs is mostly an easy decision. Andrews is head-and-shoulders above the remaining option, provided you have the salary to spare.

Matchups to Avoid

Bryan Edwards, LV ($3.6K DK | $4.6K FD) vs. Marlon Humphrey, BAL

We saw some promising signs from Bryan Edwards, just not enough to reliably predict much. He does appear to offer a bigger-bodied complement to the blazing speed of Henry Ruggs III. It is always unwise to dive too deep into projecting youth beyond potential without a big enough sample size to supplement the direction. And that extends to the land of DFS, as well. It’s all too common to hear reports of kids thriving from the same camps responsible for drafting them. And the Raiders have talked up Edwards a few times.

When a franchise is grasping for playmakers to emerge, nudges through the press are common tactics. But we need to remain grounded with Edwards. In no shape has he provided reasons to extend our trust. Factor in the nearly insurmountable task of facing one of the top cover corners the game has to offer, Marlon Humphrey, and the writing is on the wall.

Final notes on Baltimore

If you go after Lamar Jackson ($7.7K/$8.6K), do not forget the Andrews stack. Even without the receiving upside, Gus Edwards ($5.6K/$6.5K) heads into a smash spot against a defense that supported the fifth-most FPG to opposing backfields. There may even be enough leftovers for Ty’Son Williams ($4.5K/$4.8K) to draw value in the Sunday night-to-Monday format.

Update: Losing Edwards and Peters in the same practice session on Thursday stands as a devastating blow for the Ravens. What appeared to be one of the strongest backfields in the NFL is now cut down to rostering a single RB that broke camp with the team. But Williams showed out during camp. He’ll eventually see some competition for carries from one or more from Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, and/or Latavius Murray, but he should have a massive carry share on Monday night. With the minimum salary in tow, Williams is an absolute MUST exposure in Cash/SE.

It sure would be an excellent sign if Jackson establishes an early connection with Marquise Brown ($5.1K/$6.2K) within the porous coverage of Trayvon Mullen. The time is nigh for Sammy Watkins ($4.2K/$5.3K) to live up to all of the comments suggesting he’s the new go-to WR in Baltimore. I have considerable doubts. And he’ll be opposed by Casey Hayward Jr. in a season where he is committed to rehabilitating his reputation after a down season.

Final notes on Las Vegas

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And Derek Carr ($5.5K/$6.7K) is never going to “learn” to attack defenses over the top. He is what he is. And he can always be counted on for limiting turnovers, accurate intermediate and underneath throws. Josh Jacobs ($5.8K/$6.8K) has missed practice this week with an undisclosed issue. It’s something we’ll need to monitor with Kenyan Drake ($4.8K/$5.4K) ready to hit the ground running in Las Vegas.

This is actually a matchup where we could see Henry Ruggs III ($4K/$5.3K) break away for a long TD. Only Miami utilizes more Cover 0 than Baltimore. And Ruggs has punished teams on multiple occasions for leaving zero defenders deep. He’ll also see plenty of Marcus Peters, one of the most aggressive corners in the NFL. Too many elite options exist to consider Darren Waller ($7.5K/$7K) in the Thursday-to-Monday format.

Update: One team’s pain is another’s advantage. Instead of fielding an stud due of Humphrey and Peters, either Anthony Averett or Tavon Young will be tasked with holding down left corner on Monday across from Ruggs. Being thrust directly into the fire defending one of the fastest players in the NFL is further complicated by DC Don Martindale’s enjoyment of sending the house after the QB. Peters’ replacement had better be prepared to jam Ruggs at the line or else. Ruggs will not be in consideration in Cash/SE until we see consistency develop, but he is an outstanding GPP dart.

With a dedicated focus on studying game film and a faithful commitment to metrics & analytics, Huber’s specialties include DFS (college and NFL), Devy & Dynasty formats, and second-to-none fantasy analysis of high school prospects.

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