If you are unfamiliar with the scene below, just hit play. The explanation is provided in full.
As investors, we should take a step back to ask ourselves what we expect to gain out of our DFS pursuits. A list of potential rationalizations includes, but is not limited to: pure enjoyment, financial profit, professional advancement, making games more fun to watch, bragging rights, and putting food on the table for your family. A personal reflection on the subject actually led to a completely unexpected realization concerning an extremely popular method that’s nearly universally considered the optimal means for building a bankroll: Cash games.
Within the two tables below, you’ll find most of the important data needed to pinpoint an established approach to entering GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool/Tournament) and Cash (Double-up and 50-50 contests) contests on DraftKings. A total of 2,106,221 entries into the 93 GPP and Cash contests below will walk away with $0 returns out of 2,795,902 total lineups. Narrowing that focus to only include the GPPs, 2,045,785 of 2,694,451 entries (75.9%) will not bring home a single dollar of profit. For the Cash-game player, 60,436 of 101,451 lineups (59.6%) will fall short of the cash line.
DraftKings (DK) will earn $2,773,003 in profit (12.9% of the entry fees) from the 93 listed Week 1 contests – an average of $9.92/lineup. It’s true that they will turn three individuals into millionaires through three of their offerings, just keep in mind that that wallet-filling amount is bankrolled from a single NFL slate. Multiplying that number over 18 regular season weeks and the first three rounds of the playoffs, DK will pocket $49,914,054 of the money we invest. That number doesn’t even include Showdown Captains, the Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night slates, the preseason, playoffs, or the extensive list of games offered for other sports. And the odds DK is risking for those returns are 1-in-1. The house always wins.
As alluded to above, Cash contests are widely considered the superior means of building a bankroll. An increase in the average payout/entry of 16.4% in the wagering format definitely agrees with that take. However, it’s a comparison that ultimately opened my eyes to a viewpoint never personally considered. Let’s use the double-up contest with the highest entry max – Massive $5 Double-Up – to highlight the situation. We know that 10,000 of the 22,900 total entries will double their entry fee (43.7% of the field). Since it only accepts a single-entry (SE), that leaves 12,900 lineups on the outside looking in for a reward.
This is where things get interesting. Scoring enough points to fall inside the cash line is obviously what we all want. That said, the only way we should evaluate a contest is by using calculations that pit our lineup(s) vs. the number of lineups that will fall short of the cash line goal. For the Massive $5 Double-Up, the 10,000 profitable lineups must first be set aside. That will leave our SE lineup attempting to outscore the 12,900 others vying to flip our $5 investment into $10. The only single-entry contests with lower straight odds to cash (1/12,900) are the $20K Daily Dollar and $300K Fair Catch. While we know we don’t need to worry about 10K of those lineups, it will likely come as a surprise to learn that the cash-line odds for the contest, which is calculated without the payout number – are the 88th-best out of the 93 contests!
Only nine of the contests with the best odds that are found within the top 25 and 15 in the top 50 are Cash games. In addition, every single Cash game with a buy-in of $25 or less falls outside of the contests with the top 50 most desirable odds. Wagering $25 will return 1-in-5,493 odds. The odds are 1-in-433 when wagering $50-plus. Learning that the overall odds are comparable between Cash games and GPPs – at least for this analyst, leads to the takeaway that the massively-higher profit ceiling from GPP entries should take on universal preference.
Another interesting tidbit is the uneven extraction of fees collected by DK, depending on game type. Perhaps a slight effort to offset the poor returns in Cash, DK only pulls an average of 10.5% of the entry fees from Double-Ups and 50-50s. For GPPs, the company collects 12.4% of the money – a 14.7% increase. It’s the Boosters where DK really cashes in on the entry fees. For whatever reason, DK takes ownership of 14.8% of the Booster and Super Booster entry fees. That’s 28.6% more than Cash and 16.2% more than collected from GPP entries.
|DK Contest||Entry (E) Fee||Total E||Payouts||Payout/E||EMax||EMax Cost||Top Prize|
|$2.5M Mega Millionaire||$4,444||634||117||18.45%||19||$84,436||$1,000,000|
|$2.5M FF Millionaire||$100||28,000||5,620||20.07%||150||$15,000||$1,000,000|
|$5M FF Millionaire||$5||1,194,400||304,500||25.49%||150||$750||$1,000,000|
|$750K Power Sweep||$150||5,555||1,200||21.60%||3||$450||$150,000|
|$100K Heavy Hitter||$26,200||4||1||25.00%||1||$26,200||$100,000|
|$150K Heavy Hitter||$26,200||6||2||33.33%||1||$26,200||$100,000|
|$100K Nosebleed Section||$10,600||10||2||20.00%||1||$10,600||$75,000|
|$300K Game Changer||$1,500||212||53||25.00%||1||$1,500||$50,000|
|$250K Power Sweep||$150||1,851||398||21.50%||3||$450||$50,000|
|$300K End Zone||$75||4,545||1,090||23.98%||1||$75||$50,000|
|$300K Fair Catch||$12||29,400||5,986||20.36%||1||$12||$30,000|
|$200K Hard Count||$20||11,700||2,300||19.66%||5||$100||$25,000|
|$200K Red Zone||$50||4,545||999||21.98%||1||$50||$25,000|
|$42.5K Luxury Box||$1,500||30||6||20.00%||1||$1,500||$20,000|
|$100K Touch Pass||$777||143||30||20.98%||3||$2,331||$20,000|
|$100K Double Spy||$200||555||120||21.62%||1||$200||$20,000|
|$250K First Down||$1||297,200||70,770||23.81%||20||$20||$20,000|
|$100K Stiff Arm||$555||200||53||26.50%||1||$555||$15,000|
|$100K Power Sweep||$150||740||173||23.38%||3||$450||$15,000|
|$50K Stiff Arm||$555||100||23||23.00%||1||$555||$10,000|
|$100K Red Zone||$50||2,272||514||22.62%||1||$50||$10,000|
|$100K Screen Pass||$15||7,843||1,648||21.01%||3||$45||$10,000|
|$100K Blind Side||$27||4,319||987||22.85%||1||$27||$10,000|
|$100K Engage Eight||$8||14,700||2,950||20.07%||3||$24||$10,000|
|$50K Spin Move||$300||185||50||27.03%||1||$300||$7,000|
|$30K Chop Block||$50||681||161||23.64%||20||$1,000||$5,000|
|$40K Hot Route||$100||444||101||22.75%||13||$1,300||$5,000|
|$25K Spin Move||$300||92||25||27.17%||1||$300||$5,000|
|$50K End Zone||$75||757||184||24.31%||1||$75||$5,000|
|$50K Red Zone||$50||1,136||258||22.71%||1||$50||$5,000|
|$50K Blind Side||$27||2,159||494||22.88%||1||$27||$5,000|
|$50K Fair Catch||$12||4,901||1,046||21.34%||1||$12||$5,000|
|Giant $2120 50-50||$2,120||20||10||50.00%||1||$2,120||$4,000|
|$40K Hail Mary||$12||3,921||864||22.04%||117||$1,404||$4,000|
|$40K Goal Line||$75||606||157||25.91%||3||$225||$4,000|
|$40K Triple Option||$3||15,800||3,996||25.29%||3||$9||$4,000|
|$25K Fair Catch||$12||2,450||563||22.98%||1||$12||$2,500|
|$50K Quarter Jukebox||$0.25||237,800||55,805||23.47%||20||$5||$2,500|
|Giant $1060 50-50||$1,060||40||20||50.00%||1||$1,060||$2,000|
|Giant $1060 50-50||$1,060||40||20||50.00%||1||$1,060||$2,000|
|Giant $530 50-50||$530||30||15||50.00%||1||$530||$1,000|
|Giant $530 50-50||$530||70||35||50.00%||2||$1,060||$1,000|
|$100K Super Booster||$27||4,319||100||2.32%||129||$3,483||$1,000|
|$20K Super Booster||$50||454||20||4.41%||13||$650||$1,000|
|$20K Daily Dollar||$1||23,700||6,420||27.09%||1||$1||$1,000|
|$15K Dime Package||$0.10||178,300||42,090||23.61%||20||$2||$750|
|Giant $250 Double-Up||$250||111||50||45.05%||3||$750||$500|
|Giant $250 Double-Up||$250||88||40||45.45%||1||$250||$500|
|Giant $250 Double-Up||$250||111||50||45.05%||1||$250||$500|
|Massive $250 Double-Up||$250||444||200||45.05%||1||$250||$500|
|Giant $100 Double-Up||$100||277||125||45.13%||8||$800||$200|
|Giant $100 Double-Up||$100||222||100||45.05%||1||$100||$200|
|Giant $100 Double-Up||$100||555||250||45.05%||1||$100||$200|
|Massive $100 Double-Up||$100||1,111||500||45.00%||1||$100||$200|
|$10K Super Booster||$4||2,972||100||3.36%||20||$80||$100|
|$30K Super Booster||$4||8,917||300||3.36%||20||$80||$100|
|Giant $50 Double-Up||$50||568||250||44.01%||17||$850||$100|
|Giant $50 Double-Up||$50||454||200||44.05%||1||$50||$100|
|Giant $50 Double-Up||$50||568||250||44.01%||1||$50||$100|
|Giant $50 Double-Up||$50||1,136||500||44.01%||1||$50||$100|
|Massive $50 Double-Up||$50||2,840||1,250||44.01%||1||$50||$100|
|Giant $25 Double-Up||$25||919||400||43.53%||1||$25||$50|
|Giant $25 Double-Up||$25||1,839||800||43.50%||1||$25||$50|
|Giant $25 Double-Up||$25||2,298||1,000||43.52%||1||$25||$50|
|Massive $25 Double-Up||$25||9,195||4,000||43.50%||1||$25||$50|
|Big 10X Booster||$2||5,945||500||8.41%||20||$40||$20|
|Giant $10 Double-Up||$10||2,298||1,000||43.52%||1||$10||$20|
|Giant $10 Double-Up||$10||4,597||2,000||43.51%||1||$10||$20|
|Giant $10 Double-Up||$10||8,620||3,750||43.50%||1||$10||$20|
|Giant $5 Double-Up||$5||11,400||5,000||43.86%||1||$5||$10|
|Massive $5 Double-Up||$5||22,900||10,000||43.67%||1||$5||$10|
|Giant $2 Double-Up||$2||17,200||7,500||43.60%||20||$40||$4|
You can find all of the following information in the table underneath, but the following bullet points detail some key takeaways:
Average cost for a spot in the 10 contests with the highest winning odds for a single-entry (1-in-1,368): $8,286
Same as above, excluding double-ups/50-50’s (1-in-1,608 odds): $7,229
Average cost for maxing the multi-entry constraints in the 10 GPPs with the highest winning odds (1-in-4,518): $9,451
Combined average odds for taking home the top prize when maxing the multi-entry constraints for the five GPPs with the 150-entry option: 1-in-22,282
Average cost: $4,425
Average top prize: $428,000
Odds to land above the cash-line in the $5M Fantasy Football Millionaire GPP when maxing the 150-entry constraints ($5/entry): 1-in-5,933
Odds to land above the cash-line in the $2.5M Fantasy Football Millionaire GPP when maxing the 150-entry constraints ($100/entry): 1-in-149
Odds to land above the cash-line in the $2.5M Fantasy Football Millionaire GPP when maxing the 19-entry constraints ($4,444/entry): 1-in-27
Combined average odds to land above the cash-line when maxing the multi-entry constraints in a $5/entry GPP: 1-in-4,933
Odds to land above the cash-line when maxing the 20-entry constraints in the $500K Play-Action GPP ($3/entry): 1-in-9,905
Odds to land above the cash-line when maxing the 20-entry constraints in the $15K Safety GPP ($2/entry): 1-in-446
Odds to land above the cash-line when maxing the 20-entry constraints in the $250K First Down GPP ($1/entry): 1-in-14,860
Odds to land above the cash-line when maxing the 150-entry constraints in the $100K Mini-Max GPP (50¢/entry): 1-in-1,585
|DK Contest||SE Winning Odds||MaxE Winning Odds||Odds (1-in-___)|
|$2.5M Mega Millionaire||0.1577%||3.68%||27.2|
|$2.5M FF Millionaire||0.0036%||0.67%||149.2|
|$5M FF Millionaire||0.0001%||0.02%||5,932.7|
|$750K Power Sweep||0.0180%||0.07%||1,451.7|
|$100K Heavy Hitter||25.0000%||25.00%||4.0|
|$150K Heavy Hitter||16.6667%||16.67%||6.0|
|$100K Nosebleed Section||10.0000%||10.00%||10.0|
|$300K Game Changer||0.4717%||0.47%||212.0|
|$250K Power Sweep||0.0540%||0.21%||484.3|
|$300K End Zone||0.0220%||0.02%||4,545.0|
|$300K Fair Catch||0.0034%||0.00%||29,400.0|
|$200K Hard Count||0.0085%||0.04%||2,340.0|
|$200K Red Zone||0.0220%||0.02%||4,545.0|
|$42.5K Luxury Box||3.3333%||3.33%||30.0|
|$100K Touch Pass||0.6993%||2.10%||47.7|
|$100K Double Spy||0.1802%||0.23%||435.0|
|$250K First Down||0.0003%||0.01%||14,860.0|
|$100K Stiff Arm||0.5000%||0.50%||200.0|
|$100K Power Sweep||0.1351%||0.41%||246.7|
|$50K Stiff Arm||1.0000%||1.00%||100.0|
|$100K Red Zone||0.0440%||0.04%||2,272.0|
|$100K Screen Pass||0.0128%||0.04%||2,614.3|
|$100K Blind Side||0.0232%||0.02%||4,319.0|
|$100K Engage Eight||0.0068%||0.02%||4,900.0|
|$50K Spin Move||0.5405%||0.54%||185.0|
|$30K Chop Block||0.1468%||2.94%||34.1|
|$40K Hot Route||0.2252%||2.93%||34.2|
|$25K Spin Move||1.0870%||1.09%||92.0|
|$50K End Zone||0.1321%||0.13%||757.0|
|$50K Red Zone||0.0880%||0.09%||1,136.0|
|$50K Blind Side||0.0463%||0.05%||2,159.0|
|$50K Fair Catch||0.0204%||0.02%||4,901.0|
|Giant $2120 50-50||5.0000%||5.00%||20.0|
|$40K Hail Mary||0.0255%||2.98%||33.5|
|$40K Goal Line||0.1650%||0.50%||202.0|
|$40K Triple Option||0.0063%||0.02%||5,266.7|
|$25K Fair Catch||0.0408%||0.04%||2,450.0|
|$50K Quarter Jukebox||0.0004%||0.01%||11,890.0|
|Giant $1060 50-50||2.5000%||2.50%||40.0|
|Giant $1060 50-50||2.5000%||2.50%||40.0|
|Giant $530 50-50||3.3333%||3.33%||30.0|
|Giant $530 50-50||1.4286%||2.86%||35.0|
|$100K Super Booster||0.0232%||2.99%||33.5|
|$20K Super Booster||0.2203%||2.86%||34.9|
|$20K Daily Dollar||0.0042%||0.00%||23,700.0|
|$15K Dime Package||0.0006%||0.01%||8,915.0|
|Giant $250 Double-Up||0.9009%||2.70%||37.0|
|Giant $250 Double-Up||1.1364%||1.14%||88.0|
|Giant $250 Double-Up||0.9009%||0.90%||111.0|
|Massive $250 Double-Up||0.2252%||0.23%||444.0|
|Giant $100 Double-Up||0.3610%||2.89%||34.6|
|Giant $100 Double-Up||0.4505%||0.45%||222.0|
|Giant $100 Double-Up||0.1802%||0.18%||555.0|
|Massive $100 Double-Up||0.0900%||0.09%||1,111.0|
|$10K Super Booster||0.0336%||0.67%||148.6|
|$30K Super Booster||0.0112%||0.22%||445.9|
|Giant $50 Double-Up||0.1761%||2.99%||33.4|
|Giant $50 Double-Up||0.2203%||0.22%||454.0|
|Giant $50 Double-Up||0.1761%||0.18%||568.0|
|Giant $50 Double-Up||0.0880%||0.09%||1,136.0|
|Massive $50 Double-Up||0.0352%||0.04%||2,840.0|
|Giant $25 Double-Up||0.1088%||0.11%||919.0|
|Giant $25 Double-Up||0.0544%||0.05%||1,839.0|
|Giant $25 Double-Up||0.0435%||0.04%||2,298.0|
|Massive $25 Double-Up||0.0109%||0.01%||9,195.0|
|Big 10X Booster||0.0168%||0.34%||297.3|
|Giant $10 Double-Up||0.0435%||0.04%||2,298.0|
|Giant $10 Double-Up||0.0218%||0.02%||4,597.0|
|Giant $10 Double-Up||0.0116%||0.01%||8,620.0|
|Giant $5 Double-Up||0.0088%||0.01%||11,400.0|
|Massive $5 Double-Up||0.0044%||0.01%||12,900.0|
|Giant $2 Double-Up||0.0058%||0.12%||860.0|
In conclusion, it’s clear – at least to this analyst – that the popular benefits of investing in Cash games are overblown. Taking it a step further, we can learn so much from the investors of the world. At least the ones who actually share their wisdom. If you want a top-10 of some of the finest investing guidelines to live by, check out the following: The 10 Golden Rules of Investing. You can find each guideline and the quote that formed them in numerous locations. Here is a short list of the quotes mentioned that should be rendered as gospel by every DFS investor:
“Rule No. 1 is never lose money. Rule No. 2 is never forget Rule No. 1” (-Warren Buffett)
“The best investors develop a process that is consistent and successful over many market cycles” (-Sam Hendel)
“Don’t invest in a product you don’t understand and ensure the risks have been clearly disclosed to you before investing” (-Chris Rawley)
Three of the exact golden rules mentioned directly apply to our DFS efforts. “Rule No. 5 – Keep your investing discipline.” Every possible step can be taken toward landing the desired return, but it just may not happen in Week 1. That’s precisely why overinvesting your bankroll all at once is never a sound strategy. If you invest desperately, you violate one of Buffett’s finest quotes of investing wisdom:
Quote for the Day: “The most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect.”—Warren Buffett— Ken Fisher (@KennethLFisher) October 7, 2019
“Rule No. 6 – Stay diversified.” To put that into DFS terms, overinvesting in the same lineup can, of course, land big returns, but diversifying your investments over multiple lineups will help to reduce the insurmountable odds you’re facing by a difference-making margin. “Rule No. 9 – Review your investing plan regularly.” The exact reason this material is being presented. It’s a reflection on motive that should be re-analyzed on an annual basis, at the very least. “Rule No. 10 – Stay in the game, have an emergency fund.” The sound DFS investor does not lose their cool upon having a poor slate, disengaging from the process entirely for multiple weeks at a time. Stay in the game utilizing your process of investing a strict percentage of the bankroll (aka the emergency fund – which should never be drained to $0). If the process has been adequately tested, the desired results will eventually follow.
Make sure it’s understood that the data presented should not be interpreted as labeling dabbled investments in the Cash game as blasphemous. The takeaway is that we should be choosing the proper Cash games to invest our hard-earned dollars. From the data, selecting Cash games at or above the $50 entry level offer the type of odds that GPPs cannot touch. As for GPPs, use the tables above to find the odds you're comfortable consuming. Nobody can tell another what amount of risk they can stomach. It’s a decision that must be made by the individual. No matter what, the absolute platinum rules for your weekly pursuits: (1) diversify those lineup investments; and (2) pay respect to absolute strict process limits on bankroll expenditures. I wish everyone the best of luck this weekend!
Buffalo Bills (-2.0) at Los Angeles Rams
Indianapolis Colts (-7.0) at Houston Texans
New York Jets (+7.0) vs. Baltimore Ravens
San Francisco 49ers (-7.0) at Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
New Orleans Saints (-5.5) at Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots (+3.5) at Miami Dolphins
Washington Commanders (-2.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
New York Giants (+5.5) at Tennessee Titans
Green Bay Packers (-1.5) at Minnesota Vikings
Kansas City Chiefs (-6.0) at Arizona Cardinals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5) at Dallas Cowboys
ATS Locks of the Week
Carolina Panthers (-1.5) vs. Cleveland Browns
Philadelphia Eagles (-4.0) at Detroit Lions
Denver Broncos (-6.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams (Under 52.0)
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (Over 46.0)
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets (Under 44.5)
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (Over 41.0)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (Over 44.0)
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (Over 42.0)
Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers (Over 42.0)
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions (Over 49.0)
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (Under 46.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders (Under 44.0)
New York Giants at Tennessee Titans (Under 43.5)
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (Over 47.0)
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals (Under 54.0)
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (Over 52.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (Over 51.0)
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks (Under 45.0)
Game Total Lock of the Week
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks (Under 45.0)
Buffalo Bills (-130) at Los Angeles Rams
Indianapolis Colts (-305) at Houston Texans
New York Jets (+250) vs. Baltimore Ravens
San Francisco 49ers (-295) at Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Bengals (-280) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
New Orleans Saints (-230) at Atlanta Falcons
Washington Commanders (-135) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
New York Giants (+215) at Tennessee Titans
Kansas City Chiefs (-240) at Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Chargers (-180) vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-140) at Dallas Cowboys
Moneyline Locks of the Week
Carolina Panthers (-125) vs. Cleveland Browns
Philadelphia Eagles (-195) at Detroit Lions
New England Patriots (+145) at Miami Dolphins
Green Bay Packers (-120) at Minnesota Vikings
Denver Broncos (-285) at Seattle Seahawks
QB Matchups to Target
Joe Burrow, CIN ($6.4K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. Steelers’ Cover 1
Joe Burrow spent the first year and a half of his career shaking the rookie green and recovering from devastating ACL destruction. It all came together around midway last season to make his run toward the Super Bowl. Powering the Bengals’ offense with over 5,700 passing yards and 39 TDs, Burrow also paced all NFL QBs with 8.63 YPA and a 92.7 passer rating when under pressure. The general managing team of Mike Brown and Duke Tobin made the focus of their offseason on bringing stability to the O-line, signing Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La'el Collins.
The 2022 defense of the Steelers will now be under the direction of Teryl Austin. With the influencing presences for Austin including Ray Rhodes and Chuck Pagano, we can count on the Pittsburgh defense utilizing high rates of Cover 1 and 4. Dating back as long as his game tape exists, Burrow has simply shredded all forms of man coverage. During his NFL career, Burrow has produced the second-most FPs/dropback (FP/Db, 0.55) across from Cover 1 among all qualified QBs. He has added the second-most YPA (9.2), third-most air YPA (10.9), third-highest passer rating (108.2), and third-highest TD rate (11.5%). Needless to say, Burrow should be on everyone’s prime target list for Week 1.
Jameis Winston, NO ($5.3K DK | $6.7K FD) vs. Falcons’ Cover 2
When Jameis Winston went down with a torn ACL in Week 8, he had impressively led his Saints’ squad to a 5-2 record. New Orleans would go 2-6 over the rest of the season. He failed to provide the type of passing yardage (185.7 in six healthy games) that would fuel fantasy interest, but we all know what he was forced to work with at WR. Even without a wideout worth mentioning, he still averaged 2.2 passing TDs/game. With the return of Michael Thomas, drafting of Chris Olave, and signing of Jarvis Landry, Winston will have a WR collection on par with his Tampa Bay years.
We know exactly what we are going to see from Dean Pees’ Atlanta defense: the reigning title-holder for the highest Cover 2 rate in the NFL. Get ready for a mountain of positive Famous Jameis highlights while facing the Dirty Birds piling up in the near future. Matthew Stafford is the only QB compiling more FP/Db against Cover 2 (0.42) over the last three years than Winston (0.40). On 14% of his dropbacks over that stretch, Winston has connected on 17% of his completions, 18% of his yardage and 8% of his TDs – a TD percentage which may not stand out as impressive, but registers as the eighth-highest qualified rate.
Carson Wentz, WAS ($5.5K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Jaguars’ Cover 2
While it may make you feel dirty, this will be a tremendous week for Carson Wentz exposure. Jacksonville’s coaching overhaul resulted in the addition of Mike Caldwell. His reputation should precede him, but Caldwell is a branch off a coaching tree that includes Dick Jauron, Todd Bowles, and Kacy Rodgers. It’s a collection of influences that come with defensive expectations for the Jaguars’ near future including a healthy percentage of Cover 2.
Trailing right behind Stafford and Winston, Wentz has generated the third-most FP/Db (0.40) across from Cover 2 over the last three campaigns. That number is the second-highest improvement (11%) over an overall FP/Db average against the two-high coverage. Wentz’s Cover 2 prowess also includes the highest passer rating (108.0) and TD/INT mark (3.0). Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson provide Wentz with the finest WR one-two punch he’s played with during his career.
Matt Ryan, IND ($5.5K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Texans’ Cover 1 | 2
Baker Mayfield, CAR ($5.3K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Browns’ Cover 3 | 4
Tua Tagovailoa, MIA ($5.7K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Patriots’ Cover 1 | 2 | 3
QB Matchups to Avoid
Kirk Cousins, MIN ($6.1K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Packers’ Cover 4 | 6
Big things are ahead for the Minnesota offense this season with Wes Phillips introducing it to 21st-century football. It’s a reality that will not be able to overcome the list-worthy issues facing Kirk Cousins in Week 1. The most impacting concern will be Rasul Douglas lining up over Justin Jefferson on a high number of his routes. Betting against JJ is never a solid investment, just don’t count on slate-busting numbers if he’s dealing with Douglas all day. Jefferson was able to slide into the slot to make his 40.2 FPs against the Packers possible in Week 11. However, in Week 17, the outstanding inside play from Chandon Sullivan took away that avenue, forcing Jefferson into more of Douglas’ coverage, netting only 11.8 FPs.
The healthy return of Jaire Alexander to cover that interior will not help the situation for Cousins or Jefferson. The other substantial concern will be from Green Bay using top-five rates of Cover 4 and 6. Cousins has manufactured top-10 numbers over the last three seasons vs. Cover 1, 2, 3 and inside the red zone. It’s Cover 4 and 6 that have given him fits. His 0.30 FP/Db against Cover 4 and 0.29 across from Cover 6 rank 20th- and 17th-best, respectively. He’s only managed to toss a combined five TDs vs. eight INTs against those pesky coverages.
Ryan Tannehill, TEN ($5.7K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Giants’ Cover 1
It’s all downhill for Ryan Tannehill from here on out. Following one of the worst trades in NFL history that negated A.J. Brown from Tannehill’s arsenal, the Titans will enter the season with their fingers crossed that Robert Woods can be their true No. 1. It’s a gamble that could land the success of their season in serious jeopardy. We can already mark it on the board that that consistent presence will not be provided by Nick Westbrook-Ikhine or rookies Treylon Burks and Kyle Philips.
How dire is the situation? New DC Don Martindale will most definitely have converted the Giants’ defense to featuring plenty of Cover 1 looks. With AJB in the fold, a Cover 1-heavy opponent would spell money for a Tannehill matchup. Bobby Trees has never been a dominant man coverage presence, so it’s almost assured that Tannehill’s eighth-most FP/Db average (0.49) across from Cover 1 from the last three years declining over the remainder of his career. It’s just too damn bad.
Mitch Trubisky, PIT ($5.0K DK | $6.4K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 2
The Bengals’ defense just supported the team toward a serious Super Bowl run that was very nearly successful. In addition to an overwhelming pass rush, Chidobe Awuzie transformed into a near-top-five lockdown corner, seemingly overnight. Paired with the criminally-overlooked play from Eli Apple, the presence of Jessie Bates III roaming over the top overwhelmed all but the most elite QBs. In comes Pittsburgh with, arguably, the worst O-line in the league. Finding ways to handle the pass rush will be one thing. Overcoming the potential of Awuzie stymieing Diontae Johnson could end in disaster for Mitch Trubisky.
Trubisky never managed to establish a clear coverage strength during his Chicago days. His FP/Db across from Cover 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and inside the red zone all fall outside of the top-25 qualified QBs. Even more concerning, his overall average FP/Db, FP/attempt, FP/completion, yards gained/Db, YPA, yards/completion, air yards/completion, completion percentage, TD/INT ratio and passer rating all fall outside of the top-35. Investments into Trubisky should be considered territory that should only be entered at one’s own risk, with the potential repercussions pushing one toward madness. It’s only a matter of snaps until we see Kenny Pickett on the field.
WR Matchups to Target
Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET ($6.1K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Eagles’ Cover 2 | 4 | 6
Jaylen Waddle received most of the press coverage – for which he earned that right to the attention, but the play from Amon-Ra St. Brown over the second half of the season was on par with Waddle’s outstanding results. Most importantly in regards to this matchup, ARSB took over the mantle as the top Cover 2 wideout in the game after averaging an eye-opening 0.56 FP/Rt. He drew the highest qualified target/route rate (32%) from Jared Goff when facing Cover 2, and against which his rate of deep targeting increased by a massive 30%.
On 12% of his rookie season routes, St. Brown collected 17% of his targets, 18% of his receptions, 15% of his yardage and 20% of his TDs. The Eagles will feature a secondary with Darius Slay and James Bradberry on the perimeter, while 2021 breakout Avonte Maddox will patrol the inside. Maddox placed some outstanding coverage numbers in the books during his ‘21, but attempting to control the production of ARSB is another story, entirely. Nobody could slow the kid down over his final six games last season when he averaged 27.9 FPG. Big things are ahead in Philadelphia this season, beginning with this game. However, serving up the eighth-highest rate of Cover 2 for ARSB’s appetite is a green arrow in the direction of exposure.
Marquise Brown, ARI ($6.2K DK | $6.9K FD) vs. Chiefs’ Cover 2
When St. Brown took over the FP/Rt lead against Cover 2, he passed over a collection of high-level names including Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, Hunter Renfrow and, likely more than obvious, Marquise Brown. Hollywood’s absence from the Baltimore lineup could be devastating for the Ravens as early as this week – more on that later. One thing is for sure, the loss of Brown will leave a monumental crater in the strategy Lamar Jackson once utilized to attack Cover 2. Conversely, count on seeing Kyler Murray’s FP/Db average vs. Cover 2 on the upswing throughout the season. Scary thought, as that just so happens to be the scheme that has provided Murray the most difficulty during his NFL Career.
Kansas City allotted opponents an average of 34.6 PPG over the first five weeks last season until Steve Spagnuolo made the decision to switch his rotation toward heavily featuring… you guessed it… Cover 2. They concluded the season with the second-highest Cover 2 number in the league. No WR has surpassed Brown’s 149.4 targeted passer rating (TPR) over the last three seasons. It’s against that scheme where he has also supplied the fourth-most yards gained/route (YPRR), second-most yards/reception (Y/R), third-most yards/target (YPT) and the second-most yards after the catch/reception (YAC/R).
DeVonta Smith, PHI ($5.5K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. Lions’ Cover 2 | 4
Finding DeVonta Smith’s name featured here is an ode to my Bro Montana-crush for A.J. Brown. His addition to the Eagles’ roster made tidal waves across the NFL. Placing a top-five receiver talent into the arsenal of a Jalen Hurts-led offense that had already forced its way into the playoffs is a scary proposition. It’s a reality that does little justice to the actual results we are about to witness viewing the play of the most physical wideout in the game for Philly in time for the Halloween season. It’s all of that attention paid to the acquisition and implementation of AJB that I am counting here.
The Lions ended the ‘21 season on a bit of a hot streak (3-3). They followed it up with the draft additions of Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams. Expectations are relatively high for a team that finished 3-13-1 last year. Dan Campbell will want to jump right back into those late-season winning ways, focusing his attention on slowing Brown. With Amani Oruwariye likely tasked with AJB coverage, Smith would draw an assignment from Mike Hughes. Hughes is a corner with a reputation far exceeding his actual results. He gave up 1.23 yards/coverage snap (YPCS, 28th-most among 77 qualified CBs), 0.33 FPs/coverage snap (FP/CS, eighth-most) and a 101.2 TPR (25th-highest) last season.
Ja'Marr Chase, CIN ($7.1K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Levi Wallace, PIT
This is purely for informational purposes. No attempt will be made to convince anyone on the overall benefits of Ja’Marr Chase exposure. What does need to be passed along is that the matchup with Pittsburgh will place Chase across from what should be a top-10 rate of Cover 1. If that doesn’t immediately stand out as significant, it’s clear you missed out on the Advanced Matchup entries during Chase’s rookie season. It’s when Ja’Marr established himself as one of the very best across from single coverage, posting 0.67 FPs/route (FP/Rt, seventh-best) and a 20% TD rate (third-best). Pass along your condolences to Levi Wallace’s coverage metrics.
Allen Lazard, GB ($5.6K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. Patrick Peterson, MIN
George Pickens, PIT ($4.1K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Eli Apple, CIN
Adam Thielen, MIN ($5.4K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. Eric Stokes, GB
Michael Thomas, NO ($5.7K DK | $6.2K FD) vs. Falcons’ Cover 2
WR Matchups to Avoid
Amari Cooper, CLE ($5.9K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Jaycee Horn, DB
It’s likely best that we allow Jaycee Horn’s play to do the talking on his behalf. Prior to the Panthers’ ‘21 first-rounder being lost for the season due to an ankle injury, Horn had limited his coverage responsibilities to 0.09 YPCS, 0.09 FP/CS and the same TPR/passer rating supplied to QBs for spike the ball directly into the ground (39.6). With the expectation that his alignment percentages will continue to station Horn on the left sideline at the highest rate, that would land him across from Amari Cooper for a significant number of his reps.
All things being equal, Cooper would be on the receiving end from Deshaun Watson’s targeting. Equal will not be in play this Sunday, as Jacoby Brissett will be running the offense. Brissett is a serviceable replacement that’s a country-light year from the top-five talents of Watson. Further complicating the matter, it’s very likely that the very high rate of Cover 1 that we saw from Carolina last season – a reactionary shift after Horn was injured – will decline back in favor of a heavy Cover 3 and 4 mixture. It’s a pair of schemes that have not resulted in Cooper’s best numbers.
Mike Williams, LAC ($6.6K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Rock Ya-Sin, LV
The Raiders saw the departures of Gus Bradley (Colts) – the DC utilizing the highest rate of Cover 3 – and Casey Hayward Jr. (Falcons) – one of the top Cover 3 cornerbacks in the game. They countered those losses by sending Yannick Ngakoue to Indianapolis for Rock Ya-Sin, and welcoming in Patrick Graham from the Giants as the new DC. Graham is highly unlikely to put anything close to the percentage of Cover 3 that Bradley used, but we should still see a healthy number in that regard. As for Ya-Sin, he’s an outstanding one-for-one swap as the new shutdown corner for Vegas.
Ya-Sin limited his coverage to the fourth-fewest YPCS, ninth-fewest FP/CS and second-lowest success rate on deep targeting by jamming his responsibilities at the line with the third-highest press rate. It’s a recipe for potential ghosting ahead for Mike Williams. Over his last three seasons, Williams’ 0.24 FP/Rt when attacking Cover 3 stands as the 94th-best among 102 qualifiers. On 21% of his routes over that stretch with Cover 3 on the field, Williams has collected zero TDs.
DJ Chark, DET ($4.8K DK | $5.3K FD) vs. Darius Slay, PHI
We lose so many of the top shadow corners in the game to the Thursday, Sunday and Monday night matchups. One of the few remaining that will be in play on the main slate will be Darius Slay. The Eagles-Lions matchup is implied to score a healthy 49 points by Vegas, the ninth-highest total. Another reason to place significant trust in the hands of St. Brown since DJ Chark Jr. will have Slay draped over him for much of the game. Even when Chark manages to break free of Slay, James Bradberry will be ready to deflate his spirits.
Rehabilitating his reputation after an injury-riddled 2020, Slay minimized his coverage responsibilities production to the 13th-fewest YPCS (0.83), 13th-fewest FP/CS (0.19) and the 17th-lowest TPR (76.2). Chark will be working to establish the first in-game relationship with Jared Goff this Sunday. It’s a working unison that will naturally take time. The fact that Chark’s FP/Rt ranks across from Cover 2, 4, and 6 stand as the 59th-, 66th- and 85th-best, respectively, will not present this matchup as one to divvy out bankroll investments.
Rashod Bateman, BAL ($5.3K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. DJ Reed, NYJ
As alluded to above, the decision to trade Hollywood could result in an opening day defeat for Baltimore. The New York Jets’ franchise is far from a finished product. Persisting holes in the starting lineup will likely persist throughout the season. One of the position groups that belief does not extend is at cornerback. Bryce Hall returns as the Mean Green’s ‘21 No. 1 on the perimeter. GM Joe Douglas used the offseason to secure the top corner in the ‘22 draft (Sauce Gardner), and signed the top corner on the free agent market (DJ Reed Jr.). Hall’s standing as the third corner in the rotation earns NYJ the reputation as having one of the top-three corner trios in the NFL.
The primary concern for Baltimore is Reed. Gardner will absolutely lockdown whatever the Ravens throw at him, but Reed will – based on ‘21 alignment percentages – do his work across from Rashod Bateman. My regard for Bateman’s skills is significant. However, expecting Bateman to power the passing game on the outside by himself, across from one of the top-three cornerback rosters in the NFL is an unrealistic task. Reed shut down his responsibilities to the fifth-fewest YPCS (0.68), fourth-fewest FP/CS (0.15), the fifth-lowest success rate on deep targets and the eighth-lowest TPR (66.0).
TE Matchups to Target
Pat Freiermuth, PIT ($4.2K DK | $5.3K FD) vs. Bengals’ Cover 2 | RZ
Pat Freiermuth is on the fast-track to establishing himself as one of the top-five TEs in the world with a mere 17 NFL games under his belt. It’s a proclamation that does require some qualification. Baby Gronk will be required to establish a connection with a new QB (Mitch Trubisky). He’ll then be asked to establish another working relationship with another new QB (Kenny Pickett), likely before the upcoming season is even completed. And his reputation as a quality blocker will take on great importance with the Steelers’ current interpretation of a piss-poor O-line.
No matter how you slice it, Freiermuth has supplied outstanding results despite working with Sean Clifford and the thing that represented itself as Ben Roethlisberger last season. It’s more than crystal that Freiermuth can succeed with anything under center. Anything is precisely what he’ll be working with as Trubisky leads the offense. Working in his favor, Cincinnati is very likely to push the Steelers into a negative-script scenario. Secondly, the Bengals supplied TEs with the fourth-most receptions/game (5.65), fifth-most YPG (63.7), sixth-most TDs/game (0.47), eighth-most RZ targets/game (0.88) and sixth-most FPG (14.9) last season.
Gerald Everett, LAC ($3.8K DK | $5.2K FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 3 | 4
Donald Parham’s longtime supporters were unlikely pleased to learn of the signing of Gerald Everett. Parham will still get his looks, it’s just important to realize that Everett’s athleticism pairs quite well with the red zone presence of the towering Parham. With the expectation that the Raiders will continue to use a top-10 rate of Cover 3, supplemented by a healthy percentage of Cover 4 under the direction of Graham, this will be a matchup for Everett to shine when Justin Herbert doesn’t have his attention focused on his trio of talented WR playmakers.
Everett has yielded the 18th-most FP/Rt across from Cover 3 (0.37) and the fifth-most across from Cover 4 (0.44) among 45 qualified TEs over the last three campaigns. Numbers that clearly didn’t evade the attention of Brandon Staley and Joe Lombardi, as both schemes are clear strengths for their QB cornerstone. With a new DC in Las Vegas, it would be unwise to evaluate this matchup for Everett based on the fifth-most FPG allowances to TEs from last season. What we can establish is that the Raiders will field a pair of middle LBs in Denzel Perryman and Jayon Brown that are known more for their run-stopping and tackling prowess than for their skill in coverage.
Taysom Hill, NO ($3.1K DK | $4.7K FD) vs. Falcons’ Cover 2
TE Matchups to Avoid
Cole Kmet, CHI ($3.7K DK | $5.0K FD) vs. Fred Warner, SF
I’ll ask for little of your time in representing the pair of TEs that I foresee as strict avoids this week. It’s not for a lack of dedication in presenting the cases to avoid; instead, it’s the elite skill of the LBs tasked with limiting that area of the field that will supply us with the overwhelming evidence. For Cole Kmet, he’ll have a face-full of All-Pro Fred Warner staring him down on a high number of his routes. Werner is the glue that binds the middle of the 49ers’ defense together. He held his coverage hostage to the tune of 0.73 YPCS (seventh-fewest), 0.19 FP/CS (ninth-fewest) and the 17th-lowest success rate on deep targeting among 76 qualified at his position. No thanks.
Robert Tonyan, GB ($3.9K DK | $5.1K FD) vs. Eric Kendricks, MIN
If it were a matter of cheering for Robert Tonyan’s successful return from ACL injury, you’d find Bobby Onion listed in the to Target section. Unfortunately for Tonyan, Eric Kendricks does not subscribe to the returning-to-the-field-from-a-devastating-injury charity. Perhaps the most overlooked ‘backer in terms of coverage skill in the league, Kendricks had a somewhat down ‘21 due to a lingering quadricep strain and, toward the end of the season, a bicep ailment. Regardless, he still finished inside the top-25 in YPCS, FP/CS and in limiting his coverages success rate on deep targeting.
For the betting brethren of the world – aka all of us, the intelligent wagers should be placed on Kendricks’ Week 1 health over that of Tonyan’s. Even if Tonyan does enter the game at 100%, concern also exists as to the lack of targeting trust provided by Aaron Rodgers that resulted in five-of-eight games last season with 10-or-fewer receiving yards.