Ryan Fitzpatrick, MIA vs. SEA ($5,400 DK, $7,100 FD, O/U 53.5)
The Dolphins will host the Seahawks in Miami Gardens with plenty of fireworks set to go off. We all know the #LetRussCook movement has been the biggest headline of the season thus far. If you have the salary to squeeze Russell Wilson into your LUs, he is the optimal play in all formats. However, many of us try to pinch as many pennies as possible out of the QB slot while maintaining maximum scoring upside. In Week 4, Ryan Fitzpatrick offers us that type of upside at a discount from an implied high-scoring affair, playing from a negative script. “Fitzmagic” already has an elevated floor with a 21 percent share of both goal line (GL) and overall team rushing attempts.
As I’ll describe below, Fitzpatrick will take the field with a Cover 3-specialist in DeVante Parker and one of the most effective TEs this season, Mike Gesicki. And, channeling my inner infomercial persona, that’s not all! Seattle will be without one of the top strong safeties in the league, Jamal Adams. I anticipate that Fitzpatrick will eat this week even should they end up playing, but Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, Neiko Thorpe, and Lano Hill are banged up, questionable.
The Bottom Line: We even have some evidence of Fitzpatrick improving his play when facing a Cover 3 shell. His FPs per passing snap has risen from 0.22 in 2019 to 0.32 this season against the defense. Seattle utilizes a Cover 3 at the league's fourth-highest rate. After a poor showing in Foxborough, Miami has averaged 29.5 points over their last two games. I am entirely confident the Dolphins will manage to outscore their 23.5 implied points at home with Seattle forced to travel 2,724 miles to face Miami with a skeleton crew secondary.
Tom Brady, TB vs. LAC ($6,100 DK, $7,300 FD, O/U 43.5)
I would normally look first to the current leaders in shares of team rushing attempts to elevate my cash/SE floor at QB. However, this matchup is simply too good to pass up. When facing a Cover 3 shell since the start of the 2019 season, Tom Brady has a 17 percent increase in completion percentage, 20 percent increase in average depth of throw, and has not thrown a single INT. Even with those numbers in mind, I would lean toward my risk-averse nature before recommending QBs and WRs going up against the Chargers’ secondary. But the Chargers were already without Derwin James and Nasir Adderley, and now they will enter Week 4 without Chris Harris Jr..
The absence of Chris Godwin is certainly unfortunate and Scotty Miller is trending in the wrong direction with a groin injury. But the Buccaneers have plenty of horses in the stable with Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, and Tyler Johnson. HC Bruce Arians also passed along that, with Leonard Fournette already ruled out, 2020 third-rounder Ke’Shawn Vaughn will step into a significant role in Week 4. Vaughn caught 42 passes over his last two seasons with Vanderbilt and could make for a sneaky tourney dart this week.
The Bottom Line: A factor that I’ll go into further detail about for Evans later in the article, the former first-rounder simply elevates his games to another level when opposing man coverage. On the season, Los Angeles will play around a fourth of snaps in man coverage, and nearly half of snaps in Cover 3. That much exposure to Cover 3 for Brady should remove any doubts when setting your LUs this weekend.
Alternatives: Deshaun Watson vs. MIN, Joe Burrow vs. JAX
Josh Jacobs, LV vs. BUF ($6,800 DK, $8,000 FD, O/U 53.0)
After beginning the season with a monster performance (35.9 FPs), Josh Jacobs has only managed 23.8 FPs combined in the last two weeks. But the going should get easier this week against an uncharacteristically poor run defense of the Bills. Buffalo LBs and safeties have combined to miss the most tackles in the NFL over their last two games. Even with RT Trent Brown set to miss another game, the Buffalo defensive line offers little in the way of resistance even at full strength.
Jacobs comes into this contest with the NFL’s eighth-highest red zone (RZ) and fifth-highest overall carry shares. He has taken two-of-three GL carries and holds a healthy 12 percent share of team targets. Rodney Young and Richie Incognito are both easily within the top-ten at their respective positions in regards to run blocking. Over his last six home games, Jacobs has averaged 24.3 touches and 20.1 FPs.
The Bottom Line: The Raiders may come in with an implied total of 25 points, but history suggests a different story will play out. Dating back to the 2016 season in games where the Bills were forced to travel at least 1,200 miles, Buffalo is 1-5, have allowed an average of 31 points, and have permitted 1.4 rushing TDs to opposing lead RBs. The flight distance from Buffalo to Las Vegas is 1,986 miles. I consider Jacobs to be an optimal RB play this week.
Darrell Henderson, LAR vs NYG ($5,800 DK, $6,400 FD, O/U 48.0)
Speaking of optimal RB plays facing defenses traveling across the great USofA, Darrell Henderson will go against the Giants’ defense after they flew 2,454 miles to Inglewood, California. Henderson truly enters Week 4 with a dream matchup after averaging 21.1 FPs over the last two weeks. During that same time, New York has allowed opposing lead backs to score 21.8 FPG. After splitting Week 2 backfield reps with Malcolm Brown at one-third apiece, Henderson took over the role in Week 3 with a 62 percent hold on attempts. Henderson has even collected 83 percent of RB targets during the last two. Although, he will continue to cede the majority of pass-blocking snaps to Brown.
By the time Cam Akers is able to return from injury, the majority role may no longer be in play. Henderson and Brown have evenly split GL carries with four apiece this season. But Henderson has elevated the Rams’ backfield to the tune of a 38 percent bump over Brown’s efficiency per rushing attempt.
The Bottom Line: Both Giants’ starting safeties are injured. Jabrill Peppers has already been ruled out and Julian Love is listed as questionable. Even if Love plays, he hasn't played well this season. The Rams are implied to score 30.5 points as 13 point home favorites. I will have maximum exposure to Henderson this week continuing his strong play from a positive script.
Alternatives: Mike Davis vs. ARI, James Robinson at CIN
Mike Evans, TB vs. LAC ($6,400 DK, $7,400 FD, O/U 43.5)
I’ve already gone into detail on the injuries facing the Chargers’ defense this week. With vulnerabilities at multiple positions, the option of shadowing Mike Evans is not in the cards for All-Pro Casey Hayward Jr.. For example, in Week 3, Hayward played every single coverage snap planted at LCB. Los Angeles has even begun utilizing alternative coverages in an attempt to mask secondary vulnerabilities. That includes playing man coverage at a much higher rate than they did last season.
However, the Chargers remain at the top of the NFL, by a good amount, in usage of Cover 3. I’ve already detailed Tom Brady’s history of success when facing Cover 3. Though we simply do not have enough evidence of the Brady-to-Evans connection against Cover 3 after three games to form reliable opinions. Looking back to 2019 data is unreliable with the erratic decision making of Jameis Winston against zone coverages. But Winston did well enough against man coverages to provide valuable information. The Chargers will be expected to play man coverage on around a fourth of snaps this weekend. Since 2019, Evans has collected 29 percent of his receptions and 27 percent of receiving yards on only 21 percent of passing snaps when facing man coverage.
The Bottom Line: Evans’ yards per route run efficiency increases by 20 percent against man coverage over his last 16 games. With Chris Godwin already ruled out and Scotty Miller highly questionable, two-thirds of WR targets from Week 3 will be up for grabs. After only seeing four targets last week, albeit with a pair of TDs, HC Bruce Arians will no doubt look to get Evans going early in what I believe will result in a big game.
DeVante Parker, MIA vs. SEA ($5,700 DK, $6,500 FD, O/U 53.5)
I’ve already established that the Miami offense will have an outstanding opportunity to slay a Seattle secondary populated by backups and practice squad promotions. The Seahawks will utilize zone coverages on a vast majority of snaps but will fall into a Cover 3 at the league's fourth-highest rate. Simply music to DeVante Parker’s ears considering his per route yardage efficiency jumps up by 35 percent against that particular shell since 2019.
But Parker’s Cover 3 success goes much deeper than that, to the benefit of rostered DFS LUs, as his FPs per snap also increases by 21 percent. Parker left Week 1 against the Patriots with a tweak of a previous hamstring injury. He has recovered to the point that he’s played over 95 percent of snaps the last two weeks.
The Bottom Line: The Preston Williams over Parker narrative being tossed around is simply baseless. Parker has literally tripled Williams’ route efficiency this season with a 21 percent higher target share. Williams purely comes into play at the GL. Parker is the clear No. 1 target for the Dolphins. I’ll close it with this… whereas some might think Parker’s been a disappointment this season, his FPs per passing snap has actually increased by a full ten percent over his breakout 2019 season.
Justin Jefferson, MIN at HOU ($5,200 DK, $5,400 FD, O/U 54.0)
It’s expected that Bradley Roby will shadow Adam Thielen this week. Roby has only permitted 0.83 yards per coverage snap (YPCS) this season -- league average is around 1.25. That’ll leave Vernon Hargreaves III defending Justin Jefferson in the Texans’ man coverage-heavy defense. Hargreaves has nearly doubled the YPCS average allowed by Roby at 1.52.
The last team to oppose Jefferson with the majority of snaps in man coverage was way back in… oh, it was last week. As you might remember, Jefferson ran circles around Johnathan Joseph, Malcolm Butler, and crew for a 7/175/1 line. Jefferson’s target share among Vikings’ WRs has risen from 18, to 19, and to a colossal 56 percent last week. I wrote last week that Kirk Cousins had thrown 39 percent of his TDs on only 27 percent of snaps since ‘19 when facing any variation of man coverage. I just placed my bets on the wrong horse, Thielen rather than Jefferson.
The Bottom Line: The Texans are currently favored by four points to end their three-game slide. The weekends fourth-highest combined implied total of 54 points should already have you looking at this matchup. After nearly taking down an undefeated Titans team last week, Cousins will look to Jefferson often in what I consider to be a worthy chase after last week’s breakout game.
Alternatives: Terry McLaurin vs. BAL, Marquise Brown at WAS
Mike Gesicki, MIA vs. SEA ($5,100 DK, $5,700 FD, O/U 53.5)
With DeVante Parker giving Seattle’s patchwork secondary fits on the outside, I am projecting that Mike Gesicki will threaten to pace all NFL TEs in FPs this week. Should you have the extra cap to toss around, paying up for either George Kittle or Mark Andrews may provide you with additional comfort. Not for my money.
Bobby Wagner is a future shoe-in HOFer that, combined with K.J. Wright, form a dynamic coverage tandem. However, they have both permitted 71 percent of 31 targets to be completed this season. The absences of Jamal Adams and Jordyn Brooks will leave the Seattle Cover 3 without the ability to handpick shadow candidates. Despite being one of the top-five most efficient per route TEs this season, Gesicki continues to be priced outside of the top-ten.
The Bottom Line: I entirely understand the desire to pluck basement bottom TEs for salary saving purposes. But we have an opportunity to populate our LUs with, potentially, the highest scoring TE of the week. The absence of Adams has already begun to influence the money on this matchup. Gesicki is my favorite cash/SE play at the position in Week 4.
Mo Alie-Cox, IND at CHI ($3,900 DK, $5,300 FD, O/U 43.0)
Both Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. are currently on an IR vacation. Even with Trey Burton potentially getting into the fold this week, we simply cannot overlook just how dominant Mo Alie-Cox has been with the snaps he has been allotted. Alie-Cox currently leads all NFL TEs playing on at least 47 passing snaps in YPRR. And second place, Jonnu Smith, is over a full yard behind him.
When Alie-Cox is on the field, Phillip Rivers has targeted him once every three routes run during the last two weeks. To say that he has developed a trusting relationship with Rivers would be a gross understatement. If you doubt that Rivers has failed to notice Alie-Cox’s explosive effectiveness, then all of his years of experience playing at the highest level has been for nothing. We are literally watching the early stages of a future fantasy stud at the TE position, people.
The Bottom Line: MAC simply doesn’t need anywhere close to a lion's share of reps to make a DFS impact. With the way the season has played out at TE, a 3/50/1 line from Mo would be considered a successful investment. When Jack Doyle returned from injury last week, the tea was tossed around that Alie-Cox would be phased out. Now it’s Burton that will apparently be the guy to push him aside. If I was a betting man, which I am, I would bargain that Alie-Cox’s role will exponentially grow over the remainder of the season.
Alternatives: Rob Gronkowski vs. LAC, Dalton Schultz vs. CLE