Well, earlier this week it looked like we were going to be spared for at least a week of games being moved around because of COVID. That was wishful thinking! Atlanta did reopen their team facilities on Friday, which at least puts Falcons-Vikings on track to play for now. Meanwhile, at least one member of the Patriots tested positive on Friday morning — putting the Broncos-Patriots bout in jeopardy for a second consecutive week.
If we do get Vikings-Falcons on the main Sunday slate, Alexander Mattison will be one of the best running back plays of the season as a home-favorite workhorse against the Falcons basement-level defense. Mattison out-snapped backup Mike Boone 43 to 5 and got 23 touches last week when Dalvin Cook (groin) missed most of the second-half. DraftKings juiced up Mattison’s price this week to $7,200, but his role is arguably worth more than that tag. Mattison is simply a free square on FanDuel ($7,000). If Mattison and the Vikings don’t play Sunday, we’re going to see massive ownership on DraftKings for both Derrick Henry ($7,300) and Mike Davis ($7,000).
Luckily, the Broncos-Patriots game is fairly simple for DFS. I was fully prepared to go all-in on Cam Newton on DraftKings at his $6,500 price tag against the Broncos man-heavy defense. It’s much easier to scramble against man coverage and no quarterback is averaging more rushing fantasy points per game than Newton (13.0). Denver has allowed at least 18.2 fantasy points to every quarterback they’ve faced (Ryan Tannehill, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, and Sam Darnold) and Newton projects for only 5-8% ownership.
You don’t have to stack Cam with any of his pass-catchers because he has so much standalone upside and could dominate all of the Patriots touchdowns, but Damiere Byrd ($3,500 DK; $5,100 FD) is very cheap on both sites and is arguably the team’s No. 1 target. Over the Patriots last three games, Byrd is first on the team in routes run and second just behind Julian Edelman in both targets and air yards.
Two bell-cow backs in bad matchups
Running back ownership is incredibly easy to figure out this week as Mattison, Henry, and David Montgomery will be the three most popular backs on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Our ownership projections powered by FanShare Sports has Montgomery pegged for massive ownership on DraftKings at his $5,800 price tag while Mattison is projected for 35-40% ownership on FanDuel. Both backs are cash game locks on those respective sites.
With ownership centering around those three plays, we’re going to see lower ownership on Joe Mixon ($6,200) and Miles Sanders ($6,500) on DraftKings. I’m pretty concerned about the Eagles offense this week with RT Lane Johnson (ankle) out, but we always have to entertain true bell-cow backs that are under-priced in any matchup. It’s just so rare and so valuable when a running back never leaves the field. Since returning to the lineup in Week 2, Sanders has played on 79% of Eagles’ snaps which is third-highest rate among RBs behind only Ezekiel Elliott (87%) and David Johnson (80%).
Mixon is really the play I want to make in tournaments on DraftKings, though.
Over the last two weeks, the Bengals have finally unleashed Mixon in the passing game. In this span, he’s run more routes than Gio Bernard (43 to 15) and out-targeted him by a massive 14 to 2 margin. In a game that was never close last week, Mixon got 30 touches and played on 76% of Bengals’ snaps. With everyone flocking to play Montgomery at a lower price point and better matchup, Mixon is going to fly way under the radar.
Look, this matchup is brutal — the Bengals are huge underdogs and the Colts have one of the NFL’s four actually good defenses — but Mixon’s new role on passing downs gives him an amazing floor and ceiling. Since Mixon is getting almost all of the passing down work now, we might actually want the Bengals to throw more in catch up mode. In full PPR scoring, targets are worth nearly 3x more fantasy points than carries.
No one wants to play Crowder
Sandwiched in between what will be very popular plays on DraftKings in Kenny Golladay ($6,200) and A.J. Brown ($5,600), we have Jamison Crowder ($6,100) slated for around 10% ownership with the former two receivers projected over 20%.
Are Golladay and Brown better plays to the point where they should see two times the ownership? I’m not so sure. Crowder’s ownership will also be pushed lower by Jeff Smith sitting at the minimum price on DraftKings since no one will want to play two Jets in their lineups. Crowder’s role has been insane so far — he’s tied with DeAndre Hopkins in target share in his healthy games (31%) — and his production has matched it (7/115/1, 7/104, and 8/116/1). Crowder will be relied on heavily once again with Denzel Mims (hamstring) still out and Breshad Perriman (ankle) questionable.
One way to stack this game is to roll a Ryan Fitzpatrick / DeVante Parker pairing and then run it back with Crowder on the Jets. Myles Gaskin is a phenomenal value on both sites in his new role, too. Last week, Jordan Howard was a healthy scratch and Miami finally used Gaskin as their primary back in scoring range. Gaskin saw four of the Dolphins 5 red-zone carries in Week 5. Gaskin will be pretty popular — we have him slated to see 17% ownership on DraftKings — but he has 25-point upside and is priced as the RB16 on DraftKings and RB18 on FanDuel. If the Dolphins destroy the Jets and go up big early, we could see Gaskin push for 18-20 carries and get all of the goal-line work.
A note on Packers-Buccaneers…
The Bucs’ are hard to figure out this week, but the good news is that they’re healthier than they’ve been all season long. Chris Godwin ($6,400) is cheaper on DraftKings than he’s been since Week 4 of 2019 and just got in a full practice on Friday after a hamstring injury cost him the last two games. Godwin and Mike Evans both do not have injury designations this weekend and are going to play.
Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams are all expensive across both sites, but that is exactly why Packers pairings are going to be low-owned this week. Robert Tonyan is in play, too, but his price has sky-rocketed on both sides after his 3 TD explosion back in Week 4. Right now, we have Rodgers projected for 2% ownership. Two percent. With the way he’s playing, Rodgers has slate-breaking upside at that marginal ownership. Tampa Bay is a great defense, but if this game stays as tight as the spread suggests, expect plenty of passing on both sides of the ball. This over/under has been on the rise all week — it’s up from 51.5 to 55 now — and we might see the best QB-WR pairing on the slate in terms of raw projections (Rodgers to Adams) go massively under-owned. Keep in mind, Adams has now had three weeks to rest what seemed to be a somewhat minor hamstring injury.
Punt TE options
With Mo Allie-Cox (knee) out this week, Trey Burton is firmly in play at $3,100 on DraftKings and $4,700 on FanDuel. Burton has actually led Colts TEs in routes run over the last two weeks since coming back from a groin injury that cost him the first three games of the season. This matchup is nice for Burton, too. The Bengals have allowed the seventh-most receptions (5.8) and yards (63.4) per game to tight ends so far.
Irv Smith Jr. is a slightly thinner play than Burton, but offers even more in the way of salary savings. Smith is minimum priced on DraftKings ($2,500) and nearly minimum on FanDuel ($4,300). Smith basically wasn’t involved at all in Week 1-4 — he caught two balls for 16 yards — but is coming off of a “break out” 4/64 performance last week against the Seahawks. Was it a fluke? Or a role change? Last week, Smith ran a route on a season-high 73% of Kirk Cousins’ dropbacks after being involved on just 53% of Vikings’ dropbacks in Week 1-4. If that usage sticks, Smith only needs 3-4 targets to pay off against a Falcons defense that is surrendering the second-most fantasy points per target to tight ends.
With Diontae Johnson (back) out this week, everyone is going to fall all over themselves to play Chase Claypool ($5,200 DK; $5,500 FD). Don’t get me wrong. Claypool is a great play. But absolutely no one is going to play an over-priced JuJu Smith-Schuster in tournaments with everyone on the Claypool hype train. Smith-Schuster has the better matchup, too. The Browns are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing slot receivers (25.3). Slot-only receivers Willie Snead (4/64/1), Tyler Boyd (7/72/1), and CeeDee Lamb (5/79/2) have all found success against Cleveland this year.