Welcome everyone to my first game-by-game breakdown of the 2018 NFL season! If you read this article last season, welcome back! And if you’re new here, grab a seat!
The goal here is to give you my overall thoughts on each game and narrow down my overall player pool for you. I’m predominately a cash game player, but I do play in more tournaments for football than I do baseball and basketball.
My cash game pool will be narrowed down even further in my Building Blocks article that will also be available here via DFS Karma. Months of research has been done, and I’m more than ready for the season to start!
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles
Vegas Insight: Eagles 23.5, Falcons 21.5
Thursday night we finally have football with the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (well, kind of) taking on the Atlanta Falcons in Philly. Normally, we would expect a huge offensive showing out of these two teams but given some of the injuries on the Eagles offense and the quality of their defense, I’m expecting this to be somewhat lower scoring.
I’m bullish on the Falcons offense taking a step forward in their second season with Steve Sarkisian, an offense that sneakily relied on the run game last season and played slow. The Eagles ranked 8th in pass DVOA last season en route to the Super Bowl victory, and while I do believe they will be better this season I don’t have much interest in Ryan outside of the one game showdown slate.
Pretty much the same can be said for Nick Foles. Foles will be without his number one wideout in Alshon Jeffery, and will also be missing Mack Hollins who flashed a few times as a rookie last season. Fire them both up in showdown, but I have no real interest in them for any other slate.
As I noted above, this Falcons team really relied on the run game last season. You would think that this was a high-flying offense, but in reality they were in the bottom third of the league in plays per game. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both averaged over 12 touches per game last season, but should be in for a long night against an Eagles run defense that was 2nd in DVOA. Freeman would definitely be a showdown play for me, but not much outside of that.
On the Eagles side, I actually would be interested in this backfield if we were 100% confident in Jay Ajayi being a true workhorse. I’m just not confident enough to truly believe that given Doug Pederson’s tendency to spread the ball around. The Falcons ranked 20th in run defense DVOA and struggled once again against backs that can catch passes out of the backfield.
Ajayi is a solid showdown play as well, but if you’re looking to get a bit contrarian I like the idea of using Corey Clement. Darren Sproles is back, but it seems like he could be mainly used as a returner and Clement was really solid down the stretch for the Eagles. He fits the mold of a pass catcher and at just $3,000 on the showdown slate he could easily hit value.
Much has been made about Julio Jones three touchdowns last season, but don’t let that take away from him racking up another 88 catches for 1,444 yards. He is one of the premier wideouts in the NFL and is due for some huge positive regression in the touchdown department. I do worry a bit as he continues to age, but I think he is in store for monster season if this offense takes a leap and he is always a volume play.
Another sneaky showdown play could be Mohamed Sanu, who could be in store for a quietly solid season playing in the slot for the Falcons. Eagles slot corner Sidney Jones will be mismatched as he is listed at 6’0 181 pounds compared to Sanu who is 6’2 240 pounds.
The one play from this entire game I could get behind playing on a slate outside of showdown is Nelson Agholor. Agholor finally put it all together down the stretch for the Eagles last season and while the Falcons pass defense was 20th in DVOA they allowed teams to complete short and intermediate passes while taking away the deep ball. That doesn’t bode well for field stretcher Mike Wallace, and this could be a game where Foles just feeds Agholor and Zach Ertz. With a lot of strong Tight End plays on Sunday, Ertz qualifies as showdown only for me.
Overall, this game is pretty much a fade for me on the Thursday-Monday slate. It will be over-owned because it’s primetime and the first game of the week, but I don’t think it provides much juice for DFS outside of Nelson Agholor. If you’re playing showdown I touched on a few low-owned GPP plays in Mohamed Sanu and Corey Clement, but I mainly will be fading that slate myself.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Giants
Vegas Insight: Jaguars 23, Giants 20
This game has one of the lowest totals on the entire main slate, but I don’t think it is lacking quality DFS options. That being said, I probably won’t be focused on the Quarterbacks. For Blake Bortles, the matchup with the Giants is good as they allowed the most passing touchdowns in the NFL last season and were 19th in DVOA, but I have a tough time buying he will see the volume needed to smash in DFS this week.
This is a team that clearly wants to run the ball, and in a game on the road where they should be winning I don’t anticipate Bortles being high on my radar despite some of his pass-catchers being interesting and possibly highly-owned.
The same can be said about Eli Manning, I’m very interested in Odell Beckham as a leverage play in GPPs, but don’t see myself going there with Eli despite pretty much being free on most sites.
Leonard Fournette is one of the plays I’m most excited about in this game, I made an early look at my week one cash game team back when salaries first were released and he was in that lineup. I’m not sure if I will end up with him now in cash, but he is a fantastic tournament play at his price.
Most don’t realize it but Fournette was top-five in touches per game last season and I don’t think his price reflects his workhorse status. The same can be said for Melvin Gordon, but we will get to that later on. For those that weren’t paying attention to preseason, I’ve heard a lot about TJ Yeldon being more involved in this offense this year, which I believe to an extent, but I also believe Fournette will catch more balls out of the backfield himself.
He was used as a pass catcher frequently in the preseason and I think he is in store for a huge year barring he stays healthy. The Giants ranked 26th in run DVOA last season so you can see why I’m excited about the matchup.
Much will be made about Saquon Barkley making his NFL debut, and while I do think he will be a workhorse, this is one of the worst possible scenarios to make your debut in. The one way to get to the Jags is on the ground, but they should be trailing early enough that he will have to make value working in the passing game. It’s doable, but there’s just no way I would take him over Fournette in this same game and they are too similarly priced.
The Jaguar pass catchers are going to be one of the most interesting situations leading up to lock for week one. Marqise Lee was injured during the preseason and placed on IR, making Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief all values at their prices with their workloads now pretty much stabilized.
Cole would be my favorite of the trio for cash games, I think he is the most versatile overall and he received over 20% of the targets in each game Lee missed a year ago. Westbrook will have value playing in the slot, and Moncrief has never lived up to the hype but he could be a bet for red zone targets if Austin Seferian-Jenkins misses this game.
The aforementioned ASJ missed practice on Wednesday so we are going to need to monitor his status up until lock. If he is 100%, he makes for an interesting play in all formats against a Giants team that has been victimized by Tight Ends in recent years.
On the Giants side of things, there’s only one play I’m interested in and it’s Odell Beckham Jr. Yes, the Jaguars defense is elite, but they were unable to halt production from truly elite wideouts such as DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown in 2017.
I would definitely think OBJ falls into that category, and he has the ability to move all over the field. He, and the Giants offense overall, should benefit from Pat Shurmur wanting to get the ball out quickly and the thing that is most captivating is his price on DraftKings.
If he was priced correctly, I probably wouldn’t be thinking this way but at just $7,000 on DraftKings I’m going to have some exposure in tournaments. He has the ability to absolutely smash that price at minimal ownership.
Cash Game Outlook
- Leonard Fournette
- Keelan Cole
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins (if active)
- Odell Beckham
- Saquon Barkley (I won’t have any)
- Donte Moncrief
- Dede Westbrook
Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens
Vegas Insight: Ravens 23, Bills 17
There are some interesting plays in this game, but neither of them come from the Quarterback position. Nathan Peterman draws the start for the Bills and I truly feel bad for him. I actually think Peterman has some ability at the NFL level but it’s going to be borderline impossible for him to succeed in this situation.
He’s playing behind a horrid offensive line, with Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones and Jeremy Kerley as his main pass catching weapons. Need I say more?
Joe Flacco would normally be in a solid spot as a touchdown favorite at home, but as bad as the Bills are I do respect their secondary and regardless game flow should benefit Alex Collins much more than it does the passing game.
The Bills were 12th in pass defense DVOA in 2017 and that coupled with the game flow is enough to eliminate Flacco from my player pool for week one.
LeSean McCoy is coming off a career-worst year in YPC, and the only thing that is truly keeping him afloat is his name value and the expected volume he’s going to receive.
He will be running behind what is expected to be a bottom-five offensive line in the NFL, and while he should get solid passing game usage when they are trailing he is nothing more than an unappealing tournament play to me.
Volume is king in football, and there are plenty of cheaper options that will receive volume in week one.
On the other side of this game we have one of the top overall Running Back plays of the week when factoring in price. Collins is expected to be a workhorse for the Ravens this season after bursting onto the scene for them last season once he was cut from Seattle.
The Bills allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL in 2017 and Collins should see heavy volume as a touchdown favorite at home. Given all the value on this slate, I won’t say you have to play Collins in cash games but I think he is certainly in that grouping and I will have exposure to him on one of my main teams.
If you see my analysis on Nathan Peterman, you can pretty much apply that to the Bills pass catchers. They get a solid matchup boost with Jimmy Smith, a crucial part of the Ravens secondary, missing this game but It’s not enough to make me interested in them for DFS. Kelvin Benjamin is a volume play in season long, but that’s not what this article is about!
There are a pair of tournament options in the Ravens Wide Receiver corps in Michael Crabtree and John Brown. This is a completely new-look unit and while Crabtree will be the #1 guy, Brown flashed in the preseason and it was never about his ability in Arizona, solely his inability to stay healthy.
His cheap price across the industry makes him a solid GPP play and puts him in the cheap range with guys like Dede Westbrook and John Ross. Crabtree should have a high-volume role and is a solid bet for red-zone targets, but again the game flow isn’t going to be in his favor.
Cash Game Outlook
- Alex Collins
- Ravens D/ST
- John Brown
- Michael Crabtree
- LeSean McCoy
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
Vegas Insight: Saints 29.5, Buccaneers 20
Ahhhh, finally a game with some serious DFS juice! This game owns a tasty 49.5 O/U in Vegas and despite the Saints being huge 9.5 point favorites there are a number of plays within this game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is slated to start for the Bucs while Jameis Winston serves his suspension, and while I typically like to pay down for Quarterback, Fitzmagic doesn’t fall on my list of possible options this week.
The Saints secondary ranked fifth in DVOA and first overall in turnovers last season, yes Fitz will be throwing a lot but I definitely respect this Saints defense and it sounds like the perfect storm for turnovers to me.
I just mentioned that I normally am looking to spend down at Quarterback in cash games, which is true, but I would be foolish to leave Drew Brees off that list at home against this Bucs defense.
He will undoubtedly have high-ownership given the huge total on this game and the fact that this Bucs secondary was bottom-two in DVOA a season ago. I don’t see myself spending up that high at QB, but he is a top play at his position this week.
Peyton Barber easily beat out Ronald Jones for the starting Running Back job in Tampa this preseason and he should be in line for 15+ touches in this game.
The game flow isn’t going to benefit him, but the Saints willingly allowed yards to Running Backs last season to focus on stopping the pass, pretty much like the Jaguars. If this were a normal week I think the DFS community would be more focused on Barber given his touch projection at his price, but he will fly a bit under the radar with all of the cheap RB value present and that makes me like him even more.
With Mark Ingram suspended, Terrance West and Jonathan Williams cut, and Mike Gillislee just brought in this week, we should anticipate monster ownership and usage for Alvin Kamara in week one. Casual fans would be shocked to learn that Kamara put up 1,901 all-purpose yards on under 13 touches per game in 2017, but he did.
There’s pretty much no way he can be that efficient again this season, but I also don’t think there’s any way he sees only 12 touches per game again this season. I don’t think he will elevate up over 20 touches per game, especially when Ingram is back, but I think 20 is a reasonable projection for week one…oh, and he absolutely shredded this Bucs defense last season.
He’s priced up, but it doesn’t matter and I think he is a stone cold lock for cash games in week one.
As I noted with Fitzpatrick, I prefer to attack the Saints on the ground than through the air but Mike Evans will remain a volume-based GPP option even in this terrible matchup where he will be shadowed by Marshon Lattimore.
Chris Godwin is the other guy I think you can take a shot in in tournaments. I’ve been high on him since he was drafted and he had a productive preseason and is now listed as co-starter alongside DeSean Jackson on the Bucs depth chart.
One the Saints end, “Can’t Guard” Mike Thomas is 100% who you should be pairing with Drew Brees if you go that route. You can try to get cute with a Tre’Quan Smith or Cameron Meredith, but Thomas has been one of the best wideouts in the NFL since he entered the league and is due for some positive touchdown regression this season.
He falls in the range of guys like Keenan Allen and AJ Green, so we will definitely be making some tough decisions week one but you can’t go wrong with Thomas in any format and you will easily have money to get to him if you want with all the Running Back value.
Cash Game Outlook
- Alvin Kamara
- Peyton Barber
- Drew Brees
- Mike Thomas
- Saints D/ST
- Mike Evans
- Chris Godwin
Tennessee Titans @ Miami Dolphins
Vegas Insight: Titans 23, Dolphins 22
Quarterbacks- I did a podcast earlier this preseason with another DFS Karma employee, Justin Bales, and we talked about the AFC South. I noted how high I was on this Titans this season, specifically their offense under Matt LaFleur. I think Marcus Mariota is going to have a great season and he’s due for some positive regression this season, specifically in the red zone. That being said, the Dolphins secondary is better than you think and If I’m playing a Quarterback on the road in the mid-pricing range it’s going to be Andy Dalton. I’m excited for the Titans this season, but I’m going to wait and get my exposure to them after week one.
On the Dolphins side of things, I don’t think Ryan Tannehill is terrible from a real-life perspective but I won’t be playing him in DFS. There are other cheap Quarterbacks I’m interested in though I will note that this matchup could improve if one or both of Harold Landry/Derrick Morgan are ruled out for the Titans.
Running Backs- The Titans backfield is going to be fun to watch this season with LaFleur scrapping the “not so” exotic smashmouth offense and with them bringing in Dion Lewis to pair with Derrick Henry. For whatever reason, people view Dion Lewis as solely a pass-catching back but he proved late last season he is a perfectly capable runner between the tackles. I view this situation as much more of a time share than other analysts and that makes them both GPP plays for me, nothing more.
Even if Frank Gore starts for the Dolphins, that doesn’t mean that he will see more work than Kenyan Drake. Adam Gase made news last week by stating that the Dolphins wanted to run 70-75 plays per game and give Drake 15-20 carries and 6-8 targets per game. While that is highly unrealistic, it would be foolish to think Drake won’t see solid volume for the Dolphins this season and people will underestimate how good he was last season. He has all the tools to be a RB1 if he gets the work, and week one with Gore potentially “starting” could be a great time to take advantage of people that are scared off.
Pass Catchers- Delanie Walker will most likely be questionable to play, but he has by far the best matchup of the Titans pass catchers. The Dolphins secondary was bottom-three in both yards and touchdowns allowed to Tight Ends last season, making Walker the premier target for Mariota in this game. I’m extremely excited about Corey Davis this season, he was hurt pretty much all season in his rookie year but showcased his talent and ability in the playoffs against the Patriots. That being said, he has a really tough matchup with Xavien Howard in week one and will be a fade for me in all formats.
Kenny Stills is a guy I’m very excited for this season, and he makes for a strong boom or bust tournament play who should see increased volume this season with Jarvis Landry now with the Cleveland Browns. With DeVante Parker slated to miss this game, that will secure Stills and Albert Wilson on the outside while Danny Amendola will play in the slot. There are a ton of slot targets vacated on this team with Landry out of town, and Amendola decimated this Titans defense from the slot in the playoffs last season playing from the slot on the New England Patriots. I don’t think he is a must play, but he fits the mold as a cheap cash game WR.
Cash Game Outlook- Danny Amendola
GPP Outlook- Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker, Dion Lewis/Derrick Henry, Kenny Stills, Kenyan Drake
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
Vegas Insight: Steelers 24.75, Browns 21
Quarterbacks- We know about Ben Roethlisberger’s home/road splits, especially in early start times, and the fact is there is enough data to back it up 100%. I’m not going to say he isn’t a tournament option against the Browns, but I will be transparent and tell you I won’t have any shares of him on Sunday and I would consider benching him in season long if he is my Quarterback.
New Browns Quarterback Tyrod Taylor scared a lot of people when he appeared to break his wrist in their third preseason game. We will have to wait to talk about Baker Mayfield however, because it was just a dislocated pinky and he is ready to start week one. He is very cheaply priced on DraftKings at $5,400, and with his rushing ability and full allotment of weapons he is firmly in play alongside Andy Dalton and Case Keenum as a cheap cash game Quarterback in week one.
Running Backs- Le’Veon Bell has pretty much been ruled out for week one against the Cleveland Browns. Enter: James Conner. Conner flashed this preseason rushing for 100 yards on 19 carries and hauling in seven passes. Conner is legit #good, and DeAngelo Williams proved any Running Back in this offense with this offensive line has RB1 upside most weeks. Undoubtedly he will be chalk, which is fine because volume is all that matters but in tournaments there is a case to fade. The Browns run-defense ranked 4th in DVOA last season, and was number one before injuries took toll. They looked stout in the preseason and I truly think it’s a bad matchup. This isn’t a normal week, and there is plenty of value at the RB position. I don’t think I can call Conner a “trap” given his cheap price, but I will be underweight in tournaments with so many other quality value plays in better matchups.
The Steelers are definitely beatable on the ground, they came in 18th run DVOA last season. The Browns are going to have a solid offensive line, and if you watched any preseason you know just how good Carlos Hyde looked. He was so good, Nick Chubb never even got a chance to challenge him for the starting job and I could see him having a huge day on Sunday if the Browns can stay in the game. Duke Johnson is a guy I like a lot, but he is more of a GPP-only dart.
Pass Catchers- Antonio Brown owns the Browns, and with so much value available on the slate he is one of my favorite overall options. With Bell missing, it makes me like this spot even more because everyone will focus on Conner and they won’t play two steelers in their cash game roster. Brown hauled in all 11 targets against this Browns defense last season for 182 yards. Yes, they will be improved with the addition of Denzel Ward, but it’s freaking Antonio Brown we are talking about. He’s a borderline must play for me.
Last season in week one the Browns starting wideouts were Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt, both are now without jobs. The Steelers pass defense is strong, and with suddenly a ton of mouths to feed in this Browns offense the likes of Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon and David Njoku remain deep tournament plays for me in week one.
Cash Game Outlook- James Conner (if Bell is out), Antonio Brown, Tyrod Taylor
GPP Outlook- Carlos Hyde, Ben Roethlisberger, Juju Smith-Schuster, Jesse James (if McDonald is out), Duke Johnson, Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry
San Francisco 49ers @ Minnesota Vikings
Vegas Insight: Vikings 26, 49ers 20
Quarterbacks- This is going to be one of the more fun games to watch this week in my opinion with Jimmy Garoppolo taking on Kirk Cousins and his new team. If you guys read this column last season, you know I’m a HUGE Jimmy G fan. That being said, even I can’t recommend him on the road in Minnesota. There are a few no-gos for me in NFL DFS, Minnesota’s defense at home is one of them.
The Vikings were in the Jaguar category last season of simply wanting to play defense and run the ball. That doesn’t sound super appealing for fantasy purposes, but there are reasons to suspect a change without Pat Shurmur calling offense there. We are entering the unknown, but since it’s unknown that means that the public will fade it and that makes Kirk Cousins a very appealing GPP play at Quarterback in week one.
Running Backs- It really sucks that Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL, I was extremely fired up to see him thrive in this Kyle Shanahan offense. That being said, that is just one of the massive amount of injuries we will have to deal with this season and it leaves us with a backfield of Alfred Morris and Matt Breida. Breida is expected to start, and while I think both guys have value in season long, I don’t mess with the Vikings at home!
The fantasy community is making a huge deal about Latavius Murray, do I think that Dalvin Cook will be somewhat eased in? Yes. Do I think it’s going to cripple his value, especially at his low $6,000 price tag on DraftKings? No! I’m just not buying Murray doing more than Cook, even though he will probably get the goal-line work. Cook is under-priced and going to get the most touches against a 49ers defense that finished 17th in DVOA in 2017. As I said a few times in this article, week one is the best time to take advantage of the unknown, and people are going to forget about Dalvin Cook because of that. Fire him up in GPPs.
Pass Catchers- Marquise Goodwin should be in line for a big season after a full offseason with Garoppolo at the helm. But again, don’t mess with Minny at home! The Vikes ranked 4th in pass DVOA and were ELITE when it comes to limiting big plays.
I’ve forecasted a huge season for Stefon Diggs pretty much the entire offseason, and I’ll stick with that here. With Shurmur’s quick throwing offense gone and Kirk Cousins taking over, I think Diggs will be his go-to man and they paid him like it this offseason. I think he is cash game playable week one with Thielen being a tournament play in full-point PPR scenarios. Some will want Kyle Rudolph, but the strength of the 49ers defense is shutting down opposing Tight Ends so he will be left off my week one player pool.
Cash Game Outlook- Stefon Diggs
GPP Outlook- Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen
Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts
Vegas Insight: Colts 25.75, Bengals 22.75
Quarterbacks- This is one of my favorite games for DFS in week one, and I think it is a perfect example of Vegas being flat out wrong early on in the season. The Colts secondary, and defense as a whole, was a stone disaster last season. Their secondary ranked 24th in DVOA and was destroyed by deep balls. Their offensive line isn’t great, but it’s going to be better than last season and I’m very bullish on their offense as a whole. I think having them implied at just 22.75 points against a secondary led by Pierre Desir is wrong, and I will be taking advantage of that. Dalton is playable in all formats, and will probably anchor my main tournament team.
Andrew Luck is another great play in this game. He’s at home, and this is the perfect time to take advantage of the unknown. The public is scared off of his shoulder despite him going through a full preseason. His aDOT was obscenely low in the preseason, and it could of been that way for a purpose. I, for one, am not scared whatsoever of his shoulder and I love luck in GPPs this week. I smell a shootout.
Running Backs- I like Joe Mixon, and I was very high on him as a rookie, but I simply can’t defend that he was #notgood as a rookie. He wasn’t efficient, and he was really bad in terms of elusiveness and broken tackles per Pro Football Focus. The Colts secondary is where I want to attack them, especially if this is a shootout like I anticipate. Mixon should get more passing game work this season, but Gio Bernard is fully healthy and looming behind him. I think he is a GPP play this week, but I likely will focus on the pass catchers here.
I’m most likely not touching the Colts backfield with a ten foot pole. Marlon Mack will miss this game, Nyheim Hines can’t stop fumbling, leaving us with rookie Jordan Wilkins as the week one starter. Wilkins price makes him valuable for the touches he will see, but like I’ve mentioned 10 times already Running Back value isn’t what we need this week.
Pass Catchers- Given my love for Dalton this week, I’m obviously going to be interested in the Cincy pass catchers. AJ Green is priced out of cash game consideration for me, but he is still the preferred partner with Dalton in tournaments. I’m expecting a huge season from a now healthy John Ross, and I love rolling with the Dalton-Green-Ross stack in tournaments and bringing it back with TY Hilton. Ross got loose for one long touchdown in the preseason, and I noted how the Colts struggle with splash plays.
TY Hilton’s splits both with Luck and at home are out of this world, making him a core play for me this week against a Bengals defense that finished 21st in DVOA last season. Jack Doyle should continue to be Luck’s go-to in short yardage situation, and the passing game should open up a lot more under new Head Coach Frank Reich. It is worth noting that the Bengals fell to bottom-five in DVOA against Tight Ends, making Doyle cash game playable and adding in Eric Ebron into the tournament conversation. Game Stack FTW!
Cash Game Outlook- Andy Dalton, Jack Doyle
GPP Outlook- AJ Green, John Ross, Tyler Eifert, Joe Mixon, TY Hilton, Jordan Wilkins
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
Vegas Insight: Patriots 28, Texans 22
Quarterbacks- We cap off the early afternoon games with what should feature plenty of offensive fireworks between Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady. Watson shredded this Patriots defense when they saw him last season, and now the Patriots have had all summer to game plan to stop him. He’s going to regress from the video-game numbers he put up last season, but they’re going to have to put up points to keep pace with Brady and that makes him a more than viable tournament plays.
Brady has shown no signs of slowing down, and I don’t think I really need to dissect him a ton. The Texans defense is healthy and won’t be as bad as they were last season…but it’s Tom Brady. I don’t think I’ll be able to get up this high in cash games but he’s going to have ownership and he’s a core play regardless.
Running Backs- With D’Onta Foreman not ready to start the season, and only Alfred Blue behind him, Lamar Miller should be locked into a workhorse role for the Houston Texans. He wasn’t efficient last season, but he benefited a ton when Watson took over as the Quarterback and he’s priced fantastically or this type of game environment. I don’t think he will be super popular in cash games, but he’s playable in all formats for me week one.
I’m a huge Rex Burkhead fan, but even I have no idea what to make of the Patriots backfield right now. Sony Michel, who like Burkhead, missed all of the preseason was limited at practice on Wednesday. Burkhead is on his way to being the mega-chalk at his price, but I’m going to hold out my overall thoughts until I see how Michel will affect things if he ends up being active. James White falls into the GPP conversation, and he should see an increased role in the passing game with this being the ugliest looking Pass Catcher group I can remember Brady dealing with.
Pass Catchers- I’m just going to assume that the Patriots will be selling out to stop Nuk at all costs. That makes him a GPP-only play for me despite the game environment, he’s only a few hundred less than Antonio Brown so just find the extra bucks to get him in cash games. If my thinking is correct, that makes Will Fuller an even better tournament play, he can’t possibly keep scoring touchdowns at this rate but he clearly has a connection with Watson.
On the Patriots side, it should be the Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan show. Hogan is too cheap for the role he should play in this offense without Julian Edelman, and Gronk should take over with there being limited options for Brady to throw to. With some pretty lofty incentives added into his contract he should be motivated to put up another monster season. This game is going to be a focal point for cash games, I just hate guessing when it comes to the Patriots.
Cash Game Outlook- Rob Gronkowski, Rex Burkhead, Tom Brady, Chris Hogan
GPP Outlook- Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Lamar Miller, James White
Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers
Vegas Insight: Chargers 25.75, Chiefs 22
Quarterbacks- The hot topic in this game will be Patrick Mahomes making his second ever NFL start, and that the Chargers have lost their last eight games to the Chiefs. If there was ever a time for that trend to change, it’s week one in LA. I’m a huge fan of Mahomes, and I though the Chiefs were smart to trade Alex Smith this offseason and turn the offense over to their new gunslinger. Eliminating biases in daily fantasy is my biggest thing, and despite my love for Mahomes I can’t recommend him in this spot against this daunting Chargers defense, that appears even more loaded than last season and will be healthy for this game.
Philip Rivers will be a high-owned tournament play this week as a sizable home favorite, against a Chiefs defense that was dead-last in pass defense DVOA last season and somehow made Chase Daniel look competent in the preseason. No, I’m not kidding. If you didn’t keep up with the preseason games, please go back and watch highlights from legitimate second team offenses going right up and down the field against the starting Chiefs defense, it’s about to get real in KC this season. I hate playing Quarterbacks in divisional games, and the Chargers defense is so good this could get out of hand in the first half. I will probably be underweight on Rivers this weekend, but overweight on some of the Chargers skill position players.
Running Backs- If I feel the need to play one Chiefs player this weekend, it’s going to be Kareem Hunt and it’s not going to be close. The Chargers were a reverse-funnel defense in 2017 coming in bottom-ten in run defense DVOA and top ten in pass defense DVOA. He also absolutely shredded this team posting 327 rushing yards, 60 receiving yards and three total touchdowns against them in two games. Game flow certainly won’t help him from a rushing standpoint, but he can catch passes out of the backfield very well and he makes for a tournament play that I think most of the field will forget about on Sunday.
Melvin Gordon is one of my top overall plays of week one. He’s priced at just $6,800 on DraftKings despite being one of the NFL’s bellcow backs. He’s not hyper-efficient, but he will receive plenty of volume especially if the Chargers jump out to an early lead. He, like Kareem Hunt, had success in this matchup a season ago and given the state of the Chiefs defense it’s going to be hard to talk me out of Gordon for all formats.
Pass Catchers- My analysis of Mahomes can pretty much be applied to his pass catchers as well. Can you take a flier on the volume-packed role of Travis Kelce? Sure. Could Tyreek Hill break off a 40 yard touchdown? Sure. But against this stout of a defense I will allocate my bankroll elsewhere.
Keenan Allen is coming off a really strong season, and should be locked into a high-volume role once again for the Chargers and Philip Rivers. Given what I just described about the Chiefs defense, you would think that I would be all-in on Keenan Allen this week, but given the game flow and how the Chiefs scheme their defense, I prefer him in GPPs. Though I will note he will have ownership in cash games. I would prefer to take my savings from the value backs and get up to Antonio Brown, rather than Allen in the lower-top tier pricing. Tyrell Williams is one of my favorite tournament plays on this slate. He, like John Ross, has the ability to put up monster games but these types of player do not possess safe enough floors for cash games.
Cash Game Outlook- Melvin Gordon
GPP Outlook- Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Kareem Hunt
Dallas Cowboys @ Carolina Panthers
Vegas Insight: Panthers 23, Cowboys 20
Quarterbacks- This is another game with a lower total, but that doesn’t mean we are lacking DFS options. Unfortunately, I don’t think Dak Prescott is one of them. The Panthers were 11th overall in pass defense DVOA a year ago, and with the Cowboys on the road and with a severe lack of pass catchers I can’t get excited out Dak. I feel bad for him, I do, the Cowboys are just wasting away the value of having him on a rookie contract but that’s a story for another day.
On the other side of this game, I am very interested in Cam Newton for tournaments. Normally, I wouldn’t in this scenario, but things change when we talk about Cam Newton. For one, this Panthers offensive line already wasn’t going to be as good this season, and now they have dealt with a myriad of injuries. Neither of these teams play at a fast pace, which hurts DFS value tremendously but Cam is fully healthy and when he is healthy he is a top three-to-four Quarterback in fantasy football.
Running Backs- Before the Cowboys o-line got so banged up, I had Ezekiel Elliott as my number one overall Running Back in fantasy football for the upcoming season. Trust me when I say I wan’t to play him. I so badly want to go all-in on him at 10% owned against the Panthers and win all the money…but, I just don’t think I can. The Panthers are one of the stone worst matchups for him as they ranked fifth in run DVOA last season and I don’t see there being enough points scored in this game for him to smash his price tag without scoring two touchdowns. Could that happen? Yes. But there are good RBs in much better spots, so I’m going to have to safe my Zeke dollars for another Sunday.
Christian McCaffrey, however, is certainly going to have high-ownership after becoming 2018’s preseason prince. He priced he is clearly the Panthers lead back this preseason, and for anyone who thinks he can’t handle the workload…he averaged over 25 touches per game in his final season at Stanford. This Cowboys team is like the Falcons, they struggle with pass catchers out of the backfield and CMC could certainly get loose on Sunday. Unfortunately, it’s going to come down to Melvin Gordon or McCaffrey for me in cash games and I’m going to choose Gordon in that battle. CMC will most certainly be on one of my main tournament teams to hedge, though.
Pass Catchers- The real issue here is who is Dak even going to throw to? Allen Hurns? Blake Jarwin? Rookie Michael Gallup? I think Gallup is clearly going to be the best wide receiver in this group eventually, but man I feel bad fro Dak having to deal with this. You could throw Gallup into your GPP pool, but it doesn’t get my motor running at all.
It’s kind of the same story with the Panthers. Cam has capable pass catchers such as Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess and electric rookie DJ Moore, but given Cam’s rushing ability and McCaffrey’s ability to catch passes if I’m going to stack someone with Cam it’s him.
Cash Game Outlook- Christian McCaffrey
GPP Outlook- Cam Newton, Ezekiel Elliott, Devin Funchess, Dak Prescott, Michael Gallup
Washington Redskins @ Arizona Cardinals
Vegas Insight: Cardinals 22, Redskins 22
Quarterbacks- We have two Quarterbacks on new teams squaring off with Alex Smith taking over in Washington and Sam Bradford in Arizona. I don’t have a ton of interest in either Quarterback here so I’m going to be brief in my analysis. I think there are some solid plays from this game, but it’s a huge week one slate and I’m comfortable and deep enough with my QB pool I won’t be stretching here.
Running Backs- He’s baaaaackkkk! David Johnson makes his triumphant return and should be lock for the usage we are accustomed to with him given the severe lack of weapons on this Cardinals offense. The Redskins allowed very high efficiency to Running Backs last season and DJ makes for a fantastic play in all formats, and will be lower owned than Alvin Kamara.
On the other side, let’s have a moment of silence for Derrius Guice…….thank you. It’s going to be Adrian Peterson for the Redskins with the loss of Guice, and I’m not interested in him in daily fantasy. He had some solid games last season, but they weren’t efficient and if I’m playing anyone in this backfield it’s Chris Thompson in tournaments.
Pass Catchers- There are two very strong plays from this group and one solid tournament option. The tournament option is going to be Jamison Crowder. He should have a quality matchup in the slot, but I’m holding him out of cash game consideration because I wan’t to see how he works with Smith. There are enough options on this slate that you don’t have to get too cute. The strong play from the Redskins is going to be Jordan Reed, who is 100% ready to go and priced at just $4,000 on DraftKings. This is an elite fantasy Tight End, and with him being the healthiest he will be all year I’m fully taking advantage of that price. The upside is immense.
Our old (literally) friend Larry Fitzgerald has a terrific matchup in the slot against Fabian Moreau. Sam Bradford loves getting the ball out quick, and I think he should have an early connection with Fitzgerald.
Cash Game Outlook- David Johnson, Jordan Reed, Larry Fitzgerald
GPP Outlook- Jamison Crowder, Chris Thompson
Seattle Seahawks @ Denver Broncos
Vegas Insight: Broncos 22.75, Seahawks 19.75
Quarterbacks- The final game of the first main slate of the season! I’m interested in both of the Quarterbacks here, despite a relatively low O/U. The Seahawks did nothing to address their offensive line issues, and decided to use their first round pick on a Running Back…woo! It’s going to be more of the same for Russ this season as he seemingly has to do everything by himself. This is not a good matchup on the road in Denver, but given his ceiling he is in play in GPPs.
Case Keenum is the new sheriff in Denver after almost taking the Vikings to the Super Bowl last season, and I think he is playable in all formats at his price. He’s a home favorite, against what is going to be a terrible Seahawks defense. Earl Thomas did report on Wednesday, so it’s worth monitoring if he will play. If he does, the matchup gets a slight downgrade but this defense is terrible regardless and Keenum fits in with Tyrod Taylor and Andy Dalton as your cheap cash game playable Quarterbacks.
Running Backs- So back to the Seahawks drafting a Running Back in the first round, well get this, he isn’t even starting! Yes, he got injured in the preseason, but it appears he was never the starter anyways and that title belongs to Chris Carson. I like Chris Carson, and he’s going to get touches at a cheap price, but I’m fading on the road against this defense in a negative game script situation.
Royce Freeman looked really good in the preseason scoring in three straight games and leaving no questions as to who is the best back in Denver. He was finally listed as the starter on the final depth chart and I expect that to hold true, but Devontae Booker will still get touches. Freeman is very fairly priced across the industry and I think he makes for a fantastic pivot off of the cheap chalk.
Pass Catchers- I was very excited for Doug Baldwin to have a monster season, and then he hurt his knee. He recently said his knee is something that he will have to deal with all season, and that makes him a 100% fade for me this week, banged up against stud slot corner Chris Harris. Tyler Lockett is a guy that can provide a big play, and he falls into the John Ross/Tyrell Williams range but I have him behind those players in this matchup.
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen thrived out of the slot with Keenum at the helm last season in Minnesota, and I expect the same for Emmanuel Sanders this season in Denver. He absolutely balled in the preseason, and has been very good out of the slot for the entirety of his career. Demaryius Thomas would be the sharp pivot off of him in tournaments and you can file Courtland Sutton into the GPP range.
Cash Game Outlook- Emmanuel Sanders, Case Keenum
GPP Outlook- Royce Freeman, Demaryius Thomas, Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett
BEN’S PRIMETIME SLATE RANKINGS
1. Matthew Stafford (cash)
2. Jared Goff
3. Aaron Rodgers
4. Sam Darnold (punt)
1. Todd Gurley
2. Jordan Howard
3. Jamaal Williams
4. Bilal Powell
5. Kerryon Johnson (GPP)
1. Cooper Kupp
2. Golden Tate
3. Davante Adams
4. Robby Anderson
5. Brandin Cooks
6. Marvin Jones
7. Kenny Golladay
1. Trey Burton
2. Jimmy Graham
3. Luke Willson
4. Jared Cook
Game Theory- As always with the primetime slate, I anticipate the Sunday night game dominating some of the ownership, especially with the name brand of the Packers. Much will be made of the Bears addition of Khalil Mack, but their defense was already a top ten unit in the NFL before that and it should be a lower scoring game given it’s a divisional opponent. My favorite offenses are the Lions and Rams and I will be focusing on them. I could see the Lions/Jets being a shootout and if you want to game stack I would be looking there with a core of Stafford, Tate, Jones/Golladay and bringing it back with Powell and Anderson/Enunwa.