WE. ARE. BACK. Welcome to Week One of the 2018 NFL Season. I can barely contain my excitement that football is back upon us. You may have noticed I’ve been MIA over the last several months. I can happily say I welcomed my first child into the world this past April, a beautiful baby girl! I totally underestimated the lack of time I would have those first few months. I still played MLB DFS most of the season, but just couldn’t find the time to put my research into writing. But here we are, five months later, and things are starting to become a little easier. So, let’s get to this week’s NFL DFS slate.
I believe this is my third season writing this article, and if you’re new here, I have one goal in mind. Help you make good decisions so you can win some money. A lot of things have changed in the DFS landscape over the past three years. Therefore, I’m always trying to adapt this piece to benefit the reader the most. With that said, I haven’t fully decided on the “official” format for the entire year. This started as a “here are my favorite plays” piece, but I just don’t think that cuts it anymore. You can read everyone’s “favorite plays” all over the internet. They are everywhere. In fact, I would venture to bet that you can find almost every single player in the player pool written up as a “good play” somewhere out there…. Okay, I’ll stop using so many quotations.
So, here’s the deal. I am really going to try to put focus on an analytical approach to my plays this year and want that to reflect here. I will be refining that process throughout the year and want to see what teams are doing on the field with new personnel and coaches instead of just using last years data to inform my decision-making.
With that said, this week I’m going to focus on helping you make good decisions. Use my input to form your own opinions and take stands to make your decisions. At the end of the day, you don’t have to blindly agree with everything I say, and you most definitely shouldn’t. There are some very smart professionals that I read every single week that I disagree with regularly.
I’m going to list certain teams and/or players below and let you know what decisions I’m making on these situations.
New England Patriots
The Patriots are bound to have a number of popular plays. Guys like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are cash game staples for seasoned fantasy players, while the new wave of Pats players like Rex Burkhead and Chris Hogan are likely to draw their fair share of ownership as well. So, what should you do?
Fade Tom Brady, Rex Burkhead, and Chris Hogan, and by fade I mean they won’t be in my core lineup, but I may have them in one lineup in a 20 entry max.
Brady could be the highest scoring quarterback on the slate. However, the trusted ownership projections that I use have Brady as the defacto highest owned quarterback on the slate. If he comes in at 15-20% there is an advantage to be had by fading him. I don’t think the Texans shut the Patriots out, and I could see Brady finishing with an efficient line, but that efficient line doesn’t have to be a fantasy winning line. The Texans defense was decimated by injury last season so things can only get better for them, getting back possibly the most disruptive defensive player in the game (JJ Watt), as well as other important players like Whitney Mercilus and adding Tyrann Mathieu.
As much as I like Chris Hogan in DFS and season long, I will be fading this weekend. He’ll likely be a top five highest owned wide receiver, and with the aforementioned improved Texans defense and the wide range of targets for Brady, there’s a definite path for him to bust.
Coming into the season, there was no doubt in my mind I would have Burkhead locked into my Week 1 lineup. This, despite me swearing to myself countless times in the past that I would never play Patriots running backs again – you just never know what they’re going to do. Seriously, if we were in grade school, I would have written on the board 1000 times: “I will not play a Patriots running back, no matter what.” But when healthy last season, Burkhead was exceptional and that had me excited.
Well, luckily for me, he’s no longer healthy. Your guess is as good as mine on what he’ll do Sunday. The range of outcomes is WIDE. He could be the RB1 for the entire slate, or he could score low single digits. The reports are all conflicting. He’s not on the injury report, but ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported Thursday that he will be “eased into the mix.” What does that mean? It doesn’t sound good for fantasy purposes. Add in that he suffered a “minor tear” in his knee in mid-August (it’s not even mid-September yet), and I see no reason to roll the dice on him.
If Burkhead was going to be unowned it would be tempting, but everywhere I look, ownership projections have him as a top five owned RB. Just don’t play him. It’s a negative EV move.
In a really deep tournament, I think you could even take a shot on Jeremy Hill and/or James White.
Lastly, I think Rob Gronkowski is a very solid play here and he is on my short list of tight ends on this slate.
I may live and die by the Broncos this weekend, and I might be the only person in DFS salivating at playing them here. I have absolutely no faith in the Seahawks defense. This is a spot to exploit because the public still perceives Seattle’s defense as being good. My favorite combo here is Case Keenum and Emmanuel Sanders. I will have Sanders across the board in all formats and am strongly considering a Keenum/Sanders pairing for my main lineup. There’s just so much salary left over to spend elsewhere.
You can also play Demaryius Thomas and Royce Freeman. In large field tournaments I will have a team with a full stack. I may go out on a limb here and come crashing back down to earth, but my gut tells me this is a good spot with low ownership and I want to take a shot at it in a big way.
Kamara will likely be popular. I don’t mind though, he’ll fit in nicely with my low owned Broncos stack. There has been some concern about the Saints giving him a similar workload as last season and the FACT that his efficiency has to regress. It is a fact, right? I don’t buy the coach speak here.
With Mark Ingram out I don’t see any way Kamara doesn’t touch it 20+ times. It’s one thing to come into a game and try to limit your best player who may be more explosive than any player in the league, but once they’re in the middle of battle, that can go out the window very quickly. Kamara should feast in this matchup even with a little regression in his yards per touch. I’m paying up for him over every other stud RB.
Ravens D + Alex Collins
The Ravens are another chalk piece that I’m happy to eat. The Ravens defense is in a smash spot here, and I am going to lock button them. If you need to know why, google “Nathan Peterman Week 11 2017”. This is a solid defense facing a dumpster fire offense. Again, they should be the most popular defense, but I don’t care.
To set myself apart, I think I’m also going to lock button Alex Collins. You probably know by now that defenses and running backs are highly correlated. I expect the Ravens to dominate all aspects of this game, and that will include time of possession, giving Collins ample opportunity to find pay-dirt and rack up the yards. By pairing these two together I think it will negate the increased ownership of either of them by themselves. Our own Matt Bishop is also a fan of Collins and lists him as one of his starts of the week in this weeks Start/Sit column.
Last season, the Bills were near the bottom of the league in a number of advanced run defense metrics. They were 24th in running back pass efficiency defense and 31st in both rush efficiency and explosive run defense. (sharpfootballstats.com)
Here’s another popular offense we need to address. James Conner is in an excellent position. The kid has an amazing story and you can’t help but root for him. I honestly hope he plays really well and at least makes LeVeon Bell nervous. He will definitely be very popular, but you almost have to lock him in. As you’ve seen above, I’ll be very contrarian at other positions, so I don’t mind eating this chalk. The RB replacement for Bell has performed well in numerous spots when Bell has been suspended or injured. It’s a true work horse role for a very affordable price.
Ben Roethlisberger makes for an interesting option, but I think I’ll save him for large field tournaments. He’s on the road – the bad half of his home/road split. With that said, both he and Antonio Brown have shined in those same games that Bell missed. Brown is the best receiver in the game and the best fantasy wide receiver on the slate. There is a very high likelihood that he’s a top three scorer at the position. Lastly, I don’t hate Juju Smith-Schuster. He should be the lowest owned of the skill position players here if you want to go off the board.
To sum it up, I will be playing Conner in all formats, followed by quite a bit of Brown. I will also probably have a team with a full stack of all four of these players in a large field tournament. I haven’t even discussed their opponent, the Cleveland Browns, because, well… 1-31. This team has more talent this year, but they still have bad coaching. I’ll be surprised if Hue Jackson makes it through the year, but then again, I’m surprised he’s still the coach today.
Andy Dalton is getting a lot of love this week because of his cheap price and juicy matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. I will probably have a sliver or two of him in a 20 entry max tournament. But I’m most interested in A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert.
Green should have a field day against this Colts defense, which was a dumpster fire last year. Green has struggled as the only weapon at times, but the Bengals have everyone healthy and there are other options for Dalton. This should allow Green to find more openings against this porous secondary.
One of those healthy weapons is Eifert. I’d love to see the guy stay healthy because he could be among the top players at the position. He’s a big time red zone threat, and if he makes it through the game in tact he has a great shot at finding pay dirt. If there is ever a time to play him, it is this weekend.
The more I got through and hand build my Draftkings teams, I’m finding myself on Eifert in almost all of them. His $3,400 price tag is just way too low for the two touchdown upside that he possesses. I’m predicting at least one TD for him, which will guarantee he smashes value. Let’s just hold our breath and hope he doesn’t stub his toe at some point during the game.
San Diego Chargers
I am becoming very bullish on a three man Chargers stack, including Phillip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen. I have mixed and match these guys throughout my 20 Draftkings entries, and I’m considering them all for my single high dollar team on FanDuel.
“You know they say #Alabama could never beat an NFL team and I obv agree. But I do think the Crimson Tide could field an equal or better secondary than the #Chiefs will trot out this week.”
That was in response to reports of Eric Berry likely being out. I respect the heck out of Evan and his takes and this pushed me over the edge on the Chargers at home. If picking just one guy for Chargers exposure, I’m going with Gordon.
That’s it for this week. As I mentioned before, I will be adjusting the format as we go, so if you have any input about what you like or don’t like, feel free to let me know on twitter @mrclutchdfs. Best of luck this weekend!
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