It’s been a subpar start to the season for me, but I’ve gotten some feedback via Twitter that plenty of you are enjoying the column and making money with the picks. Last week was a low scoring week, for the most part, mostly due to the Eagles and Cowboys game ending up being a complete dud.
I hit it out of the park with the wide receiver selections and did all right with running backs, but the QBs all pretty much missed. Few DFS players had much luck with defenses last week, as all the chalk plays, and even the secondary plays had poor weeks.
One of the biggest injury issues coming into this week will be the health of Eddie Lacy. Lacy left last week’s game against Seattle with an ankle injury, and may not play in Monday Night’s game where the Packers welcome the Chiefs to Lambeau.
His health will be vital when it comes to determining your lineup this week. Packers’ backup running back James Starks is a must-play at DraftKings if Lacy sits at the low price of $3000 and deserves consideration at FanDuel, ($6,500) even against a tough front such as the Chiefs.
His status will be updated Thursday, but I would say he is more likely to suit rather than suit up. The Packers typically allow players time to heal and with Super Bowl aspirations, I expect them to give Lacy time to recoup.
Other notable injuries last week and concerns this week center on several quarterbacks. Drew Brees has dodged a long-term injury (some speculation that he had a torn rotator cuff) after suffering a shoulder injury against Tampa Bay. He is probable to play this week. Jay Cutler will be sidelined two weeks with a hamstring injury. Finally, Tony Romo will be out 8-10 weeks with a broken clavicle.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings are rolling out massive tournaments that will make one player a millionaire each week of the season. FanDuel’s $5M NFL Sunday Million has a top prize of $1 million and comes with a $25 entrance fee. DraftKings’ prize pool has decreased slightly. The $10 million dollar prize pool is now a $7M Millionaire Maker tournament and has a top prize of $1.2 million and a slightly smaller entry fee at $20.
Cash Games and Tournaments
In this article, we’ll go position by position in terms of my favorite picks for the week. I also will be mentioning if I like a player more in cash games or tournaments. This is standard daily fantasy lingo and is simple to understand.
Cash games are contests where you have to beat a few other players, such as head-to-head or 50/50 contests. In these games, you only need to beat your opponent or place in the upper half of the field to cash. Cash games could also extend to 3-man contests or triple ups, or even larger contests. In these types of games, we want players who have an excellent floor of points and aren’t necessarily looking for upside (though, it certainly helps).
Tournaments are large field prize pools that consist of hundreds of players to thousands of players. For example, the Week 1 Millionaire Maker has over 500,000 thousand available entries. In large fields, it pays to be more contrarian. For tournaments or GPPs (guaranteed prize pools), we’re looking for players who are lesser-owned and have high upside or ceilings.
In summation, in cash games, we’re looking for high floors and per point value and in tournaments, high ceilings, and low ownership percentages.
Now, onto the picks for Week 3.
Thursday Night Football
The Redskins at the Giants headline Thursday Night Football this week. The total is an average 44 points, with New York listed as -3.5 favorites.
I usually avoid Thursday contests, aside from entering in placeholder lineups and fading the game, but there is some fantasy goodness for those that might have interest. Odell Beckham should have a decent game against Washington’s cornerbacks, but comes with a high price tag at both sites. That’s the only value I see from the G-men side, with Eli Manning being far too unpredictable to trust, even in this excellent on-paper matchup.
Since Matt Jones exploded onto the fantasy scene last week, the running back situation is now more than likely a timeshare. Timeshares at running back are never a good thing for DFS, and that makes both Alfred Morris and Matt Jones unplayable in this contest. Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed are both solid, but not elite plays in cash games and tournaments that will likely be under-owned.
Andrew Luck (FanDuel: $9,000 DraftKings: $7,900)
I’m one who is skeptical of many “experts” who have anointed Luck as a top five quarterback in this league so early in his career. For me, he’s had some truly awful games (yes, they’re rare) and throws the ball up for grabs a little too often which results in turnovers. He may one day be a Hall of Famer, but for me his decision making still ranks him slightly out of the top 10.
However, this spot against the Titans is one where he is primed for a bounce-back game. It’s a shame this game isn’t at home for Indianapolis and that Luck’s top weapon at wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton, is hobbled by injuries, but his floor and ceiling are still gigantic in this one.
The Colts are -3.5 favorites against the Titans, and have a projection of around 24.5 points. I expect most of these to come from Luck’s arm. Tennessee’s secondary is truly awful while their signings at linebacker have improved their run defense.
All in all, they’re a terrible defense, and Luck shouldn’t have any trouble picking them apart, even with his offensive weapons not quite at full strength. Three touchdowns and over 300 yards passing wouldn’t surprise me at all in this contest as a final line.
He undoubtedly has the upside for even more. His price is high considering some of the more value-centric low priced options, but the Colts have started the year 0-2, and he hasn’t looked good so that may keep ownership more depressed.
Injury issues may open up more salary, so Luck is an excellent guy to keep on your radar, even if you’re dead-set on another option at quarterback. However, I don’t think there’s a safer play on the board in cash games this week.
Cam Newton (FD: $7,900 DK: $6,800)
The Cam Newton we all know and love is back. Towards the end of last season, Carolina once again began to unleash his ability as a runner when they were desperate to get into the playoffs. He had some of his best games of the year down the stretch. With the injuries to their receiving corps and no true consistent passing game option besides Greg Olsen, they’ve stuck with the same formula.
They’re 2-0, and I don’t see them changing things up anytime soon. Cam has run the ball 24 times in the first two games, both contests that Carolina’s defense mostly controlled. He has a rushing touchdown and over 100 yards on the ground this year.
This week, he faces his easiest matchup of the year so far, as New Orleans comes to town. The Saints secondary is in shambles due to lack of talent and injury issues. Newton should have no trouble connecting downfield with his receivers in this one and his rushing floor and upside makes him an elite play in both cash games and tournaments.
Newton scorched New Orleans in Week 15 last season with three touchdowns through the air 80 yards rushing on the ground to go with another rushing score. The Panthers won big in that game 41-10. There’s potential for Jonathan Stewart to notch some of these TDs instead of Newton, but regardless of game script, I think he gets his against this awful defense.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (FD: $6,800 DK: $5,100)
Fitzpatrick’s price is a bit better at DraftKings, rather than Fanduel, but I think he’s in play on both sites. He’ll be a bit more contrarian at FanDuel, where he’s priced more appropriately, but that should bring his ownership levels down.
New York takes on the Eagles at home where they are -2.5 favorites in a game with a 45.5 total. We’re used to seeing higher totals for Philly, but the Jets defense is elite, and the Eagles offense looks horrible so far.
Let’s not forget, though, Chip Kelly isn’t going to drastically alter his gameplan based on two games. Perhaps he should, considering how poor they have looked, but I doubt we see significant changes this week. Due to the amount of plays they run, opposing offenses will in turn run more plays as well, by default.
Philadelphia defends the run well, but their pass defense is awful. Chris Ivory will still need to be accounted for, however, and I foresee the Jets running plenty of play action which should open things up downfield.
This game has sneaky shootout potential and with Fitzmagic’s price so low, it won’t take him much to reach 3x value if the game plays out that way. Considering him for tournaments may be a reach, but he did explode for six touchdowns last season against the Titans as Houston’s quarterback under a similar run-heavy offense.
James Starks (FD: $6,500 DK: $3,000)
I touched on Starks at the top of the article, but he deserves a mention here as well. If Lacy sits out, he’s a must-play across the industry. He’s quite the talented running back in his own right and even though he has a tougher matchup (but not elite) against Kansas City’s run defense, there are several factors going his favor.
He’s extremely cheap and won’t need much to get 3x value, particularly at DraftKings. Secondly, Green Bay is favored by -6.5 and should be running the ball with a lead for much of this game. His ownership percentage will be sky high, so he may be worth a fade in large tournaments, but if Lacy is out, he’s an automatic cash game play.
Adrian Peterson (FD: $8,900 DK: $7,500)
There’s a lot of top options in this price range at running back this week, but I think Adrian is far and away the best choice for both cash games and tournaments, even ahead of Marshawn Lynch.
Peterson ran with authority last week and looked to be once again in elite form after a disappointing Week 1 against San Francisco. He touched the ball a staggering 31 times and rushed for 134 yards on the ground while adding two receptions for 58 yards.
Despite not scoring, he tripled his salary last week. He also fumbled the ball twice in the red zone and once at the goal line. The full-back also vulture a one-yard touchdown from him. Peterson could have easily erupted for two or more touchdowns last week.
Since that didn’t happen, he will be lower owned this week and even more with other top choices in the same price range. Though they have shown improve through two weeks, the Chargers rush defense was one of the worst in the league last season.
Minnesota has been installed as -2.5 favorites by the oddsmakers and there is little doubt in my mind that they will stick to the run to limit time of possession in an attempt to keep Phillip Rivers off the field. “All Day” has an incredible floor and is oozing with upside considering he might touch the ball 30 or more times.
Marshawn Lynch (FD: $8,700 DK: $7,400)
Though Lynch disappointed us last week, he comes back with a mouth-watering opportunity this week. Seattle welcomes the Bears to CenturyLink Field, a game where they are massive -14.5 favorites. Jimmy Clausen is almost sure to start due to Jay Cutler’s hamstring injury.
The Bears defense is probably the worst unit in the league at this point. With such a large point spread and Lynch being a touchdown machine at home – he’s going to be a tough fade in cash games. With such a definitive edge in this one, I expect to see the Seahawks in the red zone frequently with plenty of short fields to work with against Chicago.
The flip side here is that Russell Wilson does the scoring against this cupcake defense, which is certainly possible. Seattle will limit his reps (we saw him take a series off against the Packers last week, a close game) if they’re up by double-digits in the second half. He’ll probably have at least a touchdown if the game turns blowout, however.
Fading Lynch in large tournaments due to his ownership percentage makes sense. I don’t think there is any doubt he will be the highest owned running back this week. Of course, I love his matchup, but if I had to choose just one running back in cash games and tournaments – I’d take Adrian Peterson.
Brandon Marshall (FD: $7,400 DK: $6,200)
Marshall is probably my favorite play at the wide receiver position based on his price and matchup. He would make a nice contrarian stack in a tournament with Ryan Fitzpatrick as well. Although, the real allure here is the injury that will almost certainly sideline Eric Decker this week.
Decker left Monday’s win over Indianapolis with a knee injury and hasn’t practiced this week. I expect him to be ruled out as we head into the weekend. Marshall has been a beast to start the season and has shown no decline despite getting up there in age at 31.
As I mentioned with Fitzpatrick, the Eagles run so many plays that opposing offenses will get more opportunities themselves. Marshall will be able to attack the Eagles where they are most vulnerable: through the air.
His matchup against Philadelphia cornerback Bryon Maxwell could not be any better. Maxwell was brought in to shore up a weak Eagles secondary, but he’s been one of the worst defensive backs in the league in the first two weeks.
With few other options in the passing game, Fitzpatrick will funnel targets to Marshall. He’ll easily see 12+ targets in this game. Hopefully, several red zone looks. I love his floor for cash games and upside in tournaments.
Julian Edelman (FD: $7,700 DK: $7,000)
I don’t like chasing big weeks in DFS, but with the Patriots having a 30-point team total this week against the Jaguars – I think we need at least one part of their offensive attack. Edelman is as consistent as it gets.
Jacksonville doesn’t have anyone who can cover the shifty slot receiver, and he should receive a healthy dose of targets this week. Few realize that Edelman leads the league in targets with 33 (he had 19 last week) and receptions with 22. At a site like DraftKings, which has full point PPR, Edelman is cash game gold.
I’d like to say his upside is somewhat limited because he’s not a big-play guy or their top choice when closer to the goal line, but his 11 reception, two touchdown game last week begs to differ.
Belichick has always focused on teams’ weaknesses when developing game plans. The Jaguars have been rather stout against the run so far. We could easily see a game plan similar to last week where Brady threw the ball 59 times.
Cecil Shorts III (FD: $5,200 DK: $3,500) and Nate Washington (FD: $5,300 DK: $3,600)
Texans leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins was diagnosed with a concussion on Wednesday. This was an unknown injury throughout the early part of the week and apparently missed after the Texans loss to Carolina last week. With Hopkins hitting the concussion protocol mid week, it’s unlikely he will be cleared in time for Sunday’s contest against Tampa Bay.
If he’s forced out due to injury, that vaults Shorts and Washington into prominent positions on offense and perhaps the primary means of ball movement for Houston. Tampa Bay’s pass defense is weak while they boast a much tougher run defense. The Texans have not been able to get anything going on the ground anyway so both would be in for a healthy number of targets in this one.
Washington has led the team in receiving for two straight weeks to start the year, but the veteran wideout is more of a deep threat outside. I would look at him more as a tournament play as opposed to cash games.
Shorts’ yardage totals have been lower, but he’s being targeted heavily. Last week, he saw 12 targets and had seen 20 over the first two weeks. Mallet’s inaccuracy is a problem here, but Shorts would probably see around the same number (or more) of targets this week if Hopkins were sidelined. He would also become the primary red zone target.
We’ll know well in advance of Sunday’s game if Shorts has passed the concussion protocol. Keep an eye on this situation, as these guys become some excellent under the radar plays if he’s out.
Rob Gronkowski (FD: $8,400 DK: $7,400)
Gronkowski is always going to be an elite option every week. It’s purely a matter of salary if you can fit him in and field a competent team around him. His price on both FanDuel and DraftKings offers plenty of values, particularly when you compare him to the prices of elite receivers.
As I mentioned with Edelman, I do recommend getting a piece of the Patriots this week in your cash games. The other option would be Dion Lewis. If you can get Gronk into your lineup and make it work, go for it. He’s matchup proof each week regardless, and this is a juicy one.
Travis Kelce (FD: $6,400 DK: $5,000)
You can’t go wrong with Gronk, but Kelce is my favorite tight end play this week in terms of value and upside. The Chiefs are also nearly touchdown underdogs at Green Bay. They will likely be behind and trying to match Aaron Rodgers in a potential shootout.
Kelce exploded in Week 1 but was held in check with just four catches for 58 yards in Week 2. He’s easily their best red zone target in the passing game, and I think Kansas City will look to get him involved early knowing they have to put up points to match Green Bay’s offense.
Oh, and he’s also a physical freak, who is a matchup problem for just about any defense he faces. Fire up “mini-Gronk” in both cash games and tournaments without hesitation.
Jared Cook (FD: $5,400 DK: $2,800)
Jared Cook is severely underpriced at DraftKings in a game that has one of the largest totals of the week. The Steelers have also been terrible at defending tight ends to start the year and their passing defense as a whole is one of the worst in the league.
Cook has led the Rams in targets in both games this season but has yet to get into the end zone. He’s also their leading receiver. He doesn’t need much to pay off his cheap price tag and is an excellent cash game punt.
Seattle Seahawks (FD: $5,300 DK: $3,400)
For your cash games, there’s no other place you need to go besides Seattle. They’re at home and are massive favorites. The Bears projected points according to Vegas is just 14.5. That’s easily the lowest this year. They just got Kam Chancellor back from his holdout this week and is expected to play. Don’t get cute, play the Seahawks and get ready for a blood bath.
Houston Texans (FD: $5,000 DK: $3,100)
The Texans are a solid pivot from Seattle that would work for tournaments. Jameis Winston recovered nicely last week from his Week 1 implosion, but that is easily the toughest test he will face all year. J.J. Watt and the Houston defense should make it a long afternoon for the rookie.
Denver Broncos (FD: $4,600 DK: $3,000)
Denver’s defense could easily top the list when the season is over for the best overall defense. They take on a Lions team that has been battered in recent weeks. Matthew Stafford isn’t a good quarterback when he’s healthy and he is far from 100 percent right now. The Broncos elite secondary should make it very hard for the Lions to get anything going if they get behind.
Author: Joseph Falchetti (twitter)
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