This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Week 1 Results
Tennessee at Tampa Bay was surprising. Is the Tennessee offense better than we expected, or is the Tampa Bay defense one we should target?
Jeff Haseley: As good as Tennessee was in Week 1, the Buccaneers defense was also a factor. My gut says the Titans may not play a better game all season, but I don't see them as a cellar dweller on offense either. They have a decent matchup this week at Cleveland (their second road game). We'll see if the strong play continues. As for Tampa Bay, yes I would look to exploit them until they prove otherwise. Next up is New Orleans.
Phil Alexander: Marcus Mariota exceeded expectations and he's got some interesting weapons, but it can't be overstated how bad Tampa Bay's defense was in Week 1. The Buccaneers had months to prepare for a two-win team starting a virgin quarterback on the road, and they still managed to let up five touchdowns. Fire up your Saints in the dome this week.
Jeff Pasquino: Tampa Bay looked terrible in Week 1, from Winston all the way to the defense. Winston stared down receivers and gave up two bad interceptions including a pick-six while the defense could do nothing to stop Bishop Sankey from racking up yards all game long. I bet you weren't expecting to read that sentence this week, maybe ever. I expected much more from Tampa Bay on both sides of the ball, and if they do not look much better this week in New Orleans then they will be one of the first defenses I target going forward.
Dan Hindery: Tampa looked bad in Week 1. I agree with Phil's take that you should "fire up your Saints in the dome this week." Mark Ingram ($5,900) is going to be one of my favorite options at the RB position this week, and Brandon Coleman ($3,300) is a highly attractive option at near minimum prices. As for Tennessee, the prices did not shoot up dramatically for Mariota ($6,000) or Kendall Wright ($5,000) and both players look like good options against a weak Cleveland defense in Week 2.
Should we avoid passing game players against Carolina after they shut down Jacksonville and ended last season playing well?
Alexander: Absolutely. Josh Norman was given the best coverage grade out of 88 cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus in Week 1. According to our own Matt Harmon, Norman matched up with Allen Robinson on about 50% of Robinson's snaps last week. While that means Norman can't be held fully accountable for Robinson catching just one of six targets for 27 yards, I've seen enough dating back to last season to believe Norman has become a shutdown corner. After Carolina got smoked by Jeremy Maclin in Week 10 last year, they only allowed only one 100 yard receiver the rest of the way - and that was in a 34-3 Week 17 blowout where Roddy White piled up most of those yards in garbage time. You should think twice about using DeAndre Hopkins this week.
Haseley: It may be a bit early to label Carolina as a team that we avoid passing game players who play against them. However they did have five sacks and three takeaways (including a pick-six) while only giving up 9 points, but that was against Jacksonville. Houston is next up. We've seen Josh Norman shut down Julio Jones last year and last week Allen Robinson was held to one catch for 27 yards on 60 offensive snaps. If Norman and the Panthers defense (perhaps without Kuechly) can neutralize DeAndre Hopkins, then we can talk more about avoiding Carolina.
Pasquino: Determining the value of a defense based on just one week and because of the Jaguars offense is a tough pill to swallow. I like the Panthers, but we are not talking about an offensive juggernaut that Carolina completely shut down in Week 1. How many Pro Bowl offensive players play for Jacksonville? Exactly none. So now Carolina hosts Houston, a team that had DeAndre Hopkins light up the Chiefs last week. While I don't see another two touchdown game for him, I could see a reasonable performance. Everyone is going to be chasing Hopkins' points from Week 1, and that ownership percentage (plus everything that has been said already about CB Josh Norman) will have me fading him in Week 2. If Norman stifles Hopkins, I do not see much for Houston's offense come Sunday. That means the Panthers defense will be solid in Week 2 and probably again in Week 3 against Tampa Bay, with the real test coming from Atlanta in Week 4.
Hindery: As for Carolina, they are certainly a tough matchup for opposing offenses. It will be interesting to see if they are as dominant as they looked in Week 1 or if the young Jaguars offense made them look better than they really are. If Carolina and Josh Norman can shut down DeAndre Hopkins this week, it's safe to assume they are one of the top defenses that should be avoided in looking at WR1 matchups. It's worth noting that Luke Kuechly (the heart and soul of the Panthers defense) is in the concussion protocol this week. His availability will be a key factor in deciding whether to play Alfred Blue or DeAndre Hopkins as he makes all of the defensive alignment calls and is a key cog in both the rushing and passing defense.
Is the Buffalo defense a must-avoid for cash game plays?
Pasquino: I wouldn't say anything about "must-play" or "must-avoid" after just one NFL week. Sure, that's 6% of the schedule, but we still are figuring out who is who and what can really be said about each team. Some things will hold true week after week and injuries will factor in, but I cannot just rubber stamp a player or defense as a "must" in either direction. Buffalo did look good on defense and the game quickly got away from Andrew Luck, but New England is going to be quite the test for Week 2. Rob Gronkowski is considered the number one tight end in all of fantasy for a reason, and after his three touchdown performance last week, it would be hard to fade him in Week 2. This will be quite the test for Rex Ryan's Bills and I think Tom Brady and Gronkowski can move the ball against them, even on the road.
Alexander: It's sure not a matchup I'll be seeking out, especially for running backs. Buffalo allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to running backs last year, and began 2015 by properly stuffing Frank Gore and Josh Robinson. I wouldn't dismiss receivers against them though. Outside of stud cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo's secondary can be beaten in the right matchup (think on the road against a team with a strong offensive line and quarterback). Leodis McKelvin -- the normal starter opposite Gilmore -- is out through Week 6 with an ankle injury. Second round pick Ronald Darby played great in McKelvin's place against the Colts, but had a roller coaster preseason. Third year corner Nickell Robey was unimpressive covering opposing teams' slot receivers last year and still has much to prove. For this week, I wouldn't be afraid to fire up Rob Gronkowski in cash games, but I wouldn't go near any other Patriot.
Hindery: I agree with Phil's point about Buffalo being an avoid for running backs and WR1s, but a potentially decent matchup for WR2s and WR3s on teams with top passing offenses. With Buffalo's ability to shut down the running game, teams will have to throw the ball often if they hope to have any success against the Bills. Gilmore has become a shutdown cornerback capable of really limiting the receiver he matches up against (he started out matched against Andre Johnson Week 1), but the rest of the Bills corners are just average. If the secondary receiving targets see an increased number of targets due to pass-heavy offensive game plans, they should be decent options in cash games if the price is right. In GPPs, they could be especially attractive as most will fade all offensive players going against the Bills and the ownership rates should be low.
Haseley: The Bills took care of business against Andrew Luck last week and did a decent job holding Aaron Rodgers in check last year. I would think long and hard about playing players against Buffalo, especially at home. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will be a good litmus test against this opinion this week.
Sammy Watkins was wildly disappointing in Week 1, being blanketed by Vontae Davis. With a salary drop from $7,000 to $6,200 and friendlier secondary matchup vs. New England forthcoming, might Watkins be a good GPP play?
Dan Hindery: Watkins should have a better week against New England and is a decent play in the GPP format only due to the likelihood that his ownership will be extremely low after his Week 1 shutout. I would only consider using Watkins on my roster if: (1) it's a very large GPP format (like the Millionaire Maker); or (2) most of my lineup is filled with "chalk" plays and I really want to add some uniqueness to my entry. In those limited circumstances, he is a decent contrarian play because we know he is talented enough to hit a couple big plays and always has the potential to put up a huge fantasy score. In fact, Rex Ryan noted after the game that Watkins was open a couple times but, "the protection broke down once or we would have had a 60 or 70 yard touchdown."
In other game types besides large GPPs, it's hard to trust Watkins. The key to success on DraftKings is owning wide receivers who are almost definitely going to receive a lot of targets and pile up the points in full PPR scoring. Week 1 was further confirmation of our preseason suspicions that Watkins will not be that type of wideout. He will have games where he is not targeted often and is going to be highly dependent on scoring a long touchdown to reach value given his relatively high salary.
BJ VanderWoude: Dan makes a good point with targets. The Bills will continue to be a sum of the parts type offense, and with that comes a much smaller target volume for Watkins. My biggest problem with rostering Watkins is that both his floor and his ceiling are not in balance with his salary, so it becomes very difficult to justify playing him in any format. The Bills are not going to throw the ball in the redzone frequently, and when they do it will be spread out equally among the wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, and Tyrod Taylor bootlegs.
Watkins has the talent to produce monster games, but it won't happen until Taylor becomes comfortable throwing the ball 30+ times a game. Only one starting quarterback (M.Mariota) threw less passes than Taylor in week 1. Opportunity is such a big part of projections, and right now Watkins does not have nearly enough opportunity to suggest he can hit 3x value consistently.
I would suggest not putting Watkins in your GPP lineups, there is much more value to be had in lesser priced wide receivers.
Jeff Haseley: Credit Tyrod Taylor for not forcing the ball to Sammy Watkins against Vontae Davis. I would be surprised if Watkins isn't featured more against New England, but I also think Buffalo will use their running game to control the clock against the Patriots. Keep in mind that Pittsburgh was able to run all over New England last week. I'm not sure I would roster Watkins in a GPP. There's other better and cheaper options out there that I would be more interested in, like Terrance Williams or Cole Beasley.
Phil Alexander: Watkins is definitely reserved for GPPs only, but I wouldn't say that makes him a good tournament play this week. Tyrod Taylor was gifted with perfect game script in Week 1 and to his credit, he took advantage of it. The table won't be set as neatly for Taylor in a tough division match-up against the Patriots. Tom Brady has averaged 344 passing yards and 3.25 touchdowns per game over his last four trips to Buffalo. As Jeff alluded to, Rex Ryan will be planning to keep the ball out of Brady's hands, which can only be accomplished with a heavy dose of the run. And while Patriots cornerback Malcom Butler is no Vontae Davis, Watkins is no Antonio Brown. Butler was outclassed by one of the best receivers in the game last week, but he made things difficult for Brown on many of his catches. If you're playing Watkins in GPPs, you want him to hit 4x value. At $6,200, that's 24.8 points -- a number he reached three times on DraftKings last year. Even if he winds up 2% owned, I'm not sure this is the week to use Watkins in tournaments and cross your fingers for a long touchdown.
Jeff Pasquino: It's hard not to overreact to Week 1 outcomes and results, but we have to remember that it was only one week and it was a particular matchup and game script that led to this outcome. I don't think that Watkins will be worth nothing all year long, but I also struggle to see him being worth much in Week 2 either. At $6,200, you are asking him to get 18.6 points in cash and 24.8 in GPPs. I don't see a reasonable path to 100 yards receiving for him, so he is on the "do not consider" list for Week 2.
At first glance, which salary increase jumped off the page at you? And is that player worth his new increased price this week?
Phil Alexander: Austin Seferian-Jenkins jumped from $3,400 to $4,100 on the strength of a 31 point breakout game. I've always loved Seferian-Jenkins, but with only $100 separating him from Tyler Eifert and just $200 separating him from Jason Witten, I'll be going nowhere near him this week. The 41-yard touchdown catch that transformed his Week 1 from "merely very good" to "absolutely bonkers" occurred with 3:18 left in a 42-7 game. Garbage time production is not something you can bank on each week, even if Tampa Bay is currently the league's brightest burning, foulest smelling dumpster fire. It's also fair to assume Seferian-Jenkins' target volume will be negatively impacted by the pending return of Mike Evans.
Jeff Pasquino: One of the best advantages for weekly pricing occurs when players emerge on Monday Night Football, as the prices for the following week are already released for the next slate of games. So anyone that steps up in a big way on Monday will appear to be vastly underpriced for the following week. Week 2 is different this year, however, as player prices came out to show differences between early summer Week 1 price releases and Week 2 perception.
A few that stood out to me were Carlos Hyde ($5,300 in Week 1, $5,100 in Week 2). This reflects the downward perception of the San Francisco running game during the preseason and certainly not a reflection of Hyde's outstanding performance (and Millionaire Maker winning performance as well, I might add). Hyde at $5,100 against the Steelers screams value to me.
Another value further down the price level at running back is Darren Sproles, who comes in at $3,500 this week, up slightly from $3,300. Sproles was my "Punt Play of the Week" on The Audible on DraftKings in Week 1, and he proved me right by racking up 126 yards with seven catches -- or 19.6 points. That value will continue in Week 2 against Dallas as the Eagles get the ball in Sproles' hands quite often despite only being on the field about a third of the time.
Looking at wide receiver, Cole Beasley will be a bargain this week at $3,300. Both John Lee and I loved him for Week 2 as a Punt Play (great values under $3,500), and with Dez Bryant out as of late in the Sunday night game, the price move (he was $3,400 in Week 1) does not reflect his starting status in Week 2 against the Eagles. He is another fantastic value.
The last one I want to point out for now is Carson Palmer. He went from $6,500 up to $6,700, but he is still a bargain. After throwing for three touchdowns in Week 1, he gets a great matchup against the Bears and will face them with "Rip Van" Chris Johnson in the backfield replacing Andre Ellington. I see another 300 yards and multiple touchdowns in Palmer's near future.
Positional Matchup Trends
Which positional matchup do you see as a developing trend that DFS players should target?
BJ VanderWoude: Going off just what I saw this weekend, I will be targeting the defense of whoever is playing Tampa Bay. Jameis Winston will continue to throw interceptions, and the way he stares down receivers, I will not be surprised by several pick sixes this season. The offensive line did not look good and that won't change anytime soon given their youth.
Phil Alexander: I like the idea of Indianapolis' struggles against WR2s continuing, and I've inserted Eric Decker ($5,100) into some early GPP lineups as a result. Decker lined up in the slot on most of his routes during Week 1, which is where Colts' CB Darius Butler plays most of his snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks had a 104.2 rating when throwing into Butler's slot coverage last year. Last Sunday, Tyrod Taylor's QBR was 116.7 on passes against Butler. If the Colts decide to stick Vontae Davis on Brandon Marshall, Decker should see more than last week's three targets. And if I had to bet on a Jets receiver scoring a touchdown this week, I'm taking Decker who has a 33% share of New York's receiving touchdowns since joining the team last year. As an added bonus, the Colts are a familiar opponent to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played the last two seasons in the AFC South.
Jeff Pasquino: I think running game matchups are easier to spot after one week. Some coverage trends will emerge soon, but for now I like Justin Forsett to run all day long against the Oakland Raiders. Cincinnati beat them with both running backs (and the tight end as well), and the Ravens really did not muster much of any offense in Week 1. They have to get the ball in the hands of one of their few playmakers, and with Forsett having an advantage, that is one I like right away.
Buffalo also ran the ball very effectively against the Colts, while the Jets did the same against the Browns. Those two results have me looking at both Chris Ivory (Jets at Colts) and also (gasp) Bishop Sankey at Cleveland in Week 2.
Jeff Haseley: Phil, good call. I like the trend with WR2s going against the Colts defense. My suggestion is to take Atlanta against the Giants poor secondary and pass defense. Tony Romo was able to throw the ball at will on the Giants, and that was mostly without Dez Bryant. The Giants have been hurt by injuries and ineffectiveness, which is a feather in the cap of the Falcons and their strength, which is passing the ball. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones should have a big game against the depleted Giants secondary and less than stellar pass rush. The way to beat Ryan is to give him a strong pass rush. I don't see the Giants doing that, which leads me to believe Ryan will carve up the defense.
Alexander: Jeff (Pasquino), are you worried at all about the game scripts going differently for Ivory and Sankey this week? Ivory was in a fantastic spot last week. The Jets were a home favorite matched up with an opponent their defense predictably dominated. This week, they're playing against Andrew Luck on the road, as a seven point underdog. I'm sure their plan will be to keep Luck off the field by running the ball, but I wonder how long they can keep it close. Sankey also benefited when the game went into a negative script for the Bucs last week. I don't have a major problem with Ivory or Sankey this week, but I'm not seeking them out either.
Pasquino: I think that the game script will stay the same long enough for both Ivory and Sankey to produce. No one expected the game in Buffalo to go like it did for the Colts, yet that is what happened.
That said, I think that there are a good number of running backs to target for Week 2 in DFS, so if you are concerned about a particular game script, go towards another back (like Forsett) where the team is favored - always a good trend to follow for picking runners. Mark Ingram is another good choice (home vs. Tampa Bay).
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