Each week here at Trendspotting, we'll take a look at five games that will be critical to the week's DFS slate. Generally, we'll look at the three or four highest over/unders as projected by Las Vegas odds and pick one or two "wild cards" with intriguing fantasy potential despite a modest projected point total. Anything that is in green text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players. Anything in red text is a bad matchup. When a player's name is green, it means that he exceeded 2.75x value on his DraftKings salary that week. If a name is red, it means that player was under 2x his value.
In future weeks as more 2016 data becomes available, we'll be using our Fantasy Points Against data housed here at Footballguys. For this week's column, we'll be using what we (think we may have) learned in Week 1 and some leftover 2015 data when relevant. Lastly, all reference to fantasy points will assume DraftKings scoring rules.
In order to keep myself honest and not just dish out wild prognostications with no repercussions, I'll be calling out my best and worst calls from the previous week. Ideally, the best calls sound great, and the worst calls weren't big missed, but with the unpredictable nature of this sport, that's far from guaranteed.
"This Guy Really Knows What He's Doing"
"DeAngelo Williams should see at least six targets in the passing game, making him a high-floor and high-ceiling play."
Williams was targeted nine times (second on the team) and caught six passes. Between that and his decimation of Washington in the ground game, he was among the best DFS plays of the entire week.
"Due to his price, Dwayne Allen is basically a 'set it and forget it' auto-start cash game play this week."
Allen returned over 5x on his price tag in a week so horrific for tight ends that someone won $200,000 with a zero from their TE spot.
"He Said What?!"
"Between that [Pittsburgh running less no-huddle on the road], his personal home/road splits, and the presence of [Josh] Norman, Antonio Brown is a compelling fade candidate."
My favorite player to watch in the entire NFL showed me that I should never stop watching him. What a performance.
"Ezekiel Elliott is a bit under the radar this week. But he should get all the carries he can handle and possibly multiple receptions as well, making him a reasonably safe cash game play."
He returned under 2x value on his price, even with a touchdown scored. It wasn't a good week for the rookie.
Enough of the past! Let's move on to this week.
New Orleans at NY Giants
- In 2015, New York allowed the most receptions and the most yards to opposing tight ends.
- Notable performances against New York by tight ends, starting with Jason Witten in Week 1 and working backward into 2015: Witten (9-66-0); Ertz (9-152-0); Rudolph (2-53-1); Olsen (6-79-1); Cameron (3-35-0); Reed (8-98-0).
- New York rebuilt its defensive backfield significantly in the offseason, adding Eli Apple, Leon Hall, and Janoris Jenkins to its cornerback group to help defend perimeter receivers.
- In Week 1, New York allowed the following performance by slot receiver Cole Beasley: Beasley (8-65-0).
- In Week 1, Willie Snead IV ran 67% of his routes from the slot.
- Drew Brees averages in home games since 2012: 28-41, 335 yards, 2.9 touchdowns, 0.7 interceptions (24.2 fantasy points)
- Brees averages in road games since 2012: 27-41, 307 yards, 1.7 touchdowns, 1.1 interceptions (18.2 fantasy points)
- Brandin Cooks averages in career road games: 4.6 receptions, 52.8 yards, 0.3 touchdowns (12.23 fantasy points); at home: 5.9, 81.8, 0.7 (19.1 fantasy points)
- In Week 1, Mark Ingram II had only 12 carries, and just four of those came after New Orleans took its largest lead, 24-10 in the third quarter.
- Check out the New Orleans section in last week's article.
- Add to that what they allowed Oakland to do. Add to that the fact their best cornerback, Delvin Breaux, broke his fibula and will miss about six weeks.
- In Week 1, New Orleans allowed two wide receivers to reach 3x value without a touchdown from either. There is volume and efficiency to be had.
- In Week 1, New York spread the ball around, giving four players at least four targets despite only passing 28 times.
- In 2015, New York rushed for only five touchdowns and only scored 7.4% of its total points via the ground (worst percentage in the NFL).
- In 2015, New Orleans allowed 17 total touchdowns to running backs.
- In Week 1, New Orleans allowed three touchdowns to running backs. Tip of the cap to FBG Co-owner David Dodds for the New Orleans vs. RB observations.
- In Week 1, Rashad Jennings played 57% of the snaps, mostly on early downs.
- Willie Snead IV ($5,800) will be the key to New Orleans moving the ball through the air due to New York's strengthened perimeter defense. He's a great value play.
- With New York now having secondary receiving options in Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard, Odell Beckham Jr ($9,500) isn't a lock to see double-digit targets. Therefore, he's not the rock-solid cash game player many may think this week.
- Rashad Jennings ($5,600) isn't typically a high-ceiling play due to lack of touchdown upside, but this opponent provides him with as good a chance to score as any.
- Between his suddenly stocked cupboard of receiving options and his team's lack of rushing prowess, all roads point to Eli Manning ($7,600) being the New York player I want to own this week. He's a cash game recommendation.
Tampa Bay at Arizona
- In Week 1, Tampa Bay threw two touchdown passes 30 yards or longer.
- In Week 1, Arizona allowed a first-time starter at quarterback to complete three passes of 28 yards or longer (including a 37-yard touchdown).
- Since 2013, Doug Martin averages 7.3 fewer PPR fantasy points per game in losses than in wins; Tampa Bay is a seven-point underdog this week.
- Since 2013, Charles Sims averages only 0.3 fewer PPR fantasy per game in losses than in wins.
- Notable performances against Arizona from players Patrick Peterson would shadow (mostly perimeter WR1s) in 2015: Baldwin (5-46-0), Diggs (2-12-0), Boldin (8-93-0), Green (4-79-0), C. Johnson (5-67-0). Boldin played plenty of slot last season as well.
- Per Arizona defensive coordinator James Bettcher, Peterson won't shadow Mike Evans for the entire game. But expect the matchup to happen more often than not.
- In 2015, Tampa Bay allowed 13 running backs to catch 3+ passes in a game. Those that did not include less-than stellar receiving backs such as Cameron Artis-Payne (started Week 17 for Carolina), Todd Gurley, Jonathan Stewart, and Bishop Sankey.
- In Week 1, Tampa Bay allowed the following receiving performance from Atlanta's backs: Coleman + Freeman (9-115-0).
- In 2015, Tampa Bay allowed the 11th-fewest rushing yards, despite not playing from ahead very often. They allowed the second-fewest yards per carry in the NFL.
- In 2015, David Johnson had multiple receptions in 11 games, despite not having more than 10 rushing attempts in any game until Week 13.
- In 2015, Tampa Bay allowed multiple touchdown passes in 11 games.
- In Week 1, Tampa Bay allowed 334 yards and two touchdowns to Matt Ryan.
- In 2015, Tampa Bay allowed quarterbacks to reach 3x value or more eight times and only held two quarterbacks under 2x value.
- I'm not going out of my way to play anyone on the Tampa Bay side, but Vincent Jackson ($4,000) is a sneaky bet to reach 3x value as he's likely to match up against rookie cornerback Brandon Williams more than Evans will.
- David Johnson ($7,600) is unlikely to impacted by game script and should catch foru or more passes in this game. I like some cheaper guys better, but Johnson should still reach at least 2.5x value.
- Tampa Bay's rush defense makes them a "passing funnel." With Arizona's plethora of wide receivers and Johnson being a viable pass-catcher, all roads lead back to Carson Palmer ($6,900) being a quality play in cash games or GPPs. I see Palmer reaching 3x (20.7 fantasy points) as a floor.
Atlanta at Oakland
- Oakland allowed 7.8 yards per play last week (worst in the NFL).
- This game has the third-highest over/under on the slate, and Atlanta is projected to be trailing.
- Since Week 9 of last season, Devonta Freeman has averaged 2.7 yards per carry and only scored two rushing touchdowns.
- In Week 1, Oakland allowed 77.4 fantasy points to wide receivers, most in the NFL. The second-most (Washington) was "only" 58.1.
- In Week 1, Mohamed Sanu and Jacob Tamme has as many targets as Julio Jones (eight for all). Tamme had six catches and 51 yards.
- In 2015, Arizona allowed over 3x value to the following tight ends: Zach Ertz, Kyle Rudolph, Vance McDonald, Tyler Eifert, and Crockett Gillmore
- In 2015, Arizona held the following tight ends under 2x value: Jared Cook (twice), Jimmy Graham, Heath Miller (without Ben Roethlisberger), and Ben Watson.
- In Week 1, Atlanta allowed two touchdown passes 30 yards or longer.
- In Week 1, Derek Carr completed four passes of 25 yards or longer.
- Carr averages 6.9 more fantasy points per game in wins than in losses. Oakland is a 4.5-point favorite this week.
- Excluding December of last season (Weeks 13-17) when he had a foot injury that nearly shut him down, Amari Cooper is averaging 5.3 receptions and 82.3 yards per game with four touchdowns for his career.
- Rarely is Julio Jones ($9,200) overlooked, but with A.J. Green and Odell Beckham Jr's matchups and Antonio Brown continuing to be ridiculous, Jones is likely to be owned in fewer lineups than any other week this season. Despite that, he's still a great play.
- Jacob Tamme ($2,900) is a sneaky GPP pivot from Virgil Green for just $100 more.
- Amari Cooper ($7,600) should be penciled into lineups each week until his price is commeasurate with the tier of receivers just below Brown-Beckham-Jones-Green.
CIncinnati at Pittsburgh
- In 2015, Pittsburgh allowed 6+ receptions to a wide receiver 21 times. Let that sink in: 21 times...in a 16-game season!
- In 2015, Pittsburgh yielded the following WR performances: Aiken (8-66-0), D. Thomas (5-61-2), Sanders (10-181-1 in same game), Green (6-132-1), Baldwin (6-145-3), T. Benjamin (7-113-0), Cooper (7-88-1), Crabtree (7-108-2 in same game), Fitzgerald (8-93-0), J. Brown (10-196-1 in same game), Mi. Floyd (5-50-1 in same game), Aiken (5-77-1), Britt (7-102-0), T. Smith (6-120-1), Edelman (11-97-0)
- A.J. Green's last four regular season games against Pittsburgh, in order from most recent to least in receptions-yards-touchdowns (targets): 6-132-1 (9); 11-118-1 (17); 8-82-0 (13); 11-224-1 (15). He also had 5-71-1 (8) in the playoff game quarterbacked by A.J. McCarron in a driving monsoon. Despite being the primary weapon on the team, a familiar and hated foe has found no answer for Green.
- In Week 1, Green led the NFL in Target Market Share with a staggering 43.3% of Cincinnati's passes headed his way.
- Green's career averages in home games: 4.4 - 63.8 - 0.5 (7.8 targets). In road games: 6.9 - 104.4 - 0.7 (11.1 targets). Green is the "anti-Brees" in terms of home/road splits.
- Despite Green's monster numbers, Andy Dalton averages three fewer fantasy points per game against Pittsburgh than the rest of the NFL.
- Jeremy Hill averages 3.81 fewer PPR fantasy points per game against Pittsburgh than the rest of the NFL.
- In Week 1, Cincinnati allowed slot receiver Quincy Enunwa the following performance: Enunwa (7-54-1)
- In 2015, Cincinnati only allowed one touchdown to tight ends.
- In 2015, Cincinnati allowed the most receptions and fourth-most yards to tight ends. This includes Heath Miller's 20 receptions in two regular season games.
- In Week 1, Pittsburgh's slot receiver (Eli Rogers) and tight end (Jesse James) combined for 11-90-1.
- In Week 1, DeAngelo Williams had nine targets, most in the NFL among running backs (and second on the team).
- In his past 10 games without Le'Veon Bell, Williams averages 19.9 carries, 93.6 yards, and has 13 touchdowns.
- In Week 1, Williams had 86.7% of Pittsburgh's rushing attempts, the highest rate for any player in Week 1.
- Those last three Williams-related nuggets are from Rich Hribar's excellent "Worksheet" column.
- Play the obvious guys in this game. Due to their splits vs. the opponent, I'm taking A.J. Green ($8,900) as my overall WR1 this week -- even over Antonio Brown ($9,900). I like both to out-pace Odell Beckham Jr.
- DeAngelo Williams ($7,100) should be the overall RB1 this week by any measure (be it value or overall production). Williams will finish in the top six among the position as his floor.
- Either Eli Rogers ($4,100) or Jesse James ($3,400) will reach 3x value this week. My pick is James, due to the Cincinnati tight end regression (where yards happen, touchdowns follow).
Tennessee at Detroit
- In Week 1, Detroit allowed just 61 yards on 16 carries (3.8 ypc) but allowed eight receptions for 60 yards to running backs.
- Five of the eight running back receptions came when Detroit was leading. Detroit is favored by 5.5 points.
- In Week 1, Detroit allowed Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle to combine for a 7-88-3 performance.
- In 2015, Detroit allowed 5+ receptions to 10 different tight ends, allowed 50+ yards to five others, and allowed the most touchdowns to tight ends overall. Hat tip to fellow FBG Staffer Phil Alexander for the Detroit vs TE info.
- Tennessee rookie standout Tajae Sharpe led the team in snaps (64/96%), receptions (7), yards (76), and targets (11/26.8%). His Target Market Share was 23rd in the NFL in Week 1.
- This week, Sharpe is probably going to be shadowed by standout cornerback Darius Slay.
- Since coming to Tennessee in 2013, Delanie Walker averages 1.2 more PPR fantasy points per game in losses than in wins.
- In 2015, Tennessee ranked 24th in Pass Defense DVOA (courtesy of Football Outsiders)
- This offseason, Tennessee retained cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Perrish Cox. They added Brice McCain, a journeyman who is now on his fourth team in as many years.
- In Week 1, Tennessee ranked 23rd in Pass Defense DOVA (thanks again, FO)
- In Week 1, Golden Tate played 84% of Detroit's snaps, and Marvin Jones Jr played 94%.
- Matthew Stafford averages 3.8 more fantasy points per game as a home favorite then when he's either on the road and/or an underdog.
- Since Week 10 of last season (after Detroit's bye week where new Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was able to install his offense), here are Stafford's averages: 26-36, 272 yards, 2.4 touchdowns, 0.2 interceptions (22 fantasy points per game).
- If DeMarco Murray ($5,700) is going to reach value, he'll probably need to do so via the receiving game once again. There are better plays on the board this week.
- Delanie Walker ($4,500) should finish in the top five at tight end this week. He should be see an uptick in targets from the five he got in Week 1 due to catch-up mode, Sharpe being covered by Slay, and Detroit's inability to contain tight ends.
- Tennessee's defensive weakness is the perimeter, meaning that both Golden Tate ($6,800) and Marvin Jones Jr ($5,500) should benefit. Due to Jones' usage being more typical of an outside receiver and his lower price tag, he is the better value play.
- Matthew Stafford ($7,300) should continue his stellar play from late 2015 and Week 1. Expect 20 or more fantasy points from Stafford.
Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail email@example.com