All fantasy points are not created equal.
It’s a simple concept, yet it still gets lost on the majority of DFS players, who look only at fantasy points allowed to determine the quality of a player’s matchup. Don’t get me wrong -- looking at raw fantasy points allowed to each position has its merits. Defenses that give up the most fantasy points to a particular position often do so for good reason.
But raw fantasy points allowed summaries -- which you can find here on Footballguys -- have limitations. Last week, I showed you how to use the Game Log Dominator to get a detailed look at how each position grouping has performed against a particular defense. The Dominator is an excellent tool for analyzing matchups and spotting outlier performances (see Odell Beckham Jr. and Lamar Miller last week), but Footballguys’ Austin Lee has automated the grunt work usually required to analyze offensive and defensive games logs for each position and team, and wrapped it up into one neat, easy-to-use summary.
Normalized Strength of Schedule (NSOS) adjusts past (and even future) matchup statistics to better represent each team’s true offensive and defensive performances. Austin’s interactive chart is incredibly easy to use, but since it’s not listed on our DFS landing page, I want to make sure you know exactly where to find it and show you how to use it. Watch the video below for a brief tutorial and a look at which chalky QB it would be a bad idea to fade, regardless of projected ownership this week.
Hopefully, you're now better equipped to get the most out of Normalized SOS and use it to draw your own conclusions. I'll leave you with my top NSOS-influenced Week 7 GPP plays at each position:
Quarterback: Andy Dalton
As I alluded to in the video, Tom Brady is far and away my number one quarterback play in any format this week. But he is expensive, will be commonly owned in tournaments (as far as quarterbacks go), and there are several other quarterbacks the normalized data tells us are in fantastic spots this week. At this point, no quarterback facing the Cleveland Browns is going to fly completely under the radar but Austin’s NSOS cover boy, Andy Dalton, won’t command as much ownership as he should.
Dalton hasn’t been terrible from a fantasy perspective this season, but he hasn’t exactly inspired confidence either. After opening the season with four games of less than 20 fantasy points (Fanduel scoring), he’s barely eclipsed the 20 point mark in each of his last two (with help from a rushing touchdown last week in New England). The inauspicious start, combined with an unusually high price tag on some sites (up $500 from Week 6 on Fanduel due to the matchup) should keep him from being too popular -- especially when Philip Rivers is $200 less and Matt Ryan is only $600 more.
Palatable ownership makes Dalton an excellent GPP option in the king of all quarterback matchups. NSOS lists Cleveland as allowing the second-most normalized fantasy points per game to the position, including over 300 adjusted passing yards and three adjusted touchdowns per game. With the exception of Tom Brady, the Browns have faced mostly cans of corn at quarterback this season. Carson Wentz (278-2-0), Joe Flacco (302-2-2), Ryan Tannehill (319-3-2), Kirk Cousins (183-3-1), and Marcus Mariota (284-3-1) all managed to torch Cleveland through the air.
The game script is set up perfectly for a huge game from Dalton. The Bengals opened as the biggest favorites on the main slate (-9.5), and their implied team total (27.5) leaves room for three passing touchdowns, considering 76% of the touchdowns Cleveland has allowed this season have come via the pass.
Running Back: Atlanta Falcons & Kansas City Chiefs Stacks
The crowd is going to be all over Falcons and Chiefs running backs this week, but very few people are ever willing to fill both of their running back slots with two backs from the same team. If there were ever a week to use this strategy (as awkward as it will feel) to maximize value at your running back slots and make your roster unique, we’re in it.
Atlanta is favored by nearly a touchdown at home against San Diego, with an implied team total bordering on 30 points. If the game stays on script, there will be plenty of work to go around for both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
The Chargers, of course, are atrocious against the run. They’ve allowed the third most normalized fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, including 1.6 adjusted rushing touchdowns per game. In particular, San Diego struggles to contain running backs who catch passes out of the backfield, which happens to be where both Freeman and Coleman are most dangerous. The Chargers lead the league in receptions allowed to running backs (9 per game), and have also ceded the second most total receiving yards to the position (69.3 yards per game). Freeman has five or more targets in three of the past four games, while Coleman leads the league in total running back receiving yards (53.3 per game).
In order to reach a 3x salary multiple by starting both Atlanta backs, you’d need them to combine for 41.1 fantasy points on Fanduel -- a feat they’ve already accomplished twice since Week 3.
If you’re not convinced it’s a good idea to monopolize Atlanta’s rushing production this week, perhaps I can interest you in Kansas City? Like Atlanta, the Chiefs are 6.5 point home favorites with a high implied team total (28.25 points). And like Atlanta, their opponent is terrible at defending running backs.
New Orleans has allowed 29.4 adjusted fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, which trails only Indianapolis for the highest average in the league. The Saints are the only team to allow double-digit rushing touchdowns so far, and they’ve let up over 57% more raw fantasy points per game to running backs than the league average.
Spencer Ware is coming off a dominant 163 total yards and one touchdown game against the Raiders, proving he can maintain top-end numbers with Jamaal Charles back for the Chiefs. Last week, Ware ran as the clear lead back, but after Charles touched the ball 11 times on 15 snaps (including twice from inside the Raiders five yard line), we should see a more equitable split as the season progresses, perhaps as soon as this week.
The Ware/Charles combo was good for 35 fantasy points last week and would need to return 41.4 to reach a 3x salary multiple in Week 7. It may be more of a stretch than the Falcons backfield combining to reach that number, but Ware has looked great this year, we know what Jamaal Charles is capable of, and the Saints defense couldn’t be more accommodating.
10/21 Update: Charles was limited at practice on Friday with swelling in his surgically repaired knee. The prospect of Charles sitting or being limited dumps a bucket of cold water on playing both Chiefs backs on the same roster, and puts Ware in contention for overall RB1 numbers this week.
Wide Receiver: Allen Hurns
You won’t find Allen Hurns on more than 5% of GPP rosters this week, despite his matchup with the Raiders, who have allowed the fifth-most adjusted fantasy points to the wide receiver position. Hurns has had a quiet season thus far, posting averages of 3.8 catches and 60 receiving yards, to go along with just one touchdown. It’s a far cry from last year when he finished as the cumulative WR16 on Fanduel.
Oakland has allowed the most passing yards per game (313) and yards per pass attempt (8.8) in the NFL. Only the Saints have defended more red zone plays than Oakland’s 101. That last tidbit suggests this a prime spot for Allen Robinson (and it may very well be), but surprisingly it’s Hurns who leads the Jaguars with eight red zone targets to Robinson’s seven. Granted, Hurns hasn’t been efficient with those targets, catching only two for zero touchdowns, but that may mean he’s due some progression to the league average 23.6% red zone touchdown conversion rate.
Hurns’ chances will be helped by a matchup in the slot with Raiders nickel corner D.J. Hayden. Hayden hasn’t been abused as badly as he was last season, but receivers who spend a lot of time in the slot have fared well against Oakland, most notably Willie Snead (9-172-1), Steve Smith Sr. (8-111-1), and Travis Benjamin (7-117-0). Hurns is also four inches taller than Hayden giving him a clear edge in jump ball situations near the end zone.
The crowd will be focused on a breakout game from Robinson, leaving the boring Hurns as a fantastic leverage play.
Tight End: Hunter Henry
Since Antonio Gates missed his first game in Week 3, Hunter Henry ranks as the cumulative TE2 on Fanduel, yet he’s still priced as the TE9 on the main slate. Even with Gates back the last two weeks, Henry hasn’t seen his snap count dip below 68%, though as ESPN’s Mike Clay reminds us, not all snaps are created equal.
While there’s clearly some risk to rostering Henry, there’s no denying his efficiency. Among tight ends with at least 15 targets, Henry’s 12.1 yards per target trails only Rob Gronkowski’s 14.8. Henry has scored a touchdown on 11.5% of his targets this season, which ranks fourth-highest out of all pass catchers (min 20 targets).
Clearly, Henry doesn’t require elite opportunity to post elite tight end fantasy numbers. And when it comes to giving up elite tight end fantasy numbers, the Falcons don’t discriminate. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers, and Clive Walford have scored on Atlanta this season. Coby Fleener (7-109-1) and Greg Olsen (6-76-1) had huge games against them, while Jimmy Graham just went for 6-89-0 vs. the Falcons last week.
Overall, Atlanta has allowed the fourth-most normalized fantasy points per game to tight ends. The only reason they don’t lead the league is because they played Denver in Week 5. Broncos tight ends have scored the third-fewest normalized fantasy points per game this season.
Henry looks like this week’s chalk tight end play for those who don’t want to pay up for Gronk, but I’m planning heavy exposure and differentiating my lineups elsewhere. Tight end has been a wasteland this season. If an opportunity arises to roster a low priced, highly-efficient tight end in a solid offense, matched up against one of the worst linebacking corps in the league, it would be foolish to pass it up.