BJ VanderWoude: Currently, there are six games with projected totals of less than 42 points (Jaguars vs Colts, Bengals vs Steelers, Ravens vs Vikings, Jets vs Dolphins, Panthers vs Bears, Seahawks vs Giants). Which of these games do you see going over the projected total? Which players benefit from a more up-tempo game script?
Phil Alexander: At first blush, I agree with Vegas on those games being low scoring. If forced to choose one, I'll go with the game featuring the best offensive players - Cincinnati at Pittsburgh. While this game has all the makings of a low-scoring AFC North defensive battle, we've seen the Steelers defense look vulnerable this season, while the Bengals offense has awoken since Bill Lazor took over play-calling duties three games ago (25 points per game). Cincinnati had an extra week to prepare for this game and no doubt recognizes the way to beat the Steelers is on the ground. Pittsburgh ranks 23rd with 118.5 rush yards per game allowed and have ceded 4.97 yards per attempt to opposing running backs. If Joe Mixon can take advantage of the matchup, it should keep the Steelers off balance, freeing up A.J. Green and the downfield passing game.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals enter the week with the second-ranked overall defense (DVOA), but Le'Veon Bell (down $500 on DraftKings despite last week's 31.1 fantasy points) has never needed a plus matchup to excel due to his 30+ touch workload. The one stud I'd be wary of, however, is Antonio Brown. Brown was held below 60 receiving yards in each of the regular season meetings between these teams in 2016 and has just one total touchdown in their last five meetings.
John Mamula: If I had to choose one of the games listed to go over the total, it would be the Carolina Panthers at the Chicago Bears game, which currently has a total of 40.5 points. The Panthers shouldn't have any issue moving the chains against the Bears, who are a middle of the road defense (18th versus the run, 15th versus the pass). Cam Newton has multiple touchdowns in each of his past three games. The absence of Greg Olsen has benefited Devin Funchess, who is averaging 9 targets per game over the past month.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears have leaned on their running attack while Mitchell Trubisky adjusts to life as an NFL quarterback. Jordan Howard has received at least 19 touches in each of his past four games including a whopping 37 touches in a 27-24 victory against the Ravens. I envision Howard getting another heavy workload and the Bears keeping the game competitive.
Prediction: Panthers 24-20
Jason Wood: I'm okay with these projected totals and expect them all to be lower scoring affairs. If I had to choose one to surprise, it would be the Seahawks-Giants. The Giants shocked the world this week going into Denver and winning handily in spite of losing their entire starting receiving corps in the prior week. The key, from my vantage, was Mike Sullivan taking over play-calling. The offense had less predictability. The other contributing factor was the shuffling of the offensive line. Although the line remains problematic, it looked far better run blocking than we've seen in years. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are in their classic early season mode but are due for their usual offensive pickup. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me thrice, lose fantasy matchups. The Seahawks offense is going to start putting up more points. So you have two offenses capable of more than we've seen, and you also have two defenses more than equipped to force turnovers and score defensively.
Justin Howe: I’ll jump on Jason’s bandwagon and point out the contrarian appeal in the Seahawks-Giants game. The Giants offense is toothless down the field, no doubt, but we at least caught a hint last week that it can still produce something useful. The offensive line has taken an upturn, at least in the run game, with D.J. Fluker installed in the lineup. The eruption against Denver wasn’t unprecedented: the Giants had run for 91 and 152 yards in the 2 games prior, and Orleans Darkwa is being schemed nicely through gaps. We can’t really expect much from the passing game, but perhaps there’ll be enough firepower to keep pace with Seattle and force a 27-20 type of game. Evan Engram has his work cut out for him against Kam Chancellor and company, but Eli Manning could find just enough room on a handful of downfield throws.
Chris Feery: I’ll echo the call for the game between the Seahawks and Giants to finish north of the projected total. There’s plenty of different ways to slice the Giants surprising victory over the Broncos on Sunday night, but Jason nailed the key point: head coach Bob McAdoo has finally come to terms with the fact that play-calling duties were a bit too much to have on his plate. The Giants offense came to life in a big way in what seemed like an impossible spot. The offensive line looked much better due to the shifts, and the previously non-existent running game suddenly had some pep in its step.
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