My FanDuel lineups were sunk by leaning into the A.J. Dillon and Jeff Wilson chalk. Rather than just matching the field I opted to come in significantly over the field on both players, which didn’t leave much room for the slate-breaking Jonathan Taylor. I took a similar approach with the Cowboys-Chiefs game, opting to go over the field on chalky stacks rather than fade them for more contrarian options, which backfired when that game busted. Most lineups ended up anchored either by an underwhelming running back tandem or by a bad stack, resulting in the Fanduel bankroll dropping to $44.41.
No Taylor on Draftkings also killed any chances of a big day, as did the Bengals opting to run their offense through Joe Mixon and the rushing attack rather than the passing game. Aside from the stack busting I’m alright with the other plays in theory. D’Onta Foreman was a relatively unpopular play that ended up in a bad game script when the Titans surprisingly lost to the Texans, and Tyler Lockett had a good game returning 3X value on his salary without catching a touchdown. The decision to go double tight end almost looked great, but Dallas Goedert losing a touchdown to a penalty and another to review from the officials brought it down to merely a good pairing. But without the stack hitting it really doesn’t matter, and since the Bengals managed just one passing touchdown the Draftkings bankroll drops to $33.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, team total of 28
Tampa has the highest implied total on the slate, and while the Colts defense isn’t a pushover this is a good spot to go to the Bucs. Tom Brady ($7600 on Draftkings/$8200 on FanDuel) is the most expensive QB on DK and the second highest-priced on FD so this isn’t a cheap stack, but the Colts have been pretty generous fantasy-wise to quarterbacks, even after mostly shutting down Josh Allen and the Bills last week. Brady has cleared 40 pass attempts seven times this season, 300 yards five times, and multiple touchdowns in all but two games.
Brady’s arsenal is getting a boost with Rob Gronkowski ($4400/$6500) practicing in full this week. Gronk returned from injury last week to earn eight targets, and it’s well-documented by now how much Brady loves going to Gronk in the red zone. With several of the top tight ends off of this slate Gronk stands out, but he isn’t priced like it. His role before he got injured was great for fantasy and should be even better now with Antonio Brown still sidelined due to injury. Mike Evans ($7200/$7500) has over 400 more air yards than anyone else on the Bucs and is tied with Chris Godwin ($7000/$7600) for the team lead in end zone targets with seven. Godwin has the edge in targets and is a better play on DK where his shorter aDOT targets are more valuable, while Evans makes more sense on FD where touchdowns are prioritized.
Indianapolis has essentially boiled their offense down to two main weapons. Jonathan Taylor ($9100/$9800) is the top-priced running back after his five-touchdown eruption and I’m personally feeling priced out on him. The Bucs seem likely to get Vita Vea back this week, and the giant nose tackle is one of the most dominant run-stoppers in the league. If Vea misses I’ll have some interest in Taylor on FD, otherwise, I will fade him once again and hope it goes better than last week. That leaves Michael Pittman ($5600/$6600) as the main Colt to target in DFS, and his salary has come down making him easier to fit in. Pittman has been fantastic this year as the top receiver in Indy, leading the team in every major receiving category. Tampa is much easier to attack through the air, and they don’t have anyone that can match up physically with Pittman. He’s earned 11 red-zone targets this season but only has five touchdowns to show for it, and if he had just a little bit better touchdown luck he’s probably priced much more like the elite receiver he profiles as.
Minnesota Vikings, team total of 22.5
I’ve never enjoyed rostering Kirk Cousins ($6300/$7500) but I’m a believer this week. Cousins leads one of the best offenses on the slate, and the 49ers are beatable through the air. Coming off arguable his best performance of the season, Cousins has now thrown for multiple touchdowns in seven games and has broken 300 yards four times. He’s not the most exciting player but on a 10-game slate, we can’t be too picky. The matchup isn’t great on paper, as the 49ers play very slow and the Vikings aren’t exactly the most aggressive team, but I like the 49ers rushing attack to dominate a weak Minnesota defensive line, thus forcing the Vikings to step on the gas and increase their passing volume.
The main beneficiary of that increased aggression should be standout Justin Jefferson ($8300/$8100). Jefferson has a massive 41% share of his team’s air yards and is a lock for double-digit targets if the Vikings are forced to pass a lot. A healthy aDOT of 12.3 should offer plenty of chances for big plays down the field, and a team-high 11 red-zone targets are evidence of the touchdown upside. Adam Thielen ($6700/$7200) also has earned 11 red-zone targets and is just behind Jefferson in targets while actually playing a higher percentage of the team’s offensive snaps. Thielen is a bit pricey for his role as a short aDOT slot receiver, but his upside is that Cousins loves targeting him on crucial plays and in the red zone, so if the Vikings offense is clicking it’s likely that Thielen gets involved in some high-value plays. Tyler Conklin ($3700/$5300) is one of the cheaper tight ends that actually has a consistent role in his offense. It’s not a very big role, but he is just behind the two receivers with eight red-zone targets.
The 49ers offer a lot of run-back options based on how you want to fill the rest of your team out. Elijah Mitchell ($5400/$6800) looks probable to play and should be at full-speed since he’s just dealing with a finger injury. He handled 27 carries in his last games but I’d be comfortable rostering him at this salary even if he only lands in the 18 carry range. Mitchell should have plenty of rushing lanes against a bad Minnesota run defense, and while we haven’t seen the long touchdown run yet this season Mitchell is a 4.4 second 40 runner with great acceleration. If the Vikings can force the 49ers to pass then Deebo Samuel ($7900/$8000) and Brandon Aiyuk ($5300/$6300) would stand out. Samuel is expensive but should be back to functioning as a receiver this week after being used primarily as a runner last week. His run after the catch skills are second to none and he has a substantial lead in every receiver metric for the 49ers. Aiyuk appears to have shaken off whatever was bothering him to start the season, whether that was injury or lack of trust from the coaching staff and is now firmly back in the offensive game plan. Aiyuk has earned 26 targets in the last four games and was a popular breakout pick prior to the season, but now that he’s starting to get the targets it seems like the field is still scared off by his brutal start to the season. George Kittle ($6400/$6700) is the most expensive tight end this week. He’s been great in the seven games he’s appeared in, but with the tight end position being a much easier position to punt I’m a little hesitant to pull the trigger on him. His 23% target share is elite for a tight end, and he’s second on the team in targets despite missing three games, but this isn’t as high-volume a role as it appears.
Carolina Panthers, team total of 22
The Panthers don’t have a particularly high team total, but Cam Newton ($5600/$8000) has done nothing but score touchdowns since returning. As the starter last week Cam accounted for three touchdowns and rushed the ball a solid ten times. I expect him to only get more involved as he gets more comfortable with the playbook, and his role in the red zone is really unparalleled among the other quarterbacks. His salary is a little tough on FanDuel, but he’s not completely out of play thanks to his rushing upside. On DK, Cam is simply too cheap and looks like one of the best overall values on the slate.
If Cam isn’t scoring the touchdown there’s a strong chance Christian McCaffrey ($9000/$9700) is the one punching it in. CMC’s role as a receiver also gives him a good chance to catch a touchdown from Cam, as he did last week, and provides CMC with the strongest floor and highest ceiling of any running back on the slate. Similar to Cam, I expect CMC to continue to ramp up his usage as he puts more weeks between himself and his early-season injury. He should easily be priced above $10k on both sites so take advantage of the discount while it’s there. D.J. Moore ($6200/$6700) has already broken the 100-target mark and has a huge 10% edge in team target share over Robby Anderson ($4700/$5400). Moore also boasts a huge 40% share of the team’s air yards and a team-high seven end zone targets. He’s an elite receiver who has been held back this season by poor quarterback play, and while it remains to be seen if Cam is all the way back as a passer the offense is at least moving the ball a little more consistently now. Anderson looks like a new man since Cam’s return, earning six targets in both games and actually catching them. Anderson provides a nice discount from Moore while also offering big-play upside, albeit with a much lower floor.
Jaylen Waddle ($5900/$6700) still hasn’t broken a big play this season and is instead utilizing his speed to get open underneath and rack up targets in a high-volume role. A 23% target share combined with a low aDOT of 7.1 has turned Waddle into a PPR machine, and while we haven’t seen the big plays he’s clearly fast enough to make it happen. At his salary though, we just need the targets. Mike Gesicki ($5300/$6200) has elite usage for a tight end in his role as a big slot receiver. Gesicki is right behind Waddle with an 18% target share but boasts a slightly higher aDOT of 9.7. Gesicki also has the more favorable matchup and provides a slight salary discount while simultaneously occupying a position that’s much harder to fill for DFS lineups.
Jalen Hurts ($7300/$8400) has been priced up to reflect his rushing prowess. A date with the Giants probably isn’t the time to jump off the bandwagon, especially if Hurts is going to continue to have double-digit carries like he’s done in six of the last seven games. Philadelphia should be able to run all over the Giants, and if New York sells out to stop the run Hurts has shown he’s capable of taking advantage of teams via play-action.
Daniel Jones ($5600/$7000) should be forced to play catch-up as a result and gets the biggest fantasy boost of any quarterback this week by virtue of no longer being coached by Jason Garrett. Jones has the talent to be utilized as a runner more than he has been this season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s one of the first changes the Giants make in their revamped offense. Jones will be without Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney, but as long as the rushing is there Jones should be fine. This is a bet on the Giants leaning into their offense’s strengths more than they have this season, but it’s obviously not without risk as their offense has been awful and this isn’t an easy matchup.
Miles Sanders ($5100/$6100) came back from injury and slid back into his role as Philadelphia’s primary running back, handling 16 carries despite an early fumble. Jordan Howard is out after getting 10 carries of his own, which should mean even more work for Sanders. As said above, Philadelphia should be able to run to their heart’s content this week and Sanders is explosive enough that he doesn’t need a ton of volume to go off. He might get that volume anyway though, which makes him a great value at his current salary.
Javonte Williams ($5200/$5700) saw just eight carries in Denver’s last game before the bye, but after having a week off to reassess their offense I expect the Broncos to correct that mistake. Rookie running backs frequently see their usage trend upward after their team’s bye week, and Williams is too talented to continue to play second-fiddle to Melvin Gordon ($5300/$6300). I’d prefer to be early to the Williams breakout, and a matchup with one of the worst run defenses in the league sets up well for Williams to seize control of this backfield.
Ja’Marr Chase ($7300/$7700) has already cleared 1,000 air yards and has earned a ridiculous 11 end zone targets. Chase combines talent with an elite role in his offense, functioning as both the primary deep threat and the weapon around the goal line. Coming off three straight down-games after his early-season dominance, this seems like a good spot for Chase to bounce back in a spot the Bengals will likely need to up their pass rate in.
Laviska Shenault ($4400/$5600) is in line for an uptick in usage as Jamal Agnew is now done for the season due to injury. With less competition for targets and his offense desperate for any form of playmaking, Shenault should finally see the role and target volume many expected of him in the preseason. Shenault is a big run-after-catch threat and should be manufactured touches, which means he’s likely to pay off his salary on volume alone with upside for much more.
Pat Freiermuth ($4300/$5300) has a more secure role with Eric Ebron out and has earned at least six targets in five straight games. Injuries to Ebron and Juju Smith-Schuester have left the Steelers with fewer options in the short passing game, an area of the field their quarterback is now dependant on, and with four touchdowns over that five-game stretch ‘Muth has a solid role that combines both volume with end zone usage.
Dan Arnold ($4000/$5100) should see an increased usage rate for similar reasons to Shenault, but offers a slight discount and fills out the tight end position. Arnold was held without a target last week as the Jaguars were dominated in a slow game against the 49ers but should bounce back in a much friendlier matchup against the porous Falcons.
Houston DST ($2300/$4900) is the second most expensive defense on FanDuel while being priced just $300 above the minimum on DK. They host Zach Wilson and the Jets, in Wilson’s first game back post-injury, and should see plenty of chances to force turnovers against the rookie.
Philadelphia DST ($3200/$4300) goes on the road to give the Giants their first test post-Jason Garrett. I do like the Giants’ to show some life this week but there’s no denying this is a great matchup for the Eagles pass rush to tee off on.
With so many good offenses off the slate this week I’m fine to pay up for the expensive Tampa stack, so I’ll start this lineup off with Tom Brady, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski. Mike Evans is a little banged up, which should help both Godwin and Gronk get more involved especially if Tampa can build a comfortable enough lead to not have to risk Evans tweaking something. Michael Pittman is one of my favorite plays this week so he’s the easy choice as the run back. Miles Sanders provides value and access to the Eagles rushing attack, something I definitely want a piece of as they’ve transitioned into one of the run-heaviest teams in the league. Aaron Jones is currently questionable, and since the Packers have a bye next week my guess is he’ll sit. That opens up AJ Dillon ($5900) as tremendous value once again, but I don’t think he’ll be as popular this week given the uncertainty and the Packers playing in one of the late games. If Dillon can’t go, Darrel Henderson ($5800) and Elijah Mitchell are options to swap to. Laviska Shenault provides some salary relief and lets me fit in Keenan Allen ($7400) at the flex, giving me more options to rework the lineup if Dillon ends up not being in play. Houston DST fits, but depending on how things look tomorrow I may go to Jacksonville DST as I think they’re pretty similar plays, and going to Jacksonville lets me preserve an extra $100 for late swapping. Likely, whichever defense seems less popular will be the one I go to.
Quarterback is tough this week on FD, leading me to go to more lineups using pay-down options like Trevor Lawrence. Otherwise, it looks like mostly Tampa Bay and Philadelphia players. I’ll have some exposure to Cam Newton, but his $8k salary is really tough to like when he’s so much cheaper on DK.
My top five plays at each position right now, by how much exposure I have to them:
QB: Tom Brady, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Kirk Cousins
RB: Miles Sanders, James Robinson, Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Elijah Mitchell
WR: Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, Ja’Marr Chase
TE: Dallas Goedert, George Kittle, Mike Gesicki, Pat Freiermuth, Rob Gronkowski
DST: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Los Angeles Rams
Good luck this week!
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire