One of the focal points of Week 3’s picks column was the misalignment between a team’s record and its actual on-field play. The theme is enhanced when carrying it into fantasy football analysis, as the league’s respective rankings fail to consider each team’s strength of opponent.
Baltimore has, statistically, an incredible defense. That is, until we factor in the offenses the Ravens faced – Buffalo and Cleveland. Conversely, Washington has been torched – comparatively speaking – until we consider that Pittsburgh – one of the game’s elite offenses – opened up the scoreboard in the second half on Opening Day. These disconnects continue to yield outstanding buying opportunities for fantasy owners.
Sporfolio’s NFL Daily Fantasy Sports game-by-game analysis columns are driven by expected game flow. Based on a combination of our Week 3 NFL picks against the spread and our expectations for a given game, we project the actions necessary to make these picks come to fruition. We aim to pinpoint players integral to our predicted game flow for each game of the week.
Luke May is our resident NFL DFS expert, and Mario Mergola operates Sporfolio as our expert for NFL Picks Against the Spread.
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals
Luke’s DFS Take: C.J. Anderson has now developed into a player that must be considered for use every single week. The Broncos’ offense has been less-than-stellar and the only reason why the unit hasn’t fallen into the depths of the league is Anderson’s production. He continues to receive excellent volume as both a runner and pass-catcher, and the Bengals have given up an average of 138 rushing yards-per-game. Other than Anderson, the only other plays from this game are the two defenses. The Broncos’ defense has looked incredible, thus far, and the Bengals’ defense should be able to keep Trevor Siemian in check.
Mario’s DFS Take: I still remain unimpressed by Denver’s offense, with C.J. Anderson being the lone exception. His matchup against Cincinnati is decent, as the Bengals have allowed 276 rushing yards through two games. He becomes somewhat of a liability if Cincinnati’s offense finally starts clicking and puts Denver in a position to pass. Oddly enough, the Bengals should prefer to attack via the ground game as well, since the Broncos have allowed the second-fewest passing yards in the league. Outside of the Denver and Cincinnati defenses, only Jeremy Hill remains a viable option, albeit not a convincing play.
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Arizona Cardinals at Buffalo Bills
Luke’s DFS Take: Despite the Cardinals’ explosive demonstration last week and the Bills’ defense getting carved up by the Jets, Arizona’s offense is still a risk. Rex Ryan is a defensive specialist and, with his team clearly not playing up to its caliber, it is hard to imagine the Bills would fall to 0-3 without, at least, putting up a fight. Both teams posses strong enough defenses to use, with Arizona getting the slight edge due to its matchup with the Bills’ offense.
Mario’s DFS Take: I am all-in on the Bills locking up the Cardinals in a tight game, if not an outright win. I mentioned Rex Ryan’s success against Carson Palmer in my Week 3 picks article, so downgrading the Cardinals’ offense is a must. Buffalo’s defense is a nice ‘sleeper’ pick, with LeSean McCoy standing along as the only offensive player to consider.
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans
Luke’s DFS Take: The recurring theme for the early part of this season is that the Oakland Raider’s defense will allow so many points that the offense will need to rely on an all-out aerial attack to keep up. While the Titans may not have the best offense in the league, Tennessee has shown some ability to produce points. Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker, and DeMarco Murray are the only three members of the offense who can be trusted to play major roles, while Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree are the lead candidates to succeed from Oakland if the Raiders continue along their current, aforementioned path.
Mario’s DFS Take: While Tennessee’s 1-1 start to the year is rather lackluster, the Titans were able to shut down a Lions offense that scored the most points in the league on Opening Day. If Oakland can find a way to crack through a tough defense, it seems unlikely that the Tennessee offense can keep pace. Either way, the responsibility would fall upon Marcus Mariota, making the quarterback a top option for the second consecutive week. As expected, Delanie Walker delivered in his last game, and there is no reason to think the gameplan will turn away from him.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants
Luke’s DFS Take: Ah, Odell Beckham, Jr. and Josh Norman meet again. The current rumor is that Norman will follow Beckham everywhere, except the slot – which likely means Beckham will run some routes from the slot. Despite the scary head-to-head matchup for Beckham, I actually love his upside this week, as he will be playing with something to prove and is coming off back-to-back average games – by his standards. The Giants’ passing game, as a whole, should take advantage of a Redskins defense that has allowed the seventh-most net-yards-per-pass-attempt through two games. Eli Manning, Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, and possibly Shane Vereen – if Rashad Jennings is limited – all make the list of targets. Assuming New York moves the ball offensively, Kirk Cousins will be in a position to pass, bumping up the value of Jordan Reed.
Mario’s DFS Take: Arguably the game with the widest set of outcomes, the Redskins and Giants meet at the Meadowlands in a contest that could drastically alter the direction of the NFC East. A Giants victory would give them a 3-0 record with two division wins to start the year, as well as bury Washington at 0-3 with losses to New York and Dallas. Expect the Redskins to rely heavily on tried-and-true methods of offense, namely Jordan Reed and Matt Jones. In fact, Jones should absolutely see his touches increase, as he averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry in his last game, but touched the ball only 14 times – including one reception for four yards. The spotlight for the other side of the game is easily Odell Beckham, Jr. and Josh Norman. The two were famously arguing – to put it mildly – with one another in their last meeting, leading to Beckham diving at Norman out of frustration. Norman will almost certainly attempt to get a similar reaction, but it is worth noting that Beckham dropped a sure touchdown pass in the meeting and then caught one later. The Giants will try to make a statement and feed Beckham the ball again, making him a solid play on Sunday.
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins
Luke’s DFS Take: Cleveland’s season is essentially lost, already – no more RGIII, Josh McCown is hurt, and now Cory Coleman is out after a big game in Week 2. Simply put, the Browns’ offense has almost nothing left and should pose no real threat to the Dolphins’ defense, making them the obvious play of the week. Offensively for Miami, the clear play is target-machine Jarvis Landry and whichever running back sees the majority of carries. Therein lies the problem, as the backfield is currently cloudy. Jay Ajayi would be the presumed starter if Arian Foster is forced to miss the game with an injury, but Kenyan Drake has already seen work in short yardage situations and near the end zone. Both Ajayi and Drake bring big-game potential if one claims the role of lead back. Otherwise, they both carry the risk of heartbreak.
Mario’s DFS Take: I know I picked the Browns to beat the incredibly large spread on Sunday, but I cannot find a legitimate source of offense for Cleveland. The Browns just lost their top receiver in Corey Coleman, and they continue to employ a split backfield between Isiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. Gary Barnidge remains in position to dominate targets, but has only four receptions through two games. Miami is equally undecided in its plan-of-attack, but it is inconceivable to think Ryan Tannehill won’t perform better against the Browns than he had in Seattle and in New England.
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars
Luke’s DFS Take: Allen Robinson’s stats through two games in 2016 are as follows: 9 catches, 126 yards, 0 touchdowns. This lack of production cannot and will not continue. The Ravens’ defense is averaging only 168.5 passing yards allowed through two games, but this came against the Bills and the Browns, two of the weaker passing offenses in the league. Blake Bortles and his core group of pass catchers – Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas – will have their way with the Ravens after getting blown out in San Diego, last week. The Ravens’ offense remains a mystery to fantasy owners with two running backs splitting work and four wide receivers being utilized. Therefore, the only offensive player from Baltimore that I would consider using is Joe Flacco. The Chargers dominated the Jaguars’ passing defense in Week 2, and Flacco should have similar success.
Mario’s DFS Take: The Baltimore Ravens might be my favorite team of the week, if, for no other reason, than the dud I’m expecting from Jacksonville after traveling from San Diego and preparing to go to London. Like Luke’s point about Allen Robinson and his lack of touchdowns, Steve Smith, Sr. is now two games into a new season and has yet to reach the end zone – despite 14 targets and eight receptions. Smith is a ticking time bomb, and Jacksonville has allowed at least 300 passing yards in both games. To that point, Joe Flacco is a top-tier option, as long as the Ravens don’t jump out to a massive lead that they need to protect.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Luke’s DFS Take: Both Detroit and Green Bay tout prolific passing games, and both have shown flashes of excellence, at times. Interestingly enough, both struggled in Week 2, weighing down each team en route to 1-1 records. The stakes are now raised for two division teams fighting to not dip below .500, and the game should turn into more of a bloodbath than a shootout. Therefore, neither offense takes off, but, out of respect for what each has shown the ability to produce, I also won’t be buying into a defense.
Mario’s DFS Take: If the Packers and Lions have each shown anything, this year, it is that they are built to play close games – all four combined games have been decided by four points or fewer. They may not win them, but they are able to match the other team for the better part of sixty minutes. With Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford at the helm, the passing attacks from each team should be utilized throughout the contest. In fact, neither team looks poised to pull away from the other, so we could be in store for a wild late-game rally, yet again. Jordy Nelson appears to have assimilated right back into the Packers’ offense, and is still Aaron Rodgers’ ‘go-to guy’ with a team-leading 20 targets.
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Luke’s DFS Take: Like the Packers and Lions, I will be avoiding the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers, completely. Both teams will be without their starting running backs – which leads to some appealing cheap backup options for DFS purposes – but both defenses have played well enough to scare me away from either. Cam Newton and his offense looked unstoppable last week, but a shift from San Francisco’s defense to Minnesota’s will lead to a much tougher day. After all, the Vikings handled Aaron Roders and the Packers with relative ease. Both offenses have potential, but based on the factors needed for each to explode, I think the best play is no play.
Mario’s DFS Take: It’s hard to ignore what Stefon Diggs did on national television in Week 2 – 9 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown – but Carolina’s secondary is difficult to read – the Panthers have faced the sixth-fewest passing attempts, but have allowed a relatively average five touchdowns through two games. Winning or losing, the Vikings, without Adrian Peterson, figure to take to the air. Unfortunately, regression is likely for Diggs, but Kyle Rudolph – with 16 targets in two games – is a decent play. Carolina should not pull away from Minnesota – the Vikings already shut down Marcus Mariota and Aaron Rodgers and feature a top-five defense – but there are no standout options on the Panthers’ offense.
Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Luke’s DFS Take: One of my sneaky favorite games of the week, the Rams and Buccaneers are filled with potential. Los Angeles’ offense has scored nine points in two games, and Todd Gurley has a total of 98 rushing yards.This is the week he gets enough blocking to explode for a big game. It is still hard to like the Rams’ passing game, but they constantly try to find ways for Tavon Austin to get the ball and, if the game does deliver a high-scoring battle, Austin should thrive. With the Buccaneers coming off an embarrassing loss in Arizona – including universal struggles for the offense – Tampa Bay will look to prove Week 2 was a fluke. Jameis Winston should take the air constantly – as Doug Martin is out – but Charles Sims presents a nice ‘sleeper’ option, as well. He will have little competition for carries, and he has proven himself to be a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield. He will be heavily involved in the offense, and comes at a great discount.
Mario’s DFS Take: The quiet explosion of the week, the offenses for both the Rams and Buccaneers are about to pop. Each team is coming off a putrid performance and, specifically, Los Angeles has yet to reach the end zone. That changes on Sunday, and it will almost certainly come via Todd Gurley or Tavon Austin. More importantly, Austin is far-and-away the main focal point of the passing attack, as his 21 targets through two games ranks him four behind league-leader Mike Evans. Speaking of Evans, he will see another heavy dose of passes as Tampa Bay settles back into the comfort zone of feeding him constantly.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Luke’s DFS Take: After a strong Opening Night showing, the 49ers were smacked around by the Panthers and subsequently fell back to reality. They will remain pinned down against the elite Seahawks’ defense. Seattle’s offense is, however, a different story. The unit has looked out-of-sync and is currently ravaged by injuries. Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Thomas Rawls all left last week’s game at some point and are currently not guaranteed to play in Week 3. Assuming they play, they will likely not be at full strength. The one player that is moving in the right direction is Jimmy Graham. After playing only 17 of 82 snaps in Week 1, Graham played in 55 of the team’s 67 snaps in Week 2. He was also targeted three more times and head coach Pete Carroll specifically said he would like to see Graham be a bigger factor. In a banged-up offense, Graham may present the healthiest option, and one who could pose a huge redzone threat against this beatable 49ers defense.
Mario’s DFS Take: It takes a lot for me to buy into a division team being favored by as many points as the Seahawks are on Sunday, but Seattle is in position to make a statement to the league. Now 1-1 after a complete dud in Los Angeles, the Seahawks return home to their raucous stadium to take out their frustration on the 49ers. Unfortunately, injuries limit the ability to target everyone from Seattle, but Russell Wilson deserves strong consideration. San Francisco’s frenetic pace on offense tends to lead to an above-average amount of snaps for its opponents, giving Wilson a few additional plays. If Thomas Rawls is less than 100 percent – he would have been a great play, otherwise – Doug Baldwin – again, assuming he is healthy – slides in as the top skill position player in Seattle.
New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs
Luke’s DFS Take: With both the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs possessing strong defenses and questionable health on offense, there are no skill position players to consider from either team. Both defenses – particularly New York – make for interesting plays, but there is almost no fantasy appeal in Kansas City on Sunday.
Mario’s DFS Take: Another debate between the two wide receivers – Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker – cancel out the conviction in either one, but running back Matt Forte stands alone as the Jets’ player to target. Forte is a monster in the passing game – ten targets and seven receptions through two games – and his style of play largely resembles that of Danny Woodhead. Woodhead opened the season with 120 total yards and a touchdown in Kansas City.
San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts
Luke’s DFS Take: Another one of my favorite games of the week, the Chargers and Colts throw their respective offenses against defense that both rank in the bottom-ten for yards allowed. The Chargers’ offense looked great in Week 2 against Jacksonville, and the matchup in Indianapolis should be just as forgiving. Philip Rivers, Travis Benjamin – one of our favorite plays from last week – Antonio Gates, and Melvin Gordon should all see a high volume of work. The real target, however, is Indianapolis’ offense, as the Colts are coming off a game against Denver where they were suffocated from start-to-finish. The offense had no room to operate in Week 2, but should have a much easier time against the Chargers. Andrew Luck will be throwing early-and-often, and he is my number one quarterback of the week. T.Y. Hilton – fourth in the league in targets – is the obvious pass-catcher to stack with Luck, but Phillip Dorsett is the high-upside play of the day. He takes over for the injured Donte Moncrief, and he has already shown the ability to make big plays.
Mario’s DFS Take: For a game that jumps out as a potential shootout, I am going to temper my expectations a bit. As noted in both my picks article and the write-up about the Jaguars, there should be some level of caution when targeting teams that are about to travel to London. I picked the Colts to win, and I expect to see their best game, so far, but it won’t be in a runaway victory. In fact, besides Andrew Luck, the only player I will consider from this game is Melvin Gordon, as a season-ending injury to Danny Woodhead leaves Gordon relatively unchallenged in the backfield.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles
Luke’s DFS Take: I’m thinking blowout here. The Eagles have looked good through two wins to start the season, but said wins have come against the Browns and the Bears – two teams currently in shambles. With that, neither the offense nor defense has really been tested. That will change this week. Ben Roethlisberger, DeAngelo Williams, and Antonio Brown will give the Eagles’ defense trouble, all game, with Williams being the biggest benefactor if the score is lopsided. The Steelers’ defense has also looked fairly solid and should give rookie Carson Wentz a much tougher challenge this week.
Mario’s DFS Take: This is where Luke and I head in opposite directions. I, too, will wait before crowning Carson Wentz the ‘next great quarterback,’ but Philadelphia, as a team, appears vastly improved. We have a tendency to take Pittsburgh at face value and expect Ben Roethlisberger’s play-extending antics to always lead to a big strike to Antonio Brown, but Cincinnati exploited some weaknesses in the system – Roethlisberger threw two interceptions and tallied a comparatively-low 259 passing yards. With that, I’m staying away from Pittsburgh altogether, and would only consider Philadelphia’s Ryan Mathews for my lineup.
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
Luke’s DFS Take: There is no reason to risk anything by taking a player from the Bears on Sunday night. With Brian Hoyer stepping into an offense that is already a mess, the Bears are untouchable against a Cowboys defense that has been decent, so far. Despite his fumble – really two, although only one was lost – last week, Ezekiel Elliott is not expected to lose any time and should continue to see the same amount of touches that made him appealing in his first two starts. The other Cowboy to target is Cole Beasley, as he has seen 18 targets through two games from quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has already shown faith in Beasley, and the two have a nice connection on short routes. The same short routes that the Eagles used to pick apart the Bears in Week 2. Beasley should do the same.
Mario’s DFS Take: It is not uncommon for a backup-turned-starting quarterback to lean heavily on his best skill position player, and Alshon Jeffery – if he plays – should be in for a heavy workload on Sunday night. In fact, Dez Bryant should be in a similar position, as the Cowboys’ star wideout has yet to score a touchdown despite 17 targets, to date. On national television, at home, Bryant is sure to see some plays go in his direction.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Luke’s DFS Take: Monday Night Football between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints screams, “Shootout,” as it features two strong passing offenses against two weak defenses. This was also the case, last week, when the Saints played the Giants, where both offenses proved to be major disappointments. In keeping with the comparison, I’m not 100 percent convinced that we will see a shootout, but the usual suspects would benefit if one does emerge. For the Falcons, it’s Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and maybe Mohamed Sanu. For the Saints, Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, and Willie Snead are the first looks. If I were to buy into the game and its high-scoring potential, a deeper look produces upside for the tight ends. Atlanta’s Jacob Tamme has 16 targets through two weeks, and New Orleans’ Coby Fleener had 8 targets in Week 2, despite little production. Brees’ confidence in Fleener is a great indication that he has not yet reached his value. Don’t be surprised if that changes on Monday night.
Mario’s DFS Take: Like the Colts and Chargers, the Falcons and Saints elicit the feeling that a high-scoring affair is on the horizon, but will likely fail to deliver as expected. Five of the last seven meetings between these two NFC South rivals have included one team scoring no more than 17 points, while last season’s Week 17 contest yielded a final score of 20-17. If an exception exists, it is Drew Brees, as his Saints have been utterly dominant in home Primetime games. Brees, specifically, has a career average of 319.25 yards-per-game with a 69.2 completion percentage, 32 total touchdowns and ten interceptions when New Orleans hosts Monday Night Football.
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