5 Betting Trends to Help Set Your Week 1 Daily Fantasy Football Lineup
It's no secret that Vegas totals and spreads can be helpful when making fantasy football decisions -- especially in daily fantasy contests.
Unfortunately, as professional NFL handicapper Warren Sharp has pointed out, oddsmakers' primary goal is not to set the most accurate lines; its goal is to make money, and they do that by encouraging public action on a particular side. What does that mean?
Let's say a sportsbook opens the line on a game with Team X favored to beat Team Y by seven points. If 80% of the public money coming in is in favor of Team X against the spread but the book still does not adjust the line, that demonstrates that either there is sharp money on Team Y, or that they feel confident about Team Y against the spread. Either way, by examining how the oddsmakers are moving lines in comparison to where the public is betting, we can potentially gain an edge when making lineup decisions.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.0) at Cleveland Browns (O/U 44)
Betting Trends: Amid all the drama concerning Le'Veon Bell, few seem to have noticed that the line in the Pittsburgh Steelers' opener at the Cleveland Browns has dropped from -5.5 to -4.0 despite Pittsburgh unsurprisingly receiving over 60% of public bets against the spread. Running backs, even those as good as Bell, generally don't move lines to this extent, so the likely solution is that sharp money is on Cleveland.
Takeaways: We know teams that win the turnover battle have won on average of 78% of games historically. So, the move from DeShone Kizer to Tyrod Taylor alone could be the reason the sharps believe Cleveland is undervalued. Kizer threw interceptions last year at the same rate Matt Ryan has thrown touchdowns throughout his career, while Taylor has a lower career interception rate than Aaron Rodgers (no, I'm not saying he's better than Rodgers).
That should be enough to at least keep Cleveland in the game, which is what the sharps are expecting based on the movement. That bodes exceptionally well for Carlos Hyde, who is expected to be a two-down back with Duke Johnson taking the passing-down work. The Pittsburgh run defense fell apart without Ryan Shazier, as they allowed 4.89 yards per carry and a 50.4% Rushing Success Rate in the 6 games without him (for reference, the 2017 NFL averages were 4.11 YPC and a 39.4% Success Rate). Pittsburgh finished 26th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play in 2017.
David Njoku also stands to benefit from the reverse line movement. Fantasy tight ends benefit significantly from positive game script due to their usage in the red zone. A preseason phenom, Njoku is a prime breakout candidate, and in BuffaloCharles Clay outpaced all wide receivers in targets with Taylor at the helm the last two years.
The line movement could also benefit Ben Roethlisberger and the entirety of the Steelers' passing offense. A big part of Ben's home-road splits has been Pittsburgh's willingness to ride the ground game -- particularly with a lead -- on the road. With Bell holding out and the game expected to be closer than expected, Pittsburgh may be forced to air it out more than usual.
Things line up nicely for a number of DFS options. Just be sure to check out our lineups page to monitor Sunday's forecast, which could be a little dicey for passing games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+9.5) at New Orleans Saints (O/U 49.5)
Betting Trends: Led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will travel to the Big Easy to take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Even with 75% of tickets against the spread on New Orleans, the line has remained at 9.5. With the line not moving through the key number of 10 (since more football games are won by a score and a field goal than 9 or 11), it's clear that the oddsmakers think the Bucs can at least avoid a complete blowout absent Jameis Winston (suspension).
Takeaways: This shouldn't affect how we view members of the Saints' offense as they are in a pristine matchup. But it does indicate that Tampa, even with its backup quarterback, could put up some points in the fast track at the SuperDome. Since the game total is so high, Tampa's implied team total of 20 isn't that bad for a team that is such big underdogs.
We also know that positive correlation exists between a quarterback and members of the opposing passing game. Basically, if we expect Brees and New Orleans to have a good day, we can give a slight bump up to Tampa Bay. Playing members of the Buccaneers could provide a nice game theory edge as Saints skill players (and their New Orleans D/ST) will likely go highly owned in this matchup.
This provides some nice contrarian appeal for running backs Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers, whom are both free squares at running back after rookie Ronald Jones' preseason collapse. The main beneficiaries, are, however, members of the Tampa passing game, with Mike Evans chief among them.
Tennessee Titans (-1.0) at Miami Dolphins (O/U 45.0)
Betting Trends: Andrew Luck has made an NFL start more recently than Ryan Tannehill, but he and the Miami Dolphins will play host to the Tennessee Titans in this Week 1 clash. Even though 60% of the public is predictably fading Miami in favor of Tennessee, the spread has not budged from -1.0. Sportsbooks are essentially predicting this game to be a toss up, which means that as unsexy as they are, Dolphins will likely provide contrarian value plays in this one.
Takeaways: While Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore have some uncertainty after being listed as co-starters on the initial depth chart, they should benefit from a tightly contested game. It's possible that Drake, the likely true starter, may have low ownership as a result of the depth chart chaos, so this appears to be the matchup to take advantage of.
Particularly if the game shoots out, Ryan Tannehill could be a sneaky contrarian play at quarterback. The Titans ranked 25th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play last season.
If you go with Tannehill, the best option to stack him with is Kenny Stills. With Jarvis Landry now in Cleveland and DeVante Parker not expected to play in Week 1, 257 wide receiver targets from last year will be available for Week 1. The only receiver that Tannehill has chemistry with from prior regular season action? Stills.
Of course, the Titans are still in a prime spot, even if the sharp action isn't on their side. With Rishard Matthews banged up and Taywan Taylor running behind Tajae Sharpe in preseason, Corey Davis and Delanie Walker are your best options for stacking with Marcus Mariota.
Titans WR snaps on Mariota's 12 Saturday: Corey Davis 12, Tajae Sharpe 10, Nick Williams 8, Taywan Taylor 1.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 21, 2018
The Dolphins weren't terrible in run defense last year, but they remain a matchup to exploit due to the loss of Ndamukong Suh. With usage set to be split among Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis in the Tennessee backfield, both are excellent plays in GPPs.
Dallas Cowboys (+3.0) at Carolina Panthers (O/U 42.5)
Betting Trends: The Dallas Cowboys, "America's Team", travels to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers to open their season. Leading up to today, the over/under started at a decent 44-point number, but it's since dropped 1.5 points with 62% of bets currently on the under. Everything points to a low-scoring affair between the NFC foes, which probably has a lot to do with the presence of the teams' two stud linebackers.
Takeaways: While it's obviously a small sample size, the Cowboys' defense was night and day depending on the health of Sean Lee. They allowed 32.4 points per game in the five games Lee missed and 15.5 points per game in the 11 in which he was healthy. While Lee is obviously not worth 17 points and there is a lot of noise to these splits, they are wide enough to demonstrate one simple truth: the Cowboys play better defense when their best player is on the field.
Of course, the Panthers have somewhat similar splits with linebacker Luke Kuechly, and with both Kuechly and Lee theoretically as healthy as they should be all season, the betting market is understandably low on this one. And while both Cam Newton and Dak Prescott bring fantasy value in their running abilities, this may lead to their passing skills being overrated as a result. Newton and Prescott finished with a poor 6.7 and 6.8 yards per attempt, respectively, in 2017.
#Cowboys used trade (Parker Ehinger) & waiver claim (Adam Redmond) to add a guard & center in the last 72 hours, outwardly confirming internal concern over the state of their interior offensive line.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) September 2, 2018
It also doesn't help that both teams are experiencing clusters of injuries along the offensive line.
Panthers offensive line:
LT Matt Kalil: dealing w/knee injury
LG Greg Van Roten: former UDFA replacing First-Team All-Pro Andrew Norwell
C Ryan Kalil: ranked 35th out of 39 centers in 2017 (PFF)
RG Amini Silatolu: dealing w/knee injury
RT Daryl Wiliams: dealing w/knee injury
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 4, 2018
All of these factors indicate that these two passing offenses should be generally avoided, and we should get our exposure to this game via running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey based on projected usage and expanded involvement in the short receiving game.
Los Angeles Rams (-4.0) at Oakland Raiders (O/U 49.0)
Betting Trends: It appears that the public has fully bought into head coach Sean McVay and the additions the Los Angeles Rams made this offseason. But sportsbooks don't appear as sold. Even though 74% of tickets against the spread are on Hollywood's team in this Monday night matchup, the Oakland Raiders have held steady at +4.0, even following the trade of star edge rusher Khalil Mack. Vegas is demonstrating that they think Oakland can at least keep this one competitive at home despite the personnel changes on both sides.
Takeaways: Of course, this won't impact our thinking on members of the Rams' offense, especially following the trade of the Raiders' best defensive player. However, it is worth noting that while even the average fan knows about the Rams' additions of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib this offseason, the Raiders may have quietly improved their struggling secondary this offseason.
CB groups that should improve in 2018:
OAK: Healthy Gareon Conley + added Rashaan Melvin
LAR: Added Marcus Peters + Aqib Talib
GB: Healthy Kevin King + drafted CBs in Rd 1/2
CLE: Denzel Ward No. 4 overall + added E.J. Gaines
NYJ: Added Trumaine Johnson + kept Morris Claiborne
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 4, 2018
Of course, this could all be moot if they can't generate a pass rush without Mack, and heading into this game the Raiders are close to as good a matchup as the Rams can get.
Ultimately though, Oakland's skill players will benefit if the books' stance that this game will be closer than the public thinks proves to be correct. Marshawn Lynch could have a solid day if the game script remains neutral, especially considering that Wade Phillips' LA defense ranked 29th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play last year. While the addition of Suh should help in that regard, Phillips defenses have tended to be soft against the run. Most recently, his Denver Broncos ranked 28th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play in 2016.
Amari Cooper may see additional time in the slot in this matchup, based on preseason usage. Cooper has traditionally excelled in the slot, and if it's not Cooper, Seth Roberts may actually have the best matchup in the Raiders' receiving corps as he should largely avoid Peters and Talib on the inside.
Amari Cooper on Seth Roberts: “He’s our starting F receiver. When you see him out there in practice, he’s always making plays. He’s definitely one that we can depend on.”
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 5, 2018
It feels gross and it's nothing more than a punt play, but it's worth noting for tournaments. And if you put stock in one of the higher over/unders on the slate, a Raiders stack could be a contrarian way of taking down one of those big Week 1 GPPs.
Akash Bhatia is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Akash Bhatia also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username tenswimrun1. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.