Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 5
Week 5's main slate isn't one overflowing with drool-worthy games we'll want to stack. No games have a total higher than 49 points, and only one is higher than 47.
This could lead to a change in approach where we skew slightly away from stacking full games, but it also has another effect. It makes games at the higher end of the spectrum appear more appealing than they may be in reality, giving us confidence in them that we possibly shouldn't have. That can lead to fantasy heartbreak in a hurry.
To make things even more complicated, two of the potential higher-scoring games have impactful injuries on the offensive side which muddy the waters even more. This makes it critical that we take a deeper look at those injuries and the impact they'll have to see whether we should actually be looking to load up on these games in DFS.
Let's do that right now, starting off with a game only bettors and fantasy players can love as the Cincinnati Bengals host the Arizona Cardinals. Then, we'll touch on the big pieces missing as the Dallas Cowboys host the Green Bay Packers before diagnosing other impactful situations on the Week 5 main slate.
Missing Firepower in Cincinnati
Never has a Week 5 game between two winless teams ever got as much buzz as this one has gotten this week. And it's for good reason with two offenses that operate fast facing two terrible defenses. We just have to wonder if those offenses will be able to exploit their favorable situations.
What's complicating matters is that we actually can't even have a good baseline expectation for either offense because both will be without key receivers. Christian Kirk seems doubtful at best for Arizona, and the Bengals put John Ross on injured reserve this week. Both got hurt late in their respective matchups in Week 4, so our sample on the offenses without these guys is minimal.
Starting with the Bengals, it's not just Ross who is sidelined. They'll also be missing A.J. Green and roughly 15 different offensive linemen, the effects of which were abundantly evident on Monday night.
Even with a healthy Ross this year, the Bengals have struggled to move the ball. They enter Week 5 ranked 23rd in Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, numberFire's schedule-adjusted metric to track the overall efficiency of an offense. That's not bad when you consider all the injuries the Bengals have had, but we should also expect it to slide the wrong direction with Ross out.
We've seen something similar with the Cardinals. They're ranked right behind Cincinnati in 24th on offense, and losing Kirk would figure to put a dent in that number. So both offenses are already poor, and they're projected to be worse due to injuries. Should this be enough for us to lower our thoughts on the game?
It probably should make us a bit wary of both quarterbacks because they'd be the biggest losers if the teams were to see a dip in efficiency. But Kyler Murray, specifically, has run 12 times the past two games and boasts fairly massive passing-game volume to help offset the efficiency a bit. He has scored at least 16.36 FanDuel points in each game, so you could do a lot worse for $7,400 on FanDuel.
For the other pieces, the loss in efficiency may be mitigated by increased volume, and none of the players in this game are all that expensive. We can still be pretty aggressive with this game even while acknowledging that it could hit the under.
In the three games they've played together without injury (in other words, excluding when Johnson missed time in Week 2), both have gotten fed. Johnson has 21.8% of the targets in those three games, and Fitzgerald is at 20.2%. That's while Kirk was getting 23.4% of the looks, and at least some of those should instead go to Fitzgerald and Johnson. Both are in play for cash games at $5,800 and $6,800, respectively.
With Damiere Byrd also out, we'll have cheap receivers playing a lot of snaps, but the talent of said players is questionable at best. KeeSean Johnson got 10 targets in Week 1 with two deep (at least 16 yards downfield) and two in the red zone, so if you want to bargain hunt, he's your best option at $4,600. Just keep in mind that Johnson's snap rate dipped the weeks after that, and there was probably a reason for it. The best route here will likely be to stick with Fitzgerald and Johnson rather than throwing darts at the other assets.
For the Bengals, there are a few extra viable pieces, and we have a better idea of who may step into additional volume.
Tyler Boyd is in line to get all the targets he can handle, and he has shown in the past that he can come through on that volume. He had double-digit targets each of the first three games, so for $6,700, he's another potential cash-game outlet.
Even before Ross got hurt, Auden Tate was playing a bunch with a snap rate north of 88% in Weeks 3 and 4. He netted 22.9% of the targets in that time with two deep looks and two in the red zone. He's a dependable value at $5,300.
In theory, Tyler Eifert could also see additional looks, and he's facing an Arizona team that has been gutted by tight ends the first three weeks. He's only $4,600, and spending that little at such a volatile position is fairly attractive.
Even with that being said, Eifert is a thinner play than either Boyd or Tate. He hasn't had more than six targets in any game this year, and his maximum number of routes run is 27, according to Pro Football Focus. Eifert figures to be popular given how much attention the Cardinals' wretchedness against tight ends has gotten, meaning it'd be worthwhile to consider having less of Eifert than the field in tournaments, instead finding the money for either Boyd or Tate.
The other way to play this would be to pivot to the ground game and check out Joe Mixon rather than the pass-catchers.
Mixon hasn't done much this year, hitting double-digit FanDuel points just once, but we have to remember the context around those performances. He got hurt in Week 1 and barely practiced prior to Week 2. In the two games since, he has averaged 15 carries and 3.5 targets per game, which is a respectable workload in a plus matchup.
Mixon is overpriced at $7,100, meaning that if you want a back in cash games, you should prefer Johnson over him. But Mixon has a path to a solid output in a game that could feature a good number of points, and he's likely to come with lower popularity levels than his pass-catching teammates. That makes him a quality tournament pivot within this same game.
Sitting Studs in Dallas
For the Packers and Cowboys, the guys projected to miss the game aren't solid receivers; they're All-Pro-caliber players. It means we might need to have a couple additional concerns with this one.
For the Cowboys, left tackle Tyron Smith is likely to sit due to a high-ankle sprain. That is a big blow to their offense, as past years have shown.
Smith missed three games in 2017, and when he was off the field, the Cowboys' sack rate rose to 11.0% from 4.0%, according to The Quant Edge's injury tool. The team's offense was an expensive skid mark in that time.
Those three games missed, though, overlapped partly with Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, and it would be understandable if the offense struggled while down two key pieces. So, instead, let's focus more on 2018.
Last year, Smith also missed three games, though one of them was a wacky Week 17 game against the New York Giants. Let's throw that one out the window and focus on Weeks 12 and 13.
In order to get a real look at Smith's impact, we'll want to zero in on what the Cowboys' offense did with and without Smith after the Amari Cooper trade. Cooper seemed to have a major impact on the offense, so including data from before the trade could give us an improper view of what to expect this weekend.
Once we make those adjustments, we're left with eight games from Week 8 through Week 16, six of which featured Smith and two of which did not. Here's how the Cowboys performed in those splits. "Passing NEP/P" is the expected points added on each drop back (including deductions for expected points lost on sacks and interceptions). "Rushing NEP/P" is the expected points added or subtracted on each rush attempt by a running back. "Success Rate" is the percentage of plays that increased the team's expected points for the drive.
|Weeks 8 Through 16||Passing NEP/P||Pass Success Rate||Sack Rate||Rushing NEP/P||Rush Success Rate|
|With Tyron Smith||0.10||48.5%||7.7%||0.10||48.9%|
|Without Tyron Smith||0.15||51.4%||15.7%||-0.06||38.9%|
The team's rushing efficiency went down the tubes, and they took a ton of sacks, both of which are pretty frightening against a stout Packers defense. But even when you account for the sacks, they were still able to move the ball through the air, and that matters.
When we use someone like Elliott, we're not looking for rushing efficiency. We want volume, passing-game work, and touchdown equity. Elliott finally got work in the passing game last week with seven targets, and if the Cowboys move the ball, they'll be in a position to get him some touchdowns. Elliott should grade out behind guys like Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook in the upper salary tier, but he's someone we can still use in DFS.
We can use a similar line of thinking with Cooper. His matchup is pretty tough, but he has 23.8% of the Cowboys' targets this year with 31.8% of the deep targets. If Michael Gallup is able to return after getting in limited sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, he could help take some heat off of Cooper. Cooper will be volatile given the matchup, but his upside makes him a justifiable option for tournaments regardless.
The one guy we may want to shy away from as a result of Smith's absence is Dak Prescott. Sacks dramatically lower a team's touchdown expectation for a drive, and quarterback is the most touchdown-dependent position in fantasy. So if last year's splits without Smith hold, Prescott is deserving of a downgrade for the time being.
Similarly, Aaron Rodgers would be a pretty big loser if Davante Adams can't go, which seems to be the most likely scenario. Playing without a key piece like that can kill efficiency in a hurry, so we can significantly downgrade both quarterbacks in this game.
As with the Cowboys, though, it doesn't mean we should ignore the secondary pieces. Adams had 15 targets in their games against Philadelphia and 26.1% of the overall targets this year, meaning he opens up a lot of volume in the offense. A couple guys are capable of taking advantage of that.
The two most obvious are Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jimmy Graham. Valdes-Scantling has already had at least six targets in each game, and he actually leads the team in targets at least 16 yards downfield. We shouldn't expect him to be a target monster, but he doesn't really have to be at $6,300 to pay off.
As for Graham, cheap, palatable tight ends are hard to find on this slate, but Graham could be an outlet. He has fought through injuries this year, but his snap rate in that Thursday night game spiked back up to 70.9%. He finished with nine targets, four of which came in the red zone, and not having Adams should only increase Graham's presence near the goal line. Both he and Valdes-Scantling are viable plays on Sunday.
The other guy who could benefit -- depending on the status of Jamaal Williams -- is Aaron Jones. Jones finished that Thursday game with seven targets, his second game this year with at least six looks in the passing game, and he played 83.5% of the snaps. If Williams plays, it would be a downgrade for Jones given the roles the two played in Week 3, but Jones is on the tournament map at $6,800 if he's the lone ranger.
Overall, the losses of Smith and Adams do need to lower our view of this game, which is why the total has fallen to 46.5 from 47.5. But there are still at least some decent plays in what should be a thrilling game to watch.
The Bears With Chase Daniel
When a guy like Mitchell Trubisky goes down, Twitter likes to fire off jokes about how it's actually an upgrade for the team. With how Trubisky had played at times this year, it's understandable. But that doesn't make the quips correct.
|In 2018||Passing NEP/P||Pass Success Rate|
The Chicago Bears were 0.30 expected points worse on a drop back by Daniel than a drop back by Trubisky. Trubisky wasn't great by any means, but it was a definitive downgrade.
That means -- even in a tasty matchup with the Oakland Raiders -- we probably need to cross off any ancillary pieces within the Bears' offense. The efficiency here figures to take a hit, meaning we need volume.
We could get said volume from Allen Robinson, who has 25.2% of the Bears' targets this year along with 43.5% of the deep targets. That's good usage. But it's also in a game with a total that has fallen to 40.5 from 41, and we generally want our receivers in higher-octane spots than that. At $6,900, Robinson is worth consideration, but he's far from being a priority.
The one really solid play here may be David Montgomery. The Bears leaned on Montgomery after Trubisky's injury last week as he finished with 21 carries and 5 targets on 69.4% of the snaps. This may feel like it came out of nowhere, but his snap rate was also 66.7% the previous week, so Montgomery's workload has been steadily rising all season long.
Montgomery is getting heavy ground-game volume, and he has run at least 20 routes in back-to-back contests, according to Pro Football Focus. Getting that at $5,700 is pretty enticing even if it is tied to a backup quarterback. Montgomery isn't a must-use cash-game asset, but he is a truly solid option for tournaments.
The Return of the Back
Truthfully, we don't know what Gordon's role will look like this week, though head coach Anthony Lynn did confirm that Gordon will be fairly active.
Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn updated RB Melvin Gordon's status this week with @87ed & @BillLekas
"He's definitely going to be part of the game plan...He may even start this game"#BoltUp
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) October 3, 2019
The question we have to ask here is how much action Gordon gets and whether it renders both he and Ekeler completely irrelevant for DFS.
If they were to ease Gordon back into play and have him play a role similar to Justin Jackson in Week 3, then Ekeler could be in play at $7,200. Ekeler had nine carries and seven targets in that game, and Lynn uses his running backs in a fashion that makes those targets super valuable.
If it's more of a 50-50 split, then we have some issues. In the first three weeks, Ekeler and Jackson combined for 18.7 carries and 9.3 targets per game, which -- if split between two people -- would be 9.3 carries and 4.7 targets apiece. That's not something we should trust in DFS at any salary, which would shove both out of play.
The safe route would be to avoid this situation entirely, instead looking at guys like Johnson and Mixon in a similar salary tier with firmer workloads. That's likely how we should play this one until we have a bit more information.
If you still want to get in on the Los Angeles Chargers, perhaps Keenan Allen can quench that thirst. He's coming off of a complete dud of a game at high ownership but still has 32.9% of the Chargers' overall targets, 34.4% of the deep targets, and 38.9% of the red-zone targets. For $7,500, that's mighty tasty. He'll see coverage from Chris Harris, which is definitely worthy of a downgrade, but we may not get Allen this cheap or at this low popularity again in 2019.
Sam Darnold's Suspect Spleen
At one point, there was some hope that Sam Darnold could return from his bout with mono and suit up this week. That hope was washed out on Friday.
Not surprisingly, the #Jets have ruled QB Sam Darnold out for this week’s game. He got a lot of reps in practice, but the spleen did not do what Darnold wanted it to do. So, he waits.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 4, 2019
For quarterbacks and wide receivers, we want a bit of a back-and-forth affair with both teams keeping their foots on the throttle for all four quarters. We're unlikely to get that with Luke Falk starting for the Jets.
You can still give some consideration to Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, and Alshon Jeffery because they're talented players in a good matchup. But all three of them have their ceilings dented with Darnold on the sidelines.
Monitoring Josh Allen
The other quarterback situation to monitor here is with Josh Allen. Allen got in limited practices on Wednesday and Thursday, meaning he could play but has not yet fully cleared concussion protocol. But whether Allen plays or not, our approach to this game may not change much.
In three of four games this year, the Bills' offense has had a plus matchup. In the lone tough spot, Allen completed less than half his passes, threw three picks, took four sacks, and fumbled once. He was a hot mess.
The Tennessee Titans sneakily have a solid defense. They rank third against the pass through four weeks, based on numberFire's metrics, right behind the New England Patriots team that gave Allen fits last week.
Because of this, we should be pretty interested in the Titans' defense, even at $4,800. Allen has not shed the mistake-laden ways of his past, which is big for the upside of an opposing defense. You could potentially roll out John Brown at $5,500, but we should likely look for receivers in higher-scoring affairs than this one figures to be.
If Allen can't go and Matt Barkley takes the reins, we'd still be into the Titans' defense. So, regardless of who starts, give Tennessee's defense a sniff.
Allen being out could potentially increase your interest in Derrick Henry at $6,700, but with his lack of passing-game involvement, he needs a huge day on the ground to blow up in DFS. There are likely better plays in the same range at running back.
Golden Tate's Giants Debut
Since then, things have gotten considerably better, even with Saquon Barkley still seeming like a longshot to play on Sunday. They got Sterling Shepard back from a concussion, and now Golden Tate will join him out wide. Suddenly, Daniel Jones has some talent around him.
That talent is good for Jones as he prepares for his first true test against a declining-yet-solid Vikings defense. It may not be good for us in DFS.
Part of the allure of this Giants offense initially was that we knew where the ball was going. In Jones' first two starts, Shepard had 26.9% of the targets, Engram had 22.4%, and nobody else had more than Wayne Gallman's 11.4%. That's a narrow target tree, and it meant we didn't need the team to be hyper-high-powered to love it in DFS.
Now, though, you're adding a guy like Tate into the fold, and he tends to command a fairly decent target load. How should we expect things to shake out with the pass-catchers here?
Truly, we won't actually know until we see Tate in the fold given that we haven't seen him on the field with Shepard and Engram in the regular season yet. But we can look at some other situations with similar personnel to potentially get a blueprint.
A target distribution similar to that of the Carolina Panthers would seem to be the ideal outcome. There, they've got a running back, tight end, and two wide receivers who all have talent and get steady looks in the offense. Right now, all four have at least 20% of the team's targets, and they're able to support all four as fantasy-viable options on a week-to-week basis.
But even a situation like that presents some issues. The most FanDuel points in a game for either Curtis Samuel or D.J. Moore this year is 13.8, and the two have combined to hit double-digits just four times. Greg Olsen has had two big games, but he has also been held below 40 yards twice.
The counterpoint could be that there's no Christian McCaffrey up in New York, but Gallman actually did get 22.6% of the team's targets in Week 4 despite being in and out of the game in the second half due to a neck injury. When Barkley's back, he'll command a steady diet of targets, as well. There's a real chance we wind up having too many mouths to feed within this offense.
That gives you a little bit of leeway to avoid Tate at what should be heavy ownership on Sunday. He's only $4,500 on FanDuel, which is clearly far too low, meaning people are going to flock his direction. And the Vikings' secondary isn't what it used to be, meaning Tate will likely have a fairly advantageous matchup, making the rationale behind using Tate fairly easy to justify. But there is a path to a down game.
If nothing else, Tate's return should lower our interest in Shepard, at least for this week. With Tate in the fold, Shepard figures to shift outside more often after lining up in the slot on 64.8% of his snaps his first three games. That means he'll see more coverage from Xavier Rhodes, who isn't necessarily someone we need to avoid, but it does constitute a downgrade for Shepard at $6,500.
Engram is only $6,300, and that seems a bit easier to justify given that he fills the tight-end slot. The Vikings have already allowed 14 targets to Darren Waller and 9 to Austin Hooper this year, and Engram's level of involvement in the offense seems to be somewhere between the two going forward. Engram could serve as a pivot off of Tate given the salary discrepancies between the two.
The other potential pivot here -- assuming Barkley does, indeed, sit -- is Gallman. The matchup is super tough for him, but he had 18 carries and 7 targets last week, which is workhorse-esque usage. He was on the injury report due to the aforementioned neck injury, but he still got in limited sessions both Wednesday and Thursday, seemingly indicating he's good to go here. That type of usage can make you matchup-proof, and at $6,300, his salary has not caught up to his role yet. We should still be in on this guy even with a difficult task.
Combine this all together, and we don't have to use Tate this week. The number of assets in the offense could spread out target shares, and we have palatable pivots within the same offense. As such, Tate is a viable value play at $4,500, but if your process is to shy away from popular wide receivers, you've got the ability to do so here.
Anarchy in Minnesota
Sticking with that same game, the Giants' opponent also has a bit of uncertainty entering Sunday, but it's for wildly different reasons. Instead of getting a receiver back from suspension, they've got one missing practice and sending cryptic tweets. We may have a coup underway. Getcha popcorn ready.
After a nightmare performance on the road against the Bears, both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have been fairly vocal in their displeasure with the team. Thielen said it outright, criticizing the passing offense, while Diggs missed practice Wednesday and then did not deny trade rumors in a meeting with the press on Thursday. Mind you, this is all for a team that is currently 2-2.
Normally, we could cite this as an example of a squeaky-wheel narrative and check out the Vikings in DFS. But they've thrown the ball just 31 times in two wins this year, and they're 5.5-point road favorites after opening at 4.5. Bookmakers think the Vikings will win this game, and if that does happen, they seem likely to stash this passing game where the light don't shine.
Let's say the Vikings do throw 25 times here, an increase from either of their wins. If we assign both Thielen and Diggs 30% of the team's targets, that's 7.5 targets apiece. That's certainly not terrible, and it'd be more than Diggs has gotten in any game this year, but that's a fairly aggressive target share projection, and it still fails to inspire gobs of confidence.
As such, our best route for going at the Vikings here is going to be via Dalvin Cook. He has also been active in the passing game this year with 19.2% of the targets in addition to his 17.8 carries per game. He's in play no matter how the game plays out, which means he's a top-notch cash-game play at $8,200.
But we can play a bit of the "assumption game" here and talk ourselves into at least some shares of the disgruntled wideouts.
The "assumption game" is where you play out in your head how the game goes down. Right now, the Vikings have 56.5% win odds, according to numberFire, but at the end of the game (barring a tie), one team is going to have 100% win odds. Somebody's going to win here, and which team ultimately does that will impact which pieces within the game have a big day. So, in our head, we should be looking to tell a story about the game flow of each game when filling out tournament lineups and using pieces that would seemingly benefit from the cookie crumbling in that exact way.
There is a scenario in which the Vikings -- for one reason or another -- continue to put a lid on their passing game and prevent Diggs and Thielen from popping off in DFS. That scenario seems to have a pretty high likelihood. But it's not the only scenario here.
We could see the Giants build an early lead, forcing the Vikings to play catch-up. In the Vikings' two losses, Cousins had 32 and 36 pass attempts, which is a lot more acceptable. He struggled mightily in those games, but he was also facing crazy tough defenses in the Packers and Bears. The Giants are just 22nd against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, meaning this would be a much more fruitful spot to let it rip.
The other scenario that leads to increased volume for this passing game would be if the Vikings give in to the desires of Thielen and Diggs and air it out more in neutral scripts. This one seems less likely, but those are two guys you want to appease. And if you give them volume against this Giants secondary, good things are likely to happen.
In all of these paths, Cook is a good play, and we should treat him as such. But there are paths in which Thielen at $6,900 and Diggs at $6,000 have difference-making days, and those paths aren't all that unrealistic. We just have to decide how likely each path is to happen in reality and go from there. Given what the Vikings' offense has shown us so far this year, we probably still need to limit exposure to both guys, but it might not be a bad idea to dabble a bit in this offense in case one of the scenarios laid out above comes to fruition.
The Tap-Pass Raid
That's the cut-and-dry scenario. The certainty would be lower if Conner were to play, especially given the wonkiness of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense on Monday.
In that game, Samuels, Conner, and Benny Snell Jr. had 17 targets that were an average of 1.7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, according to AirYards.com. Most of them were tap passes, which still get you a half-point for a reception, and we'll happily take that on FanDuel. It's just not necessarily the world's most enthralling offense to watch.
Shifting to this type of gameplan led to a pretty even split of the work between Conner and Samuels in that game.
|In Week 4||Snap Rate||Carries||Targets|
That type of work -- 10 carries and 8 targets -- isn't too bad if it's guaranteed. But that wouldn't necessarily be the case this weekend.
First, the Bengals hadn't seen that offense prior to Monday, so they had no time to prepare for it. The Baltimore Ravens' defensive personnel is a shell of what it used to be, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has shown in the past that he can cook up a good scheme. Having a week of tape on the Steelers' gimmicky offense figures to lower its expected effectiveness.
Additionally, the Steelers were playing the Bengals there, and that's one of the few pass defenses that has graded out worse than Baltimore's this year. Now, they're on short rest and banged up (JuJu Smith-Schuster also missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday), so it's entirely possible we've already seen the best this style of offense has to offer.
With this in mind, it's probably wise to steer clear of the Steelers if both Conner and Samuels play. But if it's just Samuels by himself, then the more concentrated volume would put him in the cash-game fold at $5,000.
DeAndre Hopkins' Milk-Carton Month
On Sunday, it will be 27 days since the last time DeAndre Hopkins had more than 67 receiving yards or a touchdown in an NFL game. Totally normal stuff going on here.
If you're searching for an explanation, you could think that the return of Will Fuller and the additions of Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee had cut into Hopkins' target load. But as you can see here, he's still getting fed.
|In 2019||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The overall target share is an elite mark for Hopkins. His downfield work is down a bit, which makes sense given Stills' presence, but we should still see Hopkins pumping out big games. So why hasn't that happened?
It could easily just be that he has faced some solid cornerback play. In the past three weeks, 12 of 23 targets have come while in coverage by either Jalen Ramsey or James Bradberry, according to Pro Football Focus, both of whom carry respectable reputations.
That won't be an issue this week. The Atlanta Falcons just lost safety Keanu Neal again, and they got shredded last week by the likes of A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. Not to speak ill of those two, but they're probably just a wee bit short of being on Hopkins' level.
Atlanta has allowed the second-worst success rate to opposing wide receivers, according to numberFire's Brandon Gdula, meaning this is very much a get-right spot for Hopkins. The same could be true of Fuller at $5,700, though his overall target volume will naturally make him the more volatile piece in the pairing. Regardless, we should covet both this week.
And if those two perform well, so should Deshaun Watson. Watson has disappointed in his two home games thus far, but he put up 31.72 and 25.84 points in the other outings. A ceiling game is something still very much in his range of outcomes, and he's running enough to increase the odds he hits said ceiling. With quarterback salaries being fairly flat on Sunday, it's hard to view Watson as anything other than one of the top plays on the board.
The other potential beneficiary if the Houston Texans' offense starts to hum is the Falcons' passing game. Playing catch-up would lead to extra volume for the pass-catchers, and we don't need that boost to get excited about Julio Jones at $8,200. Jones has at least seven targets in each game and is already up to 13 total deep looks on the year, so when stacking Watson and Hopkins, running it back with Jones seems to be highly desirable.
The Falcons' other pieces aren't as dependable as Jones, but both Austin Hooper and Calvin Ridley have shown they're capable of spike weeks. Ridley is just a couple of games removed from going for 105 yards and a touchdown, but a pair of duds have pushed his salary down to $5,400. Hooper is all the way up at $6,700, the most expensive tight end on the slate. Because both have a wide range of outcomes, we should favor the cheaper asset and go with Ridley more often, and the down games should ensure that he checks in as a contrarian option.
The Patriots' Gameplan When Leading
One of the pros of having the New England Patriots consistently throttle teams this year is that we have a large sample on what they'll do when ahead. That's relevant this week as they are 15-point favorites against Washington. The trends that have shown up so far say we can still use this passing game even if we assume Washington fails to keep pace.
According to Sharp Football Stats, the Patriots have already run 195 plays when leading by seven or more points this year. Their pass rate in that scenario is still 56%, which ranks ninth in the league. If we jack that up to a lead of 14 points, the Patriots' pass rate is still 52%, which ranks 5th of 18 teams that have run double-digit plays in that scenario. Even when they've been up big, New England has still been willing to air it out.
That's why Tom Brady scored at least 20 FanDuel points in each of the first three games even though the Patriots won those by an average of 29.7 points. At just $7,600, Brady is a top-end quarterback play for the slate.
This means his pass-catchers carry value, too, and none of them will run you much salary. Julian Edelman is the most expensive piece at $6,500, and he leads the team with 25.4% of the targets in the two games (Weeks 1 and 4) with their current personnel. Edelman is an option for both cash games and tournaments.
James White is second in targets in those two games with 23.9%, which is clearly a stand-out number for a running back. This makes him an option. However, he's not going to have the same touchdown equity as other backs who also get work in the ground game, and using him means you have one less spot on which to use someone who does have that extra upside. White is clearly an option, but we should keep this opportunity cost in mind.
For tournament lineups, Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett are both in the fold, though both carry lower floors than Edelman. Gordon hasn't really popped yet, but this will be the softest matchup he has had to date. The plus of Dorsett is that he'll cost you just $5,400 compared to Gordon at $6,200, meaning we should likely favor Dorsett between the two, but we shouldn't rule out either.
Hollywood's Day Will Come
If you're like me, you've probably lost a lot of money on Marquise Brown in the past few weeks. My bankroll shudders at the mere thought of him.
But I'm gonna do it again this week.
Brown's role is one that will naturally lead to heavy volatility. Of Brown's 34 targets this year, 12 have been at least 16 yards downfield, and those targets will carry a lower completion percentage, especially when they're coming from someone who is still developing as a passer. The lows we've seen the past few weeks aren't fluky; they're to be expected.
But part of volatility is also being able to hit the highs. We've seen that already from Brown in his Week 1 performance, so we know a monster game is within his range of outcomes. That means we can continue to justify using him as long as it's in the right scenarios.
One way to think about Brown is the way we used to view Amari Cooper: avoid him when he's popular and target him when he's not. If Brown figures to be on a bunch of rosters, the low-floor nature of his usage is going to make it advantageous to look elsewhere.
But when Brown is shaping up to be less popular -- as he seems likely to be this weekend -- then we can feel a bit better about diving in. If he hits the high end of his volatility and isn't on many other rosters, we'll be off to a rousing start. It's even better when he clocks in at $5,400. So it may be frustrating, and your bankroll may eventually revolt, but -- once again -- Hollywood Brown is a logical play in Week 5.