5 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 1
In fantasy football, matchups are key to setting any lineup.
This series will take a look at a few matchups that can be exploited for success on the football field and for profit in DFS.
Oakland Raiders Offense
Josh Jacobs is in an absolute smash spot this weekend. He and the Oakland Raiders are set to face the Carolina Panthers, a team which allowed the most rushing yards, most rushing touchdowns and most fantasy points to running backs last season. The Panthers ranked last in numberFire’s Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play by a wide margin -- the gap between Carolina and 31st-ranked Green Bay was the same as the difference between 30th-ranked Cleveland and 20th-ranked Detroit.
Carolina did add defensive tackle Derrick Brown and six other defenders in the 2020 NFL Draft, but it also lost key players in Luke Kuechly, James Bradberry, Gerald McCoy, Eric Reid, Ross Cockrell, Vernon Butler, Dontari Poe, Bruce Irvin and Mario Addison -- all of whom played at least 400 defensive snaps for the Panthers in 2019.
Jacobs was a gamescript-dependent fantasy player in his rookie season, as he scored 19.4 FanDuel points per game in wins but just 9.2 FanDuel points per game in defeats. But considering that Oakland is a 3.0-point favorite against Carolina --per FanDuel Sportsbook -- as well as the offseason rumors of a bigger pass-catching role for Jacobs, he looks like strong bet to produce out of the gate in Week 1.
New England Patriots Offense
Perhaps the biggest transaction of the offseason was Cam Newton signing with the New England Patriots after injury-plagued 2018 and 2019 seasons. Newton is reportedly back at full health, and, per The Athletic, the Patriots' staff expects him to be as productive of a rusher as he was in his 2015 MVP season, when he ran for 754 yards on 139 carries. When asked about the Patriots’ new offense, Newton responded, “I think the most exciting thing is that nobody knows. Stay tuned.”
While the fantasy world has nitpicked over which New England early-down running back to own between Sony Michel, Damien Harris and Lamar Miller, James White's and Julian Edelman's roles have never changed. Beat writer Jeff Howe believes that White will “have a heavy role and could be in for a monster year,” while Edelman has easily paced the team in targets and receptions from Newton in training camp (White ranks second in targets).
Nobody is quite sure what to expect from the Pats, but the team starts with a soft Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins, who ranked dead last in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play and in the bottom five in fantasy points allowed to all of quarterbacks, running backs and receivers in 2019.
Amid all the uncertainty of Week 1, it seems like a smart idea to bet on talented guys playing for smart coaches against bad defenses. Newton, White and Edelman are all viable DFS options for opening weekend.
San Francisco 49ers Offense
After ranking in the top five in NEP per play, yards per play and points scored in 2019, the San Francisco 49ers' offense appears ready for another run, with its biggest offensive roster losses (Joe Staley, Emmanuel Sanders) being filled seamlessly by replacements (Trent Williams, Brandon Aiyuk).
Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel have both missed practices recently and seem unlikely to play a full game on Sunday, which probably means even more targets for George Kittle against the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona ranked 26th in targets allowed to tight ends in 2019 but easily allowed the most receiving yards, touchdowns and fantasy points to the position. In his one game against the Cardinals last season, Kittle caught six of eight targets for 79 yards and a score despite injuring his knee on the first play of the game.
Arizona drafted linebacker Isaiah Simmons ninth overall this offseason, but Simmons has yet to play an NFL snap and is no sure bet to be able to slow down Kittle, who reset his own record for yards per route run in a season by a tight end last year.
The Cardinals also ranked in the bottom 12 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, running backs and receivers last season, meaning Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert and potentially Aiyuk and Samuel could be in for big days, as well.
Seattle Seahawks Offense
The Atlanta Falcons' 2019 defense ranked 22nd in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, 22nd in points allowed and 23rd in yards per play allowed. Atlanta’s defensive improved in the second half of the season after head coach Dan Quinn reassigned play-calling duties, but there was a decent amount of noise. After the play-calling change, the Falcons improved from 32nd to 1st in third down conversion rate allowed despite allowing a similar success rate (50% vs. 52%) and yards per attempt (7.7 vs. 7.3) on early downs, per Sharp Football Stats.
Third down performance is far less stable than early down performance, so the Falcons' defense shouldn’t necessarily to be as good as it was in the second half of last season. That’s good news for the Seattle Seahawks, who will be playing Atlanta in Week 1.
In last year’s Week 8 matchup, the Falcons gave up 182 passing yards and two touchdowns to Russell Wilson, as Tyler Lockett secured all six of his targets for 100 yards and D.K. Metcalf snagged both of Wilson’s touchdowns. Meanwhile, Chris Carson added 90 yards and a score on the ground via 20 carries. Look for the Seahawks' offense to have another productive showing in Week 1 of 2020 against a potentially overrated Falcons defense in a game that has a high total (49.0).
Pittsburgh Steelers Offense
It seems that nearly every member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense is an injury discount this season. Pittsburgh’s offense ranked in the top 10 in NEP per play in each of the previous five years before falling to 31st last season after Ben Roethlisberger got hurt early on.
JuJu Smith-Schuster dealt with a concussion as well as toe and knee injuries; James Conner suffered shoulder and leg injuries; free agent signee Eric Ebron had ankle surgery this offseason; and even breakout candidate and Pittsburgh’s 2019 leading receiver Diontae Johnson played through sports hernia last year.
Roethlisberger has had a reportedly great training camp, and it sounds like the rest of the offense is ready to rock, as well. The Steelers will face the New York Giants in Week 1, a defense which ranked 26th in Defensive NEP per play and sat in the bottom-half in fantasy points allowed to each skill position (including third-most to quarterbacks) last season.
Take advantage of recency bias/injury discounts on Pittsburgh in Monday night's DFS slates.
Gus Logue is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice Gus Logue also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username GUSL. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.