NFL

​5 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 2

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.

Cowboys Offense vs. Falcons Defense

The Dallas Cowboys had one of the most hyped offenses in the league going into this season after the team ranked second in numberFire’s Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play in 2019 and replaced Jason Garrett, Jason Witten, and Randall Cobb with Mike McCarthy, Blake Jarwin and CeeDee Lamb during the offseason.

The Cowboys got off to a slow start in a 17-20 Sunday Night Football loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and sit at 24th in numberFire's Adjusted NEP per play through one week of action. Jarwin was also unfortunately lost for the season with an ACL tear. But Dallas’ matchup this week against the Atlanta Falcons offers a perfect buy-low, Week 1 overreaction opportunity, considering the atrocity that is the Falcons defense.

In last week’s column, I warned that Atlanta’s defense might be overrated after a seemingly strong second half of the 2019 season. Sure enough, the Seattle Seahawks offense scored at will in Week 1 (especially since it #LetRussCook), as Russell Wilson completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde added 13 carries, 44 yards, and a touchdown on the ground. According to Next Gen Stats, literally every single player Wilson targeted was deemed open.

Dallas and Atlanta each rank top-12 in neutral-situation pass rate (per Sharp Football Stats) and pace of play (per Football Outsiders) through one week, and the game’s 54.0 projected total is easily the highest of any game this weekend (per FanDuel Sportsbook). Look for every skill-position starter from Dallas to benefit from a hot start and take advantage of a porous Falcons defense.

Colts Offense vs. Vikings Defense

The Indianapolis Colts are another team that got off to a slower start than anticipated. Indianapolis lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars outright as an eight-point favorite (per FanDuel Sportsbook), in large part due to underwhelming offensive production.

After one week of action, the Colts rank 17th in Adjusted NEP per play and 19th in points scored -- but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Colts had a strong process but disappointing results, as it ranked sixth in yards per play but was hurt by two unsuccessful fourth-down conversions (including one at the goal line), a missed 30-yard field goal, and two errant Philip Rivers interceptions on the Colts' side of the field.

Indianapolis will look to get back on track against the Minnesota Vikings this week. Minnesota just surrendered a league-high 43 points to the Green Bay Packers and made Aaron Rodgers look like his 2011-self. T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell will benefit from a secondary that double-teamed Davante Adams at times, but still saw him go off for 14 receptions (on 17 targets), 156 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines will benefit from more playing time after Marlon Mack's season-ending Achilles tear last week. Frank Reich’s Colts should have a big rebound offensively in Week 2.

Buccaneers Offense vs. Panthers Defense

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face one of the shallowest, least-talented defenses in the league this week in the Carolina Panthers -- this after facing one of the deepest and most talented defenses in the New Orleans Saints last week. If Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are able to go, each will be in a mouth-watering smash spot. Even if neither are healthy enough to comfortably insert into DFS lineups, Scotty Miller and Ronald Jones offer great value at their respective costs.

Miller ranked behind only Godwin last week in targets (6), receptions (5), and yards (73) and would be a nice value ($5200 on FanDuel, WR49) should Evans or Godwin miss the contest. Jones didn’t dominate snap share (47.1%) but still easily paced the backfield in carries (17), targets (3), and total yards (82), as Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy combined for just 5 rushes and 2 targets for 21 total yards. Jones ($5900 on FanDuel, RB20) has a high floor based on his Week 1 usage, as well as a high ceiling based on a matchup against a defense that allowed a 25-carry, 3-touchdown performance to Josh Jacobs last week.

Titans Offense vs. Jaguars Defense

Each of the previously noted matchups have featured offenses to buy low on after an underwhelming Week 1 start, and the Tennessee Titans are no exception. The Titans squeaked by in a 16-14 Monday Night Football Week 1 win over the Denver Broncos, and they currently rank 15th in Adjusted NEP per play, after finishing third in Ryan Tannehill's starts last season.

Like Indianapolis, Tennessee dealt with some unluckiness, as kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed three (!) field goals as well as an extra point attempt. The Titans offense will look to bounce back against the Jaguars this week.

Jacksonville was surprisingly stout against the Colts' run game last week, limiting its backfield to just 76 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. The Jaguars registered the fifth-best Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play after ranking 29th in that category a year ago. Considering their performance a season ago and the loss of defensive talent since then (especially PFF’s best run defender of 2019 in Calais Campbell), Jacksonville’s strong Week 1 outing may not necessarily be reflective of how it plays in the rest of 2020.

In his last three games against Jacksonville, Derrick Henry has averaged 147.0 rushing yards, 2.3 rushing touchdowns, and 29.0 FanDuel points on just 17.7 carries per game. Henry played 61 snaps in Week 1, the second-most in a single game in his career -- it was just the second time he’s surpassed 50 snaps. That hints that Henry could be a true bell cow for the first time in his career after limited passing-game usage thus far. Henry is yet again in a blowup spot against the Jaguars this week, especially if Tennessee turns to an even run-heavier approach following A.J. Brown's bone bruise that could limit or hold him out of the game.

Cardinals Offense vs. Football Team Defense

After facing one of the fiercest pass rushes in the league last week against the San Francisco 49ers, Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals will face another brutal trench matchup this week against the Washington Football Team. Fortunately, head coach Kliff Kingsbury did a great job scheming against San Francisco and should have similar success against Washington.

According to Next Gen Stats, Murray took 2.42 seconds to throw in Week 1 (compared to 2.73 in 2019) and just 7.5% of his throws were in a tight window (compared to 14% in 2019). Both of those numbers ranked top-seven in the league last week.

Murray, DeAndre Hopkins (who had a career-high 14 receptions on Sunday), and the rest of the Cardinals' passing offense should be able to succeed against a strong pass rush for a second straight week. Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds could be in for a long day against Washington’s front seven, which limited Philadelphia’s backs to 55 rushing yards on 16 carries. However, Kingsbury’s scheme is ideal for running backs -- Arizona's backs totaled 86 yards and a touchdown on 22 combined carries last week against San Francisco.

This game has just the sixth-highest projected total this weekend (47.5, per FanDuel Sportsbook) but is also a matchup between two top-five teams in neutral situation pace of play, which should result in more plays and more fantasy points. Murray and the rest of Arizona's offense are confident plays this week despite Washington’s elite defensive line.