Week 1 Game Scripts to Target in Daily Fantasy Football
Welcome to the Game Scripts to Target article for the 2021 season. Each week, we'll be taking a look at specific games to target for daily fantasy tournaments. Stacking games has always been a popular option in GPPs, as it allows you to reach for upside with the back-and-forth scoring.
Dissecting game scripts should be a huge part of your process when building lineups in NFL daily fantasy.
How will the game play out? Will it be high-paced with lots of potential for fantasy points to be scored? Does it set up well for one team, both teams, or neither? A running back could go from a lock one week as a home favorite to a complete avoid the next as a double-digit road underdog because the expected game scripts in these contests are completely different.
Projecting these outcomes can be extremely difficult for one person. We can use the lines and totals to see what oddsmakers think and go from there. A great resource is numberFire's Daily Fantasy Matchup Heat Map, which provides betting-related numbers -- implied totals, over/unders, and spreads -- as well as custom metrics that show how the teams will match up against each other. This gives us a much better handle on how games are likely to play out, and we can take advantage of that in our lineups.
Let's look at some game scripts to target for this week.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennesse Titans
It's no secret that games with higher over/unders are frequently targeted by DFS players for potential game stacks to maximize their fantasy scoring potential. That is what we are ultimately after -- players or games with high upside to produce the most fantasy points on a given slate. This upside is how our lineups can move up the leaderboards and cash in at the top of tournaments.
As the season goes on, I'll incorporate pace of play stats, play-calling frequency stats, and more, which will be easier as we get some data for this season.
With that out of the way, let's get into the Titans as 3.0-point home favorites against the Cardinals, a game loaded with offensive weapons on both sides. The Titans made a splash in the offseason by trading for Julio Jones ($7,000), giving them a strong one-two punch at wide receiver alongside A.J. Brown ($7,800). Both Jones and Brown are among the top 11 highest-salaried receivers on this slate, so rostering both of them could present some issues for your cap space.
Realistically, those are the only two wide receivers you should be considering from the Titans in this game unless something changes. Last season, the Titans lined up with two wide receiver sets 45% of the time, according to SharpFootballStats. They lined up in three wide receivers sets only 38% of the time, which was the second-lowest in the league. It seems safe to assume that is what we should be seeing from them this season given the lack of other consistent wide receivers options on their roster.
Deciding between Jones and Brown is another whole conversation, but ultimately, I'm siding with Brown. He has the connection with quarterback Ryan Tannehill ($7,700) already established, something Jones hasn't been able to set in stone. Jones missed time during training camp, while Tannehill was in the COVID protocol for a period of time. I'll still look to have some shares of Julio because it's not as if he isn't in a good spot against the Cardinals' secondary, who allowed 28.7 FanDuel points per game to opposing wide receivers.
Of course, you should look to add Derrick Henry ($8,900) to not only this game stack but any lineup you have the salary available. His potential for 20-plus FanDuel points is always a possible outcome, and frankly, this could be one the only times this season we see his salary under $9,000. Play Derrick Henry.
For the Cardinals, the combination of quarterback Kyler Murray ($8,400) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins ($8,200) should be a popular pairing for tournaments simply because it makes so much sense. Last year, the Titans allowed 22.1 FanDuel points per game to opposing quarterbacks, which was the fifth-worst in the league. The Titans also allowed a staggering 36.2 FanDuel points per game to opposing wide receivers, which was the third-worst in the league.
We could be seeing the same from the Titans this season, as they are ranked in the bottom tier of defenses to start the year, according to PFF. I'm not worried about the Titans' defense, you shouldn't be worried about the Titans' defense, and anyone playing fantasy football shouldn't be worried about the Titans' defense.
Both Murray and Hopkins are the chalk stack for the Cardinals, but how can you look to be different or find some salary relief? A.J. Green ($5,400) is in his first season with the Cardinals and reports during training camp have been high on him coming into this year.
While some DFS players might want to wait and see if Green is fully healthy and incorporated into the Cardinals' offense, he's in a matchup that could make him an elite tournament option. The scoring upside is clearly there for him in this matchup, he is affordable, he shouldn't be as popular as Hopkins, and he allows you to spend up for Brown or Jones from the Titans.
It's also reasonable to take a shot with Christian Kirk ($5,200), who led all Cardinals' receivers last season with an 11.84 average depth of target (aDOT) along with a 25% market share of air yards, which were the second-highest on the team. Kirk flashed 20-point upside a number of times last season, although he was wildly inconsistent.
Rookie Rondale Moore ($4,900) has also gained plenty of attention in the preseason and might be considered a bit of a dart throw but one I'll add to my player pool when expanding things for a game stack.
Running backs Chase Edmonds ($5,900) and James Conner ($5,500) will lead the Cardinals' backfield in a 1A-1B type situation. I'm leaning toward Edmonds over Conner simply due to his familiarity with the Cardinals' offense and knowing he can contribute in the passing game.
We should see plenty of scoring in this game, and it presents a clear spot for a game stack. The Titans' offense is very straightforward, while the Cardinals have a clear chalk stack, along with a few other options to pivot to if needed.
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Due to the hurricane in New Orleans last week, this is a "home game" for the Saints at the Jacksonville Jaguars' stadium, so just take note of that. This game has an over/under set at 49.5 points, which is the third-highest on the slate, putting us in an environment where we could see plenty of scoring.
The Packers are 3.5-point road favorites, and it shouldn't be a surprise when we see their players as the chalky options in this game or the entire slate overall. Let's start with the Packers because they are pretty cut and dry to break down.
Of course, they are led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers ($8,000), who always has three touchdown upside and can be trusted as one of the most consistent fantasy options. Stacking Rodgers with wide receiver Davante Adams ($8,600) is the chalk combination -- and an expensive one -- but it brings 50-FanDuel-point potential.
Rodgers could be able to feast against the Saints' secondary this week because they are dealing with a few injuries to their cornerbacks. Rodgers is already elite, and any extra boost he can get could send his fantasy production to another level. Starting a game stack with Rodgers and Adams is the standard way to approach things -- just know that going in if you are worried about how chalky your lineup is overall.
The Saints come in with the eighth-best defensive line according to PFF, which puts running back Aaron Jones ($7,400) in a tougher matchup. Going to Jones in this game stack is clearly a way to be contrarian, but it's also outside of what is optimal.
According to the Packers' official depth chart, Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($5,200) is technically listed as the other starting wide receiver, and yet he has the fourth-highest salary among Packers receivers on FanDuel. Allen Lazard ($5,600) and Randall Cobb ($5,400) are also in the mix and present riskier options overall.
Personally, I'd lead with Cobb after all of the offseason storylines about Rodgers wanting him in Green Bay. Tight end Robert Tonyan ($5,400) is always an option for a red zone touchdown but is not an option I'm prioritizing this week.
If the Packers are the chalk, the Saints are the contrarian way to stack this game.
This is not to say that the Saints aren't going to be popular, but getting exposure to this game for most people should start with Rodgers, Adams, and Saints running back Alvin Kamara ($8,600). If that is the standard start for a game stack, we can look to be different with some of the options on the Saints.
That would start with Jameis Winston ($6,700) and then looking to stack him with one of Kamara or wide receiver Marquez Callaway ($5,200). With Michael Thomas out for the start of the season, Callaway has emerged as the top option for the Saints after a strong preseason.
While many have their concerns about Winston as a "real quarterback," we have to remember he finished as QB3 in 2019. He slings the ball downfield and can rack up yards quickly, which is what we could see in this game if the Saints fall behind. The stack of Winston, Callaway, and Adams would capture passing upside for the Saints if they fall behind, along with the consistency and ceiling Adams brings.
Wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith ($5,500) is dealing with a hamstring issue, and if he is unable to go, we could see Deonte Harris ($5,300) or Lil'Jordan Humphrey ($4,700) step into the starting lineup. They are dart throws at best, leaving Kamara and Callaway as the two best options.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
This game has it all for a potential game stack. Two solid offenses, two bad defenses, and plenty of viable fantasy options on both sides.
With both defenses being ranked in the bottom half of the league to start the season, this game is a powder keg waiting to explode, and we should attempt to capture that via a game stack.
The Falcons' offense will look a bit different this season after they traded Julio Jones to the Titans. This vaults Calvin Ridley ($8,100) to the top receiver for the Falcons, who is projected for 16.7 FanDuel points, which is the second-highest on the slate. Last season, Ridley held a 25.13% target share, which led the Falcons, and it's a level you can expect him to reach or exceed this year. Lock him in.
If Ridley is going to be hitting that projection, it means that quarterback, Matt Ryan ($7,300) is likely in for a big day. The Ryan to Ridley pairing should be the standard way to start a game stack, with a receiver from the Eagles as a potential bring back.
You can also look to stack rookie tight end Kyle Pitts ($6,000) with Ryan to save a bit of salary. Pitts was one of the highest-rated prospects in the past draft, and I have no worries about him being productive in his debut.
Wide receiver Russell Gage ($5,700) has been with the team for a few seasons and has built a connection with Matt Ryan, so you could also look to use him in stacks, but he's a clear secondary option behind Ridley. The same could be said for running back Mike Davis ($6,200), who is another secondary option and not a player I'm prioritizing this week.
The Falcons are straightforward this week and should be relatively the same for most of the season unless something changes.
On the Eagles' side of things, they are led by second-year quarterback, Jalen Hurts ($7,600), who flashed serious fantasy upside once he was named the starter late last season. Hurts ended with 17 FanDuel points or more in four straight games to close the season with a high of 37.82 FanDuel points. His dual-threat ability brings him a massive ceiling, and given the fact the Falcons allowed 24.0 FanDuel points per game -- the second-most -- to opposing quarterback last season, I don't see anything that will slow him down.
As bad as the Falcons' defense was last season, they were solid against running backs specifically. They only allowed 17.9 FanDuel points per game to running backs, which was the sixth-fewest in the league. This has me hesitant to roster Miles Sanders ($6,600) in large portions of my player allocation. I still want a bit of exposure to him due to the overall game environment but not a significant amount.
The Eagles' wide receivers are somewhat of an unknown at this point, but given how soft this matchup is, you should be very interested in them. Rookie DeVonta Smith ($5,300) is listed as the number one receiver on the Eagles' depth chart. Jalen Reagor ($5,400) is listed as the number two, Quez Watkins ($4,600) is listed as the number three, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ($4,500) is listed as the number four.
It'd be safest to side with DeVonta Smith, who is easy to roster in a game stack if you are paying up for a Ryan and Ridley stack.
Tight ends Dallas Goedert ($5,900) and Zach Ertz ($5,000) are listed as co-number one tight ends on the Eagles' depth chart. Some view it as a coinflip between them, but I'm siding with Goedert, who was far more effective last season with a 70.8% catch rate, compared to Ertz's 50.0% catch rate. Goedert also carried an 8.1 yards per target, compared to Ertz's 4.7 yards per target.
This game truly offers it all for potential tournament game stacks, and you should also look to use these players in secondary stacks if you are focusing on some of the other games.