4 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 3
The beauty of daily fantasy football is that, unlike a season-long draft where someone is tied to their top players all year, any top players in the NFL can make their way into your lineup. While that can be a blessing, it can also be a curse.
While being able to roster Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Derrick Henry all at once if a player truly wants to, it is unlikely that all three running backs are all optimal play at their respective salaries for a particular week. There are many elements to decide which players will, and a large aspect of daily fantasy is the matchup a player has.
While usually encompassed in some respects inside the salary figure, a soft matchup can take a good running back to a great week. On the other hand, a tough matchup can make superstars suboptimal to roster.
Especially in Week 1 with no current-season data, which matchups are lurking in this weekend's games that we can take advantage of on FanDuel?
Titans Passing Attack vs. Colts Secondary
The Tennessee Titans' offense looks even better from a daily fantasy perspective than last year.
They have all desired archetypes represented in their offense now, with a quarterback that can run in Ryan Tannehill, a running back with a massive workload that catches passes in Derrick Henry, and two star pass-catchers with at least a 20% target share in A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.
They may be a "buy" again this week after their mammoth Week 2 comeback against Seattle. The Titans are hosting the 0-2 Colts (without Carson Wentz), and Indianapolis has surprisingly struggled in the secondary early in 2021.
The Colts have allowed 0.54 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back to opposing quarterbacks in the young season, which is the second-most in the league behind Detroit. Stacking Titans to exploit that weakness is fairly simple, as Brown and Jones have 73.0% of their team's total air yards. Using Tannehill with either -- or both -- is an interesting approach against a struggling defensive back unit.
The best news? Indianapolis is not poised to fall entirely behind given just a five-point spread in the game, and the fact the Titans have struggled to just limit opposing passing games as well. Tennesee has ceded 0.39 Passing NEP per drop back, which is bottom ten as well. Overall, this game is a sneaky stack on Sunday's main slate with Titans' stars and an obvious bring-back option in Michael Pittman Jr.
Austin Ekeler vs. Chiefs Run Defense
I will admit, I am not the largest long-term Austin Ekeler fan in the universe, largely due to his durability and snap concerns.
But this week, that changes.
The Kansas City Chiefs' run defense has been abysmal through two games against -- albeit two great rushing offenses -- Cleveland and Baltimore. Kansas City is allowing 0.44 Rushing NEP per attempt this season, which is over double the next worst team in the NFL. The Giants allow a healthy 0.19 Rushing NEP per attempt, but nothing compared to the Chiefs.
Ekeler's 37.5% rushing success rate is not on par with those previous opponents, but he also does provide the receiving upside out of the backfield he is known for. Encouragingly, Ekeler has seven red-zone carries and a red-zone target in his two games this year, and that is likely not even at 100% due to his hamstring injury. That is a stark change from his 2020 season where he only saw 17 red-zone carries total.
His 63% snap share in Week 2 is enough for $7,000 on FanDuel in one of the highest-totaled games of the day on Sunday -- especially in this porous matchup.
George Kittle vs. Packers Linebackers and Safeties
Is this week the get-right spot for the 49ers' star tight end?
George Kittle has been quiet in two games where, truly, San Francisco did not need his services. That may change with Aaron Rodgers on the other sideline, and Kittle can absolutely exploit the Packers' linebackers and safeties.
The Packers have been atrocious against tight ends to open 2021. In Week 1 against New Orleans, 9 of the 20 Saints' targets went to their tight ends -- including 2 in the red zone. Juwan Johnson obviously added two scores as well. They did not fair much better against T.J. Hockenson, who caught 8 of 10 targets for 97 yards and a score.
Whatever the weakness may be, teams are utilizing their tight ends against Green Bay. Kittle's workload or health is no concern, as he has been on the field for 97.6% of San Francisco's offensive snaps this year. In a more competitive environment, the All-Pro should actually be needed to catch passes, and his talent is in zero question.
Kittle's game is off the main slate, but he is a tremendous pivot as an MVP option in single-game formats, and he is worthy of all-day slate usage as well despite a loaded day at tight end.
Cardinals DST vs. Trevor Lawrence
Despite obvious trap game vibes, the Arizona D/ST is still in a premium matchup in Jacksonville on Sunday.
The Cards are 7.5-point favorites visiting the Jaguars, and even with the 0-2 Jags at maximum desperation, the talent disparity in this game is tremendous. The notable matchup on all radars in this one is how the Jaguars' offensive line can hold back Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt. The pair already have five sacks in 2021.
Arizona is seventh in the league with a 35.1% pressure rate as a defense. However, to Jacksonville's credit, however, their offensive line has played well in pass protection. They have only allowed 18 pressures and a sack, which coming into the year, would have been seen as a massive victory.
The issue with this matchup for the Jags-- against a plus pass rush -- has been Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence already has five interceptions this season, and he is not being done many favors by the coaching staff. Jacksonville has the highest situation-neutral pass rate in the NFL this year at 75%. Translation -- they are forcing their rookie quarterback to do it all even when the game is competitive.
That continued opportunity for Lawrence to be sacked, picked off, or stripped is going to be a stalwart of streaming DSTs all season, and that is no different with Arizona this week. The Cardinals check in at $4,600 as a defense on FanDuel this weekend.