4 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 1
When playing daily fantasy football, we should be matchup sensitive when rostering players. One star player can go from a great play to a horrible one based on his opponents and the specific individual matchup might play a huge role in that. Since we can play any player we want on a given slate, it makes sense to pick players in the best matchups. This will raise both their floor and their ceiling, and should lead to us having some winning lineups.
In Week 1, we'll have to do our best to interpret what might be a mismatch for this season. We can use data from last season and also project how we think any new personnel might do in the opening week of the season. Here are four spots that can be exploited this Sunday.
Chargers' Passing Offense vs. the Raiders' Defense
When we last saw Justin Herbert ($8,400) in an NFL game, it was an epic Sunday night showdown between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders that determined who would go to the playoffs. The Raiders came out ahead but not without a great effort from Herbert. He'll certainly want the win this time and can deliver us a good performance in fantasy.
In two games against Las Vegas last season, Herbert threw three touchdowns in each. In his career, he's thrown for multiple touchdowns and averaged over 300 yards in meetings with the Raiders, albeit in just a four-game sample. The Chargers' 28.00-point implied total is the second-highest on the slate, which certainly bodes well for Herbert.
The Raiders' defense was one that funneled opposing teams to the passing game last season. They had the third-best rush defense but ranked 25th in pass defense, according to numberFire's metrics. The Chargers tried to take advantage of this last season, throwing 102 times against Vegas to only 55 rushes.
The individual matchups look decent for the Chargers, as well. Mike Williams ($6,600) feasted in that Week 18 game with nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, and he gets a cornerback matchup he can win. The Raiders were 24th in adjusted sack rate last season, and while they added Chandler Jones, they will have to rush the passer against a Chargers offensive line that allowed the sixth-fewest sacks and made improvements in the offseason.
Everything is set up for Herbert to pick apart the Raiders once again. Williams seems like the best option to stack with him, but Keenan Allen ($7,400) can be used, as well. Whichever one you choose has the potential to explode on Sunday.
Jonathan Taylor vs. the Texans' Run Defense
We all know that Jonathan Taylor ($10,200) is an elite running back. He had a breakout second season, finishing as the RB1 in fantasy. If there is a time to roster the star running back, it's when the Indianapolis Colts face one of the easier teams on their schedule, which happens on Sunday.
Taylor had success against the Houston Texans last season. In both meetings, he had more than 140 yards on the ground and two scores. We heard the chatter from Colts' head coach Frank Reich that they want to play more up-tempo and be less focused on the run game, but in this matchup, it makes sense for Indy to play the same style they did last season.
The Texans were bad in most aspects of football last year, and they gave up plenty of fantasy points to running backs, allowing the fifth-most FanDuel points to the position. Teams also loved to run against Houston, running the ball on 47% of plays, which was one of the highest rates in the league.
Houston doesn't have the personnel in the front four to deal with a Colts' offensive line that has been very good in recent seasons. Indianapolis' line was seventh in adjusted line yards a year ago, while Houston's D-line was 25th in adjusted line yards against.
Taylor is in the perfect spot to crush this week. The Coles are 7.5-point favorites and have the third-highest implied team total on this slate. We like to roster Taylor in positive game scripts, and that is what is projected for him in this game. It definitely makes sense to get him in your lineups.
Antonio Gibson vs. the Jaguars' Run Defense
If you are looking for a running back who could provide a bit of value, Antonio Gibson ($6,800) is worth a look. It certainly hasn't been the best offseason for him and his fantasy value, but now he looks set to be the lead back in a good matchup in Week 1.
Gibson was potentially on the way to losing his job as the Washington Commanders' early-down back until Brian Robinson tragically suffered an injury in a robbery attempt. Gibson didn't have a true second-year breakout last year as some had hoped, but he was a top-10 fantasy back in 2021. He also saw the fourth-most carries at the position despite playing a large chunk of the season with a shin fracture.
Most people expect the Jacksonville Jaguars to be better this season than they were in last year's mess of a campaign under Urban Meyer. However, they will have to improve a lot in run defense to be even average in that department. They ranked 30th in schedule-adjusted run defense by our numbers. Their defensive line was not great at slowing down opposing backs, as they were 23rd in adjusted line yards.
This sets up to be a good spot for Washington to run the ball often. They ran it on 44% of plays last season, while teams ran on the Jags at a 46% clip. In today's pass-happy league, both of those numbers are on the high side. Washington might decide to pass a bit more with Carson Wentz under center, but Gibson should see plenty of work.
With Robinson's unfortunate injury, the Commanders have only three running backs on the roster. We can project J.D. McKissic to play nearly exclusively on passing downs, and Jonathan Williams is pretty much just a backup, meaning that a lot of work should go to Gibson. If he can get close to 20 carries, he could feast against this Jacksonville run D.
Marquise Brown vs. the Chiefs' Pass Defense
One of the shocking trades of the offseason was Marquise Brown ($6,900) going to the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona wanted another star receiver with DeAndre Hopkins showing signs of decline. They went out and got Kyler Murray's old college teammate, and the two could do damage right from the start in this game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brown had the best season of his career last year as it was the first time he went over 1,000 receiving yards. His skill set is perhaps more suited for a quarterback like Murray and the style of offense that the Cardinals want to play, rather than how he was used with the Baltimore Ravens. With Hopkins suspended and Rondale Moore not practicing on Friday, Brown could see a large target share in his Arizona debut.
The Chiefs' defense had its fair share of ups and downs last season. Overall, they finished 16th in pass defense by our metrics, but that wasn't without allowing some huge games to wide receivers. We saw speedy deep-threats like Ja'Marr Chase and Gabriel Davis torch Kansas City, each going for more than 200 yards. The last time Hollywood Brown faced the Chiefs, he went for six catches, 113 yards and a 42-yard touchdown. Kansas City also lost Tyrann Mathieu, who was perhaps the best player in their secondary.
It's important to also consider the matchup between the two offenses, not just the offense against the defense. The Cardinals might need to keep pace with the Chiefs' offense, and Arizona may need to take deep shots to Brown often. This game has the highest over/under (53.5) on this slate, so it's ripe for a game stack. Getting a big-play receiver like Brown in a juicy matchup for just $6,900 is something we should take advantage of in our lineups.
Nicholas Vazquez is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Nicholas Vazquez also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username hbyanksman. 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.