Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
The potential absence of Carson Palmer (concussion) puts a crimp into many plays to load up on Cardinals in this one. Drew Stanton played horribly in Palmer's place in the loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4.
This is for certain, though: David Johnson is a must play against the 49ers. Not only will the offensive onus be on him, but Chris Johnson (sports hernia) is out and the 49ers have been getting abused by running backs in recent weeks. Ezekiel Elliott went 23-138-1, Christine Michael went 20-106-2 and the likes of Fozzy Whittaker went 16-100.
Despite shutting down Todd Gurley in Week 1, the 49ers are dead last in the NFL against the run. It should get even worse, too. Navorro Bowman (Achilles') is now out for the season and their best interior run-stuffer, DL DeForest Buckner (foot) is likely out, too.
If you're playing the Thursday night game, David Johnson has to be in your lineup. He will be good for his fifth consecutive game of 100-plus yards and will score at least one TD, like he did in the past meeting.
If Palmer does somehow get cleared before game time, consider stacking Larry Fitzgerald with him. Fitzy has racked up nine-plus receptions in each of the past two against the 49ers, including a 9-134-2 in the first meeting of 2015.
Contingent on Palmer's status: You should like the Cardinals defense (and kicker Chandler Catanzaro), too, despite the premium. The Cards picked off the 49ers five times and scored two defensive TDs (and a safety) in the two meetings last year.
Additionally, the 49ers are on the verge of a quarterback controversy with the limited play of Blaine Gabbert. It doesn't give Carlos Hyde much hope against a Cards team coming off back-to-back losses and one that shut down Gurley for 19 carries for just 33 yards. Hyde was about all the 49ers had going for them. Look away here.
New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns
This is the game Tom Brady, DeflateGate-scorned Pats fans and us in DFS have been waiting for. Brady makes everyone around him better and he returns for the Pats coming off a loss against one of the most exploitable opponents in all of fantasy.
Load up on your Pats stack with Brady, his good buddy Julian Edelman, Stephen Gostkowski and the Pats defense. Also, Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) says he is not 100 percent, but he played 70 percent of the Pats snaps last week, including 22 of 33 pass plays. That's enough opportunity for him to get into the end zone once, if not twice, in Brady's return. Yes, even a hamstrung Gronk can perform up to his price because of Brady.
The Browns have allowed the eighth-most points to fantasy QBs, the sixth-most points to fantasy TEs and the eight-most points to fantasy RBs. LeGarrette Blount can be added to the stack, but it is more likely the Pats score TDs via the air with Brady – something to the tune of four touchdowns.
The Browns' offensive side of things looks equally challenging for DFS value. The Daily Fantasy Cafe NFL Salary Exploitation Tool loves the values of RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Terrelle Pryor and TE Gary Barnidge, but we cannot love that offense working with a rookie quarterback against a Bill Belichick team coming off a loss. The Pats have allowed the NFL's fourth-fewest points per game (15.2).
If you use anyone, we suppose it can be Barnidge because of the thin TE position and his potential for volume. He is just two receptions off the TE league-lead for the past three games (16) – a figure that belies his price. Still, use Browns at your own risk.
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
This is a game with some real opportunity and DFS value. First, you can like the sleeper buy of rookie Carson Wentz against a Lions defense that has given up the second-most passing TDs to date.
Wentz has two reliable targets in WR Jordan Matthews and TE Zach Ertz who are both underpriced relative to the importance of their offense. Ertz is a particularly strong play coming off injury and the bye, facing a Lions defense that has been second worst against fantasy TEs, allowing a fantasy-high six TDs to the position, including at least one in each of the first four games. Matthews is a bit less intriguing, going against CB Darius Slay, but the Lions have allowed the sixth-most points to fantasy wideouts, including a No. 1 in Jordy Nelson in Week 3 (6-101-2).
We wouldn't trust the Eagles defense, even if it has been No. 1 against fantasy QBs and TEs, No. 2 against RBs and No. 6 against WRs to date, but that doesn't give us much confidence in Matthew Stafford and the Lions passing game either.
You might find a volume, and value, play with Theo Riddick, who is a rushing and receiving threat. Also, it helps Ameer Abdullah (foot) is out for the season and Dwayne Washington (ankle) is banged up right now. There should be plenty of opportunity for Riddick in touches and red-zone scoring. Sure, the Eagles defense has been impenetrable, but this could be a week they show some chinks, particularly since they are on the road.
Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts pass protection has been an unmitigated disaster, which is what we thought we could be saying about their defense – and, for the most part, we have. It makes Andrew Luck a bit more affordable than usual, especially at home.
It should be noted, while Luck has gone over 300 yards in each of his two home games, the Bears defense has yet to allow even a 250-yard passer. We like the plays of Luck and T.Y. Hilton because of their reliance on each other, but more because of a high floor than high ceiling.
The Colts might find more success on the ground than in the air, since the Bears are seventh worst against the run to date. That makes Frank Gore a bit more interesting, because using him on the ground and out of the backfield with short passes can help slow the Bears' pass rush.
The Bears offensive plays are intriguing across the board, even with Brian Hoyer under center. Check that, especially with Hoyer under center.
Howard is one of the most popular running back plays of the week. He racked up 111 yards rushing and three catches for 21 yards in his first start and is now the bell-cow for a run-heavy head coach John Fox. Expect a lot of Howard against a Colts defense that has given up the fourth-most points against fantasy RBs. Howard is a must-play back this week.
The loss of Kevin White (broken leg) puts plenty of targets and production on WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Eddie Royal and TE Zach Miller. The Colts have yet to allow a 100-yard receiver, which is remarkable with their rag-tag secondary, but that will end this week with any one of that trio.
Brian Hoyer, a bargain starting QB, has gone 300-2 in each of his two starts. He might even sneak up for 300-3 here.
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins
The Titans have played fairly tough defense that belies their 1-3 record. They are sixth best against fantasy QBs, third best vs. RBs and top 10 against WRs. It makes QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Jay Ajayi (who is likely to start, assuming Arian Foster (groin) is out again) and WR Jarvis Landry difficult to trust.
Landry is usually good for high volume, but the Titans shut down DeAndre Hopkins (one catch for four yards), Amari Cooper (4-64) and Golden Tate (2-13) the past three games.
If you're using a Dolphins piece in DFS, you should go with the value of the defense. The Dolphins defense can get after the passer and the Titans have been the fourth-most generous against opposing fantasy D/STs, giving up a fantasy-high three TDs and one safety.
For the Titans, DeMarco Murray has been a rejuvenated bell-cow back, but his price is back up to the premium range and this game figures to be more of a defensive struggle than a wide-open shootout. The Dolphins do have the NFL's fourth-worst rush defense, so Murray should get his 80 yards, but a rushing TD might be harder to come by. Only five teams have given up fewer rushing TDs to date.
The best part about playing Murray is he is also Marcus Mariota's leading receiving threat. That doesn't say much of anything for a Mariota. Delanie Walker is a high-volume target, too, in the short passing game and off play-action, but unitl Mariota starts playing like anything but a mediocre rookie quarterback, you cannot trust Walker week to week.
We started off praising the Titans defense, so consider that a sleeper unit, especially when you consider how often Tannehill gets sacked (11 times in four games) and turns the ball over (five INTs).
Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens
This might not be your first place to go for DFS plays, but there are some nice values in here.
This one lines up to be a perfect time for Terrance West. West assumed the feature back role last week with 113 yards and a TD and now will be the unquestioned feature back with Justin Forsett released – yet West is still priced as a timeshare back.
Best of all, West is facing a Redskins defense that has been the second worst against fantasy RBs – giving up a fantasy-high 530 rushing yards to RBs – and third worst in the NFL against the run. There are a lot of backs ahead of West on the price list, but few have more volume potential than West in the Ravens offense – in a golden matchup no less.
A successful running game can help Joe Flacco, but it does most for the likes of Dennis Pitta among TEs. The Browns' Barnidge went 7-57 against the Redskins last week, and Pitta should be good for those numbers, plus a TD toss off play-action to boot.
Steve Smith Sr. is hot (back-to-back 11-target, eight-catch games) and facing a Redskins secondary that fifth worst against WRs, getting torched by No. 1 WRs the first three weeks (Antonio Brown 8-126-2, Dez Bryant 7-102 and Odell Beckham Jr. 8-121). Smith should be good for 6-80-1 at a reasonable price.
The Redskins' side should be better in the passing game than with the run (Ravens No. 5-ranked run defense). DeSean Jackson is reasonably priced coming off a 1-5-0 dud and facing a Ravens defense that has given up multiple-TD performances to opposing No. 1s each of the past three weeks (Michael Crabtree 7-88-3, Allen Robinson 7-57-2 and Corey Coleman 5-104-2).
You should be fading TE Jordan Reed at his price this week. The Ravens are sixth best against fantasy TEs and have yet to give up more than four receptions or 40 yards to an opposing TE.
Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings
Clearly, the Vikings defense is not one to be messed with. They have shut down the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Eli Manning and Beckham in the past three games. Playing at home against Brock Osweiler and the Texans shouldn't be as difficult as those challenges.
Fade WR Hopkins, WR Will Fuller and RB Lamar Miller – as you should with anyone against the Vikings defense (especially when they are playing at home). The Vikings are No. 2 against fantasy WRs and CB Xavier Rhodes held Beckham to just 23 yards receiving.
You might consider the Texans D/ST in a defensive struggle, but not this one. The Vikings just do no turn the ball over, doing so just once (a fumble) in four games. Sam Bradford has yet to throw a pick, and the Vikings are the second-toughest opponent for fantasy D/STs.
Someone has to score in this game, so consider Matt Asiata for some short TD plunges and Jerick McKinnon as a candidate for 100 combined yards. The Texans have a good defense, but they have given up the sixth-most rushing yards. Both McKinnon and Asiata are more than fairly priced relative to volume/opportunity here.
Bradford (vs. No. 2 team vs. fantasy QBs), Stefon Diggs (vs. No. 4 team against fantasy WRs) and even red-hot Kyle Rudolph – who has TDs in three consecutive games but is facing the No. 3 team vs. TEs (one that has yet to give up even 35 yards to a TE) – are all untrustworthy plays in the matchup.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Historically this matchup would like up to be a defensive struggle and one to avoid in fantasy, but the Las Vegas line is suggesting otherwise. Sure, the Jets are No. 2 against the run and a bad matchup for the elite RB Le'Veon Bell, but the Steelers are a heavy home favorite and every one of their offensive weapons can produce in DFS.
Ben Roethlisberger has had one bad performance and three monster ones through four games. The Jets have allowed the seventh-most points to fantasy QBs. Big Ben won't have issue rolling up 300-3.
Even if you don't love Antonio Brown against Darrelle Revis – at this stage you still should – Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates are huge bargains with huge potential to trump their prices in this one. Heck, even Bell can rack up a receiving TD, as the Jets have given up three to RBs to date.
For the Jets, we don't love Matt Forte (knee, rib) against the Steelers' fourth-ranked run defense, nor Bilal Powell, but Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker can rack up yardage (if not TDs) against the NFL's fourth-worst pass defense in the Steelers. Ryan Fitzpatrick is down, and cheap, and facing a Steelers defense that has given up 329-, 366-, 301- and 287-yard passing games each of the first four, and those QBs are not exactly a fantasy who's-who: Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Carson Wentz and Alex Smith.
Both defenses can stop the run and struggle against the pass, which can really open this game up on both sides. Avoid the D/STs on both sides, even if Fitzpatrick and the Jets have been turnover machines.
Atlanta Falcons at Denver Broncos
The No. 1 fantasy QB, Matt Ryan, draws the the Broncos defense which is going to finish the year No. 1 against the pass and fantasy QBs (they are No. 2 and No. 7 right now). You have to fade all of your primary Falcons, save perhaps for Julio Jones, who will still get his high volume of targets.
Ryan's production is more likely to be in the 250-2 range, so there are plenty of other 300-3 quarterbacks to jump near his price this week. Most of that production should go to Jones, who is a matchup issue no matter which corner lines up against him,
The running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have to be faded against the Broncos defense, too. Save for the Week 3 hiccup at Cincinnati (Jeremy Hill 17-97-2), the Broncos have not allowed a 65-yard rusher, or a 40-yard receiver to RBs. Also, Coleman's sickle-cell trait might impact his body's ability to function in the mile-high air in Denver.
The values are clearly on the Broncos' offensive side of things. Trevor Siemian, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are scorching hot and the Falcons are dead last against fantasy QBs and eighth worst against wideouts. You should like the value of a Siemian-Sanders pairing.
That is particularly true, because C.J. Anderson is going to soften the defense and open up the play-action pass. Anderson won't be at the top of anyone's DFS boards this week, since the Falcons have yet to give up an 80-yard rusher, but he will impact the short passing game against a defense that has given up a fantasy-high 38 receptions and 300 yards receiving to backs.
You shouldn't buy the premium on the Broncos defense against a hot offense, even if we believe Ryan is going to have his toughest week of the season.
Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys
This is an interesting game to watch, but not likely one of high-scoring DFS plays. Two solid run defenses face off against two ground-pounding offenses that feature two of the best offensive line in football.
If you are intent on picking one back in this one, because of volume, you should go with Jeremy Hill at his lower price against a Cowboys defense that has showed at least some bend and break against the run. It is much less the case for the Bengals (seventh against fantasy backs), who shut down the Broncos' Anderson in Week 2 (14-37-0) and are just one of two teams yet to give up a rushing TD. Fade Ezekiel Elliott here.
The Cowboys have been solid against No. 1 WRs, so it won't be a great week for A.J. Green. Both teams running the ball at each other will shorten the game and leave for modest numbers on the total and with the pass.
Dez Bryant's (knee) status dictates whether you can take the values of TE Jason Witten or WR Cole Beasley in Dak Prescott's dink-and-dunk game. That is about what the Bengals defense will allow – they are a lot better against the pass (11th) than their 10 passing TDs allowed suggests (third most). If Bryant is out, go with Witten to go 5-40-1 off the play-action game near the end zone.
Both defenses are periodic considerations based on the matchup, but this matchup of two conservative rushing offenses that don't turn the ball over is not a time to consider either D/ST.
Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams
The total here suggests you run away screaming, but both limited quarterbacks and passing games really put an onus on two elite running backs and make for values with the defensive units in DFS. The two teams we expect to finish with the heaviest volume of rushing attempts face off out West.
Todd Gurley, because his price has dropped under that of LeSean McCoy, is the better buy if you're going with an RB in a run-heavy matchup. Gurley should get 20-plus touches and be the leading threat to score against a Bills defense that is No. 4 against fantasy QBs. The Bills have given up a 30-100-3 effort to Matt Forte and 19-83-2 to David Johnson, the fourth-most rushing TDs to fantasy backs to date.
We detest both quarterbacks and all of their receiving “weapons," if you can call them that. The Rams are in the bottom 10 against the pass to date, but picking a Bills target to trust is like selecting a president to vote for this year. Robert Woods might be there on volume, but his ceiling is low and 6-70-0 just won't win you any GPPs. Consider him in DraftKings cash games, if only because there is little else to throw to with Sammy Watkins on IR.
Both defenses provide sleeper potential at their prices, particularly since both QBs appear so limited. The Las Vegas choice to win the game, though, is the Rams, and they won't get the benefit of turnovers against a conservative Bills offense that has turned it over just twice thus far this season. Only the Vikings and Eagles have turned it over less.
Go with Gurley – and nothing else here – as his price has come down in time for a winnable home game, which can lead to a long-awaited 25-100-2 performance.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Now we're talking! Not only does this game line up for nice DFS scoring, but the values are there on the primary players on both sides, too – DFS perfect storm.
We have maintained all season Michael Crabtree is the most underrated player on the price lists and he racked up three TDs last week only to remain in the bargain range. Derek Carr, Crabtree and Amari Cooper, whose price is coming down as Crabtree has stolen his targets, TDs and fantasy thunder, are a solid stacking opportunity. Crabtree had a TD in each of the meetings last year.
The Chargers defense has lost shutdown corner Jason Verrett (knee) for the season and has been the sixth-worst pass defense before that huge loss. The Chargers always tend to engage in shootouts, if only because Philip Rivers is a gunslinger, and they have been the fourth-worst team in fantasy against QBs, third worst against RBs and ninth worst against TEs. Watch the status of Latavius Murray (toe) and Clive Walford (knee), because of they play, they can be affordable options in a great matchup, too.
For the Chargers, Rivers is a few more dollars than Carr, but he is facing the worst pass defense in football (third worst against fantasy QBs, second worst against RBs and bottom 10 against TEs). Rivers' stack should include WR Travis Benjamin (on volume) and whichever TE gets the start. Antonio Gates' (hamstring) absence would make Hunter Henry one of the most-played TEs in DFS. Regardless, Benjamin and Henry are strong cash-game plays.
We are also going to stay loyal to the Melvin Gordon bandwagon. He is coming off a two-TD performance last week, leads the NFL with six rushing TDs and has at least one rushing TD in each of the first four games.
Toss in either kicker in FanDuel action, fade both suspect defenses because of their secondary against strong pass-game QBs and consider this the deciding tilt of the week for your DFS lineups.
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
After watching the Giants scuffle offensively at Minnesota on Monday night, you have to love Aaron Rodgers and the Packers stack against the Giants in this one. Las Vegas' line agrees.
Despite all those weapons, Eli Manning, Odell Beckham and Co. cannot get out of their own way. The Packers also get to attack a banged-up Giants secondary. Rodgers should be good for his 300-3 at home, so consider tossing in a sleeper, underpriced weapon like Randall Cobb and Richard Rodgers.
Richard Rodgers is particularly intriguing. Jared Cook (ankle) is out and Rodgers is coming off a TD reception in his past game before the Packers' bye. The Giants safeties opposite Landon Collins are more run-game guys, leaving the TE open down the seam. Kyle Rudolph went 5-55-1, numbers we might expect Richard Rodgers to rack up as CB Janoris Jenkins shadows Jordy Nelson. It is not like we don't like the Nelson play, but Jenkins has yet to give up a 100-yard receiver this season.
We are fading the running backs on both sides of this perceived QB shootout. The Packers have the No. 1 rush defense in football to date and the Giants are in the top 10 as well, allowing the third-fewest yards per rush (3.2). Just the Packers (1.8) and New York Jets (3.1) have been better.
Everyone is expecting Beckham to finally get in the end zone here, but the Giants' offense just doesn't appear to have the ability to close in the red zone. Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz are values on volume, but we cannot see Manning getting it together for a 300-3 to keep up with Rodgers.
Fade the defenses – even the Packers, despite Manning's turnovers (that offensive line is banged up!) – and consider Mason Crosby a huge bargain at his strangely reduced price.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton (concussion) and Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) are out, leaving some uncertainty for trusting anything but the Panthers defensive unit in this one. The problem is the Panthers defense hasn't been itself of late and you cannot be sure of Derek Anderson and the running back committee controlling the ball against an underrated Bucs defensive front.
The Bucs are quietly ranked No. 4 against the run, which takes the steam out of Fozzy Whittaker or Cameron-Artis Payne value plays. There might be some opportunities off play-action for Anderson and the Panthers, though. The Bucs have been dead last against fantasy wideouts.
Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin will get plenty of short throws, especially in the red zone. The absence of Newton can make them relative contrarian plays in prime-time-only DFS lineups.
For the Bucs, a Jameis Winston-Mike Evans combo should trump their DFS prices. Also, if Charles Sims (knee) is ruled out, you will get a huge bargain on Jacquizz Rodgers as the fill-in starter. The matchup is not as intriguing as the price, though. The Panthers run defense has been stingy since that season-opening drubbing the Broncos' Anderson put on them.
If you're riding Panthers, it should be the D/ST and Olsen. Winston has been careless with turnovers and this is a prime-time game in Carolina against a hungry and talented defense.
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