FanDuel Picks: Week 1 Edition
Welcome to the weekly “one stop shop” for all things DFS. I tout my favorite plays of the week after breaking down all of the games, looking at matchups, and considering all relevant weekly and season-long injuries/suspensions. As a guide, you can think of the “Top Plays” sections as cash game recommendations and the “Under The Radar” sections as GPP tournament recommendations. Confused on the difference? Check out a recent DFS Strategy article I wrote. However, I refuse to specifically title the sections in that way because I believe it boxes in the picks. Many players can and do fall under both categories in any given week. I delve more into that in the article linked above as well. When reading, keep that in mind. Now let’s get to it, starting with my top Bonanza candidates.
Domination Bonanza Candidate: Seattle Seahawks blowing out the Miami Dolphins
Back and Forth Bonanza Candidates: Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington, Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts, and Oakland Raiders at New Orleans Saints
Revenge Game Narrative: Tyrod Taylor on the road vs. his former team the Baltimore Ravens – $7,200
Top QB Plays Of The Week
Russell Wilson vs MIA, $8,500
The Dolphins are banged up on offense. It sounds like they could be without their starting Center Mike Pouncey and important receiver in 3 wide sets DeVante Parker. I expect them to struggle to move the ball as the dominant Seahawks defense does their thing. That should mean the Seahawks’ offense will have the ball plenty in this one. With Marshawn Lynch retired, Thomas Rawls slowly being brought back from a broken ankle, Christine Michael still working to prove himself, and C.J. Prosise playing in his first regular-season game after missing much of training camp and preseason due to injury, Russell Wilson should handle the football in plenty of high leverage and red zone situations on Sunday. I expect him to take advantage of a Dolphins secondary that gave up the 12th most passing yards and 5th most TD passes last season. Starting cornerback Byron Maxwell gave up a career-high 100.7 passer rating into his coverage last season according to Pro Football Focus and rookie cornerback Xavien Howard is reportedly set to start opposite Maxwell in his first game despite essentially missing the entire preseason. Wilson has blowup potential and is my favorite QB play of the week.
Kirk Cousins vs PIT, $7,800
Kirk Cousins gets a Steelers defense that gave up the 3rd most passing yards and 12th most TD passes last season. Adding insult to injury, 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree and cornerback Senquez Golson will miss this game for the Steelers while Cam Heyward sounds like he will play but is dealing with a high ankle sprain. Cousins has near elite weapons in Jordan Reed, Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, and Chris Thompson. The question marks at running back for Washington should only help Cousins see more volume in a favorable matchup. He should see plenty of the recently traded for Justin Gilbert as well as rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis at cornerback for the Steelers. I expect Cousins to take advantage.
Matthew Stafford at IND, $7,400
The Colts gave up the 9th most passing yards and 12th most TD passes last season and that was with their defense mostly at full strength. Their best cornerback and arguably their best defensive player Vontae Davis will miss this game, cornerback Darius Butler is questionable with an ankle injury, safety Clayton Geathers also might miss the game as he recovers from injury, defensive lineman Arthur Jones is suspended, defensive end Henry Anderson is doubtful, and defensive end Kendall Langford will likely play but is returning from knee surgery earlier in training camp. Matthew Stafford gets one of the best matchups of the week and volume should help him take advantage of it. The Lions attempted the 4th most pass attempts last season and also utilized a lot of no huddle this preseason as well. Despite the retirement of Calvin Johnson, Stafford should still have plenty of weapons to work with as Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick, and Ameer Abdullah all should suit up on Sunday.
Eli Manning at DAL, $7,200
The Cowboys’ defense is in rough shape to begin the year. Greg Hardy is no longer on the team and Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Rolando McClain will all miss this contest with suspensions. It looks like Sean Lee is going to play, but he himself has been dealing with knee soreness as of late. All of those players were important pieces of the Cowboys’ front 7 last year. I expect Dallas to struggle mightily generating a pass rush in this one meaning Manning should have plenty of time to throw. I expect him to take advantage by picking apart one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. Despite finishing higher than expected in 2015 end of season ranks, Pro Football Focus has ranked Dallas’ secondary 3rd worst in the NFL heading into 2016. Plus, with Tony Romo out, Manning could see the ball more if Dak Prescott struggles in his first regular season start. That would likely mean more pass attempts as Manning has set a new career high in that category each of the past two seasons under Ben McAdoo, who is now the Giants head coach.
Andrew Luck at DET, $8,700
The Detroit Lions were middle of the road against the pass last season. They gave up the 18th most passing yards and the 15th most TD passes. While those rankings are certainly not terrible, the Lions defense will face a tough test in Week 1. Andrew Luck gets them at home in what could turn out to be one of the best fantasy games of the weekend. The Colts attempted the 9th most passes in the NFL last season and that was with Luck playing in only 7 games. Look for Luck to see a ton of volume in this one and his decent matchup shouldn’t prevent him from lighting up the scoreboard.
Shattering The MainSTREAM: Under The Radar QB Plays
Dak Prescott at NYG, $5,000
Dak Prescott is minimum price which could allow you to pay up at other positions if that’s what you decide you want to do. There’s always the chance that Prescott struggles in his first regular season NFL start. However, he’s a dual-threat QB who ran for 41 TDs in the SEC during his collegiate career. Rushing production is basically fantasy football gold when it comes to QBs. If he rushes for one or two scores, there’s a good chance you’ll be sitting pretty. Plus, while the Giants did upgrade their defense this offseason, they still finished dead last in pass yards allowed while also giving up the 5th most passing TDs last season. They weren’t great stopping the run either as they gave up the 9th most rushing yards and 5th most rushing TDs.
Brock Osweiler at CHI, $7,100
Brock Osweiler gets a Bears defense at home that gave up the 5th most passing TDs last season. The Bears front 7 actually looks like it’s going to be the strength of their defense this year and if Bill O’Brien chooses to attack a weakness, it will likely be their secondary. Pro Football Focus rated the Bears’ secondary 31st (2nd worst) in the entire NFL heading into this season. Plus, three of their cornerbacks have been banged up lately. While it looks like all three will play, Kyle Fuller is returning from a knee injury, Tracy Porter from a concussion, and Bryce Callahan from a groin issue. On top of all of that, Osweiler’s weapons all of sudden look really explosive with rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller impressing in preseason to go along with the stud that is DeAndre Hopkins.
Top RB Plays Of The Week
Todd Gurley at SF, $8,900
Todd Gurley is going to absolutely blow up in the right matchups this season. Week 1 just so happens to be one of them. San Francisco gave up the 4th most rushing yards and most rushing TDs in the entire NFL last season. They were already that bad with arguably their best defensive lineman Ian Williams in the lineup. He won’t play this year after landing on IR with an ankle injury. Linebacker Aaron Lynch also won’t play and even though Arik Armstead likely will, it’s already being reported he may need shoulder surgery in the offseason. This 49ers’ defense is banged up and the up-tempo offense Chip Kelly is likely to employ probably won’t help. The unimpressive 49ers’ offense will almost assuredly have some three-and-outs in this one. That should mean even more volume for Gurley who already is basically the entire Rams’ offense to begin with. Just as Carlos Hyde blew up on Monday Night Football in Week 1 last year, look for Gurley to do it as Hyde watches on the sideline to begin 2016.
Spencer Ware vs SD, $5,400
If Jamaal Charles is active in Week 1 I won’t be as bullish on Spencer Ware but for now, I am very excited to play him this week. In fact, if Charles sits, I’ll likely have 100% exposure to Ware meaning I’ll play him on every single DFS team I make. Regarding Charles, Andy Reid recently had this to say: “I think it’s a stretch for him to play.” It’s looking like all systems go for Ware on Sunday. He seems to have distanced himself from Charcandrick West who he was in a timeshare with last year. Reading Joe Holka’s phenomenal Rushing Expectation article on Ware and West, it’s not hard to see why. Ware clearly outplayed West last season which is likely a big reason why he has operated as the Chiefs’ clear lead back during the preseason. In fact, Ware stayed in on plenty of passing situations, catching 8 balls on only 94 preseason snaps. Ware is looking like an every down back heading into a very favorable home matchup against the Chargers who gave up the 6th most rushing yards and 3rd most rushing TDs last season. Making matters worse for San Diego, they lost safety Eric Weddle in free agency this offseason and after a lengthy holdout, first round pick defensive end Joey Bosa might not even play.
DeAngelo Williams at WAS, $7,100
With Le’Veon Bell suspended, DeAngelo Williams opens the season as the Steelers’ unquestioned lead back. In that same role in the second half of last season, Williams thrived. A dual threat back that can light it up on the ground and in the passing game, Williams has a favorable matchup against Washington’s defense that gave up the 7th most rushing yards last season. I expect this game to be a shootout and that should help Williams. Take advantage of the situation and play him while you still can before Bell returns from his suspension.
Ezekiel Elliott at NYG, $7,900
Without their leader in Tony Romo, Dallas is going to run and run and run some more as they try their best to keep their below average defense off of the field. Volume is certainly not going to be a problem for Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday. The Giants seem to have upgraded their defense in the offseason with the additions of defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and first round pick cornerback Eli Apple. Still, it’s worth pointing out the Giants gave up the 9th most rushing yards and 5th most rushing TDs last season. This should still be a favorable matchup for Zeke. We know he’s extremely talented and he flashed his potential in preseason Week 3 running for 48 yards on only 7 carries against Seattle’s first team defense and truck sticking safety Kam Chancellor twice in the process. Plus, Dak Prescott is a very mobile quarterback. Running quarterbacks have helped free up running lanes for backs in the past. Just ask Alfred Morris what Robert Griffin III was able to do for him at the beginning of his career.
LeSean McCoy at BAL, $6,900
LeSean McCoy only played in twelve games last year but saw his snap count above 70% twice and above 80% an additional six times. In a league full of timeshares, McCoy largely operated as the clear lead back last season despite the presence of Karlos Williams. With Williams now out of the picture, McCoy figures to once again dominate the opportunities in Buffalo’s backfield this weekend. The matchup isn’t amazing as the Ravens only gave up the 21st most rushing yards last season. However, McCoy is a volume play who is sure to see some looks in the passing game as well. Don’t forget despite seeing some action in the preseason, Sammy Watkins is still working his way back from a broken foot suffered this offseason. McCoy and Watkins dominate the opportunities in this offense and if Watkins starts out slow, this could be a huge McCoy game.
Lamar Miller at CHI, $7,600
The Texans should win this game pretty easily. Despite Houston being down their starting center and quite possibly their left tackle as well in this one, game flow should be in Miller’s favor. He should have no trouble with volume as well. The Texans have ranked first and fifth in the NFL in rushing attempts over the last two seasons with Bill O’Brien as the head coach. The matchup is decent as well as the Bears gave up the 10th most rushing yards last season. However, Chicago did upgrade their front 7 this offseason while their secondary continues to look suspect. I like the five other RBs listed above more, but Miller is certainly someone worth considering this weekend as well.
Shattering The MainSTREAM: Under The Radar RB Plays
Ryan Mathews at CLE, $6,100
Ryan Mathews is one of my favorite GPP tournament plays of the entire weekend. Carson Wentz being named the starter definitely dampened my excitement a bit but I’m not letting that deter me from playing him. Running backs playing at home on teams favored to win are always high on my list of considerations and the Eagles are 4 point favorites at home in this one. If the game goes according to plan, game-script will be in Mathews favor all day. The matchup is also phenomenal as the Browns gave up the 3rd most rushing yards last year and made no considerable upgrades this offseason. When healthy, Mathews is a very talented back meaning he should be able to take advantage of the high workload I believe is coming his way on Sunday. Demarco Murray is out of the picture and in the lone game Mathews started last year with Murray out, he racked up 25 carries. With Wentz making his first regular season NFL start after only playing 38 snaps in the preseason, look for the Eagles to run, run, and run some more. Volume = $ in DFS when it comes to RBs. Oh ya, and I also don’t trust Robert Griffin III. If the Eagles defense shuts him down, that could mean even more opportunities for Mathews.
Rashad Jennings at DAL, $6,000
The Cowboys’ defense is in rough shape to begin the year. Greg Hardy is no longer on the team and Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Rolando McClain will all miss this contest with suspensions. It looks like Sean Lee is going to play, but he himself has been dealing with knee soreness as of late. All of those players were important pieces of the Cowboys’ front 7 last year. Jennings shouldn’t struggle to find room to run on a Cowboys’ defense that already gave up the 11th most rushing yards and 4th most rushing TDs last season. Reports this offseason have been favorable for Jennings as it seems the Giants want to scrap that disgusting 4-way RB rotation they employed last year. However, Jennings is still in a timeshare with pass-catching back Shane Vereen. Only play Jennings if you believe the Giants are going to win this game. If they get into a shootout, Vereen could see more snaps since he’s usually the RB out there in passing situations.
Frank Gore at DET, $6,200
DFS players are sure to forget about Frank Gore when considering this game as they will be more interested in rostering all of the pass catchers in what could very well be a Back and Forth Bonanza. However, Gore has no competition for touches in his backfield which we always look for in DFS. Volume = $ at the RB position. Plus, the Lions gave up the 14th most rushing yards and 2nd most rushing TDs last season. If Gore is the one that finds the end zone a couple times rather than his sure to be higher owned pass-catching teammates, he will be a very nice contrarian play in a game you’ll likely want to have at least some exposure to.
Giovani Bernard at NYJ, $5,600
The Jets gave up the 2nd fewest rushing yards last season. The Bengals will likely struggle to run the football which means this looks to be a Giovani Bernard game rather than a Jeremy Hill one. I’m not all that confident the Bengals are going to be able to move the ball consistently but when they do, Bernard is likely going to be a huge reason why. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu have moved on. Tyler Eifert won’t play in this one and AJ Green will see a lot of Darrelle Revis. Tyler Boyd has shown flashes in the preseason but this will still be his first regular season NFL start and Brandon LaFell is just meh. That leaves Bernard as possibly the Bengals best option to move the football in this game. He has the potential to rack up a ton of catches. I wouldn’t say the odds are great, but maybe he takes one or two of them to the house.
Christine Michael at MIA, $4,800
This game has Domination Bonanza potential. Read my Russell Wilson section above for more thoughts on that. This is the deepest of deep streaming recommendations but because I believe the Seahawks are going to blow the Dolphins out, there could be some scoring opportunities for Christine Michael. While Thomas Rawls is going to play, Pete Carroll confirmed Rawls will be on a snap count this weekend and that they are basically going to treat this as his second preseason game. Already slotted for minimal work, once this game gets out of hand I believe Rawls will be firmly on the sideline. We should see a whole bunch of Michael in the second half, and probably even before that as well. Michael’s cheap price of $4,800 makes him interesting as well.
Top WR Plays Of The Week
Antonio Brown, $9,300/ Odell Beckham Jr., $9,100/ Julio Jones, $9,000
These three are the obvious answers here. All three are in great spots and are matchup proof regardless. Pick your flavor and find a way to get at least one in your lineup, if not more. Brown benefits from the suspensions and injuries of Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, and Ladarius Green. He could see 15+ targets in what I believe is the best fantasy game of the entire weekend. He is going to go absolutely bonkers. Beckham benefits from a banged up and suspended Cowboys team whose secondary was already poor, to begin with. Julio gets the underwhelming Buccaneers’ pass defense at home in the Georgia Dome. These three were the consensus top 3 picks in all fantasy drafts, I think you get the picture here.
Doug Baldwin vs MIA, $6,700
I feel very strongly about Doug Baldwin this week. What could possibly go wrong right? See my Russell Wilson section above. It all applies to Doug Baldwin as well. Jimmy Graham might not even play and even if he does suit up, I expect him to be a non-factor in his first game action since tearing his patellar tendon back in November. With Fred Jackson gone and rookie C.J. Prosise missing a large portion of training camp and preseason due to an injury himself, I expect the Seahawks to be at less than full strength in both the tight end and passing down running back departments. That should mean more targets for Baldwin who looks to have the middle of the field essentially all to himself in this one. I expect him to eat. Baldwin is Wilson’s #1 WR in a favorable matchup. I’m locking him into my lineups.
DeAndre Hopkins vs CHI, $8,400
DeAndre Hopkins gets Bears secondary at home that gave up the 5th most passing TDs last season. Plus, three of their cornerbacks have been banged up lately. While it looks like all three will play, Kyle Fuller is returning from a knee injury, Tracy Porter from a concussion, and Bryce Callahan from a groin issue. Hopkins should see a lot of Fuller in this game who just had a knee scope done about three weeks ago. I’m not sure any cornerback in the NFL can cover Hopkins, let alone one that is playing at less than 100%.
Golden Tate, $6,900/Marvin Jones, $5,500 at IND
Pick your flavor. This game has the potential to be a Back and Forth Bonanza. Tate and Jones both have great matchups as the Colts’ defense gave up the 9th most passing yards and 12th most passing TDs in the league last season. On top of that, their best cornerback and arguably their best defensive player Vontae Davis will miss this game, cornerback Darius Butler is questionable with an ankle injury, and safety Clayton Geathers also might not play. Volume also = $ with WRs and both Tate and Jones should see plenty of targets. The Lions attempted the 4th most pass attempts last season and also utilized a lot of no huddle this preseason as well. I’ll be entering multiple lineups that feature the Matthew Stafford/Golden Tate/Marvin Jones stack. If you’re only choosing one, Jones’ salary is very affordable meaning the majority of DFS players will likely side with him. That makes Tate a very interesting GPP tournament play to me.
DeSean Jackson vs PIT, $6,600
I have a feeling DeSean Jackson is just going to go off in this game. He gets a Steelers secondary that gave up the 3rd most passing yards and 12th most TD passes last season. Not helping the Steelers’ cause, 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree and cornerback Senquez Golson won’t play. Jackson should see plenty of the recently traded for Justin Gilbert as well as rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis at cornerback for the Steelers. Gilbert was terrible in Cleveland and targeting rookie cornerbacks in their first NFL game is something we absolutely should be doing in DFS. In his 9 healthy games last season, Jackson was productive as he averaged 11.9 fantasy points per game. Washington has a very questionable running game right now. Meanwhile, the Steelers front 7 is actually the strength of their defense. Look for Washington to attack the Steelers’ weakness while also playing to their strength in this one by throwing early and often. A threat to take one to the house on every single play, look for Jackson to be given plenty of opportunities to do just that in a phenomenal matchup at home where Kirk Cousins performed much better last season.
T.Y. Hilton, $6,800/Donte Moncrief, $6,200 at DET
Again, this game has the potential to be a Back and Forth Bonanza. Pick your flavor. The Lions actually finished 2015 as a middle of the road pass defense which is why I like the Lions’ receivers a bit more. However, the Colts should be throwing early and often in this game as well. There has been some talk that Darius Slay might Shadow T.Y. Hilton. Slay has quietly become one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and Pro Football Focus ranked him in the top 5 last season. If that does end up happening, Donte Moncrief should see a lot of Nevin Lawson who Pro Football Focus ranked 101st out of 111 cornerbacks last season. Moncrief could absolutely eat in this game. However, Hilton does become an interesting GPP tournament play with the majority of DFS players likely leaning towards Moncrief. We’ve seen Hilton torch Richard Sherman before, so I wouldn’t put it past him to do the same to Slay.
Amari Cooper, $7,100/Michael Crabtree, $6,100 at NO
The New Orleans Saints’ defense was historically bad last season. They gave up the 2nd most passing yards and the absolute most passing TDs – a whopping 45 of them. This is another game that has the potential to become a Back and Forth Bonanza. Although the Raiders’ defense looks improved on paper, I still expect the Saints to put up points at home. That could force Oakland to throw a lot in this game. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are both more than talented enough to take advantage. Not much has changed in Oakland and both Cooper and Crabtree both saw over 20% of the team’s targets last year.
Shattering The MainSTREAM: Under The Radar WR Plays
Alshon Jeffery at HOU, $7,500
Alshon Jeffery looks like a weird name to see in an “Under The Radar” section. However, his own percentage in DFS is sure to be low. On paper, the matchup looks to be just brutal as only two other teams gave up more passing yards than the Texans did last season. Anticipating a Texans’ blowout will likely cause most DFS players to stay away. However, that could actually play in Jeffery’s favor. Zooming out a little bit, we can see that Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett have both moved on. Meanwhile, Marquess Wilson won’t play, Eddie Royal and Zach Miller both missed time this preseason with injuries, and Kevin White is playing in his first regular season NFL game after missing an entire year of football with an injury of his own. The Texans are also stout against the run meaning Jeremy Langford will likely struggle to find success in this game and the game script will likely favor a pass heavy attack for the Bears while they play most of the game in comeback mode. All of that should equal lots and lots of targets for Jeffery. Volume = $ and garbage points count just as much as any other in fantasy football. The Bears could get blown out and Jeffery could still rack up 15+ targets 10+ catches 100+ yards and 1+ TDs.
Keenan Allen at KC, $7,400
Similar logic for Alshon Jeffery can also be applied to Keenan Allen. Shout out to my guy @14TeamMocker on Twitter for giving me this one. You should be following him already but if you’re not, what are you doing? Go make it happen. Over the last 3 years when San Diego has been a 4+ point road underdog, Philip Rivers has averaged 7 more passes, 5 more completions, 0.5 more TDs, and 45 more passing yards. The Chargers are 7 point underdogs in this one. The public is likely anticipating a Chiefs win and staying away from the Chargers’ offense. I expect this game to be closer than most think and even if the Chargers do lose, history says that will create more passing volume which should benefit Allen who was a target hog last season. Plus, the Chiefs defense isn’t going to be as stout as most think. Their best player defensive end Justin Houston won’t play, cornerback Sean Smith is no longer on the team, linebacker/defensive end Tamba Hali will reportedly only play a limited number of snaps due to injury, and safety Eric Berry just ended his holdout and returned to the team on August 28th.
Randall Cobb at JAX, $7,200
The Jaguars absolutely improved their defense this offseason. However, that was much needed as they gave up the 4th most passing yards in the NFL last year. Jordy Nelson’s return, even if it is on a limited snap count, should open things up for Cobb who has historically performed much better with his teammate in the lineup opening up underneath coverage for him to exploit. Cobb will reportedly see a ton of rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the slot. Even though Ramsey was a very high first round draft pick, it still should take him some time to adjust to the NFL level. We like to attack rookie cornerbacks, especially in their first regular season NFL game. Cobb is a solid sneaky play with the majority of DFS players still left with a bad taste in their mouth from last season. Playing DFS and fantasy football is all about trying to predict the future. Could the general perception of Cobb change after this game? I think it absolutely could.
Jermaine Kearse, $5,400/Tyler Lockett, $6,200 at MIA
Read my section on Russell Wilson and you’ll understand why I like all of his WRs this week. I also went into detail on why I love Jermaine Kearse in GPP tournaments this weekend in Travis Strickland‘s FanDuel Week 1 GPP Picks article. The same logic applies to Tyler Lockett as well.
Will Fuller vs CHI, $5,600
Will Fuller is a deep threat who has put his skills on display already this preseason. While the regular season is a whole different ballgame, especially for rookies, Fuller quite possibly couldn’t even ask for a better matchup to begin his NFL career. The Bears secondary gave up the 5th most passing TDs last season and three of their cornerbacks are banged up. Look for Osweiler to target Fuller deep in this one and I wouldn’t be surprised if he came down with at least one of them for a long TD.
Terrelle Pryor at PHI, $4,900
With Josh Gordon suspended to begin the season and Corey Coleman starting in his first regular season NFL game, I think that makes Terrelle Pryor the de facto WR1 in this contest for the Browns. We saw the Browns throw deep shot after deep shot in the preseason and I believe Hue Jackson will continue to call those plays as the long ball works with Robert Griffin III’s strengths while minimizing his weakness of struggling to read coverage. Pryor was able to score a few long TDs in the preseason and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him do it again in Week 1. The matchup is there as the Eagles gave up the 5th most passing yards and 2nd most passing TDs last season.
Top TE Plays Of The Week
Jordan Reed vs PIT, $7,400
Jordan Reed was an absolute monster last season. He gets a Steelers defense at home that gave up the 3rd most passing yards and 12th most TD passes last season. I think this game also becomes a shootout. Enough said.
Travis Kelce vs SD, $6,400
We all remember Kelce’s 2 TD game in Week 1 last season. With shutdown corner Jason Verrett likely making Jeremy Maclin’s day pretty rough, if anyone is going to go off in this passing game, it’s likely Kelce.
Antonio Gates at KC, $6,200
Over the last 3 years when San Diego has been a 4+ point road underdog, Philip Rivers has averaged 7 more passes, 5 more completions, 0.5 more TDs, and 45 more passing yards. The Chargers are 7 point underdogs in this one. The public is likely anticipating a Chiefs win and staying away from the Chargers’ offense. I expect this game to be closer than most think and even if the Chargers do lose, history says that will create more passing volume. That not only benefits Allen but Gates as well.
Coby Fleener vs OAK, $5,400
While Oakland has upgraded their defense this offseason, they still gave up the 2nd most TDs to tight ends and the 7th most passing yards overall in the league last season. This game has the potential to be a Back and Forth Bonanza and Fleener’s price of $5,400 is more than palatable.
Shattering The MainSTREAM: Under The Radar TE Plays
Clive Walford at NO, $4,700
Clive Walford is a cheap way to gain access to the Raiders’ passing game in a great matchup. The New Orleans Saints’ defense was historically bad last season. They gave up the 2nd most passing yards and the absolute most passing TDs – a whopping 45 of them. They also tied with the Raiders for 2nd most TDs given up to tight ends last season. Even though Lee Smith is technically listed as the Raiders’ starting tight end, he is strictly a blocker. Walford has the pass catching TE gig locked up and could take advantage on Sunday.
Dwayne Allen at DET, $5,500
Dwayne Allen is another guy with a favorable matchup in a potential Back and Forth Bonanza. The Lions gave up the most passing TDs to tight ends last season. I was very bullish on Allen about a week ago but my expectations have tempered now that offensive guard Jack Mewhort is going to miss the game. Allen might be forced to stay in and block the likes of Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah more now. Still, he has a pretty good shot a TD in what should be a high-scoring game.
Jesse James at WAS, $4,500
With Ladarius Green beginning the year on the PUP list, Jesse James becomes a starting TE in my favorite potential Back and Forth Bonanza game of the week. He caught a TD from Ben Roethlisberger in preseason Week 3 and NFL.com has him listed at 6 foot 7 inches tall. What more do you want?
Jared Cook at JAX, $5,300
Despite what the Jared Cook truthers will tell you, he’s still in a timeshare at his own position with better than advertised Richard Rodgers. Still, Cook operated as the main pass-catching TE in preseason Week 3. There’s a chance that could spill over into Week 1 as Cook historically has started off strong in past seasons and now gets to play with by far the best QB of his entire career. Just be prepared just in case Richard Rodgers steals Cooks’ TD catch.
Crockett Gillmore vs BUF, $4,900
Ben Watson was lost for the year in the preseason. Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams both missed extended time in the preseason with injuries of their own. Both Pitta and Williams are back practicing and should be active for Week 1 so there’s really no way of knowing how the playing time is going to shake out. However, monitor reports and if it becomes clear that Gillmore is going to be the lead guy, he becomes a very interesting TE play.
Top Kicker Plays Of The Week
Steven Hauschka vs MIA, $4,800
Points are coming in bunches for Hauschka in this Seahawks blowout of the Dolphins.
Cairo Santos vs SD, $4,800
The Chiefs’ offense is perfectly suited for kicker success. They are efficient but not dynamic enough to score TDs all of the time. At home against a suspect Chargers defense, I expect Santos to get multiple field goal opportunities.
Shattering The MainSTREAM: Under The Radar Kicker Play
Dustin Hopkins vs PIT, $4,500
This is my favorite fantasy game of the week. Points will be scored aplenty and that should benefit Hopkins.
Top Defense Plays Of The Week
Seattle Seahawks vs MIA, $5,000
The Dolphins’ offense was already a work in progress and that was before starting center Mike Pouncey and wide receiver DeVante Parker both got injured. It looks like both are going to miss this game. Look for one of the best defenses in football to feast all day.
Houston Texans vs CHI, $4,900
Somewhat surprisingly, it looks like J.J Watt is going to be ready to play in this game. The Texans boast one of the best defenses in football and should take advantage of a Bears team that might be forced to funnel targets to Alshon Jeffery just to be able to move the football. The Texans had the 5th most sacks in the NFL last season. I envision more sacks on Jay Cutler in this one plus some INTs as well.
New York Jets vs CIN, $4,500
With a stout run defense minimizing Jeremy Hill and Darrelle Revis on A.J. Green, I can easily see the Bengals struggling to move the ball. There’s always that chance Dalton could revert back to playing like “Bad Dalton” as well. The Bengals could be forced to move the ball through the air with Giovani Bernard in this one and if that’s unsuccessful I’m really not sure where they can turn. Sacks and turnovers could be coming. The Jets finished with the 12th most sacks and 5th most INTs last year.
Shattering The MainSTREAM: Under The Radar Defense Play
Philadelphia Eagles vs CLE, $4,800
Aside from a deep ball here and there, I don’t trust Robert Griffin III just yet. He has the propensity to give up sacks and turn the ball over in bunches. That’s exactly what we’re looking for with our defense in fantasy football. In fact, RGIII was sacked 5 times in preseason Week 3 even though he only played in about a half of the game. The Eagles have a very strong front 7 and I envision similar results in Week 1. Stacking the Eagles defense with Ryan Mathews in GPP tournaments is a strategy I’m very intrigued with. I’ll likely be making at least a few lineups with that combination.