Monday's slate has some of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the league, with Patrick Mahomesand Aaron Rodgers the two-most expensive players on DraftKings and the most expensive quarterbacks on FanDuel. Mahomes' season started off somewhat slowly, but he reminded us just how great he is last week at Baltimore when he completed 31-of-42 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing four times for 26 yards and another score. It was vintage Mahomes, and he'll now face a Patriots defense that shut down Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1 and Derek Carr in Week 3 but was exploited by Russell Wilson in Week 2, completing 21-of-28 passes for 288 yards and five touchdowns. Mahomes would surely be very popular, but Rodgers is on the slate and certainly a viable pivot against an absolute sieve of a defense.
Rodgers has thrown nine touchdowns in his first three games, and he's playing as a 7.0-point favorite in the game with a 56.5-point total, while Mahomes is a 10.5-point favorite with a 49.0-point over/under. Rodgers is also dealing with the potential absence of his top wideout yet again, but the easiest way to the Packers' passing attack in single-game contests is probably through Rodgers, even if you have to pay up for him. And while Mahomes is facing a defense that's actually done pretty well against quarterbacks, the Falcons have been anything but, allowing four touchdowns and at least 315 passing yards to every quarterback they've faced this season. There are certainly players at other positions who are worthy paying up for, but the safety of Rodgers will be enticing.
On the other side of Rodgers' game is Matt Ryan, who comes at a decent discount as a big underdog, though one that will throw plenty to try and get back in games. Ryan's 128 pass attempts through three games were the fourth-most in the NFL, and he threw more touchdowns than anyone but Wilson, Josh Allen, Mahomes and Rodgers; not bad company. You probably wouldn't consider rostering Ryan if he were the same price as Mahomes or Rodgers, other than the fact that so many will play the other two, but the salary savings could help at the other positions. And finally, no one is really going to play Brian Hoyer, who is starting for Newton. Hoyer provides more salary savings than any other player at the position (he's $2,600 cheaper than Mahomes on DraftKings and $2,000 cheaper on FanDuel), but he's facing a defense that hasn't allowed multiple passing touchdowns this season and just held Lamar Jackson to 15-of-28 passing for 97 yards; and Hoyer doesn't have the wheels to make up for that lack of passing with 85 rushing yards. Theoretically, the Patriots could have to pass a lot if they fall behind (and they're expected to fall behind), but rostering Hoyer is really just for those who love to play ultra contrarian.
RUNNING BACKS Similar to the quarterbacks, the Chiefs and Packers are likely to provide the chalkier running backs, with Aaron Jones the most expensive on both sites and Clyde Edwards-Helaire right behind. Jones' touches haven't been that prolific this season, topping out at 18 rushing attempts and eight targets, both of which came in Week 2 against Detroit when he rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns while also catching four passes for 68 yards and another score. He's hit pay dirt in every game this season and is second on the team in targets, making him a very viable option, and especially if Adams doesn't play. Edwards-Helaire is the heavier-used back on a more consistent basis, twice getting at least 20 carries, and he has 11 catches on 14 targets for 102 yards in the past two games. The Falcons have been better than the Patriots in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs, though part of that is because Atlanta has just given up loads of passing points. From a salary perspective, it's a bit tough to pay up for both of the top running backs if you want to pay up for some of the more expensive wide receivers, though cash-game players on the multi-game slate will still probably push in that direction. Those playing in showdown are likely to target them too, with Darrel Williams a possibility because of his work on passing downs, though the volume really won't be that high unless Edwards-Helaire gets hurt. That also kind of applies to the Packers' Jamaal Williams, who looks like he's playing a decent number of snaps, but he's used as a blocker much more than Jones, which is why Jones is able to get so much production out of his snaps. The Falcons' Todd Gurley continues to get more work in the backfield, but he's really not doing much in the passing game, as he's only been targeted seven times, catching three for three yards. So, while he has gotten 49 rushing attempts versus 15 for Brian Hill and six for Ito Smith, we can't ignore that Ryan doesn't seem interested in throwing to his running backs enough to make them realistic replacements for either of the two most expensive running backs. The Packers did get crushed by Alvin Kamara last week, and Dalvin Cook was strong against them in Week 1, but Gordon is not in their tier. The Patriots' backfield is an absolute mess, and it only gets messier with the expected return of James White from personal leave. One positive for the Patriots' running backs is that they won't have Cam Newton taking their carries, as he leads the team in rushing attempts (35) and rushing touchdowns (four), theoretically opening up some possibilities for Rex Burkhead, White, Sony Michel, who is questionable with a quad injury, and J.J. Taylor. The biggest difficulty is projecting the usage breakdown, especially after Burkhead's monster game last week when he had six carries for 49 yards and two touchdowns plus seven catches on 10 targets for 49 yards and another score. His six carries were actually the same as the week prior and one fewer than in Week 1, while the receiving work was much higher because of White's absence. Taylor actually got eight first-half carries last week, and any involvement on his behalf likely takes away from Michel, with Burkhead seemingly getting the red-zone work now. In essence, it's a mess and really not something we can rely on in cash games, though the GPP opportunities are interesting, especially if someone like Burkhead keeps getting the valuable opportunities and doing something with them.
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS Davante Adams is a big key to the slate because he's Rodgers' favorite weapon but also questionable to play and will be a game-time decision. Additionally, he's playing in the later game, and while we'll probably get some hints about whether he's playing before lineup lock, it's not guaranteed. The positive with that situation is that we can pivot to either Calvin Ridley or Julio Jones, who are also questionable to play but actually expected to. Ridley has been a monster this season, getting double-digit targets and at least 109 yards in each game. Additionally, he had two touchdowns in each of the first two games. He seems to be taking over the no. 1 spot on the Falcons' wide receiver depth chart, which could push Jones' popularity down a bit, even though he's cheaper. The other possibility is to just ignore the later game and play Tyreek Hill and hope he can burn the Patriots' secondary while they focus on Travis Kelce. Kelce would be the fourth-most expensive wide receiver if he was at the position, and he's by far the most dominant tight end on the slate. The bigger question is whether you want to pay a wide receiver price for a tight end on this slate when you can try to convince yourself that Hayden Hurst and Robert Tonyan are good enough, especially after they both scored in each of the past two games. Kelce is probably not going to be that popular in cash games, but he definitely has GPP upside for those who want to go in that direction. The Chiefs' other receivers are always in play, with Mecole Hardman scoring a long touchdown last week against the Ravens, helping him to four catches on six targets for 81 yards. Additionally, Sammy Watkins was solidly efficient, catching seven of eight targets for 62 yards as Demarcus Robinson went almost completely overlooked, failing to catch his only target. Hardman seems to have moved ahead of Robinson in Mahomes' eyes, and his GPP upside is always enticing, especially in single-game contests. The Patriots' Julian Edelman is in a bit of an odd range, as he shouldn't be included in the same discussion as Adams, Ridley, Hill and Jones but he's better than the guys who are cheaper than him like Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Russell Gage, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman and N'Keal Harry. Depending on where you go salary-wise with the elite guys, it's possible to fit Edelman in, and theoretically he could be popular with Hoyer under center given he's by far the Patriots most consistent receiver in terms of getting open and actually catching passes. I also would look down the salary scale, particularly in single-game contests, because we have plenty of evidence of backup wide receivers performing well when backup quarterbacks start, so don't ignore guys like Jakobi Meyers and Matthew Slater, while Damiere Byrd has actually been seeing regular snaps with the first team. Valdes-Scantling will always be tempting because he's the No. 2 receiver in the Packers' offense, and he could be the No. 1 if Adams is unable to play. Amazingly, Valdes-Scantling could be the only active Packers wide receiver to have caught a pass this season, as Darrius Shepherd is the only other one to be targeted (he didn't catch the 31-air-yard pass). That only works to push up Valdes-Scantling's popularity, along with Tonyan and Jones. In the same game, Gage's viability really takes a hit with Jones and Ridley in, at least in terms of cash-game consideration, but there's always a big play waiting to happen with Atlanta; whether it's from Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus or Brandon Powell is another question. They should be part of the MME showdown discussion, but even on the classic slate it seems unlikely any of them will make big enough of an impact.
DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS There's a big difference salary-wise on DraftKings' classic slate, with the Chiefs ($4,000) much higher than the Packers ($2,800), Patriots ($2,600) and Falcons ($2,200) pretty much clumped together. The pricing isn't surprising, of course, as the Chiefs will be facing a backup quarterback who plays very differently than their starter. Given that matchup, there's likely to be plenty of people who play the Chiefs defense in showdown, though they seem more like a cash-game play because they are similarly priced to guys like Watkins, Hardman and White. With turnovers possibly at a minimum, it doesn't seem necessary to pay up for the Chiefs, especially because of the crazy variance of the position anyway. However, if you have the salary and there's really not much else you can do with it, paying up shouldn't be detrimental.