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NFL DFS Breakdown

Sunday's slate features 11 games, none of which have a total above 48.5 as of Friday. You could argue that none of matchups are great for stacking. Major news includes the absence of Austin Ekeler. Justin Jackson ($4,200) will be popular as his replacement. The Buccaneers will be significantly shorthanded without Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. Antonio Brown ($4,900) was already too cheap but now looks like the top overall value option.

The Rams-Vikings game has the highest total (48.5) and thus will be a popular game stack. Cooper Kupp and Alexander Mattison will be among the chalk at their respective positions. Expect rostership to condense around the top projected players even more so than most weeks due to the abundance of good cheap value. Remember to fade some of said chalk in tournaments as it's the leverage off those players that vaults lineups to the top. It's usually the people willing to take the most risk who reap the biggest rewards, especially in NFL DFS where there is so much variance. Don't be afraid to take some chances, and good luck.


Point-Per Dollar Value

These are the players with the best projections relative to their salaries — good plays both for cash games and large-field tournaments. While we don't want our GPP lineups to look like cash-game lineups top to bottom, there's nothing wrong with using a few chalky plays. These players, along with a couple passing-game stacks, tend to form the core that remains fairly consistent throughout my lineups.


  • WR Antonio Brown at CAR ($4,900)

Brown hasn't played since Week 6 due to injury and suspension, but he's now healthy and his return comes at a time when the Buccaneers need him more than ever. Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette and Mike Evans are out. That means Brown should be in line for 10-plus targets. He was Tom Brady's favorite target prior to his absence, which led to him putting up at least 24 fantasy points in three of five games. He's just way too cheap for his role in one of the best offenses in football. People would be rostering him at $7,000. He's going to be very popular, and rightly so.

  • RB James Robinson at NYJ ($5,900)

I recommended Robinson in this section last week when he was $5,400 against the Texans. He rushed 18 times for 75 yards and a TD. He also caught three passes for 13 yards as it was encouraging to see him get six targets. He's still priced less than $6K for a prime matchup against the Jets, who've been shredded by RBs this season. No team in the league has allowed more fantasy points to running backs than the Jets. Not only is it a great spot for Robinson, but he can still be rostered at a discount as his salary had fallen considerably due to inconsistent usage during Urban Meyer's tenure.

Other Cash-Game Options

QB Tom Brady at CAR ($7,400)

QB Justin Herbert at HOU ($7,200)

QB Jalen Hurts vs. NYG ($6,400)

RB Alexander Mattison vs. LAR ($6,800)

RB Josh Jacobs vs. DEN ($6,000)

RB James Robinson at NYJ ($5,900)

RB David Montgomery at SEA ($5,700)

RB Miles Sanders vs. NYG ($5,600)

RB Ronald Jones at CAR ($5,100)

RB Justin Jackson at HOU ($4,200)

WR Cooper Kupp at MIN ($9,100)

WR Keenan Allen at HOU ($7,700)

WR Mike Williams at HOU ($6,100)

WR Russell Gage vs. DET ($5,900)

WR Marquise Brown at CIN ($5,800)

WR Amon-Ra St. Brown at ATL ($5,600), only if Jared Goff plays

WR Antonio Brown at CAR ($4,900)

WR Nico Collins vs. LAC ($3,400)

TE Rob Gronkowski at CAR ($6,200)

TE Dallas Goedert vs. NYG ($5,100)

D/ST Atlanta Falcons vs. DET ($2,600)

Passing-Game Stacks

Stacks are the centerpiece of any tournament lineup, seeking to take advantage of positive correlations between players. It rarely makes sense to use a quarterback without one or two of his pass catchers, even if the player in question scores a decent portion of his fantasy points with his legs. Ideally, a stack also includes a pass catcher from the other side of the game, hoping to take advantage of a back-and-forth shootout. (Implied team totals are listed in parentheses.)

Los Angeles Rams (26.25) at Minnesota Vikings (22.75)

Rams

On a week that lacks for appealing games to stack, the Rams-Vikings matchup has the highest total on the slate and is expected to be competitive. Matthew Stafford ($6,700) has topped 20 fantasy points in 10 of 14 games this season. His salary looks like a bit of a bargain after he'd been priced in the mid-7K range for six consecutive weeks earlier in the year. Pairing him with Cooper Kupp($9,100) always makes sense. Kupp has been the best player in fantasy football this season and is completely matchup-proof (see the "High-Priced Heroes" section). Van Jefferson ($5,500) and Odell Beckham ($5,300) are affordably priced considering their upside. Both players have three touchdown catches in their last four games and both are threats to catch a long TD in this spot. Tyler Higbee ($3,800) was just reinstated from the COVID list and his salary has fallen to its lowest point of the season. He's drawn at least five targets in each of his last four games. Pairing Stafford and Kupp with another Rams pass-catcher is my preferred way of stacking this game.

Vikings

With Dalvin Cook out, Alexander Mattison ($6,800) will see most of the snaps at RB. He's thrived in that role when Cook has been out this season, topping 20 fantasy points in each of his three starts. He'll be a popular option this week, especially considering there isn't much in the way of expensive options at the position. I don't have much interest in rostering Kirk Cousins ($6,200),but we've seen ceiling games from him this season and the Vikings likely will pass more in the absence of Cook, especially if they fall behind. Justin Jefferson ($8,100) projects well in this spot. He's enjoying a breakout season that's seen him put up 20-plus fantasy points in seven of 14 games. He has the upside to be the highest scoring player on any slate. Adam Thielen ($6,900) is expected to return from an ankle injury. Cousins likes to target him in the red zone, which has resulted in 10 touchdowns in 12 games. I like the idea of rostering Thielen over Jefferson as the difference in popularity will be massive and it would provide all the leverage that a lineup would need.

  • Favorite Stack: QB Stafford + RB Mattison + WR Kupp + TE Higbee

Los Angeles Chargers (28.25) at Houston Texans (17.75)

Chargers

The Chargers are in a great spot, both from a football and DFS perspective. They have the highest implied team total on the slate in what should be a prime matchup against the Texans. Austin Ekeler (COVID) is expected to be out, which means the remaining Chargers skill players should see a bump in usage. Justin Herbert ($7,200) continues to impress. He's scored at least 24 fantasy points in five consecutive games. He's a good bet to throw for 300 yards and has added upside based on rushing ability. Keenan Allen ($7,700) has been a model of consistency, putting up double-digit fantasy points in every game this season and topping 15 in seven straight. He has three TDs in his last two and should draw a couple extra red-zone looks in the absence of Ekeler. Mike Williams ($6,100) has drawn at least six targets in six consecutive weeks. The likely absence of Ekeler, Jalen Guyton and Donald Parham should ensure that he sees considerable volume. He's been inconsistent this season but the ceiling potential is always there based on his big-play ability. We've already seen him eclipse 20 fantasy points five times this season. Jared Cook ($3,500) drew seven targets last week and should continue to see a slight bump in the absence of Parham. There isn't much to like in the cheap range at TE, which makes taking a chance on Cook more appealing than otherwise.

Texans

This stack is mostly about the Chargers side, but the Texans have at least one player worth targeting as a runback. Brandin Cooks (COVID) is expected out, which opens the door for promising rookie Nico Collins ($3,400) to step in as the No. 1 WR. Collins drew 10 targets two weeks ago and showed flashes of big-play upside this season. Davis Mills ($5,500) has looked surprisingly capable in recent weeks and Collins is very cheap. Of course, you can stack the Chargers without running it back with a Texan, but Collins is a worthy gamble if you want to take a chance.

  • Favorite Stack: QB Herbert + WR Allen and/or WR Williams + WR Collins

Other Stacks to Consider

High-Priced Heroes

  • WR Cooper Kupp at MIN ($9,100)

It feels like I recommend Kupp here every week, but I've been rostering him every week and he just continues to crush. He's in the midst of a historic season, on pace to break the receiving yardage record as he's averaging 116 per game. He's caught 22 passes on 28 targets in his last two games, leading to fantasy scores of 37.7 and 34.3. He's put up ceiling scores with remarkable frequency, topping 25 fantasy points in 10 of 14 games this season. With all of the cheap value at RB, it will be easier to spend up for Kupp. He'll be quite popular as a result, but I'm OK with eating that chalk and differentiating in other spots.

  • WR Keenan Allen at HOU ($7,700)

Allen has drawn double-digit targets in six of his last seven games. Expect that trend to continue with Austin Ekeler out. Allen has put up 15-plus fantasy points in seven consecutive games and has three TDs in his last two. Ekeler's absence could lead to one or two more end-zone targets as well. The Chargers have the highest implied total on the slate as they have a favorable matchup against the Texans and they're likely to rely on the passing game even more so than usual with Ekeler out. They're also expected to be without Jalen Guyton and Donald Parham, which gives another slight bump to Allen.

Honorable Mentions: Alexander Mattison, MIN vs. LAR ($6,800); Rob Gronkowski, TB at CAR ($6,200)

Fading the Field

Every week we see at least one or two players who are popular without the backing of a top point-per-dollar projection. In some cases it even makes sense to fade a player with a strong projection, particularly when there are good alternatives at the same position and price range.

  • WR Justin Jefferson vs. LAR ($8,100)

It's not that I don't like Jefferson, I just prefer Kupp in that range at WR. Jefferson is expected to be relatively popular in a matchup against the Rams that features the highest total (48.5) on the slate. I rarely like targeting players against Jalen Ramsey and company, regardless of whether he's shadowing the No. 1 WR. Add to that the expected return of Adam Thielen, which negatively impacts Jefferson's touchdown equity, in my opinion. If you told me that you were fading Kupp and rostering Jefferson instead, I'd say that's a good strategy too. I'm just doing the opposite based on my confidence in Kupp.

The Smash Spot

(Players in favorable spots to significantly outperform their salary.)

  • RB Justin Jackson at HOU ($4,200)

With Austin Ekeler out, Jackson is expected to see the majority of snaps at RB. He looked good last week against the Chiefs, rushing 13 times for 86 yards. He's a capable receiver as well and should catch a few passes. His salary is just too cheap for that role, especially in a matchup against the Texans in which the Chargers are big favorites and have the highest implied team total (28.25) on the slate. He has the upside for multiple receptions, 100-plus scrimmage yards and a good chance to find the end zone.

Honorable Mentions: Dallas Goedert, PHI vs. NYG ($5,100); Antonio Brown, TB at CAR ($4,900)

The Bargain Bin

QB Tyler Huntley at CIN ($6,000)

QB Joe Burrow vs BAL ($5,900)

QB Cam Newton vs. TB ($5,600)

QB Matt Ryan vs. DET ($5,400)

RB Ronald Jones at CAR ($5,100)

RB Justin Jackson at HOU ($4,200)

WR Marvin Jones at NYJ ($4,400)

WR Emmanuel Sanders at NE ($4,000)

WR Allen Robinson at SEA ($4,000)

WR Tyler Johnson at CAR ($3,900)

WR Laquon Treadwell at NYJ ($3,500)

WR Nico Collins vs. LAC ($3,400)

WR Mecole Hardman vs. PIT ($3,500), if Tyreek Hill is out

WR Byron Pringle vs. PIT ($3,300), if Tyreek Hill is out

TE Jared Cook at HOU ($3,500)

TE Cole Kmet at SEA ($3,300)

TE C.J. Uzomah vs. BAL ($3,000)

TE Noah Gray vs. PIT ($2,500), if Travis Kelce is out

Injuries to Monitor

  • WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce vs. PIT

The status of both Hill and Kelce remains unclear after they were put on the COVID list earlier in the week. If Hill misses, Mecole Hardman ($3,500) and Byron Pringle ($3,300) would stand to benefit most. If Kelce misses, Noah Gray ($2,500) and Blake Bell ($2,500) would split snaps at tight end. I don't have much interest in the TEs, but if Hill is ruled out, Hardman and Pringle make for decent GPP options as neither should be overly popular. If only one of Hill or Kelce play, they'd likely see a bump in target share which increase the appeal in a plus matchup against the Steelers.

Weather

  • Freezing temperatures and possible snow in Seattle for the Seahawks-Bears game. I was already planning to avoid the QBs and WRs in that matchup. David Montgomery ($5,700) looks like the most appealing option on either side.




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