Paddy Power Fantasy: Essential guide to Sunday’s NFL slate

Everything you should know about all the Week 1 games in Paddy Power Fantasy's Sunday NFL contests in one place. Very nice.

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Buffalo at New York Jets

Buffalo Offence Notes

– Josh Allen (£6,900) has a slew of new wide receivers at his disposal this season and projects as a mid-level play on his own in terms of our point-per-dollar value. His rushing numbers always keep him in play as a high-floor, high-ceiling option.
– No Bills wide receiver is projected for even six targets this week, but John Brown (£5,500) is set for the team lead at 5.89.
– Last season, no Bills player was on the receiving end of more than 20.9% of Allen’s targets (Zay Jones [£5,000]).

New York Offence Notes

– The Jets project as a low-level offence in this Week 1 matchup given the implied point total (21.75), but most of their assets are cheap.
– Le’Veon Bell (£7,900) isn’t one of those, but he has some question marks about his workload after a 20-month layoff. Bell still is projected for the fourth-best workload among all main-slate running backs. The low offensive upside makes him a tough sell for cash-game lineups with cheap backs in abundance, though he’s a player to keep in the core for GPPs due to the workload.
– Robby Anderson (£6,300), Jamison Crowder (£5,400), and Quincy Enunwa (£5,200) should share the workload, as all are projected for between 5.10 and 6.02 targets. Meanwhile, Sam Darnold (£6,700) has the third-lowest passing yardage projection of the week.

Core Plays
Le’Veon Bell

Tournament Plays
John Brown, Robby Anderson

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Baltimore at Miami

Baltimore Offence Notes

– After Lamar Jackson (£7,400) took over the Ravens’ offence, no team threw less frequently, and they operated at the 28th-ranked expected pace based on pre-snap win probability. As a seven-point favourite, he shouldn’t have to throw often, and that should sap play volume in this game. He’s our top-projected value quarterback of the week.
– Mark Ingram (£6,600) sets up as a strong process play at a reasonable price tag as a heavy favourite against a weak rush defence (30th in adjusted rushing defence, per our metrics).
– Tight end Mark Andrews (£5,400) does pop a bit and was Jackson’s most efficient target last season (1.25 Reception Net Expected Points [NEP] per target on 20 targets). He’s our eighth-best projected tight end value as a road favourite with a modest implied team total.

Miami Offence Notes

– The Ravens ranked second in adjusted pass defence last season and bolstered their secondary in the offseason.
– Even if you’re banking on a Ryan Fitzpatrick (£6,200) DGAF game, the realistic upside for the ‘Phins isn’t there to load up on their skill players.

Core Plays
Lamar Jackson

Tournament Plays
Albert Wilson (£5,000), Marquise Brown

Kansas City at Jacksonville

Kansas City Offense Notes
– Patrick Mahomes (£8,700) isn’t a must-play cash-game lock at this price, but no passer climbed past 30 points more frequently in my simulations. He threw for 313 yards and a pair of interceptions against Jacksonville last year in Week 5. Think of him as a tournament differentiation point, as spending up at quarterback shouldn’t be the norm.
– Damien Williams (£6,900) is the nominal starter in this game but will contend with LeSean McCoy (£5,800) for touches. Williams projects for the better workload in this game, but the cannibalization keeps them both in tournament-only territory with so many other cheap running backs to target.
– Tyreek Hill (£7,600) caught 4 of 7 targets for 61 yards last year in this matchup, but 2 of his targets were in the red zone, and 3 were at least 16 yards downfield — primo usage. The 131 air yards indicate a ceiling for Hill against a weakened Jaguars defence.

Jacksonville Offense Notes
– Leonard Fournette (£7,200) faces last year’s league-worst rush defence by our metrics and in Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs. He’s projected for the fifth-most rush attempts this week and is a borderline core play in such a promising spot with increased receiving after Week 10 last season.
– Dede Westbrook (£5,900) stands out among the wide receiving corps and projects to lead in volume after running at least 80% of the team’s routes in his final 13 games.
– I’m the leader of the Chris Conley (£4,500) fan club, yet there is reason to consider him. He’s £4,500, and Conley should play heavy snaps based on his Kansas City usage and D.J. Chark’s (£4,900) uncertain status. You can do worse than a minimum-salary great athlete who will play snaps in a potential shootout.

Core Plays
Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Dede Westbrook

Secondary Plays
Leonard Fournette, Patrick Mahomes, Sammy Watkins

Tournament Plays
Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Nick Foles, Chris Conley

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 12: C.J. Anderson #35 of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates with teammates after a 1 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Rams at Carolina

Los Angeles Offence Notes
– Todd Gurley’s (£7,600) unpredictable Week 1 usage keeps him out of locked-in cash-game territory, but a 26.25-point implied team total against 2018’s 21st-ranked rush defence keeps him in tournament territory.
– Jared Goff (£7,800) averaged 0.08 Passing NEP per drop back on the road in 2018, compared to 0.36 at home, and he ranked 23rd of 29 qualified passers in passer rating while under pressure last year, via PFF. The Carolina Panthers’ pass rush projects well enough to look elsewhere at quarterback unless game stacking.
– Unsurprisingly, Brandin Cooks (£7,000) projects for the highest boom potential of the Los Angeles Rams’ receivers, and Robert Woods (£7,000) should be pushed back to the outside with the return of Cooper Kupp (£6,800) to the slot. Woods’ volume shouldn’t dip as much as you may think with Kupp back. All three are worthy of consideration; I’d rank them Cooks, Kupp, and Woods.

Carolina Offence Notes
– Christian McCaffrey (£8,900) shapes up as the top running back play on the slate, even with talks of reduced snaps. The touches aren’t supposed to go anywhere, and he leads all backs in projected opportunities and targets against last year’s 25th-ranked adjusted rush defence.
– Talks of Cam Newton’s (£7,900) rediscovered deep ball mesh with last year’s 29th-ranked pass defence on deep attempts in terms of adjusted yards per attempt. His career average depth of target was 9.5 before dropping to 7.4 last season.
– Greg Olsen (£5,200) averaged 5.0 targets in seven games with at least 75% of snaps last year and is at home in a neutral tight end matchup.

Core Plays
Christian McCaffrey, Brandin Cooks, Curtis Samuel

Secondary Plays
Cam Newton, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, D.J. Moore

NASHVILLE, TN – AUGUST 17: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during week three of preseason at Nissan Stadium on August 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Tennessee at Cleveland

Tennessee Offence Notes
– An offence without a certain quarterback situation, the Titans’ implied total of 20.25 doesn’t bode well for a full main slate against a pass defence that ranked fifth in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play last season.
– Derrick Henry (£6,800) is a volume-based season-long play but not the archetype we should be seeking in DFS as a road underdog, as he maxed out at three targets last season. Dion Lewis (£5,600) averaged 3.7 targets in three games as a clear secondary option behind Henry to close the season.
– Corey Davis (£6,200) was on the receiving end of 26.5% of Marcus Mariota’s (£6,500) targets last year but averaged only 5.1 targets per game over his final seven. There’s more competition for looks now.

Cleveland Offense Notes
– Baker Mayfield (£7,900) jumped to a 0.27 Passing NEP per drop back and 8.6 yards per attempt under Kitchens, compared to -0.06 and 6.6, respectively, under Jackson, meaning that Odell Beckham (£8,200) is upgrading to a passer who showed absolutely elite marks in the second half of last season.
– Jarvis Landry (£6,300) saw his target share drop to 21.3% after Kitchens (30.7% before), a difference of 11.3 to 6.9 targets per game and now has to contend with Beckham.
– David Njoku (£5,800) also saw a target drop from a 17.7% share (7.4 per game) to 14.0% (4.5) while the team’s pace slowed. The Titans were the league’s best defence in terms of fantasy points per target last season.
– As a 5-point home favourite with a 25.25-point implied total, Nick Chubb (£7,400) is projected for the second-most rushing attempts of the week, per numberFire’s algorithm. Tennessee ranked 22nd in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs last season.

Core Plays
Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham

Secondary Plays
Baker Mayfield

Nov 26, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) on the sideline against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta at Minnesota

Atlanta Offence Notes
– Matt Ryan (£8,000) maintained a 115.8 passer rating in domes last season and 99.2 outdoors while posting 8.7 yards per attempt indoors and 7.4 outdoors. He’s drawing as the least likely main slate passer to hit three-times value.
– Julio Jones (£8,500) scored eight times last year, tied for the most he’s had in six seasons. But with 1,677 yards, that was one score for every 209.7 yards, and that screams regression — if Jones’ usage ever actually changes. Xavier Rhodes’ coverage still checks out okay, but PFF gave him a career-worst grade, and no matchup has ever stopped us from Jones before.
– Calvin Ridley (£6,500) averaged 45.0 air yards and 5.2 targets per game over his final five.
– Devonta Freeman (£6,700) faces a rush defence that was 24th in Rushing Success Rate allowed but 9th in Target Success Rate to backs.

Minnesota Offence Notes
– Dalvin Cook (£7,400) squares up against last year’s 31st-ranked run defence as a home favourite. Atlanta ranked 31st in Target Success Rate to running backs, too. He’s shaping up as chalk — and rightly so. No back hit three-times value in the sims more often than Cook.
– Kirk Cousins (£7,400) threw just 27.0 times per game after the coordinator change last season.
– Adam Thielen (£7,400) and Stefon Diggs (£7,200) both project for roughly eight targets and can still get their work if the Vikings do commit to the run. After the coaching change, Diggs saw 7, 6, and 10 targets. Thielen had two, six, and four. Each will be in my player pool this week.

Core Plays
Dalvin Cook, Julio Jones

Secondary Plays
Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Devonta Freeman

Sep 9, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) breaks a tackle by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Washington at Philadelphia

Washington Offence Notes
– With Case Keenum (£6,200) under centre, Washington has an implied total of just 17.75. There isn’t a whole lot here to latch onto while guessing how the new-look offence will operate while at a massive disadvantage in the trenches.
– Even with no skill position player above £6,000, this is one of the hardest-to-peg offences of Week 1 while almost assuredly playing from behind.

Philadelphia Offence Notes
– Zach Ertz (£7,100) faces last year’s sixth-ranked tight end defence. Against them, he averaged 44.0 air yards on 14 targets. He’s not a tight end to force in this week, though his status as a heavy home favourite is the checklist for DFS tight ends.
– Wentz targeted Alshon Jeffery (£6,700) on 18.7% of passes last year but now has deep threat DeSean Jackson (£5,600) to look to when airing it out, and his volatility checks out in the simulations to make him a tournament play. Game script is the biggest concern for the pass-game options, as volume isn’t guaranteed.
– Miles Sanders (£6,000) and Jordan Howard (£5,800) should ice this game if it goes according to plan, but the two-back situation makes them hard to trust in Week 1 with value elsewhere.

Core Plays
None

Tournament Plays
DeSean Jackson

NFL Football – Seattle Seahawks v Oakland Raiders – NFL International Series – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – October 14, 2018 Seattle Seahawks fan before the game Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

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Cincinnati at Seattle

Cincinnati Offence Notes
– No A.J. Green and a depleted offensive line really limits the Bengals’ offensive expectations here (their implied total is 17 points).
– Joe Mixon (£7,800) will be running behind an iffy line with a low implied team total, quelling his touchdown chances (0.13).
– Tyler Boyd (£6,900) is a double-digit target candidate in this script (he’s projected for 8.0), but the touchdown equity is quite bad. He’s a plus-one on a Seahawks stack after ranking third in opponent-adjusted Reception NEP per target last year among 100-plus target wideouts.

Seattle Offence Notes
– Seattle should throw more frequently this year than last, but Cincy doesn’t project to score enough to make the Seahawks turn to the pass.
– Russell Wilson (£8,200) faces last season’s 26th-ranked deep-ball pass defence after leading the league in efficiency on deep passes, but the game script sets up for him to fail to reach a high ceiling based on my sims.
– As a heavy home favourite, Chris Carson (£6,600) is in a proverbial smash spot after fending off Rashaad Penny (£5,900) this offseason. Carson is slated for the seventh-most carries of the week (16.1) against last year’s second-most-generous rush defence to running backs.

Core Plays
Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett

Tournament Plays
D.K. Metcalf (£5,500), Jaron Brown (£4,500) Will Dissly (£4,000)

Indianapolis at Los Angeles Chargers

Indianapolis Offence Notes
– Brissett mustered 6.6 yards per attempt and -0.04 Passing NEP per drop back (compared to the league average of 0.12) in 2017 when he started 15 games. LA ranked sixth in adjusted pass defence last season.
– No wideout over £7,000 projected for a boom game (three-times value) less often than T.Y. Hilton (£7,700), who didn’t get the fortune of a price discount. Hilton averaged 8.9 yards per target from Brissett in 2017, scoring 4 times on 102 targets.
– Eric Ebron (£5,900) and Jack Doyle (£5,400) figure to cannibalize each other and are up against last year’s second-best tight end defence while owning an implied total on the wrong side of 20. They, like Hilton, grade out as awful bets to have a ceiling.

LA Chargers Offence Notes
– We project about a 17-14 split in opportunities for Austin Ekeler (£6,400) and Justin Jackson (£5,900), with the differentiation in targets (4.7 for Ekeler and 1.8 for Jackson). Both are imminently playable in what should be positive game script.
– LA threw at the 11th-highest adjusted rate last year, and the pass game could go overlooked while we all target the running backs, though Philip Rivers (£7,500) doesn’t particularly stand out for DFS purposes.
– Keenan Allen (£7,700) will look to continue last year’s post-bye tear (16.5 points per game) and build on the 33.3% target share he had in that split. Indy ranked 20th against the pass last season.
– Mike Williams (£6,400) never once hit 100 yards last year and only surpassed 100 air yards in Week 3, but he ranks 10th in projected receiving touchdowns on the week (0.49).
– The Colts ranked 30th in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends last season, giving Hunter Henry (£6,100) a great comeback chance. He’s the best tight end play below £7,000 on the slate.

Core Plays
Hunter Henry

Secondary Plays
Justin Jackson, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams

Nov 11, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) kneels down in front of Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (90) in reaction to coming up short on a fourth down play during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants at Dallas

New York Offence Notes
– Saquon Barkley’s (£9,200) lone single-digit fantasy outing came without Beckham in Week 15 last year, a sample size too small for any real conclusions. Dallas did rank third against the rush last season, but he averaged 20.0 points per game in those, given his volume. He’s a top-three running back play.
– Sterling Shepard (£6,000) commanded 22.1% of the team’s targets and 38.8% of their air yards without Odell Beckham in the lineup and should be in the mix for double-digit targets, albeit on a low-quality offence, without Golden Tate. Still, no wideout hit four-times value as often as Shepard at his modest tag and high volume expectation.
– Evan Engram (£6,400) also saw a 22.1% target share with a lowly 5.5-yard average depth of target without Beckham. Dallas ranked 18th in Target Success Rate to tight ends last year, and Engram averaged 7.5 targets and 74.0 yards (on just 34.5 air yards) against them last year.

Dallas Offence Notes
– As a seven-point home favourite, Ezekiel Elliott (£9,100) has the preferred script to Barkley, but there are reports that he’ll play only 20 to 25 snaps. Via FantasyData, Elliott was utilized on 44.7% of his snaps last year. That’d put him in the 8- to 12-touch range if the snap cap is real.
– Dak Prescott (£7,500) was kept in check in Week 2 against the Giants last year (14.9 points, 0.07 Passing NEP per drop back) despite 45 rushing yards but blew up in Week 17 (33.5 Points, 0.47 Passing NEP per drop back) — though no rushing yards on 4 carries.
– Amari Cooper (£7,500) commanded 24.3% of the team’s targets and 32.9% of their air yards after the trade last season but turned 11 targets and 138 air yards in Week 17 into just 31 yards overall. It’s a buy-in spot here.
– Second-year wideout Michael Gallup (£5,600) most recently went for 119 yards in the playoffs against the Rams and boasted a strong 13.9-yard average depth of target last season, keeping him in play in tournament stacks.

Core Plays
Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard

Tournament Plays
Michael Gallup

Nov 11, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks to pass the ball against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit at Arizona

Detroit Offence Notes
– This is about as good a spot as it can get for Matthew Stafford (£6,600), who faces a secondary that ranked eighth in adjusted pass defence last season but is a completely different unit on the back-end while Patrick Peterson serves a suspension. He’s shaping up as my favourite ceiling play among passers below £7,000.
– Kenny Golladay (£6,900) led all wide receivers in air yards market share (56%) after the team cut ties with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones (£6,100) got hurt, starting in Week 10.
– Kerryon Johnson (£7,000) keeps popping in the simulations as a back with high ceiling probability for his price, and his receiving work against last year’s 31st-ranked defence out of the backfield should be stable after the team parted ways with Theo Riddick.

Arizona Offence Notes
– We’ll get our first glimpse of Kyler Murray (£7,300), our third-ranked quarterback value, after he posted 5.4 yards per attempt in the preseason. It’s a great spot to debut, as the Lions ranked 27th against the pass last season and still project as a bottom-half pass defence.
– The David Johnson (£8,100) bounce-back campaign begins this weekend, and he finds himself atop the second pricing tier of running backs. Volume carried him last year, and the overall play volume should be there again. He’s a borderline core play.
– The arrival of Kliff Kingsbury should do wonders for Christian Kirk (£6,000) and Larry Fitzgerald (£5,900), as Kirk only once surpassed 83 air yards (102 in Week 7) and Fitzgerald wasn’t much better downfield for his extra volume. The simulations like the ceiling for Kirk, relative to his price.

Core Plays
Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson

Tournament Plays
Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald

San Francisco at Tampa Bay

San Francisco Offence Notes
– In his most recent extended action in 2017, Jimmy Garoppolo (£7,200) led the NFL in Passing NEP per drop back and Passing Success Rate. The Bucs ranked 28th in adjusted pass defence last season and should be in the running for the bottom-five again. He’ll be the lower-owned passer in this matchup, which matters for tournament leverage.
– We simply can’t know how the running back snaps and opportunities are divided between Tevin Coleman (£6,300) and Matt Breida (£5,400), as Breida is actually listed as the starter. Simulating this one out suggests that Breida’s cheaper tag puts him in the better spot to outperform his salary, as he’s top-four at the position frequency of hitting four-times value.
– George Kittle (£7,300) pops as the best ceiling and floor play at tight end, even with his price tag being what it is. Tampa was 26th in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends last year.

Tampa Bay Offence Notes
– In 2018, Jameis Winston (£7,500) averaged an above-average 0.18 Passing NEP per drop back and 51.9% Passing Success Rate. The Niners were 29th in adjusted pass defence and lack the upgrades needed to fix that. He’s shaping up as an elite DFS play.
– Winston spread the ball around last year, giving Mike Evans (£7,900) 21.7% of his targets, Adam Humphries 20.9%, and Chris Godwin (£6,900) 15.9%. Humphries — and DeSean Jackson (9.5%) — is out of the picture.
– Tight ends Cameron Brate (£4,800) and O.J. Howard (£6,500) received 9.4% and 4.8% of the targets from Winston, respectively. Howard saw 18 targets from Winston last year.

Core Plays
Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, George Kittle

Tournament Plays
Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin

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What do you think?