Las Vegas betting odds and matchup data should be two of your primary starting points when ranking players or projecting players each week.
Las Vegas pours piles of money into making sure they make even larger piles of money by the time the final whistle blows Monday night. They’re projections are going to be closer to the real deal then virtually all of your favorite fantasy football prognosticators, many of whom use Vegas to form their predictions.
That’s why it’s important to start there. It’s also important to look at a substantial chunk of matchup data, which is why we rely on offense vs. defense totals from the previous season. Any outlier performances (a 3-TD Larry Donnell, for example) will destroy a data set with only four points.
We do factor in quite a bit of 2014 data — including touch distribution and yardage totals — but we start with the larger set because it’s more reliable.
Let’s get to the considerations:
1. Las Vegas has 12 of 15 home teams favored to win this week, including two in blowouts: New Orleans by 10.5 against Tampa Bay and Green Bay by 9 vs. Minnesota. When we see lopsided lines like that, we should consider Khiry Robinson and Eddie Lacy for those teams at home trying to control game tempo with the lead. Good teams don’t win because they run, they run because they have the lad. The quarterbacks faced with garbage time, Mike Glennon and Teddy Bridgewater, are options, but they’re both inexperienced and will battle hostile crowds likely amped up on points, winning and adult beverages.
2. The New York Giants are favored by 4.5 against the Falcons in the projected highest scoring game of the week. This one could end up like one of those crazy NCAA shootouts you see on Saturdays, or pretty much any weeknight on your PS4. The Falcons allow 8.6 yards per pass attempt and the Giants allow 8.3, the second- and third-highest averages in the NFL in 2014. Get your Victor Cruz and your Julio Jones in DFS lineups for MAX points.
3. The Colts and Ravens are slated for the fourth-highest scoring game of the week. The Colts are favored by 3.5, making it the closest predicted game out of the top 6 high-scoring games. Is this the week Torrey Smith finally breaks out of his slump or will Steve Smith Sr. continue his revival tour? Football Outsiders’ defenses against receiver types says the Colts are most susceptible to TEs, RBs and WR2s in that order, so Smith it is. Both Baltimore and Indianapolis allow 8.0 yards per pass attempt.
4. The Bills and Jets are projected to score 18.5 points in losses and the Buccaneers and Redskins are expected to score 18.75. Those are the lowest point totals this week, making Seattle, San Diego, Detroit and New Orleans top options on defense. From the Captain Obvious department, Washington, against Seattle, is projected to turn the ball over more than any team this week.
5. Another important strategy to consider is starting a home underdog quarterback in a high scoring game. I picked this one up from Jonathan Bales (@BalesFootball), one of the smartest fantasy football minds of our era. I don’t know if it was in one of his books or on thedctimes.com or at RotoGrinders, but the theory makes sense. A team trailing by a chunk of points at home doesn’t have to deal with crowd noise or stadium oddities, making them a prime candidate for garbage time or an upset win. The big home dog game this week is Jacksonville against Pittsburgh. The Steelers are favored by 6.5, but Blake Bortles has weapons and has revitalized the Jaguars a bit. I’ll have him and Allen Robinson paired together in a .25-cent arcade or two over at Draft Kings.
6. Vegas gets paid big bucks to be right about this season, so their projections should be our primary concern when it comes to points. But, let’s take a look at the 2013 matchups to see if we can spot some potential sleepers. New Orleans and Philadelphia are projected among the top-4 highest scoring teams this week. But their 2013 matchups don’t agree. Instead, Seattle, Dallas and Carolina are in the top 5.
7. The big sleeper in the passing yards department this week is Houston, which is projected to throw for 262.6 yards against Dallas, the fourth-highest total of the week. Ryan Fitzpatrick strikes fear in the hearts of few defensive backs, but the Cowboys just lost starting cornerback Morris Claiborne for the season and they weren’t exactly shutting people down when they had him. Fitzpatrick also has an outstanding WR tandem in DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson to throw to.
8. Minnesota is slated for a Top-4 rushing yardage performance and is expected to score the most rushing touchdowns. Yes, these numbers are based on 2013, when the Vikings had Adrian Peterson. But I think the committee of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon showed last week that they can put up gaudy numbers together, rushing or a combined 213 yards and three TDs. They face a Packers defense which has allowed 176 rushing yards per game, the most in the NFL by almost 20 yards per contest.
9. My offense vs. defense averages say Carolina will tally the most rushing yards this week and the fourth-most rushing TDs. Chicago is a wonderland for opposing offenses, allowing 4.7 yards per rush and 8.2 yards per pass attempt, the 8th-worst and 4th-worst totals respectively in the NFL. This could be a big game for Cam Newton, who isn’t afraid to run the ball and whose price has been depressed quite a bit at the daily sites. He’s currently the 15th-most expensive quarterback ($7,600) at FanDuel and 13th-highest ($7,200) at Draft Kings. It’s also a massive opportunity for just-signed Chris Ogbannaya, who could start this week. Ogbannaya, 28, has a 4.6 yards per carry average and has 96 receptions in five seasons. He’s no Matt Forte, but he’s no Donald Brown either. Unfortunately, Ogbannaya isn’t in the database yet at the daily sites.
10. My projections say Seattle is going to rush for top-5 yards and top-2 rushing TDs this week. That says Marshawn Lynch could be in for a monster game. However, the Redskins are allowing just 3.3 yards per carry in 2014. They held a fresh-legged Arian Foster to 103 yards and no touchdowns on 27 carries in Week 1, LeSean McCoy to 22 yards on 20 carries in Week 2 and Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams to a combined 121 and a touchdown on 28 carries last week. Those combined numbers for the Giants backs aren’t bad. The TD helps. Still, I have to believe Lynch’s ceiling is limited this week, which means he won’t be able to profit for you at $9,100 at FanDuel. He’s the most expensive back on the board. He’s sixth at Draft Kings ($7,200), making him a slightly better option there, especially as a safe play in 50/50 and heads up cash games.