When our National Football League (NFL) experts have important information or updates on individual players, injuries, match-ups, positions, or other specific aspects of a sport, they share it in a Spotlight. These articles provide in-depth analysis on how to reveal hidden value in the world of daily fantasy sports. This is where you will find key advantages that can launch your lineups to the top of your contests.
It’s the Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs and we have a fun slate on PlayLine with four of the top wide receivers in action this weekend. This spotlight will help you decide how many yards you want to project for each of the following four receivers: Antonio Brown, Brandin Cooks, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas. On paper, most of these guys have bad matchups, but the beauty of PlayLine is that you aren’t stuck rostering a couple of them and just hoping for the best. If you don’t like any of them you can just project them for low yardage totals. If you’ve never played on PlayLine and this isn’t sounding familiar to you, click here to go straight to the site and sign up. They have tons of free games so you can make a lot of money without ever risking anything. Without further ado, let’s begin with a discussion about Antonio Brown.
Buffalo ran 63.8 offensive plays per game in 2017, but ran 77 offensive plays against the Jaguars last week in the Wild Card game. Pittsburgh ran 69.9 plays per game at home in 2017 (which would be first in the NFL overall), and ran 80 offensive plays against the Jaguars in Week 5. Antonio Brown saw an incredible 19 targets and finished with 10 receptions for 157 yards. While he didn’t score a touchdown, you’d expect that with that kind of volume he would have a decent shot to score. Brown had 21 red zone targets this year which isn’t a ton, but he also has potential to score long touchdowns from outside the red zone. All in all a projection of around 100 yards and a touchdown makes sense for Brown. His 157 yard total in Week 5 is inflated by how many consecutive offensive plays the Steelers ran in the third quarter. That probably tired out the defense and caused Brown to rip off some chunk yardage. That being said, Brown is one the most cornerback independent receivers in the last decade. In some ways, it’s a good matchup for Brown because of how bad the matchups are for his teammates. He’s the only guy capable of getting open in coverage this difficult. Ben has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at home throughout the last decade, and he should be forcing the ball to Brown the entire game whenever he drops back to throw. Hope that others project Brown for a below average game against Ramsey and Bouye while you project him for a solid outing.
The next receiver to consider on this slate is Brandin Cooks. Cooks has been a pretty predictable this season, and with an average-to-below-average matchup against Adoree Jackson this week, it doesn’t seem like it will be hard to get some points from Cooks’ receiving yard totals. You only have to be within 30 points, and we expect Cooks to finish around 50-90 yards. It’s not hard to project him for a total that will get you some points anywhere in that range, and that’s what we would recommend. Projecting Cooks for one or zero touchdowns is basically a toss-up. He scored 7 on the season and the Patriots are projected for over 30 points, so combined that makes it almost a 50/50 proposition whether he’ll score or not. Since it’s possible he scores two, you have the most downside protection by projecting one touchdown and ensuring at least a 25 point bonus. You also have the most upside as you’ll get 6 extra points if you’re right with one touchdown than if you’re right with zero touchdowns. No matter how you slice it, there’s no right answer here.
Next up we have Julio Jones. Projected for the highest ownership in salary-style DFS games, Jones is someone who will likely be projected for big numbers by the masses. This is an area where you could go contrarian and bank on solid performances from Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. Neither of these cornerbacks are as bad as they’re made out to be. In fact, Darby has been one of the league’s best CBs outside of press coverage. If Julio catches a bunch of short passes, it probably won’t lead to a massive yardage total. Many people will be projecting him over 100 yards, but we will probably be looking to project him closer to the 50-100 yard range. That’s a pretty wide range, but Julio is a pretty volatile player. Ryan will likely look to feed him the ball, so projecting him any lower than 50 is probably a bad idea no matter how well Mills and Darby play. As for the touchdown projection, people are excited about Julio catching one last week due to his increased red zone involvement. He’s definitely capable of scoring, but he only scored in two games this season. Predicting him for 0 while most people project him to score could be a great contrarian move.
Lastly, we need to make a projection for Michael Thomas. While he’s averaged 80.9 receiving yards per game this year, we don’t think he’ll come close to that this week. His matchup with Xavier Rhodes is terrible, and in Week 1 he was held to just 45 yards. We think projecting him between 30-60 is the right move this week. Rhodes has held so many elite receivers to low yardage totals this year, so Thomas has very little upside. Projecting him for zero touchdowns is also a smart move here.
Good luck and have fun watching the divisional round games!
It looks like an ugly week for weather on the gridiron. We have several spots that could deal with some adverse conditions. Here are the games we are looking at for potential impacts. Be sure to check back in on Sunday morning for another update, and be sure to check the NFL War Room on DFI University for more on how we recommend dealing with these weather changes.
OAK @ BUF – 1:00 pm ET: Rain is likely for the morning in Buffalo, with a few showers lingering for the afternoon and during the game. We aren’t expecting heavy downpours, just some light/moderate rain. Winds will stay below 10 mph.
LAC @ NE – 1:00 pm ET: This will be another rainy game, but it looks like the heavier stuff will wait until after this one is over. We could have some breeze pick up by the end of the game, but wind impacts should remain minimal for most of the game.
ATL @ NYJ – 1:00 pm ET: We do expect some heavier downpours in the game in the Meadowlands. Winds will also be a little breezy, but nothing out of control. We think the rain could be a factor at times during this one and we should taper expectations from the passing options.
SF @ PHI – 1:00 pm ET: Another game along the east coast that has solid rain chances, with some heavier rain possible. We think this game will have about the same rain impacts as the game in New Jersey.
CAR @ TB – 1:00 pm ET: Rain isn’t a problem, but wind could be. We expect winds to pick up during the afternoon and blow around 15-20 mph. We will also have higher gusts during the game, so kicking will be an issue, and so will passing to some degree. For reference, we don’t think passing games are total avoid situations unless winds are expected to be 25-30 mph for most of the game, which won’t be the case here.
DAL @ WAS – 4:25 pm ET: Once again, rain is the main issue here. The heaviest rain looks to move in during the afternoon hours, during the first few quarters. However, the rain should taper off by later in the game. Winds will be a bit breezy but nothing prohibitive to the passing/kicking game.
Last week, this spotlight article covered quarterbacks, and I think that was the most fun and the most helpful position for me to write about. It allowed me to analyze four different offenses and which players were in good spots. I also think it’s one of the most skill-based positions to predict because it’s all about yardage. Without touchdowns as a factor, you don’t get burned if the team chooses to run at the goal line. You just need the quarterback to move the ball through the air about as effectively as you predicted. If you don’t have the contest open, click here to open PlayLine in a new tab and then click on the first contest in the lobby called: $1,000,000 Perfect Line Bonus + $250 GTD – WK6 1PM Featured QBs.
This contest pays out the top 201 finishers only, but you can submit up to 15 entries for free. With that in mind, you want to change each of your entries a bit to give yourself the best chance to make some money. However, you’ll need a starting point for where you should be aiming to project each quarterback. The rest of this article will help you with that.
First up we have Tom Brady, who many people are talking down on this week saying that the Patriots will just grind out this game with their running backs. The Patriots could easily rush for 100 yards while still throwing for over 300. The Jets have one of the worst defenses in the league and it’s a miracle that they are tied for first in the same division the Patriots are in. Their winning ways absolutely shouldn’t continue this week, and we’re expecting a good game out of TB12. The Jets usually get little to no pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback, and Brady’s 109.6 passer rating in a clean pocket should allow him to dissect the Jets’ pass coverage. Let other people overhype the narrative that the Patriots will dominate this game on the ground, and project Brady for around 300 yards.
Next, we’ll discuss Aaron Rodgers, who will travel to Minnesota to face a strong Vikings defense. Many people will focus on the latter part of that sentence and project Rodgers for a bad game. But we’re thinking more about the former part: Aaron Rodgers. This isn’t a guy who frequently throws for low yardage totals. In fact, when he does, there’s one specific factor that often occurs simultaneously. Ty Montgomery not playing. In the last two seasons, in games where Ty Montgomery starts, Rodgers has thrown for the following yardage totals: 294, 326, 246, 297, 371, 351, 313, 209, 246, 258, 347, 300, 362, 355, 287, 311, 343, 313. In games that Montgomery doesn’t start, Rodgers has thrown for the following yardage totals: 199, 213, 205, 259, 179, 221 (one of these games includes a Montgomery first quarter injury). The correlation between Montgomery playing and Rodgers throwing for a high yardage total is pretty ridiculous. With Montgomery likely returning this week, we’re expecting a solid boost for Rodgers that most DFS players aren’t considering at all. Add in the fact that Trae Waynes is exploitable on the outside and you’ve got yourself a pretty good situation for Rodgers even though most people will think this is a matchup they have to avoid. Project him for around 275-300 yards and let the crowd project him too low. If you think about the game theory, this projection really works in your favor. The key with PlayLine is to not be way off. You need to have your projections be pretty close as anything within 45 yards will score you points. It’s not likely that Rodgers will go well under 250 yards. If you project him for 280 and he throws for 250, you’re fine. You would not be fine, however, if he hit his high end and threw for 350 yards, but you projected him for 240. So not only do we think he’ll reach the 275-300 threshold, it makes a lot more sense to shoot high with Rodgers anytime you’re projecting his yardage on PlayLine.
Next up we have Matt Ryan, and this is a game in which I think you want to aim lower than usual for Matty Ice. For one thing, he’s really underperforming this season through the air when you consider that he AVERAGED 309 passing yards per game last year, and we’re now heading into Week 6 and he only surpassed that one time because of a ridiculous 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper on a broken play. The Falcons do have a strength in their offense this year though, and that’s the run game. Freeman and Coleman have both been terrific this season, mainly because the run blocking has been downright exceptional. In my opinion, there’s no question that the Falcons have the best run blocking unit right now, and with a large spread in their favor at home against the Dolphins, it doesn’t make sense to expect a big game out of Matt Ryan. We think a projection around 230-260 gives you a great chance to be spot on.
The last quarterback we must make a prediction for on this slate is a tough one. Drew Brees has a matchup that a lot of people seem to think is better than it really is. It’s an above average matchup sure, but it’s not the absolute best. However, it’s Drew Brees and the Saints at home coming off a bye week, so projecting him for a low total seems like a terrible idea. Without a lot to really examine about this matchup specifically (all the individual matchups are slightly above average), we just have to use game theory to give ourselves the best chance to pick up points within the wide range that represents Drew Brees’ potential outcomes. He’s already put up a low of 220 yards and a high of 356 this year, and if we want to be sure we get something for this projection (remember that within 45 yards is the farthest away you can get while still scoring points), we should go with a range of 275-325. Anywhere in there is a pretty safe bet to get you something. If you really think he’ll go off, you can put 325 and still be covered all the way up to 370. If you don’t love him this week, you can go 275 and be covered all the way down to 230. I think that range gives you the most flexibility. Since you get 15 free entries into this contest, consider varying your projections for Brees across your entries.
I hope you’re enjoying these spotlight articles and I wish you the best of luck taking down the QB contest this week!
Last week’s running back breakdown for the PlayLine contest was a big hit, so I’ve decided to bring it back. However, this week I’m going to focus on the 1 PM Featured Quarterbacks as this contest really intrigues me. If you didn’t read last week’s article and don’t know what PlayLine is, open PlayLine.com now and make an account. Then click on the free contest titled 1 PM Featured Quarterbacks. You only have to choose the passing yards for four different quarterbacks, meaning that if you nail four stats, you win a million dollars. Is it likely? No. But is it easier than picking eight stats with perfect accuracy? It seems like it.
Even if you don’t pick the stats perfectly, you can still win some good money by making close predictions. You’ve probably heard the phrase “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” That phrase was obviously created before PlayLine, because getting close absolutely counts in these contests. Here’s a look at the scoring for quarterbacks:
All that matters for this contest is the passing yards. The perfect score would be 1200 worth of bonuses plus .04 for every yard. Keep in mind that you’ll earn a point for every 25 yards up until they reach your prediction, so going over by ten yards is better than going under by ten yards.
Here’s a look at the payouts in this particular contest:
Since it’s free to join and you can enter 15 times, you could take the approach of spreading out your projections to ensure that at least one of your entries cashes. Personally, I like to go for it all, and I’ll probably make my entries pretty similar to each other in order to give myself a chance at taking all the top spots. Here’s what you should consider for each of the four quarterbacks as you set your projections:
First up, we have Ben Roethlisberger. This is a game in which everyone expects Le’Veon Bell to run wild. In last week’s spotlight, I predicted Bell’s breakout performance against the Ravens, and I think he’s very likely to keep it rolling this week against Jacksonville. Furthering that narrative, the Steelers are ten point favorites which lends itself to a run-heavy game script, and the Jaguars have Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye to cover Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant on the outside. JuJu Smith-Schuster has the best matchup with Aaron Colvin, but just because he’s their worst cornerback doesn’t mean that JuJu is going to beat him consistently. All in all, the Steelers should have a run-first game plan. I would recommend projecting Big Ben somewhere between 200-250 yards. If you wanted to get contrarian you could dip down into the 175-200 range, but I think anywhere lower than that is pushing it given that the Steelers rarely display an unwillingness to throw the ball even when it doesn’t make any sense to do so.
Next up we have Carson Wentz against the Arizona Cardinals. The Eagles have looked quite good this year while the Cardinals have looked…not good. The Eagles have one of the top pass blocking units in the NFL and the Cardinals are one of the worst teams at rushing the passer. Wentz could be in for a big day as he should have plenty of time to throw the football, although it’s worth noting that his stats aren’t all that impressive with a clean pocket so it’s not as big of an advantage for him as it would be for other quarterbacks. While Zach Ertz finally doesn’t have a good matchup (facing Tyvon Branch), Nelson Agholor has a great matchup in the slot. Agholor played his highest snap percentage in Week 4 (over 77%) which bodes well for his involvement in Week 5. Wentz has been good at identifying the vulnerable spots in the defense, and we expect him to have a solid day against this Cardinals secondary. Wentz has been averaging 264.5 yards per game this year, and we think it would be wise to put your projection in that range. This is a good but not great matchup overall, so consider projecting Wentz in the 240-280 range.
Now we’ll move on to the third quarterback in the contest, Matthew Stafford. The Panthers have yet to face a slot receiver as talented as Golden Tate this year, and I’m intrigued to see if Captain Munnerlyn can cover him. So far none of the Panthers corners have done a great job in coverage, but they’ve yet to be put on the public’s radar as one of the best teams to target in the passing game. This could be a very big week for Frat Stafford and the boys, and a Stafford/Tate pairing looks good for salary format DFS contests. For PlayLine, I think it would be wise to project Stafford over 300 yards and hope that he and Wentz can carry you on the high end of your projections and win you some money in your contests. I’ll probably have him between 325-350 yards.
Lastly, we need to make a projection for Philip Rivers against the Giants. Both of these teams are complete disasters, with combined records of 0-8 and nobody in Los Angeles caring about the Chargers at all. I’m from Los Angeles and I see Rams content on Facebook all the time. Nobody I know cares about the Chargers at all, which is what led to the Eagles’ players saying it was nice to have a 9th home game last week as the only fans who showed up to the game were theirs. It also leads to funny headlines like “Madden 17 glitch puts fans in the seats for Chargers home games.” All kidding aside, the Giants defense is probably one of the best defenses on any 0-4 team in history. Coming into the season expectations were sky high, and they really haven’t looked all that bad. That being said, how good is any defense on an 0-4 team? Rivers has a nice yards per game average this year (276.8), but he’s been far from consistent. He’s had two very impressive yardage totals (347 & 331) and two unimpressive yardage totals (237 & 192). The important thing to note about the unimpressive totals is that he was facing the Chiefs and the Broncos. It stands to reason that the range of outcomes for Rivers could be all over the place. Neither team on the field plays consistent football, so it’s very hard to gauge what you’ll get from him. If you’re playing multiple entries, it makes the most sense to spread out your projections on Rivers more than anyone else. If you could only put him in one range, I’d lean toward the upper range and hope that Keenan Allen can get the best of Giants slot corner DRC and that Rivers can attack Eli Apple as much as possible. Putting Rivers between 250-300 yards seems appropriate for this matchup, but don’t be surprised if he puts up a total stinker or an amazing 400 yard game. This is the toughest guy to predict in this contest.
Good luck this week and as usual, please let me know if you have any feedback on these articles or anything else that we’re doing at DFI. Our goal is to make your DFS experience as enjoyable as possible, so if there’s something we’re doing that isn’t helping us achieve that goal, we’d really appreciate you letting us know. Enjoy Week 5!
On Saturday afternoon, I ran a one hour Twitter poll asking my followers what I should write about in this spotlight. You voted for running backs, but it was an extremely close vote with 39% RBs, 35% WRs, and 26% QBs. Quarterback was below 10% until Riddick Bowe started telling people he would beat their ass if they didn’t vote for quarterback. Riddick, I’m sorry quarterback didn’t win. You are welcome to DM me for quarterback advice if you promise not to beat up any of my followers.
If you’re wondering what PlayLine is, it’s a DFS site that asks you to predict exact stat lines for players. You earn bonuses based on how close your predictions are to their real stats. I’ve found it to be quite a fun sweat, as the live scoring shows you a meter of where their current stats are and what you predicted. If you predict Le’Veon Bell for 75 yards and he’s at 68 in the 3rd quarter, you suddenly find yourself rooting against him so he doesn’t go way over and bust your prediction. Speaking of Bell, I’m giving away his signed jersey on Twitter right here so make sure you retweet that before the Steelers game ends on Sunday.
One of the most fun aspects of PlayLine right now is that it’s free to play, and if you guess all the stat lines correctly in any given contest, you win a million dollars. Last week, someone was about four or five yards away on a couple wide receivers. I can only imagine how intense it was to watch the end of those games for that person.
If you already have an account, I recommend opening the contest called Week 4 1PM/4PM Featured RBs. If you don’t have an account yet, click here to open the page in a new tab.
Once you open the Week 4 Featured RBs contest, it should look like this:
Back to the contest. The scoring is available where it says PlayLine Rules & Scoring, but to make sure we’re all on the same page I’m going to post it right here:
As you can see, you gain the most points if your yardage projection is close. This is a good scoring system because when touchdowns are overvalued (looking at you FanDuel) then luck plays a much larger factor.
The last thing we should consider before making our picks is the breakdown of the payouts. We know we’d like to be spot on and win a million dollars, but we also know how math works and we’re probably not going to accomplish that. So here’s the money we actually have a good chance to bring in:
As you can see, it’s pretty front-loaded. This gives us a justifiable reason to make some bold calls in pursuit of first place. It’s also completely free to enter these contests and there are a bunch of them in the lobby, so if you submit contrarian PlayLines into every contest you’ve got a decent shot to win some free money.
Now that we understand how this works, we can start making the picks. If you already knew everything I just told you, thanks for your patience as I brought the noobs up to speed. It’s a great time in DFS to be taking advantage of the newer sites while DraftKings and FanDuel raise the rake to record highs, so I just want to make sure none of my followers miss out.
Leading off our running back discussion will be Le’Veon Bell. Season-long fantasy players can’t be happy with their first two picks so far. In all likelihood, they have Bell or David Johnson, and neither guy has been worth their draft spot so far. That being said, I expect Bell to be just fine. His issue thus far seems to be more about the game flow rather than a sudden decrease in his abilities. For starters, the Steelers only have one running play inside the 5-yard-line this season. They converted it for Bell’s only touchdown. For whatever reason, the Steelers aren’t getting inside the 5 this year, severely limiting Bell’s opportunities to score touchdowns. On the bright side, only Kareem Hunt is receiving a higher percentage of his team’s carries in the red zone, which means Bell is due to regress positively. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to project him for one or two touchdowns on your PlayLine. Two would obviously be more contrarian and give you more upside, but if he got zero, you wouldn’t even get the 25 points for being one away. Picking one gives you the most safety for touchdowns because you’ll get some points for zero or two, and of course you’re spot on if he gets one. You’ll find this theme to be pervasive throughout the touchdown projections, meaning that I think one touchdown is often the right projection, especially when PlayLine eventually offers paid cash games.
For Bell’s yardage, we don’t think there’s a team out there that can overpower the Steelers’ offensive line in the trenches. They’ve been getting Bell 2.27 yards before contact this year, which is quite good. The Ravens’ run defense is pretty average on paper. The Steelers have a well above average ground game, which means Bell should have a solid outing. While his yardage totals haven’t blown anybody away this season, I think he’s due for some positive regression. I recommend projecting his yardage total somewhere between 80-120. His season average is around 60, so we’re high on him relative to what he’s done so far.
Moving on to Melvin Gordon, this is the toughest one to project. On one hand, his 66% snap percentage isn’t very impressive for an upper tier running back. On the other hand, he touches the ball over 45% of the time when he’s on the field. He gets all of the goal line work, which drastically increases his value for fantasy owners, but for PlayLine we’re just in the business of making the right projection. We aren’t deciding if he’s worth playing or not, we’re deciding how much production we should expect out of him. As we discussed before with Bell, one touchdown is probably the correct choice here. Although the Eagles have been hurt my running backs this year, we think their run defense is much better than the Chargers’ run blocking. Gordon offers value to fantasy owners by catching a lot of passes, as shown by his 12 receptions in the first two games. His elite overall fantasy numbers probably mean that not many people will be willing to give him a projection below 50 rushing yards, but we think it’s not a bad idea. You could project him anywhere from 30-70, but the lower you are willing to go the more you will separate yourself. It’s very important to understand that Gordon can be a strong play in fantasy football where total points are all that matters, but it could still be a smart move to project him for a mediocre day in terms of rushing yards.
The next guy to analyze is CJ Anderson. This is a pretty average matchup for him, but with Trevor Siemian and the Broncos’ receivers in a great matchup through the air, we don’t expect a monster game from Anderson. Project him for about 30-60 yards and you’ll probably be fine. We also think Anderson is the guy you want to project for zero touchdowns in this contest. He’s been receiving 2.3 carries per game inside the 5 yard line, which is crazy high, and he’s only converting 14% for touchdowns, which is crazy low. Look for Siemian to take advantage of the weak Oakland secondary, which will probably limit CJ Anderson’s overall stat line.
The last running back in this contest is Todd Gurley. Gurley could have a very solid day if the Rams can keep the score close. The crowd seems to be thinking the Cowboys will crush the Rams and therefore they’ll be throwing a lot, but I think the Rams can hang in there. This is where I plan to go contrarian on the high end and project Gurley for 80-120 yards just like Bell. I think the Rams’ offensive line will create plenty of holes for Gurley against the Cowboys’ front seven, and if they can stay in the game or even grab an early lead, they should be leaning on the ground game. Project Gurley for one or even two touchdowns if you want to go contrarian.
I hope you liked this breakdown and if the feedback is good I’ll try to do one of these each week for the position you guys most want me to cover. I think PlayLine has a fun concept and obviously the fact that it’s free makes it even more fun. I’ll keep my eye out for other new DFS sites as I feel like there are so many good ones popping up and I’ve been told by a lot of my followers that they’re really enjoying FantasyDraft since I wrote that article explaining why I started playing on there. Feel free to DM me if you play on any site that everyone doesn’t already know about. Have fun watching the games this weekend and make sure you join me in the DFS Week 4 War Room on DFIUniversity.com to talk more about the slate and get my favorite bets for the games this weekend.