1 October 2017
This is a weekly article focusing on DFS strategies for the Sunday and Monday night NFL games. Draft Kings scoring and pricing is referenced unless otherwise noted.
Week 4 Primetime Slate:
- Indianapolis Colts @ Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 8:30 ET on NBC)
- Washington Redskins @ Kansas City Chiefs (Monday, 8:30 ET on ESPN)
Week 4 Breakdown
The first quarter of the NFL seasons wraps up with two drastically different primetime games. On Sunday night, it’s easier to envision more of a low scoring battle, as both teams have key offensive players fighting the injury bug. The Monday night tilt should provide plenty of big plays as well as a higher game total.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings offer a variety of contests for this two game primetime slate, but there is one interesting change worth noting. DraftKings no longer includes the Sunday night game on their main slate, although FanDuel will continue to offer it. Primetime DFS is in no danger as two game primetime slates continue to be offered on both sites.
Colts @ Seahawks
Both teams come into this game with significant offensive injuries. The impact of these will directly affect how I adjust my exposure to players from both teams. Starting with the Colts, quarterback Andrew Luck remains out, exposing first year starter Jacoby Brissett to an extremely difficult road matchup in the home of the 12’s. Brissett performed admirably last week against Cleveland, but my take away from that game is exactly that. Brissett did well…against Cleveland…at home. A primetime visit to Seattle is quite the opposite of facing a soft Browns defense on your home turf.
The sole reason to deploy Brissett in a lineup would be if you desired to be as contrarian as possible, as you are sure to get the former Patriot at low ownership. This strategy is about as risky as they come, and far from optimal. Brissett will be asked to throw a decent amount as it is highly unlikely that the Colts maintain any sort of lead in this game. T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle are on my radar, but I really do not have much interest at all in this Colts’ offense. In a short two game slate, it is extremely risky to rule out a team entirely, but the Colts’ are bad enough without Andrew Luck to almost justify this approach.
However, at only 5800, T.Y. Hilton shouldn’t be ignored, even though it really is tempting to fade the entire Colts’ team in this game. Hilton’s speed is elite enough to get behind any defense, no matter how talented they are.
The run game for Indianapolis is just downright putrid, as I want no part of Frank Gore. I feel like it is necessary to say how much I respect Gore and the career he has had, but his days of fantasy relevance are far behind him. With a negative game script doing nothing to help his cause, I am confidently leaving Gore out of my roster construction process.
The home favorite Seahawks are led by dual-threat QB Russell Wilson, who should be able to dissect this Colts’ defense with relative ease. Flanking Wilson in the Seattle backfield will be rookie Chris Carson, who has emerged as the feature back, in what was just recently a very cloudy situation. Fellow running backs Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy will rotate in here and there, but both have surprisingly been demoted to lesser roles than Carson.
On the injury front for the Seahawks, passing down back C.J. Prosise is extremely doubtful to suit up, leaving Carson to handle even larger of a role than previously thought. The setup for Carson continues to get sweeter, as he was already in position to smash before the Prosise injury news came out. It is a bit puzzling that Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll refuses to play more of a committee in the backfield, which is an approach he has had success with both in college and in the pros. Ideally, said committee would feature Prosise and one of the power backs working in tandem to offset each other’s skill sets. With Prosise likely missing this game, the likelihood for Carson to get twenty touches or so increases. Carson is an excellent play and I will be looking to fit him into nearly all of my lineups. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him end up with a Dalvin Cook type of stat line as game script could push Carson north of 25 carries and/or 20 fantasy points.
Russell Wilson’s favorite target, wide receiver Doug Baldwin is battling an injury of his own as a hamstring issue may force him to miss the game or be very limited. With Baldwin and Prosise being limited and/or unavailable, their regularly allocated targets naturally have to be spread out elsewhere. Wide receivers Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson make fantastic tournament targets, as the Seahawks almost assuredly won’t count on the hampered Baldwin to play a big offensive role—if he even suits up. I am also predicting an emphasis on running the football, as the Hawks will want to pound the Colts and work the clock. Tight end Jimmy Graham may be an even bigger beneficiary then any of the other pass catchers mentioned as his reputation precedes him. Graham has yet to have a big breakout game this year, but this is as good a spot as any with the 6’7” tight end coming off an 11 target game.
Colts cornerback Vontae Davis is making his season debut, coming back from an injury. I don’t expect him to be at his best, but he is capable of limiting Paul Richardson, who he is most likely to be matched up against. For those looking for a reason to play Baldwin despite the nagging injury, think of where he lines up. As someone that predominantly works out of the slot, Baldwin will be running the majority of his routes in the softest part of an already soft defense. Tyler Lockett suffered an injury towards the end of last season, leading to Pete Carroll bringing him along slowly this year from a snap count perspective. The training wheels seem to be off now, and Lockett may have lucked into a sneaky good matchup against a very beatable secondary. Lockett is the type of player that can turn one play into 15 points in the blink of an eye, and he gets the added bonus of the potential for a kick or punt return touchdown, should Carroll elect to leave him in for that.
I expect this game to stick to script as we should see the Seahawks maintain a lead for most of the game. Seattle will look to control the clock with Chris Carson, and they offer GPP stud potential with their pass catchers. The Colts for me seem to be T.Y. Hilton or bust, although on a two-game slate, it is important to remember there is always merit in considering the off the board plays.
Redskins @ Chiefs
Kansas City Offense
Kansas City is now the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL, after the Falcons lost at home to the Bills on Sunday afternoon. The Chiefs typically excel at Arrowhead Stadium, and they will look to continue that trend against a Redskins team that is playing in primetime for the second week in a row. Washington defeated the Raiders last Sunday night in convincing fashion, with QB Kirk Cousins and RB Chris Thompson leading the way.
The Chiefs’ are surprisingly easy to break down in terms of where their usage comes from. Quarterback Alex Smith heavily favors tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the passing game, with rookie stud Kareem Hunt leading the way on the ground. For Kansas City, anybody outside of these players remains strictly a GPP play, as their usage is far from guaranteed.
On a short slate, this is a concept we often refer to, as someone like Chris Conley or Albert Wilson offer immense risk/reward potential if inserted into your lineup. Both of these receivers are just as likely to score 15 as they are to deliver a goose egg. They are the type of players I would never, ever consider on a full slate, but on a two-game slate, again…it pays to be creative, and it pays to be contrarian. I might dabble a bit with Wilson and Conley, but it is by no means a strategy I am looking forward to using. I remain heavily focused on the aforementioned Hunt, Hill, and Kelce. Individual matchups against Redskin defenders will lead us to the best situations to take advantage of. After getting off to a record setting start to his career, Kareem Hunt’s ownership will be insanely high, possibly as high as 90% in some tournaments. Just based on this alone, he makes for an intriguing fade, on the off chance he goes down with an injury of unexpectedly has his floor game that we have not yet seen. This is a very risky strategy to deploy and cannot be confidently recommended. Common sense and basically every imaginable factor tell us to play Hunt; fade him solely at your own risk to be contrarian.
In the Washington secondary, shutdown cornerback Josh Norman is extremely unlikely to shadow Tyreek Hill. Last week, I broke down how the Redskins normally like to position Norman within their defense, and how that affects their opponent. It is worth noting that Hill’s elite speed and play-making ability make him a fantastic play regardless of if he sees Norman in coverage or not. I am hoping that the general public shies away from Ty-freak in this spot, and doesn’t dig deep enough to realize that Norman won’t be able to slow him down. The second-year player gets his hands on the ball in a variety of ways, so a huge monster game is always within the realm of possibility. Hill has rare game changing explosiveness; the dynamic speedster can crush the game plan of any opponent with one swift cut up field as he takes it to this house.
Travis Kelce appears to be the best tight end on this slate, and I will try my best to fit him in my lineups. Lineups without Kelce will likely leave me biting my nails for the entire contest, something I would rather avoid. Kelce has additional factors in his favor as well, starting with Washington struggling to defend the tight end position throughout the first few weeks of the season. I always like to target stud players who consistently perform at a high level in games after they haven’t put up their usual outstanding numbers. Last week against the Chargers, Kelce was limited to all ones: one target, one catch, and one yard. With such a horrible performance last week and a favorable matchup this week, you can take it to the bank that the star tight end will bounce back in a big way and not recreate his dud of a performance from week 3. We have already seen Kelce’s outstanding ceiling this year, as he hit 27.3 points in week 2 in the Chiefs’ only home game to date. Travis Kelce is somebody I am strongly considering locking into all of my lineups on this primetime slate.
A great way to take advantage of the Chiefs offense in this spot is to use an onslaught featuring a combination or all of: Smith, Hunt, Hill, and Kelce. You may very well see that type of lineup in first place when the primetime slate concludes.
Redskins’ QB Kirk Cousins has little chance to repeat his huge performance from last week as he leads his team away from Fed Ex Field and into Arrowhead. Cousins will be forced to work with a banged offensive unit around him as availability questions surround tight end Jordan Reed, running back Rob Kelley, and slot receiver Jamison Crowder.
With Crowder limited, and Cousins struggling get on the same page as new receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., it will be intriguing to see how the passing game plays out for Head Coach Jay Gruden and company. In last week’s article, I discussed what potential impact we could expect from Washington in the event that Kelley and/or Reed were limited or forced to miss the contest. The most obvious beneficiary is breakout player of the year candidate Chris Thompson, who is currently doing his best Darren Sproles impersonation. Thompson doesn’t usually run between the tackles, but he more than makes up for that with his elusiveness, receiving capability, and the big play upside that he offers. We saw last week that he is the type of player that can make or break your teams on a short slate, as Thompson erupted for over 30 points. If you read last week’s article, you knew to deploy him as he was in an excellent spot to excel.
Thompson is the Washington player that I want the most exposure to in this game, as Samaje Perine or Rob Kelley doesn’t really excite me, regardless of who is or isn’t healthy. There is definitely merit to playing them, but it may be something I personally try to avoid, as I just hope it doesn’t burn me. I expect the Redskins to throw the ball more than run it in this game, leading me to like Thompson the most out of their backfield options.
Due to the limited or non-existent presence of Crowder and Reed, the other areas of the Washington aerial assault need to be taken into consideration. Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, and Vernon Davis are all tournament plays that could very well pay off their cheap salaries and provide a unique way to differentiate your lineups. I view these players in the same way that I view the Chiefs’ secondary options such as Wilson and Conley. An especially unique pairing would be combining Davis and Travis Kelce to go with the seldom used double tight end approach, with one of them occupying the flex position in your lineup. I won’t be going out of my way to use pass catchers in this spot, but with limited options on this slate, I will certainly have exposure. How much exposure remains to be seen as I prefer to use Chiefs much more.
#PlugPlayers & Wrap-Up
In conclusion, I believe this slate yields the most exciting fantasy plays from the Monday night game and I certainly would not be afraid to go heavier on your exposure there, rather than the Sunday night game. Remember to always trust your research and most importantly, trust your gut. We wrap up week 4 with the featured segment of this article, #PlugPlayers of the week:
- Chris Carson, 5900
- Travis Kelce, 6600
- Tyreek Hill, 7500
- Chris Thompson, 5700
Kareem Hunt is likely primed for another huge game and his ownership should reflect that as well. With a price tag of 9400, DraftKings is begging people to fade him. Ask yourself if you want to take a big risk and separate yourself from the field, knowing it could backfire…or if you would rather play it safe and take the scorching hot Hunt, knowing it will restrict your lineup construction options significantly. The theory behind each idea is interesting, and taking a firm stance could lead to a significant payday on this primetime slate.
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