DFS Trends and Tips: Week 8 Review
As the NFL season progresses, statistical trends start to develop among teams and players. These trends are often translatable into the world of DFS, as picking up on the right things can give you an edge in lineup construction. In week 8, there were several relevant and notable developments that stood out.
Texans @ Seahawks
Quarterback Russell Wilson has shown he often plays better in front of the 12th man. Wilson often starts the season off somewhat slowly, before rapidly improving as the season progresses. Heading into week 8, Wilson was a must play for me versus the Texans. In addition to the boost from the home crowd, Wilson faced a better matchup than most people realized. The Texans typically boast a strong defense, but are extremely banged up as of late. After losing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season, the Houston pass rush hasn’t been as formidable as it was to start the year. The Texans are also missing linebacker Brian Cushing and no longer have stud cornerback AJ Bouye this season. When many DFS players see “vs HOU” they tend to have a subconscious bias, remembering how good the Texans defense has been previously, instead of analyzing how good they are now. Because of this, too many people scrolled right past Wilson’s name in week 8. With an advantage in personnel, and lower ownership than deserved (11.1% in the DraftKings Milly Maker), the deck was stacked in Russell Wilson’s favor in week 8.
Tyler Lockett is another player who elevates his level of play as the season goes on. Coming off a significant injury, the Seahawks wanted to bring Lockett along slowly as he worked his way back to 100%. As mentioned, the Houston secondary isn’t nearly as formidable as it once was, meaning Lockett was stepping into a great matchup. Houston was coming off a bye week where they had two weeks to prepare and scheme for Seattle’s offense. It is highly likely they focused more of their energy and game plan around Seahawks star wide receiver Doug Baldwin. With the attention shifted away from Lockett, the speedster was able to capitalize to the tune of 6 catches for 121 yards.
The takeaway here is these performances can be used to strategize player selections for week 9. We want to find the talented players with a good opportunity and matchup, that others are quick to write off because they haven’t had a strong game recently. Lockett’s talent, speed, and playmaking ability are undeniable; he is one of the NFL’s best kept secrets. Dismissing him as a good DFS play based on his recent game logs doesn’t make much sense at all. As mentioned, the Seahawks were looking to get him more and more involved as the season went on. Coming home, and in a spot where Doug Baldwin was going to be the center of the defense’s attention, now was as good a time as ever for Lockett to break out. As far as Wilson, it is as simple as analyzing the matchup and following the trends. With Houston’s defense in shambles, and Wilson’s home/road splits, it wasn’t hard to determine he was a great play.
We can’t talk about this game without mentioning one of the most eye-popping trends of all: the Texans passing game. Houston is led on the offensive side of the ball by rookie QB Deshaun Watson of Clemson. He is on fire lately, as nothing seems to slow down his electric connection to the wide receiver duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V. There has been nothing to suggest any of these three will slow down any time soon. Running back Lamar Miller has benefited as well, since the passing game is taking up so much of the defenses’ attention. Even on the road in Seattle, the Texans offense continued to be explosive. They are a particularly fun team to target because we know where the production is going to come from with Watson (38.78 week 8 DraftKings points), Hopkins (39.4), Fuller V (32.5), and Miller (22.3).
Raiders @ Bills
So far, the Bills have been absolutely atrocious at the wide receiver position. They would probably kill to have a guy like Tyler Lockett on their team. Without much success in the passing game, it is natural that they want to rely on their star running back, LeSean McCoy. Prior to week 7, reports surfaced that the Bills wanted to lean on McCoy even more so than usual. The box score backed that up, as he racked up 28 touches for 122 total yards and 2 touchdowns. With a week 8 home game against the Raiders, ‘Shady’ waltzed into another great spot. The Bills weren’t going to all of a sudden back off of their commitment to him, as he is clearly their best offensive player. Another trend in Shady’s favor was the home matchup against a west coast team. For the most part, west coast teams don’t perform as well when playing on the east coast. Although the game was at 1 pm, a three-hour time difference means the Raiders’ players body clock would be set to 10 am at game time. With this likely hindering the Raiders, Buffalo had a great chance to establish a lead early on. This would point to the game plan once again favoring McCoy, who could help his team establish dominance in time of possession. By running the ball frequently and keeping the clock moving, the Bills played keep away and limited the Raiders chances of a comeback. McCoy was popular (26.2 % owned in the DraftKings Milly Maker) and expensive (8700), but he was well worth it in this matchup, as he finished with 32.3 points.
There are two takeaways here that can be used moving forward. Always trust high end talents in high usage spots, and take advantage of west coast teams traveling to the east coast as they are not likely to match their usual level of play.
Steelers @ Lions
In week 8, the Steelers’ faced off against the Lions, a team known for scheming to take away the opponents’ #1 wide receiver. With so much attention being paid to Antonio Brown, production was likely to come elsewhere in the Pittsburgh passing game. Jesse James isn’t exactly a dynamic tight end, and #2 receiver Martavis Bryant was a healthy scratch due to attitude problems. Enter USC product JuJu Smith-Schuster. With awesome touchdown celebrations and a quirky stolen bike fiasco, the rookie wide receiver has been trending upwards recently, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Smith-Schuster is a fun-loving type of person and a great follow on Twitter. His social media presence is matched by his rapid improvement on the field, as the coaching staff seems to think very highly of him. Playing on turf, after moving up the depth chart and gaining momentum, against a defense that is susceptible to getting beat by #2 wide receivers…well let’s just say the play basically wrote itself. Primetime games are not on the DraftKings main slate anymore, but you could get exposure to him on the primetime only slates, late afternoon slates, and on FanDuel. I was shocked to see him come in at only 1.2% owned on the FanDuel mini contests, where he rewarded me with a whopping 28.8 points and a nice payday to go along with it.
The takeaway here is less about the Steelers and more so about “funnel defenses”. Teams like the Lions and Cardinals are known to limit the success of #1 WR, and allow production to other passing game weapons. The Lions have stand out cornerback Darius Slay and a scheme built to stop opposing #1’s. The Cardinals have all world CB Patrick Peterson, who frequently takes away any hope the opponents’ #1 WR has of succeeding. Consequently, both of these defenses funnel production to other areas, making them very attackable on a week to week basis. There are other examples of this trend that may be as simple as a team stuffing the box against the run, opening them up to getting beat in single coverage by speedy deep threats.
Many of the trends mentioned in this article may be hard to keep track of, so I encourage taking notes as well as staying up to date with podcasts and articles from your favorite content providers. Most sharp DFS touts will be aware of these types of trends and point them out every week. Over time and with repetition, you will start to remember them and get a feel for when the time is right to attack certain situations.
With week 9 on the horizon, NFL teams are starting to show their strengths and weakness more and more. It’s time to use familiar data, information, and trends to our advantage and hopefully turn that into profit. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, and keep it tuned to The Sports Talk leading up to week 9 for more sharp analysis and my recommended #PlugPlayers of the week.