DFS Trends and Tips

DFS Trends and Tips: Week 8 Review

By Nathan Smith

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.

Moving Forward

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.

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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets (Week 6)

In last week’s article I touched on the major injuries around the league, but this week was even worse. Starting with the entire Giants receiving core including OBJ going down for the year and JJ Watt’s season also coming to an end. Week 5 was a hard one and it can seem impossible to replace players in fantasy leagues. Which it is, but the only way to salvage your fantasy season is to hope to claim a gem off of waivers. Below are six waiver wire targets that could help save your injury plagued season.

1. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Last week Latavius Murray was sitting in this spot, but his counterpart, Jerick McKinnon, outperformed him 26.60 to 6.30 in PPR leagues. McKinnon’s point total was boosted by a 58 yard touchdown, but even minus that play he would have had a great game. He participated in the passing game as well, catching six passes for 51 yards. Both of the backs will continue to split touches, but after one game it appears that McKinnon will see the bulk of the touches. (Percent owned: 3.2 NFL, 29.3 ESPN)

2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Adrian Peterson was traded to the Cardinals today for a conditional pick. This is one of the rare trades where it works out for all parties. New Orleans was a poor fit for the 32 year old running back. AP mustered only 81 yards on 27 carries this season and the Cardinals need help at the position. It is yet to be seen if Peterson has anything left in the tank, but if he does the pay off for adding him is astronomical. (Percent owned: 62.4 NFl, 47.5 ESPN)

3. Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Jacoby Brissett has proven to be a more than capable backup quarterback in Luck’s absence. He is also a good plug and play option if anyone has a QB on a bye or is suffering from having the five interceptions, Big Ben. He posted a career high in passing yards last week and is facing the weak Titans defense this week. (Percent owned: 3.5 NFL, 15.9 ESPN)

4. Roger Lewis, WR, New York Giants

Due to season ending injuries to Odell Beckham Jr., Dwayne Harris, and Brandon Marshall and a multiple week injury to Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis is slotted to start at receiver this week. Lewis has not scored a lot of points this season, but this week will not be without opportunity for the young player. It will be interesting to see if he will be a viable fantasy option. (Percent owned: 0.2 NFL, 0.2 ESPN)

5. Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Alex Collins is splitting carries with Javorius Allen, but still managed over 50 yards each of the last three weeks. He rarely sees any passes thrown his way and is yet to score a touchdown. However, he is a solid start and consistently scoring over five points each week. When he finally reaches the end zone look for his point total to hit double digits. (Percent owned: 10.9 NFL, 33.3 ESPN)

6. Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Marlon Mack had a breakout game last week against the 49ers and is facing another soft defense this week in Tennessee. He had 91 yards on the ground and a touchdown. If he can get more involved in the passing game, his fantasy numbers will be hover around 20. He did suffer an elbow injury and is listed as questionable, but he claims that he will not miss any time. (Percent owned: 0.8 NFL, 3.4 ESPN)

 

Photo Credits: Star Tribune

Defensive or Offensive: A Tale of Dallas’ “D”

My oh my, how a win can change a person’s perspective on a team.  Last week the sports writers, tv analysts and some fans (bandwagoners) were ready to cut Ezekiel Elliott, bench Dak Prescott and fired Coach Garrett. Today it’s all about “dem Cowboys”. Those fans I mentioned earlier are now saying we are back, we are going to the super bowl, we have fixed the issues and we can’t be stopped now. Seriously, take a step back and slap yourself.  Let me tell you what real Cowboys’ fans think right now.

The Broncos man-handled the Cowboys last week due to lack of pressure on their Qb and the cowboys’ offense being nonexistent. While Arizona is no Denver, the defense got pressure on Carson Palmer because of outstanding play from Demarcus Lawrence. However, he still managed to put up some decent numbers as he completed 29 of 48 pass attempts for 325 yards and 2 TDs, while throwing no interceptions. If Arizona hadn’t made a few mistakes early on in the first half,  i.e. holding on a TD, or the missed FG, the game might have had a different outcome.

The Dallas Cowboys are relying on 2nd rounder Chidobe Awuzie, 3rd rounder Jourdan Lewis, 6th rounder Xavier Woods and free agent Nolan Carroll to complement Bryon Jones and Orlando Scandrick in the secondary. We aren’t talking about the legion of boom. This mashup of rookies and veterans are going to be under the gun all season long, a nice baptism by fire. Monday night they bent, but didn’t break. That also had a lot to do with Carson Palmer, being Carson Palmer.

You still must give credit, where credit is due. The secondary played decent enough to win the game. The rookie Jourdan, was clearly being targeted by Palmer. Jourdan played smart and even had a nice play knocking the ball out of Jaron Brown‘s hands. Ask yourself these questions. How much of that was that possible because of the Demarcus and the D-line?  If no pressure, would Carson Palmer have eaten up the secondary? Will, or can, the offense score enough to cover the defense shortcomings?

This worries me as the Cowboys still have to contend with Aaron Rodgers this season.  A reminder, Aaron Rodgers beat us in the playoffs last year and we supposedly had a better secondary back in 2016. On deck are Falcons (Matt Ryan & Julio Jones), Eagles (Carson Wentz), Giants (Eli Manning & Odell Beckham will be back), Chargers (Philip Rivers), Raiders (Derek Carr & Michael Crabtree), and the Seahawks (Russell Wilson & Doug Baldwin). Tough games period for any team, but with a young secondary it could be  catastrophic.

Please don’t hate on me. I will be pulling for my Dallas Cowboys to win and shut up the haters. I just wanted to point out some issues that real fans know could make this a long season. I have faith in the Cowboys’ front office to make some sort of deal to get help for the defense. Hey, if the defense manages to bend and not break, I will take it and hopefully a ticket to U.S Bank Staduim in Minneapolis, Minnesota for Super Bowl LII. Let’s go Cowboys!

 

Photo Credits: Jennifer Stewart

Fantasy Football Waiver Targets (Week 2)

Fantasy football waiver wire pickups are the difference between winning a championship, and failing to make the playoffs. It is important to be vigilant each week, especially when major injuries or suspensions can rid someone of a top pick. This week is especially important because of how many top fantasy stars failed to produce. It is too early to drop a top pick because of a disappointing performance, but adding a potential stud is a good insurance policy just in case. Below are eight players that everyone should be targeting.

1. Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears

Tarik Cohen provided the Bears with a big spark in his NFL debut. He seriously cut into Jordan Howard‘s touches after being used on 43% of plays, compared to Howard’s 56%. He carried the ball five times for 66 yards, an astonishing 13.2 YPC. Cohen also caught eight passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. In PPR leagues, Cohen is even more valuable after leading the team in targets with 12. He is not owned in many leagues, but will be after this week. (Percent owned: 1.5 NFL, 2.3 ESPN)

2. Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith has long been described as a game manager, not the guy to throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. However, that is exactly what Smith did in the season opener. He made the reigning Super Bowl championship defense look foolish, and while doing so, locked up his status as a great waiver wire pickup. He is still not in the upper echelon of fantasy quarterbacks to start regardless of weekly matchups, but as of week two he is the top scoring fantasy quarterback. (Percent owned: 16.6 NFL, 9.7 ESPN)

3. Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Nelson Agholor looked bound to be labeled a bust after a disappointing two seasons to start his career, but he looked like a different receiver week one. He led the team in targets, and finished with 86 yards and a touchdown. If he and second year quarterback Carson Wentz can build chemistry together it could be a very successful season for the young receiver. (Percent owned: 1.8 NFL, 1.6 ESPN)

4. Javorius Allen, RB, Baltimore Ravens

After Danny Woodhead went out with a hamstring injury, Javorius Allen
led the running backs in snaps. With Woodhead expected to be out at least a month, Allen’s stock skyrockets. The Ravens love to target backs on passing routes, so his value is even higher is PPR leagues. He still is splitting carries with Terrance West, but Allen is a quality waiver wire addition. (Percent owned: 1.6 NFL, 0.4 ESPN)

5. Kerwynn Williams, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Kerwynn Williams‘usage is in for a major uptick after star running back David Johnson
suffered a wrist injury that could sideline him for several months. He came in immediately for the injured Johnson and scored a touchdown. Williams was declared the number one back moving forward by head coach Bruce Arians. Williams has a very high ceiling as the number one back in Arizona. (Percent owned: 0.3 NFL, 0.7 ESPN)

6. Jesse James, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Jesse James was the top scoring tight end in week one. This is no doubt because he caught two red zone touchdowns and will not be the norm. However, if James can become Big Ben’s favorite red zone target there will be many more touchdowns in James’ future. The team’s recent addition of Vance McDonald was thought to hurt James’ targets, but he beat McDonald 8 to one in that respect. (Percent owned: 3.9 NFL, 2.5 ESPN)

7. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Cooper Kupp is a good option in PPR leagues with 12 or more people in them. He had a solid week one, but his production depends on the Rams’ offense, which was lackluster last season. That being said, he led the team in targets last week and secured a touchdown pass from Jared Goff. (Percent owned: 4.7 NFL, 16.6 ESPN)

8. Mike Tolbert, RB, Buffalo Bills

The backup running back in Buffalo has consistently poached touchdowns from LeSean McCoy over the past three years, and Mike Tolbert has already began down that road. He scored a one yard touchdown in week one and ran the ball 12 times for 42 yards. His bruising downhill running style should do his fantasy value well as he looks to score many short yardage touchdowns this season. (Percent owned: 0.1 NFL, 0.5 ESPN)

 

Photo Credits: FanRag Sports

Arizona Cardinals Season Preview

The Arizona Cardinals look to bounce back in 2017 after a disappointing 2016 campaign in which they finished 7-8-1. The 2015 Cardinals were one win away from the Super Bowl, so finishing below .500 in 2016 came as a shock to many fans. Despite the inconsistency last season from the Cardinals, they still have a lot of talent on their roster. A trip to the playoffs in is truly a reachable feat in 2017.

Bruce Arians will look to climb up the ranks as the best head coach in Cardinals franchise history. He already ranks third all time in wins in franchise history (41), and he has the best record in any four year span in Cardinals franchise history as well.

The Cardinals defense is among the NFL’s best, and they will look to build off the 48 sacks last season, which led the National Football League. They surely will be better this season with the additions of linebackers Karlos Dansby and Jarvis Jones, as well as safety Antoine Bethea. The Cardinals secondary was already feared with Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, and now opposing quarterbacks have to worry about Bethea as well. However, the Cardinals did lose two quality complementary secondary members in Marcus Cooper and D.J. Swearinger. Markus Golden and Chandler Jones return as one of the most feared tandems in football in terms of forcing sacks. Their 23.5 sacks combined last season almost made up half of the Cardinals sacks as an entire team. The Cardinals pieced together the positions they needed depth at this offseason, and should be more consistent all around as long as they manage to stay healthy on the defensive side of the football.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinals have Carson Palmer, who was a Pro Bowl Quarterback in 2015, but took a step back in 2016. He will look to have a bounce back season along with John Brown who had 10 touchdowns in 2015, but only managed to find the end zone twice in 2016. Old reliable Larry Fitzgerald will look to make it nine straight one thousand yard seasons. He continues to be the most sure handed receiver in football year after year, and 2017 should be no different for Fitz. The Cardinals look forward to having a healthy David Johnson back in 2017 as well. Johnson is arguably the most versatile running back in the entire league. He had an incredible 2016 season in which he reached the end zone twenty total times (16 rushing, 4 receiving). Johnson could easily repeat this kind of season in 2017 if given the chance. It will be curious to see if the Cardinals lighten his workload at all and elect to rotate some of the backups including Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington to ensure Johnson’s health throughout the season. His durability is not an issue, but teams can never be too careful with how they treat knee injuries.

The Cardinals have a favorable schedule. They will play the AFC South, who are all beatable opponents for them. They also have the luxury of playing in the same division as the 49ers and the Rams who are not very good football teams. These are 8 games the Cardinals should be favored in easily. However, they play the NFC East as well, which is arguably the best division in football. They will play 3 quality opponents in Philadelphia, Dallas, and New York. The Redskins is a winnable game for the Cardinals, which gives them 9 games they should be favored in. Tampa Bay and Detroit are two of the most important games that fans need to focus on. These are 3 of the 4 favorite teams to be the Wild Card teams out of the NFC this season, and wins against these teams will prove to be crucial.

Fans of the Arizona Cardinals should be hopeful of a playoff berth in 2017. They have one of the best defenses in the league, they have a top 3 running back, and they have a very experienced wide receiving core, including one of the league’s best in Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals have a favorable schedule and an experienced quarterback who is hungry to get to his first Super Bowl in Carson Palmer. A bounce back season is more likely than not for the Arizona Cardinals.

 

Photo Credits: Arizona Sports