Quick, without thinking: what are the two best things about football? Easy: fantasy football and gambling. Well, and having something to do on Sundays. And chicken wings. And cheerleaders. And — ok, I’m getting carried away. Fantasy and gambling, that’s what we settled on, right? Cool. Well much like peanut butter & jelly or Tom Brady & Gisele, your friend/fellow gambling degenerate Keegs is on a mission to combine two of the greatest things on planet Earth. How? Glad you asked.
Every week, we see the odds of NFL games all over the place. Seattle is 3-point favorites against Green Bay, the over/under for Pittsburgh/Cincinnati is set at 49.5, etc. Sure, you can use those to try and make a few bucks, but what about for fantasy? Believe it or not, gambling lines can tell you A LOT about who you should be trotting out there in your fantasy or even DFS lineup. So each week, I’m here to give you a handful of tips, based on the lines set by our buddies over in Nevada, that’ll hopefully help you towards your ultimate goal of a fantasy football championship. Simple enough? Cool, let’s get started.
Odds via www.bovada.com
Team To Love: Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Line: Miami -6; Over/Under 42
Honestly, I surprised myself a little bit here. After getting an impromptu bye week to start the season, the Dolphins played their first game last week in San Dieg– sorry, Los Angeles, against the Chargers. On paper it should’ve been a cake walk, but Miami didn’t get off to a great start, and trailed 10-3 at the half. And while they got it together after halftime and left LA with a 19-17 victory, it wasn’t exactly pretty. But how’s that old saying go again? There’s no ailment that can’t be cured by playing the Jets.
While Miami’s obviously a hot play here because of their inferior opponent, from a fantasy perspective the team had a better week against LA than you may think. Jay Cutler had a decent showing in his Dolphins debut, completing 73% of his passes and throwing for 230 yards and a TD. And he spread the ball around pretty well, too, although he certainly had his favorites: Jarvis Landry led the team with 15 targets, turning them into 13 catches for 78 yards, while DeVante Parker turned his 9 targets into 4 grabs for 85 yards. Landry and Parker are both must-starts against the Jets, and are the Wolf’s WR14 and WR15, respectively, for Week 3. And we can’t forget about Jay Ajayi, who handled 28 of the team’s 29 RB handoffs (Kenyan Drake had 1 rush for -3 yards) and turned them into 122 yards on the day. Dolphins HC Adam Gase has been touting Ajayi since the summer as a guy who could get up to 350 carries in 2017, and he’s certainly proven to be a man of his word so far. Ajayi carries true workhorse potential, and is deservedly the Wolf’s RB2 for Week 3. And against a sorry Jets defense that’s allowed 33 points per game to start the season, any prominent member of Miami’s offense carries some serious breakout potential. Also, don’t sleep on the Fins defense, who completely shut down LA’s rushing attack last week (44 yards on 14 carries). Yeah, Philip Rivers carved them up for over 330 yards, but we know nobody on the Jets roster is capable of anything like that. Don’t worry about it.
Team To Hate: Buffalo Bills
Denver Broncos @ Buffalo Bills
Line: Denver -3; Over/Under 40
This one actually bums me out to have to do. I was real high on Tyrod Taylor heading into this season after his top-10 fantasy showing last year, and plenty of RSJ employees were big on the likes of LeSean McCoy and Zay Jones. But after just 3 touchdowns in 2 games — all coming Week 1 against the Jets, so they don’t even really count — it’s hard to feel anything but worry about these guys now.
Now, if you have no recollection of the Bills and Panthers even playing each other last week, that probably means you were watching RedZone — the teams combined for 4 field goals and nothing else in the 9-3 Carolina victory. Look up “snoozefest” in the dictionary and this game’s box score will be the first definition; it was that bad. And the majority of the offensive woes came courtesy of the Bills, who failed to top 200 yards of total offense on the day. Taylor threw for just 125 yards on the day, and while he also rushed for 55, that’s still a dismal 10.5 standard fantasy points. No thank you. And Shady McCoy didn’t help much either, logging just 9 yards on 12 carries. I’m no math nerd, but I’m pretty sure that’s less than a yard per carry — not ideal. Oh, but McCoy did manage to help out by contributing 34 receiving yards, which was tops on the team. He also led the team in targets (7) and receptions (6). Yup, in fact, not one other member of the Bills topped 3 catches or 30 yards on the day. Not an offense that I feel comfortable putting any faith in this week. “But Keegs,” you’re probably saying, “this was against the Panthers in Carolina. They’ve only allowed 6 points so far this season. Couldn’t that be the reason Buffalo struggled so much?” Well, yeah, that’s obviously part of it. But at the same time, it doesn’t get any easier this week.
There’s a reason that the Broncos have had winning records each season since 2012 despite employing Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Peyton Manning’s HGH-filled corpse at quarterback. They’ve been a defensive juggernaut for some time, and that trend has continued so far this season — they’re 6th in the NFL in total defense so far in 2017, and they’re coming off a 42-17 beatdown of the Cowboys last week. And y’know that Ezekiel Elliot guy, the one that led the NFL in rushing last year? 8 yards on 9 carries against Denver. Yeah, I’m not feeling too hot about McCoy’s chances to do much better, especially after last week’s showing. And with a passing attack that just looks out of whack at this point, I don’t feel good about putting stock in Tyrod, or any of his aerial options. Hard pass from me.
Game Of The Week:
Oakland Raiders @ Washington Redskins
Line: Oakland -3.5; Over/Under 54
Same shit, different day: Keegs is all in on the Raiders. And why wouldn’t I be? At 2-0, they’ve scored more points (71) through two games than any other team in football. This offense is loaded with weapons, and Derek Carr is putting on a clinic in how to utilize them. Take last week against the Jets — in a 45-20 beatdown, Carr threw for 230 yards while completing passes to 9 different players, all while not getting sacked once on the day. Michael Crabtree continued to pace the passing attack with 6 catches (on 6 targets) for 80 yards, and managed to find the end zone 3 times on the day en route to a giant fantasy performance. And while it’s taking him longer to overtake Crabtree than I thought it would, Amari Cooper wasn’t far behind with 4 grabs on 5 targets for 33 yards. Crabtree is still proving to be Carr’s go-to option through the air, especially in the red zone, but I still anticipate that Cooper will begin to take some of those targets for himself as the season progresses. Either way, both are great plays this week and both are in the Wolf’s top 20 WRs for Week 3. And I can’t ignore tight end Jared Cook, who was an afterthought in this talented offense to start the year but now sits at 3rd on the team with 11 targets so far this year. He turned 6 targets against NYJ into 4 grabs for just 25 yards, but seems to be a real factor on this offense and could be a sneaky-good DFS play this week, especially if he can find the end zone. And on the ground, Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard combined for 103 yards on 18 carries (Lynch 12, Richard 6) and both found the end zone. Lynch is still the more reliable option of the two for sure, but Richard’s performance on Sunday showed the coaching staff that he can be a viable option in the run game if needed.
And on Washington’s side, we finally saw the offense come together a bit last week after a pretty pathetic showing in Week 1. There’s a reason this game boasts the league’s highest over/under for the week, and it’s because both offenses have players capable of breaking out. Kirk Cousins threw for just 179 yards against the Rams, but did so while completing 18 of 27 passes against a defense that stifled the Colts a week prior. And while some of the team’s receiving numbers were promising — Jordan Reed fought through his typical laundry list of ailments and turned 6 targets into 6 catches for 48 yards, while Jamison Crowder hauled in 4 for 47 in his first decent showing of the season — most of Washington’s success came on the ground. Rob Kelley left the game in the 2nd quarter with a rib injury, which has limited him in practice thus far this week, but not before grinding out 78 yards on just 12 carries. Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine, who filled the team’s lead back role after Kelley’s departure, both topped 65 yards rushing on the day as well, as the team ran for a ridiculous 229 yards altogether. Washington’s rushing attack was on point all afternoon, including this 61-yard TD scamper by Thompson.
While Kelley is still expected to suit up against Oakland and should retain his typical role, Thompson remains a viable fantasy option due to his use in the passing game, as he actually led the team with 7 targets on Sunday. And if things change for Kelley and he’s unable to go, Perine becomes a strong fantasy or DFS option in his place. Expect points all around in this game, and make sure you take advantage.
Baltimore Ravens (-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars; Over/Under 39.5
I like the Ravens a lot in this matchup that’ll be the first of the NFL’s 4 London games this season. As always, this game will be a home game for the Jags, who returned to form last week in a pathetic showing that resulted in a 37-16 loss to Tennessee. And as is often the case, the Jags looked hopeless through 3 quarters of a blowout before the 2nd team defense came in and Blake Bortles, the world’s best garbage time QB, got the offense rolling a bit. So with Jacksonville reeling, it’ll be interesting to see if Joe Flacco and the Ravens can take advantage. Baltimore’s offense isn’t necessarily packed with starpower, but got a ton of production from 36-year old tight end Benjamin Watson last week, who finished with 8 catches on 8 targets for 91 yards, leading the team in all categories. I don’t necessarily say this to highlight his potential for this week — Watson hadn’t recorded that many receiving yards in a game since November 2015 — but to point out that teams will now have to gameplan for this unexpected option in Baltimore’s offense. Theoretically, this could work in favor of Ravens wideouts like Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace, who have both gotten off to disappointing starts in 2017 despite their team’s 2-0 record. Both find themselves on the outside looking in of the Wolf’s WR rankings (Maclin WR32, Wallace WR63) but could use this week to start up a bounce back production-wise. And in the backfield, while Terrance West was seemingly the next man up after Danny Woodhead went down in Week 1, Javorius Allen led the team in carries (14) and yards (66), even though West was able to find the end zone to salvage a halfway decent fantasy afternoon. Either could be in play this week against a defense that yielded 179 rushing yards a week ago. And I definitely like Baltimore’s defense, that’s allowed just 10 points in 2 games so far, against a incompetent Jags offense.
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles (-6); Over/Under 39.5
No need to sugarcoat this one: the Giants are bad. Through 2 games they’re sporting an 0-2 record, 1 offensive TD, and a -30 point differential, which is better than only the Colts and Jets. Yikes. Odell Beckham, Jr. hasn’t put up an OBJ-type game yet, Brandon Marshall hasn’t found any kind of rhythm with his new team, and the team is dead last in the NFL in rushing. And it doesn’t get much better defensively, as they’re allowing over 130 rushing yards per game so far. And now having to head to Philly to play the 1-1 Eagles in their home opener, I’m not feeling too optimistic about them. Carson Wentz is 3rd in fantasy scoring among QBs so far, and he’s gotten there by utilizing the multitude of weapons he has. Zach Ertz has been a constant producer, topping 90 yards receiving in both games so far, and while Week 1 saw Nelson Agholor go off for 86 yards on 6 catches, it was Alshon Jeffrey‘s turn last week, turning a team-high 13 targets into 7 catches for 92 yards and a TD. Moving forward Alshon is definitely a more trustable option than Agholor, and the Wolf has Jeffrey listed at WR20 for Week 3. As far as the backfield is concerned… your guess is honestly as good as mine. The Eagles have managed a respectable rushing attack to this point, but nobody has emerged as a primary back just yet — in fact, Wentz led the team with 55 rushing yards in Week 2. Darren Sproles led the team with 10 carries that he turned into 48 yards, and Wendell Smallwood was next with 3 rushes. And where was LeGarrette Blount? Well, a week after pacing Philly’s rushing attack with 46 yards on 14 carries against Washington, Blount played just 6 snaps against Kansas City and didn’t record a carry. So while Wentz, Ertz, and Jeffrey are sure starts this week, it remains to be seen who Philly will filter the run game through and if they’ll be able to take advantage of NYG’s lackluster rush defense. It’s hard to trust one guy in particular right now from a fantasy perspective — not that Blount gives a shit.
I really could care less about all y'all fantasy teams, get outta my mentions with that shit. ✌🏿
— LeGarrette Blount (@LG_Blount) September 17, 2017
Cincinnati Bengals @ Green Bay Packers (-9); Over/Under 44.5
Believe it or not, I’m pretty in on both squads in this matchup. Starting with the more practical choice, we’ve got the Packers returning to Lambeau after falling to Atlanta on Sunday Night Football last week. 23 points on an inferior defense isn’t exactly what you’d call a good game for an Aaron Rodgers offense, but they salvaged some decent numbers nonetheless. Rodgers himself was 33/50 for 343 yards and 2 TDs, and 3 guys — Devante Adams, Ty Montgomery, and Randall Cobb — topped 5 receptions and 50 yards, with Adams leading the way at 8/99. Jordy Nelson missed the majority of the game with a quad injury, but says he plans to play against Cincinnati barring a major setback. Nonetheless, his health is still a question mark, and with Cobb also questionable and being held out of practice this week, Adams, Montgomery, and Martellus Bennett, who led the team with 11 targets against the Falcons, are all solid plays. Montgomery’s run production wasn’t ideal in Week 2, totaling just 35 yards on 10 carries, but he did find the end zone, and his presence in the passing game justifies his spot as the Wolf’s RB4 for Week 3. Especially against the Bengals, who’ve been the best defensive unit in the league against the pass so far but 2nd to last against the run.
Speaking of the Bengals, let’s get to them. Why am I high on this team that hasn’t scored a touchdown yet this season? Well, for starters, Offensive Coordinator Ken Zampese was fired immediately after the team’s Week 2 loss to Houston, and has been replaced with former QBs coach Bill Lazor. Why’s that matter? Well something obviously wasn’t working with the offense, and since Andy Dalton‘s job seemingly as inexplicably secure as Marvin Lewis’, letting Zampese go was the next best option. Lazor has experience as a coordinator, both in Miami and a handful of NCAA programs, and as someone who’s been working closely with Dalton for the past year he’s perhaps the best candidate to right the ship in Cincy. I mean, it seems like a lot of hooplah over a job that’s essentially just yelling “THROW IT TO A.J. Green!” into a headset, but that’s just me. Green managed a semi-decent fantasy day with 5 catches for 67 yards, but with 50 of those yards coming on 1 long completion, it’s clear that he failed to make a consistent impact on the offense. And with Tyler Eifert looking unlikely to play as he does his best Jordan Reed impersonation, other guys are going to have to step up and take advantage of Green Bay’s less-than-spectacular secondary. And in the backfield, something’s gotta give. Joe Mixon led the attack with 9 carries, but could only muster up 36 yards, while Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard weren’t any better. Mixon is clearly this coaching staff’s top choice to take over the lead back role, but if he continues to struggle, they’re going to have to look to one of the incumbents. For fantasy here, I’m primarily eyeing Green and Mixon, with guys like Hill or Brandon Lafell possible sleeper options, primarily in DFS.
Any other odds we should be keeping an eye on? Let me know on Twitter, and make sure to consult the Roto Street Journal for all your fantasy football needs.