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: Denver Broncos
New York Giants @ Denver Broncos (-12); Over/Under 40
If you didn’t know already, it’s just about Tank O’clock for the Giants. They’re 0-5 and their receiving corps is completely in ruins after Odell Beckham, Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard all went down with injuries this past week. Beckham had surgery this week to repair a broken ankle, and he’s out for the year along with Marshall, who announced on Instagram that he’ll be out for the year as well. Shepard avoided anything serious and it considered day-to-day, but the Giants once-deep receiving core now consists of him, Roger Lewis (15 career receptions), Tavarres King (4 career receptions), and Darius Powe (0 career receptions). Alongside a stagnant rushing attack and a lackluster defense, the Giants are toast in the NFC East and, at this point, should be looking towards next year. Not the New York team I thought I’d be saying that about heading into Week 6 but hey, 2017 is a weird place. And now, those old, run down Giants have to go to Denver and face off against the 3-1 Broncos coming off a bye. You can see where this is going.
If you want to look really hard and find one lone bright spot in the Giants season so far, you may say their pass defense. While the eye test hasn’t looked good for the unit (cough Eli Apple cough), on paper it’s about the middle of the pack for the league. Denver doesn’t have a particularly explosive passing game, and Trevor Siemian is about as exciting to watch as grass growing on drying paint, but Denver’s won games this year the same way it’s won games for almost half a decade now: a solid run game and a shutdown defense. Their rushing attack is 3rd in the league at 143 yards per game, and led by C.J. Anderson, who’s 9th in the league in rushing yards and averaging over 15 PPR points per game despite having only 1 TD thus far. Anderson is the Wolf’s RB14 this week, and I honestly think he could be higher, going up against a banged up Giants D-line. Coming off a bye and, before that, a 95 yard showing against Oakland, Anderson should trample New York’s D and pace this offense to a win.
Aside from Anderson, Emmanuel Sanders has been the team’s top fantasy wideout this year, leading the unit in targets, receptions, and TDs. Demaryius Thomas isn’t far behind in any category, and leads the team with 247 yards receiving, but I still like Sanders out of the two. And if you need to stream a tight end for Jason Witten or Jimmy Graham‘s bye week, take a look at A.J. Derby, who’s owned in just 1% of Yahoo leagues but caught 4 balls for 75 yards and a TD the last time the Broncos played. Finally, the Giants have allowed a league-high 8 receiving TDs to running backs and tight ends so far this season, giving me hope that Derby or Anderson could easily find the end zone through the air on Sunday.
Team To Hate: Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns @ Houston Texans (-10); Over/Under 46.5
I hate putting the Browns in this section. I really do. I avoid it as much as possible, but sometimes it’s just meant to be. So yeah, I hate the Browns this week. But this isn’t just some lazy “the Browns suck and they’ll always suck so this week they’ll probably suck” pick by any means.
First off, they’ll have to deal with Houston’s defense at home this week. This unit took a big hit last week when J.J. Watt announced he’ll be missing the rest of the season, and now Whitney Mercilus has been placed on IR as well. But they’ve still got an absolute monster in Jadeveon Clowney and just agreed to terms with Lamarr Houston to help out their pass rush, and they were one of the best defensive units in football last year from Week 5 on while Watt was on IR. Houston has held their opponent under 225 pass yards 3 out of 5 games this season, with the other two coming against two of the best offenses in football in New England and Kansas City. But they’ve shown they’ll shut down lesser offensive units, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that the Browns are exactly that.
Cleveland’s offense is also in a bit of disarray (even more so that usual) after DeShone Kizer was benched during last week’s loss to the Jets. Kevin Hogan looked solid as his replacement and appears to be in line to start this week, as Hue Jackson was quoted saying he thinks benching Kizer “will benefit him tremendously because he would get a chance to get a breather and take a look at it from a different lens and not from that pressure.” And with Hogan at QB, that takes away from the already tiny fantasy relevance of guys like Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, as well as David Njoku, who has 3 TDs in the last 4 games. And I’m not any more excited about the team’s running backs either. After starting the season in the lead back role, Isaiah Crowell has seen his usage drop in recent weeks and has yet to top 60 yards in a game this season. Duke Johnson, Jr. has been the most lucrative fantasy back by far, but he’s done the majority of his damage through the air, leading all RBs in receiving yards this season. But with a new QB at the helm and a defense that’s allowed the 5th fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, I’m not loving him this week. If I’m starting any Brown it’d be Johnson, The Wolf’s RB18 this week, but ideally avoid Cleveland altogether (that’s good advice for life, too).
Game of the Week:
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs (-5); Over/Under 46
Honestly, this one was a tough one. There weren’t really any matchups for Week 6 that particularly stood out for me in this category, so I’m going to have to ignore Pittsburgh’s ABYSMAL game last week against Jacksonville. Obviously some credit has to go to the Jags D, which has proven to be one of the better units in football this season, but when a QB throws 5 picks and the team rushes for 70 yards, that’s just dysfunction. And now, I’m putting my (already terrible) reputation on the line for them to bounce back on the road against the best team in football. Don’t say I never took any risks in this job.
If you had any qualms with my last point there, let me reiterate: Kansas City is the best team in football. On paper, on the field, whatever. Andy Reid has turned Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt into MVP candidates out of nowhere, and the Chiefs remain the only undefeated team in the league heading into Week 6. Hunt has continued his torrid pace and still leads the league in fantasy scoring, and even though he failed to find the end zone last week for the 2nd straight game, he topped 100 yards rushing for the 4th time in 5 games this season. He’s been the most dynamic, consistent fantasy weapon available this year, so good on you if you took our advice and snagged him in the 3rd or 4th round this year. And with KC facing a Pittsburgh defense that’s 28th in football against the run, I think 100 yards and another TD or two is borderline inevitable for Hunt this week. And although Tyreek Hill has been relatively quiet over the last few games (besides his punt return TD against Houston), he’s too big a part of their offense for that to continue, even against a strong Pittsburgh secondary. And he’ll be an even bigger factor if Travis Kelce, who still finds himself in the league’s concussion protocol, can’t suit up in Week 6. Kelce actually leads the team in targets in 2017, but if he’s unable to go, all signs points to a WR1 week for Hill.
On Pittsburgh’s side, this team is just too talented not to bounce back. Having trailed for the entire second half against Jacksonville, Ben Roethlisberger was forced to attempt 55 passes, leading to a 60% completion rate and 5 interceptions while also limiting Le’Veon Bell to just 15 carries on the ground. Bell will be re-established as a major part of this offense on Sunday, and it’ll definitely bode well for his fantasy owners. And provided that Big Ben can get his shit together, Antonio Brown could be in for a big day against a defense that’s actually 25th in the league in passing yards allowed. Brown sifted through Roethlisberger’s disgusting day and managed to haul in 10 passes for 157 yards against the Jags, and owners may be even happier to see he was targeted 19 times in the game. He’s still clearly the heart and soul that this passing game revolves around, and he’ll put up big numbers in that role regardless of his team’s result. The rest of Pittsburgh’s significant targets went to Bell (10), Martavis Bryant (8), JuJu Smith-Schuster (6), and Jesse James (5), giving a clear indication on how this offense would be dividing up its work, especially with Eli Rogers a healthy scratch once again. Although this new development from Tuesday may throw a wrench in things a bit.
Ben w Cook & Poni on Eli Rogers: "I think he'll be on the field this Sunday."
— Joe Starkey (@JoeStarkey1) October 10, 2017
The Rogers/Smith-Schuster battle isn’t really relevant for fantasy purposes just yet, but could very well matter for dynasty formats, and/or if Bryant or Brown is forced to miss time with an injury. But for now, AB and Martavis join Bell and Big Ben as the most startable Steelers, in this late-afternoon matchup that could turn into a shootout quick.
Miami Dolphins @ Atlanta Falcons (-12); Over/Under 46.5
I tried so hard this season to be on board with the Dolphins. So, so hard. I thought Jay Ajayi was destined for stardom and would overshadow all the backs picked ahead of him. I thought DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry would overcome an unexpected QB change and form one of the league’s most formidable 1-2 punches. And I honestly thought Jay Cutler had a chance to revitalize his career with a new team, system, and conference. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Through 5 weeks the Dolphins have the worst statistical offense in football, coming in dead last in pass yards per game and leading only Arizona in rushing yards per game. Jay Cutler trails guys like Josh McCown and DeShone Kizer in fantasy scoring so far, while Ajayi finds himself behind fantasy juggernauts like Charcandrick West and Shane Vereen. I’ve tried to ignore the results so far and chalk it up to a slow start, but at this point I think it’s time to admit I was wrong. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.
Miami’s defense has actually been a relative bright spot for the team this season that’s dealt with everything from starting LBs going AWOL on game day to OL coaches blowing lines of coke before meetings, but even that unit is 22nd in the league in pass defense, allowing 234 yards per game through the air. And after the slow start that the reigning MVP Matt Ryan has gotten off to in 2017, and coming off a bye week, that’s exactly what this team needs. Granted, Devonta Freeman may not have his best game of the year going up against solid run guys inside like Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips, and Matty Ice should be able to tear up Miami’s secondary. Julio Jones has been limited in practice again this week with his nagging hip injury, but it’s considered mostly precautionary and he’s a virtual lock to play Sunday. And at 6’3″, going up against Miami’s corners that max out at 6’1″, Jones should have a clear advantage at home on Sunday, especially in the red zone. After Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel have both quietly gotten off to solid starts in 2017, but a name I like this week, especially from a DFS perspective, is Tevin Coleman. Opposing running backs have struggled on the ground against Miami but have found success through the air, converting 25 of 32 receiving targets so far this season. If Freeman struggles to get going on the ground early, look for Coleman to get some more snaps and some opportunities to produce through the air.
New England Patriots (-10) @ New York Jets; Over/Under 47.5
Conventional wisdom so far this season has dictated that if you have a skill position guy going against the Patriots, you start him. Well I’m not exactly on board with that this week, and it’s not just because I’m a Pats fan. Part of it comes down to the fact that I have a brain, and I realize that the New York Jets are the worst 3-2 team in the history of professional sports. They’ve gotten lucky with some cupcake matchups in recent weeks (seriously, whose dick do I have to suck to get us the Dolphins, Jags (off a London trip), and Browns in consecutive weeks?) and managed to squeak out a few ugly wins, but don’t expect the Patriots to be as friendly. Especially after last week’s defensive turnaround.
Last week against Tampa Bay wasn’t a defensive clinic for the Patriots by any means, but it was a welcome sight nonetheless. The Pats D held Jameis Winston to a 56% completion rate, kept the Bucs under 100 yards rushing as a team, and, perhaps most surprisingly, limited Mike Evans to 5 catches for 49 yards. So with the team’s defensive woes seemingly taken care of, especially going up against a team that’s scoring just over 18 points per game, the coaching staff can put a little more time into maintaining one of the most explosive offenses in football. The Pats are tops in the league in total yardage and passing yardage, and 3rd in scoring, and as always they have Tom Brady to thank. He leads the league with 1,702 passing yards to go along with 11 TDs and only 1 INT, and he’s proving once again that Father Time is no match for the TB12 method. Brandin Cooks has been continuing his push to be Brady’s top option, racking up another 85 yards last week on 8 targets, but the surprise of the season so far remains Chris Hogan for sure. Hogan showed us what he was capable of a handful of times last season, particularly the playoff game against Pittsburgh, but I don’t think anyone saw this coming this season. He’s 5th among all WRs in fantasy scoring, and he leads the team in both targets and TDs. Hogan and Cooks remain the top 2 Patriots receivers for fantasy purposes, with Danny Amendola picking up some steam but still a FLEX option at best in most formats. And last week’s major disappointment, Rob Gronkowski, is expected to suit up this week after missing last week’s game when he was scratched at the last possible moment. It was an extremely frustrating development for Gronk’s fantasy owners, as he seemingly went from Questionable to Doubtful to Out in a matter of hours, but seeing as there were murmurs that he would’ve been able to suit up had the game been played on Sunday, I expect him to be out there against the Jets and a factor once again. One Patriot that I’m getting ready to lose faith in, however, is Mike Gillislee. After scoring 4 times in his first 2 games as a Patriot, he’s failed to find the end zone since and is averaging just 4.4 fantasy points per game in his last 3 games. It also doesn’t help his cause that he has absolutely no role in the team’s passing game with zero receptions on the year. Meanwhile, James White has taken over as the team’s top fantasy back despite failing to score a touchdown yet this year. He’s done so primarily through the air, hauling in 29 of 35 targets so far, and he clearly has Brady’s trust in an offense where the QB’s trust is absolutely vital to your success. Hell, just ask Dwayne Allen. So if I’m starting a Pats RB this week, I’m going White over Gillislee for the proven consistency and high floor, regardless of whether or not he finds the end zone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2) @ Arizona Cardinals; Over/Under 45
Against a real middle-of-the-pack Arizona defense, I’m looking for a bounce back Week 6 for the Tampa Bay Bucs. As I mentioned above, New England seemed to have it figured out last week against the Bucs offense, although Tampa still would’ve come out with the win with basically any NFL kicker not named Nick Folk. Anyway, their offensive numbers still weren’t great, but there were some promising things to look back on. Although Mike Evans was held to a relatively quiet night, DeSean Jackson stepped in to turn 9 targets into 5 catches for 106 yards. Jackson’s strategy since joining the Bucs is pretty simple: basically, line up on the opposite side of one of the most talented and physically imposing wideouts in football, run really, really fast downfield, and catch footballs. Not exactly rocket science, but it’s working. He’s 2nd on the team in targets, receptions, yards, and TDs, trailing Evans in every category, and he’s been the exact compliment to Evans that Tampa signed him to be this offseason. And while we’re talking Tampa Bay pass catchers, I have to mention Cameron Brate. I was big on Brate personally through the 2nd half of last season, but it appears I was a little early. Happens to the best of us. After putting up another 68 yards and a TD last week, tying with Jackson for the team lead with 9 targets, Brate is now 6th among tight ends in fantasy scoring this season. He’s seen a bit of competition in rookie TE O.J. Howard as of late, but his 22 targets to Howard’s 9 show where the team’s trust lay currently at the tight end position. Brate’s a great fantasy option against a defense that’s not great at stopping opposing tight ends, allowing 11.6 fantasy points per game to the position. And of course, the biggest story of last week for Tampa was the long-awaited return of Doug Martin to the backfield. Martin was quoted as late as last Monday as saying he was unsure of what his role would be in his return, but the doubts were laid to rest as he led the team with 13 carries (Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims combined for just 4) and finished with 74 yards and a touchdown. Martin is The Wolf’s RB11 this week and should be in prime position now to take over as the team’s lead back moving forward, so good for you if you drafted him late and waited out the suspension. It’ll surely be worth it, starting this week.
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.