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: Los Angeles Rams
Houston Texans @ Los Angeles Rams (-12); Over/Under 46
- The Texans may have had a formidable defense to start the year, but after losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, they’re not too impressive anymore. They’ve allowed 26 points per game the last 3 weeks, and really aren’t scaring anybody moving forward.
- Coming off a 51-point barrage against the Giants, the Rams are trotting out arguably the hottest offense in football. As a unit they’re in the top 10 in basically every statistical category in the league, including #1 in scoring at 32.9 points per game. Individually, Todd Gurley has now surpassed the slumping Kareem Hunt as the top fantasy RB in the NFL through 9 weeks, and aside from some shaky performances against top-notch defenses in Jacksonville and Seattle, Jared Goff has been one of the most consistent QBs in fantasy, topping 16 points in 5 out of 8 total games in 2017.
- This game gives us the week’s most lopsided spread at -12, and the Rams should be the beneficiaries of a 2nd consecutive blowout in front of dozens of loyal home fans.
Damn, how bad of a look is all of this for Jeff Fisher? He wins 4 games at the helm with guys like Goff and Gurley, and the next season when he’s replaced by the youngest coach in the league, those same guys go out and turn that very same offense into The Greatest Show On Turf 2.0. I touched on this last week in my Honorable Mentions section (also went 2-1 on my picks, nbd), but the one knock on LA fantasy-wise this season has been their WR situation. They’ve got some solid ones in Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods, but none of them have been quite able to separate themselves from the pack just yet. And last week was really more of the same. Woods and Kupp tied for the team lead with 5 targets each, and Kupp turned his into 3 catches for 54 yards while Woods turned in an impressive 4 catch, 70 yard, 2 TD performance. Watkins was only targeted twice on the day, but he took his only reception to the house for 67 yards. So who’s the guy this week? If you’re going by The Wolf’s trusty rankings, it’s Watkins, but his low target share compared to the others (31 on the year compared to Woods’ 49 and Kupp’s 48) makes me nervous. I personally like Woods for this week to tear up the same defense that just surrendered 175 yards and 2 TDs to T.Y. Hilton, but they’re all good starts this week, along with Goff, Gurley, and their defense, the 3rd best unit for fantasy this year that’s got a cupcake matchup with Tommy Touchdowns Savage.
Team To Hate: Buffalo Bills
New Orleans Saints (-3) @ Buffalo Bills; Over/Under 46.5
- This is a tough one, because Buffalo’s offense really didn’t look that bad last Thursday against the Jets. Then again, the Jets defense isn’t exactly among the league’s best. This week brings a much tougher matchup with New Orleans, who since starting the season 0-2 have rattled off 6 straight wins and allowed over 17 points just once.
- Marshon Lattimore has been one of the more surprising stories of the season so far, and the rookie corner is a big part of the reason for the fear that NO’s defense instills in opposing offenses. Through 9 weeks Lattimore is PFF’s highest graded rookie, and their 3rd highest graded player overall, behind only Bobby Wagner and Aaron Donald. He’s allowed just 0.61 yards per snap that he’s spent in coverage this season, 4th in the league among 114 qualified CBs, and he hasn’t allowed more than 38 passing yards in a game this season. One more crazy stat: QB’s passer rating when targeting Lattimore’s assignments this season is 37.4; if they just threw an incomplete pass every time instead, they’d have a passer rating of 39.6. WOW.
- Kelvin Benjamin is set to make his Bills debut on Sunday, and it’s anybody’s guess what his chemistry will be like with Tyrod Taylor after just over a week of practicing together. Regardless, he’ll likely draw Lattimore in coverage for this one, since no other Bills wideout has even been able to crack the top 50 WRs in fantasy this season.
This is one of those spreads that confuses me so much, I probably won’t bet it because in the back of my head I think Vegas just knows something I don’t. New Orleans has won 6 in a row by an average of over 2 touchdowns per game, while Buffalo’s 4 wins in 2017 are against defenses that are an average of 21st in the NFL in scoring defense — the best was Atlanta, who’s currently 14th. Sure Buffalo’s been good at home this season, but I think that trend ends this week with Lattimore and the rest of New Orleans’ secondary stymying Taylor and the Bills passing attack. LeSean McCoy is still a decent start and could do his best to keep the Bills in this one, but I’m out on everyone else.
Game of the Week:
Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons (-3); Over/Under 50.5
- With the week’s highest over/under, this one’s a pretty easy pick. Atlanta isn’t great at stopping the run, and even though Dallas has lost Ezekiel Elliott ONCE AGAIN (for now, anyway), their O-line is strong enough to propel even a guy like Rod Smith or Alfred Morris into fantasy relevancy. Dallas’ D, meanwhile, isn’t really particularly strong in any facet, and the Falcons have one of the more explosive and balanced offensive attacks in football. Could be a shootout in Atlanta.
- It seems like I’m mentioning it every week in this article, but Dak Prescott has just been awesome in his 2nd season. With the “sophomore slump” predictions running rampant over the offseason, Dak has been even better than his historic rookie year. He’s got 20 total TDs and over 2,000 total yards through 8 games, compared to 16 total TDs and just over 2,100 yards in the same span last season. He’s currently fantasy’s QB4, and he’s The Wolf’s QB3 in this solid matchup.
- Much has been made of Matt Ryan‘s regression from his MVP 2016 season, but he’s averaging over 260 yards per game since the team’s Week 5 bye and has a 6:2 TD/INT ratio in that span. Against a Dallas D that’s 17th in the league at stopping the pass, Ryan should continue his recovery, especially if Julio Jones is active.
Speaking of Jones, while it was fun to laugh at his embarrassing dropped TD last week (seriously, watch it again, it just gets funnier every time), it’s hard to ignore his 6 catches for 118 yards on the day. And his owners still have to love his 12 targets, compared to just 10 for the rest of the Falcons receiving core combined. As long as he’s active on Sunday, he should be a great start against a Dallas secondary that’s allowed the 6th most fantasy points to WRs this year. I like him, Ryan, and Austin Hooper in this one, while Mohamed Sanu could benefit from the added attention to Jones and put up some WR3/Flex numbers as well. And for Dallas, obviously Dak leads the way like always (especially in Zeke’s absence), but Dez Bryant is re-emerging as a must-start WR after garnering double-digit targets last week for the 4th time this season and finishing with 6 catches for 73 yards on the day. And after a huge day where he hauled in all 9 of his targets for 141 yards, Terrance Williams has to be on some fantasy radars now, even if just as a low-risk DFS play.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) @ Indianapolis Colts; Over/Under 45
The Colts have the worst scoring defense in football, allowing just under 29 points per game on the year, so that stands out initially looking at this matchup. But Indy aside, I could probably put the Steelers on my good side every week and, for the most part, I’d be pretty successful. When you’ve got a back like Le’Veon Bell, that’ll be the case. Among true run-first backs — the way I see it, these are the guys who have more rushing yards than receiving yards on the season — Bell is 4th in receptions and 8th in receiving yards, so although he’s yet to find the end zone through the air in 2017, he hasn’t lost his dual-threat ways. He’ll face off against a defense that’s allowing just under 114 rushing yards per game this season and is tied for 5th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, so he’s certainly worthy of his RB1 standing on The Wolf’s rankings. And he’s joined by this week’s WR1 as well, Antonio Brown, who’s 2nd in fantasy scoring among WRs but leads the league in receptions (57) and yards (835). Brown also leads the league in yards per route run this year at 2.97, and he’s PFF’s highest graded WR through 9 weeks. Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t had a “Big Ben” year at the helm, but it hasn’t limited Brown’s upside in the slightest, and last week’s bye should only help his fat, constantly ailing body. And finally, if you’re not on Team JuJu yet, you’re just not paying attention. He’s 2nd on the team in targets, receptions, and yards, and leads Pittsburgh with 4 TDs on the year. And he’s coming off his true coming out party in Week 8, a 7-193-1 showing against Detroit that should firmly place him as the Steelers WR2 for the remainder of the season, despite reports of Martavis Bryant‘s return.
New England Patriots (-7.5) @ Denver Broncos; Over/Under 46
Denver’s D is a confusing one when you look at the numbers – they’re only allowing 280 yards per game, which is 2nd in football to only Carolina, but they’re 25th in scoring, allowing 24.8 points per game through 9 weeks. And I’m a little timid in putting New England here regardless, because I’m well aware they’ve struggled in Denver in the past. But New England’s offense has looked solid on the team’s 4-game winning streak, with Tom Brady still tops in the league at 2,541 passing yards. Even at 40, he’s looked unstoppable — even when under duress. For years the narrative on Brady has been that getting pressure on him will neutralize him, but his league-leading 101.7 passer rating when under pressure says otherwise. In the backfield, which is always tough to read in a Belichick offense, Mike Gillislee has continued his disappointing stretch of play after a strong start to the year. Since Week 3 he’s gotten between 8-12 carries each game, but has failed to top 55 yards and has maxed out at 5.2 fantasy points. He’s 5th in the league in red zone carries this season with 21, but he’s failed to turn that into any real production. The Pats RB to own right now is undoubtedly James White, who’s 2nd in receptions and 3rd in receiving yards among running backs this season. Since the start of 2016, White has 892 yards after the catch, which is 2nd in the league in that span. He has one of the most important roles in New England’s offense and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and he clearly has Brady’s trust, which may be the most important thing. And against a defense that’s allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, Rob Gronkowski is in great position to justify his TE1 ranking this week. If you’re deciding to splurge on an expensive option for your DFS lineup this weekend, Gronk’s a phenomenal choice.
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.