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 Bovada.com
Team to Love: Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons (-10); Over/Under 49
- After a hard fought MNF win over Seattle, the Falcons return home to face a Tampa Bay defense that’s 29th in the league in yards allowed and 31st against the pass. Matt Ryan has continued to emerge from his early-season funk, and was Pro Football Focus’ top QB in Week 11 with a game grade of 90.4 and an adjusted completion percentage (takes into account drops, throw aways, etc.) of 77.8%.
- Despite documentation of Julio Jones‘ struggles in 2017, he’s putting together what most WRs would consider a solid season. He’s 15th in fantasy scoring and has put up double digit FPs in all but 1 game this year, despite having just 1 touchdown on the season. He still doesn’t have the red zone role that he should considering his size, but especially against a weak TB secondary he’s due for a huge performance.
- Devonta Freeman remains in concussion protocol with many speculating he’ll need at least one more week to be cleared, which further opens the door for Tevin Coleman to continue with lead back duties. Freeman was PFF’s highest graded RB before his injury but Coleman doesn’t represent too much of a drop off and heading into Week 11 boasted an elusive rating of 42.5, 24th among 40 qualified RBs.
The Falcons have boasted one of the league’s most productive offenses all year long, but their record is just starting to show that. After an undeniable (blew a giant lead in the) Super Bowl hangover, Atlanta has won 3 of 4 and now heads home for a 3-game stretch against TB, MIN, and NO. The Vikes and Saints both trot out some real solid secondaries, so if Matty Ice is going to go off on this homestand, it’ll likely have to be this week against Tampa Bay’s 31st-ranked pass defense. And with Julio Jones likely drawing the matchup against Brent Grimes on the outside, his 6 inch height advantage over the Bucs’ top corner should help him create the separation he needs to produce a big fantasy day — maybe even in the red zone!
Team to Hate: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-14); Over/Under 43.5
- Through 5 games with Aaron Rodgers as their starting QB this season, the Packers were 4-1 and averaging 27.4 points per game. In the 5 games since, with Brett Hundley at the helm, they’re 1-4 and averaging 12 points per game, including last week’s shutout loss against Baltimore. It’s a damn shame to see a team with this much fantasy potential falter due to subpar QB play.
- The Rodgers ripple effect has affected the entire team since his collarbone injury. The sharpest drop-off has come from Jordy Nelson, who was averaging 15.6 FPPG with Rodgers at QB and has put up just 6.2 points per game without him. Randall Cobb‘s average dropped about 3 points as well, and only Devante Adams has managed to keep his fantasy scoring output anywhere near where it was with Rodgers, with his average only dropping about 0.6 points. Regardless, this is a team that was built around A-Rodg, and they’re lost without him.
- Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery will both be out again this week as well, leaving rookie Jamaal Adams with lead back duties once again. Adams has put up respectable performances in his 2 starts this year, contributing on the ground as well as through the air, but in an increasingly 1-dimensional offense against a Pittsburgh D that ranks 4th in yards allowed this season, I’m not banking on much out of him.
There’s no sugar coating it: if you drafted a Packer not named Adams this year, you’re pissed. And justifiably so. Rodgers, Montgomery, and Jones all had promising seasons derailed by injuries, and Cobb and Nelson still haven’t been able to recover from losing their All-Pro QB. And I won’t even get into Martellus Bennett — that’d just be cruel. But with this struggling squad, losers of 4 of their last 5, having to go to Heinz Field in late November in a Sunday Night game against a 1st place Steelers team, it’s no wonder the spread is as lopsided as it is. Adams could salvage a decent WR2/Flex day, but other than that I’m very much out on Green Bay.
Game of the Week:
New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams (-2.5); Over/Under 53.5
- From a fantasy and just a football perspective, this is no doubt the game of the week. It also boasts the highest over/under of the week despite 2 defenses that are in the top 10 in the league in scoring defense, which is a testament to how talented these two offenses are.
- In LA, Jared Goff has emerged as a legit star in year 2 and has led the Rams to a 7-3 start to the year. Goff is the 10th ranked fantasy QB this year with a completion percentage of 61.3% to go along with over 2,600 yards, 16 TDs and 4 INTs through 10 games. He’s also had some help, most notably from fantasy’s RB1 (and The Wolf’s RB2) Todd Gurley, who has scored single digit PPR points just once this season and has scored 20+ points in a game 6 times — and 30+ twice.
- The Saints success is also primarily driven by their ground game, currently in the form of a 2-headed monster of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The former has exploded since Adrian Peterson was traded to Arizona, topping 75 rushing yards in every week and scoring 8 TDs in those 6 games, while the latter has been even more productive, primarily due to his spot at 2nd in targets and receiving yardage and 3rd in receptions among RBs. The duo currently sits 4-5 in the fantasy RB rankings, with Kamara having a slight advantage, and are both getting enough touches in Sean Payton’s offense to carry RB1 status into each and every game.
Obviously, we know both of these teams can run the ball effectively. It’s how they’ve both shot up to 1st place in their respective divisions with a combined 15-5 record in 2017. But the X factor in this one will be which QB, Goff or Drew Brees, can swing the momentum with an effective aerial attack between 6-8 yard rushes. LA’s prospects will take a bit of a hit as their leader in targets, receptions, and yards, Robert Woods, will miss at least a couple weeks with a shoulder injury, but they’ve got the necessary WR depth to overcome that. And while Sammy Watkins‘ stock will undoubtedly rise in Woods’ absence, I’m looking for Cooper Kupp to emerge as the team’s WR1 for the time being. Kupp has been right behind Woods in receptions and targets all year, and he’s been one of the more consistent WRs in football despite never having a true breakout performance. He’s my guy while Woods is out. And for the Saints, they’ll need Michael Thomas to continue being their rock in the passing game. Thomas has over twice as many targets as any other Saints WR, and he’s turned that into a WR7 season so far that has him in the league’s top 10 in both receptions and yards. Guys like Ted Ginn, Jr. and Brandon Coleman can take advantage of added attention on Thomas, but neither can consistently produce like NO’s WR1.
Chicago Bears @ Philadelphia Eagles (-14); Over/Under 44
One of the most lopsided spreads for Week 12, this matchup pins 9-1 Philly against 3-7 Chicago. 1st place vs. last place, MVP candidate vs. young QB trying to keep his team afloat while also landing a decent draft pick. This one should be another blowout for the Birds, and it should bode well for their fantasy prospects as well. Carson Wentz is The Wolf’s QB3 going against Chicago’s surprisingly respectable secondary. Alshon Jeffery faces off against his old squad after an impressive 4-67-1 performance against Dallas, and a combination of Bears corners, most notably Prince Amukamara, is tasked with slowing him down. But with added focus on Alshon, Nelson Agholor could return to his Pro Bowl form from Weeks 1-7, where he was catching deep balls and finding the end zone seemingly every chance he got. And on the ground, while Philly employs enough RBs to make your head spin and seemingly tries to use them all, Jay Ajayi is still the top option of the group on sheer talent alone. He may not be getting the touches he needs to be a workhorse RB1 like he should’ve been in Miami, but he’s still ahead of LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement as far as fantasy relevance in Philly’s crowded backfield.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots (-17); Over/Under 48
And finally, Week 12’s most one-sided line comes in the form of an AFC East clash in Foxborough. Miami, losers of 4 straight, visits Gillette to take on the 1st place Patriots, who’ve rattled off 6 straight wins since a 2-2 start to the year. Arguably the most important part of New England’s recent run has been the defense. After a dismal start to the year, NE’s defensive unit has allowed 12.5 points per game in their last 6 and hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in any single game during that stretch. They’re a great start this week against Miami’s 30th ranked scoring offense. But obviously New England’s success typically revolves around one thing: the play of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. TB12 continues to lead the league in passing in his age-40 season, and he’s managed to overcome playing without Julian Edelman for the year and Chris Hogan the last few weeks. Hogan has yet to practice this week and doesn’t look too promising for Sunday, which means more action for Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola in his absence. Cooks has averaged about 20 fantasy points per game in 2 contests without Hogan, and he represents a speedy deep threat the Pats really haven’t had since Randy Moss. He’s also helped by the fact he’ll likely see coverage from Xavien Howard, PFF’s 2nd-worst graded CB out of 118 qualified players. He should see a healthy target share, and so should Rob Gronkowski, who’s 3rd among TEs with 2.02 yards per route run this year and will likely see coverage from Kiko Alonso, one of the league’s most exploited cover LBs.
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.