NFL Week 1 DFS Cheat Sheet: Five recommended plays for all contests

2M1CKRA DEC 11th, 2022: J.K. Dobbins #27 during the Steelers vs Ravens game in Pittsburgh, PA. Jason Pohuski/CSM/Sipa USA(Credit Image: © Jason Pohuski/Cal Sport Media/Sipa USA)

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) lineups require smart matchups analysis and rostership leverage opportunities to succeed. The analysis below details five fantasy assets capable of gaining significant leverage on the field. 

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RB J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens vs. Houston Texans

Dobbins (75.7 PFF 2022 offense grade) is primed for high-volume usage against Houston’s banged-up roster. As mentioned previously, Houston lost its starting left guard, right tackle and Nos. 1 and 2 centers to injured reserve (IR) while also dealing with an injury cluster through its defensive center. Linebacker Blake Cashman (65.8 PFF preseason run-defense grade, hamstring strain) and safety Jimmie Ward (66.6 PFF preseason run-defense grade, hip injury) failed to practice on Wednesday and look like long shots to play. Fellow starting linebacker Christian Harris (46.4 PFF preseason run-defense grade) will persevere through a shoulder injury. Houston’s offensive injuries point toward an ineffectual outing, resulting in a favorable game script for Dobbins while the defensive injuries soften his journey rushing up the gut. Dobbins’ $6,500 FanDuel salary is tied for just the 18th-highest at the position, making him an easy roster fit for both GPP tournaments and cash games. Baltimore is a -10.0-point home favorite, pacing the field by 3.0 points on FanDuel. Dobbins will function as the driving force behind Baltimore covering the spread.

Baltimore’s top-five-ranked offensive line will bully Houston’s defensive line, anchored by journeymen interior defenders Maliek Collins (60.0 PFF preseason run-defense grade) and Sheldon Rankins (49.1 PFF preseason run-defense grade). Collins has yet to earn a 62.0 PFF run-defense grade or better and Rankins’ career-best 2018 67.9 PFF run-defense grade is hardly superior. 

As shown in the “Breakouts and sleepers at each position article, Dobbins dominated from Week 14 on last year despite playing with visibly limited knee-joint mobility following his offseason surgery to repair his torn ACL, LCL, meniscus and hamstring. He also demonstrated improved passing-game ability, registering a college-and-NFL-career-high 1.00 YPRR and posted his best targets per route run (TPRR) rate (15.3%) since 2018. Expect Dobbins to blossom into a true dual-threat running back in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s scheme. Dobbins is a locked-in Week 1 RB1.

Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs. Houston Texans

Baltimore’s $5,000 FanDuel salary is justifiably the top-priced positional cost. The unit should be played in conjunction with Dobbins, whose $6,500 salary is barely inside the position’s top 20. As mentioned above, Baltimore’s 10.0-point home-favorite status is FanDuel’s largest spread, signaling a fruitful day for Baltimore’s pass rush. Left guard Kenyon Green (55.4 PFF preseason pass-blocking grade), right tackle Tytus Howard (70.2 PFF 2022 pass-blocking grade) and Nos. 1 and 2 centers Scott Quessenberry (25.8 PFF 2022 pass-blocking grade) and Juice Scruggs (81.9 PFF preseason pass-blocking grade) reside on IR, leaving rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud (66.4 PFF preseason passing grade) naked and afraid. Baltimore’s defense/specials teams unit has a week-winning, elite D/ST1 upside this week.

Stroud struggled under pass-rush pressure at Ohio State, routinely forcing ill-advised, turnover-worthy throws. His NFL preseason performance showed improvement in that regard, but its tradeoff cost came via targeted field depth, with Stroud ineffectually opting for the dinking-sans-dunk method.

Stroud’s 2022 pressured passing data among 47 Power-Five quarterbacks with at least 95 dropbacks under pressure, and his 2023 pressured preseason passing data among 63 NFL preseason quarterbacks with at least eight dropbacks under pressure.
QB Passing Data vs. Pressure C.J. Stroud – Power-Five C.J. Stroud – NFL Preseason
PFF Pressured Passing Grade 43.9 (T-No. 37) 64.9 (No. 19)
Big-Time-Throw % 5.8% (No. 13) 0.0% (T-No. 26)
Turnover-Worthy Play % 78.2% (No. 47) 0.0% (T-No. 1)
Adj. Comp. % 50.0% (No. 44) 80.0% (T-No. 9)
Past-The-Sticks Throw % 61.3% (No. 2) 20.0% (T-No. 57)
aDot 12.7 (No. 17) 5.8 (No. 54)
Yds/Att. 5.8 (No. 25) 2.2 (No. 56)
Avg. Time to Throw 4.01 (T-No. 37) 3.65 (T-No. 40)

Baltimore’s edge rush features Odafe Oweh (67.8 PFF 2022 pass-rush grade), Jadeveon Clowney (70.0 PFF preseason pass-rush grade) and David Ojabo (51.3 PFF preseason pass-rush grade). Ojabo was a high-profile prospect who fell in the 2022 NFL Draft due to an Achilles rupture. Among 64 Power-Five edge rushers with at least 275 pass-rush snaps in 2021, Ojabo ranked top 12 with an 87.9 PFF pass-rush grade, 15.4% quarterback pressure rate and a 15.0% pass-rush win rate.

Michael Pierce (71.1 PFF 2022 pass-rush grade), Justin Madubuike (63.3 PFF 2022 pass-rush grade) and Broderick Washington (67.9 PFF 2022 pass-rush grade) make up Baltimore’s three-man defensive line. All three top 300 pounds, with Pierce’s Juggernautian 355 pounds leading the way. Houston’s depleted interior offensive line is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. demolition via the Baltimore triumvirate’s collective sumo-push. 

Cram Baltimore’s defense/special teams unit into all DFS lineups.

WR Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans @ New Orleans Saints

Burks (74.1 PFF 2022 offense grade) practiced in full on Wednesday, indicating the August 16th LCL sprain is no longer a concern. FanDuel buried Burks with a $5,700 salary, tied for the position’s 40th-highest price tag. Burks is poised for a 2023 breakout, WR2 season with matchup-based WR1 upside and can be used in both GPP tournaments and cash games.

New Orleans’ No. 1 cornerback Marshon Lattimore (65.1 PFF preseason coverage grade) will primarily shadow wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (72.9 PFF 2022 offense grade) on Sunday, leaving No. 2 perimeter cornerback Paulson Adebo (67.1 PFF preseason perimeter coverage grade) and slot cornerback Alontae Taylor (72.8 PFF preseason slot-coverage grade) for Burks to feast on. 

Opposing wide receivers routinely dusted Adebo on the perimeter last season. Among 85 NFL perimeter cornerbacks with at least 200 perimeter-coverage snaps in 2022, Adebo ranked outside the top 60 in both catch rate allowed (68.3%) and yards allowed per coverage snap (1.41).

Taylor operated as a near-full-time perimeter cornerback in his 2022 rookie season. This will be his first-ever full-time slot start.

PFF’s strength of schedule metrics project Burks for the 10th-softest positional Week 1 matchup (5.3).

Burks’ rare size-and-speed combination (6-foot-2, 225 pounds, 4.55-second 40-yard-dash) makes for a punishing, elite downfield receiving profile. 

Burks’ 2022 receiving data on targets with a 15-plus-yard average depth of target (aDot) among 81 NFL wide receivers with at least 15 such targets.
NFL Downfield WR Receiving Treylon Burks
PFF 15+-Yd aDot Receiving Grade 83.4  (No. 49)
aDot 31.3 (No. 2)
Yds/Rec. 38.2 (No. 1)
Contested Catch % 75.0% (No. 3)
YAC/Rec. 6.0 (No. 17)

New Orleans’ undersized safety duo Marcus Maye (79.4 PFF preseason coverage grade, 5-foot-11, 207 pounds) and Tyrann Mathieu (73.5 PFF preseason coverage grade, 5-foot-9, 190 pounds) will have difficulty bringing down Burks with a full-head of steam. 

Burks has sneaky WR1 upside this week.

QB Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills

DraftKings tagged New York quarterback Aaron Rodgers (79.6 PFF preseason passing grade) with a $6,200 salary ahead of his Monday Night Football endeavor to steal the top New York quarterback crown from Buffalo’s Josh Allen (90.2 PFF preseason passing grade). The price tag is just the 12th-highest among NFL quarterbacks and $1,900 short of the position’s maximum. Rodgers makes for a contrarian single-game play but can also be fired up in full-length Week 1 competitions.

Buffalo’s star edge rusher Von Miller (81.8 PFF 2022 pass-rush grade) is stuck on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list following ACL reconstruction (ACLR) and PFF lead NFL analyst Sam Monson placed New York’s offensive line in his summer rankings’ No. 8 spot. The unit will keep Rodgers upright. Should Buffalo rushers make it past the line, Rodgers’ ultra-talented backfield doubles as a safety valve. Among 49 NFL running backs with at least 25 targets in 2022, starter Breece Hall’s (48.8 PFF 2022 receiving grade) 2.00 yards per route run (YPRR) ranked No. 2 and Michael Carter’s (65.4 PFF 2022 receiving grade) 87.2% catch rate ranked No. 5. Veteran free agent-signee Dalvin Cook (49.2 PFF 2022 pass-blocking grade) was trusted in pass protection a 2022 regular-season position-high 135 snaps.

As previously detailed, both Buffalo’s No. 2 cornerback Christian Benford (62.3 PFF preseason perimeter-coverage grade) and slot cornerback Taron Johnson (41.8 PFF preseason slot-coverage grade) are significant coverage liabilities. Benford’s 3.4% explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays allowed rate ranked outside the top 65 among 85 NFL cornerbacks with at least 200 perimeter coverage snaps and Johnson’s 82 regular-season targets thrown into his slot coverage led all 2022 NFL slot cornerbacks.

No. 1 cornerback Tre’Davious White (62.9 PFF 2022 coverage grade) is likely to shadow Garrett Wilson (78.7 PFF preseason offense grade) as he did in their Week 14 matchup last season, but Wilson’s dominant rookie season points toward an elite WR1 campaign, and Wilson’s 36.1% 2022 pre-snap alignment slot rate provide him access to Johnson’s welcoming coverage.

Quarterbacks were unafraid to test White last year and the decision frequently paid off. Among 85 NFL perimeter cornerbacks with at least 200 perimeter coverage snaps, White’s 15.8% targeted rate ranked No. 58 and his 1.03 yards allowed per coverage snap tied for No. 34.

Buffalo’s Nos. 4 and 5 cornerbacks Dane Jackson (81.0 PFF preseason coverage grade) and cornerback Kaiir Elam (46.7 PFF preseason coverage grade) offer little from the bench.

Rodgers’ new-team transition is eased by his former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s hiring, helping Rodgers look every bit the big-play facilitator he was as a Green Bay Packer. He produced an outstanding 22.2% NFL preseason Week 3 big-time-throw rate. 

Rodgers’ 2022 passing data among 34 NFL quarterbacks with at least 250 dropbacks.
2022 NFL QB Passing Aaron Rodgers
PFF Passing Grade 75.9 (No. 10)
Big-Time-Throw % 5.8% (No. 2)
Turnover-Worthy Play % 2.9% (No. 15)
Adj. Comp % 75.8% (No. 15)
aDot  8.5 (No. 13)
Avg. Time to Throw 2.67 (T-No. 12)

Rodgers also gets a boost from tight ends Tyler Conklin (71.6 PFF preseason receiving grade) and C.J. Uzomah (65.9 PFF preseason pass-blocking grade). Among 27 tight ends with at least 50 targets last year, Conklin’s 11 explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays tied for No. 15. Uzomah’s 8.3% quarterback pressure rate allowed earned him the same rank among 31 NFL tight ends with at least 35 pass-blocking snaps.

TE Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons

Hurst (50.1 PFF preseason offense grade) makes for a matchup-based GPP play on his $5,000 FanDuel salary, coming in $3,000 short of the position’s maximum. Hurst carries risk playing alongside rookie quarterback Bryce Young (59.4 PFF preseason passing grade) in the game with the second-lowest FanDuel over/under (39.5 points), but linebackers Troy Andersen (49.0 PFF preseason coverage grade) and Kaden Elliss (48.0 PFF preseason coverage grade) are too incapable to be ignored. Three of Carolina’s top four wide receivers are also nursing injuries, including D.J. Chark Jr. (65.4 PFF preseason offense grade), who is unlikely to play due to a hamstring strain.

Hurst lacks explosiveness but offers Young surehanded reliability. Among 27 NFL tight ends with at least 50 targets in 2022, Hurst ranked No. 3 in both contested catch rate (61.5%) and catch rate (79.3%).

Atlanta’s inept linebackers were regularly shredded by opposing tight ends last year. PFF’s strength of schedule metrics project Hurst for the fifth-softest positional Week 1 matchup (7.1).

Andersen and Elliss’ 2022 tight end-coverage data among 66 NFL linebackers with at least 10 tight end targets thrown into their primary coverage.
2022 NFL LB vs. TE Coverage Troy Andersen  Kaden Elliss
PFF TE Coverage Grade 29.1 (T-No. 60) 53.7 (No. 25)
Total TE Targets Throw Against LB Cov. 12 (T-No. 16) 15 (T-No. 28)
Targeted % 20.7% (No. 28) 33.3% (No. 65)
Catch % Allowed 91.7% (No. 63) 73.3% (No. 19)
Yards Allowed per Cov. Snap 2.86 (No. 63) 2.89 (No. 64)
15+-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 5.2% (No. 43) 6.7% (T-No. 58)
Open-Target % 66.7% (T-No. 41) 53.3% (No. 13)

Hurst was one of just 11 NFL tight ends to earn 25 or more targets on third and fourth downs combined. His 18.9% TPRR on such downs ranked No. 6 and his 76.0 PFF receiving grade ranked No. 4, besting players like Baltimore’s Mark Andrews (70.1 PFF 2022 third-and-fourth down receiving grade) and the Cleveland BrownsDavid Njoku (72.7 PFF 2022 third-and-fourth down receiving grade). Expect Young to lean on Hurst in crunch time.

No. 1 running back Miles Sanders (35.4 PFF 2022 receiving grade) profiles as a near-nonentity in passing situations, further reducing Hurst’s target competition. Hurst quietly bears TE1 upside this week.


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