Headline of the game: Is this the game we finally see CARSON WENTZ rewarded?
After what can only be described as a disastrous start, Philadelphia’s season is now actually looking up simply because Wentz has dragged himself out of the funk he was in to begin the year.
Wentz didn’t earn a PFF grade above 57.0 for the first three games and looked completely unable to accurately pass the football at times, but he hasn’t graded below 66.0 since that time, despite playing against two of the toughest defenses in the league.
Philadelphia was beaten by better teams in the Ravens and Steelers, but the Giants represent a much more beatable opposition. The Eagles will have a huge advantage if Wentz can continue this improved form, even with his team's current injury crisis.
There are certainly worse teams out there on the back end, but the Giants are below average in terms of passer rating allowed in coverage, giving up a rating of 102.9 to opposing passers so far this season, around 30 points higher than Wentz's rating through six games. The Giants are also not particularly well suited to attacking Wentz’s lack of supporting cast, with just three players who have double-digit total pressures on the season and interior lineman Dalvin Tomlinson posting the best pass-rushing grade (72.0) on the team.
Travis Fulgham has been a monster for the Philadelphia Eagles over the past three weeks. Over that span, he ranks sixth in yards per route run and has commanded a whopping 25% target share. The Eagles will likely get DeSean Jackson back in the lineup for this Week 7 matchup but will also be without Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz. The targets should continue to come Fulgham’s way and, hopefully for his sake, Jackson’s presence will lessen the likelihood of shadow coverage from James Bradberry. He owns PFF’s fifth-highest coverage grade among CBs, but Fulgham has proved he won’t back down in tough matchups. The Eagles’ wide receiver owns the fourth-highest PFF receiving grade this season.
Considering this matchup further, Bradberry has a 71.1 PFF grade in man coverage 71.1, so the slight favors Fulgham based on his PFF grade versus man coverage (87.7).
The bottom line: Chase Fulgham’s targets and start him on Thursday night. The Giants have allowed the third-most receptions to wide receivers this season.
Boston Scott will draw the start without Sanders and should be viewed as a startable low-end RB2. He operated as the primary option in Week 1 (nine carries for 35 yards, two catches for 19) and played 80% of the snaps in the second half of last week's contest.
The matchup is tough for Scott as a rusher — the Giants boast PFF’s fifth-best run defense. But he should still be a solid floor play based on his work as a receiver. The Giants have allowed the sixth-most receiving yards to running backs this season.
It’s also worth noting that Scott torched the Giants last season. In his two games against them (including one start), Scott averaged 19.5 touches, two touchdowns, 133 yards from scrimmage and six targets.
While the Eagles offense has been decimated by injury, their defense has fared much better. The Philadelphia defense has been relatively good at stopping the run. Devonta Freeman has seen a high percentage of the Giants’ playing time but has yet to top 3.5 yards per carry in a game. He should see plenty of volume but probably won’t be all that efficient per carry.
In the passing game, the Giants’ top receivers will be high-risk, high-reward options this week. The Eagles have a top-three pass rush grade this season while the Giants have the lowest pass-blocking grade, so Daniel Jones will constantly be under pressure. If he can get the ball out, then Evan Engram is most likely to have a big game. Philadelphia has given up the most fantasy points to a tight end twice. With how much Jones will be under pressure, Engram and the running backs will see a lot of the targets.
Thursday Night Football brings the heat once again. The spread for this NFC East matchup has been all one-sided, with the Eagles moving down from 8.5-point favorites in the preseason to -6 to start the week before settling at -4. The ticket percentage skews slightly toward the Eagles, but the majority of cash has been on the Giants. This line movement is based on big bettors favoring the road dog in this matchup.
The total has dropped two points since the open behind 72% of the cash percentage on the under. This total has a big bettors vs. public bettors skew percentage, with the market movement siding with the sharp side. Both offenses rank in the bottom third of our opponent-adjusted offensive rankings, with injuries continuing to pile up on both offensive units.
The total offers no real value, but an overcorrection is possible if this market continues to move. PFF's predictive models (PFF Greenline) sees some opportunity on both the spread and moneyline, which is a great way to add betting intrigue to this Thursday night matchup.
Headline of the game: Was Monday night for real, or can ANDY DALTON rebound?
There was a pretty strong narrative that the Dallas Cowboys offense would be fine with Dalton at quarterback, but that didn't seem like the case on Monday night.
Dalton’s prime-time record is not good in his career, and this was another disappointment under the bright lights. He emerged with an overall PFF grade of 60.5, 25 points worse than his cameo in relief of an injured Prescott a week ago and some way short of his Bengals performance the last time he had a group of receivers as good as this.
It wasn’t all Dalton’s fault, as the team was thrown into a hole early by a pair of Ezekiel Elliott fumbles, but Dalton wasn’t hitting the passes he did last week until it was too late.
Against Washington, we will get a better idea of whether that was a likely look at the future or if Dalton just had a bad day. His receivers are elite, but the pass protection will be a problem, even if he was hurried on just 17 of 51 dropbacks against Arizona. We have seen too much capable play from Dalton to believe that the entire offense will fall apart with him at the helm, but Monday night's matchup was proof that the gap between him and Dak Prescott may be wider than many expected.
The Dallas Cowboys’ defense continues to struggle, and that means we need to continue to target offenses that play them weekly. They rank inside the bottom-12 in terms of fantasy points allowed against every position in fantasy football (including DST), so this a situation as simple as “play all the dudes.”
Kyle Allen is available on waiver wires and can be easily streamed in this matchup. Running back Antonio Gibson is a great buy-low target ahead of this game and Terry McLaurin’s price on DraftKings ($5,900) is mind-boggling coming off a 12-target game.
Dallas has faced the fourth-highest play-action rate this season (34.1%) and has allowed the third-highest passer rating against those types of throws (144.1).
Since Allen took over at quarterback, Washington has ramped up the use of play-action (34.9% vs. 25.6%) compared to when Dwanye Haskins was under center. This further cements McLaurin as an awesome play as the electrifying receiver ranks sixth in the NFL in targets off play-action (17).
Only two receivers this season have achieved 90 or more receiving yards against the Football Team. Both of those players were tight ends. That is good news for Dalton Schultz but bad news for the rest of the wide receivers on the Cowboys roster. Part of the reason why the Cowboys receivers have been able to maintain value is that Dallas has thrown 44 more times than any other team. This week against Washington, they might not need to pass as much because they could maintain a lead. Both Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb should still be in starting lineups, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising if at least one of them has lower than usual targets.
This should mean Ezekiel Elliott has a bounce-back game. Washington has an average run defense, but they’ve been in the top 10 in rushing attempts against, leading them to also be top 10 in yards and touchdowns allowed. This could be the week where Elliott has his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.
The optimism surrounding Andy Dalton was short-lived, with this spread dropping significantly from the opening number. The preseason line of 8.5 simply projected a different situation, but it's noteworthy that this spread opened at 3 early in the week before dropping immediately to 1.
Our cash and ticket percentages both skew toward the Cowboys, highlighting that this latest movement is simply an adjustment by bookmakers based on Monday’s performance.
The Cowboys completely changed their offensive philosophy on early downs with Andy Dalton, and Zeke was fed to an ineffective result. The total seemed to have taken note, dropping 3 points from the open. Our cash and ticket percentages skew heavily toward the under, but a higher percentage of cash makes this a situation that both big and public bettors buy into. PFF Greenline has no strong preference on the total but is intrigued by plays on both the spread and moneyline.
Headline of the game: Who is the real JOSH ALLEN?
The Josh Allen rollercoaster ride has taken more unexpected dips over recent weeks. After a start to the season that had people signing apology forms and ready to crown him as one of the most surprising development stories in recent draft history, he has cooled way down in the past two games. After three consecutive games with a PFF grade of at least 80.0 — peaking with a career-best 91.9 against the Raiders in Week 4 — Allen has posted grades of 76.7 and 64.6, and 1,040 passing yards in his first three games gave way to a season-low of just 122 in the rain on Monday night.
What we saw in the first four games of the season was too good to completely ignore and represented a departure from his baseline play over the first two seasons of his career too dramatic to be just a quirk. Questions were being asked at the time about whether it was sustainable, but now it has fallen away.
Allen’s overall PFF grade is still 86.3 for the season, which is No. 6 in the NFL but more than 20 grading points higher than his previous career-high, but for the first time this season, we get to see whether he can bounce back from a performance that belongs more comfortably with his previous levels of play and not the new Allen that we had seen in 2020.
Jamison Crowder is in a smash spot versus a Buffalo Bills’ defense that has allowed the third-most completions to slot wide receivers this season. He’s also averaged 12.3 targets, 9.6 catches and 93 receiving yards in his last three games versus the Bills.
But from a DFS perspective, there is a way to save more salary to jam in all the studs — Breshad Perriman is just $3,700 on DraftKings. He had four catches for 62 yards on eight targets in Week 6 (10.2 fantasy points) and his salary pricepoint surprisingly went down.
He led the team in air yards (134) and will get the chance to match up routinely versus Bills cornerback Josh Norman, who ranks 96th among qualifying CBs in PFF’s coverage grade (38.0) over the past two weeks in relief of Levi Wallace.
Which Bills players end up having the most fantasy points will depend on how quickly Buffalo gets a lead. The Jets defense has allowed the fourth-highest average yards per pass at 8.1. New York has been more efficient at stopping the run, but they’ve been run on a lot, leading to nine touchdowns. That’s tied for third-most by a defense.
Because of the matchup, fantasy managers should continue to start the Bills’ stars. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs should be more efficient than usual and will hopefully put up some big numbers until the Bills don’t need them to. Devin Singletary should see plenty of carries, although it wouldn’t be surprising if Zack Moss is given more opportunities, too.
No one is buying into the Jets at this point, as they look historically poor to start the season. Bigger bettors were once again burned by the Jets failing to cover a wide spread, which makes the stopping point on this week difficult to project.
The preseason spread of 3.5 quickly ballooned to 10 to start the week, before even more Bills backing pushed it to 13. A healthy percentage of the cash and tickets are siding with the Bills, which could point this spread all the way to 14. At some point, representatives from the sharp side will step in to buy the Jets, but after being burned the past two weeks, this spread could move more than expected.
The total has seen a drop since the open, with our predictive models still leaning toward the under. This is counter to the cash and ticket percentage, but how many points can the Jets realistically be expected to score with the 32nd-ranked offensive unit?
Headline of the game: Can either quarterback be aggressive enough?
This game features a battle between two of the more conservative quarterbacks in the league from a stylistic point of view. That’s a trait that has always been there with Teddy Bridgewater, and Drew Brees has skewed more and more in that direction as he has aged.
Denver's Drew Lock leads the NFL in average depth of target at 13.9, and the more aggressive quarterbacks in the league are above 10 yards on average, but Bridgewater sits at 7.2 and Brees just 6.3 yards this season. They rank 29th and 36th out of 38 qualifiers, respectively.
Brees has also been the least likely quarterback in the league to take a deep shot this season, as only 5.1% of his pass attempts have traveled 20 or more yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. Bridgewater, on the other hand, has taken a deep shot on 9.2% of his attempts, which is significantly more aggressive but still ranks just 26th of 35 qualifiers.
There are always mitigating circumstances with these statistics, but at this point, it’s inarguable that both passers tend to be far more conservative than average, yet those aggressive targets are the most valuable passing plays in the game and help to offset a lot of down-to-down inconsistency. Will this be a battle between two quarterbacks trying to play tiny margins for error, or will one seize on the opportunity to be aggressive and win the game simply by attacking the bigger plays?
The Panthers have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position this season, so alternative options should be sought after in replacement of Emmanuel Sanders. He projects to man the slot as he did back in Week 1, but that matchup doesn’t favor Sanders in Week 7.
The Panthers’ defense has allowed the second-lowest yards per attempt (7.4) to slot wide receivers this season and just over four catches per game. Additionally, Sanders only saw five targets back in Week 1 when Michael Thomas was healthy.
Thomas should presumably be making his return to the Saints’ starting lineup, so in a corresponding move, fantasy managers need to take a wait-and-see approach with Sanders and place him on the bench.
For the Panthers offense, start the players you always start in Mike Davis, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, but none of them are likely to have their best games of the season. The Saints have been good at shutting down wide receivers, especially on the outside, and have been average against running backs.
The biggest Saints weakness has been stopping tight ends, where they’ve allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than any other defense. The Panthers, on the other hand, have only had 10 catches by tight ends for 74 yards and a touchdown. There have been over 20 instances where a tight end had more yards in a game than the Carolina tight ends have had this season combined. Even against this defense, I wouldn’t trust even picking up one of the Carolina tight ends.
The Panthers have quickly fallen out of favor with bettors after receiving significant backing in Week 6. The 6.5-point opening line quickly cut through the key number 7 before adding the hook. The cash and ticket percentages are skewed toward the Saints, who appear to be receiving a higher percentage of public backing.
Twenty-three places separate these offenses in our opponent-adjusted rankings, despite similar expected points added (EPA) per pass attempt numbers to start the season. The total market hasn’t moved off of the opening number, with PFF Greenline offering a lean on one side of this market.
Any further line movement could open up value on the spread and moneyline, which makes monitoring Greenline imperative for late-week action.
Headline of the game: Rodgers set for a big bounce-back game.
Week 6 saw one of the most uncharacteristic Aaron Rodgers performances in a long time. Before facing Tampa Bay, Rodgers had yet to commit any kind of a turnover-worthy play on the season. He jumped out to a lead but then seemed to unravel at the point he threw his first — a pick-six to cornerback Jamel Dean that erased much of the lead.
From that point on, Rodgers wasn’t right in the game and finished with three turnover-worthy plays overall. He was seemingly unable to deal with the timing of the Tampa Bay pressure looks and generally struggled to find a rhythm for the rest of the contest. You could make the case that this represented the first good defense that he has faced this season and that the Rodgers we saw for the first five weeks was a mirage, or you can make the case that this was a bad day at the office — all quarterbacks have them.
Either way, getting to face the Houston Texans represents an ideal environment for him to bounce back and once again look like the best quarterback in the game, whatever the underlying reasons for his poor performance were. Only two defenses in the league are allowing a higher passer rating to opposing quarterbacks than the 119.6 the Texans are currently giving up, and their defense as a whole is giving up 6.1 yards per play, 27th in the league. We may not get a better handle on where Rodgers is this season until someplace down the line, but we should be expecting a big rebound game this week.
I won’t get to Will Fuller in DFS this week because of his tough matchup against Jaire Alexander — he grades out as PFF’s second-best CB in coverage grade this season (90.7) — but David Johnson at $5,300 peaks my interest.
The Packers have been atrocious against running backs this season, allowing the most fantasy points to the position over the past four weeks, and DJ has seen 19.5 touches per game under the new coaching regime.
Those touches haven’t resulted in much (12.5 fantasy points per game), but the big game is coming. Per PFF’s expected fantasy points model, Johnson should be averaging closer to 20.1 fantasy points per game.
Aaron Jones had his worst game of the season last week. After having at least 65 rushing yards in every game, he was held to 15 against the Buccaneers. He should be able to respond in a big way against this Texans defense. They are the only team to have allowed over 1,000 rushing yards so far this season. Part of that is because the Texans have been run against the most, but they’ve also allowed the highest yards per carry at 5.4. Jones should only add to those numbers.
Davante Adams against Bradley Roby will be the other interesting battle in this game. The Texans have consistently put Roby up against the opposition's top wide receiver. Roby has yet to allow more than 45 yards in a game, although the wide receivers he’s lined up against have gotten more yards outside of Roby’s coverage. Roby’s coverage grade has been improving as the season has gone on despite continuing to play good receivers. Adams should still be in all starting lineups but be prepared for this game to not be his best. Other parts of the Texans defense will be easier to attack in the passing game.
The betting market appeared lower on the Texans than our predictive models, which explains the 1-point preseason spread moving only a little at the start of the week. This number now sits between 3 and 3.5, with early bettors all over the Packers as road favorites.
Both offenses rank in the top 10 of our opponent-adjusted offensive grades, with the Packers the third-best offense from an EPA per pass attempt perspective. This total has opened as the second-highest of the weekend and has held steady to that number, despite a healthy percentage of the cash and tickets on the over.
PFF Greenline has identified some value on the moneyline and total in this matchup. These markets appear to be on the verge of movement, which makes checking Greenline a worthwhile approach.
Headline of the game: Will Ryan Tannehill be the next quarterback to fall victim to Pittsburgh’s defense?
We wrote last week in this piece about the Steelers’ pass-rush unit facing its first real test of the 2020 season against a Browns' offensive line that had played like one of the league’s best to start the year. It’s safe to say that Pittsburgh passed the test — they generated pressure on over 50% of their pass-rushing snaps (again), and they limited the Browns to just -0.5 expected points added per play. You have to go back to 2008 to find a defensive performance as dominant as that by the Steelers on a per-play basis. T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are all getting after the quarterback at a high level this year — making up the league’s most formidable pass rush through the first six weeks of the season.
On the other side of the field, Tennessee’s offense has been one of the more impressive groups in the NFL. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith continues to put Tannehill in positions to succeed, and the former Dolphin is absolutely dealing. He currently sits as PFF’s fifth-highest graded passer. As a team, the Titans are fielding one of the most efficient offenses in the league (0.22 EPA per play).
Tannehill’s propensity to take sacks is an area for concern in this matchup, though. Since the start of last season, the only two quarterbacks to take sacks on a higher percentage of their pressured dropbacks are Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen. The Steelers will look to capitalize on that in this battle between the last two undefeated teams in the AFC.
Ryan Tannehill looks like he would be in a position to be a candidate to avoid in this matchup, but the Steelers’ secondary has holes. They have allowed the third-most air yards per game — before Baker Mayfield laid a total egg against them, they had allowed over 20 fantasy points per game to the likes of Daniel Jones, Jeff Driskel and Carson Wentz.
The Steelers’ claim to fame is how they can bring pressure to the quarterback position — they lead the league in pressure rate at 50.7%. But no quarterback has been better than Tannehill in the face of pressure this season.
He owns a 7:0 touchdown to interception ratio and boasts the No. 1 passer rating (110.5) under pressure — it’s actually slightly higher than his rating in a clean pocket (110.3).
Don’t be surprised to see Tannehill shred the Steelers’ secondary on Sunday.
The Titans defense is coming off a game where they allowed four passing touchdowns — one to each of the team’s top three wide receivers and the fourth to their tight end. That is great news for the Steelers, who have plenty of wide receivers to throw to.
The biggest question will be if Diontae Johnson is ready to return or not. If he does, that would likely limit the playing time of both James Washington and Chase Claypool. Even with limited playing time, Claypool should be starting with how much the Steelers have been getting him the ball when he is on the field. Washington will be more dependent on whether Johnson plays or not. The rest of the Steelers starters should all be in starting lineups. If there is anything to be concerned about with these matchups, it’s that Tennessee has an above-average run defense, which could slow down James Conner. He still sees a very high percentage of the playing time and carries, so even if the matchup isn’t amazing for him, he should still be starting.
This matchup looks like the game of the week, with the Titans one spot ahead of the Steelers at fifth in our Elo rankings. The market is siding with the road team that we have slightly lower in our power rankings. The cash and ticket percentages have been heavily one-sided, with 78% of the cash on the Steelers suggesting big bettors are buying in early in the week.
The spread offers no real value based on our predictive models, despite 28 places separating these teams in our opponent-adjusted offensive grades. Tannehill has graded 12 points better than Ben Roethlisberger, which makes for one of the most intriguing matchups of the week as the Titans offense gets set to go up against a ferocious Steelers defense.
That Steelers defense is second overall in our opponent-adjusted grades, but the total market still has an appetite for points. The opening 52.5 didn’t hold, but the total has only seen a half- or one-point drop, depending on the book. Our predictive models lean slightly towards the over, which is the same direction as the cash and ticket percentages.
Headline of the game: It’s time to start being concerned about Baker Mayfield’s prospects as the starting quarterback in Cleveland
Mayfield’s 2019 season was already a cause for concern — he took a clear step back from what was a promising rookie season in 2018, bailing on clean pockets and struggling with his accuracy.
Heading into the 2020 season with new head coach and playcaller Kevin Stefanski, as well as improvements to his supporting cast, there were reasons to believe that Mayfield would bounce back. After all, there were multiple years across his time at Oklahoma and early on in his NFL career that indicated that he could be a quality starter at worst.
Even with the dud against Pittsburgh last week, Mayfield’s passer rating is still better this year than it was in 2019, but his PFF passing grade has dropped from 71.7 to 57.3. The credit for how Cleveland’s offense has looked should largely go to the upgrade from Freddie Kitchens to Kevin Stefanski, while Mayfield looks like someone who is holding them back rather than delivering them to the promised land. PFF’s Mike Renner detailed the reasons for concern in a piece this week, and they range from shaky pocket presence to an inability to push the ball downfield from traditional dropbacks.
The yips are often associated with baseball, but it sure looks like Mayfield has them. He’s just not the same confident player we’ve seen in the past, and that’s a major problem for the Browns.
The Cleveland Browns have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers over the past four weeks, which makes both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd locked-and-loaded options in fantasy lineups for Week 7. Both rank inside the top-12 WRs in PPR formats since Week 3.
Back in Week 2, when the Bengals played the Browns, Boyd had over 70 receiving yards and a touchdown. Higgins wasn’t playing a full role at the time in that contest but still saw modest production with six targets for three catches and 35 yards.
A.J. Green enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in Week 6, posting his best game to date with eight grabs for 96 receiving yards. I would not immediately jump on the back on the Green bandwagon moving forward, though, just because of his track record so far this season.
His Week 6 stat line also looks much less impressive when it’s revealed that the majority of his yardage gained was against linebacker Anthony Walker in coverage. He is a WR3 option this week more than anything else and is preferably a major sell-high candidate based on the name brand.
I’d also like to highlight that it’s always important to recognize outlier player performances in correlation with other player injuries. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Green’s best game came the week the team deactivated Auden Tate. In the three games Tate has been active and seen legitimate snaps this season, Green has averaged just under four targets per game. The other three games? Eleven targets per game.
If Tate is ruled out for Week 7, it will be hard to pass on Green in DFS — he’ll be a solid cash play option at just $4,300.
This past week, Kareem Hunt had his worst game of the season, but this week could be his best. The Bengals have allowed the second-most yards per carry this season at 5.1. This had led to the third-most rushing yards allowed at 854. As long as the Browns defense doesn’t give up a big lead, Cleveland’s strategy on offense should just be to feed Hunt.
Austin Hooper also has the potential to have his biggest game of the season. He wasn’t seeing five targets per game over the first three weeks, but that has increased and he’s had five catches per game the last three weeks. He’s still not on pace to score as many touchdowns as last season, and he’s yet to avoid a tackle after the catch despite having seven or more avoided tackles each of the last three seasons. The Bengals have given up 404 yards to tight ends, which is the third-most. The combined increased opportunities and defense that has given up plenty of yards should make Hooper owners happy.
This spread has bounced between 3 and 4, with no consensus forming on the early-week number. The Browns are the popular team in the betting market, after receiving 78% of the cash and 81% of the early-week ticket percentages. Our predictive models find little value in this game, so shopping for the best available price is a prudent decision in this situation.
The total has dropped 1.5 points since the open, which could partially be attributed to the lack of points last week. Both defenses rank in the twenties of our opponent-adjusted grades, which highlights why Greenline leans slightly toward the under. There is little betting value in this matchup, but line movement could open up opportunities as we head toward kickoff.
Headline of the game: A healthy Kenny Golladay changes this Lions’ offense
Detroit received a lot of preseason buzz, and that has not come to fruition through five games in 2020. The big area of concern on this team is a defense that continues to disappoint under Matt Patricia. Desmond Trufant has missed multiple games with an injury, and Jeffrey Okudah has not looked like a player who is ready to immediately step in right and replace Darius Slay on the outside, posting a 30.4 PFF coverage grade through his first four NFL games.
On the bright side for the Lions, their offense is starting to look more and more like the group that impressed with Matthew Stafford on the field in 2019. Golladay’s return after missing the first two games of the season with injury has a lot to do with that. Stafford hasn’t played particularly well this season, earning a 65.8 PFF grade thus far, but in the three games that he’s had Golladay at his disposal, Detroit ranks third in expected points added per pass play — behind only Kansas City and Tennessee. That rank was 25th across the first two weeks of the season without Golladay.
He gives Stafford and this offense one of the best downfield, contested-catch targets in the NFL. Look for Golladay to have a big game here against a Falcons secondary that has struggled in coverage this year.
Todd Gurley II still finds himself in a prime sell-high position — this game versus the Lions feels extremely trappy. We see teams adjust when they come out after bye weeks, and the Lions run defense looked much improved in Week 6, holding James Robinson to just 29 rushing yards on 12 attempts.
Gurley has been involved more as a pass-catcher in recent weeks — nine targets over the past two weeks — but his fantasy production is still tied to his rushing production. Gurley could barely get anything going against the Minnesota Vikings (PFF’s 28th run-graded defense) in Week 6 (2.4 yards per attempt), so I am not optimistic about his Week 7 matchup.
The interesting thing will be how well T.J. Hockenson will do. He started the season with at least 50 yards in each of the first three games. Over the last two games, he had been held to under 20 yards each game but has also scored a touchdown in each. The Falcons have yet to face any of the top 20 tight ends drafted this year until this upcoming week. Despite not facing any of the big-name tight ends, they’ve allowed five different TEs to gain at least 50 yards. Hockenson has the opportunity for a career game.
The preseason spread of -6 was not going to hold for a team one game after its head coach was fired. This week's opening of -1 was a slight overreaction, with the early-week number locked into -2. Some leading books have the juice on -2, so a bump up to -2.5 still feels like a potential path.
It is more of the same story from our predictive models, needing to go back to the well on the Falcons after their upset victory last week. This team is much better than their early-season struggles, with their late-game collapses at least reflecting their early-game ability. The cash and ticket percentages are counter to our predictive models, with 70% of the cash and 60% of the tickets on the Lions. The Lions have been a trendy betting target throughout 2020, which is a viable reason for why we are so far off-market on this matchup.
The Falcons are once again an over team, sitting at 4-2 going over to start the season. This total is the highest of Week 7 after seeing no change from the opening number.
Headline of the game: The Cardinals have an opportunity to show that they’re a real contender in the NFC West
Arizona beating the undefeated Seahawks following a bye would send a message to the rest of the NFL that it is a legitimate contender in the NFC West. Despite the Cardinals' 4-2 record through six weeks, it doesn’t exactly seem like that’s how they’re being viewed right now.
An offense that had lofty expectations coming into the season has looked better in recent weeks, but they’ve also had an easy go of things with matchups against the Jets and Cowboys — two defenses that no one is confusing with the 1985 Bears.
Kyler Murray’s rushing ability raises the floor of Arizona’s offense when things aren’t clicking in the passing game, but things still haven’t fully clicked for him as a passer. His 70.9 passing grade to this point in 2020 is an improvement over last season, but it ranks just 19th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks through Week 6. It’s not a question of arm talent. Murray has that in spades, but he still needs to show he can make the routine throws with more consistency.
Based on how they’ve played this season, the Seahawks’ defense isn’t much of a step up from Dallas and New York. The unit can’t generate any sort of pass rush, and its cornerbacks have been picked on as a result. Murray and DeAndre Hopkins will look to continue that trend.
On DraftKings, Kenyan Drake ($4,800) is priced lower than Chase Edmonds ($4,900). This is a massive oversight on the DFS behemoth. This is because the salaries were released before the Monday night game. And, of course, Drake went off for 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
His mispricing is sure to lead him to popular ownership, but this screams trap. Drake enjoyed the best game script possible in Week 6 against the worst defense in the league. That’s not likely to be the case against the Seattle Seahawks, who present a much larger threat on offense than the Andy Dalton-led Dallas Cowboys.
Seattle also owns PFF’s third-best run defense (77.1) and could see the return of safety Jamal Adams in Week 7. This game could also feature the debut of run-stuffer Damon “Snacks” Harrison, who Pete Carroll claimed looked svelte in recent practices.
If Drake can’t get going on the ground and the Cardinals fall behind, his fantasy value will plummet because he is a complete afterthought in the passing game. That makes him an easy sell-high candidate ahead of this tough matchup and a bye in Week 8.
The Seahawks wide receivers have caught a league-leading 12 touchdowns this season, with half of them coming in the red zone. The Cardinals cornerbacks have allowed a league-low 28.6% catch rate in the red zone. Their cornerbacks only allowed two touchdowns in the red zone and three total. It will be interesting to see which side will get the best of the other in the red zone.
It might not matter much if the Seahawks can gain a big lead. The Cardinals have graded out below average against the run. No individual running back has had over 85 yards against the Arizona defense, but they’ve allowed at least 90 total rushing yards to running backs in every game. Chris Carson should have a high floor in this one and the potential to see even more carries late in the game. The game script could lead to the Seahawks star wide receivers seeing fewer targets as other weeks. They are too good to bench, but this might not be their best week.
The pecking order in the NFC West will be established in this division showdown. The Cardinals are 10 spots behind the fourth-ranked Seahawks in PFF's Elo rankings.
This spread has moved back to the preseason number after opening the week at 2.5 before crossing back to 3.5. And 70% of the tickets but only 63% of the cash are on the Seahawks, which highlights the early-week direction of the market. The Seahawks look like the public side, especially at 3.5, with a move back down needed for our predictive models to find value.
This total is tied for the second-highest on the main slate, making it a popular option for DFS opportunities. Our predictive models find little value on either side of the 56.5, with 69% of the tickets and 55% of the cash on the over.
Headline of the game: Justin Herbert has the perfect matchup to continue impressing in his rookie season
There is a lot to like about how Herbert has started the season after being elevated to the starting job back in Week 2. The flash plays have really popped thus far. He had 12 big-time throws across the four-week stretch from Week 2 through Week 5, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Herbert ranked fourth in the league in passing yards on 20-plus yard throws (320) and first in passing yards under pressure (482) over that same stretch. He’s been under heavy pressure, but he has shown the ability to make plays downfield from bad situations — a quality that shouldn’t be discounted.
This matchup against Jacksonville should provide plenty of good situations to attack from. The Jaguars are tied for last in the league with 7.8 yards allowed per pass play this season. Their 26.3% team pressure rate ranks 27th in the league, and coverage isn’t a strong point, either. This is a far cry from the Jaguars' intimidating group that took the field in 2017. It’s a good opportunity for Herbert to show improved down-to-down consistency in addition to the big plays.
Jacksonville has been destroyed by running backs this season, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points allowed over the past four weeks, and the Chargers are expected to get two of their starting offensive linemen back.
That should help the Chargers running backs find more room and will make them solid producers in fantasy. Jackson is the preferred option coming off Week 5, when he played the majority of snaps (59%) over Kelley (35%), but Kelley is sure to still be involved as the early-down runner in what is a clear two-man RB system.
The Chargers were expected to have a great pass defense but have given up significant fantasy points to quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. A big reason for that is the opponents they’ve faced. They’ve given up over 500 passing yards in three of their five games, but those three games all featured future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Jacksonville hasn’t gotten their tight ends too involved in the pass game, but they have wide receivers with potential. D.J. Chark Jr. is coming off of a 14-target performance, so he could be positioned to have a big game. Two wide receivers have had more than 120 receiving yards against the Chargers. With how much Chark is targeted, he could be the third. Los Angeles has allowed the sixth-fewest rushing yards at 538. James Robinson has underperformed lately, and that could continue.
Both teams sit in the bottom-fourth of PFF's Elo rankings, with the Chargers at 27th and the Jaguars at 31st. No two teams this close in our power rankings should be more than a touchdown favorite without significant injury news. The betting market appears much higher on the Chargers than our current estimations despite their 10th-ranked defensive unit.
The total has held to the opening number, with 78% of the cash and 56% of the tickets on the under. Big bettors have an early week appetite for the under, but our predictive models lean the other direction.
Headline of the game: CAM NEWTON needs to play superhero to keep the Patriot’s offense afloat
New England lacks talent on offense, specifically at the skill positions. Bill Belichick’s formerly dominant defense ranks just 12th in expected points added per play allowed through Week 6. The only thing keeping the Pats from barreling down the tracks toward the team’s first losing season since 2000 is the likelihood that Newton can elevate a disastrous supporting cast.
PFF’s Seth Galina wrote this week that Newton needs to put the team on his back to make the Patriots relevant again. The veteran signal-caller has been far from perfect (74.3 PFF grade, 18th) but remains capable of leading a competent offense if he can avoid missing the few open throws his receivers allot him and take care of the football.
Cam Newton is the only New England Patriots player who can be trusted in fantasy football. Neither Julian Edelman nor N’Keal Harry have shown us anything to warrant confidence that they can be deployed in lineups moving forward.
But the facts can’t be ignored — Edelman still owns the ninth-highest target share (26%) among wide receivers this season and the second-highest target share (30%) with Newton under center.
Edelman is clearly being bothered by a knee injury, which is the reason he played fewer than 70% of the snaps on Sunday. Another week removed, Edelman should be in much better shape against the San Francisco 49ers who have allowed the fourth-highest QBR (120.4) and third-highest touchdown percentage (10.3%) to slot wide receivers this season.
It’s also been reported that Josh McDaniels wants to get Edelman going as the Patriots reach a crossroads almost halfway through the season, sitting at 2-3. If they have any hope of reaching the postseason, Edelman will surely need to be involved.
We saw Edelman post a WR3 overall performance back in Week 2, so we know he can deliver for fantasy. Considering how far his fantasy stock has fallen, he is one of the easiest players to acquire through trade with low-ball offers. Keep in mind he has already had his bye week. Trust the process.
This is a very interesting matchup for the 49ers' passing game. San Francisco’s offense is built around getting receivers yards after the catch. They have a league-leading 6.6 yards after the catch per catch, as well as the second-most total yards after the catch at 907. The Patriots have allowed the second-fewest yards after the catch at 503. New England should be well-suited to shut down the 49ers pass game.
This is also a problem for George Kittle. The Patriots already held Travis Kelce to three catches. Kelce was at least able to gain 70 yards on those catches. All other tight ends they’ve faced combined have 130 yards, and none has had more than three catches. New England will do everything it can to stop Kittle. Five of the nine running backs to have at least five carries against the Patriots have averaged 4.4 yards per carry. Whoever ends up being the early-down runner for San Francisco could have a decent game, but it’s unclear at this point who that would be.
It only took one game for the market to buy back into the 49ers. This line has moved from an opening number of -5.5 down to -2.5 but has a long way to go before touching the preseason number of 2. The line movement has seen a higher percentage of tickets on the 49ers, with the Patriots looking like the buy, according to big-money bettors.
This total is the second-lowest number of Week 8, besides the Thursday night football showdown. It dropped two points since the open, with further movement expected given the discrepancies across books. Our predictive models have no lean on the total, but a small play could be developing on the spread.
Headline of the game: Can a Drew Lock-led offense go toe to toe with Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs?
The box score was ugly, but Lock still earned a 72.7 PFF passing grade in the team’s Week 6 win over New England despite his two interceptions and 34.9 passer rating. His NFL-high five big-time throws in Week 6 kept his PFF grade from disaster territory because he also finished the week with more turnover-worthy plays (4) than any other signal-caller this past week.
Lock can’t afford to be a roller coaster against the Chiefs. While Mahomes hasn’t been his MVP-caliber self to start the season, he still ranks seventh in PFF passing grade (83.7) and leads a Kansas City offense that ranks second behind the Titans in expected points added per play.
Kansas City’s defense, however, ranks just 17th in expected points added per play allowed. Denver’s offensive line has exceeded expectations through six weeks, and the team’s skill players have proven more than capable of pulling their weight. Lock doesn’t have any excuses. He needs to rise to the occasion and prove he can go toe to toe with Mahomes in a shootout if Denver is going to make any kind of postseason run this year.
No quarterback has a higher average depth of target this season than Drew Lock (13.9). The second-year quarterback is slinging the ball downfield, similar to what we saw last year with Daniel Jones under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
I fully expect this trend to continue as the Broncos look to keep pace with the high-powered Chiefs offense. Kansas City ranks fifth-best against fantasy wide receivers this season but has faced the highest deep ball percentage (25.7%) this season.
Patrick would be my favorite of the two Broncos receivers based on his 30% target share over the past two weeks. He also owns PFF’s third-best receiving grade (93.8) on targets of 20 yards or more this season.
The big story going into this game revolves around the Chiefs’ running back situation. Le'Veon Bell signed with Kansas City last week but didn’t play in their Monday Night Game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire responded with a 161 rushing yards on 26 carries, giving him his best performance of the season. How the snaps shake out between those two and Darrel Williams will be very interesting.
While this all has plenty of ramifications for the rest of the season, it might not matter much for this week. Half of the running backs who have had multiple carries against the Broncos have averaged under 3.0 yards per carry. Only two backs have had more than 60 rushing yards against them, and only one back has scored a touchdown rushing against them. If Edwards-Helaire gets 15 or more carries, he should top 50 yards, but he probably won’t get a touchdown. All Kansas City players involved in the passing game need to be started regardless of the opponent, but they should play a little better than usual against the Broncos defense.
The Chiefs rebounded from their worst performance in a year by destroying the notion that the Bills are top-tier challengers in the AFC. The market liked what it saw enough to start pushing this current week spread from an opening of 9.5 out to 10 with some rogue 10.5s — 90% of the cash and 89% of the tickets will force some type of line movement, even if it is up to a key number like 10.
Kansas City has been an “under” team to start 2020, with the total market dropping two full points since the open. This movement has been all related to the heavy cash percentage, with 96% on the under. Nothing is opening up from a PFF Greenline perspective, but any further movement in one of the markets should open up value based on an overcorrection.
Headline of the game: To beat Tom Brady, Derek Carr needs to rise to the occasion against the Bucs’ high-performing defense
Carr and the Raiders’ offense have comfortably exceeded expectations to start the 2020 season. The veteran signal-caller ranks third in the NFL in PFF-charted accuracy percentage (67%) and leads a Las Vegas offense that ranks fourth in expected points added per play entering Week 7. The offense also took a significant step forward with the deep ball in the team's upset win over the Chiefs in Week 5.
In Weeks 1-4, the Raiders’ offense threw the ball 20-plus yards downfield on just 6.3% of their passing attempts, good for 27th in the NFL. In Week 5, only three teams threw the ball downfield at a higher rate than the Raiders (19%).
While Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller have proven capable of gaining yards after the catch, Las Vegas can’t continue to upset heavy favorites (like the Chiefs a week ago) if they don’t uncork the deep ball. That’s easier said than done against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed an explosive pass play (gain of 15-plus yards) on just 12% of passing plays (sixth-best) through Week 6, but it’s a necessary step in the Raiders’ pursuit of another upset win.
The last time we saw Henry Ruggs III in action he was running wild in the Kansas City Chiefs’ secondary. We often see teams feature their rookies more after their bye weeks (i.e. D’Andre Swift), so Ruggs could be relied on heavily by quarterback Derek Carr in Week 7.
Ruggs should see his fair share of home run opportunities against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense that has allowed the third-highest passer rating (129.5) on throws 20-plus yards downfield. To put that in perspective, they are tied with the Dallas Cowboys’ defense in that regard.
Carr also helps make the case for Ruggs, because Captain Checkdown has made a transformation into a downfield gunslinger. Maybe that’s a bit brash, but there’s no arguing Carr has been elite throwing deep this season. His rating on deep throws (143.8) ranks No. 1 in the NFL and his adjusted completion percentage ranks third (60%).
Ronald Jones has looked noticeably better over the past three weeks compared to the first three. His PFF run grade of 85.6 in that time is the second-best for all running backs. His 330 rushing yards in that time is 61 more than any other back. While Leonard Fournette could come back this week and potentially take a few carries, Jones should still get plenty of opportunities.
The Raiders have allowed a league-leading 10 rushing touchdowns. Their 4.8 rushing yards per attempt allowed is also among the top 10. Part of the reason the Raiders have allowed so many fantasy points to running backs is because of pass-game usage. Jones isn’t going to take advantage of that, but it won’t stop him from having a big day rushing. The Raiders defense has also been a little below average against the pass, which means the rest of the Buccaneers’ weapons on offense also should be in starting lineups.
Bettors appear to have quickly forgotten about the Raiders coming out of their bye. This spread picked up a half-point to land at the key number 3 behind 67% of the cash and 71% of the tickets. Fourteen places separate these two teams in our Elo rankings, which makes this initial market movement feel understated.
There is an expectation for points on Sunday night, with this totals market the fourth-highest in Week 7. The Buccaneers have the top-ranked defense, according to our opponent-adjusted grades, with the Raiders almost as far on the opposite spectrum as you can get. This is a big-money bettors vs. public setup, with 71% of the cash on the under but 74% of the tickets on the over. Our predictive models have a strong lean on the spread with playable options on the moneyline and totals market.
Headline of the game: Are Nick Foles and the Chicago Bears legit Super Bowl contenders?
No one wants to buy into the Bears’ 5-1 record right now. While the defense ranks fifth in expected points added per play allowed entering Week 7, Foles ranks just 25th in PFF passing grade (66.7) and the offense as a whole ranks just 27th in expected points added per play.
Despite suffering an ugly loss to the 49ers on Sunday Night Football in Week 6, the Rams still boast one of the NFL’s top offenses. Los Angeles should test the Bears’ defense enough to force Foles to rise to the occasion on the opposite end. Goff ranks sixth in PFF passing grade (84.3) and leads an offense that ranks sixth in expected points added per play through Week 6.
No single win will improve the Bears’ stock as much as a dominant offensive performance from Foles and company would in Week 7. If Chicago can prove it can put up points consistently — starting with a strong outing against the Rams — the pretender label will drop off soon enough.
Over the past four weeks, the Chicago Bears’ defense ranks second against quarterbacks, 10th against running backs and fourth against wide receivers in terms of fantasy points allowed.
For that reason, Jared Goff should be left on the bench and wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp should just be viewed as WR2s. Kupp is the most desirable player from a single-game DFS perspective because he is bound to bounce back from an atrocious Sunday night performance. He finished Week 6 more than 10 fantasy points under his expected fantasy output.
In more traditional leagues, this might be a spot where Tyler Higbee can be started with a bit more confidence. The Bears rank seventh in targets and fifth in red-zone targets allowed to TEs this season. He is also coming off his highest yardage total of the season (56 yards).
Allen Robinson II has been the Bears’ best offensive weapon this season. He has nearly double the targets of the next-closest Chicago receiver. His 474 receiving yards rank 10th among wide receivers. Robinson almost always lines up on the outside, and the Rams defense has not allowed an outside receiver more than 67 yards on their outside snaps.
Over the last three games, the Rams defense has been even better. Terry McLaurin was held to 26 yards in their last matchup. The week before, Darius Slayton had 48 yards. Before that, Stefon Diggs had 49. It would be hard to keep Robinson out of lineups, but his ceiling is much lower this week compared to others.
The preseason spread of -3.5 corrected out to -7 this week before the adjustment down to -5.5. The majority of tickets are on the road favorites, with the cash percentage evenly split between the two teams, and the market movement this week is a direct reflection of the Rams' poor performance on Sunday Night Football.
Six places separate these two teams in our Elo rankings, which makes the 5.5-point spread overstated, according to our predictive models. Since the spread has moved off 7 and sits evenly between key numbers, this could represent a better value play on the moneyline with a one-unit bet capable of doubling your money.
No one appears to be buying into points on Monday night between two teams in the top 10 of our opponent-adjusted defensive rankings. The market has dropped at least two points, depending on the book, behind over 90% of both the cash and ticket percentages. This has sucked out all the value in the total market, with more line movement needed to open up an overcorrection opportunity on the over.