The defending Super Bowl Champions are back on Thursday night football, and one must have to wonder what happened to this Patriots defense? The team is 2-2 so far this year and have allowed 42, 20, 33, 33 points respectively through the first four games. The 128 combined points are second worst in the entire league, only trailing the Colts by 8 points. The Pats will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are middle of the road when it comes to points allowed, sitting at 21.3 PPG, which is 16th in the NFL (they've played one less game than everyone else due to postponement of their matchup with the Dolphins Week 1.
If you're playing in Thursday-Monday contests this week in DFS, you'll certainly be targeting the game in Tampa heavily, as it's the highest O/U total of all matchups at 55. Let's start with this one as we highlight the three matchups this weekend to consider when building lineups (teams underlined reflect the side we want to target first)
New England Patriots -6 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (O/U 55)
Maybe it's all that avocado ice cream the GOAT has been chomping on when he's not playing, but when Tom Brady is on the field he's leading all QBs with 1399 passing yards. Brady's the first QB in NFL History to pass 1000 yds + with 10 TDs and 0 INT through his team's first four games TWICE in career. I don't need to go into any more statistics start Tom Brady in cash games and heck, who cares about higher ownership I'll have him in GPP lineups as well. And did I mention he's only the second highest priced QB on both sites this week next to Aaron Rodgers?
So now it's time to pair a WR with Brady, so should it be Brandin Cooks? He's the 7th highest priced WR on DraftKings and 9th highest on Fanduel and he's seen two less targets (24) than Chris Hogan, seven less than Rob Gronkowski and an equal amount to James White. According to Evan Silva's preview, Cooks will run 60% of his routes on Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves who leads all CBS in targets and yards allowed since last year. I think after last week's disappointment plus the high price tag Cooks could have lower ownership levels, and I prefer him in tournaments rather than cash games (although I like him obviously in any format).
Speaking of Chris Hogan's matchup, Silva points out that he'll attract more of Pro Bowl CB Brent Grimes in coverage, but Hogan runs nearly 70% of his routes away from left corners which is the side Grimes will probably be on most of the game. Hogan is my preference over Cooks in cash games as you can save $1300 on DK and $500 on Fanduel for a guy who has received 8 RZ targets compared to Brandin's zero.
Danny Amendola has 19 targets in three games and scored a TD last week. Personally I plan on using him along with the next guy mentioned as a stack in cash games.....
James White on DK at just $4900 seems a bit criminal to me. He'll be in all of my Thursday-Monday lineups. If you skipped what I wrote before, I'll reiterate: he has the same amount of targets this year as Brandin Cooks with a much cheaper price tag. He's $400 less than Mike Gillislee on DK and $600 less on Fanduel. The Bucs have allowed the second least amount of yards per attempt to RBs at just 2.9 and have surrendered just two rushing TDs in 3 games. I'll have no exposure to Gillislee but will be building my DK lineup around James White and Amendola along with Brady.
Rob Gronkowski is the most expensive TE on the board by far and is questionable with a thigh injury, but as long as he plays the matchup is juicy. Bucs LB Kwon Alexander is out, and LB Lavonte David and safeties TJ Ward and Keith Tandy are doubtful.
**UPDATE** ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting that Patriots' TE Rob Gronkowski is not expected to play tonight vs Bucs, per source.**
Dwayne Allen is a great pivot. He's just $2500 on DraftKings and $4500 on Fanduel.
On the Tampa Bay side of the ball, Jameis Winston is certainly in play as all 4 QBs the Pats defense has faced, the opposing Quarterback has carved them up for 300+ yards. Winston has a very generous price tag of $6,000 on DraftKings and more appropriately priced on Fanduel at $7700. I personally don't play Winston much as I feel that he's too prone to clunkers no matter how enticing the matchup, but I won't stray you away.
DeSean Jackson isn't getting enough targets for me so far and he told ESPN's Jenna Laine that he's been frustrated to not have instant chemistry with Jameis Winston. I'll let them figure that out before I feel comfortable inserting him into any lineups. I'd rather spend up and pair him with Mike Evans who is the 5th highest priced WR on DK at $7900. $8900 on Fanduel is a little too steep for me, so if setting a lineup over there I'd prefer in a tournament.
Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate are interesting cheap options to consider. Humphries has 17 targets over the last two games and is just $3300 on DraftKings and $4700 on Fanduel. The Patriots have been pretty bad against the TE, allowing 23 receptions through four games and 3 TDs and Brate has been getting more looks than 1st round pick OJ Howard.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys -2 (O/U 52)
Dak Prescott hasn't thrown for more than 270 yards in a game this season, but that doesn't stop Vegas for projecting the Cowboys to score 27 points against the Packers Sunday in the best game of the 4p slate (sorry Ravens-Raiders). He's going to be a popular play this week, but personally I won't be building lineups around him. He hasn't been throwing the deep ball much at all and while many people think this Packers secondary is below average, the group they've put together has been ok. Peter Bukowski of LockedonPackers.com points out that rookie CB Kevin King has a better passer rating allowed in coverage than Patrick Peterson, Desmond Trufant and Marcus Peters. Furthermore, Bukowski points out that King and Damarious Randall are in the top 20 in most yards allowed per cover snap. To me Prescott is more appropriate to play on Fanduel in cash games where he's the 8th highest priced QB in Thursday-Monday contest, but 3rd highest priced on DK? No thanks.
If you do end up playing Prescott, pairing him with Dez Bryant would be the move. Bryant has an attractive price tag on DK at $6500, but is more expensive on Fanduel at $7800. Jason Witten's price is nice too but he's received just one ball in each of his last two games so I'd rather look elsewhere at TE.
Ezekiel Elliott is intriguing because I think he'll be lower owned due to his high price tag (most expensive on DK at $8800, third highest priced on FD at $8900). He gets the volume and Green Bay's run defense isn't special allowing 4.2 yards per carry. If you're setting multiple lineups I'd get him in at least one.
On the other side of the football, the Dallas Cowboys are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the most receptions allowed so far this season at 101 and have allowed 8 touchdowns through the air so far this season, the third worst in the league. If you're playing in a Sunday only contest, Aaron Rodgers is the preferred route to go at QB even as the highest priced player at the position on both sites.
Pairing Rodgers with a WR can be tricky because Aaron likes to spread the ball around. Five pass catchers have 20+ targets, but we'll pay up for Jordy Nelson here because he's got the most RZ points for WRs this year and he leads the team with 5 TDs. Davante Adams is still in concussion protocol but he did get in a limited session Wednesday so he could play after that devastating hit against the Bears last Thursday. If you need some savings Randall Cobb is $1400 less on DK and $2000 less on Fanduel, although his target share has been dwindling since Week 1.
In terms of the Packers running game, the status of Ty Montgomery and his ribs muddles this situation. Rookie Jamaal Williams practiced in full and is expected to play against the Cowboys and they've still got Aaron Jones who looked good against the Bears. Look elsewhere.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers -8.5 (O/U 43.5)
We're obviously not targeting this game due to the game total as 43.5 is middle of the road this week. We're targeting the Pittsburgh Steelers and their running game against a Jags defense that is allowing a staggering 5.7 yards per carry, the worst in the NFL. Le'Veon Bell is the highest priced player by far on DraftKings at $9500 and is tied with Aaron Rodgers for the highest priced on Fanduel with that same $9500 price tag. Cash, tournament...whatever you play....get Lev Bell in your lineup. The volume is there, he can catch the ball, he'll produce for your lineup. Plus if game script and point spread tell us anything it's that the Steelers will have the lead and they'll eat the clock against this pathetic Jags run D.
I like a contrarian pairing of Big Ben and Antonio Brown in tournaments as I believe everyone will be onto Lev Bell and they'll have low ownership. Jacksonville has strong CBs in AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. According to PFF Antonio Brown has seen 30 catchable passes without a drop that leads all WRs.
You want to talk about a sleeper GPP option? Juju Smith-Schuster. He's received 14 targets so far this season and has 2 TDs. He's been in on 75% of the total snaps and 89% of Big Ben's dropbacks over the last two weeks. Martavis Bryant has been drawing more safety help so I'd rather save the $1500 on DK and $300 on Fanduel and grab Smith-Schuster.
The Jags defense hasn't been great against the TE, allowing 21 receptions and 2 touchdowns through four games, but I won't be rostering Jesse James or Vance Mcdonald.
Now let's look at the Jacksonville offense. If you want to play Blake Bortles, you're on your own there. Sure he could get some garbage time points but a wise man told me not to play guys that suck. My Mother told me that if you don't' have anything nice to say don't say anything at all. So I'll leave it at that.
Subsequently, I personally won't be playing any RBs or WRs for the Jags but an argument can potentially be made for two of them. If you wanted to get Leonard Fournette in your lineup I don't hate it, but the 1st rounder out of LSU was limited at Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury and Head Coach Doug Marrone said after Sunday's loss to the Jets that they need to do a better job of managing his workload. He's catching passes out of the backfield and the Steelers have surrendered 29 receptions to RBs so far this season so he has some appeal in tournaments on DraftKings at $7,000 where I believe he'll have low ownership.
Marquise Lee has not practiced this week due to a rib injury. With Allen Robinson already out for the year, Allen Hurns could be the beneficiary if Lee does not play and at $4700 on DK you could do worse for a guy who will probably get peppered with targets as his team more than likely will trail.
Steelers are middle of the road when defending the Tight End, but I most of you reading would agree with me that Mercedes Lewis and his 3 TD performance against the Ravens in Week 3 is more of an outlier than what we should expect moving forward. If you want to play him at just $2800 on DK or $4500 on Fanduel for salary relief, go ahead but I'm not going to recommend it.