The Bills open the 2018 season with the daunting task of facing the Ravens, Chargers, and Vikings, all stingy defenses that were in the bottom five in FPA to quarterbacks in 2017. Whether it is Nathan Peterman, Josh Allen, or AJ McCarron under center, it’s hard to imagine either one having much success especially when the Bills have to travel to Baltimore and Minnesota for two of those three games. With McCarron now out of the equation with a broken collarbone, Peterman and Allen will compete for the starting role in the last two scrimmages before September 9th.
The Bills were at a crossroads with Tyrod Taylor after he was benched against the Saints when Peterman came in for the rest of that game. If you recall the Bills, Chargers game last year, Peterman was abysmal to the tune of five interceptions including one taken all the way back for a Chargers touchdown. Needless to say, Taylor was their guy for the rest of the 2017 season after that debacle. The question for the Bills coaching staff will be if they want Peterman to handle the quarterback duties during that tough stretch until the schedule lightens up or if they simply throw Allen into the fire and begin that era of Bills football.
The Ravens defense is the most expensive on the Week 1 slate for both sites and it’s an expectation that the Chargers and Vikings will also be the priciest for week 2 and 3 respectively. Nathan Peterman going into M&T Bank Stadium against a Ravens team that seeks revenge for the Bills knocking them out of postseason contention is a tall order. Josh Allen starting his first game in the NFL in those given scenarios is even more precarious. Add the fact that there still isn’t a resolution to the LeSean McCoy situation; if he’s unavailable, it makes starting these defenses even more appealing. They will be chalky in both cash game and GPPs but it’s a solid expectation for a double digit fantasy point performance from these defenses.
SORTING THROUGH THE BRADY BUNCH
A vintage Tom Brady took the field in Foxboro in a scrimmage that saw the Patriots put up 20 points and 271 yards of total offense in the first half against the Eagles. Gronk didn’t suit up but is expected to play in the opener against the Texans, something Julian Edelman won’t do as he begins his four game suspension. Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead warmed the bench as they nursed injuries; the good news is Burkhead returned to practice on Sunday.
Mike Gillislee, James White, and Jeremy Hill all logged carries with Gillislee averaging 2.44 yards on nine carries, remaining as inefficient as he was last year. It isn’t shaping up for him to make the 53-man roster following the preseason finale against the Giants. James White figures to see more work out of the backfield which leaves Jeremy Hill as a viable ground option should Michel not suit up and Burkhead experience another setback before September 9th. At 3300 on DraftKings and 4600 on FanDuel against the Texans, Hill believes he will be 100% after surgery for an ankle that wrecked havoc to his 2017 season. While he hasn’t averaged over four yards a carry since his rookie season in 2014, he has an ability to cross the pylons, something he did 29 times from 2014-2016. A touchdown and 39 rushing yards returns value on DK, definitely within the range of outcomes for Hill.
Chris Hogan led all Patriot receivers in the first half with seven targets, followed by six for James White, and five for Julian Edelman. Essentially, Gronk will acquire Edelman’s targets while he serves his suspension as well as syphon some from Will Tye and Jacob Hollister. He is the most expensive tight end on the week 1 slate but will surely see 8-10 targets per game until Edelman returns. Hogan is the clear #1 receiver for the time being while Philip Dorsett will see some passes thrown his way as well. Cordarrelle Patterson has potential this year to be that inexpensive option that is less than 3-5% owned who will help win a GPP. He replaces the speed that Brandin Cooks left behind and with the best quarterback he’s had in his career now throwing him the ball, the Patriots will certainly utilize Patterson’s agility and feed him some targets.
There will be one more dress rehearsal to see how the Pats distribute the ball. The running back situation will sort itself out as it gets closer to week 1 and we see if Michel takes the practice field for the first time since August 1st and Burkhead can play through a slight tear in his knee. This will also answer questions regarding how many pass attempts we could expect from Brady against the Texans; he had 26 of them on Thursday night. If he performs as he did against the Eagles, the 41 year old quarterback will once again lead his team towards another postseason run.
GEARING TOWARDS A FEATURE ROLE
Back on July 25, Ron Rivera suggested that he would like Christian McCaffery to get 25-30 touches a game, more than double the 12.31 touches he received in his rookie year. Time will tell if that idea comes to fruition as only LeVeon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott averaged more than 25 touches a game last year. Friday night was a step in the right direction as he had 9 touches in the first half, just shy of three-quarters of his touches per game in 2017.
Most of McCaffery’s value came as a receiver, an asset especially useful in DraftKings full PPR scoring. He and Le’Veon Bell were the only two running backs to average 7 points in all 16 games last year. His 7.31 carries per game and 3.71 yards per carry in 2017 are numbers that need to be bolstered for Rivera’s vision of McCaffery to come true. Even if you take away the impressive 71 yard touchdown run, he still averaged 5.25 yards on four carries against the Dolphins, figures that are reflective of that vision.
McCaffery will face the Cowboys, Falcons, and Bengals before going on an early week 4 bye. Although the week 2 matchup is in Atlanta and he had a +4.7 FPPG differential at Bank of America Stadium, he is someone to target in lineups against a Falcons team that has been putrid in defending pass catching backs in recent years. If you rather wait until he heads back to Charlotte where he had five games of 20 or more fantasy points, the Bengals struggled against running backs both on the ground and out of the backfield. His $6400 salary on Draftkings and $7500 salary on FanDuel for week 1 were right around his average last season. If McCaffery takes that next step that is expected of him, he will begin to be priced more in the range of running backs like Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, and Melvin Gordon on a weekly basis.
Patrick Mahomes found Tyreek Hill for a 69 yard bomb and a touchdown on Friday night, a sight Chiefs fans hope to see for years to come. With Mahomes big arm, he will take shots downfield to his speedy receiver that will make or break DFS lineups a few weeks this coming year. Seeing this touchdown happen in Atlanta is no big shock as most of Hill’s production has occurred away from Arrowhead Stadium.
The home/road splits are rather remarkable when you analyze Tyreek Hill’s first two years in the NFL. 1109 of his 1776 career receiving yards (62%) are on the road as well as nine of his 13 career touchdowns. He averaged a whole 10 fantasy points more in full PPR scoring in away games than in games at Arrowhead in his first full season in 2017. A possible explanation could be his +4.39 FPPG differential in Chiefs losses. Alex Smith threw Hill deep shots for touchdowns while playing from behind against the Raiders and Jets, both away games the Chiefs lost. Yet, he still went into Gillette Stadium and Stubhub Center in Chiefs wins and posted 20+ fantasy point performances, something he didn’t do once at Arrowhead last year.
Some disparities tend to regress back to a norm while others remain a constant in some player’s careers. There is no possible way that Eli Manning will have a +10.8 differential in Giants game that go under the total like he did last year; that number will regress back to the norm where games that go over the total will generate more fantasy production. Ben Roethlisberger’s home/road splits are a given at this point in his career where that disparity is a trend more than it is an anomaly. Mahomes could have more production at home where that translates to better success at Arrowhead for Hill, a trend we could discover as Mahomes logs some starts in the NFL. Identifying which scenarios players perform and don’t perform are critical in daily and can be a difference between making money or donating it to the rest of the competition.
PRESEASON DFS POINTER
Glancing over the week 1 preseason schedule, two games stood out from the standpoint of sending teams from one end of the country to the other in a game that is meaningless towards the standings. The Rams were forced to take a cross-country trip to Baltimore while the Lions were required to travel to Oakland. The NFL tries to keep the teams in the AFC and NFC West divisions from traveling long distances during the preseason. These teams scrimmage mostly against each other as they face each other in regular season action once every four years; 2018 happens to be one of those years.
The Rams and Raiders square off in the second game of the opening Monday night doubleheader. They also happened to square off 23 days before that regular season date on Saturday. Needless to say, both teams kept their starters on the sidelines to prevent putting anything on tape for the coaching staffs to prepare for when the game counts.
The only game on the week 3 preseason slate that pits 2018 opponents against each other is the Vikings and Seahawks. However, their regular season matchup takes place in Week 14 so that won’t prevent the coaches from utilizing their starters in the penultimate preseason game.
Preseason DFS presents an opportunity to generate easy cash flow for those that put in some extra work. There are some variables that need to be considered that typically wouldn’t be in the regular season like the Rams, Raiders scenario mentioned above. Imagine how many people put a Jared Goff or an Amari Cooper in their lineups from the Saturday slate of seven preseason games when the coaching staffs were indicating they were sitting the starters. The Patriots were hinting of starting Brady the whole first half against an Eagles team that defeated them in Super Bowl 52 and he posts 14.88 fantasy points in the only opportunity for revenge as they don’t square off in regular season play until 2019. Kelvin Benjamin wanted to stick it to his former team last week and did so in limited preseason snaps with a 4-59-1 clip against the Panthers.
Some players submit preseason lineups for the sheer thrill of doing so with the anticipation of the regular season on the horizon. Take advantage of their laziness, identify storylines that are both conductive and not conducive towards fantasy production, and follow the clues that the coaching staffs provide leading up to the game.