The Fantasy Football Matchups Column returns for Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season. The column will break down key matchups for the most important players each week, helping you prepare for NFL daily fantasy football picks on DraftKings and FanDuel while also providing tips for NFL player prop bettors, and season-long fantasy football setting lineups on Yahoo, ESPN, Sleeper and CBS. Let’s dive into the all of the NFL DFS tips matchups and fantasy football lineup decisions.
Week 4 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups & Player Props
Dak Prescott vs. Carolina Panthers
The Cowboys trounced the division rival Eagles last Monday night, and Prescott was the most impressive player on the field, completing nearly 81% of his passes and averaging 9.2 yards per attempt, his highest rate of the season. But Prescott hasn’t had the same amount of passing volume over the last two weeks that we saw to begin the season. We always knew 58 pass attempts, like he had Week 1, was unsustainable, but Prescott’s 26-pass performance after a 27-pass game against the Chargers puts him near the bottom of the league in overall attempts, making the over a tough bet on any of his passing yardage props. Prescott is projected for well under his 287.5 passing yards prop line this week, where he’ll face a Carolina Panthers defense that lost a key piece of the secondary in cornerback Jaycee Horn, yes, but FootballOutsiders currently ranks No. 1 in the NFL in defensive DVOA, and they have the second-highest team pass coverage grade according to PFF. If you need to bet on something positive for Prescott this Sunday, the Awesemo Player Props tool does like the over on his passing touchdowns line of 1.5, however.
Lamar Jackson vs. Denver Broncos
The Ravens are 2-1, but just as easily could be 0-3, but you’ve got to hand it to Jackson and the rest of the offense for first, thoroughly outplaying the Chiefs in the second half of Week 2, and then beating near insurmountable odds to even get into position for a Justin Tucker’s history-making 66-yard field goal as time expired. Jackson is always a threat once he leaves the pocket, but his stats as a passer are nothing to scoff at so far this season. He currently ranks third in passes of 20-plus air yards, ninth in completed air yards and first in the NFL in air yards per attempt. This team may be one of the most rush-oriented squads in the league, but Jackson’s continued shots downfield give the Baltimore big-play specialists more upside than one might otherwise think. The Broncos have been lights-out defensively, even adjusting for their weak strength of schedule to begin the year. Denver ranks best in the NFL in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses, and Football Outsiders ranks them in the top-five in defensive DVOA. This is Jackson’s toughest test as a passer so far in the young season, but the Awesemo props tool still likes the over for Jackson’s modest passing yards prop line of 200.5, suggesting a roughly 60% chance of him hitting that mark this Sunday.
Nick Chubb vs. Minnesota Vikings
Chubb’s backfield-mate, Kareem Hunt, may have stolen the headlines last weekend, scoring two touchdowns, but Chubb remains the centerpiece of the most run-heavy offense in all of football. Chubb ranks fifth in the NFL in total carries through three weeks, and he has turned that opportunity into the third-most rushing yards in the NFL. And while we still haven’t seen a major boost for Chubb in the receiving game, he makes up for that with dependability near the goal line. Benefiting from what has been a surprisingly-efficient passing attack led by Baker Mayfield, Chubb ranks seventh in the NFL in red zone touches, and he’s already turned that high-value usage into touchdowns, as he’s currently tied for second among all running backs with three total touchdowns. Chubb’s elusivity is as strong as ever, as he has broken the 11th-most tackles in the NFL, resulting in a top-five ranking in true yards per carry. Arguably the most efficient rusher in the NFL, there’s no way I’m betting against Chubb as faces the Vikings, who rank bottom-12 in Football Outsiders’ rushing DVOA and bottom-10 in PFF’s team rush defense grade. With plenty of points expected to be scored in this high Vegas-total matchup, I’m taking the over on Chubb’s rushing yards prop line of 80.5.
D’Andre Swift vs. Chicago Bears
Despite playing for the 0-3 Lions, Swift has been one of the most impressive running backs in football through three weeks, despite ranking outside the top 20 at his position in opportunity share. Swift is receiving an immense amount of volume through the air, however, ranking second among all running backs in targets, and fourth in weighted opportunities. Only one back has more receptions than Swift, and no one has more than Swift’s 166 receiving yards. Lions’ coach Dan Campbell recently sang Swift’s praises insisting the team needed to create more opportunities for their second-year back, and I’m wont to believe him. This weekend, Swift and the Lions face the Chicago Bears, who have a wide assortment of problems on both side of the ball, and currently rank 31st in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Swift is a fantastic value play in DFS lineups this weekend, and I’m taking the over on Swift’s receptions prop of 4.5.
Jonathan Taylor vs. Miami Dolphins
After an extremely encouraging Week 1, here he saw 24 opportunities and earned 116 total yards, Taylor hasn’t been very successful since, totaling just averaging just 62.5 total yards per game, and a 49% snap share during that two-week span. Still, Taylor has seen 16-plus opportunities in two of three games, and has run at least 14 routes in all three contests so far this season. Taylor ranks 10th among running backs in expected fantasy points, and second in the NFL in red zone touches, but hasn’t found the end zone yet, making Taylor a strong positive regression candidate. Those touchdowns could come as soon as this Sunday, as Miami ranks 19th in yards per carry, while ranking much stronger against the pass, indicating they might be a run-funnel defense worth attacking with opposing running backs. Though Taylor is listed as questionable heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Dolphins, he practiced — albeit on a limited basis — each day this week, a solid indicator that he’ll be available Sunday. If he’s full-go, I’m taking the over on Taylor’s rushing yards prop line of 71.5.
Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen vs. Cleveland Browns
Arguably the most complete receiving duo in football, both Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are off to incredibly hot starts this season, combining to average 13.6 catches for 145 yards a game so far this season. Most notably, Thielen has showed no signs of touchdown regression thus far with four touchdowns, tied for the league-lead. He’s also caught more passes than Jefferson, despite seeing four less targets. One reason for that is the difference in how the players are used — Thielen has an average depth of target of just over 6 yards, while Jefferson’s targets are, on average, over 11 yards downfield. Jefferson and Thielen have seen the same number of red zone targets, and Thielen has just one more end zone target than his teammate, meaning there’s almost certainly a switch in fantasy production coming in the near future for these two players, and that could come as quickly as this Sunday against a Cleveland Browns defense that ranks right at league average in PFF’s team coverage grade and in points allowed per play. With massive shootout potential in this contest, I love this pair for DFS tournaments this weekend due to their high ceiling, but the Awesemo Player Props tool is a little less bullish on the pair, suggesting that Jefferson has just 31% chance of going over his receptions prop line of 6.5, while Thielen has just a 39% chance of hitting the over on his receiving yards prop line of 3.5.
Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Minnesota Vikings
In the box score, it appeared Beckham had a modest first game back from an ACL tear that ended his 2020 season in Week 8, but the underlying metrics suggest a player that’s ready to be doused with opportunity in the coming weeks. Especially with Jarvis Landry on injured reserve, Beckham immediately took over as the no doubt primary pass-catcher for Cleveland, participating on 93% of the Browns’ passing plays, and earning a target on 31% of them. He also earned nearly half of the team’s air yards, indicating his five receptions for 77 yards was actually a slight under-performance, and that Beckham could have explosive performances in the near future. Against the Vikings’ secondary this weekend, Beckham should have the upper-hand against a defense that ranks bottom-12 in PFF’s team coverage grade and 30th in yards per pass attempt allowed. Beckham makes for an excellent play in DFS lineups this weekend, particularly in small-field single entry or three-entry max tournaments, but his prop lines are a bit inflated, and the Awesemo Props tool suggests taking the under for his receiving yards prop line of 67.5.
Kyle Pitts vs. Washington Football Team
While the start of Pitts’ career hasn’t been idyllic from a production standpoint, in terms of Pitts’ ability to make an immediate impact relative to the typical rookie tight ends has been nothing short of spectacular, Pitts, arguably the most athletically gifted player at his position, has seen his snap rate increase in each of the past three weeks, rising to 85% in Week 3, after beginning the season playing on just two-thirds of the Falcons’ plays. Pitts ranks second among all tight ends in routes run, and seventh in total targets. He’s seen over 25% of the Falcons’ total air yards, something he and only other tight end have accomplished so far this season. Pitts currently ranks top-10 at his position in receiving yards, yards per reception, and red zone targets, and has yet to find the end zone, but all the underlying metrics indicate that should turn around very quickly. This week, Atlanta faces a Washington Football Team defense that has been vastly disappointing compared to preseason expectations, and currently rank fourth-worst in PFF’s team coverage grade. I’m all over the over on Pitts’ receiving yards prop line of 43.5 this Sunday.
George Kittle vs. Seattle Seahawks
The 49ers finally got Kittle more involved in the offense in their Week 3 loss to Green Bay. Kittle saw more than five targets for the first time this season, and ultimately finished the day with seven receptions for 92 yards. But in typical Kittle fashion, an astonishing 63% of those receiving yards came after the catch, indicating he’s still being used solely as a short-area target. Kittle has the fourth-highest target share at his position, commanding nearly 22% of his team’s targets, but Jimmy Garoppolo has targeted Kittle exactly zero times on passes of 20-plus air yards. His average depth of target of 3.1 ranks 37th among all tight ends. This weekend, he faces a Seattle secondary that has looked well-below league average at times this year, and currently ranks ninth-worst in the NFL in PFF’s team coverage grade, and has zero cornerbacks or safeties ranked in PFF’s top-50 at their position. All signs point to Kittle finally seeing some downfield work, or at least a continued barrage of targets, which is why I’m taking the over on Kittle’s receiving prop lines of 5.5 receptions for 67.5 yards this Sunday.
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