We’re a quarter of the way through the NFL season and now’s the time where the various bumps and bruises we’ve taken over the first couple weeks has to pay dividends. We’ve touched the stove and lived to talk about it and with a 12-game slate full of interesting options along with a few very obvious games that everyone will pay attention to, now’s our week to strike and hopefully make some money in the process.
One thing that will assuredly help you in that effort is signing up for a membership here at Awesemo.com to get access to all of Awesemo’s rankings and, arguably more importantly, ownership projections to help get you ahead of the field. Promo code SLANTANDGO will get you one-week free so go check out and learn all of the information that we reference in our articles and shows throughout the week.
I’ll also be back with Awesemo and Evan Silva doing a new On the Contrary on Saturday at 1:30PM Eastern where we’ll give our contrarian picks. Last week Awesemo called out Mitch Trubisky, possibly the only guy in the industry to do so, and I blanched at it after being burned by Mitch in Week 3. This time will be different and I will listen! Tune into the Awesemo channel on Saturday and see what other gems we mine in the process.
If you need some help for tonight, check out EMac’s breakdown of the Thursday night game here but without further adieu let’s get to the Sunday main slate.
Tennessee Titans (21 implied points) at Buffalo Bills (18 implied points)
Tennessee pulled off one of the bigger upsets thus far this season with their win over the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles and they’re in a good position to keep that rolling with a matchup versus the Bills. The Bills have generated a stronger pass rush in recent weeks and were mostly able to contain (an admittedly still very obviously injured) Aaron Rodgers in Week 4 but they’re still allowing opposing QBs to throw for a 69.4% completion rate. The Bills have also given up a ton of rushing TDs, a 5.1% rate of rushing scores allowed, and have been dreadful in the red zone as they’ve allowed 6.4 points per red zone trip and an 86% red zone touchdown rate, 3rd worst in the league. With some eyes likely to go to the passing game after Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis proved to be the best under the radar stack in Week 4, there might be some logic in going with a pairing of Derrick Henry or Dion Lewis with the Titans defense. The team totals would seem to indicate more of a slugfest (and maybe some disrespect for a Titans squad who’s looked very game thus far under new coach Mike Vrabel) and the running game could work nicely with a defense who’s expensive but has been solid against far better competitive with an opportunity to really generate some turnovers versus Josh Allen and co.
I can’t imagine in a world in which anyone would want to play Bills here but the Titans thus far have allowed a robust 4.9 yards per rush along with a 66.7% completion rate for opposing QBs. The pressure on Josh Allen is what will really decide his day but if for some reason the Titans struggle to generate sacks (something they’ve done at a respectable 7.7% rate thus far), Allen may be able to make something happen with Kelvin Benjamin. I’m still far more likely to pay up for the Titans D this week but it’s a thought. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Denver Broncos (21.3 implied points) at NY Jets (22.3 implied points)
The Broncos fly eastward on a short week for an early afternoon game, something of a suboptimal spot for Denver. And they’ll get a matchup with a Jets D who’s been mostly game thus far this year, giving up a close-to-average 355.5 yards per game. The Denver passing offense has really had some issues getting going even in spots that seem winnable like Monday night versus Kansas City and I’m not sure this is much of a get well spot. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric shows unfavorable matchups across the board versus the Jets pass defense and given the success of the Broncos’ rushing attack recently, that’s likely the spot I’d be more inclined to consider this week. Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are both are palatable prices with Lindsay getting 40% of the snaps compared to Freeman’s 27% but either guy could be a factor. Despite the tough matchup, you could also convince me to trot out a little Emmanuel Sanders given his ability to serve as a safety blanket to get the ball downfield in even the tightest of matchups. Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have comparable 22% and 21% target shares but Sanders’ 83% catch rate compared to Thomas’s 61% makes Sanders generally the more appealing option even if the price levels it out a bit.
The Jets and Sam Darnold have not been the belle of the ball as much as it seemed in the first week of the season but he has a fair chance to get back on track on paper. Denver’s allowing a 67.3% completion rate and not forcing turnovers in a notable way and the team total would seem to indicate that Vegas expects some degree of success for the offense. Quincy Enunwa comes with a gaudy 28% target share and his ability to find seams in a defense could pay dividends even if Darnold isn’t quite viable enough to go with him in a stack…though Darnold’s price does make it a thought. The running game also seems interesting here given the 5.2% rushing TD rate allowed by Denver’s D. The snap count has heavily favored Bilal Powell in recent weeks with Powell picking up a 64% snap share compared to Isaiah Crowell’s 36% in Week 4 but with the touches relatively equal, either player may have some degree of success. I’d also consider the Broncos D a little here despite the road game; Darnold has shown an ability to turn it over in a variety of ways and the Broncos do still have some elite rushers to force bad throws.
NY Giants (19.3 implied points) at Carolina Panthers (25.3 implied points)
Eli Manning disappointed a nation, myself included, in Week 4 with a putrid showing versus a beatable New Orleans defense and, knowing what we know of the Eli Manning experience, a very contrarian part of me thinks this might be the situation where he gets back on track…for at least a week. The Panthers have allowed a 69% completion rate so far this season and their bottom-five 6.8% pass deflection rate means they’re not clogging the passing lanes enough where it might be a factor. Granted, these same factors lined up for Eli last week against New Orleans and he did nothing but at under $5,000 on DraftKings with likely no one on him I do think a dart of Eli makes some sense. As does Odell Beckham a week after a dud of his own versus the Saints; Beckham continues to hold a 29% target share and eventually that has to pay off if this Giants situation with Eli isn’t completely gone. Sterling Shepard proved to be very useful chalk in Week 4 and he could be in a comparable spot this week after a 95% snap share and 10 targets with Evan Engram out. Saquon Barkley continues to be a mostly steady play but I personally find a hard time getting to him given some of the talent around his price range and I expect that to be the case this week too.
The Giants have not generated much pressure and give up scores on 45% of opponents’ drives so everything is aligned for the Panthers coming off of a bye. Christian McCaffrey showed his versatility with a normal bell cow back role versus the Bengals and he will be able to generate yards and touches in a variety of ways in the matchup. Cam Newton too should have the ability to do what he wants and his two red zone rushes per game offer him additional scoring upside. Devin Funchess has been his favorite non-McCaffrey target with Greg Olsen unavailable and with the Giants allowing a 27% boost to WR1 performance via DVOA, it might be the day for his breakout. There’s a nice team total on Carolina’s side that may go underowned on the slate that I would try to get some exposure to amidst all of the chalkier games.
Atlanta Falcons (26 implied points) at Pittsburgh Steelers (30 implied points)
And speaking of chalkier games, we get a game that looks like an obvious shootout with the Falcons and the Steelers and while the game theory here might say this game is avoidable there really seems to be no reason to overlook it besides that. Both teams are allowing a ton of plays run against them and the Falcons’ very injured defense will likely necessitate them continuing to score a lot of points. Matt Ryan should be very in play for you, as should Julio Jones (who continues to put up 100 yards only in Falcons losses), Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu. Austin Hooper has seen red zone targets as well and with the Steelers offering a 26% boost to TEs via DVOA he might be the pivot for Ridley’s seemingly inevitable touchdown regression. Devonta Freeman is expected to play as well, a downturn for Tevin Coleman’s role but maybe an interesting spot for Freeman given the team total and his return to the lineup that should keep his ownership low.
Pittsburgh should be able to have their way with the aforementioned banged up Falcons defense that is beatable on the ground and through the air. Ben Roethlisberger should be in consideration at volume despite his accelerated price point while Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster are two of the better WR options of the week, even more than usual. Brown and Juju come with 28% and 26% target shares respectively and it would not be surprising to see both hit value. Vance McDonald has a 64% snap share compared to Jesse James’ 44% but both players also have the ability to siphon some offensive yardage away from the more obvious weapons. And James Conner seems like a very interesting play as the likely lowest owned piece of this offense; he could have value as a pivot to the pass attack or as part of an onslaught of Steelers given the gaudy 403 yards allowed per game by the Falcons.
Baltimore Ravens (24 implied points) at Cleveland Browns (22 implied points)
The Ravens head to Cleveland for an AFC North confrontation with a Browns D who, on paper, seems better than the massive scoring output they allowed the Raiders in Week 4. The Browns have given up a lot of yardage with 395 yards allowed per game but they’re holding teams to scores on just 27% of their drives, fourth best in the league, while also forcing turnovers at a league best rate. Classic AFC North football would lead me to believe that this could be a run-heavy game with the teams trading blows with Alex Collins and Carlos Hyde but given some of the open air approaches of both these offenses, Joe Flacco combining with John Brown and Michael Crabtree – or much ballyhooed rookie Hayden Hurst who should enter the lineup for the first time this season on Sunday – is a possibility as well. My gut tells me to play it as it looks, which is a Ravens passing attack who’s putting the ball up 42 times a game and playing fairly up and down the field. But Collins has been awfully quiet this season and his breakout coming in this matchup would not be surprising in the least.
The Browns looked better with Baker Mayfield at the helm versus Oakland but the result was the same with a crushing loss gifted to the Raiders on the road. The Ravens defense is one who can make a rookie who aggressively targets downfield pay as they’ve deflected a league best 20.5% of pass attempts thrown their way en route to limiting QBs to a 53.8% completion rate and 5 yards per pass attempt. I’m not sure that Baker is there enough as a player to overcome the matchup, one that’s at least slightly impeded players like Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton in recent weeks. I like Baker and the offensive weapons here (and had a shameful amount of Antonio Callaway last week) but this to me feels like a week to stay away from a Browns offense that will see better days.
Jacksonville Jaguars (23 implied points) at Kansas City Chiefs (26 implied points)
A very early On the Contrary (back Saturday at 1:30 Eastern time with me, Awesemo, and Evan Silva on our YouTube) opinion: This game seems like a sneaky shootout to me. The over/under has gone up and down a bit but there seems like some upside for both sides. And the Jaguars without Leonard Fournette have shown the ability to put together some offense, a really interesting opportunity to roster some affordable guys with upside on this Jacksonville offensive attack. The target share between Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, and Donte Moncrief has been about even, as is the snap count with Cole and Moncrief picking up 78% of the snaps with Westbrook getting 74%. All of these guys may have some use if Jaguars offense proactively attempts to put up some points, something they’ve shown an interest in with TJ Yeldon in the backfield. Blake Bortles is a little expensive for Blake Bortles but Kansas City gives up a 65.5% completion rate and scores on 48.8% of opponents’ drives while also generating interceptions at a very bad 1.1% rate. If ever there were a spot for Blake to assert himself, this is it.
The matchup for Kansas City versus Jacksonville should scare a lot of players away and there’s no question the Jags will give the offense some sweats after the Broncos did the same on Monday night. But here’s an encouraging item from Warren Sharp:
Jags pass D remains bad against 12 personnel & insanely good against 11:
•11: 35% success (#1), 72 rtg
•12: 63% success, 109 rtg
In particular, TEs & RBs abuse them in 12:
•11: 36% success, 65 rtg
•12: 75% success, 125 rtg
First uncovered this last yr: https://t.co/UfjI51N7V0
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 2, 2018
And one has to think that if Warren Sharp recognizes this, the brilliant offensive minds on the Chiefs will do the same. Jalen Ramsey has said he would press cover Tyreek Hill and Hill has responded saying he’s excited for the challenge and that he “can’t wait to line up against (Ramsey) “. It’s a home game for the Chiefs and one where the Broncos put a little fear of God into them…I like the idea of Tyreek Hill rising to the challenge and he and “Showtime” Patrick Maholmes combining for a big day. If the Chiefs do run 12 personnel to exploit the Jags’ weakness, that means both Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris getting on the field a lot and with the Jags mostly middling at defending the TE, both players could be interesting plays if the game does put up points. Kareem Hunt also had a big game versus Denver and he remains someone to consider if the passing game doesn’t get going. Again: The team total here is not bad and if you think the Jags are beatable at all, I think you’ll find them at much lower ownership than this offense deserves.
Green Bay Packers (26 implied points) at Detroit Lions (25 implied points)
Aaron Rodgers has struggled over the last few weeks since sustaining a knee injury in Week 1 versus the Bears and it does seem like he’s in one of the ultimate get well spots to force himself back on track. Rodgers’ price is down and the Lions have allowed touchdowns on 7% of opposing QB’s attempts, the recipe is there for a big game. Randall Cobb is still not practicing and Geronimo Allison remains in the concussion protocol, an interesting opportunity for Davante Adams and his 26% target share as well as some of these guys:
We got strong tells on #Packers WR depth chart last week with Randall Cobb (hamstring) sidelined. When everyone is healthy, it's as follows:
1. Davante Adams
2. Randall Cobb
3. Geronimo Allison
4. Marquez Valdes-Scantling
5. J'Mon Moore
6. Equanimeous St. Brown
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) October 1, 2018
Jimmy Graham should not be forgotten either. Cobb’s availability will make these guys and Marquez Valdes-Scantling interesting. Valdes-Scantling saw 71% of the snaps with Cobb out in Week 4 and his air yards and the matchup could make him the sneak play of all sneak plays at low ownership. The only running back I’d really consider is Aaron Jones despite the fact both he and Jamaal Williams picked up 34% snap shares in Week 4. Jones is the better runner and the talent has to win out eventually while a matchup with a Lions team allowing 5.3 yards on the ground seems like the right place to cement that role.
The Lions should get a slightly less hospitable matchup versus the Packers D but still a very winnable one. The Packers have beaten up on some lesser QBs but Matt Stafford seems likely to be very viable this week, particularly if Rodgers is able to get going as expected. Golden Tate will likely draw the attention after a big showing versus the Cowboys but let’s not forget about Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, two players still with 20% and 17% target shares respectively. Kerryon Johnson remains in a pointlessly committed time share much like Aaron Jones but if he gets the touches, he should be able to find holes against a Packers D allowing 4.5 yards per rush. The passing game is the safer option but one of these weeks will be a defining Kerryon Johnson fantasy game…if the Lions actually give him a shot.
Miami Dolphins (21.8 implied points) at Cincinnati Bengals (26.8 implied points)
The Dolphins got smoked by the Patriots after some faint hopes that they could steal the AFC East but this team has shown they can put up points and they’re walking into a matchup with a defense allowing 419.3 yards per game and scores on 46.7% of opponents’ drives. The total seems low to me given that I could easily imagine Ryan Tannehill and this Dolphins attack getting downfield in a variety of ways. There are too many guys who’ve scored in bizarre ways with the Albert Wilsons and Jakeem Grants of the world but I’d likely look to Kenny Stills here after a few quiet outings given that Stills gets deep as well as anyone and that’s a situation the Bengals may have issues with. Frank Gore outsnapped Kenyan Drake 51% to 45% in Week 4 and while that doesn’t really make me interested in Gore, it definitely hurts any potential interest in Drake.
Miami’s defense looked good earlier in the year but they still give up 395.3 yards per game, a perfectly fine place to look for a Cincinnati offense that’s been explosive at points. The Bengals lost starting TE Tyler Eifert for the year, a sad outcome for a player who’s been really unlucky with injuries in recent seasons, but they’ll get back Joe Mixon at a time where Giovani Bernard seems particularly banged up. Mixon averaged 22 touches per game before his injury and his return could affect the offense and cause less of a reliance on the pass game. AJ Green will likely see a matchup with shutdown corner Xavien Howard while Tyler Boyd, who currently carries a 23% target share to Green’s 21%, picks up whatever’s left of the secondary. I’ve loved Tyler Boyd every week of this season and will still have some of him but honestly I am a wee bit afraid of the passing volume trickling down with Mixon’s return. Eifert’s departure also will offer some shots for CJ Uzomah and Tyler Kroft; Uzomah has outsnapped Kroft so far this season but Kroft did fill in really adequately for Eifert in 2017 so it’s hard to say who picks up the majority of the role. My gut says Uzomah has more value and he seems more capable of getting downfield, an interesting play at his price with this offense clicking lately.
Oakland Raiders (23.8 implied points) at LA Chargers (28.8 implied points)
The Raiders are rolling high after their not at all impressive win over the Browns but honestly they are a little interesting in this matchup against a Chargers D that’s mostly allowed teams to march down the field on them. Derek Carr is completing 71% of his passes while throwing it 42.3 times per game, a compelling spot versus the Chargers and their 7.5% passing TD rate allowed. Jared Cook’s 21% target share is hard to overlook but Amari Cooper has had some big games this year and the table is set for another one. Jordy Nelson outsnapped Martavis Bryant 87% to 43% and while I’m still not buying Nelson’s ability to create separation, the opportunity seems to be there for him…just less so than Cooper and Cook. Marshawn Lynch has also been killing it lately but the Chargers’ run defense has been slightly more competent than expected, not a reason to avoid him but perhaps slightly mitigating the interest you’d have there.
The Chargers come with the highest team total of the week and while the Raiders haven’t stopped much of anything while giving up 402.5 yards per game, 7.9 yards per pass attempt, and 5.6 yards per rush. A game stack or onslaught here makes a lot of sense. Melvin Gordon has continued to rack up points with 19.5 touches per game and he also RTed this video I posted of him breaking like 8 tacklers in a play shortly after the Chargers iced the Niners:
Tackling Melvin Gordon is like pulling Excalibur out of a stone pic.twitter.com/W0NuKxojjU
— Chris Spags (@ChrisSpags) September 30, 2018
You’ve got to respect a guy who searches his own name to admire his work and my clever King Arthur references. Gordon’s an elite playmaker and he should take whatever he wants in the matchup. Philip Rivers is an interesting play despite his high price though picking which receiver to pair with him might be a tough choice. Keenan Allen remains the most targeted with his 26% target share but Tyrell Williams picked up 81% of the Week 4 snaps compared to Mike Williams’ 64%. Mike Williams has had big games and after a dud last week it might be a good time to get on board with him at a diminished price. I’m not buying the Antonio Gates renaissance quite as much with Virgil Green still greatly outsnapping him but I get the logic in going there too.
Arizona Cardinals (18 implied points) at San Francisco 49ers (22 implied points)
If Vegas is right, it’s looking like an ugly game for the Cardinals and Niners in an NFC West showdown no one wants to see. But with two teams giving up scores on 43.5% of their drives for the Niners and 40.5% for the Cardinals, I’m wondering if maybe there may be more than meets the eye. David Johnson has seen his role increase, thankfully, and his $6,300 DraftKings price versus a team giving up 380 yards per game seem like a great mix. Josh Rosen should also be able to see the field better with a meager 8.4% pass deflection rate and 0.6% interception rate. Christian Kirk picked up more targets than Chad Williams despite less snaps but the latter tends to get targeted further downfield; both could be somewhat useful if the matchup offers more offense than it seems. Larry Fitzgerald still has a 21% target share too and if there were ever a time for a vintage Larry Legend game this would be it. Ricky Seals-Jones is on the field enough and targeted enough to maybe do something with San Francisco’s 37.8% production boost to TEs via DVOA. I think there’s more than meets the eye to be found here but Johnson is the guy I love the most.
The Niners rallied behind CJ Beathard as best they could in an effort that just fell short against the Chargers but there did seem to be some usefulness for the players in their offense. Beathard targeted George Kittle 8 times, Pierre Garcon 7 times, and Marquise Goodwin 4 times, a decent indicator of the pecking order to expect given their snap counts as well. The rapport with Kittle was good to see but I wouldn’t sleep on Garcon either given some of the big games he put up last season with Beathard behind center. This is a Cardinals D who allows a 71.5% completion rate to QBs so the receivers should get a chance to make plays with Beathard’s throws. Matt Breida also could be helpful with his 63% snap count compared to Alfred Morris’s 23%; the Cardinals give up rushing scores on 5% of carries and touchdowns in the red zone half the time teams get into the area, a compelling case for Breida to pick up a score or two in the matchup.
LA Rams (28.8 implied points) at Seattle Seahawks (21.8 implied points)
The Rams have been steamrolling every team, good or bad, and they’ll waltz into a matchup with the reeling Seahawks in which they’re projected for the most points on the week along with their LA brethren the Chargers. Seattle has only allowed 326.8 yards per game this season but the Rams offense is like nothing they’ve seen with the additional detriment of losing Earl Thomas for the year. The Rams onslaught is fully in play here with Jared Goff and whatever poison you want to pick out of Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods but I’ll likely have the most exposure to Todd Gurley. He’s really in a class of his own on a slate without Alvin Kamara and after a quiet Thursday night showing where Goff carried the load, it very well may be Gurley’s time to drive the ship.
The Rams defense should be in play given how Russell Wilson’s been sacked 11.7% of the time and how the offense really hasn’t functioned well behind new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. The Seahawks ran well in an easy matchup in Week 4 behind Mike Davis but with Chris Carson returning, there will likely be a return to a log jam after Carroll declared that Davis “needs to play too” after his monster performance. I could see throwing a dart with Wilson and one of the equally targeted Doug Baldwin or Tyler Lockett but I really don’t see this Seahawks team being competitive with the Rams with where both teams currently are.
Minnesota Vikings (21.5 implied points) at Philadelphia Eagles (24.5 implied points)
And here we have the marquee game of the week with two defenses who have not been quite as stout as expected after their 2017 campaigns. After what Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis did to the Eagles down the stretch in Week 4, Kirk Cousins and his highly targeted Adam Thielen seem like they’re in a tantalizing spot. Stefon Diggs can break a play open at any time despite substantially less volume than Thielen sees, though the gap has closed a little with Diggs now at a 23% target share compared to Thielen’s 29%. Kyle Rudolph has slipped into the background a bit too but this kind of matchup does seem like one where he serves a more valuable function when the yards matter most. Dalvin Cook should be closer to healthy after 10 days rest but the matchup versus the Eagles and their 3.4 yards per rush allowed seems like a non-ideal spot to expect him to bounce back. It seems to me like Cousins and the pass attack would be the place to look the most in an NFC Championship Game rematch that should go down to the wire.
The Eagles will get a less difficult matchup versus a Vikings D who has not shown the competence they did last season over the last few weeks. The passing defense in particular seems vulnerable, something evident with how fearlessly the Rams attacked them in Week 4. Carson Wentz targeted Nelson Agholor 12 times, Alshon Jeffery 8 times, and Zach Ertz 14 times in the Eagles’ OT loss to Tennessee and that target distribution makes all of these players viable, even in lineups together. Despite some struggles, Wentz has looked just about as aggressive and as competent as he was before his injury and with his defense a bit less stout, this could very well be a game with Wentz has to save the win with his arm and legs. Jay Ajayi and Wendell Smallwood were pretty close to an even split in Week 4 and one of these guys could be useful but I’d only consider them at low volume and only if Corey Clement or Darren Sproles were ruled out again. A passing game stack of both sides seems like the much more appealing approach.
And there we have it, another bunch of games in the books. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisSpags (a place where I have some lovely GIFs, videos, and insights), tune into On the Contrary on Saturday at 1:30PM Eastern, and I’ll see you guys soon for more NFL discussion and analysis.
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