This article is part of our Game Spotlight series.
New Orleans (8-1) vs. Philadelphia (4-5), 4:25
Open: 54 O/U, NO -7
Live: 56 O/U, NO -7.5
With an over/under like this and two of the league's best offenses playing in a dome, you'll probably want to take a few stabs at this game when making your DFS lineups, no matter whether it's cash games or tournaments. The Saints rank third behind only the Chiefs and Rams in Pro Football Reference's expected points metric for passing offense, while the Eagles would doubtlessly rank higher than 19th in the metric if Carson Wentz had played all year. Philadelphia's playoff hopes will almost certainly be over with a loss here, so we can expect Wentz and Doug Pederson to empty the bag of tricks against a Saints defense allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. He'll be very chalky especially at his Fanduel price of $7,700, but it's hard to see the move burning you in any particular context.
With double-digit targets in seven of nine games this year and a Week 10 effort where he turned 16 targets into 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas, we might as well consider Zach Ertz the WR1 of the Philadelphia offense. He has 100 targets in nine games, and even though last week was almost certainly Ertz's best game of 2018, it might be worth paying up for the rare security he offers at tight end, especially since the game context could provoke an upside scenario easily as well. The Saints have been brutally tough on tight ends this year, conceding only 4.9 fantasy points per game in standard scoring, but the Titans have been even tougher (3.3 points per game) and Ertz lit them up for 10 catches for 112 yards on 14 targets in Week 4. Alshon Jeffery might be more of a tournament play than a cash one with Marshon Lattimore on the other side, but the circumstances and the venue should probably overrule the matchup for the most part. It's encouraging that Jeffery owns 1/5 of Philadelphia's air yardage despite sitting out three games, and this setting should bring out the higher-range outcomes of target volume and depth of target. Nelson Agholor might be tempting in tournaments after turning seven targets into five catches for 83 yards against Dallas last week, but he's a full fade for me given my assumption that Golden Tate will play much more in this game than he did the Dallas one, and it's hard to see Agholor getting more than a few targets unless Tate plays around 18 snaps again. Why would the Eagles have traded a third-round pick for a guy to play 18 snaps in what's basically an early playoff game? Ready or not, I don't see what choice they have but to push his snap volume toward 40 or more and the target count to at least six or more. Agholor has been a liability all year and Tate is one of the best at the same position. It's now or never. I think I would go with Dallas Goedert in a GPP before Agholor. With that said, it would seem to be Jordan Matthews who gets kicked out of the rotation before it would be Agholor.
The Philadelphia backfield is of some level of intrigue if only for its fluid state, but there might not be much use to extract from it. They're a 4-5 team on the road against an 8-1 team, and their underdog status is well deserved. So if they're losing, the script becomes problematic for Josh Adams, who seems to be emerging as the team's top pure runner with 154 yards on 27 carries, but otherwise is unproven if not questionable as a pass catcher. Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement are more likely to contribute as pass catchers, but the two combined for an average of just 56.5 yards from scrimmage over the last two weeks, and Clement has struggled so badly lately that it's fair to wonder if he's even healthy.
The Saints running game should have at least one high-scoring option, and we need not analyze that certain player at length. We know Alvin Kamara is almost certain to do damage here, the question is merely whether there is room for Mark Ingram also. I was optimistic with Ingram last week against a toothless Bengals squad, but I think he's considerably more risky here despite the high-scoring environment. Ingram is quite simply the guy the Saints go to when they don't have to go to Kamara, and it's fair to worry that Carson Wentz pushes the issue such that usage for Ingram remains a luxury the Saints can't afford in this contest. If the Eagles fail to make this competitive, though, then Ingram could very well set up for significant usage if the Saints decide to pack up Kamara until the next game. I have enough faith in Wentz and Kamara that I'll probably stay away from Ingram myself, totally justifiable as he is in GPP lineups.
Similar to Kamara, there's no need to discuss Michael Thomas at length. He's posting numbers that are borderline impossible, catching 89.7 percent of his targets at 10.9 yards per target, and you would think he'll push for the higher end of his range of target volume outcomes in a game as momentous as this. If Wentz goes in this game, then Thomas almost categorically cannot fail with 1/3 of New Orleans' air yardage at a nearly 90 percent completion rate. That Philadelphia has just one active starting member of its secondary at this point (safety Malcolm Jenkins) implies Thomas is going to get open constantly in a setting where he might be in constant demand. The main question is whether there will be additional room for a third pass catcher behind Thomas and Kamara. That player could be Mark Ingram if such a player exists at all, so there really is substantial risk with Tre'Quan Smith, but I think his prices have accounted for that risk more than sufficiently given the unique upside he otherwise holds for his price range. It's tough to tell where the New Orleans tight end rotation is headed, because the arrival of Dan Arnold has harmed Ben Watson's snap count substantially, limiting the otherwise still effective veteran to just 26, 46, and 37 percent of the snaps over the last three weeks. Josh Hill gets the most snaps but the least route-running work, so there might not be as much usage to chase there as his snap count would lead you to believe.
Giants (2-7) vs. Tampa Bay (3-6), 1:00
Open: 52 O/U, PK
Live: 52.5 O/U, NYG -2.5
Eli Manning is so, so bad but even he might look vaguely employable against a Tampa Bay defense allowing quarterbacks to complete 73.6 percent of their passes at 8.7 YPA with 23 touchdowns allowed versus one interception. As much as Michael Thomas appears truly automatic this week, it's hard to argue against the same distinction for Odell Beckham, who owns a staggering 43.7 percent of the Giants' air yardage as we step into a setting where Manning could convert his air yardage at a season-high rate. Meanwhile, the Giants defense isn't so imposing that you'd expect an especially bad game from Ryan Fitzpatrick, meaning a surge in Beckham's efficiency could occur at the same time as a usage spike. Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram are both talented players worth substantial GPP consideration, as either or both might make a useful impact at their respective prices even if Beckham and Saquon Barkley post big numbers.
And man, Barkley might post really big numbers in this one. He's infallible to start with, and then you have to factor in the potential shootout context against an already bad defense that will additionally be without elite linebacker Lavonte David as well as safety Justin Evans and corner M.J. Stewart. There are a lot of tempting running back options this week between Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, James Conner, and David Johnson, but I cannot imagine arguing against the idea of ranking Barkley tops of all of them.
Whether guys like Manning, Barkley, and Beckham hit their (very high) upside scenario probably depends primarily on how well Ryan Fitzpatrick plays. Given Tampa Bay's three-point outing against Washington last week, this is no small concern, and Fitzpatrick's interception rate of four percent is unacceptable by about 1.5 percent. However, the Giants pass defense is not particularly threatening, ranking 24th in PFR's pass defense metric, and the pass rush is similarly tame at 10 in nine games. That's almost as bad as Oakland (nine in nine games). For all his turnover issues, Fitzpatrick is otherwise extremely explosive on the year, completing 67.1 percent of his passes at 9.8 YPA with a touchdown percentage of 7.6, which ranks fourth among qualifying passers.
If Fitzpatrick goes, Mike Evans probably goes. Janoris Jenkins is historically a concern, but Evans is about seven inches taller and forty pounds heavier, so the box out is definitely an option. Fitzpatrick's shakiness means no Tampa plays aside from maybe OJ Howard are cash-game viable, but I like Evans and DeSean Jackson plenty in tournaments. Chris Godwin (ankle) is a great prospect but I hate his uncertain role and I don't particularly feel like tempting the risk he carries when he only practiced once this week. Adam Humphries should stay involved and is a worthwhile consideration especially in PPR scoring, but to bet on him is to bet against Jackson/Godwin/Howard and I just can't bring myself to do it.
Peyton Barber will get the ceremonial starting running back role for Tampa, but I question whether there's a single context where he's worth approaching in DFS. The risk is huge, but the upside is low, which tanks whatever GPP value he might have for me. If I were compelled to go with a Tampa runner it would be Jacquizz Rodgers in DraftKings' PPR scoring, but normally he's not going to see eight targets, he normally won't catch all of those eight targets, and he definitely isn't going to average 12.8 YPT.
Detroit (3-6) vs. Carolina (6-3), 1:00
Open: 52 O/U, CAR -3
Live: 49.5 O/U, CAR -4.5
The Lions are sinking, and Matt Patricia is not in a good mood. I'm no psychologist but this seems like a guy who's frustrated with more than just the media, and if he can't command respect from the locker room then players might underperform, especially on hustle questions. It's not an additional concern that the Lions need when the Panthers already look like a substantially better team.
Christian McCaffrey is a blue-chip start in cash games and tournaments both, boasting pass-catching upside that only Barkley and Kamara can match as he otherwise takes on a run defense allowing the fourth-highest rushing yardage volume to opposing running backs. There's a plethora of elite running back plays this week since Kamara, Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, and David Johnson all look great and surprisingly affordable, and it's only your fear of missing out on those guys that makes you second guess anything about your McCaffrey shares. He probably can't fail, the only real possibility is that other guys manage to succeed slightly more. But don't overthink it too much – McCaffrey could easily be our top-scoring running back this week.
McCaffrey's projection might more so be a concern to those contemplating Cam Newton shares, because we would think Newton's upside scenario entails the possibility of rushing production, including in the touchdown sense. This is annoying because they're also plenty stackable – McCaffrey is Newton's leading target, after all. I think the limiting factor for Newton is more likely to be the Detroit's lack of teeth. The Panthers are headed to the playoffs, and if they can shield Newton against a trash opponent it's definitely something for them to think about. If Newton gets volume then it would be a blowup spot for him against a quit-risk Detroit defense that's already allowing 19 touchdown passes compared to three interceptions.
Even if Newton has a big game as a passer, it's hard to find reliable receiver who might correlate with him. The leading target on this team is McCaffrey with 63, with Devin Funchess ranking second, and first among receivers, with 60. But Funchess hasn't exceeded five targets since Week 7, and it's difficult to imagine Newton needing to throw to him a whole lot. If he doesn't have volume or multiple touchdown catches, Funchess is liable to bust. D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel are not far behind Funchess in targets the last three weeks, with Moore owning 13 and Samuel 11 to Funchess' 13. I would sooner test my luck with Moore or Samuel in a tournament than Funchess. Greg Olsen has a different grading curve at tight end, so the fact that he faces similar usage difficulties to Funchess comes at a lesser penalty. With 28 targets in his last five games as he faces off against a defense allowing 9.4 yards per target to tight ends, Olsen carries one of the top tight end projections of the week.
Whether Matthew Stafford has a good game could help determine the aggressiveness and usage tendencies of the Carolina offense, so investors in Newton probably want to see a bounce-back effort from Stafford. Without Golden Tate and Marvin Jones (knee), though, it's not that easy to be optimistic about Stafford. Theo Riddick figures to run the second-most routes at receiver – him or T.J. Jones, anyway – which probably isn't great for Stafford. Riddick is somewhat interesting for tournaments on DK at $4,000, though.
With that said, you can be optimistic about Kenny Golladay even if you're pessimistic about Stafford. Particularly with Carolina the heavy favorites, the Lions will likely need to throw the ball even if it's not working, and even if they don't want to. That means Golladay projects for probably one of the 10 highest target counts this week, with anything less than eight a stunning upset and something in the 10-to-12 target area seems like a middle-range outcome for Golladay. Even if James Bradberry plays a great game, Golladay's target volume could easily offset it, and Golladay is plenty capable of beating Bradberry outright.
Aside from McCaffrey, the player I'm easily most interested in with this game is Kerryon Johnson. The Panthers defense just isn't that great, and with Tate gone I think Johnson will be one of the most active pass-catching running backs the rest of the way. He's one of my favorite tournament plays this week with 34 carries and 19 targets over his last three games. The Lions offensive line consistently looks like one of the best run-blocking groups in the league from my view, so I'm optimistic for Kerryon despite his team sinking otherwise.
Other preferred targets:
Lamar Jackson vs. Cincinnati - This is GPP only, but Jackson is the best runner of all time among NFL quarterbacks and the Bengals defense has been atrocious in most regards all year. His rushing output alone could meet the value of his cost. Then again, Robert Griffin might poach 15 snaps or even start the game. There's a great deal of uncertainty here, as much as it would be objective malpractice if the Ravens didn't start Jackson in his exceedingly favorable home matchup.
Alex Collins vs. Cincinnati - Collins is risky, but I think his workload is assured this week due to the likely absence of Joe Flacco. The Ravens offense is uptempo and pass-heavy by design, but with Jackson or even Griffin some of those passes are turning into carries. Ty Montgomery is still in uncertain standing, and Javorius Allen has trended downward for a while now. The Bengals have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs, and the usage should be there in favorable field position with Andy Dalton likely to struggle on the road without A.J. Green.
Amari Cooper at Atlanta - He sometimes just can't help himself, but Jerry Jones hates to look stupid. So you know that upon trading a first-round pick for Cooper, he told his obedient head coach that the ball was going to Cooper one way or another. Luckily for us, Cooper's own talent would have dictated the same approach, and he's caught on surprisingly well with the Cowboys offense in his first two games. Now he heads into a dome matchup where Matt Ryan reliably provokes a catch-up script for the opposing team, and that catch-up attempt will occur indoors against a defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to receivers. I love Cooper for cash games and tournaments both. He has 18 targets in his first two games with Dallas, so anything less than eight in this setting would be a profound disappointment.
Jonnu Smith at Indianapolis - This is a tournament-only consideration, but Smith is a very good if under-prepared prospect who understandably struggled when forced into a starting role following Delanie Walker's season-ending injury. But Smith is a standout athlete at tight end and was one of college football's best pass-catching tight ends in recent memory, so it's not surprising that he's picking up steam with experience. Taywan Taylor (foot) is out and Tajae Sharpe (ankle, questionable) is on uncertain ground, so Smith might be necessary for the Titans as they try to match the uptempo Colts.