FanDuel NFL Lineup Advice: Week 2 (Thurs/Sun/Mon)
The Thursday Night Football contest is ugly this week pitting the Texans against the Bengals, and the game’s over/under total is a skimpy 38 points, according to Pinnacle. This segues nicely to the point that it sometimes — perhaps even often — benefits gamers to fade the Thursday Night Football game entirely in the Thursday-Monday slate on FanDuel. The players in those contests will get an ownership boost from gamers who specifically sought playing that slate out in order to use one or more of their sleepers, but they also get a boost from undisciplined gamers rostering players just for the sake of having guys to root for in that particular contest. The first game of the new week is often an ugly affair, and that’s likely because both teams have little time to prepare with the short week. This week, I have no interest in the offensive players in the Thursday Night Football game, though, the Monday Night Football game adds some enticing players to the player pool.
Houston Texans DST: $4,600 @ Bengals
I won’t save my twist for the end of my picks. Sure, I’m not going to use any of the offensive players in the Thursday Night Football contest, but I do like one of the defenses. That low over/under total calls out for selecting a defense. I’m breaking a couple of cardinal rules, though. The Texans are underdogs and getting six points, and they’re on the road. Typically when selecting a defense, it’s prudent to pick one with home field advantage that’s projected to be playing with a lead, thus, putting the opponent in predictable passing situations in which the defense can rack up sacks and turnovers. I’m going against the grain because the Bengals looked more like the Bungles in their opener getting blanked by the Ravens, but more importantly, turning the ball over five times and yielding five sacks. Andy Dalton was under duress all game and threw four interceptions while losing a fumble for good measure. The Texans blew a favorable matchup against turnover-prone Blake Bortles in their first game, but I think they’ll bounce back on a short week. Last season, Football Outsiders (FO) ranked the Texans ninth in defensive DVOA, and that was with J.J. Watt missing almost the entire season. Watt’s back this year, and along with Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, the Texans have the personnel to continue the Red Rifle’s nightmare start to the season.
Matt Ryan (QB – ATL): $8,200 vs. Packers
Julio Jones (WR – ATL): $8,800 vs. Packers
Ty Montgomery (RB – GB): $6,500 @ Falcons
I’m going to tackle this trio collectively since they’re all playing in the same game, and selecting them as a group was by design with that in mind. The game’s over/under total is the second highest this week at 53.5 points, and the host Falcons are 2.5-point favorites. The Falcons had positive moments in their 23-17 win in Chicago last week, but they weren’t the offensive juggernaut that steamrolled their way to the Super Bowl last year with Kyle Shanahan as the offensive coordinator. Having said that, Matt Ryan played well and completed 21 of 30 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown, and he took just two sacks while avoiding turnovers. He’ll look to kick things up a notch at home this year, and he’s played better at home in recent years, including last season’s MVP campaign. Matty Ice was plenty good on the road with 295.4 yards passing per game (Y/G), a 67.18% completion percentage, 19 passing touchdowns, and three interceptions, but at home, he ripped defenses for 322.6 Y/G, a 72.43% completion percentage, 19 passing touchdowns, and four interceptions. The Packers were able to hold Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to nine points in another game that had a high over/under total, but Atlanta’s offensive line is much better, and the Packers are on the road this week after playing at home last week.
Jones is one of the best receivers in the NFL and Matty Ice’s top target. In a down game by his standards last week, Jones reeled in four of five targets for 66 yards. The Falcons played the Packers twice last year, and Jones’ output was vastly different in the two contests. In the first, the Packers focused on stopping Jones and held him to 29 yards on three receptions. In the NFC Championship game, Jones embarrassed the Packers with a 9-180-2 line on 12 targets. I believe the Falcons have too many weapons for the Packers to pay the attention to him required to hold him to a similar output from their first meeting last year, and while I’m not expecting a repeat of the NFC Championship game stat line, I am expecting Jones to torch Green Bay.
With such a small spread in a game with such a big total, I want a key piece of the other side, too. Montgomery is the perfect piece. If anyone had concerns about Montgomery’s workload entering the year, he erased them in Week 1 playing 74 of 82 offensive snaps and touching the ball 23 times (19 carries and four receptions). Against Seattle’s elite defense, he rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown, and he also caught all four of his targets for 39 yards. The converted receiver should be busy as a pass catcher this week. Last year, the Falcons allowed the most targets (141), receptions (109), receiving yards (870), and tied for the most touchdown receptions (six) allowed to running backs, per Pro-Football Reference. FO ranked them 25th defending running backs in the passing game, and their play in Week 1 did nothing to suggest they’ve fixed their issues stopping running backs in the passing game. Rookie running back Tarik Cohen led the Bears across the board in receiving numbers with 12 targets, eight receptions, 47 yards receiving, and one touchdown grab. Jordan Howard also added to the receiving totals for running backs with three receptions for 14 yards on five targets. Atlanta also coughed up 118 yards on 18 carries to the duo of Howard and Cohen, so there’s ample rushing upside for Montgomery this week, too. He’ll be quite chalky, but that’s fine. There are other places to pivot to lower-owned options on the roster.
Chris Hogan (WR – NE): $6,200 @ Saints
Hogan will garner some ownership simply because he’s on the Patriots and they’re 6.5-point favorites in the game with the highest over/under total (54.5) this week. It also won’t hurt his ownership that the Saints were torched by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen on national television in the first game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader in Week 1. However, Hogan’s ownership is unlikely to be sky high for a variety of reasons, too. Wide receiver is loaded with options from the Packers at Falcons game and other options from this contest — and that’s saying nothing of the other stud receivers such as Antonio Brown, for instance, playing in other contests — such as Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and Ted Ginn. I anticipate Cooks and Thomas having a higher ownership rate than Hogan, and Ginn could as well. Furthermore, Rob Gronkowski could siphon ownership away from Hogan as a Tom Brady stack partner or a one-off option from the Pats. Getting back to Hogan, he had a disappointing opener against the Chiefs with three carries for 17 yards and one reception on five targets for eight yards. The good news is that lost in the underwhelming statistics, he played the highest percentage of offensive snaps (90%) of any of New England’s receivers. This is a high-upside matchup for Hogan, and his modest salary is gravy.
Eric Ebron (TE – DET): $5,300 @ Giants
I’m sandwiching my picks with plays from the Thursday Night Football game and the Monday Night Football game. Ebron is a great pivot from Gronk and the likely more popular — and same price — Coby Fleener. Fleener posted a 5-54-1 line on six targets against the Vikings, and he’s tied to the massive total in New Orleans. He’ll soak up a bunch of ownership from gamers looking for a cheap piece of the action in that game. Ebron, on the other hand, is coming off of a two-catch performance for only nine yards on three targets. Matthew Stafford exploded for 292 yards passing and four touchdowns, and Ebron was a non-factor while Golden Tate erupted for 10 catches for 107 yards, and rookie Kenny Golladay turned heads with a 4-69-2 line. Hell, even Marvin Jones and Theo Riddick got in on the fun with each reaching pay dirt through the air. Like Hogan, Ebron laid an egg in the first game of the season, however, also like New England’s receiver, he was on the field often playing 51 of 71 offensive snaps (72%). Ebron should play a more substantial role in the passing attack this week. The Giants’ secondary is tough on receivers. Last year, FO ranked them first defending No. 1 receivers, fifth defending No. 2 receivers, and seventh defending “Other” receivers. The Giants were much more giving to tight ends ranking 26th defending the position, and, according to Pro-Football Reference, they allowed the sixth most targets (137), tied for fifth most receptions (89) ceded, and coughed up the fourth most yards (1,052) to tight ends. Staying true to last year’s form, they did a good job against the Cowboys’ receivers in Week 1, most notably holding Dez Bryant to only two receptions for 43 yards on nine targets, but 35-year-old Jason Witten beat them up for 59 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. Ebron’s a much more dynamic player than Witten is in the twilight of his excellent career, and I fully expect Stafford to wisely lean on his tight end on Monday night.