A four-man game stack that features a quarterback/running back pairing from one squad and a wide receiver/tight end pairing from the other is the backbone of this week’s DraftKings lineup suggestions. They’re joined by a bargain back who requires a leap of faith to roster, another back who’s often been the “B” side of his club’s backfield timeshare, and a wideout who’s coming back from injury just in time for an important NFC showdown.
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Cam Newton (QB – CAR): $6,600 vs. Buccaneers
Christian McCaffrey (RB – CAR): $7,800 vs. Buccaneers
DeSean Jackson (WR – TB): $5,000 at Panthers
O.J. Howard (TE – TB): $4,300 at Panthers
The Panthers are six-point favorites in a game with an over/under total of 55 points, per Pinnacle, and they have a team over/under total of 30.5 points (tied for the highest team over/under total on the slate). You’re gonna want to get some exposure to the Panthers. When the dust settles, I’ll likely have Newton stacks with Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen, and D.J. Moore. However, I think the most uniquely rostered stack from the Panthers will be Newton and McCaffrey. There is some concern that a big game from one on the ground would reduce the ceiling of the other, however, McCaffrey’s a fantastic pass-catching back and it’s possible the two lead Carolina to a big lead that the second-year back is tasked with protecting late. In other words, it’s very conceivable both have big games together, and there can be correlation between the two scoring. One area where the two can benefit from one another is in the red zone. The Buccaneers are tied for the fourth most receiving touchdowns (three) allowed to running backs this year, per Pro-Football-Reference. Football Outsiders (FO) ranks the Bucs dead last in pass defense and 29th defending backs in the passing game. As I said, it doesn’t take too much effort to daydream about Newton to McCaffrey in the passing attack elevating the ceiling of both.
As for each of them individually, they both have dreamy draws. The Buccaneers have yielded the most DraftKings points per game to quarterbacks this year. Remarkably, they’ve allowed 20 touchdown passes and intercepted only one pass. Tampa Bay has also coughed up the ninth most DraftKings points per game to running backs this season. McCaffrey is game-script proof thanks to his excellence as a receiver, but with the Panthers favored, I like his odds of touching the ball more than 15 times for the sixth time in eight games and doing damage with his workhorse back volume. As for Newton, he’s enjoying a year that’s in many ways on par with his 2015 MVP campaign. He’s setting new bests in completion percentage (66.4%), interceptions percentage (1.7%), and carries per game (8.9). He’s averaging 44.1 rushing yards per game and has four rushing scores in addition to his 235.1 yards passing per game and 13 touchdowns through the air. The ceilings for Newton and McCaffrey are extremely high.
Opposing Carolina’s duo is the pairing of D-Jax and Howard. If the game goes according to the spread, Tampa Bay will be playing catch up and tasked with airing it out often. Honestly, though, the Bucs would be wise to come out winging it early anyway. FO ranks the Panthers seventh defending the run compared to 20th defending the pass, and they also rank the Bucs 12th passing and just 24th running. Tampa Bay’s passing rank — while still above average at FO — is almost certainly hurt by Jameis Winston‘s struggles in his two starts. The team wisely pulled the plug on Winston and re-inserted Ryan Fitzpatrick in as the starting quarterback. Fitz was brilliant to open the year with three games of 400-plus passing yards and three or more touchdown passes right out of the gate. He struggled against the Bears and was benched in favor of Winston. Fitz replaced Winston with a couple minutes remaining in the third quarter of last week’s game in Cincinnati, and he rallied the Bucs from down 18 to tied at 34-34 before the defense ultimately let the Bucs down. Fitz got back to lighting things up by completing 11 of 15 passes for 194 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
The second of his touchdowns was to Howard. Howard has caught two of his three touchdowns this year from Fitz. He opened the year with 222 yards receiving, 11 receptions, and one touchdown through the first three games of the year. He continued to play well with Winston starting, but he was most productive with Fitz starting (albeit, he did have a bagel against the Bears in Fitz’s most recent start).
Speaking of being most productive with Fitzmagic starting, D-Jax has thrived playing with him. The veteran big-play wideout has struggled mightily with Winston. In 15 games with Winston, he owns per game averages of 6.4 targets, 3.2 receptions, 52 receiving yards, and 0.2 touchdowns, according to RotoViz’s Game Splits Tool. All of those numbers jump with Fitz. In 13 games with Fitzpatrick, D-Jax has per game averages of 6.69 targets, 4.38 receptions, 70.15 yards, and 0.54 receiving touchdowns. He’s the primary beneficiary of the journeyman quarterback reclaiming the starting quarterback gig for the Bucs.
Duke Johnson (RB – CLE): $3,800 vs. Chiefs
Johnson’s floor is about as low as it gets. He’s bested 50 yards from scrimmage only two times this year, and he’s failed to best 25 yards from scrimmage in four games. Of course, all of these poor numbers have been accumulated with Hue Jackson serving as Cleveland’s head coach and Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator. Both have been relieved of their duties. Freddie Kitchens was elevated from running backs coach and associate head coach to serve as the team’s offensive coordinator. He previously worked for the Cardinals as a running backs coach in 2017 and a quarterbacks coach from 2013-16. During his tenure with the Cardinals, he happened to be on the staff with a different DJ at running back, David Johnson. No one is going to confuse Duke with David, but it’s possible he picked up some wrinkles from Arizona’s usage of David Johnson in the passing attack. That would bode well for Duke in a perfect break-loose matchup. Kansas City has allowed the third most receptions (56), second most receiving yards (551), and are tied for the fourth most receiving touchdowns (three) allowed to running backs this season. FO ranks the Chiefs 27th defending running backs in the passing game. The Browns would be foolish not to attack that weakness in Kansas City’s defense, and Johnson is the back best equipped to exploit it. Furthermore, the Browns are eight-point underdogs and likely to be playing catch up against Kansas City’s high-octane offense, a game script that would be better for Johnson than backfield mate Nick Chubb. I wouldn’t advise going overboard on exposure to Johnson this weekend, but he’ll likely be on three to five of my GPP rosters in the 20-max entry smaller stakes contests.
Jordan Howard (RB – CHI): $4,700 at Bills
Howard’s had a lot of his thunder in the backfield stolen by budding second-year stud Tarik Cohen. However, this game sets up nicely for Chicago’s bruising back. Facing the Nathan Peterman-led Bills, the Bears are 10-point favorites in Buffalo. It’s likely the visiting Bears are going to squash the Bills and have a sizable lead to protect while salting away clock. That’s the perfect scenario for Howard, who was basically asked to do the same against the Jets last week. He carried the ball six times in the first half against the Jets and carried it 16 times in the second half. Howard has bested 80 yards rushing twice this year (Week 1 and last week), and I like his odds of doing so again this week. His odds of finding pay dirt are decent as well. Buffalo’s seven rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs this season are tied for the fourth most.
Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR): $6,000 at Saints
Kupp is slated to come back from his knee injury this week, and the timing is great for a Rams team that hopes to remain undefeated but faces a hot Saints squad in New Orleans. The Rams move their wide receivers around to take advantage of matchups, but Kupp’s the club’s primary slot receiver playing 73.2% of his snaps there, according to PlayerProfiler. The slot is a drool-inducing place to line up against the Saints this year. As Ian Hartitz of Fantasy Labs and Action Network tweeted out earlier in the week, Saints slot corner P.J. Williams has been thoroughly whooped (here’s his tweet with the specific stats). All of the key pieces in this game are going to get an ownership bump from the week’s highest over/under total, but it’s possible Kupp’s ownership rate is suppressed a tiny bit due to the fact it’s his first game back from injury. Consider that gravy if it proves to be the case, though.
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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.