Using Vegas lines to determine who to play this week
Vegas spends millions of dollars getting experts to set betting lines to be as accurate as possible. This series uses Vegas opening betting lines to identify the teams with high point projections to help find sleepers and busts. Obviously don’t sit your A.J. Green for Terrance Williams just because the Vegas projection for the Cowboys is higher than the projection for the Giants, instead, use it as a tiebreaker. The obvious must-starts like Antonio Brown and the obvious irrelevant players with 0.1% ownership won’t be mentioned.
Line of the Week:
New Orleans Saints (-4) @ Atlanta Falcons. Over/Under 54.5.
The highest over/under of the week goes to the Thursday Night Football game as the Saints are road favorites against the Falcons. The big question for the Saints is the availability of Mark Ingram as he is battling a toe injury. Monitor practice reports but if he’s in, he’s been too good to bench. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas are all auto-starts. Ted Ginn is a sleeper start due to the line, and especially if Ingram misses and the Saints are forced to throw more.
Matt Ryan disappointed last time out with only 173 yards and no touchdowns, still, with a projected shootout there are too many potential points to be had. Start him. Julio Jones is an auto-start especially with Saints star CB Marshon Lattimore questionable. Devonta Freeman only out-touched Tevin Coleman 13-11 in his first game back, but out-snapped Coleman 39-20. Freeman is a must-start while Coleman is a flex-start. Mohamed Sanu has turned into a touchdown-or-bust player but with this line he has a good chance for a touchdown, he’s a start.
Lines to Exploit
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs (-4). Over/Under 47.5.
Oakland gets Michael Crabtree back after his suspension and potentially Amari Cooper if he’s cleared from his ankle injury. The Chiefs defense just surrendered 38 points to the Jets last week and the Raiders should also feast. Derek Carr is a start and so is Marshawn Lynch as he’s had 17+ points in 3 of the past 4 games. Crabtree is a must-start and Cooper is a start if practice reports are positive as this matchup is just too good to pass up. Seth Roberts disappointed without Cooper and Crabtree, keep him benched. Cordarrelle Patterson played well but he’s only a potential option if Cooper sits. Jared Cook has been atrocious the past 3 weeks, catching only 4 out of 15 targets, sit him.
The Raiders can’t defend anybody either despite two okay weeks against the hapless Broncos and Giants. Alex Smith is a great option after his 366 yards (and 70 rushing yards!) and 4 touchdown game. Kareem Hunt has had 5 consecutive mediocre games after getting over 100 yards in his first 7, still, the matchup is too good to bench him and he’s had 9 games without a touchdown, regression is surely coming. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are auto-starts.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams (PK). Over/Under 51.
The Rams defense is extremely lopsided in the fact that they are great against the pass and bad against run. Unfortunately, Philly has 3 capable running backs. Jay Ajayi led the RB’s in snaps and carries for the first time but didn’t manage to turn in a good day against the Seahawks. It was also the first game that the Eagles weren’t winning big and this game also projects to be close, making Ajayi the best option. LeGarrette Blount has disappointed in every game after the team acquired Ajayi, bench him. Corey Clement is touchdown dependent, making him extremely risky especially in the first week of playoffs. Carson Wentz is awesome and matchup proof, start him. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are starts despite the matchup due to the line, and the fact that Zach Ertz is probably out after sustaining a concussion. Trey Burton is a potential option, but there are better ones as the Rams are great against TE.
Todd Gurley is an auto-start, Jared Goff gets a difficult matchup on paper but the Eagles are even better against the run than the pass, so LA would need to throw the ball, making Goff a start. The pass catchers are harder to trust with Robert Woods set to miss another game. Cooper Kupp would be the better option due to volume, he is a start. Sammy Watkins is only a desperate start. The TE’s are not worth starting.
New England Patriots (-11) @ Miami Dolphins. Over/Under 48.5.
The Gronk-less Patriots are projected to blow out the Miami Dolphins. Tom Brady and Brandin Cooks are auto-starts. Dion Lewis has also reached auto-start territory with 4 consecutive good games. Rex Burkhead was great in 3 of the last 4 games, and although he is more touchdown dependent, the lack of Gronk with Hogan not ready yet should mean plenty of red zone opportunities for Burkhead. Dwayne Allen is used for blocking, he’s not getting Gronk’s targets so don’t bother with him. Danny Amendola has potential to soak up some targets as he actually runs similar routes to Gronk, he is a sleeper start.
It was another week of good Patriots defense, making Jay Cutler a sit. Kenny Stills was held to 47 yards when the two teams played week 12, sit him. Jarvis Landry is still the best option, he’s a start. Devante Parker has completely fallen off, sit him. Kenyan Drake was awesome in his first game without Damien Williams and has good performances in 4 out of the last 5 games, start him. Julius Thomas gets a difficult matchup, sit him.
Lines to Avoid
New York Jets @ Denver Broncos (-1). Over/Under 40.5.
Last week the Jets were awesome against the Chiefs while the Broncos were destroyed by the Dolphins, but Vegas still has the Broncos favored in this low scoring game. The Broncos defense is not what it once was, but going off Vegas, this suggests benching Jets players. Josh McCown is the 7th ranked fantasy QB, but he is a sit with Aqib Talib set to return. Robby Anderson has produced in 6 consecutive games, making him matchup proof and a start. Jermaine Kearse has produced in the last 2 games, but that’s not enough to crown him as matchup-proof, sit him. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell both had touchdowns to turn in good days, but Forte had more work and looked better, making him a start and Powell a sit. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has disappointed in 4 of the last 5 games, but he gets the best matchup, making him a start.
For the Broncos, Trevor Siemian is set to start again, but it’s hard to trust any Broncos players. Sit them all if you can. The exception is C.J. Anderson, who reclaimed the lead back role from Devontae Booker, Anderson is a risky start.
Seattle Seahawks @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5). Over/Under 39.5.
One week after upsetting the Eagles, the Seahawks are one of the lowest projected teams this week. This is the toughest matchup versus the number 1 QB, Russell Wilson is simply too good to bench. Regarding his pass-catchers, Doug Baldwin is a risky start as he’s produced in 4 of the last 5. Jimmy Graham is a must-start. Despite Mike Davis breaking out last week, he’s a bench due to matchup.
Chicago Bears @ Cincinnati Bengals (-7). Over/Under 39.5
The Bears have the lowest projected total this week, and the team couldn’t even get points against a horrid Niners defense. Minus Jordan Howard, who gets a good matchup, everybody is a sit.
For the Bengals, Andy Dalton has played well in his past 3 games, making him a start. A.J. Green is a must-start. Joe Mixon is a start if he clears the concussion protocol due to game script, but if he’s out Giovani Bernard is a good start. Nobody else is worth starting.