Welcome to The Gauntlet. We are going to break down each and every game on what is considered the main slate on DraftKings and Fanduel for NFL DFS Week 1. This consists of the games only on Sundays. If you are playing other slates, such as the Prime time slates, be sure to check out our other DFS content for plays in those games. In this breakdown, we are going to dive deeply into each matchup which is why we are going to stick to just the main slate of games. All of the stats in this breakdown are from Football Outsiders, while all of the player grades are from Pro Football Focus.
This is meant to be your foundation for your research. Use this foundation to create your initial list of players and then use other methods of research to narrow down your list.
For the first couple of weeks, we are going to use last season as a crash course for the approach to take with our research. With the exception of notable coaching changes and top free agent additions in the offseason, playbook schemes are going to be pretty similar to last season, but we won’t focus too much on that just yet. Instead, what I like to look for in the first couple weeks of the season is which team is going to dominate the trenches on either side of the ball and use last year’s stats and grades as a starting point. A dominant offensive line means more room for a running back to operate, and less pressure on a QB. Two things we definitely prefer while teams are trying to knock the rust off. On the defensive side of the ball, we want to look for the exact opposite. We want to see which teams are going to cause chaos in the backfield and force the QB to make throws under duress, while also preventing open running lanes for the RB. With that in mind, let’s get to it…
NFL DFS Week 1
Raiders (108) at Titans (-128)
Vegas Total: 50.5 (2nd highest point total of the week)
Raiders offensive Line:
I am not going to bother with the Raiders run game until I see how Marshawn looks and what their game plan is for him.
Pass Protection: 1st
Titans Defensive Line:
Pass Rush: 14th
This is a great spot for the Raiders air attack. 2nd highest total on the board, one of the best offensive lines in the league in terms of pass protection, and another offseason for improvement between Carr and his weapons Amari and Crabtree. The Titans offense is efficient which should force the Raiders to keep their foot on the gas. The Raiders also don’t have a TE that can steal targets away from their receivers.
Top plays: Carr, Amari, Crabtree
Titans Offensive Line
Run Blocking: 4.63 adjusted line yards (5th), 2nd level yards rank 9th, open field yards rank 13th
Pass Protection: 15th
Raiders Defensive Line:
Run Defense: 4.43 adjusted line yards (23rd), 2nd level yards rank 15th, open field yards rank 28th
Pass Rush: 30th
The Raiders were near the bottom in open field yards last year, and that is where Demarco Murray thrives. With such a high total, you are going to want at least some piece of this game, and if you want the Titans side, you need to take a side with the passing game or run game. Both should be operating at high efficiency in this one, and I am a huge Mariota fan this season. He creates plays with his legs just as well as he does with his arm. Mariota also has a wide variety of weapons between Walker, Matthews and new red zone weapon Eric Decker. For DFS purposes, I see the biggest games coming from Matthews this season, but Decker will definitely eat into his touchdowns. Corey Davis will also steal red zone looks when he gets healthy. So this is one of the rare offenses where you can actually play the QB and not stack anybody with him. He could very easily spread the ball around to all 4 guys. If I had to choose one of the 4 to stack with Mariota, I would pick Walker.
Top Plays: Murray, Mariota, Walker
Arizona (-125) at Detroit (105)
Vegas Total: 48
I don’t think there is any analysis needed for anyone to know that David Johnson is a top play every single week. He plays in a dome for home games, and even though this is an away game, it is also in a dome. He should have a field day against this Lions defense, and I rarely play a QB and RB on the same team in the same lineup, so I am sticking with DJ here. We will touch on JJ Nelson at some point this season, but Arizona should come out and try to establish DJ in this one.
Top plays: Johnson
Detroit Offensive Line:
Run Blocking: 3.49 adjusted line yards (31st), 2nd level yards rank 21, open field yards rank 27
Pass Protection: 18th
Arizona Defensive Line:
Run Defense: 3.57 adjusted line yards (3rd), 2nd level yards rank 3rd, open field yards rank 2nd
Pass rush: 3rd
This is an ugly spot for the Lions offense in general. They should be playing from behind, however, so I expect Stafford to be throwing the ball 40-45 times in this one. He and Marvin Jones had a connection going in the preseason. Jones caught a couple touchdowns in his short time on the field. I don’t want to load up on the Lions passing attack but they should stay within striking distance. Stafford plays exponentially better at home, and if Arizona relies on the run game heavily, which they should with an aging Carson Palmer, then that won’t lead to quick scores and will by nature keep Detroit in the game. I say maybe pick and choose a WR or pass catching RB here but wouldn’t load up on them.
Top plays: Jones, Tate, Riddick
Falcons (-260) at Bears (220)
Vegas Total: 49.5
Falcons Offensive Line:
Run Blocking: 4.4 adjusted line yards (10th), 2nd level yards rank 7th, open field yards rank 3rd
Pass protection: 23rd
Bears Defensive Line:
Run defense: 4.33 adjusted line yards (20th), 2nd level yards rank 13th, open field yards rank 24th
Pass Rush: 4th
The Falcons are pretty easy to figure out. They will run the ball down your throat if you allow them. If not, Ryan will start finding Julio to move them down the field. This week I like them to establish the run game here. They like to get both of their running backs in the open field, and the bears were near the bottom of the pack in allowing open field yards last year. Good luck tackling both Freeman or Coleman in space. We know that Coleman is talented, but Freeman is the guy in this offense unless he were to get hurt. Ryan is much better at home in his dome than he is outdoors. Couple that with the windy city of Chicago, and I like the run game even more.
Top plays: Freeman
Until the Bears show us differently, there are only two players I care to even consider using. Jordan Howard being the first solely because of his talent. He was on this same awful team last year and was still a monster in the stats department. The other guy I care to use here is Kendall Wright solely because of his value. More than likely he is going to see the most targets on the team unless Kevin White shows signs of life but I will believe that when I see it. Wright is currently priced at $3200 on DK and $5200 on FD. In a game where the Bears are playing from behind, I think Glennon will try to force the ball to Wright more than he should. You are realistically looking at the possibility of an 8 catch game, with 70 yards and a score which would return you 21 DK points at $3200. He is almost a cash game play at this price.
Top plays: Howard, Wright
Steelers (-400) at Browns (330)
Vegas Total: 47
Browns Offensive Line:
Run Blocking: Adjusted line yards 3.73 (28th), 2nd level yards rank 2nd, open field yards rank 1st
Pass Protection: 32nd
Steelers Defensive Line:
Run Defense: Adjusted line yards 4.07 (14th), 2nd level yards rank 21st, open field yards rank 29th
Pass Rush: 19th
The Browns actually made a lot of good moves this offseason and became a better team as a whole. They should still be playing from behind, but they should be within striking distance more often than not this year. This means positive game-flow for Isaiah Crowell. As you see above, Crowell is actually extremely talented. His line wasn’t good for him in terms of getting consistent holes, but when he did get into space, he was one of the best in the league. Anytime this season that you think the Browns will be in the game, you play Crowell. Anytime you think they will be getting blown out, you fire up Kenny Britt. Don’t get fancy and try to play Kizer just yet.
Top plays: Crowell, Britt
The Killer B’s are back. Bryant is no longer suspended, and Bell is back from his holdout. There are some red flags in this matchup though. 1) Big Ben on the road is not nearly as good as Big Ben at home. 2) These Steelers will be near the top of the ownership leaderboard. 3) Bell has not been in pads yet and is not in game shape. If he is claiming to get 30 touches, that scares me because his body most likely isn’t ready for 30 touches. With all these factors, the Steelers may not be as explosive as we are used to which could lead to a closer game than expected. If so, fire up some Crowell on the Browns side. I will rarely ever tell people to fade Leveon Bell. However, the general public absolutely loves targeting the browns, and the general public loves rostering Leveon Bell. He will more than likely be the highest owned player on the entire slate. If you like to use game theory, you will consider using some of the other juicy running backs this week and hoping for just an average game from Bell. I will be taking this approach myself, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a top play. I am going to fade and hope for the best with the other running backs in great spots and lower prices.
Top Plays: Bell, Bryant, Brown
Jaguars (200) at Texans (-240)
Vegas Total: 39.5
This Jaguars side is a complete fade for me in week 1. I would love to use Allen Robinson, but we saw Bortles really struggle all preseason long. Fournette has been banged up with a foot injury and is technically listed as a co-starter this weekend with Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon. Again, I want no part of this offense yet.
Top plays: Houston Defense
Texans Offensive Line:
Run Blocking: 4.16 adjusted line yards (15th), 2nd level yards rank 16th, open field yards rank 20th.
These offensive line numbers are not good enough for me to want to roster Lamar Miller this week. He is the only Texan I would even consider since Tom Savage is the current starting QB. The Jags also made some notable defensive signings this offseason and appear to be a defensive force. Both defenses in play here in the lowest total of the week.
Top plays: Jags Defense
Jets (330) at Bills (-400)
Vegas Total: 40.5
The Jets just signed Jeremy Kerley and I now want n0 part of this Jets offense. Even Powell’s situation is a little unclear. The Jets are reportedly trying to actively trade Forte. The only way they can do that is by showcasing him in game action and letting teams see what he can do at his age. If this happens, Forte steals significant work from Powell, and that is not something we want, even at Powell’s low price. There are a few workhorses around Powell’s price (see Hyde and Gurley) that I have no issue with a Powell fade here. We will be using him in a couple weeks though.
Top plays: Buffalo Defense
Bills Offensive Line:
Run Blocking: 4.16 adjusted line yards (16th), 2nd level yards rank 1st, open field yards rank 2nd
Pass Protection 7th
Jets Defensive Line:
Run Defense: 3.62 adjusted line yards (5th), 2nd level yards rank 16th, open field yards rank 26th
Pass Rush: 32nd
This game just screams LeSean McCoy. The Jets are absolutely terrible at allowing open field yards, and Shady didn’t get his nickname by just running between the tackles. He is the running back in the NFL who most benefits from being out in space. I see shady having a field day here with both yards and touchdowns. People are afraid to take Shady this year because of how bad Buffalo is this year, but he has said multiple times he thinks he is the best running back in the NFL and he wants to prove it. There is no better opportunity than being the only guy on the offense to give the ball to. Also with being the 3rd highest priced RB, his ownership should be rather low. Fire up some McCoy this week!
Top plays: McCoy
Ravens (130) at Bengals (-150)
Vegas Total: 42.5
This is a pretty straight forward game for me to break down.
The Ravens have a solid defense, just as they do every single year. The Bengals have a crowded 3 man backfield for whatever reason. It will be Mixon’s job sooner rather than later, but that is not the case this week. If you want to use a Bengal, I will never tell you AJ Green and Tyler Eifert are bad plays solely because of their talent and touchdown scoring abilities. If you have the salary to fit one of them, I don’t mind them, but I definitely wouldn’t make them your building blocks this week.
Top Plays: None
This is an ugly offense going up against another solid defense. For whatever reason, the AFC North teams just love to beat up on each other in low scoring games. I don’t see that changing this week. With a team without any superstars and a low Vegas total, this offense is a complete fade for me this week and actually makes the Bengals defense rather interesting in a home game at low ownership.
Top Plays: Bengals Defense
Eagles (-120) at Redskins (Even)
Vegas Total: 47.5
Redskins Offensive Line:
Run Blocking: 4.57 adjusted line yards (6th), 2nd level yards rank 14th, open field yards rank 6th
Pass Protection: 3rd
Eagles Defensive Line:
Run Defense: 3.44 adjusted line yards (3rd), 2nd level yards rank 19th, open field yards rank 31st
Pass Rush: 11th
This is going to shape up as one of the most competitive games of the week. Cousins plays on a different level at home, even though he has a decently tough matchup. The Eagles were able to add one of the best man coverage corners in the NFL in Ronald Darby. Darby had been playing zone in Buffalo but actually grades out as one of the best man cover corners there are. Expect him to be draped all over Pryor all game. If Cousins is going to move the ball, it will be through Crowder and Jordan Reed. I think Cousins is a sneaky play here because the Eagles gave up some deep touchdowns last year and Cousins is one of the best in the NFL at throwing the deep ball. He isn’t a top play, but if you are running a few lineups, I wouldn’t hate the idea of having him on one or two paired with Reed or Crowder. As for the running game, the numbers suggest the Eagles allow running backs to get in space and eat up chunks of yards, but not very often. The defensive line is actually good, but if Kelley gets through to the 2nd level, he can break off a couple long runs. Again, not a top play here, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Kelley puts up 75 yards and a score at a cheap price.
Top plays: none
Eagles Offensive Line:
Pass Protection: 10th
Redskins Defensive Line:
Pass Rush: 9th
There is not much about the Eagles that excites me on the ground game, so let’s look at the air attack. Wentz is a solid game manager. He isn’t a gunslinger like the top QBs in the NFL, but he won’t make many mistakes. With that being said, he gets the benefit of having two new deep threats in Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith. If Nelson Agholor can manage to hold onto the ball, he could easily become one of Wentz’ favorite targets as well. Not to mention, Zach Ertz is also going to see a nice share of targets as well. This new look air attack should be exciting to watch this year, and Washington doesn’t have many guys who can man up and cover these receivers and Ertz. For as good as people claim Norman is, he only had a grade of 81 on PFF last year, which was good for the 24th best cornerback. On the other side, Breeland had a grade of 48 which was 83rd. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wentz throw for 300 yards and 3 scores here and he is fairly cheap on both sites at $5300 on DK and $7100 on FD. You can even play him by himself, but I would likely pair him with Jeffrey, Ertz or both.
Top plays: Wentz, Jeffrey, Ertz
Colts (165) at Rams (-190)
Do not play any Colts period. Tolzien is bad. TY Hilton will be frustrated and will be focused on by the defense. This Rams defense is a top play this week.
Top Plays: Rams Defense
The Rams Offensive Line stats were bad last year. They were ranked 30th in each of the 3 categories we have been looking at. However, when Jeff Fisher is your coach and the other team knows you are running the ball with Gurley every single play, they can easily load the box with 8 guys and overpower the line to stop the run. I am all aboard the Gurley train this year. Here are the PFF grades from left to right for the starting O Line: 90, 79, 72, 51, 79. There is only one weak link in there and everyone else is good enough or elite. Couple that with the personnel changes in coaching and adding a playmaker in Sammy Watkins and you have a more efficient offense. The Rams will be ahead in this one and I absolutely love Gurley here. I see him eclipsing the 100-yard mark and going for 1-2 scores.
Top Plays: Gurley
Value Plays: Goff
Seahawks (140) at Packers (-160)
Vegas Total: 51
Seahawks Offensive Line:
Run Blocking: 3.77 Adjusted line yards (26th), 2nd level yards 18th, open field yards rank 15th
Pass Protection: 25th
Packers Defensive Line:
Run Defense: 3.84 adjusted line yards (9th), 2nd level yards rank 17th, open field yards rank 22nd
Pass Rush: 8th
This run game has no clear winner currently. Between Lacy, Rawls, Prosise, and Carson, all four should see the field this week. Where Seattle is going to do their damage is through the air. All last season Russ was playing injured. He didn’t have his mobility. He has had all offseason to recover and I expect him to go back to being one of the best dual threat QBs in the NFL. The fact that the Packers rush the passer at an above average clip means good things for Russ. He is able to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes down field and is great at finding the open man on the run or keeping it himself. I love a stack here with Baldwin and Graham and will most likely be my highest owned stack this week in the highest scoring game of the week.
Top plays: Wilson, Baldwin, Graham
Similar to David Johnson and Leveon Bell, I don’t need to sit here and tell you how good Aaron Rodgers is. What I can tell you is you will get him at very low ownership against a Seattle defense. We have seen Rodgers torch, good teams, before and I wouldn’t mind taking a tournament flier on him. He spreads the ball around enough to where you don’t have to stack a receiver with him also.
Top plays: Rodgers
Panthers (-225) at 49ers (195)
Vegas Total: 48
News came out today that Mccaffrey has his own playbook for the Panthers. The only issue with him is his touchdown upside. We can expect Cam to want to steal some goal line carries. Not only that, but Cam loves to find Benjamin in the red zone as well. I’ll pass on the Mccaffrey hype train this week. Instead, I would rather roster Benjamin.
Top plays: Benjamin
Just about every single game this season you can play two players. Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garcon. Both of these were mentioned in Taylor Canevari’s Cash Game Core article. There is literally 0 RB depth behind Hyde. He is going to see an insane workload. On top of that, Garcon is reunited with Kyle Shanahan who loves to feed his top receiver an insane amount of targets. Julio Jones had around 200 targets under Shanahan last season for what it’s worth.
Top plays: Hyde, Garcon
Giants (175) at Cowboys (-205)
Vegas Total: 47.5
This is an interesting game to breakdown. Last year, Elliot was not able to finish as a top 20 RB in either game against the Giants. At the same time, Dez was absolutely shut down as well. So who did all the damage for the Cowboys in these games? Dak with his legs and Beasley and Witten. The only difference this go round? The Cowboys feel like they have a target on their back currently and Zeke is slated to play on Sunday night. I expect Zeke and that line to come out with the most intensity they have had since Zeke was drafted. Look for Zeke to absolutely smash in this game. If Dallas is expecting to not have Zeke for 6 weeks, and they have a solid lead, he will carry the ball 30 times because he won’t have to worry about recovering for the next game. Football is a sport where playing with emotion helps your overall play. Give me Zeke in this spot.
On the flip side, we have no clue what OBJ status is for Sunday night. If he misses this game, I absolutely love Evan Engram. Everyone is going to rush and play Brandon Marshall, but you are going to be smarter than them and play Engram. The dude is a 6’5″ athletic freak who runs a 4.4 40. Dallas has been notably bad at guarding TEs recently as well. The Giants have no run game and Eli should be throwing a ton and has stated praise for Engram already. Sign me up.
Top plays: Zeke, Engram