Daily fantasy football is about the matchups, but it’s significantly tougher to identify a great one early in any season.
Take the Buffalo Bills, who have allowed the second-most DraftKings points to opposing quarterbacks through Week 2. Someone who scrolls past that number may take a hard look at Ryan Tannehill for Week 3, but the Bills are a Rex Ryan-led defense who faced Andrew Luck and Tom Brady this season.
While players must research past results to identify the most vulnerable opponents, they also must beware small sample sizes. Through two weeks, these defensive units have lived down to tame expectations, making them matchups to circle heading into September’s final weekend.
QB Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks ($7,000) vs. Chicago Bears
Although the Chicago Bears have allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards per game, they have also relinquished 8.0 yards per attempt, a 74.5 completion percentage and seven touchdowns against Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer. Last year’s No. 30 passing defense continues to struggle against stout competition, and another top fantasy performer awaits.
Beginning the season as a top-five option, Russell Wilson has backpedaled to the eighth priciest passer at $7,000. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback has averaged fewer DraftKings points per contest (19.6) than a dozen signal-callers suiting up this weekend, so slashing $800 from his opening listing is hardly unjust.
This also marks his best matchup of the year in Seattle’s home opener. Along with the Oakland Raiders, Chicago is one of two teams yet to record a sack, alleviating the Seahawks’ biggest offensive issue. Aaron Donald can’t hurt Wilson here.
The biggest fear here is that Seattle jumps out to a massive lead and unleashes a heavy prescription of Marshawn Lynch. If that occurs, Wilson will have likely already inflicted enough damage to deliver his best outing of the young season.
RB Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders ($5,800) at Cleveland Browns
Handed a tough Week 2 tilt with the Baltimore Ravens, Latavius Murray responded with 87 total yards and a rushing touchdown. The second-year rusher is now averaging 4.2 yards per rush while hauling in 10 receptions for Oakland.
He hasn’t yet received enough touches to truly break out as a superstar running back, but he has already settled comfortably into a No. 2 position. At $5,800, he’s a great Week 3 play versus the Cleveland Browns.
No team allowed more rushing yards than Cleveland (320) through two weeks, who let Dexter McCluster corral 124 yards on 14 touches a week after Chris Ivory reached the end zone twice. This is nothing new from a defense which also ranked last in rushing yards allowed in 2014.
WR Brandon Marshall, New York Jets ($6,200) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Great player. Strong start. Big role. Bad defense. The stars are all aligning for Brandon Marshall this weekend.
Rebounding from an off 2014, the new New York Jets wide receiver has compiled 13 catches, 163 yards and two scores this season. Few wideouts have amassed better production entering the weekend.
He’ll become an ever larger component of New York’s offense in Week 3. Per ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini, Eric Decker and Chris Ivory both missed Thursday’s practice:
Thin on receiver depth, Ryan Fitzpatrick will look Marshall’s way all day if Decker can’t make a rapid recovery. That also means more attention from the defense, but the Philadelphia Eagles have submitted a 70.6 completion percentage and 8.3 yards per attempt. Julio Jones and Terrance Williams, their opponents’ No. 1 receivers, combined for 225 yards and three touchdowns.
Marshall offers the perfect blend of safety and high safety, precisely what DFS players want in a high-profile play.
TE Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns ($2,500) vs. Oakland Raiders
This is a matchup play in the truest sense of the word. Gary Barnidge has only received five targets this season, registering four catches and 55 yards. The 30-year-old tight end has scored three touchdowns through 94 career games, the last coming in 2013.
He’s not very good, which is why he only costs $2,500. Yet the Raiders coughed up 192 combined yards to tight ends Tyler Eifert and Crockett Gillmore, who each produced a pair of scores against the mismatched defense.
They’re both better players than Barnidge, but he’s receiving regular snaps as Cleveland’s starter. Veteran Josh McCown is also more likely to seek out a safety valve than Johnny Manziel, who enjoyed tremendous success on improvised deep throws to Travis Benjamin.
Anyone in a fiscal bind can punt tight end with Barnidge, clearing cap space for studs everywhere else.
D/ST Atlanta Falcons ($2,900) at Dallas Cowboys
No Dez Bryant. No Tony Romo. While Jason Witten is fighting to avoid his first missed game since 2003, he won’t be operating at what most mortal humans consider full strength. He downplayed his injuries, per the New York Post‘s Bart Hubbuch:
With the Dallas Cowboys so depleted, the Atlanta Falcons become a sneaky play despite generating a grand total of nine DraftKings points against the Eagles and New York Giants. Replacement Brandon Weeden has thrown 28 interceptions through 29 career games, including two in his lone start for Dallas last year.
Atlanta’s run defense has looked decent enough to contain Joseph Randle, who will see plenty of stuffed boxes without a heavy passing threat. Usually the Falcons’ opponents are heavy targets, but reverse the tables this week.
Pricing information and scoring data obtained from DraftKings.com.
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