Vegas vs Fantasy Week 18 2017

By Armando Marsal
Armando Marsal
It was not until I began playing DFS that I started using Vegas lines as part of my research and a determining factor when setting up my lineups. These lines can provide so much information each week. It gives you an idea of the potential game flow we could expect. High totals and close spreads, usually indicates a potential shootout. Whereas, a low total with a low spread is a game that is not expected to have a lot of fantasy goodness aside from the defenses. These lines are set by math wizards and some of the best handicappers in the world. They spend countless hours studying patterns, teams, and situations. For those who are not familiar, spreads are the amount of points a team is expected to win or lose by. The point total is the amount of points both teams combined are projected to score.

The Wild Card Round begins Saturday and with four games on the slate I will do things a little differently than I did during the regular season for this series. Instead of focusing on the highest totals, biggest spread, and lowest total, I will breakdown each game this week. So let’s jump right into it.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee Titans

The Chiefs host the Titans this week and are currently 8.5 point favorites and are receiving 57 percent of the bets against the spread. This game opened at a 44.5 point over/under and has not changed since, but 65 percent of the bets are on the under at this time. Of the two teams, only the Chiefs have a nice implied team total of 26.5 points which is one of the highest of the week. Vegas is suggesting that the Chiefs should easily win this game and I have to agree. The potential game script here really favors Kareem Hunt as he should receive plenty of carries with the lead. The concern for me is that the Titans did a good job against the run this season, limiting damage. However, Hunt can catch passes out of the backfield and that is an area that this defense truly struggled in this season, making Hunt a fine option on sites like DraftKings that are PPR. In addition to Hunt, I really like Alex Smith and Tyreek Hill for the Chiefs. The Titans struggled at defending the pass this season. Hill has a 21 percent advantage rating in his one-on-one matchup according to Pro Football Focus. Travis Kelce is also a viable option this week, but considering the way I am constructing my lineups, I am unsure if I can fit him in. If you are looking for an off the board play this week, Albert Wilson is an interesting flier. While targets did not come consistently for him all season, he did receive seven or more targets in four of his last six games. Granted in the final week the starters sat, which created the extra opportunities for him. That said, he is still someone that will be lowed owned, is cheap, and offers nice upside. The Chiefs defense also make for a fine option and they did play better at home this season and should be playing with a lead here, making the opposing offense a bit more predictable. On the other side, it is tough to be excited about anyone really. The matchup for Marcus Mariota is enticing, but he has been average at best for the majority of the season and is playing at one of the most hostile environments in the league. While he should be passing a ton in this contest, it is tough to trust him. I do have interest in Rishard Matthews because of his price on DraftKings and the potential game script, which could cause him to receive plenty of targets. That’s about it for me in this contest, as I feel like this is a lopsided one.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons head to Los Angeles to take on the Rams an offense that led the league in points per game this season and was 10th in yards per game. The Rams are 5.5 point favorites, but are receiving just 48 percent of the bets against the spread. This contest actually has the highest implied total of the weekend at 48 points, which is a two point decrease from what it opened and 66 percent of the bets are currently on the over. If you are playing DFS this weekend, this is a game you want exposure to. To start off, Todd Gurley has to be considered the top back of this slate. The Falcons have struggled all season and even going back to last season against running backs who are able to catch passes out of the backfield. In fact, Atlanta is the only defense who allowed over 100 receptions to running backs this season. Gurley caught 64 passes this year for 788 yards and six receiving touchdowns, so he should be able to do some damage to the Atlanta defense. He will be popular this week and rightfully so. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are also viable options from this offense. Of the two, Kupp has the better matchup. That said, this is a Falcons secondary that held their own against receivers this season. However, they did struggle a tad towards the end of the season, allowing six receiving touchdowns in their last four games. Both Kupp and Woods should be involved in this game as they were throughout the season and considering this game should see some points scored and should also remain close, they can both be considered fine plays. After all, the Rams do have the second highest implied team total. Jared Goff is firmly in play as well, but he is the most expensive quarterback of the weekend on DraftKings, so it is a matter of wanting to pay up for him or not. I much rather have some of his pass catchers and/or Gurley on my roster and save a couple of hundred bucks, which could come a long way this weekend, and roster another quarterback. That said, I do think this is a fine spot for Goff and would not talk anyone off of him. The Falcons have the highest team total of any underdog this week at 21.25 points, but it is worth noting that is it drop 1.25 points since it opened. While Julio Jones offers the most upside on this offense by a wide margin, Devonta Freeman is my favorite play for the Falcons this week. He is a versatile back who can both run efficiently and catch passes out of the backfield, so the game script should not have a huge impact on him and this game is expected to stay close which plays into his favor. The Rams were very generous to running backs this season, allowing over 100 rushing yards per game. Going back to Jones, he is expected to see plenty of Trumaine Johnson which grades out well above average on Pro Football Focus, but it is a matchup that Jones has a 43 percent advantage rating in, the second highest for a receiver this week. If you want to roster him, by all means, his ceiling is through the roof, but I prefer spending most of my money on running backs this week. Matt Ryan, Mohamed Sanu, and

Austin Hooper (price play) can all be considered secondary options. Lastly, the Rams defense is a nice cheap option that offers some upside.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills

To no surprise, this game has the lowest implied total at 39.5 points. It has dropped half of a point since it opened and 53 percent of the bets are on the under. The Jaguars are 8.5 point favorites and are receiving 51 percent of the bets against the spread. By far my favorite play from this game is Leonard Fournette. He finished the year getting 20+ touches in his final four games and gets the best matchup a running back can ask for. The Bills allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs, as well as the most rushing touchdowns. In addition, this game script plays into Fournette’s favor. While he will be popular this weekend, it is chalk I am willing to eat. Aside from him, there are a couple of secondary plays from this game. The Jaguars receiving situation is a bit cloudy this week with Allen Hurns back and Marqise Lee potentially returning. Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole would likely take a hit if all receivers are active. The way I am approaching it is by taking Hurns as he is cheap and provides some salary relief. He also received five targets in his first game back last week, which was nice to see. None of these receivers, however, are homerun plays. The Bills offense is one I am steering away from for the exception of possibly getting some Charles Clay shares into my lineups only because of the scarcity of this position and the volume he was getting toward the end of the year. The matchup is not appealing whatsoever, so he is far from a lock. This is the least appealing game on the slate and aside from Fournette I have little interest in this contest.

New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers

This will be the third time this season that the Saints and Panthers meet. So far it has been all Saints as they came victorious in both regular season meetings, scoring over 30 points in each of those games. This game has the second highest over/under of the week at 47.5 points. It has dropped one point since it opened, but 54 percent of the bets are hitting the over at this time. The Saints are a touchdown favorite, getting 54 percent of the bets against the spread and have the highest implied team total of the week at 27.25. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas are the two primary options from this offense. Thomas fared well against the Panthers this season scoring at least 18 DK points against them in each game. He expected to see plenty of James Bradberry who grades out below out on Pro Football Focus and a matchup that Thomas has a 60 percent advantage rating in, the highest of any receiver this week. Kamara absolutely torched the Panthers in his last game, scoring twice and totaling 126 yards, which was good for 29.6 DK points. His ability to catch passes out of the backfield cancels out the tough Panthers run defense. Mark Ingram also fared well against the Panthers the last time out and makes for an interesting play as he will likely go overlooked this week. However, there is more upside to be had with Kamara. Drew Brees is always an option when he is playing, but the Saints ability to run down their opponents throats all season, has really capped Brees’ ceiling as he does not have to do much. That said, I am fine with playing him. The order of preference for me from this offense is Thomas, Kamara, Ingram, and Brees, but I like all very much. From the Panthers side, Christian McCaffrey is a primary option for me. He finished the season third amongst running backs with 80 receptions and led all running backs with 113 targets. The Saints allowed five receiving touchdowns to opposing backs, which is tied for second most and surrendered 84 receptions for 737 yards, with a 69 percent catch rate to the position. The Panthers should be chasing points in this contest which plays into his favor. Considering all the running back options on the slate, McCaffrey could get lost in the shuffle. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen are also in play this week, but I have them as secondary options. Nonetheless, they are viable plays because of the size of this slate. The Panthers should be playing catchup which will force them to rely on Newton’s arm a bit more than usual. He did score 20 DK points in their last meeting.

Vegas lines are very helpful and prop bets can be as well. You can see yardage totals, projected touchdowns, and all sorts of different lines that can help you project what a player is expected to do. Best of luck to all this week.

If you have any questions, you can always find me on Twitter: @Armando_Marsal