Single-game primetime daily fantasy football contests have arrived at Yahoo Fantasy. It’s an absolutely thrilling and different way to approach DFS that pushes managers to be creative in lineup construction when only focusing on single games.
Every week I’ll offer up my general, high-level view of the three island games on the schedule as well as some of my favorite salary-based plays — and of course, my top pick for the all-important SUPERSTAR spot.
Thursday Night Football
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Week 4 showed us the potential of these electric NFC West matchups. Week 5 brings us another one.
It will start Thursday night when the Rams, sporting their first loss of the year courtesy of the Cardinals, will travel to Seattle, who just dropped the 49ers. This game sports a tantalizing 54.5-point total. The Rams are the only team to hit the over in all their games this season. Given the firepower in this game and the Seahawks’ mistake-prone defense, we have a good shot to make it five straight overs for LA.
The Seahawks offense has been a bit hit-or-miss to start this year. That’s no surprise given that they’re installing a new system.
Seattle is still near the middle of the league in neutral-situation pace-of-play and rushing-play percentage. Overall, they’re a top-five offense in DVOA. We are just hoping some of the production catches up with the efficiency.
The Rams are the No. 2 offense in DVOA, yards per drive, and points per drive. We know they’re one of the best units in the game.
Matthew Stafford had an erratic game last week but we can expect a bounce-back in Week 5. Seattle’s defense has been a weakness and ranks 21st in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Seattle’s pass rush needs to get home in order to stifle an opponent (they have 50 pressures on the year). Unfortunately for them, Stafford has received some of the best protection of any passer this year.
The only way this game doesn’t approach the over is if both teams lean into a run-heavy game script. It’s possible, given the philosophy of both head coaches, but I think we take our chances.
SUPERSTAR pick: Darrell Henderson ($23)
I expected the Rams to take it easy on Henderson in his return to game action. I was dead wrong.
Henderson handled 60 percent of the team rush attempts in Week 4 and played 61 snaps to just seven for Sony Michel. If the Rams are still worried about Henderson breaking down over the course of a season, their actions didn’t show it last week. By the looks of it, you’re getting a bell-cow back on a team with one of the best offenses in the NFL that’s favored in this game for just $23. That’s a no-brainer.
Must-play: Russell Wilson ($33)
With Henderson’s depressed salary you can access both quarterbacks in the same lineup, plus one Seahawks receiver. So, I want to make sure I'm able to play Wilson to get exposure to the upside of both receivers even if I end up picking the wrong one. I prefer to stack Tyler Lockett with Wilson because we saw Cardinals No. 2 receiver A.J. Green sting Darious Williams for a long touchdown in Week 4. Jalen Ramsey has also shadowed DK Metcalf in the past.
Sneaky cheap option: Van Jefferson ($13)
The gap between Robert Woods and Van Jefferson is much smaller than anyone expected coming into the season. He has a 22 percent share of the team's air yards (higher than Woods') and their target share (13.3 to 19.3 percent) isn’t that far off. I like chasing the upside with Jefferson and his cheap salary in a single-game slate.
Sunday Night Football
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
The mere idea of this game is enough to get any football fan excited. With a 56.5-point over/under, we should be gassed up about a potential fantasy frenzy in Kansas City.
The Chiefs made light work of the Eagles in Week 4 after dropping two straight games. It’s getting a bit lost because of their record and the defense’s struggles but Patrick Mahomes is absolutely playing his best football right now. He leads the NFL in EPA per dropback by a sizable margin. He ranks fourth in completion rate, first in touchdown rate, and fourth in adjusted yards per attempt. Pretty good!
In terms of the defensive matchup, there’s no question Mahomes and co. are up against the tougher task. The Bills defense ranks first in defensive DVOA and there’s an absurd gap between them and the second-place Saints. That said, the fact they’ve played and pitched two shutouts to the Jacoby-Brissett Dolphins and the Davis-Mills Texans in back-to-back weeks has a lot to do with that.
There’s no question the Bills have a good defense this year. That’s still not enough to make me bump down projections for the Chiefs players.
We know what our options are in Kanas City. If you’re looking for more value, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is interesting. CEH's salary is only $15 but he's still the clear-cut guy in the backfield. He’s handled 56 percent of the team’s carries and hasn’t seen his role minimized after some fumbles. Selecting him might be too cute against an actually good defense, however.
In Buffalo, Josh Allen is salaried up to $41 but it’s justified. Allen has been white-hot the last two weeks and he gets another cakewalk matchup. The Chiefs' defense is a complete train wreck. They’ve let everyone go up and down the field on them.
You can get creative but it might be worth it to jam Allen and Mahomes into lineups this week.
The gap has almost completely closed between Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders. The latter has run more routes and gets deep looks but the former still has more targets. In this spot, I’m banking on the guy in the Bills passing attack having his first statement game of 2021. More on that in a bit.
SUPERSTAR pick: Patrick Mahomes ($37)
It’s difficult to envision many scenarios where you’ll be able to get Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all together in one lineup. It’ll require completely fading Josh Allen and even then I’m not sure it’ll work. So, if I’m just going Mahomes — and there’s no way I’m not playing him in this matchup — to capture the upside of the passing game, then I'm unfortunately passing on Hill and Kelce in favor of some Bills and lower-tier Chiefs. I just don’t see another way to get both quarterbacks in the lineup.
Must-play: Stefon Diggs ($30)
Stefon Diggs hasn’t had an eruption game yet. He ranks 11th in weighted opportunity rating (target share plus air yards share) and sits as the WR6 in Hayden Winks’ expected fantasy points model, despite a current WR24 ranking. He is a massive positive regression candidate. The eruption game is going to happen sometime. If it happens against a Chiefs defense on Sunday night that ranks 30th in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and 31st to quarterbacks, you don’t want to miss out.
Sneaky cheap option: Mecole Hardman ($10)
I know, I know. Hardman saw his role dip in Week 4 without much explanation. He didn’t start and played just 52 percent of the snaps. But his salary is still in play this week because he can help you access both quarterbacks. Everyone else here is pretty well salaried up. Unless you plan on playing Josh Gordon ($12) in his first game with the Chiefs, this might be the only path forward.
Monday Night Football
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
The Colts got their first win of the season against the Dolphins last week but are walking into a tough spot against the Ravens on Monday night.
Indianapolis and Baltimore are at the opposite end of the spectrum from a record standpoint (1-3 vs. 3-1) and point-differential angle (-12 vs. +13). Both teams have been bitten by the injury bug. The Colts are struggling amid offensive line injuries that have taken chunks out of what was meant to be their team strength. The Ravens have weathered the storm amid maladies striking almost every section of the roster.
The reason for Baltimore’s continued ascension even amidst chaos is thanks to Lamar Jackson straight-up balling out. The Ravens are the 10th-best offense in DVOA and Jackson is the true catalyst. He’s throwing deep (20-plus yards) on 19.4 percent of his passes, the highest rate among starters. In his breakout 2019 season, he was at 14 percent and outside the top 20. The Ravens aren’t the same old overly run-first team they were in years past. They’re fifth in run-play percentage in neutral situations. Frankly, that might be why they aren’t worried about their running backs being too explosive, as shown by their erasure of Ty’Son Williams in favor of the dusty veterans.
The Ravens know Lamar has got them.
Jackson is being asked to carry more of the load than ever before and he’s thriving. He might get even more help soon with Rashod Bateman set to return from IR.
The Colts rank 26th in pass defense DVOA and 22nd in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. We can expect this passing game to continue to thrive.
Indianapolis on the other hand, couldn’t be a more opposite offense. Carson Wentz has one of the highest time-to-throw marks (2.9 seconds) and one of the shortest intended air yards per attempt (6.9).
As mentioned, the offensive line is a huge problem. Wentz has been under pressure on 47 percent of his dropbacks, per PFF, most among starting quarterbacks. We’ve seen in the past that Wentz just can’t run a functional offense when consistently under pressure. That’s playing out in Indy, as he ranks 25th in EPA per dropback with the Colts just 24th in yards per play.
The Colts may try to come into Baltimore and control the script with Jonathan Taylor early. At $25, I think he’s worth chasing over Wentz’s rocky outlook in this game. Whether that’s enough to get Indy into the winner’s circle is another question entirely.
SUPERSTAR pick: Lamar Jackson ($36)
Lamar Jackson is playing like a real-life superstar right now so it only feels right to give him the SUPERSTAR designation here. The Ravens quarterback is on pace for another 1,000-yard rushing season and he’s quietly enjoying his best passing season yet. Jackson is top-12 in adjusted yards per attempt and he’s not doing it with gimme passes. He leads all quarterbacks with a 12.1 air yards per attempt mark.
Must-play: Michael Pittman ($17)
Pittman has a 26-percent share of the Colts' targets and a 41.3-percent share of the team air yards in Indianapolis. He’s being treated like an alpha receiver. With just one explosive game through the first four weeks of that juicy usage, brighter days could be ahead. Pittman and Wentz have been this close to a few big plays on multiple occasions. The Ravens have some injuries in the secondary and have allowed over 14 yards per catch to wide receivers.
Sneaky cheap option: Rashod Bateman ($14)
It’s ultra-aggressive to play a rookie in what will be his first NFL game, if he's indeed activated. But given that Bateman could walk right into a starting spot ahead of Sammy Watkins alongside Marquise Brown, he makes for a worthwhile dart throw in this spot. You’re also getting a piece attached to Lamar Jackson, who is just white-hot right now. Bateman is a refined prospect who should be ready to run the intermediate routes this team is lacking right from the jump. The Colts have tied for the most touchdowns allowed to wide receivers with eight.