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
Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns
We could be in for a slog on Thursday night.
The Broncos have fallen on hard times after a 3-0 start, losing three straight to the Ravens, Steelers, and Raiders. The offense has started to fall back closer to expectation after Teddy Bridgewater ran unsustainably hot through the first three weeks. They currently rank 21st in points per drive. The defense has dealt with some injuries too, a unit Denver was counting on to basically set the tone for the team.
Denver might still be a fringe AFC Wild Card team but they’re likely an average overall unit and close to the middle of the pack (offense lower, defense slightly higher) on both sides of the ball.
For as rough as things have been for Denver of late, they’ll still blush at the Browns’ current predicament.
If they’re not the most banged-up team in football, they’re close to it.
The Browns could be without these players on TNF:
QB Baker Mayfield
RB Kareem Hunt
RB Nick Chubb
WR Jarvis Landry
WR Odell Beckham Jr (Shoulder)
OT Jack Conklin (Knee)
OT Jedrick Wills (Ankle)
C JC Tretter (Knee)
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah pic.twitter.com/kgZNXKjLxY
— PFF (@PFF) October 20, 2021
Baker Mayfield and both running backs have already been ruled out. Neither starting tackle played last week and they’re probably a longshot for TNF. Odell Beckham Jr. is dealing with a shoulder sprain but did return after suffering the injury last week. We should consider him a game-time decision.
Making lineup decisions on the Browns is going to be difficult — but there is value here.
It starts at running back. D’Ernest Johnson is likely the primary ball-carrier, as Demetric Felton has mostly been used in gadget and receiving duties. The Browns are still slight (-2.5) home favorites despite all the injuries so the game script should be close enough for Johnson to push for 15-plus carries. More on him below.
This take might not be well received but it’s hard to see a huge one-game dropoff from Baker Mayfield to Case Keenum. You don’t want Keenum as your long-time starter but his career has been littered with moments of more than solid spot duty. You can make the case the aggressive Keenum might even be an upgrade over whatever a truly banged-up Mayfield would have provided on a short week.
If Beckham plays, Keenum’s presence might make him more tempting, even at a lofty $23 sticker. The role and volume have been there more often than not; Mayfield just hasn’t been playing well enough to capitalize on it.
SUPERSTAR pick: Courtland Sutton ($19)
When you take a gander at this game, Courtland Sutton stands out as the one player with the best combination of bankable volume and efficiency. Sutton has garnered 33 targets over the last three games with Denver mostly playing in negative game script. He leads the NFL with 887 air yards on the season. Despite injuries, Denver still has some quality players in the pass-catching department. Sutton stands out as the clear-cut alpha.
Must-play: D’Ernest Johnson ($15)
It’s come to this. Kareem Hunt was sent to IR and Nick Chubb was quickly ruled out early this week. Suddenly the NFL’s richest-in-talent backfield has been reduced to rubble. D’Ernest Johnson has played just 10 snaps all year, carrying the ball three times. He did have a stretch of two games where he logged 21 combined carries when Chubb was hurt last year. So we can guess that he’s the next man up. Fellow backup Demetric Felton has exclusively operated as a pass-catcher this year with zero carries but nine targets.
Sneaky cheap option: Rashard Higgins ($12)
Look, this entire slate is filled with nothing but value plays and low-salary guys. Many of them will be popular. Someone who won’t get clicked on very often is Rashard Higgins. He’s the clear WR3 in this offense right now, running 70 routes over the last three games to 85 for Odell Beckham and 80 for Donovan Peoples-Jones. If the Browns end up trailing in this one, the passing volume could trickle down to Higgins, who has had big games for this team before. The Broncos have allowed the fifth-highest yards per catch to slot players on the season. At least this gives you a chance to differentiate your lineup.
Sunday Night Football
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers
Don’t look now, but Carson Wentz is on a roll.
He has just one turnover through his last three games, is completing 69 percent of his passes, and averaging 9.8 yards per attempt. His deep-ball rate is up to 12.6 percent in that stretch and he’s been one of the highest-rated vertical throwers in the game.
Most importantly, Wentz has only taken six sacks.
It’s not inconceivable to think that the farther he gets from an injury-ruined offseason the better he’s been and will continue to be for the Colts.
The Colts are dealing with maladies in other areas, though. Both Parris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton hauled in 50-plus yard catches from Wentz last week but are now hurt. Campbell is likely down for the count in 2021 whereas Hilton is a bit uncertain. He just got back from an IR stint and now has a calf injury. He could miss this week and maybe more.
Those two guys are bit players in the offense, though. As long as the Colts have No. 1 receiver Michael Pittman out there and Jonathan Taylor rolling in the backfield, they’ll have the main artillery for Wentz.
The 49ers are a bit more lost at sea.
San Francisco is going back to Jimmy Garoppolo after Trey Lance made his first career start in relief of the injured veteran. It’s unknown whether Lance would have gotten another chance to start anyway, given that his play was shaky at best in Week 5, but his own injury sealed the deal. The 49ers will resume the boring, risk-averse offense they rolled with under Garoppolo in the early portion of the season.
That’s likely good news for target hog Deebo Samuel ($31), who is one of the best layup-catch creators in the entire league. With George Kittle still on IR, Samuel should soak up double-digit opportunities against a zone-heavy Colts defense. Beyond Samuel, we still don’t know what is going on with the Brandon Aiyuk situation. Things can turn around at any moment for this proven and gifted player, but until the coaching staff sees whatever they’re looking for out of him ... he’s a risky play. Hopefully, something clicked during the bye because this team needs him.
SUPERSTAR pick: Jonathan Taylor ($29)
Jonathan Taylor has been white-hot over the last two weeks. He totaled 327 yards on 33 touches and scored four times. Now, most of that is unsustainable given he ripped off a massive run against Houston and scored on a 70-plus-yard screen pass against Baltimore the week prior. We just have to hope the Colts continue to feed this ultra-explosive talent as his big games have coincided with the best offensive performances of the year. Carson Wentz playing as well as he has only helped Taylor’s cause since we’re so heavily banking on his touchdown upside.
Must-play: Elijah Mitchell ($18)
This is just a fantastic value to get for Elijah Mitchell. Week 5 revealed that Mitchell is without question the top back for the 49ers and Trey Sermon is way behind in the pecking order. He played 44 snaps to two for Sermon. Mitchell played on some passing downs, as well, running 19 routes. All of this didn’t result in a big box score because Trey Lance essentially operated as the lead ball-carrier. He’s back on the shelf now. Mitchell's salary is way too cheap.
Sneaky cheap option: Mo-Alie Cox ($11)
It’s looking like Mo-Alie Cox is starting to slowly earn the top tight end spot on this team. The massive MAC has run 38 routes to 30 for Jack Doyle over the last three weeks and has seen 11 targets to just three for the veteran. The Colts will always rotate these tight ends, as Kylen Granson is also in the mix, but MAC is out in front right now. He’s worth a dart throw as a touchdown-or-bust salary-based play.
Monday Night Football
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
You probably aren’t itching to watch the Geno Smith Seattle Seahawks in another island game after last week.
Too bad, because that’s what you’re getting!
As I wrote in my Week 6 Care/Don’t Care recap, Smith played fine relative to expectations but his absence merely revealed the extreme problems embedded deep in this team’s identity. Pete Carroll is still coaching to a defense that he does not and has not had for many years. Now that the offense isn’t captained by one of the most explosive and efficient passers in recent memory, we see just how scattershot of an attack this is.
If anyone that’s a capable starting quarterback other than Ben Roethlisberger is the point man for the Steelers last week, the Seahawks lose that game by 10-plus points.
Seattle’s Week 7 opponent couldn’t be more different from Big Ben. Jameis Winston isn’t throwing the ball much but when does, he’s been pretty efficient. Winston leads all quarterbacks in touchdown rate and sports a career-high adjusted yards per attempt mark. Yet, he’s thrown the ball 30 times just once all year.
The Saints have shown every inclination to not want to be aggressive in this spot. Their defense is good enough to control things. And the Seahawks give up over 181 total yards per game to running backs. The Saints have been shortening games and feeding Alvin Kamara. No reason to think they won’t do it here.
SUPERSTAR pick: Alvin Kamara ($35)
As this offense has trended more conservative, Alvin Kamara hasn’t lost much steam. Despite already having his bye, Kamara ranks fifth in the NFL in touches. Surprisingly, it’s mostly coming on the ground, as he has just 22 targets through five games. That’s not ideal for his fantasy usage but we know those big aerial days still exist in his range of outcomes. Either way, Kamara should see plenty of rushing volume with the Saints the clear better team over the Seahawks led by Geno Smith.
Must-play: Tyler Lockett ($20)
I know it’s tough to trust Lockett after he turned in just two catches for 65 yards in Geno Smith’s first start. But he still saw seven targets and we have to remember that the matchup with the Steelers defense was about as tough as it’s going to get. Marshon Lattimore is a tough corner to project but a matchup with DK Metcalf feels like one where he’ll bring his A-game. That would leave Lockett to deal with softer coverage inside. New Orleans has allowed the ninth-most yards to slot receivers despite already having their bye.
Sneaky cheap option: DeeJay Dallas ($12)
Alex Collins left Sunday night’s loss to the Steelers with a hip injury. Given that he has an extra day, perhaps he makes it back. If he doesn’t, Dallas is likely the next early down back in the rotation. There’s nothing special to note in Dallas’ profile and there isn’t much to like about this matchup. However, if he’s the starting back rated at just $12 you almost have to play him, especially when you consider these are two highly concentrated offenses and this should be a low-scoring game.
Note: You should also monitor Rashaad Penny's status, as it has been reported that he'll be activated off IR this week.