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
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
The Ravens will travel to Miami fresh off another wild win. The Dolphins survived through a fourth Jacoby Brissett start after a last-minute scratching of Tua Tagovailoa. As of Wednesday morning, we don’t know who will be starting for Miami.
Honestly, I don’t think it matters much anyway. From Vegas’ standpoint, the Dolphins are a 7.5-point home dog right now and it’s hard to tell yourself a story where Tua moves that line much. The offense does become even more of a short-passing attack with Brissett under center. He’s cleared 7.0 yards per attempt in just one of his starts. That is definitely a boost for Myles Gaskin ($18) as a pass-catcher but from a brass tacks standpoint, it doesn’t change much.
We know where the ball is going in this offense, too.
With DeVante Parker and Will Fuller still on IR, Mike Gesicki and Jaylen Waddle have been funnel targets for this team. They racked up 139 and 166 yards, respectively, in Weeks 7 and 9 (Parker played Week 8). No one else on the team has more than 65.
The Ravens' offense is in a similar position. The backfield is a bit easier to decipher when Latavius Murray is out but it doesn’t matter. Baltimore is a pass-first team now.
Seventy-two percent of Lamar Jackson’s passes have gone to Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews or Rashod Bateman over the last three games. That is as highly concentrated as it gets. Bateman is particularly impressive because he’s had no limitations since being activated off IR. The rookie is second on the team in routes run (100) since Week 6. He’s a true starter and the team’s possession receiver with an 11.7 aDOT and 11 of his 12 catches going for a first down.
Bateman ($21) hasn’t caught his first career touchdown or had a true eruption game yet but that could come on Thursday night. We should want to be ahead of the curve on this player.
SUPERSTAR pick: Lamar Jackson ($39)
Jackson is just on an unbelievable tear right now. He leads the NFL in air yards per attempt and hasn’t stopped attacking teams vertically. He’s also now firmly taken the rushing yardage lead among quarterbacks with 600. The Dolphins are a man-heavy coverage unit, a style that’s usually shredded by mobile quarterbacks.
Must-play: Jaylen Waddle ($17)
The rookie has 42 targets over the last four games. We almost don’t care who plays quarterback with that kind of volume, especially at this salary. As mentioned above, Baltimore’s defense is sneaky bad at limiting big plays and Waddle is way overdue for one, given his speed. His aDOT has climbed over 9.0 the last two weeks after hovering closer to 7.0 for much of the start to 2021.
Sneaky cheap option: Mack Hollins ($10)
The Dolphins are rather confined to just Waddle and Gesicki in the passing game. The duo has a 40.6 percent target share on the season but it’s more dramatic when Parker misses time. However, in the last three games without Parker, Mack Hollins is third on the team with 117 routes — 12 behind Waddle and three behind Gesicki. He’s in the dart-throw territory against a defense that’s been beaten for big plays.
Sunday Night Football
Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
Sunday night will bring a matchup of two AFC West teams going through it.
The Chiefs have had loads of issues with their on-field product all season long while the Raiders have been forced to weather multiple off-field storms.
On the Las Vegas side, we’ll have to see what the addition of DeSean Jackson brings to the offense. Even if Jackson isn’t a high-volume player, he should affect the offense. It’s a fact that almost every quarterback who plays with Jackson sees a boost in their yards per attempt. Derek Carr has thrown 14.7 percent of his passes 20-plus yards this year. Vertical passing is a huge need for this team post-Henry Ruggs.
At worst, Jackson’s presence should push safeties out of the box, which will boost the outlook of the running game and open space for key targets like Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller. That duo combined for 20 targets last week and will push to accomplish that every game.
On the Kansas City side ... well, it’s rough.
Patrick Mahomes has gone under 6.0 yards per attempt in three-straight games. It’s unlike any stretch we’ve seen from him in his career. This game currently sports a 52.5-point projected total and I have zero confidence the Chiefs can hold up their end of the bargain. The issues in this offense are deep and fundamental.
From the DFS angle, you can feel free to use Mahomes and one of his only viable receivers (Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill). While neither is playing to high-end projections, the volume is (mostly) still there. You don’t want to be messing around in the low-value tier of this offense anymore. The fact that they’re a spread-heavy team and have to dole out six targets per game to Mecole Hardman or try and get the 2021 version of Josh Gordon rolling is a huge part of the problem.
Darrel Williams isn’t explosive but he’d be in play if CEH misses another week. The Chiefs do rank 10th in adjusted line yards, so their blocking on the ground hasn’t been an issue. Their willingness to stick with it is questionable, however.
SUPERSTAR pick: Tyreek Hill ($32)
It might not feel like it considering the Chiefs offense hasn’t produced up to expectation but Hill is still second in targets per game (11.2). He might be the only Chiefs player offering reasonable weekly production that’s in line with his reputation. Hill’s 10.8 average depth of target shows they’re just trying to get the ball in his hands, first and foremost. One way or another, whether it’s by a high catch total or a long-awaited big play, Hill is the best bet in the Kansas City passing game.
Must-play: Hunter Renfrow ($17)
Hunter Renfrow was fourth on the team in routes run last week. As expected, his role didn’t change after the wide receiver shakeup in Las Vegas. That said, he still saw nine targets and that’s sustainable in the current construct of this offense. Guys like Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards are just never going to command elite volume. The addition of DeSean Jackson should only help stretch out defenses and open up underneath lanes for Renfrow and Darren Waller. That feels especially pertinent against this brutal Chiefs linebacker corps. As a $17 slot receiver, Renfrow is a steal at this salary.
Sneaky cheap option: Bryan Edwards ($10)
You’d have to be ultra-aggressive to dive into the cheap group this week. That means sifting through the Mecole Hardman sadness or the muck of the Raiders receiver room. On that note, Bryan Edwards has run the most routes on the team this year and that remained true with 47 last week. This is merely a theory but I’m hoping the addition of Jackson gets Edwards out of a pure deep-threat role. This guy should be a possession receiver and not someone with a 19.0 aDOT like he received in Week 9.
Monday Night Football
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers will get another shot to defend a home field where they consistently lose games on Monday night. The Rams will enter fresh off a hugely disappointing loss where their offense was stifled by the Titans' pass rush.
The good news for the Rams, the 49ers pass rush is nothing close to that of Tennessee's. That might feel weird to say given what we expected about each squad but those are the facts. The Titans lead the NFL with 107 while the Niners rank in the bottom-six. Oddly enough their woeful back-end might be even worse than the pressure unit. This looks like a clear and obvious bounce-back spot for Matthew Stafford ($34) and co. They’re mere four-point road favorites.
I’m personally placing my chips on the idea that Week 9’s result said more about the Titans than the Rams. But I feel the opposite about the 49ers' loss.
The 49ers are just a ship lost at sea right now; an operation caught between its past and a future they spent an awful lot to plan for. In the present, it's left a defense that’s unrecognizable compared to the old Super Bowl team and an offense still living in the Jimmy Garoppolo era with no end in sight.
All that is bad for Kyle Shanahan, who is finally facing some public heat for the first time in his loss-filled head-coaching career. However, the situation might not be the worse thing in the world for their skill position players.
In the preseason, I envisioned this 49ers' passing attack to be a highly-concentrated unit. It took a long time but we’re finally there. Garoppolo threw 63 percent of his Week 9 passes to either Deebo Samuel, George Kittle or Brandon Aiyuk. Now that Aiyuk is fully back in the mix and Kittle is healthy, this passing offense is looking dangerous. While it does make you wonder if Samuel’s fourth-best weighted opportunity is bound to crash, it is no doubt good for the offense. Garoppolo is the highest scoring fantasy quarterback the last two weeks and this offense is perfect to stack up in a run-back situation with the Rams.
SUPERSTAR pick: Cooper Kupp ($37)
Somehow, an 11-catch outing last week felt like a letdown for Cooper Kupp. In fairness, much of it did come in nearly pure garbage time but it’s also just a testament to how good Kupp has been this year. He still ranks fifth in weighted opportunity. The 49ers are unironically running out Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick in 2021 like that’s a serious plan at cornerback. They rank 24th in explosive pass rate allowed since Week 6.
Must-play: Brandon Aiyuk ($15)
Frankly, this salary is just living in the past. Forget the hideously stressful doghouse weeks between Aiyuk and Shanahan. Every indicator points to those days being behind us. Aiyuk leads the team in routes run over the last two weeks and has 15 targets in that span. He has been a steady WR2 in fantasy. We are back to viewing him as we did heading into 2021.
Sneaky cheap option: Van Jefferson ($15)
It didn’t amount to much in the box score, so he isn’t likely to be popular, but Week 9 confirmed Jefferson is a clear-cut starter. He was just behind Kupp and Woods with 53 routes run.
He has a few near misses on some big-play chances but still has the highest aDOT on the team. The 49ers' defense is straight-up bad, especially in the secondary. I’d chase the upside this week.