Sports

Week 1 Thursday night picks


Special to Yahoo Sports

New NFL season, new single-game DFS option!

Yahoo! is expanding its daily fantasy football options in 2021 with a single-game offering. Yahoo! has a roster construction of one ‘Superstar’ that scores at 1.5 times, while the remaining four roster spots accumulate points at the normal rate. This is half-point PPR scoring and the ‘Superstar’ pricing does not change from the Utility. All scoring and rules can be found here.

The inaugural game on Yahoo! is the Dallas Cowboys heading to Tampa Bay to face the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.

It is vital to remember that single-game slates are not simply a “max salary, play as many big names as possible, and submit” format, especially in larger tournament fields. We need to identify players who can be pieces in their offense’s success, whether in the lead or trailing, as well as the players who could be focal points in a neutral game script. The ability to then take those players and identify which will succeed in the single-game format will put us in a better position to succeed as daily fantasy players.

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Vegas Total and Spread

The Bucs are 9.0-point home favorites, and the total is 52.0 points, via BetMGM. Tampa Bay has a 30.5-point implied total, while Dallas has an implied total of 21.5 points.

Weather

Rain is in the forecast but the majority of the precipitation is expected earlier in the day.

Potential Game Flow Scenarios

If we are to believe game and team implied total movement, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a position to take advantage of an improved but flawed Cowboys defense ($10). The Bucs return every offensive (and defensive) starter from 2020 and will be getting full seasons of Antonio Brown ($18) and Leonard Fournette ($20). The passing offense led by Tom Brady ($34), Mike Evans ($29), and Chris Godwin ($25) can handle the Cowboys’ secondary trio of Trevon Diggs, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown. Diggs was the highest-rated of the trio, ranking 58th amongst 121 cornerbacks in 2020.

Tom Brady (12) of the Buccaneers wraps his arm around Chris Godwin (14)

Tom Brady, Chris Godwin, and the Bucs passing game should feast on the Cowboys. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A strong passing game and subsequent lead put the Bucs running game in control of milking the clock. Tampa has a trio of backs including Fournette, Ronald Jones ($17), and Giovani Bernard ($11). Bernard is the main pass-catching option with Jones expected to handle more carries and Fournette doing both. Fournette led the two in touches during Tampa’s Super Bowl run, 59-35. Bernard is the likeliest to be game-scripted out and is also newly recovered from a high ankle sprain.

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The rich don’t always get the spoils — unless it is Brady apparently. The Bucs also return Rob Gronkowski ($15), O.J. Howard ($13) and Cameron Brate ($10). By my count, that is eight players with known passing-down work, but not everyone will get alpha-dog targets.

Dak Prescott ($34) has an opportunity to put up numbers against the 17th-ranked defense vs. quarterbacks according to 4for4’s schedule-adjusted defensive position rankings. The Cowboys are fighting slightly uphill with no Zack Martin (COVID-19), while tackle La’el Collins (stingers) practiced in full this week for the first time in September. A neck stinger is what plagued teammate Tyron Smith in 2020 and led to him missing almost all of the season.

If the offensive line can hold against a strong Bucs front seven, Prescott can unload to Amari Cooper ($16), CeeDee Lamb ($19), Michael Gallup ($17), and Ezekiel Elliott ($24). Elliott’s path to fantasy success appears to be via the passing game with Tampa No. 1 in schedule-adjusted positional defensive rankings against running backs.

At their salary points, look for an increase in rostership with Cooper and Lamb. The middle-man in salary tends to see lower rostership and with Cooper listed as Dallas’s WR1 and the cheapest, Gallup will be passed over.

Close, low-scoring game DFS options

  • Buccaneers defense

  • Ronald Jones

  • Ryan Succop

  • Chris Godwin

  • Leonard Fournette

  • Cowboys defense

  • Ezekiel Elliott

  • Greg Zuerlein

  • CeeDee Lamb

Close, high-scoring game DFS options

  • Tom Brady

  • Ronald Jones

  • Leonard Fournette

  • Mike Evans

  • Chris Godwin

  • Antonio Brown

  • Rob Gronkowski

  • Dak Prescott

  • Amari Cooper

  • CeeDee Lamb

  • Michael Gallup

  • Ezekiel Elliott

Blowout for home team DFS options

  • Tom Brady

  • Ronald Jones

  • Leonard Fournette

  • Mike Evans

  • Chris Godwin

  • Antonio Brown

  • Rob Gronkowski

  • Buccaneers defense

  • Ryan Succop

  • Dak Prescott

  • Amari Cooper

  • CeeDee Lamb

  • Ezekiel Elliott

Blowout for away team DFS options

  • Dak Prescott

  • Ezekiel Elliott

  • Amari Cooper

  • CeeDee Lamb

  • Michael Gallup

  • Blake Jarwin

  • Dalton Schultz

  • Cowboys defense

  • Greg Zuerlein

  • Tom Brady

  • Mike Evans

  • Chris Godwin

  • Antonio Brown

  • Giovani Bernard

Cheap/Unique Stack Options

Traditional stacks such as QB/WR1 or WR2, QB/TE, and RB/DEF are stacks seen used in winning lineups. The obvious choice is not always the winning choice, however. Below is a cheap stack with at least one unique quality that could break the slate.

Blake Jarwin ($10)/Dalton Schultz ($10) & Buccaneers Defense ($17) or Giovani Bernard ($11) & Cowboys Defense ($10)

Yahoo! has salary fairly tight in tiers for each team/position which will either lead to DFS players selecting players or positions from each tier or skipping a tier altogether. The Cowboys’ tight end situation is murky at best and playing the right combination with the Bucs defense offers a piece of the Cowboys’ offense while still expecting the Bucs to get after Dallas and a rusty Prescott.

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Bernard off an injury will scare players away from rostering him, but in the event Tampa falls flat celebrating last year’s Super Bowl win, passing work could fall to him. Bernard was brought in for a purpose and Bruce Arians loves a good veteran.

Giovani Bernard (25) of the Buccaneers

Gio Bernard could be a contest breaker if things shake out the right way. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Low-Salaried Volatile Plays

Single-game slates are one of the few times it is okay to go dumpster diving. The players listed below could set the DFS world ablaze, or fizzle and leave your lineup with a goose egg.

Why play it safe in tournament formats?

Tony Pollard ($12)

When given an opportunity to play extended snaps, Pollard is one of the better backups at the running back position. If Pollard is given a role similar to what he had when Prescott was out in 2020, he would see approximately eight touches in Week 1.

O.J. Howard ($13)

Nothing would tilt the fantasy football world off its axis like an O.J. Howard touchdown. In four games in which Howard, Gronk, and Brate all played, Howard saw a target on 14.4% of snaps, more than double what Gronk and Brate saw.

Cameron Brate ($10)

Brate has to be included. Like I wrote earlier, there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Tampa Bay offense and all Brate needs is one red-zone target to jump Howard and Gronk in points scored and at a cheaper salary point. Bucs’ tight ends averaged 8.8 targets in the four games the trio played together in 2020.

Superstar Picks

Tom Brady ($34)

Rostership is going to be high especially with Prescott $2 more expensive. The reason Brady deserves consideration at this spot comes down to wanting the syrup that covers the pancakes. Dallas has the 25th-ranked schedule-adjusted defensive position against quarterbacks.

CeeDee Lamb ($19)

Lamb has the best cornerback matchup facing Sean Murphy-Bunting. He finished 68th in PFF’s cornerback ratings. With the Bucs defense ready to test Dak Prescott and make him uncomfortable early and often, Lamb’s role in the slot opens the opportunity to quicker passes and accumulation of stats. Lamb finished third among the Cowboys receiving trio in Average Depth of Target (aDOT) last season.

Ezekiel Elliott ($24)

Zeke averaged 23.25 touches per game with Prescott under center last season and the majority of that was spent trailing. The Cowboys are 9-point road underdogs and running backs thrive on opportunity.

Antonio Brown ($18)

Brown is a home favorite and led all Tampa pass catchers in targets per snap in his eight games last season. The Tom Brady narrative deserves some merit considering how much he pushed for Brown to join with the Bucs and how much time Brady invested in Brown’s development with the team.

Jeff has played fantasy sports since 2001. He has covered fantasy and traditional sports at the pro, semi-pro, and amateur level for the better part of a decade. Born in Illinois and currently living where James Robinson made a name for himself in college, Jeff enjoys running (establish it), followed by doing absolutely nothing.

This article originally appeared in its full form on 4for4.com

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