Meaningful football is back. The 2018 NFL regular season finally kicks off on Thursday night, when the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles play host to the Atlanta Falcons. That’s each of the past two year’s NFC title-game representatives, for those keeping track at home.
These two NFC titans also clashed in the playoffs last year, where Philly won a tight defensive battle, 15-10.
We can’t lead too hard on that game, but we do need to pay mind to the fact that Carson Wentz (knee) will not be playing. Nick Foles gets the start and seeing how awful he looked in preseason play, I just can’t go there.
The defending champ tends to do well in these week one home games, but I’ll be going against the grain a bit for this showdown game at FanDuel. The last important game like this I did, I cashed in the Super Bowl 52 contest and hopefully you did as well. Because the Eagles are again in this type of contest, I’m not sure how sneaky their best value picks will be.
Regardless, Wentz’s hefty $15.5k salary being taken off the table opens things up a bit. That makes Julio Jones an auto play for me and I’ll be hoping people confide in Foles. Wentz being unavailable and Foles being a full fade for me jump-starts tonight’s NFL DFS contest.
Let’s take a look at the rest of my favorite daily fantasy football picks to see if we can’t win big money tonight:
MVP: Julio Jones , WR, Atlanta Falcons ($15k)
I’m not getting cute here. Jones is the most explosive player in this game and he’s worth every penny. With his contract situation resolved and the Falcons openly talking about using him more in the red-zone, I’m going to assume he (rightfully so) will be used early and often in a tough road game.
Whether ATL trails all game or lights Philly up, Jones should be game flow independent and have a chance to be the top fantasy contributor on the night. Jones was plenty fine (9 catches, 101 yards) against this defense when they last met in the playoffs and the Eagles don’t really have anyone that can individually silence him.
Jones is a must for this small roster and I don’t see much reason to pivot him out of the MVP slot. If there’s another guy you like a little more for the MVP spot (1.5x the points), that’s fine. I don’t really love any argument for fully fading Jones here, however.
FLEX: Corey Clement, RB, Philadelphia Eagles ($7.5k)
Jay Ajayi ($12k) is also worth a look. With Foles starting, the Eagles may very well lean on the home crowd and play a defense/running type of game. That could work, but let’s keep in mind that ATL ranked 4th against running backs a year ago. They also did a solid job on Ajayi the last time he faced them and he’s been banged up.
Instead of paying extra cash for Ajayi, I’m snatching up Clement, who racked up five receptions for 31 yards against the Falcons during the playoffs. He also hauled in a touchdown during the Super Bowl and promises to have a bigger role this year. The beauty here is even if the Eagles struggle to run or fall behind, his role isn’t going anywhere.
It’s also impossible to ignore that the Falcons were dead last in receptions allowed to running backs a year ago.
Philly should utilize him in dump-offs with Foles being under center and that’s a strategy that would continue throughout the game if Philly ends up playing from behind. Clement is cheap and the game flow just might work in his favor. That may end up making Ajayi more contrarian, but that’s fine by me.
FLEX: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons ($14k)
I’d like at least one quarterback in this game. Ryan is in a hostile environment and the Eagles have an opportunistic (and aggressive) defense, but I still like the stack with Jones. Ryan wasn’t great in the playoffs last year (or at all last year), but the year before he was one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the league.
Ryan should be a bit better in 2018 and it’s certainly worth noting that the Eagles still gave up some production through the air (21st in pass TDs allowed) and are going up against a loaded offense. I’m not expecting the world here, but Ryan could easily put up 200+ passing yards and a couple of scores.
He doesn’t need an elite performance to pan out here. He just needs to not be awful and also be better than Nick Foles. I’m betting on both.
FLEX: Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons ($13.5k)
Tevin Coleman is an interesting pivot here, especially since some could look to Freeman’s atrocious showing against the Eagles in the playoffs last year. That’s a little concerning, but Freeman is a major goal-line threat and can also be a factor in the passing game. The matchup isn’t good, but I’m hoping that plus the price lower his ownership.
Consider Coleman or Jay Ajayi as your other options at RB, but I prefer Freeman. That may be chalky, but it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of high-owned options if they end up being among the best producers.
FLEX: Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles ($6k)
The others moves I’ve discussed are either chalky or only mildly contrarian. I don’t think any of them necessarily make my lineup stand out, but this one might. Most people – should they use the aforementioned picks – would roll with Mike Wallace or Tevin Coleman to wrap things up. That, or they’d find a way to cram in Ajayi or Zach Ertz, among others.
Goedert shouldn’t just be low-owned. He might actually have a chance to be the difference-maker between winning a lot of money or merely placing. Atlanta was actually quite good against tight ends in 2017 (3rd) and held Zach Ertz to just three catches for 36 yards in the playoffs.
I’m not saying Ertz will be a spare again, but he very well could be and he’s not exactly cheap. Instead of forcing Ertz onto your roster, perhaps we should consider that Alshon Jeffery won’t be suiting up for this game. That could mean more two-tight end sets and Goedert being called upon in the red-zone.
Ertz is still a fine try. This is just a calculated fade and by all accounts, Goedert should be extremely contrarian. This also leaves $4k in cash on the table, which just isn’t something the majority of the field is going to do.
Is this the lineup that wins all of the money? I can’t know for sure. Jay Ajayi could easily end up being a monster in this game. Tevin Coleman could dominate behind Devonta Freeman. Perhaps Foles puts his preseason struggles behind him and goes nuts.
Guys like Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Mohamed Sanu and even rookie Calvin Ridley are all in play as well. Heck, maybe we get another defensive battle and rostering both kickers in this game isn’t just contrarian, but the winning daily fantasy football strategy.
All I know is I think this lineup is partially chalky and partially contrarian. It should give you a solid chance to be competitive on Thursday and if Goedert pops off and is as contrarian as I expect, it just might help you win big.
I don’t go crazy with these types of contests. I identity my favorite plays, pay for them and then try to differentiate with lower-owned guys I think can do well. You have to consider you’re always leaving viable options out of your lineup and that with a one-game contest, anyone and everyone could end up being chalky.
Here’s to hoping these NFL DFS picks get your started off on the right football this year. Good luck and enjoy the game!