Many years ago, college-aged Andrew huddled over a keyboard while following an ESPN.com live chat with fantasy analyst Matthew Berry. As a TV/Radio major in college with a heavy emphasis on sports media production, I eagerly asked (probably more than once) what advice he would give aspiring people looking to go down this road as a career path.
His response: “Circle me like a vulture and wait for me to die.”
In a lot of ways, I’ve kind of done that. I went to college in central New York (Ithaca College, though, not Syracuse). I moved to California to work in television, and have kept my hands in a lot of projects over the years in an attempt to keep myself busy and “build a brand,” as the cool kids say.
Last year, I tried something new on my Twitter account. I set about picking four games a week against NFL point spreads. I posted a solid 33-23 record, good for just shy of 59%. This came while also winning my main fantasy football league (thank you, fellow GM’s in this keeper league, for allowing me to take Patrick Mahomes and Saquon Barkley in the same draft).
I thought to myself, “maybe I know a little something here.” I’ve got a website, I’ve got a bit of a following, and with the 2020 Saratoga season in the books, I’ve made like Styx, have too much (clap clap) time on my hands, and it’s ticking away at my sanity (good luck getting that out of your heads, everybody).
With that in mind, I’m going deeper into NFL football coverage this year, from both a betting and fantasy standpoint. In short, I’ll be writing more stuff, and I’ll be doing more videos. My goal with this is the same as it is with my horse racing content. I want to create content that appeals to a wide variety of fans and players, with the goal of giving that audience something they’ll enjoy and maybe even learn from.
I’ll dip my toe into the water with plays on four NFL games this weekend, plus a few players to watch if you’re diving into daily fantasy action during the first week of the season. Note that all odds, spreads, and player costs are as of Saturday afternoon, courtesy of America’s Line and Fanduel. Also, my plays go in chronological order, not in order of confidence.
If you’ve got something you want to see, or if you’re from a company and looking to work with a handicapper, I’m an easy guy to find. You can tweet me at @AndrewChampagne or use this site’s “contact” page. That’s connected to my email address, and I read everything that comes in.
Enough exposition; on with the show!
Packers +3.5 over Vikings
In this case, the half-point is key. I like the Vikings as a team, even after the loss of Stefon Diggs. They’re balanced on offense, and they’ve got legitimate playmakers on defense. However, Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, and with the Packers seeming to send a very clear message to him in the offseason, I’m banking on him playing with a chip on his shoulder.
With very little in the way of time to prepare for the season, I’m going with experience under center. The Vikings might win, but the Packers getting more than a field goal here makes them the play.
Seattle/Atlanta: OVER 49
This is one of two games that hits me as a track meet waiting to happen. Both teams have explosive offenses, and the dome setting means there won’t be any weather interference. I think Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan will both have big days, and this total just seems too low. 28-21 is a push, and I think that’s a worst-case scenario.
This is one of two games in the early window that hits me as a shootout. Give me lots of points in the Peach State, and I’ll be a happy bettor.
Las Vegas/Carolina: OVER 46.5
This is the other potential shootout, and in this case, I think the total is way too low. Both offenses have surprising firepower and motivated quarterbacks, and both defenses have major question marks. While I’m not sure how “good” these teams are, I think this might be the most entertaining game to watch on the first Sunday of the season.
Not only do I think you want the “over” here, I also think you want a few players in daily fantasy lineups, as they’ll be relative bargains. For now, though, just give me points, regardless of where they’re coming from.
Titans +3 over Broncos
This line seems wrong to me. Tennessee is coming off a season in which they found their quarterback (the revitalized Ryan Tannehill) and advanced to the AFC Championship game. Their 2020 campaign starts with a trip to Denver, where they’ll face a Broncos squad that just lost Von Miller for the year and may be without Courtland Sutton after a mid-week injury.
I love the Titans getting three points here, and I’d also consider a money-line play as well. I believe they’re better than most people think, and I’m going to keep a close eye on their point spreads in the early part of the season in hopes of a few cheap scores before lines adjust accordingly.
DAILY FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Teddy Bridgewater, CAR ($6,800)
WR Hunter Renfrow, LV ($5,200)
Remember what I said about how I see the Las Vegas/Carolina game? I think you want to load up on Raiders and Panthers, and not just Christian McCaffery, either.
Teddy Bridgewater will have McCaffery, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson at his disposal this year, and Carolina’s porous defense will ensure he gets the green light to take shots downfield with surprising regularity. He’s one of the cheapest quarterbacks available this week, and buying low on Bridgewater allows you to spend elsewhere.
Renfrow, meanwhile, worked his way into a slot receiver role with the Raiders as a rookie and saw 18 targets in the last two games of the 2019 season. His figure hits me as a steal, and I think he’ll see plenty of looks against a suspect secondary.
WR Terry McLaurin, WAS ($6,500)
At this point, who else does Washington have? I think McLaurin will be peppered by targets in a game where his team could be playing from behind early. I had figured his asking price would be far greater than this number, one that could allow you to also pick up a legitimate stud (someone like Michael Thomas at $8,800) or a playmaker in a situation to do damage (perhaps Chris Godwin at $7,700).
McLaurin’s floor is high, and his ceiling is as lofty as almost anyone else at the position. He may see some double-teams, but I simply think his likely volume makes him too attractive to ignore.
RB Raheem Mostert, SF ($6,200)
San Francisco does have options at running back, but Mostert should get the lion’s share of the carries in a run-friendly offense. He flashed plenty of talent last season when rushing for nearly six yards per carry, and second-leading rusher Matt Brieda is now in Miami. Jerick McKinnon will take some of those carries, but questions remain about how healthy he is after missing the last two seasons due to injuries.
Mostert should be in line for a big year, and that starts with a friendly matchup against Arizona. I’m banking on the Niner defense giving Kyler Murray and company major problems while the offense runs the ball early and often. This is another case where a talented player has a high floor and a favorable situation, and I need to buy as much Mostert stock as I can.
Detroit DEF ($3,700)
In general, betting against Mitchell Trubisky seems like a smart strategy. The Lions have done significant work to overhaul their defense, and they’ll be at home for the 2020 opener. Will home-field advantage matter as much during the COVID-19 pandemic? We don’t know that yet, but we do know Detroit’s asking price is in the lower half of the league. That seems way too low, and I think they’ll outperform that figure.