NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Oct. 4, 2020 (Week Four)

My lead-in this week is very, very short. I would love to have something funny or witty to say here, but other things take precedent.

As we all know, President Trump has tested positive for COVID-19. He was transported to the hospital Friday, and social media is abuzz with everything from well-wishes to people essentially putting him into the ground already.

My message: If you’re in that latter group, stop and re-evaluate yourself.

I lost my grandmother to COVID-19 earlier this year. I’ve been through it. For lack of a better, more eloquent way of putting it, it sucks, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

I’m far from a Trump supporter, as anyone who follows me on Twitter can attest. Rather than cheer the news or hope for his demise, I hope he gets well, and that he and his followers (specifically those who use the word “hoax” to an alarming degree) begin to exercise rationality when it comes to the global pandemic. We all need to look out for each other, and if we’ve descended to the point where we’re celebrating someone’s death without thinking anything of it, that’s as big an issue as the virus itself.

Anyway, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive into some week four NFL action. The Chiefs winning outright allowed me to salvage a 2-2 mark last weekend, and I’m now 9-3 on the season. A 75% win rate is nothing to sneeze at, and I’m hoping to keep the success going this Sunday! As a reminder, all point spreads/totals are courtesy of America’s Line, and all daily fantasy costs are courtesy of Draftkings.

PICKS/PLAYS

Bears +3 over Colts

Are we entirely sure the Colts are good? Yes, they’re 2-1, and the offense has put up 84 points through three weeks. However, they’ve faced the Jaguars, the Vikings, and the Jets, all teams with pitiful defenses (more on Jacksonville later).

Here, Indianapolis goes on the road for its stiffest test to this point in the season. It hasn’t been pretty, but the Bears are 3-0 and were rejuvenated by a switch to new quarterback Nick Foles in a comeback win over the Falcons. Chicago will be without Tarik Cohen, but the team still has a fearsome defense, one that should give Philip Rivers and company major headaches.

I thought the initial line (Chicago giving a point and a half) was pretty spot-on. I’m surprised it’s moved so far in this direction, but I’m certainly not complaining. I’ll gladly take the points in a game I think the Bears win outright.

Seahawks -5.5 over Dolphins

I don’t love a west coast team playing an early game, but this seems generous. Russell Wilson has played as well as anyone in the league to this point, and the Seattle offense has carved up every defense it’s faced to this point. Here, they go to Miami, where they face a team that’s by no means offensively-inept, but one that doesn’t seem able to keep up with their opponents this week.

Seattle’s defense is a concern. As good as their offense has been, that unit is a significant question mark. Still, you’re telling me I can get the Seahawks giving less than seven points to a team quarterbacked by Ryan Fitzpatrick? That’s too tantalizing to pass up.

Jacksonville/Cincinnati: OVER 49

This may appear to be the least-appealing game of the Sunday slate. Neither of these teams are particularly good. However, they have lots in common, as both have pass-happy quarterbacks and shoddy defenses.

For these reasons, the total seems low to me. Jacksonville is certainly not as bad as they appeared a little more than a week ago, when they were rolled by Miami coming off a short week and a three-point loss to Tennessee. Cincinnati, meanwhile, has scored 53 points in the last two weeks behind rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who would be putting up even better numbers if his offensive line was not emulating one big turnstile on most pass plays.

I think lots of points will be scored in this game. Give me Burrow and Gardner Minshew marching their teams up and down the field for 60 minutes, and I’ll be a happy bettor.

Philadelphia/San Francisco: UNDER 45

For whatever it’s worth, this was originally going to be “under 53” in New England/Kansas City. However, that total will undoubtedly change significantly following news of Cam Newton’s positive COVID-19 test, which will of course sideline him for this weekend’s game. While America’s Line still shows the 53-point total, I can’t in good conscience back that when nobody will be able to play it.

Instead, I’ll turn to a Sunday night game with two teams that are incredibly banged-up. Philadelphia is almost out of wide receivers and has been playing with a patchwork offensive line since the start of the year, while San Francisco will once again roll with backup quarterback Nick Mullens and won’t have Raheem Mostert. This isn’t the highest total, but this hits me as a 21-17 kind of game, so I’ll roll with the under.

DAILY FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH

WR Kenny Golladay, DET ($6,000)
QB Matthew Stafford, DET ($5,900)
TE T.J. Hockenson, DET ($4,800)

This is largely a product of the likely game script. The Saints are 1-2 despite an offense that’s been humming, and I think they’re going to take plenty of shots on the road against Detroit. With that in mind, I think the Lions will be very pass-heavy for most of this game, so several of my lineups will have this mini-stack in them.

Of this trio, I want Golladay most. He may not have been 100% in last week’s win over Arizona, but he still found the end zone in that game. The New Orleans defense hasn’t had a great start to the year, and I think he gets open a fair bit. As one of the premier wide receivers in the game when healthy, I think $6,000 is too low of an investment.

RB Mike Davis, CAR ($5,700)

Davis was a key play for me last week and he responded, turning 21 touches into 91 total yards and a touchdown. He has soft hands and has proven to be an adequate replacement for all-world running back Christian McCaffery, and I once again think he’s undervalued.

Over the past two games, Davis has 16 receptions. You won’t find many backs more involved in their team’s passing game than that, and Carolina’s shown it can move the football effectively. At his price, Davis is once again a prominent fixture in my lineups.

DST Rams ($3,900)

This one’s pretty simple: Who do you like in a matchup between all-world defensive lineman Aaron Donald and the Giants offensive line? I don’t think that matchup ends well for Daniel Jones, who has been running for his life every game to this point in the season. I even debated playing “under 48” in this game, simply because I think the New York offense is going to have a big problem moving the ball.

NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Sept. 27, 2020 (Week Three)

The theme of this week’s column is one of the oldest standby tactics in improv comedy. They’re two very simple words with unlimited possibilities when used correctly, and in the right hands, they can be used with deadly efficiency.

I’m referring, of course, to “yes, and…,” which is often used to keep routines going and open the door for more hilarious antics. In this case, though, the reasoning behind my picks and plays for week three can be easily summed up with those two words (and, of course, the analysis that comes with them).

We moved to 7-1 last week, with our lone loss coming when the Chiefs prevailed in overtime but did not cover the spread (due in no small part to the play of Justin Herbert, who was not supposed to start but did an admirable job taking the defending champs to the limit). As always, spreads are courtesy of America’s Line, and DFS costs are courtesy of DraftKings.

Here’s hoping we can keep the good mojo going!

PICKS/PLAYS

Titans -3 over Vikings

The Titans aren’t the flashiest team in the league.

Yes, and they’re still 2-0.

I said in week one that I felt the Titans would be a team to watch early in the season. They play in a small market, their quarterback was sent packing from Miami a few years ago, none of their receivers are household names, and the defense is the ultimate “whole is more than the sum of its parts” unit. They’ve won ugly twice this year…but have you seen the Vikings?

Minnesota, a team that many thought would be a legitimate contender at a deep run in the playoffs, has looked woefully overmatched in both of its games this season. Kirk Cousins no longer has a legitimate #1 receiver, and the defense has been unable to keep up with the Packers and Colts. I think they get overpowered again here, and that the Titans move to the most underreported 3-0 start in the league.

49ers -3.5 over Giants

Jimmy Garappolo, George Kittle, and Nick Bosa will not play.

Yes, and the Giants are still the Giants.

New York has lost Saquon Barkley for the season due to a torn ACL (rest in peace, Andrew’s hopes of a fantasy football repeat). They’ve gone out and signed Devonta Freeman, but he will almost certainly not have an active role in this contest.

San Francisco, meanwhile, still has enough weapons on both sides of the ball to be formidable. This is another East Coast game, but they stayed in that time zone after last week’s throttling of the Jets, so that won’t be an issue at all. Give me every bit of San Francisco this week, even without some of their biggest playmakers in the huddle.

Carolina/LA Chargers: OVER 43.5

Carolina will be without Christian McCaffery, and their offense was held in check by Tampa Bay last week.

Yes, and the Panther defense is still terrible.

Tom Brady could’ve had an even bigger day last week had his receivers not committed several drops on longer passes. This week, Carolina faces a rejuvenated Charger offense led by Justin Herbert, who at this point is playing for a shot at the long-term starting job.

Add in that I’m not concerned about Carolina backup running back Mike Davis or other parts of the Panther offense, and this total looks way too low. 24-21 puts us over the total, and I think we’ll soar past it here.

Chiefs +3.5 over Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens may be the most complete team in the league.

Yes, and Patrick Mahomes should not be getting more than a field goal from any opponent.

The Ravens are fun to watch. Lamar Jackson is electrifying, and their backfield-by-committee is a nightmare to prepare for. They’re sharp defensively as well, having held the Browns and Texas to just 22 combined points this season.

Still, the Chiefs offense played as poorly as we’ve seen them play in a long time last week, and they found a way to win in overtime. Mahomes will likely have many opportunities to work his magic, and I think we’ll see a true shootout on Monday night.

In this case, the half-point is crucial. The Ravens may very well win, but the Chiefs are the reigning champs for a reason, and if last week is any indication, they’ve learned how to win ugly. For that reason, I’ll take the points as my fourth and final play of the week.

DAILY FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Cam Newton, NE ($6,700)

I’m obviously not going out on a limb here, as Newton has been in the midst of an epic career revival in New England. However, I’m shocked he’s not more expensive in a tremendous matchup with the Raiders.

Newton has completed more than 71% of his passes this season while averaging nearly five yards per carry. We’re seeing a premier dual-threat performance right now, and when I saw him at $6,700, I jumped on it. I think he’ll have every opportunity to make plays against a Las Vegas defense that has given up 54 points in its first two games.

RB Mike Davis, CAR ($5,100)

Carolina’s offense is built around its starting running back. That focal point, of course, is Christian McCaffery, but Davis reeled in all eight receiving targets he saw last week and should see a heavy workload against the Chargers.

This is a case where the asking price just seems way too low. The Charger defense isn’t bad, but based on the likely workload and game script, I think Davis is a steal.

WR Michael Gallup, DAL ($5,500)
WR CeeDee Lamb, DAL ($5,400)

The Dallas Cowboys once again get a prime matchup, as they’ll take on the Seahawks. Seattle’s offense has been flying high to start the year, but their defense has gotten shredded by both Atlanta and New England. This makes Gallup and Lamb, key pieces in Dallas’s passing attack, very intriguing.

Gallup has been a bit of a disappointment so far, while Lamb is still getting up to speed as a rookie (though he’s shown there’s plenty to be excited about). I’ll happily give both guys shots in a terrific matchup. I have one team with these two, Dak Prescott, and Amari Cooper, and I won’t complain if this is a 45-42 game with lots of deep balls.

TE Jordan Reed, SF ($4,000)

Reed is an unbelievable story. He’s been hampered by injuries throughout his career and considered retiring before signing with San Francisco. George Kittle got hurt last week, and Reed responded by reeling in two touchdown passes as the Niners steamrolled the Jets.

The quarterback situation is a bit of a problem, and that’s baked into this cost. However, San Francisco doesn’t have many weapons on the outside, so I’m expecting Reed to get plenty of targets. His asking price is 17th among tight ends, and that’s just too low given his high ceiling.