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Spreads and Over/Under's as of Thursday night.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (PIT -8, O/U 47)
NY Jets @ Buffalo (BUF -9.5, O/U 40)
Jacksonville @ Houston (HOU -5.5, O/U 39.5)
Philadelphia @ Washington (PHI -1, O/U 48)
Arizona @ Detroit (ARI -1.5, O/U 48)
Baltimore @ Cincinnati (CIN -3, O/U 42.5)
Oakland @ Tennessee (TEN -2.5, O/U 50.5)
Atlanta @ Chicago (ATL -7, O/U 48)
Indianapolis @ LA Rams (LAR -4, O/U 41.5)
Seattle @ Green Bay (GB -3, O/U 51)
Carolina @ San Francisco (CAR -5.5, O/U 47.5)
NY Giants @ Dallas (DAL -4, O/U 47.5)

With the NFL season beginning in earnest this Sunday, we kick off our series of weekly DFS primers, highlighting players with a statistical edge over the rest of the field.  These primers will also provide examples of how ASA's advanced DFS tools can be leveraged to optimize your DFS strategy.

The resolution of many of the charts make it difficult to compare players.  You can follow along by reproducing the same charts (and many other comparative charts) using the web application linked below:


For more information on how to leverage Advanced Sports Analytics tools and methodology, read our recently published book on statistical strategy and lineup optimization.



Aaron Rodgers ($7,000, 27 IP, GB -3) - 
I really like Aaron Rodgers to be the top QB this weekend.  Among the top-priced QBs (Roethlisberger - yellow, Newton - green, Rodgers - red, Ryan - blue, Wilson - pink), Rodgers and Matt Ryan (see below) would appear to present the most upside even though Roethlisberger and Newton are priced higher.


Rodgers in particular figures to be a high-production QB option as Green Bay's point total rises, and figures to be a good bet to sit around 30 DKP if the Packers can approach 30 points against Seattle.

Matt Ryan ($6,900, 27.5 IP, ATL -7) - The same that can be said about Aaron Rodgers can also be said about Matt Ryan (although I think Rodgers upside is superior to that of Ryan).  I think Roethlisberger and Newton's higher pricing is tied to their favorable matchup against the lowly Browns and 49'ers.  However, both would need their teams to cover their respective spreads (PIT -7, CAR -5.5) in a big way for them to reach ideal performance conditions.  Roethlisberger and Newton's production peaks as their team's margin of victory approaches 15 points, while Matt Ryan is at his most productive when the Falcons win by 5-15 points, which seems likely given the pre-game line.

Kirk Cousins ($6,400, 23.5 IP, WAS +1) - 
At the middle tier of QB's (Mariota - blue, Carr - red, Cousins - green, Prescott - yellow, Taylor - pink), Cousins seems to offer the most upside, perhaps along with Marcus Mariota.  However Mariota probably also has the highest risk among some of these mid-tier QB's.

Cousins is also highly productive at the +1 pre-game line that has been set.  If the game holds true to line, Cousins could very likely be worth 25+ fantasy points.

Mike Glennon ($4,900, 20.5 IP, CHI +7) - 
There is little data to go off of for Glennon, so this pick is mostly tied to Chicago's offense as a whole.  Although the Bears are huge underdogs, there are some aspects of this game that might suggest the Chicago offense could be productive.  First, the Bears have one of the the more drastic home/away splits in terms of total fantasy production (the sum of fantasy points by offensive players).

Secondly, the Bears do draw a somewhat porous Atlanta defense, which they have a tendency to take advantage of at all postional units.  Below is a chart of the fantasy production by positional unit (Y) vs. the average fantasy points allowed their opponent (X).  A steep positive slop suggests that Bears' players take advantage of weaker defenses and turn in significantly better performances against such.

Lastly, the Bears' offense has the best Fantasy Points/Actual Points slope of any team in the league (probably in part due to low Actual Point totals), suggesting that if the game becomes higher-scoring than anticipated, the Bears offense could really capitalize.

Running Back

David Johnson ($9,400, 24.75 IP, ARI -1.5) - At the top of the RB food chain this weekend, it is really a two horse race between David Johnson (red) and Le'Veon Bell (blue).  At $400 less than Bell, I think Johnson provides more upside than Bell with his left-skewed DKP distribution (which is a good thing for upside).

As is the case with Ben Roethlisberger, Bell elevated salary is in part due to a favorable matchup against the lowly Browns.  However, his production doesn't really take off at rising point totals or margin of victory.  Because of this, I'm skeptical of the increase in production we might see out of Bell based on this favorable matchup.  On the other hand, Johnson is increasingly productive at high point totals and spread, and could very well be worth close to 40 DKP if the Cardinals manage to outperform their expectancy, and win by double figures while topping 30 points.

Lamar Miller ($5,100, 22.5 IP, HOU - 5.5) - The middle tier is filled with guys we don't have any data on (Fournette, McCaffrey, Mixon, Lynch), thus making it difficult to project them.  Miller (red) and Tevin Coleman (blue) are two guys that stand out to me in the middle tier.  What Miller lacks in extreme upside, he makes up for in consistency and value.  

While I think Coleman has more upside than Miller (he is also more costly), he lacks in predictability.  Miller on the other hand displays rising production as the Texans' point total increases.
However, I think most of Miller's value comes from what is simply a good price for a RB1 that figures to be leaned upon heavily with a new starting QB, as well as an injury to Will Fuller, the Texans WR2.  As you can see below, Miller's $5.1K price tag is well below what he was typically priced at in 2016.
Coleman ($5.4K) on the other hand is priced well above his 2016 norm.

Carlos Hyde ($4,600, 21 IP, SF +5.5) & LaGarrette Blount ($4,500, 24.5 IP, PHI -1) - Hyde and Blount offer two lower-tier options at RB who are RB1s for their respective teams, and posses pretty good upside for their price points.  Neither has a extremely favorable matchup (although Blount's is actually pretty good), but both have good production at their expected point total and spread.  Hyde has a pretty good track record of being productive in Niners' losses (even double-digit losses), and doesn't seem to lose much production at lower point totals.  If the 49ers can approach 20 points, I think Hyde stands a decent chance to top 20 DKP.  Blount has a more favorable matchup, and actually has increasing returns as his team's point total rises (granted his data is representative of his role with the Patriots).  But, if his team approaches 30 points, Blount has proven to stand a decent chance of topping 25 DKP.

Wide Receiver

A.J. Green ($8,000, 22.75 IP, CIN -3) - I'm staying away from Beckham due to his questionable status for Sunday's tilt with the Cowboys.  Among Green (green), Brown (red) and Jones (blue), I think Green actually posses the most upside, even though he is the cheapest of the trio.  Jones' perceived "huge" upside is simply a function of the one huge game he had last year, but outside of that one data point, his DKP distribution is actually more right-skewed than left-skewed (which roughly translates to more risk than upside).

Additionally, Jones and Brown don't draw a ton of upside from a lopsided game, which both of their are expected to be.Green is also the only player playing at home among this elite trio, which figures to favor him, as Brown and Jones both have pretty significant home/away splits.

Michael Crabtree ($6,000, 24 IP, OAK +2.5) I like Michael Crabtree in this middle tier of WRs, as he seems to be a nice combination of consistency with upside.  Among the comparison of Crabtree (blue), Doug Baldwin (red), and Kelvin Benjamin (green).

Baldwin does have huge upside, but is also a big risk at $6.8K.  A lot of his price spike might be due to what is perceived to be a very favorable matchup against the Packers.  However, as the chart below suggests, Seattle's WR/TE unit actually does shows a loose pattern of doing worse against weaker secondaries, thus making me skeptical of Baldwin's perceived "good matchup".

Rishard Matthews ($4,200, 21 IP, SF +5.5) & Marvin Jones ($4,100, 23.25 IP, DET +1.5) In looking for a WR sleeper pick at the lower price range, I'm really just looking for cheap, big upside guys.  Matthews (pink) and Jones (blue) seem to fit that high-ceiling mold, and also provide less risk than other similarly priced high-ceiling guys like Eli Rogers (red) or J.J. Nelson (green).

Tight End

Jordan Reed ($5,900, 23.5 IP, WAS +1) - 
With Gronk and Kelce out of consideration for Sunday's games, the top TE ranking is pretty open.  Reed (blue), Greg Olsen (red), and Jimmy Graham (green) figure to be prime candidates to claim the top TE spot.  Among this trio, I'm most intrigued by Reed's upside, and at $300 less than Olsen, I think he has good value.

He is also best situated to have high production should his game become high-scoring.

Zach Ertz ($3,500, 24.5 IP, PHI -1) - 
At $3.5K, Ertz is a low-priced option with good upside.

For $600 less, Ertz (pink) has comparable upside to Martellus Bennett (blue), and more upside than the more consistent (and higher priced) Eric Ebron (red) and Jason Witten (yellow).

Zach Miller ($2,800, 20.5 IP, CHI +8) - 
See Mike Glennon above.  Miller's sleeper status is more a function of my belief in Chicago's offense in a seemingly unfavorable matchup.  Chicago also has above average correlation between their QB1 and TE1, making Glennon/Miller a intriguing low-budget stack if you are feeling so bold to bank on the Bears' offense.  Miller also has pretty decent production even when the Bears fail to top 20 actual points.