September 15, 2023

What Our Scout Saw Last Thursday Night

Gainwell is no bell cow, and give Cousins some respect!
Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell (14) is tackled by the New England Patriots defensive end Lawrence Guy Sr. (93) on Sept. 10, 2023. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

I watched this game live and took my usual live game scouting notes ... and like a restaurant or movie ‘critic’, I’m here to report my critiques -- pro and con.

My name is R.C. Fischer, and I am a decade-plus-long football scout and Fantasy writer/player (and bettor) of football things, and I watch football games for a living. I am a fan of no NFL team, except the one that I may have bet on that particular game. I review/study game tape for personal profit (or loss) in DFS and handicapping/props.

Let’s take a look at what I witnessed in this first of my Friday series on Sportstopia critiquing the ‘Best and the Worst’ of the Thursday Night Football game.

Quick BEST: TNF is back on Amazon! (NBC had it last week for some reason)

I watch/scout every regular season NFL game twice, live and during the week watching/studying the tape and the same for all the preseason games. And by far the best presentation of the football product is by Amazon.

Their pregame panel is far superior to any pregame panel in football right now.

I don’t like most TV analysts, but I really enjoy the understated, solid analysis of Kirk Herbstreit, as compared to NBC’s Cris Collinsworth laughing about everything every other play for no reason. And Fox’s Troy Aikman constantly claiming he ‘really likes’ and/or ‘has always liked’ and/or ‘this guy is going to have a big season’ on every player who just had a positive play in the game moments before. Al Michaels is a welcome Amazon game call sidekick as well.

The Next Gen viewing option by Amazon is excellent and the X-Ray Stats option for the right-hand side of your screen for real time Passing-Rushing-Receiving totals is a dream come true.

We need Amazon, Apple, and Google to buy everything related to the NFL and bring it into the modern era.

WORST: Are any Vikings offensive linemen healthy?

I wanted to bet small, for fun, on the Vikings and the points in this game but I was trying to figure out all day whether top OT Christian Darrisaw was going To play/be OK or not. Minnesota already was down their key starting center going into this. When Darrisaw was not listed inactive at the deadline for reporting, I went in on MIN +6.5 to join up with my earlier in the week bets on Minnesota +7.0.

Once I placed my bet, 30 seconds later after the bet was processed, one of my guys on the ground at the game texted me that Darrisaw is still being worked out pregame and he’s a true game-time decision … and next I saw him was on the sidelines with no helmet on during the game. I thought my Vikings bet was a donation at that point.

In-game, when a Vikings starting offensive guard was taken off in a cart midgame, I knew I was doomed (as bettors like to wallow at the first sign of trouble) versus the Philly defensive front the rest of the game (thankfully, I was wrong).

The Vikings are now (0-2), and really should’ve won both of these games, but now they go into Week 3 with possibly 60% of their starting O-Line out...not good.

BEST: Do You Respect Kirk Cousins Yet?

Despite being down three offensive line starters, key ones too, Kirk Cousins threw for 364 yards, 4 TDs/0 INTs, and nearly led a comeback win despite four lost fumbles from his crew this game.

People discount Cousins because the media has told us over and over how mediocre (or worse) he is, but the guy is right in that tier of QBs below the ‘elite’ but above the ‘middle class’. He gets disrespected in Fantasy Football because of the media bias against him, but typically finds a way to be a top 10-12 Fantasy producer in any given season.

Cousins might end this week as the #1 QB in all of Fantasy after the first two weeks. He has thrown for back-to-back 340+ yard games and has 6 TD passes this season-to-date. And, again, this big output game came with 60% of his O-Line gone.

BEST: Are Any Eagles Healthy in the Secondary?

The Eagles came into this game without starting CB James Bradberry and top Safety Reed Blankenship, which helped Cousins go off...but then the Eagles also lost the very good slot CB Avonte Maddox in-game as well. Cousins is really good as it is, but he got a boost from the wounded secondary of Philly.

On the FSL podcast we shot/published earlier Thursday analyzing this game/DFS options and strategies, we discussed the impact of the wounded Eagles secondary and how that PLUS the Minnesota corrupted O-Line would force the Vikings away from the run and into a heavy passing effort -- we get a self-congratulating ‘best’ for calling this game script and subsequent huge Vikings pass game output for profitable Fantasy/DFS plays.

WORST: The Alexander Mattison Experience

It was easy to predict that Minnesota would be pushed away from any type of run game to the passing game due to the Philly D-Line strength and Vikings O-Line injuries, but also in part because Alexander Mattison is one of the worst starting RBs in the NFL right now. Super slow. Lost one fumble officially, lost another in the game that got bailed out by a lined-up-offsides penalty by the defense.

He later dropped a key pass in the hurry up offense comeback attempt...and during the 4th-quarter hurry ups he kept trying to get an extra yard by staying inbounds, when time was of the essence and he was right near the sidelines to ditch out and stop the clock, which was a must...but he didn’t seem to realize it, over and over.

Of all the things that cost Minnesota a win (a win they should have gotten) -- it was Mattison.

Minnesota did this to themselves when they paid Mattison to be ‘the guy’ this offseason. They have egg on their faces and likely won’t change/admit the error for a while, instead they’ll lean more into Mattison ahead to prove a point/save face. Whatever they do...he just cost them a win here, potentially.

BEST: D’Andre Swift Rises!

Last week, Swift played 19 snaps and had 1 carry and 1 catch. This week, 28 carries for 175 yards and 1 TD, and is now ‘the greatest running back in the history of the sport’,' which is what happens/the reaction when the media gets to watch a solo night game to get hysterical about.

I’m not a huge Swift fan (as a scout), but we talked about him on the DFS pregame TNF podcast, and I noted that he looked the best of the Eagles RBs in the preseason, so I assumed he would split with Boston Scott and whichever one of them got hot would take the backfield.

Scott looked good too, but got concussed, then Swift pulled away with the victory and was in many of our FSL DFS lineups for the TNF game over the more nationally coveted Mattison. That worked well.

WORST: Why Did the Eagles Start Kenneth Gainwell Week 1 Anyway?

As we were talking on the TNF preview podcast about the Eagles RB situation for TNF, I noted the positives about Swift from the preseason -- but I also mentioned how bad Gainwell looked in Week 1 and I questioned why Philly would start Gainwell so heavy and not bother to utilize some Swift and Scott (or Penny).

Well, it looks like Gainwell’s bell cow days are numbered, deservedly so. He’s not a three-down back, he’s a nice part of an RBBC.

WORST: With The #12 pick in the NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions Select Jahmyr Gibbs (insert applause)

So, let me understand this. You (the Lions) essentially give away Swift for nothing to the Eagles, a deal that was essentially a step above cutting him. OK, fine, but ...

Then you (the Lions) turn around and waste a precious #12 pick on another small/mid-sized, speedy satellite running back? Gibbs might never have an NFL game with as many yards as Swift just had here. You would hope and pray Gibbs would have a night like Swift just had, so why not just keep Swift and not waste a #12 pick on a similar thing when you could’ve drafted Christian Gonzalez, when you desperately needed CB help?

A huge, bad business decision by Detroit.

I know, I know. Gibbs is just starting out and we don’t know how good he is. He’s a magical unicorn rookie filled with sugar plum fairies dancing in football fans’ heads.

I know, Gibbs is so fast and is great in the passing game and is a playmaker. Where have I heard that before said about a player? Oh, yeah, I remember now. It was back a couple years ago from the media and fans when Detroit took D’Andre Swift to be that guy.

BEST: Minnesota’s Defensive Pass Rush

I was surprised by how well the Vikings defense pressured the Eagles pass game. They sacked Hurts 4 times this game and really had the Eagles pass game stymied for a while.

BEST/WORST: Minnesota’s Pressure Runs Out of Gas/the 2022 season Jalen Hurts Arrives...

In the 1st-half, I thought Hurts looked lost...playing at half speed and not in sync in the passing game. Which was an extension of looking off Week 1 against New England. At halftime of this game, I started to wonder if Hurts was going to be in for a down season or wondered if he was hurt in some way.

But then you could see as this game went, Hurts started getting in sync and throwing passes with more command. It took about six quarters of play to start the season for Hurts to shake the rust and to get into his NFL flow. Hopefully the same will be true for all the other big name QB flops from Week 1 that were flops likely due to these non-play/no touch of the QB preseason events they have to deal with.

I set myself a reminder, dated for summer 2024, to remind myself that Week 1 of NFL play is now a discombobulated mess and to assume the worst and bet all the underdogs because most teams are no longer prepared for the real games to begin. It will take 2-3 weeks for things to get up to speed for many offenses.

I did an analysis (on my home site Fantasy Football of the change in Fantasy scoring by position from Week 1 of 2021 to a drop-off in Week 1 of 2022 to another (historic) drop in Week 1 of 2023. Everything is falling in Week 1s...except the DST scoring is rising, which makes sense given the drop everywhere else...especially at QB.

BEST: Betting This Game, In-Game, in Real Time with the Vikings + points...

So, when the Vikings went down 20-7 right after halftime, off that sack/fumble setting up a quick/easy Philly score -- I jumped on the in-game odds moving on DraftKings/FanDuel where the Vikings popped up to +14.5. With the Philly secondary injuries, and the way the Vikings were able to move the ball all game (just kept fumbling it away), I thought the Vikings were a ‘hope’ to make this a shootout and get the cover.

They did...that’s always a ‘best’.

WORST: Betting This Game, In-Game, in Real Time with the Vikings Straight Up to Comeback and Win

And at the same time I took the +14.5 and I also plunked one cool dollar on the moneyline for Minnesota to straight up win at +1,000 odds (while down 20-7 at that point).

When it got to 27-7, I thought all these in-game bets were quick donations -- but not-too-soon-after I was suddenly on the edge of my seat with some hope of a great +1,000 comeback by the Vikings. But it was not to be, almost but no dice, thus a ‘worst’.

BEST: The Backdoor Cover Rules!

Pregame, as mentioned previously, I had small bets on Minnesota at +7.0 earlier in the week and +6.5 just prior. I thought that was a donation too in the 3rd-quarter, but Minnesota scored a late TD on a drive that nearly gave me a heart attack due to drops, near-miss interceptions, a fumble/turnover saved by a defensive offsides penalty, etc. I was on the edge of my seat on every play -- you gotta love Fantasy and sports betting! Where else can you get such entertainment week-to-week?

Minnesota lost by 6, so I got my game bets covered -- barely. if only the Vikes coulda won and hooked me up with a nice present to start out my Week 2 betting.

That’s it for the Best and Worst of TNF Week 2. I’ll be analyzing the game, and every NFL game, from a purely Fantasy/Dynasty perspective over at Fantasy Football daily.

Our newsletter is coming soon, but you can register now!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Continue Reading

Other News

Weather Report

Fantasy players will need to keep a close eye on Arizona-New York as there is a good chance of rain throughout that game, and there’s also a possibility of rain in Giants-Padres; although that one looks like it should be able to be played.

Injury Report

Wilmer Flores, Giants 1B, knee: Flores left Sunday’s loss to the Dodgers with right knee discomfort. The veteran infielder went 2 for 2 before exiting, and is considered day-to-day. There’s a strong chance he’ll be out of the lineup for Monday’s game against San Diego.

Michael Brantley, Astros DH, shoulder: Brantley has not been able to play since September 17 because of soreness in his shoulder, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back in the lineup for Monday’s massive game against the Mariners in Seattle.

Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks 2B, illness: Marte was scratched late from Sunday’s game due to being under the weather. If Marte can’t go Monday, Jordan Lawlar will likely be the starting shortstop with Geraldo Perdomo at second base.

Top Priced Starting Pitchers for Main Slate (DraftKings)
  • Blake Snell @ SF: $9,600
  • Luis Castillo vs. HOU: $9,300
  • Justin Verlander @ SEA: $8,500
  • Logan Webb vs. SD: $7,900
  • Jon Gray @ LAA: $6,400
  • Patrick Sandoval vs. TEX: $6,000

For a slate that only features three games, there’s some awfully good starting pitching options. It starts with Snell, the presumed National League Cy Young favorite who is coming off seven no-hit innings against Colorado with 10 strikeouts. He’s allowed just one hit over his last two starts, and only two total runs in the month of September over 25 innings (0.72 ERA) with a 34/12 K/BB ratio.

Simply put, Snell is pitching as well -- if not better -- than anyone in baseball, and it’s hard to argue against using him against a mediocre San Francisco lineup.

The Verlander-Castillo matchup is a fascinating one, as it pits two pitchers that have been among the best in the sport over the last few years, but also features two teams that have played less-than-spectacular baseball over the last few weeks.

In fact, the Astros were swept by the lowly Royals over the weekend, while Seattle saw its struggles against Texas continue with their own three-game demise.

It also features two pitchers that have seen opposite levels of success as of late, as Verlander has a 5.19 ERA in his four starts in September, while Castillo has registered a solid -- if unspectacular -- 3.38 mark. The latter also hasn’t picked up a loss since July 14, and he makes a little more sense as a DFS option than Verlander at this point.

Gray vs. Sandoval offers the “cheap” entry points for Monday’s action, and it’s not hard to understand why. Gray hasn’t gone more than four innings in a start since he threw five middling frames against the Twins, and his ERA in the month of September -- small-sampled though it may be -- is an unhealthy 8.56.

Sandoval is actually coming off a solid outing against the Rays on Tuesday where he spun five innings of two-run baseball, but he had allowed a combined 15 runs in his two starts before that. He’s the kind hurler who is more likely to give you a chance for a win, but the fact he plays for one of the worst teams in baseball over the last month-plus makes it not worth the risk.

Sneaky option

There are no sneaky options. It’s very hard to sneak up on anyone when there’s only three games in the main slate.

Stack Attack
  • Angels vs. Rangers (Gray)
  • C Logan O’Hoppe: $3,700
  • 1B Logan Schanuel: 3,400
  • OF Jo Adell: $3,500

The only real question for me if you’re going to do a stack is whether to use it against the Angels or Rangers. The other starting pitching options are just too good for me to feel confident basing my DFS lineup on.

I’ll go with the Angels and the cheapness of these three against a pitcher in Gray who just hasn’t been very good for a while now, and it allows me to add some star plates like Juan Soto, Marcus Semien and two quality pitchers in Castillo and Webb. Certainly, some risk but the risk comes with plenty of reward.

Brian Robinson is being used in a full-blown bell cow role for the 2-0 Washington Commanders. He's fourth in the NFL with 37 rush attempts, eighth in rushing yards, and No. 1 in first downs gained with 13. Most importantly, Robinson is out-carrying counterpart Antonio Gibson 37 to five.

Only three running backs have finished with 19.9+ fantasy points in both Week 1 and Week 2:

  • Christian McCaffrey
  • Bijan Robinson
  • Tony Pollard

Ken Walker sees himself in the top five this week for the first time in 2023. He has a stranglehold on the Seahawks backfield with a 62% snap share, and a 73% opportunity share, despite a slow start to the season that had us assuming Seattle would push rookie Zach Charbonnet into the lineup more.

Walker finished as RB14 in Week 2, during a tough game script. In Week 3, the Carolina Panthers come to town after allowing a combined 254 rushing yards to the Falcons and Saints during the first two weeks.

RankChangeNameTeamWeek 3
1 Christian McCaffreySFNYG
2(+) 1Tony PollardDAL@ARI
3(+) 1Bijan RobinsonATL@DET
4 Kenneth WalkerSEACAR
5 Kyren WilliamsLAR@CIN
6 Aaron JonesGBNO
7 Raheem MostertMIADEN
8 James CookBUF@WSH
9 Rhamondre StevensonNE@NYJ
10 Travis EtienneJAXHOU
11 Josh JacobsLVPIT
12 Jahmyr GibbsDETATL
13 Brian RobinsonWSHBUF
14 Isiah PachecoKCCHI
15(+) 12Joshua KelleyLAC@MIN
16 Joe MixonCINLAR
17 Miles SandersCAR@SEA
18 D'Andre SwiftPHI@TB
19 Alexander MattisonMINLAC
20 Derrick HenryTEN@CLE
21 Javonte WilliamsDEN@MIA
22 Kenneth GainwellPHI@TB
23 Khalil HerbertCHI@KC
24 Rachaad WhiteTBPHI
25 Najee HarrisPIT@LV
26 Gus EdwardsBALIND
27 Roschon JohnsonCHI@KC
28 Jerome FordCLETEN
29 Tyjae SpearsTEN@CLE
30 James ConnerARIDAL
31 Jaylen WarrenPIT@LV
32 Zack MossIND@BAL
33 Deuce VaughnDAL@ARI
34 Dameon PierceHOU@JAX
35 Kendre MillerNO@GB
36 Gary BrightwellNYG@SF
37 Salvon AhmedMIADEN
38 Tyler AllgeierATL@DET
39 Pierre StrongCLETEN
40 Samaje PerineDEN@MIA
41 Ezekiel ElliottNE@NYJ
42 Breece HallNYJNE
43 Tony JonesNO@GB
44 Rico DowdleDAL@ARI
45 Matt BreidaNYG@SF
46(-) 6Jaleel McLaughlinDEN@MIA
47 Devon AchaneMIADEN
48 Devin SingletaryHOU@JAX
49 Craig ReynoldsDETATL
50 Dalvin CookNYJNE
51 Chuba HubbardCAR@SEA
52 Zach CharbonnetSEACAR
53 Latavius MurrayBUF@WSH
54(+) 10Zonovan KnightDETATL
55 A.J. DillonGBNO
56 Damien HarrisBUF@WSH
57 Tank BigsbyJAXHOU
58 Jerick McKinnonKCCHI
59 Antonio GibsonWSHBUF
60 Clyde Edwards-HelaireKCCHI
61 Michael CarterNYJNE
62 Sean TuckerTBPHI
63NRIsaiah SpillerLAC@MIN
64 Elijah DotsonLAC@MIN
65 Trayveon WilliamsCINLAR
66 Ty ChandlerMINLAC
67 Emari DemercadoARIDAL
68 D'Ernest JohnsonJAXHOU
69 Boston ScottPHI@TB
70 Emanuel WisonGB 
71 Chris RodriguezWSHBUF
72 Ronnie RiversLAR@CIN
73 Chase EdmondsTBPHI
74 DeeJay DallasSEACAR
75 DeeJay DallasSEACAR

We have a full slate of games Sunday across MLB, including a day-night doubleheader between the Braves and Nationals. There are a few spots with massive playoff implications as the Rangers host the Mariners with 1.5 games separating them, and the Blue Jays and Rays continue to jockey for Wild Card positioning.

There are plenty of guys who won’t play, and that’s September baseball, so remain flexible. I’ll dive into the foundational building blocks you need to construct your lineups around.

Weather Report

The effects of Tropical Storm Ophelia will be felt in the Northeast. Mainly, Philadelphia and the Bronx are two spots we’re keeping a close eye on.

Injury Report

Luis Arraez, leg – He left Saturday’s game early. It’s uncertain if he will be back in the lineup.

Tony Kemp, ankle – It was announced yesterday that Kemp will be out indefinitely with an ankle injury.

Randy Arozarena, quad – He missed Saturday’s clash with the Jays and it’s currently unknown if he will be in the lineup.

Top-Priced Starting Pitchers (DraftKings)

  • Spencer Strider @. WAS: $12,900
  • Freddy Peralta @ MIA: $11,200
  • Zac Gallen @ NYY: $10,000
  • Joe Ryan Vs. LAA: $9,500
  • Nathan Eovaldi vs. SEA: $9,100

There’s no denying how great Strider has been. In his last two starts, he faced a deep Phillies lineup and went 7 innings in each start, allowing 4 hits in both. He struck out 11 and 9 batters in each outing. He put himself into the history books as he officially owns the most strikeouts of any pitcher in their first 50 starts since 1893! The Contrarian Edge Optimizer is not suggesting rostering Strider today though. Likely due to the insane $12,900 salary.

The Optimizer again isn’t considering the second-highest salaried pitcher today, Freddy Peralta. My assumption is that the Brewers won’t be looking for Freddy to go deep into the game as they have locked up the NL Central division crown. He has been great of late, posting a 1.96 ERA over his last 10 starts. Despite some great names on today’s board, we’re going to look to roster some cheaper options at starting pitcher.

Sneaky Option

Hunter Brown vs. KC: $8,800

There are plenty of cheaper options at starting pitcher if we don’t want to pay up for guys like Strider. Brown is an obvious choice. You see the Astros are playing at home against the Royals, and you gravitate to that spot. Do you want someone who can strike people out? Brown is your guy. The 25-year-old has had some rough starts of late, but he’s had at least 5 strikeouts in 6 straight starts. On the surface, the Royals aren’t a perfect spot for strikeouts, but on the road, they have the fifth-most per game, and they have the lowest batting average in the league in away games.

Jordan Wicks vs. COL: $7,000

The 24-year-old lefty Wicks will toe the rubber for the Cubs today at Wrigley. He gets to face the struggling Rockies, which he recently threw 6 innings against on the road and allowed just 3 hits. He has a 2.67 ERA through his first 5 career starts. The Rockies have the fourth most strikeouts since the All-Star break and have the third-lowest batting average against lefties this season!

Stack Attack

Cubs vs. Rockies (Ty Blach)

We’ll stay at Wrigley and stack Cubbies bats against the veteran lefty Blach. Multiple Cubs hitters have had previous success facing Blach. In 2 of his last 3 starts, he’s allowed 3 homeruns! In September alone, he’s given up 19 runs in 19.2 innings. I would like to see Nico Hoerner $5,700 in lineups as he’s the best Cubs bat. He’s hitting .287 with 42 steals. It doesn’t hurt that he’s 3 for 4 in his career versus Blach. Believe it or not, but Cody Bellinger has spanked lefties this season. He has a .342 average when facing left-handed pitching versus .290 against righties. He’s hitting .333 in 24 at-bats against Blach. Cheaper outfield options like Ian Happ and Suzuki are really great pivots on Sunday.

  • 2B Nico Hoerner $5,700
  • 1B/OF Cody Bellinger $6,300
  • 3B/OF Chris Morel $4,900
  • SS Dansby Swanson $5,100
  • OF Ian Happ $4,600
  • OF Seiya Suzuki $4,400

Astros vs. Royals (Steven Cruz)

As I said earlier, it’s natural to gravitate towards the Astros when they are at home facing the Royals, and in this case, it’s smart too. The Contrarian Edge Optimizer even agrees to stack Astros bats today. Cruz is going to be an opener for Kansas City today, meaning they will likely go to their bullpen in the second or third inning. The Royals pen has the 7th-highest home runs per 9 innings and the third-highest ERA in MLB. If you opt for cheaper starting pitching options, you can stack guys like Kyle Tucker and Alex Bregman. Tucker has a hit in 13 of 19 games in September, but he has struggled in the month overall, hitting just .214. He can be in for a bounce-back spot today. Altuve has been red-hot over the last week, hitting .360 with 4 extra-base hits.

  • 1B Jose Abreu $3,900
  • 2B Jose Altuve $6,100
  • 3B Alex Bregman $5,400
  • SS Jeremy Pena $4,200
  • OF Yordan Alvarez $6,000
  • OF Kyle Tucker $5,800

We had a very good week in last week’s article. Geno Smith finished as the QB8! Rachaad White finished as the RB8! And Josh Reynolds finished as the WR9! White was in the winning million-dollar lineup on DraftKings. Once again, I used our Fantasy Sports Contrarian Optimizer to help me extract more from player being undervalued in DFS. Here is who I am on this week:

QB: C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans (DK: $5,300, FD: $6,600)

This week is slightly more difficult. A lot of big-name quarterbacks have great matchups. But, if you did not know, I am a degenerate. So, we are going low price, high reward and look no other than your QB13 last week in Stroud.

Regardless of the outcome of the game, fantasy points are fantasy points. And Stroud was garbage time king last week, finishing with 384 passing yards and two touchdowns. Despite getting rolled by the Colts, Stroud showed me enough to look at him again this week.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, for whatever reason, struggle with the Texans. They’ve lost five straight home games to them. Now, they have the Texans in a clear lookahead spot to a long road trip to London for the next two weeks.

And the Jags have given up the ninth most passing yards in the league, and they are giving up the fourth most fantasy points to QBs on DraftKings and the fifth most on FanDuel. Stroud may or may not have it in him to will this team to a win, but this sets up well to have a really good fantasy day.

RB: Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers (DK: $5,400, FD: $6,100)

I mentioned it last week. De’Andre Swift gashed this Minnesota Vikings defense in Week 2. This seemed like an amazing opportunity to be able to hop on the fade Minnesota run defense train.

This is the highest total of Week 3, so there could be a lot of fantasy points. Chargers RB Austin Ekeler has been ruled out another week and even he said the Joshua Kelley breakout is coming. Many Justin Herbert stacks are going to include his cadre of talented receivers, but if you want to go contrarian, then a cheap option in Kelley is it.

The Vikings have allowed the second most rushing yards to running backs, excluding the New York Giants who played their Week 3 game already. While I do expect the receivers to carry the Chargers down the field, Kelley leads the team in red zone opportunities. The optimizer likes the opportunity for Kelley to score at least two TDs, thanks to big plays.

WR: K.J. Osborn, Minnesota Vikings (DK: $4,000, FD: $5,600)

We said it last week. Say it again for me: GAME STACK!! Did you see me point out that this game has the highest total on the board? Here is the reason why.

The Los Angeles Chargers – even despite the Giants and 49ers having played an extra game already -- lead the NFL in giving up receiving yards to WRs, and by far giving up the most fantasy points to the position.

All Vikings stacks will have Justin Jefferson (of course) and Jordan Addison. Addison has scored in his first two NFL games — he’s clear cut the WR2 right? Not so fast. K.J. Osborn is out snapping Addison and receiving more targets and more redzone targets.

The Osborn breakout is coming, and this could be the week with Jefferson and Addison clearly getting all the attention by the Chargers defense. The optimizer has Osborn as a cheap wide receiver option in this big game.

TE: Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints (DK: $3,300, FD:)

We have a Taysom Hill sighting for Week 3. As somebody who punted TE in season-long fantasy, I stream tight end every week, so I am always looking for cheap options.

With Saints RBs Alvin Kamara suspended for one more week and Jamaal Williams out with injury, Hill got a good amount of work as a running back last week. He has always been a utility player for the Saints. Do I think he is going to continue to pace them in carries? Absolutely not.

But the goal line is where the Saints get very creative with Hill. They line him up at tight end, running back, and quarterback when they get in close. Without their bruiser on the goal line, I am hoping for a couple short TDs, as it seems he has a big game every season.

We’ve made it to Sunday night! After an action-packed day, we cap off a wild weekend with an AFC battle. Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Las Vegas to take on Davante Adams and the Raiders for Sunday Night Football.


Las Vegas Raiders vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 pm ET

Betting Odds (DraftKings)

  • Line: Raiders -2.5, Steelers +2.5
  • Moneyline: Raiders (-142), Steelers (+120)
  • Over/Under: 43
Team Ranks (2023)


  • Points for: 13.5 (30th)
  • Points Allowed: 27.0 (25th)


  • Points For: 16.5 (26th)
  • Points Allowed: 26.0 (23rd)
Key Injuries to Watch


  • DE Tyree Wilson (Illness) – Questionable


  • WR Gunner Olszewski (Concussion) – Out

It should be noted that Raiders wide receiver Jakobi Meyers has been dealing with a concussion but has practiced fully, which is a good sign he will be cleared to play on Sunday night. The other major injury note is the Steelers defensive line will be without standout defensive tackle Cam Heyward for about two months, leaving a massive hole up the middle in their defense.

Captain Prices (DraftKings)
  • Davante Adams, WR $17,400
  • Josh Jacobs, RB, $16,200
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, $15,300
  • Kenny Pickett, QB, $14,700
  • George Pickens, WR, $13,800
  • Najee Harris, RB, $13,200
  • Jakobi Meyers, WR, $12,900
Flex Prices (DraftKings)
  • Davante Adams, WR $11,600
  • Josh Jacobs, RB, $10,800
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, $10,200
  • Kenny Pickett, QB, $9,800
  • George Pickens, WR, $9,200
  • Najee Harris, RB, $8,800
  • Jakobi Meyers, WR, $8,600

According to the Contrarian Edge Optimizer, Davante Adams is projected to be the most-owned Captain on the slate over at DraftKings. Adams is the highest projected owned overall in over 55 percent of lineups, including the flex. There are not many surprises expected when it comes to ownership for Showdown lineups.

Typically, a quarterback will be the most expensive option, but sometimes, when Davante Adams is on the field, he gets the nod as the priciest option. The Steelers defense has allowed the 11th-most yards to receivers through the first two weeks. Adams is a target and touchdown scoring machine. Slot receiver Jakobi Meyers should return to the field after missing Week 2, and this will only benefit Adams.

The quarterback battle between veteran Jimmy Garoppolo and second-year man Kenny Pickett is intriguing. Jimmy G will make his first start at home as a member of the Raiders. Pickett has struggled in his first two starts, but he’s faced arguably two top-five defenses. On paper, the Raider defense should allow Pickett and the Steeler offense to get back on track.

The Steelers offense features two running backs, Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. It’s difficult to trust and assess which guy will have the greater impact on Sunday night. Warren appears to be more explosive, but his 47 snaps trails Harris (62 snaps). Warren is second on the Steelers in targets with 12.

There’s not much to note regarding the tight ends in this one as the Steelers are a top defense defending tight ends, and Pat Freiermuth is off to a slow start this season. His target share has gone from 18% last season down to just 7% through the first two weeks of the season.

Strong Captain Option

George Pickens, Steelers WR, $13,800 - Captain Slot

Pickens has a chance to go bonkers. The Raider defense has allowed a league-high completion rate and the second-highest passing touchdown rate. The Raiders have also allowed a league-high 84% catch rate to wide receivers.

The second-year wide receiver led Pittsburgh with a massive 34.5% target share in the Week 2 win and scored a long touchdown. At 6-foot-3, he has the catch radius that quarterbacks love throwing to. Pickett recently said, “I’m going to put in in his zip code, and he’ll do the rest. That’s kind of been the MO here since I’ve started, so he’s an unbelievable player. Just continue to put the ball, throw it his way, and let him do the rest.”

The Pickett-to-Pickens connection will be on full display Sunday night. If the Raiders choose to double him with safety help, the next two receiving options will play a major role. My favorite and the Contrarian Edge Optimizer’s favorite of the next is Allen Robinson.

Cheaper Options

Allen Robinson $5,000

With Diontae Johnson out for at least two more weeks, Robinson will continue to see increased work. As WR3 coming into the season, he has been thrust into a full-time role.

Pickens is the truth and future, but the veteran Robinson actually played the most snaps of any Steeler skill position player in Week 2. He had a poor game, but that’s mostly due to the Browns strength in the secondary. In Week 1, he reeled in 5 of 8 targets for 64 yards.

We can expect similar production this week, and if he somehow finds the endzone, it will be even sweeter.

Calvin Austin $4,200

Austin is in a similar boat as Robinson. It’s likely Pickens will lead the Steelers in receiving Sunday night, but one of these two will also play a major role. Austin played 6 fewer snaps than Robinson and 5 fewer than Pickens last week. Expect similar snap counts for the trio and at least two of these guys to produce respectable numbers, with a chance of one leading the scoring.


Both teams are 1-1. It’s surprising to see the Raiders favored, as many had the Steelers as a playoff contender in the AFC. Both offenses have struggled, but they have faced tough defenses. Each side has playmakers, and both defenses have struggled. This should be a big night for Josh Jacobs against a bad Pittsburgh run defense, but in the end, I expect Kenny Pickett and George Pickens to connect on big plays that will be enough to squeak out a win.

Final Score: Steelers 24, Raiders 23

Week 3 is upon us, and with that another chance for ball spikes and celebrations in the end zone. Here are my top choices for TD props for this weekend's NFL action.

Joshua Kelley (Chargers RB), Kenneth Walker III (Seahawks RB), and Travis Etienne Jr. (Jaguars RB) TD +580

Joshua Kelley is someone I like targeting for a touchdown, especially considering the 54-point total in the Chargers-Vikings game. We have two of the worst defenses in the league facing off against each other, and without Chargers RB Austin Ekeler, Kelley will have a large chunk of the opportunities.

People were low on Kelley last week, but the Titans have one of the best run defenses in the league and one of the worst pass defenses. I expect a more balanced attack against the Vikings, with plenty of opportunities.

Travis Etienne Jr. has a good chance to get into the end zone. The Texans allowed four rushing touchdowns to the Colts last weekend and three to the Ravens RBs in Week 1. ETN is in line for 15+ carries, and the Jaguars are likely to be in a rush-heavy gamescript for most of this one. With an implied team total of over three touchdowns, and no Christian Kirk, ETN should see 3+ red zone carries.

Speaking of positive game script, Kenneth Walker III finds himself in another very intriguing matchup – Panthers at Seahawks. While there were questions about how much of the workload he would handle before the season started, he’s clearly shown to be the workhorse back.

Walker has two touchdowns, with 16 and 18 total touches in the first two weeks. This should be the best matchup he’s had yet, and I expect him to capitalize on it.

Justin Fields (Bears QB) TD +200

I think a lot of NFL fans are very curious to see how Fields performs against the Chiefs after a very rough start to the season. With the comments made in the media, it seems he’s interested in diverting back to the playstyle we saw from him last season.

I’m expecting more designed runs and more carries. While I don’t have confidence in this offense, I do have confidence in this defense getting torn apart by the Chiefs. KC QB Patrick Mahomes will have a lot of success, which should generate a lot of garbage time chances.

We’ve seen Fields break a lot of big plays, but he should also be a huge part of the the redzone playbook when given the chance.

Donald Parham (Chargers TE) +370 (Fanduel)

Parham is not a household name, but the former XFL legend has carved out a strong red zone role for the Chargers. He’s expanded that even more this season, playing more snaps and running more routes than Gerald Everett last week. This resulted in two red zone targets for the mega-sized tight end. Now that we have an incredibly high-scoring matchup (Chargers at Vikings), we should have our chances here.

It’s Friday and you guys know what that means -- time to fade ‘em up, Week 3 edition. Of the five guys I listed as ‘fades’ last week, three of them put up season-highs in fantasy points. Perhaps they’re a weekly reader of mine and used my analysis as fuel?

Either way, let’s hope the following players can escape the wrath of my doghouse as well — after the conclusion of Week 3 (all salaries courtesy of DraftKings).

QB: Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns ($6,100, QB14 at cost)

Watson’s ownership percentage of 4.3% is higher than Josh Allen’s, Tua’s, Dak Prescott, and Justin Fields’ - which is bizarre given how he’s looked in his last eight games as a Brown.

Sure, QB14 at cost isn’t exorbitant, but he has yet to complete at least 60 percent of his passes nor average 6 yards or more per attempt. Plus, he’s been sacked nine times in two games for a team that lost its workhorse in Nick Chubb. No thanks.

For those wondering whether or not the Houston version of Watson is gone for good, these next few weeks will be very telling. He will have to carry the offense ala his Texan days.

Until then, I’d advise fantasy owners everywhere to stay far and away as there’s other options with more upside and cheaper.

RB: AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers ($5,700, RB21 at cost)

Once upon a time, Dillon looked like the future of the Packers running back room. If you recall, he rushed for over 800 yards and had 7 total touchdowns playing alongside 2021 MVP Aaron Rodgers.

That’s no longer certain.

Dating back to Week 15 of last season, Dillon hasn’t cracked 4 ypc in his past six games. Not only has the efficiency cratered, his usage in the passing game has become almost non-existent as well.

Coupled with the fact that his Packers are taking on a formidable Saints defense that have been very stingy against the run – including holding Derrik Henry to under 70 yards in Week 1 – and I’m beginning to lose hope for Dillon as far as his fantasy prospects.

If Aaron Jones is ready to go Sunday, it might be all the more reason to fade Dillon, regardless of cost.

WR: Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals ($8,000, WR4 at cost)

I never thought I’d do this, but I’m going to fade a top 5 player at his position – just for this week.

Although not entirely his fault, the status of Cincy QB Joe Burrow is still up in the air for Monday Night Football as of Friday. Given that he likely won’t be 100 percent even if he does play, I have a difficult time believing in Chase if Jake Browning is the one throwing him passes against a very underrated Rams secondary.

There’s a crazy stat going around that Chase has the least yards through two games (70) for somebody that has at least 15 targets.

Ultimately, his supreme talent will win out. Even if he produces more against the Rams than he has this season – relative to cost -- you can find cheaper options with similar production.

If I get this wrong, I’ll never fade a top 5 at his position player ever again.

TE: Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles ($4,700, TE5 at cost)

With just 6 receptions for 22 yards this season, Goedert hasn’t been anywhere near the top-5 TE he was projected to be, much less his current price point.

While we all knew he was going to be the third or fourth option in the passing game, even that seems to be in jeopardy given the heroics of the Eagles’ RB room.

To top it off, a matchup against underrated Bucs safeties Antoine Winfield Jr and Ryan Neal doesn’t exactly scream bounceback. They’ve yet to allow a TE to eclipse 40 receiving yards.

If you’re betting on a pass-catcher to bounce back for Philadelphia this week, I’d pivot towards AJ Brown instead.

FLEX: Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers ($5,900, WR25 at cost)

Even if Watson can play, Marshon Lattimore, Tyrann Mathieu, Paulson Adebo, and the rest of that nasty Saints defense will do everything in their power to make it look as if he didn’t play at all.

Hamstring injuries are tricky, especially for players who are reliant on speed and explosiveness in getting down the field. In addition, Watson’s boom-or-bust style of play is too risky to insert into lineups when we don’t know if he’s going to be 100 percent and whether or not he’ll be on a snap count.

I’m fading Watson in all formats of fantasy this week, DFS be damned.

Yes, it’s true -- Fantasy Sports Logic and the Contrarian Edge Optimizer won first place in the DraftKings Million Dollar to the Winner grand prize. We’ll get to that, but first my intro:

My name is R.C. Fischer, and I am a decade-plus-long football scout and Fantasy writer/player (and bettor) of football things for Fantasy Football, and I watch football games for a living. I am a fan of no NFL team, except the one I may have bet on. I review and study game tape for personal profit (or loss) in DFS and handicapping/props.

I watch the TNF games (and every NFL game) live, then watch it again on tape for scouting Fantasy/DFS and future betting (player props) purposes. And like a restaurant or movie critic, I’m here to report my critiques of this nationally televised game -- pro and con.

Here is the best and worst of TNF Week 3, Giants at 49ers:

Best: Fantasy Sports Logic wins DraftKings $1M Contest!

Seriously! No joke. 176,470 entries with a $2.25M prize pool and $1 million to the winner.

One of the FSL Optimizer’s entries won it. Holy cow!

Worst: It Was a First-Place Tie … with 124 Others!

The $1M prize got shredded into $10K-plus payouts. I’ve never hated 124 other random strangers so much before in all my life. But it’s a great DFS Optimizer and football theory/scouting effort accomplishment for the young company nonetheless -- and all kidding aside, congrats to the other winners.

Real people really do win!

When you have a TNF-only DFS showdown contest, there’s going to be a lot of duplicate entry potential. There’s only so many players to pick from, so ties are very possible especially when the obvious stars shine like they did in this game. But you also have to hook the right sleeper plays with them and FSL did.

A win is a win.

Best: Deebo Leads the Way

On the FSL Podcast for this TNF DFS preview (check out the TNF DFS preview show every Thursday on Sportstopia), Daryl Snyder and I discussed the extra boost reasoning for Deebo this night, and he didn’t disappoint. The late dagger bomb TD catch by Deebo put him over the top as the high PPR scorer of any player, QBs included, in this game.

Having Deebo as the ‘Captain’ of the winning Showdown entry was a must, and that’s just what we did by pushing a few different entries with him as the captain because of the strategy discussions on the FSL TNF Preview Podcast (that drops every Thursday).

Worst: Daniel Dimes Is Bad Loose Change

We did have entries banking on a big Dan Dimes run game/FF scoring game. However, Jones only rushed 2 times for 5 yards with no Saquon and a great need for him to run.

Somehow NYG had the bright idea to push more run game to Gary Brightwell for some reason. He too ran for five yards on four carries.

Best: Ronnie Bell, the Million Ten-Thousand Dollar Man!

Daryl Snyder and I also discussed the scouting logic behind playing Ronnie Bell for DFS on the TNF DFS Preview Podcast earlier in the day, and we switched some other long shot names out to insert more Bell, and ‘boom’.

Bell is Brandon Aiyuk-like, and had a great training camp and preseason, he was the natural hope to fill-in for Aiyuk this game. Bell wasn’t involved in the game as much as I thought he would, but he got a TD with his two-catch, 24-yard night, and the TD was all the DFS difference.

Worst: Jalin Hyatt, the Zero Dollar Man!

I liked Ronnie Bell and Jalin Hyatt as the long shot plays in this game for various reasons, but I had more confidence/hope in a Hyatt deep ball pop/TD.

I saw Hyatt run a deep route early, that I think was designed to go to him, where he lined up next to some other NYG WR and they sprinted off deep off the snap and then ran into each other making a cut and took each other out of the play and all Daniel Jones could do was throw it away in desperation.

Hyatt ended the game with zero catches on zero targets and earned zero dollars on any DFS lineup he was in.

Best: Kittle Over Waller 

Waller had more universal DFS ownership appeal for good reason -- Kittle hasn’t been lighting up the stat sheets out of the gates in 2023. But our scouting/game script projected that the 49ers defense, known TE-killers for Fantasy scoring, would squash Waller too much, and thus Kittle, who was overdue, especially without Aiyuk there, was the better TE play.

Kittle snagged a season-best 7 catches for 90 yards, while Waller got all of 3 catches (on 7 targets) for 20 yards, and Waller did not look good (going forward for FF purposes).

The whole Waller-based NYG offense concept for 2023, they may need to rethink that.

Best: A Clear NFL Game Winner

No controversies here. The better team definitely won. San Fran won the time of possession 39/21. They converted 9 of 16 third downs. They had no turnovers (13 games in a row with 0 or 1 turnover in a game). And SF outgained the Giants 441 yards to 150. The 49ers handled business.

Worst: A Clear Loser 


No, it’s not because I spent 3.5 hours of my life watching this dull mercy killing of NYG, but because I spent 3.5 hours watching it as an idiot who picked NYG +10.5 -- hoping they’d stay close for a cover.

Worst: Like Any Good Bettor, It’s the Ref’s Fault I Lost!

I think there were about 19 instances (that may be exaggerated some) where the Giants held the 49ers short on a 3rd-down play but then a flag would come in and give the 49ers an extended life, thus the lopsided time of possession and final score.

The Giants were hanging in there as best they could but all the yellow flags at the absolute wrong time every time did them in from.

Worst: Don’t Remind Purdy 

We’ll end on a ‘worst’ from the way this game ended.

For the final kneel downs, $4.5M QB Sam Darnold took the final snaps as Brock Purdy and his $870K payroll watched from the sidelines as he went to 11-0 in regular season and playoff games where he played the majority of the snaps or started fully.


See you for TNF Week 4, Detroit at Green Bay, where we’ll try to win the Million DFS prize all alone this time. Baby steps …