This article is part of our DFS NFL series.
For the second straight week, we had a fairly significant upset on Monday Night Football in Week 8 when the Browns dismantled the Bengals after the Bears overtook the Patriots in Week 7. That's a good reminder that football is unpredictable, particularly when we're trying to forecast what will happen in a single game. That isn't to make an excuse for any predictions in this article that fail to come to fruition but is instead a reminder that a significant portion of success in DFS comes from trying to take advantage of situations in which the public has too much confidence in a specific outcome.
Let's shift the focus to Monday's matchup between the Saints and the Ravens. Somewhat surprisingly, the Ravens remain favorites even though both Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews are out while Gus Edwards and Demarcus Robinson also look unlikely to suit up. The Saints will be without Michael Thomas, though they've operated with Chris Olave as their primary receiver for several weeks and Jarvis Landry could return. Less surprising is that we've seen the total for the game shift down roughly 1.5 points (depending on the sportsbook) from 48.5 to 47. That leaves the Ravens with an implied total of 24 and the Saints 22.5.
Lamar Jackson ($12,400 DK, $17,000 FD) is the highest-priced player on the slate, regardless of position. He started the season by posting more than 40 fantasy points in two of his first three games, but he's failed to top 20 fantasy points in four of five games since. That's come primarily due to touchdown regression, as he tallied 12 total touchdowns in his first three games. In the last five games, he's managed only five — including none on the ground. That's not necessarily the string of trends you want to hear to sink 37 percent of the salary allocation to Captain Jackson on DraftKings and 28.3 percent of salary allocation on FanDuel. But that's not the end of the story. The Saints have allowed 16.4 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks — 17th in the league — and 12 total touchdowns in eight games this season They've faced two quarterbacks who could be compared at least somewhat comparably to Jackson from a rushing perspective in Marcus Mariota and Kyler Murray. Mariota ran the ball 12 times for 71 yards and one rushing score. Murray rushed seven times for 30 yards. When Jackson is right, he's far more dynamic than either of these quarterbacks and despite his struggles, he's topped 50 rushing yards in six of eight games. As we'll get to, Jackson is missing a lot of help around him in the offense, so despite the known upside he's a tough sell given his price. On the other hand, only Alvin Kamara provides upside that rivals or surpasses Jackson's in this matchup.
Andy Dalton ($10,200 DK, $15,000 FD) requires a significantly smaller proportion of salary, but for fairly obvious reasons. In five games, he's recorded 14 of fewer fantasy points on three occasions. However, he's scored 29.54 (32.54 on DK) and 17.16 in his last two starts. The Ravens have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season, but much of that number comes from a matchup against the Dolphins early this season. Since, they've held the likes of Josh Allen and Joe Burrow in check. The Ravens are roughly an average defense as measured by DVOA and are 12th in DVOA against the pass. With the potential for Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill to hog touchdowns, Dalton is easier for me to cross off.
Alvin Kamara ($11,400 DK, $15,500 FD) took advantage of a soft matchup against the Raiders in Week 8 to put up 42.8 DK points and 38.3 FD points. Previously, he had topped 20 points only once on both DK and FD on the campaign. However, his usage has been strong since returning from a rib injury Oct. 9, posting a minimum of 14 points in that span. Kamara's volume should be further insulated thanks to the absence of Mark Ingram. In terms of matchup, the Ravens allow the 19th most fantasy points per game to running backs, but interestingly the seventh-most receiving yards to running backs. We can't realistically predict two 100-yard bonuses on DK (for both rushing and receiving yards), but Kamara has that upside. Despite the tough matchup on paper, he's a strong play. There are no other backs worth covering in New Orleans, though Dwayne Washington ($200 DK, $5,000 FD) will serve as the backup to Kamara.
The Baltimore backfield is also relatively easy to break down. Kenyan Drake ($7,200 DK, $9,000 FD) looks likely to lead the backfield with Gus Edwards ($7,400 DK, $11,500 FD) considered doubtful. A quick note on Edwards, even if he is surprisingly active, I'd stay away. He exited last Thursday's game with a hamstring injury after being questionable while rehabbing from a torn ACL. The Ravens are likely to curtail his workload significantly if he plays, and he's at increased risk for another injury. Drake has quietly and surprisingly been very efficient on the ground in two of his last three games. With volume likely to follow, Drake could be in a strong position. The Saints have been tough on running backs as measured by both fantasy points and DOVA, but are not elite. Justice Hill ($2,200 DK, $7,000 FD) likely will back up Drake. The question is whether he will be a 1B, or change of pace back to Drake. His price is right, but the team has yet to give him more than eight rushes in a game. If he surpasses that number, he'll be a value. Hill's volume will depend on what the Ravens do with Mike Davis ($1,600 DK, $5,500 FD), who has been a healthy scratch for the last two games but likely will be active Monday. He could be a thorn in Hill's side, despite Hills' vastly superior efficiency.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Chris Olave ($8,600 DK, $13,000 FD) is the best pass catcher on either team with Mark Andrews out. He has a strong 26.3 percent target share for the season and 28.8 percent since Week 4 — since Michael Thomas has been sidelined. His numbers look inconsistent recently, but keep in mind he left due to injury in Week 5 and missed Week 6, had a big Week 7 performance and played only 57 percent of snaps in a blowout win over the Raiders in Week 8. Monday's game should be close, and there's no doubt he's the top wide receiver in New Orleans. After that, things become more difficult to project. Since Week 4, Marquez Callaway ($4,600 DK, $6,500 FD) has led the team in routes run. However, he's been targeted at only a 13.7 percent clip in that span and has a dreadful 0.93 yards per route run. Juwan Johnson ($4,400 DK, $8,000 FD) has actually been the next most involved player from a routes perspective, but his aDOT (7.4) ensures he has little upside barring a trip or two to the end zone, which he did in Week 7. Adam Trautman ($1,800 DK, $5,000 FD) has also been cleared to return from a two-game absence, which likely makes it so that neither he nor Johnson will see a reliable amount of targets.
The wild card to this group is Jarvis Landry ($5,200 DK, $7,500 FD), who is listed as questionable ahead of Monday's game. He's been sidelined since Week 4 and had seen a relatively small role on offense before going down, accounting for only 15 percent of targets. Of course, at that time Thomas was still on the field. Particularly on DK, Landry is priced down, and assuming full health he should be on the field for most offensive snaps. His return would crater the already limited value of Tre'Quan Smith ($3,400 DK, $6,500 FD), who was seeing less than 10 percent of targets from Weeks 4-8 despite the Saints' depleted wide receiver corps. Relative to Callaway, Smith posted a gaudy 1.33 yards per route run, but that's still not very good. If Landry is out, I'd be willing to pay down for Smith as compared to Callaway, but I'm not excited for either. Rashid Shaheed ($5,000 DK, $7,000 FD) has shown intriguing big-play potential in recent weeks, but has been priced all way up and has run only 25 routes across the last three weeks. That makes him unplayable if Landry returns, and overpriced (albeit with the chance to deliver a splash play) if Landry remains out. Since Taysom Hill's ($6,400 DK, $10,500 FD) three-touchdown explosion in Week 5, he's reached double-digit points only once on DK (10.4) and not at all on FanDuel. With Ingram out, he could see an expanded role as a rusher and near the goal-line. Touchdowns are extremely valuable on a showdown slate, but his role is bit thin from a projection standpoint. From a matchup perspective, the Ravens have surrendered the third-most yards to receivers, which is at odds with their above-average pass defense DOVA. Overall, I wouldn't worry too much about the matchup and would be very interested in Olave and potentially Landry on DK pending any reports that come out following this writeup. Finally, if Marcus Peters is out (he practiced in full Saturday), that would benefit the Saints.
In Baltimore, there is no Mark Andrews or Rashod Bateman. That leaves a combination of Devin Duvernay ($6,800 DK, $11,000 FD) and Isaiah Likely ($5,800 DK, $7,500 FD) as the presumed top targets in the offense. Duvernay has disappointed in the absence of Bateman and has topped 50 receiving yards only three times this season. The Ravens have given him seven carries this season, and he could be used creatively given the lack of depth in the backfield. Likely is a significant value given the absence of Andrews. He's not known for blocking, so may even split out wide rather than running routes from a traditional in-line position. Demarcus Robinson ($5,600 DK, $8,500 FD) popped up on the injury report Friday and didn't practice Saturday, which would only open more targets for Duvernay and Likely. James Proche ($3,800 DK, $5,000 FD) saw a season-high 62 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 8 and ran 24 routes. He'd turn into a significant value if Robinson was inactive, and he's a sneaky pivot off of Duvernay. That's true both because of price and also because we have seen Duvernay fail (relatively speaking) in the absence of Bateman. Proche may get his chance in this game, and we'll see if he can take advantage. Also worth monitoring are Josh Oliver ($1,200 DK, $5,500 FD) and Tylan Wallace ($200 DK,$5,000 FD), who have run 41 and 24 routes respectively this season. The Ravens will need to throw to someone and they are in punt ranges of pricing, which could help jam in Kamara and Olave without getting too thin on the rest of the roster. Both offenses should be relatively concentrated.
The Saints are in a similar position to the Ravens from a defensive perspective as they have allowed a lot of fantasy points but rank above average by DVOA. Two things of note: first, the Saints have allowed a league-low 4.6 fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. Likely doesn't profile as a traditional tight end, so I wouldn't read too much into that number. Marshon Lattimore also is out, which is a bump up for the outlook of the Baltimore pass catchers.
After a slow start from an opportunity perspective, Justin Tucker ($4,200 DK, $10,000 FD) has made multiple field goals in five consecutive games. He's uncharacteristically missed two field goals combined the last three weeks, albeit both were from more than 50 yards out and one was blocked. In a dome, he's a good bet to score plenty.
It's surprising that Wil Lutz ($4,000 DK, $9,000 FD) still has a job as he's made only 71 percent of his field-goal attempts this season. He's struggled from all but chip-shot range, including going 6-for-8 from 30-39 yards, 2-for-4 from 40-49 yards and 3-for-4 from 50-plus yards. Three of his five misses have come on the road, but no matter how it's broken down, Lutz has struggled.
As could be guessed from the conversations regarding matchups, there's not a huge difference between the Baltimore ($4,800 DK, $9,500 FD) and New Orleans ($3,600 ,$8,500 FD) defenses. Their respective sack rates are nearly identical, though Baltimore has picked off 1.0 passes per game while New Orleans is at 0.3. Andy Dalton has a 2.3 percent interception rate this season and could have a majority of his weapons back in this game, while Jackson has a 2.6 percent interception rate with a depleted skill-position group. Given the costs, context and home matchup, I'd actually lean toward rostering the Saints' defense and special teams unit.