The house always wins. Regular gamblers, moviegoers, and most people can recognize what this phrase means. When it comes to gambling over the long run, the casino/house will always win out. They have been doing it long enough to know all the tricks and all the ways to separate you from your money. What if we could work together with the house? What if we could use the years of knowledge and data that sportsbooks pour into game lines? What if we could harness this power to help win our dynasty fantasy football league?. This, my friends, is winning WITH Vegas.
If you are new to the series, please check out the explanation in the next two paragraphs. If you are a returning reader, you can just skip down to the games and players we picked this week. All lines are courtesy of Fanduel Sportsbook.
The premise of this series is to look at weekly over/unders and implied team totals to find fringe starters in our deeper fantasy football leagues. If these terms confuse you, don’t worry. Here is your crash course on sportsbook betting terminology we will be using. Every NFL game has three basic things to bet on; spread, money line, and over/unders. The spread is the number of points a team is projected to win or lose by. A team favored by -7 is projected to win by a touchdown or more. The reverse would be a team as +7 underdogs are projected to lose by a touchdown or less. Moneyline is just the straight up winner and over/under is the projected combined total of both teams’ scores.
In this series, we will be concerned with over/unders and spreads to figure out implied team totals. The implied team total would be the final projected score for a team based on Vegas lines. To figure this out, we must determine the final score Vegas is projecting. Let us set up a scenario where a game has an over/under of 42, and the favorite is projected to win by 8 points. We must use math to come up with a final score that will meet both of these criteria. In this example, a final score of 25 – 17 will match both projections. By going through every game in a week, we can quickly see which teams Vegas has scoring big, and that will give us a clue as to what players have the best touchdown upside.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans (-3)
Implied Final Score: Titans (28) Cardinals (25)
Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Arizona ran at least three wide receiver sets on 66% of their plays last season, and we do not project that number to change much in the 2021 season. Arizona saw Larry Fitzgerald replaced with AJ Green this offseason. One old wide receiver for another. Given that AJ Green will not see a 100% snap rate, we can project Rondale Moore to be on the field a decent amount of time. Being a rookie, preseason is the only data we have on Moore currently. He saw 47 total snaps in the preseason. In those 47 snaps, Moore saw 3 carries, 9 targets, and 6 receptions for 63 total yards. When on the field, they will try to get him the ball. Start him as a WR3/FLEX play for your team.
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Chase Edmonds is slated to be the starting running back for the Cardinals in Week One. However, there is one stat that most fantasy football managers don’t realize. In 2020, Chase only saw 14% of all the Red Zone touches. Kyler Murray accounted for 25%, and recent offseason departure Kenyan Drake saw 60% of the goal line work! It is safe to say that Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t trust Chase Edmonds inside the Red Zone. That leaves plenty of work for new RB James Conner. Conner can easily see himself finding the endzone in such a high-scoring affair. Start him as an RB3 with some serious RB2 upside, given the Red Zone work.
Seattle Seahawks (-3) at Indianapolis Colts
Implied Final Score: Seahawks (27) Colts (24)
Mo Alie-Cox, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Mo Alie-Cox is a big man, a very big man. Measuring at 6’ 4” and weighing in at 262 pounds, this man is the perfect Red Zone threat. It is also no lie that Carson Wentz loves to target his tight ends. According to this article by Scott Barrett on PFF.com, Wentz targets the tight ends at a rate of 32.4%, which is the highest in the league. Assuming that holds true and given the high scoring nature of this matchup, it would not be crazy to expect 12 to 13 targets to go the way of Jack Doyle or Mo Alie-Cox. If one or two of these occur in the red zone, Mo Alie-Cox can find himself in the TE2 or even low-end TE1 conversation.
Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Nyheim Hines was a thorn in the side of every Johnathan Taylor truther last year and will most likely do the same. He is an outstanding PPR running back catching passes out of the backfield. In a high scoring matchup like this one, you can expect Hines to receive a decent chunk of passing work. In the 2020 season, Hines was targeted at least 5 times in any game that totaled 40 points or more. This game will easily surpass 40 points and gives Hines enough passing game work to enter the low-end RB2 conversation this weekend.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)
Implied Final Score: Chiefs (30) Browns (25)
Donovan-Peoples Jones, WR, Cleveland Browns
Donovan-Peoples Jones has been a bit of a training camp/preseason darling filling an entire Twitter timeline with highlight reel catches. Jones was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school who saw himself fall to the sixth round of the 2020 NFL draft due to a lack of production at Michigan. There is no doubt that there is plenty of skill waiting to be unlocked. Odell Beckham Jr. is carrying a questionable designation going into Sunday’s shootout. For a dynasty roster hurting for wide receiver depth, you could do worse starting DPJ as a WR3 with WR2 upside if OBJ is on a snap count or misses the game.
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have a powerhouse offense. There is no doubt about that. However, behind Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, there is an extreme lack of depth. They have a trio of wide receivers competing for the third target share in this passing attack. They are Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, and Byron Pringle. Mecole serves more of a Tyreek Hill role and can be considered a direct handcuff to Hill. Pringle and Robinson will be competing this season for the targets that would have normally gone to Sammy Watkins in years past. Robinson is the one with more experience and production and is thus the safer bet. One good pass from Mahomes and Demarcus Robinson is quickly in the WR3 conversation with WR2 upside if Cleveland really focuses down on Hill and Kelce.
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I hope you enjoyed this dive into Vegas implied team totals, over/unders, and how math can help us in fantasy football. For more content like this, be sure to give me a follow on Twitter @DanT_NFL. DMs are always open for any questions, comments, or craft beer recommendations!