Last week we saw the likes of Carson Palmer and Tom Brady overwhelmed in the face of constant pressure, while second-year pros Carson Wentz and Jared Goff each cashed in on their sub-$5,500 salaries on DraftKings by throwing for 300-plus yards. Let’s take a look at some of the marquee matchups along the line of scrimmage in this week’s front seven pass-game breakdown with help from our NFL Matchups Dashboard.
Arizona Cardinals (Carson Palmer) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Coming off a 27-of-48, one TD, and three INT performance against an (allegedly) bad Lions defense, it’s fair to wonder if the now 37-year-old Palmer is washed up. The loss of stud running back David Johnson (wrist), as well as former first-round pick and starting left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee, doubtful), certainly won’t help Palmer’s quest back to above-average, but a matchup with the Colts defense is potentially the best cure for any offense. Rams head coach Sean McVay is a talented offensive mind, but it’s fair to wonder if Week 1 was more a result of a defense replacing 11 starters from a unit that ranked dead last in pressures per game last season than a complete reinvention of Goff and the seemingly-inept Rams offense:
- Best single-game marks from Goff in 2015 (seven starts): 235 pass yards, 100.3 QB Rating, 65 percent completion rate, 7.16 adjusted yards per attempt
- Goff in Week 1: 306 yards, 117.9 rating, 72.4 percent rate, 11.25 AY/A
Overall, Goff completed over half (7) as many 20-plus yard passes as he did last season (12). Jon Bostic and Antonio Morrison were among PFF’s bottom-11 linebackers, while none of the defense’s other players to play at least 50 snaps managed to rank among the top-40 players at their position. That said, it’s not great in Arizona either, as tackles Jared Veldheer and John Wetzel ranked among the bottom-15 tackles in pass-blocking efficiency last week.
The loss of Humphries hurts, but this is still an offensive line with three proven pieces facing a Colts front seven with zero. Edge rushers John Simon and Jabaal Sheard are each on their third team in seven or less years, while their rotating cast of five defensive linemen has combined for 6.5 sacks since 2015. Palmer may be objectively #bad, but with reduced ownership across the board, it might be worth it to find out just how #bad the Colts defense is considering they were even worse at Lucas Oil Stadium last season:
Oakland Raiders (Derek Carr) vs. New York Jets
The Raiders make it a priority to protect Carr, as they’ve ranked among the top-five offensive lines in adjusted sack rate during each of the past three seasons. He was pressured on just 5/35 dropbacks in Week 1 against the Titans, and now he’ll head home to Oakland and face 2016’s worst defense in adjusted sack rate. The Jets’ defensive line has gotten worse this season with the loss of Sheldon Richardson, and they managed to pressure Tyrod Taylor on just 24.2 percent of his dropbacks despite Taylor taking the second-longest average time to throw in Week 1 (NFL Next-Gen Stats). Kony Ealy was a threat once upon a time but didn’t make the Patriots roster this offseason despite their third-round investment in him.
Last season, Carr posted a 25/3 touchdown/interception ratio when not under pressure. With the slate’s second-highest implied total, a fully-healthy cast of weapons, and sunny skies in Oakland, it doesn’t seem likely a Raiders offensive line that allowed a league-low 126 total pressures in 2016 will be any hindrance to Carr making plays. The presence of Marshawn Lynch didn’t stop Carr from attempting six passes in the red zone last week, matching his average from a season ago, which ranked fifth among all quarterbacks.
Monitor our Vegas Dashboard to see how the market views the Raiders every week, and study our DFS Contests Dashboard throughout the season to see how chalky Carr makes tournament rosters. Consult our Correlations Matrix to get a sense of Carr’s best stacking partners, and use our Lineup Builder to stack Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree with Carr.
Dallas Cowboys (Dak Prescott) vs. Denver Broncos
Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith probably has as good a chance at slowing down Von Miller as any player, but unfortunately for Prescott, Miller typically lines up over the right tackle. He’ll match up with La’el Collins, who is talented but making just his second NFL start at tackle after playing strictly guard during his first two seasons. So far the results haven’t been good against great competition, as Jason Pierre-Paul posted a top-15 pass-rush productivity score last week and Collins was called for three penalties against Khalil Mack and the Raiders during the Cowboys’ preseason dress rehearsal. Derek Wolfe posted the 11th-best pass-rushing productivity score among 49 full time interior defenders last season and will likely see a lot of the Cowboys’ other new offensive lineman Chaz Green, currently making the transition from tackle to guard.
While Miller and company present plenty of problems up front, there are even more question marks for the Cowboys in the Broncos’ secondary. Only Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady have cleared 250 passing yards at Mile High since 2015, and the Cowboys have the rushing game and overall offensive philosophy to play it safe and attack the Broncos’ bottom-five rush defense in adjusted line yards from a season ago. Prescott will also need to overcome his road struggles from last year, as he averaged just 15.9 DraftKings points per game (PPG) with a -0.1 Plus/Minus away from AT&T Stadium.
Philadelphia Eagles (Carson Wentz) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs managed to pressure Brady on 14/40 drop backs in Week 1, with Justin Houston posting the best pass-rushing productivity score of the week. The loss of Eric Berry hurts the defense’s chances at slowing down Zach Ertz, but it’s fair to wonder how Wentz will deal with an imposing pass rush. Last season he took the ninth-most time to throw among all quarterbacks and managed to hold the ball even longer on average in Week 1. This is particularly problematic given Wentz’s performance under pressure, as only Matt Barkley posted a worse QB Rating under pressure than Wentz last season. Jason Peters was one of the best pass-blocking tackles in the league in 2016, but he’ll have to fight through a groin injury as he goes to battle with Houston.
Last season’s Chiefs allowed 6.9 average net passing yards per attempt on the road but just 4.7 at home. Opposing passers completed just 55.7 percent of their passes in Arrowhead last season, and now they get to deal with a healthy version of one of 10 men to ever record 20-plus sacks in a season:
- Baltimore Ravens (Joe Flacco) vs. Cleveland Browns: Flacco has been much better at home (19.9 DraftKings PPG, +4.4 Plus/Minus) than on the road (16.0 PPG, +0.3 Plus/Minus) without an ownership premium since 2014. The Ravens’ offensive line has been a top-eight unit in adjusted sack rate for three consecutive seasons and gets a Browns defense without No. 1 pick Myles Garrett that forced a slate-low three pressures last week. This year, FantasyLabs users can review ownership trends across GPPs of various buy-in levels with our DFS Ownership Dashboard, which is reason enough to subscribe to FantasyLabs.
- New England Patriots (Tom Brady) vs. New Orleans Saints: The Saints aren’t the only team that thrives at the Coors Field of NFL DFS, and Brady and company currently have the highest implied score of Week 2 by 2.5 points. Houston and Dee Ford made life difficult for Brady last week to the tune of nine pressures, but things should be a tad easier against Cameron Jordan and Alex Okafor, who combined for just three pressures in 56 pass-rush snaps against the Vikings in Week 1.
- New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees) vs. New England Patriots: Death, taxes, and Brees at home. He gets a Patriots defense that allowed Alex Smith to throw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, all while taking the third-most time to throw among all quarterbacks in Week 1. Smith didn’t throw any touchdowns when holding the ball for 2.6 seconds or more last season, but he threw two such touchdowns in Week 1. Last season only Prescott completed a higher percentage of passes than Brees when taking more than 2.6 seconds to throw.
- Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson) vs. San Francisco 49ers: Wilson was running for his life in Green Bay last week, but now he gets a 49ers defense that forced the sixth-fewest pressures in the league last season. The Seahawks’ +12.5 PPG differential at home was the largest mark in the league in 2016.