The Defenses and Kickers Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL homepage.
The Big 3 Defenses
The Broncos play on Sunday Night Football this week, so even though they are the highest-priced defense on both sites they are excluded from DraftKings’ main slate and therefore not included in this breakdown.
Per the Trends tool, so far this season defenses with a salary of at least $3,500 on DraftKings (28 teams) have averaged 9.50 points with a +1.31 Plus/Minus, while defenses with a salary of at least $4,800 on FanDuel (27 teams) have averaged 7.31 points with a +0.32 Plus/Minus. More than a quarter of the way through the season, paying up for defenses has been more valuable on DraftKings.
- Houston ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel)
- Jacksonville ($3,600 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel)
- Atlanta ($3,500 DraftKings, $5,000 FanDuel)
Let’s swim move.
J.J. Watt — a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year — broke his left leg on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. Whitney Mercilus (second-team All Pro last season) was lost for the season in the same game. Even with those injuries, the Houston Texans are the highest-priced defense not named the Broncos on both sites this week. The Texans welcome the Browns to Houston and are large 10-point favorites. In 18 games as a home favorite since 2014, Houston has averaged 10.50 points with a +2.69 Plus/Minus on DraftKings and 10.17 points with a +2.72 Plus/Minus on FanDuel. The Browns have allowed the highest Opponent Plus/Minus (+3.4), and opposing defenses are averaging 11.4 points per game against them this season.
Per Pro Football Reference, through the first five games of the season, 11.5 percent of drives against Houston have ended in an offensive turnover (13th-most). The Texans have registered 11 sacks (tied for 19th) and four interceptions (tied for 10th). Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer leads the NFL in interceptions thrown with nine, but he has been benched in favor of Kevin Hogan, who has thrown two interceptions and been sacked twice in 38 pass attempts this year. His 6.7 percent past-year interception rate is the highest mark of the week, although it is in a small sample. Paying up for the Texans or not will be a big question in GPPs this week.
The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is legit. Last week they went into Pittsburgh as large underdogs and whopped the Steelers with two sacks, five interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, and a massive 28.0 points as a D/ST unit. In fact, if you remove their inexplicable Week 2 performance in which they scored negative points, the Jaguars are averaging 20.75 PPG. Jacksonville currently has the top sack projection in our Models (3.3) and are implied to hold the high-scoring Rams to just 20 points.
Per Pro Football Reference, the Jaguars have held opponents to the second-lowest scoring percentage (27 percent) in the league while leading the NFL in turnover percentage (23.8 percent). They also lead the league in interceptions (10) and sacks (20). On the other side, the Rams have allowed the most points per game to running backs on FanDuel (27.1) and the fourth-most on DraftKings (29.7), which means stacking Leonard Fournette with the Jacksonville defense could be wise in tournaments. Although, if you wanted to win all the guaranteed prize pool (GPP) monies with this stack, you should have played it last week: According to our NFL Contests Dashboard, just 0.27 percent of lineups did so in the Millionaire Maker.
The House That Home Depot Built
Favored by a slate-high 11.5 points at home, the Atlanta Falcons welcome in a lifeless Miami Dolphins team that has scored the fewest points (10.2) and gained the fewest yards per game (231.2) in the NFL this season. The Falcons are coming off a bye and have had two weeks to prepare for a team quarterbacked by the perennially-awful Jay Cutler. Their offensive line coach just resigned for . . . reasons. The Falcons may register 476 sacks on Sunday (that’s hyperbole). Don’t overthink this: Release the red birds! While the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is not yet on par with the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — the Coors Field of fantasy football — Falcons supporters should still consider stacking the D/ST with Devonta Freeman, who has crushed as a big home favorite. He’s averaged 27.36 points with a +10.60 Plus/Minus on DraftKings and 23.76 points with a +9.99 Plus/Minus on FanDuel when playing at home favored by a touchdown or more.
Bump and Run
Jam ’em at the line.
New England Patriots ($3,300 DraftKings, $4,600 FanDuel): The Patriots defense has been terrible this season, posting a -3.83 Plus/Minus on DraftKings and a -3.36 Plus/Minus on FanDuel. That said, they have the highest projected sack total (3.3) and the seventh-highest projected ceiling on both sites this week. The Patriots are 9.5-point road favorites traveling to play the Jets on 10 days rest. The Jets offense has accumulated the seventh-fewest yards (300.8) and 10th-fewest points per game (18.4) this season; quarterback Josh McCown has been sacked 15 times.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($2,600 DraftKings, $4,400 FanDuel): Currently the No. 1 rated defense in the CSURAM88 Model for DraftKings, Tampa Bay has the third-highest interception percentage (3.05 percent) and takeaway percentage (1.81 percent) in our NFL Models this week. Their 14.7-point projected ceiling is sixth-highest on DraftKings, where they are projected to be owned at less than five percent.
The One Big Kicker
Let’s put it through the uprights.
The Patriots are playing, so once again Stephen Gostkowski ($5,300) is the highest-priced kicker on the slate. New England is currently implied to score 28.5 points (third-best), and Gostkowski’s 12.0-point projection is tied for the highest of the week. Per the Trends tool, kickers playing on the road as favorites in division games have averaged 8.82 points with a +0.67 Plus/Minus and 52.4 percent Consistency. In seven games within those parameters, Gostkowski has been steady, eclipsing his salary-based expectations in five games and scoring double-digit points in four of them.
The Onside Kick
Get the hands team out there.
Jason Myers ($4,500): Myers and his +3.47 Projected Plus/Minus (fourth-best) at a projected zero to one percent ownership could be stacked with the elite Jaguars D/ST for a fine GPP play. Myers has scored 20 points in two home games this season, and he comes at the minimum salary this week — $800 less than Gostkowski. Myers is tied for the sixth-most field goal attempts with 12 and tied for the second-most point after attempts with 15. During his career, Myers has averaged 9.60 points and a +1.69 Plus/Minus in 15 home games.
Dustin Hopkins ($4,700): Hopkins’ Redskins are currently implied to score a slate-high 28.8 points as 10.5-point home favorites against San Francisco. Per the Trends tool, kickers playing on teams implied to score at least 27 points have averaged 9.30 points and a +1.11 Plus/Minus with 55.4 percent Consistency. Hopkins is currently the No. 1 rated kicker in the CSURAM88 Model.