NFL Week 1 features a Sunday Night Football matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams starting at 8:20 p.m. ET.
If you’re unfamiliar with the single-game NFL DFS format, it differs a bit on DraftKings and FanDuel. On DraftKings, you have one “captain” spot and five flexes. The captain will score 1.5x fantasy points, but he also costs 1.5x salary. That means if you want to roster Matthew Stafford at Captain and take advantage of the scoring boost, you’ll have to pay $17,400 as opposed to $11,600.
FanDuel’s single-game format features one “MVP” spot and four flexes. The MVP also scores 1.5x fantasy points, but he doesn’t cost any additional salary. That takes away a bit of the strategy and makes the goal simple: Get your highest-scoring player in the MVP spot.
This slate is a bit lacking from a stud perspective. Only two players are priced above $10,000 on DraftKings, and the offensive production is expected to be limited. The total on this game sits at 46.5 points, and both of these teams have quality defenses.
Stafford is the highest-priced player across the industry, and he owns the top median, ceiling, and floor projections in our NFL Models. This will be his first game with the Rams, who represent a clear upgrade from his previous team. The Lions struggled to surround him with much talent – particularly in recent years – but Stafford was still an excellent quarterback in Detroit. He ranked 12th in adjusted yards per attempt last season, despite the fact that Kenny Golladay was injured for most of the year. He ranked second in that department in 2019 when the Lions’ receiving corps was largely healthy.
Stafford will take the field as a 7.5-point home favorite on Sunday, which is a situation he rarely saw during the end of his tenure with the Lions. That said, he has averaged a Plus/Minus of +2.08 in eight games as a home favorite of at least seven points since 2014 (per the Trends tool).
Allen Robinson is the other stud option on this slate. He’s like Stafford in that he’s another excellent player who has spent the prime of his career in bad situations. Unlike Stafford, Robinson is back with his old team for another go-around in 2021-22.
Still, Robinson has proven he can make the most of a bad situation. He put together another excellent campaign last year, finishing with 102 receptions, 1,250 receiving yards, and six touchdowns.
Unfortunately, this is a brutal matchup for Robinson. The Rams have a pair of excellent corners in Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams, who both owned top-10 grades at the position last year per Pro Football Focus. Robinson does have a winnable matchup against slot corner David Long Jr., but Robinson only lined up in the slot on 29% of the snaps last season. Overall, Robinson owns an Opponent Plus/Minus of -1.9, which is one of the lowest marks on the slate.
Andy Dalton is the Bears’ starting quarterback for the time being, but he’s definitely on the hot seat. There’s no doubt that Justin Fields will take over at some point this season, so Dalton is going to be evaluated on nearly a per-play basis.
Things aren’t going to be easy for Dalton on Sunday. The Rams have one of the best defenses in the league, and they finished fourth in Football Outsiders‘ defensive DVOA last year. They have an elite pass rush to go along with their excellent secondary, so they’re unsurprisingly a brutal matchup for opposing quarterbacks. Dalton owns an Opponent Plus/Minus of -4.1, which is the second-worst mark on the slate.
However, it’s impossible to completely ignore Dalton. He’s priced at just $9,800 on DraftKings, which is dirt cheap for a quarterback in the single-game format. He owns the second-highest ceiling projection in our Models, so he’s still worth some consideration.
The Rams’ wide receiver duo of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp headline this price range. Both players have provided excellent production in the past, and things should only get better with Stafford under center.
The only real question is how the targets will shake out between both players. Kupp had a slight edge in that department last year – he averaged 8.3 targets per game, Woods averaged 8.1 – but there’s no guarantee that stays the same with Stafford. Goff averaged just 6.5 intended air yards per pass last season, while Stafford’s mark of 9.0 was significantly higher. More air yards per throw seems to fit Woods’ skill set better than it does Kupp’s.
Both players are strong options on this slate, but I give Woods the advantage.
David Montgomery is yet another member of the Bears with a dreadful matchup. The Rams were even better against the run than they were against the pass last year, ranking third in rush defense DVOA.
Montgomery has been a bit of a disappointment since entering the league, but he put together the best stretch of his career to finish last season. He averaged just under 100 rushing yards and 38 receiving yards over his final six games, and he also added eight touchdowns. With that in mind, it’s possible he’s underpriced to start the year, particularly on DraftKings given his Bargain Rating of 96%.
The Rams’ RB situation will be important to monitor in this game. Darrell Henderson was the presumed starter after Cam Akers suffered a season-ending injury, but the team traded for Sony Michel late during the preseason. Michel is reportedly still learning the playbook, but Michel is tentatively expected to suit up this week.
Michel could eventually be the guy in the Rams’ backfield, but Henderson seems like the guy for this week. That makes him an appealing option in this contest. The Bears had an excellent run defense last year, but the game script is arguably more important than the matchup at running back. Large favorites have historically provided excellent value at the position, and Henderson fits that description vs. the Bears.
Tyler Higbee is a bit overpriced on DraftKings, but his $8,500 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 92%. He should handle most of the tight end responsibilities for the Rams this season after previously splitting the role with Gerald Everett. The Rams were merely 19th in DVOA vs. the TE position last year, so it’s a decent matchup.
Darnell Mooney is officially listed as questionable, but he was able to practice in full on Friday. That means he should be in the lineup on Sunday night. He generated some buzz as a breakout candidate during the offseason, especially after the team traded away Anthony Miller. Head coach Matt Nagy also praised his route running during training camp and compared him to guys like Tyreek Hill and DeSean Jackson.
His stock may be pointing up, but it’s hard to like him against the Rams. Unlike Robinson, Mooney very rarely plays in the slot, which means almost all of his snaps will come against Ramsey and Williams. Both players allowed a catch rate of just 50% last year and limited receivers to 0.18 fantasy points per route run or less.
Cole Kmet is another potential breakout candidate for the Bears this season. He’s entering his second season, and he possesses excellent athleticism at the tight end position. He started last year behind Jimmy Graham on the depth chart, but he played on at least 85% of the Bears’ offensive snaps in each of the final four games. The Rams were mediocre against opposing tight ends last year, giving Kmet an Opponent Plus/Minus of +2.2.
- Jimmy Graham ($4,600 on DraftKings, $6,500 on FanDuel): Even though Graham’s snaps declined towards the end of the year, he remained a threat in the passing game. He caught three touchdowns over the final four games, and he should remain a factor in the red zone.
- Defenses & Kickers: These options are always viable on the single-game format. The Rams D is pricy on DraftKings, but they could wreak some havoc against Dalton. He’s historically struggled when facing pressure, and the Rams figure to have him under duress. The other options are significantly cheaper, which makes them fine value options in the right lineups. That said, make sure your lineups are correlated.
- Marquise Goodwin ($4,200 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): Goodwin should operate as the Bears’ No. 3 wide receiver this season, which is enough to make him a viable option.
- Damien Williams ($2,200 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel): He should serve as the Bears No. 2 running back behind Montgomery for as long as Tarik Cohen is sidelined. That said, it remains to be seen how large his role will be, especially after sitting out last season.
- DeSean Jackson ($1,400 on DraftKings, $7,000 on FanDuel): This price tag on Jackson is absolutely criminal. He’s a boom-or-bust player, but he’s going to be a part of the Rams’ offense this season. He should see plenty of snaps, and he’s always a threat to take one to the house. He’s way too cheap across the industry.
- Van Jefferson ($800 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel): Jefferson should also be in the mix for the Rams at receiver, and he doesn’t need to do much to pay off his current price tag. That said, he’s way down in the pecking order.
- Tutu Atwell ($600 on DraftKings, $5,500 on FanDuel): Atwell is in a similar spot as Jefferson, but he’s even cheaper across the industry. He also was a big-play threat in college, giving him a bit more upside.
Pictured above: DeSean Jackson
Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images