The Defenses and Special Teams 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 Two
The following defenses have the two highest salaries on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
- Baltimore Ravens ($3,800 DraftKings, $4,800 FanDuel)
- Jacksonville Jaguars ($3,700 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel)
Let’s bull rush.
Nathan Peterman? Yes, Please.
Loose Week 1 pricing allows you to do basically whatever you want in lineup construction, so paying up for the Ravens will be a popular strategy in an ideal spot against Peterman and the Bills as a 7.5-point home favorite.
You don’t need me to remind you that Peterman threw five interceptions in a half of NFL action last year, but when facing pressure, he was probably even worse than you remember: Of 49 quarterbacks with at least 50 total dropbacks, Peterman ranked 42nd in passer rating (37.0) while under pressure (Pro Football Focus).
He’s been much more competent in those situations with a 115.0 passer rating in the preseason, but even if he falls somewhere in the middle, it’s still a strong matchup for the Ravens against a Bills offensive line that ranked 31st in Adjusted Sack Rate in 2017 (Football Outsiders). In our NFL Models, the Baltimore defense is tied for the third-most projected sacks on the main slate. They finished second in pass Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) last year.
Can’t Spell Elite Without Eli
Just kidding. But actually, the matchup probably isn’t as great as you may think, as Giants QB Eli Manning has limited turnovers and sacks historically: Only 5.2% and 2.4% of Manning’s snaps have resulted in a sack or interception, respectively, over the past year. In addition, the Giants are likely to lean more heavily on the run this year after selecting Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall in the draft. Limited pass attempts is not ideal for defensive scoring, but the Jaguars defense always carries immense upside and will come at significantly lower ownership than Baltimore. The Jags are slight road favorites (-3) and are projected for a middling 2.4 projected sacks.
Per our Trends tool, similarly priced road defenses with comparable Vegas data and projected sacks have provided a FanDuel Plus/Minus of only +0.29 at a low ownership rate of 3.8% in large guaranteed prize pools.
Running the Arc
Attack the edge.
New England Patriots ($2,400 DraftKings, $4,200 FanDuel): With an 80% Bargain Rating on DraftKings, the Pats look like the clear value option to attack as a home favorite with a six-point spread. Their Projected Plus/Minus is by far the highest of any defense in the slate, despite the perceived tough matchup against Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.
In contrast to Eli, it makes a lot of sense to go after a player such as Watson because he takes sacks. Only Tyrod Taylor (10.0%) and Sam Bradford (10.6%) have taken a higher percentage sacks over the past year. The Patriots pressure at an above-average rate, finishing 10th in Adjusted Sack Rate in 2017, and the Texans own the worst offensive line ranking in the league going into the season (PFF).
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Pittsburgh Steelers ($3,400 DraftKings, $4,200 FanDuel): Pittsburgh’s 3.2 projected sacks in our Models is the highest projection on the slate this week, and the Steelers finished first in Adjusted Sack Rate in 2017. Their 11.22% sack percentage over the last year trails only Jacksonville’s (11.27%) for the slate lead. They travel to Cleveland as slight favorites (-3) to take on TyGod, who has taken the second-most sacks of any quarterback on the slate over the past year.
New Orleans Saints ($3,600 DraftKings, $4,600 FanDuel): The Saints trail only the Ravens and Jaguars in both interception rate (3.48%) and takeaway rate (2.04%) over the past year. Ryan Fitzpatrick is another quarterback who has done a decent job at limiting turnovers, but New Orleans comes in as the slate’s largest favorite (-9.5). Historically, home favorite defenses with comparable spreads have provided a +0.83 DraftKings Plus/Minus and 52.3% Consistency Rating.
Los Angeles Chargers ($2,800 DraftKings, $4,300 FanDuel): The Chargers are probably the most reasonable pivot away from the Patriots at the low end of the salary scale. In limited NFL action, Patrick Mahomes sports the fifth-highest interception rate on the slate, and the Chargers finished seventh in Adjusted Sack Rate in 2017. The Chiefs’ defense is below average, so it’s reasonable to believe that game script could lead to more passing attempts on the Kansas City side.
Be sure to check out our industry-leading NFL News and Models, along with our Multi-Lineup Builder, Stack builder, ownership projections and more. Also, make sure to check out our other tools for the 2018 season, including the Matchups page, DFS Contests Dashboard, NFL Ownership page, and NFL Correlations page.
Pictured above: Marlon Humphrey (29) and C.J. Mosley (57)
Photo credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports