This series uses the FantasyLabs Tools to analyze the relevant players from the best NFL games of the week. The series does not provide play or fade recommendations. It provides analysis by looking at the dynamics of expected game flow, pace, Vegas lines, and advanced analytics.
New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots
Since they signed Drew Brees in 2006, the Saints have never finished outside the top-six in total yards, top-12 in points scored, top-10 in total plays, top-eight in yards per drive, top-10 in plays per drive, and top-12 in points per drive. They have also been top-five in pass volume 10 times in the Brees era, and it’s likely the team will continue to rely on Brees to throw a lot. And importantly, they also play fast: Last year they were second in neutral pace (Football Outsiders).
Offensively, the Patriots have arguably been even better than the Saints over the last decade. They’ve been top-six in points per drive each year, top-six in neutral pace (Football Outsiders) in every year but one, and top-12 in offensive scoring and play volume in every season since 2001 and 2004, respectively. In the 17-year Belichick era, the Pats have been top-12 in pass attempts and rush attempts in 76.5 and 64.7 percent of seasons.
Even though on the surface both teams should be pass-heavy, the Saints and Patriots seemingly went out of their way to create (at minimum) a three-headed backfield in the offseason with a concerted effort towards efficiency and versatility.
The over/under opened at 54 points — highest of the week (per the Vegas Dashboard) — and the spread favors the Patriots on the road by just two points. New England covered the spread at the highest rate of any team last season at 13-3 ATS, but they also just got thumped 42-27 by the Chiefs in their home opener. Neither defense played well in Week 1, allowing 42 and 29 points to Alex Smith and Sam Bradford, and the Saints are also on a short week. In contrast, by the time this game kicks off, Belichick and the Patriots will have had 10 days to right the ship after a disastrous TNF. It’s probably not wise to bet against angry Tom Brady in Week 2, especially against one of the worst defenses in the league that allowed the sixth-most DraftKings points to quarterbacks in 2016.
On the other side, the Brees-Michael Thomas stack will likely be chalky. Brees has a fantasy points correlation value of 0.47 with Thomas and a 0.56 ownership correlation (per our NFL Correlations page). One way to differentiate this stack could be to roll it back with a #RevengeGameNarrative in Brandin Cooks, but that could still be popular. Here are the correlation values for actual fantasy points versus the ownership values (based on positions):
The ownership correlation between Brees, Thomas, and Cooks could be lower than traditional stacks, despite the fact that they have very correlated outcomes. If you want to stack Brees with Thomas, do it with our Lineup Builder. Correlations provide a huge edge in GPPs, as they provide free upside, and there are many secrets yet to be found within the FantasyLabs Tools.
Drew Brees, QB
Per our Saints Fantasy Preview, Brees has led the league in passing yards in seven of the last 11 years and hasn’t thrown for fewer than 30 touchdowns in a season in nine years. In similar situations in the Coors Field of NFL DFS as an underdog, Brees has previously produced 25.12 DraftKings PPG with a +5.40 Plus/Minus at 7.7 percent ownership (via our Trends tool).
Michael Thomas, WR
Thomas led the team in targets (121) and receptions (92) and finished tied for third in the league with 11 targets inside the 10-yard line last year. The only NFL receivers in the modern era to match or surpass Thomas’ 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie are Randy Moss and Odell Beckham. He should bounce back this week after a subpar 5-45-0 stat line against Xavier Rhodes in Week 1.
Ted Ginn, WR
A high-upside correlation can be a great first step toward taking down a GPP, and Ginn (4.38-second 40) fits the bill against a Patriots team just days removed from allowing a 75-yard touchdown to speedster Tyreek Hill. Last year Ginn was 31st among wide receivers with a 1.74 YPRR. He contributed just 53 yards on five targets against Minnesota, but he played 67.7 percent of the snaps.
Tom Brady, QB
Brady has failed to throw a touchdown pass in just 14.3 percent of his 238 career regular season games, and his 44.4 percent completion percentage in Week 1 will likely be a big outlier this season. He also had a Rob Gronkowski touchdown called back. Road favorites in the Superdome have historically provided 25.29 DraftKings PPG with a +5.02 Plus/Minus.
Mike Gillislee, RB
Hot take: Three touchdowns will not happen again this week. That said, he did lead all players with six touches inside the 10-yard line (per the Week 2 Market Share Report).
Brandin Cooks, WR
Cooks smashed at home while a member of the Saints. In 21 games, he averaged 78.3 receiving yards per game (YPG), 0.67 touchdowns per game (TDPG), 18.07 DraftKings PPG, a +4.78 Plus/Minus, and a 66.7 percent Consistency Rating.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers
For a team that lost almost no one offensively from last year’s team, the Falcons are an offense in transition. Steve Sarkisian was hired to replace former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who left for the 49ers’ head job. Sarkisian seems to make a concerted effort to play to the strengths of his teams, and it’s very possible that he could rely on the Falcons running game in 2017. The Falcons were sixth in run/pass ratio under Shanahan last year.
The impact of Jordy Nelson on the Packers’ offense is vastly understated. They’ve finished outside the top-10 in scoring only once in the Aaron Rodgers era — the season Jordy tore his ACL — and last season was the only time the offense hasn’t been top-10 in neutral pace since 2011. They finished second in pass/run ratio in 2017.
The over/under sits at 53.5 points — second-highest of the week — featuring two teams implied for top-eight point totals and a tight spread of just two points in favor of the Falcons at home. Both passing offenses are usually prolific regardless of matchup, and the Green Bay and Atlanta secondaries were top-five in passing yards and touchdowns allowed in 2017; this game could easily shoot out.
The biggest overall defensive change in Atlanta is the return of shutdown cornerback Desmond Trufant, who last year missed Weeks 10-17 and the playoffs with a torn pectoral. Green Bay has one of the top defensive backfield duos in the league with Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but their corners are likely no better than replacement-level quality.
If paying up at receiver, Julio Jones is probably your guy this week. You can easily pair him with Matt Ryan in a stack, but it’s expensive. Rolling it back with Ty Montgomery should be strong game stack; the Falcons ranked 25th in pass DVOA to the running back position in 2017. Here are the correlation values for actual fantasy points versus the ownership values for these players (based on positions):
The actual points correlation values are still favorable with Ryan and Montgomery, but the addition of an opposing running back provides an even lower ownership correlation than an opponent’s WR1 (0.25), WR2 (0.20), or TE1 (0.21). Montgomery and Julio don’t necessarily correlate well in regards to actual points, but the combination is definitely a unique differentiator in tournaments.
Matt Ryan, QB
It’s unlikely that Ryan will repeat last year’s MVP performance, and his only touchdown in Week 1 went to Austin Hooper for a fluky 88-yard score. Prior to last year, his career-highs were a 68.6 percent completion rate (-1.3 percent differential), a 5.2 percent touchdown rate (-1.9), a 7.7 AY/A (-2.4), and a 73.5 QBR (-9.8). That said, Green Bay was 31st in yards and 29th in touchdowns allowed through the air last year and surrendered the seventh-most DraftKings PPG.
Julio Jones, WR
This could certainly be a Mount St. Julio eruption spot. His 30.7-point projected ceiling is a top-five mark among all position players this week.
Aaron Rodgers, QB
He started out slow but ultimately threw for over 300 yards against the Seahawks with a 66.7 percent completion rate. If this game indeed shoots out, Rodgers will certainly be involved.
Ty Montgomery, RB
He dominated the touches in the backfield in Week 1 with 23 touches on 90 percent of the snaps — rookie Jamaal Williams had two carries — and the Falcons just gave up 11 receptions to Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.
Randall Cobb, WR
All things considered, 2016 Cobb wasn’t even that bad. If we discount the three injury-impacted games in which he partially played, Cobb appeared in 13 games (including playoffs). In those games, he averaged 15.43 DraftKings PPG. Those who overlooked Cobb in Week 1 had to watch him eat 13 targets for a 9-85-0 stat line. He could abuse Brian Poole this week in the slot (per our NFL Matchups Dashboard).
Good luck, and be sure to read our positional breakdowns later in the week!
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players herein mentioned, as well as keep you up to date with our NFL Week 2 Injury Dashboard. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading NFL News feed: