This has been the week of the surprise injury, starting with Travis Kelce suffering a knee injury that ultimately forced him to miss last night's game. The good news there is, Melissa Stark reported during the game that the Chiefs are "optimistic" that Kelce will be back for Week 2. And they really need him!
That's the good news. The bad news – or, at least, the new bad news – from Thursday was that Kenneth Walker found himself on the injury report with a groin injury, an especially ominous sign given that Walker missed time during camp with a groin injury. Walker was limited in Thursday's practice, but what isn't clear is whether he was "limited" because he had the injury coming in and they were managing his workload, or if he was "limited" because he had to leave practice and couldn't return.
Either way, it looks like Zach Charbonnet may be in line for a significant role a whole lot earlier than expected. You're going to have to keep a close eye on Walker's status on Friday's injury report, but if he's out, Charbonnet will likely come in as a low-end RB2 in my rankings.
Before we get to a recap of Lions-Chiefs, plus some DFS and prop talk, here's a quick recap of the latest injury news you need to know about from Thursday's practices:
- Terry McLaurin (toe) was upgraded to a full participant in practice Thursday, so it looks like he'll be out there for Week 1. He's in the WR2/3 range for me.
- Christian Watson (hamstring) didn't practice yet again, while Romeo Doubs was upgraded to limited. Watson could still get out there Friday, but at this point, I'm expecting he doesn't play.
- Jerry Jeudy (hamstring) was limited again Thursday. I'm not expecting Jeudy to play, but it's good news that he seemingly avoided a setback in his return to the practice field Wednesday.
- Kendre Miller (hamstring) didn't practice again. We might be in line for a ton of Jamaal Williams this week, and he looks like he could be an RB2.
- Mark Andrews (quad) and George Kittle (abdomen) were both limited Thursday. I'm expecting both to play.
- The Jets logged their first practice of the week Thursday, and Dalvin Cook was not listed on the report. Breece Hall (knee) was limited, but both are expected to play. I'm betting on Cook being the lead, but I would prefer not to have to trust either.
We'll have updates on every injury you need to know about come Sunday morning to make sure you're ready to set your lineup for good, and I'll be answering some of your questions Sunday morning too – both here and on the Fantasy Football Today YouTube channel starting at 11:30 a.m. ET. Join Adam Aizer and I Sunday morning to get your questions answered, or email me directly at Chris.Towers@Paramount.com with the subject line "#AskFFT" to be included.
Now, here's today's newsletter, starting with my recap of the Lions' surprising win over the defending champs:
TNF recap: Lions 21, Chiefs 20
The big takeaway
The Chiefs could be an even bigger headache than usual. It's pretty hard to judge what this offense was supposed to look like without Kelce, but what it actually looked like was kind of a disaster, at least for our purposes. On a night when Patrick Mahomes threw 39 passes, no player had more than five targets – Noah Gray, Rashee Rice, and Kadarius Toney led the way with five each, though none had more than 31 yards. Toney and Skyy Moore were by far the two most highly drafted Chiefs wide receivers, and they combined for one catch for 1 yard on eight targets in this one. Mahomes still managed 23.5 points in six-per-pass-TD leagues despite an interception that went off both of Toney's hands and not having Kelce, because he might just be the best to ever do it, but the rest of this offense doesn't look worth chasing. Rice will get some buzz after an early touchdown, but he wasn't close to a full-time player in this one, running routes on just 12 of 45 dropbacks, so I wouldn't be looking to break the bank on him in FAB. But if you've got a roster spot to play with, he did play a bigger role than expected in Week 1, and nobody ahead of him looked like they will be insurmountable challenges to overcome. That role may continue to grow, and he showed a knack for earning targets in the preseason, too. He might just end up the best WR here.
One more big takeaway
Jahmyr Gibbs' usage was incredibly disappointing. I'm not surprised that Dan Campbell leaned heavily on the veteran in the running game, but Gibbs really wasn't a factor in the passing game, and that's a lot harder to make sense of. Gibbs was targeted just twice on Jared Goff's 35 passes, despite looking like the dynamic playmaker we expected to see pretty much every time he touched the ball. I ranked Gibbs as a top-15 back for this week, and that was a mistake. But I still think he'll get to that level eventually, even if David Montgomery still has a significant role all season. I said before the season there's room for both to be top-24 running backs, and I still believe that, but they'll have to give Gibbs more looks in the passing game to get there – he ran a route on just nine of 36 dropbacks, compared to 20 for David Montgomery, and that split just doesn't make sense. If there's any kind of buy-low window, take it.
David Montgomery. I mean, look, we know who Montgomery is, and he looked like him in this game. He's a tough runner who does a great job of breaking tackles, and he's a load to bring down, but he just doesn't have any top-end speed. In an offense that creates a lot of holes in the running game and likes to pound it near the goal line, that's going to lead to a lot of nights like this, where he ran for 74 yards and a touchdown. Gibbs is clearly the more explosive and dynamic player, but I'd be surprised if he ever got to more than a 50-50 split in the running game. And that's fine – Gibbs is a smaller back, and limiting his between-the-tackles exposure while focusing on high-value touches in space is probably the best thing for his health, this offense, and his Fantasy value in the long run. But Montgomery is going to matter, no matter how much Fantasy Football players gripe about it on Twitter.
Skyy Moore. I had Moore as a top-36 WR for the season and a top-30 WR for this week, which may end up going down as one of the worst calls of my career. It's not that Moore didn't play enough snaps or run enough routes – he led the team's WRs in snaps and was second with 29 routes on 45 pass plays. A 64% route participation rate isn't great, but it could be viable with how much the Chiefs drop back to pass. The problem here was that Moore was just out there running routes, and not actually earning targets – he got three of them, all in the second half, and he couldn't bring any of them down. I don't want to write Moore off, and I'm not dropping him. But this was an incredibly discouraging showing from Moore, who was targeted on a middling-but-not-terrible 19.9% of his routes last season, a similar mark that JuJu Smith-Schuster posted in this same offense. If he can get back to that while running 30-ish routes per game, he could still matter for Fantasy. But my confidence is definitely shaken, and another game like this will put Moore firmly in droppable territory. What a disaster.
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Top DFS picks
If you want to take your DFS play seriously, I'd suggest heading over to SportsLine and subscribing to see what Jacob Gibbs and Mike McClure have to say about this weekend's slate. It doesn't take an expert to have Justin Jefferson as the top wide receiver for DFS, as I do, of course, but Jacob is in on Amari Cooper ($5,800 on DraftKings, $6,700 on FanDuel) as one of the better underpriced options at the position.
Cooper isn't one of my top options, but I'll grant I may be underrating him and this entire Browns passing game. The Browns have been an extremely conservative offense during the Kevin Stefanski era, but there were some signs that might be changing in the preseason – the Browns ran 46 plays with an empty backfield in the preseason, the highest mark in the NFL by far, with the next highest running just 24 plays. That could indicate a more pass-heavy approach than we've been used to seeing from this team, which could benefit Cooper, who garnered a solid 23% target share from Deshaun Watson last season. If Watson takes a big step forward, Cooper has top-12 upside. I'm definitely a bit worried I'm too low on them.
Based on my projections and analysis for Week 1, here are my top plays at each position:
Top QB plays
There's a bit more variance in the ranges of QB pricing at DraftKings, which makes it a bit easier to justify using someone like Howell or Love in a tournament especially. Howell especially has the kind of rushing potential to be a very useful Fantasy option, and the matchup against the (let's be honest, tanking) Cardinals is a nice soft landing spot. Having Terry McLaurin active should help, too. The biggest concern here is that the Commanders might not have to throw the ball much, and as they showed late last season, they're perfectly comfortable adopting a grind-it-out style on offense. Still, if you want to save some money in a tournament, Howell is a nice option.
Howell is $7100 on FanDuel, while Love is $6400, so it doesn't make as much sense to go cheap there. That pushes Smith up to the top of my rankings against a Rams defense that is very much in rebuild mode after trading Jalen Ramsey this offseason. The Seahawks were surprisingly pass-heavy last season and added Jaxon Smith-Njigba, arguably the best WR in the class, in the first-round of the NFL Draft. I had Smith projected as a top-10 QB coming into the season, and that's true for Week 1.
Top RB plays
- Deon Jackson vs. JAX – $4100
- Miles Sanders @ATL – $5600
- Jamaal Williams vs. TEN – $5100
- Dameon Pierce @BAL – $5800
- Khalil Herbert vs. GB – $5300
Obviously, Jackson depends on Zack Moss' status, but if he's the starting back for the Colts, I think he's a solid RB3 for redraft, and a terrific value in DFS. He showed pass-catching chops as a rookie – including 10 catches in a start against the Jaguars in Week 6 – and while I don't expect Anthony Richardson to dump off as often as Matt Ryan did, Jackson should still be in line for double-digit touches as a very cheap play.
I also want to highlight Williams, who might play 70% or more of the snaps this week if Kendre Miller (hamstring/knee) can't go. Williams was just a between-the-tackles grinder last season for the Lions, but he's been a three-down back before, and I think the Saints will use him as one if Miller is out.
- Bijan Robinson vs. CAR – $7800
- Deon Jackson vs. JAX – $5600
- Nick Chubb vs. CIN – $8600
- Joe Mixon @CLE – $7500
- Dameon Pierce @BAL – $6200
This might be the only week we can take advantage of a little bit of inefficiency with Robinson's pricing, as he ended up a top-three RB in nearly all drafts but is the sixth-most expensive RB on the slate even with Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard not included. I don't really expect the Falcons to work him in slowly at all, and while the Panthers were actually pretty good against RBs last season, I don't expect that to really matter for a player like Robinson. He should probably be $8000-plus every week moving forward.
Top WR plays
- Deebo Samuel @PIT – $5500
- Elijah Moore vs. CIN – $3800
- Puka Nacua @SEA – $3000
- Michael Wilson @WAS – $3000
- Justin Jefferson vs. TB – $8800
Alright, let's talk about those low-salary guys. They're dart throws, but both Wilson and Nacua should be on the field plenty. I feel more confident in Wilson being on the field a bunch in his NFL debut, but I think Nacua is probably more likely to earn targets when he's on the field – they're both late-round picks, so I don't want to say anything with much certainty about them. But the Rams have had a lot of positive things to say about Nacua since drafting him, and his after-the-catch skills could be valuable with Cooper Kupp out. There's a decent chance both players give you nothing, but at their prices, you can get a lot of flexibility with the rest of your lineup.
- Justin Jefferson vs. TB – $9500
- Ja'Marr Chase @CLE – $8500
- Jordan Addison vs. TB – $5500
- A.J. Brown @NE – $8100
- Courtland Sutton vs. LV – $5900
There just aren't as many WR values on FanDuel, so I'm paying up for the elite guys here and finding my values elsewhere. Sutton and Addison are key exceptions. Sutton averages 82 yards per game on 5.7 catches in nine games with Jerry Jeudy inactive over the past three seasons, and is a rare situation where there really does seem to be a pseudo-handcuff usage for wide receivers. And Addison is a top-30 WR for me before he even plays a snap, because he's locked into a starting role on what might be a top-three passing offense. He was a very productive young player in college with a first-round pedigree, and could be stepping into a 120-plus target role. I'm betting this is the cheapest he'll be all season.
Top TE plays
Musgrave is locked in as the Packers' top tight end, and could be relied on even more than expected in Week 1, with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs both uncertain with hamstring injuries. It's Musgrave's first NFL game, so we really don't know what to expect, but I'm ranking him as a high-end TE2 given the opportunity, and I think he could be a big part of the Packers offense as a vertical threat up the seams. He's not a must-start option in re-draft, but I like him at this price for sure.
Higbee seems well positioned for a solid start to the season, though I like him more in full-PPR formats, because he hasn't shown much ability to be a big-play threat in this Rams offense. Pitts, of course, should be, but this is one No. 1 ranking that I'm not particularly comfortable with. In cash games, I definitely wouldn't roll with him, because I'm just not sure I trust Arthur Smith and the Falcons to use him as a full-time player, especially in his first game back from a knee injury that ended his second season prematurely and still limited him at times in camp. But, if he is running routes on 80% of their dropbacks, Pitts' big-play abilities can still make him an elite Fantasy option.
Sample DraftKings lineup
- QB Sam Howell $4900
- RB Christian McCaffrey $8700
- RB Miles Sanders $5600
- WR Justin Jefferson $8800
- WR Tyreek Hill $8200
- WR Puka Nacua $3000
- TE Luke Musgrave $2900
- FLEX Jamaal Williams $5100
- DST Commanders $2800*
*The Commanders were my go-to DST in my drafts this season, and they're my go-to for the matchup against Joshua Dobbs and the Cardinals. They're in both of these lineups.
Sample FanDuel lineup
- QB Geno Smith $7200
- RB Bijan Robinson $7800
- RB Joe Mixon $7500
- WR Justin Jefferson $9500
- WR Courtland Sutton $5900
- WR Jordan Addison $5500
- TE Tyler Higbee $5300
- FLEX Diontae Johnson $6400*
- DST Commanders $4900
*I wanted to have Christian Watson here at $6300, but with him missing the first two days of practice with a hamstring injury, I just can't lock him in there. If he plays, I may pivot, especially in tournaments, where his injury status may make him a very low-roster rate player, but I won't feel great about it.
Some player props I like
Over at SportsLine, Alex Selesnick (aka PropStarz) is hitting J.K. Dobbins' rush yards prop of 56.5, and that's one I considered going with, too. , under the assumption that the Ravens will be more willing to use him as a traditional lead back with Todd Monken at offensive coordinator than they were with Greg Roman. Dobbins has been incredibly efficient as a runner in his career, but has only had 15 careers in a game four times in 26 games in the NFL. However, he's averaged 57.6 yards per game in his career despite that usage. If the Ravens let him loose, we might see that prop push closer to 70 yards per game before long.
Here are some props I like this week:
Jordan Addison Over 3.5 receptions +116
I like Addison in DFS, I like him in re-draft, and I like this prop. I've got him projected for 4.5 catches on just a 19% target share, and that might be conservative for a player this talented.
Zay Jones Over 3.5 receptions +108
With an ADP of 134.6, Jones has been largely dismissed as a Fantasy option with the addition of Calvin Ridley to this offense. However, in the preseason, Jones was out there alongside Ridley in two-WR sets, and could be a bigger factor in this passing game than expected. It might not be enough to make him a reliable Fantasy starter, but hey, Tyler Boyd had four or more catches in eight of 15 games in a similar situation last season.
Deshaun Watson Over 1.5 passing touchdowns +110
I already wrote about why I'm worried I'm too low on the Browns passing game, and that +110 value here makes this a bet I really like. Watson was pretty disastrous in his return from suspension last season, but if he can get back to his Houston days, a couple of touchdowns is nothing in what could be a shootout.
D.J. Moore Over 47.5 receiving yards -119
I've been pretty skeptical of Moore throughout the draft process, but this number feels incredibly low even for me. I have Moore projected for 61 receiving yards, even in a game where I only have Justin Fields projected for 199. As he showed in the preseason, Moore only needs one catch to hit this kind of number.
Aaron Rodgers Over 1.5 touchdown passes +120
Look, I'm skeptical of Rodgers' chances of bouncing back. But I'm getting plus value on the over in a primetime game? Sure, the Bills are a tough matchup, and we haven't seen Rodgers in this offense – which has fewer weapons outside of Garrett Wilson than you think – but I have a hard time passing this one up, especially since the Jets might be chasing points all night long against an offense like Buffalo's.
Rashaad Penny Anytime TD +380
I'll admit, this one is a total stab in the dark. Penny might not even be active for Week 1, given that he isn't going to be a factor on special teams or in the passing game. However, I still think he's the best fit in terms of skill set to replicate what Miles Sanders did last season, and I wouldn't be even a little bit surprised if he emerged as the team's go-to, goal-line RB.