NFL Week 1 Matchups to Exploit – Segment 2
The NFL regular season is almost here! As training camps and the preseason progressed, there were cuts and injuries that left some teams very weak at certain positions. With that in mind, I will be laying out just a few of the matchups that I will be targeting for Week 1 in DFS as we approach the main slate of games on 9-11!
Philadelphia Eagles Running Backs vs Cleveland Browns Defensive Front Seven
There are a whole lot of factors that go into recommending the Philadelphia running backs in Week 1. Let’s start with Philadelphia’s new rookie head coach: Doug Pederson. This is not a popular hire, and questions about his decision making are rampant, but he does stem from the Andy Reid coaching tree. Over the past seven seasons, four in Kansas City and three in Philadelphia, rushing attacks under Andy Reid’s regime ranked in the top 10 of yards and TDs in six of those years. They also finished in the top 10 in yards per attempt in each of those seven seasons. Assuming Doug Pederson implements a similar offense to the one he ran as Andy Reid’s Offensive Coordinator in Kansas City these past four seasons (as anticipated), we can expect a heavy dose of the run game from the Eagles this year.
The Philadelphia Eagles already had a solid rushing attack in 2015 ranking 10th in TDs, 11th in rushing attempts, and 14th in rushing yards, and in my opinion they strengthened their backfield by trading DeMarco Murray to the Titans this offseason. The main reason this improves the rushing attack is because it now makes Ryan Mathews, who I repeatedly said was the best back in Philadelphia last season, the unquestioned starter and featured back. Murray’s hefty contract seemed, at times, to make Chip Kelly feel he had to use him which cost Mathews a lot of touches he deserved. Mathews averaged 1.5 yards more per carry than Murray and had the same number of TDs (7) despite getting just over half as many touches as Murray received. I also expect Pederson to try and get both Mathews and Sproles on the field at the same time as often as possible to make up for a lack of wide receivers that strike fear in the hearts of their opponents.
Oh, there is one more tiny thing we should say about the Philadelphia offense: the Eagles just traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings to replace the injured Teddy Bridgewater. The current plan is to start the number two pick in this year’s draft, Carson Wentz, if he is healthy enough, and if not, they will roll into Week 1 with Chase Daniels under center. While this doesn’t necessarily help open up running lanes for the Eagles, you have to think that they will rely on the rushing attack more heavily whether it is Wentz or Daniels taking the field.
Next, we need to take a look at the Cleveland Browns defensive front seven. There’s not much to say about the Brown’s rush defense last year except that they were just awful. They ranked 30th in yards allowed, 25th in attempts, and 27th in yards per attempt during the 2015 campaign. To try and fix things for the 2016 season the Browns have released linebackers Karlos Dansby and Paul Kruger, and traded away linebacker Barkevious Mingo. Wait… What? How the hell is that improving a horrible rush defense? The answer is it’s not! In order to stockpile future draft picks, the Browns have made some head scratching moves this offseason and have left themselves more vulnerable than ever to opponents rushing attacks. To put how bad this front seven currently is in perspective, Pro Football Focus had them ranked as the worst front seven in the league prior to the Browns trading away Mingo and releasing Kruger, two of their projected starting linebackers.
So what we have here is a Philadelphia Eagles team that has a solid offensive line, and should be focusing heavily on the run, matching up against an absolutely horrendous Cleveland Browns front seven. Vegas currently has the Eagles as 4.0 point favorites, even after the Bradford trade, and their team total stands at 22.5. I don’t typically put much credence in to the preseason, but the fact that the Browns only averaged 11 points per game and didn’t score more than 13 points in any of their four games is definitely concerning for their offensive potential. All of these facts make the game script extremely well for Philly to be running the ball nonstop in this matchup.
My main target in this matchup is going to be Ryan Mathews, only the 14th most expensive RB on DraftKings opening Sunday, and I will have a ton of exposure to him. While Mathews is my favored play, I also have a lot of interest in Darren Sproles in this game. While others will be using Spencer Ware ($4,400) I’ll be saving $200 and plugging Sproles ($4,200) into a lot of my lineups for the Milly Maker on DraftKings!