Daily Fantasy Football Matchups: Indianapolis Colts (26.25) at Detroit Lions (24.25)
Indianapolis Passing Game
The Colts emerge from their bye week with a 4-2 record and hold the six seed in the AFC heading into an inter-conference matchup with the Lions. Philip Rivers had his best game as a member of the Colts last we saw him, throwing for 371 yards on 44 attempts and just 340 air yards, good for an above-average 1.1 passer air conversion ratio (PACR). Week 6 was his fifth game in six contests with an adjusted yards per attempt above 7.0, and best of all, Rivers has been generally accurate with his deep passing (something he’s been criticized for in recent years), now ranking seventh in the NFL in deep ball completion percentage and fourth overall in PlayerProfilers’ accuracy rating. His on-target pass rate of 80% is also top 10 in the league. That’s encouraging news for Colts fans who are hoping their team can take advantage of a Lions’ defense that allows the 13th-most points per play in the NFL, and ranks just outside the bottom-10 in PFF’s team coverage rating. This should be matchup where Rivers is able to produce a solid fantasy output, assuming he limits his turnovers and finishes drives with touchdowns.
The issue here for fantasy gamers is determining Rivers’ distribution of targets. Over the team’s last three games, no player has seen 20% of the targets, and only one player (Marcus Johnson) has seen more than 25% of the team’s air yards. The Colts are content to spread the ball out, which makes choosing the most productive receiver an extremely difficult task. T.Y. Hilton is the most obvious choice, but he ranks third on the team (behind Johnson and Zach Pascal) in air yards and is outside the top 35 receivers in true weighted opportunity share this season. He’s far from what fantasy gamers typically consider a primary wide receiver, and Hilton’s disappointing season looks set to continue this Sunday against the Lions. Detroit has been solid against primary wideouts this season, allowing nearly 2 fantasy points per game less to opponents than their season-long averages.
Luckily, for those willing to take the risk on Hilton this weekend, the salary (he’s the 29th-highest-salary wideout on the slate) will make a dud game a little bit easier to handle, and the Awesemo projection places Hilton quite a bit higher in the rankings than his salary would indicate. But the projections are simply bullish on the passing game in its entirety, as the trio of Hilton, Pascal (who’s the 38th-highest-salary wide receiver on the slate) and Johnson (75th) are all ranked well ahead of their salary-based expectations. This points to week 8 being a great time to roster Rivers if choosing between his three main targets at wideout seems like too much of a headache.
And don’t forget about the Colts’ love of utilizing tight ends in the receiving game. Trey Burton has seen five, six and five targets since returning to action in week 4, and Jack Doyle’s seen six looks during that same span as well. With Mo Alie-Cox’ status still up in the air for week 8, fantasy gamers could also stack Rivers with Burton, who’s only the 21st-highest-salary tight end on the main slate, and have a great chance of returning value on both selections.
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Indianapolis Rushing Game
The Lions have been more attackable on the ground than through the air this season, ranking well below average in yards allowed per carry and right at league average in PFF’s rush defense grade. That’s a great sign for lead back Jonathan Taylor, who has seen at least 27% of the team’s opportunities in each of the last three weeks, while no other Colts running back has seen more than 18% during that same span. Particularly since week 5, Taylor has seized significant control of the backfield, with Jordan Wilkins’ role diminishing into obscurity. Hines will still see plenty of looks in the passing game (he has 13 targets since week 4), but Taylor is the back to roster this weekend for the Colts in what should be a positive matchup for the team as a whole. Taylor’s projection on Awesemo.com comes in just slightly worse than his salary-based expectation (he’s the sixth-highest-salary running back on the slate), but that shouldn’t necessarily scare fantasy gamers away, as the opportunity for a slate-breaking score is absolutely there in this matchup. Hines, who’s 42nd in running back salary this weekend, is also worth a look in tournaments, as his projection ranks him much higher than his middling salary would imply.
Detroit Passing Game
The Lions escaped week 7 with a win thanks to a great drive from Matthew Stafford, completing the game-winner to T.J. Hockenson as time expired. The victory capped Stafford’s best game of the 2020 season, as he completed 69% of his 36 attempts for 340 yards, a season high. More importantly, especially for Lions fans, Stafford didn’t throw a single interception for just the second time this season. It all added up to yet another top-15 performance at the quarterback position for Stafford. And while that sounds all well and good, there’s a larger worry that fantasy gamers should be concerned about. With Detroit relying so heavily on their running game in neutral situations, Stafford needs to be incredibly efficient and score multiple times to hit a true ceiling week at the position. Simply put, this Lions team is not designed with that play in mind.
They rank well below average in true neutral early-down pass rate and have only one player averaging more than 5.3 targets per game this season. That makes Stafford hard to bet on in daily fantasy football lineups, as he still has a salary that indicates he has a decent probability of a vintage Stafford outing, where he’s given free reign to pass as much and as deep as he wants to. Stafford currently ranks 20th in pass attempts per game, and 19th in deep ball attempts. The Lions just don’t want to play football that way this season, unless forced by circumstance. The Colts are also content playing controlled, short-area-focused football, which indicates that there’s only a small sliver of hope that this game will shoots out despite this game possessing the fifth-highest Vegas total of the main slate.
The only player with enough usage to consider using in daily fantasy football lineups week in and week out is Kenny Golladay, who was fantastic on his seven targets last Sunday but only had five looks until the game’s final drive. Still, as the undisputed leader in air yards share, Golladay is a constant threat to have 100 yards and one or more scores, even if the Lions aren’t particularly pass-happy that afternoon. Golladay’s extremely robust 14.7 air yards per target over the last four weeks are also a boost to his somewhat middling target numbers. According to the Awesemo projections for this week, Golladay is absolutely worth rostering, even as the 10th-highest-salary wide receiver on the main slate.
At this point in the season, it’s also worth considering Hockenson as an every-week starter, particularly because his red zone (and end zone usage) has been so spectacularly good. Since week 3, Hockenson has seen 22 targets (compared to Golladay’s 28), with a whopping 59% of those targets being red zone or end zone targets. With the tight end position so reliant on touchdowns to reach their ceiling scores, rostering a player like Hockenson, who is an obvious first look as the Lions near the goal line, can be extremely advantageous. But salary must be considered in this case, especially for a player who’s still a part of a fairly low-volume offense. As the fifth highest salary tight end on the main slate, Hockenson needs 16-plus fantasy points to return value, and that’s extremely hard to bet on with his limited overall target share. The Awesemo projections aren’t nearly as high on Hockenson as the salary-based expectations might indicate.
Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola remain your tournament dart-throw options, as both commanded six targets against Atlanta a week ago. Interestingly enough, Amendola and Jones are neck-and-neck in average depth of target, (9.9 and 9.8, respectively), so we can’t give an assumed-aDOT edge to Jones, as historical data might otherwise suggest. Sussing out who will be the more productive of those two is an endeavor mostly for fantasy gamers creating daily fantasy football lineups for mass multi-entry, but it could absolutely be a fruitful one. Both players rank significantly higher than their salaries (Jones is the 46th wide receiver in salary, Amendola is minimum price for wideouts) in the Awesemo projections for this weekend.
Detroit Rushing Game
For the second week in a row, the Lions’ leader in opportunity share wasn’t Adrian Peterson, but rookie D’Andre Swift, who finished Sunday’s victory with 17 total touches for 123 yards and two touchdowns, seemingly cementing him as the top running back in the Detroit backfield. It’s a fantastic trend for the second-round pick out of Georgia, who now ranks third on the team in total yards this season. Swift even commanded four times the amount of targets than Peterson did a week ago. But it should be noted that Peterson was still heavily involved in the rushing game, earning 16 total touches, just one shy of Swift. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Swift’s recent play has helped him earn more than the 50/50 split he’s seeing with Peterson right now, which should give fantasy gamers pause when they notice he’s now the 23rd-highest-salary running back on the main slate. But that’s still plenty of value on Swift, who ranks fourth in the NFL in PFF’s fantasy points per game over expectation. There’s significant evidence that Swift should be ranked significantly ahead of that salary ranking, and the Awesemo projections wholeheartedly agree — they’re much higher on Swift than Peterson and project Swift to finish the day well of his salary-based expectations.
Prediction: Lions 27, Colts 26
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