4 Betting Trends to Help Set Your Divisional Round Daily Fantasy Football Lineup
When making tough decisions in daily fantasy football, Vegas lines can be predictive of fantasy scoring, while providing an edge on the competition.
Unfortunately, as professional NFL handicapper Warren Sharp has pointed out, oddsmakers' primary goal is not to set the most accurate lines; their goal is to make money, and they do that by encouraging public action on a particular side. What does that mean?
Let's say a sportsbook opens the line on a game with Team X favored to beat Team Y by seven points. If 80% of the public money coming in is in favor of Team X against the spread but the book still does not adjust the line, that demonstrates that either there is sharp money on Team Y, or that they feel confident about Team Y against the spread. Either way, by examining how the oddsmakers are moving lines in comparison to where the public is betting, an edge can be gained when making lineup decisions.
Indianapolis Colts (+5) at Kansas City Chiefs (O/U 57)
Betting Trends: After a 10-6 finish to the regular season, the Indianapolis Colts hit the road to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round. The Colts took care of business in the wild card round, beating the Houston Texans 21-7. On the other side, the Chiefs earned a bye after finishing the regular season 12-4. In their most recent game action, they dismantled the Oakland Raiders 35-3. Despite 58% of bets coming in on the Colts side to begin the week, the line has actually increased by one point in the Chiefs' favor. This indicates that some sharp bettors or bookmakers favor the Kansas City side of this line, driving the line up.
Takeaways: Despite currently sitting as 5.0-point underdogs and playing a third straight road game, the matchup sets up well for Marlon Mack's fantasy outlook. Mack erupted for 148 yards last week, while playing a season-high 79% of the Colts' snaps. Historically, Mack has lost playing time to Nyheim Hines in negative game scripts, but the Colts look committed to their second-year back after Hines only played 12.3% of snaps on wild card weekend. The Chiefs also ranked 31st in run defense, per our schedule-adjusted metrics. However, Kansas City also struggled in the passing game through stretches of 2018, allowing the most passing yards this season (4,721), putting Andrew Luck and his pass catchers squarely in play.
As 5.0-point favorites, the Chiefs project to continue their recent offensive success. The Colts rank 20th in pass defense, per our metrics, keeping Patrick Mahomes in play, but they have also struggled particularly against pass catching running backs and tight ends. In the regular season, they allowed the second-most receptions to running backs (110), opening the door for Damien Williams, who received 19 targets in his last four games. They also allowed the most yards to tight ends throughout 2018 (1,194), making Travis Kelce an absolute smash play on this short slate.
Dallas Cowboys (+7.5) at Los Angeles Rams (O/U 49.5)
Betting Trends: With a 10-6 record finish to the regular season, the Dallas Cowboys now travel south to face the 13-3 Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys narrowly pulled off a 24-22 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last week, while the Rams enjoyed the week off after handling the San Francisco 49ers 48-32 in Week 17. Opening the week as 7.5-point underdogs, Dallas has handled 58% of betting tickets on the spread, but the line has actually moved by a half point in the Rams' direction. This suggests some interest from sharp bettors on the Los Angeles side of the line.
Takeaways: Despite entering the week as massive underdogs, Ezekiel Elliott remains arguably the strongest running back play on the entire slate. Elliott has averaged 29.5 touches per game in his last four contests, including 32 targets in the passing game. He draws a matchup against the 22nd-ranked run defense, per our metrics. This unit also allowed the sixth-most rushing yards to backs over the last four weeks of the regular season (461). Game script independent, Zeke looks like the top play on the board. Conversely, this matchup could be difficult for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper against the league's tenth-best pass defense, per our metrics. However, with bookmakers projecting a 7.5-point win for the Rams, the Cowboys should throw throughout this contest.
On the other side, Todd Gurley runs into a difficult match up against a Dallas defense that ranks third against the run, per our metrics. However, the Cowboys have shown vulnerability to opposing passing games, ranking 15th in pass defense in our metrics. Dallas has particularly struggled against pass catching backs of late. They allowed the fifth-most catches to the position in the regular season (101) creating an avenue for Gurley's success. Jared Goff, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks remain more contrarian but viable plays against the stout secondary of the Cowboys.
Los Angeles Chargers (+4) at New England Patriots (O/U 47)
Betting Trends: Traveling across the country for the second consecutive week, the 12-4 Los Angeles Chargers will face the 11-5 New England Patriots. Conducting a brilliant game plan, the Chargers routed the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 last week, while the Patriots last played in Week 17, where they smashed the New York Jets 38-3. Somewhat rare in the betting community, 61% of bets have sided with the Chargers as a road underdog, driving the line down a full point so far this week. It seems that the public, sharp bettors, and bookmakers all believe the Chargers come into the week underrated.
Takeaways: With both the public and sharp bettors on the Chargers, New England may have their work cut out for them in this matchup. The Patriots rank middle of the pack in both run and pass defense, per our metrics, but they allowed the ninth-most receiving yards to running backs (778), boding well for Chargers' backs. However, with Melvin Gordon's health in question after playing fewer snaps than Austin Ekeler last week, this still may remain a situation to avoid for fantasy purposes. New England also allowed the 13th-most yards to receivers over the last four games of the regular season (635), creating a potential avenue for Keenan Allen and company to succeed.
On the Patriots' side, sledding could be tough against a Chargers defense that ranks sixth against the run and seventh against the pass in our metrics. However, the Chargers have showed a particular weakness against pass catching running backs. As a defense they allowed the fourth-most catches to backs (108) and the second-most receiving yards (974) throughout the NFL season. As the league's leading target at the running back position (125), James White finds himself in a smash spot. However, White has only averaged five targets per game in his last four contests, rendering him a risky proposition in the divisional round.
Philadelphia Eagles (+8) at New Orleans Saints (O/U 51)
Betting Trends: In the week's final game, the 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles head south to battle the 13-3 New Orleans Saints. Winning a true nail-biter, the Eagles outlasted the Chicago Bears 16-15 by blocking a last second field goal attempt. Conversely, the Saints essentially took the last two weeks off after earning a bye and sitting their starters in Week 17 on the way to a 33-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Throughout the week, 55% of bets have taken the Eagles' side, but the line still jumped a half point in the Saints' direction. This reverse line movement suggests favor from sharp bettors or bookmakers on the New Orleans side of the line.
Takeaways: With the line moving steadily away from Philadelphia, this game sets up nicely for Nick Foles to air it out. The Saints rank 17th in pass defense, but 5th in run defense, creating a natural pass funnel for Foles. New Orleans also allowed the most receiving production to wide receivers throughout the NFL season (3,345 yards), putting Alshon Jeffery, Golden Tate, and Nelson Agholor squarely in play.
On the Saints' side, all skill players look viable in this particular contest. The massive line keeps Mark Ingram in play as a second-half clock grinder. Decimated by injuries in the secondary, the Eagles allowed the second-most yards to wide receivers in the last four regular season games (778). This weakness leaked into the playoffs, where Allen Robinson reeled in 143 yards. This defense also allowed the third-most receiving yards to backs in the last four regular season games (239), improving the outlook of Alvin Kamara. Needless to say, Drew Brees should be in contention for the top overall quarterback on the slate.
Matthew Gajewski is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Matthew Gajewski also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mgajewski. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.