NFL Grind Down Week 1: Detroit Lions vs. Arizona Cardinals

Vegas Overview

DET @ ARI Team Spread Total Implied Moneyline
ARI 2.5 47 22.25 122
DET -2.5 47 24.75 -140

Spread Quick Take: This looks to be a good indicator of what Vegas thinks of the Arizona Cardinals. They have a prominent “public” rooting figure in rookie QB Kyler Murray, but yet they open as 2 1/2 point home dogs against an average Detroit team. I think this will be a very competitive game that will come down to the wire. When that happens, I’ll side with a veteran quarterback over a rookie making his first regular season start. Give me the Lions squeaking out a cover.

DET -2 1/2
Confidence Level: 5 out of 10

Over/Under: Arizona played it safe in the preseason, but they should open up their offense a lot more in the regular season under Kingsbury. They also don’t have a very good defense, and the opposing Lions aren’t shy about abandoning the run at times. I think this game has very sneaky shootout potential. Over 47 for me.

Over 47
Confidence Level: 8 out of 10

Injury Situations

Player Team Pos Status Part Impact
Charles Clay ARI TE P Knee 3

Injuries to Monitor: There isn’t a lot to keep tabs on from this game, especially at the skill positions. The most impactful situation likely resides with Patrick Peterson for the Cardinals, but we already know his status, as he will be suspended to start the year. This is a big blow to Arizona’s defense and is a quietly solid upgrade for the Detroit passing game.

Other News and Notes: None

Matchup Factors, Team Identity Metrics, and Game Flow Expectations

Expected Game Pace and Tempo: Both of these teams ranked in the bottom half of the league in tempo a year ago, with Arizona ranking 18th and Detroit ranking 23rd in time in between plays. I would expect the Cardinals to be inside the top six to eight this year, at least. The question becomes whether or not their defense can get off the field. If Arizona gets a lead in this game, I would expect an above average number of plays. If Arizona gets behind and can’t get their defense off the field, Detroit will try to slow the game down. There’s a bit of a wild card element in that respect.

Arizona Cardinals Offense vs. Detroit Lions Defense: This could go a number of ways. If you look at the charts above, you will see that Arizona ranked 28th or worse in a ton of offensive metrics. Look at all the red in the “home rush” and “home pass” tabs. However, the Detroit defense was similarly poor, ranking 31st in DVOA against the pass and 26th in pressure rate. They reinforced their defensive line by signing Mike Daniels after he was cut by the Packers, and they have the talent to have a solid front line. The secondary should post better numbers if Darius Slay can stay healthy, too. Still, we need to see it on the field before we can say this is a good unit. I’ll side with the Arizona offense on the whole.

Detroit Lions Offense vs. Arizona Cardinals Defense: With Patrick Peterson suspended to start the season, this Arizona defense is in major trouble. Teams ran the ball down their throat a year ago, running the ball almost 48% of the time against the Cardinals. They allowed a league worst 155 rushing yards per game and a league worst 25 rushing touchdowns. They didn’t do much to address those issues in the offseason, and now the secondary is a problem without Peterson. Detroit should be able to move the ball comfortably.

Arizona Cardinals Projections Breakdown

Quarterback Projections

Player Team Rank Proj ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ FD Pts/$ Y
Kyler Murray ARI QB16 18.08 39.41 283.77 Rank 12 Rank 8 Rank 11 Rank 2

DET Schedule Adjusted QB points allowed (‘18): Rank #16

2018 Opportunity Metrics: #N/A

2018 Efficiency Metrics: #N/A

Ask 20 people what they think about Kyler Murray, and you will almost certainly get different answers from about 15 of them. That’s part of the beauty of the unknown. We get so wrapped up in analyzing past history and stats that we really, truly don’t know what to do when we… don’t know what will happen. What tends to happen in these sort of situations in DFS is that players become over-owned.

I call this the “shiny new toy” syndrome. I’m not trying to compare Kyler Murray to a toy, but it’s a good analogy. Buy your kid a new toy, and he or she will play with it endlessly in the few hours after it is purchased. Then, it either A) breaks or B) becomes old news. Well, that’s how the cycle will go with Kyler Murray. He will be over-owned in Week 1. Eventually, that interest will taper (likely after he has a poor game). Alternatively, he might get injured. Still, there’s that fear of missing out on a breakout game right out of the gate.

As much as I hate to rain on the parade, it’s not often that a rookie comes out and throws for 350 yards and three scores in his NFL debut. The speed and action of regular season NFL games takes some time to get used to. The good news for Murray is that Detroit’s defense is attackable in the secondary, as they ranked 31st in DVOA against the pass and allowed a ton of chunk plays a year ago. Murray will offer upside with his legs, as well. It’s definitely a risk/reward play, and I don’t think there’s any way you could call a rookie a must play in his first game. That takes him off the cash game radar for me, but there is GPP appeal. Monitor his projected ownership before taking a definitive stand.

Quick Summary: I don’t see a reason to play Murray in cash games in his regular season debut, but the GPP upside is there – it all comes down to his projected ownership for me. Pass if he becomes chalky.

Running Back Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
David Johnson ARI 16.80 RB5 59% 14% Rank 13 Rank 27 Rank 3 Rank 14
Chase Edmonds ARI 7.32 RB46 21% 7% Rank 41 Rank 16 Rank 34 Rank 16
T.J. Logan ARI 0.47 RB99 1% 1% Rank 93 Rank 93 Rank 92 Rank 93

DET Schedule Adjusted RB points allowed (‘18): Rank #17

2018 David Johnson Opportunity Metrics:
Opportunity Share: 77.5% (Rank #8)
RZ Opportunity Share: 83% (Rank #4)

2018 David Johnson Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Created: 247 (Rank #28)
YPC: 3.6 (Rank #56)
Yards Per Route: 1.7 (Rank #27)

You can see just how underwhelming the Arizona offense was a year ago by looking at the numbers for David Johnson. He had all the opportunity in the world, but not all opportunities are created equally. Abysmal quarterback play allowed defenses to stack the box to stop Johnson, and I’m not faulting him for his results. They were more of a function of the players around him than they were about DJ himself. He should have more open space this year with an athletic quarterback and the “spread it out” nature of a Kingsbury offense. It’s also worth noting that Johnson is a capable pass catcher who once caught 120 passes in a season in 2016.

That pass catching ability will likely be needed to spread the field against a stout front line for Detroit. Kingsbury surely knows that, and he should scheme to avoid the middle and work on the boundaries offensively. Johnson is athletic enough to break a big play or two. While this may not look like the best matchup on paper, I really like David Johnson in this spot. He might be the player I am most overweight on compared to the field in Week 1, as he provides a lot of upside at a cheaper price tag than the likes of Barkley and McCaffrey. I think our projected carry share of 59% is too low, as I would peg this as a 75/25 split in Johnson’s favor. He is one of the few backs that is capable of being an every down player in today’s NFL.

Quick Summary: On a points per dollar basis, David Johnson is my favorite RB play of the week. That is particularly true in full PPR formats like DK/FDRAFT.

Wide Receiver Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 10.87 WR40 18% 7.09 Rank 48 Rank 55 Rank 42 Rank 71
Christian Kirk ARI 11.89 WR31 20% 7.88 Rank 32 Rank 19 Rank 67 Rank 56
Michael Crabtree ARI 7.40 WR86 12% 4.73 Rank 74 Rank 64 Rank 60 Rank 50
Andy Isabella ARI 5.35 WR110 9% 3.55 Rank 103 Rank 105 Rank 88 Rank 100
KeeSean Johnson ARI 4.71 WR116 8% 3.15 Rank 111 Rank 106 Rank 143 Rank 106

DET Schedule Adjusted WR points allowed (‘18): Rank #25

2018 Larry Fitzgerald Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 23.6% (Rank #17)
RZ Target Share: 31.1% (Rank #8)
Route Participation: 87.7% (Rank #21)

2018 Larry Fitzgerald Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 1.69 (Rank #58)
ADOT: 9.5 (Rank #76)
YAC per Reception: 1.8 (Rank #56)

The Cardinals certainly have their fair share of bodies to throw out there at receiver, and Kingsbury will likely rotate receivers often if he wants to play fast. Larry Fitzgerald shockingly received over 27% of the team’s air yards in 2019, but he averaged just two yards after the catch per reception. He simply lacks upside and is a red zone threat above anything else at this stage of his career. On the other hand, Christian Kirk averaged more than five yards after the catch per reception, and he offers far more upside in a Kingsbury offense. I would expect Fitzgerald to start to take a back seat in terms of targets starting this year. I do not find it surprising that we have Fitzgerald at an 18% target share and Kirk at a 20% target share, and I think that is pegged correctly. Both will likely be reasonably owned here. Give me Kirk over Fitzgerald every day at this stage.

Until we see how the snaps play out, I’m not interested in the other receivers. Isabella and Johnson are rookies that are unproven at the NFL level, and the addition of Michael Crabtree has cratered the projections for the rookies. Crabtree should start the year with the #3 role, but I’m not sure how much he has left in the tank. Let’s wait and see how this plays out before diving in to the secondary options, though I am in general agreement with our projected target shares for everyone here.

Quick Summary: Play Kirk, fade everyone else.

Tight End Projections

Player Team Proj ProjTar Rank ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Charles Clay ARI 4.00 TE39 7% 2.76 Rank 36 Rank 37 Rank 31 Rank
Maxx Williams ARI 2.25 TE56 4% Rank 51 Rank 51 Rank 40 Rank

DET Schedule Adjusted TE points allowed (‘18): Rank #11

2018 Charles Clay Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 11% (Rank #28)
RZ Target Share: 8.3% (Rank #31)
Route Participation: 52.1% (Rank #18)

2018 Charles Clay Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 1.05 (Rank #102)
ADOT: 7.3 (Rank #25)
YAC per Reception: 2.4 (Rank #49)

Remember when Ricky Seals-Jones randomly became a thing for about three weeks last season? I can’t remember the last time it has paid off to target an Arizona TE in DFS. Granted, we have a new coaching staff now, but this still is not a very projectable unit. Charles Clay is not a quality receiving tight end at this stage of his career, and he’s also a bit banged up heading into this game. That might leave Maxx Williams as the last man standing. Detroit ranked just 26th in DVOA against tight ends a year ago and can be exploited over the middle, but this simply isn’t a spot I want to mess with. Do you really want to gamble on a banged up Clay in a late start if he comes down to being a game-time decision? It simply isn’t necessary.

Quick Summary: Move along and find a tight end from another squad.

Defense Projections

Player Team Proj Rank Sack INT PtsAllow Home? Favorite?
Arizona Cardinals ARI 6.87 DST13 2.37 0.98 23.06 Y N

The only hope Arizona’s defense has is that the team gets out to a solid lead. If that happens, Detroit might be forced to abandon the run. That would increase Arizona’s defensive fantasy point expectation, as it would keep them from getting gashed on the ground like we saw all year in 2018. I mentioned in the intro how they ranked last in rush yards allowed and rushing touchdowns allowed a year ago. The pass defense is better (8th overall in DVOA), but the loss of Peterson is a major blow.

I expect this game to be a shootout, and I’m not going to bother with a defense. If you think Arizona can get out to a lead, there’s perhaps merit in the David Johnson / ARI D correlation, but that’s by no means a priority play.

Quick Summary: Defense is a naturally variant position, and you will be able to get the Cardinals at 1-3% ownership in this spot — but this is not a good unit. I will not have any exposure.

Detroit Lions Projections Breakdown

Quarterback Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ FD Pts/$ Y
Matthew Stafford DET 16.03 QB26 36.48 254.06 Rank 19 Rank 23 Rank 18 Rank 9

ARI Schedule Adjusted QB points allowed (‘18): Rank #29

2018 Opportunity Metrics:
Att/Gm: 34.7 (Rank #15)
RuAtt/Gm: 1.6 (Rank #46)
DeepBall/Gm: 3.1 (Rank #32)

2018 Efficiency Metrics:
Accuracy Rating: 3 (Rank #7)
Air Yards/Att: 6.9 (Rank #36)
Adjusted YPA: 6.2 (Rank #26)

Breaking down the Lions is always a bit interesting. Matt Patricia would love to run a ground and pound approach to football games, but they seemingly abandoned the run at every opportunity whenever they fell behind in games in 2018. As you can see, Stafford and company tossed an above average 35 pass attempts per game, and Stafford was surprisingly accurate last year as well, ranking seventh in accuracy rating while completing over 66% of his passes — a completion percentage mark that is around 4% higher than his career average.

Generally, the way to attack this Cardinals defense was via the ground game last year. They were obliterated by opposing running games, but that does not mean Stafford is not viable. The loss of Patrick Peterson cannot be overstated, as Peterson allowed just 3.4 catches and 42 yards per game to receivers in his coverage a year ago. His suspension will open up the field for Stafford, and Detroit should be able to move the ball at will.

In my mind, this all comes down to game flow. If you expect the Lions to play with a lead, Stafford may not be the best option. If you expect the Cardinals to play with a lead, correlating Matthew Stafford + a WR + David Johnson on the other side could be a very intriguing GPP build.

Quick Summary: Stafford is a game flow dependent GPP target for me, though his projection does get a spike with Patrick Peterson out for Arizona.

Running Back Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Kerryon Johnson DET 13.23 RB17 55% 8% Rank 22 Rank 23 Rank 33 Rank 33
C.J. Anderson DET 6.31 RB55 26% 4% Rank 50 Rank 53 Rank 50 Rank 59
Ty Johnson DET 3.75 RB74 12% 4% Rank 68 Rank 66 Rank 70 Rank 68

ARI Schedule Adjusted RB points allowed (‘18): Rank #3

2018 Kerryon Johnson Opportunity Metrics:
Opportunity Share: 63.8% (Rank #12)
RZ Opportunity Share: 38.3% (Rank #36)

2018 Kerryon Johnson Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Created: 154 (Rank #40)
YPC: 5.4 (Rank #5)
Yards Per Route: 1.75 (Rank #25)

Kerryon Johnson is one of the more polarizing running back plays on the board this week. He shot up preseason draft boards throughout the summer and started going in the mid-second round of season long drafts — and this is for a player who averaged 64 rushing yards per game a year ago with just four total touchdowns. It is borderline insane to me that Johnson had a 64% opportunity share a year ago while only garnering a 38% share of carries in the red zone. That’s not acceptable for a team that often has trouble scoring.

For now, the coaching staff is saying all the right things, indicating that they might lean on Johnson as more of a three down back in 2019. I would expect his overall carry share to rise in 2019 as long as he stays healthy, and I think our current projections are far too conservative on Johnson’s carry/target share. At least for the sake of my DFS lineups, I hope they are. I don’t think that the 2019 version of C.J. Anderson is any threat to Johnson’s upside, especially if Kerryon gets off to a good start. I’m hopping aboard the train, especially against a turnstile rush defense that didn’t upgrade in the offseason and ranked nearly dead last in every possible metric against the run a year ago (155 yards per game, 25 rushing touchdowns allowed). The Cardinals have no front seven talent that is capable of slowing down a run game, and Detroit’s average offensive line should still be able to give Johnson holes to run through.

Quick Summary: Kerryon Johnson is a strong mid-range play in all formats and on all DFS sites.

Wide Receiver Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Kenny Golladay DET 13.99 WR20 23% 8.39 Rank 26 Rank 54 Rank 79 Rank 5
Marvin Jones DET 11.05 WR37 19% 6.93 Rank 47 Rank 40 Rank 39 Rank 28
Danny Amendola DET 8.84 WR63 15% 5.47 Rank 56 Rank 23 Rank 90 Rank 17
Chris Lacy DET 3.52 WR128 6% 2.19 Rank 123 Rank 119 Rank 115 Rank 125
Travis Fulgham DET 1.22 WR167 2% 0.73 Rank 158 Rank 158 Rank 158 Rank 158

ARI Schedule Adjusted WR points allowed (‘18): Rank #22

2018 Kenny Golladay Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 22.3% (Rank #24)
RZ Target Share: 23/4% (Rank #20)
Route Participation: 90.2% (Rank #13)

2018 Kenny Golladay Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 2.18 (Rank #27)
ADOT: 12.4 (Rank #40)
YAC per Reception: 2.9 (Rank #22)

Our projections are a bit sour on the Detroit wide receivers as of now, with none of them cracking the top 25 in points per dollar projected fantasy points on any DFS site. Tough break, fellas. I think there’s a little more potential here than that, especially with Peterson out for the Cardinals. With Robert Alford also on IR, the Cardinals are down to their third and fourth corners before the season even starts. The likes of Byron Murphy and Tramaine Brock aren’t going to strike fear into opposing gunslingers. Chris Jones is the team’s only other healthy corner. It is therefore that I say, perhaps this is the GPP swerve of the week? If everyone is going to end up playing Kerryon Johnson and absolutely nobody is paying attention to the Lions wide receivers, let’s make a bold GPP play.

We currently show Kenny Golladay with a projected target share around 23%, with Marvin Jones at 19% and Danny Amendola at 15%. I think those are solid ballpark numbers, though Amendola might end up being higher as a safety valve should Stafford look to lower aDOT checkdowns in this game. With Arizona’s weak corners, though, I want the upside, and Golladay is the guy who can provide big plays. He ranked inside the top 20 in yards per catch a year ago and should threaten the leaderboard again this season. Jones is a steady option, while I am never a big fan of the limited upside of Amendola in DFS.

Quick Summary: I like this group, especially as a swerve away from Kerryon Johnson if he becomes chalky. I’ll rank my interest as Golladay > Jones > Amendola, with Golladay being an elite GPP target.

Tight End Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
T.J. Hockenson DET 7.27 TE17 14% 4.92 Rank 17 Rank 8 Rank 10 Rank
Jesse James DET 2.51 TE52 4% 1.46 Rank 48 Rank 48 Rank 49 Rank

ARI Schedule Adjusted TE points allowed (‘18): Rank #32

2018 T.J. Hockenson Opportunity Metrics: N/A

2018 T.J. Hockenson Efficiency Metrics: N/A

No team in the NFL targeted tight ends at a lower rate last year than the Detroit Lions, who targeted a tight end on just 12% of passing plays in 2018. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Arizona’s defense was abysmal against tight ends (just like everything else). Their DVOA metric wasn’t horrible, but they were worse on a schedule-adjusted basis. How does rookie tight end T.J. Hockensen fit into this mix? We have him projected at around five targets, but it would shock me if he got more looks than the likes of Danny Amendola or Marvin Jones, especially right out of the gate.

Rookies are tough to project, but it’s not often where we see a rookie come in and make an instant impact as a pass catching tight end. Rookies are often used to block more often than fantasy players would like to think, and I simply don’t think this play is necessary.

Quick Summary: Until we see how his role plays out at the NFL level, I’m not going to touch Hockenson in DFS formats.

Defense Projections

Player Team Proj Rank Sack INT PtsAllow Home? Favorite?
Detroit Lions DET 7.99 DST2 2.83 1.12 20.32 N Y

If you are looking for a little salary savings at defense this week, there is a path by which the Lions could be viable. They cost $4,100 on FD and $2,900 on DK, and nobody wants to play them because everyone loves Kyler Murray. Enter your 1% pOWN defense. This team has a solid front line, and any rookie quarterback is capable of making a crippling mistake. I don’t expect the Lions to hold the Cardinals under ten points by any means, but points allowed means very little in the context of fantasy defense scoring. In fact, it’s wildly overrated by most people. Sacks, turnovers, and opportunities as what it’s all about, and Detroit has some potential there.

Quick Summary: Keep the Lions defense on the deep GPP radar, but they are not a core unit.

DFS Recommendations

Optimal DFS Plays: David Johnson, Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Golladay (GPP)

Leverage Plays: Marvin Jones

Secondary Plays: Kyler Murray, Christian Kirk, Kenny Golladay (Cash)

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