NFL Grind Down Week 1: Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos

Single-Game Projected Ownership – DRAFTKINGS

Single-Game Projected Ownership – FANDUEL

Vegas Overview

DEN @ OAK Team Spread Total Implied Moneyline
OAK -1 43 22 -108
DEN 1 43 21 -108

Spread Quick Take: I was honestly a little surprised when I saw that this game was essentially set as a pick ‘em. I know the Raiders are bet by the public often and I know they were featured on Hard Knocks, but the Broncos feel like free money here. I’m not expecting much from the men in silver and black after all of the drama they’ve had to deal with leading up to this game. Meanwhile, the Broncos got better at quarterback, their young running backs and receivers should naturally improve with a year of play under their belts, and they return an elite defense that might be even better this season.

DEN +1
Confidence Level: 9 out of 10

Over/Under: While I feel good about the Broncos in this game, I don’t have a strong take on the total. The Broncos have a defensive-minded head coach and a quarterback that is making his first start with the team. The Raiders really struggled to score points a year ago and just lost their best playmaker in Antonio Brown. I see this more as a grind it out type of game, but the total is so low that I have a slight lean toward the over.

Over 43
Confidence Level: 3 out of 10

Injury Situations

Player Team Pos Status Part Impact
Antonio Brown OAK WR Q Foot/Head 10
Noah Fant DEN TE Q Foot 5

Injuries to Monitor: We’ll never know if the producers of Hard Knocks slipped Antonio Brown a little extra cash to play up his foot injuries and his helmet complaints. He was finally back at practice and expected to suit up for Week 1 until he got into a heated exchange with GM Mike Mayoc. After wire-tapping his coach, making a strange video, and asking for his release, the Raiders obliged. As for the Broncos, newly acquired Theo Riddick was placed on the IR after fracturing his shoulder. Jake Butt and Noah Fant (perfect tight end names) are both dealing with minor injuries, but should be able to suit up for Week 1.

Other News and Notes: Obviously, the Raiders’ focus is a concern heading into this game after all of the drama that went down with Antonio Brown. However, his absence opens the door for a number of young players to step up. A lot of people seem down on the Broncos, but they brought in a veteran quarterback in Joe Flacco and one of the best defensive minds in football in Vic Fangio. As long as the offense can put up points, this could be a team to be reckoned with.

Matchup Factors, Team Identity Metrics, and Game Flow Expectations

Expected Game Pace and Tempo: Who’s excited for a thriller between the Raiders and Broncos? Don’t lie, we are all excited because it’s football and because we love DFS. I don’t expect either of these teams to play at a particularly fast pace. The Raiders were 24th in seconds per play last season and the Broncos will look to play solid defense and control the time of possession under their new head coach. The game features a total of only 43 points, which is the third lowest of the 16 games on tap this week. If this game was featured on the main slate, it would have about as much fantasy appeal as the Bills and Jets game.

Oakland Raiders Offense vs. Denver Broncos Defense: It’s tough to predict how the Raiders will fare offensively this season. They brought in two talented receivers in Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams and they drafted Josh Jacobs in hopes that he’ll be the running back of the future. However, Brown is no longer with the team. When we are dealing with unknowns in any fantasy sport, I like to take a wait and see approach when possible. I expect the Raiders to improve in metrics like yards per play (20th) and offensive DVOA (25th), but it could take some time to get everyone on the same page. They have a brutal matchup against the Broncos, who were ranked fifth in total defensive DVOA last season. Denver has plenty of playmakers on that side of the ball that should really shine under Vic Fangio.

Denver Broncos Offense vs. Oakland Raiders Defense: It’s always hard to rely on data from last season when there are major player or coaching changes. The Broncos had both this offseason. They brought in Vic Fangio from the Bears, who should be a great fit for this defensive-minded football team. They also brought in veteran Joe Flacco, who should do a much better job of limiting mistakes and managing games than Case Keenum did last season. The Broncos had the ninth highest pass rate a year ago, but that was under a different head coach and a different quarterback. I expect them to lean on their young running backs (Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay) and their stout defense. The good news is that they draw an easy matchup to start the season. The Raiders were ranked 32nd in DVOA against the pass and 22nd in DVOA against the run last season.

Oakland Raiders Projections Breakdown

Quarterback Projections

Player Team Rank Proj ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ FD Pts/$ Y
Derek Carr OAK QB18 17.78 36.22 262.56 Rank 1 Rank 6 Rank 1 Rank 6

DEN Schedule Adjusted QB Points Allowed (‘18): Rank #26

2018 Opportunity Metrics:
Att/Gm: 34.6 (Rank 17)
RuAtt/Gm: 1.5 (Rank #49)
DeepBall/Gm: 3.7 (Rank #28)

2018 Efficiency Metrics:
Accuracy Rating: 3.1 (Rank #3)
Air Yards/Att: 7 (Rank #34)
AdjYPA: 6.6 (Rank #22)

There are more negatives than positives for Derek Carr, as he enters his sixth NFL season. There were already distractions with Hard Knocks following the team around for the preseason and there has been no shortage of drama when it comes to Antonio Brown. After his release, I can’t see this season ending well for the Raiders. This is their last season in Oakland and they have one of the worst schedules of any team in the league. If they get off to a bad start, fans in Oakland will be quick to bail on this team.

Now, all of those are narratives that Carr can’t control, but winning football games is the only thing that will help right the ship in Oakland. Carr is an accurate quarterback (third last season) that doesn’t take many shots downfield (34th in air yards per attempt). He doesn’t offer much in terms of rushing and draws one of the worst possible matchups. The Broncos have a solid front seven and a very good secondary. They were ranked fifth in DVOA against the pass a year ago and might be even better with Vic Fangio running things this season.

Quick Summary: The only positive that I can find for Carr is that he’s playing at home. That’s not enough of a reason to play him, even in the two-game slate on Monday night.

Running Back Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Josh Jacobs OAK 12.07 RB25 57% 6% Rank 21 Rank 19 Rank 15 Rank 4
Jalen Richard OAK 4.37 RB67 6% 6% Rank 69 Rank 67 Rank 52 Rank 70
DeAndre Washington OAK 5.74 RB60 28% 2% Rank 43 Rank 44 Rank 37 Rank 49

DEN Schedule Adjusted RB Points Allowed (‘18): Rank #21

2018 Josh Jacobs Opportunity Metrics: N/A

2018 Josh Jacobs Efficiency Metrics: N/A

The Raiders used the 24th overall pick in the draft on Josh Jacobs, so they certainly hope he’s the running back of the future. He hasn’t looked particularly good or bad in the preseason, but Jon Gruden seems pleased with the young running back. He’s projected to see just under 60% of the team’s rushing attempts and will get a few targets in the passing game here and there. We know Carr likes to check the ball down when he’s under pressure and Jacobs has reportedly made strides in the passing game. We have him projected as the RB25 for the week, which seems in line given his expected role and a tough matchup against the Broncos.

Most of the pass-catching work will go to Jalen Richard, who is an explosive playmaker out of the backfield. You don’t get the nickname “Rocket” unless you have some speed. He needs the right game script to have an impact in DFS and if this game goes according to plan, that may very well happen. I have more faith in the Broncos than I do in the Raiders, even though they have a new coach and a new quarterback under center this season.

Quick Summary: Josh Jacobs is fine as a salary saver for the two-game slate on Monday. If rolling out another Raiders’ running back, the edge goes to Jalen Richard over Deandre Washington.

Wide Receiver Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Antonio Brown OAK 17.27 WR4 27% 9.78 Rank 8 Rank 33 Rank 4 Rank 97
Tyrell Williams OAK 10.97 WR38 17% 6.16 Rank 20 Rank 25 Rank 13 Rank 41
Hunter Renfrow OAK 6.36 WR99 11% 3.98 Rank 87 Rank 97 Rank 77 Rank 73
Ryan Grant OAK 3.62 WR127 6% 2.17 Rank 119 Rank 118 Rank 99 Rank 119
J.J. Nelson OAK 2.20 WR149 5% 1.81 Rank 136 Rank 143 Rank 126 Rank 136

DEN Schedule Adjusted WR Points Allowed (‘18): Rank #16

2018 Antonio Brown Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 26.7% (Rank #7)
RZ Target Share: 27% (Rank #12)
Route Participation: 95.7% (Rank #1)

2018 Antonio Brown Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 2.11 (Rank #35)
ADOT: 11.9 (Rank #50)
YAC per Reception: 2.6 (Rank #7)

Since the first write-up for this game, the situation in Oakland has obviously changed. Antonio Brown is no longer on the team, which opens up a 27% target share of the passing game. The masses will be quick to play Tyrell Williams, as he’ll step into the number one role at a severely discounted price point. While he’s the top option from a projection and from a point-per-dollar standpoint, he’ll also draw the coverage of Chris Harris and the most ownership. It’s not that we can’t look his way in tournaments, but don’t expect him to be contrarian in any sense of the word.

While Williams stands to have the biggest target share in this offense, Brown’s absence will open more snaps and targets for rookie Hunter Renfrow, Ryan Grant, J.J. Nelson, and Darren Waller (who we will cover shortly). I typically hesitate to target rookie receivers (unlike rookie running backs), Renfrow offers a high floor given his route tree. He’s not the best athlete on the team, but he has great hands and is an above-average route runner. We currently have Grant with a slightly higher projection than Nelson, but they are close enough that I would lean toward the one with the lower ownership projection.

Quick Summary: This is a bad spot for the Raiders’ offense as a whole, but we are talking about a two-game slate and the Raiders’ wideouts are basically free across the industry. If we want to load up on the Texans and Saints, we’ll have to target the likes of Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Ryan Grant, and J.J. Nelson.

Tight End Projections

Player Team Proj ProjTar Rank ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Darren Waller OAK 8.36 TE10 13% 4.71 Rank 6 Rank 1 Rank 12 Rank
Foster Moreau OAK 2.63 TE48 4% 1.45 Rank 43 Rank 47 Rank 50 Rank

DEN Schedule Adjusted TE Points Allowed (‘18): Rank #17

2018 Darren Waller Opportunity Metrics: N/A

2018 Darren Waller Efficiency Metrics: N/A

Darren Waller is one of the few players that I’m actually excited about on the Raiders. He’s been one of the most reliable playmakers in training camp and in the preseason. He has quite the story and seems motivated to stay clean and produce on the field. We have him projected for a 13% market share at the moment, but that number should be significantly higher now that Brown is no longer with the team. Waller rates out as a strong value play in the Thursday-Monday slate on both FanDuel and DraftKings and is firmly in play for the two-game slate on Monday night. The Broncos were middle of the pack against tight ends last season.

Quick Summary: Waller is now my favorite point-per-dollar tight end of the Monday slate, followed closely by Jared Cook.

Defense Projections

Player Team Proj Rank Sack INT PtsAllow Home? Favorite?
Oakland Raiders OAK 7.02 DST12 2.46 1.01 22.78 Y Y

The Raiders had one of the worst defensive units in football last season. They were ranked 30th in total DVOA, 32nd against the pass, and 22nd against the run. Almost every team preview that I have read expects them to be a bottom five unit again in 2019 if not the worst in football. The secondary is arguably the strongest part of the defense and it is average at best. Even though the Broncos aren’t expected to be world-beaters offensively, the Raiders offer more risk than upside.

Quick Summary: Outside of playing at home, the Raiders’ defense doesn’t have much to offer here.

Denver Broncos Projections Breakdown

Quarterback Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ FD Pts/$ Y
Joe Flacco DEN 16.74 QB23 37.31 268.61 Rank 3 Rank 7 Rank 10 Rank 3

OAK Schedule Adjusted QB Points Allowed (‘18): Rank #9

2018 Opportunity Metrics:
Att/Gm: 42.1 (Rank 2)
RuAtt/Gm: 2.1 (Rank #38)
DeepBall/Gm: 5.7 (Rank #1)

2018 Efficiency Metrics:
Accuracy Rating: 3 (Rank #9)
Air Yards/Att: 8.8 (Rank #11)
AdjYPA: 6.2 (Rank #26)

The Ravens decided to move on from Joe Flacco, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not an upgrade over Case Keenum for the Broncos. While he may not be the long-term answer in Denver, he’s a good game manager that should be able to limit mistakes and take the occasional deep shot. This should help the running game and his accuracy will help these young receivers. From a fantasy standpoint, there isn’t a lot to love here. Flacco aired it out often in Baltimore and the Broncos aired it out often last season, but I expect a different offensive philosophy under Vic Fangio, especially if their defense is as good as advertised.

The positives for Flacco are that he draws a dream matchup right out of the gate. The Raiders couldn’t get any pressure on the quarterback in 2018 and didn’t do much to improve in that regard other than over-drafting Clelin Ferrell. Even though there are a lot of new pieces for the Broncos, they should be able to move the ball with ease in this matchup. As with any sport, daily fantasy is all about options and we have two better ones at quarterback in the Texans/Saints game.

Quick Summary: It would take a truly special performance for Flacco to outscore both Drew Brees and Deshaun Watson. While I like him over Derek Carr, that’s not saying much.

Running Back Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Phillip Lindsay DEN 13.13 RB19 48% 9% Rank 15 Rank 12 Rank 44 Rank 43
Royce Freeman DEN 8.84 RB36 38% 4% Rank 33 Rank 34 Rank 26 Rank 37
Devontae Booker DEN 1.80 RB86 5% 2% Rank 82 Rank 79 Rank 83 Rank 82

OAK Schedule Adjusted RB Points Allowed (‘18): Rank #22

2018 Phillip Lindsay Opportunity Metrics:
Opportunity Share: 53.7% (Rank #24)
RZ Opportunity Share: 52.3% (Rank #20)

2018 Phillip Lindsay Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Created: 223 (Rank #31)
YPC: 5.4 (Rank #5)
Yards Per Route: 2.01 (Rank #15)

I was a bit surprised when the Broncos brought in Theo Riddick because they had a great one-two punch going with Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay last season. With Riddick on the IR, Freeman and Lindsay should split the backfield touches. In the preseason, they both worked with the first unit and saw similar workloads. We have Lindsay (48%) edging out Freeman (38%) in terms of the projected rush share, but I’m expecting something closer to 50/50 with the Broncos riding the hot hand depending on how each game plays out.

The good news for both backs is their matchup against the Raiders. They were ranked 22nd in DVOA against the run and 20th in DVOA against the pass last season. They should also benefit from a run-first mentality and hopefully a positive game script. Of the two, I always lean toward Lindsay because he’s the better pass-catching back. However, both are worth a look in the two-game slate on Monday night.

Quick Summary: Lindsay is viable in all formats for the two-gamer, while Freeman is a decent pivot for tournaments. Both can be avoided in the full week slate.

Wide Receiver Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 11.77 WR33 19% 6.90 Rank 15 Rank 53 Rank 8 Rank 30
Courtland Sutton DEN 11.47 WR35 19% 7.09 Rank 35 Rank 24 Rank 16 Rank 21
DaeSean Hamilton DEN 8.04 WR73 14% 5.22 Rank 83 Rank 90 Rank 54 Rank 46
Tim Patrick DEN 6.69 WR93 11% 4.10 Rank 79 Rank 69 Rank 51 Rank 63
Juwann Winfree DEN 2.07 WR153 4% 1.49 Rank 148 Rank 142 Rank 128 Rank 148

OAK Schedule Adjusted WR Points Allowed (‘18): Rank #21

2018 Emmanuel Sanders Opportunity Metrics:
Target Share: 24.6% (Rank #13)
RZ Target Share: 22.4% (Rank #24)
Route Participation: 85.5% (Rank #26)

2018 Emmanuel Sanders Efficiency Metrics:
Yards Per Route: 2.46 (Rank #18)
ADOT: 10 (Rank #72)
YAC per Reception: 2.9 (Rank #30)

Emmanuel Sanders has looked really good in the preseason, even though he tore his Achilles and was forced to miss the final few weeks of last season. These injuries are tough to overcome for any athlete, especially one that relies on being shifty. If we see improvements from DaeSean Hamilton, Courtland Sutton, and Tim Patrick, the Broncos could quietly have a very good set of wideouts for Joe Flacco, who takes more shots downfield than most realize.

As of now, all four of the Broncos’ wideouts have a target share projection between 11% and 19%. The more concentrated an offense is, the easier it is to predict from a fantasy football standpoint. The more spread out the targets, the tougher it is to pick who is going to fare well in any given week. I’m not worried about a matchup against a beatable secondary, so it really comes down to personal preference with these Broncos’ receivers. We should see more consistent performances from Sanders and Hamilton, while Sutton offers the big play upside that we look for in tournaments.

Quick Summary: For me, this situation all comes down to pricing. Sanders rates out as a better value on FanDuel, while Hamilton rates out as a better value on DraftKings.

Tight End Projections

Player Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Noah Fant DEN 6.77 TE22 12% 4.48 Rank 21 Rank 23 Rank 17 Rank
Jeff Heuerman DEN 2.96 TE46 5% 1.87 Rank 42 Rank 43 Rank 39 Rank

OAK Schedule Adjusted TE Points Allowed (‘18): Rank #5

2018 Noah Fant Opportunity Metrics: N/A

2018 Noah Fant Efficiency Metrics: N/A

The Broncos are loaded at receiver, but all three of their tight ends have been dealing with injuries — Noah Fant, Jake Butt, and Jeff Heuerman. It sounds like Fant and Heuerman will be able to suit up, but keep an eye out for an update on them later in the week. Fant is expected to be the tight end of the future in Denver, but he’s a rookie with question marks. I do like his matchup against the Raiders, who were ranked dead last in DVOA against tight ends last season, but will be taking a wait and see approach for now.

Quick Summary: In the two-game slate, I would lean toward Jared Cook and Darrell Waller at tight end.

Defense Projections

Player Team Proj Rank Sack INT PtsAllow Home? Favorite?
Denver Broncos DEN 6.5 DST16 2.40 0.92 24.30 N N

It’s very rare that my favorite play of an entire game is a defense, but that’s what we have here. The Broncos have a great front seven and a great corner in Chris Harris. They should be able to generate a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb leading the way. The Raiders’ offensive line could really struggle this season and for many of the reasons stated throughout this breakdown, Oakland could struggle to move the ball in general. I would have been playing the Broncos’ defense even if Antonio Brown was active, so they will obviously be featured in my lineups now that he’s on the Patriots.

Quick Summary: For the two-game slate on Monday night, the Broncos’ defense is my favorite play by a wide margin.

DFS Recommendations

Optimal DFS Plays: Broncos D/ST, Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller

Leverage Plays: Josh Jacobs, Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, Hunter Renfrow

Secondary Plays: Joe Flacco, Royce Freeman, Emmanuel Sanders, DeSean Hamilton, Jalen Richard

About the Author

  • Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

  • Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.


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