USA Today

Week 14: Vegas Vs. Fantasy

Using Vegas' odds, lines and spreads, Fantasy Football Expert Mark Morales-Smith gets a feel for how this week's matchups will pan out. It's not a perfect science; however, it illustrates trends generated by some of the world's best handicappers.


It was not until I began playing DFS that I started using Vegas lines as part of my research and determining factor when setting up my lineups. These lines can provide so much information each week. It gives you an idea of the potential game flow we could expect. High totals and close spreads, usually indicate a potential shootout. Whereas, a low total with a low spread is a game that is not expected to have a lot of fantasy goodness aside from the defenses. These lines are set by math wizards and some of the best handicappers in the world. They spend countless hours studying patterns, teams, and situations. For those who are not familiar, spreads are the amount of points a team is expected to win or lose by. The point total is the amount of points both teams combined are projected to score.

My goal each week is to look through the lines and point out which offenses you should be targeting and which defenses are in good situations. Let’s dive right into it.

The chart below shows the three games this week with the highest point totals. I included where it opened and the current live line. This can give you an idea of where the public is putting their money on. Generally if the total opens at one number and it begins to rise, the public is betting the over and vice versa.


Projected Points Total

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers


San Diego Chargers at Carolina Panthers


Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants


The Bucs host the Saints in what is projected to be the highest scoring game of the week. Whenever the Saints are involved the point projections always skyrocket because they have Drew Brees and the top-ranked offense in the NFL on one side of the ball and a defense that has allowed more points than every team in the league except the lowly Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. The Bucs defense ranks 14th in the league when it comes to allowing points and 12th overall on offense. Somewhat average on both, but the Saints unbalance amplifies everything from a Fantasy perspective. With the Saints Brees is usually a reliable option despite his hefty price tag. The concern is the Bucs defense has been much improved later in the season. They've only given up 53 points in their last four games combined. Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas are still solid options, though. Mark Ingram has been demoted to "Did Not Practice" on Thursday with his toe injury, so he immediately becomes a dangerous option despite regaining his feature-back role from Tim Hightower last week. Unless Ingram is ruled out, both are precarious options. Tampa is the Jameis Winston and Mike Evans show. Evans has developed into an elite WR1, and Winston has a ton of upside in this one. Cameron Brate is also an excellent option at tight end.

The Chargers and Panthers play in the game with the second-highest projected point total. No matter how many wide receivers he loses, Philip Rivers just keeps on posting big numbers. As always he relies heavily on his running back, so Melvin Gordon is a great option, although, the Panthers are more susceptible to the pass. Tyrell Williams has been the standout receiver this season, and Dontrelle Inman has been significantly more productive than Travis Benjamin since being diagnosed with a sprained PCL in his knee. The veteran Antonio Gates has also regained his top tight end spot from rookie Hunter Henry. The Chargers struggle against the run much more than the pass. Jonathan Stewart is the top option for Carolina in this one. Cam Newton could also see an increased Fantasy boost on the ground. Despite recent struggles, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin are still their best options in the passing attack by a wide margin.

Coming in third for points total projections are the Giants and Cowboys. The Cowboys have a strong rush defense. However, they have been picked apart by quarterbacks this season. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham should be able to get whatever they want against that defense. The Giants don't have much of a rushing attack, so stick with the QB/WR stack in this one. Sterling Shepard should have increased value as well. The Giants have a similar defense. Strong against the run, not so much against the pass. Ezekiel Elliott still has value because of that offense line; nevertheless, he may not be worth his price tag this week. Dak Prescott has been a bit of a game-manager, but this could be a big one for him. Look for him to fully utilize Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley.

The next thing I want to focus on is the game with the lowest point total.



Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Jaguars


There isn’t much to like in this game for the Jags offense, which is incredible considering how good they were last season. The Vikings have an elite defense that suffocates the passing attack. Being that the Jags can't run the ball regardless of who they are playing, they should probably be avoided altogether this season. The Jags are even stingier against the pass ranking No. 2 in the league. A big part of that is the fact they are often down by a lot and teams are running down the clock on them. The Vikings have an abysmal rushing attack, and the passing attack is far from elite led by the mediocre at best Sam Bradford. Everyone in this game is a long shot aside from the defenses.

The last thing I want to cover is the game with the biggest spread.







The Bears vacation against the 49ers are over, and they find themselves matched up with red-hot Lions. There is a reason this is such a wide point spread. Look for the Lions to win this one handily. Matthew Stafford should have a big day as should their wide receivers. However, it could be the running backs led by Theo Riddick that could be the big winners here if the Lions have a comfortable lead in the second half. I also expect Bears running back Jordan Howard to get an abundant of carries in the first half, although, they may be forced to move away from the run late as they often have this season. The Bears' passing attack should be avoided altogether. It's looking like it will be Matt Barkley throwing to Cameron Meredith and Joshua Bellamy on the outside. Marquess Wilson is likely out, and they will continue to be without Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal, and Zach Miller. If you're throwing a dart here, I'd say go with Bellamy.

Scout Fantasy Top Stories