New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (-4, 53)
Saints’ explosive starts vs. Falcons’ flat first-quarters
New Orleans has no trouble getting out of the gate, averaging an NFL-best 7.6 points per first quarter this season. It’s just everything after that first 15 minutes that’s burned the Saints. They’ve averaged more than a touchdown per opening frame and have turned that up in recent contests, averaging eight points over the last three first quarters, including 14 first-quarter points versus Jacksonville last week.
The Falcons have been flat in first quarters in recent weeks and may be especially deflated with a possible letdown spot following their perfect-season spoiling win over Carolina in Week 16. Atlanta has given up an average of more than nine points in the opening frame over the last three weeks – handing over a total of 28 points early. When these NFC South rivals met back in Week 6, Atlanta was down 14-0 in the first quarter and eventually lost to New Orleans 31-21 as a 3-point road favorite.
Daily fantasy watch: Brandin Cooks WR
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (Pick, 45.5)
Lions’ sneaky run game vs. Bears’ bad rush defense
Only one team in the NFL runs the ball less than the Lions. Detroit hands it off just over 34 percent of the time but is starting to spread the football around the playbook in recent weeks. After picking up only 84.5 yards per game – another second-rank statistic – the Lions have averaged 116 yards on the ground in their last three games, running the ball almost 38 percent of the time in that span, including 28 attempts in the win over San Francisco last week. Detroit is rushing for nearly five yards per carry in that span, but you wouldn’t know it by the way QB Matt Stafford is slinging the rock, with 14 touchdowns and only one INT in his last five games.
Chicago sits 27th in rushing defense, allowing opponents plow their way to 124.5 yards per game. The Bears did a good job against Bucs rusher Doug Martin in the win over Tampa Bay last week, but after giving up more than 400 yards and four touchdowns to Stafford last time out, Chicago could get roughed up on the ground if they drop linebackers into coverage. The Bears have allowed 4.5 yards per carry and have watched foes pick up nearly 35 percent of their first downs on the ground. Against the Lions in Week 6, Da Bears were steamrolled for 155 yards on 32 runs.
Daily fantasy watch: Ameer Abdullah RB
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (-7, 47.5)
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. Cardinals’ trouble with dual threats
We looked at this exact mismatch back in Week 10, when Wilson added a team-high 52 rushing yards on to his 240 yards through the air in a 39-32 loss to Arizona. The Cardinals have had issues with dual-threat quarterbacks, giving up 255 yards (fourth most in the NFL) on 50 rush attempts to QBs this season, even though it’s been a while since they’ve seen one. It’s not a trend reserved to this season either, with Arizona allowing 350 yards on the ground to QBs in 2014 (third most). The Cardinals are a quick and aggressive team, but that means leaving themselves open to some big gains if the quarterback can find clean air to run in.
Wilson has amassed 541 yards rushing with surprisingly only one rushing score in 2015, making him the second-best running QB in the NFL behind Cam Newton. He’s been doing the heavy lifting with his arm the past month or so, but with a questionable offensive line, Wilson has found himself running for his life more often. He was sacked four times and hit an unlucky 13 times in the loss to St. Louis last week, turning out 39 bonus yards on the ground. He totaled 51 rushing yards versus Minnesota at the beginning of the month and 46 against the Browns in Week 15.
Daily fantasy watch: Russell Wilson QB
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-3, 46)
Vikings’ relentless run vs. Packers’ porous run defense
The less time Aaron Rodgers has with the football, the better chance the Vikings have of coming away with the NFC North crown. And in order to do so, Minnesota will have to ground-and-pound the Packers defense into submission. The Vikes run the ball more than 48 percent of the time, which has jumped to 53 percent in the past three weeks. That relentless smashing is an investment, with defenses crumbling in the second half. Minnesota averages 5.2 yards per carry in the final two frames – over a yard more than in the first half.
Green Bay was able to jump out to a quick lead against the Vikings when they met in November, forcing Minnesota to pass the ball in a game of catch-up. The Vikes rushed only 18 times for 94 yards – a stark comparison to their 33 average attempts the last three games. However, when you break it down, that’s still more than five yards a carry. Green Bay has been beat up on the ground in recent weeks, allowing a NFL-worst 5.8 yards per run in the past three games while foes average more than 137 yards on the ground in that span.
Daily fantasy watch: Adrian Peterson RB
NBA | MLB | NFL | NHL
As an athlete in his younger years, Shane Kilgore developed a deep understanding of what it takes for a player to produce at the top of their game. Using that knowledge and an obsessive research habit has led to player picks and insights that many other writers would miss. As a daily fantasy sports player, Shane uses those picks and insights to win! Follow Shane on Twitter @Lineupzone