The regular season is quickly coming to a close, and with it, our opportunity to cash in on some of these tournaments in daily fantasy. Of course, we still have playoff football, but that simply forces everyone to play the same small slate which limits our contrarian opportunities. Last week we sadly lost one of the best QB options in the game in Carson Wentz (my heart that bleeds green is broken), but he put up a solid performance before the unfortunate injury that ended his MVP run.
This past weekend, I was inspired by some of the interesting performers at the top like Jonathan Stewart, Russell Wilson, Rod Smith, and Mitch Trubisky. These performances, along with many of this weekend’s busts despite great match ups, made me think of a Biblical verse about God choosing the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. This statement just feels so applicable when it comes to DFS because every week ,without fail, there is some random player against which all the numbers and odds are stacked that explodes on the daily scene! It’s so frustrating because there are no indicators to such performances, but it doesn’t matter. Therefore I will try to paint a picture of how these ridiculous things could happen in a new section “Foolishness to Confound the Wise”.
Here is the Red Zone data for this week’s matchups:
Drop Stacks On…
Russell Wilson – $7300 vs Rams
There are only two things that we need to look at to know that Wilson is worth the price. He put up a 21-point performance against the dominant #1 Jaguars defense last week, and we saw how Carson Wentz moved the ball in the process of dissecting the Rams defense last week with four scores. Wilson should give this Rams defense fits, plus there is an opportunity for the Seahawks to be more balanced when moving the ball between the 20s against this the Rams who are 19th in rush DVOA.
Aaron Rodgers – $6800 @ Panthers
We have all been waiting for Rodgers to return and he comes back with playoff hopes still very much alive. During his absence the Packers seem to have found a way to improve their running game. Being able to lean on the running game should allow him to ease back into the game while facing the Panthers who have given up the 10th least points to passers. The Panthers have, however, given up four 20+ point performances this season and Aaron Rodgers produced the same amount of 20+ point outings before his untimely exit. Additionally, Rodgers will be passing against a secondary which only has one player (Mike Adams) above a 50 Pro Football Focus grade. We know that Aaron Rodgers can extend the play which is something that Wentz and Brees were able to do to put up at least 28 points in defeating the Panthers (Saints 34 and 31 points, Eagles 28 points).
Ben Roethlisberger – $6700 vs Patriots
I really thought that the Patriots had been turning it around, but watching the Monday night game as I write this, the Dolphins seem to be manufacturing points against them. Either they are just having an off night or they are regressing back to early season form. Looking back at their schedule, the Patriots haven’t played a quarterback playing at Big Ben’s level since probably week 4. If the Patriots are going to play like a team ranked 24th in pass DVOA and dead last in rush DVOA, then Roethlisberger should be able to take advantage especially when Juju Smith-Schuster should return. There should be plenty of passing to Bell as well since the Patriots are 11th worst in DVOA vs pass catching running backs. This is a crazy cheap price given the potential opportunity.
Cam Newton – $6400 vs Packers
Kizer and the Browns were able to move the ball against this defense in week 14 so we have to believe that Cam will be able to do the same. The Packers are 20th in pass DVOA and have given up 9 passing TDs in their last three games. When facing pass defenses ranked 20th or worse Cam Newton averages more than 27 fantasy points including 2 passing TDs.
Blake Bortles – $5700 vs Texans
Watching what Bortles was able to accomplish last week inspires this inexpensive option for this week’s main slate. In seasonal leagues he has been suggested as a replacement for those who lost Wentz this past week. Bortles down field accuracy seems to have improved and his receiving options in Lee, Westbrook, and Cole have been showing out. This week’s opponent, the Texans, are no where near the type of defense that Seattle is so there is plenty of opportunity. The Texans have given up the 4th most points to the quarterbacks this season and had given up 12 passing TDs between weeks 8-11. While they have only given up two passing TDs since then, the offenses they have faced have been far from impressive in the passing game. Given “Sacksonville’s” propensity to generate turnovers Bortles should have plenty of opportunity to score.
Foolishness to Confound the Wise…
Nick Foles – $5500 @ Giants
This could be one of the most overlooked options of the week. Recency bias will have people recall Foles time with the Rams and Chiefs, and others will fade Foles into the shadows because of the significant perceived drop off from what Wentz was able to do to what they expect Foles to do. What if Foles returns to his 2013 form? 27 TDs to 2 picks doesn’t happen on accident, but rather it’s a by product of a competent signal caller with good coaching and a great supporting cast. This will be a revealing game for him and if it comes out closer to his ceiling than the floor we have seen in recent years he could be a tournament-winning contrarian play. His opponent will provide plenty of opportunity as the Giants have given up 6 passing TDs over their last 3 games and the most points to quarterbacks this season. The Eagles have an implied total of 25~ points according to Vegas which shows Philly still dominating in this game.
LeVeon Bell – $9300 vs Patriots
Did you see what Kenyan Drake did against theses Patriots on Monday night? If Drake can generate 24 fantasy points in full time work, how much more can Bell produce in this critical conference match up. There is always the risk that Belichick decides to take away this facet of the Steelers offense, but in reality this is a “pick your poison” situation for the Patriots defense. If they stop Bell, Brown goes off or vice versa, but it seems to make sense to pay up for the options that will have the most opportunities.
Alvin Kamara – $8600 vs Jets
Assuming the 10 day rest facilitates Kamara’s return, this would be another cash game play worth the extra coin. Kamara only mustered a little over 5 points last week, but that production was accumulated on just a few plays in part of the first drive last week. If he is back to full form, it comes just in time for a juicy game against the Jets who are 26th in DVOA against pass catching running backs. The Jets only give up the 6th least points to running backs this season, but if we consider Kamara to be like another receiver (to which the Jets are giving up 6th most points) then there has to be potential there for a huge outing. If the general populous is fading Kamara because of the injury and the Jets’ performance metrics against running backs, then this could drive ownership a little lower than normal.
Kenyan Drake – $5800 @ Bills
After Monday night’s domination of the Patriots, we were all able to see why the Dolphins felt comfortable letting Jay Ajayi go, but we still end up with a head-scratching question of why Damien Williams stayed so involved? Anyway, Williams is a non-factor now which gives us a lot of confidence in this contest against the Bills. Buffalo has given up the most points to running backs in addition to five 20+ point perfomances so far this season. We do have to keep an eye on the weather though as it is supposed to snow in the days before the game. The forecast projects a cold, but fair weather game at about 38 degrees which will likely reduce the amount the ball is thrown. Since his ownership is sure to rise after that game against the Patriots, he might be a better cash game play.
Jay Ajayi – $5000 @ Giants
If you don’t believe in the possibility of Nick Foles being closer to his 2013 form, then you have to believe that the Eagles will try to focus on the rushing attack which only requires Foles to manage the game. This is a great week for the Eagles to put a run focused game plan to the test as they face the Giants who are giving up the 7th most points to running backs and rank 25th in rush DVOA. The Eagles have the second most rushing yards in the league with one of the most effective 3+ person committees that I have ever seen. However, in recent games Ajayi’s snap and carry share have increased almost every week since suiting up in Eagle green. Now with a major change in quarterback capabilities, we should be able to take advantage of a low-priced back in the 2nd most productive rushing offense that should now become the focus. Sounds like a winner at this price.
Mike Davis – $4000 vs Rams
Davis had a few really solid runs against a Jags defense that has had issues in the rushing game all season. The great thing about Davis, if he plays, is that he faces the Rams that perform similarly in this area giving up the 2nd most points to the position. The Rams have given up 7 20+ point performances to running backs this season and 6 times they have given up over 120 yards on the ground. This may feel like a dart throw given the way Seattle’s offense is so dependent Wilson’s crazy legs, but Davis has seen at least 15 carries over the last two games. Davis did sustain a rib injury, but it doesn’t appear to be something that would hold him out.
Michael Thomas – $7400 vs Jets
If you want similar upside while saving $1000 in cap space then we should consider Thomas against the Jets who have the 3rd worst DVOA to the primary wide receiver and give up the 3rd most points to the position. As far as 20+ point performances, the Jets have allowed 7 such performances while the Saints offense has produced 6 of them. Vegas indicates that the Saints will put up near 30 points which is easy to buy into since they are a more competent offense than the Chiefs who put up more than 360 passing yards on the Jets two weeks ago. DFS owners may fade him due to the expected return of Kamara, but that’s just a little more opportunity for us in tournaments.
Devin Funchess – $6600 vs Packers
In the last 5 weeks Devin Funchess has averaged almost 18 PPR points on ~5 receptions from ~8 targets and turning that into 81 yards and a score in almost every game. This production came against defenses giving up the 6th (MIA), 10th (ATL), and 12th (MIN) least points to receivers. Green Bay is giving up the 5th most points to receivers, so this should be a nice game for Funchess. With Aaron Rodgers return this game is likely to be more high-scoring than originally projected, which means more throwing. It has been said that air yards are a nice indicator of receiver opportunity and Funchess has the ninth most air yards over the last 3 weeks.
Dez Bryant – $6500 @ Raiders
Dez has had solid games over his last two as he scored in both. Now he hasn’t been getting the targets one would expect, but he has been making the most of them lately. While many could fade him due to his low amount of targets, it’s reasonable to expect Dez to capitalize on a weak Oakland defense that is dead last in DVOA for pass defense and against primary receivers while yielding the 9th most points to quarterbacks.
Cooper Kupp – $6200 @ Seahawks
Blake Bortles and the Jags were able to do some damage to this Seattle secondary last week, and that should be encouraging as Jared Goff seems more capable than Bortles this season. The Seahawks pass defense ranking is bolstered by their early season success, but they have been poor in defending secondary receivers (3rd worst vs WR2s). Kupp has been doing some work over the last 4 games averaging 6 receptions and 91.5 yards per game over that span. If we can count on a score from him with this same production, it would be good for 22 PPR points. At this price, that’s good enough for a cash play given his steadily rising floor.
Stefon Diggs – $5800 vs Bengals
The Bengals are without their top two corners and it shows when Mitch Trubisky can systematically pick you apart. Adam Thielen would be a natural selection, but there are two things to consider. First, Thielen and Rudolph are on the injury report: Thielen with a knee issue and Rudolph with an ankle injury. Second, Diggs (not on the injury report) provides us a pivot opportunity as he may be the best target on the field. Diggs is about 2 receptions, 50 yards, and a touchdown better when playing at home and he has more air yards this season that Adam Thielen which speaks to his potential to blow up for your tournament lineups.
Dede Westbrook – $5100 vs Texans
It is hard to understand how Westbrook remains at this price. Over the last two weeks Westbrook has averaged more than 8 targets, 5 receptions, and almost 80 yards. In this glaring stack opportunity for your tournament lineups, it is easy to believe in it as Westbrook’s production in these last two weeks compared to his first two this season show he has essentially doubled his fantasy production. Jimmy G, just dropped 300 passing yards on this defense, and given the way Bortles has been playing recently there is no reason to doubt he can do something similar. The Texans (giving up the 9th most points to receivers) have been poor against secondary receivers, ranking a paltry 27th vs WR2s. While this is a solid tournament play on its own, stacking him with Bortles, not only makes sense, but it could make you money too.
Mike Wallace – $4700 @ Browns
The passing game in Baltimore has improved and it is reflected in Flacco‘s numbers. Over his last two games, he has averaged an additional 100 yards while doubling his passing TDs average and fantasy points when compared with the rest of the season. If this is a turn for the better, then perhaps there could be more games for Wallace like his outing against Detroit. This feels like more of a dart throw, but the Browns are 5th worst in the following categories: DVOA vs WR1s, Pass DVOA, and fantasy points to QBs. Add to that, the Texans have given up 6 20+ point performances to receivers. Caution: Wallace is dealing with an ankle injury, so keep an eye on injury reports.
Nelson Agholor – $4400 @ Giants
Low-ownership is guaranteed since the Eagles just lost Wentz, but it is hard to not take a chance on the possibility that Foles becomes his 2013-self. It’s completely within the realm of possibility as the Giants pass defense has been terrible recently with the 8th worst pass DVOA, 2nd worst in DVOA vs WR2s, and dead last in fantasy points to the quarterback position. Agholor’s skillset gives Foles an option to move the chains and bomb it out downfield especially against a defense this bad. If you are into build the foundation of your tournament lineups with cheap stacks, the Foles-Agholor stack is just for you!
Foolishness to Confound the Wise…
Josh Gordon – $6800 / Corey Coleman – $4400 vs Ravens
This is a matchup that is being heavily avoided in seasonal leagues as many people just can’t stomach the idea of playing anyone facing the 2nd best defense in pass DVOA that is giving up the 4th least points to receivers. If we buy into air yards as potential, then we must consider what Josh Gordon has done since his return. Yes it is a small sample size of two games, but during that span Gordon has had the 4th most air yards among receivers. This is a unique opportunity to be super contrarian with some hidden upside. Gordon has looked like a beast, and while the numbers imply it’s foolish to play him, it’s possible that he is able to exploit some cracks that were exposed by the Steelers. On the other side of that is Corey Coleman at a super low price, but we have seen flashes this season and last. Therefore it isn’t inconceivable that Coleman (3rd most air yards last week) could take advantage of Brandon Carr who is the weakness of the secondary according to his 51.4 grade. He’s had the targets and the chemistry between Kizer and these two receivers appears to be building. It could be worth a super contrarian shot in tournaments. Baltimore has given up 3 20+ point performances to receivers, two of which were Crabtree and Davante Adams. The fact that Brett Hundley was able to produce a 20+ point receiver should give these “foolish” picks a little bit of optimism.
Mack Hollins – $3000 @ Giants
An obvious shot-in-the-dark type of play, Mack Hollins has crazy upside. Looking at the few targets he has gotten this season (16) he has shown off his hands catching 81.3% of his passes for 201 yards. Other than Zach Ertz, Hollins is the receiver with which Foles has the most experience throwing two due to being on the 2nd team. Hollins has been deserving of more playing time for a while so why not reward him and give Foles a familiar target at the same time? Maybe it make too much sense, but one shot on one lineup might be the difference for cashing in in tournaments!
Zach Ertz – $6000 @ Giants
We simply have to target the Giants with the tight end position every week as they consistently prove how weak they are against the position. The Giants are giving up the 3rd most yards, the most touchdowns, and the most fantasy points to tight end. Ertz is 4th in receptions, yards, and TDs at the tight end position. While Wentz is now recovering from ACL surgery, we must remember that Foles has a history and chemistry with Ertz from his previous time with the Eagles. There is still a drop off, but since Foles hasn’t really played with Alshon, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, or Mack Hollins (in a game) it would make sense that he would lean on Ertz here.
Jimmy Graham – $4900 vs Rams
While the Rams are giving up only the 14th most points to tight ends and the 8th best DVOA against the position, one could be quick to fade Jimmy Graham. What could provide confidence in this play is the Rams have given up the 3rd most yards and the second most fantasy points to running backs (good for Mike Davis’ chances to move the ball) and we have seen how Wilson has made magic happen against two of the stingiest defenses in back to back weeks. This is a wordy way of saying that the Seahawks should be able to move the ball against the Rams. So what does this mean for Graham? Red zone opportunities! Graham has the most targets inside the opponent’s 10 yard line which could mean lot’s of points. 30 yards and 2 TDs is not inconceivable for Graham which helps us hit that 3x value.
Foolishness that Confounds the Wise
David Njoku – $2700
Although we already discussed how all the stats and numbers stack up against the Browns offense, it would be safe to assume one thing: the Browns will be chasing points. If that’s true it is reasonable to expect all options to be exhausted by Kizer including his tight end, Njoku. Looking at all Browns receivers with at least 20 targets, Njoku has the most adjusted air yards. DVOA and fantasy points to the position highlight that Baltimore has a crack in its armor against tight ends with the 2nd worst DVOA against, and giving up the 8th most points to, the position. We all know how crazy these divisional games can be, and the Browns seem to wait until the end of a season to surprise us most times. This would be a total shot in the dark, but one that could set your tournament lineups apart while saving that coveted salary cap.
New Orleans Saints – $3900 vs Jets
Bryce Petty has come in and he is a significant drop off from McCown. In 7 games played he has 11 completions per game for 111 yards and a 1:2 TD/INT ratio. In a game where the Saints are sure to dominate (32 implied points) there has to be at least one defensive TD coming especially since it will require more throwing from Petty.
Philadelphia Eagles – $3600 @ Giants
Eagles – Giants is always a contentious game, but the Eagles have been really good in the trenches. The NFL running backs collectively have not broken the 1000 yard mark against this team. We know the state of the Giants offensive line, and we can expect the Eagles to harass Eli all day. Additionally, the Eagles will likely be running a little more than usual, killing the clock and thus the Giants’ opportunity to score. With a projected game script where the Giants will be chasing points, they will be passing against a defense that has generated the 4th most interceptions, 3rd least 3rd down conversions, and the 3rd most takeaways on the season. The nail-in-the-coffin stat for this pick is a comparison of offensive and defensive line metrics from Football Outsiders data that I like to call my trenches metric. This week the Giants have the worst trenches rating of the week.
Arizona Cardinals – $2900 @ Redskins
The Cardinals have been playing better defense over their last three games holding each of their last three opponents 303 total yards or less while generating 6 turnovers during that span. Kirk Cousins has still been pretty solid, but in his last four games, his interception rate has been double what it was during the first 9 weeks of the season. Out of the defenses that are below $3000 playing on the main slate, the Cardinals have the best trenches matchup implying a challenge for Washington to run the ball effectively.