Last week there were some hits, busts, total oversights, and some confounding foolishness that won people some tournaments. This week will be the last reasonably predictable week until the Wild Card weekend slates, so let’s take advantage of the fact that all teams in the hunt will be playing hard to get in, but also consider the effect the early games could have on the later games. One example of this would be a Rams win eliminating the Seahawks’ playoff hopes. The playoff picture is something to consider when making your selections this week.
While I’m not entirely sure how useful the red zone data has been for readers this week, it is included below. This will be evaluated during the off-season for usefulness and improvements.
This week there aren’t a lot of attractive low cost options across the board so we are going to have to get creative with the salary cap and dig deep for values. Let’s take a look at the passers.
Droppin’ Stacks ….
Cam Newton – $6800 vs Buccaneers
Cam was a beast against Green Bay last week throwing for four scores. Now he faces the 2nd worst defense in pass DVOA that has given up the most points and 7 20+ point performances to receivers this season. The only thing that gives pause is the rushing opportunity that Carolina will have as well, but it’s hard to pass on this opportunity. In home games since week 11, Cam has had 5 more fantasy points then the rest of the season. He will be at home again, on fire, against one of the worst defenses which is very enticing as a pay up play for cash.
Blake Bortles – $6500 @ 49ers
The 49ers haven’t allowed a 250+ yard passer since week 10 against the Giants, but the way Bortles has been playing lately is exciting. It’s hard to believe, but as long as Bortles is in this price range facing defenses that are bottom 3 in pass DVOA and fantasy points to quarterbacks, put him on my roster. It’s possible to see Bortles with the same low ownership (11%) he had in week 15. Bortles, since week 11, has averaged 7 more fantasy points, 30 more passing yards, and about half a TD more than he has the rest of the season. Bortles is a rising wave of productivity that I intend to surf this weekend.
Philip Rivers – $6400 vs Jets
Rivers is playing for his playoff life in this next matchup against the Jets, and the only earlier matchup we need to watch occurs on Saturday night as the Ravens face off with the Colts. If the Ravens win then the Chargers have no chance at the playoffs yet again, so we would need to consider how this will affect their play. If this game matters though, Rivers faces a Jets defense that gives up the 2nd most points to QBs and the 6th most points to receivers. Seven different receivers have scored 20+ fantasy points against them, but caution should be exercised here as Keenan Allen sustained a back injury. Still, this is a solid matchup where the ownership should be lower owned after a 3 interception performance, but don’t let that scare you off the value here.
Matt Stafford – $6200 @ Bengals
Detroit has everything to play for and the Bengals have nothing to play for as a team. What may scare people off of Stafford is Cincinnati’s 3rd least fantasy points to receivers, top half in least fantasy points to quarterbacks, and 18th in pass DVOA. We must look at the recent games to truly see how juicy Stafford’s opportunity is. In the last 3 games, the Bengals have given up 5 passing TDs during that span and 250+ passing yards in two of those games. While the Bengals give up the 2nd most fantasy points to running backs, it seems doubtful that the Lions would suddenly shift their offense to pound the ball, even in the red zone, as red zone data indicates that Detroit will throw it 57% of the time when in striking distance.
Jared Goff – $6100 @ Titans
Jared Goff is potential realized because of Sean McVay, and this is a week you should play him. The Titans are pretty solid against the run (10th in rush DVOA), but they are 9th worst both in pass DVOA and fantasy points to receivers. In the Titans last 3 games, they have given up more than 300 yards in 2 of them. They have been stingy in the end zone over that span which is what might give most people pause. Reduced TD potential is a legitimate surface concern, but, save for Jimmy G, they haven’t faced a passer of Goff’s caliber in the last three games. In the 2 games before the recent 3 game span, the Titans gave up 6 passing touchdowns to Big Ben and Andy Dalton. Goff has been consistent in scoring with 2 TDs in each of his last four games, and with the script shaping up to require more passing, Goff should give your tournament lineups cheap parity vs the field.
Jameis Winston – $5700 @ Panthers
Winston’s home/road splits indicate that his fantasy production is loosely derived from his pass attempts, so this week with an expectation of Carolina to score points, we could expect Winston’s pass attempts to be up even though they are on the road. Looking at his last 3 games compared to the rest of his season, it shows that Winston is about 9 PPR points better for an average over that span of 27 points. Now all three of those games were against lesser passing defense than what the Panthers boast, but they have given up at least 24 points and 250+ passing yards to their last 4 opponents. Purely a tournament play, Winston will give us a solid inexpensive low-ownership option in a main slate devoid of such choices.
Todd Gurley – $9100 @ Titans
The Titans have been solid this season defending the run which is reflected in their 10th best ranking in rush DVOA. This defense, however, is 2nd worst in DVOA vs pass catching running backs. Gurley and the Rams have shown that their rushing attack is more effective than most other teams, and we can fully expect Gurley to be involved in the passing game. The Rams are tied with New England this week for most expected red zone TDs. Gurley just ran on Seattle to the tune of 40+ points against the Seahawks who were ranked 9th in rush DVOA while giving up the 4th least points to the position last week, so there is no reason to fade him here.
Mark Ingram – $8300 / Alvin Kamara – $8100 vs Falcons
These two studs are weekly chalk plays and this week is no exception. The Falcons aren’t good at defending back on the ground (30th) or through the air (19th) according to their DVOAs, but somehow the Falcons have minimized the fantasy damage inflicted by running backs as they give up the 12th least points to fantasy rushers. Since I only deal with Draft Kings where it’s full PPR, it important to note that the Falcons are tied for third in receptions given up to running backs. It’s hard to go wrong with either of these backs, but I lean Kamara because of the receiving and big play upside in the passing game.
LeSean McCoy – $7800 @ Patriots
Buffalo is trying to maintain their opportunity to play in January, and this is an opportunity to attempt to best New England in the most improbable location. The Patriots have been bad defending the run over the last 3 weeks allowing almost 150 yards per game over that span. In fact, one of those games was against Buffalo where the Bills rushed for a total of 183 yards. Shady had 93 yards on the ground during their last meeting, and the Patriots bead last ranking in rush DVOA is encouraging for a repeat performance while adding a few receptions and a score. The volume is guaranteed for Shady, and with a possibility of being lower owned that Gurley, Ingram, Kamara, and Hunt, he could be a tournament option.
Christian McCaffrey – $6400 vs Buccaneers
McCaffrey had perhaps his best performance of the season generating 25 points against the Packers. This is sure to increase his ownership, but since he is facing the 10th worst defense in DVOA vs pass catching RBs he may be worth the stack with Cam Newton in cash games. This is the second week in a row that McCaffrey’s carry total has increased since week 12. We know he will see targets in the passing game and he hasn’t caught less than 75% of his targets in three weeks, so this helps our floor more than anything else. Keep in mind that Tampa Bay has given up 8 20+ point performances to the position this season.
Dion Lewis – $6000 vs Bills
Burkhead went down with an injury which means that Belichick will juke all of us and play a lot of James White. Just sayin’, you have been warned. But just in case Belichick does something that makes sense to the general public, we should be able to hang our hats on the opportunity Dion Lewis has here. Buffalo has given up the most fantasy points to running backs on the season and they are 5th worst in rush DVOA. Lewis and Burkhead have had about 40 touches between them over the past two games with Lewis getting the majority of the opportunities. Red zone data indicates that the Patriots will have the most red zone TDs this week with a slight edge toward rushing versus passing in this area of the field. Reason says that we should play Lewis, but as I said earlier, you have been warned. Check to see if Gillislee suits up this week as he could be this week’s confounding foolishness.
Theo Riddick – $4700 @ Bengals
Riddick should be able to take advantage of this matchup as the Lions face a defense giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to the position. Some may have a legitimate concern about Tion Green in these circumstances, and there is opportunity to play him on the hope of vulturing some TDs, but we know by now that this offense does more of its damage through the air. He should be a nice stack option with Stafford this week.
Mike Gillislee – $3900 vs Bills
The New England rushing game plan has been foolishness to all fantasy players for as long as I can remember. Burkhead is down, which likely means that Gillislee will be active for this game. Given that the Bills have given up 3 rushing TDs in their last three games, and all of them were red zone rushes. This is where Gillislee has typically been utilized, and The Patriots are a 13-point favorites in this game which, if the projected score holds true, then Gillislee could have the “kill-the-clock” role. While the masses gravitate toward Dion Lewis, we could potentially pivot to Gillislee hoping he does exactly what he did for those who believed in week 1.
Keenan Allen – $7700 @ Jets
The Chargers need help, but they have a thin shot at the playoffs, by winning the division. In order to do this they must win out, so motivation: check! The next check on our list is the matchup. Jets have given up the 6th most fantasy points to receivers, eight 20+ point performances to the position, and the 3rd most points to QBs. We have a check in the matchup box, but the most important item to check for any of this to look good for us is the health of Keenan Allen. Early reports indicate that he has a lower back strain that shouldn’t keep him out of the game. Therefore, we must watch the reports, but if he plays, fire him up for cash games. If he doesn’t play for some unforeseen reason perhaps Tyrell Williams or Mike Williams could be good tournament plays.
Devin Funchess – $6600 vs Buccaneers
Now that Greg Olsen is back it seems to have affected Funchess’ opportunities. Last week was the first time he has had less than 6 targets. This drop off in targets coincides with Olsen’s return, but let’s not forget that a wide receiver did catch 2 TDs against the Packers last week. It just so happened that Funchess was not the benefactor. It’s easy to imagine the majority of people fading Funchess this week off of an outlier performance. Funchess has a great opportunity to bounce back against the Bucs who are giving up the most fantasy points to wide receivers. Our primary concern (Greg Olsen’s presence) can be tempered with the fact that the Bucs are pretty good against tight ends giving up the 3rd least scores and 9th least yards to the position. With 4 TDs since week 10, Funchess is worth consideration in tournaments.
Jarvis Landry – $6300 @ Chiefs
In games against bottom half defenses, Landry has averaged 6+ receptions on 9+ targets for 60+ yards and about a TD per game. In his last 5 games he has been slightly better than that with and average of more than 7 receptions on 9+ targets for 70 yards. Even though their season is over Landry is still playing for the next big contract. Fortunately, he has an opportunity against the Chiefs who are giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to receivers on the season, rank 29th in WR1 DVOA which is understandable having given up the 4th most receiving yards.
Doug Baldwin – $6300 @ Cowboys
Russell Wilson had a horrible outing last week, but there is no reason to believe that the entire NFL has solved the Wilson riddle. The Rams had been a stingy defense all season reflected in their 8th and 11th least fantasy points to passers and receivers respectively. Dallas, on the other hand, has given up the 11th and 3rd most fantasy points to those same respective positions. Baldwin and Wilson are a somewhat expensive stack that could pay off in cash. There is potential in tournaments too since ownership is sure to be down due to last week’s disaster.
Dede Westbrook – $6100 @ 49ers
Bortles has earned our trust by now, and Dede Westbrook is deserving of our trust as well. He had a crazy down week last week seeing his lowest target total of the season, but fading him completely would be a huge mistake. This is sure to create an awesome tournament opportunity. There should be a regression to the mean against this 49ers defense that is 25th or worse in DVOA vs all wide receivers types. Last week was a bump in the road and probably ended seasonal championship aspirations for many, but that’s why we daily fantasy players can shake it off and move on quickly. Remember, he didn’t play poorly last game, it’s just how the game unfolded.
Sammy Watkins – $4400 @ Titans
See the Jared Goff section above. This should be a game where we see more passing volume from Goff and this is more of a shot in the dark with TD upside as Watkins has had 3 scores over the last 4 weeks. Watkins is seeing the 2nd most adjusted yards per attempt (behind Woods) and the most air yards for the team which highlights his constant potential for a solid weekend. 5 receptions, 60 yards, and a score isn’t an unreasonable expectation for Watkins, and in Draft Kings that would be 17 point week which is almost 4x value!
Paul Richardson – $4300 @ Cowboys
Paul Richardson deserves a look since he has had 7 or more targets in 4 of the last 5 games, and Dallas doesn’t have corners capable of dealing with his speed consistently. He provides a cheaper stack option with Wilson this week, saving you about $2000. The Cowboys are giving up the 5th most Draft Kings points to wide receivers which is encouraging for Richardson in tournaments.
DeSean Jackson missed practice due to an injury and OJ Howard just got put on IR. This information could lead us to believe that Evans will see a high target total. When Evans sees double digit targets he typically scores 21+ fantasy points (21-game sample size). The reason this is under foolishness is due to the surface appearance of the matchup. On the year the Panthers have given up the 12th least points to QBs and rank 7th in pass DVOA. However, the Panthers have given up the 7th most points to receivers, and recently they haven’t looked like they are improving. The Panthers have given up 9 passing TDs in their last 4 games. Chris Godwin benefits from all of these facts as well. Keep in mind that for his price and the way the Bucs are using him could give us some confidence in his upside in this matchup. Winston has been targeting him on a lot of deep in-breaking routes, normally this is where Brate excels, but he is a little banged up too. Good options for your tournament plays if you can stomach the risk. Vegas favors Carolina by 11+ points which is nice because the Bucs could be chasing points through the air.
Rob Gronkowski – $7400 vs Bills
In their last meeting a few weeks ago Gronk scored almost 24 points without scoring touchdowns. Many are depending on Tom Brady for their seasonal fantasy championships this week, and if you are one of those people, you must believe that he will be throwing TDs instead of handing it off. If that holds true then Gronk will be a solid pay up option in cash. The Bills yield the 11th most fantasy points and 9th most yards to tight ends. This does come with some caution though as the NFL is hardly known for being consistent or predictable so there might be some significant variance in his performance.
Travis Kelce – $6900 vs Dolphins
Kansas City’s offense spreads the ball to less players than does New England, so this may be a cheaper and more predictable option if you want to pay up. The matchup is pretty good to as Miami gives up the 5th most fantasy points, 3rd most TDs, 7th most yards to tight ends. Kelce is averaging 9 targets per game of his last three, and he had a multi-TD game against the Jets. Gronk scored two TDs against them and Kelce is every bit as capable as Gronk.
Ricky Seals-Jones – $3500 vs Giants
Seals-Jones burst onto the scene in week 11 with ~20 points. The challenge is that Troy Niklas has been creeping into the picture as a better blocker than Ricky. However, Seals-Jones is a better receiver and route runner than Niklas so the higher number of targets to Niklas should be expected to regress. Niklas is also dealing with some injury issues this week that could increase snaps for Seals-Jones. The Giants are terrible against tight ends giving up the most fantasy points, most scores, and 3rd most yards to the position. Seems like a no-brainer and either option has the opportunity to snag a few catches and a score.
There is only one way to spend on D/STs this week, and that way is up. Here we are simply looking for bad offenses matched up against solid defenses.
Chargers – $3700 @ Jets
Pretty simple really. We are simply targeting Bryce Petty who has been less than competent averaging less than a 50 in passer rating since starting in relief of Josh McCown. The Chargers have been a pretty formidable passing defense allowing the 5th least points to quarterbacks and the 7th least points to receivers. On top of that, the Chargers have the 4th best rush DVOA. Like I said, simple choice.
Chiefs -$3300 vs Dolphins
After seeing the results of the changes Kansas City has made recently (adding Revis and turning over offensive play calling to the OC), it is tempting to run a mega stack here with Smith, Hill, Kelce, Hunt, and this defense. Jay Cutler is our friend in this scenario due to his propensity to force throws that result in picks. Kansas City has generated 7 turnovers in their last 2 games.