Short slates present us with a different set of rules. We have to throw out concerns over negative correlation, meaning we should be far more willing to play a running back and wide receiver from the same team. We also can’t be as price sensitive, as the guys we like are the guys we like — there aren’t enough of them to be picky. And finally, we have to be on top of our late-swap game as the roster overlap with our opponents will be significant.
One added caveat this week involves not spending all of your salary cap. If Antonio Brown (concussion) sits, filling your cap will mean a similar roster construction to everyone else. Don’t be afraid to leave more on the table than you normally would.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap count, usage and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Demaryius Thomas against a funneling Steelers defense
The Steelers’ top-5 DVOA run defense and leaky secondary makes them a weekly target for pass games. We’ve seen it time and time again, as Pittsburgh gave up the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers and the third-most passing yards overall. So this week sets up really well for Demaryius Thomas, especially with Peyton Manning back. Thomas averaged 3.3 more DK points with Peyton vs. Brock Osweiler.
It’s not that Peyton is an upgrade on Brock (he’s not), it’s that Manning’s weak arm fits well with how the Broncos like to use Demaryius. His aDOT (average depth of target via PFF) is just 10.8 yards, 69th in the league. It speaks to how many bubble screens and hitches they call for DT, taking advantage of his unique YAC ability. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Sanders’ aDOT is up at 14.8, 23rd in the league. That’s problematic as Manning can no longer throw the ball that far. Also, we have a narrative street with Demaryius’ mom possibly watching her son play for the first time.
WATCH ADAM LEVITAN DISCUSS ALL FOUR DIVISIONAL ROUND GAMES ON DKTV
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Fitzgerald Toussaint’s role in the pass game
Jordan Todman showed a lot of juice and impressive cutting ability last week on his way to 65 yards on 11 carries. A glance at the box score would suggest he’s a threat to Fitzgerald Toussaint’s production. But a deeper look proves Toussaint is the guy we want because he’s the one the Steelers trust in the pass game. Fitz played on 49 snaps, ran 28 pass routes and saw eight targets. Todman played 14 snaps, ran one pass route and got zero targets. With Ben Roethlisberger’s sprained shoulder possibly limiting downfield throws and the Broncos possessing three of the top corners in the league, the check-down volume could be significant. In a PPR format, that’s huge.
2. Late swap changes
During full slates, using the late-swap feature on DraftKings is important. During these four-game slates with staggered start times, it’s absolutely essential. If you had DeAndre Hopkins and Jeremy Maclin dud in the first game last week, it was a must to pivot to more contrarian plays the rest of the way. If you had Chiefs D and Travis Kelce go off, you had to adjust the rest of your lineup toward the chalk in an effort to both block opponents and give yourself the highest raw expectation.
Antonio Brown has already been ruled out so you won’t need to worry as much about that swap implication but you can still use the late swap feature to adjust your lineup based on how your team performs for the first 2-3 games.
3. Julian Edelman’s long-awaited return to health
Edelman has been out since breaking his foot in Week 10. He did practice on a limited basis ahead of Weeks 16 and 17, suggesting he’ll be close to 100 percent as we are now in Week 19. Edelman averaged 7.1 catches for 79.8 yards with 0.8 TDs in his eight full games before going down. Note that Tom Brady averaged 27.8 DK points during that span and then sunk to 18.5 in the seven Edelman was inactive for. With Rob Gronkowski’s right knee giving him problems again, we could see Edelman push for 12 targets.
CONTRARIAN GPP PLAYS
1. Pairing Cardinals stacks with Jared Abbrederis
As we saw last week, the chalk is going to get there a lot on four-game slates. There aren’t a lot of options to pivot to, so even “meh” games from Antonio Brown and A.J. Green end up as top-three WR performances. Instead of going completely contrarian, pivoting a chalky lineup in just a couple spots can make a huge difference.
Carson Palmer/David Johnson are the mega-chalk at their respective positions and Michael Floyd is likely to see a lot of traffic as well. But that doesn’t mean we have to avoid them in tournaments. One place to be contrarian, save money and get a game-stack correlation is with Jared Abbrederis. With Davante Adams (knee) out, Abbrederis will be the No. 3 WR on a team that runs more three-wide sets than any team in the league. He’ll mostly operate out of the slot, which gives him a better matchup than the outside receivers who will be seeing Patrick Peterson. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Aaron Rodgers has been calling for Abbrederis to get more playing time for a few weeks now.
WHO I’M CONSIDERING IN CASH GAMES
QB: Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson
RB: David Johnson, Fitzgerald Toussaint, James White, Ronnie Hillman
WR: Antonio Brown (if active), Demaryius Thomas, Julian Edelman, Emmanuel Sanders, Michael Floyd, James Jones, Jared Abbrederis
TE: Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, Rob Gronkowski
DST: Patriots, Steelers, Panthers, Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs