Levitan's Leverage: Top Week 14 Fantasy Football Matchups, Situations

The context of the Week 14 slate is dominated by the injuries to James Conner, Matt Brieda and Emmanuel Sanders. We have major opportunity-cost questions to examine at the running back position and GPP ownership swelling on some wideouts with questionable ceilings. This will be a week where the optimal lineup construction is far from clear, giving us one of the better slates of the season.

The point of this column is to use the news, snap counts, usage, matchups and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. Note that I am discussing the DraftKings main slate only, aka the 13 Sunday day games.


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SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON

DeAndre Hopkins off three straight quiet games

It’s been a quiet few weeks for DeAndre Hopkins ($7,800), who hasn’t topped 16.1 DKFP in any of his last three games. He’s only posted more than 17 points twice in his last seven. This decline has nothing to do with Hopkins’ usage, on-field play or quarterback situation and everything to do with volume. Deshaun Watson ($5,900) is averaging a painfully low 24.5 passing attempts over that seven-game stretch and his opponents are largely to blame. The Texans have faced Josh Allen ($5,500), Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum ($5,200), Alex Smith, Marcus Mariota and Baker Mayfield ($5,800) in their last seven games, allowing Watson to keep his aggression low. That changes Sunday in a home game against Andrew Luck, who is second in the league in touchdown passes and eighth in passing yards. Hopkins’ target projection is back up at 10 against a funneling Colts defense which is 21st DVOA against the pass and 4th against the run.

Aaron Rodgers calling the shots

The firing of prehistoric play-caller Mike McCarthy can only be a good thing. Despite having Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams ($8,400), the Packers ranked 27th in completion percentage, 14th in yards per pass attempt and 19th in total touchdowns per game. We can expect Rodgers highly motivated to prove he was not the problem – McCarthy was. That should mean Rodgers calling the shots at the line of scrimmage and taking control of a pass-first gameplan. The timing couldn’t be better as the Packers host a Falcons defense ranked 31st DVOA against the pass and 23rd in yards per pass attempt allowed. Rodgers is down to $6,000 after opening the season at $7,500.


MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT

Steelers pass game against the Raiders

The Steelers are one of the NFL’s most pass-heavy teams. They’re second in the league in raw pass attempts and second in overall pass/run ratio. As noted by 4for4’s T.J. Hernandez, the Steelers lead the league in neutral situation throw rate over the last six weeks. On top of all that, their starting running back this week, Jaylen Samuels ($3,700), is essentially a pass-catching tight end. So whereas the Raiders typically see a steady diet of runs and conservative tosses, that’s not in the Steelers’ playbook. They’re likely to test this slow and untalented Raiders secondary like few have before and the results will almost certainly be positive. This unit is dead last in pass defense DVOA – the only reason their raw stats look good is because they’ve faced the fewest pass attempts in the entire league.

Chris Godwin against the Saints

Chris Godwin ($4,900) has finally been freed thanks to DeSean Jackson’s thumb injury. Now armed with an every-down role, his unique talent and elite athleticism is shining through. In the three games that Jackson has missed since Godwin was drafted, the 2017 third-rounder has posted 3-98-0, 7-111-1 and 5-101-1. He is 24th among 108 qualifying wide receivers in yards per route run and was 13th in that predictive metric last year. Godwin will continue to benefit from the vertical play-calling of Todd Monken and the aggression of Jameis Winston ($6,200) (2nd among 35 qualifying QBs in average depth of target). Sunday’s matchup is a good one as the Bucs have no prayer of establishing a run game against a Saints front easily leading the league in yards per rush attempt allowed. They’re 3rd DVOA against the run and 22nd against the pass.


GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS

Nick Chubb against the Panthers

The Browns got absolutely white-washed in Houston last week, falling behind 23-0 in the first half. That led to Nick Chubb getting just nine carries. Sunday’s home spot against the Panthers is a nice one to get back on track in terms of game flow. Cam Newton ($6,300) could very well be limited due to a sore throwing shoulder, and the Browns have already beaten the Jets, Ravens and Falcons at home. They also tied the Steelers in front of the Dog Pound. So if we think the Browns can play well and win the game, Chubb will almost certainly be a massive factor in that. If we throw out last week, Chubb is averaging 21.2 carries since taking over for Carlos Hyde in Week 6. His featured role in the red zone (seven TDs in last six games) gives him a big ceiling at discounted ownership and a $6,700 tag.


GPP FADE

Keenan Allen against the Bengals

Since throwing a temper tantrum in London five games ago, Keenan Allen is fantasy’s No. 1 wideout. He’s seen an incredible 35 percent of targets from Philip Rivers ($6,500) during that span and has scored a touchdown in four straight games. He’s clearly underpriced at just $7,400 for a matchup against a Bengals defense which is allowing the most yards per game in the entire NFL. All that said, Allen’s projected ceiling does not correspond to his exceedingly high projected ownership.

Allen has an Average Depth of Target of 9.36 yards, which is 91st among 121 qualifying wideouts this season. He does not make up for that with a mediocre 4.22 yards after catch average, 60th among wideouts. So he needs incredible volume – like when he saw 19 targets in Week 13 – to hit for a slate-breaking day. We can’t be certain that extreme volume will be there Sunday as the Chargers host an inept Bengals team playing without Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Philip  Rivers has had fewer than 30 attempts seven times already this season and there’s a solid probability Sunday marks No. 8.


CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS

(No particular order)

QB: Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson
RB: Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Phillip Lindsay, Austin Ekeler, Jeff Wilson, Jaylen Samuels
WR: Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, Courtland Sutton
TE: Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Eric Ebron, George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski
D: Chargers, Bills, Steelers, Saints, Cowboys, Giants, Cardinals, Browns


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.