This is a really unique week because I’m having trouble spending my entire salary cap. That’s a rarity, but it’s what happens when we have a ton of quality cheapies and a bunch of studs either on bye or in a tough matchup. This kind of week is going to lead people to spending in places they don’t necessarily love, which is a recipe for trouble. I’m trying to think about the quality of every dollar I spend.
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. Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ pass game against the Raiders
The last time I discussed Matthew Stafford in this space (Week 6), he went for 405 yards and four touchdowns at home against the Bears. The point isn’t to brag, it’s to point out that he still has monstrous upside in the right spot. Note that of Stafford’s four home games this year, three have been against DEN (No. 1 pass defense DVOA), ARZ (No. 4) and MIN (No. 15). In his career, Stafford has played 43 career games at home and 43 on the road. Yet he has 16 more touchdown passes and averages 23.5 more pass yards per game in Detroit.
This week, Stafford is at home to face a Raiders defense that has been gouged by DeAngelo Williams and Adrian Peterson the last two weeks, but overall profiles as a stronger unit against the run. That’s fine by the Lions, who throw on a league-high 69.39 percent of their passes. The run game, currently headed by broken down Joique Bell, is a debacle. Stafford’s outrageously low price ($5400), 24-point team total and appealing floor/ceiling combo put him in play for both cash and tournaments. I also like the spots for both Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
2. Marvin Jones against Jerraud Powers
The Bengals are unlikely to get Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill going against the Cardinals’ No. 6 DOVA run defense. A.J. Green is also set up poorly as he’ll face Patrick Peterson, PFF’s No. 7 coverage CB despite already shadowing the likes of Brandin Cooks, Calvin Johnson and Antonio Brown this season. Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals’ slot corner who will match up with Mohamed Sanu and perhaps some Tyler Eifert, is PFF’s No. 2 coverage CB. All this leads us to the lone plus matchup for the Bengals, which is Marvin Jones on the outside against Jerraud Powers.
Jones played 93.0 percent of the snaps last week and is at 83.0 percent for the season. He’s also averaging 8.2 targets per game over the last five weeks. All this adds up to Jones as a very interesting GPP play, especially since his $4300 price tag is right next to the mega chalk WR punts in Danny Amendola ($4000) and Stevie Johnson ($3900). Jones’ ownership will be a fraction of those two.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Demaryius Thomas’ quarterback upgrade
The public perception is that Brock Osweiler is a joke and will fall on his face at Chicago Sunday. I wouldn’t be so sure. This is not some UDFA off the street or throw-away seventh-round pick that has been forced into action. Osweiler was a 2012 second-round pick, an athletic and strong-armed 6-foot-8 upgrade on Peyton Manning. He’s been in the NFL for four years, learning from Peyton in every single one.
Osweiler’s main target will undoubtedly be Demaryius Thomas, whose price has gone from $9100 when people thought Manning was good to $7300 today. Emmanuel Sanders (finger, ankle) is less than 100 percent. In last week’s loss to the Chiefs, Osweiler hit DT for six completions in less than a half of action. This week the duo gets to face a Bears corner group that consists of Kyle Fuller and Tracey Porter, who both have negative coverage grades from PFF. Thomas will be grossly underowned due to “Brock Stigma.”
2. Michael Crabtree getting the soft matchup against the Lions
2013 second-round pick Darius Slay has emerged as one of the league’s better corners and the Lions are now using him to shadow. He’s mostly eliminated Jeremy Maclin and James Jones the last two weeks, and has a top-13 coverage grade from PFF overall. This week, Lions S Glover Quin spilled the beans and said Slay will be matched up with Amari Cooper. That leaves Michael Crabtree to do work against guys like Nevin Lawson and sixth-round rookie Quandre Diggs.
CONTRARIAN GPP PLAYS
1. Mark Sanchez and Zach Ertz
In eight starts for Chip Kelly last year, Sanchez averaged 18.86 DK points per game with a ceiling of 26.2 and a floor of 8.1. It was easy to predict when he’d push for his ceiling and when he’d struggle, as he bottomed out against the Seahawks and Cowboys. This week, Sanchez gets to face a Bucs defense that funnels action to the pass via a quietly dominant run defense that third in YPC allowed (3.56) and fourth in run defense DVOA. This game sets up for Sanchez to get plenty of attempts and be efficient with them.
A lot of people will try to pair Sanchez with Jordan Matthews, but that ignores a recent change in Eagles personnel. They’ve gone to more “12” looks lately, meaning Matthews has only played on 69.3 percent of the snaps over the last three weeks. During that same span, Zach Ertz has been in on 83.5 precent of the snaps. Note that Matthews, who has been struggling all year to separate and catch the football, set a season-low with 59.2 percent of the snaps last week. Ertz is seeing 7.6 targets per game over his last five and fits where Sanchez likes to throw – between the hashes. On top of all that, Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense annually struggles to defend the tight end. The Sanchez/Ertz combo costs a total of $8100, or just 16.2 percent of the cap. The entire world is open if we roster these two.
1. Danny Amendola against the Bills
I will most likely be using Danny Amendola in cash games because he’s a great bet to beat value given his target/aDOT projection at $4000. But expecting him to have the same ceiling that Julian Edelman had isn’t fair. Edelman was a productive Z receiver in addition to playing the slot, while Amendola only projects as a slot. They won’t be used exactly the same way and I suspect the Patriots will at least try to run the ball more often against the Bills this time. It’s just not the same without Dion Lewis and Edelman, who combined for 17 catches, 195 yards and three total touchdowns in the Week 2 matchup. If Amendola is held to something like six catches for 50 yards, roughly 40 percent of the field will be disappointed.
WHO I’M CONSIDERING IN DRAFTKINGS CASH GAMES
(No particular order)
QB: Cam Newton, Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Tyrod Taylor
RB: Charcandrick West, DeMarco Murray (if Ryan Mathews is out), Adrian Peterson, Devonta Freeman, Jeremy Langford (if Matt Forte is out), Darren McFadden
WR: Stevie Johnson, Danny Amendola, Michael Crabtree, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Evans, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Calvin Johnson
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, Zach Ertz
D: Seahawks, Panthers, Patriots, Eagles, Jets, Ravens, Texans