It’s Championship Week on DraftKings and the pricing has been adjusted to reflect it. Outside of perhaps Brandon Bolden, there are no “freebies” on the slate. We also have arguably the league’s best offense against the league’s best defense and some appealing options coming off bad weeks (Adrian Peterson, Julio Jones, Derek Carr). Be careful about forcing punt plays that aren’t there.
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. Carson Palmer in an up-tempo game against the Eagles
This is as good as it gets for Carson Palmer. The fast-breaking Eagles allow opponents to run 70.7 plays per game, most in the NFL. Carson has all three members of his elite wideout corps fully healthy, as John Brown/Michael Floyd are over their hamstring injuries and old man Larry Fitzgerald has surely benefitted from 10 days off. Furthermore, Palmer has a freak athlete and former wideout playing every snap at running back in David Johnson. Unlike when Chris Johnson was the feature back, David is a threat to take a screen, swing or wheel route to the house at any time. Finally, the Eagles rank 22nd in pass yards allowed and 31st in pass TDs allowed.
The stars also align for Palmer from a GPP game theory perspective. Both Russell Wilson and Carson cost the same at $7000, yet I expect Wilson to be around 20 percent owned while Palmer should hover in the 8-10 percent range. It’s a situation where Palmer owners can rise quickly up leaderboards on Sunday night if Wilson fails.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Philip Rivers’ potential last game in San Diego
The Chargers’ final two games of the season are on the road. So the team is well aware that this could very well be their last game in San Diego and they haven’t been shy about discussing it. While most #narrativestreets should be ignored, having a little extra motivation to perform when you’re 3-10 can’t hurt. The Chargers have talked all week about wanting to go out with a good performance for the San Diego fans.
More importantly, the price ($5500) and matchup are pristine for Rivers. The Dolphins’ pass defense has regressed to the ocean floor, coming in 31st in DVOA. Over the last four weeks, they’ve been hit by Eli for 337 yards and 4 TDs, Matt Schaub 308 and 1 TD, Ryan Fitzpatrick 277 and 4 TDs and Tony Romo (in his first game off injury) for 227 yards and 2 TDs. Now they’re on a short week and going across the country with toasted Brent Grimes as their “No. 1 corner.” Although Antonio Gates is lumbering around and the top-three wideouts will likely be Malcom Floyd/Dontrelle Inman/Javontee Herndon, Rivers can still get it done. Just three weeks ago he hit Jacksonville for 300 yards and four touchdowns.
2. Charcandrick West possibly returning to Jamaal Charles-esque usage (if Spencer Ware sits)
Andy Reid has loved to saddle up his top back for massive usage throughout his time in Kansas City. Jamaal Charles started the trend, Knile Davis continued it in games JC was hurt and Charcandrick West picked it up after Charles went this year. It’s not just about raw touches either. It’s about a scheme that gives its starting running back a large share of red-zone work, targets in the pass game and carries. West got to experience it for three games earlier this season, averaging 25.0 touches per game between Weeks 7 and 10. He turned that into 137.3 yards and 1.3 TDs per game. And if Spence Ware (ribs) can’t play this week, he’ll experience it again.
This Ravens team that does defend the run better than the pass, but it’s an offense that will struggle to sustain possession. With Jimmy Clausen or Matt Schaub under center, expect plenty of 3-and-outs against this white-hot Chiefs defense and a ton of second-half carries for West.
CONTRARIAN GPP PLAYS
1. Martavis Bryant against the Broncos’ dominant pass defense
In today’s NFL, truly great offense trumps great defense. It’s why the Steelers’ implied team total sits at 26 points despite a matchup with the league’s premier defense. Everyone is aware the Broncos give up the fewest points to fantasy wideouts, have three Pro Bowl caliber corners and rank first in pass defense DVOA. That means we have a chance to get Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant or Heath Miller at miniscule ownerships.
The one in this trio I’m on is Martavis because he’s the most underpriced at just $5500. This is a freakishly talented receiver playing in arguably the league’s best passing attack and getting volume. Bryant has at least seven targets in every game this season and is averaging 9.0. Chris Harris, the Broncos’ No. 1 corner, could very well follow Antonio Brown around. There’s obviously significantly more opportunity cost in Brown because he costs $3200 more than Bryant.
2. DeAndre Hopkins with T.J. Yates under center
A lot of people will see T.J. Yates starting for the Texans and give DeAndre Hopkins the Nah Wave. That’s a mistake. Yates isn’t as good as Brian Hoyer, but it’s not a that precipitous of a drop. Note that Yates started Week 10 against the Jets, going 16-of-34 for 229 yards with two TDs and no INTs. In that game, he hit Hopkins for a 5-118-2 line on 12 targets. Now Nuk is coming off games of just 8, 9 and 6 targets – usage way too low and the Texans know it. They’ve talked all week about re-focusing their offense on Hopkins ahead of a plus matchup with a scuffling Vontae Davis and a Colts pass defense that is 20th in DVOA.
1. Sammy Watkins against the Redskins
Players that have a wide range of outcomes are best deployed in GPPs at low ownership. If a volatile player hits the top of his range, we want to really benefit. But if a lot of other people have him, there’s more value in hoping he hits the bottom. So even though Sammy Watkins has four touchdowns and 348 yards in his last three games, I still consider him one of these volatile players. He’s averaging just 6.4 targets and 3.9 catches per game on the year. Even in a plus matchup against the Redskins, I’m off Watkins as his ownership is likely to push toward 15 percent in GPPs at a $6200 tag. Randall Cobb and Amari Cooper have better projections at lower ownership in that range.
WHO I’M CONSIDERING IN DRAFTKINGS CASH GAMES
(No particular order)
QB: Carson Palmer, Blake Bortles, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady
RB: Charcandrick West (if Spencer Ware sits), Denard Robinson (if T.J. Yeldon sits), Brandon Bolden, David Johnson, Adrian Peterson
WR: Julio Jones, Allen Robinson, Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, Randall Cobb, Doug Baldwin, Jeremy Maclin, Golden Tate, Michael Floyd
TE: Jordan Reed, Ben Watson, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Zach Miller
D: Seahawks, Cardinals, Chiefs, Patriots, Texans