The last full slate of the NFL season is a great one. We have all 32 teams in action and most of the league’s best players in plus matchups. The most common lineup construction is going to be “stars and scrubs” in order to cram in two of the high-priced wideouts. We just need to be careful about forcing scrubs if the value isn’t really 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. Eli Manning against the rudderless Eagles
I don’t think Chip Kelly’s early dismissal will have a positive effect on the Eagles in this game. If any team has one eye on vacation time, it’s them. All that stuff doesn’t really matter anyway, as this secondary has little shot at stopping anyone. The last seven quarterbacks against the Eagles: Kirk Cousins 365 yards/4 TDs, Carson Palmer 274/1, Tyrod Taylor 268/1, Tom Brady 312/3, Matthew Stafford 337/5, Jameis Winston 246/5, Ryan Tannehill 217/2. With Odell Beckham back, we can throw out the fluke that was last week’s Sunday night disaster in Minnesota’s frigid temperatures. The Eagles secondary creates a 200-yard/2 TD floor and Eli’s ability gives him a 4-TD ceiling, something we’ve seen in both Weeks 14 and 15.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Buck Allen’s pass-catching ability
I expect the Bengals to really get all over the Ravens. This is a letdown spot for Baltimore, as they just knocked off their hated rival Steelers at home and now have to go on the road for a meaningless finale. It’s not meaningless to Cincy, however, as they need a win to have a shot a bye and an extra week for Andy Dalton to rest. Look for Baltimore to be trailing plenty.
That’s great news for Buck Allen, as the Bengals have given up the sixth-most receiving yards to running backs. Allen excels in the pass game, averaging 6.2 receptions per day in games he hasn’t been benched since Justin Forsett went down. If Buck doesn’t fumble Sunday, he has a floor of five catches at just $4400. That leaves a ton of room for profit.
2. Nate Washington with Cecil Shorts (groin) sidelined
We’ve been talking about the Jaguars defense all year because we know exactly how teams will exploit it. Although the run defense has sprung some leaks lately, it’s still a stone wall compared to the atrocious pass defense. The current DVOA ranks for the Jags D are 14th vs. run and 31st vs. pass. I do not expect the Alfred Blue/Chris Polk/Jonathan Grimes three-headed monster to be very efficient.
That sets up a perfect storm for Nate Washington. Brian Hoyer (concussion) has been fully cleared and Cecil Shorts (groin) is out. In the three games Nate has played without Shorts this year, he’s gone 9-127-2, 4-74-1 and 3-42-1.The veteran is one of the few players under $4000 that brings a reasonable ceiling this week.
3. Everyone getting burned by Martavis Bryant last week
Martavis was a whopping 35.4 percent owned across the site last week. He produced 2.0 DraftKings points. For the vast majority of the people that rostered Bryant, it’s going to be impossible to click him again. This is an example of us having to stick with our projections and not be swayed by recent frustrations. In the previous nine games, Bryant averaged 9.5 targets and scored six touchdowns as a result of his role in an elite pass game and unique skill set at 6-foot-4. If last week never happened, we’d be very excited about using Bryant at just $5300 against a Joe Haden-less secondary that ranks 28th DVOA.
CONTRARIAN GPP PLAYS
1. Blake Bortles in a very difficult matchup at Houston
Perhaps no quarterback in the league is guaranteed as much volume on a week-to-week basis as Blake Bortles. The Jags skew toward the pass in scoreboard-neutral situations and are extremely pass-heavy in the red-zone. They also fall behind quite often, leading to even more chances for their elite skill position trio of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas.
This week’s matchup at Houston is extremely difficult as the Texans have been dominant against opposing pass games for the last two months. They are all the way up to 8th DVOA vs. the pass. Most DFS players know this though, which means they’ll click Drew Brees , Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton before clicking Bortles. So we have a chance to get Bortles’ massive ceiling at very low ownership in an up-pace game. The Texans rank third-fastest in the league at 25.45 seconds between plays.
1. Zach Ertz at potentially massive ownership
Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen are too expensive, Jordan Reed is likely to be rested, Delanie Walker is dealing with Zach Mettenberger, Antonio Gates has a very difficult matchup, Gary Barnidge is dealing with Austin Davis and Tyler Eifert is coming off a concussion. Meanwhile, Zach Ertz has seen 30 targets across the last two weeks and if facing a slow Giants linebacking corps that is 24th DVOA against tight ends. Ertz, just $3600 could over 40 percent ownership in tournaments given the way roster construction works this week.
I’m very fine with Ertz for cash, but his range of outcomes is not as narrow as the last two games suggest. This is a case where I’d like to use a guy at low ownership, but there’s more value in a fade at high ownership because his bust rate is relatively high. Remember, Ertz has been under 50 yards eight times this year and his 30 targets over the last two weeks were largely related to game flow. The Eagles fell behind 30-10 to the Cardinals and 23-10 to the Redskins. Going with a more expensive tight end will also diversify the rest of our roster by forcing us into spending less elsewhere.
WHO I’M CONSIDERING IN DRAFTKINGS CASH GAMES
(No particular order)
QB: Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan
RB: David Johnson, Devonta Freeman, DeAngelo Williams, Tim Hightower, Buck Allen
WR: Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Jeremy Maclin, Brandin Cooks, Martavis Bryant, Nate Washington
TE: Zach Ertz, Greg Olsen, Zach Miller, Travis Kelce
D: Bengals, Panthers, Broncos, Chiefs, Cardinals, Packers