I am mainly a cash-game player. Cash games refer to any contest in which roughly 50 percent of the field gets paid out, such as head-to-head, double up or 50/50. I try to get a certain volume of head-to-head action every week and then supplement that with other cash games if my head-to-heads don’t get picked up. For more on what I look for in a cash-game lineup, check out this primer.
Each week, I’ll review my cash-game lineup in this space. Sometimes I’ll lose, but hopefully I’ll win more often. Either way, I’ll post it and give you my thought process:
I think one of the keys this week was the Ladarius Green situation. When we thought Antonio Gates would sit, just about every sharp player had Green in their cash game lineup. When we found out Sunday morning Gates would play, the adjustments were on. It’s a reminder that “set it and forget it” isn’t an option if you’re taking cash games seriously. We have to be ready to make moves Sunday morning.
MY MUST PLAYS
- Running backs at home as a touchdown favorite is a fundamental cash-game trend. Add in a unique talent like Todd Gurley, a matchup with a bottom-barrel 49ers defense and a gross underprice of $6300, and we had Gurley as a must-play for the second straight week. He came into this game averaging 24.6 touches per game over his last three, unseen volume for a player in this price tier.
- I thought the Rams were a borderline “must play” all week. They became a true “must play” for me once Carlos Hyde (foot) and Anquan Boldin (hamstring) were ruled out. It left a sack/turnover prone Colin Kaepernick with Reggie Bush, Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington and Jerome Simpson as primary options. As discussed last week, using the RB and D/ST correlation play was ideal once again. Rams get a lead via their defense, Gurley protects that lead with volume, pass rushers get to pin their ears back.
- As noted in Leverage, I thought Darren McFadden was a legit candidate to lead all running backs in Week 8 snap percentage and touches. With Joseph Randle out and Christine Michael’s head in the clouds, McFadden was in a Devonta Freeman kind of situation. By that, I mean he was the no-doubt early-down back, the lock passing-down back and projected to get the majority of the goal-line work. McFadden’s ability to catch check-downs and screens kept his projected floor insanely high for a player who cost $3800. So even in a matchup against the Seahawks, there was no way I was going to pass on DMC and a 20-touch projection behind the league’s best offensive line. His pass-game usage and playing at home made him the easy play over Chris Johnson and Jonathan Stewart for me.
- We saw that the Chargers had an implied team total of 23.5 against the Ravens. Our next thought should have been, “how are they going to score all those points?” The answer to that was easy, as the Ravens have a “funnel” defense — one that fares far better against the run than the pass. Meanwhile, the Chargers are inept at running the ball yet have Philip Rivers playing at an All-Pro level with a fistful of strong weapons. It was a perfect storm for Rivers to see insane volume yet again with some added efficiency. I thought he was a significant tier above Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton as a cash-game candidate.
- Alshon Jeffery opened the year with an $8300 pricetag and an injured calf. While rehabbing that calf, his price dropped all the way to $6400. Jeffery was clearly healthy ahead of Week 8 as he dominated in Week 6 and then had the bye to rest up. So the $6400 price for a home game against the Vikings was too much value to pass up. Owners that watch the cornerback matchups closely knew that Jeffery would see a lot of Xavier Rhodes, but also saw that Rhodes has been among the worst corners in the league this season. I actually thought Jeffery vs. Mike Evans was a close call, but Evans seeing Desmond Trufant on one side and double coverage on the other side swung me toward Alshon. It ended up making a huge, huge difference in my week.
MY WANT PLAYS
- I don’t think any player who costs $9200 can really be considered a “must play.” But I certainly wanted to fit Julio Jones into my lineup badly. With Leonard Hankerson/Nick Williams out and an inept Bucs secondary playing in Atlanta, this was as ideal as a matchup gets. Unlike the Mike Evans situation, Julio and his OC Kyle Shanahan know how to beat double teams – the floor is totally different. So instead of going with a more balanced WR pairing of Antonio Brown/Stefon Diggs, I chose to go “stars and scrubs” with Julio and Nate Washington. That’s the route I usually prefer to take when a 2v2 is close, as long as the “scrub” in the equation has a reasonable ceiling.
- I wanted to use Michael Floyd over Nate Washington, but decided against it when John Brown (hamstring) was announced as active. Of course, it turned out that Brown was only active in case of emergency and ended up playing zero snaps. But in terms of process, I think Nate was the right call. As discussed in Leverage, Washington was set up for massive volume against a secondary I like to attack as well as one that would be paying a lot of attention to DeAndre Hopkins. Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ matchup suggested a run-first gameplan and Floyd would have been the No. 3 pass-game option if Brown had played.
- As of Sunday morning, I had Le’Veon Bell and Ladarius Green in my final two spots. Once Antonio Gates was surprisingly announced active, the race to adjust was on. I did consider sticking with Ladarius at just $3000, but Gates’ red-zone and third-down presence is so massive that I thought Green’s ceiling was significantly capped. I also strongly considered going down to Crockett Gillmore ($2500) or Jacob Tamme ($2700) so I could keep Le’Veon in my lineup. But Gillmore’s floor is zero, a clear cash-game mistake I’ve made a couple times recently. And I didn’t really want Tamme in there with Julio. So I decided to go down from Bell to Justin Forsett, who I had as a high-floor play as a feature- and pass-game back against the Chargers’ inept defense.
- The remaining salary left me with $4800 for tight end. I would have gone Tyler Eifert ($5300) if he fit, but I was fine with Gary Gronkidge ($4700). Yes, the Cardinals had the No. 1 tight end defense in the league this year, but that’s not a stat I put a lot of stock in. Tight end usage is so variable from team to team and the Cards hadn’t faced any Rob Gronkowskis, Jordan Reeds, Jimmy Grahams, Travis Kelces, Greg Olsens etc. So knowing that this is a defense still similar to the Todd Bowles’ unit that was awful against tight ends and knowing Barnidge is actually a weekly size/athleticism mismatch, I thought he was a fine play. I thought the Browns would have a lot of trouble running the ball and Barnidge is the no-doubt top target between the 20s and in the red-zone for Josh McCown.
WEEK 8 RESULTS
In terms of ROI, this was my best week of the season. Obviously, mostly avoiding in-game injuries (Nate Washington was my only one) was lucky and huge. I also got lucky in that Le’Veon Bell got hurt because I pivoted off him (see above) and Justin Forsett flopped. Still, I think locking in Rivers, Gurley, Rams D, McFadden and Alshon gave me a nice safe start to build from and then the ball bounced my way from there.
Week 1: 160.34 points, won 87.5 percent of head-to-heads. Click here for recap.
Week 2: 125.26 points, won 45.0 percent of head-to-heads. Click here for recap.
Week 3: 175.98 points, won 65.4 percent of head-to-heads. Click here for recap.
Week 4: 141.84 points, won 84.2 percent of head-to-heads. Click here for recap.
Week 5: 153.80 points, won 68.4 percent of head-to-heads. Click here for recap.
Week 6: 120.90 points, won 12.1 percent of head-to-heads. Click here for recap.
Week 7: 181.30 points, won 78.5 percent of head-to-heads. Click here for recap.
Week 8: 193.84 points, won 96.9 percent of head-to-heads.