With Week 12 in the books, your year-long leagues are approaching the playoffs, but there is plenty of DFS action left. So think about everything you learned yesterday and Thursday (ancient history, I know), and start coming up with a game plan for next weekend. It’s never too early.
Tom Brady vs. PHI ($8,000) – I feel bad just naming the two most expensive QBs, but by the time I get to the next QB I have any interest in starting, he no longer counts as expensive. I know Brady doesn’t have any weapons left, etc etc – but do you want to trust Brees after the Saints’ performance this weekend? Or Matt Ryan? And then you have Palmer and Rivers against top-3 defenses, Big Ben with a concussion, and then… Eli, who is not expensive. See what I mean? The Pats have been consistently throwing it 60% of the time or more, and weaponless Brady did just manage to put up multiple scores on the best defense in football. And the lack of weapons, at least to an extent, has been factored into this price (which has been at $8,500 for most of the year).
Cam Newton @ NO ($7,400) – Well, when you factor in the Gronk injury and everything I wrote about the other top options, Cam’s biggest downfall as an option in this one might be ownership percentage. Against a defense that has been the worst against the pass from the jump this season, and showed no signs of improvement after their recent coaching change, Cam would be an obvious choice even if he were some second-tier option. Which, of course, he is not. Last week was a perfect example of his value – even with a bad passing day, he still salvaged his value with 45 rushing yards and a TD. That rushing is always on the table as a possibility, and against this defense, so is 300 yards and multiple scores.
Brock Osweiler @ SD ($5,200) – There are certainly QBs a little bit higher on the list who I like – namely Eli and Mariota – but those guys seem to me to have the same downside and not much extra upside, which seems like it could turn out to be extra money poorly spent. He has thrown for 250 yards and at least one TD in each of his two starts, and seems to be getting better out there with every rep.
Jay Cutler vs. SF ($5,100) – He has had minimal scoring output for each of the last two weeks, against Denver and Green Bay. But prior to that he was on a streak of five in a row with 18 or more fantasy points, and next week he draws the 49ers, who haven’t been capable of stopping anyone. With both of their threats out of the backfield set to be available, as well as Alshon, Cutler will have all the playmakers he needs to be a value play at this price.
Chris Ivory @ NYG ($5,900) – Ivory seems like a logical choice for a cash game, but maybe not a GPP. Although we have seen it out of him in the past, and this offense is clicking right now, he just doesn’t seem to have that sky-high upside you need to, I don’t know, win a million bucks. But he has been at 18+ carries in three of four weeks, with three total TDs over that span. Against a defense that is still short a handful of linebackers, he should be able to get you right in that 15-20 fantasy point zone he has been in repeatedly all season long.
Doug Martin vs. ATL ($5,900) – Martin is the opposite of Ivory – probably a better call in a GPP than in a cash game. I would venture to say that there is no doubt his downside is is about as low as you can get, with 10.8 points yesterday and four games so far this season with even fewer than that. He also, though, has four games with 20+ fantasy points, and he is facing a worst-in-the-league Atlanta defense. The great thing about Atlanta in this scenario? Their offense is terrible too, so Tampa Bay won’t be forced to abandon the run, which has been the single biggest stumbling block for Martin all year long.
Spencer Ware @ OAK ($4,900) – The question you’ll need to answer as the week goes on is whether or not Davis or West or someone else will be back and cutting into Ware’s work. Knile Davis was already active for yesterday’s contest, and it is unclear whether his lack of work was because he wasn’t quite 100%, because Ware was playing so well, or a combination of both. I think that if there is any limitation in practice or any injury designation at all, that will be enough to make me confident in Ware’s ability to produce above this price tag on Sunday.
David Johnson @ STL ($3,400) – My obligatory mention: it is looking as if both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington might miss next week. Johnson got eight carries and two catches once they both were unavailable yesterday, so it seems pretty clear you will be getting a guy with plenty of opportunity. What he does with the opportunity is another story, of course. Johnson looked explosive enough in his limited action yesterday, and the benefit of playing in Arizona is that the Rams will need to focus more on stopping the pass than on stopping him. He could easily fall into 15+ fantasy points here, with the potential of getting over 20 with a few catches.
Brandon Marshall @ NYG ($7,100) – The Jets passing attack is competent! J-E-T-S! It wasn’t really that long ago that we, collectively, viewed the 31-year-old Marshall as possibly the most talented wide receiver in the NFL. He can get open, and he can catch everything – and that’s really all that matters, no? Well, that and playing the terrible Giants secondary that just got burned by Washington for more than a half of football.
Alshon Jeffery vs. SF ($6,900) – He was back on the field. He had 90 yards receiving, and then he immediately got another extended rest of heal up that hammy. When fully healthy this guy has been a monster on the field this season, with at least seven catches in four of his six games. He has 150-yard, 10-catch, multiple-score upside. That usually costs more.
John Brown @ STL ($4,800) – Another guy whose price has been suppressed by injury. His ownership might be suppressed by the fact that the Cardinals passing attack looked so anemic yesterday. And both of those things just make him all that much more attractive, to me. He has been a precise route-runner AND a field stretcher when healthy, a rare combination that lends itself to the magic formula we are always seeking: consistency & upside. And you don’t normally find it for under $5K.
Cecil Shorts III @ BUF ($3,600) – He has six touches in each of the last two weeks, and this week, he turned them into a touchdown. His success might be short-lived, but right now he is one of the best weapons the Texans have, so congrats on Bill O’Brien and George Godsey, his OC, for figuring out a way to make-do. Their franchise RB got hurt, their best player is a vertical threat wide receiver who they sometimes can’t get the ball to, because they still have yet to settle on a long-term option at QB. Enter a guy who can catch a few passes, provide some speed out of the backfield, and even throw it a little. For $3,600, he’s a long shot, but one with at least a chance of paying off big.
Greg Olsen @ NO ($6,400) – A perfect storm. Gronk probably out. Graham out. Cam playing great football. The Panthers having no other options in the passing game. The Saints defense being terrible at guarding everyone. If you choose right, you could maybe find a cheaper TE who will produce the same, but just spending the money on Olsen takes a lot of the risk right out of the equation.
Travis Kelce @ OAK ($4,700) – He scored a TD. Leave it to a guy like Kelce to finally do that in your year-long league in the week he hits the injury list and makes you scared to start him, am I right? Nothing worse than a player on your team who just gives you a headache week after week. Luckily, in DFS, you can just decide to ignore him forever, or at least until it is in your best interest to start.
Julius Thomas @ TEN ($4,000) – With 9 catches for 116 yards and a TD, Julius Thomas showed why he was a top TE prospect for fantasy owners back in the offseason. Watching this game brought back memories from Jaguars training camp, where teammates and coaches alike praised him for being “the best player on the field.” He has been dealing with various injury concerns for a while now, but if he is finally healthy, he could be a game-changer down the stretch. This offense is better than anyone really expected coming into the year, so this could be more than just volume – he could see a ton of quality targets coming his way from here on out.
Scott Chandler vs. PHI ($2,500) – Apparently Gronk might be back for next weekend, but I think based on the history of the Patriots with injuries, there is a better chance he misses at least one contest. They seem to like being sure that their players are back to close to to 100% before running them out there, but still – if you do decide to start Chandler, make sure you check on Gronk’s status Sunday. Because this pick is really all about Brady, not Scott Chandler. He would be one of two or three options left for Brady with no Edelman or Amendola or Gronk or Dion Lewis around, and that seems like it is worth more than $2,500, no matter who the player is.
Arizona Cardinals @ STL ($3,900) – Do we even know who will be quarterbacking the Rams next weekend? Apologies to Rams fans here, but the wheels seem to be coming off a bit – Fisher’s post-game rant can’t have been a good sign. Sometimes coaches getting angry motivates people and sometimes it just makes a fool out of the coach. This one fell into category B. Arizona, meanwhile, has a legitimately frightening defense, and an offense that could make the Rams one-dimensional if their own D slips up even a little.
Chicago Bears vs. SF ($2,600) – A mediocre defense against a terrible offense can still make for a pretty damn good matchup. The Bears have scored at least 6 fantasy points in each of their last four matchups, including 10 in Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day. Over the past few weeks, their ability to possess the ball has been perhaps the most important development for the defense; as their offense has gotten more efficient, they are just must less likely to get into a shootout that destroys any potential fantasy value. If you can keep scores low, just a handful of sacks or a turnover or two can make for a useful fantasy performance, and the Bears have been the perfect example of that versus their last couple of opponents.