With year-long fantasy football seasons over after tonight’s game for plenty of people, and the actual real-life football season winding down, it’s time to get fired-up for some playoff-like intensity on the field and for the final few weeks of DFS action off the field as well. Before Week 13 is even officially in the books, start prepping for Week 14 with an Early Look at a few salaries at each position. It’s never too early – there are only so many chances left!
Cam Newton vs. ATL ($7,500) – Cam is so far from being a conventional QB that I just can’t put stock into the fact that Atlanta is ranked second defending against QBs in terms of fantasy points. He doesn’t score fantasy points in the same way as every other quarterback, extending and creating plays with his strength, and the consistency and upside provided by his rushing ability make him an interesting choice in any kind of tournament. He’s not always going to get the Saints, but he doesn’t need to throw five touchdowns and rush for 50 yards to return value.
Ben Roethlisberger @ CIN ($6,800) – He came within inches of throwing five touchdowns of his own yesterday, and the offense the Steelers are rolling out there right now should strike fear into every defensive coordinator on their schedule for the rest of the season (as well as any potential playoff opponents). There isn’t another elite QB in this league with this array of weapons in the league, and he is acting as maestro, picking apart secondaries that just don’t stand a chance at hanging with Brown and Bryant – and even if they do, Ben turns third and fourth options into studs in the gaps his two stars create. The Bengals D has looked good, but with the playoffs on everyone’s mind every week from here on out, I am going to fall back on trusting the best players in the league, and that’s Ben.
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. TEN ($5,400) – There is Brown and Bryant, and the Cardinals trio, but there is just no denying that Fitzpatrick has one of the best one-two combos in the league at wide receiver right now. The Jets running game is playing well, and you have to think that coming into the year, the plan was to rely on that strength, but Fitz, Marshall and Decker are too good to ignore. We saw what the Jaguars offense was able to accomplish this weekend, and while I am not necessarily expecting 40 points out of the Jets, I am expecting good games out of both wide receivers and both running backs here, and it’s hard to imagine that without their QB returning value at this price as well.
Alex Smith vs. SD ($5,100) – The fear of course is that the Chargers’ defense is so bad that there is no need for Smith to have a good game, that the Chiefs rushing attack is more than enough to hold off San Diego. But he is, after all, the cheapest starting QB on the board – you’re not getting a sure thing. But if you’re looking for a cheap option to fill the spot in a cash game, Smith should throw for at least one TD in this matchup even if he doesn’t end up with a ton of yards, and he has the sneaky ability to supplement his score with rushing yards (303 on the season so far).
Matt Forte vs. WAS ($6,800) – The Redskins are on the bottom end of “middle of the pack” in terms of defending the run, and even worse at defending the pass. And as you know, either one of those by themselves can benefit Forte. But the question about Forte lately, since the injury, has been whether Langford would cut into his production. Langford had twelve carries yesterday, to Forte’s 21 (to go along with Forte’s 5 catches). Langford’s twelve carries had more to do, though, with comparing him to everyone else on their roster, not to Forte. You can’t expect more than 26 touches for any running back, really, so Langford getting 13 is just an acknowledgment that their backup RB is one of the best skill players they have, so he is more involved than whatever secondary TE or WR options they could trot out there.
Doug Martin vs. NO ($6,200) – Doug Martin is the kind of player fantasy-types are slow to trust. We’ve all been burned by him before, so you make him show it to you before you roll him out in your lineup. And then it all comes together: 90+ yards in three straight (including the monster 235-yard game) and he got in the end zone yesterday. And yeah, maybe those three games were good matchups against the Eagles, Colts and Falcons, but next week doesn’t get any harder with the Saints on tap.
T.J. Yeldon vs. IND ($4,900) – This game yesterday got out of hand, and probably isn’t indicative of a whole lot. Eighty points don’t get scored in too many Jaguars games, you know? But that having been said, it was really nice to see him in the end zone for the second time this season. With 19 total touches, including four catches for 94 yards, he led the charge for an offense that has looked progressively more competent as the season has developed. With that kind of usage, you could see very good production out of him in this matchup.
James White @ HOU ($4,100) – Odds are Houston probably won’t have three TDs from their D/ST, so the Pats might not be in catch up mode quite like they were this weekend. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? They have been throwing more than 60% of the time all season long, anyway. And while White has not shown himself to be as explosive as Dion Lewis, he has acquitted himself well as a fill-in for that role. And in an offense that is always looking to pass, in a PPR format, that role could be very valuable. With ten catches for 115 yards and a TD yesterday, White proved himself capable. And you know the Patriots like to be versatile and hard to predict – if they want him out there to give Tom Brady another target, you can also expect him to start getting more carries, just to give opponents something to think about.
Odell Beckham, Jr. @ MIA ($9,100) – Every week he flashes the best hands in the NFL, and this week it was on a key grab over the middle that didn’t break the game wide open, but really helped out his QB and his team. On the play that did break split the field in half, the catch was easy, and he instead relied on his world class speed to make the defenders look foolish. Ho hum. He is the total package, and the Dolphins don’t have an answer for it. He is as easy a choice as you’ll find.
Allen Robinson vs. IND ($8,000) – Yes, he absolutely blew up in a ridiculous game for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns. But this is not just “what have you shown me lately” – Robinson has 15+ fantasy points in every game since Week 5. As I wrote above, this is an offense that is just more competent than the Jags of the last few years, and these guys have an opportunity to see their production continue coming up in another good matchup at home against the Colts.
It’s hard not to mention Antonio Brown ($8,900 @ CIN) and Brandon Marshall ($7,600, vs. TEN), who both appear match-up proof at this point, with as high a floor and as much upside as anyone. It will be tough not to spend big on WRs this week.
Sammy Watkins @ PHI ($6,100) – Watkins is one of the rare mid-range receivers who you might actually predict to have the best receiving day of the weekend. He is just as much of a physical freak as some of the top guys, and this weekend, the issues he has with inconsistency (his own and his QBs) should be alleviated by the matchup against Philadelphia. Coming off two big games in a row, he and Taylor seem to be developing the kind of chemistry that turns talented receivers into the kind of guys opponents spend all week worrying about and game-planning for.
Danny Amendola @ HOU ($5,200) – Amendola doesn’t have the big play ability to be a great option in a larger GPP, but now that he seems to have made it through a game healthy, he should be a cash game staple as long as Edelman and Gronk are out. He had seven catches for 61 and a touchdown yesterday, and while the touchdowns might not always be there, the targets should be. As long as the other receiving options are out, his floor should be right around 15 points even without a TD.
Greg Olsen vs. ATL ($6,900) – Olsen was the obvious play yesterday, and he didn’t disappoint, with nine catches for 129 yards. He is the #1 option in Carolina, and that makes him the safest play on the board. I totally understand if you want to go with a cheaper play, especially in a GPP, because the chance is always there that you will hit on the same production for half the cost and a quarter of the ownership percentage. You almost always “hit” with Olsen, though, so if you are just looking for players who aren’t going to put you in the bottom half of a 50/50 with a zero, Olsen is the obvious choice.
Gary Barnidge @ SF ($5,000) – The Browns just got throttled by Cincy, so it is hard to blame Barnidge for his lack of a touchdown, but he did have six catches on eight targets, for 59 yards. He has been a top-3 tight end all season long, and even if it has come out of nowhere, it’s true. He produces when no one else on his team does, playing with all kinds of different terrible QBs and skill position players around him. He has had double-digit points in every game but one since week 3, which makes him an obvious cash-game play when you can still save a bundle over Olsen, and he also has two games with over 25 fantasy points, which is enough to qualify him as an upside play at the position as well.
Richard Rodgers vs. DAL ($3,900) – We all know the play. But even before that, Rodgers had 7 catches for 80+ yards, the kind of 15 point outing you can grow to love from your tight end. The position is so wildly unpredictable that it makes you want to limit your spending, only because it will hurt less if you choice lets you down. But Rodgers has Rodgers to throw it to him, so he doesn’t even need to be all that open to make a play… clearly.
Scott Chandler @ HOU ($3,800) – Another tight end who makes the grade if only because he’s no more unreliable than everyone else, he’s getting the chances, and he plays with a good QB. But hey, it’s not a terrible recipe. He finished yesterday with four catches for 61 yards and a score is his first attempt at filling in for Gronkowski. At this point, the Pats offense is clearly not operating at full capacity – the Gronk, Edelman and Lewis losses have proven too much. But Brady still finds a way to make plays, and for now at least, Chandler is no worse than third in the pecking order among his receiving options.
Seattle Seahawks @ BAL ($3,500) – Suddenly in the driver’s seat for one of the wild card slots in the NFC, it’s hard to imagine them relenting now. Something tells me the rest of the conference is going to regret not driving a stake through the heart of this team when they had the chance. A couple of close victories earlier in the season are looming large, but the fact of the matter is, they are peaking at the right time. Their offense is playing well, which allows their defense to play aggressively, and the two units feed off each other (which seems awfully familiar after watching this team for the past two seasons). They are absolutely capable of maintaining their momentum against this Ravens team that has been wracked by injuries and is coming off a two-point loss to the Dolphins.
Detroit Lions @ STL ($2,700) – I guess this pick is contingent on the assumption that they didn’t have their collective wills broken last Thursday night by that absurdity. Because despite that rocket Rodgers uncorked to take them out, they have been playing really solid ball over the past month. They were coming off of three straight wins heading into the game against the Packers, holding the Packers in Lambeau, the Raiders and the Eagles all to under 20 points. This seems like one of the most obvious values on the board against an offense that is really struggling (no more than 13 points scored in their last four games).