For many of us, daily fantasy is the only fantasy game in town at this point in the season. No matter how you did in your year-long leagues, DFS gives you all the reason you need to start thinking about next week now. Good luck.
Carson Palmer @ PHI ($7,000) – In what was a tough matchup on paper against Minnesota, Palmer played as efficiently as you could hope for out of your quarterback. He went 25-for-35 for 310 yards and 2 TDs, with no picks, getting big plays out of John Brown and Michael Floyd, and 5 catches from Fitz. They ran the ball effectively as well, but this offense should have plenty of fantasy value to go around, making Palmer as safe as it gets in a cash game.
Russell Wilson vs. CLE ($7,000) – Coming into this week, there was a lot of hype around Wilson, leading an offense that had scored 29 or more points in four straight. He didn’t disappoint. The Seahawks again bested that mark, putting up 35 in a drubbing of the Ravens, in which Wilson threw five touchdown passes. There is no doubt that the rest of the NFC is really wishing a few of Seattle’s close wins earlier in the season went the other way right about now – this is a playoff opponent no one wants to face. Next up: the Browns, in Seattle, with the Seahawks likely down to their third running back, making them all that much MORE likely to rely on Wilson’s arm and legs.
Philip Rivers vs. MIA ($5,500) – This is the cheapest he has been all year, by far. That makes him sort of an obvious value because clearly, he has the upside to outperform this price tag or he wouldn’t have cost a thousand bucks more all season long. He’s clearly coming off a terrible game, putting up only 3 points in Kansas City with 263 yards and a pick. He had seven points against Denver last weekend, and seven points against KC three weeks ago. But that’s a game against a top-ten passing defense three times in the last four, and yesterday’s was in the pouring rain. The other game? 31 fantasy points against Jacksonville. He still threw it 43 times yesterday, and actually has some weapons back, with Gates and Floyd both healthy in yesterday’s game.
Brock Osweiler @ PIT ($5,100) – Denver might have lost to Oakland, and only scored 12 points in the process, but Osweiler actually managed to somehow look like he took a step forward, throwing for 308 yards on 51 attempts, with no turnovers. Yes, the lack of touchdowns was a problem, but this was the first time they really tried to let him loose, and at least he didn’t completely fail. But their running game did fail, and that could be a situation that repeats itself against a Steelers defense that has been successful against the run all year. As good as Denver’s defense is, my guess is this Pittsburgh offense gets at least some points on the board – at least enough to force the Broncos to make some plays to keep up, and that could fall to their young QB.
Adrian Peterson vs. CHI ($7,100) – With the preseason hype for Bridgewater, and the actual in-season success of a guy like Diggs, it’s somewhat surprising what has happened here, but facts are facts. The Vikings are once again a team whose best strength is running the ball, even when their opponent knows what’s coming. In their defense, it would take a really good passing game to be a better option than AP. He is on pace for another 1,500 yard season, and now he’s got a solid matchup against Chicago on the books. No brainer.
Lamar Miller @ SD ($6,300) – My way of saying that Lamar Miller is a player to watch in Monday Night Football tonight. The Giants are a good matchup, as are the Chargers next week. You would expect Miller to get plenty of carries tonight, just as you would next weekend. The issue of course being that he might not. Sometimes, they just seem to get away from him. Seeing him get 18+ touches tonight will be enough to make me very happy about starting him next week. Stay tuned.
DuJuan Harris vs. CLE ($4,600) – Rawls is out for the year with a broken ankle, so the question for this week is whether Marshawn Lynch returns to action against the Browns. With Rawls running the way he was, no one expected Lynch back, and I don’t expect that to change. It’s the Browns, the Seahawks are on fire, and with no Rawls, they want Beast Mode healthy for the playoffs. Harris got 18 carries (to Fred Jackson’s seven) after Rawls went down, so expect him to get the majority of the work in a good matchup next weekend.
Tim Hightower vs. DET ($3,900) – The Lions defense has been playing better lately, but in fairness, that is in comparison to how terribly they were playing earlier in the year. They did just give up 140 yards on 16 carries to Todd Gurley. Yes, I understand that Tim Hightower is not Todd Gurley, but even in a down year, this New Orleans offense is better than the Case Keenum-led Rams. This really is just a chance to point out that, Hightower might have been basically out of football for three years, but the Saints coaches prefer him to Spiller. Ingram went out for the year, and C.J. Spiller got three carries. He’s not part of the plan.
A.J. Green @ SF ($7,300) – There are a lot of wide receivers to like next week, so I figured I would concentrate on two who might be somewhat off the radar after what went down in Week 13. Obviously the big news in Cincy is the injury to Andy Dalton, all but dashing any hopes they had of securing that first playoff victory… ever, right? (Kidding: they last won a playoff game in 1990). But A.J. McCarron looked mostly competent, and when you have a young, inexperienced quarterback who isn’t terrible, often times you have a recipe for a #1 receiver just getting fed. And who could blame the kid? I’d feed A.J. too, all else fails. He caught a TD from the backup yesterday, and certainly has the matchup to do it again.
Calvin Johnson @ NO ($6,900) – It was the price that jumped out at me. I know, he is coming off a two-game stretch with only four catches, but before that he had six straight with at least five catches and 80 yards, and against this terrible Saints secondary, he should be able to come down with the majority of his targets. If he gets throw to 8 times, I would expect 6 for almost 100 with a good chance at a score.
Allen Hurns vs. ATL ($5,600) – Robinson might be the #1 receiver on this team, but Hurns is a better-than-average #2. He had a big game yesterday (103 yards and a score), so he might be widely owned, but it’s not just recency bias that makes you think he could be a value at this price. Both of these players average over 16 yards per catch, making it possible for either one of them to come up with the big plays that could win you a tournament. Robinson does it more often, and hence the pricetag, but the upside is the same with Hurns. He’s a better option in a GPP than a cash game. And as for the matchup, Atlanta is not actually good at defending the pass, stylistically, they just happen to be good at playing a lot of boring, low-scoring games. But they can get burned for a long play just like anyone else, and that’s all you’re looking for with this call.
John Brown @ PHI ($4,900) – He had three catches for 13 yards yesterday… and one for a 65-yard touchdown. That’s the kind of big play threat he is, which makes him another guy who is more of an option in a GPP. But this offense is putting up numbers every single week, and if nothing else, that catch-and-run allows you to feel comfortable that his hamstring is finally feeling good again. Against Philly, these three wide receivers are going to create mismatches all over the field and Palmer should be able to pick and choose the widest-open receiver time and time again. If that’s Brown, he has the chance to take it to the house every time he touches it.
Rob Gronkowski vs. TEN ($7,700) – Well, he’s back. He hasn’t had that 12-catch 180 yard, multiple score game that makes you think you just will never be able to match his production for less money. But he costs this much because he is just so consistent. He had four catches for 80+ yards and a score in a game when he wasn’t even getting the full complement of snaps; he just is too good, and too much of a focus for Brady, to be held in check for a full 60 minutes.
Jordan Reed vs. BUF ($5,900) – We’ve always known Reed had the talent: it’s always been about health. Whether the question was his health, his QBs health, or just the health of the offense he was playing in, there was always a question. Right now, it is all coming together, with Reed and Cousins both healthy and on the same page. Yesterday, he had 9 catches for 120 yards and a score, which is just a culmination of gradually improving performances ever since week 7, when he returned from injury. Since that point, he has more than 5 catches four times, more than 70 yards four times, and he has six total scores.
Julius Thomas vs. ATL ($4,700) – Amazingly, on a team with Robinson and Hurns playing as well as they are, Thomas led them in targets yesterday with seven. He just is the type of athletic big body who can get open quickly off the line and catch the ball in tight spots, which makes him the best kind of safety valve for a young QB. The big plays are still going to the outside guys, but that safety valve comes in mighty handy in the red zone, which makes Thomas a threat to score every week in this improved offense.
Antonio Gates vs. MIA ($4,600) – If you’ve actually watched the Chargers at various points this season (and I would not blame you if you have not), Gates just looks healthier out there right now than he did earlier in the year. Even at 3/4 speed, he was a primary target in this decimated offense, but at full speed, he is still getting the targets except now he is actually capable of doing something with them. Playing in the pouring rain against a top-10 defense, he had the second most targets on the team and came down with six catches for 76 yards, with a long play of 19. The matchups improve dramatically for this team over the next couple of weeks, which could make Gates a useful guy to roll out in your lineups.
Seattle Seahawks vs. CLE ($4,200) – This might not be the week to start a cheap defense. Cheap defenses are cheap for a reason: they’re not that good. Sometimes, they have good matchups – not so much this week. And there are so many top units with great matchups that you could be sacrificing a lot of points and putting yourself in a hole by not going with one of these top teams. The Seahawks have won four in a row on the road to put themselves right back in the mix in the NFC, and are returning home to face the single best possible matchup they could have in front of a rabid 12th man. It could get ugly.
Cincinnati Bengals @ SF ($3,400) – You might want to check some of the Patriots’ injuries and decide if they are healthy enough to lay a beating on the Titans. But if you decide the injuries are too much once we have a better idea what’s going on with those guys, then the Bengals make a lot of sense. Without Andy Dalton, this should be a low-scoring affair all around, and the Bengals defense has been opportunistic of late, creating fantasy points with sacks and turnovers. They faced a very good offense in Pittsburgh this week and hung tough, but a better comparison is what they did last week to the Browns, allowing three points with three sacks, a pick and a forced fumble.
San Francisco 49ers vs. CIN ($2,100) – This is simply a “Dalton got hurt” play, but it might not pan out as well as you’d hope. For starters, remember, the 49ers defense is terrible. So you better just be hoping for a 9-6 game or something, and a high floor, because the ceiling isn’t there. But also, McCarron wasn’t terrible, completing well over 60% of his passes against a much better defense than this one. He threw a pick-six, but you can’t count on that again, especially because, again, the 49ers are not good. Sorry.