For this week’s article I am going to try something new. Let’s get a conversation going on a topic that’s DFS-related but not particularly substantive (and thus probably won’t be the topic of discussion anywhere else). Is it a good thing that the Rams/Chiefs game won’t be on the main slate? I’m not talking about the general point about the value of having the MNF game on the slate (as they used to do a few years ago), rather, just specifically the Rams/Chiefs game, which has the highest total since 1986 and would have had numerous guys who would have been main cogs of your lineup had the game been on the slate (Gurley, at his slightly lowered price of $10,600, and Tyreek Hill at $7,900 would have been two monster plays, Kelce at $7,800, Woods at $7,500, and Cooks at $7,800 would have been expensive pieces but reasonable plays, Josh Reynolds at $5,000 would have been an interesting punt, and while Patrick Mahomes at $9,500 may have been priced out of viability, Jared Goff at $8,300 would certainly be in the conversation). So, what say you, my loyal readers? Feel free to post as to whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the Rams/Chiefs game isn’t on the slate (or if you think it’s good for cash games, bad for GPPs, or vice versa, that’s certainly an interesting take too). I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion on this…
Eli Manning, $6,700 – I just threw up in my mouth. We never want to be in this situation, but, here we are. A cheap Eli Manning going up against a disaster of a defense. Eli averages 38.4 attempts per game (but in the 2 games they have won he’s thrown 29 and 31 times) and the Tampa defense, while no longer the worst we’ve ever seen, ranks a robust 30th in passing DVOA. He’s Rudy’s 2nd best QB value behind the next guy.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, $7,600 – Last week, Dirk Koetter inexplicably started calling plays. There’s no acceptable reason to take away play calling from Todd Monken unless you think scoring points is a bad thing. So of course the Bucs were terrified of the end zone last week and scored 6 points on roughly a bajillion yards, give or take a few. Fitzpatrick is going up against the nothing special Giants defense (ranked 28th in overall defense and 25th in passing defense). The Giants actually are closer to 13th than they are to 29th, so while the Giants defense seemingly is no good, they are basically in the big giant mess of teams in the middle that is neither particularly good or bad. But, the good news is that Bucs offense (when not having Koetter call plays) is pretty prolific at scoring points, not just getting yards (and news is Monken is back to calling plays this week). Fitzpatrick has a lot of weapons to use at his disposal and actually is 6th in QB DVOA this year. Given his weapons and the Bucs style of play Fitzpatrick is a good cash game play.
Cam Newton, $8,600 – The argument for Cam is easy, Detroit is an abomination right now. They not so stealthily turned the Oakland, Tampa, Atlanta trio of defensive ineptitude into a foursome. The level these 4 defenses are at doesn’t happen every year. Last year had 0 and 2016 had 1 defense this bad. Usually there’s about 1 every other year about as bad as the 29th ranked team this year, but this year there are 4! defenses at this level of sucktitude. Anyway, Detroit is one of those bad defenses with a 31st ranked passing DVOA and a 25th ranked rush defense (by the way, as bad as they are at rush defense, they are still negative, where being negative is good #NeverRun). We all know by now that Cam is having his best year at throwing the football with career highs in completion % and int %, and 2nd best season in yards per attempt and TD % That efficiency combined with his rushing upside (averaging 39.1 yards per game) puts him squarely in cash game consideration, especially against the Detroit Lions disaster. The downside to Cam is that the pace of this game isn’t going to be conducive to fantasy points. Both teams take their sweet time and don’t have a ton of clock stoppage plays – the result of being heavy on running (including Cam scrambles) and having respectable completion percentages when they do pass. Detroit ranks 31st and Carolina 24th in situation neutral pace. Carolina always goes slow, no matter the situation but Detroit does speed up to 12th in the 2nd half and 13th if they are trailing by 7+, so there’s some hope in that regard. The pace issues, while a concern, aren’t enough to remove Cam from cash consideration, however.
Also viable: Andrew Luck, $7,800, Marcus Mariota, $7,100, and Matthew Stafford, $6,800. If you can stomach the Taysom Hill vultures and the overwhelming desire for the Saints to run the ball more than 50% of the time in games that aren’t close, Drew Brees, $8,500, is viable
GPP Recommendation – Whichever non-Flacco Ravens QB is announced as the starter (Robert Griffin, $6,300 or Lamar Jackson, $7,000) – As of this writing, the Ravens apparently plan to have both of these guys play (in the event Joe Flacco’s not healthy to go, apparently the Ravens would rather play ineffective and inefficient Joe Flacco if he’s healthy, which is nuts), and a timeshare at QB would render both non-viable fantasy plays. However, just because the Ravens have said they would split time doesn’t mean they actually will. You can’t play either in cash, but let’s say the starter goes out and has a great first drive, and then the other one looks bad on his first drive and goes three and out. If the starter then goes back in and scores another touchdown, is it not at least somewhat likely the Ravens just “hot-hand” and stick with him the rest of the game? A whole game from either of them, at their respective prices, with their rushing ability providing immense value (either could easily rush for 100 yards and two scores, in addition to whatever points they get from passing), could easily win you a GPP.
Dion Lewis, $5,800 – Lewis is the feature back in Tennessee, with at least 19 touches the last 3 weeks. The biggest issue is he’s not getting goal line carries, like we saw last week, but for the price, he should be fine because you’re betting on volume here. The other thing i’d note is the Colts are not great vs pass catching RBs, allowing a schedule adjusted 9.2 catches per game to opposing running backs, which ranks them 28th in the league. Lewis only had 2 targets last week, but the Titans (shockingly) jumped out to a big lead against the Patriots and held it the entire game. I don’t expect that to happen this week and he could see a season high in targets if the high paced Indy offense can put up points vs the Titans defense.
Melvin Gordon, $8,700 – Melvin has had at least 15.4 FanDuel points every single game and can be expected to carry the bulk of the load against the Denver Broncos. He’s going to get most of the goal line work and he’s involved in the passing game. Even though he’s not getting as many carries as the past, he’s increased his passing game work to make up for it, and we know that receptions are more valuable than carries. The matchup vs the Broncos isn’t good, but Vegas has the Chargers as 7 point home favorites and home favorites is where we like to be.
David Johnson, $7,900 – The Cardinals are going up against the Raiders, who are one of the 4 bad defensive teams that calling them a hot dumpster fire is an insult to hot dumpster fires. So we know the matchup is good, but we also the Cardinals have finally unleashed the power of David Johnson (which is what tends to happen when a coach is fired because they didn’t use a single player enough). Last week saw Johnson match the season high for targets, with a season high in catches, and the 2nd most rushes on the season. Byron Leftwich knew what Mike McCoy did not, namely that when you have a Hall of Fame talent, you use him. The price for the matchup and usage is too cheap, and you just use him this week. As a friend of mine said, “Don’t Fade David Johnson Again”.
Saquon Barkley, $8,800 – On the season, Saquon has a 22% market share. In the last 5 weeks, Saquon has a 23% market share. The Bucs, a disaster defense, are bad everywhere, and are also 26th in DVOA against RBs. There really isn’t much more needed to say. But if you need more – he’s Pigskinator’s #1 RB on the slate (and by 3 points over the 2nd highest guy).
Alvin Kamara, $8,800 – 38.6, 14.9, 26.5, 38.6, 5.4, 14.5, 23.1, 31.6, 24.2. Just another ho hum 24.2 from Kamara last week. It’s pretty clear that Kamara is the main guy in any game that is close and if a game isn’t close, they will scale his usage down a touch. But it likely won’t matter since Kamara is going to be one of the main cogs to get them to that point. The game environment vs the Eagles is going to be tasty. It’s in the Coors Field of football, the Eagles should be throwing on the Saints and putting up points, thus forcing the Saints to do dirty things to the Eagles, likely with Kamara and a certain WR you probably like this week. The Eagles allow a lot of production to pass catching backs, ranking 18th in DVOA, but allowing a schedule adjusted 8.8 passes per game (good for 27th in the league). If the Eagles allow Kamara to get to that number, he’s going to get to 30+ points. Not to mention that Kamara is also the Saints goal line back and will get all the short TDs that don’t go to future Hall of Famer (at least in Sean Payton’s eyes), Taysom Hill (seriously, Saints, stop that).
GPP Recommendation – Theo Riddick, $5,100 – Theo is the pass catching RB on a team that has no pass catchers healthy outside of Kenny Golladay (this will be explored later in the article as well). If the Lions are a smart team (based on what we’ve seen, this is pretty dubious, but that’s why this is a GPP recommendation), Riddick would be the slot receiver this week in a game they likely will be down and need to throw giving him elite WR production upside as a $5,100 RB.
Michael Thomas, $8,800 – The Eagles just hemorrhage yards and catches to #1 WRs and are very banged up in the defensive backfield. That explains why Rudy’s projections have Michael Thomas as the highest scoring WR on the slate, and 2nd best value (I’ll get to the best value later).
Odell Beckham, $8,500 – The Bucs just hemorrhage yards and catches to offenses and are super banged up. That explains why Rudy’s projections have Odell Beckham as the 3rd highest scoring WR on the slate and 5th best value. The main reason Odell doesn’t project as well as Michael Thomas (despite the even juicier matchup) is because Eli Manning is the one firing footballs to him, whereas Michael Thomas has Drew Brees. Even at their peaks, Drew Brees was a far superior QB to Eli Manning, but at this point it’s beyond laughable the difference. If Brees was playing for the Giants this past Monday, Odell could have easily had 4 TDs. That Odell is still going to do well speaks to how good he is and how juicy the matchup is.
Kenny Golladay, $6,400 – The last few weeks saw the Lions trade Golden Tate and now Marvin Jones is out with an injury as well as red zone threat Michael Roberts (kind of a joke, but he does have 3 TDs). That’s a lot of targets and red zone targets that have to go somewhere. Golladay is by the best receiver on the team right now and should be in line for a massive workload. Even though he’s probably going to be less efficient on account of teams playing him like a #1 WR, he’s going to have the volume associated with someone who’s way more expensive. He’s part of the small group of WRs that you can call an elite cash play.
Corey Davis, $6,200 – Davis has a 31% target share on the year and 31% over the last 5 weeks, 38% over the last 3 weeks and 42% last week. The amount of targets he’s getting is just massive. Now he’s going up against a Colts team that struggles defending the pass game (27th in the league, and 29th in the league vs #1 WR). If you want more reason to like Corey Davis, Davis is Rudy’s top value at WR. Yes, the best value at WR is Corey Davis.
GPP Recommendation – Julio Jones, $8,700 – First, Dallas pass defense ranks 26th. Second, Julio has a 29% target share and gets 47% of Atlanta’s air yards. He’s only had 1 game of less than 9 targets and averages 115.6 yards per game. He’s just always a great play and this is more just a reminder that he was slate breaking ability on a weekly basis.
Ricky Seals-Jones, $5,200 – Arizona’s passing offense is pretty condensed. Under Leftwich, they throw to Fitzgerald, Kirk, RSJ and David Johnson. Johnson, Kirk and RSJ all have 17% market share. Like I noted above, the Cardinals are facing the putrid Oakland Raiders, who are last in passing defense and last against TEs. For his price, in this matchup RSJ is a rock solid cash game option.
James O’Shauhgnessy, $4,000 – Given the volatility at the TE position, in most cases it’s correct to pay down since you’re getting a similar floor. The matchup vs Pittsburgh is ostensibly bad, but TE is the position that Pitt struggles with and they are 26th in DVOA vs TEs and give up a schedule adjusted 8.9 passes to the tight end position. Last week, O’Shaug had a 15% market share and in his last 3 games, he’s had a 14% target share. For the stone min, i’ll take that, especially if it lets you buy up everyone else you want.
Jordan Reed, $5,400 – The last 5 weeks, Reed has had a monster (for a TE) 23% target share, leading the Washington Change the Name Alreadys. And even though Houston is a bad matchup overall and Washington should struggle somewhat, the TE specific matchup is very nice. Houston ranks 31st vs TEs and given that Washington is likely going to have to throw a lot, it could set up for a big time target game for Jordan Reed, even if he doesn’t have the game/slate breaking ability of yesteryear.
Zach Ertz, $7,600 – I’ve been referencing target shares for TEs in the mid teens to low 20s for the 3 above TEs, but, Ertz blows them out of the water with a 29% target share over the last 5 weeks. He’s the Eagles #1 option in a game that they are likely going to either have to throw, or they are just going to want to throw since running the ball is pretty stupid, especially when you have the Eagles collection of running backs. And as you know, the Eagles are going to throw against the Saints and their no good, very bad pass defense in the Coors Field of the NFL. If you can afford it, he’s a very very safe option (below 10.6 points twice all year), but, as of now, I prefer to pay up for Thomas and the RBs.
GPP Recommendation – Colts TE as a position would cost 11k and would be cash game lock every single week. As I’ve discussed before, Andrew Luck throws to his TEs in the red zone. It’s just what he does. 42.4% of the Colts red-zone targets have gone to TEs. The problem is that there’s no consistency as to which TE gets the red zone looks – Ebron has an absurd 24.2% target share, but nominal starting TE Jack Doyle, Erik Swoope, and Mo Allie-Cox all have decent target shares as well. Swoope likely will be inactive, but the other three will all be on the field as well and it’s entirely a crapshoot as to which TE gets the targets. But whichever TE happens to win the RNG target battle is going to put up a huge day – as evidenced by Eric Ebron’s slate-leading 26.6 (and also note Mo Allie-Cox’s 9.6, good for 5th amongst TEs) last week. In fact, since Week 6, a Colts TE has finished with a score in the top 3 for all TEs 3 of the 4 weeks the Colts have played (Week 6, Week 8, and Week 10; they had a Bye in Week 9). Just in case that’s not enough, a Colts TE has put up a top-3 score in FIVE of the 9 weeks they’ve had a game. The other four weeks, a Colts TE finished 5th, 8th, and 10th. Only in Week 3 did a Colts TE not put up a top-10 score at the position. I just have no clue which Colts TE will do the honors this week, and anyone who claims they do is fooling themselves. But in GPPs, take the risk, because the reward is massive.
Washington [email protected]#$%^&*, $3,600 – Houston has the 31st ranked offensive line in adjusted sack rate and Watson is still prone to throwing some interceptions and Washington is cheap. Defense in fantasy is dumb.
Arizona Cardinals, $4,000 – The Raiders have the 25th ranked offensive line and Arizona has the 4th best dline. The Raiders have given up some crooked numbers in the sack department and their QB does stuff like spiking on the ball on a 4th and 5 late in the 4th quarter. So yeah, pretty good matchup, but, defenses in fantasy are dumb.
Carolina Panthers, $4,000 – Matt Stafford and the Lions have been a complete mess the last 2 weeks, allowing 16 sacks and 2 ints in 2 weeks. I wouldn’t play them over the Cardinals, but it is defense and if the Lions continue to be a complete train wreck offensively, you’ll have another 6-10 sacks with some interception equity. And yes, defense in fantasy is dumb.
GPP Recommendation (that is cash viable if you want to go super cheap) – New Orleans Saints, $3,300 – Home favorite and the cheapest defense this week. If you want to go minimum, Cincinnati Bengals are also viable since the Ravens are starting either a rookie who’s more of a runner or Robert Griffin III, who last we saw him had a 13% sack rate and sub 60% completion percentage. This is the defense is mega stupid and just pay down route. Oh, and defense in fantasy is dumb.
Random Other GPP Thoughts
I will include this section every week as long as these two are healthy – if you’re a multi-entry GPP guy, always include multiple Patrick Mahomes ($9,500) and Tyreek Hill ($7,900) lineups. They’re not on the main slate this week as they are in the highly anticipated Monday Night game against the Rams, but if you are playing in the Sun-Mon slate or have lineups from the Thu-Mon slate, do not forget about the two of them, even at their prices, because both of them always carry the chance to put up truly filthy numbers that break the slate.
Best of luck to everyone on Sunday!