Best of luck to those season-long players who have Week 1 of their playoffs this week. Over here in Daily Fantasy world, we’ve got a slate with approximately 50 cash-viable running backs, so let’s get right to it.
Jameis Winston, $7,700 – This is what I wrote last week: “before last [two weeks ago] week, the combined efforts of Winston and Fitzpatrick as “Bucs QB” would rate out as the #2 scoring QB, with 24.6 points per game. Only Patrick Mahomes is higher. The Bucs throw a ton, Todd Monken is their awesome #airraid OC, and their defense is so atrocious the only way they can win is by throwing and running up the score on offense and hoping the defense isn’t a complete disaster. Unfortunately, this matchup has a lot of downside this week. First, outside of the first 3 weeks, the Saints have been really good defensively and in weighted DVOA (which reduces the ranking of the earliest weeks) they are 9th overall. Second, This game is not in the Coors Field of the NFL. Third, it’s the 2nd game in division, which historically leads to lower scoring games. Fourth, the Saints run, and run a lot and are really successful at running, not to mention their success at short passes, which leads to time coming off the clock. Everything to me is screaming that game goes under, but the price is solid and Tampa’s offense of throwing deep means you can get a few chunk plays and you see 21-50 for 275 yards, 3 TDs and a few runs and Winston returns value. Winston is a good play, but not a no doubt play he’s been a few times this year.
Deshaun Watson, $7,800 – Since Week 8, Deshaun Watson has been unreal efficient. He’s had a 73.1% completion % with 11 TDs and 2 ints and 8.89 yards per attempt. The Texans have faced Denver, Washington, Miami, Titans, Browns. None of those teams made the Texans score points in the way the Colts should make them score points, so we could see Watson pass attempts get to 35 this week, that combined with his rushing equity makes him a top play.
Aaron Rodgers, $8,100 – Peak Eli Manning gets to face the bonkers bad Atlanta Falcons defense at home. Atlanta is the worst defense on the year, ranking, you guessed it, 32nd in Football Outsiders DVOA. Anytime you can get Rodgers in a non divisional home game, you jump all over it. And anytime you can get Rodgers after they fire a coach in mid season, you gotta take him (note: this is the first time in 96 years the Packers have fired a coach in mid-season).
Patrick Mahomes, $9,300 – Rudy’s #1 projected QB by a mile. If you are comfortable with the value at the other positions and find yourself with the money, play him. But at the same time, he’s incredibly expensive so I wouldn’t go out of my way to force him into my linueps. Also, the under in KC has been a great bet, so there’s a pretty decent chance this game features a big KC win, but not a lot of points or yards.
GPP Recommendation – Josh Allen, $7,400 – Look, Josh Allen is not an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. He was an idiotic pick by the Bills as they (like many scouts) were enthralled with a 6’6’’ white guy who can throw the ball 70 yards at will (and think they can “fix” things like a lack of accuracy, a lack of anticipation, a lack of pocket presence, a lack of pretty much any of the skills one needs to be a good Quarterback besides having a strong arm). But what was not talked about at all was that apparently he is a very good runner. For all the talk about Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen has rushed for more yards the last two games. In week 12, Allen had 13 rushes for 99 yards and a TD, Jackson went 11 for 71 and a TD. Last week, Allen went 9 for 135, Jackson went 17 for 75 and a TD. In other words, Allen has given people the same rushing upside that Lamar gives people. The difference is that nothing in Josh Allen’s history suggests he is the type of QB who is going to run for 100 yards a game. He didn’t do it earlier in the year (although he would scramble for 30-40 yards), and he didn’t run at all in college. The reason he’s not a cash play is that it’s entirely possible his rushing prowess is a two-week fluke and once that regresses, you’ll be left with the bottom of the league QB that he is. But if this rushing ability is real, you’ve got immense upside as Allen can easily add 16 (100 yards and a TD) or 22 (100 yards and 2 TDs) to whatever points he gets as a QB. There’s a reason he’s been QB1 and QB2 these last two weeks, and it’s entirely because of that rushing upside.
Jaylen Samuels, $4,600 – Samuels is the starting RB for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is $4,600 vs the…does it even matter? He’s $4,600! Oh, what? Pittsburgh is facing Oakland? Yes, please. We know it’s pretty likely he doesn’t get 20 carries on the ground, but, his ability in the pass game is where he’s likely to shine. And receiving volume is more valuable than ground volume. Samuels should be the new breed of RB where you #NeverRun and throw to your RB a lot on early downs. But this being Pittsburgh, we could even see Samuels get some run on the ground for reasons. He’s also Rudy’s #1 RB value on the main slate.
Jeff Wilson, $5,600 – Another cheap play who’s value likely relies on receiving. Unlike Samuels, Wilson is likely to get to 15 carries in addition to the check downs from Mullens. Last week, in a game San Fran lost roughly 1,000 – 6, Wilson got 15 carries and 9 targets. In a game that should be closer, we should probably expect a similar volume, but even if it isn’t, Wilson’s volume is pretty safe. That volume is what we want out of our $7,600 RB. Wait? He’s $5,600? Oh boy, that’s a tasty play.
Christian McCaffrey, $9,100 – Last week, I wrote “Sometimes you just lock a guy since it’s mega obvious and move on. This is one of those times.”. He’s every bit as good of a play this week – he’s only $300 more and the Browns aren’t exactly an imposing matchup. In case you’re not convinced, he’s Rudy’s #1 RB on the week. The only reason he’s not “just a lock and move on” is that there’s a mind-bogglingly high number of playable RBs this week. But CMC’s still every bit the monster play he has been the last few weeks.
Also Viable: Phillip Lindsay, $7,900, Alvin Kamara, $8,300, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, David Johnson…Look, RB is super deep today. There’s so many plays I stopped listing their salaries. Any of these guys are cash viable, and all also are GPP viable.
GPP Recommendation – Sony Michel, $6,900 and Mark Ingram, $6,600 – If you look at all the RBs listed above, very few of them have competition for volume. The two most obvious RBs listed above that do have competition are White and Kamara, as both Michel and Ingram can and often do end up getting more touches and work than White and Kamara. Both Michel and Ingram are in the same juicy matchups that White and Kamara are, but their lack of passing game work (and lack of consistency due to splitting the work) render them non-cash viable. But they could easily end up getting the bulk of the carries and the rushing touchdowns, making them great GPP plays.
Keenan Allen, $7.900 – Early in the week, I had this as the Christian McCaffrey play from last week where you just lock him and move on. But, i’m not so sure anymore. The Chargers offense is stupidly efficient, 3rd in offensive DVOA and they are going to score points, but when they do get up early, they shut it down and the volume isn’t there in the pass game. In 7 of 12 games, Rivers has attempted under 30 passes and they have won those by an average of 15.57 points. The spread in this game is -14 and their coaching staff is historically conservative calling plays. So Allen is still a great play and if they throw 25 times, Allen could get 12 of those targets and he’ll pay off his salary at that amount of targets. But, for him to get his ceiling (or maybe to even pay off salary for cash games), we’ll need the Bengals to be able to put up points, at least early. Rudy has him projected bonkers high and is unsurprisingly the top value of the slate.
Courtland Sutton, $5,600 – He’s one of the last WRs the Broncos have standing after trading Thomas and losing Sanders to a torn achilles. The volume SHOULD be there, but there is this issue that the Broncos don’t throw the ball unless they are behind and since they are playing San Francisco, who’s low key terrible (2nd to last in DVOA), I don’t expect Denver to be behind much, which makes me question his lockitude. But I still think he’s a pretty good play, particularly given the dearth of other WR value plays.
High Priced WRs – They are all in good spots. Michael Thomas ($8,300) catches everything and is playing the well known terrible defense of Tampa Bay. He’s also Rudy’s #1 WR not named Keenan Allen. Antonio Brown ($8,800) is going to get volume vs Oakland. Davante Adams ($8,700) gets the worst defense in the league at home, and like Cris Carter, all Davante Adams does is catch touchdowns and all Aaron Rodgers does is throw touchdowns. DeAndre Hopkins ($8,600) gets most of the volume in Houston and they may start throwing a bit more, last week they hit 30 times for the first time in a long while. I’ll add Julio Jones ($8,400) just for completeness, as Green Bay’s defense is no good and Atlanta is still solid and Julio may actually catch TDs if Atlanta finally gets smart and abandons the run game (but they probably won’t).
GPP Recommendation – Direct pivots from Keenan Allen, Chris Godwin and Cortland Sutton. As of right now, the numerous ownership estimates out there project those three WRs to be the highest owned WRs. I’ve already explained why Sutton could dud. The case for Keenan Allen dudding is volume concerns, but Godwin isn’t exactly a lock to crush either as Tampa can and often does spread the wealth around and the defense for the Saints is much improved and we could see an Eagles type output for the Bucs. My GPP recommendation is to find a WR priced similarly to Allen, and two priced similarly to Sutton/Godwin. For example, Michael Thomas, Zay Jones and Dante Pettis. Put Phillip Lindsay at RB (since the main reason Sutton duds is that Lindsay just carries the ball 25 times and does all the work) and you’ve got great leverage on the field.
Travis Kelce, $8,000 – The low price options aren’t quite as appealing this week and the RB and WR value are solid, so it may be a week where you [shudder] pay up for TE [shudder]. I usually hate doing it, but with Hunt out, the Chiefs made Kelce the run game. The last 2 weeks he’s had a ridiculous 28 targets and they may need to throw all game this week since it should be a closer game than the last one. Kelce is Rudy’s top TE value on the main slate.
Eric Ebron, $6,300 – He gets massive targets and TDs. Last week he got SIXTEEN targets and was perfectly acceptable despite being on an offense that was shutout. The Colts are on the road this week and his price got jacked up, meaning he’s got some risks, but his price hasn’t been adjusted enough to make the risks outweigh the rewards.
Cam Brate, $5,100 – The value TE this week is Cam Brate! I’ve already explained why I don’t love this game, but Brate at $5,100 enables you to get whatever you want, especially if you hit the value RBs.
Also Viable: George Kittle, $6,600, I guess? Not really much else beyond the three I wrote up.
GPP Recommendation – Matt LaCosse, $4,500, Dan Arnold, $4,000. I’m not specifically recommending these two guys, rather, I’m saying to pick a random TE who is $4,500 or less who you think is a good bet to catch a touchdown. The position has been very weak for a few weeks now and if you can get a touchdown and 20-30 yards from a $4,000-$4,500 guy, you can win a GPP if your upgrades elsewhere do what they’re supposed to do. LaCosse and Arnold seem like two reasonable people, but there are plenty of other options as well.
Cleveland Browns, $3,200 – Cheap. Home. Defense in fantasy is dumb.
New York Giants, $3,500 – Last week, against Chase Daniel, the Giants managed 5 sacks, 2 INTs (one of which was a TAINT), and a recovered fumble. This week they get Mark Sanchez, who is every bit as bad as Chase Daniel and likely far worse. The Washington football franchise also has nowhere near the talent the Chicago Bears have, they’ve been far more decimated by injuries, and Matt Nagy is a far better coach than Jay Gruden. Basically, the Giants are in a spot that’s as good or better in every conceivable way except the fact that they’re on the road (if the Giants were at home and the same price, I’d have them as much of a lock as a defense can be). Defense remains stupid in fantasy football.
Kansas City Chiefs, $3,700 – I know what people are saying – the Chiefs are one of the worst defense against the run and the Ravens with Lamar Jackson do nothing but run – Lamar and whoever is the RB should be able to just run silly. And yes, there’s some truth to that. But I don’t think people realize just how much the Ravens are running under Lamar Jackson. From JJ Zachariason on Twitter: “Only the Seahawks and Texans have pass-to-rush attempt ratios south of 1.00 this year. Meaning, they’re the only teams who’ve run more than they’ve passed. And they’re at 0.97 and 0.86, respectively. With Lamar Jackson as starter, Baltimore’s pass-to-rush attempt ratio is 0.48.” This ratio is not sustainable and it’s only worked these last three weeks because they’ve faced two laughingstocks the Bengals and the Raiders), and the Falcons, who have a horrible defense and their offense randomly stunk last week. Lamar has been an absolutely horrible QB when he actually throws – 39 of 65 for 453 yards, with 1 TD and 3 INTs. What happens when the Ravens have to come from behind? This game could snowball very quickly if the Chiefs race out to a big lead. If it gets late into the 3rd quarter and the Chiefs are up 31-14, we could easily see Lamar throw 3 INTs in the 4th as he tries to actually throw his way back into the game. We could also see a lot of sacks as Lamar decides not to scramble but instead tries to buy time to let his receivers get open. In other words, we could see a lot of what makes a good DFS defense – sacks and INTs, solely because the Chiefs offense gets up huge and Lamar Jackson has to do what he’s not very good at – throw. I also have written way too much on a pick for the position that is legitimately stupid and should not be a part of DFS.
Also Viable – Anyone. Play any defense you want. But stick to home defenses if possible.
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 ($9,300) and Tyreek Hill ($8,200). Last week Mahomes was the QB1, but Tyreek only caught 1 pass for 13 yards (on 6 targets). If you watched the game, there were at least 3 legitimate chances for long TD passes that missed by the smallest of margins – Mahomes overthrew Tyreek on two of them by inches and a third Tyreek dropped as he had to come back to the pass. The failed bombs didn’t affect Mahomes bottom line, as he threw approximately 15 touchdowns to Travis Kelce instead. The two can easily rekindle their crushing ways this week because Mahomes is insane and Tyreek is insane and the Chiefs love to throw early and often. If the Chiefs dial up 18 targets for Tyreek, he’s going to shatter value (to compare, last week, Kelce got 13 targets and obliterated value with them). And shattering value is how you win GPPs.
Best of luck to everyone on Sunday!