The baseball article I write during the baseball season has a section “Doing Lines In Vegas” but here in NFL season, we’re “Doing Lines With cinthree.” If anyone is willing bet me that Nathan Peterman will outscore the Chicago Bears defense in fantasy points tomorrow, I will take that bet. Peterman’s not going to break 10 and the Bears are probably putting up 12-15 (which makes them a bad play in DFS).
Cam Newton, $8,600 – Carolina is a home favorite vs Tampa Bay with a 30.5 total, all of which are good for QBs. Tampa has a pass DVOA of 43.8%, which is not good. They also are pretty banged up, missing most of their defensive backs and now Kwon Alexander. I know defense doesn’t really matter, but when you’re so banged up, you’re starting replacement level players at best all over your defense, it probably will matter. The question is, will it matter for Cam getting those sweet sweet fantasy points? And the answer is probably yes, since we deal in probabilities here. Want further proof of Cam’s viability on Sunday? Rudy’s projections have him as the #1 Quarterback by 4.9 points (26.7 FanDuel points, and Patrick Mahomes is next up at 21.8). While I don’t know for sure, I’m fairly confident that’s the biggest gap between #1 and #2 we’ve ever seen. It’s ridiculous. And Cam’s $900 cheaper.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, $7,100 – This pick is not for the faint of heart, but they should be forced to throw and throw a lot. Todd Monken’s Air Raid offense means that no matter who is QB, they are going to throw deep, which gives them a chance to match the Panthers in points. Fitzmagic is similar to Winston in that they both like to throw interceptions, so this could go bust when we see the 4th int from Fitzpatrick in the 2nd quarter and Winston is warming up on the sidelines.
Also viable: Jared Goff, $8,400. That’s it. No one else. I feel this needs to be explained. The article is called 5-wide because I always try to have at least 5 people at each position – even if I only write up 2 or 3, I’ll include at least two more guys as viable options even if I don’t write them up so that there’s at least 5 choices. Yeah, that’s not happening here. There’s two choices, total, and given the chances of Fitzmagic dudding or being pulled, there’s one choice. Total. Don’t mess it up. I had to reach quite hard just to twist Goff into viability here – simply put, Gurley’s red zone dominance neuters enough of Goff’s prospective fantasy points that he’s nowhere near the play Newton is today, and he’s only $200 cheaper. But if I had to pick a 3rd play, he’s still better than any other QB out there in terms of cash viability.
GPP Recommendation – Baker Mayfield, $7,400 – Look, Kansas City’s defense sucks. While it’s true that they’re far worse at rushing defense than they are at passing defense, they’re not particularly good at passing defense either, and because they’re also always winning and putting up huge offensive numbers, the other team has to throw a ton to catch up. What happens when a team has to throw a lot to catch up and is facing a middling pass defense? Fantasy Points, that’s what. Don’t believe me? So far this year, the Chiefs give up the 7th most points to opposing QBs. But the problem is – this week the Chiefs face the so-incompetently-run-bad-hollywood-movie-villains-would-scoff-at-their-stupidity Cleveland Browns, and Baker Mayfield. But wait! Rejoice!. Baker is now free of the Hue Jackson stank (and the Todd Haley incompetence too)! Maybe things will be different! The new OC, Freddie Kitchens, has ties to Bruce Arians, one of the greatest offensive coaches in the last few years. Of course, the same could have been said about Byron Leftwich and while the Cardinals did improve their play-calling, it was only a marginal improvement – the offense still had massive issues. It’s unlikely that the new OC comes in and the offense does a complete 180 and becomes a true Bruce Arians style offense that made the Arizona Cardinals one of the better teams of the last few years despite being led by a broken-down and mostly washed up Carson Palmer (seriously, he wasn’t that good, Arians just made him look good). Just because it’s unlikely doesn’t mean it’s entirely unrealistic. There’s a legitimate chance that the new OC just comes in and frees Baker to crush. It’s also possible that Hue/Haley were so bad even just not being Hue/Haley is enough to free Baker. If either of those two possibilities happen, we could get Baker Mayfield, #airraid QB, throwing all over the field trying to match Patrick Mahomes. Also, I would be remiss to point out – the last time these two QBs faced each other while being in offenses that embraced #airraid and let the QBs just go out there and make plays all over the field….this happened. Baker was 27 for 36 for 7 TDs. Patrick Mahomes threw 88 times. Mike Ditka and all the other grizzled old worthless football lifers who do nothing but prevent the game from evolving by stubbornly fighting to keep ground-it-out, establish-the-run, blue-collar offensive BS relevant probably had heart attacks caused by apoplectic rage from watching that game. It may not be the most likely outcome, but there’s enough of a chance that we get something beautiful in this game. The ball’s in your court, Freddie Kitchens. Make history.
Christian McCaffrey, $7,900 – The Panthers are a home favorite, so McCaffrey checks those boxes. He also is facing the aforementioned Tampa Bay “defense.” While they aren’t so bad at run defense (-9.3% good for 15th), it’s McCaffrey’s pass catching that we really like here. McCaffrey has an 18% target share the last 4 weeks and Tampa is a dismal 29th in DVOA vs RBs. At the price McCaffrey is, he’s pretty much locked into cash games and is hard to fade in GPPs.
Todd Gurley, $11,200 – Look, last week he was $11K, so it’s not like his price has gotten that much farther into truly insane levels of absurdity. Last week, I wrote the following on Gurley: “He gets the volume week after week. He’s been a guaranteed 20 touches on the best offense in football, giving him massive TD equity, and boy has he capitalized, scoring a TD in every game…[it’s clear] once the Rams get into the red zone, something they do with insane frequency, they just give it to Gurley and let him run it in, and also, they’re the best team in football so they have a big lead late and let Gurley get all the kill-clock yards in the 4th quarter…[but] is he worth it? Ultimately it’ll come down to how comfortable you are with the value that you’ll need to play to roster him”. He proceed to put up 30 fantasy points. This week the Rams get to play on the “Coors Field” of football locations, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Rams are going to score a LOT of points, and Gurley is going to get a LOT of fantasy points because of it. Once again, it’s just a matter of the price and what it does to the rest of your lineup. If you can make it work, you play him. If you can’t, it’s not a big deal because his price really is that absurd and it’s perfectly reasonable to say that it’s simply not feasible to surround him with enough value to make a quality lineup. Unfortunately, the stone cold right answer won’t reveal itself until after the slate is over. Where’s that damn time machine?
Alvin Kamara, $8,000 – I personally don’t see why Alvin Kamara’s projected by Rudy to score just .6 less FanDuel points than Todd Gurley, and why he rates out as the best value for a Running Back on the slate. I could sit here and list several factors that I feel are not being properly considered and would result in a lower projection. Nonetheless, sometimes those factors are not actually relevant matters and are just simply subjective biases masquerading as legitimately sound counter-arguments. Is that the case here? If you know for sure, please let me know because it’s probably helpful for building a lineup. Rudy’s system has one heck of an established record of success. That’s why I will never simply dismiss out of hand a projection this strong no matter what I personally feel about it. And neither should you. Whether or not you play Kamara is a different story, but make sure you do not simply dismiss him out of hand. He absolutely has to be in consideration here.
Kareem Hunt, $8,500 – Hunt is part of the best offense in the league and thus will have always be playable. One of the reason he’s a good play this week is because Cleveland is really bad at rush defense and are going to be without LB Joe Schobert. That and Cleveland’s propensity to throw picks and just generically give the other team a short field. The Chiefs have a pretty condensed passing offense where in the last 4 weeks only Hill, Kelce, Watkins, Hunt have a market share above 6%. Hunt gets the volume, has multiple ways to beat you and we know he’s an explosive player and at any time can rip off multiple long TDs.
Latavius Murray, $6,700 – As of this writing, the word on the street is the Dalvin Cook is going to be active and play in a limited capacity as they ease him back in (like 8-12 plays). This is probably enough to render Murray no longer playable. That said, it’s entirely stupid of the Vikings to do this, just rest Cook and let him sit this week and then you’ve got the bye and he’ll be healthy and good to go in two weeks. If the Vikings wisen up sometime in the next 24 hours and decide to keep Cook inactive or have him active but will only use him in case of an emergency (and I’d need some affirmative statement to make that conclusion), then Murray’s a fantastic play. But as of now, even losing just 8-12 plays to Cook is enough to make him not viable. Just keep checking the news.
Also Viable: James Conner, $8,000, Adrian Peterson, $7,500
GPP Recommendation – Nick Chubb, $6,600 – Honestly, I don’t think the Chiefs care about run defense. They aren’t particularly good at pass defense but they’re truly god-awful at run defense (dead last by DVOA, and it’s not even remotely close, the 31st team is closer to the 23rd worst team than to the Chiefs). I know they will tell you that they do and they need to stop the run to be successful, but they seem like a smart bunch of guys, so I don’t think they care if they are the league worst. My theory is, if you’re busy scoring 40 points a game, the other team won’t be running too much. But, the Chiefs not caring about the run game does mean that if the Chiefs offense has an off day, or an off 1st half, it does open the door for the opposing RB to have a pretty monster day (and still losing, because #NeverRun it’s way less efficient). Bonus points for this play if it turns out that Kitchens does not a lot of overhauling and continues to just #establishtherun like Hue and Haley did all season – they’ll pound Chubb up the gut the entire first half, you’ll get all the “efficient” rush yards early as a result, but the Browns won’t do nearly as well in terms of scoring points as the Chiefs (because again, #NeverRun, it’s just nowhere near as efficient or effective for moving the ball and scoring points), leading to the Chiefs pulling away, which in turn will cause the Browns to abandon the run late and you’ll get Chubb receptions to further boost the score. .
Jarvis Landry, $6,600 – Landry is the top play according to Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Buy Low Model. That combined with his great volume (only 1 game sub 10 targets and 47 targets the last 4 weeks) make Jarvis good enough for me without even getting into what’s going to happen with Kitchens as the new OC.
Adam Thielen, $8,900 – If Stefon Diggs is out, we may see a record setting day out of Thielen. The last 4 weeks, we’ve seen Thielen get 27% market share and 36% market share of air yards and the Lions are on the bad side of defenses (ranked 30th in both passing and rushing). The only issue with Thielen, and this only really caps his ceiling, is that the Lions may want to run the ball an unhealthy amount, which as we know, kills clock causing this game to go mega fast. If, however, the Vikings can score early, it will force the Lions to actually throw the ball and this will likely be one of the highest scoring games of the week as the Lions boast a good oline and the Vikings boast good offensive skill players.
Kenny Golladay, $6,200 – The Lions traded Golden Tate and his 28% market share (in the last 4 weeks) and his 20% air yards market share. A lions share (get it, lions share, because he plays for the Lions? Ha!) of those targets are going to go to Marvin and Golladay and they are both simply too cheap for the volume they project to get. The issue here is the same as the issue with Thielen in that the Lions may run themselves out of plays and the volume may not be as high as we want. If you play Golladay, you want the Vikings to score TDs very quickly to start the game.
Courtland Sutton, $5,500 – Demaryius Thomas got traded which opens up his last 4 weeks 16% market share and 27% air yards market share. The primary beneficiaries of the trade are going to be Sanders and Sutton, with Sanders likely getting the underneath routes and Sutton being the deep threat. The amount of targets Sutton is going to get and the deliciousness of the targets is just too good for the price here.
Cooper Kupp, $6,800 – Goff’s favorite red zone WR comes back this week in a week where they are projected to score over 30 points in a shootout. Unless the Rams luckbox into stupid Gurley efficiency within the 5 (or both of these teams decide to kill clock to keep the others offense off the field), they will throw for multiple TDs and it’s likely Kupp gets at least one of them.
Also Viable: Robert Woods, $7,600, Michael Thomas, $8,600, Marvin Jones, $6,500
GPP Recommendation – Tre’Quan Smith, $5,100 – The last 3 weeks Smith has had 19% market share in what has become a 4 man target show for New Orleans. In a normal week, i’d probably not recommend him because the Saints just do not pass the ball when Mark Ingram plays. The Saints have thrown just 46% of the time since Ingram came back, but, they have yet to play a team who has as good an offense as the Rams. The Rams have the 2nd best offense in the league and are flat out elite and should be able to put up points and quickly. If the Saints try to run the ball as much as they have in the past few weeks, they are going to be down big very quickly and will be forced to throw a lot (which is good if you played the Saints WR).
Travis Kelce, $7,600 – Kelce is good, the Browns are not. Blah blah blah, Gregg Williams, blah blah blah. Here’s proof – he’s projected 2.3 points higher than the next highest TE. So blah blah, play him, blah blah.
David Njoku, $5,200 – Those of us who played Njoku last week had to watch him take a dump on the field, oh wait, i’m sorry, he would have actually have had to get a target to do that. Yeah, that was painful. Even with the epic dud (but no Percy Harvin -1 from a few years ago), he still has a 24% target share the last 4 weeks and he’s now even cheaper. I actually think KC’s defense is going to regress a bit and be OK, but since they score so many points, the opposing team’s pass offense is always going to be in play.
Greg Olsen, $6,200 – I don’t love this play, but it’s plenty good and he’s going up against the historically bad (and banged up) Tampa defense. He’s 3rd on the Panthers in market share the last 4 weeks and over the season he’s only got an 8.3% red zone market share (after an 11.32% last year). Rudy has him as the 3rd best TE this week, but he’s not an exceptional value; he’s just playing the “defense may matter if it involves the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
Jordan Reed, $5,600 – Another recommendation that’s just a straight up “Rudy’s projections have him as the #1 value at Tight End for the slate and it’d be quite foolish to not at least include him as a consideration given how strongly the projections feel about him.”
Also viable: O.J. Howard, $6,000, Vance McDonald, $5,300
GPP Recommendation – Kyle Rudolph, $5,700 – If Stefon Diggs is hobbled or doesn’t play, Kyle Rudolph takes over as the #2 receiver on the Vikings on a team that hasn’t thrown fewer than 34 times in a game. The volume he would get is elite and he’s already got a 19% red zone target rate, and oh we love those TDs on FanDuel!
Chicago Bears, $5,400 – Defense is fantasy football is stupid, this pricing is dumb, but they are playing the Bills, who are a legendarily bad offense (I’m not joking, they’re on pace to have the worst offensive DVOA in history. It’s that bad. And that was with two insanely bad QBs at the helm in Josh Allen and Derek Anderson – now they’re downgrading from insanely bad to legendarily, truly never before seen and probably never will be seen again level bad QB play in the form of Nathan Peterman. Paying up for defense almost never works out, but i’ll admit that we haven’t had a matchup this fun yet (also, Bears, stop dropping Reggie White into coverage, just let him rush the passer, and yes, I know his name is Khalil Mack).
Denver Broncos, $3,400 – Defense in fantasy football is stupid. The Texans O-Line is horrendous (29th in the league in adjusted sack rate) and the Broncos dline is 3rd in adjusted sack rate. This is a major mismatch of skills, and Watson does like to throw picks and doesn’t have Will Fuller in the lineup. The Broncos are $3,400 and should be mega chalk in cash games. I don’t understand this pricing, i’d just do away with defense in fantasy sports because defense is unbelievable stupid, and especially when they are this mispriced, but i’m not in charge of changing stupid rules (although I should be, I have a lot of thoughts on the subject).
Kansas City Chiefs, $3,900 – I hate recommending defenses because spending more than 5 minutes on it seems like a waste of time. The overwhelming majority of the time, just going with the cheapest defense who isn’t facing the Rams, Chiefs or Patriots is going to work. But I’m a professional, so here’s an option that doesn’t fall under that theory. Cleveland has a rookie QB who throws ints and takes sacks because the Cleveland oline is putrid (30th). Yes, they have a new OC, but he legitimately may just keep the Hue system or only do a very marginal tweak or adjustment. Or he may want to completely overhaul the system but feels he needs to do it gradually, so we’ll get an offensive gameplan that’s still mostly tainted with Hue/Haley stench. Further, KC can actually rush the passer (7th) and since we know the Chiefs offense is really good, the Browns will have to throw, leading to points for the Chiefs defense. I know you’ll hear about the extreme home/road splits of the KC defense, but i’m not a believer of those mattering too much (unless you’re drunk Ben). And as we know, you want the TDs from a defense and whether or not they score a special teams or defensive TD is pure RNG, thus defense in fantasy is dumb af.
Baltimore Ravens, $3,500 – Defense in fantasy football is stupid. Is the defense cheap? Yes. They are viable. Are they playing a drunk Ben Roethlisberger on the road in a 1PM game? Yes? That makes them a good play. Both Pitt and Baltimore have elite lines, so it should be a fun real life matchup.
Carolina Panthers, $4,300 – Fitzmagic and Winston like to throw interceptions. Todd Monken’s greatness can only do so much when the Quarterback in charge of actually applying the game plan is hitting wide open defensive backs or linebackers for easy completions. Thus, the Panthers are viable. See how easy that is? It’s because defense is the dumbest position in fantasy (can we get a 2nd flex already?). If you’ve been reading my articles so far this season, you know how I end the section – oh yeah, defense in fantasy football is stupid.
Buffalo Bills, $3,000 – Wait, actually before I finish the section, let me throw these guys out too. Stone min defense that is actually good at defense in real life. It’s worth considering, although yeah, defense in fantasy is so stupid.
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 ($9,200) and Tyreek Hill ($7,800) lineups. Mahomes is absurdly expensive, but okay, so what? Tyreek’s fairly priced. Yes, he could dud, because first, he’s a deep threat and second, sometimes teams also go out of their way to prevent him from doing Tyrek things (as we saw last week – the Broncos went out of their way to not let Tyreek Hill beat them, and held him to 3 catches on 4 targets for 70 yards…but it’s not like that helped the team win as the attention on Tyreek resulted in Sammy Watkins going 8-107-2 (on 9 targets). But he could also crush as a defense could realize that you’re going to be damned if you do or damned if you don’t – if you focus on Tyreek, the Chiefs will just throw to someone else and they’ll crush your soul that way. But if you don’t focus on Tyreke, he’ll drop 7-148-3 just like he did on the Patriots. I cannot stress enough that there is always a significant chance that Mahomes and Tyreek are the high scores of the slate, regardless of matchup. Roster the two of them frequently if you’ve got multiple GPP lineups.
Best of luck to everyone on Sunday!