JMToWin's NFL Edge: Week 11

Each week this NFL season, JMToWin will break down every game on the NFL slate from top to bottom, with a look at game flow, player matchups, coaching tendencies, DFS strategy, and anything else that shows up in his research that might give you an edge on the slate. Widely regarded as the most in-depth, DFS-specific article in the industry, this top-to-bottom breakdown is just what you need in order to conquer the slate and take home money each week!

What Does It Mean If Sterling Shepard Is Out?

I think the Giants will try to go with a run-heavy, slow-paced approach for as long as they can in this game – similar to their approach at Denver. If the Giants are able to do this successfully, the loss of Shepard actually lowers the expectations for Evan Engram. Of course, the alternate scenario is that the Chiefs jump out to a big, early lead and force the Giants to the air – in which case, Engram would have a target projection of 10 to 14 (rather than nine to 12 with Shepard in). To be safe, I’m leaving my “likeliest scenario” projection the same for Engram (a floor of around 12 to 14 points, with obvious upside for more), but there is a little more opportunity than normal for broad variance on either side of that (i.e., he could crater completely, or could post a monster game).

Orleans Darkwa could also benefit from a larger locked-in workload if the Giants are able to play this way. They were able to take this approach in Denver because they could slow down the Denver offense, which will be tougher to do against Kansas City. But the wind in this game does help the chances of the Giants keeping things close.

I don’t think either of the Giants’ “starting wide receivers” gets particualrly involved. I think the same four to six targets we could project before will be a safe projection here. Even if the Giants are forced to the air as the game moves along, they should have a full quarter or more of a slow-paced, run-leaning approach, so I just don’t expect the opportunity to grow a ton for either guy.

The expectations for Shane Vereen probably do not change much either, but I did notice him yesterday as a YOLO large-field tourney play. That remains the case if Shepard is missing in action.

Sunday Morning Strategy Update

This week, there is no running back I feel comfortable locking in for 25+ points. There is no “Le’Veon Bell touching the ball 35 guaranteed times” for us to fall in love with.

Because the DFS community has been conditioned to “pay up at running back” over the last year and a half (doing what was formerly considered a fish move, in fact), most people will pay up for Kareem Hunt or Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara this week, with some people trying to be sneaky by instead paying up for Todd Gurley or LeSean McCoy or Melvin Gordon.

There are things I like about all of those plays. We can make a clear and convincing case for any of those guys putting up 25+ this week. But we can also make a clear and convincing case for any of those guys putting up 12 to 14 points instead – and when I pay around $8k for a running back, I want more than a 50/50 shot at a 20-point game (let alone the 25+ points I would optimally love to lock in for that price).

But there is a “cheat code” this week on DraftKings for an $8k running back who you can practically lock in for 25+ points. That cheat code is “Cleveland running backs.”

Combined, Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell cost $8,500.

Combined, they have scored 24 to 31 DraftKings points in six of their last seven games.

Combined, they average 18 carries and just under seven receptions per game, and have combined for five touchdowns on the year.

The Browns also have no hope of moving the ball through the air against the Jaguars, except through the running backs. This means an inordinately large chunk of the Browns’ offense should flow through these two guys.

This week, I think it’s a sharp play to roster both Browns running backs together on DraftKings. There are other weeks in which I would make the argument that the loss of the extra roster spot is not worth it, even for the points; but I think taking the points makes a lot of sense this week given the lack of true “must have” guys at the high end of the price range (i.e., there are guys who are going to post a nice game, but there are lower floors than normal at the higher end – creating a strange lack of guys you can confidently feel you will “have to have in order to win”).

This goes for cash games and tourneys.

This does not go for FanDuel, where value is generally easier to come by, and I would rather lock in larger individual workloads.

Saturday Evening Update

There are not many changes or updates this week – though there are a few weather concerns worth noting.

The Jags and Browns should see cold temps, with sustained wind of 20 to 25 MPH and gusts of 35 MPH (hat tip to Kevin Roth – of course). This is going to impact the passing attacks – and while it theoretically improves the rushing attacks (i.e., these teams will have to run more, and will have to throw more short passes, which brings the backs into play), I’m still not particularly high on the Jags’ attack (even if Leonard Fournette misses; there are simply better “production expectations” than this). Blake Bortles and his weapons become tourney-only for me in this spot. Crowell and Duke Johnson are still on my radar. And the Jags’ defense becomes an even better play than before.

I overlooked Kenny Stills in my breakdown of the Dolphins. This is fitting, as most people overlook Stills when setting rosters. He’s a low-floor play, as he could easily see three or four targets and disappoint in a huge way. But he could also see eight or more targets and post the best score among Miami wide receivers, at near-zero ownership. He’s in the conversation in tourneys as a high-variance, but high-upside play.

In the Ravens/Packers game, I remain both “interested in Maclin” and “concerned about volume, if the Ravens’ defense smashes Hundley.” That’s a non-update to basically say, “I still like Maclin, and still feel he is a bit risky.”

In the Lions/Bears game, it looks like no one is on Marvin Jones and Dontrelle Inman. Neither guy has the track record of, say, a Mark Ingram (to where last week we could feel pretty comfortable projecting Ingram for a solid workload), but either guy could be this week’s version of Thielen and Ingram in Week 10 – a guy in a good spot going wildly overlooked. Jones and Inman both have a lower point-per-dollar expectation than Ingram and Thielen had last week in a “best case scenario” (which is pretty much the scenario they each hit). But both guys remain intriguing tourney plays.

I’m souring on Bruce Ellington slightly. He’s still one of the absolute top on-paper point-per-dollar plays this weekend, but I have started to realize that eight to 10 targets from Tom Savage is not enough to lock a guy into an awesome game. I expect a good game from Ellington. I still like him a ton. But I don’t view him as a must-play; instead, I view him as a great play you can likely be happy if you end up with, but that you’ll also likely be fine if you fade.

Wind is a bigger issue in the New York Giants / Kansas City Chiefs game than it is in the Jaguars/Browns game, with Roth currently projecting 20 to 25 MPH winds and 45 MPH gusts. This is enough to knock down expectations for all pass catchers. Kelce, Hill, Shepard, and Engram all have the same ceiling laid out in this article. But their “floor” expectations are slightly lower than they otherwise would have been. I still think each of these four is a great play, but with this wind, it won’t surprise me if one or two disappoints.

After chatting with Levitan on Friday night, I realize Mark Ingram is a better play than he appeared to me when writing this article. Basically: there is a strong chance his “one target in two weeks” is more a “game flow fluke” than a “new team philosophy.” He has a good matchup and should get 20 carries. He may bounce back up to four or five catches as well.

It looks like Rex Burkhead will be chalk – especially on DraftKings. I still think he has shown his ceiling lately, and can only be rostered for a range of “five to 15 points.” I would rather roster higher-upside plays myself, and with the way they Patriots pull surprises on us in their backfield usage, I consider Rex more a tourney play than a cash play. That’s not to say you “have to fade him.” That’s just to say I like him less than most others seem to.

Lastly: Devonta Freeman is out this weekend. If you are playing a slate that includes that Monday night game, Tevin Coleman should be in line for 20+ touches, and he makes for a very solid play.

That wraps up the updates for Week 11!

I’ll see you back here next week – and of course, I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend.

Week 10 In Review

What a weird week we had!

Hopefully you survived – but I strongly encourage you to not get too down on your play, and to not adjust too drastically, if Week 10 went poorly for you. It was a strange week, with plenty of outlier occurrences – and with plenty of “best plays” that simply did not pan out.

At the same time, there were lessons to be learned. For yet another week, we saw a high-end player with locked-in usage (Mark Ingram) bounce back from a poor week…and draw minuscule ownership for literally no reason other than recency bias. As I said in this article last week: If you had been playing Ingram lately, there was every reason to play him again in Week 10. We should continue to keep an eye out for situations like this (I believe this is three consecutive weeks in which we have uncovered exactly one such situation in this article). Sometimes, a chalky player bombs because he should not have been chalk in the first place, and we should move away from that guy in future weeks. But we probably get 10 or 15 instances each season in which an elite play bombs simply due to variance…and everyone jumps off that play the next week.

I didn’t end up using Ingram on my main team. (As is usually the case, I had over 90% of my investment on a single team – though as most of you have heard me say over the years, I build around 80 to 100 teams throughout the week, messing around with thoughts and ideas, as I hunt for my “main team.” Most weeks, I throw those extra teams into the Millionaire Maker on DraftKings, so I was fortunate enough to have plenty of Ingram there.) I simply thought Leonard Fournette was a notably better play for just a little more in salary. I stand by my thought process there, even if it did not pay off.

The play I regret failing to stand by, however, was Adam Thielen. I mentioned in this article last week, and again on the Round Table on Friday night, that while Washington’s secondary is elite against wide receivers, Thielen runs most of his routes in the same area of the field where Doug Baldwin had torched them the week before. I felt extremely confident in the Thielen play, yet somehow could not pull the trigger. The Ingram 30+ points left me saying, “Ahhh, it would have been nice to end up with that on my main team. Too bad.” The Thielen 30+ points left me saying, “What the hell is wrong with me!!! Why didn’t I play Thielen!”

I think parsing through these thoughts each week can help each of us as we move forward through a season. It’s easy to look at every guy who had a big game and say, “Man, I should have played him!” But that’s not helpful at all.

Far more beneficial is for you to track your thought process throughout the week. Know why you liked certain plays; know why you disliked other plays. Know why you played some plays and chose not to play others. When you have a clear idea of why you’re doing what you are doing, you can assess that process when Sunday ends. And you can figure out where you can improve moving forward.

My Week 10 Team

As always, this is my DraftKings team – as that is where I focus the majority of my play. Even if you play primarily on FanDuel, I feel these thoughts are enormously beneficial – as this serves less as a “who to play” portion of this article, and more as a “how my thought process works in putting together a roster” portion. This applies to all sites – and, frankly, to all sports.

I used this team in every tournament I could find from $1500 down, and used it in double-ups and all head-to-heads.

Score: 142.58
Result: Good for all double-ups, a 95% win rate in H2Hs, and top 5% to 8% finishes in all tourneys

Ryan Fitzpatrick – 11.38
Le’Veon Bell – 16.20
Leonard Fournette – 6.60
Sterling Shepard – 28.20
Marqise Lee -19.50
Robert Woods – 40.10
Cameron Brate – 2.00
Bilal Powell – 3.60
Rams – 15.00

Pre-Kickoff Thoughts:

These are the thoughts I wrote down for this article about one hour before the early games kicked off on Sunday morning.

This is a really weird week for me. Typically, I am wrestling with at least two or three plays on Sunday morning – essentially deciding whether or not to take a handful of particular risks. This week, I have no such struggles. I just sort of like this team – it’s the rare unit with a full $600 left on the table…but it’s also the rare unit that is guys I actually WANT to play, from spots one through nine. I’ve built over 80 lineups this week, and this is the construction that I feel makes the most sense. It’s balanced – rolling with Brate and the Rams instead of dropping down to Garrett Celek and the Browns (which would free up big salary). Basically, I would rather have Woods/Brate/Rams as a block of plays than AB/Celek/Browns (in order to make that second block work, I’d also have to drop from Marqise Lee down to one of the $3k or $3.4k WRs I don’t trust nearly as much). Similarly, I like Fournette/Woods more than Hyde/AJG, and I like Woods/Brate more than something like Dez/Celek. I’m focused on Woods there because it’s the play that will draw the least ownership, and that looks most out of place among what is otherwise an extremely chalky, but extremely sharp setup. While this roster takes on chalk, it’s really good chalk, and it’s a very unique construction, as most people will be looking for a way to fit Bell and Brown, rather than looking to fit Bell and Fournette. And most people who are willing to pay up as far as the Rams will not be value-conscious enough to get to some of these other plays I got to.

Fitzpatrick gets me exposure to a likely shootout in New York, with one of the better value plays on the slate. I would love to make it up to Stafford or Dak, but the savings of $1900/$2400 is just too valuable to pass up when I expect around 18 to 20 points with Fitzpatrick.

Bell is the nut play on the slate. And pricing is too loose – with Powell and Shepard and Fitzpatrick this week – to not play him in the tourneys I’m focused on (i.e., contests with a few thousand entries or fewer).

Fournette has the second-highest expectation today among RBs, and while I expect a good game from Hyde, he’s going to be more popular and is way more volatile. Hopefully Hyde hits only 12 to 14 points, and Fournette goes off for 24 to 30.

Shepard = a minimum of nine targets in one of the best possible spots for passing offense. He is the most underpriced player on the entire slate. Even more underpriced than Powell. He’ll be chalky, but not chalky enough – with a floor of around 14 points and a ceiling north of 25.

Marqise Lee seems to be seeing a suppression in pricing simply due to his continued low ownership. If we compare target expectations, he belongs alongside Woods/Sanu/etc. in the $5k range, but instead he’s only $4100. These savings matter less when I have $600 leftover in salary, but this allows me to play around with a few potential changes right up till lock (i.e., maybe going Dalton over Fitz on tourney entries, or maybe even going Darkwa over Powell in tourneys). And in any case, Lee has an expectation of around 10 to 22 points, which is awesome if he hits the high end, and still one of the stronger point-per-dollar plays on the slate if he lands in the low end.

Woods is perpetually going overlooked, but the dude is going to see six to eight targets per game in one of the three best passing attacks in the NFL – in a great matchup. He’s a great play in all formats – even at low ownership in cash.

Bilal Powell may or may not pay off. Heck, Elijah McGuire saw more snaps than him last week. But history tells us you play Powell when he’s starting. Don’t ask questions. Don’t overthink it. I’ll continue to overthink it in tourneys right up till lock, as there is every chance he hits the low end of his range (12ish points) instead of hitting his ceiling – and if that happens and Darkwa goes off or McGuire gets more carries, those who made the right pivot will benefit in a big way. But as of right now, Powell is the lock of the week for cash – the absolute “set and forget” play – and I still think he’s probably the best tourney play, even at his elevated price.

Finally, “choosing to pay up at DST.” It’s a little different when I like some cheap teams (I genuinely think the Browns get 6 to 8 points today at only $2k), but the Rams at home vs Savage are just such a tremendous play. It’ll be a disappointment if they score “only” 6 to 8. I’m willing to use this salary here.

Final Note Before Week 11

Everyone has a unique mind. Your mind doesn’t work like mine. My mind doesn’t work like yours.

But for anyone whose mind works similarly to mine (and if you’ve read enough of my articles, you probably have a good feel for whether or not that is the case – and, in fact, if you’ve read enough of my articles, there is a good chance our minds work similarly, otherwise you wouldn’t be here each week!), I think that section above may be the most valuable section in this entire article.

When I was learning to write, I read voraciously (as I still do, of course) – but while part of my goal was to simply read “as many novels as I could,” another part branched into a handful of books that I would read over, and over, and over again (something I still do to this day). This helps me understand how a particular novelist – typically a novelist I greatly respect, with a book I loved – built their story, and the world, and the characters, etc.

I did the same thing when I started playing DFS – on DraftStreet back in 2013. Every day, I would break down the rosters of the guys who I noticed were winning constantly. I would look at Notorious and STLCards and others – every day – trying to deduce what they had been thinking when they chose certain players.

This proved to be a massive help in my quest to become a great DFS player. I was able to see patterns in how winning DFS players thought, and in how winning DFS players approached roster construction.

I am only one player, and I encourage you to also do what I used to do (and, in fact, still do at times) – breaking down rosters even without the additional benefit of direct access to the thoughts of the person who constructed that roster. But even if I am only one player to whose thoughts you have direct access, I think there is a lot that can be learned across 17 weeks of reading exactly why I chose the players I chose on a roster (especially with this new setup, wherein I am writing down my thoughts before kickoff, so they are not filtered after-the-fact through the lens of “how things turned out”). If you are wanting to improve as a DFS player, I would read that section above several more times this week, as I feel that’s a great way to understand how my mind works when putting together a roster – even if I am only one player.

With that, it’s time to kick off Week 11.

Let’s go!!!!

Titans at Steelers

Vegas-Implied Total: Steelers 25.5, Titans 18.5

KEY MATCHUPS:

Steelers Run D – 4th DVOA / 22nd Yards allowed per carry
Titans Run O – 4th DVOA / 7th Yards per carry

Steelers Pass D – 5th DVOA / 4th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Titans Pass O – 24th DVOA / 22nd Yards per pass attempt

Titans Run D – 14th DVOA / 4th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O – 12th DVOA / 26th Yards per carry

Titans Pass D – 24th DVOA / 7th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Steelers Pass O – 6th DVOA / 8th Yards per pass attempt

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Although the Titans’ pass defense ranks seventh-best in the NFL in yards allowed per pass attempt, their tendency to bring an extra safety into the box in order to slow down the run has led to them A) ranking fourth-best in the NFL in yards allowed per carry, and B) facing the fifth-most pass attempts in the NFL (continuing the same trend we saw from this defense last year). Furthermore, they are limiting yards per pass attempt by playing disciplined football on the back end and tackling well (both of which are trademarks of a Dick LeBeau defense), rather than by limiting the quarterback’s ability to complete passes; in spite of a fairly soft quarterback schedule (including games against Jacksonville, Miami, Indy, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Cincy), the Titans are allowing a solid 60.7% completion rate.

I do think the opportunity for explosive big plays is diminished by this defense. But as we saw last week – when A.J. Green and Brandon Lafell both put up a big game – upside can certainly be found against them.

After his 19-target game in Week 5, Antonio Brown has seen target counts of 10, 10, 10, and seven – which has been enough to drop his average targets per game to 11.2, and to knock him below DeAndre Hopkins for the top spot in the league. He’s going to get his looks. But after seeing 11, 11, 14, nine, and 19 targets through the first five games, the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster and the full return of Le’Veon Bell have seemingly lowered the “guaranteed range” of looks for AB just a bit. He remains one of the highest-floor plays on the slate, and I’d be happy to land on him if salary works out (especially on the smaller slates, of course) – but his range these days appears to be more like “14 to 35 points,” rather than the “18 to 40 points” we could have relied on from him before. With the Titans filtering targets to the shorter areas of the field and tackling well after the catch, Brown is not a guy this week that I feel we have to move around salary to “make sure we get.” He’s a great play, but the chances of him putting up the sort of score you “have to have” in order to win at his price (i.e., 35+ points) are slimmer than they used to be, given the way the Titans play pass defense and the way the Steelers have been using Brown. (It’s definitely worth noting that Ben Roethlisberger has completed only two of 13 passes – across the last three weeks – when targeting Brown 20+ yards downfield. This has a chance to turn into a massive game once positive regression swings Brown’s way. Again, he’s definitely worth playing this week – but the matchup is not conducive to the way the Steelers prefer to use Brown, and his target share is not quite as high, making him a guy I won’t be moving around salary to “make sure I fit.”)

While Brown has seen his usage trickle down, Smith-Schuster has seen target counts of 10 and seven the last two weeks. The 10 looks came with Martavis Bryant suspended, but the seven looks came with Martavis on the field (seeing five targets of his own). We should see JuJu settle into around six or seven targets per game; given his explosive last couple games, his price is higher than the usage supports, but he’s still a solid play based on talent and the handful of shorter routes he should see to raise his floor.

Martavis saw five targets last week, and I care less about “how many snaps he is playing” than “how many targets he is seeing.” The Steelers are going to manufacture a handful of targets for him each week, and five total looks seems to be a reasonable expectation week in and week out. Against a Titans defense that aims to limit the big play, this is not the best spot for Martavis to hit – but he is a worthwhile dart in large-field tourneys for his explosiveness, the locked-in five looks, and the likely low ownership.

This is not a great spot for Le’Veon Bell against a Titans defense that has been strong against the run, and that focuses first and foremost on taking away that aspect of an opponent’s attack. With that said, Bell is Bell. He is a totally justifiable play in literally any matchup, as A) he is the only back in football who can be expected to touch the ball 30+ times most games (which he has done in four of his last six games – touching the ball 25 and 27 times in the other two), and B) he is just that good. With six or more targets most games and all the goal line work, I’m fine taking on Bell’s salary in cash or tourneys even in a tougher matchup. On paper, this is not a “must play” week for Bell, but due to his usage and talent, he still carries the highest raw floor/ceiling among all NFL running backs. I won’t force the issue with Bell this week – but I’ll be very happy if I end up with him in any format.

The Titans’ side of this matchup is far less appealing, with a passing attack that has not found its groove all year (24th in DVOA, 22nd in yards per pass attempt) and is taking on one of the top five pass defense units in the NFL. While the loss of Joe Haden may hurt this pass defense a little bit, they still rank fourth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate and are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (an absurd 11.44 points per game). Joe Haden has been a middling player for years, and his loss is not enough for me to give a big upgrade to a struggling passing attack.

I’m a bit more interested in the Titans’ backfield, as we can make a strong case for DeMarco Murray in tourneys. This game should stay close enough through most of the contest that the Titans can continue to run the ball at the 11th-highest rate in the NFL, behind an offensive line that ranks seventh in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards. While Murray is fully a timeshare back these days, he has touch counts across his last five games (starting with the most recent) of 18, 11, 21, 16, and 18 – with four catches last week, and two, three, four, and four catches the previous weeks. Ultimately, 15 to 18 touches with three or four catches against a run defense that has been excellent lately does not put DeMarco anywhere close to “lock” territory – but there’s an outside chance he could pop off for 20 to 25 fantasy points. He’s a great tourney play on the smaller slates, and he is in play in large-field tourneys (with potential consideration in smaller-field tourneys) on the large slates.

Derrick Henry has touch counts of 11, 10, 15, and 20 across his last four games. Most weeks, he will see less work than DeMarco with less pass game involvement – making him a thinner play. He is in the YOLO discussion as a guy with a low floor who could score 20+ points at near-zero ownership.

While I’m not interested in the Titans’ passing attack, it is noteworthy that Corey Davis – as we hypothesized last week in this article would be the case – saw an increased workload in Week 10, with 10 targets. Against a Bengals defense that is in the conversation with the Jaguars and Broncos as “toughest in the NFL on wide receivers,” he caught only four of those passes – but the usage is the biggest takeaway. He’s not a great play this week. Only the Bengals, Jaguars, and Broncos have allowed fewer wide receiver catches than the Steelers have allowed. But his usage and talent make him a viable deep-tourney option, given that he could pop off for a big game on a busted play.

Jaguars at Browns

Vegas-Implied Total: Jaguars 22.5, Browns 15.0

KEY MATCHUPS:

Browns Run D – 2nd DVOA / 1st Yards allowed per carry
Jaguars Run O – 8th DVOA / 2nd Yards per carry

Browns Pass D – 27th DVOA / 25th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Jaguars Pass O – 18th DVOA / 23rd Yards per pass attempt

Jaguars Run D – 30th DVOA / 28th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O – 6th DVOA / 9th Yards per carry

Jaguars Pass D – 1st DVOA / 1st Yards allowed per pass attempt
Browns Pass O – 32nd DVOA / 30th Yards per pass attempt

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Remember last week, when we talked in this space about how even a connection like Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen was not worth chasing against the Jaguars’ pass defense? Well, the same can be said – to a far greater degree – about DeShone Kizer to Corey Coleman.

In regards to the Browns’ passing attack as a whole, the best way to break things down is this:

The Jaguars’ defense is worth paying up for this week.

(That’s not to say you have to pay up for them. There are a few other great spots for defense. It’s just to point out that they are worth the price – and the Browns’ passing attack is not worth playing.)

You can make a much better case for the Browns’ backfield. While the Jaguars have tightened up against the run since the acquisition of Marcel Dareus (and they may even be elite against the run at this point – though they have not yet faced a good enough rushing offense for us to know for sure), the Browns rank sixth in DVOA on the ground for a reason. The issue for the Browns’ rushing offense is less about its effectiveness, and more about its inability to pile up volume as the Browns fall behind. This week – against a traveling Jacksonville team that is built to win on the ground, and will be playing the number one run defense in the NFL – there is a strong chance this game stays close. And if this game stays close, Isaiah Crowell should see 16 to 20 carries. He has piled up nice yards-per-carry marks in three of his last four games, and he has become more involved in the pass game during that stretch – averaging four targets per game. Keep in mind, of course, that touchdowns are a big deal in DFS, and the Browns don’t get many scoring opportunities, and the Jags don’t allow many scoring opportunities. Touchdowns could be tough to come by. But it won’t be a surprise if we see 80 or 90 rushing yards and a few receptions from Crowell – making him a candidate to smash value if he can sneak into the end zone as well.

In the same backfield, Duke Johnson – as I mentioned last week, and as I have mentioned probably four or five other times this year – is always, always, always overlooked. He generally sees around six carries and six targets each week (he saw 10 carries and six targets last week), and he should be in that range again. He’s especially viable on DraftKings, with PPR scoring, where he basically has a floor of 2x his Week 11 salary and a ceiling of 5x, which is easily enough to make him a viable play in all formats.

The Jaguars’ rushing offense is completely off-limits for me, with one caveat: Everyone will see this rushing offense as off-limits – which makes it genuinely “game theory viable” in tourneys. It’s easy to pretend the public is stupid, and that “people will assume the Browns have a bad run defense,” but most people who are putting money into DFS – even if only a small amount – have realized by now that the Browns’ run defense is good. And this means we’ll see low ownership on one of the best young players in the NFL in Leonard Fournette, who runs behind a solid offensive line and catches passes and sees all goal line work. To be clear: I consider Fournette to be a poor on-paper play (especially with T.J. Yeldon stealing pass game work). But as we discussed last week: A tough matchup does not change a player’s ceiling; it simply changes a player’s chances of reaching his ceiling. Fournette’s chances of reaching his ceiling are very low in this spot – but the ceiling remains. He’s viable from a game theory perspective in large-field tourneys.

This is a week in which I like the Jags’ passing attack a decent amount.

Last week, everyone ignored the fact (correctly so, it turned out) that the Browns ranked ninth in the NFL in yards allowed per game. As was pointed out in this article, the Browns’ defense isn’t “so bad” because they’re actually so bad; instead, they’re “so bad” because Browns quarterbacks constantly give their opponent a short field to work with.

This week, I imagine that argument will be brought up in places to talk people down from the Blake Bortles ledge, but I’m comfortable countering with this: Bortles is cheap, he has genuinely played like a mediocre or possibly even “decent” quarterback this year (as opposed to looking downright bad), the Jags are likely to have short fields, they won’t be able to run effectively (and anyway, Bortles has topped 30 pass attempts in six of nine games already this year), and the Browns are allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. With how silly FanDuel pricing is this week at QB (Bortles is only $1100 less than Brady? – come on!), I cannot make a case there. But on DraftKings, Bortles is one of my favorite point-per-dollar plays on the weekend.

Bortles will be without Allen Hurns this week, but he will be with Dede Westbrook. Because of off-field issues, Dede Westbrook is “a fourth-round rookie,” but he had a second-round grade in the draft outside of the off-field issues, and he won the Biletnikoff Award as the best college wide receiver. He led the NFL in preseason receiving, and is a legit difference-maker if his body can hold up at the NFL level. There is a report out that Westbrook will not be a big part of the offense this week, but keep an eye on fresh news throughout the week. If that changes, he becomes a potential smash play with his speed and quickness and bottom-barrel price. Even if no new reports emerge, I will take a few shots on Dede in cheaper tourneys, simply because the upside is too high for his price if he sees five to seven targets.

If reports on Dede hold, Marqise Lee will be heavily targeted this week in what projects to be a decent-volume game for the Jags’ passing attack. Lee will be trailed by Jason McCourty, who has played borderline-shutdown defense (with PFF’s number two cornerback grade) – making Lee an iffy play for me, but still a guy I’ll consider in tourneys for the underpriced volume and upside.

I’ll hope that Hurns is somehow healthy (if he is, he’ll be this week’s Golden Tate – a guy crushing the Browns over the middle of the field, where they are weakest), or that Dede is projected to play a larger role as the week moves along. I may or may not target Lee. And I’ll stay away from Keelan Cole and Marcedes Lewis regardless. To preemptively answer this question: Yes, my interest in Bortles goes down if Dede is limited and Hurns is out – but the interest will still be there. With Bortles, I feel comfortable I can get 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a floor (which I would love at his DK price), with upside for more. This does not, however, enable us to pinpoint where the touchdowns will come from, nor does it guarantee that any one pass-catcher piles up a ton of yards.

Buccaneers at Dolphins

Vegas-Implied Total: Buccaneers 20.25, Dolphins 20.25

KEY MATCHUPS:

Dolphins Run D – 21st DVOA / 26th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O – 28th DVOA / 27th Yards per carry

Dolphins Pass D – 31st DVOA / 21st Yards allowed per pass attempt
Buccaneers Pass O – 13th DVOA / 16th Yards per pass attempt

Buccaneers Run D – 20th DVOA / 10th Yards allowed per carry
Dolphins Run O – 31st DVOA / 28th Yards per carry

Buccaneers Pass D – 28th DVOA / 26th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Dolphins Pass O – 23rd DVOA / 31st Yards per pass attempt

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Perhaps the biggest pricing mistake of the week (on both sites) is Doug Martin vs the Dolphins. To be clear: this is not Sterling Shepard last week. But this is Bilal Powell last week.

I know, that’s not encouraging after what Powell did. And Powell’s ownership rose even higher than it should have. But Martin (at basically the same price Powell was last week on both sites) has carry counts on the last four weeks (starting with the most recent) of 20, eight, 18, and 20. He has target counts of two, zero, two, and three. In both cases, one of these things is not like the others. In the blowout against the Saints, the Bucs pulled Martin off the field – but last week, he established that Week 9 was an outlier, rather than “the new normal.” With Powell last week, we made a well-educated guess that he would be in line for around 15 carries and four or five targets. With Martin this week, we know he’s in line for around 20 carries and two or three targets. He’s taking on a Dolphins run D that ranks 21st in DVOA and 26th in yards allowed per carry – and that has absolutely fallen to pieces in recent weeks. While the Bucs’ line is bad, this is a ton of volume for a really cheap price. Martin is one of my favorite tourney plays – and in spite of what is sure to be low ownership, I’ll at least be considering him in cash as well.

Ryan Fitzpatrick looked truly bad last week – frequently missing open receivers and airmailing throws – but this week he’ll get Mike Evans as his “2015 “(player-popup #brandon-marshall)Brandon Marshall”:/players/brandon-marshall-12192,” and I think he’ll get back on track. Fitzpatrick showed us his floor last week (against a slightly better Jets pass D, with worse weapons), and his ceiling is much higher. Alongside Bortles, he’s one of the top value plays on the weekend at QB on DraftKings, and he’s an awesome play on FanDuel as well. I would love to make it up to Brady on both sites, especially in cash (Brady has a floor/ceiling of around 20/30, while Fitz and Bortles both have a range of more like 12/24), but I’ll gladly take the savings here if I need them.

Evans will be the alpha on the Bucs this week, and after Fitzy locked onto Chris Godwin for 10 targets last week, Evans should get similar treatment. Legitimately 12 to 14 targets would not surprise me, as Fitzpatrick showed a tendency in 2015 to lock onto a similar player in Brandon Marshall. Here were Marshall’s target counts that year – from Week 1 to Week 17:

9 / 10 / 14 / 11 / 9 / 7 / 18 / 8 / 10 / 10 / 11 / 13 / 10 / 7 / 10 / 16

Marshall also scored 14 touchdowns that season. Evans is an awesome play this week.

I believe it is noteworthy that Fitz threw to Cameron Brate only three times. We cannot compare Fitzy’s tight end usage in New York to his time under center with the Bucs, as the old Chan Gailey offense in New York did not even use a tight end most of the time, but we also cannot ignore Brate’s drop in usage. He has a great matchup this week, but is more “tourney flier” for me than “cash game target.” DeSean is the same thing as always: a low-floor, but high-upside tourney flier with eight or more targets in three of his last four games, but with the fourth-deepest average depth of target in the NFL (i.e., he can only be counted on to catch about half his targets – but when he does catch targets, they go for big gains). With most people looking to Evans this week instead of DeSean – and with this being as good a week as any for DeSean to hit – I like him more than normal (he saw his 10 targets last week with Chris Godwin seeing 10 as well, so it’s not as if the arrival of Evans impacts DeSean a ton; seven or eight targets is still his expectation).

The Dolphins’ offense is probably one to avoid on the ground and one to consider through the air.

I always try to pay attention to my initial reaction to a spot when I write this article – as my initial reaction typically ends up mirroring the initial reaction of the public. And my initial reaction on the Dolphins was, “Man, they are so bad – just stay away.” Realistically, however, DeVante Parker has seen target counts in his healthy games of nine, eight, eight 10, and nine. Like Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler has a new bromance to take the place of his old crush on Brandon Marshall, and Parker has shown week in and week out that his floor is about six catches for 60 yards. Because the Dolphins stall out so often (they are dead last in the NFL in points per game, at 15.2), Parker doesn’t have the scoring frequency to justify his DraftKings price – which seems set around volume more than realistic expectations. But on FanDuel – where pricing is largely influenced by recent performance – Parker is a great value. He’s viable (though slightly overpriced) on DK.

Jarvis Landry is not a guy I have made a priority this year, as his aDOT of 6.7 just gives him so little upside. But with a guaranteed workload of 10+ targets against a team that is undisciplined on the back end, this is a great spot for Jarvis to pile up yards after the catch and top 100 yards for the first time this season. It also helps that Tampa’s coverage aims to filter targets to the middle of the field. Among good slot receivers to play Tampa, they have allowed a 10-138-1 line to Larry Fitzgerald (on 11 targets), a 5-54-0 line to Sterling Shepard (on only five targets), and a 5-98-0 line to Adam Thielen (on eight targets). Landry’s route tree is most similar to Fitzgerald’s (though Fitz gets downfield quite a bit more), and when he sees 10+ targets, he has a strong shot at catching 80% of them and posting more yards-per-catch than normal. I like him in cash and tourneys.

The Dolphins’ backfield is unappealing: a timeshare behind a horrible offensive line against the relative strength of the Tampa defense. With that said, the Bucs have allowed 54 receptions to running backs (this is the “eighth-most” in the NFL – but it’s only six catches behind the 49ers, who have allowed the most running back receptions) – making Kenyan Drake slightly interesting. In the last two weeks combined, Drake has 16 total carries and eight total targets, so he’s not a strong play – but there is a chance he sees four or five targets this week. I won’t be looking to him, but I won’t hate him if you feel compelled to play him.

Ravens at Packers

Vegas-Implied Total: Ravens 20.0, Packers 18.0

KEY MATCHUPS:

Packers Run D – 8th DVOA / 9th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O – 16th DVOA / 15th Yards per carry

Packers Pass D – 23rd DVOA / 27th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Ravens Pass O – 29th DVOA / 32nd Yards per pass attempt

Ravens Run D – 19th DVOA / 20th Yards allowed per carry
Packers Run O – 2nd DVOA / 6th Yards per carry

Ravens Pass D – 3rd DVOA / 3rd Yards allowed per pass attempt
Packers Pass O – 15th DVOA / 25th Yards per pass attempt

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While this game has an Over/Under a half point higher than the one in Cleveland (with both games sitting below 40.0 – the rare week with more than one sub-40.0 game), this game has a lot less to draw our eyes. The big reason is the way the matchups work. While Cleveland is stout against the run, they are poor against the pass – which means Bortles will likely see a bit more volume than normal, in a good matchup. And while the Jags are the best in the NFL against the pass, they are potentially still mediocre against the run, where the Browns are strong. That game sets up to stay fairly close, and the Browns should therefore be able to feed a good 25 to 30 carries to their backs. In this game, however, the Ravens’ relative strength on offense (16th in DVOA on the ground; 15th in yards per carry) sets up against the Packers’ relative strength (top 10 in both DVOA and yards allowed per carry). While the Ravens’ weakness (stopping the run) has been far less of a weakness since Brandon Williams returned to the field.

The Ravens’ backfield is best ignored – with Terrance West healthy again and Danny Woodhead expected to be activated off I.R. This is a mediocre rushing attack against a solid run defense, with an uncertain workload distribution. I will note that I used Woodhead on my main team in Week 1 and nearly used Javorius Allen on my main team two weeks ago – after talking him up in this space – so if you think you can guess correctly on the Ravens’ passing back usage, you can take a shot (though the Ravens’ passing backs are better targeted against an opponent that has a good offense of their own).

The Ravens’ passing attack is probably the most appealing element to me in this game, with the Ravens coming off their bye. There is a risk that the Ravens’ defense will smash Brett Hundley so thoroughly, this will turn into a Dolphins at Ravens game – in which the Ravens won 40-0 and Joe Flacco threw the ball only 15 times. But Flacco has thrown the ball 52, 39, and 41 times in the Ravens’ other three most recent games. Ultimately, the Ravens prefer to be near the bottom of the league in passing play percentage – but they have been in situations in four of their last six games where they have had to throw 39 or more times; this has not been enough to make Flacco a useful play in any of those weeks, but with that sort of volume and PPR/half-PPR scoring, receivers come into play. Again: there is every chance the Ravens’ defense forces Hundley into early mistakes, and the Ravens take an early lead, and they end up passing only 20 times. These guys are probably not cash game considerations. But as cheap guys in a good matchup with potential volume, Jeremy Maclin (recent target counts of nine, five, eight, and six) and Mike Wallace (recent target counts of seven, one, five, and three) can be considered. Maclin has legitimate 8-100-2 upside – even if the presence of Flacco under center makes it unlikely he actually gets there.

If Aaron Rodgers were playing, I would have a ton of interest in Maclin, as we could nearly guarantee that the Ravens would be forced to take to the air. But with Hundley under center – even a Hundley who looked much improved last week – my expectations for the Packers’ passing attack are low. The Ravens have faced the fewest pass attempts in the NFL, because teams do not want to throw on them. They have allowed the second-fewest quarterback points per game, and they have allowed the third-fewest yards to wide receivers (as well as the third-fewest touchdowns). This is not just about volume with wide receivers, either. Only 51.5% of pass attempts to wide receivers have been completed against the Ravens.

The place to look on the Packers is the backfield, where rookie Jamaal Williams seems likely to see 15+ carries and three or four targets. These projections are iffy, as we have very little track record with Williams; but if Ty Montgomery misses, Devante Mays will be the only other running back on this team, which should lock Williams into a heavy workload. If TyMont makes it onto the field, his uncertain health (ribs) and the uncertain workload distribution will make all these guys nothing more than low-probability tourney darts. If TyMont misses, Williams is worth toying around with as a volume-based tourney flier – even with the Ravens playing improved run defense of late (13-23-0 for Jay Ajayi in Week 8; 17-45-1 combined for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in Week 9). He’s not a priority for me, but he’s also not a guy I hate, and I may test drive some lineups with him in there as I mess around with things throughout the week.

Lions at Bears

Vegas-Implied Total: Lions 22.0, Bears 19.0

KEY MATCHUPS:

Bears Run D – 13th DVOA / 12th Yards allowed per carry
Lions Run O – 30th DVOA / 30th Yards per carry

Bears Pass D – 11th DVOA / 19th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Lions Pass O – 17th DVOA / 11th Yards per pass attempt

Lions Run D – 18th DVOA / 14th Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O – 19th DVOA / 12th Yards per carry

Lions Pass D – 10th DVOA / 20th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Bears Pass O – 31st DVOA / 26th Yards per pass attempt

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The Lions rank eighth in passing play percentage – not because they are particularly set on passing the ball as an organizational philosophy, but because they have what might be the worst offensive line in football. The Lions rank dead last in adjusted line yards and 23rd in adjusted sack rate. As a whole, this matchup does not set up great for them: this team is so poor at running the ball, they have almost no hope in that area against any opponent; and while the Lions have been able to hide their offensive line woes through the air with a quick-hitting passing attack, they are taking on a Chicago unit that ranks second in adjusted sack rate. This makes the Bears a decent DFS defense play, as they should notch a few sacks here, and sacks lead to both points and turnover opportunities.

The Lions’ backfield is easy for me to avoid. Ameer Abdullah has seen 10 or 11 carries in three of his last five games (seeing 14 and 21 carries in his other two), and he has crossed the 60-yard mark only two times all season. He has never rushed for 100 yards in a game in his career. And while Theo Riddick is always in the tourney dart throw conversation, the Bears’ offense is not the best candidate to “score a bunch of points and put pressure on the Lions to hurry up the pace and lean on Riddick through the air.”

This is also a below-average spot for the Lions’ passing attack. The Bears rank in the top half of the NFL in fewest receptions, yards, and touchdowns allowed to wide receivers. But “a below-average spot” does not mean “a poor spot.” Marvin Jones, in particular, catches my eye in tourneys, as he had seen 11, 11, and 14 targets the previous three weeks before seeing only two looks with the Jason McCourty treatment last weekend. I’ll always be on the lookout for better matchups than this in cash games. But I fully expect Jones to bounce back to “eight to 10 targets” this week. He posted a 6-128-0 line on 11 targets against the Steelers (one of the toughest perimeter wide receiver matchups) and a 6-96-1 line on 14 targets against the Saints (one of the toughest perimeter wide receiver matchups). He could easily post a line in that range on 10 targets against the Bears, making him a guy to strongly consider in tourneys (especially large-field tourneys – where his big upside outweighs the matchup to an even greater degree), as his ownership should be much lower than it should be.

Golden Tate has an even lower aDOT than Jarvis Landry – which is something most people would never guess from the “upside” scores that Tate constantly puts up. While nearly all his receptions come within six or seven yards of the line of scrimmage, his run-after-catch ability adds to his upside. Tate has seen target counts in his last five games of seven, nine, eight, seven, and eight, however, while Landry has seen target counts of 10, seven, 12, 11, and 14. And while Tate is taking on a disciplined Bears defense that is great at preventing the big play, Landry is facing an undisciplined Tampa defense that regularly makes mistakes and allows big plays. With Landry available at a lower price on both sites, and both guys being similar players, I’ll lean toward Landry. Tate is a fine play as well, and I wouldn’t mind having both guys – especially in cash – but Tate’s price has risen lately due to him consistently hitting his ceiling, which has made him a bit overpriced for his actual target expectation and role in this offense.

As with most weeks, the Bears are largely unappealing to me this week on offense. Tarik Cohen and Benny Cunningham are each getting too few looks out of the backfield to really make a difference. Jordan Howard is priced too high for a guy who does not catch passes, on an underdog, in a middling matchup. And the Bears would optimally like to hide Mitchell Trubisky completely. There are a few tourney cases to be made here, though.

Last week, the Bears had to throw the ball 35 times against a pass-funnel Packers defense, and two weeks ago they threw the ball 32 times against a Saints team that jumped out to a big lead. The Lions are not a pass funnel, and they are not projected to jump out to a big lead – but they are good enough on offense (and Trubisky is likely enough to give the Lions a short field at some point) that it’s not crazy to imagine a scenario in which the Lions take a two-score lead. If this happens, the Bears will throw 30+ times again. Last week, we saw Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright receive eight targets apiece, while Josh Bellamy saw seven looks. Wright only sees the field when the Bears go pass-heavy (he’s a slot receiver on a team that doesn’t run many three-wide sets until they have to), so he’s the iffiest play – and he carries the least upside as a guy who plays close to the line of scrimmage. Inman – as he showed with his 6-88-0 game last week – has the best shot at posting a nice score. All three guys are risky, given the potential for a game in which the Bears only pass 15 to 20 times – but Inman in particular is intriguing in tourneys given his tiny price and his potential for 20 points, while the other two can be considered as well. Ownership is likely to be extremely low in this spot, and there is a chance the Bears are forced to turn to the air again – which would mean a fair number of targets at a really low price.

Rams at Vikings

Vegas-Implied Total: Vikings 24.25, Rams 21.75

KEY MATCHUPS:

Vikings Run D – 5th DVOA / 2nd Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O – 15th DVOA / 13th Yards per carry

Vikings Pass D – 12th DVOA / 6th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Rams Pass O – 2nd DVOA / 1st Yards per pass attempt

Rams Run D – 15th DVOA / 27th Yards allowed per carry
Vikings Run O – 18th DVOA / 20th Yards per carry

Rams Pass D – 2nd DVOA / 12th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Vikings Pass O – 4th DVOA / 10th Yards per pass attempt

______

This is our first game on the Sunday slate with an Over/Under north of 41.0. Hurrah!

This game quietly pits two teams that rank in the top 10 in rush play frequency (Minnesota runs the ball at the ninth-highest rate in the NFL; the Rams run the ball at the second-highest rate). The Rams do, however, play at the fastest situation-neutral pace of play in the NFL…while the Vikings play at the third-fastest situation neutral pace of play. This does not show up in “plays per game” for either team, as each team has played with a lead (and slowed down the pace) plenty this season. But in a game that projects to be played fairly close, we could actually end up with each team playing fast-paced throughout the majority of the contest – which could turn into a great spot for volume-based DFS goodness, in spite of the good defenses on the field.

The Vikings are one of the most well-coached and well-schemed defenses in the NFL, and the “game within the game” this week – Sean McVay vs Mike Zimmer and George Edwards – will be particularly interesting. The Vikings don’t run an exotic defense, but they are unpredictable – bringing extra pressure with Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, and even Harrison Smith, often with these blitzes well-disguised and potentially difficult for a young quarterback like Jared Goff to pick up before the snap. Because of this, I’m going to give the nod to Zimmer/Edwards on the Vikings’ sideline over McVay – which has less to do with McVay, and more to do with the guy McVay will be leaning on for his play calls to work.

That doesn’t mean the Rams’ offense comes off the board, though; it simply means I expect a few more mistakes than normal from Goff.

With this game likely to stay close and likely to be played at a fast pace, and with the Vikings more attackable through the air than on the ground, I’m going to have interest in Robert Woods this week. I think there is risk that Xavier Rhodes shadows Woods – given what Woods has done of late, and given that he is the number one option on this team – but PFF currently projects this to not be a shadow situation. If that’s the case, Woods will see most of his snaps against coverage liability Trae Waynes. He has seen seven or more targets in five of his last seven games (with five and six looks in the other two), and while his price has finally risen higher than his usage actually supports, the “overprice” is slight. He’s no longer an underpriced value, but he’s still a solid play.

Sammy Watkins is going to draw virtually zero ownership, and – as noted last week – his share of the Rams’ air yards (22.27%) is almost the same as Woods’ share (25.62%). Because Woods sees his average target 10.9 yards beyond the line of scrimmage while Watkins sees his average target 16.4 yards downfield (ranking seventh in the NFL in aDOT), the former is the higher-floor play, and he carries the same upside as Watkins. Basically, Watkins is seeing fewer targets, and his targets are lower-percentage looks. The other guys ranked in the top eight in aDOT are Martavis Bryant, John Brown, J.J. Nelson, DeSean Jackson, Travis Benjamin, Torrey Smith, and Will Fuller – which gives you an idea of how the Rams are using Watkins. Think of him the way you would think of getting one of those guys at extremely low ownership, but realize that the upside is there. Cooper Kupp is the lowest-upside piece of this passing attack – but as noted last week, the Rams scheme him the ball in the red zone to keep Goff from making mistakes. Even on weeks he has scored, he has not shown much serious upside, but he’s still a decent floor/ceiling play at his price – with a range of around eight to 16 points.

Todd Gurley is always in play as a guy who is generally going to touch the ball 20 times with often significant pass game usage and the most carries in the NFL inside the five-yard-line, but this is a second consecutive week in which the matchup is not in his favor. I remain interested in Gurley in tourneys, as this game should stay close…which increases the chances of him seeing something like seven or eight targets; but the Vikings have allowed the second-fewest rushing yards and the second-fewest rushing touchdowns to running backs, while limiting running back upside on receptions (eighth-fewest receiving yards allowed to backs) in spite of ranking middle of the pack in receptions allowed to the position. This is not worth the price on paper, but Gurley has the usage and talent to hit in a tough matchup if you want to take a tourney shot.

After starting the year as one of the most attackable run defenses in the NFL, the Rams have tightened up in a big way in recent weeks; in fact, the Rams have risen so quickly in DVOA against the run, they are currently the number one overall DVOA defense. Only two teams in the NFL (Jacksonville and Pittsburgh) are allowing fewer points than the Rams (only four teams are allowing fewer points than the Vikings). This is in spite of the Rams allowing 27, 39, and 30 points in Weeks 2 through 4. Still, the teams they have slowed since then were an inconsistent Seattle offense, followed by Jacksonville, Arizona, the Giants, and Houston. It won’t surprise me if we find out over the remainder of the season that this defense isn’t quite as good as they look.

Recent slot receiver lines against the Rams:

Bruce Ellington: 4-41-1, on eight targets
Sterling Shepard: 5-70-0, on nine targets
Larry Fitzgerald: 3-29-0, on three targets
Allen Hurns: 3-37-0, on three targets
Doug Baldwin: 4-37-0, on eight targets

Thielen is good enough to win in any matchup, but Nickell Robey-Coleman has played well enough in the slot that I’ll aim to avoid this spot. Baldwin is probably the closest comp in the NFL to what Thielen brings to the table.

Before the season, Wade Phillips expressed concern that Trumaine Johnson was not capable of playing in his coverage scheme. Johnson has proceeded to have an awful year – ranking 86th out of all qualified NFL corners in PFF’s ratings. Stefon Diggs will run the majority of his routes at Johnson. Diggs has only one game all season with more than eight targets – making him overpriced for his target expectation (generally, we have been able to rely on him for six to seven looks). His talent is at a level where he is not a poor guy to take a shot on in tourneys, however. I won’t make him a priority, but I wouldn’t hate finding him on a secondary team.

The Rams have played shutdown defense against the tight end, ranking fourth in DVOA against the position while allowing the seventh-fewest catches and fourth-fewest yards in the league. Kyle Rudolph has seen seven to nine targets in five consecutive games, so he’s not a bad play – but the matchup is poor enough that I don’t have interest.

I’ve used waaaay too many words on a game that I’m really not particularly drawn to (my interest was piqued early on by the pace of play…and I wandered around trying to find anything else concrete to like -largely to no avail), and we’ll end with a final spot that is simply not all that appealing: the Vikings’ backfield.

Latavius Murray has five carries inside the five-yard-line, compared to two for Jerick McKinnon. Murray also sees the first crack at early-down work. With no pass game involvement for Murray (two total targets across his last four games), he needs a touchdown in order to be worthwhile – and even a touchdown is no guarantee he’ll have a nice game. Meanwhile, the nearly-guaranteed 16 to 20 carries for Murray means that volume will fluctuate for McKinnon based on a variety of factors. He’s not a guy I’m eyeing on either site as a “1B” to Murray’s “1A” – but as with last week, I’ll point out that McKinnon has serious big-play upside. With his price dropping and ownership doing the same, I’m not against taking a tourney shot on him – but it’s a game theory play more than a “good play.”

Cardinals at Texans

Vegas-Implied Total: Cardinals 19.25, Texans 19.25

KEY MATCHUPS:

Texans Run D – 6th DVOA / 7th Yards allowed per carry
Cardinals Run O – 32nd DVOA / 32nd Yards per carry

Texans Pass D – 16th DVOA / 32nd Yards allowed per pass attempt
Cardinals Pass O – 22nd DVOA / 18th Yards per pass attempt

Cardinals Run D – 9th DVOA / 6th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O – 14th DVOA / 11th Yards per carry

Cardinals Pass D – 18th DVOA / 18th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Texans Pass O – 19th DVOA / 12th Yards per pass attempt

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This game hilariously opened with an Over/Under of 45.5. I mean…really?

It was rapidly bet down to 38.5 – and those who got in their bets early are likely counting their money already. Anything can happen in any NFL game, and it may be worth noting that Vegas somehow saw this game as a borderline shootout, but the sharps did not agree – and I’m siding with them in this spot, with Tom Savage and Blaine Gabbert under center.

The Texans run a fairly balanced offense, but they are taking on a Cardinals run defense that ranks ninth in DVOA and sixth in yards allowed per carry. This is not a great spot for Lamar Miller, who has been held to 15 or fewer attempts in four of his last five games and has been ceding work to both Alfred Blue and D’Onta Foreman.

This side of the ball is a bit more interesting through the air, where two dynamics are in play:

1) DeAndre Hopkins has seen a huge drop in price on DraftKings (he’s still the fourth-highest-priced guy on FanDuel), due to the expected shadow coverage from Patrick Peterson. The drop in price will actually probably raise his ownership higher than the matchup dictates it should be. (As always, we optimally want to be able to take price out of the equation when looking at the roster we have put together – i.e., “Do I actually want to play this guy, if we take away price?” – and Hopkins becomes a little less appealing with the price drop, as we no longer get to roster him “at low ownership in a tough matchup.”) I am not Chris Gimino and could very well be wrong, but I’m thinking we see something like 10% to 12% ownership on Hopkins in most DraftKings tourneys. If that’s the case, I’ll be less likely to lean this way. But on FanDuel, where the big price tag and the bad matchup combine to lower ownership, the fact that Hopkins sees 10+ targets every game and is great in contested catch situations and has big run-after-catch upside leads me to like him as a long-shot, but potentially-week-winning tourney play. To put all that another way: On paper, this is a poor spot for Hopkins. But the workload should remain high enough, and he is talented enough, that he still makes sense in tourneys if you can get him at low ownership.

2) Bill O’Brien said the Texans need to get the ball to Bruce Ellington more…after Ellington saw eight targets in each of the first two games Tom Savage started. With Will Fuller out and Patrick Peterson on Hopkins, Ellington – who most of us likely remember as our favorite sleeper in Chip Kelly’s offense last year, before his season-ending injury – should see around eight to 10 targets. His aDOT of 11.7 puts him into the range of guys like Robert Woods, Michael Crabtree, and Dez Bryant – and his slot usage with those downfield looks gives him a nice floor/ceiling combo. Ellington may only reel in half of his targets – but even if he sticks at eight targets, four catches would likely give him a “floor” of 4-40-0. Against this Arizona secondary that has been torched away from Peterson, 10 targets could also, easily, turn into something like an 8-100-2 line. Given the floor I can comfortably project him at – with eight targets in back-to-back games, and O’Brien highlighting that they want to get him the ball, and DeAndre Hopkins in the coverage of Patrick Peterson – I consider Ellington to be one of the best point-per-dollar plays on the slate. He’s viable in both cash games and tourneys.

Wrapping up the Texans’ side of the ball: Arizona has been uncharacteristically mediocre against tight ends. C.J. Fiedorowicz saw six targets in his return to the field last week – and while he only caught two for 10 yards, he should see similar volume this week (the Texans have no interest in throwing the ball to Braxton Miller), and it won’t be surprising if he snags something like a 4-40-1 line. (It probably goes without saying that a repeat of last week’s 2-10-0 line would also not be surprising.)

The Texans rank sixth in DVOA against the run and seventh in yards allowed per carry, while the Cardinals rank dead last in the NFL in DVOA and yards per carry. Given the ownership the name Adrian Peterson automatically draws (especially in lower-dollar tourneys), you’re lighting money on fire by rostering him in a low-percentage spot. There is certainly a chance he hits – but the percentage chance of him posting a tourney-winning score is far lower than the percentage of ownership he will likely see.

Through the air, the Cardinals are relying on Blaine Gabbert – and this makes Gabbert one of best tourney plays on the slate. (I’ll make Levitan sick when I say that on Friday night – and I’ll hope Jefe is watching in support of that proclamation.) In all seriousness, Gabbert brings everything to the table that Bortles and Fitzpatrick bring – but at much lower ownership. He has a great matchup against a Rams defense that has been scorched the past few weeks through the air. He has quality weapons in a well-schemed offense. He plays for a team that prefers to pass the ball (third in the NFL in passing play percentage), and he is playing a defense that is good against the run and poor against the pass. Oh, and he can pick up 30 or 40 yards on the ground.

Because Gabbert is not comfortable throwing outside the numbers, expect heavy volume for Larry Fitzgerald – who has seen 14 and nine targets with Stanton. His price is outrageous on DraftKings – for a slot receiver with Blaine Gabbert under center – but I like the stack with Gabbert enough that I could still see myself pulling the trigger this week (if not on my main team, then at least on an extra team in the $333 tourney or something). Fitz is a good price – and a solid play – on FanDuel.

If the Texans wise up and design everything on defense this week to take away Fitz, it could be a long day for the Arizona offense – and the Gabbert/Fitz stack could crater a lineup, while the Texans’ defense could be a sneaky-strong play. This threat – and the fact that this entire offense can be shut down at this point if one particular guy is taken away – probably means Gabbert and Fitz are not quite there for me in cash games. But I definitely have love for them in tourneys.

Chiefs at Giants

Vegas-Implied Total: Chiefs 27.75, Giants 17.25

KEY MATCHUPS:

Giants Run D – 27th DVOA / 25th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O – 5th DVOA / 3rd Yards per carry

Giants Pass D – 29th DVOA / 29th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Chiefs Pass O – 3rd DVOA / 2nd Yards per pass attempt

Chiefs Run D – 32nd DVOA / 31st Yards allowed per carry
Giants Run O – 21st DVOA / 18th Yards per carry

Chiefs Pass D – 22nd DVOA / 23rd Yards allowed per pass attempt
Giants Pass O – 16th DVOA / 29th Yards per pass attempt

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It’s that time of year – when the first half of the games in the NFL Edge look a whole lot uglier than the second half of the games, as networks shift the better games to later in the day and leave us with the sludge during the first part of the day. The next few games have a lot more to like right away – without the deep digging required to find plays to like in the earlier games. As always, this means we will need to keep an eye out for overlooked plays even in these games…but even more than that, it means that these plays we see as “good on the surface” are plays everyone is going to spot as good plays. As such, there are some plays we uncovered in the games above that will go overlooked by the field.

The Chiefs’ side of the ball is smooth and easy to break down, as the Chiefs have three main guys their offense runs through – and all three guys are set up to smash in this spot.

We’ll start in the backfield, with Kareem Hunt – who has two games this year with only nine carries, but the link between those games was that they were both losses. Because the Chiefs are big favorites in this game, we can expect that Hunt will not see one of his outlier “low-carry” games, and will instead see something more in the range of the 18 to 32 touches he has in all but one other game this year. Before the nine-carry (13-touch) dud against the Cowboys, Hunt had touched the ball at least 22 times in four of five games. Against a Giants defense that has allowed the fifth-most yards in the NFL to running backs, Hunt is the top play among the high-priced guys. He’s an excellent option in both cash and tourneys.

The second piece is Travis Kelce, who is taking on a Giants defense whose problems against tight ends have been well-documented in this space. The Giants are the first team in history to allow a touchdown to a tight end in each of the first nine games of a season. The Giants have allowed the third-most yards and the most touchdowns in the NFL to tight ends; Kelce has the most yards and the third-most touchdowns among all NFL tight ends. Kelce also has seven or more targets in all but two games this year. Rob Gronkowski is actually a slightly better play (in terms of expectations), which we’ll get to in a bit. But I am strongly in favor of playing both guys on DraftKings if you want, and each guy is a strong play on FanDuel.

Finally – the least exciting guy of the bunch – Tyreek Hill. I say “least exciting” because Hill is the kind of guy you “guess on” rather than “analyze.” He has seen six to eight targets in every game this year but one. He gets one or two deep shots each game, and five or six balls close to the line of scrimmage. If he catches one of those deep shots or breaks one of his short catches for a long gain, he turns into a great play. If he gets tackled quickly on all of his short catches, he turns in a dud. This sloppy and apathetic Giants defense is a good bet to miss a tackle on Hill or fail to contain him on a deep shot – making this a good week for him to hit. And his price is so absurdly high on each site for a guy who never sees more than eight targets, ownership should be low. There is a risk that this is a blowout, and that Hill’s volume suffers. But there is also a chance he puts up 25+ points at low ownership.

The Giants also flow through a narrow band of players at this point – making this one of my favorite games on the slate to target, on both sides of the ball.

Orleans Darkwa has firmly taken hold of the Giants’ backfield, with 16+ touches in three of the Giants’ last four games. Last week, he touched the ball 16 times with all four running backs healthy (Paul Perkins was stuck on special teams). He has also averaged two catches per game over the Giants’ last four. There is risk that Darkwa’s touches fall short as the Chiefs build their lead – but the Chiefs are bad enough on defense this year that the Giants should be able to keep the game close for a while, especially with this game being at home. I like Darkwa as a salary saver.

Sterling Shepard might not be the most underpriced play on the slate this week…but he’s definitely still one of the most underpriced plays.

The Chiefs have allowed the 11th-most receptions to wide receivers…but they have allowed the third-most yards, and the most touchdowns. Only four teams have scored more points than the Chiefs this year, and only four teams have allowed more points than the Giants. On top of that, Andy Reid is famously masterful coming off a bye – so it is practically a lock that the Chiefs will put up points. As this happens, the Giants will stick to their current setup – in which they rank second in the NFL in passing play percentage. And this means volume for Shepard – who has seen nine and 13 targets since returning from injury. I’ll peg his floor at 6-70-0, and his ceiling north of 10-100-1

The Chiefs have been strong against the tight end this year, even without Eric Berry. But as was the case last week against the Rams: Evan Engram is talented enough, and runs enough wide receiver-style routes, that he’s still strongly in play. In fact, he’s a sneaky-awesome tourney play, as everyone is so focused on Gronk and Kelce this week, Engram should draw far lower ownership. Engram’s matchup is not as good as Kelce’s, but he sees more targets, has the same general aDOT, and has the same scoring potential. Kelce is the better play, but Engram is maybe 25/75 to outscore him, and I think the ownership gap will be greater than that three to one margin.

Redskins at Saints

Vegas-Implied Total: Saints 29.5, Redskins 21.5

KEY MATCHUPS:

Saints Run D – 25th DVOA / 30th Yards allowed per carry
Redskins Run O – 23rd DVOA / 25th Yards per carry

Saints Pass D – 4th DVOA / 11th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Redskins Pass O – 11th DVOA / 6th Yards per pass attempt

Redskins Run D – 12th DVOA / 19th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O – 1st DVOA / 4th Yards per carry

Redskins Pass D – 14th DVOA / 22nd Yards allowed per pass attempt
Saints Pass O – 8th DVOA / 4th Yards per pass attempt

______

New Orleans now ranks 29th in pace of play and 28th in passing play percentage. Yet again, it can be pointed out that this is largely due to the Saints constantly having a lead – but with this being a home game against an overmatched opponent, we should expect that to be the case yet again.

As the injuries mount on the Redskins’ defense, the best way to attack them is on the ground – and that is exactly what the Saints are going to do in this spot behind an offensive line that ranks first in the NFL in adjusted line yards. Because we have not seen the Saints forced out of their new comfort zone since Adrian Peterson left, we don’t know how they’ll handle the workload distribution if they fall behind. But because I expect the Saints to either be playing with a lead or playing close throughout this game, we should expect the distribution to continue exactly as it has for weeks, with Mark Ingram seeing 16 to 22 carries and Alvin Kamara seeing eight to 12. With Ingram’s pass game role drying up for the second straight week, there is definite concern that that’s a “trend” rather than an “outlier.” If so, he becomes like an overpriced Jordan Howard – on a really good offense (i.e., he’d be a guy who needs yardage and touchdowns in order to pay off – but as we saw last week, he can accumulate yardage and touchdowns in this offense). I’ll continue to have a hard time justifying Kamara at his price – a guy with 10ish carries and five to seven targets is overpriced in Kamara’s range no matter how good his offense is. But as always, it will not at all surprise me if and when Kamara hits. He’s a tourney option; Ingram is an “avoid” for me this week, at his price and the likely climb in ownership alongside the recent drop in targets, though I’m perfectly fine with the play, as everything sets up well once again for him to have a good game.

Drew Brees has thrown the ball 30 or fewer times in four of his last five games. (Last year, he had one such game all season!) In spite of this, Michael Thomas has managed eight or more targets in all but one game this year (seeing his targets rise as Brees’ volume has gone down), so we can comfortably pencil him in for his usual workload. I’ll mention the same thing I’ve mentioned several consecutive weeks: he doesn’t add a ton of upside after the catch, and his red zone role has shriveled (Kamara and Ingram have combined for three times as many targets in the red zone as Thomas), but I’ll never argue against him, with his usage and his quarterback – even on weeks I don’t care for him myself.

As Brees has taken to throwing primarily to Thomas and his running backs, Coby Fleener and Willie Snead have been left out in the cold. If Washington can keep this game close for long enough, Ted Ginn should be the first guy to see a rise in targets. I’m comfortable penciling him in for four or five targets again this week – which gives him potential in larger-field tourneys as a guy who can score a lot of points on a small number of looks.

Washington is in trouble in this spot, as the best way to attack New Orleans is on the ground (25th in DVOA, 30th in yards allowed per carry), but Washington ranks 23rd in DVOA and 25th in yards per carry. They are going to have a hard time truly generating offense through Samaje Perine on the ground – and as they fall behind, they will turn to the air. This means a few things for us:

1) It means Chris Thompson should see the field plenty. Thompson has played 45 or more snaps in three of Washington’s last five games (with 37 and 33 snaps in the other two), and he should be in that range again. In those higher-snap games, he saw touch counts of 20, 12, and 12. He’s a sneaky-good value play.

2) The Saints have allowed the fewest receptions in the NFL to the tight end, and they have been one of the best teams in football at shutting down perimeter receivers. While Kirk Cousins will surely try to get some looks to Vernon Davis (and/or Jordan Reed, if Reed returns this week) and even to Ryan Grant and Josh Doctson, most of the looks will go to Thompson and Jamison Crowder. Crowder has seen 11 and 13 targets the last two weeks – since Washington basically decided to give up on Pryor and not force the issue with Doctson – and while he plays out of the slot and sees most of these targets near the line of scrimmage, his average depth of target is more than a full yard further downfield than what Jarvis Landry is seeing. The pricing algorithm on each site somehow missed the 24 targets Crowder has across his last two games – and while the Saints are “good against receivers,” this is not the case in the slot. They have faced almost no strong slot competition this season, but Golden Tate posted a 7-96-1 line on them in Week six (seven targets), and Jarvis Landry caught six of the seven targets thrown to him. There is every reason to love Crowder as a point-per-dollar play this week in PPR scoring, and to like him quite a bit even in half-PPR.

That’s the extent of my interest on the Washington side. I would much rather pay up to Engram/Kelce/Gronk (with Ertz thrown in on FanDuel) than roster Vernon Davis or Jordan Reed in such a tough matchup; Kirk Cousins has a tough individual matchup; and the perimeter receivers are low-percentage plays. But Thompson and Crowder are both very much in play – as Washington passes the ball to these two in an effort to keep up with the scoring on the other side.

Bills at Chargers

Vegas-Implied Total: Chargers 23.75, Bills 19.75

KEY MATCHUPS:

Chargers Run D – 22nd DVOA / 29th Yards allowed per carry
Bills Run O – 25th DVOA / 24th Yards per carry

Chargers Pass D – 6th DVOA / 8th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Bills Pass O – 21st DVOA / 24th Yards per pass attempt

Bills Run D – 31st DVOA / 21st Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O – 29th DVOA / 22nd Yards per carry

Bills Pass D – 13th DVOA / 17th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Chargers Pass O – 9th DVOA / 19th Yards per pass attempt

______

Anthony Lynn gets to coach against the team that chose not to hire him, after he was their interim head coach last year. That probably means nothing, but it’s a fun subplot to this game.

What does mean something is the Bills starting Nathan Peterman at quarterback.

I would strongly encourage you to not overreact to this news. While I’ve seen some people already talking about what a smash spot this is for the Chargers now, the thing that stands out to me the most is that no one saw this coming. No one felt Tyrod Taylor was playing so poorly he needed to be benched…and this is a 5-4 team. If the season ended today, this team would be in the playoffs!

So why make the change?

Sure, Peterman hasn’t seen actual NFL competition. But the Bills coaches must feel that he gives them a better chance to win.

Peterman was compared to Kirk Cousins in the draft, and he has good pocket awareness, a good arm, and good accuracy. Inconsistency is an issue, but the cerebral side of things – reading the defense, moving the secondary with his eyes, etc. – is not an issue. Peterman definitely could step in and bomb. But it will not surprise me in the least if he steps up with a nice effort.

Of course, it may all be moot. Buffalo runs the ball at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. Tyrod had six games already with under 30 pass attempts, and the Bills surely want to replicate that formula with their new rookie under center. But if the Bills do have to throw 30+ times, I think Peterman has a chance to surprise (not enough to make him a worthwhile play, but enough to make him a guy worth watching). (Of course, I also consider the Chargers to be a viable play – especially on FanDuel, where they are inexplicably cheap. The Chargers rank third in the NFL in adjusted sack rate, and a rookie in his first start is always a strong bet for a turnover or two.)

Because I expect volume to be an issue for the Bills’ passing attack, I don’t actually like any of these guys. We also don’t know how comfortable Peterman will be pushing the ball outside the numbers – which is what the Chargers’ defense forces teams to do. But I do think Kelvin Benjamin will go hugely overlooked. Again: I don’t expect him to hit, but the upside is high enough if he does hit – and ownership will be low enough – that he’s in the game theory bucket.

The Chargers are elite against tight ends (third-fewest catches allowed to the position), which should further filter targets to running backs and wide receivers. This means Zay Jones and even Jordan Matthews (whose skills have not diminished so much as his usage has) are YOLO tourney options. It also means that LeSean McCoy should see heavy usage through the air.

On the year, only one team has allowed more running back receptions than the Chargers have allowed. The Chargers have also allowed the second-most rushing yards to running backs.

I have a theory about McCoy – that “good defenses that are bad against the run” (such as the Saints, or the Chargers, or the Jaguars – or last year’s Broncos) tend to be bad because they are getting holes opened against them, more than because they are bad at tackling. This was my reasoning last week (either mentioned in this article or on the Friday Night Round Table) for not loving Shady in a similarly good on-paper matchup. And it’s my reason for not loving him this week. I think the whole “dance behind the line of scrimmage” thing hurts him in this spot rather than helping him, and decreases his chances of reaching his ceiling. Also…you know, the Bills rank 25th in run DVOA and 24th in yards per carry. But Shady does have seven carries inside the five-yard-line (only five players have more), and the matchup is awesome. The usage should bounce back this week as well. I’m definitely fine with the play – I’m just a bit more cautious on it than most will likely be.

Buffalo has been thrashed on the ground since trading Dareus. Kamara and Ingram combined for 237 yards last week on only 33 carries, while the Jets’ committee piled up 194 yards on 41 carries. Those two teams combined for seven rushing touchdowns the last two weeks as well.

I’ll always have a hard time paying close to top-dollar for Melvin Gordon, as he has four games already this year under 40 yards, and he has four games this year with one target or fewer. He is no longer a true three-down workhorse, with Austin Ekeler taking over on passing downs and even splitting time on early downs; and he could easily fall under 50 yards even in this quality matchup. Alternately, he could top 100 yards and score three times. This play has one of the broadest ranges on the slate, as Gordon could genuinely score anywhere from six points to 30+ points. The emergence of Ekeler as more of a “timeshare back” than a “backup back” has me pegging Gordon’s actual expectations on the lower end of that range, even in a good matchup.

While Gordon is tough to pay up for, Ekeler is an intriguing guy to pay down for after he saw 15 touches last week and 11 touches in Week 7. There is currently no clarity on roles here; it seems that the Chargers are actually employing a timeshare at the moment, though that could also just be a couple opponent-specific spiked weeks for the undrafted rookie. We’re guessing here, but I would be comfortable guessing on Ekeler on a few tourney teams.

The Bills’ pass defense has shown major cracks lately as well, and I am comfortable viewing them as a mediocre unit. After facing Jacksonville and Denver in two of his last three games, this is an excellent spot for Keenan Allen to bounce back. He should have a target expectation of nine or more (which was the case in every game before this recent run – Denver, a New England defense focused on taking him away, and Jacksonville). In Weeks five and six, Keenan posted really disappointing games against Oakland (5-45-0) and the Giants (4-67-0 on 12 targets), and there is a chance he is hitting a wall in his first season back from last year’s ACL tear. He’s not a lock this week, but the targets should be there in a good spot.

It’s harder to rely on targets for anyone else on this offense. Hunter Henry is tourney-worthy for his big upside, low price, and likely low ownership, but he has seen only two targets in back-to-back games. Tyrell Williams has only been worth a roster spot in one game this year. And Mike Williams is not seeing the field enough yet to matter.

Bengals at Broncos

Vegas-Implied Total: Broncos 20.75, Bengals 18.25

KEY MATCHUPS:

Broncos Run D – 1st DVOA / 3rd Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O – 26th DVOA / 31st Yards per carry

Broncos Pass D – 17th DVOA / 14th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Bengals Pass O – 25th DVOA / 13th Yards per pass attempt

Bengals Run D – 11th DVOA / 11th Yards allowed per carry
Broncos Run O – 20th DVOA / 16th Yards per carry

Bengals Pass D – 15th DVOA / 2nd Yards allowed per pass attempt
Broncos Pass O – 27th DVOA / 27th Yards per pass attempt

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On a weekend with a lot of games that were fairly difficult to break down (this article will shatter the previous record for “longest in RotoGrinders history” – in spite of there being only 14 games on the slate), this game is refreshingly easy.

Don’t play anyone.

But…for real, though.

The Bengals have a bottom-eight run offense, and the Broncos have a top-three run defense. This is enough to remove Joe Mixon from consideration entirely outside of simply closing your eyes and hoping things break your way. The Broncos have also allowed the fewest receptions and yards in the NFL to wide receivers, which makes A.J. Green simply a “hope and pray” play as well. And while the Broncos have been smashed by tight ends…I mean, it would be really difficult to use a roster spot on four to six targets for Tyler Kroft when you can instead get eight to 10 targets from Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce – or Evan Engram, or Zach Ertz.

Kroft is the guy to look to here if you want to roster someone from the Bengals (maybe you lost a bet or something?). In all seriousness, he’s actually a sneaky-strong play – especially on DraftKings, where at $2900 he is going to go completely overlooked. He has seen four to seven targets in all but one game this year, and ownership should be minimal after his predictable dud last week (I believe the exact wording in the Edge last week was, “given what the Titans have done against the position, the effectiveness of these targets can be called into question”). I bring up that quote from last week to point out that last week’s dud should not change, in our thinking, what Kroft has done the rest of the season. Much like me laughing off the Browns last week before realizing, “But really, Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell are actually strong point-per-dollar plays”: really, Kroft is a strong point-per-dollar play. God, it’s difficult to write that. I don’t want to miss out on the Gronk/Kelce party, and Kroft is unlikely to post the sort of score that would put him on the Madden cover or land him a reality dating show – but he’s a strong point-per-dollar play, especially on DraftKings.

I actually do think the Broncos can be left alone completely. They are running their backfield as a three-way committee – with Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles, and C.J. Anderson all seeing eight to 11 touches per game. One guy could break a long run or score a touchdown, but the chances of piling up yardage and points are too slim to even call these guys dart throws.

The Broncos are in a similarly tight spot through the air, with Brock Osweiler taking on a pass defense that is tied with the Jaguars for the second-fewest receptions allowed to wide receivers (“second-fewest” because the Broncos have allowed the fewest). Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are “always in the conversation,” as so much of the offense is guaranteed to flow through them. But after a long run of great matchups (and little in the way of elite production), this is not the place where I want to jump on board. The targets should be there, if you want to chase – but the targets have only a small chance of turning into nice production.

There are simply too many spots on this slate to like. Outside of Kroft, I’ll be crossing off this game completely myself.

Patriots “at” Raiders (Mexico City)

Vegas-Implied Total: Patriots 30.25, Raiders 23.25

KEY MATCHUPS:

Raiders Run D – 24th DVOA / 18th Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O – 7th DVOA / 21st Yards per carry

Raiders Pass D – 32nd DVOA / 28th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Patriots Pass O – 1st DVOA / 3rd Yards per pass attempt

Patriots Run D – 29th DVOA / 32nd Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O – 11th DVOA / 17th Yards per carry

Patriots Pass D – 30th DVOA / 30th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Raiders Pass O – 7th DVOA / 17th Yards per pass attempt

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Much like last year (and most years during Belichick’s time with the team), the Patriots rank much higher in points allowed per game than they do in yards allowed per game. This is precisely why I rarely want to target the Patriots’ DST in DFS: they typically capitalize on a bend-but-don’t break defense that basically says, “We think we make fewer mistakes than you – and if we force you to march down the entire field all game long, you will eventually hurt yourself and help us.” Typically, this works – and it can be maddening for DFS, as yards pile up…but touchdowns do not. Across their last five games, the Pats have allowed 16, 13, seven, 17, and 14 points – to the Broncos, Chargers, Falcons, Jets, and Buccaneers. Oakland ranks 16th in the NFL in points per game at 21.8, and I expect them to fall short of Vegas’ expectations for them. (Oakland also has only six takeaways on the year – which ranks dead last in the NFL; the Patriots have turned the ball over only five times, which represents the second-best mark in the NFL. This means the Raiders aren’t likely to have short fields to work with – and will have to drive the whole field each time without making mistakes.)

That first paragraph lays the groundwork for why I like the Raiders less than most probably will this week. I do think the Raiders will be able to move the ball. And I think the Raiders will score a couple touchdowns. But your chances of guessing correctly on who will score goes down if there are fewer touchdowns to be had.

Because yardage is the clearest way to points here (the Patriots have allowed the most yards in the NFL, while ranking 14th-best in points allowed per game), I am leaning toward Amari Cooper and Jared Cook over Michael Crabtree. Crabtree is great in tight spaces and in contested catch situations, which makes him an awesome red zone weapon – but he has maxed out at 83 yards this year. Cooper has maxed out at 62 yards outside his 210-yard detonation of the Chiefs – but he has gone 5-48-0 and 4-58-0 in two games since then, seeing 10 and nine targets. More than likely Cooper will disappoint – just as he has in a number of quality matchups. But his upside keeps him in the tourney discussion.

The Patriots have tightened up against all positions lately, and can no longer be considered “soft” against the tight end, but they are – at worst – an average matchup for Cook, who is a lock for around six targets, with upside for more. In his last three games, Cook has more 100-yard outings than Crabtree and Cooper have combined for all season. I’m not sure about that price on DraftKings, and it’s too easy to make it up to the “big four” on FanDuel, but Cook deserves tournament consideration. I expect seven or more targets as the Raiders are forced to pass – and he has the athletic upside to pile up yards.

The rushing attack for the Raiders has been a mess this season. Marshawn Lynch has not topped 14 carries since Week 1, and he has only six catches on the season – which makes him a low-expectation play. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington don’t get enough work behind Lynch to matter.

In the context of the entire slate, there are simply places I like more than Derek Carr and his weapons – and in the context of how others will handle the slate, it is almost certain that all of these spots will grab a decent amount of ownership due to the perceived softness of the matchup and the high Vegas total. You’re likelier to find the Raiders on others’ teams than on mine.

While the Raiders are staying at sea level in California to prep for their game in Mexico City (which has a higher elevation than Denver), the Patriots have stayed in Colorado this week and moved higher up the mountains. I expect the Patriots to force the issue on offense this week – attacking relentlessly in an effort to tire out the Raiders as this game moves along. Of course, as an added bonus: the Patriots’ offense is really good…ranking first in offensive DVOA, first in yards per game, and fourth in points per game. And the Raiders’ defense is really bad…ranking dead last in defensive DVOA, 26th in yards allowed per game, and 23rd in points allowed per game.

Chris Hogan is not in Colorado with the Patriots this week, which should leave the Pats in a similar setup to last week – with Phillip Dorsett on one side and Brandin Cooks on the other. Dorsett has not topped three targets in a game this year – even in his couple starts – and while he is worthy of a tourney flier (simply because of the offense he is in), the best thing he serves to do is help us narrow the scope of targets on the Pats. After crossing off Dorsett, we can also cross off Danny Amendola, whose usage is too low-upside to justify a roster spot on FanDuel or his ludicrous price tag on DraftKings.

This brings us to Brandin Cooks – whose price is ludicrous in the other direction on DraftKings. How is he only $6,600 when Amendola is $5,700? While Amendola has 10.4% of the Patriots’ air yards this year, Cooks has 26.8%, and he has seen eight or more targets in four of his last five games (including 11 looks last week with Hogan sidelined). Cooks has only four targets all year in the red zone and two targets inside the 10-yard-line, so his chances of reaching his upside are lower than the targets suggest. But he is definitely an exciting play this week in tourneys – especially large-field tourneys – for the explosive upside he carries.

The most reliable option on the Patriots through the air is Rob Gronkowski, who is averaging 7.9 targets per game (to the 7.6 for Kelce), with an average depth of target of 11.6 yards compared to only 8.8 for Kelce. Basically, Gronk sees slightly more targets, and the targets he sees come farther downfield. Each guy gets similar usage in scoring position. And while the Raiders haven’t been as bad against the tight end as the Giants, they haven’t been good. I like Gronk slightly more than I like Kelce this week. I like both guys a ton.

As alluded to earlier in this article, Tom Brady is my favorite quarterback play in terms of point expectations. He’s a guy I want in cash games and tourneys if I can make it work. Joining him in the backfield should be Dion Lewis (with carries in his last four games – starting with the most recent – of 14, 15, 13, and 11) and James White (who has seen five or more targets in all but two games this year). This is not the sort of matchup in which the Pats will be forced to throw heavily to White, but he should still get his looks. Lewis is a nice bet for 14 or more carries, a catch, and a scoring opportunity or two (he has nine carries – and three touchdowns – from inside the 10-yard-line this year). The Pats should also mix in Rex Burkhead for a few carries and three to five targets. It will not surprise me if Mike Gillislee is active this week (I think his healthy scratch last week was due to the way the Patriots wanted to attack the Broncos, more than to a complete change in roles) – and because we won’t know until after early games kick off whether or not this is the case, I’ll be cautious with Dion Lewis, just in case his role changes this week and Gillislee steps in for more carries than expected. But ultimately, I’d feel fine with any of these three in tourneys – with Lewis my favorite of the bunch.

Eagles at Cowboys

Vegas-Implied Total: Eagles 25.75, Cowboys 22.25

KEY MATCHUPS:

Cowboys Run D – 26th DVOA / 24th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O – 10th DVOA / 10th Yards per carry

Cowboys Pass D – 19th DVOA / 16th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Eagles Pass O – 5th DVOA / 7th Yards per pass attempt

Eagles Run D – 7th DVOA / 5th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O – 3rd DVOA / 1st Yards per carry

Eagles Pass D – 8th DVOA / 10th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Cowboys Pass O – 14th DVOA / 20th Yards per pass attempt

______

While the Eagles’ backfield is a guessing game (Jay Ajayi is set to get “more work” this week…but we may not know until Sunday night what that actually means), their passing attack is much easier to predict:

Carson Wentz is going to throw the ball to Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery. And he is going to be successful.

The Cowboys have done a decent job this year limiting quarterbacks in spite of their weaknesses on the back end (they rank 16th in yards allowed to QBs, and 14th in fantasy points allowed per game to QBs), but one thing the Cowboys will not have on their side this week is an ability to play ball control offense and keep the Eagles on the sidelines. The Eagles have faced the fewest rush attempts in the NFL (only 14.8 per game – an astonishingly low number), and they have allowed almost 300 fewer rushing yards than every other team in the NFL. With Ezekiel Elliott missing in action, this is a spot where we should expect the Eagles to be able to play their normal brand of offense on the other side of the ball.

Of course, the Eagles’ “normal brand of offense” quietly calls for Wentz to rarely go for volume. In his last seven games, he has not topped 32 pass attempts a single time – and as such, he has topped 300 yards only once in that span. He is a definite candidate to go over-drafted this week on the FanDuel main slate. That’s not to say I expect a poor game from him (I absolutely expect him to play well – especially with an extra week to prepare). But it is to say his chances of whiffing in a game are higher than he has shown lately, as it is just too easy for a guy to step into a dud from time to time when throwing only 30 passes (even while playing a good game – i.e., Wentz could complete 70% of his passes and go for 250 yards, but fail to notch any passing touchdowns). Volume does matter – making Wentz more of a tourney play than a cash play for me.

Over the Eagles’ last three games, Ertz has target counts of six, five, and five, while Alshon Jeffery has seen the ball 11, eight, and six times. Each guy has big upside – but their recent run of “high scores on lower targets” (for Ertz) or “high scores on a low catch rate” (for Alshon) mean that their prices have risen higher than their actual expectations. To put that another way: each guy is overpriced for what his floor/ceiling is (though each guy is still a solid play – as a talented weapon in a good matchup, with a great quarterback throwing him the ball). As long as Wentz’ volume stays at the level where it’s been for seven straight game, it’s likely that one of these two guys hits, and the other does not. I’ll lean Ertz as the guy likelier to hit, as the Cowboys are sometimes able to effectively erase perimeter options, but Ertz’ drop in targets gives me a bit of pause. On the full-sized slates that include this game, I’m likeliest to let others chase (ownership will almost certainly be high here), while I target more locked-in spots myself.

If you want to get sneaky on this side of the ball, the Cowboys have been repeatedly lit on fire by slot receivers. Nelson Agholor has seen five or fewer targets in all but two games this year, and is not a good play (especially at his inexplicable DraftKings price; how is he priced higher than $5k when he almost never sees more than five targets?). But I do think he’ll draw low ownership, and he’s a guy to whom a couple extra targets could end up flowing.

The Eagles’ rushing attack is a guessing game – though it’s a guessing game with a lot of potential upside. Only four teams have more rush attempts this year than the Eagles have, and they should once again be able to stick to the ground this week. Obviously, Jay Ajayi is the name that stands out – considering the Eagles traded for him in the middle of the season. Because Ajayi is not known for his pass-catching chops and is still sharing time with a number of other backs, he’s not a cash game consideration for me – but he carries big tourney upside, as he could post a really nice game if he gets 20+ touches.

The Cowboys are going to surely try to establish the run themselves – but as they fail to get things going with Alfred Morris, and as the Eagles take a lead, they will be forced to do what every other team against the Eagles has been forced to do this year: turn to a pass-heavy approach. While the Eagles have faced the fewest rush attempts in football, they have faced the most pass attempts.

This volume is not leading to production. In spite of facing the most pass attempts in football, 16 teams are allowing more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. The Eagles have also been solid against wide receivers – allowing the fourth-most catches in the NFL, but allowing the sixth-fewest touchdowns.

It looks like Dez Bryant will play again this week – though his health is definitely an issue. I’ll run through the numbers we always run through with him: He ranks fifth in the NFL in targets per game, second in the NFL in targets inside the 10-yard-line, and fourth in the NFL in percentage share of team air yards. With Zeke out, these numbers should even see a bump. But I am concerned about his health in this spot. I am viewing him more as an upside tourney play than as a “main team” staple.

As Dez plays through injury and the Cowboys are forced to turn to the pass, there is opportunity for targets to be spread elsewhere – and one of the likeliest beneficiaries is Rod Smith. After seeing more of the field last week than Alfred Morris saw, the same should be the case this week – in another game that projects for the Cowboys to fall behind and have to take to the air. Smith saw six targets last week, and he should see somewhere in that range again (with upside for as many as eight or nine looks) against an Eagles defense that has allowed the third-most receptions to running backs. He’s an interesting option in tourneys.

The other places targets might flow on the Cowboys: Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, and Jason Witten. Witten is the only guy with a decent expectation of more than three targets, and the Eagles have been below-average against the position this year. There are other tight ends I like a whole lot more, of course, but Witten just might be able to pile up seven or eight looks if Dez is too hobbled to make a serious impact this week.

Falcons at Seahawks

Vegas-Implied Total: Seahawks 24.0, Falcons 21.0

KEY MATCHUPS:

Seahawks Run D – 10th DVOA / 15th Yards allowed per carry
Falcons Run O – 9th DVOA / 5th Yards per carry

Seahawks Pass D – 7th DVOA / 9th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Falcons Pass O – 10th DVOA / 5th Yards per pass attempt

Falcons Run D – 28th DVOA / 23rd Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O – 22nd DVOA / 23rd Yards per carry

Falcons Pass D – 20th DVOA / 5th Yards allowed per pass attempt
Seahawks Pass O – 12th DVOA / 9th Yards per pass attempt

______

This game is still in Seattle. It’s still a tough place to play. But it’s pretty exciting for the Falcons that Richard Sherman is out – and it’s hopefully something we can capitalize on in DFS.

Quite often in this article, I take a stand beside “defensive coaching” and “scheme” over defensive talent. But as we all know: the Seahawks are not an intensely-schemed defense, but are instead a team that plays a fairly straight-up style with the belief that their 11 guys are better than the 11 guys on offense. That’s often true when Sherman is on the field. It is not true anymore.

The Seahawks will definitely have a plan to account for Julio. But because they are not big on adjusting their entire game plan to account for that week’s opponent, I do not expect this “plan for Julio” to go as far as “selling out to stop him, and forcing the Falcons to beat us elsewhere.” Julio should be open for large chunks of this game, and while I am miles away from pretending he is a lock in any matchup right now, this is a sneaky-good spot for him to get on track. I hope ownership will be low, and I hope they finally start feeding him targets (every time they do, he puts up his typical production). I’m excited to see what Julio can do in this spot if he gets the 10 to 12 looks his talent deserves.

The other core pieces of this passing attack reside in the “totally fine, but there are better plays elsewhere” category – with Mohamed Sanu locked into five or six “close to the line of scrimmage” targets each week and Austin Hooper seeing six or more targets in five of his last six games. The Seahawks are a middling defense against the tight end, and Hooper is definitely underpriced, but he’s more of a tourney play than a cash game option. Sanu is viable in cash games, though there are cheaper guys with a higher target expectation.

The biggest story on the Falcons is their backfield, as Devonta Freeman is set to miss this week – leaving the backfield to Tevin Coleman and Terron Ward. While Ward saw nine carries last week, this was more because the Falcons were running so many times in a blowout win; Coleman saw 20 carries (and 21 touches) himself. My biggest concern with Tevin is that he has only one or two targets in six consecutive games, while Devonta had topped three targets only twice this year. These backs are not being used the way they were under Shanahan, and this lowers Coleman’s opportunities for explosive plays. He’s a solid salary-saver on FanDuel, with an expectation of 18+ touches and hopefully a few catches, in a middling matchup. He’s overpriced on DraftKings and is a candidate to go over-drafted – though I imagine he’s a guy you’ll still have to consider on the smaller slates that include this game.

Part of the reason you’ll still have to consider Coleman on the smaller slates is because the Seahawks cannot run the ball, which leaves you with one fewer backfield to consider. Probably more than any other backfield in the NFL, this is one to leave alone in DFS. The best individual performance on this team in 2017 so far is 52 yards. No thanks.

While the Seahawks’ backfield is one of the least-appealing spots on the weekend, the Seahawks’ passing attack is one of the most appealing spots. For about the fifth consecutive week, I’ll note that the Seahawks are a reactive offense – often waiting until the pre-halftime two minute warning, or until they fall behind, to actually get aggressive. With Richard Sherman out and the Falcons (eighth in yards per game – even if they’re only 15th in points per game) coming to town, there is a strong chance we see enough early points for the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator to take his head out of his Bevell and dial up some aggressive play calls. Once Russell Wilson begins scrambling and taking deep shots, good things happen. I expect him to scramble and take deep shots. I expect good things to happen.

Doug Baldwin has games this year of six targets, four targets, and three targets, but he has seen eight or more targets in his other six games, and he had double-digit looks in three straight games before seeing only six looks in Week 10. I fully expect him to sit in the higher end of his range this week – which should lead to a really nice game. He’s a strong option in tourneys, and he warrants consideration in cash games as well.

Jimmy Graham leads the NFL in targets inside the 10-yard-line – though he’s not at the top of my list this week, as only one team has allowed fewer tight end touchdowns this year than the Falcons have allowed. Because Graham is relying so heavily on touchdowns for his production (his yardage totals have disappointed), he’s not the best bet to hit this week.

Somehow, Paul Richardson is priced slightly higher than Tyler Lockett on each site. Lockett is a bigger part of the offense at this point, and he saw seven or eighth targets in three straight games before last week’s dud. If looking away from Baldwin in this passing attack, Lockett would be the best guy to take a shot on.

Final Note

You may have noticed this week that I included more thoughts than normal regarding exactly how I’m viewing each player (i.e., places where I mentioned a guy’s floor/ceiling expectation, or where I broke down whether I had interest in that guy in cash, or tourneys, or larger tourneys only, etc.) I am always on the hunt for ways to build onto this article and continue to make it more and more awesome – an evolution many of you have been part of over the years! Let me know in the comments what you thought about this week’s article – in particular, the way I layered in some more specific commentary on my take on the numbers. I never want to stifle your creativity in roster construction by boxing you in too fully with “how to interpret the numbers yourself,” but I figure as many guideposts as possible is always beneficial!

Saturday Evening Update

There are not many changes or updates this week – though there are a few weather concerns worth noting.

The Jags and Browns should see cold temps, with sustained wind of 20 to 25 MPH and gusts of 35 MPH (hat tip to Kevin Roth – of course). This is going to impact the passing attacks – and while it theoretically improves the rushing attacks (i.e., these teams will have to run more, and will have to throw more short passes, which brings the backs into play), I’m still not particularly high on the Jags’ attack (even if Leonard Fournette misses; there are simply better “production expectations” than this). Blake Bortles and his weapons become tourney-only for me in this spot. Crowell and Duke Johnson are still on my radar. And the Jags’ defense becomes an even better play than before.

I overlooked Kenny Stills in my breakdown of the Dolphins. This is fitting, as most people overlook Stills when setting rosters. He’s a low-floor play, as he could easily see three or four targets and disappoint in a huge way. But he could also see eight or more targets and post the best score among Miami wide receivers, at near-zero ownership. He’s in the conversation in tourneys as a high-variance, but high-upside play.

In the Ravens/Packers game, I remain both “interested in Maclin” and “concerned about volume, if the Ravens’ defense smashes Hundley.” That’s a non-update to basically say, “I still like Maclin, and still feel he is a bit risky.”

In the Lions/Bears game, it looks like no one is on Marvin Jones and Dontrelle Inman. Neither guy has the track record of, say, a Mark Ingram (to where last week we could feel pretty comfortable projecting Ingram for a solid workload), but either guy could be this week’s version of Thielen and Ingram in Week 10 – a guy in a good spot going wildly overlooked. Jones and Inman both have a lower point-per-dollar expectation than Ingram and Thielen had last week in a “best case scenario” (which is pretty much the scenario they each hit). But both guys remain intriguing tourney plays.

I’m souring on Bruce Ellington slightly. He’s still one of the absolute top on-paper point-per-dollar plays this weekend, but I have started to realize that eight to 10 targets from Tom Savage is not enough to lock a guy into an awesome game. I expect a good game from Ellington. I still like him a ton. But I don’t view him as a must-play; instead, I view him as a great play you can likely be happy if you end up with, but that you’ll also likely be fine if you fade.

Wind is a bigger issue in the New York Giants / Kansas City Chiefs game than it is in the Jaguars/Browns game, with Roth currently projecting 20 to 25 MPH winds and 45 MPH gusts. This is enough to knock down expectations for all pass catchers. Kelce, Hill, Shepard, and Engram all have the same ceiling laid out in this article. But their “floor” expectations are slightly lower than they otherwise would have been. I still think each of these four is a great play, but with this wind, it won’t surprise me if one or two disappoints.

After chatting with Levitan on Friday night, I realize Mark Ingram is a better play than he appeared to me when writing this article. Basically: there is a strong chance his “one target in two weeks” is more a “game flow fluke” than a “new team philosophy.” He has a good matchup and should get 20 carries. He may bounce back up to four or five catches as well.

It looks like Rex Burkhead will be chalk – especially on DraftKings. I still think he has shown his ceiling lately, and can only be rostered for a range of “five to 15 points.” I would rather roster higher-upside plays myself, and with the way they Patriots pull surprises on us in their backfield usage, I consider Rex more a tourney play than a cash play. That’s not to say you “have to fade him.” That’s just to say I like him less than most others seem to.

Lastly: Devonta Freeman is out this weekend. If you are playing a slate that includes that Monday night game, Tevin Coleman should be in line for 20+ touches, and he makes for a very solid play.

That wraps up the updates for Week 11!

I’ll see you back here next week – and of course, I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend.

Sunday Morning Strategy Update

This week, there is no running back I feel comfortable locking in for 25+ points. There is no “Le’Veon Bell touching the ball 35 guaranteed times” for us to fall in love with.

Because the DFS community has been conditioned to “pay up at running back” over the last year and a half (doing what was formerly considered a fish move, in fact), most people will pay up for Kareem Hunt or Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara this week, with some people trying to be sneaky by instead paying up for Todd Gurley or LeSean McCoy or Melvin Gordon.

There are things I like about all of those plays. We can make a clear and convincing case for any of those guys putting up 25+ this week. But we can also make a clear and convincing case for any of those guys putting up 12 to 14 points instead – and when I pay around $8k for a running back, I want more than a 50/50 shot at a 20-point game (let alone the 25+ points I would optimally love to lock in for that price).

But there is a “cheat code” this week on DraftKings for an $8k running back who you can practically lock in for 25+ points. That cheat code is “Cleveland running backs.”

Combined, Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell cost $8,500.

Combined, they have scored 24 to 31 DraftKings points in six of their last seven games.

Combined, they average 18 carries and just under seven receptions per game, and have combined for five touchdowns on the year.

The Browns also have no hope of moving the ball through the air against the Jaguars, except through the running backs. This means an inordinately large chunk of the Browns’ offense should flow through these two guys.

This week, I think it’s a sharp play to roster both Browns running backs together on DraftKings. There are other weeks in which I would make the argument that the loss of the extra roster spot is not worth it, even for the points; but I think taking the points makes a lot of sense this week given the lack of true “must have” guys at the high end of the price range (i.e., there are guys who are going to post a nice game, but there are lower floors than normal at the higher end – creating a strange lack of guys you can confidently feel you will “have to have in order to win”).

This goes for cash games and tourneys.

This does not go for FanDuel, where value is generally easier to come by, and I would rather lock in larger individual workloads.

What Does It Mean If Sterling Shepard Is Out?

I think the Giants will try to go with a run-heavy, slow-paced approach for as long as they can in this game – similar to their approach at Denver. If the Giants are able to do this successfully, the loss of Shepard actually lowers the expectations for Evan Engram. Of course, the alternate scenario is that the Chiefs jump out to a big, early lead and force the Giants to the air – in which case, Engram would have a target projection of 10 to 14 (rather than nine to 12 with Shepard in). To be safe, I’m leaving my “likeliest scenario” projection the same for Engram (a floor of around 12 to 14 points, with obvious upside for more), but there is a little more opportunity than normal for broad variance on either side of that (i.e., he could crater completely, or could post a monster game).

Orleans Darkwa could also benefit from a larger locked-in workload if the Giants are able to play this way. They were able to take this approach in Denver because they could slow down the Denver offense, which will be tougher to do against Kansas City. But the wind in this game does help the chances of the Giants keeping things close.

I don’t think either of the Giants’ “starting wide receivers” gets particualrly involved. I think the same four to six targets we could project before will be a safe projection here. Even if the Giants are forced to the air as the game moves along, they should have a full quarter or more of a slow-paced, run-leaning approach, so I just don’t expect the opportunity to grow a ton for either guy.

The expectations for Shane Vereen probably do not change much either, but I did notice him yesterday as a YOLO large-field tourney play. That remains the case if Shepard is missing in action.

About the Author

  • JM Tohline (JMToWin)

  • JM Tohline (Tuh-lean) – DFS alias JMToWin – is a novelist and a DFS player who specializes in high-stakes MLB and NFL tourneys, with a strategy geared toward single-entry play in multi-entry tourneys. He joined the DFS scene at the beginning of the 2014 MLB season, and has since won five DFS championship seats and two separate trips to the Bahamas. His tendency to type a lot of words leads to a corresponding tendency to divulge all his DFS thoughts, strategies, and secrets…which is exactly what he does in his RotoGrinders articles and RotoAcademy courses. You can find JM on Twitter at JMToWin.

Comments

  • whodeyzach82

    Great stuff as always! You have me rethinking my Pats-Raiders megastack.

  • JMToWin

    • x2

      2014 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

    • 2016 FanDuel WFBC Finalist

    @whodeyzach82 said...

    Great stuff as always! You have me rethinking my Pats-Raiders megastack.

    There are definitely ways it makes sense – and probably 95% of the other articles you read will make that case. But I think it’ll be the first place most people look, and will be super popular. And there are definitely clear cases to be made for it not paying off.

  • illinibob1977

    We can all see the “Obvious “ plays, your article helps me see past those. Would not have thought about Miami WR’s for example, but now I’m looking……good stuff.

  • Dizzo1992

    One of my favorites articles to read weekly thanks for your hard work! Any idea when the fanduel expert survey will be posted? That is also one of my favorites to read.

  • Theswans

    I appreciate the extended breakdown that includes your leaning to certain players more in cash, or tourneys, or larger tourneys, etc.!

  • Theman88

    I really liked you going more in depth with your thoughts on the numbers this week. The more there is to use with my own research the better. Thank you for the hard work!

  • srr50

    Love your articles – and i am rethinking my Stacking of philly (Wentz, Ajayi, Jeffrey) Also I had ignored Bruce Ellington, thanks for the heads up.

  • TheJuPrint

    Wait…this article can get better!? LOL. Great stuff as always my man. I also find the touch and target projections the most useful as well as your cash and/or tourney leans. I would maybe like to see at the bottom of the article a summary of players in cash and/or tourney consideration.

  • BigDYo

    Jim – if I was only allowed to read one piece of DFS goodness (which maybe I should start doing because I think I read too much and it hurts my decisioning making) – then it would be your Edge article. The thought process on your roster construction and your pre-kickoff writeup is so incredibly valuable. I am in year 3 of my DFS NFL (tourney only player) and being able to deconstruct the “pros” so I can better deconstruct my own thought process and decision making is far more valuable that just reading an article on top picks. I know this article takes a lot of time and effort for you, but I love it and keep refreshing my browser on thursday in hopes of getting to read it hot off the press

  • JMToWin

    • x2

      2014 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

    • 2016 FanDuel WFBC Finalist

    @illinibob1977 said...

    We can all see the “Obvious “ plays, your article helps me see past those. Would not have thought about Miami WR’s for example, but now I’m looking……good stuff.

    Haha – the first half of this week’s article felt like a freaking wrestling match, trying to squeeze good plays out of those early games. But…man. I think we got some good stuff in those games!

    The later games are more obvious – but there are definitely some hidden gems up top this week.

  • rlub

    I appreciate what feels like an increase in distinction between cash/GPP plays as well as good Fan Duel versus DK plays.

  • rlub

    Delete

  • JMToWin

    • x2

      2014 DraftKings FBWC Finalist

    • 2016 FanDuel WFBC Finalist

    @TheJuPrint said...

    I would maybe like to see at the bottom of the article a summary of players in cash and/or tourney consideration.

    This is typically an evolving list – and one thing I hate is to box myself into a thought I “have to side with because I told people I would.” I think posting my cash/tourney lists on Thursday night (which is about the earliest I would have time to get to it, after recovering from Edge researching/writing each week!) could cause trouble for my thought process and for the value I’m able to provide.

    With that said(!)…

    That’s one of the reasons the Edge was up a couple hours late this week! One of the ideas I was brainstorming through – for “how to make my contributions to RotoGrinders even better next year(!)” – was to put together an evolving Cash Game Consideration and a tiered Tourney Consideration list.

    This would be a list that goes up Saturday morning – when I have a fairly clear idea of where my head is (lately, I’ve been using Thursday to reread the Edge myself about five or six times, as I often miss stuff while researching/writing it that I pick up when rereading – then I use Friday to start working on actual construction). And the list would shift and grow every few hours, all the way up to kickoff.

    Would that be valuable?

    If you guys think so, let me know. I’ll take the idea for a test drive one weekend. (Can’t be this weekend because I’ll be in Nashville, and can’t be next weekend because I’ll be with family for Thanksgiving. But maybe we could test it out in Week 13 or Week 14.

  • rlub

    I love this article, but I also like easy-to-read lists. It would be great to get a weekly summary/grid/list of your favorite plays with notations about which site you like them on and if you like them for cash and/or GPPs. I don’t mind if this “grid” changes as your thoughts evolve throughout the week.

  • TheJuPrint

    That would be awesome! All of your thoughts are valuable and I’ve learned a ton reading your courses and articles and greatly appreciate you sharing with us. An evolving list is exactly what I had in mind but I didn’t want to come off as adding any more pressure to what you already provide. But I think most would agree, as much as we appreciate the edge you provide already, that getting an idea of your thought process as new information is released throughout the week would provide an even greater edge.

  • Jsgiles79

    I’ve been reading for years and this was maybe my favorite article ever. I kept thinking that throughout reading it, so when I saw you question at the end, I wanted to put my 2 cents in.

  • Elliotb005

    It would be good to hear how you decide your breakdown of GPP vs. cash exposure and if your breakdown of the slate alters that at all. Also enjoyed your breakdown of the milly maker winning lineup. Great work!

  • wllmll

    Love the evolving list idea

  • JimmyDick85

    Great stuff, as always, JM. Really appreciate the efforts you’ve made this year to allow your readers to get even deeper into your thought process. One thing I’d be curious to hear more about is your thoughts around further research through the rest of the week following publication of the NFL Edge, especially as it relates to players you have less conviction on (e.g. “I’m on the fence about player X, I plan to look deeper at A, B, and C over the next couple days”). As the week progresses, it feels like DFS players are exposed to more and more information and different takes on players, and while you can luck into the right information sometimes, it seems to introduce a lot of opportunities to be biased one way or the other based on the most recent take you might happen upon. So, long way of asking… after the 40+ hours that go into this piece, where do you go next?

    Specific to this week… I’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts on Cousins vs. the Saints pass defense. It’s definitely a pace down spot, as you point out, but while the Saints look good on DVOA numbers, how certain can we be that the pass defense is actually this good? To date this year, we have not seen them shut down a high quality QB (Newton, arguably, though he has been… volatile). Lattimore looks like a stud, but Cousins spreads the ball around so we aren’t worried about a top outside guy getting shut down, and targets tend to funnel to the middle of the field… seems to set up well for something like a Cousins-Thompson-Crowder GPP stack in a game where WAS is expected to be trailing…

  • SilversurferVII

    Thanks, Jim. Love this format and the deeper look into your thought process during roster construction. I’m learning a lot from you. BTW – if you don’t pay up for Brady at QB in cash this week, might one play Gabbert there? Thanks!

  • bignick

    WOW just WOW I love the new format, and want to thank you for all your incite I found it to be very useful.

  • nevershower

    @JMToWin said...

    This would be a list that goes up Saturday morning – when I have a fairly clear idea of where my head is (lately, I’ve been using Thursday to reread the Edge myself about five or six times, as I often miss stuff while researching/writing it that I pick up when rereading – then I use Friday to start working on actual construction). And the list would shift and grow every few hours, all the way up to kickoff.

    Would that be valuable?

    If you guys think so, let me know.

    JM, keep up the great work, as always. The list you mentioned would be an amazing asset for anyone playing DFS because of all the analysis & depth NFL Edge provides….often times there is SO MUCH info in the Edge (and Expert Square Table) that it can be challenging to narrow down my own list, so to get a glimpse of what a pro player is thinking on Saturday would be extremely valuable!

  • teamwillow

    I’m going all in on the Broncos Bengals game. When I hit everyone will be shocked.

  • DaPharmer

    It sounds like it could be of tremendous value, especially when coupled with your thoughts in the Edge!

  • hde0703

    Like the insights to your thought process! The vid series you and Gimino made are PRICELESS I’ve watched them several times this year!

    I’m in for the list or grid idea as well, with FD and DK distinctions, cash vs tourney plays, and a “notes” or brief digest of why you pick this player or that player

    Keep it up and I’ll keep subscribing

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