NFL AutoMattek Absolutes: Week 14

Davis Mattek takes you through his top plays for the upcoming NFL slate. Part of the popular Swolecast, Davis will give insight into his mindset to help you build better NFL lineups.

Week 14


Alex Smith

That’s right, the same Alex Smith that had one of the worst five-game stretches of his career is the very first player being mentioned in this week’s Absolutes. It is possible that I could be falling victim to what Evan Silva always says on the #Swolecast: “whatever happened last week is what the public is on this week”. It is certainly true that Smith is not going to have a 70-yard run this week, and that 40 DK points might be the most that he will ever score in a game; hell, he probably only projects for half of that this week. All of those caveats put out there, I still think it is pretty clear that Smith is a phenomenal play this week. The offense has really shifted away from using Kareem Hunt like a workhorse. In a tight, high scoring game last week, Smith threw the ball 33 times and Hunt had only nine carries. Andy Reid might not be at the top of his game, but Smith is certainly at the helm of this offense. Per Chris Raybon from 4for4: “Since Week 4, Alex Smith accounts for a Russell Wilson-like 82.2% of the Chiefs’ offensive yardage and all 17 of their offensive TDs.”

It is this matchup that makes Smith a superior play (or at least stick out compared to similarly priced options around him). The Raiders defense, and their pass defense in particular, are historically bad. They rank 32nd in total defensive DVOA and 32nd in pass defense DVOA. They have one singular interception on the year, they allow the fourth-most net adjusted yards per attempt and are tied for the seventh-most yards allowed per play. This is just an overall bad defensive unit playing against a Chiefs team that has to win to have any shot of making the playoffs. Smith is responsible for 24 of the team’s 30 total offensive touchdowns and with a team total approaching 26 points, that suggests slightly over a 2-touchdown projection with massive yardage upside against this bad Raiders defense.

Blaine Gabbert

It is Week 14 of the NFL season and here we are, discussing Blaine Gabbert and his fantasy prospects. The end of the NFL season is actually almost always my favorite because players like Gabbert come into play; the same guys we are looking at in Week 2 of the preseason have stayed on NFL rosters and benefited through injuries and attrition to finally become playable. We have already began the backup RB roulette wheel last week with Kenyan Drake and Jamaal Williams. Gabbert is a representation of that at the QB position although to be fair, individual talent and skill is more important for fantasy points at QB than probably any other position. Gabbert is not going to play exactly like Carson Palmer, but he has been able to get decent results through three games thus far with 6 touchdown passes and at least 12 DK points in all three games. He actually was able to generate 241 passing yards and two touchdowns against the Jags D, which was very impressive.

Do I think that Gabbert has turned some magical corner and is now a legitimately good NFL QB? Absolutely not. However in the context of this Cardinals offense, he has what it takes to generate fantasy points especially against a Titans D that ranks 25th in pass defense DVOA. The Titans have allowed the eight-most passing yards and seventh-most passing touchdowns; some of their efficiency metrics put them more in the middle of the pack, but the volume numbers suggest what we already know: they are not very good at defending passing plays. Kerwynn Williams seemed more effective than the now-injured Adrian Peterson, which should provide a boost to the entire Cardinals offense, an offense that does not contain enough dynamic playmakers to help buoy Gabbert’s fantasy stock in a good matchup at home to the Titans.

Also Consider: Philip Rivers has been blistering hot for three straight weeks and is likely to be virtually unowned against a middling Washington defense this week; I would not really be interested in him for cash games at that price, but I think he is great for tournaments. DeShone Kizer and Jimmy Garoppolo are both cheap quarterbacks in really good individual matchups. Kizer has the edge with actual talented wide receivers (Coleman and Gordon) while Jimmy G is the more naturally talented QB with a better offense for fantasy production.

Running Backs

Melvin Gordon

This is now the fourth week in a row where we have not had Le’Veon Bell in the main slate of games on DraftKings, which has largely forced me into writing up and playing Todd Gurley. Gurley has performed decently but not great and the same has been true of Melvin Gordon. While the Chargers offense has exploded over the last three weeks, Gordon has no more than 14.6 DK points. I think that this week, the trend will go back to more of what we have seen with MG3 before. He is not a game-breaking talent or someone who is likely to bust off multiple Kamara-like runs in a game, but even with the emergence of Ekeler, he still owns a 14% target share of the Chargers offense.

The Chargers are big “home” favorites against Washington (I have to say “home” because the Chargers barely have a home fan base), as they are favored by six points over the apparently very bad Washington professional football team. Taking Gordon in cash this week over our next running back is not something that I would personally do. However, Gordon is attached to the better offense with a better team total (in fact the highest of the week in the main slate) and should have more opportunities to turn his touches into touchdowns. You know it is a gross week at running back when Gordon and his 3.7 yards per carry is receiving this sort of high projection, but I don’t think he is approaching must-play status.

LeSean McCoy

McCoy is my go-to RB on the slate, which doesn’t sound that bold until you consider some of the surrounding circumstances. Gurley and MG3 are still in the slate and they have similar volumes to McCoy and both of them are going to have better TD equity than McCoy does. McCoy is also likely to have Nathan Peterman at quarterback this weekend instead of Tyrod. All of that being said, I am very confident that McCoy remains a smash play this weekend. There is no official line for this game as it is unclear who is starting at QB, but I would not be surprised if Indy was favored on the road. I know that all of this sounds shaky at best, but I am just trying to give a clear depiction of the play and to also describe how gross the running backs on this slate are.

Despite all of the shaky circumstances, McCoy still has a 17% target share of all of Buffalo’s passes. In the previous game that Peterman started, McCoy was able to have one of his best games of the year (which was obviously helped by the game getting out of hand), but against the Colts defense that ranks 24th in defensive DVOA, I think McCoy’s volume should play out in a way that helps him generate fantasy points. The big concern with McCoy is the potential loss of goal line work, but Mike Tolbert is still banged up while Travaris Cadet is unlikely to play with a concussion. If both Tolbert and Cadet are out, I am even more confident in an 18-carry, six-target performance from McCoy against the middling Colts.

Giovani Bernard

Just as last week we had Kenyan Drake as the absolute lock, must-play injury fill-in running back, we are likely to going to have that with Giovani Bernard this week. The Cincy Jungle reported on what happened with Joe Mixon getting injured as follows: “Mixon’s (17) concussion turned Bernard (44) into the Bengals’ only option at running back. It is unfortunate we didn’t get to see Mixon in the second half of either Steelers game, but Bernard reminded us all why he is such a valuable backup to have in this league. He finished the game with 97 total yards on 15 touches.” Bernard himself is a talented running back but the main reason we would be focused on playing Gio at home against the Bears is that he would be one of the few running backs to get all of his teams’ carries.

At this point in the season, we are going to start getting injury fill-in running backs on every single slate and it will shift your lineup dollars to lower-priced running backs and to more expensive wide receivers. The only other running back on the Bengals roster is rookie Brian Hill, who was cut from the Falcons; he is a decent running back, but the Bengals’ usage in the past suggest that they are unlikely to make a 3rd stringer a significant part of the game plan. The fact of the matter is that if Mixon does not play, Bernard will probably be the highest owned player in cash games and he should be.

Mike Davis

I am as shocked as any one that Mike Davis is the one running back that has seemed to emerge for the Seahawks this year but last week he relegated Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and J.D. McKissic to 15 snaps combined. At this point in the season, or really at any point of any season, a running back that seems like he will get around 80% of the total backfield work for a good NFL team has to be considered when he is under $5,000 on DraftKings and Davis is priced all the way down at $3,700. Similar to Drake last week, he didn’t necessarily project like an amazing play in a vacuum, but his price and projected workload make him a cash game option.

Davis was a former standout at South Carolina with 1,183 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore while adding 70 receptions in his three-year career. He held on as a back-up running back for the 49ers before being cut, grabbed by the Chargers and then cut again before re-emerging as apparently the best running back on the Steelers’ roster. The Jags are clearly a terrible matchup for any team but they actually have been vulnerable against the run. They rank 23rd in defensive DVOA against the run and allow the 5th highest yards per carry. I am not crazy about playing him, but the price is certainly right.

Also Consider: I continue to believe that Christian McCaffrey is right on the edge of having an absolutely massive DFS day and all that we are waiting on is this workload. This has potential to be that spot. Lamar Miller has an absolute dream matchup against the league’s fastest team in the 49ers at home. I actually think for the first time this year, Miller is a legit option in cash games with Foreman and Blue likely not playing. Alfred Morris remains the lead back against the truly pitiful New York Giants though his receiving upside does not exist.

Wide Receivers

DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins is simply the best play this week. Running back, wide receiver, quarterback, tight end… Hopkins is the best combination of ceiling, floor, price and matchup of any player on the slate. Playing San Francisco in and of itself is enough to make any normal WR1 a better play than they normally are, but for a player who gets as much volume as Hopkins does, it takes him to the next tier of projection even though his efficiency takes a steep decline with Tom Savage at QB. This is a player who was able to grind to 17 DK points against Patrick Peterson WHILE Tom Savage was the one throwing him passes.

This week, Hopkins gets to matchup against Dontae Johnson, and PFF grades him as having a 61% advantage over (done by a comparison of their cumulative grades at their position over the course of the season). Johnson allows .29 fantasy points per route ran against and a 62% catch rate. San Francisco ranks 26th in DVOA against WR1s and they are also the fastest offense in all of football and have conceded the fourth-most plays. Quite simply put: Hopkins is the best play and all of the available data is going to back that up.

Larry Fitzgerald

I would assume that the first thought anyone reading this would have would be, “omg, there is no way I am going to play anyone who is getting the ball from Gabbert”. Well first off, Larry Fitzgerald has played with Blaine Gabbert equivalents for essentially his entire career and that has not slowed him much. Secondly, Fitzgerald is basically the NFC equivalent of DeAndre Hopkins in that his massive target share is able to dwarf the fact that he is relatively inefficient. Fitzgerald has a 25% target share over the course of the year and in three games with Gabbert, has 28 targets with one of those games coming against Jacksonville. As good as Larry is, he just wasn’t ever going to get the best of that Jags D.

Fitz is set to square off against Logan Ryan and the Titans. Ryan has been particularly bad for a slot corner this season, allowing .31 fantasy points per route ran against and letting 64% of targets in his coverage be turned into catches. The biggest thing with Fitz is not touchdowns or efficiency, but it is simply turning those eight-yard throws into catches. If he is able to catch 75-80% of his targets in a given week, chances are that he will be looking at a 18-point game. Fitzgerald is one of the best volume projected wide receivers week to week and at this price in a plus matchup, I am inclined to believe he is a cash play.

Josh Gordon

The superlatives surrounding Josh Gordon’s performance last week against Casey Heyward could not have been any more dramatic for a wide receiver who turned in a 4-for-85 performance, but almost all of them were deserved. Gordon hasn’t played organized football in years, returns to practice and then immediately walks into one of the most difficult matchups there can be for a flanker wide receiver and looks like he didn’t miss a step. Gordon has always been a freak athlete and talented beyond belief and it appears that his absence from the game has not stopped him. That being said: he went from being $4,100 to $5,500 on the basis of 11 targets. Will I be playing him in cash? Almost for sure yes. Will I be overweight on him in tournaments? Likely not.

There are so many factors going on with the Browns that I think it is possible in any given week for them to just tank. Corey Coleman has always looked the part when healthy and I think he makes an excellent leverage play in tournaments against Gordon. However, Gordon does have the highest graded PFF matchup this week against Kevin King, who allows .36 fantasy points per route ran against and stepped immediately into leading his team in targets after a long layoff. I don’t think that fading him in cash with that upside and his expected ownership is a realistic option.

Josh Doctson / Dede Westbrook

The pickings at cheap wide receiver this week are sort of brutal, which is why I am looking more towards a double TE or cheap RB in the flex spot this week so that I can stay in the mid range at wide receiver. However, there are two guys that are nteresting to me in Doctson and Westbrook. For Doctson, I simply believe that he is more than a touchdown scorer. He has been efficient at generating the few targets he gets into touchdowns this season as he has scored five touchdowns on only 45 targets. He has also transitioned into being a starting WR for Washington to replace Terrelle Pryor and I don’t think that is fully priced into his salary. He will be up against Casey Heyward (the same matchup that Josh Gordon had last week), which puts him in a difficult spot so this is solely an assumption on an expected volume increase rather than betting on matchup.

Westbrook is the exact sort of player that has tortured the Seahawks throughout the reign of the Legion of Boom. Manny Sanders, TY Hilton, these sorts of players have generally been able to succeed on low aDOT routes against Seattle, which is not even at full strength due to real injury problems. Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns both did not practice on Wednesday and if they both sat out, Dede’s 19 targets from the last two weeks combined could continue to be his norm. At $4,200 on DK, I actually think that he is borderline a cash play even in a very difficult matchup.

Also Consider: Robby Anderson has seen 22 targets the last two weeks and gets to face a Denver team that has allowed the most passing touchdowns in the NFL this year. I think he is an underrated volume play this week. Dez Bryant is down below $6K on DraftKings and I think that even though Dak and the overall offense has been horrible without Zeke, his target share is likely to win out in this game against the Giants. Sterling Shepard had a bad game with Geno Smith at the helm and saw a huge drop in price on DK, but I would expect him to project for another 7-11 targets in this game against Dallas and he would be undervalued if that projection holds true.

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce

Kelce is just clearly the best tight end play of the week and when looking at all of the plays at WR/RB/TE, he is honestly the best $6.5K to $7K player of the bunch. He is in the top 20 of all players in Weighted Opportunity Ranking as well as in total Air Yards. He has the best target share numbers of any tight end and even better than some WR1s that we have been using in daily fantasy. The matchup against the historically bad Raiders defense is simply the icing on the cake for Kelce as he has been able to produce in both tough and easy matchups this year. There is simply not a player in the NFL that can handle him in single coverage and with the deep threat of Tyreek Hill, opposing defenses often put him in that position.

Editor’s Note: Ertz was cleared to practice but remains in the concussion protocol.

Trey Burton

Zach Ertz is currently dealing with a concussion after the Eagles’ Week 13 contest and in his only prior experience with a concussion, he missed the next weeks’ game. The Eagles are in the driver’s seat for their division and for the conference title so I don’t imagine they will pressure Ertz into playing if it is a borderline call. That would mean that Burton is likely to draw the start and if he does in fact start, then he is one of the chalkiest-locks of the week. In his last start for Ertz, he received two end zone targets and four targets total. He also had seven targets last week after Ertz left the game, which reasserts the idea that he will step right into Ertz’s role were he unable to suit up.

Defense/Special Teams

1. Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jags have received a massive dip in price because they are facing Russell Wilson, but it would be a mistake to overlook them. They are still historically great at rushing the passer and generating turnovers and even playing against a good QB doesn’t change that. Wilson still takes a ton of sacks and turns over the ball at a decent clip.

2. Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals have not been a great defense this season but rank 18th in total defensive DVOA. They are in a low-total game at home against Mitch Trubisky and the Bears, who have ran a relatively inefficient offense over the last month of the season. I don’t think the Bengals have a particularly high ceiling, but I do think they present a decent floor for their price.

3. Los Angeles Rams – The Rams are in a similar corollary to the Jags in that they are normally around $3.5K but are receiving a big dip in price this week because they are in a tougher matchup against Wentz and the Eagles. However, the Rams are great at pressuring the QB and the Eagles are a pass-heavy offense in close game scripts, which would suggest that the Rams are a little undervalued this week.

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About the Author

  • DavisMattek (Davis Mattek)

  • Davis Mattek is a graduate of Kansas State University and a long time grinder, formerly ranked in the top 100 of DFS players on the RotoGrinders leaderboard. He has been involved in the industry for over five years and specializes in the NFL and soccer.


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