STLCards' NFL Field Stretcher: Week 14
Justin Van Zuiden, also known as STLCardinals84, has proven time and time again that he’s one of the best tournament players in the DFS industry. Join him each week as he gives you a glimpse into the mind of a GPP maestro.
Welcome back to the NFL Field Stretcher for Week #14! This is a really intriguing week where we are going to see a LOT of similar DFS builds out there. Injury situations have created some very popular spots for value, and lineup construction is going to be of primary importance in GPP contests. I’ll touch on this at a more in-depth level below, but let’s first start with our usual look at Vegas odds for the week.
The Week 14 Slate – An Overview
LAC -14 vs. CIN
PIT -10 at OAK
NO -9 1/2 at TB
NE -7 at MIA
KC -6 1/2 vs. BAL
Highest Game Totals
NO/TB – 55 1/2
BAL/KC – 51 1/2
PIT/OAK – 51 1/2
ATL/GB – 50
IND/HOU – 49 1/2
Highest Implied Team Totals
NO – 32 1/2
LAC – 31
PIT – 31
KC – 29
GB – 27 1/2
HOU – 27
NE – 27
Lowest Implied Team Totals
CIN – 17
NYJ – 17 1/2
ARI – 19
WAS – 19
MIA – 20
A few notes on the above:
1) The highest implied team totals this week correspond pretty much directly with the largest favorites. This means we aren’t expected to see a lot of close, higher-scoring games; many of them are projected to be decided by a full touchdown or more.
2) It’s rare to see Baltimore on the list of highest game totals given how good their defense is, but such is life when you play the Chiefs.
3) How the mighty have fallen… The Bengals looked like a legitimate playoff team early in the year, but their defense has gone in the tank, and now their offense is dealing with a rash of injuries. Suddenly, the Bengals have the lowest team total on the board and are huge underdogs against the Chargers.
4) Don’t sleep on the GB/ATL and IND/HOU games as strong potential shootouts this week. The Packers might have new life with McCarthy gone, while the Colts and Texans logged 71 total points in their first head-to-head matchup.
Addressing The Chalky Lineup Build
There is going to be a standard lineup build out there in Week 14, and it’s going to be one that involves saving a lot of salary at the running back position and spending up at virtually every other spot. Jeff Wilson and Jaylen Samuels are both pushing 30% projected ownership right now, and it’s hard to make a case against them because of their likely roles and mega cheap salary tags. I can’t even really endorse them as “chalk to fade” in the next section.
What I would encourage is this: If you are building a lineup that includes some of these chalky value running backs, don’t be afraid to take a stand with the rest of your lineup. Go with an off the board QB/WR pairing. Go with a sneaky low-cost defense. Do something bold. If you are putting Wilson and Samuels in there and then also filling in the rest of your lineup with chalkier plays, it’s going to be very difficult for you to take down a top ten score in a GPP this week. Be bold with the rest of your lineup, or go underweight on one of the chalky RB plays if you have a strong feeling.
Alternatively, paying up at running back is going to be an EXTREMELY contrarian strategy this week. Can you find a lineup you like with Elliott and McCaffrey, for example, at running back? If you can, that has extreme potential as a leverage route in tournament contests.
Leveraging Projected Ownership – Chalk To Fade?
Saquon Barkley (18% pOWN DK / 18% pOWN FD) – There’s no doubt that Barkley has been great this season. He has been as advertised coming out of Penn State and is currently riding a streak of three consecutive 100+ yard rushing games. He’s plenty involved in the passing game, too. There’s little to pick on with Barkley’s usage in the New York offense. However, this is a difficult matchup against a Washington rush defense that is very stout, and Barkley had just 38 rushing yards in the first meeting between these two teams. He did salvage something of a day with his receiving involvement, which is a possibility here, but Barkley also comes in with a more expensive tag than we have seen in the past. The high price tag makes a fade a lot more reasonable at this level of projected ownership.
Keenan Allen (28% pOWN DK / 20% pOWN FD) – There’s nothing to nitpick here as far as usage or matchup goes. As long as the game between the Bengals and Chargers is competitive, Allen should see a healthy dose of targets. However, I’m banking my GPP dollars on the likelihood of a blowout in this game. The Chargers are two touchdown favorites against a Bengals team that has seemingly given up on the season, as their defense has been worse than abysmal over the last month (after just being normal abysmal over the first two months), while their offense has been ravaged by injuries to key players. This profiles as a spot where the Chargers will look to get their second and third string running backs in Ekeler and Jackson rolling, just in case they are needed down the stretch. I don’t expect the Chargers to have to throw the ball a ton in the second half. This is a very risky fade, but it makes some sense with Allen approaching 30% ownership in some spots.
Eric Ebron (15% pOWN DK / 20% pOWN FD) – There is some risk with an Ebron fade, but we all know how volatile he has been throughout his career. There is some potential leverage in fading Ebron at 15-20% ownership, especially since it appears as though he has been dealing with an illness this week. Ebron is no longer priced like a value play, and we will need him to approach the 90 yard + a touchdown territory in order to reach value. He’s certainly capable of doing it against a Texans team that has struggled against the position at times, but I’ll almost certainly take a shot on at least being underweight on a player who has never proven that he can do this consistently throughout his career — no matter the situation. I understand that Doyle is out and this is a different offense, but would it surprise anyone to see Ebron with a three catch, 25 yard disappointment this week?
Packers Defense (10% pOWN DK / 10% pOWN FD) – What has the Packers defense done all year to warrant being one of the chalkiest options on the board? I think the ATL/GB game has a chance to be one of the highest scoring games of the week, and I don’t mind stacking up players from both sides. Whether they end up at this ownership or not, the Green Bay defense gets the “X” in my player pool for Week 14… period.
Leveraging Projected Ownership – Low-Owned Gems
Deshaun Watson (8% pOWN DK / 8% pOWN FD) – The Texans’ skill players all have fairly low ownership projections this week, and I think we can consider the likes of Watson, Miller, and Hopkins as lower-owned GPP gems. The Texans and Colts played a 71 point shootout back in Week 4, and the Texans came into that game at 0-3. They haven’t lost a game since. Watson accounted for 375 passing yards, 41 rushing yards, and three total touchdowns in that first meeting. The Colts like to play at a quick tempo, and this game could very well be a shootout once again. Fire up some Texans!
Aaron Rodgers (5% pOWN DK / 5% pOWN FD) – Rejoice, Packers fans! Aaron Rodgers is free from the coaching disaster that is Mike McCarthy! A ton has been made about his “body language issues” this year, and people are interpreting that as though he does not care about winning. I’m not buying that take, as I simply think this is a frustrated player who is really upset about NOT winning. We often see teams come out with renewed energy after a coach gets fired, and we might see some points out of this Green Bay unit in Week 14. They have a four touchdown implied team total, and the Falcons do not have a solid defense. I’ll take some 5% owned Aaron Rodgers in my GPP builds.
Spencer Ware (5% pOWN DK / 8% pOWN FD) – Last week, we couldn’t get enough of Spencer Ware. This week, Ware is getting shoved aside in favor of trendy plays like Jeff Wilson and Jaylen Samuels. This is true because of two factors: A) Ware largely under-performed last week and B) The Chiefs draw a tough matchup against the Ravens in Week 14. However, Ware played on about three-quarters of the offensive snaps last week, and the Chiefs still have an implied team total of 30 points in this matchup. This is yet another case where we can take advantage of recency bias when building GPP lineups. The Ravens have a tough defense, but I think this is a sneaky spot for Ware to give us 100 total yards and a score.
Nick Chubb (5% pOWN DK / 5% pOWN FD) – If Ware is a good example of recency bias in DFS, then we can argue that Nick Chubb is perhaps an even better one. Chubb had been trending toward 20% ownership over the last few weeks, and I actually included him in the “chalk to fade” section a week ago. It was easy to see a letdown game coming in a difficult matchup against the Texans, and that is exactly what happened. The overall usage is still encouraging, though, and we can attribute last week’s lower snap count to the fact that Cleveland fell way behind and had to go to the air. Chubb has a world of talent and should push for 20 touches as long as this game stays close, and I think the Browns will have a little more success moving the ball this week against the Panthers.
Tre’Quan Smith (8% pOWN DK / 8% pOWN FD) – Smith got goose-egged last week against the Cowboys, but I’m not viewing it as a long-term concern. The Saints were terrible offensively in that game, and Drew Brees completed a season-low 18 passes. This matchup is MUCH more favorable against Tampa Bay’s weak defensive unit, and Smith has played on at least two-thirds of the offensive snaps in every game since Week 5. People are jumping ship here, and I’m happy to try to rescue those that are still aboard.
Adam Humphries (10% pOWN DK / 8% pOWN FD) – He’s not as sexy as Chris Godwin, but Humphries clearly sees a boost in the Tampa Bay offense with DeSean Jackson likely sidelined again. He’s a nice safety valve for Jameis Winston, and Humphries has actually found the end zone in three straight contests. If you’re looking to swerve off the popular play in Godwin, give Humphries a look as a GPP pivot play in a game where Tampa Bay will likely be forced to the air often. They should have more success through the air than on the ground against the New Orleans defense.
Matt LaCosse (5% pOWN DK / 5% pOWN FD) – LaCosse became a trendy value selection a week ago, and he proceeded to lay a complete GOOSE EGG in a favorable matchup against the Bengals. That is going to make everyone jump ship heading into Week #14, but there are positive signs here. LaCosse played on about 80% of the offensive snaps against Cincinnati, and the matchup is again favorable against a 49ers team that ranks poorly against the pass and ranks in the bottom third of the league in DVOA against tight ends. Denver’s tight ends have shown upside in flashes this season, and this is the time to zig when everyone zags in GPP formats.
His projected ownership is a bit higher than I expected, but I do like Amari Cooper a good bit against Philadelphia’s injury-ravaged secondary. His big play ability is huge for this Dallas offense, and I think he shows up for this important divisional battle.
Top Spots to Gain Positive Correlation/Stacks
Deshaun Watson + DeAndre Hopkins – I’ve already made my thoughts clear on the Texans this week, so this correlation should be no surprise. The Watson/Hopkins pairing has immense upside against the Colts, and you could use a guy like Demaryius Thomas for value, though he does look a few steps slow right now. In any case, I expect the surging Texans to put up plenty of points, and the Watson/Hopkins combination should have plenty to do with it.
IND/HOU Stacks – If you want to take those Texans stacks a step further, don’t be afraid to roll out some players on the Indianapolis side. I have already discussed Eric Ebron as potential chalk to fade, but I have no problem including him if you are looking to game stack this contest. You could consider the likes of Hilton and Luck as well, but I’m not that interested in the Colts’ running attack, which is unlikely to get anything going against a Houston team that is very solid against the run. Luck logged 464 passing yards while the team rushed for just 41 yards in the first meeting between these teams, so it might be wise to focus on the passing attack on both sides, with maybe a little Lamar Miller thrown in.
ATL/GB Stacks – I like this game to be the sneaky shootout of the week. Green Bay should look to press more offensively with their new coach, and the Atlanta defense has been a sieve for much of the 2018 season. I also think running some Green Bay stacks back with an Atlanta player or two is appealing, especially if the Green Bay defense is going to be a chalky selection in GPP formats. Julio Jones obviously makes the most sense on the Atlanta side, while the likes of Coleman, Smith, Sanu, and Ridley are reasonable GPP darts in a game stack situation. Rodgers, Jones, and Adams are all fine plays on the Green Bay side of things, too. While they are expensive, there is no shortage of value out there this week so that we can fit those stacks into our lineups.
Jameis Winston + Mike Evans and/or Chris Godwin and/or Adam Humphries – We know one thing every week: Tampa Bay is not going to be shy about chucking the football. They’ve had to deal with injuries and changes at the quarterback position, but they still continue to fire away. As a team, they had over 400 passing yards in the first meeting between these two teams, as Tampa Bay grabbed a shocking season-opening win. I don’t mind pairing Winston with any of Evans, Godwin, or Humphries here, and I think you can pair Winston with two pass catchers to get a little more differentiation in your lineup if you wish. I expect the Saints to come out with a focused effort after losing last week, and that might mean that we see Tampa Bay playing from behind — which would only help the passing game.
Jeff Wilson + Courtland Sutton – If you think San Francisco can get out to a lead on Denver, we can go with the SF RB / DEN WR combination. It’s a little wonky to consider a RB / opposing WR as a correlated play, but it certainly is if the game flow goes that way. Both of these players will be popular, so you could maybe switch Sutton to LaCosse at TE or Hamilton as a WR if you are looking for a lower-owned play. The good news about this SF/DEN game is that you can certainly get some affordable pieces from either offense, and that gives us some GPP intrigue.
Phillip Lindsay + DEN D – Alternatively, if you think that Denver can get out to a lead on San Francisco, feel free to pair up Lindsay with the Denver defense. This pairing will carry less combined ownership than the chalky Wilson/Sutton pairing, and it’s nicely correlated. The San Francisco offense has had its share of problems due to injuries of late, and Lindsay has been running rampant on opposing defenses with plenty of big play ability. It would be nice if Lindsay was playing on a larger percentage of snaps, but he’s been very productive even in a more limited snap role.
Additional Injuries, News, Notes, and Late Week Updates
2) Michael Thomas is good to go after a mid-week injury designation.
Curating a Weekly Player Pool
As I did last week, I will list what could be used as a general GPP player pool in this section. Do not think of this as a “be all, end all” list, and I encourage you to read the rest of the article as opposed to just skipping down to this section.
Note that the “tiers” are loosely used here and are based on DK pricing. If you are playing on FD, a “high end” guy might be more “mid range” over there, or vise versa.
High End – Drew Brees
High End – Travis Kelce
Value – Matt LaCosse
High End – LAC, BUF
Mid Range and Value – NYJ, WAS
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