STLCards' NFL Field Stretcher: Week 6
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.
11:30 AM UPDATE – Grab some Latavius Murray with the surprise news that Cook is inactive.
Welcome back to the NFL Field Stretcher for Week #6! This is shaping up to be one of the trickier weeks we have had so far, and it’s going to take a few spiders to help us untangle this web of games. There is a lot of interesting stuff to discuss, and this is also the time of year where injuries start to play a bigger role. We will need to be mindful of updates as we get closer to Sunday lineup lock.
Also, I want to provide one observation from the Thursday game. Wow, Saquon Barkley is good. Wow, the rest of the Giants’ team is abysmal. All right, we can carry on now.
Grab your favorite beverage, and let’s get down to business!
The Week 6 Slate – An Overview
MIN -10 1/2 vs. ARI
HOU -10 vs. BUF
LAR -7 at DEN
GB -9 1/2 vs. SF (Monday)
Highest Game Totals
KC/NE – 59 1/2 (Sunday Night)
TB/ATL – 57 1/2
PIT/CIN – 51 1/2
LAR/DEN – 51 1/2
SEA/OAK – 48 1/2
Highest Implied Team Totals
NE – 31 1/2 (Sunday Night)
ATL – 30
LAR – 29
KC – 28 (Sunday Night)
TB – 27
CIN – 27
MIN – 27
Lowest Implied Team Totals
BUF – 15 1/2
ARI – 16
SF – 18 1/2 (Monday)
TEN – 19
DAL – 19
MIA – 19
A few notes on the above:
1) We have an interesting contrast this week, with a lot of teams having fairly high totals and a lot of teams having fairly low totals. However, we don’t have a lot of large spreads. This means we have quite a few high-scoring teams facing off against each other (TB/ATL, PIT/CIN), and a few low-scoring teams facing off against each other (BAL/TEN, JAX/DAL).
2) Based on the above, expect a lot of game stacks this week in GPP contests. Also, expect a few games to get largely ignored by the masses.
3) Vegas still isn’t respecting the Bills despite their two wins. The losses have been ugly.
4) It sure would be nice if the KC/NE game was on the main slate.
5) I’ve been beating the drum that Dallas is largely terrible all season long. The league has figured out their quarterback, and they have zero reliable pass catchers. Outside of Ezekiel Elliott, this offense is complete garbage. It’s funny to see them with a 19 point implied team total in a home game.
6) The relatively high total in the SEA/OAK game is noteworthy. A lot of times, you see jet lag with these games over in London, and it will be interesting to see how that game plays out.
You Get Your Own Section, Julio
There have been two hot-button topics on social media this week with regards to NFL data. The first has been on the importance of opposing defenses and whether or not they matter, a discussion which I think is somewhat silly on the surface. We’ll ignore that one, and instead focus some energy on the constant enigma that is Julio Jones.
Let’s start with the obvious positives. This guy is an extremely talented wide receiver who is clearly the go-to option on the whole for Matt Ryan. He ranks 12th in the NFL in receptions, 7th in targets, and third in receiving yards. He’s a huge part of this team. Jones also draws a great matchup this week against a Bucs team that he shredded for over 200 yards in one of their regular season meetings a year ago.
It’s not all glamorous, though. Jones is the only player in the top 50 of the NFL in receiving yards that does not have a touchdown this season. This isn’t exactly a new thing, either. Jones scored just three touchdowns in 2017, with two of those being in the aforementioned big game against Tampa Bay. He scored just six the year prior. That gives him nine touchdowns over his last 36 regular season games. One touchdown every four games is not going to cut the mustard for an elite NFL wide receiver, and 36 games isn’t exactly a small sample size.
There’s been a crowd calling this “variance” for a long time. I understand that logic. Given Julio’s talent, he should be scoring more touchdowns. However, the fact of the matter is that the Falcons simply aren’t using him as in the red zone as much as other teams do with their elite wide receivers.
One of these days, Jones is going to explode. He’s going to have a huge game — and the victory laps on Twitter will be obscene. 20 weeks of failure will be made up with one massive week of “I told you so” from many people. I’m not telling you to fade Jones against the Bucs. I am telling you that there is a path to potentially going underweight here, especially since Jones is trending toward being ridiculously chalky.
At what point does it stop being variance… and start being that this is just who Julio Jones is? How many touchdown-less weeks does it take? Maybe he breaks out with three this week, but I’ll continue to tread somewhat carefully. I just think this is a very interesting discussion point.
Leveraging Projected Ownership – Chalk to Fade?
Todd Gurley (15% pOWN DK / 20% pOWN FD) – Gurley has done the unthinkable and has busted the five-figure price tag barrier on DraftKings this week. He’s basically the opposite of Julio Jones, as all Gurley does is score touchdowns. I played a relative fade on him last week, which generally would have worked out given that he had an extremely pedestrian yardage game. Unfortunately, he was able to pound in three short touchdown runs to salvage a solid game, and this offense is going to give Gurley plenty of chances to score. Throw in a matchup against a Denver team that is allowing an alarming 140 yards per game on the ground, and it’s no wonder that Gurley will be chalky despite the price tag. I simply like my lineups as a whole better without him, and I will give the underweight stance a shot again this week. He’s not going to continue to score three times every week, and he needs a massive game to pay off the price tag. I will say that a Gurley lineup build looks much better on FanDuel than it does on FantasyDraft or DraftKings, and I might have more of him over on FD.
Ezekiel Elliott (18% pOWN DK / 15% pOWN FD) – This is probably no shocker after what I wrote above, but the sites are dangling a very affordable price tag on Elliott down to the masses. I think he’s a safe pick and a fine cash game play, but I question whether or not Dallas is going to be able to sustain any sort of offense in this game. I also think there’s a chance they fall behind, as you might see a focused Jacksonville squad after an ugly loss a week ago. I expect this to be a fast-moving clock kind of game without a ton of offensive action, and for that reason I’m not all that interested in Elliott in GPP formats this week. He’s going to need to score (maybe twice) to hit value, and I don’t have that much confidence in the Dallas offense in this spot.
DeAndre Hopkins (15% pOWN DK / 15% pOWN FD) – The Bills have been completely dreadful at times this year, but they have shown up to play for games against the Vikings and Titans, and I think you’ll see at least a reasonably game Bills squad in this game against the Texans. The big key here is the status of star corner Tre’Davious White for the Bills. He currently has the #10 grade (via PFF) out of all cornerbacks this season, and he has the talent to at least make DeAndre Hopkins work for his numbers this week. With other high-end wide receivers in good spots this week and the chance at lower volume if the Texans do get out to a lead, I don’t love Hopkins in this spot — and I am debating a full fade here. Deshaun Watson got banged up quite a bit last Sunday night, and the Texans could pull off the gas early if they get ahead.
Adam Thielen (15% pOWN DK / 23% pOWN FD) – In a similar vein to Hopkins, I just don’t view Thielen as an absolute priority this week. He does his work on volume as opposed to red zone targets, and Thielen has received just two targets inside the ten yard line this year. In contrast, Hopkins has eight, A.J. Green has five, Michael Thomas has nine, and others are in the six to eight range. At this projected ownership, I’ll gladly pass and also hope that the Vikings are able to grab a lead as double-digit home favorites. I don’t think you will see a lack of focus out of Minnesota here, as they got waxed the last time they were in a spot like this (the home game against the Bills in Week 2). Expect lower volume out of Cousins this week, and I don’t see this being a ceiling game from Thielen. You’re buying in at a high ownership and a high price tag. Meh.
Cameron Brate (13% pOWN DK / 8% pOWN FD) – This is a tough spot to peg, but right now it looks like O.J. Howard is going to be active for Tampa Bay this weekend. That puts a dent in Brate’s fantasy value, as the two will share snaps, and Howard has gotten the upper hand in terms of playing time (when healthy) this year. Howard was a full participant in Friday’s practice, and many people simply assumed that Brate would be a lock and load play this week. Don’t make that mistake, and I expect our pOWN% numbers on Brate will drop a bit prior to Sunday. I prefer Austin Hooper if you are looking for a chalkier value TE option.
Leveraging Projected Ownership – Low-Owned Gems
Andy Dalton (5% pOWN DK / 8% pOWN FD) – Why is everyone sleeping on the Bengals in Week 6? This is a 4-1 team that has looked full of life through the first five weeks, and they have a 28 point implied team total and a great home matchup against a Steelers defense that simply isn’t the same unit we are used to seeing. They have allowed 296 passing yards per game so far this year, a mark that puts them among the bottom five teams in the NFL. Andy Dalton is the one quarterback out of the two likely shootout games that is getting somewhat ignored, in favor of Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston, and Ben Roethlisberger. That puts Dalton squarely on the GPP radar, and you can pair him with….
A.J. Green (10% pOWN DK / 13% pOWN FD) – Green — who somehow has an ownership projection about half the level of Julio Jones. This is a GREAT spot to get some tournament leverage, as it appears that the masses will flock to Jones over Green. While Jones has just nine touchdowns since the start of 2016 in regular season games, Green has 17 despite missing more time due to injury. This is a fine matchup against a porous defense, and Green is my favorite GPP wide receiver target of the entire week. I’ll be at least double the field in terms of my ownership exposure.
Bilal Powell (3% pOWN DK / 3% pOWN FD) – The two running backs for the Jets are essentially cannibalizing each other, as there is rarely enough volume to go around to support two solid running backs. Last week was obviously an exception due to the fact that the Jets were playing with a large lead. However, that might change this week with Isaiah Crowell shaping up to be a true game-time decision. I kind of like that, as Powell would become super chalky if Crowell were to be ruled out on Friday or Saturday. If this comes down to a Sunday morning call, many DFS players will already have their rosters set. Even if Crowell is active, he might well be limited, and Powell is coming off a 20 carry, 99 yard day against the Broncos. Fire Powell up as a great GPP play if Crowell is inactive or limited come Sunday morning.
Ronald Jones (3% pOWN DK / 3% pOWN FD) – The Bucs/Falcons game will be heavily targeted by DFS players this week, as these could very well be two of the worst defenses on the NFL. The one spot that scares many is trying to figure out the Tampa Bay backfield. Tampa had a bye week in Week 5 and previously got shredded by the Bears the week before that. This could be the spot where they look to get rookie Ronald Jones more involved, especially given the extra time the team has had to prepare for this game. The problem is that Jones isn’t a pass catcher, and that’s where the Falcons often get burned. There is obviously tons of risk here, but Jones is dirt cheap and won’t be highly owned at all. Give him a look for the risk/reward GPP upside against an abysmal defense that has been ravaged by injuries.
Mike Williams (10% pOWN DK / 5% pOWN FD) – Williams has essentially become a starter for the Chargers this year, as the trio of him, Tyrell Williams, and Keenan Allen all seem to play on roughly 70-75% of the snaps on a weekly basis. Williams is a nice red zone target with his 6’4” size, and his DFS price tag remains dirt cheap. When you combine that with his playing time and likely low ownership, I like the prospects of using him as a value play in GPP formats. He’s largely being ignored coming off back-to-back down games, but there’s upside here, especially when you consider the price tag.
Demaryius Thomas (5% pOWN DK / 1% pOWN FD) – It was a brutal start to the year for Thomas, but he has picked up a bit of chemistry with Case Keenum over the last few weeks. Some of the improvement can be attributed to the fact that the Broncos have been forced to throw it a lot while in come-from-behind mode, but that is likely going to be the case again this week with Denver sitting as a touchdown underdog at home against the powerful Rams. For as good as the Rams are, their defense has largely been suspect of late. The loss of Aqib Talib really hurts, and Marcus Peters is either much worse than he used to be, or he is operating at far less than 100%. He says he is healthy, but I’m not sold. I will gladly grab some shares of Thomas at sub-5% projected ownership.
Amari Cooper (8% pOWN DK / 1% pOWN FD) – We all love to hate Cooper, and by now we know the drill with him. He’s either a massive weekly bust, or he goes off. He also tends to go off at times where it is least expected. I already alluded to the fact that we have a sneaky high game total here, and Seattle’s secondary is nowhere near what it used to be — especially now that Earl Thomas is on the shelf. Cooper is not a cash game target, but there’s GPP appeal at minuscule ownership.
Trey Burton (5% pOWN DK / 3% pOWN FD) – Don’t sleep on a Bears team that surprisingly seems to be flying under the radar this week. Chicago is coming off a bye in Week 5, so they will be fresh and ready to go, and don’t forget that three Bears players were on the winning DK Millionaire Maker roster just two weeks ago. Trey Burton was a big part of the game plan in that one, and he made two big plays on his way to 86 receiving yards and a touchdown. The volume wasn’t huge on a day where the Bears won by 38 points, or it could have been an even bigger day. The Dolphins have been pretty solid this year against top wideouts and actually have the #1 rank in DVOA against top wide receivers this year. They are merely middle of the pack against tight ends, and I think this is a day that we could see Burton explode at very low ownership. He’s one of the highest upside tight ends on the board on a weak slate for the position.
Top Spots to Gain Positive Correlation/Stacks
PIT/CIN Stacks and Dalton/Green – I’ve already touched on the Dalton/Green stack, and I actually like a full stack of this game better than the TB/ATL game — even though the total in this one is a little lower. The reason for that is because the offensive production is more concentrated on these two teams. With PIT, you have Conner, Brown, and Smith-Schuster. With CIN, you have Mixon, Green, and Boyd. Mixon returned last week and played on about three-quarters of the snaps, so he should be all systems go for a big divisional game. The injuries to Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, and John Ross have limited their ability to utilize their full roster offensively. You could possibly get a value tight end on either side with Vance McDonald or C.J. Uzomah, should you be feeling frisky. I don’t mind getting four or five skill players from this game in GPP builds, and we could easily see a 35-31 type of game here. All the primary skill players are viable options, with Dalton and Green being my GPP priorities.
TB/ATL Stacks – Everyone will be playing the Winston/Evans and Ryan/Jones pairings this week, and of course there’s logic behind it. The Falcons have been shredded defensively all year, while the Bucs gave up six touchdown passes to Mitchell Trubisky two weeks ago. Enough said. Tevin Coleman will gain steam with Devonta Freeman officially ruled out. Austin Hooper is super cheap after seeing 12 targets last week. I’ve already talked about Ronald Jones as a value play. These teams are capable of spreading the ball out more — with others like DeSean Jackson, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu all in the mix. It’s easier to make a stack of this game with the pricing, but it’s also going to be harder to get leverage as well as getting all the proper pieces correct.
SEA/OAK Stacks – Here’s your under the radar game stack. Derek Carr is surprisingly cheap, especially on DraftKings. Russell Wilson is cheap. Marshawn Lynch is cheap. Chris Carson is cheap. All the receivers are affordable. Jared Cook is one of the better TE options on the slate — yet nobody is really talking about this game despite it having one of the higher totals of the week. I like the idea of a Carr/Cooper/Carson stack (for game flow if SEA gets ahead) or a Wilson/Baldwin/Lynch stack (for game flow if OAK gets ahead). Other combinations are also viable, and I love this game as a DFS target. Hopefully the players can put on a show for the European crowd.
Jared Goff and Robert Woods – I know that targeting passing games in Denver is generally taboo, but this Rams’ offense is a different kind of beast. Since I’m going underweight on Gurley and this team has a 29 point implied team total, I have to realize that points are going to come from somewhere. Jared Goff is ridiculously cheap on DraftKings, and he’s certainly got plenty of weapons to utilize. I prefer Woods simply because he’s the most healthy of the group — though it looks like both Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp are clearly on track to play. You can certainly choose a different receiver if you wish, but I’ll opt for some shares of this passing game as leverage away from Gurley.
T.J. Yeldon and Jacksonville Defense – Are you sensing a theme yet when it comes to Dallas this week? I think it’s possible that Jacksonville’s defense dominates in this game, which would lead to plenty of work for Yeldon. He didn’t do much on the ground a week ago with Jacksonville falling way behind early, but that could change this week. Should Jacksonville be able to play with a lead, I really love this combination in Week 6. This defense is much better than they showed against the Chiefs, and they have a perfect matchup with which to showcase their talent here. I’ll call a pick-six against Dak Prescott at some point in this game.
Jordan Howard and Chicago Defense – Howard was largely taken out of the game two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, as Tarik Cohen was electric in that one, and it seems like that was the game plan. I expect Matt Nagy to feed Howard a little more coming out of the bye week, and Howard is saying all the right things publicly about his workload. The defense for the Bears is obviously talented, and I’ll fire up some Howard/CHI stacks in the hopes that the Bears get a nice two score lead come the second half of this game. This could be the week we see Howard get 20 carries.
Additional Injuries, News, Notes, and Late Week Updates
1) Greg Olsen seems likely to play this week, but he is very risky. Multi-entry GPP play only.
3) Isaiah Crowell remains a GTD. This is big news to watch in the morning.
4) It looks like Dalvin Cook will play, but I envision a committee in Minnesota this week.
5) We could have some dart throw value in Washington. Chris Thompson is not expected to play. Neither is Jamison Crowder. Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson are questionable. This team could be without all three of their top receivers. Upgrade the Carolina defense a lot, and consider maybe a punt option like Vernon Davis or Maurice Harris if all three receivers are out. I do like Jordan Reed quite a bit today. With Adrian Peterson also banged up, Kapri Bibbs is an interesting GPP target, as well.
6) O.J. Howard appears good to go. The analysis above holds on this.
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 – None. Ertz played Thursday. Gronkowski and Kelce play on Sunday night. It’s ugly on the main slate, though you can include Gronkowski and Kelce on FantasyDraft.
High End – JAX, HOU
Mid Range and Value – LAR, DAL, BAL
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