The Reid Option: Week 15
Each week, Sammy Reid will break down each position in detail, pinpointing his favorite plays at various salary ranges. Who should we be focusing our core on this week? Read below to find out!
For the better part of the past three seasons, football Twitter has blown up Mike McCarthy for his ineptitude as he wasted the prime of Aaron Rodgers with “just” one Superbowl title in 14 seasons. Recently, I postulated that Mike Tomlin may end up suffering a similar fate by winning zero championships with the Ben-Brown-Bell core. (He did win a title in his second season with Ben in 2008, but this was largely the roster he had inherited from the Cowher era). The failures in the Tomlin era have been defined by two major shortcomings: The first is an inability to play pass defense, ranking an average of 17th in pass DVOA since Troy Polamalu’s last first-team All-Pro season. The second is an inability to beat the New England Patriots, going 2-7 against the Pats in the Tomlin era – with one of those wins coming against Matt Cassel in 2009.
These failures are part in parcel, which is curious considering that Tomlin was originally hired with a reputation as a brilliant young defensive mind; he was the defensive backs coach with the Bucs of the early 2000’s and then the defensive coordinator of the 2006 Vikings – a team that finished #6 in defensive DVOA. When Tomlin was hired by the Steelers in 2007, he acquiesced to continue using the 3-4 zone blitz scheme run by Dick LeBeau instead of the 4-3 Tampa-2 scheme he’d run with Tampa Bay and Minnesota. However, even after LeBeau was fired after the 2014 season, the Steelers outdated 3-4 defensive scheme remained largely in place with new defensive coordinator Keith Butler.
Over the years, teams have learned how to take advantage of the Steelers defense by spreading them out, forcing run defenders to cover in space and neutralizing the Steelers blitz scheme by forcing it to define itself before the snap. We saw this on display a few weeks ago when Keenan Allen caught 14 balls for 148 yards against Pittsburgh – most of them against run-defending linebackers in zone coverage. However, nobody has been as successful in dismembering the Steelers zone scheme than the New England Patriots: In five meetings over the past five seasons, the Pats have never scored fewer than 27 points, averaging 34.6 points per meeting. And of course, big numbers have come from Tom Brady – in those last five meetings, Big Game Tom has averaged 324.8 yards per game with 14 touchdowns against just one interception. This week, Brady is just $5900 on DraftKings (QB7) $7900 on FanDuel (QB6), and $30 on Yahoo (QB11). He’s going to be my main cash game QB and I’ll be over-exposed in GPPs too. I like Brady so much this week, I’m bringing back the Tom Song …
Oh the Pats so scandalous
But you know the Steelers D can’t handle this
Running up the score like, screw this ish
The look in Tom’s eye so devilish
He gonna throw to all the right spots
Run circles ‘round that D like a sly old fox
Married an underwear model like a boss
Cuz he’s livin’ la vida luckbox
He’s gonna roll like a truck, truck, truck
Throwing TDs like what, what, what
Tommy kick that butt, butt, butt
He’ll beat the Steelers agaiiiiiiin
He’s gonna roll like a truck, truck, truck
Throwing TDs like what, what, what
All night loooonnnngggg
Let me see that Toooooom
I like it when narrative goes da na da na
Tommy make the scoreboard go da na da na
Baby, sho nuff
That Tom ta Tom Tom Tom
I like it when you bomb throws
Tom, make my account groooooooooow
Baby, sho nuff
That Tom ta Tom Tom Tom
Of course, I’ll have plenty of exposure to Ben Roethlisberger as well. Sometimes you just have to go all-in on a game, and NE/PIT is that game for me this week. If it busts I’ll have a bad week, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. As Leroy Jenkins once said, “at least I have chicken”.
My QB pool aside from these guys is going to be pretty small. Lamar Jackson is in a dream spot at home against the Bucs, a defense so poor that ducks throw bread at them. In his four starts L-Jax has averaged 84 rushing YPG – the fantasy equivalent of 210 passing yards – which is some pretty thick gravy on top of his 150 passing yard average. He’s a high-floor cash play, with my only worry that Joe Flacco is now active and could somehow make his way into the game if things start going wrong for Jackson.
In GPPs, I’ll probably also have some exposure to Andrew Luck in a home game against the Cowboys. Dallas’s defense has rightly been getting mad pub lately, but Luck’s upside is always huge and his only game under 22 DK points since Week 3 was @ Jacksonville. A 300/3 game is certainly in his range of outcomes here and the rubes that think defense matters won’t play him.
My GPP longshot of the week is Kirk Cousins. After last week’s display of infinite patheticness, people will likely be hesitant to play Vikes stacks, but the reality is that they’re back at home against a Dolphins defense that has allowed the second-highest net yards per attempts (7.4) to villain QBs while registering the fourth-lowest adjusted sack rate (5.2%) in football. Best of all, you know exactly who to stack Cousins with: Diggs, Thielen, or buf um.
This week’s easy jam is Joe Mixon. He’s moderately priced across the industry and is a favorite to go over his 19.8 touch per-game season average since he’s facing the lowly Raiders as a 3-point home favorite. And believe me, it’s a serious challenge to accurately describe the depths of despair this defense has dropped to, suffice it to say that a port-a-potty pit smells like a sea of Chanel No. 5 compared to these guys. He’s the first player I’m locking into my cash game lineups and I’m guessing he’ll be chalk-tastic by the time Sunday rolls around.
Since most of the elite backs are not available on the main slate, our RB1 options are pretty scant. For most people it’s going to come down to Ezekiel Elliott vs Saquon Barkley, and I don’t really have a strong taek between them; they’re both great and they’ll both probably smash. For those that don’t read this column for mild taeks, gun to my junk I’d side with Saquon; he’s a better talent than Zeke, is a home favorite unlike Zeke, and is not coming off a 40-touch game. But seriously, if the couple hundred in salary cap is a thing, I have no issue just rolling Zeke out.
For GPPs, one of my favorite contrarian plays is fatboy plodder Leonard Fournette. He’s fallen out of favor among fantasy owners because of his inconsistent and injury-plagued season, added to the fact that his team is terrible and all members of the Jacksonville offense have turned into fantasy feces. However, if there’s a team that currently rates higher on the hopelessness scale it’s the Redskins, a team that actually put in a waiver claim on domestic abuser Reuben Foster and is playing Josh Johnson at QB. Think about those things for a moment, and understand how likely it is that they score like zero points in Jacksonville, while the Jags just salt away a three-point lead with 30 Fournette rushes.
As I write the Reid Option on Wednesday night, there’s not a lot of obvious value on the board – something that could certainly change later in the week. Jaylen Samuels got a big price hike but still remains one of the better low/mid-priced plays (assuming James Conner can’t go), since he received 80% of the Pittsburgh’s snaps and 78.3% of the team’s backfield opportunities last week. You know I’m going into this week operating like I know the PIT/NE game is going to be a shootout, so I believe Samuels will see a decent amount of work through the air.
A couple thinner plays we can consider are Chris Carson and James White. Carson is a 5.5-point favorite against a weak 49ers team, so we could see a 20/100 kind of game from him if he lands high on his range of outcomes. White has been losing snaps with Sony Michel back, but assuming he’ll continue that usage in a linear fashion is foolish – Bill Belichick uses his backfield in very game-specific manner, and in those previous five game against the Steelers, Pats RBs have seen an average of 6.6 targets and a 19.6% team target share. I certainly wouldn’t consider White in cash, but he could be a low-owned GPP smash if he has one of those 10-catch games in a back-and-forth affair.
Finally, if you buy the coachspeak that Kenneth Dixon gets more run this week, he’s just above min price and has a great home matchup against the Bucs. It feels very thin in cash but his upside is 15 carries and some goal-line work; if he’s able to get in the zone, it could pay off big in GPPs by opening up a lot of salary for the rest of our lineups.
We’ll lead this bad boy off with the too-cheap guys on each major site: Amari Cooper on FanDuel at $6600 and T.Y. Hilton on DraftKings at $6800. Since he became a Cowboy in Week 9, Cooper leads all WRs in PPR points (140.1) and is Top-10 in team target share (25%). Hilton is dinged up and has a tough individual matchup with stud CB Byron Jones, but I just can’t fade his usage for this price: Over the past four games, he’s 8th among WR in weighted opportunity rating (.70) and 4th in total targets with 11.0 per game. And of course he’s at home, where’s he’s historically been a trim crusher. Both of these guys are sick cash game plays on the respective sites and are also hot values on Yahoo, where they each check in at just $23.
As per usual, there’s plenty of dank snoochie boochies in the highest price tier, but I don’t know that I’m going to partake in a lot of it in cash games the way I’ve been constructing my lineups so far. I do love both Vikings WRs in tournaments, and obviously I love both Steelers WRs as well. I do think in GPPs that a Steelers double-stack might be overly optimistic; I’ll probably alternate pairing JuJu and AB with Ben, giving the slight edge to AB since he tends to be so prolific in Heinz field.
The Pats WRs are also fine plays against PIT; Josh Gordon is the epitome of a GPP guy, and Julian Edelman feels like a great play in all formats – he’s seeing a strong 23% team target share over the past four weeks and I could see him pulling a Keenan Allen against PIT here. I absolutely adore him on full PPR sites, although his price value is the strongest on FanDuel this week. The Galaxy Brain GPP play here is Chris Hogan; like nobody will play him but I can’t get the 2016 AFC Championship out of my mind, when he crushed Pittsburgh’s heart and soul with a 9/180/2 game.
If Odell Beckham doesn’t suit up, Sterling Shepard will become a prime cash game value, since the Giants are likely to be behind and throwing in this game and Shep’s price didn’t increase after a meh outing last week. I’m not in love with the guy but 6-7 targets and an increase red zone role will play at his cost. One last guy who’s caught my eye this week is Isaiah McKenzie; he’s grown his role as a jackknife player over the past three weeks, over which time he’s averaged 4.7 targets and 2.0 rushes per game, and there’s some thought that he could get some extra usage if LeSean McCoy doesn’t play. And with Zay Jones lately to draw a lot of Darius Slay coverage, Studs McKenzie could see some additional looks in the passing game as well.
The TE position is uglier than the east end of a horse heading west, especially if you don’t choose to pay up to the top. If you do, you’ll be choosing between the three-headed hydra of George Kittle, Eric Ebron, and Rob Gronkowski. Price considered, Ebron is the guy I’d lean most toward in cash games – his usage numbers are basically the same as Kittle’s if we filter for the games that Jack Doyle has missed – and the Colts have a far higher implied team total (25 points) than the 49ers (19.3 points).
Gronk is the most intriguing play here; to borrow from the ever-sharp Graham Barfield, Gronk’s last four games against the Steelers have gone 9-143-1, 5-94-3, 4-93-1, 9-168-0. In addition, Pittsburgh has allowed 144.2 YPG to receivers aligned in the slot or tight to the formation, the second-highest total in football. AND, Gronk’s price is $6900 on FanDuel, which is actually the only narrative in football that actually matters. Gronk is probably too dusty for me to trust in cash games, but he’s an excellent high-ceiling GPP play.
If we go cheap, Vernon Davis is the guy I’ll grit my teeth and plug in to my cash lineups. He’ll be Washington’s primary TE with Jordan Reed out, and Reed was averaging a nice 6.9 targets per game this season before his early exit last week. Davis projects to have the highest volume and probably the best big-play ability of anyone at his price range this week.
I’m going to make this short and sweet – with DSTs we want home favorites, preferably with high pressure rates, facing a team that allows a lot of sacks. A few teams that fit that bill:
Falcons vs ARI – The Falcons are 8.5-point home favorites and the Cards have allowed a 7.8% adjusted sack rate, the 12th-highest mark in football. The Cards have also turned the ball over 23 times, the 6th-highest mark in football. The Falcons have allowed just 299.3 total yards per game with star MLB Deion Jones in the lineup, while averaging 6.7 DK fantasy PPG.
Ravens vs TB – The Ravens are 8-point home favorites and they have the 5th-highest adjusted sack rate in football at 8.5%. Jameis Winston has played four games on the road this season and thrown nine interceptions.
Vikings vs MIA – The Vikes are 7-point home favorites, have the 2nd-highest adjusted sack rate in football (9%), while the Dolphins have allowed the 5th-highest adjusted sack rate (9.1%).
Jaguars vs WASH – Josh Johnson was eating Cheetos on his couch two weeks ago. Literally anyone vs this deplorable Redskins team. ANYONE.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Let’s go make some money in Week 15.