The Fade: FanDuel Week 6

Your weekly guide to identifying exposure and profiting in guaranteed prize pools.

With five weeks in the books, trends are finally being established around the NFL. We know which offenses to avoid and which defenses to target. The only downside to that is that DFS websites are adjusting salaries accordingly.

The upside is that the general public crowds around the chalk plays each week and will live or die by them. That’s where our process of using ownership percentages gives us an advantage. If you need more information as to how and why we implement this strategy, you can refer to the introductory piece, “A Contrarian’s Guide to DFS”, that we penned in the preseason.

The chalk play wasn’t bad last week. The highest owned player at each position returned decent value by scoring an average of 18.3 points. You can read of a review of the lineup that won last week’s Sunday Million here. It wasn’t overly heavy with chalk plays, but did feature some crowd favorites.

In any case, we’ll continue with business as usual. The numbers presented below are taken from a Thursday night GPP. They, in no way, are meant to be used as the basis of your strategy. We use them to get a snapshot of groupthink. Even without the tangible data provided by Thursday GPPs, we’d still be able to project ownership percentages with a high level of accuracy. These numbers simply serve as confirmation.

Again, this data isn’t meant to be the foundation of our tournament strategy for the weekend. For that matter, fading any player based solely on ownership percentage is never part of the strategy. Think of this as more of a guide to tiebreakers and pivot plays. In this space, we’ll use that guide to identify a few players that should be faded and few that are worth their chalk-heavy projections. There will be a follow up piece focusing on the contrarian side of things.

On to Week 6:

quarterbacks

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Tom Brady $9000 NE@IND 18.5 Colin Kaepernick $7300 BAL@SF 1.7
Andy Dalton $7600 CIN@BUF 15.7 Cam Newton $8000 CAR@SEA 1.5
Carson Palmer $8000 ARI@PIT 6 Joe Flacco $7800 BAL@SF 1.4
Aaron Rodgers $9300 SD@GB 5.3 Peyton Manning $8100 DEN@CLE 1.3
Blake Bortles $7300 HOU@JAC 4.8 Jay Cutler $7500 CHI@DET 1.2
Eli Manning $7800 NYG@PHI 4.6 Teddy Bridgewater $6600 KC@MIN 1.2
Marcus Mariota $7200 MIA@TEN 2.8 Russell Wilson $8000 CAR@SEA 0.6
Philip Rivers $7500 SD@GB 2.5 Ryan Tannehill $7700 MIA@TEN 0.6
Sam Bradford $7700 NYG@PHI 2.2 Andrew Luck $8600 NE@IND 0.5
Matthew Stafford $6900 CHI@DET 2.2 E.J. Manuel $5500 CIN@BUF 0.4
Ryan Fitzpatrick $6900 WAS@NYJ 1.7        

 For a third consecutive week, not including his bye, Tom Brady is our most popular quarterback. What’s interesting is that he has only been the highest scoring quarterback once and that was in Week 1. Not that he has been bad; his lowest FanDuel score was 22.72 points against the Jaguars. So he’s basically a lock to nearly hit tournament value every Sunday. This Sunday he travels to Indianapolis to take on a Colts team that blew the whistle on his deflated footballs and setoff an off season of controversy, investigations, court appearances and a four-game suspension that was overturned right before the start of the season. You think he might have a little extra motivation to light up the box score? We need to be careful when driving down Narrative Street, but this situation is at least worth considering. It’s also worth considering that the Patriots history against the Colts suggests that they’ll run the ball a ton. In any case, this game has our highest over/under of the week at 54.5 points (down .5 from where it opened). There will be a lot of exposure to this game, so if you’re going to side with the crowd, using Touchdown Tom as a loss leader might payoff.

Andy Dalton, our second most popular quarterback, is our highest scoring of the season. Over the last three weeks has thrown for 1,065 yards, six touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. Only Josh McCown has a better stat line over that same stretch. Dalton now faces a Bills defense that has allowed the sixth most points to quarterbacks. For $7,600, you could do a lot worse, especially considering there isn’t a major discount at this position this week (unless you’re really into E.J. Manuel). But we’re concerned the game script could be ugly and not require a lot of passing. The Bills offense is crippled with Tyrod Taylor likely out, and no running game to help out a turnover prone Manuel. The over/under is one of the lowest this week at 42.5 points. We’re going to let the crowd pile on Dalton and look elsewhere.

Week in, week out Carson Palmer is as reliable as they come. Only twice this season has he thrown for fewer than 300 yards, but made it up for it by throwing three or more touchdowns. Last week the game script removed his services as the Cardinals defense pounced on the Lions and put the game on ice early. Otherwise, Palmer would have turned in a top five performance. This week he heads to Pittsburgh to take on an offense that should put up more of a fight. The Steelers’ defense has allowed the 12th most fantasy points to quarterbacks—not a lot—but Philip Rivers piled on 365 yards last week, and even Colin Kaepernick looked good against them. In fact, if you remove their games against the Ravens and Rams, the Steelers defense has allowed an average of 28.9 points to quarterbacks. Vegas projects Palmer and Co. to score 24 points in this contest. He’s a better cash game play than GPP play, but should put up top five numbers.

Aaron Rodgers' stock has plummeted after failing to score more than 18 points in two consecutive weeks. He is our fourth most popular quarterback, but at only 5.3 percent exposed. He hosts a Chargers’ defense that has been decent against passers and soft against runners. This is not the week to expect him to rebound, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see him pad his stats with a rushing score.

Running Backs

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Dion Lewis $7200 NE@IND 20.7 Thomas Rawls $6400 CAR@SEA 1.7
Christopher Ivory $7300 WAS@NYJ 13.9 Lamar Miller $6400 MIA@TEN 1.5
Adrian Peterson $8900 KC@MIN 10.3 C.J. Anderson $6600 DEN@CLE 1.3
Matt Forte $8400 CHI@DET 8.8 Ronnie Hillman $6400 DEN@CLE 1.1
Le\'Veon Bell $9000 ARI@PIT 8.5 Melvin Gordon $6500 SD@GB 1
Eddie Lacy $7300 SD@GB 7.8 Ameer Abdullah $5900 CHI@DET 1
Arian Foster $8500 HOU@JAC 7.4 Theo Riddick $5000 CHI@DET 1
LeGarrette Blount $6500 NE@IND 6.5 Duke Johnson $5900 DEN@CLE 0.9
Giovani Bernard $6700 CIN@BUF 5 Rashad Jennings $6300 NYG@PHI 0.9
Charcandrick West $6200 KC@MIN 5 Jeremy Hill $6400 CIN@BUF 0.8
Danny Woodhead $6000 SD@GB 4.6 T.J. Yeldon $6800 HOU@JAC 0.7
DeMarco Murray $7600 NYG@PHI 4.4 Darren Sproles $5500 NYG@PHI 0.7
Shane Vereen $5600 NYG@PHI 3.4 Ryan Matthews $5600 NYG@PHI 0.6
Chris Johnson $7200 ARI@PIT 2.9 Marshawn Lynch $8300 CAR@SEA 0.4
Carlos Hyde $7000 BAL@SF 2.9 Javorius Allen $5100 BAL@SF 0.3
Frank Gore $7000 NE@IND 2 Jonathan Stewart $6100 CAR@SEA 0.2
Justin Forsett $7600 BAL@SF 1.7        

We’ve never been more comfortable with any Bill Belichick running back than we have been with Dion Lewis. He has scored in three consecutive contests and is a weapon in the passing gaming. The Colts defense offers a legitimate test to the Patriots wide receivers with Vontae Davis removing one of them on every play. Only three running backs have more receptions than Lewis and only five have scored more FanDuel points. As such, his salary is the highest it has ever been at $7,200. Things have changed since he opened the season with a bottom floor price tag of $4,500. He’s our most exposed running back this week and should return value. But it’s important to keep in mind that if the Patriots build a big league, or even if they don’t, LeGarrette Blount is the goal line back and will get lots of work. He’s also $700 cheaper and significantly less popular. He’s the better tournament play.

The Beast of the East, Chris Ivory, smashed through the Dolphins defense in London for 166 yards on 29 carries. He’s a threat to score multiple touchdowns every week as the Jets offense looks better and better. Things will be a lot tougher this week. The Jets are hosting a legitimate Washington run defense that, outside of Devonta Freeman, haven’t allowed more than 53 yards to any running back. We’ll avoid this situation, as it favors more passing than running, and there’s just no telling when the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Jets offense falls apart.

How old is Adrian Peterson? It doesn’t matter. He’s our eighth ranked running back on the season and is averaging five yards per carry. The Vikings offense looks raw and inconsistent, but that’s nothing new for Peterson. The bigger concern is how well they’ll operate against the visiting Chiefs. Expecting a lot of points in this contest is foolish. So even if Peterson makes his usual trip to the end zone, it won’t come with a lot of volume. On a positive note, the Chiefs are spinning towards mediocrity and might end up being one of the worst offenses in the league due to the unfortunate injury of Jamaal Charles. The Vikings defense is underrated, so it’s likely they’ll ride Peterson to close out a win. But for $8,900, we’ll look elsewhere for our tournament backs.

Matt Forte is $500 cheaper and makes a lot more sense. The Lions defense has allowed seven rushing scores to running backs, second most, and the seventh most overall points. The Bears offense is rebounding with the return of Jay Cutler, which sounds odd, but the net result is Forte ranking as our third highest scoring running back. He hasn’t been much for a receiver, partially because of Cutler missing time, but we expect that to turn around. On a fast track in Detroit, if you’re paying up for a running back, he’s your best bet.

No Roethlisberger, no problem. Despite missing the first two games, and despite losing his quarterback, Le’Veon Bell has the 10th most receptions among running backs, and ranks seventh overall in total points. He has scored a touchdown in every game since returning and been targeted 20 times. The Steelers are hosting the Cardinals, who present a tough rushing matchup—allowing the 10th fewest points per game to runners. But they have allowed the sixth most receiving yards with 307. We think the Steelers will be force to pass more and that sets up a high volume game for Bell. His salary, however, may not be worth the risk in tournaments. Especially since you could get a similar game from Forte for less.

Wide Receivers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Julian Edelman $7900 NE@IND 34.6 Kamar Aiken $6000 BAL@SF 2.6
DeAndre Hopkins $8500 HOU@JAC 32.7 John Brown $6100 ARI@PIT 2.5
Larry Fitzgerald $7500 ARI@PIT 22 Odell Beckham Jr. $9100 NYG@PHI 2.3
Allen Robinson $6700 HOU@JAC 20.6 Keenan Allen $7700 SD@GB 2.3
James Jones $6600 SD@GB 14.6 Donte Moncrief $6200 NE@IND 2.3
A.J. Green $8100 CIN@BUF 11.9 Marquess Wilson $5400 CHI@DET 2.1
Brandon Marshall $8000 WAS@NYJ 11 Demaryius Thomas $8300 DEN@CLE 2
Allen Hurns $6500 HOU@JAC 8.5 Ty Montgomery $5800 SD@GB 1.7
Eric Decker $6100 WAS@NYJ 8.4 Rishard Matthews $6300 MIA@TEN 1.6
Jeremy Maclin $7200 KC@MIN 7.5 Andre Johnson $6000 NE@IND 1.5
Anquan Boldin $6500 BAL@SF 5.8 Antonio Brown $8600 ARI@PIT 1.4
Emmanuel Sanders $7900 DEN@CLE 5.5 Doug Baldwin $5800 CAR@SEA 1.4
Kendall Wright $5800 MIA@TEN 4.8 Mike Wallace $5400 KC@MIN 1.3
Calvin Johnson $8200 CHI@DET 4.7 Golden Tate $6900 CHI@DET 1.2
Travis Benjamin $6300 DEN@CLE 4.3 Torrey Smith $6200 BAL@SF 0.9
Jordan Matthews $6600 NYG@PHI 3.9 Pierre Garcon $6000 WAS@NYJ 0.9
Randall Cobb $8100 SD@GB 3.4 Steve Smith $6700 BAL@SF 0.9
Jarvis Landry $7300 MIA@TEN 3 Rueben Randle $5700 NYG@PHI 0.5
Ted Ginn Jr. $5500 CAR@SEA 2.8 Alshon Jeffery $7400 CHI@DET 0.2
T.Y. Hilton $7400 NE@IND 2.6 Davante Adams $5500 SD@GB 0.1

Once again, the Patriots represent three of the most popular players. And once again, Julian Edelman is the highest owned wide receiver. We mentioned that Vontae Davis is going to basically erase one of the Patriots’ receivers. Whether or not that player is Edelman remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, just as we’ve stated every week, Edelman’s game is totally reliant on receptions. He is not an end zone threat and will lose out to the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Blount on that area of the field every time. Last week he was just shy of hitting tournament value, thanks to a 59-yard touchdown reception that featured some of the worst tackling we’ve seen this season. Let the crowd chase those points.

No player has more targets than DeAndre Hopkins. He is averaging 14.8 targets per game, with 14, 22 and 14 over his last three contests. The return of Arian Foster might eat into those, but it should also help keep defenses honest and provide Hopkins with a little more freedom. The Jaguars have allowed the fifth fewest points to receivers, mostly thanks to their soft run defense. It was just a few weeks ago that Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews combined for 225 yards on 14 receptions. We like Hopkins to have a good afternoon, but we don’t like his salary or his exposure, especially considering the Jaguars have allowed the fourth most points per touch to running backs. This looks like a Foster coming out party.

With the Cardinals blowing out the Lions, Palmer and Co. took an early seat and sent in the backups to finish out the game. As a result, Larry Fitzgerald’s afternoon was cut short, though he did save his day with a touchdown. As mentioned, we expect the Steelers offense to put a better fight. Their pass defense has been good lately, but it wasn’t long ago that the likes of Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Kenny Britt found success against them. The over/under of this contest is 44.5, down a point from where it opened and somewhat low, but as of this writing, 95 percent of the money is on the over. The over, by the way, has been hit for all five of the Cardinals games. Furthermore, let’s not forget that head coach Bruce Arians was forced out as the offensive coordinator for the Steelers back in 2012. Revenge game? Why not. As if we needed more of a reason to justify Fitzgerald’s $7,500 salary.

We love the talent and price provided by Allen Robinson. But his exposure, and the fact that Blake Bortles has a shoulder sprain gives us pause. Bortles is practicing in full this week, but there’s concern around how well he’ll be able to throw. Depsite Robinson’s value, he’s a risky play that we’ll allow the crowd to chase.

An even better value, James Jones has found the end zone five times this season, and ranks eighth in points scored. His $6,600 salary gives us lots of roster flexibility without much risk thanks to the Packers offense. It’s worth noting, however, that the Packers passing attack has been a little underwhelming over their last two games, and Davante Adams could return this week. The Chargers have allowed the second fewest points to wide receivers, mostly because they are so easy to run on. With Aaron Rodgers and Co. as 11.5 point favorites, we think that trend will continue. As such, we’ll put our money on Eddie Lacy and let the crowd pile on Jones.

Tight Ends

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Antonio Gates $5500 SD@GB 34.9 Delanie Walker $5400 MIA@TEN 1.6
Tyler Eifert $6000 CIN@BUF 16.5 Julius Thomas $5200 HOU@JAC 1.6
Rob Gronkowski $8200 NE@IND 10.9 Jimmy Graham $6300 CAR@SEA 1.1
Gary Barnidge $5700 DEN@CLE 7 Zach Ertz $5000 NYG@PHI 1
Martellus Bennett $5800 CHI@DET 6.1 Jordan Cameron $5400 MIA@TEN 0.6
Greg Olsen $6300 CAR@SEA 3.6 Charles Clay $5700 CIN@BUF 0.6
Travis Kelce $6200 KC@MIN 3.1 Kyle Rudolph $5000 KC@MIN 0.4
Richard Rodgers $5100 SD@GB 2.1 Heath Miller $5500 ARI@PIT 0.2
Larry Donnell $5300 NYG@PHI 1.7 Derek Carrier $4900 WAS@NYJ 0.2

It took only one game and two touchdowns for Antonio Gates to reclaim his spot as the most popular tight end. His salary is impossible to ignore with the Rivers/Gates combination back in full effect. Ignore his ownership.

Gronkowski versus the Bills: 113 yards and one touchdown. All other tight ends in total versus the Bills: 164 yards and one touchdown. What this tells us is that elite tight ends will find success against them. Is Tyler Eifert elite? He sure looks it. The only problem is that this contest looks to be low-scoring. Saving $500 and going with the Gates chalk might be the better play.

New week, same conflict: to fade or not to fade Rob Gronkowski. It’s refreshing to see him drop in popularity and have his lowest ownership of the season. As mentioned, the Patriots are going to go full throttle and attempt to embarrass the Colts in true revenge game fashion. This is a good week to design a lineup around his $8,200 salary, especially with most of the crowd off of him.

Kickers

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Stephen Gostkowski $5100 NE@IND 15.4 Mike Nugent $4700 CIN@BUF 2
Brandon McManus $4800 DEN@CLE 11.9 Chandler Catanzaro $4800 ARI@PIT 1.8
Robbie Gould $4500 CHI@DET 10.9 Nick Folk $4700 WAS@NYJ 1.7
Josh Brown $4700 NYG@PHI 10.2 Caleb Sturgis $4900 NYG@PHI 1.6
Justin Tucker $4800 BAL@SF 4.7 Nick Novak $4600 HOU@JAC 1.6
Steven Hauschka $5000 CAR@SEA 3.5 Graham Gano $4700 CAR@SEA 1.5
Mason Crosby $4900 SD@GB 3 Adam Vinatieri $5000 NE@IND 1.4
Cairo Santos $4800 KC@MIN 3 Matt Prater $4500 CHI@DET 1.4
Josh Lambo $4600 SD@GB 2.9 Blair Walsh $4600 KC@MIN 1.2

Per usual, we don’t want to overthink this position. Nor do we want to completely ignore it. Stephen Gostkowski could be busy on Sunday night, but we’re not fans of paying more $5,000 for a kicker. Brandon McManus, for $300 less, is a good play. The Broncos offense has struggled to move the ball (26th in total yards) but ranks 15th in points scored. McManus is the No. 1 ranked kicker on the season. A more contrarian play is Nick Novak. The Texans are fifth in total yards but 23rd in points scored. This suggests that their drives are stalling. With Foster back, Novak should get more opportunities.

Defense

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Player

Salary

Game

Own %

Denver Broncos $5000 DEN@CLE 25.1 Carolina Panthers $4700 CAR@SEA 3.2
New York Jets $4800 WAS@NYJ 15.1 Detroit Lions $4300 CHI@DET 3.1
Green Bay Packers $4700 SD@GB 6.6 Houston Texans $4800 HOU@JAC 1.2
Arizona Cardinals $5000 ARI@PIT 6.2 Baltimore Ravens $4700 BAL@SF 1.2
Tennessee Titans $4100 MIA@TEN 6.1 Chicago Bears $4300 CHI@DET 1.1
Cincinnati Bengals $4700 CIN@BUF 4.8 New York Giants $4400 NYG@PHI 1.1
Minnesota Vikings $4500 KC@MIN 4.1 Jacksonville Jaguars $4400 HOU@JAC 0.4
New England Patriots $4800 NE@IND 3.8 Buffalo Bills $4600 CIN@BUF 0.4
Seattle Seahawks $5000 CAR@SEA 3.3        

It’s hard to ignore the chalk plays this week. The Broncos have the league’s unquestioned No. 1 defense. We mentioned that McCown is has scored the most fantasy points over the last three weeks. But he hasn’t faced a good defense with maybe the exception of the Chargers. The Browns have committed the 11th most turnovers with eight, and have allowed the third most sacks.

We can save $200 and avoid the most chalk play by taking the Jets at home. It's not like Washington is facing a worst-case scenario this Sunday with their offensive line. The Jets are an auto-start against Kirk Cousins and a great tournament play.

The Titans’ $4,100 salary looks tempting and gives us a lot of roster flexibility. But with the Dolphins coming off of a bye and looking to turn their season around, we think the Titans are setup for a loss. Note that Vegas doesn’t have a favorite for this game. Fade.