This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Let's keep this one simple. Who is your favorite "punt play" for Week 14?
Phil Alexander: Here's one for each position:
QB: Alex Smith ($5,100) - Smith is essentially a lock to reach a 3x salary multiplier. He's scored between 13 and 27 fantasy points in all games but one this year. You're better off using him in cash games, but the matchup with Baltimore (30th in pass defense DVOA) could enable Smith to reach his 20+ point ceiling for the sixth time this season.
RB: Tim Hightower ($3,900) - In terms of dollars per projected touch, Hightower is the most obvious running back value on the board. He's unlikely to see another 29 touches, but 20 is a likely outcome in what should be at least a neutral game script (New Orleans is at home and favored by three points). Detroit has allowed the second-highest opponent touchdown percentage (45%) and just got lit up by Todd Gurley in a road game.
WR: Malcom Floyd ($3,500) - Floyd received nine targets last week, and I'd expect him to remain San Diego's most heavily targeted wide receiver for as long as Steve Johnson is sidelined. He gets a dream matchup against a Miami pass defense that has allowed over 40% more fantasy points than the league average over the last five weeks. The Dolphins rank dead last in pass defense DVOA against opposing WR1s. Floyd may not fit the description of a WR1 perfectly, but he's as close as it gets for the Chargers.
TE: Will Tye ($3,100) - Tye has scored double digit fantasy points in each of the last four games. The matchup against Carolina isn't ideal, but Tye could be an even bigger part of the passing game than usual since the Giants' receivers will be dealing with difficult coverage.
Nice work, Phil. How about the rest of you guys provide one per position as well?
Chris Feery: QB: I’ll echo Phil’s call on Smith, who is averaging a solid 17.9 points per game for the low price of $5,100. You have to love the matchup with the Ravens, who looked like they quit last week as Russell Wilson was in the process of launching five touchdowns against them. It’s pretty unlikely that Smith will do the same, but he has solid floor of a 3x return and could push for a 4-5x return on Sunday.
RB: Fozzy Whittaker ($3,000) - Jonathan Stewart will miss Sunday’s game with a foot injury. Whittaker could be in line for some more work after contributing a line of 8/34/1 following Stewart’s exit last week. We could also be looking at a committee approach with Mike Tolbert, but even a split workload could allow Whittaker to produce a solid return on a bargain basement salary.
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham ($3,800) - It’s pretty safe to say that the Titans will coming from behind against the Patriots this week, leading to plenty of looks for Green-Beckham. The intriguing rookie continues to me more involved in the Titans offense with 24 targets over the past four games and is a threat to break a long play at a moment’s notice.
TE: Eric Ebron ($3,000) - Ebron has not done much this year, as evidenced by his average of 8.8 points per game, but he could be worth a GPP flier in a projected shootout with a Saints team that has had more than their fair share of struggles against the tight end position.
John Lee: QB: Brock Osweiler ($5,100) - The Steelers continue to stifle opposing running backs, having not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 7 and only 88.3 rushing yards per game (sixth in the NFL). They have, however, been decimated through the air and are yielding the league's second-most passing yards per game (279.0). Enter Osweiler, who has been pedestrian, but serviceable, in his starts this season. I fully expect the Steelers to be able to move the ball against the Broncos at home, and that should force the Broncos to minimize the run in an attempt to avoid the strength of the Pittsburgh defense, as well as to keep pace with their high-powered offense. Osweiler may not have 30-point upside, but I think 18 points are well within reach against this secondary that has allowed over 60% (8/13) of opposing quarterbacks to reach that threshold this season.
RB: Brandon Bolden ($3,200) - With LeGarrette Blount hitting the IR this week, Bolden is expected to take over the primary running back role in Foxborough. In four years in the league, Bolden has limited experience at an RB1, but he received 16 touches last week after Blount exited the game and should see at least that many this week against the Titans, where the Patriots are favored to win by two touchdowns. Phil argued that Tim Hightower's dollar per touch ratio was the best on the board, but I think a case could be made for Bolden at a lower salary, with a better gamescript, and a higher implied team total.
WR: Rueben Randle ($3,500) - Entering his Week 14 matchup against the Dolphins, Randle went on record to state that he was not seeing enough targets in the Giants passing attack; Tom Coughlin sardonically responded by saying that Randle should catch the targets he receives and perhaps he would see more targets thereafter. Randle responded with a five-catch, 58-yard performance on six targets that included a touchdown. This week, Odell Beckham, Jr will likely run at least three quarters of his routes at the league's best coverage cornerback, Josh Norman, which should funnel additional action towards Randle, who will see far less talented coverage.
TE - Zach Ertz ($3,300) - The Eagles are three-point underdogs at home against the Cardinals this week, despite back-to-back victories against the Patriots and Bills. Frankly, I was surprised to see the Eagles' implied team total was approaching 24 points because I cannot see how they make that happen against this Cardinals team. Arizona allows only 3.8 yards per carry and are ranked in the top ten against the rush (fantasy points allowed); meanwhile, the Eagles have not had a 100-yard rusher since mid-October and will likely struggle against this Cardinals front seven. That leaves the Eagles' passing game to match strides with Carson Palmer and Company. But it will not be Jordan Matthews, who will probably see too much of elite cornerback, Tyrann Mathieu, to accomplish anything. On the other side, Nelson Agholor will see shutdown cornerback, Patrick Peterson, which should eliminate him from Chip Kelly's gameplan. The biggest beneficiary of those coverage situations will be Zach Ertz, who has 21 targets in his past three full games, including a five-catch, 98-yard performance a week ago.
John Mamula: QB: A.J. McCarron ($5,400) - Many will take a wait and see approach on McCarron, but I will be playing him right away in this matchup. McCarron has three full seasons of SEC conference experience where he had 77 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He has had two training camps and almost two complete seasons to digest the Bengals offense. I expect him to have success vs. the 49ers (sixth-worst vs. the pass) this week.
RB: Tim Hightower ($3,900) - Last week vs. Tampa Bay, Hightower had 29 touches for 95 total yards and a touchdown. In the game, Hightower had 58 offensive snaps while C.J. Spiller had 15 offensive snaps. That shows me that the Saints trust Hightower in the absence of Mark Ingram. The Lions have allowed the most rushing touchdowns (18) in the league this season, and Vegas projects a high game total of 50.5 points.
WR: Robert Woods ($3,800) - I am not in love with any WR under $4,000 this week on DraftKings, but if I have to choose, I will select Robert Woods at Washington. Woods has three games with 15.0 DraftKings points or more this season. Washington has lapses in the secondary where they give up a big play. They will be paying extra attention to Sammy Watkins, which should open up opportunity for Woods.
TE: Will Tye ($3,100) - I agree with Phil on this pick. Tye has been surprisingly consistent the past four weeks. He will have opportunity this week with a high game total of 48 points.
This questions is straightforward as well. Let's talk about players most likely to earn a "performance bonus" (300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing or receiving) on DraftKings this week. Let's start with the quarterbacks you guys think are most likely to eclipse 300 yards.
Phil Alexander: The only reason I'd hesitate to say Tom Brady against the crumbling Titans pass defense is the possibility a blowout allows him to take his foot off the gas. Give me Carson Palmer against a Philadelphia defense that has allowed 48% more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks than the league average over the last three weeks.
Chris Feery: Russell Wilson has thrown for 300 yards only once this season, but he has knocked on the door a few other times, including last week’s 292 yards. He has been on absolute fire over the past four games, and the Seahawks will likely be leaning on the pass even more this week with a lot of uncertainty in the backfield. If you’re interested in Wilson, you may as well pair him with Doug Baldwin, who is on a hot streak of his own with eight touchdowns over the past three games.
John Lee: There are several candidates to hit the 300-yard threshold this week, but Matthew Stafford is my favorite to hit the mark. He faces a Saints defense that has been shredded by both the pass and the run this season, but, as Scott points out, the Lions do not boast a significant running game, which suggests that they will lean heavily on Stafford's arm to keep pace with the Saints. Of the games with higher totals this weekend, this is the game that I think is most likely to result in a shootout because both offenses are set up for success via their passing games, which should minimize the role of the running back position. Carson Palmer got a mention from Phil, and I agree that the matchup is superb, but my concern would be that David Johnson is able to do the heavy lifting against an Eagles team that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to the running back position over the past five weeks.
Scott Bischoff: I agree with John. The Saints are the No. 30 ranked pass defense, and opposing quarterbacks have a 114.2 passer rating against them. Vegas likes this game as the highest scoring game in the NFL this week as the total number is currently at 51 points. We've seen the Lions' inability to run the ball force the passing game, and that's exactly what I expect this week. The Lions are going to have to put up points on offense to stay with the Saints in this game, and if they are to do that it will come from the passing game and Stafford.
John Mamula: Brady has an opportunity for a big game this Sunday. The Patriots have the largest team total (30.75) of the week. The Titans pass defense has been on a sharp decline. Over the past three weeks, the Titans have allowed 11 passing touchdowns and 915 passing yards. With the loss of LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots will be passing early and often, and I do not expect Brady to take his foot off the pedal.
Excellent calls on the passers, guys. How about running backs? Who has the best chance to get to triple digits on the ground?
Alexander: Adrian Peterson has reached at least 100 rushing yards in his last five meetings with the Bears, dating back to 2012. I don't see any reason he won't make it six in a row with the Vikings at home and favored by five points.
Bischoff: I agree with Phil as I think it is almost a lock to see Peterson getting to 100 yards in Week 15. The Bears are allowing 4.7 yards per carry, and they are the No. 26 ranked rushing defense allowing 125.7 yards per game. As far as the game script goes, this is must-win game in the NFC North for the Vikings, and their offense is going to go as far as Peterson takes them, so he'll get plenty of touches.
Lee: The easiest call of the bunch here is Peterson to rack up 100 rushing yards against the Bears at home. The Vikings enter the weekend as 5.5-point favorites, which bodes well for Peterson's odds of hitting 100-yards; in the Vikings' eight wins this season, Peterson has reached 100 rushing yards six times (75%) and averaged 26.3 touches per game. Those numbers are incredible and argue strongly in favor of a huge game for the league's best running back.
So we have some love for Peterson. Do you other guys have any other candidates?
Feery: David Johnson has flirted with 100 rushing yards for the past two games and could bust through that barrier in the Sunday night affair against the Eagles. The Eagles have improved against the run since being gashed for 235 yards by Doug Martin in Week 11, but Johnson and the high-powered Cardinals offense should find some success.
Mamula: Eddie Lacy has over 100 rushing yards in three out of his past four games. I am throwing out the Detroit game because he had a lack of touches due to missing curfew. The Packers are making an effort to get Lacy more involved with at least 20 touches per game. Oakland is a middling rush defense which allows 101 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. Lacy will eat this week in the Black Hole.
Let's move on to the pass-catchers. Is anyone sticking out as as obvious choice to pass 100 yards?
Alexander: This comes down to Alshon Jeffery and Julio Jones for me. If forced to choose, I'd lean Jeffery since Minnesota's pass defense is banged up and struggling. When the Bears and Vikings met in Week 8, Jeffery went for 10-116-1.
Feery: Odell Beckham Jr will draw the full attention of Josh Norman this week, but I still like the second year pro’s chances of gaining 100+ receiving yards for the seventh consecutive game. Although Norman is a stiff test, I just don’t see anyone being able to fully contain a receiver of Beckham’s caliber and fully expect him to receive his usual amount of targets, which should translate into 100+ receiving yards.
Bischoff: A player I see as undervalued this week is Cardinals receiver John Brown. He is the main vertical threat in the potent Cardinals passing game. This week, they go into Philadelphia to take on a very poor Eagles passing defense. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is having a tremendous season, and each week he takes a few shots down the field to Brown. I see the Eagles doing everything they can to limit Larry Fitzgerald, and that opens the door for Brown in this game.
Mamula: A.J. Green has gone over 100 receiving yards two weeks in a row, and he will make it three this week. I am higher on A.J. McCarron than most, and I love this matchup. The 49ers are ranked sixth-worst vs. the pass this season. If Tyler Eifert is inactive as expected, Green will pick up the slack with a few additional targets.
Lee: For some of the same reasons I like Stafford's prospects this week, I think Calvin Johnson could have a big game. Above and beyond the game flow, Johnson gets a plush matchup against the Saints' worst cornerback, Brandon Browner (who is among the worst in the whole league). Browner has allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 105.9 when in coverage this season, while giving up 713 receiving yards (sixth-worst in the NFL) and four touchdowns (versus only a single interception). Johnson is a stellar DFS play this week because he was shut down last week by Trumaine Johnson in St. Louis, a game that will keep his ownership levels reasonable due to negative recency bias. I freely admit this is not the most obvious play, particularly in light of the fact that Johnson has only one 100-yard receiving day all season, but with Green, Beckham, Antonio Brown, and DeAndre Hopkins all facing top-end coverage, Johnson gets my nod for a DraftKings bonus this week.
Chalk of the Week
Pick a player at Running Back or Wide Receiver who will be among the highest owned of the week. Discuss why and what other players you're able to fit into your lineup(s) with the value that this "chalk" play provides.
Phil Alexander: At only $5,500, it's a safe bet Golden Tate will be a chalk play in a matchup with New Orleans' league-worst pass defense. Rostering Tate may feel a bit like point chasing since he's coming off a GPP-winning 28.5 point explosion, but there are reasons to think he can keep it up that have nothing to do with his great matchup. Since Week 10 (one game after Jim Bob Cooter took over play calling duties for Detroit), Jarvis Landry is the only receiver with more receptions than Tate's 36. Tate has been his usual remarkably efficient self over that span, hauling in 84% of his targets. He's scored at least 14.6 fantasy points in each of his last four games, making a 16.5-point cash game target score look more like a baseline projection (especially considering the soft matchup). There are other strong receiver plays in Tate's price range, such as Doug Baldwin ($5,800) and Jeremy Maclin ($5,500). Rostering all three makes it possible to spend up at running back (Adrian Peterson), tight end (Rob Gronkowski), and/or quarterback (no shortage of high-end options this week).
Chris Feery: Phil made a great call with Tate, but I’ll go with a wide receiver at the same price point in Maclin ($5,500). He’s the unquestioned top target in a Chiefs offense that has shown a great deal of improvement, outside of last week’s game that was impacted by the elements at Arrowhead Stadium. Maclin has been targeted 30 times over the last three games, and we can expect him to receive a full complement of targets against a Ravens secondary that was just torched by Russell Wilson for five touchdowns. He should be a popular choice this week, but the interest is well warranted.
John Mamula: The two chalk plays on DraftKings that stand out to me this week are Maclin ($5,500) and Denard Robinson ($4,600). Chris mentioned Maclin already, so I will discuss Robinson. T.J. Yeldon is expected to miss this week, which opens up opportunity in the Jaguars backfield. After Yeldon went down last week, Robinson had 15 touches for 87 total yards and a touchdown. Robinson showed he can carry the load with a stretch of six games last season with at least 14 touches. The Falcons defense has been on steady decline over the past month. Do not underestimate the green "30th" rank on the DraftKings lineup page. It will help drive Robinson's ownership percentage up this week.
John Lee: With DraftKings' marquis event, the FFWC, being held in San Diego this weekend, they did their best to prevent massive overlap in ownership by tightening up the salary structure. For the most part, I think they accomplished that goal, but late-breaking injuries have still generated decent value plays that will be highly-owned, including Denard Robinson, as has been mentioned here already. The player(s) that I think will be highest-owned this weekend will be either Russell Wilson ($7,000) or Brandon Bolden ($3,200).
Wilson is the hottest fantasy player in the game right now and will be without a running back that has more than three days of practice, so a lot of players will be counting on him to carry the load against a bad Cleveland Browns team at home with a lofty implied team total -- particularly on a week where value plays at the quarterback position are more limited. Bolden should be highly-owned because people will want a piece of the New England offense at a discount, and Bolden offers extreme value, especially if we conclude that he will be used as he was last weekend against the Texans (16 carries after LeGarrette Blount left the game). Of the two (Wilson and Bolden), I think Bolden will be the higher-owned option, reaching 30% or more in cash games; Wilson will be slightly lower in the 20th percentile.
Alexander: I'm wondering about Bolden's ownership percentage. On one hand, he should be heavy chalk for all the reasons John mentioned. On the other, I'm betting a lot of people out there will hesitate because "Belichick running back roulette."
Lee: My feeling on Bolden is that the opportunity cost is so low that it almost necessitates rostering him. I cannot see him getting fewer than 12 touches in this game, no matter the gamescript and/or Belichick's unpredictability. That's $250/touch for a player on the team with the highest implied team total on the week (note: I think he gets closer to 16-18 touches, which is $200/touch).
Even if he crashes and burns, he should finish with 4-6 fantasy points, when I'm only asking for 9-10 fantasy points to meet value at his price. And because of his salary, I can slot in a top end quarterback, Adrian Peterson, the chalk defense (Seattle -- who, incidentally, is probably the actual "chalk of the week"), and even Julio Jones, if I want him.
Elite WR Issues
Looking at the top of the wide receiver list, each one has a red flag this week this week. Odell Beckham Jr will likely be shadowed by Carolina's Josh Norman; Antonio Brown will face an elite Denver unit that has allowed one touchdown to a wide receiver all season; Julio Jones has a nice matchup with Jacksonville, but Matt Ryan has been holding him back; DeAndre Hopkins will be catching passes from T.J. Yates and A.J. Green from A.J. McCarron; and Brandon Marshall faces a Dallas team that has been very tough against edge receivers all season.
Where are you looking for your most-expensive wide receiver? Is it one of these players? If so, how do you see them overcoming their obstacles? Or is a more balanced approach or two or three middle-priced players the key to success this week?
Phil Alexander: Personally, I like all of these guys this week to varying degrees. I'm excited their ownership percentages should be (relatively) suppressed by these red flags, as well as the abundance of value in the mid-tier of receivers. In lieu of choosing one (because I will have GPP exposure to all of them), I'll just rank them.
- Jones - Receivers have had no problem getting behind the Jaguars secondary recently. Jacksonville benched struggling cornerback Dwayne Gratz last week and replaced him with Nick Marshall -- a converted college quarterback who played only four snaps this season prior to Week 14. Marshall was in coverage on T.Y. Hilton's 57-yard reception last week and figures to lineup opposite Jones on some of his routes.
- Brown - I tend to give home/road splits more merit than most, but since the start of last season Brown's fantasy points per game increase by a staggering 80% at Heinz Field. He's both good enough and heavily targeted enough to win against the league's top cornerbacks.
- Green - Is A.J. McCarron any worse of a downfield passer than Andy Dalton? Green's matchup with the 49ers is cake, and like Brown, the home/road splits are in his favor. Since the start of his career, Green's fantasy points per game increase by nearly 50% on the road.
- Beckham - I can honestly say I've avoided Norman in every game this season, but I'm willing to chance Beckham against him in GPPs. This is pure narrative, but Beckham is the type of competitor that has had this matchup circled on his calendar. He'll be looking to show Norman up, and at this point (after six straight games over 100 yards and a highlight reel longer than the line at the DMV), I'm not betting against him succeeding.
- Hopkins/Marshall - These guys are down a tier for me mostly because I'm envisioning low scoring games for each. But Marshall's target volume and red zone role make him cash game viable every week, and Hopkins did just fine (5-118-2 -- against Darrelle Revis no less) the last time T.J. Yates started for Houston. I'd lean Marshall if you're shooting for a high floor and Hopkins if you're chasing ceilings.
Chris Feery: I agree with Phil and think you could make a case for rostering each one of them, red flags aside. Of the top tier wide receivers for Week 15, I would be most inclined to select Beckham or Green. While Beckham will be blanketed by Norman on Sunday, he’s playing at far too high of a level to be contained and could very well produce his seventh consecutive game with 100+ receiving yards. Green tallied five of his catches for 115 yards and a score after Andy Dalton exited with his thumb injury last week. I won’t go as far as to say business as usual for the Bengals offense in the absence of Dalton, but the McCarron-Green combo could find some success against the 49ers.
Scott Bischoff: I'll echo Phil and Chris' sentiments on rostering these players. The red flags on each of them are worth considering, but I think it's wise to have some exposure to them because there is value in the fact that they'll be lesser-owned this week than in a normal week.
When I'm starting the process of constructing my GPP lineups this week, I'm starting by getting either Green or Jones into the lineup. Then I'm filling out the WR position my adding one of Lions wide receivers Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate, and Cardinals receiver John Brown. The WR stable looks like one of the following options:
- A.J. Green ($7,900), Calvin Johnson ($6,900) and John Brown ($4,900) for a total of $19,700
- Julio Jones ($8,500), Golden Tate ($5,500) and John Brown ($4,900) for a total of $18,900
I like the way that looks, and obviously there will be some interchange of these players in these lineups, but that's the jumping-off point. Because of the value in the pricing for running backs this week (see Denard Robinson, David Johnson, etc.) you can get one of the more expensive wide receivers in your lineup and then fill out with mid-price options like I've shown above, and to me that feels like a smart approach this week.
John Mamula: I think the best GPP strategy for this week is to drop down to the second or third level of the WR position and roster multiple receivers with elite potential. A.J. Green ($7,900) is my favorite option. If Tyler Eifert is out again this week, Green will benefit from some additional targets. I don't think there is a significant drop off from Andy Dalton to A.J. McCarron as compared to some other situations in the league. McCarron has spent the past two years learning the Bengals system and gets a prime matchup vs. the 49ers. Some mid-to-low-priced options that I like to fill out the roster include:
Calvin Johnson ($6,900) - Johnson gets a significant bump due to his matchup. The Saints worst-ranked pass defense has allowed 36 passing touchdowns and an average of 30.5 points per game this season. Johnson will have a couple of big games this season that boost his overall season numbers. One was on Thanksgiving vs. the Eagles where Johnson had 8 receptions for 93 yards and three touchdowns. This will be another huge game for Johnson on Monday Night Football.
Sammy Watkins ($6,200) - After Week 11, Bills head coach Rex Ryan acknowledged that Watkins needed more balls thrown his way. Since then, Watkins has been on a tear. Over the past three weeks, Watkins has amassed 348 receiving yards and four touchdowns. During Week 10 vs. the Chiefs, Watkins had 10 targets. Last week vs. Philadelphia, he had 12 targets. This week, Watkins has another great matchup at Washington.
Doug Baldwin ($5,800) - Like Watkins, Baldwin is under-priced on DraftKings as compared to his recent production. Baldwin has been the top fantasy receiver over the past three weeks with 17 receptions for 321 yards and eight touchdowns. Jimmy Graham's injury has opened up more targets for Baldwin, and he is flourishing. Seattle has the second highest team total (28.75), and Russell Wilson will continue his streak vs. the Browns. Baldwin will be highly owned but is a must play at his price if you are submitting multiple GPP lineups this week.
John Lee: That is a great question, Ryan. Moderator's Note: Thank you, John.
Of the receivers listed, I am most fond of Jones this week. The Jaguars field FootballOutsiders' 27th-ranked DVOA pass defense and have struggled to slow down lesser receivers all season. In fact, the only premier receiver the Jaguars have faced (DeAndre Hopkins in Week 6) embarrassed the Jacksonville secondary with 10 receptions for 148 receiving yards and a pair of scores. For Jones, I am expecting some positive scoring regression this week; he has 66 targets over the past five weeks (13.2 targets per week) and has not found paydirt over that span -- the second-longest dry spell of his career.
I fully recognize that Matt Ryan has looked horrendous over the past month, but the Falcons will struggle to run the ball against the Jaguars (3.6 yards per carry; third in the league) and could be playing from behind, both of which support a heavy volume role for Jones. So, if I'm paying up at the WR position, he will be the guy. But I am leaning towards less expensive options like Johnson against the Saints' terrible secondary and Jeremy Maclin ($5,500), who has reemerged as a WR1 after suffering through several poor weeks against tough cornerback coverage.
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Ryan Hester - Moderator