This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
New England Narrative
The biggest #NarrativeStreet story of the week (and perhaps of all season) is New England visiting Indianapolis. The Colts were the chief whistle-blowers on the DeflateGate scandal, and they hung a very odd banner this offseason. Between the “New England Revenge Tour” and the Patriots’ success leading them to scoff at such banners, many are predicting a huge number of points and lack of mercy from Bill Belichick’s bunch this week.
Where do you stand on this narrative?
- National TV audience
- Move to 5-0
- Beat a team that was supposed to be an AFC championship contender
Throw all of that together with Tom Brady wanting to stick it back to the Colts. I see a touchdown for every receiver he can find – Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis, and Julian Edelman – and then hammering LeGarrette Blount the rest of the way. A 50+ point performance is not out of the question at all here.
Dan Hindery: It’s interesting to see some of the astronomical predictions for the Patriots offense. Of course the Patriots would love to go out and put up silly numbers against Indianapolis (and it’s possible they do it). But every team would love to go out and score 50 points on any given Sunday, and it rarely happens. I’d be very wary of going overboard with narrative versus sticking to the fundamentals of an analytical approach.
The most likely outcome is probably much more like what we just saw against Dallas. The Vegas Team Total has been hovering right around 31 (give or take a point). That’s one more than New England just scored against Dallas (which led to solid but unspectacular fantasy production). Stephen Gostkowski is averaging 2.5 made field goals per game (7.5 points from field goals), so that takes the offensive scoring total down from 31 to ~23.5. The Patriots defense/special teams has a decent shot at a score and that probably accounts for ~2.5 points, which takes the offensive scoring projection down to almost exactly three touchdowns (21 points).
So the median/mean outcome according to Vegas is only three Patriots offensive touchdowns. But I keep seeing predictions of Brady throwing three-plus touchdowns almost as a floor – despite the Patriots scoring more on the ground than through the air in each of their last three meetings with the Colts. If you’re building a cash game lineup based upon reasonable projections from the Vegas totals, Brady only projects for 1.5-2.0 touchdown passes. Blount/Lewis probably project for 1.0-1.5 rushing touchdowns combined. It just doesn’t make sense to me to build a cash game lineup based upon the all of the following assumptions: Brady will throw three touchdowns; the Patriots are running for two or three more; Edelman is going to score 25+ fantasy points as a minimum but probably blows past that; Gronkowski has a big game, etc. It can’t all happen.
If you really think it’s a lock the Patriots blow out the Colts, you’re probably better off just putting in a big bet on Patriots -7 somewhere instead of stacking your cash game lineup with three or more expensive Patriots players and assuming they score 5+ offensive touchdowns against Indianapolis.
So, Dan, you don’t buy into a big-time Patriots romp and the notion that it’s a “must” to own some part of New England in your lineups this week?
Hindery: I’m definitely on the bandwagon in terms of the Brady-Edelman-Gronkowski stack for GPPs. There’s nothing wrong with buying into a narrative in that format, and I even think it can be pretty helpful. You have to be able to tell a realistic story about how your lineup can get to 200+ points. You can do that with a Patriots stack. You can also play Blount in a GPP on the hope that the game script and game plan for the Patriots plays out similarly to the way the past three meetings played out against Indianapolis.
My only issue is buying too much into a narrative when it comes to a cash game lineup. My feeling is that you have to try to approach the format more analytically (basically assuming that the Vegas numbers are pretty close to accurate and the Patriots score between two and four offensive touchdowns) and acknowledge that there are some very different game scripts that could play out. In one, New England pounds the ball like they have in most recent meetings and Blount and/or Lewis have big days while Brady and the passing targets have below average outings. In another, the Patriots come out with a pass-heavy game plan and are hell bent on Brady having a big day due to revenge or whatever and he passes for 350+ yards. In a third realistic game script, the offense “only” scores around three touchdowns like Vegas predicts and they are split up in a way where none of the pieces of the New England offense meets or exceeds their relatively high price points.
Overall, I think the individual pieces of the Patriots offense are a little bit riskier bets than what seems to be the general consensus. The variance is a positive thing for GPPs as one or more of the offensive weapons should put up big numbers. I am a bit more wary for cash games because there are so many different ways the game could play out. I do not buy that Brady’s floor is two or three passing touchdowns or that Edelman’s floor is eight catches and 100+ yards.
We often talk about stacking, but when we talk about stacking such high-priced players, the talk can be cheap as it can be difficult to fill the rest of your lineup with reasonable options. Can someone walk us through some lineup options when deploying the various Patriots stacks?
Jeff Haseley: Looking at all of the notable Patriots salaries for DraftKings, we have the following:
- Tom Brady ($8,100)
- Julian Edelman ($7,600)
- Rob Gronkowski ($7,600)
- Dion Lewis ($,5800)
- LeGarrette Blount ($4,400)
- Patriots Defense ($,3100)
Here are the salary amounts of some possible stacks:
- Brady-Lewis-Edelman-Gronkowski = $29,100
- Brady-Edelman-Gronkowski = $23,300
- Brady-Lewis-Edelman = $21,500
- Brady-Lewis-Gronkowski = $21,500
Creating a formidable lineup with these stacks is not as hard you might think. Here are some lineups:
Pasquino: I get what Jeff's saying here, but I would actually take a different stance on New England and stacking.I would only do a three or four-player stack in a cash lineup. I think going to a four-player stack is very risky for a GPP. But if you believe that New England is going to score a lot (and I do) and you aren't certain where the touchdowns will come from, grabbing several options gives you exposure to the most likely candidates.
Spending over $20K (40+%) of your budget on one team is basically an "all in" approach. That in itself is risky. But asking for 4x from even the cheapest three-player stack is asking for too much. For cash games, you are just asking for 64.5 points from those three players. Let's take Brady/Lewis/Gronkowski as an example at $21,500. Brady needs 300 yards (15 points with the bonus) and three touchdowns (12) to get 27 points. Gronkowski needs a 6-80-1 day to get to 20 points. If Dion Lewis finds the end zone, he still needs 11.5 more points for all three to reach combined value. It is doable, but you do need everything to break right, and even here with the cheapest three-player stack, everyone has to find the end zone to really reach the 3x level. That's risky.
Does anyone have and player-specific predictions? Break down each New England skill player and discuss the value each has this week.
Scott Bischoff: Brady is a clear QB1 this week; he should have no problem getting to 275+ yards and three-plus touchdowns.
BJ VanderWoude: With the exception of their 2006 meeting, Brady has passed for at least two touchdowns in every regular season game against Indianapolis. The offense is firing on all cylinders, and Indianapolis has struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks, including allowing a 300-yard, two touchdown performance to Brian Hoyer in roughly two quarters of play. I am expecting a 400-yard, three touchdown game from Brady.
Pasquino: Pairing him with three viable receivers for sure in Gronkowski, Edelman, and Lewis, I can see a 300-yard, three touchdown day relatively easy. At $8,100 that gives Brady 27 points and hits the cash line. For him to get to 4x though is a steeper hill to climb, and requires some scrambling, a goal line dive, or 350 yards and maybe a fourth touchdown pass. For me, that's too much to ask, so Brady is only a cash consideration.
Pasquino: He's going to get 15 touches in the first half as a runner and receiver and rack up 80+ yards. The only question is if he gets to the end zone. If Lewis sets up Brady for a touchdown or two to Gronkowski, Lewis is going to struggle to hit more than cash (3x) value, even at a relative bargain of $5,800. 17 points is not a lock.
VanderWoude: I see Lewis getting a lot of work in the first half with Brady using him to spread the defense out and create space in the middle of the field. He has been one of the most consistent RB2 options this year, and I see no reason why he won't continue that trend this week against Indianapolis.
Bischoff: Lewis will continue to be the primary ball carrier when the Patriots are not in the red zone and until the game gets out of reach. I see Lewis as a high-end RB2 option this week, but he'll likely lose goal-line duty and garbage time points to Blount.
VanderWoude: While Blount's production is sporadic and unpredictable, it is worth nothing that he has two consecutive post-season performances against Indy where he rushed for 150+ yards and 3+ touchdowns. His production is game-script dependent, but the Patriots will lean on him in the second half. He is a boom or bust option that will need to score touchdowns to reach value, but when you play for the best offense in football, scoring opportunities are much easier to come by.
Pasquino: At just $4,400, you are asking for the game script to go to where New England hammers the ball in with Blount in the second half or at the goal line. I think that it can happen, but you really need two touchdowns and about 50 yards just to get cash value. GPPs would require a great game script for Blount, and I don't see that happening. I am likely to fade him.
Bischoff: A very intriguing play this week, I can see multiple scores from Blount working at the goal-line and late in this game. I do buy the concept of the Patriots punishing the Colts, and I think Brady may throw a little more, but I see Blount as the hammer that Belichick uses to beat his point home. He is also a RB2 with nice upside.
Bischoff: I would expect the Colts to lock up Edelman with cornerback Vontae Davis, and in doing so, I see Edelman as a riskier play than usual in this game. He'll catch a few passes and he'll get looks, but in the end, the Patriots could adjust and just ignore Edelman and target other areas of the field.
VanderWoude: The Colts have been unable to stop opposing number-one receivers this season, allowing on average 8.2 receptions for 112 yards and one touchdown per game. Those are baseline numbers for Edelman this week with the chance to blow through them. He could very well be the story of this game.
Pasquino: While I love his ability to get open and make catches, I think his long touchdown last week is what saved his value. He can get 100 yards, but he will likely need seven-plus catches to get there and I don't think he is likely to score. At $7,600 I am probably going to fade him in almost all types of lineups as I think the touchdowns go elsewhere.
Pasquino: I'm buying that he scores this week and pushes for 100 yards receiving. I don't see New England having an answer for him. His price tag is high at $7,600, but it should be. I can see a path for him to get 6-100-1 which is 25 points, and that is an easy cash value. If he goes off like we all know he can, I can see 30+ and GPP value (but not in super-big GPPs like the Millionaire Maker).
Bischoff: The Colts have no answer for Gronkowski, and I'd expect a very nice day from him this week. With Davis locking horns with Edelman, I see Gronkowski as the clear No. 1 receiving option for the Patriots in this game.
VanderWoude: With Brady likely to throw for at least three touchdowns, Gronkowski is becomes the biggest beneficiary. Gronkowski hit pay dirt four times in the first two games but has failed to catch a touchdown in the last two, which becomes more interesting when you factor in that Indianapolis has not let up a touchdown to an opposing tight end this season. Something has got to give there, and I would favor Gronkowski scoring over Indianapolis shutting him down.
It’s widely known that having stacks (both QB-WR same team and even WR-WR on opposing teams) helps with raising the ceiling of a team, making it a sound strategy when trying to win a GPP. DraftKings has the Millionaire Maker – King of the GPPs.
So which game are you targeting as a potential shootout to anchor your lineups in the hopes of taking down the big prize?
Scott Bischoff: I am looking at the Monday night matchup between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles as a prime example of a possible stack on either side. Vegas likes this game to be a high scoring game, and I do too. I'd heavily consider stacking Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford with slot receiver Jordan Matthews (averaging nine targets per game), but I might look a little more at a cheaper option like Riley Cooper or Josh Huff, especially if rookie receiver Nelson Agholor is out.
On the opposite side of the field, I would consider Giants quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr as possibly the most heavily owned stack this week, and that means a fade for me because of the ownership percentages involved. That also means my strategy involves hoping the Giants don't go off, but that's the strategy I am playing. The Giants are also on the road in a hostile environment, which is another small factor for me.
Pasquino: I can see what Scott's looking at here, but I need to watch the injury report on the Giants. If Beckham Jr is not 100%, Rueben Randle might be a sneaky option, or even Larry Donnell with Eli Manning. The Giants-Eagles game is a battle for an early first place spot in the NFC East, and this game could quickly become a pass-happy one with the Eagles and Giants airing it out, especially with New York's strong run defense.
Another game with a lot of possible offense is in Green Bay, where the Packers host the Chargers. The over/under is over 50 right now, and I can easily see that coming to fruition with Aaron Rodgers lighting up a San Diego team on short rest after a bad home loss to the Steelers. Giving up 24 points at home to a Michael Vick-led squad is rough, so just imagine what Rodgers can do.
Philip Rivers has been all about the passing game this year, and to keep the Chargers anywhere close to Green Bay he will have to throw for 300 yards and multiple scores. Antonio Gates was in the mix a lot on Monday, but I expect more to go to Keenan Allen this week.
Jeff Haseley: The Sunday night game with the Patriots and Colts looks to be a good one, especially in favor of the Patriots. I mentioned this in the Question 1, but I would take a long look at a triple stack of Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Rob Gronkowski. New England figures to put a lot of points on the board, so why not spend your dollars on Patriots players, particularly their receivers? A quad-stack to include Dion Lewis is a possibility, but that might be stretching your luck for all to reach three and four times value. A possible lineup that would include the Brady-Edelman-Gronkowski stack is this:
Dan Hindery: I discussed a pair of my favorite Week 6 stacks in my weekly Millionaire Maker recap. The two that stand out to me early in the week are Colin Kaepernick with Anquan Boldin and Carson Palmer with John Brown or Larry Fitzgerald.
The Ravens have been destroyed through the air three times already this season. Some will point to Kaepernick as being incapable of a big passing day. But many would have said the same thing of Derek Carr, Andy Dalton and Josh McCown before they eviscerated this struggling Baltimore secondary. Plus, the Kaepernick-Boldin stack costs only $9,300. You don’t need a ridiculous performance from the duo to hit the 5x multiple you’re looking for in GPPs. In fact, you just need 20-25 points from each. There might not be a QB-WR pair more likely to hit the 5x multiple than this duo when you take into account the pricing. Plus, they shouldn’t be too highly owned despite the favorable matchup and pricing due to how bad Kaepernick played recently against Green Bay.
Palmer faces a nice matchup in Pittsburgh on a short week. We’ve seen Pittsburgh struggle on pass defense against good competition, and Arizona has one of the most efficient and potent passing games in the NFL through five weeks. Palmer has a good chance to put up 300+ yards and three touchdowns. Either of his top two targets (or even both) are capable of putting up good numbers. I lean slightly towards John Brown as my favorite of the duo to stack this week though. He is such a talented big-play threat that he is going to have a couple huge games this season and we have yet to see one. He is due.
BJ VanderWoude: The stack I am leaning towards is Andy Dalton with either Tyler Eifert or A.J. Green. The Bills have the 24th-ranked pass defense (274.4 yards per game) and have let up two-touchdown games to both Rishard Mathews and Julian Edelman. Buffalo has defended the run well, so the game script is likely to favor Andy Dalton passing 30+ times. In the two games this year that he has thrown more than 30 passes, he has returned a 5x+ multiple on his salary. His salary continues to be attractive ($5,700), and it is worth noting that he is averaging a 4.3x multiple on his salary through five weeks. Eifert and Green are wildcards in that their production can be inconsistent due to the way Cincinatti spreads the ball around. They are worth the risk in GPP's though, as their ceilings are both in the 5x-6x range. Buffalo has had eight different opposing receivers see double digit targets, which lends itself to the proper gamescript developing for Dalton to score 20+ points, as well as Eifert or Green to score in the the 25-30 point range.
Monday Night Hangovers?
Teams coming off of Monday Night Football haven’t fared too well defensively in the following weeks. The New York Jets and Indianapolis allowed big numbers to their Week 3 opponents after their Week 2 MNF game; Kansas City allowed 36 points at Cincinnati in Week 4; and Detroit and Seattle both allowed more points than they typically do in Week 5 (including Detroit’s horrific performance on both sides of the ball).
Is the short week having an impact on these teams? Do you see San Diego and Pittsburgh struggling in Week 6, particularly after such a close game with both teams fighting injuries?
Scott Bischoff: It is more than fair to say that all teams have some issues dealing with a short week, specifically when injuries are considered. I would say that I thought these matchups weren't favorable at all to begin with. The Chargers travel to Green Bay to take on a team that plays very tough at home; throw in the injuries, and there is potential for this game to be a little ugly. I see the Packers doing what they want on offense with quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the helm. It is always a poor idea to count out Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, but the Packers defense does a good job of smothering teams, and I'd expect a fair amount of that this week.
The Steelers take on the Arizona Cardinals at home this week, a very formidable foe, and they will likely be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger again. The Cardinals deploy a confusing type of defense, and I can't see backup quarterback Michael Vick doing much through the air in this game. The Steelers offense will be carried by running back LeVeon Bell. More importantly, the Cardinals offense is rolling right now, and overall it is not the best timing for the Steelers to take on the Cardinals.
Jeff Pasquino: Pittsburgh is a mess on offense with Vick, and even LeVeon Bell can't salvage this effort. You would never know that Antonio Brown is so good with such subpar quarterbacking with Vick at the helm. Now the Cardinals come in red hot, scoring 42 points against Detroit (and that was after letting up late as I think they could have scored 50+ if they really wanted to). Arizona looks like one of the best teams in the NFC, and they will take care of Pittsburgh by an easy margin.
The story is not much better for San Diego, as they have to travel to Lambeau Field and face Aaron Rodgers. The Chargers just lost to that same weak offense that Pittsburgh presents, and everyone with two eyes would agree that Rodgers is far more dangerous than Vick. The game, as Scott said, will get ugly and I think the Packers rout the Chargers on Sunday.
BJ VanderWoude: Jeff nailed the big points perfectly. Not only is there a hangover from Monday night, but the matchups are not good for either team. I would not be surprised to see both teams lose by a healthy margin. With that said, even losing teams can produce fantasy points.
I won't shy away from Leveon Bell or Antonio Gates, regardless of the hangover. With Bell, it has to do with him being a centerpiece of the offense, and for the time being he is their only shot at controlling the tempo of the game. If Pittsburgh gets down early, he will still reach value due to his elite pass catching ability.
With respect to Antonio Gates, I can see Green Bay scoring points at will and forcing San Diego to keep up through the passing game. We all saw last week how much Gates means to Philip Rivers in the red zone. The tight end position has been either a goldmine or a landmine this year, so the opportunity for Gates to rack up catches and yards alongside a touchdown is too good to pass up for me – especially with Rob Gronkowski commanding a high ownership percentage.
Dan Hindery: I completely agree with BJ. While I definitely buy in to the theory that the quick turnaround from a Monday night game hampers team performance the next week, both Antonio Gates and LeVeon Bell look to be guys that are still worth playing.
I also agree with the general consensus that Arizona and Green Bay already had some very favorable matchups offensively and the fact they are playing against teams on short rest only adds to my interest in playing some of these guys. While Eddie Lacy is off to a little bit of a slow start this season (in part due to his ankle injury), this matchup looks like one he should be able to exploit. As big home favorites against one of the league’s worst rush defenses, Lacy should get back on track this week.
For Arizona, I love Carson Palmer this week. And both of his top targets (Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown) are also very nice options. Pittsburgh’s pass defense has looked decent the past two weeks, but they haven’t played a team that is healthy and talented along both the offensive line and at wide receiver like Arizona. Unlike Philip Rivers last week, Carson Palmer should have plenty of time to throw, which will allow him to exploit the shaky Steelers secondary. Unlike Joe Flacco two weeks ago, Palmer has the type of wide receiver talent that can make Pittsburgh pay with big plays.
The biggest injury story of the week is Jamaal Charles being lost for the season. With Charcandrick West appearing to be the clear backup in Kansas City, is he a must-play in cash games this week due to the anticipated workload and $4,000 price tag?
Jeff Pasquino: I don't think so, and I might be alone in the "fade" category here. I just think Andy Reid is going to either (1) go with more Knile Davis than anyone thinks; or (2) go full running-back-by-committee (RBBC) with both of them and De'Anthony Thomas as a scatback lining up in the backfield several times this week. For a cash game value, you want 12 or more points for West at $4,000, and I can see some definite downside risk in assuming that's what he will get. If he doesn't reach the end zone, you need 80 yards and four catches, and I don't know if I see that coming his way this week against the Vikings.
Scott Bischoff: Jeff has made a very valid point on what Reid is likely to do on offense. I agree that I'd see it as a full RBBC going forward with Reid riding the hot hand. Davis has performed well in the past, and he's a significantly bigger back than West or Thomas. Honestly, I see Davis winning out in the end (over the next few weeks) with West and Thomas playing complimentary roles. For this week, I see West as a very big roll of the dice.
Dan Hindery: I wouldn’t go so far as “must play” because there is definitely some uncertainty regarding West’s role. And you just never know what type of game plan Andy Reid will roll out in a given week. Even with a healthy Charles, you couldn’t always count on Reid running the ball consistently. However, I do see West as one of the top bargains of the week at running back. The pricing has tightened up a bit and we aren’t left with many attractive options in the $4,000 and under range. West seems a safer bet than Darren Sproles, Ameer Abdullah, and some of the other players in that price range. If he plays the majority of the snaps, he will almost certainly be the target of at least four check down throws from Alex Smith and is also likely to see ~15 carries. If you think he sees in the neighborhood of 20 touches, then he becomes pretty close to a must play at this price.
Jeff Haseley: Put me in the camp that believes Davis will eventually win this role. It wasn't long ago that Davis was considered an RB1 fantasy play when Charles was out, and that was with Reid as head coach. Could West be the guy to earn substantial playing time? Sure, but at least we know what Davis is capable of and that Reid has relied on him before with a successful result. I don't love either of these backs, but if I had to guess who would perform the best when called upon, it would be Davis. I am not targeting either back this week for cash games. In GPPs, I may take a chance on West, because it looks like he has the lead on the role at this time. This week the percentages are in his favor, but an injury or ineffectiveness will change that momentum over to Davis quickly.
Hindery: While it’s a very small sample size, obviously, West has outperformed Davis in both the preseason and regular season to-date. West led the team with 136 rushing yards (at just under 5.0 yards per carry) in the preseason and did much of his damage early in games with the first team offense. He is also gaining 1.5 yards per carry more than Davis through the early part of the 2015 season. In the game against Chicago, Davis rushed twice for two yards total while West had seven carries for 31 yards and looked more nimble.
At least for now, it looks like West will get the bigger chunk of carries and he has consistently looked better to me over the past nine weeks of preseason and regular season action.
BJ VanderWoude: I may be in the minority, but I want no part of the Chiefs backfield in my cash game lineups this week. West's salary is appealing, as is the anticipated workload, but the biggest question is how that workload will be divided between West and Davis. Until there is an identifiable trend as to who will see the lion’s share of carries, I would not suggest playing either of them in cash games.
I have heard GPP arguments for both West and Davis, with opportunity being the main point in each. I don't think it's that simple though. Charles' production came through a combination of his rare skillset/ability (5.1 ypc) and the fact that he is one of the few running backs who played on all three downs and in the red zone. Through four games, he was averaging roughly 10 additional points in the passing game, which is how he continued to be a cash game and GPP option. As mentioned, this will most likely be a full blown RBBC. If you separate the parts and factor in that neither West nor Davis has Charles' ability, it will be difficult for either running back to produce enough points to be a consistent option. I don't see West taking over the red zone duties, nor do I see Davis playing on passing downs or receiving more than 60% of the carries. There is also Thomas, who Reid mentioned as another option to throw in the mix. I agree with Dan that West is better suited as a replacement for Charles and has looked like a patient, decisive runner in the limited carries I have seen from him, but I won't be using either in DFS this week.
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