This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Who are your best Week 12 "punt plays?"
John Lee: With Johnny Manziel's recent demotion, Josh McCown looks to be a decent value play at the quarterback position on FantasyAces in Week 12. The Browns will host the talent-depleted, injury-riddled Ravens on Monday Night Football as three-point favorites with an implied team total of 22 points. The Ravens have admittedly looked better defending the pass over the past few weeks, allowing only 18 and 11 fantasy points to Blake Bortles and Case Keenum, respectively, but Baltimore is still yielding the second most fantasy points to the QB position on the season. For his part, McCown has been steady as the starting quarterback of an otherwise bland offense; McCown has multiple touchdowns in five out of six starts this season, including a 457-yard performance with two passing touchdowns plus a rushing touchdown against this Ravens team back in Week 5. At $5,400, McCown is a steal on a FantasyAces site that has been pricing their players very tightly for most of the season.
With Marshawn Lynch having sports hernia surgery this week, Thomas Rawls appears to be the obvious running back value play at $4,650 this week. However, do not expect a repeat 200-yard performance against the Steelers, who boast the league's fifth best rush defense, allowing only 93.0 yards per game and a paltry three rushing touchdowns on the entire season. In fact, only the Seahawks have allowed fewer fantasy points to the RB position. For those reasons, I will be considering SanFrancisco's Shaun Draughn, who is offered up at an intriguing $3,900 price point. The likelihood of a rushing touchdown for Draughn is minimal, but he is getting a lot of volume as the RB1 in the Niners offense, including 21 and 23 opportunities over the past two weeks. Last week, Draughn was targeted 11 times in the passing game by Blaine Gabbert in a losing effort against the Seahawks; he could be similarly used this week against the Cardinals, who allowed 128 receiving yards to another running back (Giovani Bernard) just a few days ago.
Dan Hindery: John nailed the two most intriguing guys, but a couple others are also worth mentioning. Brian Hoyer ($5,700) at home against a New Orleans defense that has allowed at least 295 yards and two touchdowns to each of the last six quarterbacks he has faced looks like a great play. The last three outings by the Saints pass defense have been especially noteworthy; they allowed 350 yards and six touchdowns to Eli Manning, 371 yards and four touchdowns to Marcus Mariota and 324 yards and four touchdowns to Kirk Cousins. That's not exactly a murderer’s row, but they put up massive fantasy numbers against this defense.The Saints fired their defensive coordinator Rob Ryan last week in an attempt to stop the bleeding. But defensive talent is still a major issue, and it’s unlikely we see an instant improvement. The Texans passing offense is just as talented as the other passing offenses that have torched the Saints over the past month and should have a good day on Sunday.
Sticking with the same game, Alfred Blue ($4,300) also makes for an interesting punt play. With Chris Polk banged up, Blue saw 24 touches for 92 yards and a touchdown against the Jets last week. Polk is again out and Blue projects to again see 20+ touches in a game in which the Texans are home favorites. While the Saints are more vulnerable against the pass than the run, they are not exactly a stout rush defense either. They’ve also been burnt by running backs in the passing game (Matt Jones had 131 receiving yards and a score last game, and Shane Vereen had 60 receiving yards and a score a few games ago).
Will Grant: I agree with both Dan and John here. McCown and Hoyer are two of the better choices at QB this week if you're looking to steal some cheap value. Looking at the terrible Monday Night Matchup, McCown is the better choice at QB than Matt Schaub. Schaub deserves an honorable mention because the Browns are so terrible on defense, but his salary ($5,650) and the question marks at receiver for the Ravens make McCown the safer play.
At running back, Draughn is about as punt play as they come. His salary is only $3,900 with good reason; he's not a great running back. He's on a San Francisco team that is pretty bad as well. That being said, he still had 20 touches against a tough Seattle defense last week and 20 against the Falcons the week before. This week, he faces an Arizona defense that allowed huge production to two backs last week. Draughn won't be a pretty play this week, but if you're strapped for cash at RB, he's definitely going to get his opportunities.
If you're looking for help at WR, though, I like DeSean Jackson this week. Jackson finally showed up last week. He had eight targets for 87 yards and reached the end zone in a game where Washington was seriously overmatched. This week, Jackson faces one of the weakest pass defenses in the league. They are giving up almost 310 yards per game through the air, and Washington can't run the ball. It's a match made in heaven. Jackson is only $4,500 this week, so he should really be able to reach value. If you're looking for a punt play at WR or Flex, Jackson seems to be a good choice this week.
John Mamula: Hoyer ($5,700) at home vs. the Saints defense is the punt play at QB that is most attractive to me. Houston has the third highest team total of the week at 25.5 points and is favored by 3.5 points. Think about that for a second. Is Houston the third best offense in the league? Not by a long shot. But the Vegas total reflects how terrible the Saints defense has been this season. They have been historically bad, allowing 28 touchdown passes through 10 games, fourth-most all time through 10 games according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Saints rank last in points per game allowed (31.5) and yards per game allowed (425). The Saints defense helped Cousins look like Tom Brady a couple of weeks ago when he threw for four touchdown passes. Make sure you get some exposure to Hoyer this weekend.
I am not in love with any of the punt play running backs this week. If I had to choose one I would go with Rawls ($4,650). John Lee had a good analysis of Rawls. He has a tough matchup, but he will receive the bulk of the touches. With Lynch inactive, I expect 20 touches to be Rawls' floor. With that opportunity, he may be able to find the end zone or break off some decent yardage vs. the Steelers defense. Just don't expect 200+ rushing yards because this is a different situation this week.
Fun with Numbers
Blow us away with one stat that you are utilizing for building your lineups this week.
Will Grant: The 49ers have a terrible run defense. They are giving up 126 yards per game on the ground (27th in the league) and have given up 10 rushing touchdowns this season (28th in the league). The Cardinals are averaging 4.3 YPC running the ball this season (ninth in the league) and are expected to win this game by more than 10 points. Look for the Cardinals to grind out the clock in the second half this week. Chris Johnson had 150 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns against San Francisco Week 3, and you can expect him to have another strong game this week as well. His salary is a very reasonable $4,650, so I really like him as one of my backs this week.
John Lee: Most avid DFS players will analyze player versus team matchups (i.e., T.J. Yeldon versus Chargers' last-ranked rush defense in Week 12), but for wide receivers, I am a big believer in examining their respective coverage matchups each week. This week, Julio Jones has a stellar matchup against the Vikings' Xavier Rhodes, who has really struggled in his third year in the league. That said, pegging Jones as a DFS target feels too obvious, so I will share another: Martavis Bryant. Bryant has taken on a much bigger role in the Steelers offense in 2015, averaging 8.4 targets per game (versus 4.8 targets per game in 2014). This weekend, the Steelers will travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks, who are the league's stingiest defense against running backs, which should force Ben Roethlisberger to look to Antonio Brown and Bryant to move the ball on offense.
That said, Richard Sherman is the x-factor here. Whoever he covers will likely be impeded from putting up significant fantasy numbers. Early word is that Sherman will actually cover both Brown and Bryant, but whomever is lining up across from Cary Williams will have a clear path to production on Sunday. Williams is the second-worst coverage cornerback in the league over the past five games, allowing a pair of touchdowns and an opposing quarterback rating of 150.6 when thrown into his direction. Both Brown and Bryant should see Williams in at least 30-40% of their routes, which makes both appealing fantasy options. I prefer Bryant at a $1,350 discount, but Brown is in play, if you can afford his salary.
John Mamula: The Kansas City Chiefs are the hottest defense in the league. After starting out the season as one of the worst passing defenses, the Chiefs have turned it around. Over the past four games, the Chiefs defense has allowed only 9.8 points per game. They also lead the NFL in interceptions over the past five weeks. The key for their turnaround has been cornerback Sean Smith, who was suspended for the first four weeks of the season. The Chiefs are favored by 3.5 points at home vs. Buffalo with a low game total of 41.5 points. Buffalo has the third lowest team total of the week at 19 points. Tyrod Taylor struggled vs. the Patriots defense and appeared to injure his shoulder during the game. I do not like his chances against the Chiefs defense this week.
Which wide receiver do you see scoring the most raw points this week and why? Which receiver is the best points-per-dollar play in your mind?
Will Grant: DeAndre Hopkins is the easy choice for receiver to score the most points this week. Hopkins has 76 receptions for 1,045 yards and nine receiving touchdowns through his first 10 games this season. He's facing the Saints, who are giving up 293 passing yards per game and have allowed a league worst 28 receiving touchdowns (31st-ranked is Cleveland with only 21 receiving touchdowns). Hopkins is the heart and soul of the Houston passing game and he's going to see a lot of action this week. He's the most expensive receiver this week at $6,500, but he's worth every penny. A lower priced receiver like Kamar Aiken or Steve Johnson might get lucky and beat Hopkins in points per dollar, but there's a strong chance that Hopkins is the best points-per-dollar receiver this week as well. He's as close to a 'no-brainer' pick that you can have this week at the position.
John Lee: While I love Julio Jones' matchup against the Vikings' Xavier Rhodes thie week (six passing touchdowns allowed versus no interceptions; 121.8 opposing QB rating), I have to agree with Will that Hopkins should score the most points against a dreadful Saints secondary that is ranked last in the league in every major defensive category, including passing touchdowns allowed, passing yards per attempt, and points allowed. The Saints do have a few things in their favor, however. They fired Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, which certainly cannot hurt their path forward, and they had an extra week of preparation for this matchup against the Texans due to a sorely-needed bye week. That said, the Saints just do not have the personnel to contain Hopkins, who soundly bested Darrelle Revis last week to the tune of five catches for 118 yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns. Highly-touted cornerback Delvin Breaux will get the opportunity to shut down Hopkins, but Breaux has been easily beaten by lesser receivers this season; no other cornerback has allowed more receiving touchdowns than Breaux (eight).
My pick for best points-per-dollar wide receiver would be Michael Crabtree, who should see plenty of Blidi Wreh-Wilson in coverage. Regular readers of my "Tips and Picks" column will know that name because Wreh-Wilson is one of my favorite coverage cornerbacks to target in DFS circles; he has been one of the league's most consistently underperforming defensive backs over the past few years and will struggle to slow down the rejuvenated Crabtree behind Derek Carr. At $4,800, he represents tremendous value in a game that I fully expect to be a bounce-back performance from Carr, who was a big fantasy disappointment last weekend.
John Mamula: I agree with William and John that Hopkins is the obvious choice for the wide receiver to score the most points this week. Hopkins has been consistent this season with at least 11 targets in every game. Brian Hoyer often locks onto Hopkins with passes regardless of coverage. I previously mentioned that the Saints defense is historically bad this season. Another statistic from the Elias Sports Bureau, the Saints defense is allowing 6.68 yards per play this season. They are on pace to be the second-worst yards per play average in the history of the NFL. Hopkins is priced ($6,500) similar to the other elite wide receivers but has a much higher ceiling with this match-up.
My choice for best points-per-dollar player is Johnson ($4,700) vs. Jacksonville. Johnson was held in check with seven receptions for 54 yards vs. a tough Chiefs defense last week. Johnson has received eight and 10 targets the past two weeks. The injuries of Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd have opened up opportunity in the passing game, and Johnson will benefit by being the last man standing. The Chargers have a better match-up this week vs. the Jaguars who are allowing the fifth-most points per game this season (26.8) and the eighth most passing yards per game (262.8). At his salary, Johnson is a great punt at the wide receiver position this week on FantasyAces.
BJ VanderWoude: I agree with the consensus that Hopkins will be the highest scoring wide receiver this weekend, but Odell Beckham Jr is a close second. Washington has given up the fourth-most passing touchdowns on the year (20 touchdowns to only six interceptions), while allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 64% of their passes. The Redskins have struggled to contain number one receivers, including Mike Evans (eight catches, 164 yards and one touchdown), Brandon Marshall (seven catches, 111 yards and one touchdown), and Brandin Cooks (five catches, 98 yards and two touchdowns). Beckham Jr comes into the week with three consecutive 100 yard games, which includes an eight catch, 130 yard, three touchdown effort against the Saints. The sky is the limit for him against a Redskins team that he has punished to the tune of 19 receptions for 222 yards and four touchdowns in only two career meetings.
It may not be the sexiest pick, but Eric Decker has a great opportunity to be one of the better point-per-dollar plays at receiver. Decker has been a model of consistency this season, catching at least four passes and a touchdown in seven of nine games. His ceiling is somewhat capped by the presence of target-hog Marshall, evidenced by his lack of a 100-yard game, but that hasn't prevented him from scoring double digit points in every game this season. The Jets host a Dolphins team that has given up the sixth-most passing touchdowns on the season, making Decker a great bet to get in the end zone for the eighth time this season and recording at minimum, a 3x multiple on his salary.
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