This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
I'll assign each of you a game. Tell me how you think it will play out. Scott, talk about Carolina and New Orleans. What do you see there?
Scott Bischoff: The Panthers are 11-0 and go on the road to take on the Saints in Week 13 in an NFC South matchup. Vegas has this projected as the highest-scoring game for the week with a total of 50. The Panthers are projected to score 28.5 points with the Saints projected at 21.5, so this game is expected to generate points, and I agree. I see the Panthers winning this game by 7-10 points, and I could see a 34-24 type game.
The Panthers face a struggling Saints team ranked 31st in the NFL in pass defense. They have surrendered 30 touchdowns through the air, and they are yielding a quarterback rating of 115.9 through 11 games.
Which players will benefit most from this script? Hit the Carolina side first, please.
I am expecting a nice game from Newton, but I don’t think he is in line for a monster game. I don’t expect the Saints to score enough on the Panthers defense to force the Panthers to keep scoring, which limits the upside of a Newton play. One thing that might push Newton’s stat-line would be a rushing touchdown, which is certainly possible as he has scored seven rushing touchdowns to date.
Again, I don’t see a huge game for the receiving options, but Olsen should score in this game and is worthy for selection for either cash or GPP play. He should be in line for big volume. The other receiving option to be considered in GPP play is Ted Ginn as he is capable of making big, vertical plays down the field. I could see rostering rookie Devin Funchess as a flier, but he has a very low floor. One reason to play him would be that his ownership percentage is expected to be very low.
I think Jonathan Stewart is in line for a solid game from a yardage perspective, but he is limited because Newton vultures so many rushing touchdowns near the goal line. The Saints are dead last in the NFL in allowing 4.9 yards per carry, but they haven’t given up a slew of touchdowns in relation to this high carry average.
Now talk about the Saints. It sounds like you're not expecting much. Is there any way you'd own some New Orleans players this week?
The Saints are a bit of a different team at home than they are on the road, but the Carolina defense poses quite a test. Carolina owns the second-ranked rushing defense and the fifth-best passing defense, so the Saints must be clicking on offense this week if they are to stay in this game.
I don’t expect Drew Brees to have much success against this defense, but he is at home where he plays better. He comes into this game after a down performance last week against the Texans on the road, a game in which he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 2015. This matchup is poor for Brees, and the only consideration I’d give to him is as a complete contrarian play as his ownership percentage will be low.
I can see the Saints being forced to abandon the run if the score goes the way I think it will. Mark Ingram will be involved in the passing game and does have the ability to be productive in this area. He had 14 carries for 50 yards rushing and caught five passes for 49 yards in the matchup between these teams back in Week 3.
Wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead should be heavily involved in the passing game from a volume perspective, but whether they have any success is another story. Back in their first matchup in 2015, Cooks had seven catches for 79 yards, and Snead had five catches for 44 yards. I’d expect a similar line for Snead, but I can see Cooks making a big play in this game. However, I don’t see him reaching value even with a big play. I will be fading these players.
At the end of the day, this looks like a solid matchup for Panthers offensive players and a tough matchup for the Saints skill position players.
Justin, you're up next. Talk to me about Jacksonville at Tennessee. These teams played just two weeks ago, which makes this interesting. How do you see the game going?
Justin Howe: The Titans have quietly pieced together a run defense that's to be avoided for most fantasy purposes. Dating back to Week 7 (seven games), they've faced the fifth-most rushing attempts but allowed the league's second-lowest yardage-per-rush mark (a paltry 3.18). And things are similar on the other side of the ball, where the Titans are unlikely to test the ground game much. Their backfield is uninspiring, and Jacksonville has allowed just 3.23 yards per rush over the same span.
It certainly sounds like you're projecting some volume from the passing games then?
Yes. As a result of the run defenses mentioned above, I figure we'll see plenty of passing here. My numbers project 38.5 attempts from Blake Bortles and 35.8 from Marcus Mariota. And the sorry state of the Titans secondary makes Bortles a fine play, even on the road. It's true that the Titans limited Bortles two weeks ago, but he played a generally fine game, and Tennessee has allowed 8.87 yards per attempt overall the last four weeks. With T.J. Yeldon unlikely to make much impact, Bortles is at least in line for healthy QB1 volume. And if Allen Hurns can't suit up, Allen Robinson looks like fried gold. He'll likely see 30% or more of Bortles' looks -- especially in the red zone, where Robinson has sizzled this year.
The other side of the ball is much harder to project. The Titans spread the ball throughout a crowded WR corps, leaving none of the underwhelming options looking sexy in any DFS format. But Delanie Walker has done his best Shannon Sharpe, working the seams up and down the field. His usage basically amounts to him playing wide receiver (his original position) shoehorned into the much more fantasy-friendly TE position. Over his last four games, he's drawn 22.4% of Mariota's targets and caught a stunning 80% of what's been thrown to him. His touchdown outlook isn't great in a shaky offense just getting its sea legs, but his 17.1-point cash-game marker is well within reach.
Philadelphia and New England is intriguing. John, how do you see if playing out?
John Lee: A week after losing their unblemished record in Denver, the Patriots return to Foxborough, where they are 38-4 following a loss in the Bill Belichick era. They are nine-point favorites despite Julian Edelman's presence on the injured reserve and both Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski looking like they will be watching the game from the sidelines. That leaves only Brandon LaFell as a mainstream name to catch passes from Tom Brady. So why are the Patriots such big favorites with the highest implied point total (29 points) of the week?
It's always difficult to shine a light into the darkness that is Bill Belichick's brain, but I suspect this is a week where we will see LeGarrette Blount return to action. Over the past three weeks, Blount has carried the ball only 44 times for 149 yards (3.4 yards per carry) with a single touchdown. Belichick could really help Brady and the passing game this week by giving them some relief in the form of Blount against an Eagles front seven that has yielded significant fantasy points to the running back position over the past five weeks. If New England jumps to an early lead, Blount could touch the ball 30 times in this effort, as the pedestrian Eagles offense (17 points per game over their past three games) struggles to find an identity under Sam Bradford and Chip Kelly. This game has blowout written all over it, and Blount should be the biggest beneficiary.
In the previous question, you guys mainly used Vegas lines to discuss how games should stay relatively on script and how we might choose cash game options based on lines. Here, let's discuss some GPP targets by discussing games that might go off script.
For example, last week, Pittsburgh and Seattle gave us a somewhat surprising shootout with Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger being popular players who contributed to DFS success while lesser-known players like Markus Wheaton, Jermaine Kearse, and Doug Baldwin emerged.
What game is this week's Pittsburgh at Seattle? And which player(s) from said game will help their owners cash in this week?
Scott Bischoff: I am looking at the matchup between the Jets and the Giants as a potentially high-scoring game this week. The Jets hold the top-ranked rushing defense and the 12th-best passing defense, but they'll likely be without stud cornerback Darrelle Revis, which presents huge opportunity for the Giants. Also, the Giants won't realistically try and run the ball much as the passing game is really the engine of this offense.
The Jets have given up 21 touchdowns via the pass, which is a big number given their ability to stop the pass. The presents an advantage to the Giants in a big way here with Revis out. I'd be looking to roster Odell Beckham Jr in this game, and I can make an argument to get Eli Manning into a GPP, as he won't be highly owned, and the loss of Revis makes the Jets pass defense very susceptible.
The Giants are 19th in rush defense and dead last in the NFL in passing defense, so there is opportunity here for the Jets passing game and their runnig backs. Ryan Fitzpatrick should be in store for a big day along with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The Giants' struggles in coverage will lead to big plays from the Jets passing attack. Advantage Jets here. Chris Ivory is in intriguing option at his price and he'll have opportunity in the red zone in Week 13. I'll have Ivory in a few lineups this week.
This matchup features two teams that struggle to play defense, especially if Revis is out. The Giants don't look to be able to stop the pass and likely will struggle to contain Ivory. The Jets are banged up and absolutely won't limit Beckham if Revis is out. I can see both Beckham and Manning having big games.
Justin Howe: Though the matchup I project to the most pass attempts is actually Indianapolis-Pittsburgh (which would surprise no one), I agree with Scott that the New York battle could produce quite a few big plays. Scott hit on Revis' potential absence, but even if Revis is there, Antonio Cromartie will be targeted heavily. He has been roasted alive by the deep ball and allowed four touchdowns over the Jets' last five games. If Revis is out, Cromartie will be stretched awfully far in an attempt to slow down Beckham, who looks like a top-two play.
Going deeper into the Jets receivers, Decker looks golden. Few cornerbacks have been beaten more than the Jayron Hosley and Trevin Wade of the Giants, who have combined to allow a 70.3% completion rate and four touchdowns dating back to Week 8. With Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie likely to shadow Marshall, Decker will see plenty of soft coverage from weak cover men, so one of fantasy's most high-floor targets gets a nice ceiling boost on paper.
Going deeper, I've got an eye on Dwayne Harris. Over the last four weeks, only two cornerbacks have allowed more receptions from the slot than Buster Skrine, and Harris has been a real situational threat for the Giants. They've schemed to him when facing defenses that struggle to cover the slot. The Bills and Patriots have had no answer for him, and he's scored four touchdowns among his 27 catches.
Jeff Pasquino: It's interesting that neither of you are on the game that I'm liking as a sneaky shootout. That's Kansas City at Oakland. Here's what I wrote about that game in my For the Win column this week:
OAKLAND (+3) vs. KANSAS CITY
Oakland could just call it quits if they seriously look at their remaining schedule (Kansas City twice, at Denver, Green Bay, San Diego), but they will continue to fight and see what happens each week, just like they should. They could have given up last week in Tennessee but they fought back to win late, and it is that fight that I like about Oakland. They are a young team with lots of talent and a reasonable run defense as well, so I think that this could be a very interesting game this week against the Chiefs. There are two big matchups to look at here – first, the Chiefs are terrible against wide receivers, so I like Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and even Seth Roberts who had a great game last week. For Kansas City, not only did Jeremy Maclin have a big game last week, but Travis Kelce found the end zone, and we all know the story with Oakland not defending tight ends well this year. I see this as an unexpectedly high scoring game where both quarterbacks get three touchdowns or more and this becomes an old school AFC game that plays out like a 37-34 game between two AFC West rivals. Both kickers are solid too, but I see Sebastian Janikowski converting a kick late to win the game at home for the Raiders to get them to 6-6. PICK: Raiders
Also, in regards to the New York vs. New York battle, I do like Fitzpatrick quite a bit this week, and I like Will Tye as a nice sleeper for the Giants. Tye is getting a lot of targets of late, and the Giants need someone other than Beckham to be catching every pass.
John Lee: I think Fitzpatrick might be fool's gold this week against a Giants defense that is a lot better in principle than the numbers would otherwise indicate. Last week, I wrote about the Giants and how I believe their defense is about to take a giant leap forward (pun intended); Jason Pierre-Paul returned a few weeks ago and has already had a tremendous impact on getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, while plus coverage cornerback Prince Amukamura returned last week for the first time in over two months. Everything looked great headed into Sunday, but Eli Manning gave up two short-field situations due to tips-and-picks (had to do it!!), and the Giants held the Redskins to only a field goal until Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie left the game with an injury. On the very next play, DeSean Jackson caught a 63-yard touchdown pass, which set the tone for the remainder of the game without the three-named cornerback. This week, Rodgers-Cromartie will return, and the Giants defense will be fully healthy. I am avoiding Fitzpatrick and the Jets passing game for those reasons.
That's a compelling case, John. Great job going beyond the numbers. So which game would you select for a "shootout?"
Lee: The game that I think could have shootout potential is between the Ravens and the Dolphins. Vegas set the total for this game at 43.5 points, largely because Matt Schaub is the starting quarterback for the talent-depleted Ravens. However, the Ravens did what they needed to do (win) against the Browns on Monday night and will travel to Miami with some momentum to take on a Dolphins team that still lacks an identity, particularly on defense. I fully expect Ryan Tannehill to pick apart the Ravens secondary with short passes to Jarvis Landry, while trying to mix in rookie DeVante Parker, who will start in lieu of Rishard Matthews (rib injury).
The Ravens, however, are tough up front, which means the Dolphins will be forced to throw the ball often and set a quick pace for the game. If that happens, the Ravens could follow suit against a Miami secondary that has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, including a 32-point, four-touchdown performance to Fitzpatrick just a week ago. As a GPP stack, you can have Schaub-to-Kamar Aiken for less than $10K on FantasyAces, which offers tremendous upside with likely low ownership.
BJ VanderWoude: I agree with Jeff on Kansas City-Oakland, but like John's Baltimore-Miami call even more. Vegas has this pegged for a total of 43.5 points, which is nearly 10 points lower than the two teams allow on average. Baltimore has been wiped out with injuries on the offensive side, but they showed last week against the Browns that when the matchup is right, they can still move the ball with Schaub at quarterback.
The one constant in this game should be the Miami passing attack. Tannehill's season has been up and down, but, he has passed for multiple touchdowns in three consecutive weeks. On top of that,Tannehill has turned Landry into a fantasy WR1 (seven catches, 75 yards weekly average), and Miami will look to feed him the ball against a porous Ravens secondary. Baltimore has allowed the eighth-most passing yards per game (258 yards), to go along with 21 passing touchdowns to only four interceptions. There will be a new look to the Miami offense this week after the firing of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. If last week is any indication, Lamar Miller could be the odd man out, while rookie wide receiver Parker will step in for Matthews and immediately become a big part of the offense (four catches, 80 yards and a touchdown last week, when Mathews was injured).
On the other side of the ball, Baltimore also has an advantageous matchup against a Miami secondary that allowed monster games to Allen Robinson (six catches, 155 yards, two touchdowns), Marshall (16 catches, 259 yards, two touchdowns in two games), Nate Washington (nine catches, 127 yards, two touchdowns), Julian Edelman (seven catches, 81 yards, two touchdowns), Sammy Watkins (eight catches, 168 yards, and a touchdown), and Decker (nine catches, 108 yards, two touchdowns in two meetings). Since Steve Smith's season-ending injury, Aiken has emerged as a solid option, averaging six catches for 67 yards while scoring two touchdowns over the last four weeks. In 11 games, Miami has allowed six different 100-yard rushers, with RB1s averaging 17 fantasy points against Miami this season. Both Aiken and Allen should be very strong volume plays.
Divisional Foes and Rematches
We've reached the part of the season where Divisional rematches are occurring. Do you have concerns using players against familiar divisional foes (especially those that they've already seen earlier this season)?
In your opinion, are certain positions more impacted (positively or negatively) in rematches than others?
Jeff Pasquino: My typical outlook on these types of contests, especially repeat matchups within less than a month, is that teams know one another. They will play each other tight and try and take away their primary players on offense. That means the secondary players will be more of a factor, as will intangibles like field position, special teams and turnovers. I think more gadget and trick plays are also used, but for DFS purposes, the takeaway is that secondary guys are favored more in these contests. Washington vs. Dallas might favor Jamison Crowder and Cole Beasley instead of DeSean Jackson and Dez Bryant, for example. The one thing though is that if there are trends over time (two-to-three years or more) such as a player dominating a matchup, you cannot change that and it is likely to occur again. Bryant has scored seven times in his past eight games against Washington, so that has to be noted.
Another point to make is that sometimes matchups change. A.J. Green has not done much in the past against Cleveland, but that was usually because Joe Haden shut him down. He hasn't played in a while due to concussion issues, however, so if Green is not lining up opposite of Haden this week, I like Green a ton as he is both hot and the historical bias will be against using him because on paper, he has not done well against the Browns. Well, if you dig further, that's a reflection on Haden, not Cleveland -- so use Green liberally this week.
Scott Bischoff: I really like Jeff's answers here, and I will say that I fully agree that the secondary weapons are relied upon more heavily in these contests as they can exploit their matchups better than WR1s facing number-one type cornerbacks. Digging in to find the secondary weapons is a very shrewd strategy as these are the types of plays that can really bolster a lineup.
Justin Howe: I'm with these guys, of course, there's typically a much larger body of work from which to draw conclusions. So it does make logistic sense to draw more heavily from the pool of divisional games. Cam Newton averages 53 rushing yards in his last three games against the Saints (and found the end zone in each one). That gives me a little more comfort that he'll hit his rushing marks. After all, we can expect a little more regularity in his Saints matchups, considering he has three games to draw from dating back to last year. The same goes for Matt Ryan, who has shredded Lovie Smith's Buccaneers in each of their last three meetings.
I love that Pasquino pointed out the peripheral factors at play, like field position, tight-game conservatism, etc. If coaches do indeed call these games closer to the cuff, we can fold that into our expectations and scale down projections like long passes, touchdown passes from inside the five yard-line, etc. Take a theoretical Packers-Vikings game late in the season, with the NFC North lead up for grabs. If you consider Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers more likely to rely on those peripherals and less likely to take chances, you'll consider that in your roster construction. Maybe they're less likely to try and pick up those pie-in-the-sky 3rd-and-15s, or tunnel out of the shadow of their own goalposts on key possessions, and you'll see more draw runs and dump-offs.
BJ VanderWoude: Very well said, guys. I agree with the points that Justin and Jeff made. Divisional games offer a much larger sample size from which to draw, which makes it likely that you will find both advantageous and negative matchups. Last week, Odell Beckham Jr played against divisional foe in the Washington Redskins. While the consensus was that DeAndre Hopkins would be the highest scorer at wide receiver, Beckham offered a sample size that dictated he would turn in a monster game that could match Hopkins projections. That indeed happened, while Hopkins faltered. That is just one example, but it shows the difference between looking at a sample size of twelve games against random opponents, or other samples that are targeted towards two specific teams, and even further, hyper-targeted towards receivers vs. secondaries (and other position vs. position matchups).
I will absolutely put more weight on sample sizes between divisional teams, whether that is a history of success or failure. As Jeff mentioned, the peripheral factors are important in gauging whether the previous sample size still has merit, and if so, how much. Injuries, personnel, coaching changes and weather are all factors that contribute.
Jeff Pasquino: I wrote up my Money Talks article this week with a specific look at the depth on the waiver wire at the tight end position. While not specific to DFS, it does point out that there are a lot of tight ends across the league that are a big part of their team's offense. I had many tight ends with four or more catches, a touchdown, or both last week.
Chandler's value is clearly tied to Gronkowski, who we expect to be out against the Eagles, but I also tie it to the availability of Danny Amendola. If Amendola is active, Chandler's value dips. Chandler had a great game before Gronkowski was injured with 11 targets and a 5-58-1 stat line against Denver. New England schemed both tight ends into mismatches against Denver, and it worked well. I don't know if that is the same plan against Philadelphia, but it could work as they are pretty thin at linebacker. Speed out of the backfield last week (Theo Riddick) worked well against the Eagles, so I would favor more Brandon Bolden than Chandler.
Getting back to Chandler, I think his utility this week is very risky but goes down significantly if Amendola is ruled out. I would use him more in GPPs than cash games. Chandler costs $4,550 on FantasyAces this week, 10th-highest (and ninth if you scratch Gronkowski). I would rather pay up for Travis Kelce ($4,850), Jordan Reed ($4,750) or Delanie Walker ($4,700) or try to save money on Kyle Rudolph ($4,250) or even go way cheap for Will Tye ($3,300).
Scott Bischoff: I'm not going to simply submit Chandler at the tight end position in Week 13 and move on because of his price and the fact that Gronkowski is out this week. Selecting him requires quite a bit of thought as Jeff has wisely pointed out, from the Gronkowski factor to Amendola's status. I agree with Jeff that Chandler is best used in GPP play as he does have a high ceiling in the Patriots offense, but I'd look at other tight ends because the cost savings to select Chandler isn't very much in relation to other tight ends that might offer a better floor in Week 13.
Because Chandler costs $4,550, I'm looking at players like Kelce ($4,850), Walker ($4,700), Martellus Bennett ($4,450) and Heath Miller ($4,400) as similar priced options but guys with a much clearer path to consistent production. As far as how much exposure I'll have to him, I will absolutely have him in a few GPP lineups, but for cash games I'll be looking elsewhere.
Justin Howe: Scott is right on the money; Chandler isn't the shrewdest play. He's so close in salary to the likes of Walker and Kelce that you have to pay for much of his upside to roster him. That sucks a lot of the benefit out of the injury-replacement game. He could certainly post a line around five catches and 60 yards with a touchdown or two, but I'd argue that Walker and Kelce have clearer roads to it and better floors. It's always iffy to just paste in a starter's role or upside to a reserve, especially when we're talking about a talent like Gronkowski.
I'll plug him into about 20-25% of my GPP lineups, sure. But I just can't expect him to win me a tournament on sheer value. There are cheap injury replacements like David Johnson, who can clear meaningful salary while also expecting a solid floor, but Chandler is of a slightly lesser variety.
John Lee: On other sites, Chandler is a far better value than he is on FantasyAces. At $4,550, Chandler needs to score between 13-15 fantasy points to reach cash game value, and that seems like a high number for a player who had not caught more than three passes prior to last week. With both Gronkowski and Amendola on the doubtful side of questionable, there are not many receiving options remaining in the Patriots offense, which should bode well for Chandler. However, the Eagles have exhibited an ability to shut down far better tight ends than Chandler this season, as evidenced by their third-best rating (fantasy points per game) in defending the position.
Last week, Chandler saw a lot of looks out of necessity. The Broncos are perhaps the league's best defense up front and at the cornerback position, leaving only the interior passing game for opponents to exploit. As a result, Chandler finished the evening with a big stat line, but I think there is serious reason to doubt his ability to repeat against the Eagles linebackers in Week 13. For me, I'm fading Chandler across FantasyAces because I think the value is missing for cash games, he will be overowned in GPPs, and there are alternative tight ends I like more at a similar price point (both Walker and Reed come to mind).
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