This season I am going to be taking a slightly different approach to the standard “play these guys” articles that are readily available across the industry. Instead what I am going to do is basically walk through my thought process as I am building my lineups so hopefully you not only learn who to start this week but continue to refine your analysis and lineup building skills. If you haven’t read my preseason series on how to transition to DFS you should do so to get an understanding of my approach to DFS Here are parts 1, 2, and 3. In that series there are two key things to think about on a weekly basis as we are setting our cash lineups. First of all, I challenge you to come up with your cash game plays before you read my article or any other articles. This gets you to critically think about every position before you start to get swayed by public opinion. Secondly, if you recall I am a strong proponent of playing multiple cash lineups. As such I will discuss the key plays of the week as well as who your secondary options should include.
This is an interesting week as the majority of the games this week occur on Saturday with three games being played on Sunday. Because of the awkward schedule I included all players in this week’s write up in case the slate you were playing included those players. Unfortunately, if you are playing the Saturday only slate you will miss out on the opportunity to play Odell Beckham, LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Golden Tate who I have listed below but getting them into your cash games across multiple slate start times would be a good idea.
The other strange thing is there are three games with totals above 50 and all three games are expected to be close. The rest of the games on the slate all have totals in the low 40s or upper 30s. On the plus side all of those games are on the main Saturday slate and they should be central part of your strategy for the week. In particular I really like the Colts, Raiders, Panthers, and Falcons passing games to go with the stud running backs we have been talking about the last few weeks as well as adding LeSean McCoy to that picture since Bell is in the Sunday slate and won’t be available on all slates. After fitting as many pieces of that puzzle into your lineup fill in the rest of the empty spots elsewhere with cheaper options like Zach Ertz that make the puzzle come together.
Andrew Luck ($8,300) had another solid week last week against the Vikings defense that many people were terrified of. Luck posted 250 yards and 2 TDs and did most of it without significant help from T.Y. Hilton. This makes 4 straight games with 2+ TDs and continues his streak of 10 out of his last 11 games reaching more than 2 times his salary of $8,300 making him one of the most consistent plays on the board. The only problem with Luck is he hasn’t been blowing away his value and winning you weeks on his own. This week Luck gets a great matchup against the Raiders who are allowing the second most passing yards per attempt behind only the 49ers and as mentioned above have one of the highest totals on the board. Luck will be a staple in my cash games just like he has been the last few weeks.
Another excellent matchup this week is the Falcons at the Panthers as the game total has been set at 52.5 . Cam Newton ($7,900) has found out that it isn’t as easy to dominate when your defense isn’t controlling the game and your game totals are set in the 50s instead of the 30s. But because of the Falcons offense he is going to be forced to score this week. Unfortunately, Newton hasn’t answered the bell consistently this season as he has failed to reach value in 5 of his last 8 games which is more than you would like your quarterback to fail given their consistency and general pricing where it is easier for them to reach value. During the first meeting this year with the Falcons the game turned out to be even higher scoring than expected as the Panthers lost 48-33. On the way to scoring 33 points Newton only contributed 165 passing yards as well as a passing TD and 30 yards on the ground for a disappointing 15.6 Fanduel points. On the bright side, the Panthers did score quite easily on the Falcons and this time around I suspect Newton will be more heavily involved in the actual production. Newton just isn’t someone that I will be trusting in more than one cash game this week.
Newton’s foe Matt Ryan ($8,100) makes for a much safer option than Newton. Ryan has scored over 16 Fanduel points, which is more than two times his current salary in six of his last 7 games making him nearly as consistent as Luck. As mentioned above the Panthers defense isn’t nearly as stout this year as it has been in the past as they rank 19th against the pass. Additionally, when Ryan took on the Panthers earlier this season he blew up for 4 touchdowns on 503 passing yards for 36.5 Fanduel points. Ryan should be the leading candidate for the league MVP as he is dominating adjusted net yards per attempt while leading a good but flawed Falcons team to one of the best records in the NFC. I expect Ryan to build on those stats in a big game this weekend and will be a big part of my cash strategy.
Pivot options to Derek Carr ($8,100) against the Colts and Luck as mentioned above and Drew Brees ($8,500) against the Buccaneers make plenty of sense as well. Brees was one of the safest options in the league until three weeks ago when he didn’t throw for a touchdown pass against the Lions and followed it up with no touchdowns against this same Buccaneers team. Then of course he remembered he was Drew Brees and threw for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns at low ownership levels in what was thought to be a poor matchup against the Cardinals last week and won a lot of tournaments for people. I expect Brees to have better luck this time around against Tampa and I expect him to pay off his salary.
At running back our strategy of just plugging in David Johnson ($8,700) and LeVeon Bell ($9,500) worked like a charm yet again as it allowed me to win the majority of my cash games despite a few disappointing wide receivers. Johnson tallied 108 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns, good for 24.8 Fanduel points against the Saints defense. Johnson’s performance shows how game script proof he is as he only amassed 12 carries for 53 yards but he was heavily involved in the passing game and is used so heavily at the goal line. Johnson’s partner in crime, Bell, was held slightly more in check due to the lack of touchdowns with 15.6 Fanduel points. Even so he still managed 131 all-purpose yards on 23 carries and 5 receptions. Together our combo totaled 239 yards 9 receptions and 2 touchdowns good for 40.4 points on $19,200 of salary well over our target points. The only issue was the performances of Ezekiel Elliot ($8,900) and LeSean McCoy ($9,100) both of whom outscored both of our players. But paying up at running back as compared to other positions continued to be a winning strategy last week.
This week I think you can make an argument for all four of these players due to matchups and pricing differences or dare I say it you could possibly even pay down for someone like Jordan Howard ($7,200) in a plus matchup against Washington. That said my favorite three options this week are still Johnson, Bell and McCoy. McCoy joins this elite group this week as Johnson and Bell are given the two toughest matchups in the league. Johnson is forced to take on the Seahawks who are allowing only 3.5 yards per attempt on the ground and Bell gets to take on the Ravens who are allowing the same 3.5 yards per attempt. Fortunately for us Johnson’s price was slashed this week for this matchup leaving him as a very tempting play. Unfortunately Bell wasn’t so lucky as his price actually increased over his price last week despite the tough matchup.
On the other hand McCoy is given one of the premier matchups in the league as he gets to square off against the Dolphins who are allowing 4.8 yards per attempt. The risk with the Dolphins is that they continue to have a lot of success controlling the game tempo which puts all their opponents at risk for a low production game but the Bills are relying heavily on McCoy so they will give him as many chances as they can. It takes a perfect storm to go away from the Johnson and Bell combo that has won me quite a bit of money the last few weeks but in DFS you need to be flexible and when the price and matchup doesn’t align you have to adjust and I will be adding McCoy to my running back core this week.
Last week in this space I went with Michael Crabtree ($6,200) as my top play and he rewarded us with a solid 6-60-1 performance on his low 6k salary. Fanduel barely moved his price this week only increasing it by $200 in another good matchup against the Colts. Last week he was targeted 8 times giving him 6+ targets in every week since week 6. Unfortunately his production has been very inconsistent and had 3 games under 5 Fanduel points. But in such a plus matchup Crabtree is again one of my favorite plays on the slate.
Golden Tate ($6,000) has seen a big uptick in his targets the last three weeks as Marvin Jones has been less than 100% and has been phased out of the offense as teams are adapting to him. In that time frame Tate has targets of 10, 11, culminating in his season high 13 targets last week and Fanduel points of 24, 9, and 16. At his price point he makes a great option if you are playing the full slate that includes Monday night’s game against the Cowboys.
Two of the best pay up options this week are Odell Beckham Jr ($8,800) and Antonio Brown ($8,300). Brown’s price has plummeted all the way down to ($8,300) and his chemistry has been off with Ben Roethlisberger since he returned from injury in week 9 and has only reached value 3 times in his last 7 games as the Steelers have instead leaned more heavily on LeVeon Bell. But as mentioned above the Steelers may have a slightly more difficult time moving the ball on the ground against the Ravens and if they do Brown will likely be one of the biggest beneficiaries. If you fade Bell in some lineups those would be great lineups to get exposure to Brown.
Beckham hasn’t blown up recently and given his high price some people will become disenchanted with him. However, he hasn’t killed your lineups either as he has topped 94 yards and/or a touchdown in all but one game since week 7. This week’s matchup against the Eagles, 11th in pass yards allowed per attempt, is one of the best matchups he has had in that time frame. In his last matchup against the Eagles Beckham found the endzone twice on his way to 18.6 Fanduel points on a 4-46 receiving line with 10 targets. I don’t expect Beckham to find the endzone twice again this week but he should have about the same points again which at his salary is sufficient to make an impact in your cash games.
Finally, one of the most consistent players over the last few weeks has been Jordy Nelson ($7,800) who has 10 plus targets on 5 of his last 8 games and has scored over 2 times his salary in all but two of those games. For a wide receiver at his price that is a rare level of consistency. This week his matchup against the Vikings isn’t ideal but as we have discussed in the past the Vikings aren’t as intimidating as they were earlier in the year as evidenced by the Colts production last week. Nelson will be a part of my cash game strategy this week.
My favorite tight end is the one that I will be trending towards in a lot of lineups as his price point is much more favorable. Zach Ertz ($5,800) gets a great matchup against the Giants who according to Austin Lee’s normalized strength of schedule allows 70% more points than teams have allowed compared to other teams facing the same opponents. Ertz has been heavily involved in the passing game with 15, 13, and 8 targets the last three weeks and has been at or over cash value in 4 of his last 5 weeks. Add in the great matchup and great price and Ertz will find him into most of my lineups this week.
Kickers and Defense
As usual kicker is a great place to round out your lineups and this week is no different. Based on their respective price points I like Josh Lambo ($4,500) as long as the weather holds up, Wil Lutz ($4,800), Sebastian Janikowski ($5,000), or Matt Bryant ($5,200). If I can find the money I will likely end up with Janikowski the most against the Colts who have been crushed by kickers all year long but I don’t have a problem shifting down to Lambo at all.
On the defensive side of the ball my favorite option once again is the Patriots who continue to entice me week after week but have yet another good matchup against the lowly Jets. During the last meeting against the Jets the Patriots scored a mediocre 8 points but since then have recorded a 12, 8 and 17 while recording an interception in each game and are starting to put more pressure on the quarterback. The Patriots are your safest bet to reach value this week.