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.
My go to quarterback this week is Cam Newton ($9,000). As mentioned last week I have a soft spot for running quarterbacks. That actually led me to be over exposed to Russell Wilson last week instead of Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford which was unfortunate but I am going back to the well this week with Newton and the Panthers as big 13.5 point favorites against the 49ers. The Panthers have the highest total on the board and we can expect Newton to rack up a lot of those points. Things won’t necessarily be easy for Newton though.
First of all, if the lead gets too large too quickly and he doesn’t score those touchdowns you could be in trouble because he could get pulled early from the game and he could also stop running to make sure that he doesn’t get hurt. Luckily for us Newton scored 83% of the teams touchdowns last year. While that number is likely to regress this year the probability of him being shut out of the end zone in a game where the Panthers are expected to score 30 points is pretty slim. Newton put up 194 passing yards and a TD to go with 54 rushing yards and another TD last week against the stout defense of the Broncos. His output should be similar to that again this week and will make him a great play.
Last week I suggested you play Dak Prescott but only on a limited basis due to his high risk nature. He put up a score about as expected which wasn’t exciting but gave you a chance to win. This week I am again going to suggest a lower tier quarterback and say you should pick on the beat up Colts defense that allowed Stafford to throw for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 39 pass attempts. Trevor Siemian ($6,400) is just too cheap to completely fade against the Colts. I would play anyone at that price against this depleted Colts team. Siemian didn’t have a game that set the world on fire last week only compiling 178 yards and a TD plus 20 rushing yards in his debut. But that is where it is important to take the game in context. He was asked to manage the game against a very tough Panthers defense. This week the game script should favor a more up tempo attack against a weak defense this week. Where he had only 26 attempts last week I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number reach the mid 30s this week. Like Prescott you can’t go all in on Siemian but I think he should be a balanced part of your lineups.
Other quarterbacks that I have interest in this week includes going back to Matthew Stafford ($7,800) who continues to be underpriced even after his big game this weekend and Eli Manning ($8,100) who has a prime matchup against the Saints. A major watch out with Manning is there are currently projected to be storms for this game so if they are too bad you might want to be careful, especially if it is windy. Manning can just fold up and underperform at any time.
Just like last week when I suggested you lineups should have started off with Spencer Ware I am going to say your lineups should start with the Steelers duo of Deangelo Williams ($7,600) and Antonio Brown this week. We will talk about Brown below in more details but any time Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback and Le’veon Bell is out of the lineup the Steelers are going to rely heavily on this combo. On Monday night Williams received 26 carries to only 3 for Fitzgerald Toussaint and he also received 9 of the 37 targets from Roethlisberger. While Williams may not always get 90% of the carries the Steelers are going to rely on him as heavy as any back in the league until Bell returns. The benefit we have here is that Williams still isn’t priced as the elite back that he is going to be to start off the season and you should take advantage of that.
After you lock in Williams the choices get a little tougher. My favorite RB2s include C.J. Anderson ($7,800), David Johnson ($9,000), and Lamar Miller ($7,700). If you notice a trend there it is that right now there isn’t a great bargain running back like we had last week. A lot of people will be jumping on the Spencer Ware ($6,800) bandwagon again this week but I think that is a mistake. Ware was in a great spot last week against a soft Chargers defense that allowed 125 rushing yards per game last year and he has to go against a tougher Texans defense that allowed just under 100 rushing yards per game. The other thing that started to worry me by the end of the week last week was that it was rumored that Ware would split time with Charcandrick West. This ultimately ended up being true despite what their Fanduel points say. While Ware out touched West 18-9 they both actually played 34 snaps. While I expect the better talent like Ware to get the ball a higher percentage of the time he is in the game it will likely not be that lopsided or teams will start keying in on Ware more and more. On the other hand since Ware out played West he could get more snaps. Either way it isn’t a situation to attack in cash games.
Going back to the players I like I see Anderson in a great spot just like Siemian against the weak Colts defense. Anderson should be relatively safe from a game script perspective. If Siemian is asked to pass more often this week he will continue to look for his safety valve as Anderson was targeted on 5 of 26 pass attempts last week. If the Broncos go into running mode again Anderson had 20 of the 24 running back rush attempts. Anderson has my second highest project rushing yards this week and should be a safe plug and play.
The player that has my highest rushing yards projection is Lamar Miller who will likely lead his teams rushing share. Last week he got 28 of the teams 31 attempts and when your competition is Alfred Blue and Tyler Ervin there is no reason to expect that to change. Finally, if you have the money I don’t mind spending up to get David Johnson who is one of the safest running backs in the league. The problem is unless value opens up later in the week it may be tough to fit him into your lineups.
As mentioned above your lineups should start with Antonio Brown ($9,200). Simply punch Brown into your lineup and move on to the next spot. Brown picked off just where he ended last season picking up 8 catches on 11 targets for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. You aren’t going to find a safer option at wide receiver so continue plugging in Brown until his price gets too high, which it hasn’t yet.
Another receiver that I am a big fan of this week is Alshon Jeffery ($7,800) who is matched up against the Eagles who had a successful start to the season against the Browns but I still project to be below average against the pass this year. On top of that Jeffery should see a good amount of time lined up against seventh round pick Jalen Mills as Leodis McKlevin is expected to miss the game. This should give the deep threat Jeffery plenty of time to get open for a big play or two like last week. The biggest worry about Jeffery is that he doesn’t get a dominant amount of Cutler’s targets and can disappear at times so don’t get over exposed to him.
Wide Receiver is pretty deep this week which is another reason to not go to heavily on Jeffery. Players like Deandre Hopkins ($8,300), Jordan Matthews ($6,900), Vincent Jackson ($5,400), Travis Benjamin ($6,100), and the Raiders wide receivers Michael Crabtree ($6,200) and Amari Cooper ($7,900) to name a few all have appeal for this week.
Benjamin in particular is interesting as he will likely be the beneficiary of the Keenan Allen injury. After the injury this last week the Chargers splits their carries up like Benjamin (7), Tyrell Williams (4), Danny Woodhead (3), and Antonio Gates (1). Any of these guys have the upside to win you a tournament this week as an underpriced player but Benjamin has the upside and floor to make for a good cash game play.
Finally, Crabtree will continue to stay on my list until his price is reflective of his workload especially in plus matchups like he has this week against the Falcons. If you were to stack Crabtree, Cooper, and Derek Carr it wouldn’t be the worst stack for cash or GPPs.
Just like last week tight end isn’t very favorable this week. My two favorite plays are Virgil Green ($4,600) and Antonio Gates ($5,900). Green gets the favorable matchup mentioned throughout this article against the Colts. Until the Colts prove they can stop anyone or they start getting some of their defense back I am going to continue to play guys against them. When the pickings are so slim at tight end I feel fine paying down for an unproven player like Green in such a plus matchup.
Gates has the opportunity to pick up his production without Allen in the lineup. He never broke out last year without Allen but he is cheap enough and the tight end position is weak enough that he doesn’t need to do a lot to make value and be worth using. If he accumulates something along the lines of 4 catches for 50 yards and half a TD is about all it should take. Last year Gates only scored 5 touchdowns for the year but he had over 50 yards in 8 of 11 games making him a good bet to continue that trend this week and reach value.
Defense and Kickers
As always for kickers and defense I recommend that you spread your exposure around since they tend to be the most volatile and can put up a random terrible score at any point. Some kicker situations that stand out to me as plus plays is Graham Gano ($4,900) and Brandon McManus ($4,700). I have been picking on the Colts all day long so why not at kicker too. Gano is in a good spot because the Panthers are favored by so much. If they build a big lead they will likely be fine with settling for field goals down the stretch of the game which plays right into Gano’s favor.
On the defensive side the Chargers ($4,000) are priced at the absolute minimum price despite being a three point favorite over the Jaguars. Any time you can get a favored defense at the minimum price they should be one of your top considerations. The other option that you could go with is the most expensive defense on the board the Carolina Panthers ($5,300). As a 13 point favorite against the 49ers the Panthers should be in a good situation to force the 49ers to pass more often which leads to more sacks and interceptions. I don’t always like paying up for a defense but when it’s one of the best in the league in one of the best situations I don’t mind doing so.