Last week, we took a look at how even what looks to be the biggest fantasy goldmine of the week can turn out to be a dud from time to time. The two games that we featured as the chalk games of the week - Chargers-Colts and Falcons-Saints - provided mixed results. While the Colts and Chargers posted 48 combined points on the scoreboard, that didn’t translate into the fantasy bonanza many were expecting. There were some good performances from individual players, but those were somewhat outweighed by the fantasy duds put forth by others.
Those that played slates that included the Falcons and Saints likely found very high ownership percentages for players from the game. A good portion of those players delivered, and that likely provided their owners with a little bit of a feeling of ‘I knew it!’ When chalk goes well, those feelings are pretty common. When it goes the other way, we tend to look at it as just one of those things.
Essentially, the chalk games of the week provide you with tremendous insight into the groupthink of the DFS community on a weekly basis. When there’s a game with a projected total of 50 points are more, you can be sure that the players from those games will be popping up on the radar of many players. That leads us to some tough decisions every week, but as we’ve demonstrated throughout the previous three weeks, there’s a time to pounce on the chalk and include those players in your lineups - and also clear signals for when you can fade them.
Going against the grain with your thinking can be pretty tough, but once the chalk that you faded falls flat a few times, you’ll gain the confidence you need to bypass the chalk when the time is right. Let’s take a look at the two games that many DFSers will have circled on this week’s docket.
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
The game between the Panthers and Falcons checks in with a current projected total of 50 points, and interest is high from a DFS perspective. The Panthers are coming in off of a tough home loss to the Vikings, while the Falcons lit the scoreboard up like a pinball machine when they went to New Orleans to take on the Saints in a Monday Night affair.
We can safely say that interest will be high in Cam Newton. Despite it being a tough week for the Panthers offense in Week 3, Newton remains the most expensive quarterback on DraftKings. There’s plenty of viable value plays that make fitting him in relatively easy, and he appears poised for a nice bounce back against a Falcons squad that has allowed 10 passing touchdowns thus far. The biggest question for the Panthers from a chalk perspective is which target will be the most popular one for the Newton stacks that will be prevalent.
Kelvin Benjamin had an extremely challenging Week 3 in which he was only targeted a single time. The Vikings held him in check all day, but we’ll assume the Falcons won’t have the same success. Greg Olsen fared a little better against the Vikings, and he remains their team leader in receptions, targets and receiving yards. We’ll look for Olsen to be the more popular choice as some may shy away from Benjamin after being burned in Week 3, and that presents a great opportunity to pounce on him.
For the Falcons, there should be middling interest in Matt Ryan due to the tough matchup on paper, but such a high projected total and the expectation that the Falcons will be coming from behind add up to him being a relatively safe choice. Top target Julio Jones did not share in the fantasy bonanza that was the Saints game, but that shouldn’t impact his ownership percentage as much as Benjamin’s.
We’ll look to avoid both backfields from this game. For the Panthers, a RBBC situation leaves little to get excited over, and there’s much better matchups on paper than the one that Falcons running backs have with the Panthers. That being said, Tevin Coleman has developed quite a nose for the end zone of late, so you could look to him as an affordable contrarian play. Add it all up, and we’ll look to Benjamin and Jones as the top two ways to gain some exposure to this game. Both quarterbacks are attractive options, but you should be prepared to compete with plenty of owners that are thinking the same.
New Orleans Saints @ San Diego Chargers
The Saints make yet another appearance in the chalk games of the week section, and it’ll be interesting to see how long the streak lasts for the defensively-challenged club. The team is giving up an average of 32 points per game through the first three weeks, and that fact has not escaped the notice of the DFS community.
Needless to say, we can expect ownership percentages for the Chargers to be pretty high. At the top of the list, Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Travis Benjamin lineup to be the most targeted Chargers players. All three players have stellar matchups, and there’s no valid reason to fade them outside of for differentiation purposes.
We might be able to sneak in Tyrell Williams at a slightly lower ownership percentage, and he also shapes up as an attractive option. Another option to consider is Hunter Henry, as it looks like Antonio Gates will be out of action for another week. Henry is dirt cheap at a price of $2,700, and he hauled in all five of his targets for 72 yards last week against the Colts.
For the Saints, there will be plenty of Drew Brees stacks, and we’ll lean towards Brandin Cooks as the most popular choice to pair up with him. Willie Snead is a lower cost way to gain some exposure if he’s able to return this week. If not, we’ll look to Brandon Coleman at a minimum price, and also look for him to build on his seven receptions for 78 yards against the Falcons. Coby Fleener appears to have finally gotten on the same page as Brees, and he’s another low cost tight end option to target from this game.
Mark Ingram delivered a nice return in Week 3, and he’s a lower cost running back option that may not receive as much love from DFSers, who will definitely be focussed on the passing games - and Melvin Gordon. One under the radar running back option to consider is Travaris Cadet, who has 16 targets and a trip to the end zone to his credit through three weeks. He’s delivered 3x value in two of the first three games as well, and remains at a low price of $3,100.
That’s a lot to digest for the tilt between the Saints and Chargers. Ownership levels will be high, but if you’re heart is set on a specific player, feel free to pull the trigger and look for differentiation elsewhere. The other approach is to look for the lesser-owned targets and touches as a means to gain exposure to the game, namely Henry or Williams on the Chargers side, and Coleman or Snead for the Saints. If Snead gives it a go, it’s probably safe to avoid Coleman, but if he sits, we’ll bump up the interest level in Coleman.
Let’s take a look at some of this week’s other chalk selections, and who we can pivot to if we would like to take an alternative approach.
QB Trevor Siemian, $5,400
When a quarterback throws for four touchdowns against a relatively tough defense, there’s a good chance he’ll be popping up on the radar of many DFSers the following week. That’s the situation we have with Trevor Siemian this week, and he remains at an incredibly affordable price. He’s the most attractive of this week’s lower-priced quarterback options on paper, and that should translate to a healthy ownership percentage. The Broncos face off with the Buccaneers this week, a club that has already surrendered seven touchdowns through the air in 2016.
The case for fading Siemian comes in the form of last week’s performance being too tough of an act to follow. If you fall into that camp, you can look to Joe Flacco at $5,900 as a potential option. He has similar upside with a matchup against the Raiders on the docket, but there’s a good chance that his ownership percentage will be dwarfed by Siemian's.
RB LeVeon Bell, $7,500
The days of DeAngelo Williams being a mainstay on DFS rosters has come to a close. LeVeon Bell is back to assume his workhorse role in the Steelers offense, and he’ll be on the short list for many players this week, despite checking in as the second-most expensive running back. We know the upside he brings to the table, and there’s really only two reasons to consider fading him, with differentiation being the obvious one.
The other reason would be fears that he’ll need a game to shake the rust off, and that there might be better opponents to do that against than the Chiefs. We can look north on the salary scale to David Johnson at $7,800 to find a back with similar upside that will likely come in with a lower ownership percentage, or pivot down to C.J. Anderson at $6,500 to save salary cap space while finding a nice return.
WR Marvin Jones, $7,300
Jones exploded to the tune of 6/205/2 last week, which was good enough for 41.5 points on DraftKings scoring. Interest in him will be through the roof, and his price has increased substantially off of his stellar performance. While he makes for a fine play against the Bears, the chances of an encore of that magnitude should not be counted on.
He’s an interesting case for this week. While he’s not exactly a hands-down must-play, there’s also not a viable reason to fade him outside of uniqueness and potential regression. He’s been the clear number one receiver in Detroit to start the season, but there’s been rumblings that Golden Tate will start to close the gap a bit in terms of target volume. That may come to fruition this week, as you can bet that Jones will receive a ton of attention from the Bears secondary. We can look to Larry Fitzgerald at $7,200 as a slightly cheaper alternative, or pay up for Alshon Jeffrey at $7,500 for some potentially sneaky upside.
TE Jordan Reed, $6,300
While there are plenty of viable cheaper tight end options, DraftKings typical pricing makes it pretty easy to fit in an expensive tight end. That leads to some healthy ownership percentages for those at the top of the salary scale, and Reed should find plenty of supporters for the game against the Browns. He’s a fine choice that receives plenty of targets, but the allure of the roster flexibility provided by a cheaper tight end is also pretty enticing.
For those that insist on paying up, you have another chalk option in Greg Olsen at $6,000, or a less than 100% Rob Gronkowski at $6,500 that may be on a snap count. If by chance some clarity emerges on Gronkowski’s availability comes in before Sunday - and he looks like he’ll be a full go - then by all means put him in your lineups.
D Houston Texans, $3,200
There’s no clear sub-$3,000 defense that jumps off the page this week, so that will lead the masses to pay up on defense. While they’ll find that the Cardinals and Broncos have appealing matchups, they may also decide that their salaries are too rich for their blood. That will lead them to the best potential defense that checks in closer to the $3,000 price point, and the dial will land on the Texans. While that could be a prudent choice, you may be better served biting the bullet and ponying up for one of the more expensive defenses of the week. There’s plenty of value plays out there to be found this week, so fitting one of them onto your rosters will be little trouble.
Thanks for reading The Chalk for Week 4. Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.