The Contrarian is back to help you find some potential diamonds in the rough to help round out your tournament lineups for Week 17. The final week of the regular season is always challenging for DFS purposes, but the research process is actually not as daunting as it may seem at first glance. In fact, you can actually narrow your focus down quite a bit by focusing on the teams that still have some skin in the game, as well as the teams that continue to bring a lot of fight to the table regardless of what the record says.
Of course, that can be pretty tricky. While some teams have clearly thrown in the towel, there could be some individual players that can still bring it and drop a memorable performance - i.e. youngsters trying to leave an impression, or veterans chasing a personal milestone. Then there’s the teams that have been competitive throughout the season, but things just haven’t broken right for one reason or the other. Will they come to play this week, or will their minds already be on an extended vacation?
Add it all up, and it’s a tricky week overall, but the same tried and true principles of DFS success ring true. There will be consensus strong plays that the masses flock to, and others in good spots that slip through the cracks. This column aims to help you pinpoint the players in the latter category on a weekly basis, and there look to be plenty of potential hidden gems this week.
Before digging into this week’s contrarian selections, let’s take a look at some of the games that may fall off the radar for the masses - but still be chock full of potential fantasy goodness. .
Under The Radar Games Of The Week
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
We highlighted the Jaguars as an under the radar team to target in Week 16, and that proved to be a prescient call. That’s offset by the recommendation of the Bengals-Texans tilt as a potential source of intrigue, but I digress. We’re going back to the well with the Jaguars one more time. They showed some impressive signs of life last week against the Titans, and we’ll look for them to keep the good times rolling against a Colts team that has been pretty fantasy-friendly to opponents this season.
Entering the season, Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson were receiving a lot of buzz for fantasy purposes, but things haven’t exactly gone along swimmingly for this duo. Last week provided a nice glimpse into what all the hubbub was about, as the pair connected nine times for 147 yards. No promises they make that happen against the Colts this week, but they make for an intriguing stack for your tournament lineups. Marqise Lee has established himself as the clear number two option in the passing game, and he offers up some nice value if the Jaguars fire on all cylinders. Chris Ivory is another Jaguar that’s coming in off of a strong performance, and he should receive a healthy workload at a bargain basement price again this week.
For the Colts, it’s been a disappointing stretch for a club that was expected to compete for a division crown. We’ll have to wait and see what that means for this team in the offseason, but in the meantime, we’ll recognize that there’s still plenty of fantasy goodness to be found on the roster - namely in the form of Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton. Luck has looked Hilton’s way 143 times this season, and there’s a good chance that number creeps up substantially this week. A stack of Luck and Hilton is intriguing for fantasy purposes, but the remainder of the Colts pass catchers are a bit too unpredictable to rely on for your lineups. Finally, Frank Gore is a low-cost way to gain some exposure to this tilt, but your dollars may be better spent elsewhere at running back.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals found themselves in the confines of this column last week as a potential team to target, but the game with the Texans turned into an outright snooze fest. We’ll consider ourselves to be a week late and a dollar short on the Bengals, and look for them to come alive against their familiar division foes. The return of A.J. Green did not come to fruition last week after all, and it’s unlikely the club will be taking a risk with him in Week 17 either. That opens up plenty of value for Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd - especially with Tyler Eifert out of commission as well.
Either player makes for an intriguing, low-cost stack with Andy Dalton, who has had mixed results against the Ravens during his career. We’re intrigued by Dalton mainly because the Ravens have been torched by opposing signal callers in two of their last three games, and he just may be able to find the same vulnerabilities in the secondary. Jeremy Hill looks unlikely to play at this point, and that could open up a ton of value for Rex Burkhead. We’ll have to monitor injury reports for clarity, but keep Burkhead in your back pocket as a potentially intriguing value play.
Joe Flacco has also found mixed success when these two clubs hook up, but we’re expecting a close back-and-forth affair that should see both quarterbacks get a piece of the pie. We’ll definitely want to keep Steve Smith in mind as the top stacking option with Flacco, and also be very mindful of the fact that he says this will be his final game. It’s not too hard to envision him going out with a bang while having a huge statement game, and he checks in at a very affordable price to boot. Mike Wallace and Dennis Pitta are also on the table for stacking options, but we’ll go with the safety of Smith this week. The committee situation with Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon does not leave us feeling warm and fuzzy about the Ravens running game this week.
Let’s take a look at this week’s top contrarian selections, starting at the quarterback position.
Cam Newton, $6,200. It’s been an incredibly disappointing season for the defending NFC champions, as well as Newton on the individual side. Big things were expected from Newton for fantasy purposes, but he’s only managed to break the 20-point threshold six times this season. So why are we optimiatic about Newton’s prospects in Week 17? Quite simply, the Panthers are one of the teams that can turn things around in a hurry next season, and head coach Ron Rivera may be able to rally the troops into delivering a ‘statement’ game against a Buccaneers squad that still has a slim chance at the playoffs. He’s well off the radar for fantasy purposes at this point, but we all know the upside he brings to the table. Here’s a chance to grab a hold of it at not only a low ownership percentage, but at his lowest price of the season to boot.
Blake Bortles, $5,600. We already touched on the our belief that Jaguars will continue to show how they got their groove back at this late stage of the season, and that points us to Bortles as a top contrarian option in Week 17. He has a tough act to follow in the form of last week’s 29.7 points, and we don’t envision too many users will be going points chasing for that very reason. Perhaps they should, because the Colts have been torched a few times by opposing signal callers, and this game has one of the highest projected totals of the week. We’ll look for the air to be filled with footballs in Indianapolis on Sunday, and for Bortles to deliver a performance that makes people remember why he was so highly touted entering the season.
DeMarco Murray, $6,300. The Titans blew a golden opportunity last week when they lost to the aforementioned Jaguars, as this week’s game against the Texans could have been for all the marbles in the AFC South. To make matters even worse, Marcus Mariota went down with with a broken fibula, and the club is handing the reins over to Matt Cassel for the finale. We like Murray for both of these reasons. Here’s why. A team that came so close to competing for the division crown in the final week of the season - when nobody expected them to do anything in 2016, by the way - is pretty bummed right now, and this is another spot where we can look for a ‘statement’ game from a club that has a good shot at making some noise next year. Add in the fact that there’s a pretty slim chance that the Titans game plan will call for Cassel to be airing it out on the regular, and we’ll look for Murray to show us what Mike Mularkey meant when he introduced ‘exotic smash mouth’ into the football lexicon.
Latavius Murray, $5,200. This is another situation in which the starting signal caller has gone down, and we can expect the team to lean even more heavily on the running game as a result. Derek Carr also suffered a broken fibula, and he may just have taken the Raiders hopes for a deep playoff run down with him. Matt McGloin is a serviceable backup, but he’s no Carr. The team will come to run against a beatable Broncos team, but there’s plenty of questions as to how the workload will shake out. DeAndre Washington said ‘hello’ to the fantasy football universe in a big way by finding the end zone twice last week, and there’s a good chance that performance has earned him some more work. However, Murray will not be going by the wayside just yet. In fact, Washington’s breakout just may put a little more pep in his step, and we’ll zag on over his way while other users blow him off due to a potential committee situation.
Cameron Meredith, $5,200. It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Vikings, who have fallen from 5-0 and in control of the division to a team that sits at 7-8 with some questions about what’s going on behind closed doors. A good portion of their downfall has been a result of declining defensive play, and they’ve been fantasy friendly to opposing quarterbacks and wideouts in recent weeks. Meredith’s numbers are trending in the right direction, and he’s been on the receiving end of 25 targets over the past two games. It’s become quite clear that Matt Barkley will look for him early and often, and that bodes well for his chances to pay off his very reasonable salary - with some really nice upside to boot.
Steve Smith, $4,900. We touched on Smith earlier in our focus on the under the radar tilt between the Bengals and Ravens, and our enthusiasm hasn’t waned as we’ve gotten deeper into the column. In fact, we’re even more optimistic that he’ll have a big game, and that the Ravens will do all that they can to make sure he goes out in style. Smith is 237 yards away from moving into sixth place all-time in receiving yardage. While that’s an ambitious ask for any wideout - let alone an aging one - we’ve seen firsthand what Smith is capable of when he’s on a personal mission. In short, we’ll look for Smith to be fed a healthy diet of targets in Week 17, and we fully expect him to come through with a vintage Smith-type game that shows he has plenty left in the tank.
Zach Ertz, $4,800. The game between the Eagles and Cowboys should fly well under the radar for fantasy purposes, and that leads us to dig in for contrarian purposes. Ertz becomes intriguing when we dig deeper for a couple of reasons, and there’s a little bit of a perfect storm scenario here. Outside of last week, he’s been receiving plenty of targets - and hauling in a good portion of them. The Cowboys, who will be resting most of their starters for at least a good portion of the game, have had their share of problems defending opposing tight ends in recent weeks. It’s hard to see the second stringers having more luck in that department. Ertz is a little pricey, but he should have little trouble paying off his salary in Week 17.
Gary Barnidge, $2,900. There was a time when Barnidge was a nice fantasy asset that brought value to the table on the regular. That time is well in the rear view mirror for the time being, and Barnidge has had a challenging 2016 along with the rest of his Browns brethren. Alas, the Browns showed a pulse last week and knocked off the Chargers for their first victory of the season, and they’ll be squaring off against a hated rival that will be resting its starters. The opportunity to close the season out with an unthinkable two-game winning streak is very real, and Barnidge has a chance to make some noise against a Steelers team that’s looking ahead to Wild Card weekend.
Tennessee Titans, $2,900. We mentioned the Titans as a team that may have something to say in Week 17, and that could translate into a strong defensive performance against a division winning foe that they are just as good as - if not better. As the saying goes, you are what your record says you are, and the Titans are a game short in the playoff relevance department. Beyond the personal motivation, the Titans are no slouches on defense, and they’ll be facing off against an offensively-challenged team with nothing to play for. We’ll call that advantage Titans, and look for them to vent their frustrations with some sacks and turnovers.
Carolina Panthers, $2,600. The Panthers are another team that we’re high on to ‘bring it’ in Week 17, and we expect that to happen on both sides of the ball. There hasn’t been too much to smile about in Carolina this season, but squelching a division rivals slim playoff aspirations may help the club at least form a semblance of a smirk. Jameis Winston has a world of talent, and he looks like he has a really bright future up ahead, but he’s having a hard time holding onto the football of late. We’ll look for that trend to continue in the finale against the Panthers. The bargain basement price helps pique our enthusiasm even further, but we’ll also be mindful of the fact that there’s some risk with this selection if the game devolves into a points-fest.
Thanks for reading The Contrarian for Week 17. 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.