Week 8 was one of the more challenging ones in recent memory from a DFS perspective. We saw several players go down to injury, numerous chalk selections fail to deliver, and several situations that went completely off script. In short, it was a pretty frustrating week for most players, but it’s time to place it in the rearview mirror.
It can be pretty easy to get discouraged when you’ve had a challenging week, and that can lead many players to try to shake things up a bit too much. If you’re process has proven successful to this point, it’s imperative to resist that urge. A sound process will win out in the long run, and it more than makes up for outliers such as last week.
In short, it happens. Even the top DFS players suffer through weeks when nothing breaks right for them. While it’s a perfectly natural instinct to want to right the ship when things go awry, sometimes the best course of action is to remain on the same path and wait for the storm to pass.
Before we get to this week’s top contrarian selections, let’s begin our quest by taking a look at some games and situations that aren’t receiving much love.
Under The Radar Game Of The Week
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Divisional matchups can be pretty tough to figure out at times, and they become even tougher when a key player has some question marks hanging around his neck. Signs currently point to Ben Roethlisberger giving it a go on Sunday, and the game becomes all the more intriguing if that comes to fruition. This game could quickly devolve into a sneaky shootout, as both teams have proven vulnerable at times in 2016.
For the Ravens side of the ball, the secondary has been a pretty big issue, as evidenced by their 13 touchdowns allowed to opposing wideouts this season. As for the Steelers, they have allowed a whopping five touchdowns to opposing running backs over the past two weeks, and that would be even more appealing if we had stronger signals out of the Ravens backfield.
Through the air may be the best way to attack this one, as both teams offer up field stretching options, namely Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates and Mike Wallace. We’ll keep a close eye on the injury reports heading into game time, and we’ll temper our enthusiasm if Roethlisberger in fact ends up sitting this one out - otherwise we’ll keep this on the radar as a potentially nice source of fantasy points.
Other Games To Keep In Mind
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants. Sticking with our divisional theme, this game could be a sneaky source of some points, and the passing games could be the way to look. While there’s better options on the docket than either of the signal callers in this game, top targets Jordan Matthews and Odell Beckham Jr. appear to have plenty of value packed into their Week 8 salaries.
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins. One more divisional game to take a closer look at, but this time we’ll want to look to the ground games. While the Jets continue to have a strong run defense in spite of their struggles this season, that may not matter when they’re facing off with a back that’s playing at the level of Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins run defense has shown improvement over the past few weeks, but Matt Forte is also back on track after hitting a bit of a wall in Weeks 3 through 6.
Matchups You’ll Want To Take A Closer Look At
Another great spot to look for some contrarian options is in the individual matchups for the week. Specifically, we’ll want to take a look at the ones that people may shy away from at first glance. Here’s three of those scenarios that are sticking out like a sore thumb in Week 9.
Blake Bortles vs. Kansas City Chiefs. This one seems awfully outside the box, but it makes a lot more sense when you dig into the game script and some underlying numbers. The Chiefs are widely expected to crush the Jaguars, but that’s ok from a game script perspective. That would lead to the Jaguars airing it out in a bid to catch up, and airing it out can equate to fantasy points in a hurry. The downside is that Bortles has been dreadful this season. That’s somewhat offset by the fact that the Chiefs have allowed five passing TDs over the past two weeks, but we’ll still consider this a risky selection - but one worth considering for the multi-lineup folks.
Ravens RBs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. We touched on this one briefly already, but it’s worth mentioning again. The Dolphins and Patriots produced impressive rushing numbers over the past two games against the Steelers, and the Ravens could easily make it three games in a row. The problem lies with the uncertainty in the team’s backfield. At the moment, Terrance West appears to be the safest bet, but there’s rumblings that Kenneth Dixon will receive a heavier workload moving forward. We’ll keep our ear to the ground on this one, and bump either back up on our short lists if one appears to be in line to be the lead dog.
Rams WRs vs. Carolina Panthers. The Panthers secondary is nowhere near what it once was, but many DFSers will hesitate to pull the trigger due to the passing game struggles of the Rams. We’ll concur with the masses when it comes to rostering Rams signal caller Case Keenum, but there’s still some value to be had in the club’s pass catchers. Kenny Britt was on a pretty decent run before tailing off in Week 7, while Tavon Austin and Brian Quick offer up some salary relief. This is another boom-bust spot, but it’s somewhere to take a look if you find yourself in the need of some salary flexibility.
Last Week’s Disappointments In Line To Bounce Back
Going back to the well can be pretty tough when you’ve been burned, but it’s also a great spot to look for some differentiation. Many DFSers will hold a grudge against the players that have failed to deliver while taking up residence on their rosters, and that presents a fantastic opportunity for the thick-skinned among us to swoop in and take the upside when they rebound the following week. Here’s three of the more appealing scenarios of this ilk for this week.
RB Devontae Booker. While he delivered a solid performance last week, it wasn’t quite the monster outing that many were anticipating. That should lead to some tempered enthusiasm, but we’ll hold steady on our love for Booker, and look for his output to continue creeping up. His price has jumped up substantially, but he’s still in line to flirt with 3x value.
WR Kelvin Benjamin. He’s been tough to figure on a weekly basis, and the Rams secondary has been equally schizophrenic. We’ll look for things to meet in the middle this week, and for Benjamin to be a much larger factor in the game plan for Week 9. The Panthers looked like a different team coming out of the bye, and perhaps their offense has finally achieved liftoff.
TE Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings as a whole came out and laid an egg on Monday Night against the Bears, and Rudolph was among the many disappointments from that affair. We’ll place that matchup in the rearview mirror, and look for Rudolph to bounce back against a Lions squad that has had plenty of struggles against opposing tight ends in 2016.
On to this week’s top contrarian selections, which may include some players that fit into the above categories, as well as some that required a little more extensive digging.
Derek Carr, $6,300
As a general rule, a player that throws for 513 yards and four touchdowns in his prior outing will not be found in the confines of this column, but a matchup against the Broncos may be a bit too much risk for the masses to stomach. That should level out Carr’s ownership percentage significantly, but we like his upside based on his overall body of work in 2016. While a repeat performance is essentially out of the question, it’s hard to envision him being completely shut down in front of what should be a raucous crowd in Oakland for a primetime affair. There’s plenty of risk here due to the strength of the Broncos defense, but Carr could be a separating factor on the leaderboard if he ends up delivering another solid return.
Matthew Stafford, $5,600. Here’s another signal caller that’s been incredibly solid in 2016 that has an imposing defensive matchup on paper. That being said, the Vikings surrendered 252 passing yards just last week to the much less potent passing offense of the Bears. We’ll look for Stafford to easily pay off his low salary, and use the savings to beef up our lineup elsewhere.
Nick Foles, $5,200. The Chiefs passing attack does not exactly set the heart aflutter, but perhaps Foles can step in and create a bit of a quarterback controversy in Kansas City. That only happens if he goes out and delivers a supremely impressive performance, but you can be certain that thought will be squarely in the back of the mind of a competitive professional athlete.
Theo Riddick, $4,900. Despite Jordan Howard running all over them on Monday Night, many will have a hard time pulling the trigger on Riddick against the Vikings. Add in the pass-catching upside that Riddick brings to the table, and we won’t share the general hesitancy. No promises that we’ll see similar output to what Howard delivered, but we like our chances of a nice return at Riddick’s low price.
Matt Forte, $6,500. We mentioned Forte’s recent resurgence earlier, and we’ll jump on board and ride it until the wheels fall off. On the other hand, there’s plenty of risk here, as Forte pulled a disappearing act after two monster outings in Week 1 and 2. The Jets-Dolphins tilt appears to be a pretty close one on paper, and we’ll look for both teams to lean heavily on their respective running games.
Jonathan Stewart, $5,200. Stewart is another back that has seen a resurgence of late, but he should fly under the radar due to facing a pretty tough run defense in the form of the Rams. We’ll look past that and assume the bye week was the necessary elixir to get the Panthers offense back on track, and also see if Stewart can run his streak of games with a pair of touchdowns to three.
Amari Cooper, $7,700. For those that are sold on Carr as a fine contrarian signal caller option, you’ll want to pair him with a top target. Cooper is also coming in off of a phenomenal game, but we’ll temper expectations somewhat. Although a monster line against the Broncos is pretty tough to envision, there’s something to be said for striking when the iron’s hot for NFL offenses - regardless of who they may be facing off with.
Mike Wallace, $5,600. We’ll take a walk down narrative street and look for Wallace to deliver against his former club. Although it was a few years back, this is Wallace’s first taste of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry from the opposite sideline. It’s not too hard to see him being pretty amped up for this one, and also not too hard to envision the sneaky shootout we envisioned above.
Corey Coleman, $4,500. Coleman is slated to return for this week’s tilt against the Cowboys, and the Browns are going to need all the help they can muster. They’re a big underdog, and that points to a second half of them filling the air with footballs - as best as they can. Coleman is unquestionably talented enough to deliver, it’s just a matter of how big of a rout this turns into. This is a boom-bust selection, but an intriguing one for the multi-lineup crowd.
Dennis Pitta, $3,800. Pitta has tailed off considerably in recent weeks, but he’s still seeing an inordinate amount of targets. He’s seen 20 head his way over the last two weeks alone - he just needs to start hauling more of them in. Some additional red zone targets would be lovely as well, but we’ll take it one step at a time and look for him to haul in the bulk of what heads his way.
Antonio Gates, $3,000. We’ll go back to the well with Gates this week. He delivered a solid 13.3 points last week in a much tougher matchup against the Broncos, and a similar output delivers a fantastic return on his price - despite it creeping slightly upward. Rivers will still lean on Gates at times in spite of his advancing age, and that could be even more true this week with the Chargers having some injury questions at wide receiver.
Lance Kendricks, $2,900. Kendricks has delivered double-digit output in back-to-back weeks, and in three of his last four games overall. That’s some pretty nice production for a bargain bin tight end, and the Panthers just so happen to have allowed some big games to opposing tight ends this season. We’ll look for Kendricks to continue his double-digit production streak while we enjoy spending the additional salary elsewhere.
Tennessee Titans, $2,600. This looks like another week where it makes perfect sense to pay up for defense, so we’ll have to dig deep to find some contrarian options. The Titans fit the bill due to their low price combined with the Chargers proclivity for turning over the football of late. The club was also generating some nice pressure against the quarterback in Weeks 5 and 6, so perhaps they can get back on track in that regard as well.
Detroit Lions, $2,500. The Vikings have allowed productive outings to opposing defenses in consecutive weeks, so we’ll consider the Lions as an outside the box selection. They’re ok in the turnover and pressure department, but they have some problems keeping their opponents off the scoreboard. There’s certainly some risk here, but the Vikings recent play may offset that.
New Orleans Saints, $2,300. You know you’re digging deep when you consider rostering the Saints defense, but when the week’s opponent is the 49ers, we have to at least consider it. The club’s defense has not delivered a double-digit performance yet this year, but it’s certainly possible against a squad that has allowed three such performances to opposing defenses in 2016.
Thanks for reading The Contrarian for Week 9. 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.