JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL (TOP SHELF PLAYS)
Aaron Rodgers ($9,800) - Rodgers at home against the Falcons is the most obvious cash game play of the week. Last week's game against New England was the first time all season he failed to throw at least three TDs at Lambeau, and he still wound up with 27.92 fantasy points on DraftKings. The Falcons have allowed at least 292 passing yards to the last five QBs they've faced - a list that includes Josh McCown, Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer, and Drew Stanton. Vegas has the Packers scoring about 34 points in this one, and Rodgers accounts for nearly 80% of their total TDs. 300 yards and three TDs are a near certainty, and there's potential for more.
Drew Brees ($9,100) - When New Orleans and Carolina met back in Week 9, Brees scored 20 fantasy points on DraftKings - an output that likely represents his floor this week. Brees earned back some trust in last week’s stellar showing at Pittsburgh (257-5-0), and now he returns home to play a bottom-10 pass defense, in a game the Saints need if they want to make the playoffs. New Orleans is projected to drop 30 on the Panthers, and Carolina couldn't keep Teddy Bridgewater from completing 71% of his passes last week. Brees should have no problem dissecting them this Sunday. He’s the preferred cash game fall back option if you can’t fit Rodgers under the cap.
Eddie Lacy ($7,800) - While I fully expect Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game to gorge on the Falcons, there will be plenty of leftovers for Fat Eddie. The Falcons have faced a string of sub-par rushing teams since Week 7 and still lead the NFL in rushing TDs allowed. Lacy ranks as PPR RB4 over the last 7 weeks, and has been markedly better in home games, where he averages over 36% more fantasy PPG than he does on the road. It wouldn't shock me to see Lacy lead all RBs in scoring this week.
C.J. Anderson ($7,600) - Anderson gets a tough matchup with the Bills, who have allowed the third fewest fantasy PPG to opposing RBs, but I'm not overly concerned. Anderson's mammoth workloads (27 and 32 carries in his last two games) have made him virtually matchup proof, and I expect similar opportunity for him this week (Denver plays at home, as double digit favorites). His price may have gone up $700 since last week, but his production more than justifies the inflation - he's neared or exceeded 4x tournament value at this price in each of the last two games.
Jordy Nelson ($8,100) - Football Outsiders ranks the Falcons 31st in adjusted pass defense DVOA. Aaron Rodgers is going to flame broil Atlanta, and that means his most trusted receiver is coming along for the ride. Falcons' CB Desmond Trufant is a mild concern, but not enough for me to fade Jordy as the sixth most expensive receiver. Nelson proved last week he can excel against the league’s best cover corners.
Odell Beckham ($7,700) - Do you need any more evidence the Tennessee defense has packed it in for the season than Ryan Fitzpatrick's 6 TD Week 13 explosion? I'd feel a little better about paying top dollar for ODB if this game were at Metlife Stadium, where he’s averaged 110 receiving yards per game (compared to just 65 YPG on the road), but Beckham is too good, and the Titans’ secondary too bad, for anything less than 20 fantasy points this week. Beckham hasn’t gone below 15.3 fantasy points in the last six weeks, making him ideal for your cash game lineups.
Jimmy Graham ($6,500) - Graham's zero target nightmare put the volatility of the tight end position on full display last week, but this is a situation where it will pay to have a short memory. I have Graham projected to lead all tight ends in scoring, and he's available at a discount (down $600 from last week). He checks in at 19% less than Rob Gronkowski ($8,000), making him one of the best $/Point value on DraftKings. The Panthers have given up either a touchdown, or 100+ receiving yards to a tight end in each of the last four games. And if you need another reason to shrug off the recency bias, check out Graham's game logs against Carolina since 2011.
Green Bay Packers Defense ($3,500) - The Packers are playing at home as a huge favorite (-11.5), and facing off with Matt Ryan, who can’t be trusted outside of the Georgia Dome. When this game gets out of hand, Ryan will be forced into a ton of low percentage passes, creating the opportunity for multiple turnovers and maybe even a defensive TD. The Texans ($3,700) and Vikings ($3,400) are next in my rankings
JACK DANIELS (MODERATELY PRICED PLAYS)
Ryan Tannehill ($7,300) - Tannehill was featured in this space last week, and he wound up ruining my otherwise awesome Millionaire Maker lineup with a 9.7 point stinker. But after watching Philip Rivers snap out of his funk at Baltimore last week, I'm willing to take another shot on a big week from Tannehill. The Ravens are an absolute mess in the secondary - three of the last four QBs Baltimore has faced put up at least 340 yards and three TDs against them. This game is in Miami, where Tannehill’s passing TDs per game increase by 39%. Given the matchup, Tanny’s got a shot to post his fourth top-five performance of the year, which would place him behind only Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers.
Mark Ingram II ($6,500) - Continuing the theme of RBs playing at home, on a team favored to win by double digits (the Saints are -9.5), Ingram has a nice setup this week vs. Carolina. He racked up 100 rushing yards, and two TDs when these teams met in Week 9, and for some reason his price is down $300 from last week despite a 122 yard performance against the Steelers. I’ll believe Khiry Robinson siphons significant carries in his first game back when I see it, and Pierre Thomas hasn't cut into Ingram's rushing workload since returning from injury either (Ingram has accounted for 80% of the Saints’ RB carries in the two games since Thomas returned). If the Saints can get out to a big lead early (very possible), we should see a lot of Ingram in this game.
LeSean McCoy ($6,400) - The crowd will fade McCoy due to his matchup with Seattle's 10th ranked rush defense, but you shouldn’t in GPPs. Shady has been back to his elite RB1 ways the last two games (144 rushing YPG and a TD in each), his offensive line is healthy, and Seattle has been a different team on the road. The Seahawks have been run on by Jamaal Charles (20-159-2), Jonathan Stewart (16-79-0), and Tre Mason (18-85-1) away from CenturyLink in recent weeks . Any time McCoy is priced below 7K, he's a threat to return 4x his salary - this week is no different despite what looks like a tough matchup on paper.
Kelvin Benjamin ($6,500) - There's pretty clear garbage time potential in the Panthers-Saints game, so you have my permission to roster Benjamin and wait patiently until the fourth quarter to watch him start racking up fantasy production. As bad as the Saints are at defending WRs (fourth most fantasy points allowed), we may even see a Kelvin TD before the game gets completely out of hand.
Kenny Stills ($6,000) - We’re seeing what one of the most efficient receivers in the NFL over the last two seasons can do with a full complement of targets. Since Brandin Cooks went down with injury two weeks ago, Stills’ 15 targets lead the Saints, and he’s turned them into 13 receptions, 261 yards, and a TD. Last week’s 32.4 point explosion jacked up his price by $1,200, but he’s still not being valued correctly. Given his plus matchup, increase in high percentage targets, and good standing as Drew Brees’ shiny new toy, I’m rolling out Stills in both cash games and tournaments with confidence.
Jordan Reed ($4,600) - If we learned anything from Jimmy Graham's miserable Week 13, it should be that tight end is the most statistically volatile position in fantasy football, and the only way you can hope to mitigate the volatility is to follow the targets. I'm not a fan of Reed's matchup with the Rams (seventh fewest fantasy points allowed to TEs), but we know Colt McCoy is going to force him the ball. In McCoy's two starts, Reed has averaged nine targets per game. I suppose his ceiling may be capped a bit by the matchup (St. Louis has only allowed one TE to eclipse 60 receiving yards this season), but it doesn’t get much safer than Reed in PPR cash games.
Delanie Walker ($4,200) - Speaking of tight ends who pulled a disappearing act last week, Walker's 1.6 point performance took a blowtorch to GPP lineups. I like him to bounce back this week at home, where he averages 5.25 receptions, 70.75 receiving yards, and .5 TDs per game. The opportunity should be there for Walker - his 20.22% target share ranks third at TE behind only Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett this season. The Giants defense helps open the door for a strong game as well. They’ve allowed 23.9% more fantasy PPG to tight ends than the league average over the last five weeks.
New Orleans Saints Defense ($3,000) - The Saints defense is not good, but they should be able to generate some points at home against Cam Newton. Newton has been sacked more than any QB in the league this season, and his 57.9% completion rate is seventh worst, making the Panthers one of the better D/ST matchups to exploit.
LIMOUSINE LIQUOR (DIRT CHEAP PLAYS)
Brian Hoyer ($5,200) - This spot was reserved for Johnny Manziel, but Mike Pettine's insistence on driving 45 miles per hour in the right lane has forced me to stink up my article by recommending Hoyer. I don't have much faith Hoyer will deliver in this matchup. In fact, he’s just as likely to get benched by halftime as he is to return value. However, Colts' CB Vontae Davis is still in the league’s concussion protocol, and is looking very questionable to play. Without Davis in the lineup, the Colts secondary is absolutely pitiful (see Ben Roethlisberger’s six TD game against the Colts, as well as Colt McCoy’s stat line last week). This is shaping up as a great spot for just about any QB, and Hoyer’s cost brings much needed cap relief in a week where the pricing has tightened up.
Daniel Herron ($5,400) - Herron appeared in this space last week,and came through with his second consecutive 14+ point performance. Nothing has changed about his situation since last week. He’s still affordable (up only $400 from last week), still the starter, still tied to Andrew Luck, and Trent Richardson still sucks. This week’s matchup with the Browns is more forgiving than last week’s with Washington. Boom shouldn’t have much problem approaching 15 fantasy points for the third straight week.
Fred Jackson ($5,300) - It looks like Jackson finally has his sea legs back after playing on 74% of the Bills’s offensive snaps last week. With the Broncos favored by double digits, the game script calls for plenty of passing plays when the Bills go into catchup mode. In games the Bills have lost by seven points or more, Jackson averages six receptions, eight targets, and 47.5 receiving yards per game. Not coincidentally, his fantasy PPG increase by over 78% in those games. The potential exists for Jackson to post a 20 point PPR day, even if he can’t get much going on the ground against Denver’s tough rush defense.
Andre Williams ($4,400) - Williams wasn’t very good filling in for Rashad Jennings earlier this season, but the matchup with the Titans doesn’t get much better for RBs. Tennessee has allowed a preposterous 815 rushing yards and nine total TDs to RBs in their previous five games. It looks like fellow rookie Orleans Darkwa will be worked in on passing downs, but Williams is still a candidate to receive 20 carries. Given the matchup and price point, he’d amount to a must play in a week with precious few screaming values at RB. Just keep an eye on the practice reports to make sure Jennings is out.
Jarvis Landry ($5,600) - Landry is the Dolphins receiver I’d be most eager to pair Tannehill with. He’s averaging a healthy 9.2 targets per game in last four, and has scored between 11.5 and 24 fantasy points on DraftKings in each of his last five. If you play him in tournaments, he’ll need to score a TD to pay off his price tag (his 5.6 aDOT doesn’t exactly allow for splash plays), but he’s a decent bet to find the paint against the Ravens, who have allowed eight WR TDs in their last four games. At the very least, Landry’s 26.24% target share over the last month provides the the high floor you’re looking for in PPR cash games.
Rueben Randle ($4,300) - Randle is a low cost arbitrage play on Beckham this week. He figures to face off with Titans’ CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson on the majority of his routes. PFF rates Wilson’s pass coverage as the second worst in the league out of 117 qualifying CBs. We know the deal with Randle at this point - no receiver in the NFL has done less with more. His 23% target share leads the Giants by a wide margin, and he ranks fifth in the league in red zone targets, yet he’s the WR43 on the season. Despite his inefficiency, I’m willing to take a stab on Randle as a GPP punt play - the matchup and opportunity are there, and the cost doesn’t get much lower.
Kyle Rudolph ($3,300) - Rudolph hasn’t done much since returning from injury, but he’s back to playing a full complement of snaps, and he did find the end zone last week. This is a pure matchup play against the Jets, who have allowed the most TDs, and second most fantasy PPG to TEs this season. Even Dolphins backup Dion Sims got in on the action last week, nearing double digit scoring on Draftkings against New York.
RUBBING ALCOHOL (MINIMUM PLAYS)
Jordan Cameron ($3,000) - There’s not much to like at the minimum this week, but if Cameron suits up (reports are optimistic), I like him against the Colts. Indianapolis ranks right behind the Jets in fantasy points allowed to opposing TEs, and they’ve been especially bad in the last three weeks, allowing nearly 100% more fantasy PPG to the position than the league average. Josh Gordon’s return should allow Cameron more space to operate. In 13 career games played with Gordon in the lineup, Cameron’s fantasy production is over 22% better than in the eight games without Gordon.