JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL (TOP SHELF PLAYS)
Andrew Luck ($8,900) – Luck, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers are the only three QBs I'm excited to roll out in cash games this week. I see Luck as the safest bet for a high end performance of the trio - he leads all QBs in fantasy PPG by a significant margin, Dallas has allowed 23% more fantasy points to QBs than the league average over the last five weeks, and the over/under in this game is north of 55 points. To sweeten the pot, his price is down $400 after he struggled (relatively speaking) against Houston last week. The Texans were able to pressure Luck all afternoon (on 55% of his drop backs to be exact), but I don't see the Cowboys having similar results. Dallas averages only 1.6 sacks per game, fifth worst in the NFL.
Drew Brees ($8,300) – Brees seems to have a reputation in the DFS community as an extremely volatile play, but he's finished as a weekly top-12 QB the same number of times as Aaron Rodgers this season (10). Only Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning have had more weekly top 12 finishes. If you can overlook his Week 14 stink bomb against Carolina, Brees has been red hot over the last month. He's exceeded 30 fantasy points on DraftKings in three out of his last four games, and this week he gets the one matchup to rule them all (Atlanta in a dome). This amounts to a playoff game for Brees and the Saints. I fully expect a surgical performance, similar to what we saw last Monday night at Soldier Field.
Ben Roethlisberger ($7,400) – Roethlisberger is in play for tournaments despite a tough matchup with Kansas City. The Chiefs are the second stingiest defense against fantasy QBs, but Big Ben's numbers are absurd at Heinz Field, where he's averaged 375 passing yards and 3.17 passing TDs per game this season. His worst showing at home was a 265 yard, two TD performance against Houston in Week 7. Priced as the QB8 on DraftKings, there's definite profit potential for Big Ben in a game Vegas sees as fairly high scoring (over/under 46.5).
Jamaal Charles ($8,000) – I'm not in love with any of the high priced backs this week. Le'Veon Bell should have his usual strong game, but his cost ($9,800) may finally be prohibitive. DeMarco Murray (how much will he play?), Matt Forte (Jimmy Clausen), and Arian Foster (Case Keenum?), all carry significant risk, which leads me to Jamaal Charles. Charles comes with injury questions of his own, but he went public with his displeasure over a lack of touches in last week's cupcake home matchup with the Raiders. This week, Kansas City will need to lean on Charles if they want to hang with the Steelers on the road, in a must-win game. That being said, there's enough value at the position this week, I don't see myself spending $8,000 or better on a RB in too many of my lineups.
Eddie Lacy ($7,300) - Lacy alleviated any concerns about his hip injury by coming through in a tough road matchup with Buffalo last week (108 total yards, one TD). This week's opponent - Tampa Bay - is not exactly easy to run on (3.9 YPC against), but Lacy should see enough volume to pay off his reasonable price tag in cash games (even if James Starks continues to cut into his snaps). Green Bay is a double digit favorite. If the game goes according to script, they'll be looking to kill clock in the second half. We know scoring opportunities will be there for Lacy - since Week 10, no RB or WR has scored more total TDs (eight).
Antonio Brown ($8,800) - Brown has finished as a top-12 WR a league best nine times this season. Not surprisingly, his production in home games surges along with Ben Roethlisberger's - Brown has averaged an otherworldly 8.3-118.5-1.33 stat line at Heinz Field this season. The Chiefs haven't allowed a 100 yard receiver since Percy Harvin in Week 9, but it's silly to bet against Brown at home at this point. Given the difficult matchup, maybe he doesn't get you the 35+ you're looking for in tournaments, but 25 fantasy points is more likely than not. I'll be making Brown a staple in my cash game lineups.
T.Y. Hilton ($7,600) - Hilton is priced as the WR10, which is far too low considering his standing as Andrew Luck's favorite target, his career track record in dome games (7-118-.64 per game indoors), and his matchup with Dallas CB Brandon Carr (the eighth worst cornerback in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus). The hamstring injury Hilton suffered in Week 15 is a definite concern now that he missed practice again Thursday, so keep a close eye on his status leading up to the game. But if Hilton is anywhere near 100%, he could prove the best value on the entire site this week. If it looks like Hilton will sit, do not construct a lineup without Donte Moncrief ($4,100) in it.
Jordy Nelson ($7,700) - Unless you think Jordy is going to drop another 95 yard TD, he's a screaming value priced as the WR9 this week. Football Outsiders ranks Tampa Bay 26th in adjusted pass defense DVOA, and 30th at defending opposing WR1s. I can understand being worried about Green Bay taking their foot off the gas early in what should be a blowout, but Nelson sees nearly 29% of Green Bay's targets and over 34% of their receiving TDs. There's no reason to think he won't be a primary reason the Packers get out to a big lead.
Rob Gronkowski ($7,000) – Can anyone explain how Gronk's price dropped $800, following an 18.6 point performance, headed into a matchup with the Jets? You never need an excuse to pay up for Gronk, but when he's matched up with a team that's allowed the second most TDs, and third most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, fade at your own risk.
Seattle Seahawks Defense ($3,700) - RYAN LINDLEY ALERT!
Baltimore Ravens Defense ($3,400) - CASE KEENUM ALERT!
JACK DANIELS (MODERATELY PRICED PLAYS)
Matthew Stafford ($7,000) - The Bears are the brightest burning, foulest smelling dumpster fire in the NFL as we head down the home stretch. Stafford lit up Chicago for 390 yards and two TDs when these teams met on Thanksgiving day. While that game was at home, where Stafford has typically fared better (he averages 18% more fantasy PPG at home), it's not like Chicago has been clamping down on opposing QBs when they play at Soldier Field. Teddy Bridgewater is the only QB to score less than 22 fantasy points against Chicago since Week 8. You'd be remiss not to throw at least one Stafford-Calvin stack out there this week.
C.J. Anderson ($6,900) - Anderson's price is down $900 from last week, as he heads into a plus matchup against the Bengals. Cincinnati has allowed the fifth most fantasy points to opposing RBs this season, and over 34% more fantasy PPG to the position than the league average over the last three weeks. While there's talk Anderson's carries will be curbed, it's important to put that in context. He's seen 27.2 carries per game in his last four games. He can easily cede five carries per game and remain just as productive, provided he continues getting all the goal line looks for Denver. With Peyton Manning looking a bit banged up, Anderson's ceiling is unquestionably 4x his salary this week.
Mark Ingram II ($6,100) - While Ingram is no longer producing at the stud levels he was when Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson were injured, he's still being utilized plenty. Ingram has seen 77% of the Saints' carries since Thomas returned in Week 12, to go along with two thirds of the goal line carries. Vegas has New Orleans-Atlanta pegged as the highest scoring game of the week, and I fully expect a fantasy bonanza for all parties involved. Ingram should enjoy plenty of running room and scoring opportunity against a soft Atlanta defensive front that leads the league in rushing TDs allowed.
Joique Bell ($6,000) - Bell is quietly the PPR RB7 over the past five weeks. He's not appropriately priced in a matchup with the Bears, who he absolutely chewed up back on Thanksgiving (23-91-2). The spread in this game opened at Lions -4.5, but has since jumped to Lions -9 with news that Jimmy Clausen is starting at QB for Chicago. Like Vegas, I expect Clausen to be awful, and gift the Lions with great field position all afternoon. The result should be plenty of scoring opportunities for Bell, as well as additional late-game carries while the Lions are killing the clock.
Mike Evans ($6,700) - We know the deal with Evans recently - he's been good for catching TDs and very little else. His dominant 57.89% TD market share makes it very likely he'll be on the receiving end of another score this week, but Evans could also rack up some big yardage numbers for the first time in over a month. The Green Bay secondary is suspect. We saw Julio Jones annihilate them two weeks ago on Monday Night Football, which was not an isolated incident. Over the last five weeks, the Packers are allowing over 25% more fantasy PPG to opposing WRs than the league average. Tampa is a 10 point underdog with a terrible defense, facing off with the league's best offense. They'll have to throw the ball all afternoon to keep up, which means Evans should see double digit targets. A 100+ yard, two TD day is within the range of possible outcomes.
Kelvin Benjamin ($6,600) – Oddly enough, I'd be much more excited to roster Benjamin if Derek Anderson draws the start for the Panthers this week (a scenario which no longer seems likely). In two games with Anderson, Benjamin has posted a combined 14 receptions and 196 receiving yards, to go along with an elite 30% share of the Panthers targets. Cleveland's stud CB Joe Haden is nursing a bruised rotator cuff, which means Benjamin will see plenty of Buster Skrine (six TDs allowed) in coverage.
Julius Thomas ($4,800) - Denver's shift to a run heavy approach, combined with Thomas' ankle injury have caused him to disappear from box scores almost entirely for the past month. The lack of production is reflected in Thomas' price, which sits at a season low. Now that he's practicing in full, I expect to see Thomas' snap count rise from last week's 29 (out of 66). With a 73.2% catch rate, and insane 21.43% TD:Target rate, Thomas doesn't need a ton of looks in the passing game to do fantasy damage. Outside of Gronk, the tight end position is largely uninspiring. You can do worse in tournaments than a healthy and affordable Julius Thomas.
Detroit Lions Defense ($3,100) - JIMMY CLAUSEN ALERT!
LIMOUSINE LIQUOR (DIRT CHEAP PLAYS)
Josh McCown ($5,500) - If your usual strategy is to fade high priced QBs, you can't be happy with the pricing on DraftKings this week. Alex Smith ($5,600) probably has the floor you're looking for in cash games, but unless you believe Johnny Manziel ($5,500) is going to knock the NFL on its ear in his second start, there's precious little upside in the $6,000 and under QB crowd. I'm no fan of Josh McCown, but in a home game that should see him throw around 40 times, 275 yards and two TDs are not out of the question.
Tre Mason ($4,600) - After trampling the Raiders' hapless run defense in Week 13, Mason predictably came crashing down to earth in back-to-back tough matchups with Washington and Arizona. With the opponent once again favorable (the Giants allow the eighth most fantasy points to RBs) and the price right, I feel pretty good about using Mason this week. His ceiling lies somewhere between 15-20 points.
Lamar Miller ($4,400) - Miller's low price (RB20) is a result of his failure to top 60 rushing yards in any of the previous four games, combined with the Dolphins' stubborn insistence on limiting him to about 15 touches per game. When you consider his opponents in those four games (Broncos, Jets, Ravens, Patriots), the sub-par results are forgivable. And despite never topping 18 carries in a game this season, Miller has the same number of Top-12 weekly RB finishes as Justin Forsett (5). A favorable home matchup with Minnesota should allow Miller (4.65 YPA) to do enough damage on his 15 carries to return value in cash games.
Harry Douglas ($5,600) - If I had to guess, Julio Jones sits again this week (hip injuries are not to be messed with), and we all saw what Douglas can do in a plus matchup, without Julio in the lineup (10-131 vs. Pittsburgh). Vegas is telling us it's a smart idea to load up on Falcons and Saints this week. Douglas probably has the most upside of any Atlanta skill player, and he's available for $1,000 less than the banged up Roddy White.
Brandon LaFell ($5,300) - If you're into unsubstantiated gut calls, I have a hunch LaFell catches a TD against the Jets' horrible corners. I plan on sneaking him into a Brady-Gronk GPP stack. Dwayne Bowe ($3,200) and Steve Smith Sr. ($4,100) are other low priced receivers matched up against exploitable defenses.
Dwayne Allen ($3,800) - Allen owns a team leading 21.62% share of the Colts' receiving TDs this season, despite missing two games. If Andrew Luck throws two or three TDs, as I expect he will, the odds of Allen being on the receiving end of a score are pretty strong. Only the Bears have more trouble containing tight ends than Dallas. The Cowboys have allowed 10 TDs to the position, fifth worst in the league.
Denver Bronocs Defense ($2,900) - ANDY DALTON IN A MEANINGFUL NATIONALLY TELEVISED PRIMETIME GAME ALERT!
RUBBING ALCOHOL (MINIMUM PLAYS)
Trent Richardson ($3,000) - Trent Richardson stinks. I'm not necessarily advocating playing him. I'm only pointing out that if you construct a roster you love, and only have room for a minimum priced player to fill your RB or flex position, you could probably do worse than a RB on the third highest scoring team in the NFL, who's still seeing 55% of his team's snaps. There could easily be enough points scored in Indy-Dallas for Richardson to fall into the end zone on one of his trademark two yard runs.