Last week was one of the most contrarian weeks in recent memory. There were several upsets throughout the league and numerous games that did not follow the course of their projected game script. Look no further than two of last week’s upsets that produced two of the top running backs of the week for a prime example.
Jeremy Langford and the Bears traveled to St. Louis as 9-point underdogs to face the Rams. The game script pointed us to anything but a Chicago blowout and a strong performance from the Bears running game. Final score: Bears 37-13. Langford’s day: 182 combined yards and two total touchdowns for a cool 40.2 points.
Charcandrick West and the Chiefs headed to the Mile High city as 4-point underdogs against the Broncos, pointing us to a relatively close game. However, the strength of the Broncos defense did not yield any signals that would point us to a solid day for West and a Chiefs victory. Final score: Chiefs 29-13. West’s day: 161 combined yards and two total touchdowns for 31.1 points.
Situations such as the above can leave us walking away scratching our heads as the week comes to a close. Try as we might, we simply can’t cover all of the bases without employing a tremendous amount of lineups. For those of us without the time, wherewithal, inclination or desire to enter 100s of lineup permutations, our research routine becomes our best friend.
As we’ve established in The Contrarian all season, a little outside the box thinking that’s based on solid reasoning and thought processes can yield some solid results. We’ve examined some of the winning lineups for the Millionaire Maker and found something very similar among all of the Top 10 finishers: the presence of players that are owned on less than 10% of all rosters.
Each week, The Contrarian provides you with a list of players that should fly under the radar and offer some nice potential upside, but there’s another tool we can add to the belt for a little contrarian thinking. We know that not every game will follow the exact projected game script, but as the above two examples showed us, some games can completely turn the script upside down.
For this week and all future weeks, be sure to ask yourself a few simple questions:
- Which games look like they could play out in a completely different fashion than what most are anticipating?
- Of the big projected favorites, are any particularly vulnerable due to injury, inconsistent play of late or an improving opponent?
- Of the underdogs, which ones are trending up and have a decent chance of pulling off an upset?
- For the games with the highest-projected totals, could any actually turn out to be low-scoring affairs?
- For the games that are projected to be low-scoring, are there any sneaky, hidden shootouts that could break out?
These five simple questions will force you to dig a little deeper as you analyze the week’s matchups and not simply settle for what the projected outcome is most likely to be. Thinking through each game in this way does not take a ton of time and can really open up the possibilities for players you otherwise may miss out on and fail to consider. If you can identify one single game each week that may play out differently than its projected script, you just may be on to finding some of the week’s top under the radar performers. Let’s take a look at this week’s players to consider for the contrarian list, starting with the quarterback position.
Mark Sanchez, $5,000
Sanchez takes the reigns for the Eagles due to the injury to Sam Bradford and many are not sold on him being up to the task. Just a little refresher, Sanchez took the helm in 2014 for the Eagles and performed admirably with four 300+ yard passing performances and seven games with multiple touchdowns. He actually looked pretty good running the Chip Kelly offense last season and we can expect some more of the same in 2015. The Eagles offense has yet to soar this year, Sanchez may just provide the needed spark that causes Kelly and Co. with some food for thought when Bradford heals up.
Tyrod Taylor, $5,200
Taylor gets his second crack at the Patriots this year and if he produces the same as he did in the first matchup, you’ll be quite pleased with the results. In Week 2, Taylor threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns and chipped in 43 rushing yards and another score on the ground – good enough for a cool 28.98 points that would have been a lot higher if not for him throwing three picks. Similar output – with maybe one less score and no picks – will provide an outstanding return for a $5,200 salary.
Chris Ivory, $6,100
Ivory flies under the radar quite a bit and just quietly does his thing. On the year, he has 799 combined yards, seven total touchdowns and is averaging 17.9 points per game. This week’s opponent, the Houston Texans, just put forth a solid defensive effort in defeating the previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. Ivory’s low profile plus a matchup with an impressive performer from last week’s Monday Night game should cause him to fly under the radar even more than usual.
Adrian Peterson, $6,800
Peterson always has his fair share of supporters but just doesn’t appear to be receiving the love that other backs are getting this week. We can expect several backs to be more heavily-owned than Peterson this week, including the two backs directly north of him on the salary chart – Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley. Further south, there are a bunch of value plays this week, headlined by Charcandrick West at $4,500. Add it all up and Peterson just may slip through the cracks this week. This is a crucial divisional matchup between the Vikings and Packers, look for Peterson to be in full-on run through everything in front of him mode.
Jordan Matthews, $6,000
Matthews has shown a few glimpses this season but has been pretty disappointing overall, as has the rest of the Eagles offense. As we mentioned when discussing Sanchez, the Eagles offense could use a spark. If you are sold on Sanchez’s ability to provide said spark – why not pair him up with the Eagles top receiver? The duo showed some nice chemistry when Sanchez had the reigns in 2014 and could offer us another glimpse of what a fully functioning Chip Kelly offense looks like.
Sammy Watkins, $4,800
Watkins exploded for 8/168/1 in Week 9 against the Dolphins before being held in check by the Jets last week. He produced a decent outing in the Bills last matchup with the Patriots as he caught six passes for 60 yards and a score, good enough for 18.0 points. Watkins produced that outing at a salary of $6,200, which made for a decent return. Similar output at a salary of $4,800 moves those results from decent to very good.
Jason Witten, $5,100
Witten and the Cowboys get their quarterback back this week as Tony Romo returns from a lengthy absence. Look for the return of Romo to open things up for the entire Cowboys offense and for the veteran signal caller to lean on his trusted target in his first game back. Witten has not found the end zone since Week 1; we’ll look for that streak to come to an end this week and for a solid return on Witten’s $5,100 salary.
Travis Kelce, $4,700
The Chiefs have turned things around and are in the midst of a three game winning streak as they enter the stretch run. Kelce is averaging 13.8 points per game and has been pretty quiet this year, especially in relation to the proverbial leap forward he was expected to take. Look for Kelce to join in on the fun this week as the Chargers have struggled against opposing tight ends. The emerging Charcandrick West should also open things up for the passing game, for which Kelce is a solid No.2 target behind Jeremy Maclin.
Kansas City Chiefs, $2,600
Speaking of the Chiefs, they have been absolutely rolling on the defensive side of the ball with three consecutive games of at least 12 points. They face a struggling Chargers team that can still produce on offense, which will cause many to look the other way in fear of Phillip Rivers posting some prolific passing numbers. Take advantage of the oversight of others and confidently roll out the Chiefs defense this week. This may be the last week to catch them at a sub-$3,000 price.
Chicago Bears, $2,000
Finally, we have a Bears defense that has played fairly well over the past two weeks and has averaged 8.5 points over that span. The team welcomes the Broncos and the Brock Osweiler experience to town for a 1pm kickoff. Bears head coach John Fox just may be slightly motivated to face off against his former club and may ensure the defense plays with a little extra pep in their step this week. This is a very intriguing play for as low as you can get on the salary scale.
That takes care of The Contrarian for Week 11 and our list of under the radar candidates. As we have seen each week – and last week especially – there are several outside the box candidates that can turn out to be among the week’s top performers. Keep the above players in mind for your contrarian list for this week and remember to try to find a game or two that just may flip its projected script upside down. Best of luck this weekend!