The most wonderful time of the year may have just come to a close, but I think you’ll agree with me that we’re getting ready to enter a pretty good stretch in its own right with Wild Card weekend on tap. To make this joyous time all the more festive, we have a lobby full of games on DraftKings just waiting for us to click the enter button. Playoff DFS offers us the benefit of fewer games to dig into, but the challenge of constructing a lineup that can really stand out from the crowd and the perils of lineup overlap due to a limited pool of players to construct our lineups from.
Fear not, The Contrarian is here to lend a hand and help you identify some of this week’s potential hidden gems. It’s always a good idea to employ a little contrarian thinking for our lineups, but maybe even more so on a short slate that includes only four games. With only four games to dissect, we can gain an even better handle than normal on the week’s ‘must-starts’ and ‘can’t miss‘ players. But to really make some noise on the leader boards this weekend, we’ll have to mix in some diamonds in the rough with our favorite chalk selections. Before digging into the week’s top contrarian selections, let’s take a look at each of this weekend’s four games and identify some potential contrarian situations.
Games at A Glance
Kansas City @ Houston. Kansas City -3, 40.
This game projects to be a low-scoring affair between two tough defensive squads that will likely be off the radar for most DFSers, outside of top wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeAndre Hopkins. Tepid interest from the masses is always a good spot to search for some hidden gems and this game is no different. Alex Smith generally flies under the radar due to his game manager reputation, but he has actually been a consistent performer this season by averaging 17.6 points per game.
Most will look past the Chiefs running back combo of Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware due to both the tough matchup and workload concerns, but there may be some hidden value here – West for yardage and Ware for red zone potential. Travis Kelce had his finest game of the season against the Texans way back in Week 1 by hauling in six catches for 106 yards and two scores. He proceeded to fall off the face of the earth from that point, but perhaps a date with the Texans will inspire the Chiefs to get him more involved this week.
On to the Texans, we could consider Brian Hoyer for a contrarian GPP play. He’s averaging only 16.2 points per game this season, but has broken through the 20-point barrier on four separate occasions. Outside of Hoyer, it’s pretty slim pickings for the Texans and the remaining skill position players fall into the realm of low-cost GPP fliers.
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati. Pittsburgh -3, 45 ½.
The Steelers offense is generally pretty popular and this weekend will be no different. We can expect healthy ownership percentages for Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller. Even Fitzgerald Toussaint, who many are hoping will jump in and provide the plug-and-play output that DeAngelo Williams spoiled us with over the course of the second half of the season, will probably have plenty of supporters, disappointing many who think they are on to the week’s low-cost hidden gem. We could make a contrarian case for Markus Wheaton on the assumption that the Bengals hold Brown and Bryant in check, leaving Wheaton open to pick up the scraps. There’s a school of thought that says Jordan Todman could swoop in and steal some of Toussaint’s thunder and carries, but this has to be considered a risky play of the boom-bust variety.
With Andy Dalton out of the picture, the Bengals present some potential contrarian opportunities. Interest should be pretty light in the Bengals offense, making a stack of A.J. McCarron and either A.J. Green or Tyler Eifert an appealing contrarian option. McCarron and Green have actually developed some nice chemistry over their past four games together and have hooked up for three touchdowns. The Steelers bring a tough rushing defense to the table which will temper the enthusiasm for Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, but perhaps the Bengals will actually lean on the running game a bit more in an effort to slow down the pace of the game against a Steelers team that may be in full on air it out mode due to uncertainty at running back.
Seattle @ Minnesota. Seattle -5 ½, 39 ½.
The Seahawks destroyed the Vikings by the score of 38-7 back in Week 13, a game that featured stellar fantasy performances from Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin, both of whom we can expect to be highly-owned this weekend. Marshawn Lynch is questionable but likely to give it a go and should be another popular Seahawk for DFS purposes. On the contrarian front, we could consider a stack of the highly-owned Wilson with one of his lesser-owned targets like Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse or Cooper Helfet. By the way, Helfet comes in at a bargain price of $2,500 and has caught four balls for 40+ yards in each of his past two games.
Outside of Adrian Peterson, all of the Vikings would be considered to be contrarian selections if we rostered them. But can we actually make a valid case for rostering any of them? It’s pretty tough to consider due to the limitations of their offense and the beat down the Seahawks dropped on them a few weeks back, but an under the radar stack that somehow goes off can be the kind of thing that helps to take down a GPP. For a single lineup, you’d have to be extremely comfortable with the boom-bust nature of such a strategy. For those rolling with multiple lineups that are comfortable with the risk, a stack of Teddy Bridgewater and one of his low-cost receiving options definitely qualifies as an under the radar option. By the way, when Bridgewater went off and threw four touchdowns against the Bears in Week 15, Stefon Diggs caught two of them.
Green Bay @ Washington. Washington -1, Even.
Washington’s offense has been rolling along quite nicely as they enter the playoffs. Kirk Cousins has thrown for 12 touchdowns over his past four games, five of which have landed in the hands of Jordan Reed. It’s pretty safe to say that they will be one of the more popular duos of Wild Card weekend. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon will likely find their ownership percentages somewhere in the middle - not too high that we have to consider fading them, but also not so low that they are completely flying under the radar. For a contrarian play from Washington, we could look to the low-cost Alfred Morris. He comes in at a salary of $3,700 and scored a respectable 13.0 points in Week 17 against the Cowboys.
It’s hard to believe that we are entering a playoff weekend involving Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in which they are not considered ‘must-plays’, but such is the state of the Packers offense at this juncture. The Packers have scored a total of 21 points over the past two weeks – eight of which came in garbage time of their Week 16 beat down at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. Rodgers will still find his share of supporters this weekend, it will just be less than what it would be with a fully functioning Packers offense. As for his targets, James Jones could fly under the radar due to the state of things in Packer-land, but he has been targeted a whopping 40 times over the final four games of the regular season. We could also look to the inconsistent Eddie Lacy or the sometimes productive James Starks for an under the radar play at running back.
On to this week’s selections, we’ve changed it up a bit due to this week’s limited number of games. Instead of the top two contrarian plays by position, below you will find the top selection for each position, followed by one or two others that deserve some contrarian consideration. We’ll begin our quest for the week’s hidden gems at the quarterback position.
Alex Smith, $5,300
As we alluded to earlier, the veteran signal caller with the game manager reputation usually attracts very little interest and this week will be no different with a tough matchup with the Houston Texans on tap. While Smith rarely sets the world on fire, he offers consistent production at a reasonable price. He’s thrown for two touchdowns and rushed for 50+ yards in each of his past two games and is averaging a respectable 17.6 points per game this season. Flashing back to Week 1 against these same Houston Texans, Smith threw for three touchdowns en route to 23.22 fantasy points. A lot has changed since then of course for both teams, but a Chiefs squad that has cruised into the playoffs on a wave of ten consecutive victories just may surprise some folks with their productivity on Saturday.
Other Quarterbacks Deserving Contrarian Consideration
A.J. McCarron, $5,200: The Bengals could be forced into a shootout with a Steelers team that may be airing it out on the regular this Sunday, pointing us to some nice upside for McCarron.
Teddy Bridgewater, $5,100: This is definitely a boom-bust contrarian selection and not for the faint of heart as we discussed earlier, but it’s always nice to be the guy who takes down a GPP with an outside the box quarterback.
Jeremy Hill, $5,000
Building on the theory that the Bengals may need to play a little ball control offense on Saturday to slow down the Steelers points us to Jeremy Hill for a contrarian running back selection. There’s always some risk to rostering a Bengals back as we don’t know for sure how the workload will be spread out amongst Hill and Giovani Bernard, but Hill has been firmly in command the past few weeks with 54 carries to Bernard’s 28. The Steelers bring a tough run defense to the table and have held the Bengals backs in check in both of this season’s meetings, which points to some risk for this selection. In the end, the Bengals need to slow things down wins out and we’ll look for Hill to have a productive day at a reasonable price.
Other Running Backs Deserving Contrarian Consideration
Spencer Ware, $4,000: Another back with a tough matchup that will scare many people away. Ware and backfield-mate Charcandrick West basically work in tandem when both are at full strength, with Ware often getting the nod for red zone duties.
Eddie Lacy, $4,500: Lacy has been extremely inconsistent this season but will be facing off with a Washington team that has allowed three rushing touchdowns over its past three games.
James Jones, $4,100
The Packers offense has been stuck in the mud of late, but James Jones is emerging as Aaron Rodgers most trusted target over the past few weeks. He’s been targeted 40 times over the past four weeks, which he’s been able to convert into 14.48 points per game over the same span. With a long offseason staring them in the face, look for Rodgers to come out with guns ablaze and to direct plenty of targets in the direction of Jones. The Packers have to break out of their funk eventually and they may find some success against a Washington team that has allowed eight passing touchdowns over the past four games.
Other Wide Receivers Deserving Fade Consideration
A.J. Green, $7,500: Enthusiasm will be somewhat tempered for Green with A.J. McCarron at the helm, but they have actually developed some nice chemistry by combining for three scores over the past four.
Travis Kelce, $4,500
There’s slim pickings at tight end this week and we can expect Jordan Reed’s ownership percentage to be through the roof at the high-end of the salary scale and for Heath Miller to be a pretty popular low-cost selection. Somewhere below those two, we’ll find Travis Kelce’s supporters for Wild Card weekend. Kelce has been pretty disappointing overall this season. He was expected to take a proverbial leap forward that just hasn’t materialized. Perhaps it’s game planning or an undisclosed injury, but he’s only produced one monster outing this season – 31.6 points against the Texans in Week 1. We’ll look for the trip back to Texas to inspire a solid day out of Kelce at a very reasonable price.
Other Tight Ends That Deserve Contrarian Consideration
Tyler Eifert, $5,000: Eifert should be somewhere in the range of Kelce in terms of ownership percentage and brings the upside of his 13 touchdowns this season to the table.
Cooper Helfet, $2,500: Those looking to punt the tight end position could do worse than Helfet, who has averaged 8.25 points per game over his past two.
Washington Redskins, $3,300
The majority of this week’s interest at defense will center on the Seahawks, Chiefs and Texans, leaving us to find the hidden gem amongst the remaining five clubs. We can certainly make a case for Washington, the team that has delivered double digit fantasy points in back-to-back weeks and will be facing off with a Green Bay team that has allowed double digits in points to opposing defenses in consecutive games. As an added bonus, we’ll save some much-needed salary cap space by rostering Washington over one of the week’s more popular defenses.
Other Defenses Deserving Contrarian Consideration
Minnesota Vikings, $3,000: Another very outside the box play that’s not for the faint of heart, but those looking for a very lowly-owned, boom-bust defense can consider the Vikings.
That’s a wrap for this week’s edition of The Contrarian. Best of luck this weekend and enjoy the games!