This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
The staffers we talked to this week are Andrew Garda, Will Grant, Justin Howe, John Mamula, Jeff Pasquino, BJ VanderWoude, and Mark Wimer.
How Much is Too Much?
Hester: Between his talent, his matchup, his status as a home favorite, and his team's implied total, Arizona's David Johnson will be the "mega-chalk" this week. From a game strategy perspective, how do you handle situations like this? Are you opposed to having 100% of any player across your cash game lineups?
Pasquino: No, I am not at all opposed to having 100% exposure to one guy (or team defense), especially in cash games. You either all go up or down together, so the rest of the lineup decides. For example, look no further than Charcandrick West last week. He was over 80% owned in many cash games, so why would you expose yourself to the possibility that if he goes off, you are 80-90% behind the field? I get fading him in tournaments (which I did), as that plan (West is bad, your replacement is better) helps you get ahead of 80% of the field. That's the goal in GPPs. In cash games, though, put me down for the heavily-owned guys all the time.
Grant: I agree with Jeff. For the ultra-chalk guys, fading them in a cash game is basically a death sentence unless the guy completely craters. The other ultra-chalk back last week was Ezekiel Elliot at Cleveland. He was expensive, but you had to have him in your cash game lineups if you wanted a chance. If you faded him in your cash game lineups, you missed out on 92 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns. Given the massive ownership that other cash players had, if you faded Elliot, you probably lost. This week, in my cash games, I have no problem being 100% exposed to Johnson.
Howe: Absolutely, guys, 100% exposure is sometimes warranted. It's one thing to hedge against the West types - cheap plays with murky outlooks - as they're unlikely to crush you. But fading, say, a $7,500 running back with a dynamite outlook can bury you. Elliott was very unlikely to fall below value last week, and when he hit his cash marker, he devastated the faders. And if they fall below their marks at 60-70% ownership, you're not far behind despite an expensive underperformance.
Garda: Add me as the number four here. There are absolutely times to go whole hog on a player, and something like West was it. Elliott is another great example. Plus let's consider that there is a lot of volatility in the running back ranks. So if you are confident someone is going off – such as Johnson this weekend – being contrarian is a good way to fall into a pothole. As was pointed out, cash games is where you do this when you aren't looking to differentiate yourself. Tournaments are when you differentiate.
Mamula: I agree with the group sentiment here. I am willing to go 100% in my cash lineups if they are projected to be highly owned, in a great matchup, and under-priced. West checked all three of those boxes last week. Cash games is not the place to get cute with deviating from expected chalk plays.
VanderWoude: There is always danger in rostering a player in 100% of your lineups, but the question is, does the risk outweigh the reward? In this case, I would say no. Johnson has a dream matchup, and he has the skillset and confidence of his coaching staff to take advantage of it in a big way. In this situation, I would look at whether or not I had the ability to match points with a different combination if Johnson was to reach his ceiling, which I would have a hard time doing this week. I think this is the rare situation where you are putting yourself at a disadvantage by not rostering him in 100% of your cash game lineups.
Even if you don't love the price or matchup of a highly chalky player, is he worth playing from a game theory perspective?
Pasquino: Absolutely you have to consider him, for the same reasons I mentioned earlier. You want to go with the masses when a player is very highly-owned, for better or worse. Unless I have a very strong take against that player, I am going to go with the chalk in cash games. For tournaments, if you believe there's a reasonable chance that the highly-owned player won't be the value everyone anticipates that he will, fading makes great sense – especially in large field GPPs.
Grant: Think of it this way, with an ultra-chalk player, you're looking at 70-80% ownership in cash games. If you take that player as well, you KNOW that you need to use the rest of your lineup to differentiate yourself. If that player bombs, you've already built the rest of your lineup to stand out so you still have a chance to beat out the other guys who also took that player. You still have a great chance to finish in the top half of the field.
Howe: In cash games, chalk is the driving principle behind my player selection. It's (pretty much) as simple as that. I like the way Jeff puts it: unless I have strong reason to believe the player won't perform, something the DFS world doesn't really know, then I'm on board. But even with some warts, if I know he'll be 60-70% owned in a double-up, I'll roster him regardless. It's just common sense, as I'm generally confident I can outrun the field with my less chalky choices. That's why I love when an expensive guy (like Johnson this week) is the chalk pick. We'll all have him, but I like my ability to build quality around him more so than that of the general public.
Garda: I agree with the guys. Unless I feel like I know something everyone doesn't, I will have players that profile as Johnson does this week in my lineup.
Mamula: If you expect a player to be chalk (over 50% plus owned), in most situations you can't fade that player in cash games. You are simply playing from too far behind the field if that player hits value.
VanderWoude: From a game theory perspective, you have to be looking at your odds of winning if he were to hit value, and also would you have the chance of winning if he didn't hit value. If he is the highest-owned player, you have to roster him to keep pace if he did hit value, and if he didn't you wouldn't be in any worse of a spot. The only danger is fading him and falling so far behind that you are incapable of catching up with a different combination of players. It is a rare situation that normally only presents itself with the elite players at each position. The ability to project ownership is an important skillset in cash games, especially in situations like this where winning or losing comes down to whether you roster a player more than how that player performs.
What percentage of your GPP portfolio will have lineups including Johnson?
Pasquino: I have to qualify my answer here. In tournaments with under 1,000 participants, I will probably have him in my lineup and try and differentiate elsewhere. In big field GPPs or very high-reward qualifiers (where only the top 5% or better really win), I will likely fade him.
Grant: Jeff's hit the nail on the head here. In bigger GPP games with a ton of people, you know the Johnson ownership will still be high. It makes sense to buck the trend and fade him in a lineup or two. You might even construct your lineup based on Johnson bombing to maximize your effort. For instance, if somehow San Francisco jumps out to a big lead early, the Cardinals will have to pass to catch up, and Johnson could underperform. In that case, taking Larry Fitzgerald or John Brown instead of Johnson really increases your chances of hitting if your game script plays out.
Howe: Yes, in a high-entry GPP, the chalky guys should usually be left out. These are contests you're simply not going to win without going against the grain somewhere. Riding a high-scoring Johnson day doesn't help you beat out a field out 32,000 entries if 12,000 of them caught the same wave. And while Johnson is a generally matchup-proof stud, paying this ungodly price tag is unwieldy and the first place I'd look to replace and differentiate. Assuming I roll out 50 entries into a contest, I'll wedge Johnson into 10-15 of them. But if I have four or five single-entry GPP lineups, Johnson will be on two or three of them.
Garda: Agreed. When it comes to smaller contests, there's less population you are trying to outswim, so if you can hit on other players, you do yourself a disservice not to have a guy who will go off in your lineup, highly owned or not. Unless you really love a pair of backs more than Johnson, avoiding him in a small tournament feels risky.
Mamula: In small field GPPs (under 100 players), I will likely have 100% Johnson in my lineups. If creating multiple lineups in large field GPPs, I think you still need to have some exposure due to the matchup. Sometimes the chalk RB is absolutely needed to take down a large field GPP. Not having any exposure can be a huge mistake. In a large field GPP, if I estimate Johnson's ownership to be 40% this week, I will have at least 20% and no more than the expected 40% ownership. I determine this amount on Sunday morning when I am building my GPP lineups.
VanderWoude: Regardless of the player or situation, I will never have 100% of a player in my GPP lineups, because if the player is owned by the overwhelming majority, the best possible scenario for you is to fade the player and have him fail to hit value. With that said, I will likely have in the neighborhood of 40-50% of Johnson in my lineups. He has the highest upside of any running back this week, and he finds himself going against one of the worst rush defenses in recent memory.
Sometimes when you see great value at the running back position, the tendency is to overexpose yourself to that player. West was a great example of that type of player last week. My rule of thumb is not to exceed 25% on any player unless he is of the stud variety, with a consistent and definable workload that makes it possible to realistically project what that player will do. Johnson certainly fits into that category this week.
Hester: Each team has now played at least half of its season. Wow us with a surprise statistic/trend you've used so far this season to win in DFS or provide us with something you've noticed that you'll continue to monitor going forward.
Pasquino: The best trend I've found is the "overlooked"; player. This comes into play mostly with a quarterback. A few weeks ago, I was very successful with Jameis Winston, thanks to Jacquizz Rodgers and Mike Evans. Everyone was all over both Rodgers and Evans, yet no one seemed to be fawning all over their passer. That led me to a triple stack of Tampa Bay assets (Winston-Rodgers-Evans), which helped me win some GPPs.
Another trend I've noticed is the "other teams" that are bad against particular positions. For example, one trend has been that Detroit is terrible against all tight ends (true), but so have the Atlanta Falcons. That led me to Cameron Brate last Thursday, where he scored one touchdown and nearly two. That comes into play this week with Detroit on a bye and the Falcons playing the Eagles. I'm all aboard on Zach Ertz this week.
Grant: Indianapolis has been pretty terrible against the pass this season, and when I'm building my cash lineups, I look at quarterbacks from teams that are facing them. Last week I had a lot of Aaron Rodgers and his 297 yards passing and 3 touchdowns didn't disappoint. I had a fair amount of Alex Smith the week before, and although he was hurt, he and Nick Foles combined for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns as well. It doesn't help this week because they are on a bye, but the Colts are a team I'm going to target in the next few weeks.
On a team that is actually playing this week, Houston has one of the best passing defenses in the league, giving up just 190 passing yards a game through the air. But their rushing defense is giving up 125 yards per game , and the defense is actually pretty vulnerable to running backs. Last week they gave up 133 yards from scrimmage and a TD to Theo Riddick. The week before they gave up a combined 190 rushing yards and 2 TDs to C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. The week before that was 106 yards rushing to Frank Gore. This week they face the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are 26th in the league running the ball with just 89 rushing yards a game. Given that, I might look to sneak T.J. Yeldon into a couple GPP lineups, hoping his combined rushing and receiving touches turn into more than most people will be expecting.
Howe: It's been interesting how productively targetable certain defenses have been for touchdowns. Touchdowns, of course, are the lifeblood of high-entry GPP contests - you won't take one down, nor likely return much on your investments there, without projecting them correctly. And if we isolate the dark zone – the 10-yard line and closer – Atlanta and Detroit have been the most accommodating teams thus far. They've given up short-yardage touchdowns passes at astounding rates. Atlanta has allowed a whopping 16 of its 27 dark zone throws to go for touchdowns, the most in the league and the second-worst rate.
In fact, somehow, three different quarterbacks have thrown three or more scores from inside the 10 against the Falcons. And some absolute no-namers have found their way into the end zone. The worst rate, though, belongs to Detroit, as a stunning 13 of 18 dark zone throws have produced scores. As Jeff pointed out, tight ends have done a lot of that damage: five have caught short-yardage scores, and none were high-dollar DFS plays. They've basically been a red carpet for cheap value.
Wimer: The astounding horridness of the San Francisco rush defense has provided me with many high-scoring fantasy running backs. Their rush defense averages 193 yards allowed per game on the season. Over the last four weeks, San Francisco has averaged 43.1 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs! I can't recall another rush defense this bad since I started playing fantasy football in 1989.
Garda: This is what happens when I show up late. All the good stuff is taken! You know what works for me right now? Who is playing against Atlanta? That's who I look at. Averaging 289 yards a game, and allowing 23 passing touchdowns to six interceptions, with the Falcons you get a shootout and even when you don't, Jameis Winston fires off 261 and 3 touchdowns.
Now, of course, you have to consider who faces them. For example, Philadelphia's Carson Wentz is struggling, so he and the passing offense are not as attractive. But those situations are few and far between right now. Most of the time, at least the quarterback is good to go, and more often than not, a receiver or two are as well.
Mamula: Back in Week 5, I won a GPP by playing Sammie Coates Jr vs. the Jets. This was the point of the season where the Jets defense was continually getting beaten with long passes. Coates was developing into the Steelers deep threat with three consecutive games with a reception of 40 yards or more. Coates was priced down. It was the perfect storm. He was 3% owned in the GPP. Coates went for 6 receptions, 139 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He could have had at least two more scores in the game as well if it were not for drops. That particular week, you really needed Coates in order to take down first place.
VanderWoude: I would agree with all the exploitable trends mentioned above, and they are typically the ones that I target when making my rosters. The two teams I find myself targeting are the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New Orleans plays at the fastest pace of any team, and when you combine that with the worst passing defense in the league, there is usually value to be found in wide receivers who are going against the Saints. The same is true of Tampa Bay; they run the third-most plays of any team and rank 27th in passing defense. These are the teams most likely to be involved in shootouts, but the real value comes in the fact that they play each other twice a year, and both of their games have yet to be played. When they play each other in Weeks 14 and 16, I will be taking advantage and game-stacking as many Saints and Buccaneers players as I can fit in my lineups.
Elite Defense or Explosive Offense?
Hester: Two intriguing games this weekend are Denver at New Orleans and Seattle at New England. Generally, any game in New Orleans is bound to yield plenty of fantasy production, but it hasn't been advisable to start any passing game assets against Denver. How are you handling Drew Brees and his weapons this week?
Grant: Oakland isn't New Orleans, but they still have the fifth-ranked passing offense in the league. Last week, the Broncos held the Raiders in check pretty well though, and Derek Carr had just 184 passing yards and zero touchdowns.
Brees should do a little better than that, but it's not something I'm going to want to touch in cash games. I will build a stack or two for GPP games, though, expecting ownership to be depressed. A Brees-Thomas-Cooks super stack will be under-owned because of the matchup, and if Brees finds a way to break through the wall, that lineup should do pretty well.
Howe: Brees is not a cash option this week. Over their last three games, Denver has allowed a microscopic 4.89 yards per attempt. Even with Brees' typical volume, that's a floor that just doesn't justify both Brees' salary and value from safer quarterback options. And most importantly, he won't carry much chalk this week at all. I do like Will's idea of a Saints GPP stack, which would really differentiate and pull away if Brees' historical awesomeness at home holds.
A Brees home game always needs to be part of your portfolio, though. After all, he has topped 280 yards in 10 of his last 12 at home and thrown two or more touchdowns in nine of them. Still, it's hard to see multiple receivers beating that secondary for GPP value. I'm fine stacking Brees with Thomas, a big outside receiver who fits the bill of the few receivers that have had success against the Broncos (A.J. Green, Kelvin Benjamin).
Wimer: I agree that a Brees stack with Thomas makes sense in a GPP lineup. I think Thomas is emerging as the top wide receiver for Brees (as will become apparent in the second half of the season), and these two do have a shot at a "surprise" big game against the Broncos secondary. Aqib Talib (back injury) is expected to be out through the Week 11 bye, downgrading the unit, and Kayvon Webster has a hamstring injury that cost him Week 9. There is vulnerability at the corners right now, which plays to Thomas's strengths as a receiver.
Pasquino: This is a great question, and I'm interested to hear what the rest of the guys think. I believe that New Orleans is going to build on their run game from last week that was highly successful against San Francisco (who isn't?). Denver is more susceptible to the run than the pass this year, as we saw with what the Raiders did last week. However, in the passing game, Carr had his chances with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, but he also had good options on certain plays with his third wideout and his tight ends. Those two positions (slot wide receiver, tight end) are the best options against the Broncos.
Another path to success against the tough Denver defense is to play physical against their corners, and we saw last week that the Raiders drew many pass interference calls from 50/50 balls in the red zone. I think Brees will attack the defense with Coby Fleener at tight end, Thomas at slot wide receiver, and then move the ball between the tackles with both Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram II. Brees may not get his usual 300 yards and three scores, but I think there are enough paths to success for him to get 250 yards and two scores on the Broncos.
Garda: What's fascinating to me is that Denver is very vulnerable at inside linebacker if you force them into coverage. San Diego (in the first meeting) and Atlanta did that (Atlanta used Tevin Coleman mostly) and gashed Denver. As Jeff points out, Oakland had some shots as well, even if they missed.
The problem is, nobody is doing it consistently. I feel like the Saints might give it a shot, but I'm not sure they have the right guy to pull it off. As Jeff points out, they probably attack with Fleener and that could be your avenue for closer to average points. I'll avoid Brees in cash games, but I might give a shot in some GPP tourneys. If I am looking for an inexpensive flier, Fleener might be the guy.
Mamula: The Denver defense does not scare me this week. Once I saw the game line of 49 total points with the Saints -2.5, it was a sign Vegas expects the Saints offense to produce in this home matchup. Brees is cash game playable this week, but I prefer some other options at QB. I expect to have a large amount of this game in GPPs as many will be afraid to roster Saints players. Cooks is my target to stack with Brees in this matchup. During his three seasons, Cooks has excelled when playing in the Superdome as compared to on the road. Most people that play Brees will stack him with Thomas, due to his recent success.
VanderWoude: The Saints are one of the few teams that I will still feel confident starting against the Denver defense. As Will mentioned, a Brees-Cooks-Thomas super stack will most likely be very low owned, and considering Cooks and Thomas account for 36% of all Brees completions, their floor is much more stable than other wide receivers who have faced off against the Broncos talented cornerbacks. Cooks, Thomas, and Willie Snead IV also present a different set of problems for the Broncos, as they have diverse skillsets that are capable of spreading a defense out and taking advantage of one on one coverage.
To cap off the main slate, Seattle travels to New England. Similar to New Orleans, there is rarely an occasion worth fading Tom Brady and his receivers. Does Seattle's defense scare you into doing so this week?
Grant: This one is a bit different. The Seahawks have looked vulnerable at times this year. Last week, Robert Woods had 10 catches for 162 yards. A couple weeks before, Julio Jones hit them for 139 and a score while Mohamed Sanu put up 47 and a touchdown as well. Brady is also coming off a bye week, and the Seahawks are on the road. I think the Patriots will roll over the Seahawks just like they have several other teams so far this season. I'll be very comfortable starting Brady this week, in both cash games and GPPs. On the receiving side, Rob Gronkowski and possibly even Martellus Bennett would both be considerations as well given the players that I can stack around them.
Howe: As Will points out, the Seahawks can be had. They no longer carry great, cheap, young talent to bookend Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, and as a result, they're far more targetable than usual. And Brady's game is based on finding short-to-intermediate targets, not on beating All-Pro defenders down the field. Slot guys and underneath receivers have caught their targets against Seattle just fine this year; Larry Fitzgerald caught nine balls, Jarvis Landry caught seven, and Michael Thomas and Willie Snead IV combined to catch 12 of 14 targets. So I'm fine with rostering Brady in any format. His price tag is generally adjusted for the matchup, so I don't have to devote 18-20% of my cap to him.
Wimer: Justin is right about Seattle's current vulnerability to opposing passers and wide receivers; they have averaged 24.2 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks (10th-most in the NFL) and 28 fantasy points per game allowed to wide receivers (ninth-most in the league) over the past four weeks. Their fearsome reputation is not being played out on the field of late.
Pasquino: Seattle is playing on a short week after a tough game against the Bills. New England is coming off of a bye week, so that's a lot of difference in rest. Throw in a cross-country trip for the Seahawks, and I can see a lot of pluses on the side of New England. The rematch of Super Bowl XLIX is not a matchup of the same two teams that faced one another less than two years ago. The Patriots still have Brady and Gronkowski, but the Seattle defense is not the impenetrable wall that they were in past seasons. Both head coaches can find chinks in the armors in the opposition, and I think the Seattle defense is the one that has the most weaknesses to be exploited. Buffalo just exposed some a few nights ago, and I think New England will build on those weaknesses. I do not think that one particular player will be the way to play this in DFS aside from the possibility of a "Naked Brady" approach (Brady without a stack involving one of his pass-catchers) – and even that is risky.
Garda: NSB - Never Sit Brady. Even if the Seahawks were the best version of themselves from the past few seasons, I would play him – especially on his rampage this year. The Seahawks are not that defense this year, though, so I feel even better about it. Add to it that Bill Belichick is a game planner extraordinaire, and I feel fine playing Brady.
I like Gronkowski or Julian Edelman as well. I want to like Bennett more, but he isn't putting up the numbers right now. I'll wait for that to correct before I risk him.
Mamula: The Patriots are still in play in cash games and GPPs this week. The Seattle cornerbacks don't matchup well in this game. The larger corners have shown that they can be beaten by smaller, more elusive receivers. Edelman is in play this week. Rob Gronkowski is matchup-proof.
VanderWoude: I have to agree with my counterparts here, Brady is unfadable (so please don't try to fade him) this season. He is operating at a level that is at least one step ahead of his opponents, and in many cases, several steps. I don't have the same affinity for Edelman as I have in years past, but he is definitely in play as a GPP option this week. Gronkowski is matchup-proof, as John stated. There is not a defense in the league that can slow him down without putting all their singular efforts solely on him, and Brady is too good at spreading the ball around for that to happen. I will have heavy exposure to the Brady-Gronkowski stack with the hope that other players somehow make the mistake of overthinking this matchup.
Hester: Last week, both Carolina and Pittsburgh disappointed from a fantasy perspective. Both teams return home this week. Do you see them improving significantly? What kind of exposure will you have to players like Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, and Kelvin Benjamin for Carolina?
Pasquino: Carolina did not look very good at all, and while I get that some of it was because Los Angeles is pretty good at applying pressure and stopping both the run and the pass (to the tight end, especially), Newton should have connected with his receivers much more often than he did. Now they do head home, but Kansas City is arguably a better defense (and team) than the Rams. Throw in that the Panthers defense is not what it used to be without Josh Norman, and I actually like what Kansas City brings to the table a lot more than Carolina this week.
Grant: I agree with Jeff. The Chiefs have been playing well as of late, and the Panthers continue to struggle. Even more surprising, the Panthers normally strong defense is ranked 29th overall with 289 passing yards per game. Alex Smith should be back this week, as well as Spencer Ware. I think the Panthers are going to have their hands full. As far as offense, I think Newton is an okay play, but I'll probably look to other quarterbacks with better matchups to get value. Olsen is probably too expensive to play in anything except a GPP, and Benjamin doesn't reach the end zone enough for me to use, even in GPP games.
Howe: I agree with Will that Newton looks like a middle-of-the-pack play in terms of value, and this entire offense looks GPP-only. There's just not enough consistency in their play, nor predictability in their distributions, to rely on Panthers for floor. But that GPP appeal is real; there's potential for them to explode. Drew Brees, after all, just went into Kansas City and bucked his home/road splits with 367 yards and 3 touchdowns. That's a fine defense, but they tend to struggle to defend bigger receivers. They've been burned recently for touchdowns by the likes of Brandon Coleman and Andre Holmes, in addition to struggling studs Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Donte Moncrief. Newton doesn't throw much near the goal line, but just a few opportunities for catch-point throws to Benjamin and Olsen could pay off big.
Garda: I like Olsen because he produces more often than not, though his price makes it a bit shaky in terms of value. I like the risk Justin mentioned for GPP, but I would in no way stack Newton and either Olsen or Benjamin. I think one goes off but not two, and I feel like Olsen can perform even if Newton doesn't do as well. I'll use Olsen here and there, but I doubt I'll be rostering either of the other two.
VanderWoude: I wouldn't be so quick to write off Newton and the Panthers this week. Yes, the Chiefs defense is playing well and causing turnovers, but they've been pretty generous to opposing quarterbacks. Over the last five weeks, they've allowed 270.8 passing yards per game and 2.4 passing touchdowns. Those numbers are somewhat skewed by a five-touchdown, 300-yard passing day by Ben Roethlisberger, but the numbers don't change significantly if you take him out (263 passing yards, 2 touchdowns per game).
The Chiefs defense is playing very aggressively, and while that is great for causing turnovers, it also leaves them vulnerable to quick-strike passes and quarterback runs. In their last two games, the Chiefs gave up 60 rushing yards to Andrew Luck and 54 rushing yards to Blake Bortles, respectively. With his price coming down across the industry, I think Newton makes for an interesting GPP play that should be low-owned. Even with his struggles, he possesses the upside that few quarterbacks can match. I will have a fair amount of exposure to him this week.
The tight end position has been a wasteland this year, making Olsen's consistency count for even more than it normally would. He's posted either 65 yards or a touchdown and five catches in seven of his eight games, numbers that are very hard to come by with respect to tight ends this season. With that said, if there is a week to fade him, it is probably against the Chiefs.
Kansas City has not allowed a tight end to post more than three receptions in any game (Antonio Gates was the lone tight end to have three receptions), and they've let up only one touchdown to opposing tight ends on the year. They have not faced a tight end of Olsen's caliber, and while he is most likely the exception to the rule, I'd rather not find out and will keep my exposure to a minimum. Benjamin is another story, though. Justin nailed it; the Chiefs have struggled to contain big-bodied receivers in the red zone, making Benjamin a solid GPP play with more than a little upside.
Mamula: I am leery of the Panthers offense this week. Newton has struggled over the past two weeks. He doesn't seem to be running near the goal line as he did earlier in the season. Perhaps the Panthers are trying to protect him from any more of the big hits that he has sustained this season. This week's matchup vs. the Chiefs has the potential for a 17-10 type of contest. BJ made a great point when he mentioned that the Chiefs have not allowed a touchdown to a tight end yet this season. Olsen has been consistent, but he only has three touchdowns on the season. Benjamin is a boom/bust player who you can't even consider for a cash game lineup. There are better options for DFS this week. I will likely bypass this game.
Wimer: I agree with John about the Panthers offense. There is a malaise over this attack (perhaps partly due to Newton's funk over uncalled fouls this year) that is making it unpredictable and erratic in production. And the conservative, ball-control nature of the Kansas City offense is going to limit the number of offensive series that the Panthers enjoy. There are lots of reasons for avoiding the Panthers offense this week.
Pasquino: The rivalry between Pittsburgh and Baltimore is very real, but so was the rust on offense after Roethlisberger returned to action. Pittsburgh will get the offense back rolling again, and the Steelers tend to play better at home. Dallas cruised over Cleveland last week, but the Cowboys are still vulnerable on defense. Talent is talent, and Bell, Brown, and Roethlisberger can beat anyone. I like their odds against a Dallas defense that could be without Morris Claiborne once again this week. My confidence on when the Steelers will get better is still lukewarm after last week, though, so I am likely to avoid them in DFS this week.
Howe: I'm always an easy sell for Roethlisberger at home. I don't care about home/road splits unless they're extreme, and his are just absurd. Dating back to 2014, he's averaged a stunning 341 yards at home, topping 300 in 14 of 18 games. He's also thrown a near-impossible 51 touchdowns over those 18 games (2.8 per game). Those are astronomical numbers and point to a ceiling as well as a floor. Even if we point to his injury and project a 75% effort, it's still a performance over 250 yards and 2 scores – to go with a ceiling that's almost unfair. He could be Week 10's skeleton key. Brown's outlook isn't as great; his target share is fluctuating, and he doesn't project to hit value. There are cheaper ways to use this offense to take down GPPs by stacking. A stack with Bell makes sense; he's obviously versatile and dynamic, and this stack would gobble up the entire Steelers offense. In the event of a shootout, you've tilted a tournament without spending wildly for Brown.
Garda: I broke Roethlisberger down for a non-fantasy article this week, and I will tell you this for sure: he was not close to 100%. His leg was still bothering him, he didn't drive off his leg on almost any of the passes he threw, which meant his mechanics, accuracy, and everything else went to pot.
This is a week you must do extra legwork when it comes to him. Follow the beat writers, read the analysis. It's going to be hard to know if he really improves, but my concern is he doesn't, which is bad for him and Brown.
For the fact that Roethlisberger was still hurting, I say they went away from Bell too much. And sure, he struggled, but he's a back you keep hammering with and even when the game was close they didn't. I believe they get back to him this week and if there is one player in this trio I roster, it's him.
VanderWoude: I agree with Andrew; Roethlisberger did not look like he was 100% last week, and it is hard to see him being at full strength this week either. Playing at Baltimore against a divisional opponent was never going to be an advantageous matchup for Roethlisberger to begin with, but when you combine that with him trying to shake off the rust after close to three weeks on the sidelines, it is not hard to see why he struggled. Roethlisberger is an interesting GPP play this week, but I would not trust him in cash games until he proves he is at full strength.
Brown and Bell are both in play this week. Brown was able to salvage his day with a late touchdown against the Ravens after it looked like he would be a complete dud. Aside from Week 1, he has yet to have the type of game that we grew accustomed to him having over the last several years, but it is hard to write him off against a Dallas secondary that will most likely be without their top cornerback. It is amazing that we consider Brown to be having a down year, despite the fact that he is on pace for 110 receptions, 1,250 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Of the three, I like Bell the best this week, and he should be considered for both cash and GPPs. He is having difficulty finding holes in the running game, averaging only 3.5 ypc over the last four weeks. He continues to do most of his damage in the passing game, with his receiving stats accounting for 68% of his total points over the last four weeks. Pittsburgh is in a must-win situation at home, which bodes well for Bell's chances of receiving a heavy workload. With David Johnson projected to be owned by a heavy majority this week, Bell makes for a solid pivot.
Wimer: Roethlisberger rushed back to play against the Ravens, but I don't think he should have. As Andrew and BJ broke down above, Roethlisberger wasn't throwing the ball well last week, and I agree with them that he'll likely still have issues with his delivery again this week. I'm with Jeff on the Steelers this week; I plan on avoiding them until such time as I see the offensive chemistry flowing strongly between Roethlisberger and his teammates once again.
Mamula: The Dallas-Pittsburgh game stands out to me as the top option on the board this week. Things are shaping up for the perfect storm. Roethlisberger is coming off of injury. Many will take a wait and see approach after last week. Roethlisberger looked comfortable during the fourth quarter. While it was too little too late last week, it was a sign moving forward. Reports out of Pittsburgh this week are that Roethlisberger made it a point to address his team in the locker room. He told the team to "Follow Me." That sounds like a guy that is ready to put the team on his back and do whatever it takes to win. Justin mentioned the home/road splits. Roethlisberger is a must play at home at this point. He looks much more comfortable running the offense at home as compared to the road.
Bell does not have a touchdown yet this season. There is some major positive regression coming his way soon. One of these weeks, he is going to find the end zone for two or three touchdowns and be the standout RB1. This could very well be that week. The same goes for Brown. He can go for over 10 receptions and 200+ yards in any game. I will have a large amount of exposure to Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown in my cash and GPP lineups this week. Follow me to the pay window!
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