If you’ve been playing fantasy football for any length of time, you already know the value of analyzing positional matchups. DFS is no different. Each week, we see some of the highest raw scores from players whose opposition has trouble defending their position.
While Footballguys provides a number of ways to analyze fantasy stats allowed to quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, including Austin Lee’s Normalized Strength of Schedule which was covered in this space back in Week 7, the easiest way to view average fantasy points and positional stats allowed for each defense is to use the Fantasy Points Allowed feature included with MyFootballguys, which can be customized to Fanduel & DraftKings scoring formats.
To access Fantasy Points allowed from the Footballguys home page, mouse over MyFBG in the top menu and click MyFBG Classic.
Scroll down to Fantasy Points allowed, change the scoring system to your DFS site of choice, choose your position, and click the Rank the Defenses button.
From there, use the filters to change positions, and view fantasy points allowed for different time periods within the season.
When I used the Fantasy Points Allowed tool to analyze the post-Thanksgiving Week 12 slate, the following players stood out as top point per dollar values (FanDuel) based primarily on their matchups. Some will end up as popular plays by the time the weekend is here, but many will fly below the collective radar of tournament entrants, despite their excellent setups:
Carson Palmer - The prevailing narrative on Palmer is that he’s officially fallen off the cliff as an NFL quarterback and entered the dreaded Jake Delhomme phase of his career. While Palmer has admittedly been mostly terrible this season, Bruce Arians remains committed to the passing game, as evidenced by the Cardinals 41.3 pass attempts per game (fifth-most in the league).
Despite his struggles, Palmer hasn’t been all that bad for fantasy purposes. Before running into a tough spot on the road in Minnesota last week (where he still managed to throw two touchdowns), he had eclipsed 340 passing yards in three straight games.
This week, the Cardinals travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons, who are fresh off their bye week. It’s not the best spot for Arizona, but the game has the highest over/under on the main slate (50.5 points), and Vegas expects the Cardinals to be playing catch up (Atlanta -4) which means Palmer should be throwing often.
It feels like a week where all those Cardinals pass attempts could finally result in top-end fantasy production. Atlanta has allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season (Fanduel scoring), with opposing signal callers averaging 297 passing yards and 2.3 touchdowns against them.
Palmer’s QB15 price tag ($7,100) means he only needs about 21 fantasy points to hit a 3x salary multiplier, a number the last three quarterbacks to face Atlanta (besides Carson Wentz) have eclipsed. A sneaky way to use Palmer this week is in a stack with David Johnson. No team has allowed more receptions and receiving yards to running backs than the Falcons, while Johnson’s 510 receiving yards lead all running backs this season.
Derek Carr - Carr has a realistic shot to lead all quarterbacks on the main slate in fantasy scoring, making him a nice value play relative to the five highest priced quarterbacks on FanDuel. The Panthers have allowed monster games to Matt Ryan (504-4-1), Drew Brees (465-4-1), and Palmer (363-3-1) this season. Even Case Keenum (296-1-1) was a viable fantasy option against them as recently as Week 9.
The Raiders have scored at least 27 points in four consecutive games, and Vegas has them projected to make it five straight. If Oakland is going to score three touchdowns, as the game script implies, there’s a good chance Carr will be involved in all of them. Carolina has only allowed three rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs all season. Their 70.4% opponent passing touchdown rate and 1.9 passing touchdowns per game allowed both rank in the bottom-third of the NFL.
The Panthers simply don’t have the personnel in their secondary to defend Carr’s weapons in the passing game, and with Luke Kuechly out this week, their entire defense gets a downgrade. It’s a good idea to have your heaviest exposure to Carr on DraftKings this week, where the eVALUEator tells us he’s an even better value, priced as the QB9.
Russell Wilson - Wilson has scored at least 25 fantasy points in three straight games, yet he’s priced below Tyrod Taylor on FanDuel, headed into a phenomenal matchup against Tampa Bay. You won’t sneak him past anyone in tournaments, but when a player is so obviously mispriced, he’s not worth fading due to high ownership.
Over the last five weeks, Tampa Bay has allowed over 25% more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks than the league average. Before matchups with Jay Cutler and Alex Smith in their last two games, the Bucs got nuked for a combined 857 passing yards and eight touchdowns in Weeks 8 & 9 by Carr and Matt Ryan.
Anything less than 300 yards and two touchdowns for Wilson would come as a mild surprise given the matchup and his recent play. It also appears Wilson is set to regain his rushing upside after he logged a season high eight rush attempts last week. The Wilson-Doug Baldwin stack has the highest H-Value on the main slate, but costs less than 24% of the salary cap, making them a priority combo to build around in either cash games or GPPs.
Melvin Gordon III - It’s a shame Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell both played on the Thanksgiving slate because they would have shaded Gordon in a fantastic matchup against the Texans. Houston has quietly allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs and have particularly struggled to defend high-volume backs, including LeGarrette Blount (24-105-2) and DeMarco Murray (25-95-2).
Volume, of course, is the primary reason Gordon ranks as the cumulative RB4 on Fanduel this season. His 25 total touches per game lead all running backs, and he trails only Todd Gurley for the league-lead in market share of team backfield touches at 82%.
The game script sets up as neutral for Gordon this week. Houston opened as one point home favorites, but the public jumped on the Chargers, who are now favored by 1.5. Regardless of how the game plays out, Gordon’s workload is safe. He’s totaled at least four catches and 44 receiving yards in every game since Week 7, making him game flow agnostic.
Over 45% of the touchdowns the Texans have allowed this season have come on the ground, which gives Gordon massive touchdown upside. No running back has more carries from inside the opponent’s five-yard line than Gordon’s 19 on the season. Maybe he’ll go slightly lower-owned than he should since his last two weeks consisted of a bye and a mediocre 15.7 point game against the Dolphins.
Spencer Ware - The crowd will be off Ware after he disappointed as a highly touted play last week. While the Chiefs road matchup in Denver will have casual entrants looking in another direction (likely Thomas Rawls or Lamar Miller in plus matchups at similar price points), the Broncos allow 23.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (seventh-most in the league).
Kansas City’s game plan is rarely to air it out, and that should be especially true this week against Denver’s top ranked pass defense. The Chiefs best hope is to rely on their defense and a healthy dose of the run in what Vegas projects as the lowest scoring game on the slate. A healthy dose of the run for Kansas City means more work than usual for Ware, who returned from a concussion last week to 77% of the Chiefs running back snaps and 81% of their total backfield touches.
Like Houston, Denver has allowed a disproportionate amount of their touchdowns on the ground. The Broncos 47% opponent rushing touchdown percentage ranks 28th. Ware has a stranglehold on the Chiefs goal line work, with a 70% share of the team’s carries from inside the five-yard-line. This shapes up as a low-owned bounce back spot for Ware, with the only cause for hesitation being Kansas City’s 18 point implied team point total.
Jordan Matthews - Matthews has received double-digit targets in each of the last four games. His 44 targets over the last four weeks place him only five behind Stefon Diggs for the league lead. The most heavily targeted wide receiver facing Green Bay has fared well recently. Over the last four games, Pierre Garcon (6-116-1), Rishard Matthews (3-63-1), T.Y. Hilton (6-82-0), and Mohamed Sanu (9-84-1) have gotten over on the Packers. On the whole, Green Bay has allowed 33.5% more fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers than the league average over the last three weeks.
While Matthews fantasy production hasn’t measured up to his recent target volume, there are reasons to believe things could change this week. Matthews will line up in the slot against Green Bay cornerback Micah Hyde, who has been abused in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, Hyde’s 0.39 fantasy points allowed per route defended ranks ninth-worst among cornerbacks on this week’s slate. Matthews has a three-inch height advantage on Hyde, which gives him an edge in the red zone, where the Eagles have run the fourth-most plays in the league this season.
Matthews is only available on the Sunday-Monday slate, but he’ll still go under-owned despite the fact his price is sandwiched between fantasy nobodies Chris Hogan and Adam Humphries on FanDuel. He hasn’t flashed much of a ceiling this season, so it’s probably best to use Matthews in cash games where he would easily exceed a 2x multiplier if he manages to find the end zone in a potential shootout.
Michael Crabtree - Crabtree is sure to get overlooked coming off a miserable two-point game against the Texans on Monday night. But this week’s matchup with Carolina’s abysmal secondary is much friendlier, and as previously mentioned, there’s a good chance there will be three Derek Carr passing touchdowns to go around in this game. Crabtree’s six receiving touchdowns leads the Raiders. Only Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, and Mike Evans have caught more touchdown passes this season.
Crabtree’s stat line in the Monday night game would have looked much different if it weren’t for a couple of uncharacteristic drops and a near-miss on a 32-yard touchdown catch he was unable to control going to the ground. Last week was only the third time in 10 games Crabtree failed to reach double-digit fantasy points. The other two down games came against Denver and Kansas City, who rank first and eighth in pass defense DVOA, respectively. Carolina ranks 19th.
The crowd will be on Amari Cooper (for good reason), making Crabtree the leverage play in tournaments at a significantly lower salary and fraction of the ownership.
Larry Fitzgerald - We’ve established the Falcons allow the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. If Palmer is going to be the next quarterback to exceed expectations against Atlanta, it’s not difficult to project which of his receivers will benefit most.
Fitzgerald leads Cardinals receivers in market share of team targets (26.2%), yards (26.5%), and touchdowns (33.3%). The veteran is also getting those targets where they matter. His 35% red zone target market share ranks sixth in the NFL, and he’s tied for the league lead with 10 targets from inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.
Atlanta slot cornerback Brian Poole faces the unenviable task of keeping Fitzgerald out of the end zone this week. Poole stands 5’9’’, giving Fitzgerald a six-inch height advantage in red zone jump ball situations. Fitzgerald’s 10.6 target per game average gives him one of the highest floors of any wide receiver. With a touchdown probability of about 70% in this game, this is a week we should see him flash his 20+ point ceiling.
Will Tye - Stop me if you’ve heard this one before -- play the tight end facing the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland has allowed the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season, and casual entrants may not realize Tye has finally worked his way to the top of New York’s depth chart.
Tye has seen over 70% of the tight end snaps in each of the Giants last three games. In the same span, he has accumulated 20 targets, which ranks eighth in the league -- only six behind league leader Delanie Walker.
Not surprisingly, Vegas has the Giants implied point total at 25.5 points in Cleveland, which leaves room for three offensive touchdowns. 25% of the red zone touchdowns the Browns have allowed this season have gone to tight ends, giving Tye a decent shot at finding the paint in this matchup.
Priced only $100 above the site minimum, Tye doesn’t need much more than a score to hit a 2x salary multiplier. The matchup and his newfound target volume add to his ceiling, making him a viable option in tournaments.
Dennis Pitta - If I asked you which tight end ranked second in the NFL in targets, your first guess would probably not be Pitta -- and you’d be wrong. While a complete lack of touchdowns has rendered Pitta unusable most weeks, there should be some progression towards the mean coming soon, and a home matchup with the Bengals seems like a good place to start.
No other tight end with at least 60 targets has failed to score a touchdown this season. In fact, Lance Kendricks and Jason Witten are the only tight ends in that group who don’t have at least three scores to their credit. And it’s not like Pitta is ignored by Joe Flacco in the red zone -- his six targets from inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line rank second on the team.
The Bengals let up the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, with season averages of six catches, 73 yards, and 0.6 touchdowns per game allowed to the position. In the last five weeks, Cincinnati’s struggles have been amplified as they’ve given up nearly 59% more fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends than the league average.
Pitta isn’t much more than a low-ceiling flier who should end up less than 2% owned in tournaments, but with tight end such an unpredictable position (especially this season), you can do worse this week than following the targets and defense vs. position trends.