It took three quarters of the season, but we’ve finally covered every Footballguys tool that can be used to supplement your weekly DFS process. But fear not -- just because there isn’t a new Footballguys DFS tool to cover this week, it doesn’t mean the end of the Exploiting Footballguys Tools series.
From here on out, I’ll be giving you my top tournament plays at each position, and showing you how (at least) one of the previously covered Footballguys tools helped me arrive at those players. If you haven’t been following this season, here are links to the previous articles in this series that will show you where to find our DFS tools and how to use them, or you can click here for our complete Video Training Library.
Moving onto the Week 13 slate…
Matt Ryan - The Game Log Dominator shows us the Chiefs have been roasted by outside receivers -- usually the opposition’s WR1 -- in just about every game since Week 6. This is an obvious explosion spot for Julio Jones, who is likely to end up the highest-owned wide receiver this week, after his price dropped $400 (FanDuel) thanks to a poor Week 12 performance in which he was blanketed by stud Arizona cornerback, Patrick Peterson.
But even with Jones shaping up as a popular play, I’m not expecting too many Ryan-Jones pairings, even though the IVCs tell us it’s the stack with the fourth-highest H-Value this week. Needless to say, a huge day from Julio would propel Ryan towards the top of the QB rankings, where he’s been pretty much all season. Historical stats tell us Ryan ranks as the cumulative QB4 in FanDuel scoring, yet he’s priced up as the QB2 on the main slate. Given the fact he’s been merely good in his last two games (which came against Philadelphia and Arizona -- the second and third ranked pass defenses per Football Outsiders DVOA), more ownership should settle on Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers when entrants look to pay up at quarterback.
Atlanta leads the league in scoring at 32.5 points per game, an average that increases in home games to 34.6. Kansas City doesn’t have a bad overall defense, but that hasn’t stopped them from getting flamed by Jameis Winston (331-1-0) and Trevor Siemian (368-3-0) in each of their last two games. The Chiefs also haven’t fared well against top flight quarterbacks this season, with both Roethlisberger (300-5-0) and Brees (367-3-1) exploiting them through the air.
If you want to go contrarian with your Ryan stack, or want to stack the Atlanta passing game, Mohamed Sanu is interesting. Sanu should run the majority of his routes against Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines, whose coverage grades dead last on the slate per Pro Football Focus.
Ben Roethlisberger - It's become lazy analysis to cite Roethlisberger's home-road splits as a reason to use him anytime he's at home, but the Game Log Dominator tells us we’re now looking at nearly three full years of 346 passing yards, 2.94 passing touchdowns and over 30 fantasy points per game in his starts at Heinz Field. It amounts to a 74% (74%!) increase in Roethlisberger's fantasy points per game average compared to his games on the road. He is a lock at home and by extension, so is Antonio Brown.
Perhaps we’ll get a small break on Roethlisberger’s ownership despite his well known dominance at home and the Steelers implied team total of 27.75 (third-highest on the slate). Custom Fantasy Points Allowed shows the Giants are giving up less than one passing touchdown per game and have allowed the second fewest fantasy points (FanDuel scoring) to opposing quarterbacks as a result. If the poor on-paper matchup gets people off Roethlisberger in this spot, consider it a bonus. Historical Stats show us his weekly rankings on FanDuel in home games this year are QB9, QB2, QB3, and QB3.
Aaron Rodgers - Austin Lee and Maurile Tremblay’s eVALUEator shows us Rodgers has the best value on DraftKings compared to any other site in the industry, and I have to agree. If you play on multiple sites, get most of your exposure to Rodgers over on DK, where he’s inexplicably available at $1,800 less than his Week 1 salary.
What caused the DraftKings pricing algorithm to malfunction on Rodgers is a complete mystery. He hasn’t scored below 26 fantasy points in their scoring format since way back in Week 6. Houston has a decent pass defense, but they couldn’t be in a worse spot this week. This is the Packers first game back in Lambeau after three straight on the road. They’re favored by nearly a touchdown and projected to score 26 points, which leaves room for at least three touchdown throws from Rodgers, considering no team has a higher passing touchdown percentage than Green Bay’s 87.1%.
Plus, this game has disaster written all over it for Brock Osweiler, which could gift Rodgers and the Packers with several short fields. Not surprisingly, Green Bay also leads the league in red zone passing touchdown percentage. A trademark 4-5 touchdown game from Rodgers is well within his range of outcomes this week.
LeSean McCoy - McCoy will be a popular play in tournaments after he dominated Jacksonville (19-103-2) in his return from a thumb injury last week. But with most entrants trying to jam either David Johnson or Le'Veon Bell in with one (or more) of the four top wide receivers this week, McCoy will be a luxury many entrants won’t be able to afford.
Vegas is expecting a competitive game between the Bills and Raiders, and as usual, Buffalo will attempt to sustain their offense via the ground game. Buffalo trails only Dallas in rush play percentage this season, and a league-leading 46.3% of their total offensive yardage has come from running the football.
Jonathan Stewart’s 17-96-2 line in last week’s game against Oakland reminded us just how beatable the Raiders defense is on the ground. They’ve allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, and that ranking gets worse when you normalize for strength of schedule. In the last three weeks, opposing running backs have scored nearly 22% more fantasy points above the league average against the Raiders.
Bell and Johnson will garner most of the attention, but McCoy’s ceiling is just as high in this matchup, and he comes at a discount in terms of both salary and ownership.
Carlos Hyde - As of Thursday afternoon, the spread in the 49ers at Bears game was down to Chicago -1.5. With Matt Barkley behind center for the Bears (last week’s stat line was pyrite), it appears we might finally see what Hyde can do with positive (or at least neutral) game script.
Despite San Francisco losing seven games by 10 points or more, Hyde is one of only 10 running backs averaging over 19 total touches per game. Given the expected game flow, it’s certainly not unreasonable to project Hyde for more than 20 total touches this week. In the other four games in which he’s received a 20+ touch workload this season, Hyde has put up 22.3, 25, 20.4, and 12.5 FanDuel points, respectively. It’s notable those performances came against LA, Seattle, Arizona, and New England -- all of whom rank as top-12 rush defenses (DVOA).
Chicago’s defense is not nearly as good against the run as their fantasy points allowed average implies. In fact, Normalized Strength of Schedule shows Chicago has the fourth largest discrepancy in raw fantasy points allowed vs. normalized fantasy points allowed to running backs this season. In their last two games, fantasy non-entities Rashad Jennings (129 total yards and a touchdown) and Derrick Henry (8-60-1) made the Bears run defense look especially bad.
Colin Kaepernick’s recent string of four consecutive 20+ point fantasy performances will have most entrants focused on him when considering the 49ers offense, making Hyde a nice leverage play (or contrarian stacking partner with Kaepernick) in tournaments.
Latavius Murray - A look at the Raiders team snap count summary shows Murray is coming off his largest share of the Raiders backfield snaps (66%) in a game all season. Not surprisingly, his 22 total touches in a tough matchup with Carolina also represented a season-high.
Assuming this is a sign Oakland is finally ready to commit to him as their primary running back, Murray checks off most of the boxes we’re looking for in a DFS running back.
Playing at home? Check.
Team favored? Check.
High implied team total? Check.
Catches passes? 8 receptions for 102 receiving yards in his last two games. Check.
Primary goal line option? The Data Dominator says he’s received 7 of the Raiders last 10 chances from inside the opponent’s five-yard line, and he’s converted five of those chances into touchdowns. Check, and check.
Buffalo’s run defense has been Jekyll & Hyde this season. They’ve played well lately, letting up 26.5% less fantasy points per game to the position than league average over the last five weeks, but they’re still ranked 25th in rush defense DVOA, and their game logs are littered with massive running back performances.
In short, the spot outweighs the matchup for Murray this week, especially if he’s handling about 70% of the Raiders backfield touches like he did in Week 12. I like him just a little less than Hyde at the same price, but a little more than the next back on the list, who goes for only $100 less.
LeGarrette Blount - I’ll keep this one short and sweet since we’ve been over it before this season (and it paid off massively). Blount’s fantasy points per game average has increased by nearly 50% over the last two years in games New England has been favored by double digits. His per game numbers over the sample amount to a 21-92-1.25 rushing line.
Even though Blount is obviously in play with New England favored by nearly two touchdowns at home, most people will be afraid to click his name now that Dion Lewis is healthy and commanding more snaps. The odd part is in the eight games Blount has played since the start of 2015 when Lewis is active, he’s averaged over 80 rushing yards per game compared to 63.4 yards per game in 19 games without Lewis. Overall, his fantasy points per game average is nearly a full point better with Lewis in the lineup.
New England is neck-and-neck with New Orleans for the highest implied team total on the slate, and should be able to score any way they’d like against LA at home. Blount’s fourth multi-touchdown game of the season is within reach.
Odell Beckham Jr Jr. - Julio Jones is my top wide receiver play of the week. Beckham, Antonio Brown, and Mike Evans aren’t far behind. Even though it’s splitting hairs, I’d lean Beckham if forced to choose between the latter three studs, and love the idea of game stacking him with Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown (it’s tough but not impossible to create a balanced lineup on FanDuel around those three).
With Pittsburgh favored by six, the game script implies Eli Manning will have to keep his foot on the gas for the Giants to keep pace with the Steelers. But even if the game goes wonky, we can trust New York to go pass-heavy regardless. The Giants rank top-10 in both pass attempts per game and pass play percentage this season.
Beckham’s weekly target ceiling isn’t quite as high as the other receivers in his tier, but we’ve seen it doesn’t take more than 10 targets for him to put up overall WR1 numbers in any given week. The Steelers rank 30th in pass defense DVOA to opposing WR1s -- a ranking supported by the Game Log Dominator.
Steelers first round pick Artie Burns has been the cornerback assigned to the opposition’s primary receiver in recent weeks. While Burns has improved as the season has progressed and says he relishes the chance to match up with Beckham, his results against Mike Wallace in Week 9 (4-124-1) and Dez Bryant in Week 10 (6-116-1) suggest Beckham will make him eat those words. In particular, Burns has had some issues tackling, which doesn’t bode well against Beckham, whose 341 yards after the catch rank seventh among wide receivers.
Davante Adams - If Aaron Rodgers is locked into at least three touchdown passes this week, it only makes sense to stack him with (at least) one of his receivers. Despite Adams’ 25.8 point performance last week, Jordy Nelson will likely be the most commonly owned Green Bay receiver, as usual. But not only is Adams cheaper, he’s also flashed a significantly higher ceiling than Nelson this season.
While it may seem Nelson is the safer bet to find the end zone, the Data Dominator tells a different story. If we only look at the last five weeks, Adams leads the entire NFL with 10 red zone targets, including a team-leading four from inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. At this point, it’s practically a toss up between Adams and Nelson for the title of Packers WR1. Adams leads the team in receiving yards (776), and is only one touchdown behind Nelson, despite seeing 22 fewer targets.
Adams figures to match up with A.J. Bouye, whose coverage is graded behind only Aqib Talib’s by Pro Football Focus. Bouye’s coverage is a potential problem, but it didn’t slow Tyrell Williams much last week, and as I mentioned earlier, this spot is so bad for Houston’s defense on the whole, it supersedes any negative individual matchup.
Phillip Dorsett - This one’s a Hail Mary for the Sunday-Monday slate. Dorsett hasn’t done much lately from a usage or production standpoint to inspire any confidence, but if you’re looking for a cheap, sub-1% flier who could smash value with a long touchdown, you can do worse than the Colts 2015 first round pick.
The speedy Dorsett (4.25 40-yard dash) fits the mold of wide receivers who have burned the Jets for big plays this season. The Game Log Dominator reminds us of Marquise Goodwin’s 2-112-1 line back in Week 2, Sammie Coates Jr’ 6-139-2 performance in Week 5, and Mike Wallace’s 10-120-0 in Week 7.
Only the Bucs and Raiders have allowed more pass plays of 40+ yards than the Jets this season. Donte Moncrief has been Andrew Luck’s possession receiver, and T.Y. Hilton (back) still isn’t 100% healthy after being held out of practice on Thursday. It could leave Dorsett -- who has three catches of 40+ yards this season -- as Luck’s top downfield target.
Greg Olsen - Olsen has been held below seven fantasy points in three straight games, which has caused his price to drop $800 from last week on FanDuel. It’s a discount I’ll gladly take on this season’s cumulative TE1 in a matchup with Seattle most casual entrants will assume is a poor one.
Fantasy points allowed doesn’t tell the whole story about the Seahawks defensive performance against tight ends. They rank a middling 18th in pass defense DVOA vs. the position, and have allowed over 51% more fantasy points than the league average to tight ends over the last three weeks. Cameron Brate (4-49-0) would have made those numbers look even worse, but he had a late touchdown called back due to penalty last week.
The game script projects as pass heavy for the Panthers (Seahawks -6.5) and Olsen has a strong history against Seattle. In two meetings last season (playoffs included), Olsen posted 7-131-1 and 6-71-1 receiving lines. His salary is also down $700 on DraftKings, lumping him into the same price group as wide receivers like Dontrelle Inman (a great play if Tyrell Williams scratches) and Kenny Britt.
Olsen and Jimmy Graham make for interesting contrarian stacking partners on DK. At a combined $10,600, it would take 42.4 points for the combo to reach 4x value. Normalized for strength of schedule, Carolina has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, giving the Graham-Olsen combo a realistic shot at 50+ PPR points in this matchup.
Vance McDonald - This tweet from Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar sums up the case for McDonald in 140 characters:
Vance McDonald leads the 49ers in targets since Week 7. Bears have allowed a TE TD in three straight and will be without Freeman/Trevathan.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) November 29, 2016
Since Week 7, McDonald ranks as the cumulative TE11 on FanDuel, yet he remains priced as the TE15. The eVALUEator shows us he’s an even better value on DraftKings where he’s still priced below the WR/RB minimum. As Hribar points out, McDonald leads the 49ers in targets since Week 7, and Target Stats show us he’s getting those looks consistently from game-to-game. The last time McDonald recorded less than six targets in a game was back in Week 6.
McDonald is the best bet for a 49ers receiving touchdown when the team gets in the red zone. Over the last five games, McDonald has recorded twice as many red zone targets (four) as San Francisco's next closest pass catcher. To top it off, McDonald is also the 49ers best big play threat. His six receptions of 20+ yards are a team high.