This season I am going to be taking a slightly different approach to the standard “play these guys” articles that are readily available across the industry. Instead what I am going to do is basically walk through my thought process as I am building my lineups so hopefully you not only learn who to start this week but continue to refine your analysis and lineup building skills. If you haven’t read my preseason series on how to transition to DFS you should do so to get an understanding of my approach to DFS Here are parts 1, 2, and 3. In that series there are two key things to think about on a weekly basis as we are setting our cash lineups. First of all, I challenge you to come up with your cash game plays before you read my article or any other articles. This gets you to critically think about every position before you start to get swayed by public opinion. Secondly, if you recall I am a strong proponent of playing multiple cash lineups. As such I will discuss the key plays of the week as well as who your secondary options should include.
The last few weeks have been really open at quarterback where you could plug in quite a few players. This week I think the answer is a little clearer. Andrew Luck ($8,100) gets a plus matchup against the Titans who are allowing the seventh most passing yards per game and is playing in the game with the highest total on the board at 52.5. The Colts are also at home in the friendly confines of Lucas oil stadium on a weekend where many teams will be forced to play outside in weather that is looking less than ideal, like the Steelers. The last time these two teams met up Luck had the second best game of his season scoring 27.8 points on 353 passing yards with 3 touchdowns. Salaries are a little tighter this week so you can’t just plug in any player you want this week but you should have plenty of money to fit Luck into your lineup as one of your key players.
If you are looking to diversify your quarterback due to Luck’s up and down season my favorite options are Kirk Cousins ($7,600) and Russell Wilson ($7,400). Cousins has a solid matchup against the Packers who are allowing 271 passing yards per game. Like Luck Cousins has a very strong Vegas total and the Packers have been in some shootouts lately after surrendering 47, 31, and 33 points each of the last three weeks. Last week’s 47 points allowed to the Titans won people quite a bit of money. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Redskins players, like Cousins, following in those footsteps.
A lot of people will be on Tom Brady ($9,300) as the Patriots travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. The Patriots are the best team in football and the 49ers are the worst. But that’s where the problem lies for me. When quarterbacks are double digits favorites they often under perform their salary because the team goes to the run game in the second half. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game go that route and players like LeGarrette Blount to benefit with a couple of rushing touchdowns. On the other hand the Patriots are a team that never takes their foot off the pedal and doesn’t mind running up the score with passing touchdowns well after the game is out of hand. Finally yet another counter point, Brady is simply a different quarterback without Rob Gronkowski on the field who is expected to miss this week. Due to the matchup Brady shouldn’t have trouble putting up points but no quarterback in the league is as reliant on a pass catcher as Brady is Gronkowski. As such Brady is a high variance player that if you are playing multiple lineups it makes sense to get him in at least a few lineups but if you are only putting together a single team he is one of the better fades this week.
Similar to quarterback the running back position is a good place to keep your diversity pretty low. Le'Veon Bell is the top running back on the board and arguably the best overall play of the week. Bell continues to rack up the touches with 26 last week as he has been in the twenties for all but one game this year and three straight. Bell also finally found some regression in his touchdown game as he finally scored his first two touchdowns of the season last week. I mentioned above how the weather is currently looking poor for the Steelers passing game and that is because it is likely pretty windy. In games where the wind is above 15 miles per hour you start to see a steady drop in the team’s pass ratio and the winds this weekend are currently looking to be in the mid 20’s which will favor more runs for Bell and likely more short dump off passes. Finally, with the Steelers currently showing up as 8 point favorites they could very well rely on Bell to finish the game off. Bell’s price is steep so he isn’t a guarantee to cover that salary but he has a lot of things going in his favor and should be a cornerstone of your lineups.
I also mentioned above about how the Patriots would likely build a lead against the 49ers. This should play right into the hands of LeGarrette Blount ($7,300) who has been a touchdown machine this year. So far this year Blount has scored a touchdown in every game except for the week 4 start by Jacoby Brissett where the Patriots were shut out 16-0. Over the remaining 8 games he has scored 12 touchdowns. I tend not to like to rely on touchdowns because they have so much variance but in a game the Patriots are expected to score 4 of them I like the chances of their goal line running back to get at least one.
My last suggestion isn’t as clear because David Johnson ($8,300) is matched up against the Vikings who are allowing a league low 152 points through the first 9 games of their season. But if you look a little closer there are some strong reasons to like Johnson. First of all, his price is down to a season low $8,300 after being at a season high $9,400 last week. Additionally, the Vikings defense hasn’t been as good recently. Since their bye in week 6 they have allowed 128, 97, 158, and 101 yards on the ground to their opponents. None of those teams had a running back nearly the caliber of Johnson. One hesitation about Johnson is the opposing defenses are selling out to stall the run game as he has not surpassed 3.4 yards per attempt since week 6 week including the 2.9 yards per attempt against the 49ers. I think he breaks out of that slump this week but it keeps me from going too heavily on Johnson.
Wide receiver is really the position I am looking to get my diversity at this week. Most of the other positions have a select few players that I am really zeroing in on this week. As you know I like to diversify amongst my lineups. Sometimes less diversification is necessary and a bigger group of core players is the right way to go. This week feels like that is the route to take, other than wide receiver where I think you can get a lot of diversification pretty easily. In fact at receiver I see 10 or more guys that you could really make a strong case for putting in your cash lineups. In fact if you played 9 different wide receivers across three different lineups I wouldn’t fault you at all. The first three optimal lineups with my current set of projections showed six different wide receivers, for example.
My favorite receiver this week will hinge on the status of Rob Gronkowski. If Gronkowski is out that pushes Julian Edelman ($6,100) to the top of the list in the matchup against the 49ers that we continue to pound on. Edelman has been pretty disappointing this year as he only has 1 touchdown and has yet to exceed 12 points which is his threshold for reaching cash value this week but all of the stars are aligning for this to finally be the week he does it.
Some other favorites this week for me are A.J. Green ($8,200), Allen Robinson ($7,300), Doug Baldwin ($6,700), and Jordan Matthews ($5,800). Green was banged up in the second half of last week’s game so make sure he continues to practice and look good all week but currently all indications are that he is fine.
The tight end position comes down to whether or not Rob Gronkowski plays this week and as mentioned above all signs are pointing towards him sitting. If Gronkowski sits the best play is loading up on Martellus Bennett ($5,200). Bennett has had an up and down year as the Patriots haven’t used their second tight end as extensively as they did back when Aaron Hernandez was manning the spot with Gronkowski like many people thought they would. But when he has been a central part of the game plan and received 6 or more targets he has performed well putting up stat lines of 7-102-0, 6-67-3, 5-109-0, and 5-114-1. I am going to assume that he will be a heavy part of the game plan this week too and against the 49ers defense and Brady as your quarterback that’s all you need to be the best play of the week at a position that has been full of disappointments this year.
If you don’t feel comfortable with how sporadic Bennett’s play has been there are a lot of other options to sift through. My favorite options are Jordan Reed ($6,900) and Delanie Walker ($6,400). They both get favorable matchups with game totals set in the 50’s against teams that have been friendly to the tight end. In particular the Colts are giving up about 30 more yards to the tight ends that they have gone against than we would expect based on their year to date stats. Walker has scored in three of his last four games and the last time he played the Colts he put up a solid stat line of 7-84-1. Something similar should be the expectation for this week.
Kickers and Defense
At kicker you know that I like to play 2-3 different kickers in my three core lineups. This week is no different but if you want to really go all in then Stephen Gostkowski ($4,900) is your man this week in a prime matchup against the 49ers. There is a good chance that Gostkowski gets more than 3 field goal attempts this week with such a high total and the Patriots likely taking their foot of the pedal. Additionally, his price is down thanks to poor recent production. For your other spots you should consider some safe options like Matt Prater ($4,600) or Adam Vinatieri ($5,000).
At defense I don’t see a clear favorite this week so I will likely use this as a diversification position. We should never forget that any time Jay Cutler suits up the opposing defense should be in play as Tampa Bay was one of the most key plays of the week last week. This week it is the Giants ($4,700) week to take advantage. The Dolphins ($4,800) have been pretty disappointing so far this season but getting a chance to play against a rookie quarterback in their first pro game is always enticing no matter how high their pick was as there is the possibility for rookie mistakes. Finally, picking on Joe Flacco is always beneficial which puts the Cowboys ($4,500) in play. The Cowboys aren’t allowing many points so far this year due to their keep away style. However, this also depresses their opportunity for sacks and takeaways.