Greetings and welcome to Week 8 the Ocho! What follows is a weekly strategy guide covering the main slate of FanDuel guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). It will be available every Friday from now until the Super Bowl. Each section includes a short description, and to make things easier for those short on time, every player covered in this column will be listed directly below with full analysis found in their corresponding sections.
For those that want nothing but the facts, here is every player covered in this column with a quick note on each. For those that want full analysis, keep reading.
- Patrick Mahomes II – tough to fade but paying up for a quarterback not necessary.
- Aaron Rodgers – QB2 from Weeks 4-6 and offense is finally getting healthy. The best reason to fade Mahomes.
- Jameis Winston – has been better on the road than at home for fantasy points in his career. Multiple turnovers always in play but rushing production bails him out.
- Derek Carr – buy into the “motivated narrative” at home against a soft defense.
- Todd Gurley – one of nine players to be priced at $11k or more since 2011. Fade candidate.
- James Conner – should handle a lot of work in what could be a blowout in favor of the Steelers.
- Kareem Hunt – RB2 since Week 4 and now gets one of the worst run defenses in the league.
- David Johnson – last chance to prove it against a soft defense and new offensive coordinator who plans to summon Bruce Arians.
- Phillip Lindsay – Chiefs’ defense the worst in the NFL at defending the run. Lindsay should get a lot of passing down work when the Broncos fall behind. Freeman seems unlikely.
- Jordan Howard – in a nasty timeshare but leads the team in red zone opportunities and should get more at home against a busted Jets team.
- Tyreek Hill – always in play for GPPs but was shutdown by Denver in Week 4 and may not be needed this week.
- A.J. Green – one of the best matchups on the board. Pricey.
- Tyler Boyd – technically has a better matchup than Green given the Bucs history against slot receivers.
- Davante Adams – ranks second among wide receivers in red zone opportunities. 28 targets, 19 catches, 272 yards, three touchdowns over his last two games.
- Jordy Nelson – one of two reliable options for Carr.
- Chris Godwin – 15 targets, 115 yards, and a score in Winston’s two starts. Humphries also in play.
- Travis Kelce – the cheapest way to buy into the Chiefs’ high-powered offense but not necessarily a must-play.
- Jimmy Graham – Rams have a hole in the middle of the defense. Graham should draw plenty of targets in a high-scoring game.
- Jared Cook – one of two reliable options for Carr.
- O.J. Howard – ranks as TE10 despite missing most of Week 4 and splitting reps with Brate. Bengals struggle against tight ends and slot receivers.
Thoughts on Chalk
Even though creating roster uniqueness has long been the default strategy for GPPs, there’s a reason why certain players hold the confidence of the public. Remember that fading a player simply because he’s popular checks in as one of the worst processes. You wouldn’t build a lineup full of chalk; nor should you ignore a great situation in the name of contrarianism. With that said, this section will be dedicated to finding reasons why you might consider fading the players listed below. Keep in mind that all of these players are expected to have big games, so outright fades are never recommended, and be sure to check out Steve Buzzard’s percent rostered projections.
QB: Patrick Mahomes II - $9,200
The Broncos represent one of two teams to squeeze a “normal” game out of Mahomes—that normal being a smidge over 300 passing yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He saved his fantasy day with a rushing score and finished as QB11. Since that game, the Broncos have permitted a QB14 finish to Sam Darnold, a QB26 finish to Jared Goff, and a QB28 finish to Josh Rosen. Spin those numbers however you want considering the competition; they at least point to an improving secondary. Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus agree. The former ranks Denver’s pass defense second in DVOA and the latter gives them a fifth-ranked grade overall (10th in coverage).
Outside of the Broncos and Jaguars, Mahomes and Co. have faced the Chargers (16th in DVOA), the Steelers (20th in DVOA), the 49ers (23rd in DVOA), the Patriots (17th in DVOA) and the Bengals (24th in DVOA). Four of those teams have allowed top-eight production to quarterbacks in terms of fantasy points. This isn’t an indictment on the things Mahomes has accomplished. He was a major contribution to those teams’ current status as struggling defenses per most stats. But it at least signifies a correlation between his insane success and his defensive competition. You could probably run this exercise on every quarterback and find a similar argument. But those quarterbacks neither A) rank at the top of every site in salary, or B) project to end up on the most rosters come Sunday.
Those quarterbacks also don’t rank at the top of every scoring format in fantasy. As always, there’s a reason chalk is chalk. Our purpose falls squarely on eliminating as much noise as possible and finding every inch in a game that has virtually no edge. One way to locate said edge is by fading the most expensive and most popular player at any given position. Mahomes floor is higher than everyone on the slate. The same goes for his ceiling. So an outright fade makes zero sense. But coming in way under the public files as GPP Strategy 101.
RB: Todd Gurley - $11,000
Since 2011, there have been eight instances of a player priced at $11,000 or higher on FanDuel. Six of those players were Peyton Manning in 2013—the year he broke the NFL on his way to 55 passing touchdowns and almost 5,500 yards. Drew Brees and Jamaal Charles, also in the year 2013, represent the only other two players. And now Gurley. If you want some comfort, note that the average score of the $11k Elite was 22.3 points. The one running back of the mix scored 22.9. Needless to say, we’ve reached an interesting crossroads in strategy.
Strategy A stares down value probabilities and points-per-dollar expectations and almost begs us to fade him. He hit 2.8x value on his unprecedented $10,200 salary last week and finished as RB2 of the main slate while holding a spot on over 60% of rosters in the FanDuel NFL Sunday Million. But if he ends up on that many rosters again, Strategy A says come in at half or even a quarter of that considering his hefty slice of the salary cap (18.3%).
Strategy B suggests we ignore salary valuations completely. Because even if he hits just 2x, that’s still 22 points—a threshold he hasn’t fallen below yet this season. When was the last time you looked at your roster and felt disappointed that a player gave you “only” 22 points? And besides, since he does cost so much, chances are he won’t end up on 60% of rosters again.
His matchup favors Strategy B. The Rams have a generous 9.5-point spread in a 56.5-point over/under, pushing their implied team total to 32.75 points (the highest of the week). Given that Gurley accounts for 44% of the Rams offensive touchdowns, and given that the Rams’ offense scores 33.5 points per game, it’s not hard to project a couple of scores for him again this week. The Packers and their 29th ranked run defense by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric have allowed the ninth-most rushing yards per game and the sixth highest yards per carry to running backs. Not that you needed to study the rushing matchup, but it is nice to know that yes, once again, Gurley holds position as a slate-wrecker.
Every one of your opponents will go through this thought process and likely decide to roster Gurley plus another cheap running back, almost guaranteeing that his exposure percentage ends up in the high 20s if not high 30s. As such, Strategy A feels like the best process in tournaments. If you’re multi-entering, definitely plug in 10-15% Gurley. But also keep in mind the fact that he scores a touchdown on every 12 or so carries—a pace that’s about as unsustainable as any—and the Rams may actually be forced into throwing the ball down the field against the Packers.
WR: Tyreek Hill - $7,800
The definition of boom/bust, Hill registers as a tournament play every week. He lines up all over the formation and spends time with the special teams unit, so he benefits from creative offensive design and earns multiple chances a game to the ball. And as you know, anytime he touches the ball he’s a threat to score. But his busts have been painful. In three games from Week 3 to Week 5, Hill logged only 15 catches for 166 yards and zero touchdowns. One of those games came against the Broncos, who held him to nine catches for 54 yards on 13 targets in Week 4. That downturn in production dropped him all the way to WR41.
Yet, he ranks second overall among wide receivers in FanDuel points thanks to two monster games and two great games. It’s those monster games where we can place confidence in his ability to swing tournaments and easily justify his reasonable salary. But with the Chiefs running game finally cooking and with the Broncos’ offense as questionable as ever, this might be a situation where we roster his teammates, such as Kareem Hunt, who’s only $300 more, and Travis Kelce, who’s $500 less.
TE: Travis Kelce - $7,300
When three of the four players under the “Thoughts on Chalk” play on the same team, you have to wonder if siding with the chalk holds court as the best play. Perhaps stacking Mahomes with both Hill and Kelce will be the ticket to winning all of the monies. Conversely, you must consider that fading this game provides a great way to separate from the crowd. If the Broncos’ defense somehow holds Mahomes to one of those “normal” games, or if Case Keenum delivers a bundle of turnovers and the Chiefs defense cashes in, there will be fewer points to divide up between the Chiefs offense.
That said, Kelce crushed the Broncos in Week 4 with seven catches for 78 yards and one touchdown. Since his disappointing Week 1 performance where he managed only one catch for six yards, he ranks second in points scored among tight ends and has logged at least 65 yards in every game, including three games of 100+. If you don’t mind dumping over 12% of the cap into the tight end slot, Kelce offers the cheapest way to buy into the Chiefs high-powered offense and has a decent matchup.
Core players need no explanation: they are the meat and potatoes of lineups. Developing a list and building around them is DFS Strategy 101.
QB: Aaron Rodgers - $8,600
Perhaps one of the only reasons to fade Mahomes comes in the form Rodgers, who ranks fourth in yards per game, fifth in attempts per game, and ninth in FanDuel points per game, all while working with a cast of third/fourth-string receivers and a bleak running game. He also has only one interception on 254 passing attempts this season and ranks 11th among quarterbacks in rushing yards per game despite his busted knee. Said knee has looked better over his last few games and hopefully the bye week allowed him to grow even closer to full health.
On tap is a road battle against the Rams. The Packers roll into L.A. as nine-point underdogs. If you searched point-spread history books for a time when Rodgers was that big of an underdog, you’d come up empty-handed because it’s the biggest spread ever laid against him. If you’re of the betting variety, feel free to take the points…
His matchup isn’t great (like it matters). The Rams rank seventh against the pass per DVOA and 10th overall. But if Derek Carr can drop 303 yards on the Rams’ secondary in Week 1 (albeit with his patented three interceptions), and if Kirk Cousins can smoke them for 422 yards and three scores in Week 4, and if Russell Wilson can manage 198 yards and three touchdowns with his cast of receivers in Week 5, and if Case Keenum can provide 20.48 FanDuel points on the back of 322 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6, wouldn’t it make sense that Rodgers, whose offense is just getting healthy, can return elite numbers—just as he has done most of his career regardless of opponent? If you eliminate Week 7 (the Packers bye), he ranks QB4 on the season and QB2 from Week 4 to Week 6. He’s just now getting hot and the offense, as mentioned, is just now getting healthy. Boot up Vintage Rodgers and stack him with one or two Packers’ receivers (Jimmy Graham and Davante Adams; more on them later).
QB: Jameis Winston - $7,800
Since regaining his starting gig halfway through game 4, Winston ranks 11th in FanDuel points per game, ninth in yards per game, and sixth in rushing yards per game among quarterbacks. He also ranks 11th in interceptions with six in 2.5 contests. If not for his rushing production, we’d be looking at an unusable quarterback. But despite how poorly he’s playing real-life football, Winston and his aggressive offense are piling up stats. He ranks as QB3 in FanDuel scoring over the last two weeks thanks to 760 passing yards, four passing touchdowns (all in one game), and one rushing touchdown (which saved his day last week).
Up next is a road matchup against a “green line” defense (a defense that returns green on spreadsheets in nearly every category). The Bengals have allowed the third most passing yards, the fifth most passing touchdowns, and the fifth most FanDuel points to quarterbacks. Of the seven passers they’ve faced, only Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton failed to surpass 300 yards, and only Tannehill has failed to score at least 19.8 FanDuel points.
On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers field the worst defense in the league, which explains why this game features a 54.5-point over/under. Aiding that over/under is both team’s rank in success rate allowed (Bengals 3rd, Bucs 9th), pace in neutral situations (Bucs 3rd, Bengals 12th), and overall pace (Bucs 10th, Bengals 13th). Despite Winston’s turnovers, the Bucs have managed to score 29 and 26 points over their last two games and rank 13th in offensive success rate (Bengals rank 11th). Playing Winston on the road never feels comfortable, but in his career, he has played 24 games at home and 24 on the road, and has a higher completion percentage, better passer rating, more passing touchdowns, a better touchdown-to-interception ratio, and more passing yards on the road than at home. Home/road splits most often can be ignored, but if you had concerns about playing him in Cincinnati, forget them. This is a sweet matchup if you can tolerate the turnover risk.
RB: James Conner - $8,000
Likely to end up on a large chunk of rosters, everything sets up beautifully for Conner. Fresh off a bye and in complete control of the Steelers’ backfield, he welcomes the visiting Browns—a defense that he opened his career against in Week 1 and clocked them for 192 total yards and two touchdowns. Despite shutting down the Bucs’ rushing attack last week, the Saints’ rushing attack in Week 2, and the Ravens’ rushing attack in Week 3, the Browns have permitted the ninth most yards and 11th most FanDuel points per game to running backs.
The matchup almost doesn’t matter though. Conner leads the league in market share of carries and ranks fifth among all players in total touches. He ranks seventh in percentage of team FanDuel points (21.7%) among running backs and fifth in FanDuel points per game. The Steelers own a healthy 8-point spread, and even though their defense comes loaded with question marks, they held the Bengals to 275 yards and 21 points in Week 6, and the Falcons to 324 yards and 17 points in Week 5. This looks like a great spot for their offense and subsequent rushing attack. Consider stacking Conner with the Steelers’ D/ST.
RB: Kareem Hunt - $8,100
You can take your hand off the panic button. Hunt, after scoring only 35.8 points across the first three weeks of the season (RB19), has logged the most total yards and second most touchdowns among running backs since Week 4, scoring 102.5 points in the process (RB2). Some of his receiving numbers are a bit fluky thanks to a 67-yard catch-and-run in Week 6. But he has 12 targets over the last two weeks and is finally demonstrating his abilities as an extension of the passing attack.
Said passing attack is unbelievable if you didn’t know. But they are about to take on the second-best pass defense per DVOA in the Broncos, who did a decent job defending Mahomes a few weeks ago. Conversely, they rank fifth in run DVOA and have allowed the sixth most adjusted line yards to running backs. Look no further than their game logs to find inspiration for rostering Hunt:
This unit has been absolutely crushed on the ground. Only the Cardinals allow more rushing yards per game and only the Lions allow more yards per attempt. The Chiefs are massive 10-point favorites at home, so even though Hunt has only 25 carries over their last two games, the script sets up beautifully for him. He’ll be uber popular, and there’s a chance his quarterback absorbs all of the touchdowns, but don’t let those threats push you away from his monster ceiling in this game.
RB: David Johnson - $7,300
Leftwich on what he will take from Bruce Arians' usage of David Johnson: "Everything. I sat shoulder-to-shoulder with B.A. every day I was here. There have been a lot of long nights sitting next to him, us nodding off together."— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) October 25, 2018
We’re going to give Johnson the Julio Jones treatment here, meaning, if he fails to produce this week, he’ll be banned from this column until further notice. Leftwich, who took over as offensive coordinator after the Cardinals fired Mike McCoy last week, seems confident that he can awaken the ghost of Bruce Arians and develop a game plan that actually utilizes Johnson’s skill set. If you’re not sure what that means, check out these charts from Next Gen Stats (per James Koh)
I blended all of David Johnson's #NextGenStats run charts together. The VAST majority of his runs are between the tackles. Absolutely baffling play calling for a RB with speed. For comparison, I added Melvin Gordon III's carry chart from WK6 #Cardinals pic.twitter.com/SwYtw4dZnc— James Koh (@JamesDKoh) October 18, 2018
It’s not hard to locate the issues regarding Johnson’s disappointing season. Hopefully, Leftwich can convert his comments in the media to success on the field. The visiting 49ers bring a friendly defense that’s allowed 10 total touchdowns to running backs and the eighth most FanDuel points per game. They handed Johnson his season-high in fantasy points back in Week 5 and were most recently destroyed by the Rams (like every team). His salary still doesn’t match his usage. Johnson ranks second among all running backs in market share of carries, third in opportunity percentage, and first overall in red zone opportunity percentage. Of course, those numbers are sponsored by an offense that simply doesn’t visit the red zone often and doesn’t have other players to distribute the ball to. Regardless, he still ranks 14th in FanDuel points per game, and things can’t really get worse, can they? Keep your exposure in check but definitely throw him in a few rosters just in case he turns in one of his patented tournament-winning box scores.
RB: Phillip Lindsay - $6,500
Believe it or not, Lindsay enters the week ranked 12th in total yards among running backs despite handling only 43.9% of carries and splitting nearly half of snap counts with Royce Freeman. But there’s no doubt who the better running back is at this point. Lindsay has parlayed his 75 carries into 436 yards (5.81 per), while Freeman’s 71 carries have translated to 309 yards (4.35 per). If you combine the two, you’ll find Denver’s second-ranked offense in rushing DVOA—a metric backed up by their fifth-ranked total rushing yards, second-ranked yards per attempt, and seventh-ranked adjusted line yards.
This week, they get to chew into a Kansas City defense that ranks dead last in run DVOA, dead last in adjusted line yards, has allowed the most FanDuel points per touch, the third most total yards, and the third most points per game to running backs. The last time these teams met, Freeman and Lindsay combined for 20 carries, 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This time around, Freeman looks unlikely to play, and even though the game is in Kansas City, the Chiefs have allowed more rushing yards and touchdowns at home than they have on the road. The Broncos abandoned the run in the second half of Week 4, despite a close game, and lost because of it. Assuming rational coaching makes an appearance in Week 8, Lindsay, who already leads the team in red zone opportunities, has a clear path to a full workload. Their chances of success are better if they can rely on both backs, so Freeman’s absence isn’t a total boon for Lindsay. But even if this game gets out of hand like Vegas expects (the Chiefs are 10-point favorites), and even if Freeman plays, expect more Lindsay as the pass-catching threat out of the backfield. He shapes up as the ideal salary-saver for those that choose Strategy B and pay up for Gurley.
Per Next Gen Stats, Green ranks third in market share of air yards and checks into Week 7 with a healthy 26.7% market share of targets (10th highest among wide receivers). Since Week 5, no receiver has drawn more targets than his 36, only Davante Adams has drawn more targets per game, and only Adam Thielen and Odell Beckham Jr Jr. have logged more yards. Now he gets a Buccaneers’ defense that has allowed the second most FanDuel points per game, the highest completion rate, the most touchdowns, and the seventh most yards per game to wide receivers.
But for $8,800, Green ties Antonio Brown as the priciest wide receiver on the slate. Both are great plays, and both deserve spots on your roster if you can fit them in. But neither currently cracks the top-five in scoring by wide receivers, particularly in the last three weeks where Brown ranks ninth and Green ranks 12th. A promising home-date with Tampa should help correct his three-game streak of zero touchdowns, and if he keeps up with his current yardage trend (104.6 per game over the last three), he should finish Sunday atop the leaderboards.
But If you can’t fit him in, Boyd offers all kinds of upside at a hefty discount. Hopefully his quiet game last week will shoo off the crowds a bit. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bucs have allowed the second most yards (755) and a league-leading nine touchdowns to the slot with well over 80% (the ninth highest rate) of those numbers contributed by slot wide receivers (versus tight ends). Now, as Footballguy Phil Alexander points out, maybe Boyd’s production was made possible by the presence of John Ross and/or Tyler Eifert:
Was afraid Boyd would miss Eifert. Looks like he misses Eifert. pic.twitter.com/A0k7icikvy— Phil (@PhilFBG) October 25, 2018
That pours cold water on Boyd’s tournament ceiling. But considering that both defenses in this game represent two of the worst against the pass, while both offenses play at an above-average pace, volume seems likely. That volume should prop Boyd up as a high-floor, high-ceiling pivot from Green. Starting both of them isn’t a terrible idea either if you feel courageous enough to roster a Bengals’ stack spearheaded by Andy Dalton.
WR: Davante Adams - $8,600
When the Packers enter the red zone, they turn to Adams, who ranks second red zone opportunities among all wide receivers, and whose six touchdowns ties Brown and Calvin Ridley for the second most (Hill has seven). Overall, he ranks third in targets per game among all players, but volume isn’t the problem. He ranks only 14th in receiving yards—16th if you count Zach Ertz and Kelce. That would be a problem if not for his hot streak heading into their Week 7 bye. Before heading into the bye week, Adams parlayed 28 targets into a combined 19 catches, 272 yards, and three touchdowns against the Lions and 49ers.
A projected high-scoring matchup in L.A. figures to rally that momentum. The Rams boast the seventh-ranked pass DVOA and have allowed the ninth-fewest FanDuel points to wide receivers, but Rodgers and Adams have faced the Bears (5th in DVOA), the Vikings (19th in DVOA), Washington (13th in DVOA), the Bills (4th in DVOA), and then shredded the Lions (28th in DVOA) and the 49ers (23rd in DVOA). So this will be the third most difficult secondary on their young season. But remember, the Packers offense has dealt with a troupe of injuries and has overcome them with meaningful fantasy production.
To reboot some of the analysis of Rodgers: if Derek Carr can drop 303 yards on the Rams’ secondary in Week 1 (albeit with his patented three interceptions), and if Kirk Cousins can smoke them for 422 yards and three scores in Week 4, and if Russell Wilson can manage 198 yards and three touchdowns with his cast of receivers in Week 5, and if Case Keenum can provide 20.48 FanDuel points on the back of 322 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6, wouldn’t it make sense that Rodgers, whose offense is just getting healthy, would align with the floor of all of those numbers combined? Add his ceiling to the equation and you have every right to load your rosters with Rodgers/Adams stacks.
WR: Jordy Nelson - $5,300
Nelson already ranked second in team targets before Amari Cooper was freed. With Cooper out of the picture, Nelson figures to draw the majority of targets in a game featuring an angry quarterback that most talking heads have ruled incompetent and on his way out of the league. Those types of narratives generally can be ignored, but this week, after the Raiders managed only three points against the Seahawks, with the entire NFL world betting against them, and with the Raiders defense likely putting the offense in a hole, expect Carr and Co. to open things up (for better or for worse). Nelson is by far his best receiving option now, or at least on par with Jared Cook, and should do more than enough to justify his bottom-tier salary.
TE: Jimmy Graham - $6,400
Unlike previous weeks, Week 8 offers a vending machine of solid tight end options. That should spread out exposure to some degree and make Graham, who’s priced as TE3, fall under the radar. We witnessed the Rams defense get crushed by Cook way back in Week 1 (nine catches for 180 yards on 12 targets). Since then, they’ve faced the Cardinals, Chargers, Vikings, Seahawks, Broncos, and 49ers. Only one of those teams feature a tight end. Said tight end (George Kittle) blasted them last week with five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. The Rams’ have a hole in the middle of the field where their mediocre linebackers and safeties tend to allow athletic tight ends and slot receivers to run rampant. Graham ranks sixth among tight ends in targets and fifth in opportunity percentage. Even with the Packers offense trending back to full health, he should draw plenty of targets in a game most expect to provide a lot of volume and points.
TE: Jared Cook - $5,900
Speaking of Cook, with Cooper now in Dallas and the Raiders leftover pass-catching options questionable at best, Cook sets up with a solid matchup and a promising amount of volume. He has only two good games this year, but the Colts’ defense provides a soft spot for tight ends. They’ve allowed the seventh most yards and eighth most FanDuel points per game to the position. They’ve also faced Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, and Jordan Reed, so you’d expect much more dire results than what shows up in the box score. But as mentioned, the Raiders are short on options, and Cook has the inside track to lead them in targets all over the field.
Chicago Bears - $5,000
Likely to be chalky despite their price, the Bears enter Week 8 ranked third in FanDuel points scored, second in forced turnovers, and eighth in sacks. The Jets enter Week 8 tied with the Bills for the third most turnovers and an offense missing several key players. They’ve scored just 17 points or fewer in five of their seven games. They managed only 316 total yards on offense last week and now run into Kahlil Mack on the road. If you can fit the Bears into your lineup, don’t worry about their projected roster percentage.
Pittsburgh Steelers - $3,800
The Browns’ offense may have exciting times ahead with Baker Mayfield under center, but that excitement hasn’t matured this season. They come into Week 8 with the fourth lowest success rate, the fourth lowest yards per play, the 12th most turnovers, and the most sacks allowed (31!). The Steelers’ defense has allowed the 11th lowest success rate despite facing three of the league’s top-scoring offenses, and ranks fourth in adjusted sack percentage. They’re in a good spot coming off of a bye and playing at home against a sack-prone rookie quarterback who has thrown only six touchdowns compared to five interceptions.
Similar to sleepers, contrarian players are those the crowd has completely mispriced and undervalued. In some cases, it’s a player coming off an injury or facing a difficult matchup but still carries a heavy price tag. In other cases, it could be a player that has struggled recently and therefore deemed untrustworthy. In all cases, guard your exposure to players listed in this section but get them in at least a few lineups.
QB: Derek Carr - $6,900
At the risk of all credibility, Carr gets a plug in this space with a few obvious caveats. First and foremost, you have to know that he’s not a good quarterback. He refuses to force the ball down the field and would rather take a sack than risk an interception (yet still throws lots of interceptions). Second: the Raiders are not a good offense. They have the sixth lowest success rate of all teams, and the fourth fewest points scored (mostly because of Carr). Third: there are good contrarian plays and bad ones. This one ranks closer to the latter, so reserve it for low-stakes.
All of that said, put yourself in Carr’s shoes for a minute. Every talking head and analyst in the world thinks your career is finished. They’ve even gone as far as questioning your toughness (read: masculinity) because you allowed your emotions to speak for themselves. The front office just traded away your best offensive player. Your head coach has thrown the entire team under the bus in one way or another throughout this season. And rumors are circulating that you’ll be traded out of Oakland before the deadline. How would you feel if you were Carr in this situation? Probably super motivated and ready prove everyone wrong?
Of course, being motivated and having success don’t always correlate. But despite all of the chaos surrounding the Raiders, and despite a red-hot Colts’ offense coming to town, Carr and Co. are only three-point underdogs at home. The Colts’ defense is partially responsible for that spread. They’ve allowed the ninth most total yards and the fifth most points to opposing offenses. They’ve been good at getting to the passer and have logged nine interceptions on the season, a third of which were courtesy of Derek Anderson last week. But Sam Darnold, Tom Brady, Deshaun Watson, and even Alex Smith have poked holes in the Colts’ vulnerable secondary, which ranks 21st in DVOA, has allowed the second-highest completion rate on the season (Bucs rank first, for perspective), and has allowed the ninth most passing yards.
Carr comes into Week 7 ranked as QB26—so if that doesn’t scare you away, nothing will. Be he’s also faced the first, second, third, and seventh-ranked pass defenses per DVOA, yet ranks 11th in yards per game. The turnovers are killing him. And he’ll probably have a couple more on Sunday. But he’s going to be forced to throw given the Raiders’ vulnerable defense. The over/under of this game is a healthy 50 points, suggesting that the Raiders are good for at least three touchdowns and it’s not like they’re going to score by running the ball, especially with Marshawn Lynch on IR. For $6,900, in a good matchup, at home, and motivated as he’ll ever be thanks to erroneous media reports of a “fractured relationship with teammates”, maybe this is a good time to take a shot on the “Motivated Raiders” narrative while everyone else is stacking Marlon Mack with the Colts’ defense.
RB: Jordan Howard - $6,000
The Bears host a busted Jets’ defense that just gave Latavius Murray a pair of scores and 69 rushing yards on 15 carries. They also made Mack look good Week 6, handed the Broncos’ trio 187 combined yards on 28 touches in Week 5, made T.J. Yeldon a top-12 running back in Week 4, and allowed Carlos Hyde to cross the goal line twice with 103 total yards in Week 3.
None of those stats mean Howard will suddenly gain full control of the backfield, but they suggest that the Jets’ run defense isn’t as good as the hard numbers say (they rank 15th in total yards and 16th in FanDuel points per game to running backs). Howard does rank 11th in market share of carries, and he leads the team in red zone opportunities with 16—seven of which have come over the last two weeks. Tarik Cohen is going to get work in this game, of course, but Howard has a good chance at a pair of scores (he had one called back last week) and the Bears’ defense—playing at home and favored by 7.5 points—should have no problem setting up short fields with positive game scripts.
WR: Chris Godwin - $5,200
Adam Humphries is your DFS sleeper this week against Cincinnati— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) October 25, 2018
Last week KC in the slot: 8 of 10 (2 drops), 79 yards, TD
Week 6 PIT in the slot: 10 of 11 (1 drop), 135 yards
With Darqueze Dennard out, the Bengals are getting gashed inside.
Lost in this tweet is the fact that, in Winston’s two starts, Godwin has 15 targets (second), 115 yards (fourth), an impressive 73.3% catch rate, and the team’s only touchdown by a wide receiver. As for attacking the Bengals in the slot, Humphries sets up as the main option, but Godwin has played 27% of his snaps from the slot on the season and logged more snaps last week than everyone but Mike Evans. Perhaps Humphries makes more sense considering he costs only $4,800. If you’re going to punt, might as well punt all the way down! But Godwin is one of the fastest wide receivers in the game and can blow the doors off any defense. We always want deep threats on our tournament rosters. It’s not a bad idea to build a few different lineups and spread Humphries and Godwin across them with equal exposure.
TE: O.J. Howard - $5,800
Parlaying off of the Buccaneers mentioned above, if you really want to attack the slot, you should roster Howard. His 129 yards receiving with Winston under center ranks second on the team. He ranks 10th among tight ends in total FanDuel points despite missing most of Week 4 and splitting reps with Cameron Brate. Finally healthy, Howard saw 66% of snaps last week and has 60 receiving routes over the last two games—the fourth most on the team and the ninth most among tight ends. The Bengals have allowed the third most yards and the second most touchdowns to tight ends. He’s in a smash-spot and might go overlooked with everyone on Cook, Kelce, and David Njoku.
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