Carson Palmer (vs Baltimore) Price: $7000
Carson Palmer has arguably been the most valuable quarterback in DFS formats through six weeks. He’s had either multiple touchdown throws or 350+ passing yards in every game, including four 300+ yard passing games and three games with three or more passing touchdowns. Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington are both fully healthy, so Palmer now has all the offensive weapons at his disposal. Larry Fitzgerald is enjoying a renaissance season, John Brown is breaking out as an elite deep threat, and Chris Johnson has somehow turned back the clock on 4.2 speed…this offense is scary good and deep with talent at the skill positions. They didn’t need much help, but this week they get a Baltimore defense that allowed 340 yards and two touchdowns to Colin Kaepernick, 457 yards and two touchdowns to Josh McCown, 383 yards and three touchdowns to Andy Dalton and 351 yards and three touchdowns to Derek Carr. In short, Baltimore cannot stop anyone right now and they are in serious jeopardy of getting blown off the field this week by the Arizona offense. Palmer is the crown jewel of the quarterback position this week, and the only concern I have is whether he will play four quarters. Get him in your GPP and cash game lineups.
Andrew Luck (vs New Orleans) Price: $7400
If there was anything good that came out of Indy’s tough loss to New England last week, it was Andrew Luck and his receivers finally getting on the same page for an entire game. Luck has been a disappointment thus far, throwing only eight touchdowns to seven interceptions in four games played. Luck is not creating the explosive plays that owners had become accustomed to which is a big reason why he has struggled to hit value, and also why Indy as a team is struggling. TY Hilton has caught four passes in every game but has yet to reach 100 yards in any week, and only has one touchdown on the season. Hopefully Luck and his receivers can build on the momentum they created against New England as they face off against a New Orleans defense that has allowed eleven passing touchdowns to only two interceptions. Luck had been a cash game stalwart the last couple of seasons, but until he is able to justify his salary in consecutive weeks, I cannot recommend him for anything more than GPP’s.
Philip Rivers (vs Oakland) Price: $6900
Rivers has been at the helm of my favorite stack this year, and pairing him with Keenan Allen has produced incredible results. Allen is still questionable to play on Sunday though, as is Antonio Gates, so this may be a week where I choose to ride out with Rivers on his own. He’s been just a step below Palmer in terms of consistency, throwing for multiple touchdowns in five of his six games and 240+ yards in every game. Rivers should continue his passing production this week as he takes on an Oakland defense that is surrendering 308 yards passing and 1.6 passing touchdowns per game. With his two primary weapons questionable for the game, Rivers will do what he does best, spread the ball around and keep the Oakland defense off balance. Ladarius Green, Malcom Floyd and Stevie Johnson are three guys to keep an eye on as potential stacks if Gates and Allen are unable to go.
Running Back (Cash)
Todd Gurley (vs Cleveland) Price: $6000
Cleveland comes into the game vs St. Louis giving up 149.8 rushing yards per game, good for worst in the league. On the ground alone, they are letting up 16.3 fantasy points to opposing #1 running backs. Gurley enters the week averaging 5.7 yards per carry, which is the best mark among running backs with at least twenty carries this season. Since his week 3 debut where he saw six carries, Gurley has been given 49 carries over the last two weeks, totaling 305 yards. The Rams have cobbled together an interesting group of skill position players who are capable of creating explosive plays, but no one will confuse them with the Greatest Show on Turf. They are built around a talented and aggressive defense, and now they have a true bell cow back who can move the chains, control the clock and lead the offense to enough points in order to win close games. The Rams are 2-3 overall, but 2-0 in their division, including wins over both Seattle and Arizona. This is a winnable game for St. Louis, and I expect Jeff Fischer to put the ball in Gurley's hands 25+ times, which should be more than enough carries for Gurley to eclipse 100 yards and score his first career touchdown along the way. It may not be the sexiest pick, but stacking Todd Gurley and the St. Louis Defense/ST together will yield a positive correlation and provide salary relief. I expect both Gurley and the STL D/ST be inside the top 5 at their respective positions this week
Chris Ivory (@ New England) Price: $5300
The Jets are 4-1, and there is no question as to why. In addition to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker providing Ryan Fitzpatrick with legitimate playmakers, Chris Ivory has taken over the lead back role and proven he is a true #1 fantasy running back. The Jets are solid on the offensive line, but Ivory is doing a lot of damage at the second level of his runs, showing an overpowering blend of size and speed. He’s averaging 115 yards rushing and one touchdown per game on twenty carries per game. The Jets have done a great job of balancing their offense, so it is very difficult for opposing defenses to stack the box and try and shut down Ivory when Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing as well as he has been. This week the Jets travel to New England in what has become a battle for AFC supremacy. The Patriots have not allowed a 100 yard rusher since opening night against Pittsburgh (Dangelo Williams), and have only let up one other rushing touchdown to Karlos Williams in week 2. Part of that can attributed to teams falling behind and having to throw for much of the game, but the Patriots defense is no slouch. It may not be an ideal matchup on paper for Ivory, but the game script points to the Jets needing to control the tempo of the game and not allowing the Pats to pass up and down the field. I expect Ivory to see 20+ carries this week, which should give him the opportunity to surpass 100+ total yards and see several red zone touches.
Wide Receiver (Cash/GPP)
Deandre Hopkins (@ Miami) Price: $6100
Another week goes by, another week where the Deandre Hopkins coming out party continues. He has been borderline unstoppable, which is really saying something considering he has had the likes of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet throwing him the ball, with virtually no #2 receiver to take the pressure off of him. A healthy Arian Foster is as close as it will get for Hopkins, but judging by the last two weeks, it should be enough for Hopkins to continue his historic pace. Through six games, Hopkins is averaging 8.6 receptions for 121 yards and just under a touchdown per game. If he were to continue this pace, Hopkins would end the season with 137 receptions for 1,936 yards and 13 touchdowns, which would go down as one of the best seasons by a wide receiver of all time. Hopkins shouldn’t see diminished production this week against a Miami defense that gave up big games to both Allen Robinson and Brandon Marshall. Until his salary reaches the levels of Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones, Hopkins is a no brainer in your lineups every week.
Wide Receiver (GPP)
Calvin Johnson (vs Minnesota) Price: $5250
A few weeks back, a buddy and I were talking about salaries when he brought up a point I hadn’t yet considered. He asked me if I could ever remember seeing Calvin Johnson’s salary drop so low, both overall and in comparison to other wide receivers. It was a great point, and of course Johnson responded a week later with his best game of the season, a six catch, 166 yard and one touchdown performance against a struggling Chicago secondary. Johnson’s overall production has not been that bad, it just pales in comparison with what other receivers are doing this season. He has 38 receptions through six games, but what is surprising is Johnson only has two touchdown receptions and he hasn’t had many more opportunities than that. He should continue to improve upon those numbers though, as he faces a Minnesota defense that he hit up for ten receptions, 83 yards and a touchdown in their first meeting. In addition to his relatively low salary, Johnson has also been pretty low owned, which considering his ceiling, makes him an attractive GPP option.
Steve Smith (@ Arizona) Price: $4650
Despite having “multiple micro fractures” to his spine, Smith came back with a vengeance in week 6, turning in seven receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown against a weak 49ers secondary. Smith has reiterated that he plans on retiring after the season is done, but considering what he has accomplished this season, no one would blame him if he were to sign with a contender and chase a championship. Smith has shown no sign of aging, he is like the Benjamin Button of the NFL. In his three standout games this year, Smith has combined for 30 receptions, 473 yards and three touchdowns…just ridiculous numbers when you factor in that the Ravens have been terrible as a team and there isn’t much other talent at the skill positions to offer help. Arizona is tough on defense and talented in the secondary, but they also let up a huge game last week to Martavis Bryant (6/137/2), including a long touchdown when the game was on the line. Baltimore has virtually no chance of stopping Carson Palmer, so they will have to take to the air early and often, which means another opportunity for Smith to have a big game. His salary continues to be very affordable, and with his upside, I want him in my lineups with a game script that is advantageous.
Michael Crabtree (@ San Diego) Price: $4650
Much of the hype coming out of Oakland this year has been centered around Amari Cooper and Derek Carr. That is why it might come as a surprise to learn that Michael Crabtree is the one leading the Raiders in both targets (45) and receptions (27). He has provided Carr with a possession receiver who is capable of moving the chains and keep drives alive when defenses shade too much coverage to Cooper’s side. My colleague Phil Alexander pointed out in his column that Crabtree has one of the best individual wide receiver vs cornerback matchups of the week. He faces off against Brandon Flowers, who has graded out as the worst per route defender in the league. Crabtree also has a size advantage to the tune of four inches and 28 pounds over Flowers, and should have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of it in a game that projects to be won in the passing game. Vegas has set the total for this game at (46.5). San Diego and Oakland have combined for just four rushing touchdowns as compared to 23 passing touchdowns this season. If the game reaches its projected total, which I think it will, both quarterbacks are likely looking at multi-touchdown games. Crabtree has a great chance to convert one of those touchdowns given his size advantage over Flowers in the red zone.
Tight End (Cash/GPP)
Antonio Gates (@ Oakland) Price: $4800
Ladarius Green (@ Oakland) Price: $4200
Oakland’s struggles against the tight end position has been well documented in this column, but as a refresher let me provide you with their averages through the first four weeks. Oakland was allowing on average, 7.75 catches for 95 yards and 1.5 touchdowns to opposing tight ends. They did somehow manage to blank Owen Daniels in week 5, which was an anomaly in more ways than one, as it also broke Daniels long running streak with at least one reception. I have recommended both Gates and Green because Gates is questionable to play in the game. With that said, there is merit to playing Green even if Gates is active, as he has totaled eight catches for 85 yards and a touchdown in the two games since Gates returned from injury. I could absolutely see both Gates and Green catching touchdowns, especially if Keenan Allen were to miss Sunday’s game. Regardless, make sure you have one of them in your lineups, the matchup is too good to pass up.
Greg Olsen (@ Philadelphia) Price: $5200
Olsen has been a model of inconsistency this year, which is keeping true of the trend of the tight end position as a whole. He caught eight passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns in week 3, but only managed nine catches for 109 yards and no touchdowns in three other weeks preceding last Sunday’s game against Seattle. Olsen stepped up again when Carolina needed him most, catching the game winning touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks with less than thirty seconds left on the clock. He finished with seven catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. I have said it several times over but it is important to keep in mind, the tight end position has either been a goldmine or a landmine this year. It is for this reason why I am choosing my tight ends based on their ceiling more than their floor, which is rare for me at the position. I want to know that when my tight end has a big game, it is going to be a difference maker, as I know there are going to be weeks where they destroy my teams (outside of Ron Gronkowski, and at his salary, even he is not immune.). Carolina travels to Philadelphia and will play in primetime on Sunday Night Football. Philly has done a good job of defending the tight end, allowing only one touchdown (Ben Watson) through six games. It looks as though it is a matchup where you might not want to put Olsen in play, but as Carolina’s #1 receiver, target leader and main threat in the red zone, Olsen has the ceiling to justify any risk that may come as a result of the matchup.
Team Defense (GPP/CASH)
St. Louis (vs Cleveland) $2650
I was pretty surprised to see the Rams defense at $2650 this week. Their salary had been lowering steadily over the last several weeks, although I attributed that mostly to having played Green Bay and Arizona in back to back weeks. It is not like they aren’t producing fantasy points, as they’ve totaled an impressive 20 sacks, four fumble recoveries and five interceptions through five games. Things should continue to look up for the 2-3 Rams when they play host to a Cleveland Browns offense that allowed 17 sacks in the last four games. As I mentioned above, I will be heavily exposed to Todd Gurley/STL D/ST stacks. The game script looks to play out perfectly for a ground and pound game where the Rams control the clock and wear down the Browns defense. If they can get out to an early lead, Jeff Fischer will turn up the heat on Josh McCown with his exotic array of blitz packages. I fully expect St. Louis to put up 15+ points, and it doesn’t hurt to have one of the better special teams return men in Tavon Austin, who can help pad those numbers.