The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 12

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

We have an interesting slate on Sunday with three games already booked due to Thanksgiving. That also wipes out some of our top plays, particularly with two of the best running backs and three of the best offenses off the board. Making things even more interesting, most of the top wide receivers have difficult matchups against good or great cornerbacks, and most of the games on the main slate have a mediocre over/under projection.

All of this is actually good news. This is a week where the crowd is going to struggle to build lineups, and may even play fewer lineups—especially if they loaded up on the Thanksgiving Day tournaments. This doesn’t change our strategy. I’m still paying up at running back and quarterback, per usual, and choosing wide receivers carefully. I think it’s a good week to target chalk plays and not stress about ownership percentages. I would recommend being aggressive overall, but I fear the sharks are thinking the same thing. Just keep that in mind as you build lineups. As always, a sound bankroll strategy should never be sacrificed.


Eli Manning - $7,800

I’m tempted to fire up Manning along with Odell Beckham Jr Jr. in 100 percent of my lineups. That’s what a Browns’ defense will do to a guy. You all know the numbers by now. No team has allowed more total fantasy points than the winless Browns. Here’s where they rank in fantasy points allowed by position: quarterbacks – 1st, running backs – 2nd, wide receivers – 3rd, and tight ends – 1st. It’s basically a free-for-all at every position. In theory, Manning should be a great play. But we’ve been burned far too many times by him to trust his services even in the friendliest matchup he’ll have all year. I will definitely have a few shares just hedge against my own fears. And I think you should too. But there’s a reason why he comes into Week 12 ranked 19th in points per game. Keep that in mind if you target this contest.

Carson Palmer - $7,100

It’s obvious that Palmer’s best days are behind him and that his performance last year won’t ever be repeated. But his salary is the lowest it has been since Week 3 of the 2014 season, and his matchup is the best of all quarterbacks outside of Manning. The Falcons have allowed the fourth most yards, second most touchdowns, and third highest completion percentage to quarterbacks. All of that translates to lead’s most friendly defense for opposing passers. And for those of you that are into home/road splits, these are the quarterbacks that have played in Atlanta this year:











Aaron Rodgers 8 28 38 73.7 246 6.47 4 0 38.3
Philip Rivers 7 27 44 61.4 371 8.43 1 1 21.4
Derek Anderson 4 17 23 73.9 172 7.48 2 2 14.6
Cam Newton 4 14 25 56 165 6.6 1 0 16.3
Jameis Winston 1 23 32 71.9 281 8.78 4 1 32.4

If you combine Anderson and Newton's numbers, the average points scored against the Falcons in Atlanta is over 30. Palmer hasn’t been lighting the world on fire and comes into Week 12 with a QB20 ranking in FanDuel points per game. But now that his salary is ultra-friendly and the matchup is the best he’s had all season, I think it’s safe to say he has a monster game coming in what should be a shootout. For the record, Vegas sets the over/under of this game at 50.5 points—the highest on the main slate.

Running Backs

Lamar Miller - $7,100

It’s very possible Miller slips through the cracks this week with everyone chasing the likes of Thomas Rawls and Rashad Jennings. Don’t let that happen to you. Miller is one of the top plays against a Chargers’ defense that has allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to running backs and 15 total touchdowns, which is the second most of all teams. Overall, only three teams have allowed more FanDuel points per game and only the 49ers have allowed more points per rushing attempt. Miller, as you know, is an elite runner when he’s healthy. Last week he proved that he’s healthy as he clocked out with over 100 yards and found the end zone for the fourth time this season. He now ranks 11th at the position despite dealing with injuries. Don’t sleep on Miller this week. His salary gives us a lot of room to work with and his upside nearly unmatched.

Matt Forte - $6,800

Forte has seemingly worked himself into a near-even timeshare with Bilal Powell, which is not something we ever want to target in tournaments. But if you ignore snap counts and simply look at touches, it’s pretty clear that this is Forte’s offense. He’s out-touched Powell 96 to 32 since Week 7. And even last week where they played a nearly even number of snaps, Forte still touched the ball 22 times to Powell’s 11. That’s twice as many if you’re counting.

The matchup is interesting. The Patriots are a middle-of-the-road defense when comes to stopping the rush. But they’ve been blasted by pass-catching backs. Only two teams have allowed more receptions and receiving yards to the position. Last week, the 49ers’ pair of backs combined for 67 receiving yards, and the week before that C.J. Prosise hit them up for 87 alone. Le'Veon Bell pulled down 10 receptions for 68 yards in Week 7. Clearly, the Patriots are a vulnerable defense to players like Forte, who comes into Week 12 with the seventh most FanDuel points per game on the season. Even though I typically pay up at this position, I think this a good week to plug in a Miller/Forte combo and load up elsewhere.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall - $7,100

I hate to be the guy that suggests two Jets players in the same column, but here we are. Only Jordan Nelson has more red zone targets than Marshall, who has been struggling this season—mostly because of his quarterback. The matchup may be a trap but I’m not scared. The Patriots’ secondary is soft as a velour comforter and has struggled against team’s top wide receivers. They may have been successful against the 49ers and the Bills, but a couple weeks ago, Doug Baldwin hit them up for three scores, and in Week 7, Antonio Brown whipped them for 107 yards. Even the Dolphins and Cardinals blew up this secondary.

That said, if you look at the raw stats, you might be scared off by the fact that they’ve allowed the 26th fewest yards to wide receivers and have been stingy in the end zone. This is exactly what the crowd is going to see and they won’t touch Marshall. That’s a mistake for a guy who has the 14th most targets in the league and is the main weapon on his respective offense. He also comes at a significant discount considering his usage. I get why you might be apprehensive given the team he plays for, but Marshall is set up for success this week and I don’t want to miss out.

DeVante Parker - $6,300

I’m not into cherry-picking stats too much, but over the last two weeks Parker has scored the eighth-most points among wide receivers. Hopefully it means that he will finally be a major part of this offense going forward. He has a great matchup at home against the 49ers, who have allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers than any other team. Hopefully they can keep the game competitive and keep Ryan Tannehill active. A lot of folks are going to chase Jay Ajayi due to the rushing matchup. That’s a fine idea, but I like Parker to score at least once in a game that I think will be higher scoring than most. His salary is well worth chasing, as he needs only 18.9 points to hit tournament value. That’s no small feat, but if he continues to see quality targets like has over the last two games, hitting value should be no trouble. I doubt the crowd is onto him. No, his floor isn’t safe, but his upside looks solid in Week 12.  

J.J. Nelson - $5,500

This was a game where I figured Michael Floyd would do some damage, and he’s only $5,100 so it would have been a great week to plug him in as a contrarian option. Unfortunately, he’s dealing with a hamstring injury and was already being phased out of the offense in favor of Nelson. It could be a John Brown kind of day too, so Nelson carries a lot of risk, but with Floyd out of the picture—assuming he doesn’t play—I like Nelson to be the guy that whips the Falcons’ defense. I get that if you’re playing Palmer you’re likely just stacking him with Larry Fitzgerald anyway. But maybe consider a Cardinals power stack with Palmer/Fitzgerald/Nelson. I also love David Johnson and I’m not afraid to stack him with Palmer either.  

Since Week 7, only Fitzgerald has more targets than Nelson among Cardinals’ receivers. The bad news is those targets have produced disappointing stat lines. Since his 8-catch, 79-yard, two-score performance a couple weeks ago, he has three catches for 29 yards. Hard to see that suddenly changing, so he is a major risk, but he could also swing tournaments with Floyd on the sideline. It’s a good idea to build a few lineups that fade Johnson and stack the Cardinals’ wide receivers instead.

Tight Ends

Will Tye - $4,600

I’d be a lot more comfortable with Tye if the Giants actually used the tight end position to attack defenses. As it stands, this is purely a matchup-based call. The Browns, if you’ll remember, are terrible defensively, especially against tight ends. No team has allowed more receptions, more yards or more touchdowns (or fantasy points, obviously). Tye is not going to blow up for 20 points (unless the Giants suddenly change their standard game plan), but I wouldn’t be surprised if he found the end zone and hits at least 2x value. He’s near minimum salary so there is some comfort in the fact that if he flops, it doesn’t kill the rest of your roster.

Dennis Pitta - $4,900

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice… Pitta is still in my lineup and I’m not sure why. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Bush’s second term. Okay, that was a lie. But it has been since the 2013 season. This is more than a “he’s due” scenario, however. His 71 targets on the season are more than every tight end not named Greg Olsen. At some point, those targets are going to go for more than 40 yards, which his average per game. The Bengals, by the way, are terrible at covering tight ends. Only three teams have allowed more yards or more touchdowns. If he doesn’t get it going this week, I promise to never speak of him again.  


I’m going to be paying up for the Broncos ($4,900) a lot this week and I wonder how much of the crowd is going to follow me. The Broncos’ defense could end up being more contrarian than usual, even if they’ll have a lot of eyes on them thanks to playing the Sunday night game.

Both the Titans ($4,500) and Giants ($4,800) are in play and the crowd will be all over them. So maybe the Saints ($4,300) won’t have as much exposure and they make for a nice start against Goff and Co. I certainly love the discount they provide.  But if you want a play that most of the crowd is going to overlook, the Ravens ($4,500) hosting a Bengals squad that just lost two of its most important players should be a solid play. They rank sixth in takeaways and 12th in sack percentage, and come in Week 12 with the seventh most FanDuel points.

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