The Contrarian: FanDuel Week 15

Identifying underexposed players to create roster uniqueness in tournaments.

Welcome to Week 15, the one in which we freeze. There’s a lot of bad weather coming on Sunday, particularly in Chicago, Kansas City and Buffalo. While precipitation isn’t expected to make much of an appearance, this might be a good week to target dome teams. The Cardinals hosting the Saints is of particular interest to me. And after laying off of David Johnson last week, I’ll be ramping my shares back up to near 100 percent exposure. I like Carson Palmer too, but the Saints, despite facing mediocre talent for most of the season, have allowed 17 total touchdowns to the position and ranked sixth in FanDuel points allowed. They’re especially bad at covering pass-catching backs, having allowed the fourth most receiving yards on 82 targets (16th). Johnson is basically a receiver at this point and with Michael Floyd out of the picture, his ceiling got even better.

There isn’t an abundant supply of great quarterbacks or great tight ends this week, so ownership percentages almost don’t matter. Targeting the Saints/Cardinals game, which has the second highest over/under total on the main slate, makes the most sense. Despite the Cardinals’ defense being one of the best in the league, I think you can make a case for Drew Brees (hereby ignoring his home/road splits) and stacking him against Johnson and one of the Cardinals’ cheap receivers.  

Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers - $7,800

First, the bad news: Rivers has thrown 10 interceptions in his last four games—easily the most of any quarterback over that span—and ranks as QB22 since Week 10. But he still has point totals of 21.04, 20.68, 16.8, and 12.44. If he cleans up the turnovers, it stands to reason that he’ll finally finish as a QB10 or better one of these weeks.

Now for the good news. The Raiders are coming to town with a secondary that I’ve been saying all season is better than most people think. But with Chargers essentially eliminated, and Rivers’ desire to compete at a high level every time he takes the field, you can bet they’ll be looking to play a spoiler role and prevent their division rival from winning the AFC West. That’s hardly solid analysis, to be sure. But keep in mind Rivers’ best game this season came against the Raiders in Week 5. He finished with 359 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in that contest (28.36 FanDuel points, QB4). Now that Melvin Gordon III isn’t around to claim all the touchdowns, Rivers will be forced to throw more in the red zone. He has a gaggle of good receivers to target, and the Raiders have allowed the seventh most passing yards per game. In a week that features no obvious answer at quarterback and a bunch of questionable weather situations, SoCal is looking great, especially with Rivers and Co. home underdogs and likely forced to throw a ton.

Carson Palmer - $7,600

Since we’re on the topic of risky, aging quarterbacks that turn the ball over, Palmer has a great matchup at home against the Saints. He was horrible last week in horrible weather conditions on a cross-country road trip against a so-so defense. Things look a lot brighter this week. The Saints are allowing the fifth most yards per game, and have just seven interceptions on the year. They shut down Jameis Winston last week, but gave up 23.84 points to Matthew Stafford the week before, and 17.56 to Jared Goff in Week 12. In fact, here are their game logs against quarterbacks when on the road:

Player

Wk

Cmp

Att

CmpPct

PassYds

YD/Att

TD

INT

FantPt

Eli Manning 2 32 41 78 368 8.98 0 0 18
Philip Rivers 4 28 43 65.1 321 7.47 2 1 24.1
Alex Smith 7 17 24 70.8 214 8.92 2 0 21.4
Colin Kaepernick 9 24 39 61.5 398 10.21 2 1 30.2
Cam Newton 11 14 33 42.4 192 5.82 1 0 15.3
Jameis Winston 14 16 26 61.5 184 7.08 0 0 10.8

That’s nearly 20 points on average despite flops by Winston and Newton. It’s reasonable to expect Palmer to at least hit that average even if it’s a touchdown above his current season pace. As mentioned, this game has a healthy over/under and the Cardinals are slight favorites. Palmer/Johnson stacks are most certainly in play.

Running Backs

Jordan Howard - $6,600

In a game that’s expected to be the coldest in Bears’ history, and potentially one of the coldest in NFL history, it might be wise to just avoid every player. But Howard offers excellent value and should be the one carrying the load. There are five running backs that have at least five 100-yard rushing games; Howard is one of them (David Johnson has four, FYI). He also has 30 attempts that have gone for at least 10 yards. Since Week 4, he is our seventh highest scoring running back with over total 1,100 yards, and six total touchdowns. When you consider how bad the Bears’ offense has been, what Howard has accomplished as an unheralded rookie is quite amazing.

The Packers run defense is good, but they can be hurt. Rob Kelly, DeMarco Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Ezekiel Elliott all punched holes in the Packers’ defensive line. Howard, of course, isn’t like three of these guys. But he has played at a level that deserves our attention. With the weather likely to freeze quarterbacks and linebackers, I like Howard to achieve tournament value.

Lamar Miller - $7,200

The Houston Texans came here to do two things: run the football and kick field goals. Miller continues to get overlooked by the crowd despite being the 12th highest scoring running back since Week 6. He clobbered the Colts with 107 yards on 21 carries and found the end zone for the first time since Week 11. He gets the comfort of a home game, in a dome which is important this week, against the Jaguars—who aren’t necessarily a pushover defense but have been rocked by good backs this season. What’s amazing is the Texans are tied for first place in the AFC South and are six-point favorites this week. They have the fourth most rushing attempts per game and with the way their quarterback is playing, you can bet they’ll continue to feed Miller and limit the number of passes (read; risks).

And what’s even more encouraging is that the Jaguars don’t have a chance of pushing the Texans off of their game plan. Blake Bortles is awful and his entire offense is awful because of it. They’re averaging barely over 18 points per game and now have lost eight straight. Fire up Miller with confidence.

Wide Receivers

Tyrell Williams - $6,500

Doubling down on my Rivers call, Williams is the guy you stack him with. Since Week 5 he’s our 12th highest scoring wide receiver with 664 yards and five touchdowns over that span. He has logged point totals of 15.5, 21, 17, 11.7, and 7.8 over his last five games. For players with at least 31 receptions, Williams yard-per-catch ranks seventh (16.5). He’s essentially the splash-play guy for the Chargers, which blends perfectly into this matchup. The Raiders have allowed 31 “Big Plays”—passing plays that went for at least 25 yards—the second most just behind the Browns. It just so happens than Williams’ 17 receptions of at least 20 yards ranks fifth most. He has six that have gone for at least 40 yards—tied with Odell Beckham Jr Jr., Sammie Coates Jr, and A.J. Green.  

He’s a big play machine and he’s getting opportunities. He is also great value at $6,500. The Chargers—home underdogs—are going to be forced into a heavy passing attack (assuming Derek Carr shows up for this contest). Rivers threw the ball 39 times last week, the most attempts he’s had since Week 10. Even if you choose a different quarterback, I still like Williams as an excellent tournament play.

Sammy Watkins - $6,100

The risk we take with Watkins is he may not finish the game. But he’s now played snap counts of 25 (45%). 49 (68%), and 49 (94%). He has more targets (18) since his return than anyone else on the team. And guess who’s coming to town: Santa Clause—otherwise known as the Cleveland Browns’ defense. Only four teams have allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers. And even though the Bills could just run all over this defense, Watkins is going to be a big part of their game plan come Sunday.

The risk, of course, is that the cold weather gets in the way. It’s also supposed to be mildly windy and Tyrod Taylor hasn’t exactly been the most accurate quarterback ever. That’s your downside. Your upside is that he again leads the team in targets and comes away with more than one long touchdown. His floor is dangerous. His ceiling is probably unreachable. But his salary gives you all the room you need if you want both Johnson and Bell in your lineup. I won’t go crazy with exposure to Watkins, but I think it’s irresponsible to ignore the value he gives us this week.

Alshon Jeffery - $6,700

In true hypocritical fashion, I’m writing up Jeffery—a player that hasn’t seen the field in four weeks and has never caught a pass from his current quarterback—as a contrarian play despite writing up Jordy Nelson as a fade because of the weather. Yeah, the weather is awful. It hurts both offenses. But Jeffery’s matchup is quite tasty. The Packers have given up 19 touchdowns to wide receivers, the second most of all teams, and allow nearly 170 yards per game. Matt Barkley hasn’t been a total disaster since he took over as the starter. In fact, you could make an argument that he’s been good. He’s been staying after practice to work with Jeffery and it seems the two could get things figured out enough to at least make Jeffery worth a look in GPPs.

Obviously, this is not a comfortable call that I’m going to back with 100 percent of my lineups. He’s super risky even if the weather wasn’t a factor. But this is the lowest his salary has been since Week 13 of the 2013 season. The Packers’ secondary is vulnerable. Barkley is throwing the ball well enough to take advantage of elite talent. I say throw him in a few cheap GPP lineups and profit.

Tight Ends

Charles Clay - $4,500

Clay is fool’s gold. If not for this play, he would have had just two catches for 12 yards. But he also had a 26-yard completion called back because of a penalty, and what’s important here is targets. He’s averaged 5.7 per game since Week 11—the 12th most in that span. In his last two games, he leads the Bills in targets. It helps that Watkins is back, too. Teams will eventually shift their focus to stopping him and LeSean McCoy, leaving Clay the next man in line. Oh, and the Browns are bad. They’ve allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends and the most average points per game. Clay is the stone minimum on FanDuel and worth tournament considerations.     

Defenses

The Packers ($4,500) are interesting but I do think they’ll be a crowd favorite and I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to target the Bears’ offense right now. So if you want a $4,500 defense playing an offense that’s wildly inconsistent and doesn’t know how to handle cold weather, look no further than the Chiefs. I truly believe they are going to hold the Titans scoreless. They’re currently favored by 5.5 points at home with temperatures barely crossing zero degrees. Since Week 5, no defense has scored more FanDuel points. It helps to have a guy like Tyreek Hill occasionally taking punts to the house. I’ll have heavy exposure to the Chiefs this weekend.



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