The Fade: FanDuel Week 4

Your weekly guide to identifying exposure and profiting in guaranteed prize pools.

Last week we had seven games with an over/under of 45 points or less. This week we have seven games with an over/under of 46.5 points or more. What could go wrong?

Fantasy football is a game of matchups. But chasing them can lead to disappointing Sundays. Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger both had promising matchups and were popular plays last week. They finished as QB23 and QB28 respectively. See also Melvin Gordon III, DeAngelo Williams and Matt Forte.

Any given Sunday, as they say. If there’s one lesson to be learned from Week 3, it’s that even in a great matchup, a player must be good. Or experienced enough to take advantage of that matchup. Obviously, even the best players are going to have bad games. But it’s when we anchor our lineups with young players like Tajae Sharpe because they’re playing against Oakland that we take on a lot of risk. He ended up on approximately eight percent of rosters in big tournaments last week. Hindsight being what it is, the decision to roster him looks a lot worse when you consider the offense he plays in, his lack of experience and limited upside. This is cherry-picked example, but it’s little things like these that we need to review as players in hopes of avoiding similar results in the future.

General Week 4 Thoughts

The Chargers/Saints tilt will be the chalkiest of the week. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where 60 points aren’t scored in this game. You’ll need to be creative in order to take advantage of it and still be unique.

Conversely, the Jets are hosting the Seahawks in a game that has the lowest over/under total of the week (40 points). Even if Russell Wilson plays, I’m not touching any offensive players in this contest.

With a lot of points expected to be scored this week, it’s a good idea to roll out some unconventional stacks. Pairing Rivers with Gordon, for example, puts a lot of chalk in your lineup but the overall construction is unique. And don’t be afraid to pair two running backs from the same team. It’s risky, but it can pay major dividends. See Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. If Dexter McCluster had more time with the team, stacking him with Gordon could be a sneaky tournament winner. For more ideas, check out James Brimacobe’s “The Other Stack” article.  

Loading up on elite wide receivers hasn't worked this season. And you can probably get away with not paying up for more than one this week. But there's an interesting pricing anomaly that allows us to load our lineups with three of the best in the league. Usually, there are at least two, sometimes three, receivers priced higher than $9,000. This week only Antonio Brown passes that threshold. Meaning you can build a lineup that features Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, and still create an all around solid roster. 

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees - $8,600 and Philip Rivers - $8,500

The last time the Chargers hosted the Saints, Brees completed over 60 percent of his passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns. He, of course, was a member of the Chargers when that happened with Rivers watching from the bench. Sunday will mark the first time Brees has returned to San Diego since he parted ways with the team back in 2005. So if you’re looking to take a stroll down Narrative Street, he’s the guy. It’s safe to say the crowd is going to be all over this. His salary isn’t that prohibitive and there will likely be lots of offense in this game—it has the highest over/under total of the week (53.5 points), which also means lots of chalk.

Both quarterbacks should have no trouble moving the ball. The Chargers have allowed the second most passing yards on the season. Every quarterback they’ve faced has thrown for at least 300 yards. But they’ve been otherwise efficient having allowed five touchdowns to four interceptions. Their interception rate (number of interceptions per pass attempt) is tied for ninth best in the league. We’ll see how well this defense plays without Manti Te’o, but perhaps this is not a secondary we, as DFS players, should target.

Not to mention, we have those infamous road splits. Everyone and their dog knows Brees struggles away from New Orleans. Here’s how he did last year:

Split

G

CMP

ATT

YD

Y/A

TD

INT

FPT

FPT/G

Road 7 191 290 2017 7 9 6 130.2 18.6
Home 8 237 337 2853 8.5 23 5 237.8 29.7

Not great, Bob. That trend has continued so far this year. In his one road game, Brees threw for 263 yards and one touchdown (zero interceptions). Meanwhile, at home, he has piled up 799 yards and eight touchdowns (one interception). Look, I don’t make the stats. But for whatever reason, his fantasy upside is dramatically capped in road games.

For that reason, it’s possible Rivers will be higher owned. The Saints defense is the worst in the league and they will be the target of all fantasy football players for the duration of the season. Rivers doesn’t make the top-12, currently ranked as QB17 in FanDuel scoring. But that could change this week. If you’re going to go chalk in this game, he’s your best bet of hitting 3x value. Unless, of course, the Chargers elect to run the ball into that pillow of a defensive line. Perhaps stacking him with Melvin Gordon III, though heavy in chalk, is the best way to take advantage of this contest while still designing a unique lineup.

Cam Newton - $9,300

Here’s to hoping the ownership cluster around the Chargers/Saints tilt will keep Newton’s exposure down. He is the most expensive quarterback on the board for a second straight week, and draws a friendly matchup against the Falcons. Atlanta’s 10 passing scores allowed ties Detroit for the league most. Check out these performances by opposing quarterbacks:

Player

Week

Comp

Att

PassYd

PassTD

Int

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

FantPt

Salary

Value

Drew Brees 3 36 54 376 3 1 2 9 0 26.94 9000 2.99x
Derek Carr 2 34 45 299 3 0 2 10 0 24.96 8300 3.01x
Jameis Winston 1 23 32 281 4 1 4 3 0 26.54 7500 3.54x

All three quarterbacks hit 3x value or better (2.99x for Brees but close enough). Newton has enjoyed success in his career against this defense as well. He’s averaged over 25 points per game in 10 opportunities. That number drops slightly to 22.8 average points when he travels to Atlanta; not enough to scare us off. Newton will rebound in a big way after getting embarrassed at home last week. He won’t be a contrarian play by any means, but with the crowd placing their chips on Brees or Rivers, I like Newton to be the highest scoring quarterback.

Running Backs

Le'Veon Bell - $8,300

"His level of conditioning is not a concern to us," Tomlin said Tuesday. "He's a guy that's highly conditioned over a 12-month calendar. We've seen him every day, he's been a part of this, he's been in the building, he's up to speed on what we're doing from a schematic standpoint, really in tune here. We'll see how sharp he is physically once we get him out on the practice field and kind of go from there but rest assured, you're going to see Le'Veon Bell and probably a lot of him on Sunday."

We have ourselves an interesting scenario with the return of Bell. Surely, the crowd is going to be happy to pay his salary while it’s somewhat depressed. But there will still be plenty of folks nervous about how much work he’ll get in his first game back, especially with how well DeAngelo Williams has been playing. The matchup isn’t the sexiest either. From points per touch standpoint, the Chiefs rank 20th. All three touchdowns they’ve allowed to running backs came in Week 1 against the Chargers. Since then, they’ve allowed Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and Lamar Miller to a combined 26.2 fantasy points.

Regardless, Bell is a tempting play due to past performance. And reports of him being used as a receiver are great signs that he’ll return to form, even if there is a slight threat of a committee approach. For the record, in his first game back last year (Week 3), he rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, and added another 70 yards on seven receptions. He also wasn’t recovering from a torn MCL, though he appears to be near 100 percent. I think it’s wise to limit exposure to him, but he’s the kind of player than swings tournaments.

Melvin Gordon III - $7,600

In the event that you watched the debate on Monday night instead of the football game, here’s the stat line Falcons’ running backs posted against the Saints defense:

26 carries, 194 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, 8 receptions, 102 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown: 57.6 total fantasy points

Gordon was a chalk play last week against the Colts’ soft defense. His return was disappointing. Before finally scoring from the one-yard line midway through the third quarter, he had 20 yards on nine carries. The good news is that he handled 86 percent of snaps and saw seven targets. Dexter McCluster might get more work this week, but Gordon’s floor is protected as the main running back. And he won’t have a better matchup for the rest of the season. As mentioned, this game is the chalkiest of any on the slate. But I don’t mind using Gordon as a loss leader and fading the quarterbacks.

Jordan Howard - $5,600

Howard presents great value this week as the main guy in the Bears’ backfield thanks to Jeremy Langford’s ankle injury. Howard had a decent night against Dallas last week, totaling 92 yards. But it’s worth noting that 42 of those yards came on three receptions late in the fourth quarter with the game basically out of reach. It’s possible he’ll see more targets this week as the Bears, once again, will likely be playing from behind at home. The Lions run defense isn’t great. But they have prevented running backs from finding the end zone so far this season. All things being equal, this is a so-so matchup on paper for Howard. More concerning is the history of John Fox and his philosophy of rooking running backs. A few years ago, our Cecil Lammey wrote up a nice historical perspective and detailed that Fox generally defaults to veterans in situations like the one the Bears are currently faced with. As much as his salary allows us to build a nice lineup, I’ll be pursuing trustier options.

Wide Receivers

Demaryius Thomas - $7,900 and Emmanuel Sanders - $6,900

It’s hard to say if Trevor Siemian will be a popular play on Sunday or not. He was brilliant on last week, dropping dimes like this one:

And this one:

 

He’s now QB12 in FanDuel scoring after finishing as QB1 last week. I love his $7,400 salary and matchup this week. For every lineup I build that doesn’t include Newton, it will likely include Siemian.

As a result of his play, we should expect Thomas and Sanders to be crowd favorites. The former will rival all other receivers as the most exposed, with the latter not far behind (his friendly salary might flip this scenario). A power stack of Siemian/Thomas/Sanders won’t be as unique as you might think. But it could pay off. The Buccaneers have allowed the most receiving touchdowns and the fifth most points to wide receivers on the season. The only thing that might slow down this trio is the Broncos’ defense. We’ll need Jameis Winston and Co. to keep this game hot. The over/under is set at 44 points, which isn’t very promising. So if there’s a reason to fade the Broncos’ offense, it’s because their defense suffocates potential shootouts more often than not. Maybe that will be enough to push the crowd away but I doubt it. If you want to go contrarian, play C.J. Anderson instead.

Antonio Brown - $9,400

Brown’s stats in Week 1: 8 catches, 126 yards, 2 touchdowns, WR3  

Brown’s stats in two games since: 16 catches, 179 yards, 0 touchdowns, WR21

The good news is he’s the highest targeted player in the league. And the return of Bell should help out this offense tremendously, which is an odd thing to say about an offense that’s already tremendous. But Bell might also be the one who gets the touchdowns. Brown has a difficult matchup this week against the Chiefs, who have allowed the eight fewest points per reception and just one touchdown to wide receivers. In truth, I’m not worried about his floor. Brown about as safe as they come. But I don’t see the need to pay up for his services, even if the crowd takes the same approach. DeAndre Hopkins is $800 cheaper and has a better matchup.

Marvin Jones Jr - $7,600

Marvelous Marvin blew a hole in the Packers’ secondary last week to the tune 205 yards and two touchdowns, including a 73-yarder on a poorly thrown ball that most receivers can’t catch. Without question, he’ll be Matthew Stafford’s top target going forward. Jones ranks 10th among all players in total targets and first in total yards. And now he gets a Bears’ secondary that has yet to face an experienced quarterback. Jones will be one of the most popular plays on Sunday. He is priced alongside of notable options such as Kelvin Benjamin, Amari Cooper, Willie Snead IV, and Larry Fitzgerald. That’s a decent list of players on great offenses. But I’m having a hard time making the case for any one of them over Jones.

Terrelle Pryor - $7,000

Pryor put together a Hall of Fame performance, making plays all over the field at two separate positions last week (he also logged a snap at safety). It was a blast to watch as he toyed with the Dolphins’ defense. We’ll see if Washington can do any better. They come into the week having allowed the fourth most points per touch to receivers, and the sixth most passing yards to quarterbacks. If the Browns utilize Pryor like they did last week, and it’s of this writer’s opinion that they should, then his floor is perfectly safe and his upside is enough to win tournaments. But a $1,200 increase in FanDuel pricing has me a little leery. It’s not that $7,000 is a lot spend on receiver, especially in a week where paying up isn’t necessary, but expecting last week’s performance to be replicated is foolish. Then again, Washington’s secondary is in shambles both with mediocre play outside of Josh Norman, and now injuries. So the matchup is quite favorable. It’s just interesting that, per the eVALUEator, his salary is the worst of all receivers on FanDuel. The Browns are also projected to score under 20 points. I think that’s low, and happy to target the over of this game.  

Tight Ends

Greg Olsen - $7,900

This might be one of those weeks where you draft Olsen and log out. In case you weren’t sure, check out the Falcons’ defensive game logs:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Coby Fleener 3 7 109 1 20.4 5500
Clive Walford 2 6 50 1 14 4700
Lee Smith 2 4 24 0 4.4 4500
Austin Seferian-Jenkins 1 1 30 1 9.5 5400
Brandon Myers 1 1 4 1 6.9 4500
Cameron Brate 1 3 30 0 4.5 4600

They haven’t faced a truly good tight end, but they’ve allowed the fourth most receiving yards to the position and are tied with the Lions for the most touchdowns. Olsen is expensive. But we can afford him because we’re taking a discount at receiver. Just note that he’ll be one of the highest owned players on the board.

Zach Miller - $5,000

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Miller have high ownership on Sunday. As mentioned, the Lions are tied for the league in touchdowns allowed to tight ends. They’ve allowed at least one to the position in every game this season. Brian Hoyer clearly leaned on Miller, as he was second in team targets with nine. For those in a need of a discount, he looks like a safe play. Hopefully his salary and juicy matchup draws attention away from Olsen. I’ll fade the crowd on this one.

Dennis Pitta - $5,400

Pitta has compiled 15 receptions on 20 targets over the last two weeks. Only nine players have seen more targets during that span. It’s clear he will be a major part of the game plan so long as he is healthy. He has a healthy matchup this week against the Raiders in a game that should feature lots of passing. This could be the week he finally finds the end zone. But I still prefer to pay up for Olsen.

Kickers and Defenses

We’ll see a lot of lineups with Dustin Hopkins ($4,500), and Josh Lambo ($4,500) due to the expectation of lots of offense. I’ll happily absorb the exposure and side with the crowd to get a minimum priced kicker. Both Stephen Gostkowski ($5,200) and Justin Tucker ($5,100) will also be popular. We can fade them thanks to Hopkins and Lambo.

The chalk play at defense didn’t work out last week. Surely the Cardinals ($5,300) can correct that situation this week as they host the Rams. If I have the cash, I’m paying up regardless of ownership.

I’m not as hot on the Houston Texans ($4,900). Losing J.J. Watt is kind of a big deal. The Titans’ offense should always be considered a target but this is a week to stay away. Don’t be surprised if this game blows past its projected total of 40.5 points. Am I predicting a shootout in the AFC South? Why yes. Yes I am.



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