The Fade: FanDuel Week 6

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

 

Fantasy hint: if your reason for starting a player is based on how he performs in odd numbered weeks, then buy up all of my cash games please. 

Just kidding. I don’t play cash games.

There’s been a lot of debate between Footballguy staffers regarding split stats. Particularly home/road splits. Particularly Ben Roethlisberger’s home/road splits. He has been an absolute force at home, which was on display last week when he blasted the Jets secondary to the tune of 380 yards and four touchdowns (and would have had at least five touchdowns if not for a few notable drops). But on the road, things haven’t gone as smooth. Below are his home/road splits since 2010 including this year:

Split

G

Cmp

Att

CmpPct

Yards

YD/Game

YD/Att

TD

INT

FantPt

FantPt/G

Home 45 1025 1579 64.9 12917 287 8.18 103 29 1146.5 25.5
Road 44 1050 1624 64.7 12254 278.5 7.55 56 41 834.8 19

The numbers speak for themselves. His touchdown to interception ratio is alarming, with 103 to 29 at home versus 56 to 41 on the road. And a difference of 6.5 fantasy points per game seems to indicate that home/road splits have merit.

He’s not alone. Drew Brees might as well be the poster child for the “start at home, fade on the road” narrative. Since 2010 including this year:

Split

G

Cmp

Att

CmpPct

Yards

YD/Game

YD/Att

TD

INT

FantPt

FantPt/G

Home 50 1423 2055 69.2 16394 327.88 7.98 145 44 1496.3 29.9
Road 49 1361 2042 66.7 15132 308.8 7.41 91 54 1130.2 23.1

Again, a massive drop off in touchdowns on the road and a differential of 6.8 points per game.

How does one explain this? Can we just take the numbers at their word and only play these two quarterbacks when they have a home game?

I think not. It stands to reason that all quarterbacks should play better at home. What the split stats don’t tell us is anything about quality of opponent and game scripts. If anything, we should expect more fantasy points when a team is forced into high-volume passing, which is more likely when they are on the road. Per the charts above, Brees actually attempted fewer passes, and Roethlisberger attempted only 1.8 more pass attempts per game on the road than at home.

Something doesn’t add up. Perhaps home/road splits are fool’s gold and we’d be wise to start the players with the best chances scoring fantasy points and hitting value relative to salary. That much is obvious.

But we can’t outright ignore the numbers either. Some split stats are useful for predicting future performance. Footballguy Hall of Famer Chase Stuart said it best a few years ago:

“Obviously some splits are real, with reasonable explanations behind them, and they may give legitimate insight into future performance. A quarterback who was much more efficient when his star receiver was in the lineup is probably a split that means something. A running back who averages more yards per carry when a mobile quarterback is in the game is probably a real effect. A receiver who dealt with injuries in the second half of the season may play like he did in the first half the following year once he’s healthy.”

Splits do indeed happen. Just because Roethlisberger is on the road this week doesn’t mean you should automatically fade him. Fade him if there’s better value somewhere else (which I think there is this week). And the reason to play him last week had nothing to do with the Steelers being at home; it had everything to do with them facing the worst secondary in the league. Simple math: the best offense taking on the worst defense. Start the quarterback.

Perhaps the best process is to determine which split stats the crowd is most likely to use to confirm their bias (such as odd numbered weeks), and fade accordingly.

Quarterbacks

Cam Newton - $8,900

Under no circumstances should you start Newton on the road.

Just kidding. What gives me pause about Newton is his notable lack of fantasy points this season. He ranks sixth among quarterbacks in points per game, but outside of Week 2, when he embarrassed the 49ers on his way to a 30-point QB1 performance, he has averaged below 13.5 points per contest. Some of this has to do with the defenses he has faced. Week 1 he went to Denver. Week 3 he hosted the Vikings. Then in Week 4 he left with a concussion and Derek Anderson promptly dished out another 14.88 fantasy points in Newtown’s absence. So there’s a lot of optimism that he will come out and torch one of the worst defenses in football assuming he returns to take on the Saints.

But it’s also worth considering that the Panthers’ offense just isn’t very good. They are now 1-4 as a team despite having every opportunity to beat the Buccaneers last Monday night. Newton is the second most expensive quarterback on the board, sandwiched between Tom Brady—who’s a much safer player for an extra $100—and Aaron Rodgers—who’s next on this list. Fading him could be a huge mistake given his matchup which, by the way, may not be as sexy as you think. The Saints have allowed only five passing scores all season and are 18th in yards allowed. Perhaps this defense has turned a corner.

If Newton crashes and burns, he’ll take a lot of lineups with him.

Aaron Rodgers - $8,800

Like Newton, fading Rodgers could be a huge mistake. But he hasn’t exactly painted a picture of consistency this year (or last year, for that matter). Here are his weekly finishes so far:

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

FD Points

23.56 18.42 26.4 bye 17.86

Rank

QB7 QB16 QB5 bye QB13

Price

9000 8700 8900 bye 9100

FD Value

2.6x 2.11x 2.92x bye 1.96x

His worst ranking on the season is QB16, which at least reassures his floor. But when you spend 14.6 percent of the salary cap on a quarterback, he needs to swing tournaments. So far, it looks like there’s a 50/50 shot of that happening with Rodgers.

And it’s not like he has a super great matchup this week. The Cowboys’ defense isn’t good. It’s just a touch below mediocre at best. But their offensive game plan has been executed perfectly. They rank second in time of possession, meaning they’re controlling the clock and limiting the chances for offenses to score (thanks, Ezekiel Elliott). It also explains why they’ve allowed the ninth fewest points per game to opposing teams. They’ve yet to allow a 100-yard receiver, a 100-yard rusher, and the most FanDuel points any quarterback has scored is 22.16 (Andy Dalton in Week 5).

Now for the caveats. Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the game. All of those defensive stats above could easily be torn to shreds by a capable quarterback. The Cowboys have been able to manufacture positive game scripts because they haven’t faced a truly good offense yet this year. So I don’t think fading him completely is a wise decision. But if you’re paying up for a quarterback, Brady, Roethlisberger, Brees and Russell Wilson are superior options.

Alex Smith - $6,800

Time for more split stats!

The Raiders have one of the worst defenses in the league and should be our target every single week. They’ve paired their league-high 1,690 passing yards with the fourth most touchdowns and the second most FanDuel points allowed. I get why people will be all over Smith this weekend.

But there’s a reason why DFS sites don’t automatically inflate a player’s salary despite a positive matchup. Smith has fooled us in these situations many times in the past, including this year. He has already faced three of the league’s worst passing defenses (Chargers, Jets and Steelers) yet is averaging just 16.13 points per game. Nearly 45 percent of his total season points came in Week 1 against the Chargers. That’s actually good news as it suggests that given the right matchup, he can be tremendous value. But here’s the thing about the Raiders defense: their schedule over the first five games was against some of the greatest offenses in the league. Here are the teams they’ve faced and where those teams rank in points per game:

Saints (4th) Falcons (1st), Titans (24th), Ravens (23rd), and Chargers (2nd)

In the two games where they faced a below average offense, they allowed a total of 37 points. The Chiefs rank 20th in points per game, the majority of which came against the Chargers in Week 1.

Look, Smith represents great value this week. Even if he finishes with right around his 16 points per game average, it’s not a total loss given his salary. But I’m firmly on paying up for a quarterback this week and seeking value elsewhere.    

Running Backs

Todd Gurley - $7,900

I’m a purist when it comes to the running back position. I believe running backs are still imperative to success in both real and fantasy football. I believe in drafting a running back in the first couple of rounds and building receivers around him. I believe Gurley is one of the best backs we’ve seen in recent years and is stuck in an awful situation.

I also believe that paying up for running backs in order to secure volume and clarity is better than taking shots on cheap options who get erased by game scripts. But this is a tough week to fit in Gurley. I won’t bore you with stats. You know he’s the workhorse for the Rams. You maybe even know that the Lions have allowed only one touchdown all season to running backs and it went to Ryan Mathews last week (still no rushing touchdowns allowed). I will, however, simply say that for $7,900, you’re better off with Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Christine Michael, Carlos Hyde, and maybe even Jordan Howard.

Theo Riddick - $6,600

I can’t imagine Riddick having tons of exposure this weekend but maybe that’s because I can’t imagine exposing a lot of my lineups to him. The Rams’ defense shouldn’t scare anyone away. They’ve allowed the 13th most FanDuel points per game to running backs and have so far surrender five rushing scores. The matchup isn’t threatening. What is threatening is the inability of the Lions to run the ball, and the fact that Riddick isn’t made to be any team’s workhorse. He’s great in a complimentary role as a great receiving threat who has the ability to create yards and make splash plays. Asking him to carry the load isn’t what he’s built for. And now he’s dealing with an ankle injury. Easy fade.

Wide Receivers

Julio Jones - $8,500

It’s been a tough season for Jones’ owners. Week 4 was great; he single-handedly won matchups. But then Week 5 happens and he barely registers in the box score. Apparently the Broncos have a really good defense.

So do the Seahawks. And reports already suggest that Richard Sherman will shadow Jones. Here’s the thing, I don’t think Sherman can cover Jones effectively in most situations. But in Seattle, where the weather is supposed to be wet and windy on Sunday, things could be much harder for Jones and the entire Falcons’ passing attack. I love his price. But the upside isn’t there this week. His ownership will be down, however, so there’s a bit of contrarian upside if you dare take advantage of it.

Sammie Coates Jr - $6,400

Four drops. In the end zone. Lacerated hand or not, a wide receiver is supposed to catch the football. Coates had a phenomenal day from a fantasy standpoint, but it could have been so much more if he just holds onto a few of those passes that hit him squarely in the numbers.

And it’s not just drops that contributes to his appearance on the fade list this week: it’s the return of Eli Rogers. The only reason Coates has been seeing so much volume is because Rogers has been sidelined. He’s practice in full all week. The Steelers’ receiver situation just got a lot harder to decipher. Add Le'Veon Bell's six or seven targets a game, and you have every reason to leave Coates on the bench. Not to mention the fact that his quarterback has some ugly home/road splits.

Odell Beckham Jr Jr. - $8,300

Beckham finally found the end zone last week on a pass that, had it been ruled out of bounds, would not have been overturned. Thankfully it was ruled a touchdown and our lineups were saved. His volume stats are encouraging. Only five receivers have more targets. But among players with at least 15 targets on the season, his yards per reception rank 41st, and his 52.9 catch percentage ranks 68th. Among the 20 receivers that have at least 40 targets, his 359 yards rank 12th. Logically, the volume he sees should even these numbers out. But how long does that take? We’re five games in and he’s WR26 in FanDuel scoring. At this point last year, he had 31 receptions on 52 targets for 428 yards and three scores (59.6 percent catch rate). Touchdowns aside, that’s not huge drop off in efficiency, but it’s not encouraging either.

Maybe it’s just a matter of Eli Manning hitting the switch. However, the fact that he has a greater completion rate and more yards per attempt than last year suggests a much bigger problem. Perhaps the Giants offense is just bad. Their inability to run the ball suffocates their ability to throw the ball successfully. Football Outsiders has the Giants’ pass blocking ranked sixth, leaving very few excuses for how bad this offense has been. They rank 27th in points per game and 31st in time of possession, despite allowing only 10 sacks on the season.

This week they host the Ravens who have allowed the third fewest passing yards per game and have the fourth highest interception rate thanks to six interceptions versus nine touchdowns. If things are going to turnaround for the Giants, it doesn’t look likely in Week 6. Beckham’s salary is now the lowest it has been since Week 14 of the 2014 season. So I won’t blame you for chasing points while it’s down (also note that various other sites actually raised his salary this week while FanDuel dropped it). But keep expectations and exposure low.

Tight Ends

Martellus Bennett - $6,600

Bennett and Rob Gronkowski combined for 11 catches, 176 yards and three touchdowns last week. The Patriots dual-threat tight end juggernaut is back. And it essentially makes both of their tight ends valuable. It also makes it impossible to determine which one is going to have the best game each week. My money is on Gronkowski this week, but this isn’t a great matchup for either of them. Check out the Bengals’ defensive game logs versus the position:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Jason Witten 5 3 43 0 5.8 5800
Dion Sims 4 1 9 0 1.4 4500
John Phillips 3 2 9 1 7.9 0
Jeff Heuerman 3 1 29 0 3.4 4500
Jesse James 2 3 29 1 10.4 4500
Xavier Grimble 2 2 26 1 9.6 4500
David Johnson 2 1 5 0 1 4500

Quality of opponent, outside of Witten, is quite week. Of course, quality of opponent wouldn’t matter for the Patriots anyway. The good news is with the emergence of Bennett, Gronkowski in theory should see less defensive attention. I don’t know how true that is. I also don’t know how you squeeze in his $8,400 salary and still build a competitive lineup. Nor do I know if Bennett’s Week 5 was a mere outlier. Sample size is not something we have going for us. The best approach is starting Brady and targeting tight ends outside of this game.

Jimmy Graham - $6,900

I actually love Graham’s matchup this week. The Falcons have allowed the second most points per game to tight ends and are tied with the Browns for the most touchdowns (five). But with the weather looking like it will be windy and wet, I wonder just how much scoring we have in this game. And even if the weather turns out to be fine, the best reason to fade him is because both Delanie Walker ($6,700) and Travis Kelce ($6,400) are cheaper, and both have great matchups to exploit.

Defenses

What? No kickers this week? No. No kickers will be mentioned for the rest of the season in this space. Call it a silent protest.

The chalk play at defense this week on the main slate will be far and away the Buffalo Bills ($4,800). They come into Week 6 with fourth most sacks, third most takeaways and have allowed the sixth fewest points per game. They host the 49ers who are switching from Blaine Gabbert to Colin Kaepernick. It’s a rather difficult situation to say no to, unless you think Kaepernick is going to morph into the player he was a few years ago. The only reason to fade them is because you’re going with the Seahawks for the same price.

The team I am going to fade, just like last week, is the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don’t know how popular they’ll be, but even for $4,800, I’d much rather take the chalk and go with the Bills or Seahawks (my top play this week). Also, the Tennessee Titans ($4,700) have this weird dynamic where, since their offense is so bad, their defense isn’t pushed into high volume situations (it helps to have played some crap offenses like the Dolphins, Texans, and Lions), and therefore have allowed the 11th fewest points per game. They also have the third highest interception rate, with six interceptions on 163 attempts.



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