The Fade: FanDuel Week 8

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

Week 7 of the 2016 season will forever be known as The Revenge of the Chalk. Guys with massive ownership percentages—Mike Evans (31%), A.J. Green (43%), Julio Jones (47%)—provided a combined 74.4 points. Cheap running backs—Jacquizz Rodgers ($5,600), Spencer Ware ($7,000)—provided the cap space so you could get all three stud receivers in one lineup.

But even in a week where the chalk hit (and where several running backs had huge games), it still pays to find contrarian and under owned players. The guy that won the FanDuel $1.5M NFL Sunday Million did just that. He took advantage of Andrew Luck (1.9%) and Melvin Gordon III (4.9%); both had great matchups on Sunday but were overlooked because everyone was on Ware and Matt Ryan (17.1%) (and I’m guessing that the 11.2% of the crowd that started Blake Bortles doesn’t read this column).

Week 8 won’t be as easy in the running back department. There’s basically one major play that everyone is going to be on: Devontae Booker. His $5,600 salary and sweetheart matchup will surely make him the highest owned player in the main slate. The Chargers have allowed the fourth most FanDuel points per game to opposing running backs. In Week 6, C.J. Anderson and Booker combined for only 124 yards, but with the game being in Denver, and Booker having the backfield all to himself, he’ll likely surpass that Week 6 total. I see myself swallowing chalk and plugging him in most of my lineups, then differentiating elsewhere.

General Week 8 Thoughts

The main slate of games is tiny this week, so we’re going to see clustered ownership percentages. Booker, as mentioned, will be the highest owned player. But we can use him and still build unique lineups by targeting games the crowd will ignore.

The Falcons vs. Packers, Buccaneers vs. Raiders, and Colts vs. Chiefs are going to be full of chalk, especially for quarterbacks. This is a good week to plug in a quarterback from the Saints vs. Seahawks or Panthers vs. Cardinals games.

Ty Montgomery is listed as a running back on FanDuel and I love his outlook against the Falcons, who have allowed the most receiving yards and eighth most total yards to the position. Montgomery was drafted as a wide receiver and is going to be the weapon that turns the Packers’ offense around. I can’t say no to his $6,400 salary. So, if you want to go full-chalk at the position, I’m guessing Booker/Montgomery stacks are going to be popular. Their combined salary eats up only 20 percent of the cap, allowing us to get an elite quarterback.     

Quarterbacks

Carson Palmer - $7,300

The Panthers defense is quite friendly to the quarterback position; they’ve allowed the third most FanDuel points per game to passers. Their 13 touchdowns allowed are tied for seventh most. But after playing five grueling quarters Monday night and coming away with a deflating 6-6 tie, you have to think the Cardinals are going to underperform both defensively and offensively. Traveling east is already a difficult task for west coast teams. A short week after a tough game will only make things worse. I doubt Palmer’s ownership is very high come Sunday, but I’ll be fading this entire offense, even though they’ll be forced into a high-volume game.

Matthew Stafford - $7,700

Stafford comes into Week 8 ranked QB4 in total points and QB6 in points per game. He ranks fourth among all passers in both completion percentage and total touchdowns. Can you imagine the season he’d be having if Calvin Johnson was still in the lineup? From a consistency standpoint, Stafford has been reliable. He fell flat in Week 4 against the Bears but has otherwise scored at least 16 points in every contest. This week he travels to Houston to take on a defense that’s been tough to throw on. They’ve allowed the second fewest yards per game and only five touchdowns to three interceptions. Football Outsiders has them ranked as their seventh best pass defense. This could all be quality of opponent related. Here are the passers they’ve faced this year:

Player

Week

Comp

Att

PassYd

PassTD

Int

Rsh

RshYD

RshTD

FantPt

Salary

Trevor Siemian 7 14 25 157 1 0 1 -1 0 10.18 7000
Andrew Luck 6 21 32 252 1 1 7 53 1 24.38 8600
Sam Bradford 5 22 30 271 2 0 2 -2 0 18.64 7400
Marcus Mariota 4 13 29 202 0 1 4 20 0 9.08 7400
Jacoby Brissett 3 11 19 103 0 0 8 48 1 14.92 6200
Alex Smith 2 20 37 186 0 0 2 2 0 3.64 7000
Jay Cutler 1 16 29 216 1 1 2 12 0 12.84 670

Right. Not exactly a hit list of hall of famers. But even Andrew Luck, who is averaging the fourth most FanDuel points per game this season, failed to give us a usable stat line against the Texans. Like Palmer, Stafford’s ownership levels will be forgettable. But even if you’re looking for a contrarian quarterback, there are better plays than Stafford.

Running Backs

David Johnson - $8,700

I have to admit my bias towards Johnson: I honestly think he’s the best running back in the league and there’s no question, barring the unthinkable, that he will be the first overall draft pick next year (I made a case for him being the first overall this year). But this week has me nervous. As mentioned with Palmer, the Cardinals must be exhausted after playing five quarters against the Seahawks defense and scoring only six points. The Panthers’ defense isn’t great, but facing them at home on a short week, pus the west coast team traveling east in an early game narrative, gives me enough pause on the league’s best running back. He had 41 touches Monday night. I can’t imagine what Tuesday morning felt like. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ run defense is their strong spot. They’ve allowed only four touchdowns to rushers and rank 25th in total yards allowed per game. If there’s a game that Johnson is sure to finally look human, it’s this one.

Matt Forte - $7,300

The Jets slugged out a win over a bad Ravens team last week on the back of Forte’s 154 total yards and two touchdowns. It was his second-best game of the season. His best came back in Week 2 when he logged 30 carries and found the end zone three times. On Sunday, he’ll get to tear into a Browns’ defense that’s softer than undercooked brownies. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard leveled them last week with 279 combined yards and two scores—a combined 41.4 fantasy points. So why would we fade Forte?

Remember how he had 30 carries in Week 2? Checkout his game logs in the four games that followed:

Week

OPP

RSH

YD

TD

TARG

REC

YD

TD

FDPts

3 KC 15 65 0 4 2 -1 0 7.4
4 SEA 14 27 0 3 2 16 0 5.3
5 PIT 12 53 0 2 2 7 0 7
6 ARI 9 19 0 3 1 3 0 2.7

He scored 22.4 FanDuel points total until ripping up the Ravens last week. Of course, quality of opponent usually explains these things. The Cardinals and Seahawks are two of the best run-defenses in the league. The Chiefs are no pushovers. He should have destroyed the Steelers but the Jets offense was awful in that game. Maybe that’s the point. The Jets offense can’t be counted on, regardless of who’s at quarterback.

All things being equal, this is a great matchup for Forte and I won’t blame anyone for chasing it. But after touching the ball 34 times last week, don’t be surprised if he splits time equally with Bilal Powell (if he’s healthy) and falls short of expectations.   

Wide Receivers

Amari Cooper - $7,500

The crowd is going to be all over Michael Crabtree so listing Cooper here might be a waste of time. Or maybe calling him out will have a magical effect on his season and he’ll score 35 points. If nothing else, the Buccaneers’ defense, aside from giving up nine touchdowns, has been tough on wide receivers. The fact they’ve given up nine touchdowns should especially push us towards Crabtree over Cooper. But the Bucs have allowed the 27th fewest yards per game to the position. Meanwhile, the Raiders 258.3 receiving yards per game ranks 18th in the league. Vegas is expecting a lot of offense in this game, marking it with the third highest over/under total of the week (49.5 points). Oh, and if you’re wondering why we listen to Vegas, here’s your answer:

Right. The odds makers seem to know a thing or two. That said, if I were a gambler, I’d be tempted to bet the under on this contest. I could be completely wrong. There are a lot of great players in this game that could push it to a 60-plus point total, especially with both defenses being below average. But my fear is that running backs find success in this contest while receivers struggle to hit value.

T.Y. Hilton - $7,800

If your analysis leads you to fading Hilton, then you’re probably doing something wrong. So, I’ll admit it’s risky to list him here and will qualify it by saying that this isn’t a suggestion to fade him completely. More like, limit your exposure. First, the good stuff: The Chiefs have allowed the most FanDuel points per game to wide receivers and the second most yards per game. In general, passers and their subsequent pass-catchers are finding success against this defense. Hilton, who comes into the week ranked as WR3 in FanDuel scoring, should come close to another 100-yard game and will easily match his per-game average of 6.4 catches.

However, it’s sounding like both Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett will be in the lineup on Sunday. That at least suggests Hilton’s volume takes a hit. Furthermore, the Colts’ receivers have accounted for only 32.5 percent of their total fantasy points—the 25th lowest mark among all teams. Meanwhile, the Colts’ tight ends have accounted 19.5 percent of the team’s 615.06 total fantasy points—the third highest rate in the league. All this adds up to Hilton not justifying his $7,800 salary. Andrew Luck, on the other hand, will be a chalk play and worth every penny.

Davante Adams - $6,600

Over the last three weeks only three wide receivers have scored more fantasy points than Adams. He now has 20 receptions, 251 yards and three touchdowns since Week 5. He’ll have a tougher matchup on Sunday than most people might realize. Here’s how they’ve handled wide receivers this season:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Tyrell Williams 7 7 140 0 17.5 6100
Travis Benjamin 7 4 54 0 7.4 6100
Dontrelle Inman 7 3 58 0 7.3 5600
Doug Baldwin 6 4 31 0 5.1 7600
Jermaine Kearse 6 3 35 0 5 4600
Tyler Lockett 6 3 23 0 4 5300
Demaryius Thomas 5 5 49 1 13.4 7700
Emmanuel Sanders 5 7 80 0 11.5 7100
Jordan Norwood 5 2 24 0 3.4 4500
Corey Brown 4 5 48 1 13.3 4800
Kelvin Benjamin 4 3 39 1 11.4 7700
Devin Funchess 4 2 56 0 6.6 5300
Ted Ginn Jr 4 2 14 0 2.4 5900
Michael Thomas 3 7 71 1 16.6 5200
Brandon Coleman 3 7 78 0 11.3 4600
TommyLee Lewis 3 3 43 0 5.9 4500
Brandin Cooks 3 2 13 0 2.9 8100
Michael Crabtree 2 4 31 1 11.1 6200
Amari Cooper 2 5 71 0 9.6 7900
Andre Holmes 2 1 6 1 7.1 4800
Seth Roberts 2 3 25 0 4 5300
Mike Evans 1 5 99 1 18.4 7900
Adam Humphries 1 3 34 0 5.6 4500
Vincent Jackson 1 2 18 0 2.8 5900

Only two players have scored more than 17 points against this defense. If you were to go by that chart alone then you’d immediately dump all of your Packers’ shares. Perhaps that’s not a terrible idea, but I love Aaron Rodgers this week so I can’t recommend it. It’s an odd matchup in that the Falcons are terrible against the run and the Packers are terrible at running. But that was before Ty Montgomery took over as their lead back. Who knows if he’ll get as many snaps as he did last week. Even if he doesn’t, I prefer him to Adams as the cheap way of buying into the Packers’ offense this week. Keep in mind that Adams had an easy matchup against a defense on short rest last week, which resulted in a monster game. He’ll return to his true form against the Falcons, even if Jordy Nelson spends the day in Desmond Trufant’s coverage.

Tight Ends

Martellus Bennett - $5,400

Bennett is nursing an ankle injury that is limiting his play and overall upside. But obviously, the reason to fade him, regardless of ownership, is Rob Gronkowski. Bennett’s games are going to be tough to predict as the season wears on, unless something happens to Gronkowski. Truth be told, I don’t like either player this week but I never want to be the guy that tells you to fade Gronk. The Patriots’ offense isn’t one to fade as they tend to score a lot of points, especially against division rivals. But I’ll be placing my chips on other games.

Travis Kelce - $5,700

Eventually, Kelce has to have a big game. The strength of schedule has been on his side all season, yet he comes into Week 8 with only two touchdowns and ranked 13th among tight ends. The Colts will provide him with another solid matchup. Delanie Walker, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Zach Miller and Hunter Henry all had at least 70 yards against this defense, which also has allowed tight ends to score in back-to-back games. Without a doubt, this a situation where Kelce should shine. But the Chiefs’ offense is grounded. Alex Smith has thrown the ball only 46 times total in the last two games despite his team scoring 26 points in Week 6 and 27 points in Week 7. Their opponent in Week 8 should manufacture more volume, but with the Chiefs ability to run the ball as well as they do, Kelce’s usage isn’t promising. I’d rather pay up and go with Greg Olsen, or punt this position altogether with Doyle or Fiedorowicz.

Defenses

I’m not sure how much of the crowd will pay up for the Denver Broncos ($5,000), I just know that I won’t be joining them. I’m not going to go as far as saying Philip Rivers is a contrarian play (though he looked good against this defense a few weeks ago before things got out of hand), but even if they hold him to a single touchdown—which they’ve done against every passer they’ve faced so far—I have no interest paying their price tag when they’re facing a division rival who happens to have a very competent offense.  

The crowd will probably chase the Jets defense ($4,700) given their price and opponent. The winless Browns are an easy target. But keep in mind that the Jets’ defense is pretty much terrible. They’re great against the run but rank 21st in sack percentage. They’re giving up over 25 points per game. Wide receivers are killing their secondary. Josh McCown, by the way, looks like he’ll be active and if Terrelle Pryor is healthy, I’ll happily put money on the Browns finishing Week 8 with their first win of the season.



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