The Fade: FanDuel Week 12

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

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.


Cam Newton - $7,800

Every time I list Newton in this section I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure. We all know that on any given Sunday he could pile up a 35-point game and swing tournaments. But this year those games have been few and far between. In five of nine opportunities, Newton has scored 16 points or fewer, and comes into Week 12 ranked 24th in FanDuel points per game. He had the easiest matchup you could ask for last week against the Saints and finished as QB22 with a measly 12.38. Jay Cutler outscored him, which is saying something.

Things are going to be a lot harder this week as he travels to Oakland. The Raiders’ defense has done nothing but improve over the course of the season. Here are their game logs versus quarterbacks:













Brock Osweiler 11 26 39 243 1 1 2 19 0 14.52 6400
Trevor Siemian 9 18 37 283 2 1 0 0 0 16.32 7200
Jameis Winston 8 16 32 180 2 0 3 16 0 18.8 7400
Blake Bortles 7 23 43 246 1 2 5 33 0 15.14 7400
Alex Smith 6 19 22 224 0 0 3 -1 0 8.86 6800
Philip Rivers 5 21 30 359 4 2 0 0 0 28.36 8300
Joe Flacco 4 32 52 298 1 0 1 1 1 22.02 7700
Marcus Mariota 3 17 33 214 0 2 3 22 0 6.76 7700
Matt Ryan 2 26 34 396 3 1 0 0 0 28.84 7900
Drew Brees 1 28 42 423 4 0 2 5 0 31.42 8700

In the beginning, it looked like this was a secondary worth targeting every week. But since Week 6, they’ve allowed the eighth-fewest points to quarterbacks. As always, quality of competition might explain it. The likes of Bortles, Osweiler, Smith and Winston aren’t what we would call elite quarterbacks. So we shouldn’t just automatically assume that the Raiders are any good at stopping quality offenses. But the thing is, Newton’s offense isn’t good. They can’t run the ball. They don’t have a core group of receivers. If you take Greg Olsen out of the game, as the Saints did last week, and Newton struggles to find room with his legs, he basically turns into Cutler. Newton is giving us a bit of a discount with his salary down $700 from last week, but $7,800 is still an expensive chunk for a quarterback that just hasn’t been playing well. I’m staying away.

Drew Brees - $8,600

This is another dangerous call given the propensity for Brees to have monster games at home. The Rams’ defense is coming to town with a rookie quarterback who is making his second professional start. That could lead to extra time of possession for Brees and Co. But I’m not sure the Rams present a must-start situation for him. Only five other teams have allowed fewer points per game to quarterbacks. Outside of Matthew Stafford in Week 6 and Jameis Winston in Week 3, no quarterback as even so much as scored 16 points against this defense.

The Saints do have a projected team total of 26.25 points, and it’s fair to assume a lot of those points will come via the quarterback. But hitting tournament value doesn’t seem likely, especially if the Saints’ defense ends up with a touchdown or two courtesy of Jared Goff. And even if that doesn’t happen, you can bet the Rams are going to run the ball as much as possible, which slows down the pace and limits scoring opportunities for both teams. If I’m paying up at quarterback, I’m going all the way up to Tom Brady and not messing with Brees.

Running Backs

DeMarco Murray - $8,300

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about Murray this week. From a raw stats perspective, the matchup is somewhat difficult as the Bears have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs since Week 6. Overall, they’ve been very stingy to the position in both yards and touchdowns. Some of that has to do with quality of opponent. They’ve had an easy schedule in that department facing poor rushing offenses like Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Detroit, and Jacksonville. Perhaps Rashad Jennings’ performance last week (129 yards and a touchdown) was more of an indicator of how vulnerable this defense is. Murray is largely matchup proof anyway, so it may not even matter.

What does matter is the projected game script of this contest. The Bears will be without their quarterback, their best tight end and their best wide receiver. I would be shocked if they scored more than 14 points. To that end, you could assume that Murray will be utilized as a clock-killer as the Titans build a lead and run the ball to project it. But where he might fall short of expectations is as a receiver, where over 30 percent of his fantasy production has come from this season. What’s worse, if the Titans do grab the lead, they may mix in Derrick Henry more than in previous games. That’s less of a concern but one that needs to be considered. In general, this game doesn’t have the makeup to be a high-scoring affair, which makes me shy. And frankly, I’ll have most of my exposure on David Johnson, Melvin Gordon III and maybe even Jay Ajayi. All three of those players get the same amount of usage as Murray and all three have better matchups.

Spencer Ware - $7,000

The Denver Broncos’ defense is no longer the dominant run-stopping force they once were. Since Week 6 they’ve allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. That bodes well for Ware, who dominates touches and snaps for the Chiefs. Unfortunately, those touches haven’t translated into usable stat lines. Ware has dealt with injuries, to be sure, but he’s failed to score more than 9.5 points in six games this year. The Chiefs’ offense can’t be trusted, especially traveling to face a division rival that, despite struggling lately, still has one of the best defenses in the league. This game has the lowest over/under of the week with the Chiefs projected to score only 18.25—the lowest projected total of all teams. And it’s not like Ware is giving us much of a discount. I doubt he’ll be very popular this weekend. Personally, I’ll be fading him completely, even with the lack of quality plays in the main slate.

Carlos Hyde - $6,800

I love the way Hyde runs the ball when he’s healthy. He showed up last week and made the Patriots, who have typically been hard on running backs, look human as he clobbered his way to 110 total yards. If only the touchdowns were there for him. As it stands, this offense is going to be hard to predict on a weekly basis. Colin Kaepernick is always going to be a threat in the red zone, which limits Hyde’s touchdown potential every week. This week is especially difficult as they travel across the country to face a Dolphins’ defense that has allowed four scores all year and rank 27th in fantasy points allowed per game. They do get pushed around a little from a yardage standpoint, allowing the 10th most rushing yards per game. But in general, this is not a defense I’d feel comfortable playing against. Hyde provides some salary relief and a reasonable floor given his near monopoly of the backfield. However, the 49ers are major underdogs and in a bad spot this week. His upside isn’t enough to throw into GPP lineups.

 Wide Receivers

Mike Evans - $7,900

It’s never comfortable fading elite players, but no matter who you choose, it’s going to be impossible to avoid tough matchups. Especially Evans, who will likely end up in the snares of Richard Sherman for most of the afternoon. Evans turned in a 100-yard performance last week, his second 100-yard game in his last three. He still leads all wide receivers in FanDuel points and is clearly the number one option for the Buccaneers’ offense. In theory, he should be very busy on Sunday as the Seahawks will score a lot of points, forcing Winston and Co. into a high-volume passing attack. But of all the matchups noted in the tweet above, Evans’ is the toughest. He’s also tied to an unreliable quarterback who has a tendency to turn the ball over. I wouldn’t be surprised if Evans found the end zone, but I’ll be limiting my exposure.

Amari Cooper - $7,800

Cooper comes into Week 12 ranked eighth in FanDuel points per game, fifth in receiving yards, sixth in receptions, and 13th in targets. He has a great quarterback who gets good protection, and an offense that spreads the ball around just enough to free him from constant double coverage. The problem is consistency. He has six games with fewer than 14 points this season. Here are his weekly finishes since the season began: WR9, WR45, WR43, WR51, WR3, WR9, WR60, WR1, WR38, WR17.

So even though his stats look appealing, his floor is dangerously low. That said, the Panthers are coming to town with a vulnerable secondary that Derek Carr should have no trouble navigating. Only the Lions have allowed a higher completion percentage to wide receivers. Overall, the Panthers rank ninth in FanDuel points per game allowed to the position. Keeping that in mind, I’ll have a few Raiders stacks with Carr and Cooper, and a few others with Carr and Michael Crabtree, in hopes that this game turns into a shootout. It is worth noting that it has one of the highest over/under of the main slate with the Raiders getting your standard three-point home advantage. Even if I’m concerned about Newton and his offense, it would foolish to ignore the fact that this contest could feature a ton of points. I will have some exposure to Newton, and will stack him with Raiders’ receivers.                     

Julian Edelman - $6,400

In the first half of the season we could just pick a receiver playing against the Jets and be confident that many fantasy points would be returned. But since Week 6 they’ve tightened the screws. They’ve allowed only three touchdowns over that stretch and the ninth fewest FanDuel points. Once again, we need to find some contextual comfort. Here are the receivers they’ve faced in their last five games:








Kenny Britt 10 7 109 0 14.4 6400
Tavon Austin 10 2 19 0 3.9 5400
Brian Quick 10 2 16 0 2.6 4500
Pharoh Cooper 10 1 6 0 1.1 4500
Jarvis Landry 9 3 33 0 4.8 7600
DeVante Parker 9 2 8 0 1.8 5900
Kenny Stills 9 1 11 0 1.6 6000
Andrew Hawkins 8 5 31 2 17.6 4500
Terrelle Pryor 8 6 101 0 15.1 6900
Ricardo Louis 8 2 32 0 4.2 4500
Rashard Higgins 8 1 10 0 1.5 4500
Jordan Payton 8 1 3 0 0.8 4500
Mike Wallace 7 10 120 0 17 6900
Kamar Aiken 7 3 55 0 7 5300
Chris Moore 7 2 11 0 2.1 0
Breshad Perriman 7 1 11 0 1.6 5400
Michael Floyd 6 2 22 1 9.2 6500
John Brown 6 5 54 0 7.9 6600
Larry Fitzgerald 6 6 49 0 7.9 7400
Jaron Brown 6 4 35 0 5.5 4900
J.J. Nelson 6 2 16 0 4.9 4500

We sort of have mixed results. Britt, Pryor and Wallace all cracked the 100-yard mark, suggesting this defense is worth targeting. But then they shut down the entire Cardinals offense. Even Fitzgerald was held below 50 yards, and Landry barely topped 30.

Of course, everything changes when Brady comes to town. That is, unless you look at his last three games in New York (213 pass yards per, two touchdowns and three interceptions). I’m less concerned about that and more concerned that the Patriots will be back to spreading the ball around Sunday, especially if Rob Gronkowski plays. If Gronkowski doesn’t play, Edelman gives me a little more confidence. But I still think we can find a higher volume play even in a week where matchups are difficult to pin. And maybe there’s a chance that Brady’s performance in his last three games in New York—where he averaged 12.3 points per—is a trend that sticks around.

Tight Ends

Antonio Gates - $6,000

Gates comes into Week 12 riding a three-game touchdown streak. In fact, from Week 8 to Week 10 he was the second highest scoring tight end, bested by only Delanie Walker. On average, he is giving us nine FanDuel points per contest and is almost always a safe bet to score. But the Houston Texans present a tough situation. They’ve allowed only two touchdowns to tight ends all season, and only four teams have allowed fewer yards and fantasy points to the position. That wouldn’t normally scare me for a player of his caliber, but when you factor in the potential timeshare with Hunter Henry getting healthy, there is reason for concern. Henry didn’t play much in their last game as he recovers from a knee injury. But when he was on the field it was mostly in scoring situations. One of his two targets resulted in a touchdown. I think we’ll see more of him against the Texans, which makes both tight ends unusable. I’m leaving Gates alone this week and maybe for the rest of the season, especially now that his salary has caught up.

Martellus Bennett - $5,500

I’m a week late on this but don’t start Bennett. Touchdown Tom is returning to form, which means he is going to spread the ball around and can be started without stacking him with anyone. That includes Gronkowski as well, who has returned to practice in a limited fashion this week, and represents the seventh most expensive player on the board in the main slate. I’m fading both Patriots’ tight ends and looking for something a little more reliable and not quite as expensive. Just for the record, the Jets—as bad as their secondary looks—have held tight ends to about 10 FanDuel points per game (ranking 18th among all teams in that category).


A lot of folks are going to load up on the Giants ($4,800) due to the fact that they A) have been playing rock solid defense lately, and B) get the Browns on Sunday. The winless Browns have scored 26 total points over their last three games—dead last in the league. They’ve also allowed the most sacks in the league and the eighth most turnovers. It’s worth noting that the Giants rank near the bottom in terms of sacks and takeaways, but if RG3 ends up starting, I think you have to play the Giants’ defense. You might as well stack them with Rashad Jennings while you’re at it.

The Patriots ($4,900) are the obvious fade for me. As much as I love the fact that they’re facing a turnover machine in Ryan Fitzpatrick, I actually think the Jets’ offense shows up on Sunday, particularly Matt Forte. The Patriots’ defense isn’t very good and has yet to score a defensive touchdown. If I’m going to pay $4,900, I’m locking in the Broncos and not thinking twice about it.  

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