The Fade, FanDuel: Week 14

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

This is the week. This is the week where I don’t have 100 percent exposure to David Johnson. His price has finally reached the point of limited return. At $9,700, he ties Antonio Brown as the most expensive player this season (Brown cost that much back in Week 6 against Miami and scored 6.5 points). In fact, Johnson’s price is the most of any running back since Le'Veon Bell clocked in at $9,700 in Week 16 of the 2014 season against the Chiefs (he scored 13.7 points).

Fade Johnson completely? No. But this is a week where maybe he’s not required in every single lineup. There’s a couple of things to consider in this matchup as well. First of all, the Dolphins are no slouch when it comes to defending running backs. They rank in the middle of the pack in total yards per game, and they’ve allowed only seven touchdowns to the position all year—only four teams have allowed fewer than seven. But it’s David Johnson so that doesn’t matter. (And the Dolphins aren’t great defensively; they’re just not terrible like his opponent last week.)

What might matter is the weather. It’s early in the week, but as of this writing, it looks like there’s a great chance of rain and a lot of wind. Again, that’s not terrible for runners. However, if you consider that the Cardinals’ entire offense has been less than stellar down the stretch, and you put them on the road traveling east against a decent defense in crappy conditions, the picture starts to look less than appealing. The man has been outstanding this year. And I won’t blame anyone for making room for his nearly unbearable salary (which may level off his ownership, if you care). But perhaps this is the week to cool your exposure. Because at some point, he’s going to score under 15 points (it’s happened only twice this year). I hope that’s not the case, as I desperately need him in season-long playoffs which kickoff for many of us in Week 14. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see him look human against the Dolphins, and sink a lot of tournament rosters who had to go cheap elsewhere to afford his services.  

Quarterbacks

Jameis Winston - $8,200

I’ve had my reservations about Winston all season even though he comes into Week 14 ranked QB11 in FanDuel scoring. He’s at least been consistent having scored 16 points or more in every game since their bye in Week 6, but also no more than 21.8 points over that stretch (against some good and some bad defenses). So you know exactly what you’re getting with him. The problem is his salary is now at the highest it has been in his entire career but his ceiling looks the same. Sure, he gets a Saints defense who have allowed the fourth most yards per game to quarterbacks and the 14th most FanDuel points. Last week, Matthew Stafford dropped 341 yards and a pair of scores on them, and the week before that Jared Goff managed 214 yards and three touchdowns.

Without question, this is a good matchup for Winston and he could certainly put up his best numbers of the season. But the Saints biggest weakness is against running backs; 27.7 percent of the fantasy points they’ve permitted have gone to runners—the ninth most of all teams. Conversely, only 22.1 percent of fantasy points have gone to quarterbacks, which ranks 20th among all teams. Now, I’ll admit, that’s not the strongest correlation in the world and if you have your hearts set on that Winston/Evans stack, I think it’s a fine play. Just be warned that the Buccaneers 33 rushing attempts per game over the last three weeks is the third most. The coaches have vocally stated they want to run the ball better, and now they have a stable of healthy backs between Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Charles Sims—who expected to be activated from IR. Adding more fuel to the running back fire is the fact that the Buccaneers defense, particularly the front seven, has been killer lately. If they continue to play as well as they have over the last few weeks, Drew Brees and Co. might have trouble moving the ball, and the Buccaneers might not need to throw it to keep up.

All things being equal, this game does have the highest over/under at 51 points, and the Buccaneers are favored. So Winston should score some points. I’m just reluctant to consider his pricey salary when I know I can get a better deal and similar production elsewhere.

 Ben Roethlisberger - $8,100

Dare I travel down the dark path of home/road splits whereby we find our beloved Roethlisberger and his propensity to fall flat when not in the comfort of Heinz Field? I do dare, but only because we must consider every angle if we’re to put ourselves in the best possible position. Here are his home/road splits from 2016:

Split

G

CMP

ATT

YD

Y/A

TD

INT

RSH

YD

Y/R

TD

FPT

FPT/G

Road 6 130 216 1398 6.5 8 5 5 8 1.6 1 103.7 17.3
Home 5 136 193 1636 8.5 17 3 3 14 4.7 0 148.2 29.6

That’s quite the difference, and similar to his splits from 2015 (17.1 points on the road vs 27 at home), and 2014 (17.5 points on the road vs 27.6 at home). More concerning than his splits are his recent performances. Despite clocking the Dallas Cowboys for 28.4 points in Week 10, he has slipped to QB16 since Week 8. Now he travels to Buffalo on what could be a windy, snowy afternoon against a defense that, when you remove quarterback rushing points, have allowed the 25th fewest to the position. Now, this isn’t to say that they’re a good secondary. Since Week 8 they’ve allowed the third most FanDuel points. Even Blake Bortles logged 21 (thanks to 81 rushing yards). So Roethlisberger could certainly be in a position to whip up one of his trademark 350-yard, three-touchdown games. And it’s with great concern that I list him in this space. All that to say is don’t fade him completely, but I don’t think he’s a must-play, especially if the Steelers grab the lead and choose to run the ball like they did last week.

Running Backs

Jeremy Hill - $6,900

Similar to Roethlisberger, it’s with great trepidation that I list Hill in this space. The matchup, as everyone knows, is the best you could ask for. I’m not even going to list the Browns’ stats. Instead, I’m just going to go hyperbolic and call them the worst run defense in a decade. If Giovani Bernard were playing, I think a lot of us would be worried about Hill’s ceiling. Bernard isn’t playing, but Rex Burkhead is. He has become a standard fixture in this offense, with snap counts of 38 and 27 over the last two weeks (vs Hill’s 37 and 37). Some of that has to do with Hill’s injuries. He’s no longer on the injury report but I wonder how healthy he is. He got banged up early last week and was clearly struggling throughout the game. Of course, if he’s a full go in practice this week, there’s no reason to believe anything other than him being fully healthy. And if the Bengals take an early lead, there’s no reason to believe that Hill will lose snaps to Burkhead.

But this is the NFL and anything can happen. The Bengals would be double-digit favorites in this one if it were in Cincinnati. But for now, they’re 5.5-point favorites in the second lowest over/under of the week at 43 points. The weather is supposed to be rather nasty as Winter Storm Caly moves her way across the Rockies and into the Midwest. It’s too early to say if snow and wind will impact the passing game in this one. Either way, it sets up for running more than anything. I like Hill to get a ton of work. But I also like Burkhead to get his. For $4,500, the latter makes a nice punt play in GPPs. For $11,400, you could fire up both of them and hope the Browns keep this one close enough to push more catches for the Bengals’ running backs. And if the Bengals do blow out the Browns, it stands to reason that both running backs will hit value. Or, you could go with the process that has worked all season and pay up for running backs. Without the benefit of a flex position, it’ makes sense to not take any risks with runners.

Matt Forte - $7,700

Here’s another back that has a dream matchup but simply doesn’t have the ceiling we need to win tournaments. First, let’s discuss how bad the 49ers’ run defense is. They seemed to have tightened things by limiting Jay Ajayi and even held LeGarrette Blount out of the end zone. But then Jordan Howard brought them back to their knees last week with 117 yards and three touchdowns. That marked the fourth time this season they’ve permitted at least 29 FanDuel points to a single back. In fact, they’ve allowed more points to the position than the aforementioned worst rushing defense in a decade.

Forte could easily log a similar stat line… if this were 2008. He looks slow to me as the season wears on. The Jets’ offense is terrible and they finally pulled the plug on Ryan Fitzpatrick for the season. What that tells me is they’re going to be interested in seeing what Bryce Petty can do in a soft matchup, even if it’s a cross-country trip. Which means more passing and less running. In fact, despite Colin Kaepernick’s flop last week, this game could turn into a lot of offense given how bad both defenses are. The over/under is set at a measly 43.5 points—one of the lowest of the week. I’ll take the over and grab a few Petty shares while I’m at it.

Forte did rip off a big catch-and-run last week. But earlier versions of the running back wouldn’t have been chased down in that situation. If you remove that 40-yard catch, he ends his night with 39 total yards. His touches per game since Week 9 are as follows: 13, 22, 16, and 12. Clearly, the term workhorse doesn’t apply. Of course, he is still a good running back who is reliable in the red zone. He proved he can make bad defenses pay such as in Week 8 against Cleveland (22.8 points), and was even good against an underrated Miami defense in Week 9 (16.2 points). But his salary is $800 more than it was a week ago and is now the highest it has been all season. That seems like bad timing to me, especially when you consider that Bilal Powell is splitting time nearly equally and even surpassed him snap counts last week (28 to 24). Heck, even C.J. Spiller stole three touches in garbage time. I expect the Jets to at least compete in Week 14, but on short rest and a long road trip, I won’t have much Forte.

Wide Receivers

Dez Bryant - $7,800

This is a tough week for wide receivers as no single play stands out as extraordinary. Bryant is in an interesting position given how well he has played recently. The matchup, however, isn’t enticing. The Giants have a tough secondary who recently held Antonio Brown to 54 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps he would have done more damage if the Steelers actually needed him. What worries me is the Cowboys could use the Steelers’ blueprint from last week and run Ezekiel Elliott until he pukes. Le'Veon Bell proved that the they struggle against elite runners.  One way or the other, they’ll have to pick their poison, which could lead to a huge day for Bryant. I’m betting against that as I assume they’ll double-cover him for most of the game.

That said, this game is projected to be high-scoring and it’s always nice to have a hammer in the late game of the main slate. The Cowboys are road favorites and are projected to score 25 points. Surely not all of them will come via Elliott, right? Loading up on this game might be a way to win tournaments. I’ll definitely have plenty of Odell Beckham Jr Jr. But Bryant’s floor scares me. You should have some shares, to be sure. Just don’t go overboard as this game looks like a Cowboys’ trap (I have no sound evidence to back that up other than being a lifelong Cowboys fan).  

Donte Moncrief - $6,400

He scores touchdowns but that’s about it. The Houston Texans’ defense isn’t great, so chasing Andrew Luck and his receivers in a game that will decide who stands alone atop the pitiable AFC South makes a lot of sense. In fact, the Colts have the second-highest projected team total, falling just short of the Buccaneers. But you have to wonder where those points are going to come from. The Texans have allowed only 10 touchdowns to wide receivers all year. Since Week 10 they’ve allowed the 12th most FanDuel points to the position, but on the season, they rank 29th. Moncrief didn’t play when these two teams met in Week 6, which definitely changes the outlook. But no Colts’ receiver scored a touchdown in that contest and Chester Rogers led the team in receiving yards with 63.

Of course, that was then and this is now. Moncrief has a touchdown in every single game since returning in Week 8, which makes Week 2—the week he got injured in the first quarter—the only one in which he didn’t visit the end zone. The problem is yards. Week 1 was his highest receiving output with 64 yards. Since Week 8 he’s averaging just over 40 per game. Which means his floor is dangerously low, considering touchdowns are not a sustainable asset among wide receivers. He could very well score for the seventh time this year. But that’s better for Luck than it is Moncrief, and this feels more like a T.Y. Hilton type of game than anything else. You could also roll out a Colts’ power stack with all three and take full advantage of this entire offense, but I think you’d be better off with Luck/Hilton/Gore than Luck/Hilton/Moncrief.

Jordy Nelson - $7,100

I hate being the guy that writes up both Nelson and Bryant—two of the top end zone threats in the league—as fades, but here we are. At least Nelson gives us some salary relief at $7,100. The Seahawks are coming to town, and although they’re missing some key players defensively, they’re still a tough group that features one of the best cornerbacks in the league. I suspect that corner will be on Nelson for most of the game. Here, by the way, are his game logs versus Seattle:

Yr

Wk

Targ

Rec

RecYd

Yd/Rec

TD

FDPts

2014 1 14 9 83 9.2 0 12.8
2008 6 4 4 42 10.5 0 6.2
2012 3 3 2 19 9.5 0 2.9
2009 16 1 1 17 17 0 2.2

We can remove 2008 and 2009 since that was pre-Richard Sherman. And this chart doesn’t include their playoff matchup in 2014. Nelson managed five catches on eight targets for 71 yards in that overtime loss. It’s also worth noting that all of these, with exception of 2009, were games in Seattle. So at home, you have to like Nelson a bit more. Quite a bit more given the condition of the Seahawks’ defense. But this year’s version of the Packers is untrustworthy. Even though Nelson is the second highest scoring wide receiver since Week 9, he’s also turned in point totals of 10.3, 13.1 and 21.8 over the last three weeks. He’s not as touchdown dependent as Moncrief, but he’s also had some cake matchups against the likes of the Falcons, Colts, Titans, Redskins and even the Eagles—who are overrated as a secondary. Things are going to be harder for him if he’s shadowed by Sherman.

However, I am going to hedge this analysis by saying that the Packers’ defense is quite awful itself. So this game could easily be high-scoring. The Seahawks are road favorites, and we know the Packers can’t run the ball (unless you think a Christine Michael revenge game is in the works). It makes sense to assume that Rodgers will be busy. Picking the right receiver to pair him with is the tricky part. But it’s also possible that both of these offenses flop—something that has happen multiple times this year.  

Tight Ends

Cameron Brate - $5,600

Brate represents decent value at a position that’s hard to peg outside of the top-tier guys. He turned in one of his best performances of his career last week with six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, and is now our sixth highest scoring tight end of the season. His six touchdowns are tied with Delanie Walker for the most in the league. Clearly, Winston loves him some Brate.

He gets a Saints’ defense in Week 14 who have been quite solid against tight ends despite facing some elite players:

Player

Week

Rec

RecYd

RecTD

FantPt

Salary

Eric Ebron 13 4 38 0 5.8 5700
Lance Kendricks 12 4 51 1 13.1 4800
Greg Olsen 11 4 33 0 5.3 7100
Virgil Green 10 2 24 0 3.4 4500
A.J. Derby 10 2 22 0 3.2 4500
Vance McDonald 9 3 84 1 15.9 4500
Garrett Celek 9 4 76 0 9.6 4500
Jimmy Graham 8 3 34 0 4.9 6700
Nick Vannett 8 1 7 0 1.2 4500
Travis Kelce 7 2 24 0 3.4 6300
Demetrius Harris 7 1 10 0 1.5 4500
Greg Olsen 6 6 94 0 12.4 8100
Ed Dickson 6 3 23 1 9.8 4500
Hunter Henry 4 4 61 1 14.1 4500
Jacob Tamme 3 3 28 0 4.3 5500
Larry Donnell 2 4 24 0 4.4 5100
Will Tye 2 2 10 0 2 4900
Clive Walford 1 3 25 0 4 4700

Outside of Vance McDonald, no tight end has scored more than 14.1 points. Greg Olsen tagged them for 94 yards back in Week 6, which is encouraging, but Brate isn’t the No. 1 receiver for his offense like Olsen is for the Panthers. Otherwise, the Saints have faced nearly every elite tight end in the league and have allowed only four touchdowns and an average of 9.9 FanDuel points per game (ranking 17th). A lot of folks are going to chase Brate’s recent performances, which is fine, but I’ll side with my previous analysis that the Bucs intend to run the ball in Week 14, and Mike Evans will be the recipient of Winston’s attention.

Defenses

The crowd is going to jump on the Falcons at $4,700 against Goff and Co. I like that strategy but not with the game in LA. This will be Goff’s second home start of his career, where he’ll be a six-point underdog. It could be that the Falcons come to town and take out their frustration from last week after losing in ugly fashion to the Chiefs. But their defense is horrible at every level. This game may not feature a lot of scoring but I see no reason why the Rams wouldn’t empty their playbook, or at least give Todd Gurley 30 carries in hopes of keeping Matt Ryan off the field. The Falcons do give us a lot of flexibility in salary, but a bad defense is a bad defense. The Saints are also a bad defense and they gave us only seven points at home against the Rams. The Dolphins, a much better defense, gave us only seven points in LA in Goff’s first start. Granted, seven points isn’t necessarily terrible. But it’s not going to swing tournaments and $4,700 isn’t exactly a punt play.



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