The Fade: FanDuel Week 15

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

Welcome to Week 15, the one in which we freeze. There’s a lot of bad weather coming on Sunday, particularly in Chicago, Kansas City and Buffalo. While precipitation isn’t expected to make much of an appearance, this might be a good week to target dome teams. The Cardinals hosting the Saints is of particular interest to me. And after laying off of David Johnson last week, I’ll be ramping my shares back up to near 100 percent exposure. I like Carson Palmer too, but the Saints, despite facing mediocre talent for most of the season, have allowed 17 total touchdowns to the position and ranked sixth in FanDuel points allowed. They’re especially bad at covering pass-catching backs, having allowed the fourth most receiving yards on 82 targets (16th). Johnson is basically a receiver at this point and with Michael Floyd out of the picture, his ceiling got even better.

There isn’t an abundant supply of great quarterbacks or great tight ends this week, so ownership percentages almost don’t matter. Targeting the Saints/Cardinals game, which has the second highest over/under total on the main slate, makes the most sense. Despite the Cardinals’ defense being one of the best in the league, I think you can make a case for Drew Brees (hereby ignoring his home/road splits) and stacking him against Johnson and one of the Cardinals’ cheap receivers.  

Quarterbacks

Derek Carr - $7,900

If you had Carr on your season-long team and you entered the playoffs last week, your season likely came to an end. He managed only 4.98 FanDuel points and was wildly inaccurate in his worst performance as a pro. We wish it was as simple as blaming his hurt pinky finger but he had no trouble against the Bills the week before. It is possible that the cold weather in Kansas City last week caused the injury to flare up or he could have reinjured the finger at some point in the game, but I’m literally speculating. Which is all we’re left with after such a terrible performance.

This week he travels to San Diego to take on a secondary that since Week 3 has allowed only two quarterbacks to score more than 20 points. One of those was Carr and the other was Marcus Mariota. Otherwise, the likes of Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Andrew Luck have all turned in sub-par performances. The good news is that the Raiders are favored on the road and have a projected team total of 26.25 points. Plus, Carr’s salary isn’t suffocating. So if you want to chase a bounce back game against a rival in a tight division, be my guest. It’s not a bad play. Just be aware that the Chargers would love nothing more than to play spoilers and split the season with the Raiders by handing them their fourth loss.

Aaron Rodgers - $8,500

This one is tough because Rodgers has a ceiling most quarterbacks don’t. Especially against the Bears, whose secondary is typically shredded by elite quarterbacks. Rodgers himself has averaged 23.7 points against this team in his career, with 38 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. There are a couple of concerns, however, that are pushing me away from him.  

The first is his health. He is dealing with calf and hamstring injuries. Now, I don’t doubt he’ll be able to play through the pain and even be nearly 100 percent come game time. But hamstrings are buggy injuries that can flare up at any moment. This added risk at least hinders his ability to run the ball, which in turn limits his ceiling.

The second is the weather. Rodgers has been good in snow games, but this isn’t a snow game. Hopefully by the time they kick off at noon, the temperature will be a couple degrees above zero. Right now, that sounds unlikely. Plus, the wind is supposed be around 10-15 MPH, dropping the “feels like” temperature to somewhere around -15 degrees. In fact, according to CBS Sports, it’s projected to be one of the 10 coldest games in NFL history, and the coldest ever in Chicago. Rodgers has seen his fair share of freezing contests, but add a few lower body injuries to the equation and I’m not sure he’s the quarterback we want this week.

Running Backs

Kenneth Dixon - $5,100

I see the temptation here and I’m betting the crowd is going to rush to his low salary and recent performance. It’s not a terrible idea. Dixon has pushed his way to the top of the depth chart by logging 42 snaps to Terrance West’s 14. More importantly, he out-touched him 19-6 last week thanks to eight catches on a team-high 11 targets. This week he gets a home game against the Eagles, who recently allowed Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson to combine for 25.6 FanDuel points, and Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead to combine for 18.1. The Ravens are favored by 5.5 points in this one and should be able to play slow and clock the ailing Eagles with running backs.

But West isn’t going away, and Dixon has never had more than 13 carries in a single game (he had 11 last week vs West’s two). Dixon’s stat line was inflated because the Ravens were playing the Patriots and losing as expected. He won’t see 11 targets against the Eagles. Perhaps he’ll get more carries, but let’s not forget that West logged a pair of touchdowns two weeks ago against the Dolphins and out-touched Dixon 13-10 in a game the Ravens dominated from the start. If we doubt that they’ll have to ramp up passing to come from behind against the Eagles, then we should doubt that Dixon will inflate his stats with targets, and the committee approach will be back in play. I don’t mind chasing the value he offers as he could be the main goal line back and may even log a pair of touchdowns. But truthfully, I’m just going to keep playing the strategy that’s worked all season, which is paying up for elite runners and not taking risks on unproven rookies.

Tevin Coleman - $6,500

If ever there were a bounce back game in the books for Devonta Freeman, it’s this week against the 49ers. He was completely shut down last week against a tough Rams’ front and was out-touched by Coleman and Terron Ward. But that had more to do with game script than anything. The Falcons destroyed the Rams and made the wise choice to give their lead back a breather. He’ll have no problem going nuts on the world’s worst run defense. What this means for Coleman is a lack of end zone visits. He should still get his standard 10 or so touches, but my money is on Freeman getting the goal line opportunities.

That said, this may be a situation where we can start both running backs. I expect the 49ers to compete solely based on how bad the Falcons’ defense is. So while Matt Ryan might be the chalk play at quarterback, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Falcons elect to run the ball 40 times and check-down to running backs rather than pushing Julio Jones—who is no lock to play. Starting both backs against the 49ers’ run defense will cost us an average of $7,100 per player, automatically creates roster uniqueness, and gives us full access to the worst run defense in the league. The problem, of course, is that means we miss out on the likes of Johnson, Le'Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy. But it’s still worth consideration. By the way, this game not only has the highest over/under total of the week (51.5 points), the Falcons are favored by 14 points, which means they have a projected team total of 32.75 points—easily the highest of any team this season. I’ll roll out that entire backfield with confidence, and may even pump in a power stack of Ryan/Freeman/Coleman.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown - $8,500

No matter what, when you fade one of the best wide receivers in both real and fake football, you are taking a major risk. Brown is an absolute stud and I’m not here to talk you out of him. I’m here to just state the facts, give my opinion on the facts, and simply do my fiduciary duty of saying “maybe this isn’t the week to load your rosters with Brown.”

You probably were a little nervous about it anyway. Over his last four weeks he has logged point totals of 11.6, 29.6, 14.4, and 10.3. Obviously, that 29.6 number is something he is capable of in any game. But the Bengals are no slouch when it comes to defending receivers. They’ve permitted the third fewest FanDuel points per game, have allowed only 11 touchdowns, and have given up an average of 135 yards per game to the position—the third lowest average in the league. Furthermore, Brown’s history against this team, particularly over the last three years, is telling:

Year

Week

Targ

Rec

RecYd

TD

FDPts

2011 10 6 5 86 0 11.1
2011 13 4 2 67 0 8.6
2012 7 8 7 96 0 14.4
2012 16 6 5 97 1 18.2
2013 2 9 6 57 0 8.7
2013 15 6 5 66 1 15.2
2014 14 14 9 117 0 16.2
2014 17 13 7 128 1 22.3
2015 8 11 6 47 1 13.7
2015 14 10 7 87 0 12.2
2016 2 11 4 39 0 5.9

His career average is 13.3 fantasy points. In Week 2 of this year, he managed four catches for 39 yards. Granted, the weather was less than ideal in that game. This week, the weather shouldn’t be too unbearable. It’ll be well below freezing (13 degrees), but the wind shouldn’t be a factor. Either way, you have that whole Ben Roethlisberger home/road splits dynamic to consider. The over/under total in this game is rather low at just 44 points. Both of these defenses are playing well. The Bengals are beat up offensively so the Steelers may just use Bell to slaughter them, just as they did to the Bills last week. Ladarius Green has suddenly emerged as one of the team’s top offensive playmakers. It’s tough to justify Brown this week. That said, if everyone is thinking these same thoughts, he could have lower than average ownership numbers and he is one of the best in the league. Just limit exposure as this one sets up to be low-scoring.

Jordy Nelson - $7,700

Nelson made an appearance in this space last week and, well, we’re on to Chicago. I really could just copy and paste everything I wrote about Rodgers here and move on. The weather in this game is just brutal. To give you an idea, the over/under opened at 44 points. It has since dropped to 39.5 points. That’s significant and it tells us that Vegas is taking the weather conditions very seriously. Granted, the Packers’ point spread has increased from -4 to -5.5, and even -6 on some sites. So keep that in mind. The powers that be like the Rodgers and Co. on the road a lot in a game may end up being one of the coldest in NFL history. Someone is going to score points and Vegas thinks it’ll be Green Bay. That makes sense considering the Bears’ offense. But let’s not overestimate the Packers’ offense either. We’re looking at 15 MPH winds and wind chill of -19. I’ll pass on Rodgers and all of his receivers.

Tight Ends

Delanie Walker - $6,100

As usual, the quality at the tight end position in the main slate is rather ugly. Tyler Eifert is crazy expensive, Travis Kelce might be the best play available, and everyone else is sort of a crap-shoot. So listing Walker as a fade comes with more risk than usual. The Chiefs’ defense seems to have turned a corner now that they’re healthy, and they were already one of the best groups against tight ends. On average, they’re allowing only 6.8 FanDuel points per game to the position, and no, they haven’t been tested against many elite players. But they held Greg Olsen to five catches for 39 yards just a few weeks ago, and haven’t allowed any tight end to score more than 8.5 points.

Factor in a tough defense playing in their home stadium with the wind chill expected to be just a few degrees above zero, and you have a case to leave Walker on the bench. I don’t trust Marcus Mariota at all, especially in freezing conditions. In fact, you can add the entire Titans’ offense to this list. The Chiefs are going to dominate this game. Be sure to give their defense some consideration.

Defenses

Without a doubt, the two highest owned defenses will be the Bills ($5,100) and the Ravens ($4,700). It’s hard to suggest fading either of these teams. If I had to choose, I’d take the Ravens’ discount against a bad Eagles’ offense. Overall, the Ravens have allowed 24th fewest fantasy points. The Bills rank 20th and have a lot more holes defensively. As much as I’d love to target RG3 in a road game, I’d rather have a defense that has proven week in and week out to be a fantasy powerhouse. They come into Week 15 ranked fourth overall.



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