“How are you doing in fantasy this year?”
It’s a casual question often asked as a form of small talk with family or friends. I always love getting it because I know people are generally making an effort to prove they care about the things I care about. I also know they don’t actually want the bloody details of my four season-long leagues or about the guys I nailed in my drafts, or the waiver wire pickups I totally missed. And they certainly don’t want me to list off all my MFL10 teams or examine this coming week’s salaries on a position-by-position basis.
But I always appreciate the question because it makes me think. Fantasy football takes up a lot my time. It probably takes up a lot of your time too. For me, I have a ton of research to do for the two articles I write for Footballguys. I have my season-long leagues to manage. I have my DFS rosters to manage. And I have a lot of other little things that pile up throughout the weeks like survivor pools, pick-ems, and roundtable discussions. Plus, I like to read other writers and compare their thoughts to mine, though I usually save that for Monday nights after everything is all said and done.
So when someone asks me how I’m doing in fantasy this year, I usually keep it short and change the subject to how well my Cowboys are doing or whatever. But to answer it directly, I’m doing great in fantasy this year. In fact, this might be the most fun I’ve had playing fantasy football. And I think it’s because I took it less seriously. Not that I didn’t put in the same amount of effort. As mention, I spend hours upon hours researching and writing. Even if I didn’t have a space here at Footballguys—of which I’m very grateful—I’d still be putting in those research hours just because I love the game and want to be competitive. I may not translate all that research into coherent sentences and paragraphs, but I’d still make notes.
From a DFS perspective, taking things less seriously meant playing less financially. I’ve never been a high roller or high-volume player and I never want to be one. Playing this professionally isn’t the goal and never has been. I have my modest bankroll and my big dreams of tackling tournaments. I strictly play GPPs and I’ve never won one, but I’ve made a few deep runs that kept me up late and have generally been successful.
That’s the fun I’m referring to. I had a blast chasing GPP titles because I didn’t set the expectation of actually winning (I roll with single entries for the most part). I just want to make my money back plus a little more, and give myself the opportunity to win a life-changing amount of cash. And if I missed the cut, I can sleep at night knowing I’m a low-volume player that doesn’t face huge losses. That’s the approach I took this season, and it was the most fun I’ve had playing DFS since I started in 2013.
Writing this article was also a highlight each and every week. I look forward to the break in my regular routine to come here and slap down somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 words about the sport I love. I hope it was of good service to you. I made some great calls. I made some horrible calls. I sometimes failed to listen to myself and missed on a few players that were the difference between profit and loss. Such is life in fantasy football.
So this is the end of this column. If I’m back next year, it will be under a different format. I won’t be sharing my analysis of the playoffs other than to urge caution in short slates. They can be extremely challenging especially now that they’ll be the only available games. In the meantime, you can always find me on Twitter (handle at the bottom of the page). I don’t tweet nearly as much as I used to. That will probably change during the playoffs as I suffer through another Cowboys’ hype wagon. If your team is still alive, I wish you the best. I hope you had a great season, and I look forward to the challenges of 2017.
General Week 17 Thoughts
As you know, several teams have been eliminated and have absolutely nothing to play for. But we do have some great games in the back half of Sunday. You can expect high ownership for Atlanta vs New Orleans, Detroit vs Green Bay, and Washington vs New York. The challenge is going to be sifting through meaningless games and picking the right players.
For the most part, I think you can be safe in knowing that most coaches are going to play their stars with maybe a few exceptions. But that aside, I’m treating this week’s games like a short slate. I will be loading up on chalk plays between the Falcons, Saints, Packers, Lions and Seahawks. You can still build roster uniqueness by creating lineups around unconventional stacks such as QB/RB or RB/RB from the same team. What you don’t want to do is chase matchups of players who may or may not see the same amount of playing time as a normal regular season game. Greg Olsen, for example, strikes me as one to avoid (spoiler alert).
To get a complete run down of the games and teams that have something to play for, our Clayton Gray has a final look at the NFL playoff picture. There is quite of bit of drama heading into Week 17. Let’s enjoy it, as the end of the NFL season is nigh.
Kirk Cousins - $7,900
Washington needs to win or be very lucky in order to sneak into the playoffs. As such, their offense is worth targeting in GPPs. Cousins comes into the final week of the season as our fifth highest scoring quarterback. But things have sort of fallen off for him down the stretch. He had huge game last week thanks to a pair of rushing touchdowns, which could have just as easily been passing touchdowns, but he was riding a three-game interception streak and plugged point totals of 17.84, 16.96, and 10.7 in Weeks 13-15. Those numbers aren’t terrible. Bu they’re not great either.
Now he gets the Giants, whose secondary has been one of the best in the second half of the season. Since Week 9, no team has allowed fewer points to quarterbacks. On the season, they’ve surrendered only 14 touchdowns to 15 interceptions, and have allowed a 58.4 completion percentage—the second lowest in the league. And that’s against some great quarterbacks:
No passer has managed more than 19.34 points against this defense, which just so happens to be Cousins’ number back in Week 3. It seems the Giants are finally living up to the hype, at least on the defensive side of the ball. They don’t have anything to play for, as their playoff ticket is already punched. But you can bet they’d love to keep a division rival—one that beat them at home 29-27 earlier this season—out of the playoffs. Washington is favored by seven points, which I completely disagree with, but it does put their projected total at 25.75 points—the fifth highest of all teams. Chase that if you want, but his salary is the highest it has been all season and I’ll be chasing a different quarterback.
Matthew Stafford - $8,000
Confession: when I built my first lineups they all had Stafford. This matchup has everything you want: bad secondary, high point total, the division title on the line, a potential first-round bye on the line; everything points to the Lions and the Packers piling on offense in the last game of the regular season. If it were in Green Bay, I’d be off Stafford completely. But in Detroit, you have to make a case for him being one of the best plays.
However, in the “what have you done for me lately” category, we find out Stafford has thrown just six touchdowns since Week 9. In his last three games, he has logged four interceptions and point totals of 18.42, 11.22, and 13.5. Since Week 8 he ranks as QB23 with seven touchdowns to five interceptions. His mediocre play has been saved by a few rushing scores (two in his last three games).
The good news is that the Packers’ secondary has been getting clobbered by opposing passers. Since Week 9 they are allowing nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns per game. Only three teams have allowed more FanDuel points on average. You combine all of that with the probability of Stafford being forced to throw and you at least have a high-volume situation versus a terrible defense. But he’s faced some soft defenses down the stretch and hasn’t produced. Perhaps his finger is bothering him. Perhaps his receivers aren’t getting separation. Perhaps his offensive line is crumbling (eight sacks last three games, four last week—only eight players have been sacked more often). Or perhaps he’s just Matthew Stafford and we should stay away from his QB6 pricing. I’d much rather come up with $800 somewhere and play Rodgers instead, or even a measly $200 for Drew Brees.
LeSean McCoy - $9,100
McCoy was a steal in season-long leagues where he was generally available in the third round or later. He was also a steal in DFS for the first three weeks of the season. In fact, he has been mispriced for the duration up until Week 15 when his salary jumped to $9,000 (he hit that number in Week 7 and naturally got injured). He’s now the second most expensive he’s been all year and the timing couldn’t be worse. The Bills have shut down Tyrod Taylor for the finale in hopes, I guess, of preserving him for next season. Maybe that’s not terrible for McCoy considering Taylor was always a threat to vulture rushing points. But that threat is what kept defenses guessing. The simple fact that EJ Manuel is starting this game makes me nervous about the Bills’ entire offense.
The overall situation makes me even more nervous. Neither the Jets or Bills have anything to play for except pride. The Bills needed to beat the Dolphins last week to keep their playoff hopes alive. They ended up losing in overtime and upper management responded by firing the Ryan brothers. The Jets have been eliminated since Week 6. This game is completely meaningless, and I doubt interim head coach, Anthony Lynn, is going risk McCoy’s health for nothing. I don’t doubt he’ll play. I just wonder how much work he’ll get. I’m not paying his RB3 salary to find out.
Thomas Rawls - $7,400
The only reason Rawls would be on anyone’s radar is because of the juicy matchup. You all know the story of the 49ers defense by now, so I won’t bother dragging you through the stats. Rawls could absolutely destroy this defense if he gets a chance. But he’s either not getting enough touches, or doing very little with the touches he does get. Since returning as the starter in Week 11, he has just 365 total yards on 89 touches and two touchdowns. His point totals over that stretch are 10.3, 3.8, 24.3, 7.9, 4.9, and .8 (left with an injury last week).
There’s not much to hang our hat on here. Even removing last week’s game, he is averaging just 13.5 touches per contest and I’m not so sure he’s all that good of a runner. He doesn’t have the vision to cut through Seattle’s poor blocks and instead just powers ahead as fast as he can. What’s crazy is he’ll probably have two touchdowns in this game. And the game script shouldn’t be an issue as I fully expect a blowout. But my money is on Russell Wilson hogging all the fantasy points. Seattle can still clinch a first round bye with a win and an Atlanta loss. Both teams play at the same time so you can bet they’ll at least push the 49ers around for three quarters. Rawls should get enough action to luck into a decent fantasy day, but given his injury and mediocre production, I’m not so sure I want him as my RB2 regardless of the matchup.
Odell Beckham Jr Jr. - $9,000
Beckham is 128 yards and one reception away from setting career highs in both categories. He’s 84 away from breaking Randy Moss’s record of 4,136 in his first three seasons, and has the potential to end this season with the most yards among all receivers, currently 30 behind T.Y. Hilton.
He also has a date with his nemesis, Josh Norman. If I’m Washington and I’m fighting for my playoff life, I’m shadowing Beckham and instructing Norman to do anything he can to get into Beckham’s head.
Beckham won their last battle but ultimately lost war as the Giants failed to secure a win at home. Honestly, I’m not worried about the matchup. I am worried about the game situation. The Giants don’t have anything to play for other than eliminating a division rival. I’m sure they’d love nothing more than to knock off Washington, but it won’t improve their seeding in the playoffs. So if this game gets nasty—whether that be a blowout in either direction or Beckham losing his cool at any point—I’m betting the coaches will yank him. The last thing the want is for him to either get injured or face a possible suspension because he can’t control his emotions. There are plenty of elite wide receivers in play this weekend that have a lot more at stake.
Tyreek Hill - $6,500
So I know this isn’t fair to do, but if you remove Hill’s 70-yard rushing touchdown last week, and his 68-yard rushing touchdown from the week before, he has a total of 25 rushing yards and hasn’t caught a pass since Week 14 on eight targets. It just goes to show how much of a boom/bust player he is. I don’t doubt his talent. His metrics are outstanding. I simply don’t trust players whose bulk of fantasy points come on big plays each week rather than on consistency. It would be one thing if he was a regular part of the offense. But he has logged snap counts of 25 (45%), 30 (51%), and 28 (37%) over his last three games, which just so happens to coincide with Jeremy Maclin’s return.
The Chiefs have plenty to play for. A win and an Oakland loss hands them the division and a first round bye, which is huge. So if you’re targeting Hill, you at least have that in your favor. You also the fact that the Chargers are giving up a ton of receptions and yards to running backs. If the Chiefs continue to give Hill snaps out of the backfield, it’s certainly possible he puts up some nice numbers. He’s also bigtime threat as a returner. But with the Chiefs on the road against a division opponent that would love nothing more than to spoil the best-case scenario (a first round bye), I’m a little worried this game ends up being low-scoring assuming the Chargers’ defense shows up. Furthermore, with pricing as soft as it is, and with someone like DeAngelo Williams giving us a major discount ($4,500), there’s no reason to go cheap at WR3 ($6,500 isn’t that great of value anyway).
Adam Thielen - $6,500
There are few narratives we could plug here and make the case for Thielen. For one, he’s only 40 yards away from his first 1,000-yard season in three chances. He’s also a restricted free agent next season and I’m sure he’s looking to make a bit more than the league minimum. So it wouldn’t be surprising if he slipped Sam Bradford an envelope of money with a love letter that basically pleads for targets. He had a monster game last week and now has 389 yards and two touchdowns over his last four. Since Week 12, he leads the Vikings’ receivers in targets (trails only Kyle Rudolph for the team lead) and has a 75.6 percent catch rate.
Unfortunately, the Vikings have nothing to play for and the matchup isn’t all that friendly. The Bears have allowed only five receivers to cross the 100-yard mark this season, and have permitted only 13 touchdowns—tying them with four other teams, including Seattle, for the fifth fewest. They’ve been roughed up a few times this season, but it wasn’t that long ago that they held Beckham to 46 yards, and Mike Evans to 66 yards—neither found the end zone. A couple weeks ago, the Colts blanked Thielen (one target, zero catches), something the Bears could easily repeat. All things being equal, I do think he’ll get his 1,000 yards for the year, but I don’t think he’ll get much more.
Greg Olsen - $6,900
At this point, I wonder if Olsen will even play. He hasn’t practiced all week due to an elbow injury, which kept him on and off the field last week. He reached the 1,000-yard mark and with the Panthers well out of contention, it wouldn’t make sense for him to log a massive amount of snaps in a meaningless game. They could potentially play the spoiler role for the Buccaneers who need to win and have five other teams win and have Washington tie in order to make the playoffs. It’s not happening. Don’t pay up for Olsen this week.
Delanie Walker - $6,200
The Texans have been a menace against tight ends this season and even held Walker to 34 yards on two catches back in Week 3. It doesn’t help to have Matt Cassel taking over for Marcus Mariota, whose season tragically came to an end along with the Titans’ season. Cassel did connect with Walker for a score last week, so there is hope. But this is another meaningless game and if I’m paying up for a tight end, I’m going all the way for Travis Kelce or Jordan Reed.
I get the temptation to fire up the Cardinals for $4,700 against the Rams. But their defense just hasn’t been good down the stretch. Since Week 9 they rank 24th overall despite racking up 20 sacks and 10 turnovers. With Jared Goff under center, a defensive score is certainly a possibility. But I’m not counting on the Cardinals for anything in the season finale.
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