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0:00 - General Slate Discussion
2:22 - Quarterbacks
26:01 - Running Backs
40:37 - Wide Receiver
58:05 - Tight End
1:05:40 - Defense
While we encourage you to listen to the podcast to get the full benefit of hearing the discussion and analysis between our experts, below is a written summary of the highlights. Click here for a link to the optimizer and projections.
Unlike last week, there's a slew of attractive quarterbacks in interesting spots. Drew Brees stands out as an attractive option as a heavy home favorite as the quarterback for the team with the highest implied team total on the slate in a matchup against Pittsburgh. He's a safe play, but the question will ultimately come down to whether you can afford the spend.
Despite disappointing results in two of the last three games, Andrew Luck jumps out as a solid source of value, particularly on DraftKings, while on FanDuel, Dak Prescott profiles similarly and is a better value over there. The risk with Luck is that the Colts will attempt to beat the Giants with the running game, where they rank 26th in yards allowed and 31st in rushing touchdowns allowed over their last 8 games. For Dak, it's largely the same story with the Buccaneers ranking 31st in rushing yards allowed an 30th in rushing touchdowns. The Bucs have also greatly tightened up their pass defense recently and now rank in the top-10 in passing yardage allowed. Some of that is matchup based, having faced Drew Brees away from New Orleans, Lamar Jackson, an injured Cam Newton, etc), but they have generally improved.
As a result, it can make sense to travel even further down the pricing scale and roster Nick Foles, who faces a Houston defense with a solid pass rush, but their secondary has allowed the 3rd most passing yards over the last 8 weeks. Foles opens up the opportunity to pay up at running back and/or wide receiver.
Facing Nick Foles is DeShaun Watson, who has interesting matchup against the worst secondary in the NFL over the last 8 weeks. The Texans/Eagles game is one that could result in a shootout and Watson is a natural pairing with DeAndre Hopkins in tournaments, who projects as one of the top wide receiver plays of the week.
Kirk Cousins is another high upside play in a matchup against Detroit that could result in a lot of scoring. The biggest risk to Cousins is the general strategy of the Vikings new offensive coordinator, who seems to be making it a point to focus more heavily on the running game.
Matt Ryan is in a spot that could pay dividends against a poor Carolina secondary, but his road game and the potential unavailability of Julio Jones take away some of his luster (and consequently ownership). He's a fine tournament option.
Sprinkling in exposure to Josh Allen, Mitch Trubisky and Jameis Winston also makes sense in tournaments with each player boosting their overall ceilings with rushing upside. Allen has the highest rushing upside, but Trubisky and Winston have each shown the ability to get around 40 yards on the ground. The latter two are also better quarterbacks, so they can supplement the difference in the passing game.
The running back position is straightforward this week. We recommend paying up for one of Ezekiel Elliot, Christian McCaffrey, and Nick Chubb. Elliot has a dream matchup against a Tampa Bay defense that is allowing 4.8 YPC this season and rank in the bottom 3 of the NFL against opposing running backs over the last 8 weeks. Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey is set for a larger workload with quarterback Cam Newton already ruled out. McCaffrey will ultimately face a stacked box, so his overall efficiency will likely suffer, but he can make up for the difference on volume. Finally, Nick Chubb gets the best matchup of the week against the NFL's worst defense in the Bengals. Chubb is grossly underpriced across the industry. Price will likely be a determining factor for who you play. If you end up paying up at quarterback, rostering Chubb will be slightly easier, but rostering Nick Foles will more easily allow for McCaffrey or Elliot.
From a value perspective, Tevin Coleman and Marlon Mack pop out as high usage running backs priced in the mid-tier that make for natural pairings with the players from the upper tier. The game flow of the Atlanta / Carolina game is one to watch this week as the absence of Cam Newton could move this from shootout to a slower-paced game focusing more on the running game from the two teams. Coleman should see enough volume to return value at a sub-$5K price. Mack is in a nice spot because the Giants defense has been weaker against the run than the pass, so the Colts may opt to use him as a focal point this week.
Alvin Kamara at $7,400 is a nice value, but we'd prefer to have Chubb in the same range, if choosing just one. It is a viable cash game build to roster both to give yourself a more balanced lineup with upside for cash games.
Jaylen Samuels is also an attractive player in the mid-tier as the Steelers are likely to once again be without James Conner. The matchup is very difficult, but the Steelers system will give Samuels enough volume to return on his $6,700 price tag.
Both Todd Gurley and Saquon Barkley have GPP winning upside, but Gurley did not practice Wednesday and could be limited with a knee injury, while Barkley's matchup against Indianapolis is a distant 4th among the expensive backs this week. We prefer Elliott and McCaffrey in cash due to their safer floors, but the former two are certainly acceptable in tournaments.
Both Elijah McGuire and Kalen Ballage are in play as cheap options this week. McGuire has seen steady usage of the last two weeks, while no Frank Gore (and the Miami's inability to trust Kenyan Drake), should equate to more touches for Ballage.
On the high end, rostering one of DeAndre Hopkins or Juju Smith-Schuster will be a strategy this week. Nuk faces the worst secondary in the NFL over the last 8 weeks and draws an individual cornerback matchup against PHI Rasul Douglas, the 97th ranked cornerback according to PlayerProfiler. Smith-Shuster on the other hand has been a much more productive wide receiver on the road than at home this season, averaging 61 yards per game at home compared with 121 yards on the road. Smith-Schuster also draws coverage from Eli Apple compared with Marcus Lattimore, who will cover Antonio Brown. Juju is still cheaper than Brown despite continually out-performing the latter.
In the mid-tier, TY Hilton, Larry Fitzgerald, Alshon Jeffery and Robert Woods are the best options with Hilton continuing to see a huge uptick in usage, while Jeffery once again flashed his strong chemistry with Nick Foles. Meanwhile, Robert Woods will avoid the Patrick Peterson treatment against Arizona in a game that has the second highest implied team total on the slate.
You may need to roster a cheap wide receiver in order to pay up for one running back and one wide receiver, so you'll need to seek value in the $3K-$4K range. Beginning in the $4K range, Robby Anderson and Josh Reynolds are the two safest options for cash games thank to recent surges in their involvement in the passing attack. The only player in the $3K range viable in cash games is Anthony Callaway, whose targets have been inconsistent, but he remains the most talented receiver on the Browns roster and draws a plus matchup against the Bengals.
In tournaments, Davante Adams emerges as an interesting play now that Jamaal Williams, a strong pass blocker, will handle the majority of running back snaps, opening the door for Aaron Rodgers to have a little more time. Adams is currently checking in at very low ownership despite the fact his price is falling and his involvement in the offense is growing, including 12 targets in 2 of his last 3 games. If Adams continues to have ownership projections around 5%, he will be an excellent solo play in GPPs.
Both Vikings receivers are in play this week, but with Darius Slay likely to cover Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen is the better option. He disappointed in Week 15, so recency bias will likely keep his ownership lower than usual.
Taking a stab at Tampa Bay wide receiver roulette is also a strategy that could pay off in tournaments, particularly if you can game stack with the Cowboys and specifically Amari Cooper. DeSean Jackson did return to practice this week, but Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin are the preferred options. It's worth noting Mike Evans is just $6,800, but with much of the passing attack getting spread around, there's not much of a need to have to roster him.
As pure punt plays, both James Washington and Eli Rogers gives you exposure to the highest scoring game on the slate and both players saw involvement in Week 15.
The top spend at the quarterback position is Zach Ertz, who has had back-to-back weeks of "disappointing performances", but continues to see the volume of an upper tier wide receiver. Unfortunately, this slate is not necessarily conducive to paying up for tight end.
On DraftKings, mid-tier tight ends like Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and CJ Uzomah (particularly if Tyler Boyd misses) are all viable options and safe bets to see targets in their offensive wished.
The best strategy, however, may be to pay all the way down to punt pricing by going with Blake Jarwin at $3K. Jarwin has back-to-back weeks with 7 targets and is emerging as one of the best values on the slate in a game that could involve lots of scoring. Jarwin has seen over 50% snap share each of the last two weeks.
Finally, tough coverage by the Patriots on the Bills receivers, could open up the opportunity for a minimum priced Charles Clay. Clay saw 6 targets in his first matcup for 36 yards on 3 catches. Even at that type of production, Clay could repeat that same line and still nearly hit 3x value.
The top overall defensive play this week is the Minnesota Vikings, who rank first in passing defense over the last 8 weeks and are relatively large favorites at -5.5. The last time these two teams faced each other, the Vikings sacked Matt Stafford 10 times.
More than likely, you're still going to need to save more money at defense. From a pure punt perspective, the Eagles are an attractive option as they face a Houston, whose offensive line woes continue to pile up. There's plenty of downside risk, but with no running game (if Lamar Miller is out), the Eagles will be able to better focus their defensive attack on stopping the passing game.
Another min-priced punt are the scrappy 49ers against the Bears. The 49ers aren't a defensive that has many events (sacks, interceptions, etc), but they carry less downside risk against a Bears team that is unlikely to blow out San Francisco on the road.
Other mid-tier defenses to consider include the Cowboys and the Jaguars.