Even though we’re through the regular season, FanDuel is still offering up plenty of NFL action this weekend as the playoffs get underway. The first 17 weeks absolutely flew by and I don’t think it’s sunk in that we now have to wait just about eight months for another full slate of football. Sundays are about to become very boring another month from now, so savor the four-game slates while they last!
Since we’re operating on a short slate, the format for this week’s primer will be a little different. We’ll still cover most of the usual departments, but I’ll to try frame things in a way that fits this particular set of games. First up is the RotoGrinders Defense vs. Position page, which gives you an idea of how well certain teams defend a particular position. It’s still worth taking each team’s opponents into account when evaluating DvP ranks, but this is one of the tools I value the most, especially with a full seasons worth of data at our fingertips.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Washington (24th vs. QBs) – Rodgers has the best matchup on the board this week – the only glaring issue with him is that in tournaments, it’s tough to peg who to pair him with. Randall Cobb draws a decent matchup with Will Blackmon out of the slot, but he’s been brutal lately and even with his price falling to $6,600, it’s tough to feel confident in him. James Jones is set to matchup mainly with Quinton Dunbar which according to PFF metrics is the ideal spot for GB WRs, although he’s very volatile. The upside is there with Jones for GPPs, but expect Cobb to be the more popular pairing for Rodgers owners. As for Rodgers himself, he’ll take on a Redskins Defense that surrendered big passing numbers to Kellen Moore, Sam Bradford, Tyrod Taylor and Jay Cutler over the past four weeks, and its obvious Rodgers is far more talented than any of those QBs. I’d expect Kirk Cousins to be more popular in GPPs, so Rodgers gives you a nice ceiling at a very reasonable price and fairly low ownership percentage.
Fitzgerald Toussaint vs. Cincinnati (16th vs. RBs) – The matchup here obviously isn’t ideal, but three of the eight teams playing this week have top five run defenses, so this is one of the better spots on the board. It’s truly a dreadful week to be forced to roster two RBs, as there isn’t even one back that can be rostered with a ton of confidence. If you’re spending up at WR and TE (expect Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Jordan Reed to be very popular), you’ll need to go cheap at RB, and Toussaint looks like the best of the bunch. He’s going to be spelled by Jordan Todman at times, but Toussaint will see the large majority of the work and would presumably handle goal-line duties considering he’s the bigger back. If you’re looking to fade Adrian Peterson and/or Marshawn Lynch, pivoting down to Toussaint is a viable move. He is an interesting tournament fade given that he’ll likely be the most popular of the punt play RBs.
A.J. Green vs. Pittsburgh (31st vs. WRs) – Green has had the Steelers number over the last few years and also had success against this defense in McCarron’s first relief appearance (Dalton was hurt in-game). He’s posted a combined 17-250-2 (on 26 targets) in the meetings between these teams this season, and put up 19-306-1 (on 28 targets) in two games last year. While the Steelers boast one of the best run-stopping units in the league, they are a sieve to opposing WRs and it’s unlikely that changes this week despite McCarron taking over under center. McCarron actually posted a very respectable line against the Steelers in his relief appearance (22 of 32 for 280 yards and 3 TDs) and pairing him with Green in large-field GPPs is a very nice upside play. Green will see a variety of defensive backs since he moves around a lot in formations, but he’ll have the upper hand regardless. I’m really big on Green as a tournament pivot off the likes of Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins.
Heath Miller vs. Cincinnati (8th vs. TEs) – You may be wondering why I’m listing Miller here considering he has one of the tougher matchups on the board – none of the TEs have particularly strong matchups, and Miller has recorded ten catches in each game against the Bengals already this year. Of his 81 targets, 23 of them came against Cincinnati (28% of his season target total), which is a glaring number considering Miller played in 15 of 16 games this year. Twenty of his 60 catches came in those games and it's fairly obvious that the Steelers see something in the Bengals Defense that makes them vulnerable to the TE spot. The Bengals corners have played well this season (sans Dre Kirkpatrick) and a fairly strong pass rush may also lead to the Steelers employing more short passes in Miller's direction. Regardless, it's impossible to ignore Miller this week at cheap price tags across the industry. Jordan Reed is clearly a notch or three above Miller in terms of DFS outlook, but Miller is in the discussion with guys like Tyler Eifert and Travis Kelce this week. Given that Miller's price tag sits a tier or two below Eifert's and Kelce's, he's a viable target in any format if you aren't paying up for Reed. The fact that DeAngelo Williams is unlikely to play only further increases the value of the Steelers passing game.
Since the Targets breakdown won’t be as helpful on a four-game slate, I’m going to go position-by-position and note the players I’ll be targeting and the formats I’ll be targeting them in. I’ll be gearing this more towards tournament plays since that is where the big money is this weekend, but I’ll also mention some of my favorite cash game targets. Any Value Town plays will also be mentioned here.
I’m ignoring Teddy Bridgewater, Brian Hoyer and Alex Smith. Bridgewater is in a brutal matchup in frigid conditions, Hoyer faces a stout KC team that does a great job with ball control, and Alex Smith needs too many things to go right in order to be a GPP-winning player. I’ll list players in order by their FanDuel salaries and won’t mention any that were covered in the DvP section.
Russell Wilson ($8,600) – The sub-zero wind chill expected in Minnesota is a concern, but it may be a little overblown. Cold temperatures haven’t really proven to be much of a nuisance in terms of fantasy production, although these conditions are a little more extreme than usual. Wilson torched this defense just over a month ago and has the highest ceiling at the QB spot this week, so I’m hoping the cold temperatures keep his ownership percentage down. He’s now posted at least 20 FanDuel points in each of the last seven games and has went over 30 FPs on three occasions.
Ben Roethlisberger ($8,400) – I’ve been wrestling back in forth all week on how much exposure I’ll have to the Steelers passing game. They are an elite aerial attack and are probably the most dangerous offense when they are clicking, but they’ll be heavily owned and Cincinnati has stifled Roethlisberger in both games this year. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant have put forth two poor performances each (based on what you have to pay to roster them) which obviously leads to a bad outing for Big Ben. Pittsburgh will have to lean even more heavily on Roethlisberger with DeAngelo Williams out, and volume keeps his floor high on any given week. There is upside to playing the fade in tournaments, but the lack of other options at the position makes it a tougher decision.
Kirk Cousins ($8,000) – Cousins may be more popular than usual in GPPs with Jordan Reed being the clear top option at TE. He’s performed very well at home this year (thanks in part to an easier home schedule) and should come at a lower ownership percentage to that of Wilson or Roethlisberger. Cousins has been great lately regardless of the venue and the lack of a consistent rushing attack keeps his floor a little higher. He’s viable in any format against a middling Green Bay defense.
AJ McCarron ($6,400) – If you are going cheap at QB this week, here’s your guy. McCarron is actually the top dollar per point play at the QB spot according to the RotoGrinders projections, and he has a favorable draw against a Pittsburgh defense he’s already excelled against once this year. Andy Dalton’s injury occurred in the second meeting with the Steelers, and McCarron posted a 22/30-280-2 line in relief. Pairing him up with A.J. Green in GPPs is something I’ll be doing a lot of – Pittsburgh is much tougher to beat on the ground.
This position is as ugly to look at as I can remember. AP is in a bad spot against Seattle, Lynch is fresh off an injury, and most of the other teams in play are rolling with a RBBC approach. This could be the position that makes or breaks you in tournaments.
Adrian Peterson ($8,400) – Peterson carried just eight times for 18 yards and added four receptions for six yards in the Vikings meeting with Seattle in early December. He complained about his lack of work after the game and he should be much more involved if the Vikings are able to keep this game competitive. Game flow is an issue with Peterson because he’s not that involved in passing situations, and Seattle comes in having allowed the least number of FPPG to opposing RBs. He’s definitely viable in tournaments but his ceiling is capped in this spot. The lack of other high-upside options keeps him squarely in play.
Marshawn Lynch ($7,800) – He hasn’t played since Week 10, but Lynch doesn’t appear likely to be limited at all on Sunday. Pete Carroll has said he’ll be a full go and it’s possible he ends up with 20-25 touches with upside for more given the predicted weather. Lynch will be my most heavily targeted RB on the slate which indicates how thin the position is. Minnesota has a strong run unit now that they’re nearing full strength on the defensive side of the ball, so it’s far from a cake matchup for Lynch. Still, Seattle boasts one of the league’s best rushing attacks and Lynch’s touchdown upside is very high.
Jeremy Hill ($6,700) and Giovani Bernard ($5,600) – This matchup plays more into Bernard’s favor, and given that he’s $1,100 cheaper than his counterpart, he looks like the better option of the two. Pittsburgh has allowed the second-fewest FPPG to RBs this year and Hill posted just over 10 FanDuel points combined in his two meetings with the Steelers this year. His workload has increased as we’ve gotten into the latter part of the season and Andy Dalton’s absence doesn’t hurt his cause, but he’s not a guy I can target confidently. He needs to find the end zone to have any shot at a productive game since he offers next to nothing as a receiver. Bernard isn’t a strong play himself, as he’s been a victim of Hill picking up more work.
Charcandrick West ($6,400) and Spencer Ware ($5,400) – Kansas City’s running game is another tough backfield to figure out. West appears to have the upper hand on work, but Ware is the better candidate for goal-line work and he actually out-touched West 16-14 in the Chiefs’ regular season finale. In a vacuum I’d take West, but if you need to save cap space, Ware is also a viable GPP option. Houston’s run defense isn’t a pushover but the fact that Kansas City is expected to win the game puts game flow in the RBs favor.
Eddie Lacy ($6,000)
James Starks isn’t an option this week, but his presence does muddy the water for Lacy. He’s received 15 or fewer touches in the three games since his outburst against the Cowboys, and he’s certainly not a shoe in to exceed that total on Sunday. With that said, he’s cheap and has one of the better matchups on the board, so there is GPP appeal with Lacy.
Antonio Brown ($9,500) and Martavis Bryant ($6,900) – Both of these guys struggled against the Bengals this year, but it’s tough to hold either of them down for long. Brown has the highest ceiling (and floor) on the slate but will also be very highly owned, so he may not be a bad fade. Bryant has a lot of GPP appeal given that he’s coming off of a few slow weeks. It also doesn’t hurt that he’ll get to run a good portion of his routes against the burnable Dre Kirkpatrick.
DeAndre Hopkins ($8,800) – His matchup with the Chiefs secondary isn’t ideal (Sean Smith and Marcus Peters are both above average CBs), but Nuk is about as matchup proof as they come as long as Houston is consistent in feeding him. He does carry a low floor relative to his price, but he’s got one of the highest ceilings on the slate. I wouldn’t play him across the board but he’ll find his way onto some GPP teams.
Doug Baldwin ($7,300) – Baldwin has been one of the biggest surprises of this season. He’s got 14 receiving TDs to his name, two of which came against the Vikings earlier this year. Marshawn Lynch’s emergence could put a slight damper on his ceiling, but he’s going to remain the most heavily targeted receiver for Russell Wilson and he’s proven his worth in the red-zone. He’s a very solid option at a middling price tag.
Jeremy Maclin ($7,200) – Maclin didn’t practice Tuesday or Wednesday but returned Thursday and will be a full go against Houston. He draws a fairly tough assignment against the Texans secondary, but he’s going to be Alex Smith’s most heavily targeted receiver and should be in the neighborhood of ten targets at the end of the afternoon. His price hasn’t quite caught up to his production yet.
DeSean Jackson ($7,000) – Pierre Garcon isn’t on my GPP radar this week, but Jackson certainly is. Garcon’s production of late has been aided in large part to him finding the end zone in three straight games, as he’s not a volume producer with Jackson and Jordan Reed healthy. Jackson’s role as the deep threat makes him a nice upside target on this week’s short slate.
Randall Cobb ($6,600) and James Jones ($5,700) – Cobb has been a disappointment for basically all of the latter part of the season, and it’s tough to see him posting a big performance Sunday afternoon. His target totals haven’t been nearly as high as most thought they’d be with Jordy Nelson out. Jones on the other hand has had some outbursts, but he’s also been a complete non-factor in other games. Both receivers are playable in tournaments but neither can be trusted in cash games.
Jordan Reed ($7,400) – There isn’t much that needs to be said here. Reed is far and away the top option at the position and is a very tough fade in cash games, but his ownership percentage may be high enough in tournaments to justify fading him in some spots. Since it’s very possible to separate yourself at other spots, Reed is not a guy I’ll be shying away from. He’s very involved all over the field and none of the other options at TE rival his upside.
Tyler Eifert ($6,400) – I won’t have much exposure to Eifert. He’s been a GPP winner on multiple occasions this season, but McCarron is more likely to lean on A.J. Green in this matchup. It’s tough to expect a lot in terms of volume from the Bengals which keeps Eifert’s floor very low. Andy Dalton’s absence hurts him more than it does Green.
Travis Kelce ($6,200) – Kelce has been very inconsistent this year and doesn’t really justify his $6,200 price tag. His big game of the season came back in Week 1 when these teams met, but I’m not expecting a repeat performance. He’s an interesting tournament target, but I won’t have much exposure.
Richard Rodgers ($5,200) – I’ll be paying the extra $400 to roster Heath Miller. Rodgers has slowed down mightily since his Hail Mary reception against the Lions, posting lines of 1-3-1, 1-7-0 and 1-2-0 before “breaking out” for 7-59-1 last week. His ceiling isn’t high enough for me to justify the play.