Deonte Thompson, two words that will live in infamy in my mind, at least until my next DFS bad beat. I was sitting in second in the 25K Fan Duel Afternoon Only slate contest, and if Thompson doesn’t score that TD against my Buccaneers’ defense, I take home a four-figure payday on FD. Instead, I fall to seventh and take only a few hundred. It isn’t the first time I’ve been bad beat, and it certainly won’t be the last. It comes with the degenerate territory I choose to live within.
This week, we will have our first London game of the season. I’m not sure why the NFL keeps subjecting Britain to the Jaguars. Perhaps, their goal is some sort of Pre-Revolutionary reparations? Against a stingy Baltimore defense, I don’t recommend any part of the Jacksonville offense. Your best hope is that Leonard Fournette plunges a short touchdown. I still won’t be rostering him in any “early slate” contests. Jacksonville’s defense is pretty good as well, so aside from Buck Allen and maybe Joe Flacco I don’t really need any exposure to the Ravens either. The best plays here will be either team’s defense.
Monday night features the Cowboys and Cardinals. These were supposed to be two of the better teams in the league. Unfortunately for both teams, their name-value has far outweighed their actual production. Ezekiel Elliott and Chris Johnson are both in play based on volume, but I’m not excited about either of them. Carson Palmer could take advantage of an underperforming and not-fully-healthy Dallas’ secondary, but he is far from a sure thing. Dak Prescott is not 100 percent, and he may still be shell-shocked from the beating the Broncos gave him last week. If I do put out some Monday Night lineups, I’ll probably have some exposure to Zeke, J.J. Nelson, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. Outside of that, I just don’t see any potential sizeable ROI.
For those playing on FD, I recommend targeting: Ryan Succop, Graham Gano, Will Lutz, Matt Prater or Matt Bryant for your kicker. They are all under $5K and each has the best chance to produce double-digit points.
Most owners will pay up for Denver, Miami, and Pittsburgh. I like all three of them, but would rather veer from the obvious and save some money here. I like taking a flyer on the Browns this week for $0.8K savings on both sites. That said, if I do spend up it will probably be for the Broncos. Cincinnati could also be a sneaky play if Green Bay is missing their top two tackles and their top two WRs again. They are basically league minimum this week and could cause some havoc for Aaron Rodgers and Company.
I don’t love any of the top price quarterbacks this week. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees will all be on the outside looking in at my lineups. I don’t hate Derek Carr or Matt Ryan at their price but neither is a must play. Cam Newton would be a must play at his price, if he hadn’t started the season so shakily. There are two mid-priced options that will dominate the scope of my lineups: Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford. If you are looking to save here, I’d recommend dipping even deeper and taking a shot on Andy Dalton righting the ship or Josh McCown playing from behind again.
With only minimal investment at the QB position, I can afford to spend up a little at running back. I will have some exposure to either LeVeon Bell or Kareem Hunt, but doubt I will put a roster together with both of them. If he doesn’t miss the game with his knee issue, Jay Ajayi will be on almost all of my rosters. If Ajayi cannot go, Damien Williams might be the play of the week. He would instantly become a key cog on each of my lineups. I could see pairing either Williams or Ajayi with one of the top two guys, but most of the time I’ll pair them with a pass-catching mid-tier guy such as Theo Riddick, Duke Johnson, Tarik Cohen, Tevin Coleman or Chris Thompson. I could also easily roster another from that group for my DK FLEX.
I’m also not overly excited about any of the top WRs. I don’t hate any of them, but I absolutely love the third-tier guys this week. I will likely roster two of my three WRs from this group: Tyreek Hill, Jarvis Landry, Kelvin Benjamin, Doug Baldwin, Davante Parker and Demaryius Thomas. The next tier is also full of value: Davante Adams, Emmanuel Sanders, Adam Thielen, Martavis Bryant, DeSean Jackson and Jermaine Kearse. One of these guys will be my WR3 and I could also roster my DK FLEX from this group. The perfect value play is Geronimo Allison – but then only if both Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are inactive.
Jack Doyle is found money here against the rotten Browns. Unfortunately, he will also be Hyper-Chalk. I feel that I would rather pay up for Zach Ertz or fade the chalk with Jared Cook. My Blitzed Podcast co-host, Steve Gallo threw out the name Austin Seferian-Jenkins. I don’t know if I have the cajones to steep that low just yet. If I need to go dumpster diving, I’ll probably settle for Ed Dickson.
Here are my recommendations for this week’s price range targets by position.
At DK: $6.2K for either Matthew Stafford or Jay Cutler, $7.7K for Jay Ajayi, $5.5K for one of the pass-catching backs as my RB2, $12K for two of the $6K-range WRs, and another $5K-$5.5K for WR3, $4.5K for my DK FLEX (Duke Johnson, Chris Thompson, DeSean Jackson or Jermaine Kearse), $5K for Zach Ertz, and $3.6K for Denver’s defense.
At FD: $8K or less for Stafford or Cutler, $8.2K for Ajayi, $6K for one of the pass-catching backs, 14K for two of the $7K-range WRs, $6.4K for DeSean Jackson, $6.5K for Zach Ertz, and less than $10K total for kicker and defense.
Prices indicated: Red = Negative Value and Black = Acceptable Value and Green = Great Value
Weekly strategy – I’m going almost all-in on Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford. The exceptions for me will be occasionally paying up for Cam Newton or paying down for Josh McCown or Andy Dalton. I am all-out on Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. If you spend more than 14 percent of your budget here this week, you are asking to lose.
Your Fantasy Four Pack
Matt Ryan, Falcons @ DET ($7100 DK, $8500 FD) The people in Vegas aren’t idiots and they wisely gave this game the second highest point total of the week. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this game finished with the most combined points of any of the contests on the current docket. Detroit is in the bottom half of the league against the pass, despite facing two over-the-hill, under-performing quarterbacks. Imagine what will happen to them when they face a young QB in his prime. We saw what Matt Ryan could do against a questionable defense last week, in a perceived shootout, expect a similar line this week.
Tom Brady, Patriots vs. HOU ($7700 DK, $9400 FD) This game could either be really good for Tom Brady or potentially a sneaky stinker. A lot will come down to the combined health of his receivers and Houston’s secondary. Rex Burkhead, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola are all questionable (not to mention the absence of Julian Edelman). Meanwhile, two of Houston’s best corners: Jonathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson are both questionable for this game. If neither Joseph nor Johnson can play, boost Brady back into decent start territory (despite his high price). However, if two or more of Brady’s questionable weapons are out, I cannot fathom spending this much on him.
Derek Carr, Raiders @ WAS ($6800 DK, $8400 FD) People automatically assume that a passing matchup against the Redskins is unfavorable because of Josh Norman. In reality, it only makes the matchup of a teams’ No. 1 WR against them unfavorable. I’m avoiding Amari Cooper like the plague this week, but Oakland has two very solid supporting WRs (and a pretty good tight end). Derek Carr should produce a reasonably solid line throwing predominantly to Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts and Jared Cook (not to mention Jalen Richard out of the backfield). Considering the price difference, I’d rather start him than Brady.
Cam Newton, Panthers vs. NOS ($6600 DK, $8100 FD) Cam Newton has underperformed to start the season, and he just lost his most reliable red zone receiving threat. Nevertheless, Cam should explode this week against arguably the worst pass defense in the history of football. Through two games, the Saints have allowed nearly 400 passing yards per game and three passing touchdowns per game. If Newton cannot get it done here (and it is no guarantee based on how the season has started), Carolina is in for a long season. That said, I’m expecting a healthy dose of both Kelvin Benjamin and Christian McCaffrey, and I am not opposed to stacking both of them with Cam in this game. Ed Dickson could even be in play as Greg Olsen’s replacement.
Andy Dalton, Bengals @ GB ($5100 DK, $6800 FD) Andy Dalton has also struggled mightily to start the year. Fortunately for him, his understudy doesn’t seem overly anxious to usurp his job. Dalton gets a bit of a reprieve this week against a Green Bay defense that could be lacking a key contributor at each level: Mike Daniels, Davon House and Nick Perry. If you are looking to save money and drastically avoid the chalk, consider a stack of Dalton and A.J. Green. Count on a 275-2 range performance here.
Josh McCown, Jets vs. MIA ($4500 DK, $6500 FD) Now this is a true punt play. Josh McCown should scare you in a Blake Bortles sort of way. Fortunately, he can also reward you in a Blake Bortles garbage-time sort of way. Philip Rivers just tossed for 331-1 against Miami, so we know they are beatable through the air. I won’t expect that sort of total, but 250-2 for nearly league minimum salary sounds pretty appealing to me.
|Duke Johnson Jr.||$4,200||$5,700|
Weekly strategy – At their price, I like both Kareem Hunt and LeVeon Bell but will be hard-pressed to fit both of them into my lineups. The guy I will load up on is Jay Ajayi (or Damien Williams if Ajayi cannot go). There are a ton of popular pass-catchers such as Tevin Coleman, Ty Montgomery, Tarik Cohen and Theo Riddick in the $5K-$6.5K range that will spot fill my RB2 slot. I may also target one of those guys for my DK FLEX. Frank Gore and Duke Johnson (versus each other) are my two favorite punt plays. I’m probably looking at about 28 percent of my budget here, or no more than 39 percent if you include your DK FLEX.
Your Fantasy Four Pack
Jay Ajayi, Dolphins @ NYJ ($7700 DK, $8200 FD) The knee issue is a slight concern, but I still feel confident that Jay Ajayi will play this week. He will be a bonified stud if he is on the field against a Jets’ defense that is giving up over 205 combo yards per game. Ajayi proved capable of topping the 200-barrier by himself last year, and that number (along with a pair of touchdowns) is once again in play. If Ajayi misses the game, Damien Williams is a MUST START. Williams should still be able to approach 125 combo yards and score.
LeVeon Bell, Steelers @ CHI ($8800 DK, $8700 FD) LeVeon Bell had no preseason, so the first two weeks could easily be chalked up to shaking off the rust. It didn’t help his cause that Bell faced one premium defense and another defense that sold out to stop him. Chicago’s defense is considerably better than last year. That said, Jerrell Freeman is out for this game. In addition, his backup is also likely out for the game. I expect Chicago to attempt to shut out Antonio Brown which should offer some shade for Bell. I’m not going to go overboard rostering him, but I will have some exposure to him while his price is this low.
Kareem Hunt, Chiefs @ LAC ($8000 DK, $8300 FD) Kareem Hunt has far outperformed our wildest dreams to start the year. I will be hard-pressed to not get him into some of my lineups this weekend. The only thing holding me back is I expect him to be extremely chalk-y. I’m also a little concerned that he is due for some regression at some point. The Chargers have allowed 120 yards per game to opposing running backs, but they have allowed, by far, the fewest receptions and receiving yards to RBs. Hunt will still end up with over 100 yards and score, but don’t go in expecting his Week 1 numbers.
Ty Montgomery, Packers vs. CIN ($6900 DK, $7200 FD) There has already been talk of cutting back Ty Montgomery’s snaps. I say why bother, if he doesn’t mind the workload. Montgomery will shoulder more of the load this week with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both dealing with ailments. Unfortunately, the Packers’ offensive line is still beset with injuries. These injuries could end up helping Montgomery in the end since Martellus Bennett and Richard Rodgers will stay in and block more. This will lead to more short-yardage passes attempted (Something Aaron Rodgers loves to do) for Montgomery. I’m not envisioning a huge rushing line from Ty this week. That said, if he can haul in seven passes for 50 yards on top of his rushing numbers, he will offer a healthy ROI.
Tevin Coleman, Falcons @ DET ($5300 DK, $5500 FD) Detroit has a very good run defense. What they lack is the ability to defend against pass-catching backs. Through the first two weeks, the Lions have allowed the fourth-most receptions and third-most receiving yards to opposing running backs. What concerns me most is that Tevin Coleman has fallen more into a “second-fiddle” role instead of option 1B. Devonta Freeman got more touches in Week 2 than Coleman has over both games combined. If that trend continues, Coleman’s value will continue to slide. This week will be his best bet to get a touch-bump since Freeman may struggle to run the ball against a team allowing only 2.7 yards per carry.
Duke Johnson, Browns @ IND ($4200 DK, $5700 FD) Speaking of teams that struggle to cover pass-catching backs, may I present to you the Colts. This game could have sneaky over potential since neither team has much of a defense. The injury to Corey Coleman could also open up a few more looks for Duke Johnson. In Week 1, Johnson played a lot of snaps out of the slot. He then followed it up in Week 2, playing less at WR. Johnson’s role will likely be determined by whether Cleveland moves Rashard Higgins outside or if they keep him in the slot. Given regular slot playing time, Duke could amass seven catches and 80 combo yards in this game.
|Odell Beckham Jr.||$8,600||$8,800|
|Terrelle Pryor Sr.||$5,900||$6,900|
|Marvin Jones Jr.||$4,200||$5,900|
|Ted Ginn Jr.||$4,100||$5,800|
Weekly strategy – Any of the big three (Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham or Julio Jones) make satisfactory plays this week. That said, their price tags make them less attractive to me. I also don’t mind A.J. Green – and if you want to stack him with Andy Dalton – that would truly be a bold play against the chalk. Two high-priced guys who will not sniff my rosters are Mike Evans and Jordy Nelson. With so many values in the $5K-$7K (Doug Baldwin, Davante Adams, Adam Thielen, Demaryius Thomas and Davante Parker) range, I’m likely going to roster two from that range and another in the $4K-$6K (T.Y. Hilton, Jermaine Kearse, DeSean Jackson, Mohamed Sanu and Donte Moncrief) range to fill out my WR3 slot. Plan on investing about 35 percent of your budget here. If both Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson end up out, consider either Geronimo Allison or Jeff Janis for pennies on the dollar.
Your Fantasy Four Pack
Julio Jones, Falcons @ DET ($9300 DK, $9300 FD) Julio Jones should have little difficulty succeeding against a Detroit defense which allowed the second most receiving touchdowns last year. His chances will be further improved this week as Detroit could find themselves without their starting middle linebacker and strong safety. With over 100 yards in eight of his last 15 starts, that seems like his floor this week.
Antonio Brown, Steelers @ CHI ($9000 DK, $9000 FD) Chicago has done a solid job of shutting down opposing No. 1 WRs the first two weeks. Julio Jones and Mike Evans have combined for only 11-159-1. Any of these three receivers could post that number themselves on a good week. I’m cautiously optimistic that Antonio Brown does a little better than the other two, but not so much that I’m excited to splurge $9K for him. If Prince Amukamara is unable to go this week it improves Brown’s output, but I still think his production is capped at 7-100-1. That is great for most but just ok for Antonio.
A.J. Green, Bengals @ GB ($8100 DK, $7500 FD) A.J. Green is in a perfect place for an against-the-chalk stack. No one is expecting anything from Andy Dalton, so any output he makes is gravy. Last year, the Green Bay Packers allowed the second-most receiving yards and far and away the most receiving touchdowns to opposing wide receivers. This will be Green’s (and Dalton’s) breakout game for 2017, get in on the action before their prices return to 2016 levels.
Michael Crabtree, Raiders @ WAS ($7400 DK, $7700 FD) I am of the belief that Josh Norman will shadow Amari Cooper this weekend. This should leave Michael Crabtree room to produce his second straight premium line. My only hesitation here is if Cooper is out or limited. In that case, Norman might shadow Crabtree. This is a late game so you might not know Cooper’s exact diagnosis before the start. If Cooper is good to go, I like Crabtree to post 8-85-1 as a floor.
Davante Adams, Packers vs. CIN ($5600 DK, $6800 FD) With both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb limited this week in practice, there is a great chance that Davante Adams will be the featured target of Aaron Rodgers in Week 3. The Bengals have been extremely tough on opposing WRs this year, but Rodgers is a much more reliable quarterback than a rusty and not 100-percent Joe Flacco or Deshaun Watson in his first career start. If Jordy plays, Davante probably posts about 6-60-1, if Jordy is out, Davante could top 100 yards.
DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers @ MIN ($4600 DK, $6400 FD) Xavier Rhodes is one of the top five shutdown cornerbacks in football. Fortunately for DeSean Jackson, Rhodes will be shadowing Mike Evans. Jackson will get to line up opposite human-DPI penalty, Trae Waynes or the ancient corpse of Terrance Newman. Jackson’s price tag is nearly $3K lower than that of Evans, but he should finish with a stronger line. I’d not be shocked to see him finish with six or seven catches and at least 75 yards. In addition, a touchdown is a certainty.
Weekly strategy – This is a fun week to pay up for either Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz. Both will produce big numbers and each is reasonably priced for their expected ROI. Even with fair exposure to those two, I will be more invested in mid-priced options (Jack Doyle, Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, Jared Cook and Jesse James) that should dominate. I could conceivably roll out an Ertz-Cook combo on DK. If I overspend elsewhere, I can cheap-fill with: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Julius Thomas, Ryan Griffin, Cameron Brate, David Njoku or Ed Dickson.
Your Fantasy Four Pack
Zach Ertz, Eagles vs. NYG ($5000 DK, $6500 FD) The Giants were destroyed by tight ends in back-to-back games. They have allowed an average of 6.5-52-1 to their two opponents. You could argue that Zach Ertz (at this point in his career) is better than either Jason Witten or Eric Ebron. Bearing that in mind, Ertz should easily bypass this output. Through two weeks, Ertz has the third-most yards of any wide receiver or tight end. His 13 receptions would rank eighth overall as well. Anything less than 6-65-1 would be a disappointment.
Travis Kelce, Chiefs @ LAC ($6000 DK, $7100 FD) Travis Kelce has topped 100 yards in six of his last nine regular season games. Unfortunately, in one of those nine games he faced the Chargers and was held to just one catch and eight yards. In general, Kelce has struggled versus the Chargers. Over six career starts against them, Kelce has posted an average of only 4.3-44 with zero touchdowns. With the other top tight ends all banged up, you are paying up for Travis’ name and potential. He will still probably approach 7-75, but I cannot honestly expect a touchdown.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings vs. TB ($4200 DK, $5400 FD) Kyle Rudolph leads the league in tight end touchdowns since the start of last season. Even if Case Keenum starts once again, Rudolph will be an active participant in this offense. The Buccaneers have not allowed a ton of tight end scores over the last year plus, but they have given up sizeable yardage to most of the quality tight ends they have faced. These trends suggest that Rudolph could be due for both a score and solid yardage.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots vs. HOU ($6800 DK, $8400 FD) If Rob Gronkowski plays, he is a stud tight end this week with so many other question marks in the Patriots’ offense. What I don’t like about him here is the price tag. The Texans could be without two of their starters in their secondary, increasing Gronk’s potential output. It all comes down to if he can play. If Rob plays the whole game, I expect him to post at least 6-80-1. If he is limited but still plays, Gronkowski should still top 50 yards and a score isn’t out of the question.
Jack Doyle, Colts vs. CLE ($3600 DK, $5300 FD) Cleveland has been brutal at covering tight ends since the early Aughts. Since the start of last year, the Browns have allowed an average of 6.2-69 to the position and they have allowed 15 touchdowns. Jack Doyle established a rapport with Jacoby Brissett last week hauling in all eight of his targets for 79 yards. Expect a similar output this week with at least one score.
Jared Cook, Raiders @ WAS ($3100 DK, $5200 FD) The Redskins have yet to allow a tight end touchdown this season, but they have allowed the most yards to the position – exactly 104 per game. With Amari Cooper both limited and covered by Josh Norman, Jared Cook will see an uptick in his targets. He already ranks third on the team with 5.5 per game. I’m guessing that Cook will split a few yards and catches with his fellow tight ends. That should still be good enough for a line of 6-80.