We’re now onto our last sizable slate of the season, which means it’s the last big weekend of NFL action across the DFS industry.
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 it’ll be more of an overview of my thoughts on this set of games.
Carson Palmer ($8,900 on FanDuel) – If I have to choose one quarterback this week, Palmer is the guy. He’s coming off of a few slow fantasy performances but outside of the Week 17 game against Seattle, those performances were attributed to blowouts rather than poor performance. The Packers pass defense had the sixth-best DVOA rating, but Palmer already lit them up for 17.6 FD points with only 25 passing attempts three weeks ago. He’s a core play that is viable in any format.
Cam Newton ($8,700) – While Palmer is my favorite overall option at the QB spot, Newton has the highest ceiling of the group. His matchup with Seattle isn’t a good one (third in DVOA against the pass) so his floor is lower than usual, but his ability to rack up points with his legs keeps his ceiling very high. Seattle does have one of the league’s better pass defenses, but they aren’t bulletproof and playing on the road won’t help.
Tom Brady ($8,600) – Brady finally has his full arsenal available at WR and TE, so it’s time for the Patriots passing game to get going again. Kansas City’s defense does present a problem (fifth in DVOA against the pass), however it’s also tough to beat the Chiefs on the ground, which New England will struggle to do with Steven Jackson and Brandon Bolden. Expect Brady’s volume to remain high and with Gronkowski and Edelman on the field, it’s tough to envision him struggling even in a tough spot. He won’t carry the same ownership percentage as Palmer or Newton, which makes him intriguing in GPPs.
Russell Wilson ($8,400) – I’d also suspect that Wilson will be underowned due in part to the poor performance last week but more so because of the road matchup with the Panthers. Wilson didn’t play well in the meeting between these teams earlier in the year (18-30, 241 yards, 1 TD with 8-53 on the ground) but he was the hottest QB in the league at the end of the regular season. Marshawn Lynch should be back and that does slightly cap Wilson’s TD upside, but he’s still a nice GPP target in this spot.
Peyton Manning ($7,000) – I don’t have a ton of confidence in Peyton’s arm, so let’s hope the time on the bench helped to keep him as close to full strength as possible. He has the best draw of any of the QBs on this slate (PIT allowed the tenth-most FPPG to QBs) and it’s a nice bonus for his fantasy outlook that Pittsburgh’s run defense is strong. He’s not a strong cash game play but I’ll be pairing him up with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in a fair share of GPP lineups.
David Johnson ($8,500) – Not much needs be said about David Johnson. He’s far and away the best option at the RB spot this week and should absolutely not be faded in cash games. There isn’t another RB on this slate that we can confidently assume will see 20-25 touches, and Johnson’s role as an every-down back solidifies his role regardless of the score. He’ll be the most popular RB without a doubt, but this may not be a good spot to try to go against the grain.
Marshawn Lynch ($7,800) – Lynch is listed as probable after missing the Wild Card game against Minnesota. He missed the game after practicing most of the week, so we’ll still need his status to be confirmed, but he’s an upside target assuming he plays. Lynch posted a 17-54-1 line against the Panthers earlier this year and the 12 FD points he recorded in that game is a nice projection for him in this spot. Jonathan Stewart is the preferred play from a $/point perspective, but Lynch should carry a lower ownership percentage and has a higher ceiling.
James White ($6,500) – The Patriots will want to employ a lot of quick hitting passes against the Chiefs pass rush, which is great news for White’s outlook. He’s not a core play since his role fluctuates according to the matchup, but it’s hard to envision either of the Pats “big backs” (Jackson and Bolden) having any real success against this unit. Pairing White with Tom Brady is one of the rare opportunities for you to pair a QB with a RB and they should be a very under-owned duo in tournaments.
Jonathan Stewart ($6,300) – Stewart will return this week after missing the Panthers past three games with a foot injury. Ron Rivera has said that Stewart will handle his usual workload this week so there don’t appear to be any nagging concerns about his injury. Stewart recorded his only multi-TD game when these teams met back in October, rushing for 78 yards and two scores on 20 carries (he added one catch for eight yards). Don’t expect a repeat this week, but Stewart is a safe bet for 16+ touches and comes at a depressed price tag thanks to his injury.
Fitzgerald Toussaint ($6,200) – I prefer Toussaint on full-point PPR sites since he’s the one who will be on the field in passing situations, and Ben Roethlisberger’s injury should feed more short passes in Toussaint’s direction. Toussaint’s receiving totals should only inflate if Antonio Brown isn’t able to suit up, but he’s still a viable GPP target regardless. He also appears to be ahead of Jordan Todman for early-down work and would figure to receive any goal-line work, so the $6,200 price tag is still a bargain.
Kansas City – With Jeremy Maclin looking questionable to play, the Chiefs may not be a viable target in terms of WRs. Maclin may only act as a decoy if he’s healthy and doesn’t draw a good matchup even if he does take the field. Chris Conley and Albert Wilson do make for interesting large-field tournament plays if you are looking for a lightly owned option.
New England – Julian Edelman is the top play on the New England side. His presence basically eliminates Danny Amendola’s DFS value and will also eat into the target count of Brandon LaFell. Edelman is viable in any format while LaFell is only a dart-throw GPP play if you’re feeling really lucky.
Green Bay – Randall Cobb outscored James Jones last week, but I’d expect the tides to turn against Arizona. Cobb will likely end up being shadowed by Patrick Peterson, and judging by Cobb’s 3-15-0 line against Arizona earlier this year, it’s not a matchup he’s looking forward to. Jones will have the more desirable WR/CB matchup and figures to attract more of Aaron Rodgers’ attention. With Davante Adams unlikely to play, Jared Abbrederis will be the #3 WR and is an option as a tournament punt play.
Arizona – Michael Floyd is the Cardinals WR I’ll have the most exposure to this week. Floyd posted a 6-111-0 effort and wasn’t far from adding a touchdown to that line against Green Bay back in December. He’s surpassed Larry Fitzgerald as Carson Palmer’s most dangerous weapon and has shown it by going for 100+ yards in five of his last eight games – Fitzgerald has met that mark once over that span. Given that Floyd is $1,400 cheaper, he’s an excellent play in any format. John Brown also carries a very friendly price tag ($6,700) and he also makes for a strong tournament target.
Seattle – Doug Baldwin isn’t expected to see much (if any) Josh Norman on Sunday, so expect him to be Russell Wilson’s favorite target. Baldwin’s emergence coincided with Wilson’s string of big performances and if Seattle is going to advance to the NFC Championship game, they’ll need both Wilson and Baldwin to step up. Despite not being a big guy, Baldwin has been used a lot in the red-zone since Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham have been out of the picture. Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse are both GPP-only options, and neither is a recommended play.
Carolina – Ted Ginn is the only receiver I’m eying on this side. I’m expecting a lot of Newton’s attention to be focused on Greg Olsen, but Ginn does have GPP appeal given his role as the deep threat in this offense. He appears to be fully healthy considering he’s practiced all week.
Pittsburgh – If Antonio Brown plays, he’ll be the top overall option at the WR spot. He’s a harder sell this week since we don’t know how effective Ben Roethlisberger is capable of being, and it’s not even a sure thing that Brown passes the NFL’s concussion protocol. If his status is still up in the air as of lineup lock on Saturday, he’ll be relegated to GPP-only territory.
Denver – Demaryius Thomas is the most exciting option on the Denver side. He’ll benefit from having Peyton Manning under center considering (he averaged 11.6 targets in Peyton’s eight full games this year compared to 10.8 with Brock) and the Broncos are going to have an easier time moving the ball through the air against this defense. Thomas will be the top overall play at the WR spot if Antonio Brown can’t go. Emmanuel Sanders also receives a slight boost from Peyton’s presence and he’s already thrown up 10-181-1 against his former team this season, so he’s neck and neck with Thomas in terms of DFS value.
Rob Gronkowski ($8,300) – Gronk isn’t a strong cash game play given the matchup (KC allowed the fewest FPPG to TEs this year), but he’ll continue to have the highest ceiling at the position. It’s been awhile since he’s realized that ceiling, but the short slate makes him one of only a handful of viable plays at the TE spot. He’s missed some practice time this week so make sure to stay up on his status through Saturday.
Travis Kelce ($6,600) – It’s surprising to see Kelce sitting above Greg Olsen in terms of price. While he’ll theoretically benefit if Jeremy Maclin is out or limited, it’ll make it easier for the Patriots Defense to key in on him and Kelce doesn’t have a good draw even with Maclin expected to play. He’s the Chiefs best shot at moving the ball through the air, but Kelce is so volatile and Olsen should be even more involved in his team’s game-plan.
Greg Olsen ($6,500) – It’s not hard to tell by now that Olsen is the TE I’ll have the most exposure to. Seattle has a very good pass defense but the TE spot is the one area they’ve had some trouble, and it plays perfectly into the Panthers’ favor. Olsen is clearly their best pass-catcher and Newton looked his way often in the earlier meeting between these teams (7-131-1 on 11 targets). He’s far and away the best $/point target at TE.