After a long holiday week, it’s back to the traditional football grind. Bye weeks are over. There is only one Thursday game this week. Therefore, we have a healthy 15 games on the Sunday/Monday slate. It’s a good week to play daily fantasy, so let’s take a look at some quarterbacks and running backs to target (and avoid!) on FanDuel this week.
*Note – FanDuel prices in parentheses
Five to target
1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers ($9,000)
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($9,400)
3. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders ($7,700)
4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ($7,400)
5. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans ($7,100)
Cam Newton takes the cake as the no-brainer top option at quarterback in Week 13. He is the leader of the only undefeated football team in the league, and now they travel to face what has been the worst defense in the league for most of the season. The New Orleans defense offers little resistance at every level, and Newton offers plenty of upside against them. In any fantasy format, Newton is the top quarterback option of the week.
The worry with Tom Brady here is not his talent level, nor is it the matchup this week. In fact, the matchup is as good as one could hope for against the up-tempo Eagles who don’t have much talent in the secondary. The worry is that Brady is missing several offensive weapons. Julian Edelman is out for the season. Rob Gronkowski is likely going to be out this week. Danny Amendola is far from 100%. The one thing that we do know, however, is that Brady will make the best use out of the weapons that he does have available. He is a notch below Newton this week, but Brady is still a fine option.
After a disappointing game against the Lions two weeks ago, Derek Carr rebounded and had a fine day against the Titans last week. He threw for 330 yards and three scores on the day, and he has been a top-eight fantasy quarterback over the last couple of months. The Oakland running game has sputtered all season, and they will likely turn to the air again as they face off against the Chiefs. It’s not the best matchup, but Carr should be a safe mid-range quarterback play.
Everyone knows that Matt Ryan was absolutely dreadful last week against Minnesota, and he has been consistently disappointing all season long. I certainly would not advocate using him in a head-to-head format this week, as there is way too much risk at this point. However, sometimes taking major risks to differentiate from the field is a way to win a daily fantasy tournament. Ryan threw for 397 yards and two touchdowns the first time the Falcons faced the Buccaneers this season, so the upside is there. The Falcons are fighting for their playoff lives, and Ryan just might show up in this one.
If you want to go the cheap route at quarterback, give Marcus Mariota a look this week. Teams simply cannot run successfully against the Jaguars Defense, and we saw San Diego quickly abandon any threat of a running game last week. The same approach could apply to the Titans, who don’t have much of a running game to begin with. Mariota attempted 37 passes last week and tossed three touchdowns, even though he wasn’t very efficient in the process. There are worse ways to go if you take the cheap route at quarterback.
Two to avoid
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers ($8,700)
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($7,800)
The alarm bells are definitely ringing in Green Bay. Their offense is a mess, especially at wide receiver. Davante Adams is having one of the worst seasons of any wide receiver this decade, James Jones is hit-or-miss, and defenses are keying in on slowing down Randall Cobb. It has all led to some frustrating performances for Aaron Rodgers. He cannot be trusted as a top-three option these days, especially against an improving Lions Defense. Detroit won in Green Bay a few weeks back, and now they get the Packers at home. If you are debating about taking Aaron Rodgers, you could certainly argue it in a tournament format. However, it’s much safer to spend the extra $300 to get Cam Newton.
This is not an indictment on Russell Wilson, and I don’t necessarily “dislike” him this week. However, I am “neutral” on him in a tough road matchup against the Vikings. I also think he will be overowned as a result of his fantastic game last week against the Steelers. For those reasons, I think there are better options to target for daily fantasy this week.
Five to target
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings ($9,100)
2. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons ($9,000)
3. DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers ($7,200)
4. Chris Ivory, New York Jets ($7,100)
5. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals ($5,300)
Adrian Peterson is averaging 133 rushing yards over the last four games and he has scored in each one of them. Even against a good Seattle rush defense, Peterson is a strong play, especially in a tournament format. He is a key part of the Minnesota offense and has been more involved in the passing game this season compared to the rest of his career. Fire up “All Day” as high-upside option who will go very much underowned in daily fantasy.
Devonta Freeman has been cleared to play this week, and he should resume his role as the top running back for the Falcons. As I wrote above, they are fighting for their playoff lives and every game is of great importance. While Tevin Coleman ran well last week, he was also a major liability in the passing game. Freeman has more all-around tools and is right there at the top of the list of running backs this week in a favorable matchup against the Buccaneers.
Pittsburgh smartly went with a pass-happy approach against Seattle’s solid rush defense last week, and it worked for the most part as Ben Roethlisberger had a huge day. However, Big Ben was concussed late in the game and might be out this week. In addition, this is a much more favorable matchup for the running game at home against the Colts’ 24th-ranked rush defense. Expect a heavier dose of DeAngelo Williams this week, and get him at the cheaper price tag while you still can.
Chris Ivory always seems to go underowned in daily fantasy because he doesn’t carry a sexy name brand like some other players. However, he is worth a look as the true workhorse back for the Jets. He carried the ball 21 times for 87 yards and a touchdown last week against the Dolphins and gets a generous matchup against the Giants’ 19th ranked rush defense in Week 13. He is a fine mid-range option this week.
With Chris Johnson out for the season and Andre Ellington in doubt for this week, the backfield duties in Arizona will be left to impressive rookie David Johnson. He has a path to major carries and a super cheap price tag. Expect him to be one of the highest owned players this week even against a decent St. Louis front seven. The price tag and the increased workload trump the matchup here, making Johnson a fine play in any format.
Two to avoid
1. Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams ($8,400)
2. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints ($7,200)
Things have gone from great to bad to worse for Todd Gurley and the Rams in recent weeks. Their offensive line is a mess, their quarterback play is atrocious, and their best wide receiver is more of a weapon on the ground than through the air. In other words, teams have started to stack the box against Gurley. Both the Ravens and the Bengals have held him in check, and the Cardinals will likely follow the same game plan. The Rams will likely fall behind in this game, and Gurley has lost some passing down work in recent weeks. This all points to a stay-away for me.
In a game that should follow a similar path, the Saints are large home underdogs against the unbeaten Panthers this week. Mark Ingram is a capable back when he gets a full workload, but that is hard to come by in games where the Saints fall behind. Like Gurley, Ingram loses some passing down work to C.J. Spiller (though Ingram has been more involved in the passing game this year). The Saints Offense is stuck in neutral, and a date with the solid Panther defense isn’t the recipe to turn that around.