After a relatively straightforward Week 13, we have a more difficult week on tap for us this time around. There aren’t as many obvious value plays this week, and it is a little more difficult to construct a roster.
*Note – FanDuel prices in parentheses
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Five to target
1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers ($9,200)
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($8,500)
3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers ($8,300)
4. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($7,800)
5. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills ($7,500)
The quarterbacks with rushing upside are intriguing targets this week, especially in tournament formats. Therefore, it must start with the quarterback of the lone remaining unbeaten team in Cam Newton. He is always a threat for a rushing score, and his ceiling is sky-high because of that fact. The Falcons have actually been respectable against the pass this season, but they also haven’t faced many quarterbacks of Newton’s caliber. Expect a fine all-around performance here, and the shot at 40-50 rushing yards gives Newton added GPP upside.
In terms of a points-per-dollar option, Russell Wilson is probably my favorite quarterback of the week. The Ravens are extremely vulnerable in the secondary, and Wilson has logged eleven touchdown passes over the last three games. Seattle is taking to the air more often in the absence of Marshawn Lynch, and they will likely do so again with a matchup against a Baltimore team that remains fairly strong against the run. Wilson showed off his rushing upside last week with (surprisingly) his first rushing score of the year, and he is playing his best football of the season right now.
The Steelers are a fun team to target in daily fantasy, because their offense is prolific and their defense isn’t very good. That leads to plenty of high-scoring games. Cincinnati is riddled with injuries in their secondary, and they are solid as a team against the run. Expect Pittsburgh to exploit this with a pass-heavy game plan, and Ben Roethlisberger has plenty of weapons at his disposal. He has 820 passing yards over his past two games, which is an indication that the Steelers will throw as much as they need to in order to win. Some spots have Big Ben ranked as the top overall quarterback this week, and that is not necessarily a stretch.
Is a quarterback with a pulse facing the Saints this week? Yes. Play him. The Saints rank 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game, and now they have to contend with the constantly improving Jameis Winston. The rookie signal-caller is in the midst of a fine first NFL season, and he should be welcoming this matchup with open arms. He is priced as a lower-tier quarterback. That’s a disservice to Winston given his recent results, let alone the matchup with the Saints. Winston is a fine mid-range play at the quarterback spot this weekend.
There are plenty of cheap options at the quarterback position, but Tyrod Taylor is definitely one that catches my eye the most. This is especially true in a tournament context. Like many of the other quarterbacks mentioned, he offers solid dual-threat upside, and he faces a Philadelphia team that has well below-average cornerbacks. The Taylor/Watkins combination is an intriguing play against the Eagles. If this game stays competitive, Taylor could easily pay off as one of the best per-dollar performers at quarterback this week.
Two to avoid
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers ($8,900)
2. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders ($7,200)
What’s going on in Green Bay? The Packers are in full free-fall mode, and their quarterback remains a bit over-priced because of his name value. This is a good matchup against a deteriorating Dallas secondary, but the price tag is simply too high for me. If you are at this level and choosing a “safe” quarterback, guys like Newton, Wilson and Roethlisberger are better options on the dollar this week.
Unlike Rodgers and the Packers, things are going a bit better for Derek Carr and the Raiders. However, they run into their toughest matchup of the season this week as they have to travel to Denver to take on the best secondary in the league. The price tag on Carr is enticing at $7,200, but the matchup is not ideal. Pivot to another option if you are looking to go cheap at the quarterback position in Week 14.
Five to target
1. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($8,000)
2. Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams ($7,900)
3. Shaun Draughn, San Francisco 49ers ($6,500)
4. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers ($6,200)
5. C.J. Spiller, New Orleans Saints ($4,800)
The running back position is a tough one this week, and this may be another week to save at the spot and spend up at quarterback or wide receiver. Reluctantly, Doug Martin deserves a spot at the top of the rankings this week. The Buccaneers have a favorable matchup against the “defense” of the Saints, and Martin has been playing well of late. In fact, what was most encouraging about last week’s game was the 25-carry workload he received. If he gets that type of work again, he should thrive against a poor New Orleans defense that ranks dead last in the NFL against the run.
The Rams are a mess right now. They have nobody to play quarterback, their offensive line has been a disaster in recent weeks, and their defense is bad. Those factors mean the Rams are consistently forced to come from behind, a trait that doesn’t suit them well because they have no quarterback and no wide receivers. Well, there could be change afoot. The Rams fired their offensive coordinator after last week’s disaster, and this game at home against the Lions is essentially a pick’em when we look at the NFL odds board. Expect the Rams to feed Todd Gurley early and often, and he is talented enough to break a big one despite the struggles on the offensive line. He is another fine tournament play with immense upside if the Rams can stay in the game long enough to get Gurley 20-25 touches.
It’s not sexy, but Shaun Draughn is wriggling his way into fantasy relevance. He is playing a huge chunk of snaps for the 49ers and is also capable of catching passes out of the backfield. He also gets a good matchup against the Browns, who rank 31st in the league while allowing 136 rushing yards per game – just one yard per game better than the aforementioned Saints. Draughn is a fine cash game play at $6,500 on FanDuel.
This is the super risk/reward play of the week. Coach Mike McCarthy said that Eddie Lacy has been working very hard in practice and appears to have gotten the message from last Thursday’s benching. The Packers need Lacy to be their feature back, because James Starks is clearly not getting the job done. This is a huge game for the Packers in the NFC North race, and Lacy should be a big part of the game plan. His price is as cheap as it has been all year, and he is a fantastic tournament option in Week 14.
With the news of the Mark Ingram injury, along with last month’s Khiry Robinson injury, the New Orleans running back position is a mess. The good news is that this provides us an opportunity for value in daily fantasy games. It appears as though the backfield duties will be a timeshare between C.J. Spiller and Tim Hightower. There is some bust potential here, but I will side with Spiller as my favorite option. He is the far superior pass-catcher and is much more likely to break a big play. Given a super-cheap $4,800 price tag on FanDuel (cheaper than David Johnson was last week), there’s little risk and plenty of upside with Spiller.
Two to avoid
1. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons ($8,700)
2. Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys ($6,700)
For some reason, Devonta Freeman remains $700 more expensive than any other running back on FanDuel, and that’s simply too expensive given his recent performances. He has faced some injury woes and some tough matchups, and things don’t get any easier this week with the undefeated Panthers on the docket. Give Freeman a pass this week and spend your salary at other spots.
Perhaps the massive workloads from the earlier portion of the season are finally starting to wear on Darren McFadden. In any case, Robert Turbin is starting to see a few more snaps. In addition, the Dallas offense takes a major step backwards without Tony Romo at quarterback. With a road game on tap against a good team, I would suggest avoiding McFadden this week.