Hello friends, and welcome to this (new) tradition, certain to be unlike any other, the NoTicket Sports Daily Fantasy Football Primer for DraftKings and FanDuel. Each week, the intent of this column will be to breakdown the NFL slate position by position, and provide you with the players that you should be targeting in your cash games and tournaments.
Welcome to Week 13! The article is going to take on a free-flowing approach this week, as I believe there are just too many solid options at each position. Roster construction is particularly interesting this week, and I believe this may be my favorite slate of games of the season so far. Perhaps the most important question you should ask yourself is whether or not you’re playing David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, or both. In order to jam both of these stud running backs into your lineup, you’re going to have to find value at nearly every other position. Which brings us to quarterback. First off, there is a showdown between the Lions and the Saints in the Superdome, which places both Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford firmly in play. Brees has been priced up accordingly for this tasty matchup, but I’ll be doing everything I possibly can to fit him into my cash game lineups. We know very well by now that Drew Brees has a massive floor and upside combination anytime he’s playing at home. While the Lions are running one of the slower paced offenses in the league, they’re going to have to step it up to keep up with Brees and the Saints, which makes Stafford a very intriguing option. I much prefer Brees in this matchup, but I’ll definitely have some shares of Stafford in my tournament lineups.
Moving past the New Orleans game, I’m a big fan of Ben Roethlisberger this week at home facing the Giants. New York’s defense has been steadily improving as the season has progressed, but the Steelers are a nearly unstoppable force at home this season and I like Ben’s chances of continuing that success. On DraftKings, I think it’s imperative to lock Brees into your cash games, but on FanDuel, you can make a case to take the savings with Big Ben if you’re really in need. My favorite tournament stack of the weekend will be jamming in Ben with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, and hopefully finding the value to be able to bring it back with Odell Beckham in the same lineup. This one will be painful for me to type after how badly he burned me (and many others) last week, but I love the spot for Russell Wilson at home against the Panthers’ burnable secondary. Back healthy, Wilson’s rushing floor has returned, and it was on full display last week in Tampa Bay. He couldn’t get it going through the air, but this week, Wilson gets to face this porous secondary of the Panthers, who will also be banged up on the interior missing stud LB Luke Keuchly. I love this bounce-back spot for Russ, and I’ll be looking to pair him with Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin.
Further down the line, I think you can give strong consideration to Colin Kaepernick this week. Pay attention to the weather report for Chicago, as initial reports have snow in the forecast, which would move me off of him. Kaepernick’s salary savings and rushing floor place him firmly in play for cash games, and he’s flashing 25-30 point upside in recent weeks. On DraftKings, Aaron Rodgers is simply too cheap. While the matchup isn’t the greatest on paper, the Texans’ defense has begun to spring some leaks in the secondary, and Rodgers had an absolutely vintage performance in Philadelphia on Monday night. He’s one of my favorite tournament options on DraftKings.
I’m just going to get this out of the way early: I’m jamming both Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson into my cash games. While they are both expensive across the industry, the floors that these two offer week in and week out are far too good to pass up. Both of them are in plus matchups and their teams have two of the highest implied team totals on the board. Considering their involvement in their respective passing games, and the touchdown equity they possess, I think you can lock in a massive floor with these two, and find plenty of value at other positions to fit them comfortably. It’s really that simple for me this week.
In tournaments, however, I think there are plenty of other solid, high upside options to choose from. LeSean McCoy and the Bills will head to Oakland, who have struggled to defend the run all season. Shady’s usage in the Bills’ offense is on par with Bell and Johnson’s respectively, and he offers that multi-touchdown upside that you’re looking for in your tournament lineups. Look for the Bills to continue to feed Shady the ball, involve him in the passing game, and have a high probability of finding the end zone. In the same price range, I think Melvin Gordon and Spencer Ware are both in solid spots. The Chargers should feed Gordon early and often, and they’ve proven that they love giving it to him in the red zone. Spencer Ware should see a usage boost as the Chiefs announced on Saturday afternoon that they would be without WR Jeremy Maclin once again. The Falcons are atrocious versus the run, and were absolutely shredded by David Johnson last week on both the ground and through the air. Moving further down the line, Doug Martin has seen 25+ touches in each of the last two weeks and makes for a fantastic salary saving tournament option. Theo Riddick should be heavily involved in the Lions passing game in the Super Dome this weekend, and makes for a tremendous play on full-point PPR sites. Jordan Howard has plenty of appeal this week as the Bears would like to keep the ball out of Matt Barkley’s hands as much as possible, and the 49ers still offer the worst run defense in football. Jeremy Hill remains in play at a very cheap price against the Eagles this week.
Here come the most interesting decisions of the week. I love the spots that Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and Antonio Brown are in. However, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices if you want to fit in the stud running backs. In cash games, it’s imperative to lock in the safety and the floor that Bell and Johnson provide. In tournaments, you want to maximize your upside, and that upside is usually found at the wide receiver position. Julio has an absolutely gorgeous matchup against the Chiefs at home, Odell and the Giants will be in Pittsburgh for a likely shootout, Mike Evans remains an absolute target monster and will be in an uptempo game against the Chargers, and Antonio Brown is an elite option every time he takes the field.
I’m going to skip ahead (down?) and go straight to the value plays. Dorial Green-Beckham is minimum price on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and has posted back-t0-back solid games. Jordan Matthews is very questionable for this game on Sunday, and if he were to sit, I will be plugging DGB into my cash game lineups as a compliment to paying up for Le’Veon and DJ. On FanDuel, playing DGB will allow you to pay up at both running back spots, quarterback, and also at WR1 if you’re feeling saucy. Marquess Wilson had a fantastic game against the Titans last week with Matt Barkley under center, and he would remain in play this week if the weather is permitting. Anquan Boldin is the main red zone target for the Lions, he’s received 9 targets in each of the last two games, and he gets to play against the burnable New Orleans secondary this week. He’s also extremely cheap across the industry and that makes him very intriguing.
Oh, and there are plenty of solid options in the mid-tier. You have to love Michael Thomas of the Saints and his massive red zone usage in this juicy matchup against the Lions. This rookie has been incredibly impressive, has great chemistry with Drew Brees, and looks like he could have another massive game in this spot. Teammates Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead are also firmly in play in this shootout. Cooks offers some serious tournament appeal as he looks to rebound from his goose egg last week. Both Golden Tate and Marvin Jones of the Lions make for excellent plays this weekend, too. Basically, anyone in this game is appealing this week. Tate and Jones are both incredibly underpriced for this matchup across the industry. Julian Edelman looks to usurp a massive amount of usage with TE Rob Gronkowski set to miss several more weeks with a back injury. He’s Tom Brady’s favorite target and he makes for an excellent cash game option due to the high volume of looks that he’s bound to see.
Thankfully, the tight end position is a bit more streamlined this weekend compared to other positions. If you’re able to pay up, Jimmy Graham is in an amazing spot against the banged up Panthers’ defense at home. Look for Wilson to find Jimmy Graham early and often over the middle of the field, and look his way in the red zone. The Panthers and Seahawks have had some high scoring affairs over the past several years, Vegas projects this weekend’s game to feature plenty of points, and that places Graham firmly in play as the top tier option at the position. Also in this range, I really like Travis Kelce in another likely shootout game against the Falcons. WR Jeremy Maclin has been ruled out, and Kelce was featured heavily against the Broncos last weekend. He’s one of the few tight ends that you can get 100+ receiving yard and multi-touchdown upside from.
If you’re paying down at the position, Vernon Davis is incredibly cheap, has been heavily involved in the offense in recent weeks, and fellow TE Jordan Reed has already been ruled out for this game against the Cardinals. Arizona is very stingy against the tight end position, however, Davis’ involvement in the offense, projected game script, and his rapport with QB Kirk Cousins is too much to overlook at his discounted price. Antonio Gates is another player who threw up a donut last weekend, and I expect Phillip Rivers to find his favorite target plenty in their home game against the Bucs.
As usual, we like to pick on Blake Bortles and the Jaguars, and this week, we get to pick on him/them with one of the elite defenses in the league, the Denver Broncos. Bortles is extremely turnover prone and will be throwing into one of the most stout secondaries in the league this week. Oh, boy. On the flip side, it looks like Denver will be starting rookie QB Paxton Lynch who looked pedestrian at best in his debut earlier this season. The Jaguars D/ST comes insanely cheap across the industry, and they’ve been playing much better as of late, making them an intriguing option. The Ravens remain one of the top defensive units in football and have a solid matchup in a projected low scoring affair against the Dolphins at home this week.
After typing nearly 2,000 words about Week 13, I can now confirm that this is my favorite slate of the season so far. There are so many different ways to take your roster construction this week, and plenty of viable plays at the top and low end of each position. This is a fantastic week to increase your tournament exposure and jam in as many of your favorite plays as possible.
Best of luck in your contests this week, and stay sharp out there.
You can find me on Twitter @_ryanpaulsen for more DFS nonsense.