If you’re a consistent reader of this article, and take my opinions on fantasy football with any seriousness, I owe you an apology. Last week, I legitimately lit money on fire on DraftKings. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cameron Brate, Bilal Powell, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown…the chalk flopped, and it flopped hard. I was able to salvage some sense of dignity with my teams on FanDuel and FantasyDraft, but I’ve had a sour taste in my mouth all week from how badly my DraftKings teams performed. So, the research process has been strengthened, and I’m ready to wash out that horrendous Week Ten taste that is still lingering.
After an abomination of a week, find no surprise that I’m going to the top of the list with Tom Brady to lead off this article. He’s going to be my quarterback on my main teams on every site this week. While I would normally pause at a quarterback’s situation involving playing in Denver -> bye week -> playing in Mexico City, I trust no one in terms of preparation and process more than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The Patriots stayed in Colorado throughout their bye week and practiced at elevation, and took a very logistical approach to be best prepared to play this game in Mexico City on Sunday. The Patriots have the second highest implied team total on the slate with 30.25, and are playing in the highest over/under total game of the week at 54 points. Both the team total and the over in this game have been hit hard since the opening numbers were released. Brady looked like he flipped the switch in the Week Nine game against Denver, and I expect that to continue this week against the putrid Raiders defense and throughout the rest of the season. Given the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the quarterbacks this week, I feel very confident in locking in Brady into my cash games and using him as my main tournament quarterback.
If it weren’t for serious weather concerns, I would have a lot of interest in Alex Smith. While some interest still remains, MetLife Stadium in New York is expected to see around 20 mph sustained winds with gusts approaching 40 mph. That’s a no-go for the deep passing game. With Sterling Shepard not expected to play as of this writing, I could see this Kansas City wiping the floor with the Giants behind the legs of Kareem Hunt, and severely limiting the upside that Alex Smith may otherwise have. Considering that he’s not too far off in price from Tom Brady across the industry, I’m going to find the extra money to get there, and get (likely minimal) exposure to Alex Smith. I’ve seen considerable talk surrounding Drew Brees this week, and while I do have some interest, it’s tough to get behind a quarterback who has a career-low in passing attempts per game and only has 2 games in which he’s thrown for over 300 passing yards. The Saints are run oriented team now with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. If you’re using Brees this week, you should be fairly confident in Kirk Cousins keeping the Redskins in this game throughout, the Redskins continuing to be stingy with their run defense, and creating a scenario in which Brees will have to continue to throw for 3+ quarters of football. For me personally, I don’t mind a little Drew Brees exposure in tournaments, and I will likely opt to pair him with Michael Thomas (duh), or even Alvin Kamara, who has flashed some serious big play ability after the catch. It should be noted that the Saints are currently sitting with the highest team total on the board right now at 30.75, and this game features the second highest over/under on the slate at 52.
If you’re playing on FanDuel, Carson Wentz is featured on the main slate and remains and excellent, albeit expensive option. The Eagles have the fourth highest team total on the slate, they’ve moved from -3.5 point favorites to -6, and Wentz could be throwing for the majority of the game. We’ve seen this Eagles offense slow down for no team, with Wentz tossing 17 touchdowns across his last 5 games, offering some semblance of a rushing floor, and now facing a Cowboys defense without defensive leader Sean Lee. He’s more expensive than Brady on FanDuel, which will make him a great tournament pivot as a late-night hammer option in Sunday Night Football.
On the other side of the Mexico City game, we have Derek Carr facing the New England Patriots defense which had been repeatedly gashed this season up until recent matchups with a struggling Matt Ryan, aging Phil Rivers, and…Brock Osweiler. I’m not going to shy away from attacking this New England secondary, especially when you consider that Carr and the Raiders have some experience playing in Mexico City in recent years. Carr’s recent yardage totals in his previous three games: 417, 313, 300. I expect that Oakland will need to try and keep pace throughout, which will force Oakland to rely on Carr to carry them in this game. He’s a fantastic tournament pivot that will help you save a little bit of salary, and I love stacking him with one or both of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Hold your nose everybody, because Ryan Fitzpatrick is making another appearance in this article. While he ended up being a bust last week, he gets a fantastic matchup draw against a reeling Miami pass defense that ranks 31st in DVOA. Mike Evans will be returning from his one-game suspension, and I like the idea of paying way down at quarterback in tournaments for differentiation, and to grab very low ownership on a quarterback who burned a significant portion of the DFS world last week.
Given the aforementioned weather news that is set to impact MetLife Stadium and the Chiefs/Giants game, my love for Kareem Hunt truly has no bounds. Yes, he’s going to be arguably the most popular player on the entire slate, but it’s well deserved. While there can be some cause for concern with his ineffectiveness and decreased usage heading into Kansas City’s bye week, the Chiefs are 10 point favorites in a game with weather concerns, and he’s had an opportunity to rest his legs throughout the bye week. Andy Reid is notoriously well known for his post-bye week prowess, and this is a prime spot for Hunt to reemerge against a Giants defense that could be without top run stuffer Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Throw in the fact that the Giants are essentially giving 50% effort on defense for their “head coach” Ben McAdoo, Kareem Hunt will be one of the first players I put into my cash game and tournament teams this week.
Sticking in the high-end of running backs, Melvin Gordon has an excellent matchup at “home” in Week 11 against a Bills defense that is crumbling by the week, and coming off two games where they have been obliterated by opposing backs. As 7 point home favorites against a rookie quarterback making his debut, game script is forever in Melvin Gordon’s favor. The Saints (yes, the SAINTS) ran the ball 24 straight times in Buffalo last week in a straight up decimation, and Matt Forte (yes, MATT FORTE) went for 14 carries, 77 yards, and two touchdowns. While the emergence of Austin Ekeler is a concern, he lost a key fumble late in the game against Jacksonville in Week 10 that ultimately ended up leading to the Chargers losing the game. I think Gordon’s volume should be locked in at 20+ touches and should have a solid chance at finding the box multiple times this week.
As usual, the Saints backfield is firmly in discussion this week as solid plays. Mark Ingram went for three touchdowns against Buffalo last week (and 131 yards), while Kamara chipped in with 106 yards on the ground and a touchdown of his own. Ingram is your play for dependable running volume, with limited pass-catching upside in recent weeks. He’s the guy I’ll be loading into my cash games out of this backfield if I decide to use either, and Kamara is an incredible tournament play due to his pass-catching upside but limited volume. While Kamara has a rushing touchdown in each of the last three weeks, he’s only averaging around ten carries per week and a few catches, which just isn’t enough volume for me to justify using him in cash games at his elevated price tag.
If you’re looking for bankable usage in a horrendous matchup, Todd Gurley is your man. Minnesota allows the 6th fewest fantasy points to the running back position and they’re particularly stingy at home. The Rams high-powered offense is actually an underdog on the road against the Vikings this week, which shows that Vegas has some serious respect for Minnesota at home. If rookie head coach Sean McVay is smart (and he really, really is), I expect Gurley to see his typical volume and to limit the amount that Jared Goff has to do in such a difficult road matchup. Gurley’s price didn’t come down much at all given the matchup, so I will be avoiding him in cash games, but he’s certainly on the tournament radar this week in what should be pretty low ownership.
I won’t lie, I’m keeping a pretty tight corps of running backs this week, so there are only a few others that I’m interested in this week. On DraftKings, Rex Burkhead’s price has refused to budge despite his increased usage against Denver in Week 9. 10 carries, and 3 catches on 3 targets, a rush on 4th and 1, and a goal-line carry, for $3,700? Awfully tempting. I would love to see Mike Gillislee inactive once again this week, but that may not be something we hear about until closer to kickoff. While I’m heavily considering him for the savings in my cash games on DraftKings (NOT FanDuel), he’s certainly a high-variance play as a running back playing for Bill Belichick. Dion Lewis is certainly safer in terms of a carry volume standpoint, but he’s essentially non-existent in the passing game. With Rob Kelley out, Samaje Perine not really much of a factor, I like Chris Thompson is in the uptempo game in the Superdome against the Saints. The Redskins are projected to be trailing pretty heavily by Vegas, which only increases Thompson’s upside as a pass-catching back. He’s a tournament only play for me, but a very strong one at that.
Alright, we have a very strange week in that Mike Evans is the most expensive wide receiver on DraftKings at only $7,900, and Michael Thomas is the only wide receiver above $8,000 on FanDuel (he’s $8,600). Evans is a tremendous play this week coming off his one-game suspension and getting a matchup against a burnable Miami secondary. He should see some opportunities against Xavien Howard who is currently ranked 116th out of 116 qualified cornerbacks according to Pro Football Focus. Eruption spot. Michael Thomas is one of the most dependable wide receivers in football despite an aging quarterback who has his fewest pass attempts of his career so far. Thomas has failed to eclipse 8 targets just once this season, and has failed to find the end zone since Week 4 in London against Miami. As a fan of #TeamRegression, I’m expecting a big game from Michael Thomas soon, and this could be it against a Redskins team that I think will be able to keep pace versus the Saints.
Brandin Cooks has been quietly balling out this season. While we’re used to his playmaking abilities in New Orleans, he’s been used in a different manner in New England, but he remains a focal point of this offense. He’s heavily involved in the short-passing game, but we all know that he has the ability to bust some long touchdown catches, especially in a matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Based on my roster construction builds, I’m not finding Cooks in my cash game lineups, but he’s a great tournament option as a one-off, or included in a Patriots/Raiders game stack. Across the field in this game, I’m certainly interested in both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. While both of them are priced appropriately if not a little more expensive than they should on FanDuel, I think they’re slightly underpriced given the matchup/situation on DraftKings. Cooper has seen 38 targets over his last 3 games and is finally looking like himself. While Crabtree’s target totals have dipped in recent weeks, he’s still the preferred option in the red zone for Derek Carr and remains a solid option this week.
Cheap punt of the week, you ask? Look no further than Bruce Ellington of the Houston Texans. Minimum priced on DraftKings, and $100 over the minimum on FanDuel, Ellington has seen 8 targets in each of the last two weeks (both games with Tom Savage), DeAndre Hopkins should see Patrick Peterson coverage throughout this game, and Will Fuller is already ruled out. Bill O’Brien has come out with some #coachspeak that Ellington deserves more involvement in the offense, and I certainly can see that happening this week against Arizona. He’s going to be popular, so fade at your own risk (especially in cash games).
Sliding further down the confidence scale, I’m eyeing DeVante Parker on FanDuel at a pretty egregious price tag of $6,200. He’s seen 8+ targets in all five healthy games that he’s played this season and he gets to face a Bucs defense that has been routinely burned on the perimeter all season. Alshon Jeffery heads into tonight’s game with a questionable tag, but he’s expected to play and would be a fantastic option against the Cowboys. He’s finally hitting his stride with Carson Wentz and I love him in tournaments if you’re playing a slate that includes him. On the other side of the ball, Dez Bryant should remain the focal point of the Cowboys offense sans Ezekiel Elliott, and he should fly incredibly under the radar this week. More of a DraftKings specific play for me, Jamison Crowder has 24 targets in his past 2 games and should have game script in his favor against the Saints. The Saints have been stingy against the tight end this season, which could limit Vernon Davis over the middle, and that should leave plenty of short-yardage looks for Crowder. Great PPR format play.
Week 11 offers a very uncomfortable sitaution for me in terms of the tight end position. Normally, I’m looking to save salary at this position, but I find myself coming up barren when searching for any cheap tight ends that I feel confident in. In a week that features Travis Kelce against the now notoriously horrible Giants tight end defense, Rob Gronkowski in a high-powered shootout, Evan Engram without Sterling Shepard in the mix, and Zach Ertz if youre playing a slate that includes Sunday Night Football, I’m finding myself carving out salary cap room to fit in one or two of these tight ends into my lineups.
Kelce’s matchup against the Giants is no secret. Coming off the bye, in a situation where deep passing will be heavily limited, I can envision a scenario where Kelce is absorbing a massive amount of targets over the middle and likely finding the end zone at least once. While he’s expensive, he’s a fantastic play and worthy of heavy consideration to spend your salary on. Gronkowski comes in just behind Kelce for me in terms of confidence, given that he’s slightly more expensive (on FanDuel) and hasn’t been *as* explosive as we’re used to in recent years. Pairing him with Brady is a premier stack. Evan Engram hypothetically should see all of the targets that he can handle if Shepard ends up not being able to play, as being reported. The problem with this scenario is that the Chiefs are still a stingy tight end defense even after losing Eric Berry early in the season, and could key in on stopping Engram and force the Giants to look to an incredibly untalented option elsewhere. Engram is a tournament only play for me. If you’re playing a slate that features the Sunday night game, Zach Ertz needs to be on your radar. He has been a machine week in, and week out. Matchup proof. Focal point of the offense. He’s really good. #Analysis. Vernon Davis is a fine play on paper given his role in the offense without Jordan Reed, but the Saints surprisingly play pretty stout tight end defense, and could really limit Davis’ upside in this matchup. I’m likely paying up above Vernon in my cash games, but I will have some tournament exposure.
As far as punting the position, you can look to guys like Ben Watson, Tyler Kroft, and Julius Thomas. I just don’t feel very confident about any of their roles in the offense to justify putting them into my cash game teams. Watson has been a red zone volume hog for the Ravens, but faces a difficult matchup. Kroft has a pretty interesting matchup against the Broncos who try to funnel passes to the middle of the field, but he’s really not a focal point of this offense. Julius Thomas, well, you’re hoping for a touchdown.
The Jaguars get to face Deshone Kizer who leads the league in interceptions. There is expected to be some sustained winds in this game and could ultimately be a mess for the Browns rookie quarterback. Jacksonville is expensive, but you know you’re getting a dominant pass rush that can create chaos and turnovers in a hurry. The Broncos get to face Andy Dalton and the woeful Cincinnati offensive line after being embarrassed by New England in Week 9. The Chargers are at “home” against J. Nathan Peterman who will be making his debut. Ingram and Bosa could have a field day here. L.A. is a very strong, cheap option if you’re looking to save salary. Baltimore is interesting if you’re looking to take a road team that is stingy across the board against Brett Hundley.
Overall, it’s a strange week out there in daily fantasy football land. I’m a guy who loves to pay down at quarterback and tight end whenever possible, and it looks like I’ll be spending up at both positions this week. If you can trust the salary savings with Bruce Ellington and Rex Burkhead, you can create quite the sexy lineup around them. I’ll be honest, I had Sterling Shepard penciled in my main lineups across the fantasy industry, and adjusting accordingly hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. I felt great about my builds up until that news hit, and now I have a queasy feeling in my stomach. Anyway, I digress. Stay on top of the news until lineups lock, pay attention to the weather, and make some optimal decisions.
Best of luck in your contests this week, and stay sharp out there.
You can find me on Twitter @_ryanpaulsen for more DFS nonsense.