STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 15

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In this piece, I’ll be focusing primarily on daily fantasy (DFS) prices and strategy, giving a brief introduction for each position before diving into some specific players. In season-long, you’re focusing on one or two sit/starts that are pretty straightforward if you look at Sean Koerner’s Tiers, but in DFS, there are tons of iterations and decisions involved, with the landscape changing each week depending on pricing. Hopefully some of the DFS sleepers that I mention can also serve as waiver wire pickups for you in season-long, but if you’re unsure, please feel free to reach out on twitter (@cschwartz18), as always.

Note that both sites are at least half PPR – DraftKings (DK) is full – and that injuries and other news can change our outlook dramatically. For example, if Alex Collins has a migraine and is ruled out, drop everything and roster Javorius Allen. It’s such a dynamic process with tons of news coming all the way until kickoff, so check twitter and only use this as a guide, not as gospel.

Quarterbacks

On both sites, one of our most elite fantasy QBs is a great play. I have come to prefer rostering the best value among the elite guys in cash, and locking in something close to 20 points, at a position that shouldn’t be too volatile. On FanDuel (FD) especially, it looks quite optimal to roster a cheap QB and stock up on elite RBs and WRs, in GPPs, so I’ll point out my favorite option for that set-up.

High-End Play: Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. LAR)

Seattle has the fifth-highest expected team total in what could be a shootout against the Rams. No player has a larger share of his team’s production than Wilson, and any time the game is expected to be a shootout, he’s expected to put up a ton of points. He’s in a tier by himself this week while priced lower than Tom Brady on both sites and equal to Drew Brees on FD. He’s the logical cash-game QB.

High-End Play: Cam Newton, CAR (vs. GB)

Newton is clearly healthier and more comfortable, averaging 21.6 standard fantasy points over his last five, with 14.5 last week as his lowest. His 17.0 average points over the last two weeks is solid considering it came against two top defenses, New Orleans and Minnesota. This week, he gets a Green Bay pass D that hemorrhages yards to the tune of 7.8 per attempt. Further, the return of Aaron Rodgers should keep the game higher scoring and gives it shootout potential. I like capitalizing on Rodgers’ return in a contrarian way by rostering Newton, and I like stacking him with Devin Funchess, who has proven to be matchup-proof on volume and Red Zone chops.

Sleeper: Nick Foles, PHI (@ NYG)

The Giants defense is awful, even with All-Pro Landon Collins on the field. Collins has a banged up ankle and is doubtful, which means the Giants will basically be fielding a CFL defense. Foles’ talent level may actually be higher than most of the Giants defenders he’s up against, and he has proven upside, putting together an entire Pro Bowl caliber season at one point. With weapons like Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor at his disposal, he’s definitely the best of the bad (and cheap) QBs this week.

Fade: Jimmy Garoppolo, SF (vs. TEN)

In season-long, Garoppolo makes for a great pick-up, especially if you lost Carson Wentz or Josh McCown last week. So far, he has clearly belonged as a starting QB in the NFL. The hype around him has already picked up enough, however, to raise his DFS price to bona fide QB1 level. It’s not as bad on FD, but on DK he’s priced like Brees, Newton, and Kirk Cousins. He lacks the upside to justify this, in my opinion.

Running Backs

Last week, Giovani Bernard was a cheap, must-play RB, who paid off with a solid game. This week, at least so far, we don’t have a guy like that, so the optimal RBs are mostly studs. I consider Kenyan Drake to be a stud now, but he’s not priced like it on either site, making him a great play on both – I won’t even blurb him, just know he’s in there. On FD, it looks good to spend up and pair him with an elite guy, while on DK, due to pricing and full PPR scoring, it may make more sense to spend up on elite WRs instead. To cover all bases, I’ll recommend my favorite elite option, while also pointing out some valuable RB2 types.

High-End Play: Le’Veon Bell, PIT (vs. NE)

Kenyan Drake had a Le’Veon Bell game against New England last week, nearly going 100/100. This wasn’t a fluke – New England allows 5.0 yards per carry (most in NFL) and is also one of the worst teams at defending passes to RBs. This is not a good sign for their ability to defend Bell. Pittsburgh virtually clinches the No. 1 seed if they win this Sunday, so look for them to go all out now in order to maybe rest some starters for 2-3 weeks. Bell is in a tier by himself this week (with Todd Gurley in a tough match-up and Alvin Kamara coming off a concussion), so he’s worth his price tag.

Sleeper: Mike Davis, SEA (vs. LAR)

Davis had 15+ carries each of the last 2 weeks, emerging as Seattle’s most effective back during the stretch run. This week, he faces a Rams defense that allows 4.7 yards per carry and 124 rushing yards per game, both in the bottom 10 in the NFL. While Wilson may be chalk, I like Davis as a more contrarian way to capitalize on a potentially high-scoring game.

Sleeper: Alex Collins, BAL (@ CLE)

Collins is no sleeper in season-long, where he’s emerged as a high-end RB2 type. He’s also not the sneakiest play in DFS, coming off a 166 total yard outburst against Pittsburgh in primetime last week. He’s still valuable at his current price-tag in DFS, however, especially in a game that should be more favorable than most, script-wise.

Sleeper: Samaje Perine, WAS (vs. ARI)

For the past month or so, Perine’s upside has been something like 100 rushing yards and 1-2 TDs. Byron Marshall had been a capable 3rd down, receiving back, which limited Perine’s upside. Now Marshall is on the shelf, and Washington is running out of options at RB, meaning Perine could see 3-down work. This volume gives him more upside in PPR and helps his cause against a typically stout Arizona run defense.

Fade: Jamaal Williams, GB (@ CAR)

I had him as a guy to target in DFS last week, but this week I’m fading him for a few reasons. First – Carolina’s run D is amongst the best in the league, allowing just 89 yards per game (third-fewest). Second – with Rodgers back, Green Bay won’t lean as heavily on the run, particularly in the Red Zone, where I can see them calling for short passes just to get Rodgers on the board and get the team excited about his return. Third – Aaron Jones is healthy and at any point could become the “hot hand.” Lastly, his price is now in borderline RB1 territory, meaning he’s no longer a good value on starting status and volume alone.

Wide Receivers

I’ve already mentioned that on DK the optimal lineups seem to feature Drake and an RB2 type at RB, which leaves you enough salary to roster 2-3 studs at WR. On FD, Bell is too good to fade, which means you’ll need to find some cheaper punt-plays to roster at WR. Thus, I’ll point out a nice mix of studs and sleepers at this position.

High-End Play: Antonio Brown, PIT (vs. NE)

Did you know that he’s really good? I don’t need to spend much time telling you why he’s worth rostering in DFS. Just know that there are enough other cheap guys to be able to fit him in, that this game has more shootout potential than your typical Steelers game, and that he’ll be looking to rack up some stats before potentially sitting out a meaningless game or two to end the season.

High-End Play: A.J. Green, CIN (@ MIN)

People are just too scared of shut-down corners sometimes. Xavier Rhodes couldn’t eliminate Funchess last week, and Green has more talent in his pinky toe than Funchess has in his whole body. NFL defenses aren’t just about 1-on-1 matchups 100 percent of the time – there is a lot of teamwork involved that goes over most of our heads. Minnesota’s entire defense is quite good, but Green’s price is still too cheap, as he’s priced like a Josh Gordon/Robby Anderson type. His median projection is much higher than those guys, and this week gives you a nice chance to roster him on the cheap next to Bell and/or Brown.

Sleeper: Dede Westbrook, JAX (vs. HOU)

As you’d expect from a rookie who missed the first half of the season, his role has been growing more and more each week. The surprising part is just how quickly he’s risen to borderline WR2 territory. His quickness and talent makes him a nice bet for 5+ receptions, and he caught his first TD last week to boot. Now he has an easier matchup against a Houston defense that has really struggled against the pass. He’s my favorite cheap WR who you can pair with Brown while providing both a high floor and a high ceiling.

Sleeper: Trent Taylor, SF (@ CHI)

Marquise Goodwin has gotten all the hype (and deservedly so) amongst 49ers’ receivers, but Taylor is only two weeks removed from a six-catch, 92-yard performance with Garoppolo under center. He’s of course also capable of a stinker (and put one up last week), but he’s cheap enough to be a worthwhile punt play that can sneakily rack up PPR points.

Fade: Josh Gordon, CLE (vs. BAL)

Of course, Gordon has proven 200-yard upside, so he’ll always be a decent option in GPPs. He is a poor value this week, though, against a top Baltimore D that has shut down everybody but Antonio Brown this year. On such a poor team with mediocre QB play, Gordon either needs a cheap price tag or a prime matchup in order to be valuable. His price tag went up to borderline WR1 territory, and he has a bad matchup. I’d fade him this week, at least in cash games.

Tight Ends

So many studs at QB, RB, and WR, are worth rostering this week, that you probably will want to go cheaper at TE. I’ll point out a few guys below the top echelon that are worth it at their prices.

High-End: Delanie Walker, TEN (@ SF)

Walker has finally seen some positive TD regression, scoring his first two TDs of the season over his last three games. He’s now all the way up to the No. 6 overall TE on the season (in half PPR), with just the 2 TD. This speaks to his consistent volume, as he’s reeled in 4-7 catches over each of his last eight games. Against a pretty bad San Fran D, he’s a better bet than usual to score a TD in addition to the typical volume, so he’s our top ranked TE in the main slate, who isn’t nicknamed Gronk. He’s cheaper than Jimmy Graham on FD and Evan Engram on DK, and seems to be the optimal TE on both sites.

Sleeper: Charles Clay, BUF (vs. MIA)

Clay hasn’t done anything the last two weeks, but that’s been mostly with Nathan Peterman under center and a blizzard in Buffalo last week. Barring more bad weather, he should have much more opportunity to succeed this week with Tyrod Taylor back from injury. Miami struggles against TEs, so he’s a fine cheap punt play that allows you to roster maybe one more stud at another position.

Fade: Zach Ertz, PHI (@ NYG)

Last week, my advice to fade Ertz didn’t help much, as he was ruled out well before kick-off anyways. So I’ll tell you to fade him again this week, especially as his ownership level could be quite high against a bad Giants defense that can’t cover TEs. His price-tag simply isn’t worth it without Wentz under center. Who knows if he’ll be 100 percent, and who knows if he’ll have the same chemistry with Foles as he did with Wentz. The Eagles also may blow out the Giants, eliminating the need to throw short passes to the TE. I like the much-cheaper Walker to actually outscore Ertz this week.

STATS’ College Football Watchability Ratings: Bowl Games

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STATS’ predictive formula produces a unique rating that ranks the best college football games to watch every week

Let’s get the obvious out of the way quickly: Alabama-Clemson III sits atop the Watchability Ratings for the upcoming bowl season. I’m sure you’re all shocked.

But how could it not? After splitting the last two national championship game matchups, the Crimson Tide and Tigers battle in the Sugar Bowl in one of the College Football Playoff semifinals. And despite ‘Bama’s relatively weak schedule that led to them barely sneaking in as the No. 4 team, it enters favored by 2 ½ points over the top-ranked Tigers.

No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia meet in the other semifinal at the Rose Bowl, but don’t focus so much on the CFP when there are plenty of quality pre-Christmas and pre-New Year’s Day bowls to feast on. And, well, some not-so-good ones, too.

STATS’ data experts have developed a proprietary model that gives a watchability score to every college football game in a given week. That rating is a combination of analytics, including the projected score of each game from a model that factors in team production, explosiveness and “cleanliness” of play – a metric that includes turnovers, among other data points.

Team production includes evaluations of run and pass efficiency, explosive plays (20+ yards) and the defensive ratings also involved with the aforementioned metrics. Watchability Rating takes that data combined with talent level of each team based on other various STATS models and is adjusted based on the projected final score to produce a value of watchability.

Essentially, the model takes some randomness out of choosing which game to view, making for less channel-flipping while relaxing at home or fewer maneuvers through a bar crowd to place yourself nearest the television broadcasting a certain contest.

Have a look at the Watchability Ratings from most- to least-watchable on a 1-10 rating scale for all 39 bowl games prior to the College Football Playoff championship game Jan. 8. You’ll notice the Army-Navy game from Dec. 9 also is included because the model ran each game following championship week.

The Washington-Penn State Fiesta Bowl and Wisconsin-Miami Orange Bowl definitely are intriguing matchups, so the high rating isn’t so surprising. But Iowa vs. Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl being the only other game to get at least a 9.0 rating? That’s a bit of an upset – especially if you haven’t heard of AJ Dillon. The BC running back ran for 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and he’ll be trying to better Iowa tailback Akrum Wadley, who is wrapping up his second straight 1,000-yard campaign.

College football junkies will appreciate that contest despite not having many household names like Josh Rosen, who guides UCLA into a Cactus Bowl matchup with Kansas State that is next on the list with an 8.6 watchability rating. Rosen is considered one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and likely will be chosen at or near the top of the next NFL draft should he declare. It all depends if he wants to stick around another year and play for Chip Kelly, who takes over the Bruins next season and will surely be watching the bowl game closely.

There’s only one bowl pitting Power 5 teams against each other that has lower than a 6.6 watchability rating. That distinction goes to Northwestern and Kentucky on Dec. 29 in the Music City Bowl. The battle of the Wildcats comes in at a 2.9 rating, which puts that matchup at 37th of the 39 bowls in the Watchability Ratings. Might want to avoid that one.

Week 15 NFL Spreads: STATS vs. Las Vegas

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Using STATS X-Info metrics and roster rankings to project NFL favorites vs. the Vegas standard odds

The STATS model shot out some eye-popping spreads this week when taking a quick glance through the numbers without looking at the matchup. Then things made much more sense.

Week 15 is projected to feature equal shares of blowouts and nail-biters. STATS lists eight double-digit favorites compared to three coming out of Las Vegas, while STATS sees the other half of the slate decided by less than a touchdown.

That includes the potential AFC championship game preview as New England visits Pittsburgh. The Patriots are coming off a surprising loss at Miami on Monday Night Football, and the Steelers have been living dangerously lately with narrow victories.

STATS uses proprietary data to project spreads for each NFL game. STATS X-Info calculates roster rankings based on injuries, statistical data and depth at each position, then compares that to an opponent and arrives at a conclusion – the projected spread.

None of these spread projections mean you should empty your account and follow the STATS model to riches. X-Info simply takes into account factors Vegas may not, hence some differing views. And if you’re looking for fantasy advice, you’re still best suited to follow best-in-the-business Sean Koerner and his weekly tiers.

Have a look at how STATS projects the spreads in Week 15 against those coming out of Las Vegas as of Thursday afternoon. We’ve divided games into two sections instead of three as in previous editions. Those projected scores for each game are new as of last week.

Group 1 – STATS Lines Similar to Vegas (Within 4 Points):

Chicago at Detroit

STATS: Lions -7.63
Vegas: Lions -5.5
Projected score: Lions 31, Bears 23

Baltimore at Cleveland

STATS: Ravens -13.04
Vegas: Ravens -7
Projected score: Ravens 27, Browns 14

Green Bay at Carolina

STATS: Panthers -0.9
Vegas: Panthers -3
Projected score: Panthers 27, Packers 24

Cincinnati at Minnesota

STATS: Vikings -6.84
Vegas: Vikings -10.5
Projected score: Vikings 25, Bengals 19

New York Jets at New Orleans

STATS: Saints -15.94
Vegas: Saints -16
Projected score: Saints 31, Jets 15

Tennessee at San Francisco

STATS: 49ers -4.55
Vegas: 49ers -2
Projected score: 49ers 24, Titans 20

New England at Pittsburgh

STATS: Patriots -1.64
Vegas: Patriots -3
Projected score: Patriots 26, Steelers 25

Dallas at Oakland

STATS: Cowboys -0.87
Vegas: Cowboys -3
Projected score: Cowboys 23, Raiders 22

Atlanta at Tampa Bay

STATS: Falcons -9.85
Vegas: Falcons -6
Projected score: Falcons 28, Bucs 18

Group 2 – STATS Lines Not Similar to Vegas:

Denver at Indianapolis

STATS: Colts -7.16
Vegas: Broncos -2.5
Projected score: Colts 20, Broncos 13

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City

STATS: Chargers -11.47
Vegas: Chargers -1
Projected score: Chargers 25, Chiefs 13

Houston at Jacksonville

STATS: Jaguars -17.38
Vegas: Jaguars -11
Projected score: Jaguars 26, Texans 9

Miami at Buffalo

STATS: Dolphins -1.22
Vegas: Bills -3.5
Projected score: Dolphins 25, Bills 24

Arizona at Washington

STATS: Cardinals -5.55
Vegas: Redskins -4.5
Projected score: Cardinals 22, Redskins 17

Philadelphia at New York Giants

STATS: Eagles -11.26
Vegas: Eagles -7.5
Projected score: Eagles 26, Giants 16

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle

STATS: Rams -0.06
Vegas: Seahawks -2.5
Projected score: Rams 20, Seahawks 18

2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 15 Tiers

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Don’t forget, these tiers reflect non-PPR fantasy football scoring. The number in parentheses next to the player’s matchup indicates how many tiers they’d move up or down in PPR scoring. One thing to note – just because a RB may see a couple receptions doesn’t mean they would simply get a +1 rating. Keep in mind that these PPR ratings factor in the players surrounding him, so if he’s expected to get two receptions, but surrounded by players getting 3+ receptions, he could actually sink a bit, relatively speaking. Just remember that these are dynamic and do factor that aspect in.

The FLEX Rating is a number that allows you to compare each tier across the RB/WR/TE positions for FLEX decisions.

Also, remember that this article is written based on where my projections currently are on Thursday morning. For info on where players rank after Thursday, be sure to follow me on Twitter @the_oddsmaker.

Quarterbacks

The week after we lost another elite QB due to injury in Carson Wentz, we get back the Fantasy Football God himself, Aaron Rodgers. I’m handling him with a bit of caution this week as an often overlooked part of his fantasy value lies in his rushing stats (combined with elite passing numbers). Coming back from a broken collarbone the very first week he is medically cleared presents a decent re-injury risk.

Obviously the Packers know this, and I think, with Jamaal Williams giving their running game life, they rely on the RB a bit more than we typically see when Rodgers starts. I think they’ll urge Rodgers to simply throw it away, as opposed to extending plays with his legs. My belief that they’ll try to limit his usage some in his return leaves me projecting him as a solid QB1, but without his typical overall QB1 upside.

Tier 5 is one of the more intriguing groups to highlight. It’s amazing just how fast Jimmy Garoppolo has picked up Kyle Shanahan’s playbook after being traded to the 49ers mid-season. He’s pushing for a QB1 designation this week in a great spot against the Titans. It’s worth noting this will be his first start at home for the 49ers, which could possibly result in them opting to show off their new toy with passes around the goal line, verses just handing it off to Carlos Hyde.

The hype around Jared Goff as a sure fire QB1 has fizzled off, as he settled into the high-floor/low-ceiling type of player I felt he was. You can expect a 250-yard, two-touchdown game from him pretty much every week. The problem is, he doesn’t add any rushing stats of note, which causes him to finish in the middle of the pack most weeks.

Nick Foles makes for the best add of the three brand new QB starters we get this week. The matchup itself doesn’t pose many issues, as the Giants have entered into rebuilding mode. I would be worried about the Eagles getting out in front early and then using their five-man RB carousel to run out the clock, capping his upside.

Bryce Petty is just not very good and neither is T.J. Yates, who also has a brutal matchup to boot. They can hang out and play video games together in this week’s Basement Tier.

Tier 1

Russell Wilson (vs LAR)

Tier 2

Tom Brady (@ PIT)
Cam Newton (vs GB)

Tier 3

Drew Brees (vs NYJ)
Aaron Rodgers (@ CAR)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs NE)

Tier 4

Dak Prescott (@ OAK)
Matthew Stafford (vs CHI)
Philip Rivers (@ KC)
Matt Ryan (@ TB)
Case Keenum (vs CIN)
Kirk Cousins (vs ARI)
Alex Smith (vs LAC)

Tier 5

Jimmy Garoppolo (vs TEN)
Blake Bortles (vs HOU)
Jameis Winston (vs ATL)
Nick Foles (@ NYG)
Jared Goff (@ SEA)

Tier 6

Derek Carr (vs DAL)
Tyrod Taylor (vs MIA)
Marcus Mariota (@ SF)
Blaine Gabbert (@ WAS)

Tier 7

DeShone Kizer (vs BAL)
Trevor Siemian (@ IND)
Joe Flacco (@ CLE)

Tier 8

Mitchell Trubisky (@ DET)
Jacoby Brissett (vs DEN)
Jay Cutler (@ BUF)
Andy Dalton (@ MIN)

Tier 9

Eli Manning (vs PHI)

Tier 10

Bryce Petty (@ NO)
T.J. Yates (@ JAX)

Running Backs

As always, I must remind you that RB ranks are going to be the most volatile, since each individual back is inherently tied to the health/expected-touch count of their teammate(s). Joe Mixon is still in concussion protocol with a chance of getting cleared and I’m projecting him to be in. If he were to be ruled out, we will see Giovani Bernard vault up the rankings and would likely settle in at the middle of Tier 8 (with a bit of a boost in PPR).

Ameer Abdullah is set to return this week, but I doubt he assumes his typical role. It wasn’t too prominent to begin with, but I think with improved play from pass-catching specialist Theo Riddick and also Tion Green in his absence, this becomes an easy situation to ignore and leave for someone else to deal with.

Kareem Hunt came back to life in Week 14 with 138 total yards and a TD. This week he’s in a spot where the Chiefs will likely attack the Chargers on the ground (where they are more vulnerable compared to their stingy pass defense). As long as Jamaal Williams stays hot, it seems likely that Aaron Jones will be kept to a minor role. It’s important to note that from a skill perspective they are still fairly even, so this could easily turn back into a full RBBC any given week. Fighting for a playoff spot and having Aaron Rodgers return, though, makes me think they’ll just stick to what has been working lately. If you ended up adding Jamaal Williams a few weeks ago, congrats – I say you got yourself a waiver wire RB1 for the fantasy playoffs.

Tier 1 (FLEX Rating: 17.0)

Le’Veon Bell (vs NE)

Tier 2 (15.0)

Leonard Fournette (vs HOU)
Alvin Kamara (vs NYJ)
Todd Gurley (@ SEA)
Mark Ingram (vs NYJ)

Tier 3 (13.5)

LeSean McCoy (vs MIA)

Tier 4 (13.0)

Melvin Gordon (@ KC)

Tier 5 (12.5)

Kenyan Drake (@ BUF)
Devonta Freeman (-1, @ TB)
Kareem Hunt (vs LAC)

Tier 6 (12.0)

Jamaal Williams (@ CAR)
Jordan Howard (-2, @ DET)
Alex Collins (@ CLE)

Tier 7 (11.5)

Carlos Hyde (+1, vs TEN)
Samaje Perine (vs ARI)

Tier 8 (10.5)

Lamar Miller (@ JAX)
Rex Burkhead (@ PIT)
Marshawn Lynch (-1, vs DAL)
Mike Davis (vs LAR)
Latavius Murray (-1, vs CIN)

Tier 9 (9.5)

Frank Gore (vs DEN)
Alfred Morris (-1, @ OAK)
Christian McCaffrey (+3, vs GB)
Dion Lewis (@ PIT)
C.J. Anderson (@ IND)
Jay Ajayi (-1, @ NYG)
Jerick McKinnon (+1, vs CIN)
DeMarco Murray (@ SF)

Tier 10 (8.5)

Isaiah Crowell (vs BAL)
Theo Riddick (+1, vs CHI)
Kerwynn Williams (@ WAS)
Jonathan Stewart (-1, vs GB)
Joe Mixon (@ MIN)
Derrick Henry (-1, @ SF)
Tevin Coleman (@ TB)
Rod Smith (@ OAK)

Tier 11 (6.5)

Duke Johnson Jr. (+2, vs BAL)
Matt Forte (@ NO)
Bilal Powell (@ NO)
Orleans Darkwa (vs PHI)
Peyton Barber (-1, vs ATL)
Doug Martin (-1, vs ATL)
Austin Ekeler (@ KC)
Wayne Gallman (vs PHI)
Tarik Cohen (+1, @ DET)

Tier 12 (5.5)

Devontae Booker (@ IND)
LeGarrette Blount (-1, @ NYG)
Matt Breida (vs TEN)
Marlon Mack (vs DEN)
Ameer Abdullah (vs CHI)
Danny Woodhead (+1, @ CLE)
Javorius Allen (@ CLE)

Wide Receivers

One of the most interesting things for Week 15 from a projections stand point is how to handle the Green Bay WRs with Rodgers returning. Jordy Nelson went into hibernation with Brett Hundley under center, as Hundley seemingly only has eyes for Davante Adams. This shouldn’t be too surprising as Adams is the more physically talented WR in the prime of his career. I feel we have to trust the mind-meld between Rodgers/Nelson, which vaults Nelson into WR2 territory this week. With Rodgers likely a bit rusty in his return and a tough matchup against Minnesota next week, I’m afraid Nelson’s not going to be a WR1 during the fantasy playoffs. But people can dust him off and actually use him now at least.

Marquise Goodwin is having a late-blooming breakout season. Typically a vertical threat with Olympic speed, this year he has branched out into a much more diverse route tree and seems to be Garoppolo’s first read more times than not. The matchup against the Titans makes him a surprisingly high-floor WR2 to go along with his high ceiling, due to the fact he can score from anywhere on the field.

People may overreact to Josh McCown’s injury and how it specifically impacts the biggest surprise at WR this year, in Robby Anderson. If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen me reference Anderson as “my boy.” He was a WR I had mentioned as a great sleeper this year. I will admit, however, that I did not see this type of production coming out of him.

Having said all that, I appear to be ranking him much higher than most for Week 15, and it’s most likely due to me not downgrading him much with Petty under center. The potential matchup with Marshon Lattimore aside, it’s important to note that Petty and Anderson had a strong connection in four starts towards the end of the 2016 season. Anderson put up lines of 3/69/0, 4/61/1, 6/99/0, 4/80/1. It’s fair to say that chemistry likely won’t be an issue, and with the Jets likely playing catchup on the road verses the Saints, they will be forced to throw more than they would like with Petty.

Tier 1 (FLEX Rating: 13.5)

Antonio Brown (vs NE)

Tier 2 (11.5)

Julio Jones (@ TB)
Keenan Allen (@ KC)
Michael Thomas (vs NYJ)

Tier 3 (10.5)

Adam Thielen (vs CIN)
DeAndre Hopkins (@ JAX)
A.J. Green (@ MIN)

Tier 4 (10.0)

Devin Funchess (vs GB)
Brandin Cooks (-1, @ PIT)
Tyreek Hill (-1, vs LAC)
Dez Bryant (@ OAK)
Doug Baldwin (vs LAR)
Larry Fitzgerald (+1, @ WAS)

Tier 5 (9.0)

Michael Crabtree (vs DAL)
Davante Adams (@ CAR)
Jordy Nelson (@ CAR)
Marvin Jones Jr. (vs CHI)
Demaryius Thomas (@ IND)
Mike Evans (vs ATL)
Golden Tate (+1, vs CHI)
Marquise Goodwin (vs TEN)
Jarvis Landry (+1, @ BUF)
Josh Gordon (vs BAL)
Jamison Crowder (vs ARI)
Stefon Diggs (vs CIN)
Robby Anderson (@ NO)
Mohamed Sanu (@ TB)
Alshon Jeffery (@ NYG)
Juju Smith-Schuster (vs NE)

Tier 6 (7.5)

Marqise Lee (vs HOU)
T.Y. Hilton (vs DEN)
Cooper Kupp (+1, @ SEA)
Robert Woods (@ SEA)
Dede Westbrook (vs HOU)
Paul Richardson (vs LAR)
Sterling Shepard (vs PHI)
Mike Wallace (@ CLE)

Tier 7 (6.5)

Josh Doctson (vs ARI)
Chris Hogan (@ PIT)
Nelson Agholor (@ NYG)
Kenny Stills (@ BUF)
Rishard Matthews (@ SF)
Ted Ginn Jr. (vs NYJ)
Emmanuel Sanders (@ IND)
DeSean Jackson (vs ATL)
Jermaine Kearse (@ NO)
Jeremy Maclin (@ CLE)
Randall Cobb (@ CAR)
Sammy Watkins (@ SEA)
Kendall Wright (@ DET)
Corey Coleman (vs BAL)

Tier 8 (5.5)

Martavis Bryant (vs NE)
Kelvin Benjamin (vs MIA)
DeVante Parker (@ BUF)
Tyler Lockett (vs LAR)
Trent Taylor (vs TEN)
Albert Wilson (vs LAC)
Tyrell Williams (-1, @ KC)
Will Fuller V (@ JAX)
Torrey Smith (@ NYG)
Terrance Williams (@ OAK)
Dontrelle Inman (@ DET)
Danny Amendola (@ PIT)
Ryan Grant (vs ARI)
Chester Rogers (vs DEN)

Tight Ends

Gronk returns this week but has rare company in Tier 1 with Travis Kelcem who just missed out on a big score last week when ruled down at the 1-inch line on an overturned TD.

I typically get flack for having middle-of-the-pack accuracy at the TE position on Fantasy Pros (ranked No. 50 this year). I’m not pointing this out in order to make excuses, of course. I feel it’s worth pointing out, however, that it has a lot to do with the position being much more volatile (especially this year). The TE position itself doesn’t yield as much yardage. This is important because yardage totals are more predictive, so you are typically going to see more skill involved in “projecting” them. Touchdowns, on the other hand are less predictive, but more valuable.

A perfect example came last Sunday morning, when I saw just how bad the snow was in Buffalo. I gave massive downgrades across the board to each team’s passing game (none to the running game). This left me extremely low on Jack Doyle verses other experts. He ended up finishing with two receptions for four yards… and a TD. His fantasy score was saved by a 3-yard TD catch in the foot-high snow with one minute left in the game. He was quite close to finishing with 0.1 fantasy points that game.

This is all very important to keep in mind when it comes to deciding on TE. You really have to just stick with the guy who is going to see the most targets/usage and who is also at least part of the team’s plans in the red zone. I would caution to not just simply look at their past few games in order to spot a trend. This can cause an overreaction, which often times will backfire. Let my tiers below guide you through the TE mine field, and just keep in mind what it is that makes the position so volatile.

Tier 1 (FLEX Rating: 10.0)

Rob Gronkowski (@ PIT)
Travis Kelce (vs LAC)

Tier 2 (7.0)

Zach Ertz (@ NYG)
Delanie Walker (@ SF)
Jimmy Graham (vs LAR)
Evan Engram (vs PHI)
Hunter Henry (@ KC)

Tier 3 (6.5)

Kyle Rudolph (vs CIN)
Jack Doyle (+1, vs DEN)

Tier 4 (6.0)

Jared Cook (vs DAL)
Vernon Davis (vs ARI)
Jason Witten (@ OAK)
Greg Olsen (vs GB)

Tier 5 (5.0)

Eric Ebron (vs CHI)
Charles Clay (vs MIA)
Austin Hooper (@ TB)
Stephen Anderson (@ JAX)

Tier 6 (4.5)

Cameron Brate (vs ATL)
Ricky Seals-Jones (@ WAS)
O.J. Howard (vs ATL)
Jesse James (vs NE)
David Njoku (vs BAL)
Julius Thomas (@ BUF)
Benjamin Watson (@ CLE)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ NO)
Garrett Celek (vs TEN)

Kickers

I don’t always write a blurb on kickers, but when I do, it’s usually about Justin Tucker. He is literally the bane of my existence. Everything about my new-and-improved kickers model is on point this year, except for Tucker.

It’s important to note that I factor in everything for kickers. After all that goes into it – including the team’s offensive makeup, expected drives into scoring position, how many points they will score, and the weather – I still even have a “Tucker factor” where I just give him an even bigger boost (maybe 10 percent) on top of everything. I even have him maintaining a clearly unsustainable 90 percent make percentage. After all this, he is still rarely ranked too high, as it’s practically a miracle that the Ravens’ 27th-ranked offense (in terms of yardage) manages to drive the ball just far enough to stall in field goal range, seemingly every time. It’s led me to believe the Ravens offense is simply designed to win 21-0 every week off seven Tucker field goals.

I’m now introducing the Tucker Tier. If you own him or, for some reason, he is available, just plug him in no matter what. I will still rank him in the Tiers where he shows up in my model, just in case you wanted to see where he was in that.

Tucker Tier

Justin Tucker

Tier 1

Wil Lutz (vs NYJ)

Tier 2

Matt Bryant (@ TB)
Stephen Gostkowski (@ PIT)
Matt Prater (vs CHI)
Kai Forbath (vs CIN)

Tier 3

Josh Lambo (vs HOU)
Greg Zuerlein (@ SEA)
Justin Tucker (@ CLE)
Graham Gano (vs GB)
Dan Bailey (@ OAK)

Tier 4

Blair Walsh (vs LAR)
Nick Rose (vs ARI)
Robbie Gould (vs TEN)
Harrison Butker (vs LAC)
Stephen Hauschka (vs MIA)
Travis Coons (@ KC)
Jake Elliott (@ NYG)
Ryan Succop (@ SF)
Chris Boswell (vs NE)
Brandon McManus (@ IND)

Tier 5

Giorgio Tavecchio (vs DAL)
Adam Vinatieri (vs DEN)
Mason Crosby (@ CAR)
Patrick Murray (vs ATL)
Phil Dawson (@ WAS)
Mike Nugent (@ DET)
Cody Parkey (@ BUF)

Tier 6

Chandler Catanzaro (@ NO)
Aldrick Rosas (vs PHI)
Randy Bullock (@ MIN)
Zane Gonzalez (vs BAL)

Tier 7

Ka’imi Fairbairn (@ JAX)

Defenses

Tier 1

Jacksonville Jaguars (vs HOU)

Tier 2

Baltimore Ravens (@ CLE)

Tier 3

New Orleans Saints (vs NYJ)

Tier 4

Minnesota Vikings (vs CIN)
Philadelphia Eagles (@ NYG)

Tier 5

Washington Redskins (vs ARI)
Buffalo Bills (vs MIA)
Denver Broncos (@ IND)

Tier 6

Atlanta Falcons (@ TB)
Detroit Lions (vs CHI)
San Francisco 49ers (vs TEN)
Tennessee Titans (@ SF)
Indianapolis Colts (vs DEN)

Tier 7

Chicago Bears (@ DET)
Los Angeles Chargers (@ KC)
Los Angeles Rams (@ SEA)
Miami Dolphins (@ BUF)
Arizona Cardinals (@ WAS)
Seattle Seahawks (vs LAR)
New England Patriots (@ PIT)
Green Bay Packers (@ CAR)
Dallas Cowboys (@ OAK)
Carolina Panthers (vs GB)
Cleveland Browns (vs BAL)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs LAC)
New York Giants (vs PHI)
Houston Texans (@ JAX)

Tier 8

Oakland Raiders (vs DAL)
Cincinnati Bengals (@ MIN)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs ATL)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs NE)

Tier 9

New York Jets (@ NO)

STATS’ Data Supports FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Footballers of 2017

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It’s always been a conversation starter. Conversation has a tendency to escalate to debate. Debate at times gives way to argument.

And it goes 98 footballers deeper than that never-ending question: Messi or Ronaldo? In the FourFourTwo UK office, a friendship occasionally cools off for a day or two when compiling the 100 Best Players in the World.

The same thing happens across the Atlantic in the STATS headquarters as the list is revealed, so 2017 brings a fitting union of expert opinion and reliable data. FourFourTwo enlisted STATS this year to provide the leading football publication with analytical support for their much-anticipated annual list.

The 2017 version marks its 11th year, but it’s the first with STATS augmenting the collective opinion of FourFourTwo’s extensive worldwide staff of journalists. The list is being revealed from No. 100 to No. 1 over the course of the week, and it’s the culmination of a comprehensive global effort to provide an objective take on the calendar year’s performances.

“I would always say that it’s a starting point for conversation,” said FourFourTwo Global Digital Editor Gary Parkinson. “It’s a collective opinion. It’s a snapshot of the moment in time. There are a lot of moving parts to the 100 because it’s not just about the year that’s gone. There’s also an element of form is temporary; class is permanent.

“There are a lot of different ways to look at this, but it is certainly an entertaining and involving and engaging way to look at the year gone by, and it’s fascinating to look back through the history as well to look at years past. Hopefully we’re doing our job in analysing and educating, and STATS is now a part of it.”

This year, it began with a 19-year-old American at No. 100:

(Graphics by Olivier Maurel)

It’s the latest step for a partnership in which STATS has provided FourFourTwo with live data-driven insights during Premier League matches for the 2017/18 campaign.

“It’s very impressive – the level of service that STATS provides,” Parkinson said. “It easily meets the level of information we need to back up our judgement. It’s not purely a data-driven list, but we can use the data that STATS provides to make our case for why this guy should be No. 37 whereas the other is No. 38.”

Those numbers were revealed midweek with an Italian playing in Paris narrowly missing the top 30:

The value of the list doesn’t end at the fan engagement level. FourFourTwo isn’t shy about pointing out the occasional miss, but over a decade of the list shows there’s plenty to be gained from it in terms of forecasting football trends. At the list’s 10-year mark, FourFourTwo analysed itself, finding the 100 in recent seasons reflects the concentration of top talent moving more and more each year to top clubs. Or, from an international perspective, the list can help foretell how one nation might be about to experience an upturn in form while another is headed for a drought.

Evolving football trends or not, the list’s objective remains unchanged as it enters its second decade. Where certain awards in sport may heavily consider a given player’s collection of trophies, FourFourTwo tries to value the individual.

“It’s about the players within the teams,” Parkinson said. “Football is a team game, but this is an individual award that recognises that the player can be performing better than their team. So it’s not just about medals and even necessarily victories.

“A goalkeeper that’s playing really well on a struggling team might not win the most games, but he could be impressing. It’s about evaluating the players individually, and it’s not necessarily about the results of his team in the calendar year.”

FourFourTwo will announce its 2017 top 10 on Friday. Let the debates begin.

STATS’ Award-Winning Fantasy Projections Give High-Stakes DFS Pros the Ultimate Advantage

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The life of a professional, high-stakes daily fantasy sports player can be an arduous grind filled with constant analysis of the most minute details. Building a DFS lineup in any sport takes more than a whim or gut feeling.

It’s a process that involves a complicated strategy – one most successful DFS enthusiasts keep secret.

Such is the case for a high-stakes player who recently took home the $1 million prize in DrafKings’ Millionaire Maker contest. The cash is more than a reward for selecting the most efficient lineup of NFL players in fantasy football terms. It’s a culmination of weeks, months and years of pouring over data and risking a great deal of cash in contest entry fees leading to a major victory in a game that has become a way of life.

Speaking publicly about a personal strategy – especially one that led to a million-dollar payday – simply isn’t smart when considering how many DFS gurus are trying to best one another day in and day out. In other words, a lot of brilliant people needing just a tiny break could be listening.

Sean Koerner, STATS’ director of predictive analytics

STATS director of predictive analytics Sean Koerner doesn’t mind discussing those success stories, though. Koerner is the brains behind the analysis that has helped STATS clients – including the recent Millionaire Maker winner – regularly pull in six- and seven-figure payouts with STATS’ proprietary Application Programming Interface (API) projections model.

Koerner is the two-time reigning champion of the FantasyPros contest that recognizes the most accurate weekly NFL projections, and he currently sits in the No. 1 spot for 2017 ahead of thousands of other industry insiders. The API goes beyond football as well, providing MLB, NBA and NHL projections for high-end clients participating in big-money games.

Those clients have often seen a rather large return on investment. A STATS client narrowly missed winning the Millionaire Maker contest but still walked away with over $100,000 in prize money for cashing four separate entries.

While it’s true STATS’ API isn’t equivalent to possessing the winning lottery numbers before they’re drawn, it has provided a great deal of help to DFS pros cashing regularly in high-stakes contests. That gives Koerner and his team a sense of pride.

“Having the most accurate projections can give you an edge over the competition by pointing you in directions other industry insiders can’t,” Koerner said. “What separates STATS’ API from others is that our team doesn’t simply rely on past data and subjectivity. We read between the lines and spot more qualitative information unique to players’ situations that can’t be factored purely through an automated process.”

Coming to the realization that accurate fantasy sports projections involve a science is the first step for anyone hoping to solve the DFS conundrum. Aggressively examining every variable helps to analyze past performance – including actual skill vs. luck –  to better predict future on-field production. That means digging deep into off-the-field news to heeding warnings from Mother Nature.

“We back-test every possible variable,” Koerner said. “Think of an NFL running back. What is his team’s expected game plan? Will the player get a majority of the touches out of the backfield? Is the team expected to have the lead most of the game or will they be trailing? How does his involvement change in either scenario? How does the team allocate touches to their backfield in those scenarios? How is their offensive line performing and how do they matchup verses their opponent that week?

“And those are just a few variables at one position. No stone is left unturned.”

That extensive analysis has been benefiting STATS clients for years, providing a service that gives the most dedicated DFS pros the edge they’re seeking. Saying STATS’ API makes DFS players look like a million bucks would only be cliché if it weren’t true.

STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 14

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Welcome to fantasy football playoffs, or just another Sunday in DFS! I’ll be focusing primarily on daily fantasy prices and strategy, giving a brief introduction for each position before diving into some specific players. In season-long, you’re focusing on one or two sit/starts that are pretty straightforward if you look at Sean Koerner’s tiers, but in DFS, there are tons of iterations and decisions involved, with the landscape changing each week depending on pricing. Hopefully some of the DFS sleepers that I mention can also serve as waiver-wire pickups for you in season-long, but if you’re unsure, please feel free to reach out on Twitter (@cschwartz18), as always.

Note that both sites are at least half-point PPR – DraftKings (DK) is full – and that injuries and other news can change our outlook dramatically. For example, if I say Golden Tate is a good play at WR, but then Matt Stafford is ruled out, you may want to scrap Tate. It’s such a dynamic process with tons of news coming all the way until kickoff, so check Twitter and only use this as a guide, not as gospel.

Quarterbacks

Here are the QBs not part of the main slate this week: Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger (on DK). Russell Wilson is facing Jacksonville while Cam Newton faces Minnesota. There aren’t very many QB1s left! One guy gets my vote as the default cash-game QB option, while I think the optimal strategy in GPPs is to let it ride with a cheap flier in a good spot.

High-End Play: Alex Smith, KC (vs. OAK)

Brady is in Tier 1 by himself this week, and Alex Smith is the best value in the tier below, being a good deal cheaper than Carson Wentz on both sites. Vegas oddsmakers think KC’s offense turned a corner with Andy Reid no longer calling plays, as they are projected for 26.5 team points. Against a defense that yields 7.7 yards per throw, that should mean some nice stats for Smith.

Sleeper: DeShone Kizer, CLE (vs. GB)

His rushing gives him a nice floor, as he’s taken off at least five times in every start, with three TDs over his last five. Against a Green Bay team that allows a bad 7.8 yards per pass, Kizer has some passing ceiling to go with that floor. Vegas projects Cleveland to score around 19 points, higher than its average of 14.7, and he’s a good value at a bargain-basement price on both sites.

Sleeper: Blaine Gabbert, ARI (vs. TEN)

Tennessee’s run defense has been elite, averaging 3.5 yards per opponent carry, and it has come on even stronger lately. As a result, teams go pass-heavy against the Titans’ more pedestrian secondary, and they’ve seen more pass attempts against than any other team. I doubt Arizona will run too much with Adrian Peterson out and Kerwynn Williams “shouldering the load,” so Gabbert should put up stats. He’s put up 200+ yards and run at least three times in each of his three starts.

Fade: Cam Newton, CAR (vs. MIN)

Russell Wilson is also in a bad spot, facing Jacksonville’s elite pass defense. Wilson isn’t a total fade for me, though – he has a knack for making magical plays against even the best defenses, and he tends to explode in poor matchups while busting in great ones. I’d definitely consider a contrarian Wilson GPP lineup. At the same price, Newton has less going for him, including the fact that Devin Funchess is banged up, and that he’s not as good as Wilson. I’m okay fading Cam this week, even with so many high-end QBs unavailable.

Running Backs

Welcome to Gio Week! Giovani Bernard is a must-play at RB on both sites. You probably want an RB1 type beside him, so I’ll point out my favorite two options. It’s not optimal, but pairing Bernard with a cheaper RB allows you to roster 2-3 stud WRs and/or go contrarian with an expensive QB like Wentz, so I’ll point out a couple cheap guys I like too.

High-End Play: Giovani Bernard, CIN (vs. CHI)

Joe Mixon got hurt on Monday Night Football, when DFS prices for this week were already locked in. As a result, Bernard is an RB2 (or borderline RB1 in PPR) that is priced close to the minimum. He should be in cash and GPP lineups, as he may get 20+ touches and looked great last week – his backup Brian Hill doesn’t have a single carry in his NFL career.

High-End Play: Todd Gurley, LAR (vs. PHI)

This is a smart contrarian move, as Philly’s front seven is great against the run, but Gurley may get enough volume to produce anyways. Even if we project him for around 3.8 carries, the number of touches we project leaves him as the week’s overall RB2 (behind Le’Veon Bell of course). The tough matchup lowered his price closer to that of everybody else in the tier below him, so he’s worth it.

High-End Play: Lamar Miller, HOU (vs. SF)

This one is pretty simple: San Francisco is bad against the run, and teams expose it, allowing the fourth-most yards per game on the most attempts. Houston will certainly try to win this one on the back of Miller, making him a high-floor, high-volume RB1 with a nice price.

Sleeper: Frank Gore, IND (@ BUF)

Buffalo’s defense is a sneaky D to target, actually grading out as our most favorable D for opposing RBs. Gore is a good value, especially on DK, but he’ll be even better if Tyrod Taylor is ruled out, which would probably mean shorter fields, more possession and better game script for Indy’s RB.

Sleeper: Jamaal Williams, GB (vs. CLE)

Many DFS players see Cleveland’s 3.3 yards per carry allowed and automatically fade the opposing RB. This doesn’t factor in any context – like favorable game script for the opponent (leading to occasionally predictable run calls). Green Bay with Brett Hundley at QB is favored by three points on the road, and if they win, it likely involves a good day for Williams. His ownership may be lower due to the presence of Aaron Jones, but he seems like the guy (at least for now), making him a worthy GPP play (maybe in a stack with Green Bay DST).

Fade: Jordan Howard, CHI (@ CIN)

Cincinnati is missing several key starters on defense, including Vontaze Burfict and possibly Geno Atkins, which certainly weakens its defense. The best case scenario, though, is practically priced into Howard’s salary already, and he’s just not worth it when you can roster Bernard and a better stud. His floor and ceiling are both lower due to lack of involvement in the passing game, where Tarik Cohen has re-emerged as the guy.

Wide Receivers

For the first time in a few weeks, the value appears to be at the QB and RB spots, enabling you to roster two or three stud WRs. I have two in mind and will share them with you, while also giving you some cheaper WR2 or WR3 types to consider if you roll out a different type of GPP lineup.

High-End Play: Keenan Allen, LAC (vs. WAS)

Antonio Brown is the GOAT, but he’s unavailable on DK and too pricey on FanDuel. The next three guys are all projected for about equal production, but two of them are cheaper. Allen is one of them, despite the fact that he’s on an absolute tear. He’s always been a high-floor PPR guy, but Philip Rivers has lately looked for him in the red zone, adding some huge ceiling to his game. He has four TDs over his last three games, with double digit receptions in all three (insane). He should avoid Josh Norman by moving all over the formation and into the slot, and you shouldn’t avoid putting him in your lineups.

High-End Play: A.J. Green, CIN (vs. CHI)

Green is the other top WR that is worth his price. Cincinnati may have to score more than initially anticipated, with so many injuries on the other side of the ball. They’re also missing their top two rushing options, so they may mix in more pass calls. Green is the most likely guy on DK’s main slate to catch a TD, going against a below-average Chicago pass defense (by YPA and passer rating).

Sleeper: Josh Gordon, CLE (vs. GB)

Gordon was somewhat efficient (7.7 yards per target) against Casey Hayward and the Chargers last week, but I’m more intrigued by the 11 targets. Kizer force-fed him, and if that continues against a much worse Green Bay pass D this week, he could put up a monster score. We know his upside, and I like him in GPP stacks with Kizer.

Sleeper: Marquise Goodwin, SF (@ HOU)

Houston’s pass defense is straight up bad, allowing 7.8 yards per attempt. Goodwin has shown good rapport with Jimmy Garropolo, as well as an ability to be more than just a deep threat. He has averaged six receptions for 89 yards over the last two weeks, and if that continues (now that he has a real QB), he’s a valuable PPR guy. I like him as a waiver-wire add, particularly if you are out of contention in a keeper league and can afford to roll the dice.

Fade: Robbie Anderson, NYJ (@ DEN)

He’s having a magnificent breakout season, but he still shouldn’t be the fifth-priciest WR on FD and 10th on DK. Now that his hype and salary have reached those levels, he gets a matchup against Denver’s secondary and an angry Aqib Talib back from suspension. I think it’s time to fade in cash, although his ownership levels in GPPs will surely be low at his new price, making him a “sure, why not?” type GPP play.

Tight Ends

It’s fitting that on the week of Rob Gronkowski’s suspension, there is a new Gronk impostor at the top of the rankings. Travis Kelce is a must-play in cash, and there’s not much else to discuss.

High-End: Travis Kelce, KC (vs. OAK)

Kansas City got him involved early and often last week, as Kansas City’s new play-caller Matt Nagy looked to send a message. That should continue against an Oakland team that we grade as a top 10 team to target with opposing TEs. With the Chiefs expected to score 26.5 points as a team, there exists a Gronk-like separation between Kelce and the No. 2 TE this week.

Sleeper: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ (@ DEN)

Denver’s good corners funnel passing production to opposing TEs, and the Jets’ best red zone receiver happens to be a TE. ASJ is my favorite cheap option at TE if you want to fade Kelce, which allows you to spend up on high upside guys at other positions.

Fade: Zach Ertz, PHI (@ LAR)

He has a lot working against him this week. First of all, he’s banged up. Second, the Rams bottle up opposing TEs. He’s usually a toss-up against Kelce, but this week there’s a sizable gap between the two. This isn’t reflected in salaries, making Ertz my odd-man-out.

2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 14 Tiers

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Don’t forget, these fantasy football tiers reflect non-PPR scoring. The number in parentheses next to the player’s matchup indicates how many tiers they’d move up or down in PPR scoring. One thing to note – just because a RB may see a couple receptions doesn’t mean they would simply get a +1 rating. Keep in mind that these PPR ratings factor in the players surrounding him, so if he’s expected to get 2.0 rec, but surrounded by players getting 3+ receptions, he could actually sink a bit, relatively speaking. Just remember that these are dynamic and do factor that aspect in.

The FLEX Rating is a number that allows you to compare each tier across the RB/WR/TE positions for FLEX decisions.

Without further ado, here are the Week 14 tiers:

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford’s status is still up in the air, so take his current ranking with a grain of salt. His final rank will depend on reports we get on his bruised hand. It’s important to note that only 0.4 points separate QB4 to QB12, so I anticipate a ton of sit/start questions in that range this week. When it is that close, its ideal to simply go with the QB you can trust the most.

Russell Wilson has the brutal draw at the Jaguars this week. Although he is surely going to see his passing stats suppressed and likely under pressure even more than he is used to, I think the fact that he may be running for his life (even more) could result in elevated rushing stats. Despite the downgrade overall, I still view him as a fairly safe QB1 this week.

Tier 1

Tom Brady (@ MIA)

Tier 2

Carson Wentz (@ LAR)
Alex Smith (vs OAK)

Tier 3

Matt Ryan (vs NO)
Russell Wilson (@ JAX)
Drew Brees (@ ATL)
Philip Rivers (vs WAS)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs BAL)
Cam Newton (vs MIN)
Jared Goff (vs PHI)
Matthew Stafford (@ TB)
Jameis Winston (vs DET)

Tier 4

Kirk Cousins (@ LAC)
Dak Prescott (@ NYG)
Marcus Mariota (@ ARI)

Tier 5

Case Keenum (@ CAR)
Derek Carr (@ KC)
DeShone Kizer (vs GB)
Brett Hundley (@ CLE)
Jimmy Garoppolo (@ HOU)
Andy Dalton (vs CHI)
Blaine Gabbert (vs TEN)
Jacoby Brissett (@ BUF)
Josh McCown (@ DEN)
Tyrod Taylor (vs IND)

Tier 6

Blake Bortles (vs SEA)
Tom Savage (vs SF)
Trevor Siemian (vs NYJ)

Tier 7

Jay Cutler (vs NE)
Eli Manning (vs DAL)

Tier 8

Joe Flacco (@ PIT)
Mitchell Trubisky (@ CIN)

Running Backs

As of right now, the rankings reflect the fact that I am projecting Joe Mixon, Doug Martin, and Adrian Peterson to be playing this week. That is not to say that I think they will be active necessarily, it’s just too soon to be ranking as if all three are out and having misleading ranks for guys like Gio Bernard, Peyton Barber, and Kerwynn Williams.

Yes, if Doug Martin is ruled out again, you better believe Barber would shoot up the rankings with that news. If that happens, be sure to check my Twitter timeline for updates. It’s not as simple as saying, “If Doug Martin is ruled out, Peyton Barber will be ranked X.” It is still early in the week and we want to be sure to be using as much information as we can some Sunday.

At this time last week, we assumed Jacquizz Rogers would be the starter, only to have Barber announced as the starter about an hour before the game (if you checked out the sit/start link on Twitter you would have seen I tweaked Barber up/Rogers down a bit after that news).

Kareem Hunt is for sure going to be the most controversial back this week. People are correct that he may be hitting a “rookie wall” as people like to say. I tend to think more analytically about his drop off as him not being able to sustain his performances in Weeks 1-5. He was getting huge chunks of yards/TDs off big plays. We really haven’t seen those big plays the past five weeks or so (and 0 TDs since Week 3) making everyone abandon ship. I think if anything, this makes him a frustrating week-to-week RB2 but think you have to play him based on his upside. It’s one thing if you are able to start Alvin Kamara, LeSean McCoy, and Todd Gurley instead, but if you are making it a point to start someone like C.J. Anderson over Hunt, I think it’s a big mistake.

Tier 1 (FLEX Rating: 17.5)

Le’Veon Bell (vs BAL)

Tier 2 (15.0)

Todd Gurley (vs PHI)
Alvin Kamara (@ ATL)

Tier 3 (13.5)

LeSean McCoy (vs IND)
Melvin Gordon (vs WAS)
Leonard Fournette (vs SEA)
Mark Ingram (@ ATL)

Tier 4 (13.0)

Lamar Miller (vs SF)

Tier 5 (11.5)

Jamaal Williams (@ CLE)
Carlos Hyde (@ HOU)
Samaje Perine (@ LAC)
Kareem Hunt (vs OAK)
Kenyan Drake (vs NE)

Tier 6 (10.5)

Jordan Howard (-1, @ CIN)
Devonta Freeman (vs NO)
Dion Lewis (@ MIA)
Alex Collins (@ PIT)
Marshawn Lynch (@ KC)
Alfred Morris (-2, @ NYG)

Tier 7 (9.5)

Rex Burkhead (+1, @ MIA)
Frank Gore (@ BUF)
Latavius Murray (-1, @ CAR)
Joe Mixon (vs CHI)*

Tier 8 (8.5)

Derrick Henry (-1, @ ARI)
Christian McCaffrey (+3, vs MIN)
DeMarco Murray (@ ARI)
Mike Davis (@ JAX)
Orleans Darkwa (vs DAL)
C.J. Anderson (vs NYJ)
Tevin Coleman (vs NO)
Jerick McKinnon (+1, @ CAR)
Isaiah Crowell (-1, vs GB)

Tier 9 (7.0)

Adrian Peterson (-1, vs TEN)*
Duke Johnson Jr. (+1, vs GB)
Peyton Barber (vs DET)*
Jay Ajayi (@ LAR)
Matt Forte (@ DEN)

Tier 10 (6.5)

Austin Ekeler (+1, vs WAS)
Rod Smith (@ NYG)
Jonathan Stewart (-2, vs MIN)
Bilal Powell (@ DEN)
Giovani Bernard (vs CHI)*

Tier 11 (5.5)

Ameer Abdullah (@ TB)*
Marlon Mack (@ BUF)
Kerwynn Williams (vs TEN)
Devontae Booker (vs NYJ)
Theo Riddick (@ TB)*
LeGarrette Blount (-1, @ LAR)
Doug Martin (vs DET)*

*Extremely volatile rank due to being a GTD or a teammate whose value is directly tied to the player that is a GTD.

Wide Receivers

Josh Gordon is back! If you tracked my rank for him on FantasyPros this week it kept creeping up with more and more positive reports throughout the week. Despite his big game, he still left quite a few points on the field after nearly connecting for a 44-yard TD. The Browns seem set to run the offense through him the rest of the season, and this week at home verses the Packers is as good of a matchup as you can get. He is locked and loaded as a solid WR2 with obvious WR1 upside.

Tier 1 (13.5)

Antonio Brown (vs BAL)

Tier 2 (11.5)

A.J. Green (vs CHI)
Keenan Allen (vs WAS)
DeAndre Hopkins (vs SF)
Julio Jones (vs NO)

Tier 3 (10.5)

Brandin Cooks (-1, @ MIA)
Tyreek Hill (vs OAK)
Michael Thomas (@ ATL)
Mike Evans (vs DET)

Tier 4 (9.5)

Adam Thielen (@ CAR)
Larry Fitzgerald (+1, vs TEN)

Tier 5 (9.0)

Dez Bryant (@ NYG)
Davante Adams (@ CLE)
Michael Crabtree (@ KC)
Josh Gordon (vs GB)
Jamison Crowder (@ LAC)
Golden Tate (@ TB)
Marvin Jones Jr. (-1, @ TB)
Cooper Kupp (vs PHI)
Devin Funchess (vs MIN)
Robby Anderson (@ DEN)
Alshon Jeffery (@ LAR)

Tier 6 (8.5)

Jarvis Landry (+1, vs NE)
T.Y. Hilton (@ BUF)
Doug Baldwin (@ JAX)
Sterling Shepard (vs DAL)
Stefon Diggs (@ CAR)
Demaryius Thomas (vs NYJ)
Marquise Goodwin (@ HOU)
Chris Hogan (@ MIA)
Sammy Watkins (-1, vs PHI)

Tier 7 (7.5)

Jermaine Kearse (@ DEN)
Kenny Stills (vs NE)
Emmanuel Sanders (vs NYJ)
Ted Ginn Jr. (@ ATL)
Amari Cooper (@ KC)
Mohamed Sanu (vs NO)
DeSean Jackson (vs DET)
Marqise Lee (vs SEA)
Rishard Matthews (@ ARI)
Martavis Bryant (vs BAL)
Mike Wallace (@ PIT)
Nelson Agholor (@ LAR)

Tier 8 (6.5)

Jeremy Maclin (@ PIT)
DeVante Parker (vs NE)
Jordy Nelson (@ CLE)

Tier 9 (5.5)

Josh Doctson (@ LAC)
Dontrelle Inman (@ CIN)
Corey Davis (@ ARI)
Dede Westbrook (vs SEA)
Corey Coleman (vs GB)
Will Fuller V (vs SF)
Randall Cobb (@ CLE)
Travis Benjamin (vs WAS)
Danny Amendola (@ MIA)
Kelvin Benjamin (vs IND)
Brandon LaFell (vs CHI)
Trent Taylor (@ HOU)
Ryan Grant (@ LAC)
Kenny Golladay (@ TB)
Albert Wilson (vs OAK)
Paul Richardson (@ JAX)

Tier 10 (4.5)

Terrance Williams (@ NYG)
Zay Jones (vs IND)
Tavarres King (vs DAL)
Josh Reynolds (vs PHI)
Eli Rogers (vs BAL)
Tyrell Williams (vs WAS)
J.J. Nelson (vs TEN)
Jaron Brown (vs TEN)

Tight Ends

No players stock went up as much as Travis Kelce’s this week. After the Chiefs offense predictably blew up when Andy Reid stepped down as play caller, we saw them make it a point to get the ball to their best pass catchers in Tyreek Hill and Kelce. They have an even better matchup this week at home against the Raiders sieve-like pass defense. Also factor in that Gronk has been suspended for Week 14 and Zach Ertz could miss due to the concussion he suffered in Week 13. That could potentially set up Kelce to be 3+ projected points higher than the No. 2 TE.

The sneaky TE streamer of Week 14 is Stephen Anderson. He has typically been the back-up to either Ryan Griffin or C.J. Fiedorowicz every single week. With both on IR now, it is his time to be the No. 1 TE option for the Texans. It’s important to note he isn’t some plodding blocking TE who occasionally goes out for a pass. In college, he played as a WR/TE hybrid for Cal with their pass-happy offense with Jared Goff under center.

Tier 1 (10.5)

Travis Kelce (vs OAK)

Tier 2 (8.5)

Zach Ertz (@ LAR)

Tier 3 (7.5)

Delanie Walker (@ ARI)
Evan Engram (vs DAL)
Jimmy Graham (@ JAX)

Tier 4 (6.0)

Jack Doyle (@ BUF)
Hunter Henry (vs WAS)
Jared Cook (@ KC)
Kyle Rudolph (@ CAR)
Jason Witten (@ NYG)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ DEN)
Vernon Davis (@ LAC)

Tier 5 (5.0)

Austin Hooper (vs NO)
Ricky Seals-Jones (vs TEN)
Charles Clay (vs IND)
Greg Olsen (vs MIN)
Cameron Brate (vs DET)
Stephen Anderson (vs SF)
Julius Thomas (vs NE)
Tyler Kroft (vs CHI)
Eric Ebron (@ TB)
David Njoku (vs GB)
Dwayne Allen (@ MIA)

Kicker

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski (@ MIA)

Tier 2

Wil Lutz (@ ATL)
Matt Bryant (vs NO)
Greg Zuerlein (vs PHI)
Travis Coons (vs WAS)
Harrison Butker (vs OAK)
Ryan Succop (@ ARI)

Tier 3

Matt Prater (@ TB)
Dan Bailey (@ NYG)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (vs SF)
Chris Boswell (vs BAL)

Tier 4

Kai Forbath (@ CAR)
Jake Elliott (@ LAR)
Stephen Hauschka (vs IND)
Josh Lambo (vs SEA)
Chandler Catanzaro (@ DEN)
Giorgio Tavecchio (@ KC)
Phil Dawson (vs TEN)
Randy Bullock (vs CHI)
Adam Vinatieri (@ BUF)
Robbie Gould (@ HOU)
Patrick Murray (vs DET)
Brandon McManus (vs NYJ)
Nick Rose (@ LAC)
Mason Crosby (@ CLE)
Graham Gano (vs MIN)
Justin Tucker (@ PIT)

Tier 5

Blair Walsh (@ JAX)
Aldrick Rosas (vs DAL)
Cody Parkey (vs NE)
Zane Gonzalez (vs GB)

Tier 6

Mike Nugent (@ CIN)

Defense

Tier 1

Jacksonville Jaguars (vs SEA)
Green Bay Packers (@ CLE)
New England Patriots (@ MIA)

Tier 2

Cincinnati Bengals (vs CHI)
Tennessee Titans (@ ARI)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs BAL)
Minnesota Vikings (@ CAR)
Dallas Cowboys (@ NYG)
Indianapolis Colts (@ BUF)

Tier 3

New York Jets (@ DEN)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs WAS)
Houston Texans (vs SF)
Buffalo Bills (vs IND)
Seattle Seahawks (@ JAX)
Denver Broncos (vs NYJ)

Tier 4

Cleveland Browns (vs GB)
Arizona Cardinals (vs TEN)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs DET)
Detroit Lions (@ TB)
San Francisco 49ers (@ HOU)

Tier 5

Chicago Bears (@ CIN)
Los Angeles Rams (vs PHI)
Baltimore Ravens (@ PIT)
New York Giants (vs DAL)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs OAK)
Carolina Panthers (vs MIN)

Tier 6

Philadelphia Eagles (@ LAR)
New Orleans Saints (@ ATL)
Washington Redskins (@ LAC)

Tier 7

Atlanta Falcons (vs NO)
Oakland Raiders (@ KC)

Tier 8

Miami Dolphins (vs NE)

Week 14 Spreads: STATS vs. Las Vegas

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Using STATS X-Info metrics and roster rankings to project NFL favorites vs. the Vegas standard odds

Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are ready to share the NFL’s biggest stage once again. The difference this time is it will be on the field in the most anticipated game of the week.

The Rams selected Goff with the No. 1 pick of the 2015 draft before Philadelphia snagged Wentz at No. 2, with both teams trading up to select them. Two years later, they’re two of the best in the NFC, and it’s largely because of the improved quarterback play. Wentz ranks sixth in the league with a 102.0 passer rating for the 10-2 Eagles, while Goff is ninth at 98.4 for the 9-3 Rams.

Los Angeles opened as a consensus two-point favorite over the visiting Eagles in Vegas, but how does STATS see that game playing out when all the data is pumped into its model?

STATS uses proprietary data to project spreads for each NFL game. STATS X-Info calculates roster rankings based on injuries, statistical data and depth at each position, then compares that to an opponent and arrives at a conclusion – the projected spread.

None of these spread projections mean you should empty your account and follow the STATS model to riches. X-Info simply takes into account factors Vegas may not, hence some differing views. And if you’re looking for fantasy advice, you’re still best suited to follow best-in-the-business Sean Koerner and his weekly tiers.

Have a look at how STATS projects the spreads in Week 14 against those coming out of Las Vegas as of Thursday afternoon. We’re also going to structure things differently this week and divide games into two sections instead of three. Those projected scores for each game are new as well.

Group 1 – STATS Lines Similar to Vegas (Within 4 Points):

 

New Orleans at Atlanta

STATS: Falcons -1.91
Vegas: Falcons -2.5
Projected score: Falcons 24, Saints 23

Indianapolis at Buffalo

STATS: Colts -0.71
Vegas: EVEN
Projected score: Colts 20, Bills 19

Green Bay at Cleveland

STATS: Packers -1.36
Vegas: Packers -3
Projected score: Packers 22, Browns 20

Minnesota at Carolina

STATS: Vikings -0.5
Vegas: Vikings -2.5
Projected score: Vikings 27, Panthers 26

Dallas at New York Giants

STATS: Cowboys -1.3
Vegas: Cowboys -4
Projected score: Cowboys 22, Giants 21

New York Jets at Denver

STATS: Jets -4.34
Vegas: Jets -1
Projected score: Jets 23, Broncos 19

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

STATS: Steelers -1.96
Vegas: Steelers -5
Projected score: Steelers 23, Ravens 21

Group 2 – STATS Lines Not Similar to Vegas:

 

Chicago at Cincinnati

STATS: Bengals -11.19
Vegas: Bengals -6
Projected score: Bengals 27, Bears 16

Washington at Los Angeles Chargers

STATS: Chargers -11.01
Vegas: Chargers -6
Projected score: Chargers 23, Redskins 12

New England at Miami

STATS: Patriots -21.22
Vegas: Patriots -11
Projected score: Patriots 35, Dolphins 14

Oakland at Kansas City

STATS: Raiders -4.5
Vegas: Chiefs -4
Projected score: Raiders 27, Chiefs 23

San Francisco at Houston

STATS: 49ers -2.34
Vegas: Texans -3
Projected score: 49ers 21, Texans 19

Detroit at Tampa Bay

STATS: Lions -6.58
Vegas: EVEN
Projected score: Lions 27, Bucs 20

Tennessee at Arizona

STATS: Cardinals -2.56
Vegas: Titans -3
Projected score: Cardinals 21, Titans 19

Philadelphia at Los Angeles Rams

STATS: Eagles -4.54
Vegas: Rams -2
Projected score: Eagles 24, Rams 19

Seattle at Jacksonville

STATS: Seahawks -0.43
Vegas: Jaguars -2.5
Projected score: Seahawks 19, Jaguars 18

STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 13

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Hello everybody – I’m back after a week off. In this piece, I’ll be focusing primarily on Daily Fantasy (DFS) prices and strategy, giving a brief introduction for each position before diving into some specific players. In season-long, you’re focusing on one or two sit/starts that are pretty straightforward if you look at Sean Koerner’s weekly tiers, but in DFS, there are tons of iterations and decisions involved, with the landscape changing each week depending on pricing. Hopefully some of the DFS sleepers that I mention can also serve as waiver wire pickups for you in season-long, but if you’re unsure, please feel free to reach out on Twitter (@cschwartz18), as always.

Note that both sites are at least half-point PPR – Draftkings (DK) is full – and that injuries and other news can change our outlook dramatically. For example, if I say it looks smart to roster two stud RBs in DFS, but then it’s reported that C.J. Anderson is a healthy scratch in favor of Devontae Booker, you will want to consider Booker at a cheap price all of a sudden. This would allow you to spend more money at other positions. It’s such a dynamic process with tons of news coming all the way until kickoff, so check Twitter and only use this as a guide, not as gospel.

Quarterbacks

QB strategy depends on which site you’re using. Fanduel (FD) includes Sunday Night Football in its main slate, meaning Russell Wilson is my preferred option (more on that below). On DK, with Wilson out of the picture, it’s a bit cloudier, and cheaper options are more viable. Either way, you should know this about the QB position – below the top two or three guys, it’s a jumbled mix of passers with almost identical projections, and they can move up or down several spots based on things like line movement and weather. So be diligent, and, when in doubt, just go with the cheaper options within a tier.

High-End Play: Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. PHI)

Wilson is almost never a home underdog, but he is this week. It’s largely due to injuries to the Legion of Boom (Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor both are out for the season), which should make this a higher-scoring affair. Wilson will have to produce in order to keep his team in the game, and he may have to do a bit more catch-up than usual. That’s a very scary (good) proposition in fantasy football. On FD, he’s in a virtual tie for the top-projected QB with Tom Brady, but he’s $1k cheaper.

High-End Play: Cam Newton, CAR (@ NO)

Newton finally looks healthier and has been running more. After just six rush attempts per game over his first five games, he’s averaged nine over his last six. This gives him a much higher floor and ceiling, especially in a game where he’ll have to put up points and maybe come from behind. Newton’s inconsistency makes him tough to roster in cash, but he’s my favorite expensive GPP QB behind Wilson this week.

Sleeper: Brett Hundley, GB (vs. TB)

I guess it’s tough to call Hundley a sleeper after a nice game on national TV last week, but he’s a solid cheap option, especially on FD where he’s cheaper. He’s basically priced like Deshone Kizer, but you should expect him to produce more like Matt Stafford against a bad Tampa pass defense. I like him, especially when paired in a stack with Davante Adams, with whom he’s shown good chemistry.

Sleeper: Blaine Gabbert, ARI (vs. LAR)

This is mainly a DK play, as his risk is fully priced into his salary. He’s proven to be capable of producing, to the point where he’s probably better in fantasy right now than real life. He put up points against the elite Jacksonville pass defense last week, and he should have an easier time against the more pedestrian Rams D this week. He and Larry Fitzgerald together make a very cheap and valuable stack on DK.

Fade: Matt Stafford, DET (@ BAL)

Baltimore has allowed the second-fewest passing yards this year and an NFL-low 65.9 passer rating. Those numbers are exaggerated a bit by the pu pu platter of terrible backup-types that the Ravens have faced, but they’ve still allowed just 7.4 fantasy points per game to decent QBs Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Case Keenum and Marcus Mariota. Perhaps it’s fair to exclude Dalton’s Week 1 disaster, but they still allowed just 10.9 points on average to the other three guys. They’re certainly a defense to avoid if you have other options. In season-long, you should still start Stafford if he’s your only decent QB, but in DFS, you have plenty of alternatives. Priced like a QB1, he’s a fade for me.

Running Backs

You almost always want at least one elite stud RB in your DFS cash team, and this week is no exception. Below I’ll tell you my favorite of the studs. Beyond that, you may not be able to afford a second star (or on DK a third), so I’ll help you out with a few sleepers. This, as always, is the most volatile position and the one that swings the most on injury news, so stay alert.

High-End Play: Todd Gurley, LAR (@ ARI)

Arizona has a decent defense, which may impact Gurley’s efficiency a bit, but he should still get tons of volume (as always) in a game the Rams are favored to win. Also, projected team totals are low across the league this week (perhaps due to the number of bad QBs), and the Rams’ projected 26 points is on the high side. It’s not usual that Gurley’s Rams project as one of the highest-scoring teams of the week, and this week he’s one of the best bets to find the end zone.

Sleeper: Kenyan Drake, MIA (vs. DEN)

Drake has flashed some decent ability this season, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and catching 15 of his 20 targets. This week, he’s Miami’s workhorse RB by default (due to injuries), and we project him for an RB1-like 17 carries. Even if he averages, say, 3.5 yards per carry against a good (but banged up) Denver run D, he’ll still have produced enough to warrant a RB2 ranking. He’s a solid cash value on volume alone this week.

Sleeper: Alex Collins, BAL (vs. DET)

Detroit grades out as one of our top 10 run Ds to target in fantasy, as they showed last week against Latavius Murray and Minnesota. The return of Danny Woodhead hasn’t stopped Collins’ ascent to RB2 status, as he still touched the ball 18 times last week. Volume, matchup and a cheap price all combine to make Collins a great value in DFS this week.

Sleeper: Jacquizz Rodgers, TB (@ GB)

This is a straightforward punt play at the RB spot. Doug Martin may sit with a concussion, and Rodgers racked up 18+ touches in two of the three games Martin missed to start the season. Maybe he’ll get 60 yards and find the end zone, while being cheap enough to allow you to roster an extra stud.

Fade: Leonard Fournette, JAX (vs. IND)

For the second straight week, I’m listing Fournette as a fade, largely due to his price tag. He’s still priced – up there with Gurley – as a top-three RB option, when he’s probably a step below. His floor is low, as it’s possible he could cede touches to Chris Ivory or T.J. Yeldon if Jacksonville builds a huge lead. Plus, Indianapolis is sneaky decent against the run, allowing just 4.0 yards per carry. I’ll pass again.

Fade: Latavius Murray, MIN (@ ATL)

He’s a point-chasey play this week, but I see him more as a TD regression candidate. Strip away his TD-per-game over the last five weeks, and you’re left with a career 4.0-yards-per-carry guy who isn’t involved at all in the passing game. He’ll eventually stop scoring 1-yard TDs at Shaun Alexander’s pace, and if that happens against Atlanta, with Minnesota potentially needing to pass more, his floor will be quite low. I don’t mind fading him too early instead of too late.

Wide Receivers

There’s nobody I really dislike value-wise at WR. On FD, I like the value of some of the cheaper guys a bit more, which allows you to roster Wilson there at QB. On DK, with Wilson unavailable on the main slate, you may want to go cheaper at QB, which would allow you to roster an extra WR1 type. If you are comfortable rolling with guys like Drake and/or Collins at RB, then this is definitely an option for you. If you want stud RBs galore (and I prefer Gurley and Alvin Kamara of the bunch), I’ll also point out some sleepers.

High-End Play: Michael Thomas, NO (vs. CAR)

From last week: “At some point, a guy who had nine TDs last year and just two this year will see some positive regression. Until then, I’ll keep mentioning him in these articles.” So, yeah, I’ll keep mentioning him. He has an established high floor and some upside due to TD regression potential. The lack of TDs has served to lower his price, and he’s now one of the best values among WR1. He could burn a Carolina secondary that got lit up by Robbie Anderson and the Jets last week.

High-End Play: Mike Evans, TB (@ GB)

This one’s about pricing inefficiency, as it was announced midweek that Jameis Winston will most likely start once again. He’s still priced like the WR2 who caught passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick and not the elite WR1 who will catch passes from Winston. The matchup is also nice against a burnable Green Bay secondary that we rate as a top-five matchup for opposing wideouts.

Sleeper: Seth Roberts, OAK (vs. NYG)

Roberts should be high-owned, as he has a lot going for him. He’s now his team’s No.1 WR by default, with Amari Cooper injured and Michael Crabtree suspended. The Giants’ No. 1 CB (Janoris Jenkins) was placed on IR. His QB is very capable of producing statistically, unlike seemingly half the QBs starting this week. He’s also very cheap and a virtual must-play in cash on both sites. I like him in GPPs too where he may not be owned as highly as he should be, either because “he’s bad” or because more people roster Jared Cook.

Sleeper: Zay Jones, BUF (vs. NE)

Here’s a season-long recommendation – if you are in a deep and/or keeper league, consider picking up Zay Jones. He’s put up three straight decent games, averaging eight targets over that time with two TDs. If Buffalo falls behind against the Pats, they may very well look to get their high second-round pick even more involved. If so, he won’t be on your waiver wire any longer. In DFS, he makes for a decent GPP punt play.

Fade: Keenan Allen, LAC (vs. CLE)

Okay, he’s not a total fade, and if you put out multiple GPP lineups, you may want him in one of them. I just want to point out that, after several weeks being priced like Cooper Kupp and Emmanuel Sanders, his breakout last week finally pushed his pricing up to WR1 status. Unfortunately, it reversed a bit too much, as he’s now priced like a top 2 or 3 WR. He’s not quite there, and his floor is lower than usual in a game where LA may not have to throw as often as usual.

Fade: T.Y Hilton, IND (@ JAX) and Kenny Stills, MIA (vs. DEN)

I just want to quickly mention a couple guys I’m avoiding. Hilton is on the road against the best secondary in football, so you should pass on him in DFS and consider benching him in season-long. Stills has shown much better chemistry with Matt Moore than with Jay Cutler, and Cutler is back, so Stills is a drop candidate in season-long before a matchup against Denver.

Tight Ends

Given the Raiders’ situation – and the “Giants can’t cover TEs” narrative – Jared Cook will be chalk this week. I don’t mind the play, but I’ll also recommend some others; rostering a unique TE who could go off, next to Seth Roberts who could steal Cook targets, gives you a chance to create separation in GPPs.

High-End: Travis Kelce, KC (@ NYJ)

Kelce is still a stud, and he’s shown an ability to bounce back after duds this season. It’s now or never time for Andy Reid, and surely he knows he has to get his Pro Bowlers more involved in order to right the sinking ship. If he emphasizes getting the ball to Kelce, Kelce could – and should – have a monster PPR game. It’s a worthwhile bet and good time to essentially buy low.

Sleeper: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ (vs. KC)

The other TE in the Jets/Chiefs matchup is also a good value, particularly on DK. His QB looks for him in the Red Zone, and he came close to snapping a three-game TD drought last week (his TD was nullified by a flag). He’s a borderline TE1 in the same tier as Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph and Jack Doyle this week, but he’s much cheaper than them on DK. That’s not a bad punt play.

Fade: Evan Engram, NYG (@ OAK)

You may have noticed that I just referred to Engram as a “borderline TE1.” It’s sad but true, as a result of Eli Manning’s benching. Manning was good for about 220 yards per game, but we project Geno Smith to barely crack 200. The Giants offense as a whole should stall and therefore see fewer red zone attempts. Throw in the likely return of Sterling Shepard, and Engram now owns less market share of a less valuable passing offense. He’s only a contrarian GPP option now, as he’s still priced like Manning is his QB.