Well, last week wrapped up the season for six-digit grand prizes, but if you need one last fix, Fanduel is offering a $20,000 contest for those willing to pony up a $535 entry fee. This week should prove to be a veritable mine field with eliminated teams packing it in and other teams with little or nothing to gain because they have a postseason birth and/or a playoff seed clinched. You’ll want to steer clear of players that might play one quarter or one series and then get taken out for the duration. I’m staying away from most of the 4:00 pm games as the outcome of some of the 1:00 pm matchups could put certain premier players out of commission. That means that few Broncos, Raiders, 49ers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Chargers, Rams or Seahawks will be on my rosters. The Sunday night division showdown to determine the NFC East title is the best stack on the docket.
Kyle Orton ($5,000 vs. Philadelphia) – Tony Romo’s back injury will put him on the shelf for awhile, so the Cowboys will place all of their playoff hopes at Kyle Orton’s feet. I have to assume that the Eagles will open up a big lead, forcing Orton to air it out to catch up. Is he up to the task? I don’t know. Matt Cassell was. Jay Cutler wasn’t. I’ll pay 5k to find out.
LeSean McCoy ($9,400 at Dallas) – Slim Shady has been the second most productive fantasy running back this season, the Cowboys are giving up the second most fantasy points on the ground and the Eagles will most likely be playing with a lead.
Matt Forte ($8,500 vs. Green Bay) – The Bears blinked and found themselves down three touchdowns in the 1st quarter. As a result, Matt Forte was filtered out of the game plan early. Don’t expect a repeat when Chicago heads back home to the windy city to face the Pack in a battle for the NFL North title. Matt Flynn has improved but he is no Nick Foles. Eddie Lacy aggravated his ankle injury and at this point should be considered questionable to suit up on Sunday. Even if he plays, he won’t be 100%. The Bears have the edge here. Look for Forte to bounce back with a vengeance.
Antonio Brown ($7,600 vs. Cleveland) – What can Brown do for you? In his Week 12 showdown with sometime shutdown corner Joe Haden, Big Ben connected with Brown on 6 of 10 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown. Haden left Sunday’s contest in the fourth quarter and is questionable for the season finale. The Steelers are still mathematically alive and Brown is an elite WR1 play at a thrifty price.
A.J. Green ($9,000 vs. Baltimore) – The Bengals need a victory and some help (a Patriots loss to the Bills) to secure a first-round bye, a bye they will most certainly need if they are to make any noise in the playoffs. The last time Cincinnati faced Baltimore, Dalton targeted A.J. 15 times and the 3rd year player out of Georgia hauled in eight of them for 151 yards and a score.
Andre Caldwell ($4,500 at Oakland) – The lone 4:00 pm game on my roster is a bargain with upside. We saw what his ceiling was two weeks ago when he found the end zone twice. Wes Welker will likely be sidelined one more week in order to heal up for the playoffs. No matter what happens, Caldwell isn’t going to be a player the Broncos protect. I need a cheap player here so that I can start elite options at the other positions.
Jason Witten ($5,800 vs. Philadelphia) – Kyle Orton has completed one touchdown pass in a Cowboy uniform and that was to Jason Witten. When backup quarterbacks are forced into action, tight ends are their safety valve, particularly when under pressure. Orton will have to throw a lot and Witten might end up with the most targets.
This week, $200 will buy you a 1 in 5988 shot at $150,000. Who wants some? We’re entering Week 16 and the fantasy season is just about to come to a close. The following aren’t necessarily the BEST plays, but they are options that might exceed their required salary on Fanduel.com.
Kirk Cousins ($7,000 vs. Dallas) acquitted himself well in his first start of the season, throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys secondary is beatable and they can put up points. This is very important and bears repeating because half of the battle is having a quarterback that NEEDS to score points, particularly after halftime. Philip Rivers owners experienced this pain Thursday night, when scoring wasn’t a top priority of the San Diego Chargers offense. First and foremost in offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s mind was milking the clock, running and keeping the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands. Rivers completed only five passes for 77 yards in the 2nd half. He only attempted one pass in the fourth quarter that was incomplete (and wiped out by a penalty). By contrast, San Diego rushed 24 times. That translates to fantasy death for your starting QB.
Others worth a look: Jay Cutler ($8,000 at Philadelphia) and Ryan Fitzpatrick ($7,700 at Jacksonville). If Case Keenum is out and Matt Schaub ($6,500 vs. Denver) gets the nod, the frequent interception machine will likely be playing from behind and forced to throw against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. There’s a decent chance he will crash and burn, but if you’re looking for the cheapest possible play with upside, he has eclipsed 20 points thrice this season and has Andre Johnson as a target.
Dennis Johnson ($4,500 vs. Denver) has speed to burn and is a big play waiting to happen if the Texans can just get the rock to him in space. Ben Tate aggravated his rib injury and Johnson would be a bargain if he gets the start.
Matt Asiata ($5,800 at Cincinnati) demonstrated that merely getting touches is the most important part of the fantasy equation, finding pay dirt three times against the Eagles. Owners chasing last week’s touchdown barrage might get burned. Remember Bobby Rainey’s lackluster follow-up after he stampeded the Falcons? The Bengals defense is rather stingy on the ground (27th in fantasy points against) but if both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are out, Asiata will get another start at a relatively inexpensive price.
Other cheap options: Montee Ball ($5,100 at Houston), Jordan Todman ($5,800 vs. Tennessee – if Maurice Jones-Drew is inactive), Joique Bell ($6,600 vs. New York Giants), Andre Ellington ($6,000 at Seattle), Rashad Jennings ($7,500 at San Diego).
Justin Hunter ($5,000 at Jacksonville) posted over 100 yards and a touchdown both in Week 12 and again in Week 14. He violated team rules and as a result was a surprise inactive on Sunday. I love motivated, talented players with something to prove in situations like this.
Pierre Garcon ($7,300) has 154 targets on the year (3rd in the NFL), so it’s not as though Robert Griffin III has neglected him. The problem though is that in truth, this year it does seem that he ignores him most of the time on most plays. I’m not impressed with RGIII’s progressions. He so frequently fails to go through his reads. When he’s not throwing to Garcon, it’s obvious that he’s not going to throw to him. He’s been wide open for big plays more than I can count, and yet, on those particular plays it’s apparent the sophomore from Baylor has no intention of targeting Garcon. Instead, he’s going to force it to someone on the opposite side of the field, because he’s not looking anywhere else. The defense picks up on this and I have to think that it has led, in part, to his 11.9 yards per catch average (compared to 13.5 and 14.4 the last two years).
Jimmy Graham’s two catches for 25 yards reminds us that any player at any position can usually be shut down merely by the defense willing it so. Graham was double and triple teamed all night. He still remains the clear-cut number one option at tight end and will only cost $7,700 this week against the Panthers, against whom Graham caught six passes for 68 yards and two scores just two weeks ago.
Le'Veon Bell ($7,500) – The rookie out of Michigan State posted 4.6 yards per carry against the Ravens defense on Thursday night. He was also targeted nine times and reeled in seven of them. You have to see the games to realize just how well he is running. He’s a balanced runner, good at just about everything. When I first watched him, the former Spartan didn’t jump off the screen, but the more I see him the more impressed I become. He has good strength and vision and decent burst. Todd Haley has Bell line up in the slot quite a bit and Big Ben Roethlisberger has narrowly missed connecting with #26 for a big play a number of times. The talented rookie is shaping up to be a late 1st round pick in redraft leagues next year and is a solid value play this week against the Dolphins as long as he passes concussion tests heading into Sunday.
Andre Johnson ($7,800) – The installment of Case Keenum as the Houston Texans starting quarterback has revived Andre Johnson’s fantasy production back up to elite levels. In fact, since Week 9 Andre ranks second only to Josh Gordon among wideouts. Yes, he’s outproduced Megatron. Oddly enough, he remains a risk-reward player against the Jaguars, who held him to just two catches a couple of weeks ago. Keenum is still learning how to recognize blitz packages and handle pressure. When defensive coordinators turn up the heat, the rookie struggles mightily. Therein lies the risk. On the other hand, the mighty Brandon Weeden connected with Josh Gordon ten times for 261 yards and two scores. Johnson possesses a high ceiling and low floor.
Some inexpensive WR’s worth a look – Torrey Smith ($6,600 vs. Minnesota), Riley Cooper ($5,900 vs. Detroit), Doug Baldwin ($5,200 vs. San Francisco), Andre Holmes ($5,100 at New York Jets), Keenan Allen ($6,500 vs. New York Giants), Rod Streater ($4,800 at New York Jets).
Jordan Cameron ($5,400) – Bill Belichick and the Patriots usually focus on one offensive weapon and remove that threat from the attack. It doesn’t always work out that way (here’s looking at you, Andre Johnson 8-121), but I have to think that Josh Gordon’s 24 catches for 498 yards and three touchdowns the last two weeks alone has got Bill’s attention. For all intents and purposes, Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon are the only two real offensive weapons the Cleveland Browns possess. My bet is that Belichick has Aqib Talib shadow Josh Gordon and gives him help in the form of bracket coverage. The Browns running game is ineffective, to be kind. They have nobody in their backfield who can make the Patriots pay for added attention given to Gordon. If Josh posts another 200+ yard day, I’ll just call him Superman and call it a day.
Jared Cook ($4,900) – Philadelphia tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combined to put up nine catches for 97 yards and three touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12. The Cardinals are yielding the most fantasy points to tight ends over the course of the season.
On one of my FFPC Main Event teams, I lost three elite studs in one afternoon. The onslaught commenced early on as I tuned into the Vikings/Ravens duel just in time to see Adrian Peterson writhing on the ground in pain. Awesome. Only a short time thereafter, I lost Rob Gronkowski to a torn ACL and a torn MCL. Sweet. He’s out for the season. Later on that afternoon, the good times continued to roll when Wes Welker was concussed and was forced to leave against the Titans. He is likely to miss Thursday’s bout against the Chargers. But you know what? That doesn’t really get me down. Injuries are part of the game. I’ve been through enough of them that it’s like water off a duck’s back. What really gets my goat is misinformation, and the Motor City has taken pride in disseminating it each and every time there is an opportunity. Fifteen minutes prior to kickoff, I received word that Reggie Bush may have tweaked his calf during warm-ups. Great. What is an owner competing for $250,000 to do? Based on precedent (he was benched at Heinz Field for fumbling, field conditions or a minor injury, depending on which source you believe), I decided to bench him for Justin Hunter. Three minutes before kickoff, multiple tweets were cautiously expressing optimism, stating that he ran through the tunnel with the team, had his helmet on, AND that reports from the sideline said he was going to try and play. Visions danced through my head of all the times I’d benched a player in this exact situation, only to have him blow up with his best game of the year whilst on my bench. Fantasy Football is not for the faint of heart. One click can, and often does, make the difference between winning up to a million dollars or winning nothing and pounding sand.
Obviously, you want to check weather reports. It’s a starting point. Though sometimes, weather reports are about as accurate as injury information coming from the Detroit Lions. Remember how many times they said Jahvid Best had recovered from his concussion and was 100 percent? The report from Philadelphia was winds from 5 mph to 8 mph and occasional light flurries. Instead, what I saw looked closer to a blizzard for a good 90 minutes. If you’re serious about competing in High Stakes Leagues, then DirecTV Sunday Ticket is a must. It doesn’t come on until five minutes prior to kickoff, but on their multi-game view channel, at least you can see first hand what the weather looks like just before the game commences.
If you’re looking for a stack, San Diego at Denver and Baltimore at Detroit figure to put the most fireworks on display. If Aaron Rodgers returns, add Green Bay at Dallas to that list.
Some Fanduel plays worth a look this weekend:
Running Back – Zac Stacy ($6,700) vs. St. Louis, Shane Vereen (targeted 17 times with Rob Gronkowski out) ($7,600) at Miami, Marcel Reece ($6,000) vs. Kansas City, Montee Ball ($5,300) vs. San Diego, James Starks (if Eddie Lacy is inactive) ($4,500).
Wide Receiver – Alshon Jeffery ($7,800) at Cleveland, Jordy Nelson (if Aaron Rodgers is back) ($6,300) at Dallas, Torrey Smith ($6,300) at Detroit, Cordarrelle Patterson ($5,600) vs. Philadelphia, Justin Hunter ($5,400) vs. Arizona, James Jones (if Aaron Rodgers is back) ($4,900) at Dallas, Doug Baldwin ($4,800) at New York Giants.
Tight End – Jordan Cameron ($6,300) vs. Chicago, Charles Clay ($6,100) vs. New England, Greg Olsen ($5,800) vs. New York Jets, Dennis Pitta ($5,700) vs. Baltimore, Tony Gonzalez ($5,300) vs. Washington.
Here are a few Fanduel bargains at Running Back and Wide Receiver as we look forward to Thanksgiving weekend. Take it easy on the tryptophan.
Bilal Powell ($4,500) – Chris Ivory is dealing with an ankle sprain and test results were not available at “press time.” If the former Saint is inactive, Powell becomes a very inexpensive source of touches against a Dolphins team that is yielding 4.28 yards per carry on the season and 4.59 yards per carry over the last 5 games.
Montee Ball ($4,500) – The Denver Broncos have a tough matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, but with Knowshon Moreno nursing a bone bruise, his prospects for playing in this contest are sketchy. If he’s inactive, Ball (only 3.49 YPC) becomes a bargain even against the Chiefs run defense due to volume in Peyton’s offense alone. Ball found the end zone twice in Week 11.
Andre Brown ($7,100) – Brown is still relatively cheap despite averaging 23 carries and 4 targets per game. Washington is giving up the second most fantasy points to running backs and Eli Manning has been ineffective moving the Giants offense through the air.
Dennis Johnson ($4,600) – We talked about Johnson as a waiver pickup a couple of weeks ago for regular leagues. Think Andre Ellington with a better offensive line. The Patriots are giving up 4.36 yards per carry. Houston figures to be trailing for most of the game, which will likely force the Texans to abandon the run at some point, so don’t expect a ton of carries. DJ has plenty of speed and is very capable of the big play.
Benny Cunningham ($5,800) – The injury hits just keep on coming. Zac Stacy left Sunday’s game against the Bears due to a concussion and his status for Week 13 is not known. This rookie from Middle Tennessee State eclipsed 100 yards against the Chicago Bears porous run defense. Unfortunately, the Rams travel to San Francisco, so the sledding may be tough even if Stacy is out.
Rueben Randle ($5,100) – The Giants’ third wide receiver had 7 targets against the Cowboys with Hakeem Nicks inactive. The Redskins are on tap next. Randle is worth a roll of the dice even if Nicks is active.
Justin Hunter ($5,300) – The rookie from Tennessee caught all 6 of his targets for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. The Colts secondary has struggled and Hunter has the athleticism to make things happen after the catch.
Percy Harvin ($5,700) – You could argue that someone with only 19 snaps as we head into December is risky at this price, and you’d be right. On the other hand, the Saints put up points, and the Seahawks will have to air it out to follow suit. A fair portion of that responsibility will be put on the shoulders of Russell Wilson. Harvin should be the most targeted Seahawk receiver if healthy.
Mike Wallace ($6,400) – Wallace has been feast or famine this year with an emphasis on famine. He posted just his third 100-yard game of the season against the Panthers, so if you’re chasing last week’s stats you may be disappointed. That being said, he and Ryan Tannehill get the Jets this weekend. Antonio Cromartie left Sunday’s match against the Ravens with a hip injury and may not make this week’s bout against the Dolphins, leaving a weak secondary even weaker.
Tavon Austin ($6,300) – By now, we all know the drill with Austin: low snap count with explosive potential. In contests with 100+ entrants, you need to shoot the moon. Austin can help you get there…or crash back down to earth Kenny Stills style.