This is a weekly series where I break down the best contrarian plays for the upcoming NFL week. I’m going to be focusing on high upside, low owned plays and pairings that could really pay off big for you in a large tournament. Major outside the box thinking, cheap pricing and upside is the goal…
With Playoffs featuring a short slate I’m altering the format a bit and just going position by position and will suggest some stacking advice as I go.
The Chalky plays this week look like Ben Roethlisberger and possibly Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins. Tournament wise I’d probably look at a couple names if I wanted to go for a more low-owned approach.
AJ McCarron: McCarron has played pretty well in replace of Andy Dalton but will have many DFSer’s scared off of him due to his lower fantasy totals from the last couple games. However, McCarron’s three starts have not really required him to “let loose” so to speak as he’s either gone up against suffocating defenses or weaker teams the Bengals simply dominated on defense. That will not be the case this week as the fast paced and effective Pittsburgh offense will force McCarron to throw more at some point and possibly even cause this game to get semi-crazy at some point. McCarron has hooked up with top targets Tyler Eifert and AJ Green for TDs already multiple times and doesn’t look afraid or gun shy at all to me. I think he’s ready for this week and could be a shock big play in fantasy.
Aaron Rodgers: What to say about Green Bay’s offense this year, it’s been pathetic to say the least. Still, this is a new season and what I think many people might miss this week is the fact the Redskins secondary is very bad. How bad is it? It’s so bad that four of the last five QBs to face Washington have thrown for over 300 yards, it’s so bad that Kellen Moore threw for over 400 yards last week. Yes, Green Bay can’t protect the QB but Washington isn’t exactly an elite pass rushing team either. With so many people flocking to Ben Roethlisberger, the safe Russell Wilson and the hot Kirk Cousins, you should be getting Arod at an incredibly low ownership here in an insanely good matchup. A lot can change on a weekly basis in the NFL and I won’t be shocked if Green Bay “flips a switch” so to speak and their offense gets on track here.
Running Back is a wide open position this week. I’d expect the two higher end plays in Lynch and Peterson to be popular and also expect Pittsburgh’s backup Fitzgerald Toussaint to be extremely well owned if Williams misses.
Spencer Ware: Charcandrick West had a chance to really grab the main carry position for the Chiefs the last couple weeks of the regular season but blew it with poor play. In the second half last week Spencer Ware stepped in and was twice as effective as West which bodes well for his usage this week. The matchup this week isn’t great for Ware but given his play last week I expect him to at least split touches with West and to dominate the goal line carries. Ware’s simply been the more powerful, more explosive runner in this KC timeshare and I like this spot for him in tournaments. KC should favour a more balanced approach and might feature Ware a ton in this game.
Pierre Thomas: If Matt Jones is out, I really like Thomas as a play this week. Thomas is one of the most versatile backs in the entire league and should have fresh legs as he really only played in a couple games this season. Thomas has been playing in front of Chris Thompson this year when the two have both been active and in a must win game I expect Jay Gruden would rely more on the veteran in this spot. I have a feeling the Green Bay/Wash game could devolve into a bit of a shootout at some point which would be great for Thomas’ ppr potential. Target him as a low owned RB on sites that give out full points per reception this week.
Others: James Starks looks to be in a good spot, especially since Eddie Lacy looks banged up. I’d anticipate him being well under owned on this slate as well. There’s no question Gio Bernard is the Cincy back I’d want to own. Jeremy Hill was awful in two meetings with the Steelers earlier this year and Bernard’s pass catching ability could be used a lot by McCarron as a safety valve.
I expect Antonio Brown to be absurdly high owned and also expect good ownership on most of the higher priced WRs (AJ Green, Jeremy Maclin etc) given its an easier week on many sites to fit these players in. This should mean lower ownership on a few cheaper options who have big potential.
Martavis Bryant: Coming off of two horrible games where he was outperformed by fellow WR Markus Wheaton and lambasted by his QB you can expect Martavis Bryant to be pretty low owned this week (or so I hope). The Playoffs are a new season however and I am expecting the ultra talented Bryant to view them as a chance for a fresh start too. The Bengals will be using Dre Kirkpatrick—their worst cover corner according to the ratings on Pro Football Focus—on Bryant and I love him in that matchup. With everyone thinking about Wheaton as a value play and Brown as a must play, Bryant is the contrarian receiver out of PITT you want to own this week.
Pierre Garcon: All of sudden Washington has a ton of offensive weapons and a QB who is playing great. With everyone flocking to Jordan Reed and Desean Jackson this week though don’t sleep on Pierre Garcon. Garcon really picked up his play the last few games of the regular season, scoring in three straight and was getting open so regularly in their last real regular season game (week 16) that he led the Skins in targets with 13 that day. It’s looking like Sam Shields, the Packers best corner, will be out for this game meaning Garcon is going to get a very tasty matchup this week and will hugely benefit from the attention Reed and Jackson draw. I love him for tournaments and expect very low ownership.
Others: I really like Tyler Lockett this week but he might be a bit dinged up. If he misses practice time, or even if he doesn’t, definitely think about Jermaine Kearse who’s performed well in the playoffs for Seattle before.
Safe to say Jordan Reed will be absurdly high-owned and pretty much everyone else at TE will be much lower. I just made one pick that I think could go a bit under the radar.
Kyle Rudolph: I was trying to figure out how the Vikings will move the ball in this week’s game and Rudolph seemed like the most logical choice. I expect Adrian Peterson to get fairly boxed in by Seattle’s league best run defense and so passing will be needed. The Seahawks secondary really stepped up in the second half of the season but TE’s still pose a bit of a problem. Rudolph could see extra targets this week, especially if the Vikes get down early. His size also makes him the best red zone target on a team that doesn’t throw to the WR position much. He might be the riskiest play I have listed here but he’ll also be the lowest owned.
KC and Seattle should get lots of attention and be the highest owned pair, with the Texans also getting a lot of love. I have one play that is risky but has potential to end up as the big play of the week.
Green Bay: I get it, Kirk Cousins had the sound bite of the year. He’s torched his last three opponents, he’s got a wholesome look to him and will probably be voted president in 2016. Guess what though, sometimes mediocre QBs go through hot stretches (ask Kyle Orton and Ryan Fitzpatrick) and sometimes they regress in the tough situations. Green Bay’s defense isn’t elite but its certainly solid and ended the season with a marvelous 16 INTs. A lot of people, including everyone in the media is doubting Green Bay here but they’re the team with experience and a couple elite players on D. I could see this opportunistic unit getting pressure on Cousins and getting a score. I think they have potential, especially for tournaments and should be well under owned.