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 are probably Cam Newton and Carson Palmer. There should be a couple games and QBs however that will be overlooked for tournaments.
For Daily Fantasy purposes Tom Brady is in a nice spot this weekend mainly because of recency-bias. The Patriots really struggled passing the ball late in the year, with Brady failing to crack 300 yards passing in 6 of his last 7 games. However, there is good reason for hope this week as the Patriots will be getting their best weapon on offense back in Julian Edelman. Edelman’s importance to New England cannot be understated as without him in the lineup Brady saw huge drop-offs in completion rates, yards per attempt and overall Quarterback Rating. With Edelman back, and a couple of KC’s best pass rushers hurting, I expect the Patriots to move back to a pass first approach in this game and think you could see a return to glory for the New England offense. Brady should be well under-owned comparative to the top two or three plays at QB.
Yeah I get it, Big Ben’s hurting and his arm might fall off at any point this week (seriously it sounds like that could happen). I also know however that I’ve not seen any Quarterback in the last ten years play as well through pain and serious injury as Ben Roethlisberger. This year was no exception as Ben—who was only active as the emergency QB due to pretty serious foot injury—came in week 10 versus the Browns and lit them up for 379 yards and 3 TDs. Denver’s defense has allowed 8 passing TDs in its last 4 games and has looked rather ordinary of late compared to the dominance it showed early in the year. The Steelers may be down their best WR in this game but still have some pretty talented secondary options Ben can turn to if Antonio Brown misses this game. He’s by far the riskiest option on the slate but will be extremely low owned this weekend and makes for the ultimate contrarian play.
Others: I also really like Russell Wilson and think Seattle can win that game versus Carolina. Wilson may be semi-popular this week but shouldn’t be too highly owned.
Running Back is again a wide open position this week with the exception of David Johnson who will probably be extremely over-owned (but for good reason). There’s some ppr backs in high upside spots though who I think could have big weeks.
The Packers pretty much split the workload between Starks and Eddie Lacy last week, and while both men found the end zone, Starks ended with the higher fantasy total due to his pass catching role. In a game where the Packers are 7 point underdogs I expect that role could increase this week. The Cardinals haven’t been very giving on the ground and allowed just two backs to gain more than 90 yards rushing versus them in a game in the regular season, a stat which doesn’t bode well for a pure rusher like Lacy. Adding more reasons to like Starks is the fact that the Packers turned to a largely up tempo, quick hitting offense last week in order to buy Aaron Rodgers more time in the pocket and make up for shoddy play by their offensive line. There’s zero doubt in my mind that Starks is the better fit for that style of play and it wouldn’t shock me in the least if the Packers turned to him as their primary back from the get go this weekend.
White’s price this week will likely drive off a lot of people, especially since the Patriots were seen using Steven Jackson a lot the last time they played. However, the Patriots passing attack is going to get a big boost this week with Julian Edelman’s return as he’s a player who has proven to help open up the entire offense for New England. Dion Lewis had some massive games at the start of the season when Edelman was active and the Patriots went pass heavy, and I expect White could make history repeat itself here. Take advantage of his higher price, the low-workload scare and likely low ownership this weekend. A big day could be in store.
Others: I actually think Jordan Todman is the more talented back of the two RBs left in Pittsburgh and think he could break a surprise big play or two. He’s a very risky but interesting tournament play.
I think WR ownership will be fairly spread out this week and don’t necessarily see any one player being super high owned. There will definitely be some players who will be quite low owned however and I’ve highlighted my favorites.
Lockett should be ignored by most people this weekend for two reasons. One, he’s coming off a bad game and two he might see some of Josh Norman in this game. None of those things scare me however as the Seahawks as a whole were ineffective last weekend in the pass game (it was cold) and Norman, while a coverage stud, is by no means unbeatable. The other reason why I like Lockett is the presence of Doug Baldwin. Like Julian Edelman in New England Baldwin should help open up the field in this game for everyone else and might draw Norman away from Lockett on some plays. With his QB playing great, all Lockett needs is one play to put up a long TD and 10+ fantasy points. I really like the potential with the Hawks pass game in general this week and think Lockett is a great tournament target.
I think it’s possible that both John Brown and Michael Floyd will be higher owned than Fitzgerald, with Floyd possibly being fairly chalky. The issue with Floyd in this game is that Green Bay will likely have their best CB back in Sam Shields and if active he would likely spend his time covering the outside—ie Floyd. This should open up the field for Larry Fitzgerald who, in a big game, should receive more than his fair share of attention from Carson Palmer. Fitzgerald has also switched to running more seem and underneath routes this season, an area in which Green Bay has struggled to defend at times. Elite TE’s Jordan Reed and Antonio Gates both had big days versus the Packers this year and Fitz could mimic those player’s success in this game. Take advantage of his lower ownership if thinking about paying up for a WR this week, I can’t see him not being relied on endlessly by Palmer if this game stays even remotely close.
Others: I really like Albert Wilson this week if Jeremy Maclin is out. He’s more of a slot receiver and would probably get more of the quick hitting screen work Maclin sees on a weekly basis, making him a great ppr play.
Safe to say Travis Kelce will be very heavily owned if Jeremy Maclin misses the game this week. He does have a semi-scary matchup versus the Patriots though, I have one outside the box play at TE who should be very under-owned.
With Davante Adams looking unlikely to suit up I think it’s logical that the man who gets a bump in usage as result of his absence would be Richard Rodgers. Everyone knows Rodgers as a result of his huge hail mary catch versus the Lions, but he’s actually turned into a pretty reliable receiver this year. Rodgers had the highest conversion rate for turning targets into catches amoung all Green Bay receivers who saw 50 or more passes (and who weren’t RBs). This surety of hands should allow him to see more targets from Aaron Rodgers who has seen most of his receiver’s struggle with drops this year. Rodgers doesn’t have the greatest athleticism in the world but ppr wise he could be a monster this week and should be largely ignored given some of the big names at TE. I love him as a cheap flex option too.
I’m not 100% sure on why, but I do think the Steelers are going to win this weekends game, and I think their defense is going to be a big part of the reason if they do. Pittsburgh’s secondary has been beaten on at times this season, but they get a pretty big reprieve this week as Peyton Manning will be in at QB for Denver. Manning may be being built up by the media as “rested” and “rejuvenated” but he was terrible all season and unless he had some Russell Wilson water delivered to him this weekend I can’t see him being a much different player than he was before he got pulled/injured. The Steelers have a great run defense and a great pass rush which could make it very difficult for Denver to move the ball this week. I think Pittsburgh can get to Manning and makes for an excellent defensive tournament option this week, they’ve scored double digit fantasy points in their last two contests and should be very under owned.