Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens just finished shocking the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown in the lineup at the same time – a rarity for them. Now, they get the winless Browns at home. Now, the Browns might surprise some people here, mostly with the downfield passing game, but this is an opportunity to load up on underpriced Ravens pieces in DFS.
Let's start with Terrance West, a former Brown. He is a bell-cow back of a run-heavy offense, who is coming off back-to-back stinkers against defensive fronts that pride itself on stopping the run. The Browns? Well, they're second worst against the run and third worst against fantasy RBs. This is a great time to buy low on West for 80 yards and a touchdown, or two.
The Browns are also second worst against fantasy QBs and bottom 10 against fantasy WRs, so if you want to go all in on the Ravens, you can get 250-2 from Flacco and sleeper numbers from Mike Wallace, Dennis Pitta and Steve Smith. As always, the Ravens defense (it was great against the Steelers last week) and Justin Tucker are worthwhile premiums, at least in FanDuel games.
The Browns, meanwhile, should be a lot of the same: Modest numbers for Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, who just cannot catch a break on the matchups this season, while Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman should outperform their prices as the Browns play catch-up, if not rack up garbage-time stats.
It should be reminded Coleman had his career-best game in the first meeting this year, going 5-104-2. He could get half of that and make good on his low price. The Ravens are fourth-worst against fantasy WRs, despite being No. 7 against the pass.
Also, the Ravens are No. 2 against the run and No. 4 against fantasy RBs. Although we like Crowell and Johnson to ultimately outperform their prices, they are more contrarian than anything in this matchup again this week. They have had a tough schedule for their DFS production.
A heavy lean on the Ravens above, and perhaps the Browns WRs in garbage time is where the safest plays are in this Thursday nighter.
Green Bay Packers at Tennessee Titans
Aaron Rodgers has taken over the Packers offense since Eddie Lacy went down, throwing for 10 TDs and posting a 106.4 rating in his past three games. He has gone at least 300-3 just once this season, but you have to figure he can get there against a Titans defense that has slipped since its hot start.
Jordy Nelson is a steady, cash-game option, while Davante Adams and Randall Cobb carry a bit more risk, even if they might have more value at their prices. Ty Montgomery is now an every-day back, his coach said this week, so expect him to get 10 carries for the first time and help out in the short passing game. The fact the Titans gave up their first 100-yard rusher last week, bodes well for Montgomery having not only a career-high in touches, but perhaps production, too.
James Starks and Don Jackson can be avoided amid the Montgomery news, but Mason Crosby and the low-priced Packers defense are sleeper options outside of the top tiers.
For the Titans, you should love QB Marcus Mariota, TE Delanie Walker, if not WR Kendal Wright and WR Rishard Matthews, against a suspect Packers secondary. This game can be the shootout it was a week ago against Philip Rivers in San Diego.
Wright and Matthews are still priced as backups, but they perform like starters amid Mariota's marked improvement as the season as wore on. Mariota has 13 TD passes and two more rushing in the past five games. Those are elite QB numbers at QB2 prices.
Further, the Packers boast the NFL's No. 1 run defense and No. 2 team in fantasy against RBs. It is a week to fade RB DeMarco Murray (toe), RB Derrick Henry (ankle) and ride the Titans' underpriced and unheralded passing game in a favorable matchup.
Ryan Succop is also intriguing if you're not buying the Mariota shootout against Rodgers. Regardless, forget the Titans defense at any price They were awful against the Chargers.
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins
The Vikings have lost their mojo, mostly because of poor play along the offensive line and the failures of their running game. That has even affected their once-vaunted defense.
This should be a revival of sorts for the Vikes across the board, because the Redskins are seventh worst against the run and sixth worst against fantasy backs. The problem with placing a DFS play in this matchup is the fact Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata and Ronnie Hillman are a three-headed monster – with monster being a bit of an overstatement.
Asiata will get the TD opportunities, making him a candidate for 60 combined yards and a TD – a nice output for the price. McKinnon and Hillman might combine for that type of production, but neither is a true cash-game option, even if they start and get more touches than Asiata.
The best value on the Vikings board is Kyle Rudolph, who remains one of the best bets for a TE TD on the board on a weekly basis. Washington was exposed by Tyler Eifert in his first full game of the season to the tune of 9-101-1. Rudolph will get 60-1 and his fantasy double digits here.
Stefon Diggs is value priced as well, but the fact the Redskins are improved against the pass and fantasy WRs, make Sam Bradford and all of his WR targets low-end options. In fact, Josh Norman might be assigned to take away Diggs, and no one should trust Adam Theilen or Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Redskins side is mitigated by the Vikings' now-hungry defense, and that timeshare between Matt Jones and Rob Kelley. Neither is a viable play against a defense that has given up just two rushing TDs to fantasy RBs all season, good for second in the NFL.
The Redskins' passing options are all fades. The Vikes are fourth against fantasy QBs, second against fantasy WRs and eight against fantasy TEs. Jordan Reed is the only true consistent threat anyway, but that makes him a target for an able Vikes defense.
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is one of our favorite games on the slate, not because of total points, but because of focused targets and plays in favorable matchups.
First, the Bucs are all about Mike Evans and DFS should be, too. He is one of the lonely WRs who gets all the action for his team. He had 11 receptions for 150 yards & two TDs in Week 9, has a TD in six of eight, leads NFL with eight receiving TDs, is averaging 97.8 yards per game and has three TDs in past four at home. There isn't a price you should not play him against the Bears second, which is third worst in fantasy against WRs.
Next, we have to fade the Bucs RBs, Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers or otherwise, against the third-best team in fantasy against RBs.
Then, we should love the fact Jordan Howard has taken over as the Bears' feature back. The Bucs have allowed the seventh-most points to fantasy RBs, despite not allowing a 100-yard rusher yet this season. Howard will get volume via the passing game and TD opportunities against a defense that gives up points, if not 100-yard rushers.
And finally, most important, Alshon Jeffery is poised for a season-best game. The Bucs are dead last against fantasy WRs, Jeffery is not priced as the elite fantasy WR he is, and the promising, if not surprising, return of Jay Cutler makes Jeffery a candidate for a 10-150-2 monster performance.
A Cutler-Jeffery-TE Zach Miller stack is a solid way to go in DFS and won't break your budget. It will allow you to afford the Bucs' Evans and some of the monster 2016 stud RBs.
Kansas City Chiefs at Carolina Panthers
The Panthers defense has been one to load up against, but the Chiefs haven't been a great source of DFS payoffs. The best news for Chiefs plays might be if WR Jeremy Maclin (groin) cannot go, which would put volume on underpriced WR Tyreek Hill and top-five TE Travis Kelce.
The Panthers are third worst against fantasy QBs and TEs and fifth worst against WRs. We agree, Alex Smith is tough to trust, but Hill and Kelce could be intriguing, especially if you expect the Panthers to score points like they have been.
Spencer Ware (concussion) returns, but the Panthers are not a team to take advantage of with RBs. They are third against the run and sixth against fantasy backs. Ware will get his best production in the passing game.
The Panthers, meanwhile, will rely heavily on their primary dudes: Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen – as uze at home. The Chiefs have underperformed against the run, ranking sixth worst, even if they have given up just three rushing TDs. Stewart is a great value.
We wouldn't necessarily load up exposure on Newton-Benjamin-Olsen, but they are all steady cash-game options in a game that should push itself over the modest Las Vegas number of 44.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
We might have been more wary of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones if the New York Giants didn't rip the Eagles through the air the way they did last Sunday. As it is, a top 10 team against the pass and fantasy QBs should not scare you off that elite combo here.
If anything, the Falcons' suspect secondary and defense should lead you to believe Ryan and Jones will have to be productive on the road.
It might be a bit more dicey for the RBs, particularly if Tevin Coleman (hamstring) returns. Devonta Freeman just cannot be considered a high-ceiling option with Coleman taking snaps, targets and production – especially in the red zone.
The Eagles side provides us with great values, however. The Falcons are dead last against fantasy QBs, second worst against the pass and fantasy QBs and fifth worst against fantasy TEs.
We like the value plays of WR Jordan Matthews and TE Zach Ertz, if not QB Carson Wentz, too. We also love the fact the Eagles have come out and declared Darron Sproles a feature back. So, even if he is bottled up rushing against a top 10 run defense, he can produce past his price via the pass.
Fade the defenses, consider the kickers and love the fact the volume in this game will likely be on the people we should expect it to be on in a favorable matchup.
Los Angeles Rams at New York Jets
There is little optimism here on either side of the DFS ledger, but that just makes it a good place to be contrarian.
Fade Todd Gurley against the NFL's No. 4 run defense, but there is value in one of the Rams wideouts. Brian Quick is the biggest bargain among them.
Matt Forte is scorching and will be the show, making him a high-volume play at his price. Brandon Marshall is a steady option, assuming Ryan Fitzpatrick (knee) starts.
If Bryce Petty starts, well, you have to load up on the Rams defense. You might appreciate the value there, regardless.
We wouldn't bother with the Jets defense or either kicker.
All told, it is Forte and a bunch of long shot bargain options.
Denver Broncos at New Orleans Saints
The Alanis Morrisette game of irony this week. We get Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks at home … against the No. 1 pass defense and No. 1 team in fantasy against QBs.
The silver lining for the contrarian plays of the Saints passing game pieces is they managed to beat the Seattle Seahawks, albeit with modest DFS numbers. Fade your Saints through the air, along with the Broncos defense in the toughest places for defense.
The ground game might be a better side to take, for both teams.
First, Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs face the second-worst team in fantasy against RBs. We like Booker to have a better showing this week than last, although his price is a bit prohibitive compared to Bibbs, who should also get more run (and pass) in the Broncos offense.
For the pass, the Saints are dead last against it, but Trevor Siemian is a tough QB to get behind in any matchup. Demaryius Thomas is a volume play, perhaps, if anything in the Broncos' downfield game.
For the Saints, Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower are better options than the Saints pass receivers and QB. They face a Broncos run defense that is fourth worst against the run and eighth worst against the pass. We believe more in Ingram than Hightower, but we are in the minority there. That might be the opportunity to take, Ingram that is.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Here is another matchup that crushes our DFS hopes and dreams. Both teams are a wealth of under performers, which provides value on price but little in the way of production promise.
Lamar Miller (shoulder) would have been a better option if he wasn't the priciest one of the FanDuel board and didn't have the potential questionable tag looming. If Miller is out, Alfred Blue becomes a premium play at min-price.
DeAndre Hopkins in a favorable matchup? We have long given up on him with Brock Osweiler. TE C.J. Fiedorowicz is hot, but the Jags have given up just one TD to TEs this season.
Our favorite play in this mess is Chris Ivory. New offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has vowed to get Ivory and the run game the rock. Ivory responded for 18-107 last week, even as he has had to start time with T.J. Yeldon. The Texans have been fifth worst against the run and have allowed nine TDs in eight games to fantasy RBs. Ivory and/or Yeldon are viable DFS options here.
Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson have better days ahead, but we cannot trust them against the NFL's No. 2 pass defense, No. 2 team against fantasy QBs and No. 3 against fantasy WRs. Fade Allen Hurns (concussion), Marqise Lee and TE Julius Thomas, too.
Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers
Here is another game for the running backs. It is a fantasy RB revolution! And it has been aiding by the breakthroughs of both these second-year backs.
First, Jay Ajayi has been incomparable since taking the reins from the now-retired Arian Foster, cracking huge numbers in the past three games against famously defensive-minded organizations: Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets. Sure, the Chargers rank No. 5 against the run, but don't be scurred. They have allowed the fifth-most points to fantasy RBs on the strength of 11 rushing TDs and a league-high 73 receptions to backs.
Ajayi is too hot to ignore in any matchup, just like Melvin Gordon.
Gordon has just the opposite situation to toil against. The Dolphins are third worst against the run, but surprisingly top 10 against fantasy RBs with a mere three TDs allowed (tied for tops in fantasy in that category). Gordon or Ajayi, you cannot go wrong on volume, no matter the prices.
The receivers and QBs are less trustworthy on both sides. If you're going with something other than the RBs, it has to be Antonio Gates. He is priced as a timeshare TE because of Hunter Henry, but Gates has four TDs receptions in the past six games. Philip Rivers trusts his veteran, particularly with so many other downfield threats out of the season or currently banged up.
Dallas Cowboys at Pittsburgh Steelers
We were disappointedly wrong about Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers in his return at Baltimore last week. Anyone projecting a huge DFS rebound against the Cowboys is likely to be let down again.
Ezekiel Elliott is the patently obvious play, but we would leave it for cash games. The Steelers are fourth worst against fantasy RBs, allowing 11 TDs. Elliott will score even if he is held under 100 yards.
We will fade QB Dak Prescott, WR Dez Bryant and the resurgent TE Jason Witten. The Steelers secondary that might be bottom 10 against the pass, but it is top 10 against fantasy QBs and WRs (fourth).
Le'Veon Bell is a contrarian play at his premium. While the Cowboys are No. 1 against fantasy RBs and No. 6 against the run, we expect Bell to go over 100 combined yards and at least one TD. If the Steelers are to knock off one of the NFL's top teams, they will need Bell to have a 150-2 performance.
Big Ben and Antonio Brown are good, but not great plays in this matchup, ones better left to cash games. We just cannot see the Steelers blowing out a team that can run the ball so well. Dallas is the No. 1 rushing offense, so that should be very good a controlling the clock and playing keep away. There are better weeks to ride your Steelers in DFS.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Here is our all-in game of the week. Load up on the struggling Cardinals, underpriced on their disappointing first half – save for megastud David Johnson. Laugh and point at the 49ers like the rest of us.
Carlos Hyde's return is promising, but it comes a week late. The Cards are a bad matchup, ranking No. 5 against fantasy QBs. Colin Kaepernick and any rag-tag WR play are to be ignored, too, against the third-best pass defense, third-best team against fantasy QBs, No. 5 against fantasy WRs and No. 1 against fantasy TEs.
All of that bad news for the 49ers lines up as good news for the Cards.
Johnson is worth it at any price against the league's worst run defense. They are dead last against fantasy RBs and have allowed a record seven consecutive 100-yard rushers. This should be an easy one of Johnson, even if you see it opening up the pass for Carson Palmer.
Especially if you see it opening things up for Palmer. That is where the shaky plays of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, J.J. Nelson and John Brown come in. Take any combination of them. We love Floyd's value. Palmer's a pretty good bet for 300-3, too, against a bottom-10 team against fantasy QBs.
The Cardinals defense, Chandler Catanzaro, all of it – you won't find a bad option on the Cardinals board.
Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots
There isn't anything foreseeable that can stop the Pats, not at home in prime time with a healthy Tom Brady and Co. That makes us believe there might be some value to be had from the Seahawks side, playing keep-up against him, though.
Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham is a solid combo to consider, especially since their Monday night revival came after their Week 10 prices were set. Sure, Bill Belichick can take away what you do best, but things tend to get loose when Brady rips off scoring drive after scoring drive.
Christine Michael, C.J. Prosise and Doug Baldwin are all underpriced, too. We say you take the field with the Wilson play at QB, though. The Pats have given up just five TDs to fantasy RBs and three of them came in garbage time during blowouts. This will not be the usual Pats blowout, because of the varied talents of Wilson.
On the Pats side, we would never suggest you sit Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski, but the Seahawks are the type of defense you need to beat by running the ball at, instead of chucking against. The Pats RB plays are muddled by the potential return of Dion Lewis (knee). We cannot be sure of his usage, even if his price and potential to help in the short passing game are very intriguing.
Lewis, James White and LeGarrette Blount kind of cancel each other out. We like the Pats to win the game, if not lead the entire way, but the play of Wilson in playing keep-up is the safest play on the board.
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants
This is an intriguing game that both teams desperately need to keep pace with the leaders in their divisions. It is conversely difficult to project, making it less intriguing for DFS action.
The Bengals will find it tough to do the things they do best. Running the ball on a top 10 run defense and getting the ball to their ace wideout A.J. Green should be tougher this week than most. The Giants are No. 5 against fantasy QBs and CB Janoris Jenkins is pretty tough on opposing No. 1 WRs.
Fade Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill and Green. Load up on the secondary pieces of RB Giovani Bernard, TE Tyler Eifert and K Mike Nugent. Eifert in particular is intriguing after his 9-102-1 performance in his first full game coming off injury. Bernard is nice at his price, considering his usage in the passing game. The Giants linebackers cannot run with him.
Eli Manning seems to disappoint every other week, so we will fade him among prime-time QBs in the Sunday night game. Odell Beckham should be steady but not spectacular in that event.
Our favorite Giants plays are WR Sterling Shepard if Victor Cruz (ankle) is out, or RB Rashad Jennings against a Bengals defense that has given up seven TDs to fantasy RBs in the past four games. Both Shepard and Jennings present value, if not a high ceiling in this one.
Like Nugent, K Robbie Gould is a solid play at his price, too. The defenses? Meh, look elsewhere. They have been dangerous at times.
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