We’re going to look up in no time and the season will be over. I really can’t believe how fast it’s going. This may be my favorite week of the year so far, because there are a lot of plays that I really like. The problem is sifting through them and figuring out who I like the most, because we obviously can’t play them all due to price and roster spots. There are so many different combos. You can pay up at almost any position and you can find value at almost any position.
I’m going to take you through a handful of different options this week. While I typically list my core plays here, this is a week where I will be making my final decisions on Sunday morning. Make sure to stay up to date via Twitter, as I will provide my final thoughts there, or at least let you know I posted an update here. I’m going to dive in and try to cover all of the spots that I like. Because there are a lot of stacks I’m considering, I’ll be listing the team as my target in those cases, and then I’ll dive into the specific plays.
Kansas City Chiefs
I love Alex Smith this week against the horrendous Giants defense. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Smith has had his better games on the road this season. The Giants have surrendered 25 or more fantasy points to the opposing quarterback in five of their last six games. Four of those five, opposing signal callers went over 29. CJ Beathard threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns a week ago, and he looked atrocious in the weeks before that.
My favorite target to pair with Smith is obviously Travis Kelce. We’ve been targeting the Giants via opposing tight ends all year, but it’s no longer a secret. He’s going to be chalky. The Giants have given up a touchdown in every single game to a tight end. The Giants are the worst defense against QB’s and TE’s in terms of fantasy production, so this is a great place to start your lineups.
I’m also okay adding Kareem Hunt to that stack. I’ll also consider him alone if I end up going in a different direction than Smith. Hunt has really slowed down, but what better matchup to get back on track than this one? I would expect the Chiefs to come out of the bye week and really commit to getting Hunt the ball. I also think this is going to be a blowout, which will lead to Hunt getting all of the work in the fourth quarter. He’s been at his best late in games, so don’t surprised to see him end up getting a large chunk of his rushing yard total while closing this one out in the fourth.
New England Patriots
The Patriots should absolutely have their way with this Oakland Raiders team in Mexico at an altitude higher than even Denver. Tom Brady is in an excellent spot here and it’s very likely that you look up Sunday evening and see Brady with 300+ yards and three touchdowns. My only problem with rostering Patriots is that there are so many weapons that the production can be so spread out. I think Brandin Cooks should have a huge day similar to Week 3 against Houston. I just temper my expectations a bit because there are so many things the Patriots can do to win this game.
One of the pieces of this offense that I want exposure to in or out of the stack is Rex Burkhead. If you weren’t paying attention Sunday night, Burkhead was exceptional. I don’t think it’s a fluke; he is the real deal in this offense. I know that sounds weird to say, but the way they’re using him in the running and passing game gives him a very high ceiling. He was the workhorse back for the first half last week, but due to his injury history, they reeled in his workload once the they were firmly in the lead. That would of course be a concern again this week, but I think the Raiders offense can put up enough of a fight for the Patriots to keep their foot on the gas. I’ll never tell you Rob Gronkowski is a bad play, and he’ll likely be very underowned this week with Kelce in such a great spot.
Speaking of the Raiders. I think Derek Carr is going to have a big game as well. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the highest scoring QB of the week. If I were a betting man, I’d take the three QB’s I’ve now mentioned against the field to be the highest scorer of the week. We know that this Patriots defense is like swiss cheese against the pass and Carr is locked and loaded with all of the ammunition to post a huge number.
If you’re just pairing him with one wide receiver, I would look to Michael Crabtree in cash games. He’s viable in tourney’s too, I just think he has the safer floor between him and Amari Cooper. If you’ve been reading since last season, you know that I love Cooper. He’s let me down a little this year, but I foresee him getting peppered with targets in this one. If you haven’t noticed, Cooper has out-targeted Crabtree over the past three games, 38-21. Yeah, he got 19 targets one game, but he still received 19 in the other two. He would be the tourney play.
If I end up playing Carr, it is likely that I will just pair him with both of these guys and move on. I think there’s a good chance they both end up over 10 targets. For what it’s worth, the Raiders played in Mexico in this exact same stadium last year and Carr threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
THE SINGLE BULLETS
WR: Sterling Shepard – New York Giants
Shepard might be the best play on the slate. He’s priced at least $1,000 to low. The Giants regularly find themselves down big each week and they have to throw the ball a lot and that’s leading to Shepard being a target monster. So, we know they’re likely going to be playing from behind, so how’s the matchup? Well, according to Pro Football Focus, Shepard has the absolute best matchup of the week, lining up most often against Steven Nelson from the Chiefs. Nelson has surrendered 0.45 fantasy points per route covered this week, which is second worst of the week. Nelson lines up in the slot 90% of the time and Shepard lines up in the slot 84% of the time. He’ll be running almost all of his routes in an elite matchup. There’s no reason to overthink this play, just lock in Shepard.
RB: Chris Thompson – Washington Redskins
Thompson has cooled off a little bit over his past few games. His workload hasn’t really changed, he’s just hasn’t seen the same percentage of big plays as he had earlier in the season. The Redskins sent Rob Kelley to the IR this week, which opens up more snaps for Thompson at the running back position. When Kelley was out in Week 6, Samaje Perine was named the starter, but it was actually Thompson who was the guy that got the higher workload, almost doubling the carries of Perine.
If Thompson can get 15+ carries in this one and still get his 5-8 targets, then his upside will be immense at a very fair price. The Saints have transformed their secondary from a doormat to one of the absolute best. Their run defense is not quite as good. In fact, they’re allowing the third most fantasy points to opposing backs.
WR: DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins
I’m going back to the well with Parker. He’s just a good receiver that continues to be underpriced because he’s been injured most of the year and hasn’t seen that explosive outing to move the needle upward. Among the five games he’s finished this year, his lowest FanDuel output was 9.6 points. He’s seen no fewer than eight targets in those games. He basically has a solid floor around 10, with upside towards 20 if he finds the end zone. It’s hard to find that number of targets and safety in the low $6,000’s. Add in the matchup against the Bucs and this is also one of the better plays of the week.
TE: Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
I think the masses are going to roster Kelce this week, and for good reason. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen Ertz in action, but let us not forget, Ertz has five touchdowns in the last four games. Wentz is starting to trust some of his other receivers, but it still relies on Ertz, especially in the red zone. This is a tournament play due to the similar floor and ceiling of Kelce, but you know I love having a player in the Sunday night game when I can. The Cowboys have struggled the last two weeks against tight ends and they will be without Sean Lee for a few weeks. If somehow the gamescript doesn’t go Kelce’s way, you could be way ahead of the field going into Sunday night with Ertz still to play.
RB: Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles didn’t trade for Ajayi mid-season to give him 6-8 carries. I think they plan to use him as their workhorse back. Coming out of the bye with an extra week to learn the playbook, I think the Eagles will showcase Ajayi against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. As mentioned above, the Cowboys have not been the same defense without Sean Lee. In fact, in three games without Lee (including last week where he went down early), they’ve given up over 100 yards rushing in each. In fact, they’ve given up 35, 35, and 27 points in those three games. They haven’t given up more than 19 points in any other game. I think Ajayi is going to have his coming out party and I want to be in on it at just $6,800.
Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers
Last but not least is Gordon. As the week has gone on, I’ve fallen more and more in love with him. Believe me when I say, he is not someone I usually target. He’s just way too inefficient for me. With that said, it’s hard to ignore the workload and matchup. I think we’ll also see his ownership reduced after Austin Ekeler scored two touchdowns in Week 10. Ekeler got the hot hand and scored on two receptions. He also fumbled late in the game and that won’t bode well for him this week.
Now to the matchup. The Bills have been absolutely gashed by opposing running backs since they traded away Marcell Dareus. In the six games before Dareus was traded, the Bills allowed 74.3 rushing yards per game and three rushing touchdowns. In the three games since he was traded, they have allowed 175 yards per game and eight rushing touchdowns. And the Bills coach is trying to say the struggles to stop the run are unrelated to the trade. Yeah, okay. I’ve still got some time to decide if this will end up being the route I take, but I won’t be surprised at all if we see all of the “sharps” or “pros” heavily leveraged on Gordon come Sunday.
That’s it for this week. Because of new information and a better gauge of ownership, I may add updates here through the weekend, so be sure to follow me on Twitter at @mrclutchdfs so you don’t miss any additional recommendations.
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