Trending and NoteWorthy: Illusions, risers and must-start performers
Another week of favorable Fantasy Football matchups to exploit and (leftover) turkey and stuffing to feast on. As playoff talk boils on the radio, it’s the matchups that Fantasy owners care about and that’s where I am focused again this week.
Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled
LeSean McCoy, RB Buffalo Bills
Week 13 Opponent: Miami Dolphins
Anecdotally, McCoy is a talented, dual-threat running back that has a sweetheart matchup against a Miami Dolphins run defense that ranks 28th in Fantasy points allowed per game to running backs (28.9 PPG). Targeting bad defenses is always a good place to start building your Daily Fantasy team, but McCoy is a poison pill.
He has only one touchdown, against the New York Jets in Week 10, and has had only one relevant game as a pass-catcher against a New England Patriots defense that has been consistently bad at covering running backs out of the backfield. He has had only two games of 20 rushing attempts or more, has rushed for fewer than 50 yards in four of his last five games and has only one 100+ yard rushing game this season. And in his last two games he has averaged just one reception per game.
McCoy hasn’t had the volume of touches and targets needed to be relevant, and while owners will be tempted to exploit a friendly matchup, he is a Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled play this week.
Amari Cooper, WR Dallas Cowboys
Week 13 Opponent: New Orleans Saints
Amari Cooper enters Week 13 after playing by far his best game of the season on Thanksgiving when every sports fan in American was stuffing themselves with turkey and football. Combine the high-profile exposure with his upcoming matchup against a Saints pass defense that ranks 32nd in Fantasy points allowed per game to wide receivers and you have a Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled situation.
Cooper has had three games with a touchdown, two 100+ yard receiving games this season and only one as a Cowboy—when Washington was oh so giving. Recency bias will have owners drooling for seconds and likely to leave the table with indigestion.
The Saints have had one of the most difficult schedules in football when it comes to facing wide receivers. They have had to go up against Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Julio Jones of the Falcons twice, Odell Beckham Jr of the Giants, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs of the Vikings and Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks of the Rams. Of course a defense is going to allow a lot of Fantasy points when those are the receivers you have to cover every week.
The Saints pass defense is a friendly matchup for Dak Prescott and the Dallas pass attack, but their Fantasy points allowed have been distorted by the schedule and the top-tier quality of the wide receivers they have faced. Every receiver that faces the New England Patriots has one of their best games of the season. That isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to the Saints.
When targeting a bad defense owners should apply two rules. One, pay top dollar for elite players that are guaranteed to have huge games. If you know you’re going to get the production then it is worth every penny to pay for it. And two, target second and third wide receivers that are more affordable on your budget who can exploit the weakest parts of an already weak defensive unit. John Brown did that for the Ravens, Calvin Ridley for the Falcons and Sterling Shepard did it for the Giants against these same Saints.
Owners shouldn’t allow recency bias in Cooper’s favor and an overly ugly statistical profile of the Saints’ pass defense to convince them that he is worth top dollar in DFS this week, and the Cowboys don’t have a viable second or third wideout that can take advantage of the matchup. As desperate as owners will be to own shares in this one, the Cowboys’ passing attack doesn’t profile as a unit that can fully exploit the situation. Avoid Cooper and don’t throw up a Hail Mary on guys like Michael Gallup or Cole Beasley unless you are desperate for a punt-priced play.
Lamar Miller, RB Houston Texans
Week 13 Opponent: Cleveland Browns
28.7 Fantasy Points Per Game Allowed to Running Backs (Rank 27th)
* 86 rushing yards and 100+ or more total yards from scrimmage in four of last five games
* 18 carries or more in three of the last five games
* A touchdown in three of the last five games
* Browns Rank 27th, averaging 28.7 Fantasy Points Per Game Allowed to Running Backs
Miller was the 21st running back drafted with an ADP of 45, and early in the season that looked like a reach. Beginning with the Jacksonville Jaguars game in Week Seven, however, he has performed like a draft day bargain. His workload has increased and his performance has blossomed. He has been a RB2 in every game but one since, against the Denver Broncos, and he faces a Cleveland Browns defense that has allowed 12 rushing touchdowns, tied for third most in football.
Miller has been a must-start Flex in yearly leagues since Week Seven, but with the current trends and one of the better matchups of the week, owners can trust that he is a reliable bargain in DFS as well. He is currently priced comparatively to running backs like Duke Johnson, Theo Riddick and Doug Martin. That’s a no-brainer for DFS players looking for a viable discount to free up cash to spend elsewhere.
Phillip Lindsay, RB Denver Broncos
Week 13 Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
* Rushing touchdown in four of his last five games
* Five touchdowns in his last five games
* 90 rushing yards or more in three of his last five games
* 10 Fantasy points or more in eight straight games
* 14 rushing attempts in four of his last five games
Lindsay came out of nowhere to make draft season darling Royce Freeman an afterthought and a bust. Lindsay has played like a Flex or RB2 in all but two games this season.
In Week 13, he faces a Bengals defense that has been non-existent defending the run. The Bengals rank 30th in both rushing yards allowed and rushing touchdowns allowed (11). They are tied for last in most passing touchdowns allowed to running backs with six and they rank 31st in Fantasy points allowed per game to the position with 32.3. Lindsay has been playing well and the Bengals have been defending the run extremely poorly. That is a combination to target in DFS.
D.J. Moore, WR Carolina Panthers
17 Targets, 15 Receptions, 248 Receiving Yards – One Touchdown
A few weeks ago, I recommended targeting Devin Funchess for trade because of how friendly the Panthers upcoming schedule was and because Funchess should have been their number one passing target. Due to injuries and, it would appear, Cam Newton’s preference, Moore has become that guy instead.
He has led Panthers wide receivers in targets, receptions and receiving yards the last two games, and this week he faces a Buccaneers pass defense that has allowed an average of 41 Fantasy points per game to wide receivers, fourth worst in football. Moore would be Trending rather than NoteWorthy if there was more consistency or more than two games to point to in his defense. He did have a five catch, 90 yard game in Week Eight against the Ravens, but that looks more like an anomaly than a credible data point to argue he is trending. Moore is a must-start Flex in yearly leagues and an affordable target in DFS.
James White, RB New England Patriots
Week 13 Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
10 Rushing Attempts – 68 Rushing Yards – Six Receptions – 36 Receiving Yards – Zero Touchdowns
White has been one of the great values in Fantasy Football this season and a savior for a pedestrian New England offense, but this might be the week to bench the Patriot pass catcher.
He has only six receptions and 36 yards in his last two games and he faces a Vikings defense that ranks sixth in Fantasy points allowed, averaging 20.1 per game. They have only allowed 833 rushing yards and six total touchdowns (three receiving) to running backs this season.
Combine a difficult matchup, a poor two-week trend and the possible return of Rex Burkhead to eat into the touches and targets and it’s foreseeable that White doesn’t finish as even a Flex play, never mind a must-start. It’s a difficult call, but teams with legitimate alternatives should seriously consider benching White this week.