The goal in a cash game is to score more points than around half of the field. In a guaranteed prize pool tournament (GPP), we need to score more than around 80% of the field. The money line to cash between the two tends to differ at about a 20% rate higher in GPPs. This number varies so widely that it is empty to argue, but we have to accept that the higher scoring the widely owned players are, the higher the money line because the lineups with those players are so abundant.
After the science of projecting floors and ceilings along with finding the dollars per points and equating our variance is the art of defying the field. If 30% of the field has a lineup scoring a very strong 175 points in a GPP, that 175 is not as strong as 30% with a lineup scoring 105. The money line probably lower in the latter scenario but cancelling ourselves out with other owners just has us splitting money at best, burning out of the money with the rest of them, at worst.
Week 11 is one where chalk (explained here) is going to be in every lineup, as it is pretty good, cheap chalk. Football is so risky that such risk has to be mitigated with safe plays and widely owned players are usually widely owned for reasons of strong logic. Mixing that high scoring and great value chalk with high-upside contrarian plays is our only shot at making that jump from minimum cashes to having the shot at taking down a big tourney.
The ownership data in this post is taken from Reddit's DFSports data from Thursday GPPs. Remember that the Jaguars and Titans' ownerships will be split in an unknown manner for Sunday-Monday contests, but these can serve as a sign of the ownership rates to come for the weekend.
- Derek Carr, Raiders, 17.04% ($7,700)
- Blake Bortles, Jaguars, 14.74% ($7,500)
- Cam Newton, Panthers, 10.56% ($8,600)
- Tom Brady, Patriots, 8.90% ($9,200)
- Marcus Mariota, Titans, 7.90% ($7,100)
The high ownership data of Carr coupled with about a quarter of the field choosing Thursday night QBs has to make us be cautious of our exposure to Carr. He is impossible to completely ignore, as the Raiders are 1.5-point favorites in a game with a 48.5 over-under, tied with the highest-scoring projected game of the week with the Bills-Patriots.
He is also so cheap, as only the 9th-most expensive QB. His ownership should be in the high-20s, if not cracking 30% on Sunday, so if scores 30 points for you, that 30 points for a ton of people. Again, at ~$2,500 per point, that is hard to ignore for a QB, as we like 25 points from a $7,700 QB. But there are other options to blow past the Carr owners and use that extra money for other value.
Matthew Stafford, Lions, 4.75% ($7,000)
Forgotten in the matchup between an explosive Raiders bunch against a terrible Lions defense is that Vegas has the Lions losing a shootout and that is always great for a fantasy QB. Add that the Lions can't run for crap, a game in which the Lions will score at least two TDs and cannot run has to bode well for Stafford in their first home game since October 25.
Even better, the Lions are more likely to make this a close game by playing from behind, meaning the Raiders are more likely to try closing the game through Latavius Murray than the Lions through--well, pick your bum from Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and Joique Bell.
The Raiders are giving up the 8th-most FanDuel points per game (FDPPG) to QBs (18.8). The Lions passing volume gives the Stafford the upside of that average with a very high ceiling of over 300 yards and three TDs. Even an INT thrown into the mix gives us 20 points for the same $2,500 per point range as Carr. Oakland will be without Aldon Smith (suspension) and the Raiders barely get only two sacks per game with Smith, so the median level of what the Raiders should give has to rise for Stafford to have a ceiling over 25 points and a floor that still breaks even with his low price.
Tyrod Taylor, Bills, 1.60% ($7,200)
The other game with a 48.5 O/U is also a Monday night game where the Bills will have the extra day of rest. Add that Bill Belichick loves to run up the score on Rex Ryan and Ryan will not be allowed to limit Taylor's volume. The Patriots are giving up 19.9 FDPPG to QBs, the 3rd-most of active Sunday-Monday teams.
Against the Pats in Week 2, Taylor threw 30 times for 242 yards, three TDs, three INTs for less than 16 FD points, but added 43 rushing yards and a TD in desperation. If 16 points is Taylor's floor, the whiff is what it is to separate ourselves from the field. The ceiling is probably north of 250 passing yards, three TDs, and limiting the desperation INTs to one or two with the rushing volume being gravy. And the rushing volume in a four point per passing TD scoring format should not be discounted.
Sure, LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams are healthy, but Taylor's runs are not designed. They are bailouts to gather every little yard from broken plays. The more he has to dropback, the more likely he will have to run. Expect Taylor's ownership to stay under 5%, whereas Stafford's could push into the double digits.
- Charcandrick West, Chiefs, 36.30% ($7,100)
- Devonta Freeman, Falcons, 25.31% ($9,100)
- Lamar Miller, Dolphins, 17.92% ($7,400)
- Todd Gurley, Rams, 13.47% ($9,200)
- Jeremy Langford, Bears, 10.50% ($6,700)
If you were like me and thought that Langford was a cute cheap play because he would be faded against the Broncos, you were also wrong. The ownership rates should not vary at RB so much as QB because T.J. Yeldon was only owned in 2.1% of reported Thursday GPP lineups and Antonio Andrews is not even on the report.
Freeman and Gurley are super safe studs. Freeman has a decent matchup against the Colts and Gurley should dominate volume against the Ravens with Case Keenum starting under center for St. Louis. West is, no doubt, the play of the week. He is facing the worst run defense in the NFL in the Chargers, who are allowing 24.5 FDPPG to RBs, but is only $300 more than the RB facing the team allowing the 2nd-most FDPPG to RBs:
Darren McFadden, Cowboys, 7.26% ($6,800)
Hard to call a guy owned in over 13% of Thursday 50/50s a contrarian play, but McFadden is actually only the 11th-highest owned RB in Thursday GPPs. He had 20 touches last week and no fewer than 26 in the three prior weeks. The fears of owning him could be the return of Tony Romo, but the biggest was probably him popping up on the injury report Thursday afternoon with a groin injury. That said, he practiced in full on Friday and the Cowboys say he's ready to go, despite the tweak on Wednesday.
McFadden is always an injury risk and it is completely understandable for his ownership to be so far from West, Freeman, and Gurley. But the matchup is too juicy, the price is too cheap, and the volume is too dependable with his offensive line too great to be too careful with DMC's exposure. Just keep an eye on the weather. Jon Machota, a pretty solid reporter with The Dallas Morning News, is personally speculating that McFadden's role may be reduced due to a wet field in Miami. This could be legit; this could be mouthpiecing for juvenile gamesmanship by the Boys.
Danny Woodhead, Chargers, 7.33% (6,400)
Woodhead gets the Chiefs and is eighth in FDPPG (14.2) among RBs active this week. That's what Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Le'Veon Bell, Matt Forte, and Mark Ingram being inactive does for a slate. Meanwhile, Woodhead is barely in the top-20, in terms of pricing at $6,400. This is insane.
The Chiefs are 18th in run DVOA, according to FootballOutsiders.com (-10.2%), Woodhead is the best of the Chargers' healthy receivers, and the line still hasn't figured out how to run block. Philip Rivers is not only leading the league in pass attempts per game (43.3), but is on a pace for the 2nd-most in NFL history. Woodhead leads the team in the TDs (5); and--after Keenan Allen, who is out for the season--Woodhead leads the Chargers in targets (60), receptions (45), and receiving yards (521).
14.2 FDPPG would rank 8th among WRs, too, ahead of: A.J. Green (8,200); Calvin Johnson ($8,100); Mike Evans ($8,000); Amari Cooper ($7,200), Demaryius Thomas ($7,700); Emmanuel Sanders ($7,600); T.Y. Hilton ($7,200); Randall Cobb ($7,100); and Michael Crabtree ($6,500).
Others: Latavius Murray at Lions, 7.28% ($6,800); Frank Gore at Falcons, 2.93% ($6,600)
- Danny Amendola, Patriots, 27.79% ($6,100)
- Julio Jones, Falcons, 26.07% ($9,100)
- Amari Cooper, Raiders, 22.62% ($7,200)
- Michael Crabtree, Raiders, 20.28% ($6,500)
- Mike Evans, Buccaneers, 12.22% ($8,000)
- Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals, 12.18% ($7,400)
- Jarvis Landry, Dolphins, 11.10% ($7,200)
- Steve Johnson, Chargers, 9.85% ($5,600)
- Eric Decker, Jets, 8.74% ($7,000)
- Brandon Lafell, Patriots, 7.30% ($6,900)
I went down to Lafell because Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns were in 24.84 and 11.65% of lineups, respectively, so these percentages can go up much more than the RB numbers and we have to pick three WRs on FD. It is almost impossible to completely fade chalk.
Calvin Johnson ($8,100) at 6.66% as Stafford's primary target at home in a close game with a 48.5 O/U is weird, despite recent struggles and an improved Raiders defense. Even weirder, Dez Bryant ($8,400) in Tony Romo's return game against a Dolphins team with the worst DVOA against #1 WRs (+39.9%) is 6.42% owned.
Can completely understand being weary of these two for price and recent failures, but this is a case where ownership data and situation has me re-thinking my lineups and looking to find places for these once weekly studs.
But we're talking cheap here, so...
Sammy Watkins, Bills, 6.45% ($6,600)
I hate spending money on Watkins because you never know when he plays a full game or whether or not he will get the ball. We have to believe he is healthy for this week. An extra day of rest for a Monday night game where the Bills should be throwing a lot to play catch-up.
There is all the reason in the world to love Taylor for fantasy, so why not Watkins. The Patriots are 23rd in DVOA against #1 WRs, but the big games are hard to find, as they have only allowed 71.9 yards per game to those WRs. Watkins is a pure volume play, aided by the half-PPR format a bit. He's been targeted seven and eight times each of the last two weeks since returning from injury.
No way Taylor-Watkins is the ideal stack over Stafford-Johnson, Matt Ryan-Julio Jones, or Carr-Crabtree (despite the chalk), but where we are playing more than seven lineups, this stack is worth considering.
James Jones, Packers, 0.90% ($5,200)
I know, Jones hasn't scored a TD since Week 6 or hit the 13 FD points we would want this week since Week 5, but there is cause for wonder. The Packers face a Vikings team that is about average against the pass, but are extraordinarily bad against #2 WRs.
According to FO, Minnesota is 27th in DVOA against #2 WRs, 14th against #1s, and 1st against others. If we assume Davante Adams would be affected as the #1 and Randall Cobb as the "other" in the slot, Jones should have more to work with than his teammates. And Aaron Rodgers is his QB.
Whether or not you want to believe in Jones again, his six TDs lead the team and his ten red zone targets are second only to Cobb (13).
Devin Funchess, Panthers, 0.20% ($5,100)
Now, we're getting freaky-naughty, I know. Corey Brown is out for Sunday and the Panthers will give Funchess the bulk of the snaps on the outside, as Ted Ginn moves inside and out with Greg Olsen. It is difficult to trust any pssing option of Cam Newton in a game where the Panthers defense should handle a bum Washington team at home, but there is a rice cake's chance at fat kids' camp here for a breakout.
Washington is the worst team on the Sunday-Monday slate in DVOA against #2 WRs (44.2%), allowing 63.5 yards per game. Newton has taken some shots to Funchess in his limited snaps over the last couple of weeks. The opportunity will be there for the 6-5 rookie to beat his bum a few times for big plays, if you want a 5% exposure guy for a stud-packed lineup.
Newton should have a strong game. I prefer a naked Newton play because he can score so much without throwing the ball, but where want to save on TE in a slate where we are playing super high volume, 2.5% exposure to Funchess is a cheap way to fade Amendola's chalk.
- Greg Olsen, Panthers, 20.17% ($6,400)
- Rob Gronkowski, Patriots, 14.56% ($8,400)
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs 6.70% ($5,700)
- Jordan Reed, Washington, 6.57% ($5,800)
- Antonio Gates, Chargers, 5.42% ($5,900)
Chalk is small at TE, but it is worth mentioning that Delanie Walker was in 17.56% of Thursday lineups and Julius Thomas was in 1%, so Kelce, Reed, and Gates should all get bumps as the primary targets on their respective teams.
Tyler Eifert, Bengals, 5.13% ($6,200)
This is difficult, but if we are fading A.J. Green because of his individual matchup, we have to see the ball going to Eifert for decent volume, especially in the red zone. I mean, it's not like Cincinnati can run the ball, right?
Eric Ebron, Lions, 4.13% ($5,400)
Ebron gets the Raiders. They have been better lately against TEs, but if you are stuggling to trust Calvin Johnson, you have to believe someone gets in the endzone in this shootout and Ebron is the next most likely for Detroit.
Richard Rodgers, Packers, N/A ($5,400)
No reported ownership on Rodgers is odd. He has scored three TDs in the last two weeks and the Vikings are 29th in DVOA against TEs.
Stats via Pro-Football-Reference unless otherwise noted.