The Story of Valentina Allen: Half the Heart, but Twice the Fight

On February 15, 2013 Danielle and Ryan Allen gave birth to their second child, Valentina. However, this beautiful baby girl was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) 20 weeks into Danielle’s pregnancy, but Valentina was quite the fighter.

Throughout the pregnancy, Danielle and Ryan knew they had to make a very difficult decision. They visited several hospitals and received many recommendations from different doctors. Most did not give Valentina much of a chance at all. However, one hospital would match Valentina’s fight. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia gave her the fighting chance that the parents needed to hear.

The birth of Valentina, which was a question mark in itself, was a success. When examining her condition, the doctors realized not only was she born with half a heart, but also what was on the left should have been on the right and vice versa. This made every surgery even more difficult.

Valentina went through countless surgeries before she did not have any more fight left in her. On May 12, 2015, at just two years old, Valentina passed. Many looked at this as a battle that was lost. However, those same people did not realize that the battle was just beginning.

Danielle and Ryan could have sat back and grieved, which would have been completely understandable, but they did not do that. They were inspired by their daughter’s two-year fight and they continue till this day to raise money and fight for other’s who are in the same shoes that Valentina once was.

Their story and fight has inspired others to join along. The battle started off small with small donations, and wristbands and t-shirts being sold in Valentina’s name. However, it continued to grow. In the two years since her passing, Danielle and Ryan have raised nearly $200,000 through various fundraisers. Most recently, the Angels of the Bay Foundation donated over $40,000 in Valentina’s name to CHOP. The family also collects toys during the holiday season to bring to the hospital so the kids who are spending their days there have something to bring them joy. The ultimate goal is to have a cardiology examining room at CHOP to be named in Valentina’s honor.

The fight is far from over and people are still getting on board. I encourage you to help continue this fight and hopefully a cure can be found. There are various treatments for patients who are diagnosed with HLHS, but a cure is yet to be found. Some do live with this disease, but there are complications that they face their whole lives. They have to deal with taking medicine day after day, check-ups too often, and even additional surgery may be required. Some patients are lucky enough to receive heart transplants, but even then the fight does not stop. These patients have to take medicines for the rest of their lives to prevent the body from rejecting the new heart.

It is time that HLHS becomes more known so we can stop others from suffering down the road. The people fighting this battle have been tremendous so far, but it is far from over. The support system continues to grow and it has now reached college sports. The St. Joseph’s Brooklyn Women’s Basketball team will be playing in Valentina’s honor for their first six home games. These games will be played on November 15th, 21st, 28th, and 30th, and December 2nd and 5th. During these games the team will be collecting donations with all the proceeds going towards CHOP, while collecting toys as well for the kids who spend their holidays at the Hospital. On December 5th they will hold a ceremony in honor of Valentina. I urge you to come support these girls as they play for a growing cause. Do not let the battle stop now. Help us in making sure this continues to grow. The fight is far from over, but the light is in sight.

HLHS is a disease that is overlooked too often and awareness needs to increase. All I ask is that you spread the word about HLHS. I am not expecting anyone to donate or take further action, but anything helps. Visit the donation page if you wish to help the cause. You can also help the cause by coming out and supporting the St. Joseph’s College Women’s Basketball Team. As mentioned, they will be collecting donations via 50/50 raffle and donation jars, while collecting toys as well. You can learn more about Valentina and the growing community who has been helping support the cause and raise awareness by visiting the Facebook page that was started by her parents, Ryan and Danielle. Once again, just help spread the word by sharing this article, retweeting the tweet about it on New York Groove’s Twitter page, or just talking about HLHS in your community. Let’s continue this fight together, so one day we can finally put an end to HLHS.

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Turkey Targets: Thanksgiving DFS Spotlight

Turkey Targets: Thanksgiving DFS Spotlight

By Nathan Smith
The purpose of this article is to break down each Thanksgiving NFL game from a DFS perspective. Strategies and player recommendations are given, in accordance with DraftKings strategy and player pricing. This isn’t a player by player pick column, but rather a strategy article designed to ignite your thinking and research process for this three game Thanksgiving slate. 

Thanksgiving, NFL, and DFS: what more could we ask for? Everyone has many different ways of celebrating this classic American holiday, but differences aside, one thing most people all seem to love is NFL football. I am certainly thankful to have it as a core part of the day long celebration. As is tradition, 2017 brings us a great trio of games that will air on national television back to back to back. Before we get started breaking down the action, here’s how the three game slate shapes up:

  • Minnesota Vikings (8-2) @ Detroit Lions (6-4)
    • 12:30 PM Eastern on FOX
  • Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
    • 4:30 PM Eastern on CBS
  • New York Giants (2-8) @ Washington Redskins (4-6)
    • 8:30 PM Eastern on NBC

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 45, with the Vikings being favored by 3 points. This indicates that Las Vegas expects the Vikings to win this game, but they also expect the Lions to play well in front of their home crowd.

Weather & Injuries

This game will be played inside the dome setting of Ford Field, meaning we don’t have to worry about any weather concerns. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about injuries. The Vikings are dealing with injury concern for two key defensive stars in Xavier Rhodes and Everson Griffin. On the flip side, the Lions are unsure if stud DE Ziggy Ansah will be able to suit up. Minnesota’s injury report is quite extensive, although many players appear closer to probable than doubtful. Here’s how both teams look as of now:

Vikings:
  • QB Sam Bradford (OUT)
  • RB Dalvin Cook (OUT)
  • OT Mike Remmurs (Questionable)
    • Remmurs appears closer to doubtful with a concussion.
  • CB Xavier Rhodes (Questionable)
    • Rhodes is one of the games elite cornerbacks. It would be a devastating blow to the Vikings if he was ruled out, but he appears closer to probable according to Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
  • CB Mackensie Alexander (Questionable)
  • S Andrew Sendejo (Questionable)
    • Sendejo and Rhodes injuries are certainly big concerns for Minnesota. Much of the secondary is banged up, with four players appearing on the injury report.
  • S Anthony Harris (Questionable)
  • DE Everson Griffin (Questionable)
    • Griffin is the Vikings best pass rusher, playing at an all pro level. If he is unable to go, Lions’ QB Matt Stafford will have more time in the pocket. 
  • DE Brian Robison (Questionable)
    • If Griffin and/or Robison miss this game, it’s great news for the Lions’ passing attack. 
  • LB Emmanuel Lamur (Questionable)
Lions:
  • DE Ziggy Ansah (Questionable)
    • The most significant injury for Detroit, as Ansah deals with a back injury. His absence would not be good news for the Lions defense.
  • CB/KR Jamal Agnew (Questionable)
    • A knee injury has Agnew looking closer to doubtful for this game.
  • RB Dwayne Washington (Questionable)
    • Not a very significant injury as Washington is buried on the RB depth chart.

Game Breakdown

This NFC North showdown features the first place Vikings traveling to the Motor City, to take on the Lions, who are also in playoff contention. The Lions always host a game on Thanksgiving. After losing every Thanksgiving game from 2004-2011, Detroit has rebounded to win four straight, with victories over the Bears, Packers, Eagles, and Vikings. Last year brought us a low scoring affair, with the Lions hanging on for a 16-13 victory over the Vikings. These teams matched up again in week 4 of this season, with Detroit winning 14-7. Since both teams tend to struggle defending the middle of the field, I break down which players can take advantage of this and more.

The main focus for me in this game is on the wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups on both teams. In three career games against the Vikings, Lions WR Marvin Jones has had subpar performances to say the least. He has only converted 7 of 21 targets, turning that into 101 yards with no touchdowns. Jones lackluster performances can be almost exclusively attributed to Minnesota CB Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is one of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks, with the ability to shut down even the most elite receivers in the game. Rhodes is questionable for this game, but looks to be on track to play. As long as he is healthy, I expect him to continue his domination over Marvin Jones.

I have no interest in playing Marvin Jones nor Eric Ebron. Jones faces the aforementioned tough matchup and Ebron specializes in dropping passes and underachieving. With two Lions pass catchers eliminated from my player pool, my focus shifts to the remaining ones. If the Lions are going to move the ball successfully—which I think they will—then it will likely mean Golden Tate and/or one of the running backs will perform well. The Vikings are well aware of his ability, as Tate burned them badly last year. Despite the Vikings efforts, I don’t expect them to be able to contain Tate in the slot. He seems to always do his best when the lights are shining. In big time games and national television appearances, Tate usually elevates a game to another level. Golden Tate is a great play in my eyes.

Adam Thielen has had one of the best fantasy seasons of any wide receiver in the NFL. With at least 5 catches in every game so far, Thielen has shown he has a high floor, and as well as great upside. Lions cornerback Darius Slay may not be on the same level as Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes, but Slay is still very good in his own right. In week 4, he didn’t shadow a particular receiver, but indications are he may shadow WR Stefon Diggs this week. While that presents a tough matchup for Diggs, it brings an even tougher matchup for Darius Slay. There is no reason to be scared of playing Diggs here or thinking he can’t bounce back. It just comes down to which WR the Lions choose to treat as the #1 threat. Throughout the last two seasons, the Lions have had a propensity to shutdown or at least limit the opposing team’s #1 wideout. If you’re asking yourself what that means for the #2 WR, you’re on the right track. The Steelers @ Lions game in week 8 was a perfect example of how this plays out. All-world receiver Antonio Brown was limited to only 5 catches for 70 yards. On the flip side, #2 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster went off, turning 7 catches into 193 yards and a touchdown. The takeaway from this of course, is that whoever the Lions decide to treat as the #2 WR has a great chance to do well in this game. The Lions are also known to struggle against receivers over the middle of the field, which certainly sets up well for Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. The best way to attack this situation is to follow beat writers and other reports leading up to the game, to see if there is any indication of who, if anybody, CB Darius Slay will shadow. If you’re comfortable making more lineups, you can also alternate Diggs and Thielen with a 1v1 swap in your lineups, to ensure that neither one of them can burn you.

Kyle Rudolph is in play for me at tight end, as my interest in playing him is growing throughout the week. In the backfield, the Vikings feature RBs Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. Murray is the thunderous between the tackles runner, with McKinnon playing more of a scat back role. In a GPP setting, I find myself wanting to play McKinnon more than Murray. After last week’s two touchdown performance, many people will gravitate towards Murray, inflating his ownership. I don’t think he is necessarily a great play, but he can turn an average game into a good one due to his prominent goal line role. With McKinnon’s ability to break off a big play touchdown at any time, I would rather take a shot on him. While it is far from guaranteed that McKinnon will do so, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he rushed for a 50+ yard touchdown. With rookie Dalvin Cook out of the mix with an injury, McKinnon has also seen more usage in both the running game and passing game. With three games over 25 fantasy points, it is clear that his expanded role, and game breaking upside make him a phenomenal play on Thursday.

The Lions backfield is made up of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Neither player has broken out this year, but both are versatile and talented enough to do so with enough usage. This situation is close to a toss up in my eyes. At 3900 and 3600 respectively, there is absolutely a ton of merit to rostering either player. Dig deep on this game if you want to find an edge between the two players. Either one of them could very well pay of their salary with ease, and add some flexibility to your salary cap while they’re at it.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 48. It is a Pick Em game, meaning no team is favored as the line is even. Las Vegas is indicating that they expect the score to be extremely close throughout this game, with neither team having the true upper hand on paper. One more takeaway is that this game is projected to be higher scoring than the other two contests, although all three games have similar totals.

Weather & Injuries

AT&T Stadium features a state of the art retractable roof. They will likely have it closed on Thursday, but If they do opt to have it open, there shouldn’t be any concern. The forecast has low, almost non existent winds and a temperature in the mid-60s. Furthermore, no rain is expected, so we can completely ignore weather conditions in the first two games. More of a concern will be injuries, as Ezekiel Elliot (suspension) isn’t the only notable Cowboy set to miss this game.

Chargers:
  • OT Joe Barksdale (Questionable)
    • With three offensive lineman listed as questionable, the effectiveness of the Chargers running game could be limited. Melvin Gordon is far and away the highest priced RB on this slate, so this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
  • OT Russell Okung (Questionable)
  • C Spencer Pulley (Questionable)
  • WR/PR Travis Benjamin (Questionable)
    • Benjamin is a streaky inconsistent player. He has deep threat home run ability, and is a threat to return a punt for a touchdown at any time, when healthy. 
  • WR Mike Williams (Questionable)
    • Williams role has steadily increased in the Chargers passing game. If he were to miss this game, it would be a big upgrade for the other Chargers WRs.
  • DT Corey Luiget (Questionable)
  • LB James Onwuala (Questionable)
Cowboys:
  • RB Ezekiel Elliot (OUT—suspension)
    • The Cowboys have featured a running back by committee approach since Zeke’s suspension actually started. Alfred Morris is the key beneficiary, with Rod Smith contributing in the passing game. Many people fail to realize that Darren McFadden‘s role is virtually non-existent, as he continues to be a healthy scratch in almost every game.
  • OT La’el Collins (Questionable)
  • OT Tyron Smith (Questionable)
    • The combination of Zeke being out, along with these two offensive lineman being questionable does not bode well for the Cowboys offense. 
  • LB Sean Lee (OUT)
    • Lee is the heart and soul of the Dallas defense. They play much, much worse when he is absent from the lineup. 
  • LB Anthony Hitchens (OUT)
  • DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Questionable)
  • DT Maliek Collins (Questionable)
  • K Dan Bailey (Questionable)
    • Mike Nugent will be the kicker for Dallas if Bailey misses the game. 

Game Breakdown

Like the Lions, the Cowboys always host a game on Thanksgiving. Dallas sports a 6-4 record in their last ten turkey day showdowns, including a 31-26 victory over the Redskins last season. This time around, a couple elements have changed as Dallas won’t have the luxury of relying on star running back Ezekiel Elliot, like they did last year. They will be facing an AFC foe in the Chargers, who unlike last year, are fairly healthy for the most part.

On this three game slate, running back is clearly the weakest position, with virtually no elite talent to speak of. Melvin Gordon is nearly $3000 more expensive than the next closest running back, which will drastically inflate his ownership. Inevitably, your roster construction on this slate will revolve around whether you or not you roster Gordon. DFS expert JM Tholine broke down the pros and cons of playing Melvin Gordon in his weekly article featured on RotoGrinders. I agreed with his take on the situation, and I’ll also break down two different ways to look at this scenario from a game theory perspective. Both outcomes offering a contrasting type of strategy. You’ll have to dig deep to find out which type of thinking, and which one of strategies you want to employ.

  1. Strategy #1: You lock in Melvin Gordon. The reality of a three game slate is that raw points matter. If Melvin Gordon doesn’t beat his price tag and go for 3X or 4X his salary, you will still be fine as long as he doesn’t totally bust. No other running back offers as safe a floor as Gordon does, or as high of a ceiling as he does. The Cowboys are extremely banged up on defense, and have no chance to stop the Chargers rushing attack. With Ezekiel Elliot out with a suspension, Dallas won’t be able to dominate time of possession like they normally do. This creates more opportunities and more potential carries for Gordon. Lock and load Melvin Gordon into 100% of your lineups and don’t think twice about it. Even if he only scores 15-20 points, it will still be worth it, as long as multiple low priced RBs don’t go off. If you don’t roster Gordon, and he goes off, you might as well consider your lineups dead. In that scenario, you simply won’t have a chance to do well on this slate. Again, if Gordon somehow doesn’t do very well, you can argue that his poor performance won’t even hurt you too badly, as as much as 70% of the field could roster him as well. It is absolutely plausible for him to score under 20 points and not kill your lineups.
  2. Strategy #2: You fade Melvin Gordon. No matter how much of a lock a player appears to be, there is always a set of circumstances that can enable them to fail. Gordon will be at least 50% owned, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the highest owned player on the slate. With Gordon being a volume dependent player, he will need to see a big workload in order to be most effective. The Chargers have several ways they can put points on the board without overly relying on Gordon. Quarterback Philip Rivers has no problem slinging the ball all over the field and feeding his wide receivers and tight ends. Dallas could sell out to stop the run, which would free Rivers to go into gun-slinger mode. As we saw last week, the Chargers defense is also capable of scoring on their own. If their dominant pass rush is able to force Dak Prescott and company into some turnovers, they could end up with yet another pick six or fumble return touchdown. Further limiting Gordon, is the emergence of rookie handcuff Austin Ekeler. Ekeler played on only 7% fewer offensive snaps in week 11 compared to Gordon. The Los Angeles coaching staff knows that Gordon is injury prone, and they won’t force him to be the bell cow. If Ekeler vultures a touchdown and/or a few catches here and there, we could see Gordon limited to 10-15 fantasy points or fewer. When you also add in the injury risk, there is a ton of merit to being underweight compared to the field on Melvin Gordon. In the event that he busts and scores for example 8 points, you will have a significant advantage on your competition by not rostering him.

Again, there are two different strategies when it comes to rostering Melvin Gordon. If you are playing cash games, don’t even consider fading him for a single second. The same goes for head to head games, as there is absolutely no upside to it. However, when it comes to large field GPP tournaments (which are a much better bet to play on this short slate), you will have to choose between strategy 1 and strategy 2. Some DFS players don’t like to heavily rely on game theory, but the reality of this slate is that you must do so in order to be successful.

Los Angeles has not featured either of their tight ends very regularly over the past few weeks, or this season in general. Antonio Gates is doing his best to prove to everyone that  he’s the slowest skill position player in the NFL, and at this point he isn’t even capable of stringing together a few catches and a short touchdown. Unless you like giving money away, do not play Gates. Hunter Henry‘s stat lines have been just as bad as Gates recently. The difference here is Henry actually has talent. Obviously, Antonio Gates is one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL, but at this stage of his career, he is miles and miles behind the skillset of Hunter Henry. Henry can be considered for large field tournaments, but you might be doing yourself a favor if you look elsewhere as Henry doesn’t have a large enough role in this offense at this current point in time.

My main interests from the Chargers offense will come from the passing game. Austin Ekeler could see a decent amount of targets and usage out of the backfield. With over 40 fantasy points in his last two games, 4200 seems like a bargain for the un-drafted rookie out of Western State. I wish playing him was a little bit more sneaky than it actually is, as I have the feeling that many people have noticed his increased role as of late. A possible way to be even more contrarian is to play both Gordon and Ekeler in your lineups, as they could both easily see double digit touches. As far as the wide receivers, there is plenty of reason to be intrigued here. WR Keenan Allen is coming off his best game of the season as he smashed the Bills for 12 catches, 159 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He could once again feast this week, as there is nobody in the Dallas secondary that can truly contain him. As we have seen in his career, Allen is absolutely capable of stringing together consecutive huge performances, as he and Rivers are very capable of getting hot together. In week 11, Tyrell Williams actually led the team in snaps played, but he hasn’t really had a good game this year other than in week 4, when he scored over 25 fantasy points. That was more of an outlier than a trend, thanks to Williams’ 75 yard touchdown against the Eagles. In this matchup in Dallas, Williams is in play as a large field tournament play. If you’re fading Melvin Gordon, you are likely reasoning that production will come from other places on the Chargers offense. If you’re making multiple GPP lineups, its worth taking a shot on ‘Tyrell The Gazelle’. Travis Benjamin is a speedy big play threat who is nursing an abdomen injury. If he plays this week, he is likely to be limited due to the injury. Further cementing his lack of upside is his unusually low snap count of 21 in last week’s game. Rookie Mike Williams seems to be slowly working his way up the depth chart. Coming out of Clemson, there was little doubt about Williams talent level, as the Chargers thought highly enough of him to take him with the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft. As long as William’s nagging knee injury isn’t bothering him too much, he has a good chance to find the end zone or at least rack up enough targets to be productive. With a 6’3″ frame and impressive playmaking skills, Williams has a solid chance to be a matchup problem for cornerbacks in the NFL for years to come. On Thanksgiving, the Chargers passing attack will come down to the health of Benjamin and Mike Williams, as well as the Cowboys ability—or lack thereof— to limit Keenan Allen. There is a good chance that the winning GPP lineup in tournaments has a Chargers offensive player other than, or in addition to Melvin Gordon.

The Cowboys offense has a considerably worse DFS outlook this week, despite this game being a pick ’em game. With questions about the status of multiple starters on the offensive line as well as the guaranteed absence of Zeke Elliot, the Cowboys rushing attack is no longer formidable. Running back Alfred Morris is certainly in play, based on volume alone, but it’s hard to get overly excited about the idea of playing him. It is worth noting that the Chargers defense is much worse against the run than the pass, which does set up well for Morris. However, his upside is limited considering that Dallas has leaned on a running back by committee approach since Elliot’s suspension kicked in. RBs Rod Smith and Keith Smith contribute to this backfield as well, but quite frankly, neither are very good players and don’t have enough volume or upside to be anything more than large field GPP shots in the dark.

Quarterback Dak Prescott struggled immensely last week against the Eagles, as he actually finished with negative fantasy points. Prescott will once again have the burden of carrying the offense this week as he will not only be the key cog to the passing attack, but also the run game as well. Prescott has been extremely effective in his young career, but almost all of his success has come with running mate Ezekiel Elliot by his side. With Elliot gone for a few more weeks, defenses have decided to key in on stopping the Prescott to Dez Bryant connection. Can you blame them? Bryant seems to be the only player on the Cowboys offense at this point that is talented enough to take over a game by himself. Los Angeles will be more than happy to greet him with stud cover cornerback Casey Hayward, as the Chargers try to force the Cowboys to rely on other receivers. With the possibility of Dallas being down two of their offensive lineman, the Chargers relentless pass rush can really pin their ears back and get after Prescott. With L.A. defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa in his face all afternoon, Prescott may not have time to go through his full progression, further limiting the chance he has to connect with Bryant over the top. If this predicted outcome does indeed play out, a couple different DFS plays stand out to me. The Chargers defense is the obvious and surefire one, as they come into this game on fire, and with favorable circumstances. Los Angeles was able to harass Bills rookie QB Nathan Peterman to the tune of 5—yes, 5— interceptions last week in the first half—yes you read that right—in the first half alone. Dallas pass catchers other than Bryant have a chance to be good value plays. WR Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are far from guaranteed to have successful afternoons, but along with veteran TE Jason Witten, they all certainly have a chance to put together a decent PPR stat line. The Cowboys completing quick passes on shorter routes to these three seems much more plausible than Dez Bryant burning through the secondary all afternoon. After all, the Dallas productive has to come from somewhere. Dak Prescott can still be considered as a contrarian play, as Dallas will surely be amped up for this Thanksgiving game in front of their home crowd. While Prescott has looked bad without Elliot, he is far from a bad quarterback. If you agree with me that the Dallas offense will continue to struggle, you may have also arrived at the conclusion that the Chargers defense is indeed a good play. Paired together with Melvin Gordon, this is an elite correlation play on this 3 game slate.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

Vegas Effect

This game has a projected total of 45, with the Redskins favored by 7.5 points. This is the largest spread on the 3 game slate and it indicates that Las Vegas expects the Redskins to easily defeat the rival G-Men.

Weather & Injuries

It is expected to be a clear night with little cloud cover and no precipitation in the forecast. Temperatures should start in the forties and finish in the high thirties by the end of the game. This is the only game played outside on Thanksgiving, but thankfully the weather doesn’t appear to be much of a concern, with wind also not playing much of a factor. On the injury front, both teams have significant problems that will have a huge impact on this game.

Giants:
  • OL D.J. Fluker (OUT)
  • OL Justin Pugh (OUT)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (OUT)
  • LB Calvin Munson (Doubtful)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (Questionable)
  • LB Kelvin Shepard (Questionable)
    • The Giants are notably banged up at linebacker, as well as the offensive and defensive line, and wide receiver. This will have a huge impact on how the Redskins’ offense operates. 
  • DE Olivier Vernon (Questionable)
  • DT Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison (Questionable)
    • Snacks Harrison and Olivier Vernon are two of the Giants most important lineman. One or both of them missing this game would be great news for the Washington run game and passing game. 
  • WR Odell Beckham (OUT)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (OUT)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Questionable)
    • Beckham and Marshall have been out for a while while Shepard has missed some time as well. The Oklahoma product looks like he will miss this game as well, which completely drains the Giants receiving core of any legitimate talent. 
  • LS Zak DeOssie (Questionable)
Redskins:
  • The Redskins injury report is so unbelievably lengthy that they were actually unable to field a full practice this week. They merely did walk throughs, as they are missing so many players that its almost unheard of. To view the Redskins full injury report, simply click here.
  • The most notable injuries for the Redskins are on offense with three of their four best pass catchers on the shelf:

Game Breakdown

These NFC East rivals clash yet again, with both teams coming in extremely banged up. This entire game feels like it is dictated by injuries, as added usage will have to be accounted for amongst players filling in. Both teams are terrible at defending tight ends, which is where my initial focus went to when researching this game.

As the center of the Giants passing attack is rookie tight end Evan Engram. With the top three Giants receivers ruled out with injury, QB Eli Manning has no choice but to heavily target Engram. With a huge workload and a plus matchup, Engram should have a nice bounce back game on Thanksgiving. Engram did have his worst game of the year last week, as New York grinded out a 12-9 victory over the Chiefs. A combination of intense wind, as well as the Chiefs defensive focus limited Engram to only 1 catch. It is much less likely the Redskins are able to contain him this week, as they have notably been torched by tight ends all season. If you think the Redskins will actually be able to halt Engram, then you might want to take a shot in the dark on a guy like WR Roger Lewis or RB Shane Vereen.

The New York player that stands out as most appealing to me is RB Orleans Darkwa. His nickname is literally “The Dark Horse”. A sign that he’s a dark horse candidate to perform really well on Thanksgiving? Quite possibly so. I will have a decent amount of exposure to Darkwa in tournaments, as the Giants have to rely on somebody. With a struggling and depleted passing attack, the Giants might as well try to take some time off the clock and establish the running game against the rival Redskins. In the likely event the Redskins are leading throughout part or most of the game, running the ball won’t be nearly as optimal for Big Blue.

The Redskins backfield did have one of the best receiving RBs in all of the NFL. That was, until last week when Chris Thompson went down with an injury, and was ultimately placed on Injured Reserve. With Thompson now joining fellow RB Rob Kelley on the injury list, the backfield is firmly in the possession of Oklahoma product Samaje Perine. Perine himself is questionable with a finger issue, but should be able to suit up. He has a great chance to succeed with an inevitable usage increase, due to the now non-existent depth in the Redskins’ backfield. The alternate perspective on Perine is that he will likely be extremely high owned on Thursday, and we do want a fair amount of lineup differentiation. It is crucial to identify which players are ‘good chalk’ and which players are ‘bad chalk’. If the Redskins do plan on leaning more on the passing game, Perine could fail to to put up big numbers, and instead be more of chains mover with low upside. Despite this possibility, I find it to be more likely that he does indeed have a fairly decent role. As far as dark horse player emerging with value from this backfield, its a long shot, but you can get risky and roster Byron Marshall if you’re feeling froggy. He was recently signed from the Eagles practice squad, and has somewhat of a chance to step into a poor man’s Chris Thompson role, as Perine is not very adept as a pass catcher.

The Redskins have the highest projected point total of any of the six teams on this slate. Not only is Kirk Cousins the highest priced quarterback on this slate, but he will will probably be the highest owned QB as well. While Cousins very easily score 20-30 points, the tournament player in me wants to fade him, save 1100 and play a guy like Lions QB Matt Stafford. I definitely won’t be fading Cousins, but I’ll have a large chunk of lineups in which I go contrarian at QB and find another option. As DFS expert Al Zeidenfield noted earlier this week, you can get exposure to the Washington passing attack without necessarily playing Kirk Cousins. Cousins won’t be able to rely on RB Chris Thompson, WR Terrelle Pryor, or TE Jordan Reed in this game. Increased usage is guaranteed to be spread around to other receivers, as the Redskins can’t put their whole game plan on the shoulders of Samaje Perine.

The Washington receiving core is now mainly made up of Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Ryan Grant. Tight end Vernon Davis also figures to be heavily featured, with backup TEs Niles Paul and Jeremy Sprinkle having smaller roles. While Paul and Sprinkle are salary saving GPP long shots, my main interest comes from starting tight end Vernon Davis and the other three Redskins wide receivers. I will be playing not only Crowder, but also Doctson and Grant. I will likely have several different combinations of them as well, as it is very hard to predict the exact production for all three receivers. With injuries playing such a huge role in this game, the Redskins are now thinner than ever before. It will be extremely interesting to see how the roles and usage shake out amongst the Washington receivers.

#PlugPlayers of the Week

On a three game slate, it is very rare that I will have 100% exposure to multiple players. The #PlugPlayers listed here are just some of the ones that I will plan on having the most exposure to on Thanksgiving, as I believe them to have a safe floor as well as a high ceiling. Therefore, these players make for fantastic core plays in both a cash game format and in GPPs as well.

  • Lions WR Golden Tate (6200)
  • Vikings WR Adam Thielen (7600)
  • Redskins WR Jamison Crowder (5400)
  • Redskins TE Vernon Davis (5500)
  • Chargers RB Melvin Gordon (8100)

Sneaky Tournament Targets

These players will be sprinkled into some of my lineups, for two reasons. First of all, they are extreme salary savers, that open up my budget so I can afford more high priced studs. Second, they are all flying way under the radar, compared to how much they should be talked about. Note that many more tournament targets are listed throughout this article as well.

  • Lions RBs Theo Riddick (3600) & Amer Abdullah (3900)
  • Giants RB Orleans Darkwa (4600)
  • Cowboys WRs Terrance Williams (3400) & Cole Beasley (3600)
  • Chargers RB Austin Ekeler (4200) & WR Tyrell Williams (3400)

Contrarian Strategy & Recap

Plenty of tournament targets are listed throughout this article, so the #PlugPlayers are by no means the only players you should focus on. To win a GPP on this slate, we will need to differentiate our lineups in multiple creative ways, to make sure we don’t get lumped in with the rest of our opponents. It is important to separate the idea of differentiating lineups, and the idea of playing low owned players just to do so. Just because nobody will be playing a certain guy, doesn’t mean it makes sense to use him. There are also ways to use high owned chalky players, in a non-chalky way. For example, you can play multiple Redskins WR without Kirk Cousins, you can play both Vikings WR instead of one or the other, or you can even experiment with playing both Lions RBs. No matter what strategies you decide to use, I heavily encourage everyone to use a lineup optimizer, which you can find on various DFS websites. This will help you stick to your ownership goals, as well as help you find the most optimal lineup(s) possible, based on your projections.

Last but not least, to wrap things up I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you find what you’re looking for both at the dinner table, as well as in your lineups. For more DFS strategy, be sure to follow me on Twitter. If you haven’t followed our main page already, make sure to give the New York Groove a follow as well. Best of luck this week everybody. Cheers!

Week 9 DFS Spotlight

Week 9 DFS Spotlight

Nathan Smith

 

With 6 teams on a bye and countless stars injured, week 9 is shaping up to be very interesting in the DFS world. Wide receiver can often be the most volatile position in our lineups, and this week is no different. We’re looking for playmakers that don’t cost an arm and a leg, but still have GPP winning upside. In this week’s DFS Spotlight, I break down wide receivers that I’m targeting in DraftKings tournaments.

T.Y. Hilton

T.Y. Hilton is always a threat to score 30 points in any given matchup, even on the road. When we think of Hilton, we usually imagine a long connection on a TD pass from Andrew Luck at home in the dome. Although the Colts play in Houston this week, there is still plenty of merit to playing him. At only 4900, Hilton stands out as an obvious target based on his point per dollar upside and game-breaking ability. The counter argument is that Hilton is expected to be highly owned, with ownership possibly approaching 40%. His slate breaking upside is what will make many DFS players gladly play him, despite the high ownership. If you fade him—although extremely risky—it could pay off in the event that the Colts offense comes out flat on Sunday.

Dez Bryant

Before news broke that Ezekiel Elliot would indeed play this week, Das Prescott and Dez Bryant were expected to be very highly owned. Now that Zeke is back, I expect a lot of people to move off of Dak and Dez, in favor of Elliot. While we can’t quite call ourselves sneaky for playing Dez Bryant, we can at least enjoy the fact that he may be lower owned than he should be. At only 6400, Bryant should be able to exceed price based expectations, and come through with his biggest performance of the year. Kansas City’s defense is not as good as public perception, with cornerback Marcus Peters showing a tendency to get burned by elite receivers on the outside. Do you know any elite receivers on the Cowboys that line up on the outside? I can think of one. Dez Bryant is firmly in play against the Chiefs, in what should be one of the highest scoring games of the week.

Julio Jones

For Julio, it’s really quite simple. You are probably best served to have exposure to him even while he works through this struggle. With the second-best receiver in the world significantly underpriced (7800), play Jones in the hope that he can overcome the inefficiencies of Atlanta’s play-calling and have his 2017 arrival game. After all, it was in this exact matchup last year in which Julio went for 300 yards and torched the Panther’s secondary.

Sammy Watkins

The Clemson product is one of the big-time playmakers in this league at the wide receiver position, but never seems to be valued as so. Coming into this matchup with the Giants, Watkins has several factors in his favor. The Rams are coming off a bye week in which they had plenty of time to emphasize how to get the underutilized Watkins the ball more. That game-plan won’t be as hard to put to use as you might think, with the Giants missing star cornerback Janoris Jenkins. At only 4200, this is the time to hop on the Watkins train. At no other point this year will we get a chance to play Watkins at such a cheap price, with such low ownership, and a clean bill of health. It is worth mentioning that Watkins is also returning to the state of New York, where he began he career with the Buffalo Bills. While that may not be enough reason on its own to play Watkins, it certainly doesn’t hurt his case. It is completely viable to hedge this play with other Rams offensive pieces, but Watkins is the player that stands out most to me. I expect him to absolutely shatter his price tag if he can meet or exceed 6-8 targets on Sunday.

Tyreek Hill

The Kansas City and Dallas game is setting up to be shootout. There is no need to overthink this one. Play Tyreek Hill. In a plus matchup on the fast track turf, expect ‘Ty-Freak’ to give the Dallas secondary fits. As we’ve seen, Hill only needs one big scoring play to justify his price tag, which checks in this week at 6700. This game provides us with plenty of one off tournament players, as well as the possibility of stacking up the whole game. Even though Dallas likes to control the clock and run the ball, there still should be ample opportunity for the Chiefs to move the ball and score. In need of a bounce back game, Tyreek has a great chance to go nuts this week.

Bonus

When there’s a team on the schedule who looks all but guaranteed to obliterate their opponent, it’s obviously a great idea to get exposure to them. With teams like Seahawks and Saints in such clear smash spots, much of the public will be drawn to the same players on these teams. While simply being higher owned doesn’t make someone a bad play, it is important to think outside the box in these situations in order to find the sharpest solution. For Seattle, we would want to first accept the outcome of Seahawks dominance and then identify where the scoring will come from. I wrote up Tyler Lockett last week, identifying him as a player that will improve as the year goes on. Lockett remains in play this week, but faces the likelihood of going up against Washington elite cornerback Josh Norman, who generally patrols the left side of the field. If you want to get frisky, you can spin the wheel with the Seahawks and have exposure to Lockett, as well as Paul Richardson and Doug Baldwin. In the end, I may very well end up having more exposure to Baldwin than either of the other two. The fact that Baldwin normally lines up in the slot is very encouraging, as he will avoid Josh Norman in coverage. The Seattle running game is a complete mess, often forcing the Seahawks to put the game on Russell Wilson’s shoulders. For the Seahawks to put up points in bunches, the passing game has to be successful. More than likely, one or more of their receivers goes off this week, with tight end Jimmy Graham being a strong possibility as well. The Seahawks defense can be stacked with an offensive player, as game flow should allow both to have opportunities to produce points. The with Hawks running game being notably bad, Russell Wilson makes a fantastic GPP this weekend as well, but he does check in with the highest price tag of any quarterback on the slate.

Saints running back Mark Ingram has been on a tear as of late, and now has risen all the way up to 7600. Even after owning up to two fumbles last week, it just seems like a classic Sean Payton move to limit Ingram’s snaps this week in favor of Alvin Kamara. This game could shootout, with Kamara having heavy usage independent of game flow. If you think the game takes the path of a defensive divisional battle, you will definitely want exposure to the Saints defense, who faces off against turnover-prone Jameis Winston. The public is sure to bet on Michael Thomas having a huge game this week, and rightfully so. If you want to hedge this play, you’ll find the idea of playing smaller names from the Saints passing game to be highly intriguing. I will be finding every which way I can to get exposure to this game, as I expect a lot of points to be scored.

Roster Construction

Week 9’s optimal roster build will likely feature wide receivers priced in the mid-range, as so many of the elite guys have a strong chance to bust. I will be going with a complete fade of AJ Green and DeAndre Hopkins and loading my player pool with guys in the 4K-7K range. To win a GPP this week, you’ll need to have at least some element of a contrarian mindset. I wouldn’t be surprised if something such as a sneaky Rams game stack won a tournament. Keep your eyes and ears turned towards injury updates and analysis as you fine tune your lineups. Most importantly this week, don’t overthink playing underpriced playmakers. We’ve identified a few here in the hopes that they help one of you win big on Sunday.

 

Remember to follow us on Twitter: Nathan Smith & The Sports Talk

 

 

Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets (Week 9)

There are only two to four weeks left in the regular season of fantasy football. Hopefully you are not one of the bottom feeders in your league out of playoff contention. If you are, you can attempt to pick up players on waivers and win games for pride. On the other end of the spectrum if you are fighting for a playoff spot or a top dog, landing a productive waiver player at this point in the season can get you into the playoffs. The players below are mostly influenced by the trade deadline.

1. Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins

Drake is here due to the Jay Ajayi trade. He should see a massive uptick in touches for the Dolphins. He has not been very active catching passes, but the Phins should lean on the ground game because of quarterback injuries. If Drake can have an electric game next week he could become a bell cow for the team. (Percent Owned: 0.3 NFL, 0.4 ESPN)

2. Damien Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins

This is obviously also because of the Ajayi trade. It is a toss up who will become the teams lead back, so it could be beneficial to add both backs if you can make the space on your roster. However, if you can only add one I would choose Williams. He is the better pass catcher and if the team goes down early, Williams will see more snaps. (Percent Owned: 0.1 NFL, 0.3 ESPN)

3. Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets

Robby Anderson is quietly having a good year in New York. Quarterback Josh McCown is doing a nice job getting his number one target the ball and Anderson is benefiting from it. Although he is going up against a tough Bills defense this week, he is a solid add for the rest of the year and he is not owned in a majority of leagues. (Percent Owned: 2.5 NFL, 26.5 ESPN)

4. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

JuJu was on this list several weeks ago and he is still a very viable add. He is now the number two target for Big Ben due to the Martavis Bryant debacle. JuJu blew up last week with 193 yards and a touchdown, and set a record for longest touchdown in Steelers history. Do not expect him to put up those numbers every week, but he is a great add at this point in the season. (Percent Owned: 13.1 NFL, 29.3 ESPN)

5. Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Collins is in a crowded backfield as Terrance West and Danny Woodhead will be coming back from injury soon, as well as Javorius Allen who Collins is currently splitting carries with. Collins ran for 113 yards and caught two passes for 30 yards last week. If the Ravens decide to go with the hot hand, Alex Collins will continue to see touches in the crowded backfield. (Percent Owned: 5.5 NFL, 32.2 ESPN)

6. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams

Goff has performed very well compared to last season and has the Rams offense humming. Helped by star running back Todd Gurley, Goff is protecting the ball and scoring an average of 15 fantasy points per game. If your quarterback is struggling or injured, Goff can be a great fill in or quality starter for the rest of the season. (Percent Owned: 14.2 NFL, 26.7 ESPN)

DFS Trends and Tips

DFS Trends and Tips: Week 8 Review

By Nathan Smith

As the NFL season progresses, statistical trends start to develop among teams and players. These trends are often translatable into the world of DFS, as picking up on the right things can give you an edge in lineup construction. In week 8, there were several relevant and notable developments that stood out.

Texans @ Seahawks

Quarterback Russell Wilson has shown he often plays better in front of the 12th man. Wilson often starts the season off somewhat slowly, before rapidly improving as the season progresses. Heading into week 8, Wilson was a must play for me versus the Texans. In addition to the boost from the home crowd, Wilson faced a better matchup than most people realized. The Texans typically boast a strong defense, but are extremely banged up as of late. After losing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season, the Houston pass rush hasn’t been as formidable as it was to start the year. The Texans are also missing linebacker Brian Cushing and no longer have stud cornerback AJ Bouye this season. When many DFS players see “vs HOU” they tend to have a subconscious bias, remembering how good the Texans defense has been previously, instead of analyzing how good they are now. Because of this, too many people scrolled right past Wilson’s name in week 8. With an advantage in personnel, and lower ownership than deserved (11.1% in the DraftKings Milly Maker), the deck was stacked in Russell Wilson’s favor in week 8.

Tyler Lockett is another player who elevates his level of play as the season goes on. Coming off a significant injury, the Seahawks wanted to bring Lockett along slowly as he worked his way back to 100%. As mentioned, the Houston secondary isn’t nearly as formidable as it once was, meaning Lockett was stepping into a great matchup. Houston was coming off a bye week where they had two weeks to prepare and scheme for Seattle’s offense. It is highly likely they focused more of their energy and game plan around Seahawks star wide receiver Doug Baldwin. With the attention shifted away from Lockett, the speedster was able to capitalize to the tune of 6 catches for 121 yards.

The takeaway here is these performances can be used to strategize player selections for week 9. We want to find the talented players with a good opportunity and matchup, that others are quick to write off because they haven’t had a strong game recently. Lockett’s talent, speed, and playmaking ability are undeniable; he is one of the NFL’s best kept secrets. Dismissing him as a good DFS play based on his recent game logs doesn’t make much sense at all. As mentioned, the Seahawks were looking to get him more and more involved as the season went on. Coming home, and in a spot where Doug Baldwin was going to be the center of the defense’s attention, now was as good a time as ever for Lockett to break out. As far as Wilson, it is as simple as analyzing the matchup and following the trends. With Houston’s defense in shambles, and Wilson’s home/road splits, it wasn’t hard to determine he was a great play.

We can’t talk about this game without mentioning one of the most eye-popping trends of all: the Texans passing game. Houston is led on the offensive side of the ball by rookie QB Deshaun Watson of Clemson. He is on fire lately, as nothing seems to slow down his electric connection to the wide receiver duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V. There has been nothing to suggest any of these three will slow down any time soon. Running back Lamar Miller has benefited as well, since the passing game is taking up so much of the defenses’ attention. Even on the road in Seattle, the Texans offense continued to be explosive. They are a particularly fun team to target because we know where the production is going to come from with Watson (38.78 week 8 DraftKings points), Hopkins (39.4), Fuller V (32.5), and Miller (22.3).

Raiders @ Bills

So far, the Bills have been absolutely atrocious at the wide receiver position. They would probably kill to have a guy like Tyler Lockett on their team. Without much success in the passing game, it is natural that they want to rely on their star running back, LeSean McCoy. Prior to week 7, reports surfaced that the Bills wanted to lean on McCoy even more so than usual. The box score backed that up, as he racked up 28 touches for 122 total yards and 2 touchdowns. With a week 8 home game against the Raiders, ‘Shady’ waltzed into another great spot. The Bills weren’t going to all of a sudden back off of their commitment to him, as he is clearly their best offensive player. Another trend in Shady’s favor was the home matchup against a west coast team. For the most part, west coast teams don’t perform as well when playing on the east coast. Although the game was at 1 pm, a three-hour time difference means the Raiders’ players body clock would be set to 10 am at game time. With this likely hindering the Raiders, Buffalo had a great chance to establish a lead early on. This would point to the game plan once again favoring McCoy, who could help his team establish dominance in time of possession. By running the ball frequently and keeping the clock moving, the Bills played keep away and limited the Raiders chances of a comeback. McCoy was popular (26.2 % owned in the DraftKings Milly Maker) and expensive (8700), but he was well worth it in this matchup, as he finished with 32.3 points.

There are two takeaways here that can be used moving forward. Always trust high end talents in high usage spots, and take advantage of west coast teams traveling to the east coast as they are not likely to match their usual level of play.

Steelers @ Lions

In week 8, the Steelers’ faced off against the Lions, a team known for scheming to take away the opponents’ #1 wide receiver. With so much attention being paid to Antonio Brown, production was likely to come elsewhere in the Pittsburgh passing game. Jesse James isn’t exactly a dynamic tight end, and #2 receiver Martavis Bryant was a healthy scratch due to attitude problems. Enter USC product JuJu Smith-Schuster. With awesome touchdown celebrations and a quirky stolen bike fiasco, the rookie wide receiver has been trending upwards recently, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Smith-Schuster is a fun-loving type of person and a great follow on Twitter. His social media presence is matched by his rapid improvement on the field, as the coaching staff seems to think very highly of him. Playing on turf, after moving up the depth chart and gaining momentum, against a defense that is susceptible to getting beat by #2 wide receivers…well let’s just say the play basically wrote itself. Primetime games are not on the DraftKings main slate anymore, but you could get exposure to him on the primetime only slates, late afternoon slates, and on FanDuel. I was shocked to see him come in at only 1.2% owned on the FanDuel mini contests, where he rewarded me with a whopping 28.8 points and a nice payday to go along with it.

The takeaway here is less about the Steelers and more so about “funnel defenses”. Teams like the Lions and Cardinals are known to limit the success of #1 WR, and allow production to other passing game weapons. The Lions have stand out cornerback Darius Slay and a scheme built to stop opposing #1’s. The Cardinals have all world CB Patrick Peterson, who frequently takes away any hope the opponents’ #1 WR has of succeeding. Consequently, both of these defenses funnel production to other areas, making them very attackable on a week to week basis. There are other examples of this trend that may be as simple as a team stuffing the box against the run, opening them up to getting beat in single coverage by speedy deep threats.

Moving Forward

Many of the trends mentioned in this article may be hard to keep track of, so I encourage taking notes as well as staying up to date with podcasts and articles from your favorite content providers. Most sharp DFS touts will be aware of these types of trends and point them out every week. Over time and with repetition, you will start to remember them and get a feel for when the time is right to attack certain situations.

With week 9 on the horizon, NFL teams are starting to show their strengths and weakness more and more. It’s time to use familiar data, information, and trends to our advantage and hopefully turn that into profit. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, and keep it tuned to The Sports Talk leading up to week 9 for more sharp analysis and my recommended #PlugPlayers of the week.

Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets (Week 8)

At this point in the season it is difficult to make a major plash on the waiver wire. However it is still necessary to search for waiver wire contributions. It can be the difference between a championship or a third place finish. Especially in situations such as a suspension or injury to a star player, having a waiver wire player add at least ten points is crucial. The six players below will be good fill ins if there are any injuries or suspensions on your team.

1. Jalen Richard, RB, Oakland Raiders

Due to Marshawn Lynch’s suspension, Richard will see a large uptick in carries. Fellow back DeAndre Washington will too, but Richard has more pass catching potential. Both backs are worth the add though. If either back has a standout performance they could cut into Lynch’s carries when he comes back. (Percent Owned: 2.8 NFL, 5.1 ESPN)

2. Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots

Lewis’ fantasy value has been sapped all season due to Mike Gillislee commanding the majority of the carries. This week though Lewis led the team in carries and managed 76 yards on 13 touches. He also had one catch for six yards. If Lewis can catch more passes and continue his yards per carry he will be a solid every week starter. (Percent Owned: 10.8 NFL, 20.4 ESPN)

3. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Sanu has finally come back from his hamstring injury in week 4 and he looked 100%. He caught six passes for 65 yards in a loss to the Patriots. He was also second in targets only to Julio Jones. If the Falcons offense can get back to last years explosiveness Sanu’s value will get even higher. (Percent Owned: 18.5 NFL, 50.6 ESPN)

4. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

Jones is owned in a majority of leagues, but it is a crime that he in not owned in all leagues. He has three touchdowns and 346 rushing yards over the last four games. If he keeps up this pace he will be one of the top running backs on the entire year even though he played a limited role over the first few weeks. He has a bye this week, but he is still a good player for the rest of the season. (Percent Owned: 50.4 NFL, 66.0 ESPN)

5. Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans

Fuller is another player owned in many leagues but not enough. Due to the Texans’ offensive explosion Fuller has caught five touchdowns over the last three games. Its doubtful that he keeps up this pace all year but he is a good flex option until his hot streak goes cold. (Percent Owned: 55.8 NFL, 78.0 ESPN)

6. Tyler Kroft, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

Kroft has been starting for Tyler Eifert and has been a dependable target for Dalton. He has only gone over 40 receiving yards once, but his touchdown contributions make up for it. Do not expect Kroft to put up outstanding numbers, but he could start over many other fantasy options at tight end. (Percent Owned: 2.1 NFL, 10.8 ESPN)

Week 7 DFS Spotlight

Week 7 DFS Spotlight

Nathan Smith

The Sports Talk

This article is intended to help NFL DFS players find an edge in lineup construction on this week’s DraftKings main slate. All referenced strategies and player salaries are intended for use in conjuncture with DraftKings scoring and player pricing.

Running Back

Roster construction is difficult this week with pricing being tighter than it was last week on DraftKings. Top flight running backs are certainly in play this week, but it will be difficult to jam them in and still be happy about the rest of your lineup. I prefer Le’Veon Bell (9100) & Ezekiel Elliot (9000) more than Todd Gurley (8200) this week. I do plan to have some exposure to Gurley, but I view Bell and Elliot as more likely to explode. Leonard Fournette (8600) is not expected to play as the Jaguars take on the Colts, which significantly upgrades Chris Ivory (4800).

Mark Ingram (6700), Jerick McKinnon (6300), and Adrian Peterson (5800) all received significant price increases in week 7. All three are coming off huge games, likely swaying their ownership into the 10 to 20% range. To gain an edge in tournaments, it makes sense to pivot to other running backs in this price tier with more advantageous matchups.

  • LeSean McCoy (7400): McCoy will be chalky and comes with high game to game injury risk. If you can get past those two factors, McCoy should be a clear must play. Coming off a bye week, McCoy steps in to a dream spot at home against a Bucs team that got gutted by Adrian Peterson last week. Considering Buffalo’s lack of offensive firepower and the Charles Clay injury, McCoy’s usage should be as high as ever.
  • Jordan Howard (6400): For a guy with the upside to lead the league in carries every week, Howard never seems to garner very much ownership. With the Bears starting rookie Mitch Trubisky at QB, they will continue to be a run-first offense against the Panthers. This game has a projected game total of 41, with a spread favoring Carolina by 3. This type of game script sets up extremely well for Howard. In a week where hardly any studs are too cheap, it is best to play one when we find one. I won’t be locking Howard, but I will aim to have a good amount of exposure come Sunday.
  • Jay Ajayi (6200): Ajayi is a somewhat frustrating fantasy player to roster for a couple different reasons. He is capable of having a great real-life game with a ton of volume, without it translating to fantasy goodness. The concerns about his surgically repaired knee seem to resurface from time to time as well. However, the reasoning behind rostering Ajayi is because of his immense upside and potential to score upwards of 30-40 fantasy points. Ajayi had mixed results in two games against the Jets last year, but this 2017 Jets run defense is not as good as the previous version. According to Vegas projections, New York @ Miami sets up to be the lowest scoring game on the slate. While this is mildly concerning for Ajayi’s upside, it could suggest a grind it out type of game with continued heavy volume from Ajayi, similar to weeks 5 and 6. If Ajayi can secure another 25-touch game on Sunday, he should be able to pay off his salary based expectations, with a decent chance for a whole lot more.

Other targets I am considering this week at running back:

  • Carlos Hyde (5900)
  • Chris Ivory (4800)
  • Derrick Henry (5500)
  • Christian McCaffrey (6100)
  • Orleans Darkwa (3700)
  • Alvin Kamara (5600)
  • Ty Montgomery (5500)

Quarterback

The higher priced quarterbacks this week boasts options such as Drew Brees (7600), Dak Prescott (7300), Cam Newton (7000), Marcus Mariota (6900), and Russell Wilson (6400). Prescott finds himself in an excellent spot as Dallas heads to San Francisco. Dak gets his running mate Ezekiel Elliot back—for now—which should actually help his fantasy production more than hurt it. The 49ers have been among the league’s worst in coverage numbers on the outside of the field, which suggests Prescott should be able to connect with Dez Bryant early and often.

Tyrod Taylor (5100) is in a great spot coming off a bye week, playing Tampa Bay at home. We can try to capitalize on ownership percentages in a unique way in this game. With LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor both expected to be fairly highly owned, it is worth it to play both of them together in the hopes that must people avoid that specific roster construction. While it may normally seem counter intuitive to play a QB and RB from the same team, it should be an effective strategy in this matchup. With both players having significant usage and a large role on offense, the floor for both of them should be somewhat safe. I feel more confident saying this considering that the Bills are playing at home and coming off a bye week. With two weeks to develop an effective game plan to maximize the skillsets of “TyGod” and “Shady”, I think both Bills make excellent plays this week.

More on Dallas @ San Francisco

Throughout the week, the Vegas game total has increased on this game, which is always an excellent sign. When the projected game total trends upwards, it suggests a higher likelihood of a shootout. With neither defense profiling as elite, a 34-31 type of game is certainly on the list of possible outcomes. The 49ers have now turned to rookie QB C.J. Beathard (4900) to lead the offense after inconsistent play from Brian Hoyer. Beathard is not someone to deploy in cash games, as you will want to use Tyrod Taylor in that price range. However, in tournaments I have a lot of interest in Beathard on the off chance he explodes for 20-25 points.

If you want to take a stroll down narrative street this week, I’ve got a play for you. George Kittle (3600) had a big game in week 5 and almost had another in week 6, if not for 2 drops and getting tackled at the 1 yard line. Kittle and Beathard were college teammates at the University of Iowa, and established a very good connection that they carried over to the pros. Their chemistry was on display in pre-season, and the duo will now get a chance to show it off in Beathard’s first regular season start. The coaching staff is reportedly high on Kittle, as they traded incumbent starter Vance McDonald to Pittsburgh before the start of the season.

The one area of this game I am skeptical to attack is the Dallas middle of the field passing game. The 49ers are surprisingly adept at covering the middle, with their true weakness lying on the outside. Dez Bryant is the obvious play, with Brice Butler and Terrance Williams being deep GPP flyers. Cole Beasley and Jason Witten are the middle of the field options I would stay away from.

All in all, this is a very stackable and intriguing game. I will play around with lineup builder to try and find several different ways to have exposure to different game stacks here. I am all in on this game being higher scoring, so I want to take advantage of the underpriced 49ers to go along with the high-priced Cowboys. If it wasn’t already clear, I love C.J. Beathard’s potential this week. Playing him in the right type of contest and in the right type of way is very important here. In cash games or head-to-head games, a guy like Tyrod Taylor makes much more sense. But Beathard is the exact type of player to use if you are trying to be contrarian and win a qualifier or tournament. It also makes more sense to play him as part of a game stack. While “naked” Beathard is still viable (not pairing him with a San Francisco WR/TE), I love the idea of the game stack in the likely event the game turns into a shootout. If you like this idea, but just can’t pull the trigger on the main slate, consider going heavy on this game on the afternoon slate. Many DFS players often don’t stack games as much on short slates, instead preferring to isolate the best players and play them. This could be something to take advantage of on Sunday, as a somewhat obvious spot for fantasy goodness may surprisingly go somewhat overlooked.

Tight End & Defense  

Witten is generally consistent, but I feel much more confident zeroing in on three tight ends this week. George Kittle (3600),Evan Engram (4400), and Delanie Walker (5800) are my favorite targets this week. Engram’s role and usage has dramatically increased as of late, and Walker is facing the Browns which is reason enough to play a tight end.

There is a decent chance Walker is limited or misses the game against Cleveland, which would upgrade backup Jonnu Smith (2600). With Charles Clay set to miss this game for the Bills, Nick O’Leary (3100) is worth a shot in tournaments as well. He has the potential to score 15 or more points, which could significantly boost your lineup in a week where scores could end up being down across the industry.

Don’t ever be afraid to play two tight ends if it appears to be optimal. Many tournament players shy away from this strategy despite the fact that it often pays off. We can often identify excellent value options around the 3K range or below at tight end, while the same cannot be said at other positions. 

Defenses I like this week:

  • Jaguars (3700)
  • Broncos (3500)
  • Saints (3000)
  • Vikings (3300)
  • Rams (2600)
  • Chargers (2400)

I don’t dislike the Seahawks (4000), Jaguars (3700), or Panthers (3600). However, I have been finding more excuses not to play them rather than reasons to play them. This is a situation where it will come down to two things for me, as I attempt to figure out which defense to rely on in week 7. For starters, I will monitor late breaking injury news and more, in order to get a feel for negative or positive trends and action that may adversely affect a defensive unit. The second variable of course will be roster construction. If I had to ruin a game stack or subtract one of my favorite players just to squeeze in the Jaguars defense, then I’m not interested. With the Jags on the road and missing Leonard Fournette, I’m banking on the Colts being able to do just enough on offense to take the Jags out of the must play category for me. I doubt I completely remove them from my player pool, as they have as good a chance as anyone to snag a pick six or two. With elite talent and slate breaking potential, the Jags are still a solid option, even if not my top option.

Wide Receiver

As we have seen lately on DraftKings, running backs generally play a larger role than receivers in determining how successful you team will be on any given Sunday. In week 7, once again I would encourage a roster build that is geared more towards jamming in your favorite running backs more so than receivers. Of course, there are a few wide outs that profile better to me than others, so I’ll work through some of my top plays:

  • Dez Bryant (7800)
  • Mike Evans (7600)
  • Adam Thielen (6700)
  • Demaryius Thomas (5800)
  • Pierre Garcon (5800)
  • Rishard Matthews (5500)

I would be completely insane not to mention Antonio Brown (8900) and A.J. Green (8300), both of whom would still be in play even if priced $500 more. Surely, at this point we all know that these two target monsters can dominate in even the most difficult of matchups. In week 7, I trust Green a whole lot more than Brown. The Bengals have had two weeks to prepare for this divisional showdown. I would not be surprised if their game plan centered around stopping Antonio Brown. I expect the Steelers’ to have a harder time slowing A.J. Green, who normally shows up in a big way against the Steel Curtain.

I always try and dig deep to find some off the board, boom or bust players at WR. Many times, I come across these plays by following matchup related trends and/or injury related usage increases. With the Rams taking on the Cardinals in London this week, we all know what that means for Sammy Watkins (4400). It is all but guaranteed Watkins will be blanketed by Cards shutdown cornerback Patrick Peterson, forcing the Rams to look elsewhere for production in the passing game. This favors Todd Gurley, who should see an increase in targets out of the backfield. But as far as receivers go, a sneaky play that has gained some traction throughout the week is Robert Woods (4000). On a week with very few value options, Woods stands out as one of the better low-end choices. The Cardinals give up very generous stat lines to #2 opposing wide receivers, as they are often the beneficiary of avoiding Patrick Peterson, and instead facing Justin Bethel. Cooper Kupp (4600) is in play for the very same reasons as Woods, but he comes at a steeper price. To get even sneakier, we can target all-purpose threat Tavon Austin (3100). Austin is far from a safe bet, but he’s the type of player who has a random 25 point or more fantasy game once or twice a year. In a game with Sammy Watkins likely shut down, this is as good a time as any for Austin to shine. If he can shake free for one big scoring play and sprinkle in a couple of catches, then all of a sudden he becomes the play of the day on a slate that was initially thought to have no good value options. If you play Tavon and he is able to put up 15 or more points at 3.1K and microscopic ownership, chances are you’re going to win some money.

Along with the Rams value options, here are a few other cheap WR’s that are worth considering this week:

  • Martavis Bryant (4300)
  • Eric Decker (4300)
  • Tyler Lockett (4100)
  • Jordan Matthews (3700)
  • Marquise Goodwin (3900)
  • Taywan Taylor (3300)

#PlugPlayers of the Week

These are the players I have the most confidence in, heading into Sunday. However, this article should yield plenty of fantasy goodness outside of just these select few players. Check with me on Twitter for updates prior to lineup lock on Sunday morning. 

  • LeSean McCoy (7400)
  • Carlos Hyde (5900)
  • George Kittle (3600)
  • Dez Bryant (7800)
  • Mike Evans (7600)
  • Jordan Howard (6400)

With player pricing being much tighter in week 7, it is crucial to rely on your research. Carefully construct your lineups with a lineup builder tool for the most optimal results. As always, late injury news and notes will heavily factor into last minute roster decisions. Be sure to trust your gut, and follow Nathan & The Sports Talk on Twitter for up-to-date & relevant NFL Content.