The gluttony of Thanksgiving has come and gone, and three games have been consumed along with the thousands of calories. Six fewer teams to pull players from (eight, including the DFS gold rosters of Kansas City and Los Angeles) might make things more difficult, but it is still manageable. To help, this week will feature players from Sunday’s early and late afternoon games only. There is a good amount of value available for play this week, and we can all move on from the mistakes (or successes) of the Thanksgiving day slate. Stay sharp and good luck.
DFS Targets: Week 12
Carson Wentz, vs NYG ($5,900)
A year ago, Carson Wentz was playing himself into the conversation for league MVP. Almost a year later, Wentz is being priced down in the middle tier of DFS QBs. After missing the first two games of the season, Wentz has come out and averaged just over 20 points per game, while keeping his price down. After a down week last week, Wentz‘ price has dipped below $6,000 again for the fifth time this season. The timing is good to roster Wentz, as he is $400 cheaper than last week after his worst game of the season. It’s not a huge discount, but it’s enough to make Carson a bargain considering his production for the bulk of the season.
Looking at Wentz’ game log, he’s had several excellent games book ended by one mediocre game and one terrible one. Prior to last week, Wentz was working on a six game streak where he was averaging 315.5 yards and had thrown at least two TDs in that same time frame. From Weeks 4-10, Wentz had a 14/2 TD to INT ratio. For much of that stretch, Wentz looked every bit the part of a high draft pick, turned MVP candidate. Strictly looking at Carson’s numbers this season, he has exceeded the production of his sophomore season. He has a career highs in completion percentage, yards per game, and yards per attempt, all while throwing an average of just over four more attempts per game. The problems with the Eagles offense are complex, but Wentz has not been the problem.
Looking at his terrible game last week, there’s not much to say aside from they got beat by the current Super Bowl favorites. Wentz had a hard time breaking the coverage of Marshon Lattimore and P.J. Williams. On the other side, rookie WR Tre’Quan Smith repeatedly burned Eagles defenders, making everything easier for an already formidable offense. Even the negative game script didn’t allow for Wentz to accumulate much in the way of garbage time stats. Despite this, Week 11 is a major outlier in Wentz’ season, and is not enough to scare me off of his upcoming game.
Here’s the turkey of this particular feast. The New York Giants are not good on defense. By the numbers, they have been better against the pass than the rush. This is not because they are good, but rather because they are so bad against the rush most teams don’t have to resort to passing against them to succeed. Prior to the Giants’ Week 11 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the only games they allowed more than 300 passing yards were the only games they allowed less than 100 yards rushing. This is great news for Wentz, as the Eagles have struggled to run the ball effectively; a problem magnified by the loss of Jay Ajayi earlier this year. Inconsistency in the run game, combined with recent competent play by New York’s offense should lead to a positive day passing for Wentz.
One area that Wentz should be particularly successful is in the middle zones of the field. New York’s linebacker group has been a disappointment all year. They are fresh off being burned by a collection of pass catchers from TB, including TEs O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, and WR Adam Humphries. Luckily, the Eagles best pass catching option is TE Zach Ertz. He is accompanied by a glut of slot receivers that should have no problem finding space in the middle of the field. Wentz can spot the mismatches in coverage and exploit them at his leisure.
Peyton Barber, vs. SF ($3,900)
Part of a group of RBs that are attractively priced in the sub $4,000 range this week, Barber offers some significant value. Priced as the RB26 on the main slate, Barber is one of the few undisputed starters (at least for this week) offered up this low. After a great Week 11, Barber’s price has jumped up to its highest level since Week 2, when it last hit $4,000. Still, only seeing a $300 increase after posting a season high in points makes him a very interesting option in this range. His role and match up combine to make him a potential standout this week.
Now in his third year, Barber is well on his way to having a mini-breakout season. Being used primarily as a runner for TB, Barber has already set new career highs in carries and yards and has more than doubled his previous high in yards per game. As the season began, the Tampa backfield looked like it might turn into a committee with rookie RB Ronald Jones. Instead, a combination of ineffectiveness and injury have made Jones a forgotten man in the RB rotation. In the four games Jones has been active, he has never had more touches than Barber and has only out produced him once, a Week 4 blowout loss to the Chicago Bears. That game was one of only two all year that Barber has not had double-digit carries.
Peyton is also coming off his best game of the season, and just the second one he’s scored more than 20 points in DraftKings. In Week 11, Barber set a new career high with 106 rushing yards, just the second time he has cracked 100 in his career. He finished the day going 18/106/1 on the ground, and threw in two receptions for four yards as well. Pass catching is not a part of Barber’s game, but he has made the main pass catching back on the roster, Jacquizz Rodgers, irrelevant. This is Barber’s backfield, and he should have similar success to last week, when he exploited a vulnerable rush defense.
Perhaps the only winnable game left on Tampa’s schedule is this week, when they host the San Francisco 49ers. The west coast team making the cross country journey for an early start only compounds the 49ers team issues. SF is in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs, ranking 14th at 25.7 on the season. But, that is no reason to shy away from this game.
As the main RB threat for Tampa, Barber stands to gain the majority of those points. Jones has missed the last few games with a hamstring issue, so his limited effectiveness could be even further diminished. The recent QB roulette employed by TB also stands to potentially help Barber. Interceptions can’t be thrown by the QB if you hand the ball off to the RB. Limiting turnovers is a primary concern for the Bucs and their coaches. The duo of Winston and Fitzpatrick won’t stop turning the ball over on their own. So the best option would be to increase exposure to the ground game. The 49ers don’t profile as a funnel defense. This should be a good time to get Barber over 20 carries for the first time in his career.
Courtland Sutton, vs. PIT ($4,400)
Immediately following the trade of WR Demaryius Thomas, many expected Sutton to step into a starring role (myself included). Instead, we’ve seen steady, in not spectacular, production. The late trade before Week 9 kept Sutton’s price locked in that week. After a bye in Week 10, this is now the second week Sutton has seen actual PDT (Post Demaryius Thomas) pricing. He was more expensive last week against a tough Los Angeles Chargers secondary, at $4,600. Now, despite tying his season high in scoring, he has dropped $200 as the Steelers come to Denver. Priced as the WR30 on the main slate, Sutton could see a new high in scoring set this week. Just a few more points would make Sutton hit value, and he should be able to do that and more this week.
As I mentioned above, Sutton has been consistently mediocre this season, but things have been improving. In his last three games, Sutton has three of his four highest single game yardage totals. Having gone for double digit points twice in his last three games, Courtland is set to best his career highs across the board. Even if Sutton’s recent floor would still be a useful total as your likely third receiver. Going back to Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sutton has scored at least 8.1 points.
The belief that Sutton can break through with a big week is due to his matchup this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers come into Denver looking to take a tough road matchup and maintain their hold on a first week bye in the playoffs. The Steelers should be able to score on Denver and put them into a pass heavy game script. Should that happen, Sutton has a good matchup to exploit.
As a team, Pittsburgh allows 37.2 points per game to WRs. That actually is in the bottom half of the league (19th). That has been aided by facing three straight poor WR groups in Baltimore, Carolina, and Jacksonville. This week, though, Case Keenum should be able to take advantage of Sutton on the left side. He has run most of his routes from the left WR spot, including last week where he was exclusively targeted from that side. Pittsburgh has allowed the sixth most points to WR from the left side per Pro Football Focus (15.2), which would be an excellent return on Sutton’s price.
Emmanuel Sanders is the main attraction of the Denver passing attack, but coach Mike Tomlin will not want to see a former player burn his current team. I expect Pittsburgh to deploy additional resources to ensure that Sanders isn’t able to run free, potentially leaving Sutton with easier looks. Sutton has been steadily improving, and his week should be the one where everyone sees why Denver was so comfortable moving on from Demaryius Thomas.
Kendrick Bourne, @TB ($3,900)
One of the best fantasy strategies this year has been constant exposure to TB opponents. If you want some cheap exposure without burning a roster spot, look at Kendrick Bourne. Another sub $4,000 bargain, Bourne is super cheap as the WR40. His current pricing is the highest he’s been this season, but it’s only $200 more than his previous high, and is cheap considering the generous defense of the Buccaneers. The mixture of his cheap price tag, great matchup, and status of his teammates makes Bourne a sneaky play his week at WR.
Bourne’s identity as a player hasn’t been that of a WR1, but he has shown flashes in his second year. As a rookie, he was targeted with regularity in the last three games he played, totaling 16 in three SF wins. This year, Bourne has been more situationally useful, especially when filling in as a starter. Bourne has started two games, and in those starts has his three highest single game target totals. In Week 8, Bourne’s first career start, he finished with a 7/71 line on 10 targets, establishing career highs in all three stats. Next, in Week 10, he went 4/33 on 6 targets. Not as useful as Week 8, but still decent usage. Given his matchup this week, and the fact that he is in line for a third start, Bourne is ready to offer a great return on his price.
How much more do people really need to know about Tampa Bay’s porous defense? Here, quickly is a brief reminder of what a dumpster fire they have been this year. They are currently allowing 44.0 points per game to WR, which is actually an improvement in their standing, dropping down to third. Part of that production is the 16 TD passes allowed to WRs, tied for second in the league. Tampa has been particularly bad against slot receivers, allowing the most points per game in the league to the position. Bourne has run about a quarter of his routes from the slot, so he could benefit from that matchup.
Quarterbacks have had consistent success passing against the Bucs, averaging 25.1 points per game. That is tied for the second highest mark in the league. The current leader in passer rating is Drew Brees at 127.3. Second place would be every QB who has played against TB this year, at 124.9. Even in a year of explosive offense, Tampa stands out for their aversion to score prevention. There is nothing Tampa can do to stop opposing offenses. The best they can hope for is an off week by the opposing QB, and even then, a loss is likely. Hop in on this game and ride the offensive ingenuity of SF head coach Kyle Shanahan versus one of the worst passing defenses in the league.
James O’Shaughnessy, @BUF ($2,600)
Another week, another shot in the dark for the TE position. I personally would recommend this as one of the few weeks to pay up at TE, with Ertz and George Kittle both being safe bets to produce. But, if you want to pay down, which is usually not a terrible decision, consider the TE24 in the main slate. O’Shaughnessy is not a widely known player yet, but could produce a decent day with a near minimum pricing. Week 12 is just the third time JOS has been above the minimum price. Every other time it’s only been by $100. At this price range, you’re looking for someone with decent usage that can luck into a TD, and JOS can be that guy.
There hasn’t been a ton of production out of JOS this season, but he’s been better in his last few games. Once, the Jaguars lost both Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul to the IR, JOS stepped up as the main TE. After missing a few games with a hip injury, he returned in Week 10 against the Colts and had a career day. Scoring 9.6 points on a 5/46 line, he more than hit value that week. What happened next against the Steelers in Week 11 is best not remembered by anyone who is a fan of offense. As a team, Jacksonville only managed to net 64 passing yards. JOS had seen 16 targets in the three games before that throw away against the Steelers. Things should be better this week and JOS should continue to see a high snap count.
Buffalo is a solid defense, with an excellent secondary. This is a tough match up, but JOS can benefit from the return of Fournette and gain some traction as an end zone target. As a group the TEs for Jacksonville have only accounted for five red zone targets, but that would be third on the team from a single player. With the other options in the passing game being covered by top CBs, and Buffalo likely keying in on the run game, play action to JOS could be key to success for the Jags. It’s a dart throw, like every low priced TE this year, but at least this one will be in low single digit ownership, making for a good contrarian play at a garbage fantasy position.