5 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 14, Presented by Knightfall
As a huge fan of Northwestern Wildcats football, I'll latch on to pretty much any catchphrase used by head coach Pat Fitzgerald. But there's one that stands out above all others when talking about DFS in Week 14.
Embrace the suck.
This is a phrase that actually comes from the military and is used to describe situations that are decidedly unpleasant but still out of our control. You just gotta deal with it. And, oh buddy, is there some major suckage in Week 14.
Almost across the board, we've got bad offenses facing worse defenses. The likely highest-owned player on the slate -- Josh Gordon -- is tied to one of the most inefficient quarterbacks in recent memory, and yet it still makes sense to use him. So if you're uncomfortable dabbling in dreck, this slate might not be for you.
The discussion we need to have with ourselves is whether or not these poor offenses are good enough to exploit the deficiencies in the opposing defenses. If they are, then we should be giving them a sniff in DFS because the general ineffectiveness will allow us to snag them at lower prices. And if they're not, it's likely best that we direct our attention elsewhere.
While that assessment isn't easy, we can get some help in it via numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP). This is the metric we use to track the efficiency of both teams and players with the team totals being adjusted for strength of opponent. NEP provides us the context to know that a three-yard completion on 3rd and 2 is wildly different from a three-yard completion on 3rd and 4. It helps separate the truly awful teams from those that are more palatable.
If we want to find some sweetness in Week 14, we have to be willing to use some offenses that are otherwise unappealing. But given the right information, we should be able to tell which of these offenses are worth exploring. Which matchups should we look to exploit for NFL DFS? Let's check it out.
San Francisco 49ers' Passing Offense
One game isn't enough to say that Jimmy Garoppolo is the savior the San Francisco 49ers needed. Even including his time with the New England Patriots won't get us there. But he did look pretty saucy in his first start with the team, and with a struggling Houston Texans defense next on the docket, we should be digging deeper to see if that one start was legit.
If you just look at the raw numbers for Garoppolo, they're not going to blow you away. He threw for 293 yards on 37 attempts, but the team failed to score a touchdown, and he turned the ball over via an interception. That's not worth our slobber, and it doesn't seem enough to inspire confidence about his short-term outlook.
But the advanced metrics are far more effusive. On 39 drop backs, Garoppolo added 10.64 expected points as a passer with a 58.97% Success Rate (the percentage of drop backs that lead to an increase in expected points). His 0.27 Passing NEP per drop back was well above the season-long league average of 0.08, and the league-average Success Rate is 45.57%. It's just hard to tell how good Garoppolo was on the surface because they didn't find the end zone. But overall, dude was slinging it.
What makes this even more impressive for Garoppolo is that he did it against a fairly decent Chicago Bears defense. They entered the game ranked 12th against the pass, according to numberFire's metrics. His 10.64 expected points against them are the fourth-most they've allowed this year behind performances by Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Rodgers. Garoppolo's Success Rate ranks second among Bears opponents. Yes, they did lose Leonard Floyd due to a knee injury just a few weeks earlier, but this defense hadn't looked that bad up until that point.
And even if the Bears' defense is suddenly sub-Gucci, it's not as if Garoppolo will face a stiffer test this week. From Week 6 on (the games they have played without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus), the Texans rank 19th against the pass. You could argue that this sample is tainted because it includes time when they were without cornerback Kevin Johnson, but since Johnson's return in Week 8, they actually rank 26th. This is not a defense we should fear.
In the time since Johnson has returned, the Texans have played six games. In four of them, the opposing quarterback (a list that includes such studs as Jacoby Brissett and Blaine Gabbert) has thrown for either at least three touchdowns or 300 yards. The Brissett and Gabbert games both came down in Houston. It would almost be bolder not to consider Garoppolo against this unit.
Garoppolo is $7,000 on FanDuel, so what he did last week is at least partially baked into this price. But it's still not high enough to get us to cross him off our lists. Now may be the time to invest in this offense before the public can react.
Garoppolo spread the ball around a bit last week, meaning you can use him by himself if you prefer. But if you're looking to stack, you should be checking out Marquise Goodwin.
Goodwin led the team in targets with eight while also easily playing the most snaps at 77.3%. Two of those targets were at least 16 yards downfield, giving him 35.9% of their deep targets for the season, and he has 33.3% of the team's air yards since Pierre Garcon's season-ending injury, according to FantasyADHD.com. Goodwin's just $5,700, meaning that the risk associated with plugging him in is a bit lower than it would be with other assets. He's also in play by himself if you're not sold on using Garoppolo at quarterback.
It's worth noting that any increased efficiency out of Garoppolo would also be a boon for the team's running game, justifying some Carlos Hyde shares here. Hyde did lose some work to Matt Breida last week, making this a bit riskier, but Hyde is worth a sniff if you believe Garoppolo is able to give the 49ers' offense a considerable boost.
Houston Texans' Rushing Offense
This game has a total of just 43.5 points, meaning it's not your average spot to snag game stacks. But with the Texans and 49ers sitting fourth and eighth, respectively, in situation-neutral pace, according to Football Outsiders, it has some sneaky shootout potential. It's not as bad as it seems at first glance.
If you decide you want to go with a full game stack, DeAndre Hopkins and Stephen Anderson could wind up being great selections. Both had at least 12 targets last week, so they should at least be on your radar. But after looking at them, be sure you give some consideration to Lamar Miller.
We don't normally want to tie our running backs to a quarterback as erratic as Tom Savage. We need touchdown upside, and a guy like Savage isn't going to provide much of that. And Miller hasn't done anything special in the yardage department this year, either.
Kudos to Lamar Miller who has somehow run for between 40-75 yards in EVERY game this season. You are amazingly unremarkable. You are the "Everybody Loves Raymond" of RBs. pic.twitter.com/RUZkN4U51z
— Garion Thorne (@GarionThorne) December 5, 2017
He doesn't have a huge touchdown ceiling, and he's not going to rip off strings of 20-yard gains. What's the point of using him in DFS tournaments?
For Miller, it's a combination of things all coming to a head for this week. It starts with the extra opportunity he gets with D'Onta Foreman out for the year.
The Texans have played two games since Foreman tore his Achilles. In those games, Miller has controlled 69.6% of the team's running-back carries, up from 63.0% through the first 10 games. That may not seem like a lot, but for a guy who's a home favorite at $6,600 on FanDuel, it absolutely makes a difference.
The injury has also kept Miller on the field more extensively. He played 80.2% of the team's snaps in Week 13, his highest rate since Week 8. This -- plus his 10.26% target market share over the past three games -- give him a respectable floor. The matchup gives him a ceiling.
The 49ers enter this game ranked 22nd against the rush for the full season. They've allowed the second-most FanDuel points to opposing running backs, meaning this is a prime target at the position. We just haven't had to take notice of that recently.
Over their past four games, the 49ers have faced the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, and Chicago Bears. Those teams are ranked 32nd, 29th, 20th, and 19th in schedule-adjusted rushing efficiency, and the Bears played most of their game without their best offensive lineman, Kyle Long. The Texans -- for all of their faults -- rank 13th in rushing efficiency. We could be reminded of the 49ers' struggles in a hurry here.
Miller's only two games this year with more than 20 points on FanDuel came while Deshaun Watson was healthy, so you're definitely taking a risk by using him. But Miller's getting usage as both a rusher and a receiver, he's at home, and the matchup is peachy. If you're willing to get a little frisky, that should be enough to persuade you to throw him into some lineups where you're not using the other Texans.
Cincinnati Bengals' Passing Offense
We've got three options in assessing that aforementioned Week 13 bout between the 49ers and the Bears.
Door No. 1: Garoppolo is really good.
Door No. 2: The Bears' defense is really bad.
Door No. 3: It was a fluke.
If we get what's behind Door No. 1, then Garoppolo and the 49ers should be able to excel against the Texans this week. If it's Door No. 2, then the Cincinnati Bengals would seemingly be in a great spot as the next team to face the Bears. Door No. 3 would be highly unfortunate, but it's also poor practice to just assume things are fluky throughout a season with samples as small as the NFL. As such, we should at least be checking out Andy Dalton and the rest of his passing offense.
If we look at the full-season stats, the Bears don't look bad at all. They're 15th in schedule-adjusted pass defense, which is not something we want to actively seek in a game with an over/under of 38.5. It also fails to illustrate the struggles they've had recently.
Most of the solid performances by the Bears' defense came earlier in the year. The team that was on the field then is not close to what they're trotting out now. They have placed six defensive players on injured reserve, including key guys like the aforementioned Leonard Floyd and Jerrell Freeman. Check out how quarterbacks did against them in the first seven games of the year compared to the past five.
|Quarterbacks vs. Bears||Drop Backs||Passing NEP per Drop Back||Success Rate|
|First 7 Games||255||-0.03||42.35%|
|Past 5 Games||168||0.31||54.17%|
Although this isn't their fault with all the injuries, it's definitely not ideal. And it sets up well for Dalton at $7,300.
Given that the Bengals are favored by six, this could just funnel you toward using Giovani Bernard, assuming Joe Mixon sits due to injury. You absolutely should be deploying Bernard in the grand majority of your lineups because of the role he'd possess and his $5,100 price tag. But the Bengals may be forced to hit the air with regularity in this spot.
Despite the injuries, the Bears have still managed to be pretty solid against the rush. They're ranked seventh there, based on numberFire's metrics, from Week 8 on. On top of that, the Bengals' ground attack has been much less effective this year when Mixon hasn't been the rusher.
|Bengals in 2017||Carries||Rushing NEP per Carry||Success Rate|
Cincinnati just isn't a good rushing team, and this is more true when the ball is going to anyone but Mixon. You absolutely should not exclude Bernard based on this because of his role in the passing game, but it will be a boost for Dalton.
While Dalton has been anything but a stud this year for DFS, he has been consistent recently. He has thrown at least two touchdowns in each of his past six games that weren't against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Given the other options on this slate, you could do a lot worse than this guy.
And if we're using Dalton, you know we need to pair him with A.J. Green. It's just the way it has to be.
Green has been an absolute machine from a usage perspective this year. He has 31.2% of the team's overall targets, 49.1% of their deep targets, and 37.8% of their red-zone targets. He's among the top four guys in the league in all four categories. You're not turning that down at $8,300.
The Bears, though, had developed a reputation for shutting down opposing top wide receivers, and it was certainly true earlier in the year when they held Julio Jones to just 66 receiving yards in Week 1. But those abilities have gone in the tubes just as quickly as their pass defense on the whole.
Over the past five games, four of the five top wide receivers facing the Bears have gone for at least 77 receiving yards. The one who didn't was Alshon Jeffery, who had 52 yards and a touchdown. This gives Green a tremendous floor, and he showed Monday how high his ceiling is. You should be loading this guy into pretty much every lineup that doesn't include Bernard, and with Bernard's price, you can feel pretty solid using both.
Arizona Cardinals' Passing Offense
Back to the dumpsters, kiddos. You knew the sunshine and daisies of talking about A.J. Green wouldn't last. It's Blaine Gabbert time.
Gabbert and the Arizona Cardinals get to host the Tennessee Titans in this one, and the Titans are just three-point favorites. An 8-4 team is expected to defeat one led by Blaine freaking Gabbert by just a field goal. That tells you something about the Tennessee offense, but it's an equal indictment of their defense.
For the full season, the Titans are ranked 28th against the pass. Earlier on, they were basically an auto-target team whenever they were facing a competent offense. But we've been allowed to forget about how much they struggle because of a poor string of recent opponents.
Over their past five games, the Titans have faced four quarterbacks who are sitting 23rd or lower in Passing NEP per drop back. The other was against Ben Roethlisberger, who shredded them for 299 yards and 4 touchdowns. But even the lower-level guys have found success against this defense.
Here's a look at those four passers and what they have done against this team.
|Against Titans Defense||Passing Yards||Touchdowns||Interceptions||FD Points|
The only guy in that streak who didn't have at least two touchdowns or 300 yards is Brissett, who was facing the Titans for the second time in just over a month. The others were all completely fine. Gabbert could be the same on Sunday.
What helps us deploy Gabbert with a decent amount of confidence is that he truly hasn't been bad since taking over the team's starting job. He has been better than both Savage and Joe Flacco on a per-drop back basis despite facing the pass defenses ranked 19th, 1st, and 4th, respectively, according to numberFire's metrics. This is easily the best matchup he has had as a starter, and he has already topped 18 FanDuel points in two of his three games. Why not give him a shake?
The other appeal in Gabbert is that he does possess some rushing upside. He has at least three rush attempts in all three games, and he had six in one of them. He's going to make mistakes, which makes him a bit shakier from a safety perspective, but for $6,600, there's plenty to like here.
Just like with Dalton, you know with whom you're stacking Gabbert if you decide to go here. It's Larry Fitzgerald. Just don't overthink it.
Fitzgerald has been great for DFS even in the time since Carson Palmer's injury, racking up at least 70 yards in every game that wasn't against Jacksonville and 90 yards in two of his three games with Gabbert. Fitzgerald has 27.2% of the team's targets since Gabbert took over, so he should be mixed in as a stand-alone play in non-Gabbert lineups, as well.
The guy second on the team in targets with Gabbert at the helm is Ricky Seals-Jones. While the appeal here is pretty obvious, and we do like this offense as a whole, you're likely best suited looking elsewhere at tight end.
Even with the respectable volume, Seals-Jones is yet to exceed a 23.4% snap rate this year. He and Gabbert seem to have a rapport, so if that snap rate were to rise, Seals-Jones would become a pretty solid target. For now, though, he presents too much risk to justify, even at a volatile position.
Instead, if you're looking to pay down, J.J. Nelson could wind up being your guy. Nelson out-snapped Jaron Brown last week for the first time all year on his way to an eight-target game, five of which were deep. He's $4,700, and from a process perspective, he seems to be the more logical punt play than Seals-Jones.
Los Angeles Chargers' Rushing Offense
Melvin Gordon got himself a big ol' price hike this week. After sitting at $7,900 last week, he's up to $8,600 now, making him more expensive than Todd Gurley, who has been doing work recently even without finding the end zone. You should be sniffing Gurley this week despite the bad matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. Gordon, though, may have the path of least resistance while facing Washington's rush defense.
This has been an issue for a while now, and Washington is well aware of it. It's likely a big part of the reason they selected defensive lineman Jonathan Allen with the 17th overall pick in April's draft. But Allen was lost for the season back in Week 6, and the team has been getting gutted ever since.
|RBs vs. Washington||Rushes||Yards Per Carry||Rushing NEP Per Carry||Success Rate|
|With Jonathan Allen||85||3.88||-0.05||44.71%|
|Without Jonathan Allen||187||4.32||0.04||42.25%|
Although the Success Rate was actually higher with Allen in the mix, the chunk plays have been there, driving the other stats in the desirable direction. This is what we're looking for in DFS.
Gordon will never be a model of efficiency himself, especially not when a pair of offensive linemen in Matt Slauson and Forrest Lamp are on injured reserve. But you know Gordon's going to get volume, and that could be enough against this defense. He has had at least 19 carries in each of the past three games, and he hasn't had fewer than 14 in a game since Week 4. You just have to hope the line can give him any room to operate, allowing him to take advantage of this opponent.
Because Austin Ekeler has burst on the scene recently, you could be a bit worried about Gordon's role, pushing you off of him at this price. Those fears, though, may be a bit overstated.
It's true that Gordon has seen his share of the team's carries dip to 64.5% over the past three weeks, down from 68.5% for the full season. That would be a concern. It's also misleading, though, based on the way two of those games have gone.
In Week 11, the Los Angeles Chargers blasted the Buffalo Bills out of the water, taking a 37-7 lead into halftime. Gordon had all 15 of the team's running-back carries in the first half of that game. They simply didn't need him as much after that.
It was a lot of the same story the following game on Thanksgiving. The Chargers pulled away in the fourth quarter there, cruising to a 28-6 victory. Through the first three quarters there, Gordon had 14 carries to 4 for Ekeler.
Last week's game was much closer with the Chargers eventually snagging a 19-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. And as a result, Gordon returned to a full workload. He had 19 of 23 running-back carries and played 74.3% of the snaps, his highest snap rate since Week 6.
The biggest gripe you could have with Ekeler is that he's stealing some of Gordon's work in the passing game, and that's a legitimate beef. Still, Gordon hasn't been phased out completely, netting nine targets the past three games, maxing out at four last week. At the end of the day, this is still his backfield, setting him up for success in this spot.
Gordon's not as safe as a guy like Gurley because of Gurley's steady involvement as a receiver. This means you can absolutely ride with Gurley over Gordon when paying up at running back. But this is a game the Chargers should be able to win as six-point favorites, and Gordon's matchup is bordering on perfection. That makes them both worthy of your attention if you can find the salary to squeeze them in.