Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 14

From a real football perspective, Week 14 is shaping up to be lip-lickin' good. Not only do we get Patrick Mahomes against the New England Patriots' defense, but the New Orleans Saints will also duel with the San Francisco 49ers in a game that could help decide who gets a bye in the NFC playoffs.

That's not even to mention the battle brewing in New Jersey between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. The excitement is bubbling already.

With these real-world showdowns on tap, we're going to want some exposure on the main DFS slate. Good teams tend to come with good fantasy assets, and a close game allows both sides to rack up volume all the way through the fourth quarter. The excitement on the field helps generate fantasy delight off of it.

That doesn't mean either game is easy to diagnose.

For the Chiefs-Patriots battle, the Patriots' defense has been top-notch in all but two games this year, and both of those games came outside of Foxborough. For Saints versus 49ers, it's another elite defense facing a team that has looked vulnerable at times recently. We want to use players in those games, but the path to getting there is certainly foggy.

Those two games are basically the highlights of the slate, meaning much of our strategy for daily fantasy will derive from how we handle those matchups. As such, our discussion today should begin there, as well.

Let's dive into situations impacting the way we look at both of those games from a DFS perspective and then check out other news pertinent to the main slate. How should we be looking to attack Week 14? Let's get to it.

The Patriots Versus Elite Offenses

We know that the Patriots' defense is good, and because of that, we do need to downgrade the Chiefs entering this matchup. But given the success the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans have had recently against the Pats, we probably don't need to write Mahomes and company off completely. So what should we expect here?

Unfortunately, we don't have much of a sample on quality offenses facing the Patriots. Of their 12 games this year, only four have been against passing offenses ranked in the top half of the league, based on numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. Even with all the injuries they've had this year, the Chiefs are still fourth in that metric.

We know that the Ravens and Texans moved the ball against the Patriots, but those are just two games, and both took place outside of Foxborough. So let's expand the sample a bit and include the other two games the Patriots have played against quality passing games.

Here's a look at those two splits. "Passing NEP per drop back" refers to Net Expected Points (NEP), numberFire's metric that measures the expected points added or subtracted on each drop back throughout the season. Passing NEP includes deductions for expected points lost on plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. "Passing Success Rate" is the percentage of drop backs that increase the team's expected points for the drive. The league averages in each department are 0.09 and 46.8%, respectively.

Patriots' Defense Passing NEP Per Drop Back Passing Success Rate
Versus Top-16 Pass Offenses 0.10 47.9%
Versus Bottom-16 Pass Offenses -0.47 33.5%

The four opposing quarterbacks on quality teams have been slightly above average when facing the Patriots with efficiency akin to Josh Allen and Matt Ryan. The other eight quarterbacks have been closer to Ryan Finley.

To be clear, this is not a critique of the Patriots' defense. Every defense does better against bad offenses than good ones. It's just moreso to show what we should expect out of the Chiefs this weekend, and that's potentially a league-average offense.

The elephant in the room here is that both games versus top-half pass offenses in which the Patriots excelled were in Foxborough, and this one will be, too. But there were some extenuating circumstances that may have tipped the scales.

The first -- surprisingly -- was against the Cleveland Browns in Week 8. You may not think the Browns are a top-half passing offense, but they've faced a crazy tough schedule this year and look good once you account for that.

The problem with the Browns is that they're 15th in schedule-adjusted passing offense, on the bottom end of our range. The Chiefs are a good amount better than that.

This means our best comp for this weekend is when the Dallas Cowboys went to Foxborough in Week 12. The Cowboys scored just nine points in that game, and Dak Prescott had his worst game of the season, but there were also 16-mile-per-hour winds and wintery conditions. Unless we get that weather again on Sunday (things look clear as of Friday), even that game doesn't give us a clear read.

Because of this, we don't know what to expect out of the Chiefs' passing offense. But at worst, we should expect the Chiefs to be about league average in terms of passing efficiency, and there's the potential for more if they can out-perform what the Cowboys and Browns did in New England. That would seem to justify using them here.

Unlike last week, we're going to likely get Mahomes in a spot where he'll have to throw for the entire game, giving us beefy volume out of one of the league's best quarterbacks for $8,400 on FanDuel. Mahomes is firmly off the cash-game radar, but if you're multi-entering in tournaments, there's plenty to like.

In the games in which Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins have all been healthy, the volume has been heavily concentrated to Hill and Kelce. Here's that target distribution with a "deep" target being at least 16 yards downfield.

Weeks 10 and 13 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Tyreek Hill 35.5% 58.8% 40.0%
Travis Kelce 21.1% 17.7% 40.0%
Sammy Watkins 15.8% 17.7% 0.0%

When allowed to play their game, the Chiefs are getting the ball in the hands of their best players. The Patriots, though, don't want to let their opponents play their game; they want to take away strengths.

During the AFC Championship Game last year, the Pats held Hill to three targets and Kelce to five, and neither guy topped 50 receiving yards. Meanwhile, Watkins had 8 targets and 114 yards. This tracks with the Patriots' general defensive philosophy.

Their Week 6 meeting during the regular season, though, was different with Hill getting 12 targets. As such, it likely makes more sense to combine the volume from the two games to get an idea of how the Chiefs may attack the Patriots' defense.

Versus Pats in 2018 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Tyreek Hill 23.4% 38.9% 20.0%
Travis Kelce 21.9% 5.6% 30.0%
Sammy Watkins 18.8% 16.7% 10.0%

Even with the Patriots likely placing an emphasis on slowing him down, Hill still got meaningful volume. That's important here.

There's a chance Hill could put up another dud as he did in the playoffs, but the Week 6 blow-up of 142 yards and 2 touchdowns is also within his range of outcomes. If we're going to take on a bad floor, it had better come with big upside, and Hill does provide that.

When you look at the receivers who have done the most damage against the Patriots, a lot of them (Golden Tate, Randall Cobb, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cole Beasley, and Jarvis Landry) line up in the slot. This is likely because they saw less of Stephon Gilmore, and Hill may not be able to avoid that, but he has run 59.3% of his routes from the slot in his past two healthy games, per Pro Football Focus. Again, this is not to say that Hill has anything resembling a steady floor; the path to a ceiling is there, though.

If you want to avoid the narrative around the Patriots' abilities to shut down top options, then Watkins seems to be the best route. He has been abysmal since Week 1, but he was second on the team in targets with Hill healthy in Week 10. Watkins' salary is down to $5,600, helping us justify exposure despite his concerns.

The other interesting piece here could wind up being LeSean McCoy. The Chiefs have been hesitant to use him all year long, but they might not have much choice on Sunday. Darrel Williams is on injured reserve, and Damien Williams has missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday.

You'll note that in Week 13 after Williams got hurt, it was Darwin Thompson who got volume. But the Chiefs were up 31-3 before Thompson ever touched the ball. Andy Reid has said all year that they're conserving McCoy because of age, but if you're not going to use him here, what are you saving him for?

If Damien Williams plays, McCoy is an easy guy to avoid, and we shouldn't go here in cash games regardless. But the Chiefs did use their backs heavily in the passing game against the Patriots last year, so if we get McCoy with both Williams guys out, he's a viable tournament option at $6,100.

The Ever-Evolving Patriots Personnel

Trying to predict where the ball will go for the Patriots this year has been an exercise in futility. Just when you think you have a grasp of the secondary pieces, someone will get hurt or be added to the roster.

When it's an efficient offense, that's fine. The upsides there are huge. But the Patriots are 18th in schedule-adjusted passing offense and 22nd overall offensively, so that has made things even more frustrating. This just hasn't been a good offense in 2019.

Thankfully, there are a couple of reasons we should still buy in here. The first is that this game is projected to fly with the Patriots and Chiefs ranked first and fifth, respectively, in situation-neutral pace, according to Football Outsiders. That type of play volume is impossible to turn down.

Second, despite a dud on Sunday night, the Patriots are healthier than they've been recently. They got left tackle Isaiah Wynn back a few games ago, and Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett are an extra week removed from their injuries. They're unlikely to have center Ted Karras due to a sprained MCL, but that's the lone remaining big injury here. They should be able to move the ball against the Chiefs, meaning we need to consider pieces in the offense.

Of course, we can -- and should -- just take the easy route here. That's using Julian Edelman at $7,600.

Edelman enters Week 14 with double-digit targets in seven straight games, which is Michael Thomas-type usage. With no consistent deep threats in the offense, Edelman has been getting looks downfield recently, too, with 33.3% of the team's deep targets since their bye. He has both yardage and touchdown upside, so at $7,600, he's very much a priority target.

It's after him where things get a bit tricky. Let's start with the backfield.

The Chiefs rank 30th in schedule-adjusted rush defense, according to numberFire's metrics, which could lead you to believe this is a Sony Michel game. The path to upside there, though, is pretty foggy. He has had 20 or more carries in four games this year, but he is still yet to have more than 91 rushing yards. They were also facing a bad rush defense at home against the Browns in October, but even there, Michel turned 21 carries into just 74 yards. With no receiving-yardage upside, Michel is a tough sell.

The alternative would be to ride James White at $6,000, especially after White out-carried Michel, 14 to 10, in last week's loss to the Texans. With his passing-game usage, that's attractive.

We just don't know if that usage will stick. In the first half of that game -- before the Patriots were in a massive hole -- the carries favored Michel, seven to four. It was once they were in a massively negative script that White took over the backfield.

That does allow White to stack well in lineups where you go hard at the Chiefs' offense and assume they snag a lead. If he were to play that same role, he'd be an elite play at $6,000. We just don't know if that'll happen.

Trying to predict how the Patriots will play things usually won't end well, meaning it's hard to use anybody outside of Edelman in a cash game. You can, though, justify White in tournaments if you assume he keeps the same role he had last week, or at least comes somewhere near it.

When utilizing the Patriots' offense, Edelman is in a tier of his own. Then White is second, also in a tier of his own. The third tier is a big ol' blob of yuck.

If you go based on snap rates last week, then Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers would be next up as both played more than 70% of the snaps. But we don't know if Sanu's role will increase as he gets a week healthier, and we don't know if N'Keal Harry will stay locked in the doghouse. There's some shakiness there.

Because Dorsett has had a role all year when healthy, he should probably be next on our list. His role seems the safest, and he's cheap access to an elite game at $5,400. Meyers would be next up at $5,100, and we can give him looks based on last week's role. The safe route here, though, seems to be via Edelman and -- to a lesser extent -- White.

How you view Brady also depends on how you think the Patriots attack this game. If you think they go run-heavy to exploit the Chiefs' shortcomings there, he's an easy avoid at $7,700. But Brady has been pumping out big volume this year, averaging 40.5 pass attempts per game, and that has pushed him over 24 FanDuel points four times. He's a cheaper route than Mahomes to having a quarterback in this game, and he's not facing as stout of a defense. You could do worse than Brady at $7,700, as long as you think they don't go full ground-and-pound.

The Saints With Terron Armstead

Whenever we get two high-quality teams squaring off in a game that means something, you want them to be at full health. The Saints won't be that with guard Andrus Peat expected to miss another game. But they could be getting a much bigger piece on their offensive line back.

Left tackle Terron Armstead missed Week 13 due to an ankle injury he suffered the week before. It was a quick turnaround for a Thursday game, so that's not a surprise. He did, however, return to practice Wednesday, getting in a limited session. Having him out there would be a major lift for the offense.

Armstead has had some injury issues the past couple years, meaning our sample on the Saints with and without him is ample. The table below shows how the Saints have performed based on Armstead's availability in 2018 and 2017, according to The Quant Edge, with the sample without Armstead being six games in both seasons.

Yards Per Pass Attempt 2018 2017
With Terron Armstead 8.62 8.80
Without Terron Armstead 7.37 7.75

Even though the Saints were fine without Armstead last week, Drew Brees' yards per attempt this year is already down to 7.5 yards, tied for his lowest since 2010. They can't really afford to take a hit here.

If Armstead were to miss, it'd be a downgrade for the entire offense. The 49ers have the best schedule-adjusted pass defense in football, and putting backups on the left side of the line would crater the appeal in most pieces. If Armstead does play, though, Alvin Kamara would be a pretty spicy option.

We're up to a four-game sample on Kamara since he returned from his ankle injury, and the workload has still been killer. His carry totals are just mediocre, but he has a whopping 25.0% of the team's total targets. That has allowed him to hit double-digit FanDuel points in each game despite not scoring a touchdown since Week 3.

The lack of touchdowns has pushed Kamara's salary down to $7,600. If we get him at that number with Armstead, he'll be a borderline cash-game play, and we can consider him for tournaments even if Armstead can't go.

The 49ers at Full Health

Despite the Saints' perception as a high-powered offense, it may actually be the other side of this game that carries more options in DFS. The 49ers' offense is getting healthy, and that should be scary for teams in the NFC.

There has not been a single game this year in which the 49ers have had all of George Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders, Joe Staley, and Mike McGlinchey fully healthy. Those are their top two passing-game targets and their two starting tackles. Those are impactful losses.

McGlinchey returned in Week 10, and Sanders and Kittle have been healthy the past two weeks. Now it might be Staley's turn as he has logged limited sessions both Wednesday and Thursday. He was limited late in the week in practice heading into Week 13 but ultimately wound up being inactive. Week 14 should mark his return.

Despite all the turnover and injuries, the passing offense here has graded out well. They're 10th in schedule-adjusted passing efficiency, and that includes how they fared prior to the Sanders trade. It's a tough matchup here -- the Saints are eighth against the pass -- but a fully healthy 49ers offense seems like it should be up to the task.

We can likely ignore the backfield with Matt Breida's return further muddying the waters there, but the passing game is a different story.

We've got a four-game sample on this team with both Kittle and Sanders being healthy, which is our most relevant sample here. This is the target distribution in that span.

With Kittle and Sanders Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
George Kittle 25.3% 38.5% 15.8%
Emmanuel Sanders 21.2% 30.8% 15.8%
Deebo Samuel 16.2% 7.7% 21.1%

The deep-target numbers are inflated because Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't thrown deep much in this span. But it's still clear that Kittle is a stand-out play at $6,700.

For that salary, you're getting -- basically -- a high-usage wide receiver with yardage upside while filling the dreaded tight-end slot. Add in some increased efficiency with Staley back, and you can make the case that Kittle is the best route for paying up at tight end.

The wide receivers are both a bit riskier. Sanders figures to see usage, but he's also the more likely guy between the two to see coverage from Marshon Lattimore. It doesn't mean you shouldn't use Sanders; Lattimore is banged up, and Sanders is cheap at $5,900. It's just enough for us to put Kittle higher on the list.

If you think that Lattimore does cover Sanders, it would give some appeal to Deebo Samuel. The problem is that you're banking on that for Samuel to pay off because his volume has been low when both Sanders and Kittle have been out there. Samuel works in game stacks at $6,000, but he's a bit of a tough sell outside of that.

As for Garoppolo at $7,800, he's unlikely to carry any popularity this week, given that the 49ers are underdogs in a game with a middling total. But again, this 49ers offense is the healthiest it has been all year, and they get to play indoors this weekend after a pair of recent rain games. Garoppolo completely lacks a floor, but there are worse quarterbacks you could consider for tournaments.

The Jets' Volatility

I joked earlier about this Jets-Dolphins game being a premier game on the slate, but from a DFS perspective, it's high-key pretty fun. Both sides have something to offer. It's weird!

Let's start with the Jets, who are coming off of a six-point game against the lowly Bengals, who rank 29th against the pass. They also dropped a dud earlier this year against these same Dolphins, which likely makes you hesitant to give them even a sniff here.

But here's the thing about the Jets: they're volatile. They're going to hit some depressing lows. But they've also shown the ability to hit the highs.

The chart below shows Darnold's Passing NEP output by game played. The lows are low, but the highs are equally high.

Sam Darnold's Passing Net Expected Points by Game in 2019

It shouldn't be too hard to spot the "ghosts" game there. But outside of that, Darnold truly hasn't been too bad this year. He's just had some rough games.

Knowing that Darnold and company are volatile should likely make us wary of this team in cash games. We don't need to ignore them there, though, because they seem more likely to hit the high end of their range of outcomes at home.

Three of Darnold's four best games this year have come while the Jets have been in East Rutherford, and he has come through in all plus matchups at home yet this year. The Dolphins certainly qualify as such, ranking dead last against the pass, so even in a repeat divisional matchup, Darnold is one of the better tournament plays on the board at $7,700.

It has gotten a bit easier to stack Darnold in recent weeks, too, with Robby Anderson finally starting to connect with Darnold on a more regular basis. Here's the Jets' target distribution since Darnold's return, excluding Chris Herndon's brief cameo in Week 10.

Past 7 Without Herndon Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Jamison Crowder 21.6% 17.9% 22.6%
Robby Anderson 19.4% 33.9% 9.7%
Demaryius Thomas 15.4% 19.6% 16.1%
Ryan Griffin 14.5% 7.1% 19.4%
Le'Veon Bell 13.7% 5.4% 16.1%

Anderson would be tolerable there at $6,400. But over the past five weeks (when Demaryius Thomas' downfield involvement has gone down), Anderson has 38.7% of the deep targets. We want to target volatile receivers at home, and we get that with Anderson in a plus matchup to boot. If you're stacking Darnold, Anderson's the best route for doing so.

The second-best route -- weirdly -- would actually be with Le'Veon Bell. But now he may not be available to us.

If Bell plays, he's likely to see a snap reduction due to the illness. That makes him hard to stomach unless we get word Sunday that he'll be a full go.

If Bell can't play, then Bilal Powell becomes a solid option at $4,900. Powell has been spelling Bell on a semi-regular basis for weeks now and has out-snapped Ty Montgomery in six straight games. Powell also has a pair of targets in three straight, meaning he at least wouldn't be a zero there.

We don't know for sure what the distribution between Powell and Montgomery would look like, but Powell seems very likely to be the top option as a home favorite against the Dolphins' wretched defense. If Bell sits, we should go pretty hard at Powell. But if Bell plays, we'll want to proceed with caution with this entire backfield.

Jamal Adams' Likely Absence

The Jets' offense probably shouldn't be a tough pitch given how bad the Dolphins' defense is. The Jets' defense has the potential to be on a similar level if Jamal Adams winds up sitting.

Adams has missed the past two days of practice due to an ankle injury and seems unlikely to play. Adams has been a monster this year both rushing the passer and in coverage, so losing him would be a major downgrade for a Jets defense that already ranks just 24th against the pass.

That may be enough to put Ryan Fitzpatrick on the map at $7,400. Fitzpatrick has topped 25 FanDuel points in back-to-back games and now gets another plus matchup. Using him is entirely viable.

The bigger draw here, though, is DeVante Parker.

As you've seen recently, the workload has been there for Parker in a big way. In four games since Preston Williams' injury, Parker has at least 10 targets each time, accounting for 26.8% of the team's overall targets. Mike Gesicki is second on the team at 17.0% in that time. Parker has also handled 57.9% of the deep targets in that time, helping him top 130 yards twice and 90 yards three times.

Parker's salary has shot up to $7,200, an increase of $1,200 from where it was last week, but that's justified. He's getting massive volume and cashing it in as he prepares for a plus matchup, which could get even better if Adams can't go. That's absolutely worth $7,200.

If you are using Fitzpatrick and don't want to tie all of your shares to Parker, the other route is Gesicki. As mentioned, he's getting decent volume, and he's just $5,400. He's not a great option for cash games, but as a differentiation point in tournaments or in game stacks, he's certainly in play.

Handling Dalvin Cook

If we had gotten Dalvin Cook at guaranteed full health against the Detroit Lions, we'd have been all over that. The dude gets elite usage both as a rusher and a receiver, and he has converted that volume into sweet production, as well. Then he injured his shoulder on Monday night, putting a little wrench in those plans.

Cook has said the entire week that he will play, meaning we won't get Alexander Mattison at $5,100 (though we should jump all over Mattison if Cook does wind up sitting). We just have to decide how close Cook will be to his regular workload.

The good thing is that Cook says the injury can't be made worse by playing; it's more of a pain-tolerance issue, one he has been dealing with since their Week 11 game with the Denver Broncos. That means there shouldn't be risk of re-injury, which will likely give the coaching staff more faith in throwing him out there.

Head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed as much Thursday, saying Cook will play and "be close to 100 percent," according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That makes Cook a strong tournament play as a 12.5-point home favorite against the league's 24th-ranked rush defense. Cash games are a bit of a different discussion.

Even before Cook's injury, the Vikings showed a willingness this year to use Mattison to close out games rather than running Cook unnecessarily. The likelihood that happens increases with Cook being banged up. If the Vikings are in a position to pedal back Cook's usage late, it's likely because he contributed earlier, but there are more paths to failure here than there are with Cook fully healthy.

How you view Cook is going to depend on your risk tolerance because there really isn't a way to quantify him in DFS this week. If you're cool with that late-game risk, then Cook is in play for all formats. But if you would rather shoot for players with sturdier floors or cheaper salaries, then it's fully okay to look elsewhere beyond Cook in cash. Either way, though, we do need this guy in our tournament player pool.

The other route for exposure to the Vikings could be via the passing game. Adam Thielen has missed both practices thus far in Week 14 and seems likely to sit yet again. His absence hasn't led to a better target total for Stefon Diggs, but it has opened up value with the tight ends.

Past 6 Games Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Stefon Diggs 19.9% 34.4% 7.4%
Dalvin Cook 16.3% 0.0% 7.4%
Kyle Rudolph 15.8% 12.5% 33.3%
Olabisi Johnson 14.3% 18.8% 22.2%
Irv Smith 13.8% 9.4% 22.2%

This has led to a touchdown in four straight games for Kyle Rudolph, and you can still get him down at $4,800 on FanDuel. He has also shown some yardage upside recently with 67 and 50 receiving yards the past two games, meaning he could pay off even without scoring. If you want cheap access to the Vikings, Rudolph is your avenue for getting it.

Ron Rivera's Dismissal

A coaching change is always an inflection point for a team's touch distribution in DFS. We saw the Browns change dramatically last year after Hue Jackson's dismissal, and Washington has forgotten about the existence of the forward pass since they fired Jay Gruden. That makes Ron Rivera's firing noteworthy for the Carolina Panthers.

The plus here is that there should be some continuity. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will no longer call plays, but his son, Scott Turner, will take over that duty. It doesn't mean there will be no changes, but it should help keep things relatively static with where they were.

The question is whether they'll still be gunning for wins in 2019. Their playoff odds are 0.0%, though they haven't technically been eliminated. If they acknowledge this and turn an eye toward 2020, it could lead to some reduced usage for their bellcow, Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey's usage has been pristine all year. That's why if we were able to guarantee it would remain as such, he'd be worth his $11,000 salary. The coaching change clouds that outlook a bit.

How you handle McCaffrey is similar to Cook. It depends on how you think the Panthers will handle things with their star back.

In the games Kyle Allen has started, McCaffrey has averaged 20.0 carries and 7.7 targets per game. If you think he continues to get that usage, he's a very good tournament play, even at $11,000. Putting a dude with his abilities on turf against a bad defense can lead to sweetness in a hurry.

If you think that the Panthers scale things back even a little bit, then McCaffrey becomes a tougher sell. Because there's a non-zero chance this happens, McCaffrey is someone we can avoid in cash games. Your thoughts on how the Panthers handle this will dictate how much exposure you get in tournaments.

As with Cook, though, there are other options on this team if you can't get to McCaffrey. The big one seems to be Ian Thomas.

Greg Olsen is likely to miss due to a concussion, expanding Thomas' role. Interim head coach Perry Fewell said the team will use a committee at tight end, which does put a dent in Thomas' appeal, but there's still a lot to like here.

After Olsen's injury last week, Allen threw 23 times. Thomas was third in targets in that time with four, trailing only DJ Moore and McCaffrey. One of those targets for Thomas was a downfield look.

We saw Thomas fill in admirably for Olsen last year, as well. Olsen missed most of the team's final five games last year, and it was after Curtis Samuel emerged, meaning the personnel here (outside of the quarterback) was largely the same. Thomas got respectable volume in that stretch.

Final 5 Games of 2018 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Christian McCaffrey 21.5% 0.0% 18.5%
Curtis Samuel 20.5% 40.0% 22.2%
DJ Moore 17.4% 17.1% 25.9%
Ian Thomas 16.4% 11.4% 14.8%

Moore's usage has been rockstar-level this year, so we should probably expect Thomas to get less than 16.4% of the targets. But even a slight reduction would keep Thomas in play at $4,000.

There is risk in Thomas with the potential for a committee, but Thomas is an athletic tight end in a game with the third-highest total on the slate, and he helps give you access to studs elsewhere. We should feel pretty good about using him, and he is in the cash-game discussion.

Moore and Samuel carry their usual levels of appeal and remain fairly static with the coaching change. That makes Moore a desirable option at $7,100. Samuel is worth a look, too, at $5,800, in case some of Olsen's looks go his direction. Even with the changes in Carolina, it's still a team we should be willing to target in DFS.

The Full-Fledged Falcons

Unlike the Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons have been eliminated from playoff contention, but they're primed to get some reinforcements for Sunday's game.

They were without both Julio Jones and Austin Hooper on Thanksgiving, and Hooper hasn't played since Week 10. It's a big boost for this offense.

Unfortunately, our sample on this team with those two and without Sanu is limited. Sanu was traded prior to Week 8, they had a bye in Week 9, and then Hooper was hurt during Week 10's game. Hooper did play 73.4% of the snaps there, though, so our two-game sample in Weeks 8 and 10 (one of which was started by Matt Schaub) is likely the best data we've got.

Weeks 8 and 10 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Julio Jones 26.6% 58.3% 9.1%
Russell Gage 17.7% 8.3% 18.2%
Calvin Ridley 15.2% 25.0% 0.0%
Austin Hooper 15.2% 0.0% 36.4%
Devonta Freeman 15.2% 0.0% 18.2%

With Hooper coming off a multi-week injury and being only $100 less than Kittle, we can probably hold off on him for this week. Jones, though, has some appeal.

For the full season, Jones' targets have been down with just 22.6% of the looks going his way in the games he has played. Things were a lot better for him in this split, though, and it has helped him average 97.5 receiving yards per game since the Sanu trade. The matchup with James Bradberry is definitely tough, but we can still give Julio some thought in the upper range at wide receiver.

The other guy who should pop a bit on that chart is Devonta Freeman. Freeman also left Week 10 early, so his 15.2% target share in that span is despite getting in only 1.5 games.

Freeman played his regular role in his return last week, netting 17 carries and 5 targets while playing 66.7% of the snaps. He's now a home favorite at $6,000 facing the league's worst rush defense. That's a pretty fun profile.

People are going to flock to Freeman this week because of the matchup, which is definitely not appealing. But objectively, his workload is quite good, and there's a chance they get right guard Chris Lindstrom back from injured reserve. Although there are good reasons to fade Freeman if he winds up being popular, he has the best profile of any back with a salary lower than $6,500.

Minshew Mania Rises From the Ashes

Just when we were getting used to Nick Foles being the Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterback once again, Foles stunk it up enough against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to justify a return to Gardner Minshew. So, it's time to reset expectations for the team yet again.

Thankfully, our sample on Minshew is much larger than what we were working with on Foles when he reclaimed the starting job. We should have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Minshew's second stint.

The first difference between the two quarterbacks is that Minshew is more horizontal than Foles. Here's a comparison between the two this year with "deep rate" being the percentage of throws that travel at least 16 yards downfield and "aDOT" referring to each player's average depth of target, via

In 2019 Deep Rate aDOT
Nick Foles 18.8% 8.4
Gardner Minshew 15.3% 7.3

Among 38 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts, Foles ranks 18th in aDOT while Minshew is 29th. It should come as no surprise, then, that Dede Westbrook would get a target boost when Minshew's out there versus Foles.

We had a six-game sample from Week 2 through Week 7 in which all of Westbrook, DJ Chark, and Chris Conley were healthy with Minshew starting. Here's the target distribution in that time.

Weeks 2 to 7 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Dede Westbrook 25.0% 21.9% 13.6%
DJ Chark 22.9% 34.4% 27.3%
Leonard Fournette 16.7% 0.0% 22.7%
Chris Conley 13.5% 28.1% 4.6%

Westbrook was second on the team in targets behind Leonard Fournette after Minshew took over last week, as well, so it seems clear that Minshew has a go-to target in Westbrook. We should upgrade Westbrook, and he is at least in play at $6,200.

With Minshew throwing deep less often, both Chark and Conley deserve a downgrade. Chark averaged three deep targets per game in the two full games Foles started after the bye, and he was at 1.8 per game in the sample above. He'll also likely be dealing with Casey Hayward this week, solidifying Westbrook as the top way to get exposure to this team in Week 14.

It is worth noting, though, that this is not a "must-target" situation by any means. The Los Angeles Chargers are 23rd against the pass for the full season, but they also just got safeties Derwin James and Adrian Phillips off of injured reserve last week. That means it's a tougher defense facing a quarterback who doesn't necessarily generate chunk plays due to more of a dink-and-dunk approach. Westbrook's the top option here, but he doesn't have to be a priority.

The one guy on this team who could qualify as that is Fournette at $7,500. He also gets a downgrade with James and Phillips back because it decreases the team's touchdown expectation, but Fournette is averaging 18.3 carries and 6.8 targets per game this year. That type of volume can absolutely overcome a tough matchup, putting Fournette firmly in the cash-game discussion.

Melvin Gordon's Resurgence

You can make the case that Fournette is the best running-back play on the slate. The guy on the other sideline in Melvin Gordon carries some solid appeal, too.

We've got a four-game sample on the Chargers since they changed offensive coordinators. Here's the workload breakdown for Gordon and Austin Ekeler in that time. "Adjusted opportunities" is just carries plus two-times the player's target total because a target is worth twice as much as a carry for a running back on a half-PPR site like FanDuel.

Past 4 Games Carries Per Game Targets Per Game Adj. Opp. Per Game
Melvin Gordon 19.0 3.3 25.5
Austin Ekeler 8.0 5.8 19.5

Gordon's still not getting as much passing-game work as you'd like, but he has been effective as a runner with 80 or more rushing yards in three of those four games.

This week, Gordon faces a Jaguars defense that ranks 28th against the rush, just put Myles Jack on injured reserve, and has allowed four 100-yard rushers in the past four games. Gordon is a quality tournament option at $7,300.

Browns' Workloads With Kareem Hunt

At first glance, Sunday's matchup between the Browns and Bengals is pretty dull. It's a late-season divisional matchup, and the total is just 41.5 points. But there's actually a path to a shootout here, so we shouldn't ignore it when analyzing the slate.

A big part of the reason this game could shoot out is that the Browns don't have Myles Garrett and Morgan Burnett, and with Andy Dalton starting for the Bengals, the road team figures to put some points on the board. We'll touch more on that side in a second.

As mentioned earlier, the Browns aren't as bad as perception. They're 15th in schedule-adjusted passing offense, but the tough matchups they've faced all year have made them seem much worse than that. Last week's dud was their second time facing a divisional team in a three-week span, and it came on the road against the league's third-ranked pass defense. Now, they're at home against the league's 29th-ranked pass defense, and it's the first time the two teams have squared off this year. There is no overlap between what the Browns had last week and what they'll see on Sunday.

This makes it important for us to dig into the Browns' touch distribution. We want exposure here; we just have to find the best outlet for getting that.

The most relevant sample here is going to be what they've done since Kareem Hunt returned from his suspension. Hunt has gotten volume both as a rusher and a receiver, meaning he affects everybody in this offense.

Starting with the pass-catchers, we've got a four-game sample on the Browns since Hunt's debut. Here's where the targets have gone in that stretch.

Past 4 Games Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Jarvis Landry 30.8% 43.3% 31.6%
Odell Beckham 27.1% 36.7% 15.8%
Kareem Hunt 18.8% 3.3% 10.5%
Nick Chubb 8.3% 0.0% 10.5%

Straight-up, Jarvis Landry has gotten the best usage here, and he has come through in that volume with 91.0 receiving yards per game. If you have the salary to get to him at $7,200, you should try to do so, and he's in play for cash games.

With that said, it'll be hard to turn down Odell Beckham at $6,800. Unlike Landry, the production has not been there, but the volume has. If you can find someone with 27.1% of his team's targets and deep work aplenty at $6,800 in a plus matchup, you should take it, even before we factor in the name value that Beckham carries.

The way you handle those two in tournaments should depend on which player you expect to carry more popularity. If people flock to Beckham at the reduced salary, then we should find the $400 to get up to Landry. But if people are fed up with Beckham's lack of production and ignore his usage, then he becomes the preferred target. The two are very similar in both usage and salary, so this is one spot where we can allow popularity to dictate where we go.

Hunt's passing-game usage is key given the importance of targets mentioned above, and he's averaging 6.3 targets per game in this span. That's very noteworthy.

But the bigger effect is that he's taking targets away from Nick Chubb. Chubb hasn't had more than four targets in any of these games, which hurts his overall appeal. Here's the weekly averages for both Chubb and Hunt since Hunt's debut.

Past 4 Games Carries Per Game Targets Per Game Adj. Opp. Per Game
Nick Chubb 21.0 2.5 26.0
Kareem Hunt 6.3 6.3 18.8

For comparison, Chubb averaged 27.3 adjusted opportunities per game before Hunt debuted. A lot of what has helped keep him relevant is that the Browns have won three of the past four games, allowing them to run the ball deep into the game, but there is a bit extra shakiness here that wasn't present previously.

The reason Chubb is still in play is that he's $7,900, reflecting the imperfections in his profile. The Browns are also favored by 8.5, meaning that the aforementioned late-game volume could be in place yet again. Chubb is not a must-have option in cash games (Fournette should be higher on our list there at $7,500), but we can view him as being a fringe-core guy for tournaments.

The Bengals' Improving Health

Two weeks ago, Bengals left tackle Cordy Glenn made his season debut after suffering a concussion in the preseason. Last week, Dalton regained his starting role and helped the team score 20 points for the first time since October 6th.

They get to add another piece this week with John Ross being activated from injured reserve. They might not be good yet, but they're a whole heck of a lot better than they were a month ago.

Ross' return gives the Bengals a field-stretcher they've been lacking since his injury. Dalton has averaged 6.9 yards per pass attempt with Ross on the field, according to The Quant Edge's injury tool, and that shoots down to 6.0 with Ross out. Speed matters, and having Ross' toes on the turf boosts everybody.

That's not to say that Ross should be in our fantasy lineups just yet. Head coach Zac Taylor has said that Ross will "have a role," but it's far from a lock that Ross hops right back into a full snap load after a lengthy absence. Instead, Ross' return should increase our interest in Tyler Boyd at $6,300.

In the games that Ross played, Boyd led the team with 24.1% of the targets, hitting double digits in three of four games. That held pretty steady in the two games after Auden Tate's role expanded in Week 3.

Weeks 3 and 4 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Tyler Boyd 24.3% 25.0% 0.0%
Auden Tate 22.9% 25.0% 25.0%
John Ross 17.1% 37.5% 0.0%

Tate's role wasn't bad, and he has hit at least 65 receiving yards in each of the past four games Dalton has played (he has 50 in each game with Dalton since he became a starter, as well). Tate's an option at $5,500 for sure. But with Boyd being just $800 more, we should feel fine taking the easy route.

Tate's primary appeal is in game stacks where you're using Browns players -- specifically guys in the passing game -- banking on a shootout. Boyd works in that scenario, too, though we can also justify him as a standalone play despite the team's low total.

The final guy here who deserves a slight up-tick is Joe Mixon at $6,700. Mixon has been getting more volume recently, even rushing 19 times last week with Dalton back (tied for his second-most carries of the season), and a more potent passing attack would open up more space for the ground game, too. Mixon doesn't get enough targets for us to use him with confidence, but he does benefit from Ross' return, and he's worth a look if you're hunting in the middle tier for a running back.

The Banged-Up Colts

It looks like the Indianapolis Colts will get Marlon Mack back this week following a two-game absence. Mack, though, returns to face the league's best rush defense and doesn't get much work as a receiver. That makes him hard to stomach. The passing-game pieces, though, are interesting.

T.Y. Hilton is primed to miss yet again and may not return this year, giving us a second game with both him and Eric Ebron sidelined. In that scenario last week, Jack Doyle and Zach Pascal got hefty volume.

In Week 13 Overall Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
Jack Doyle 11 1 3
Zach Pascal 10 4 1
Marcus Johnson 6 1 0
Others 10 1 0

FanDuel was quick to react, bumping Doyle all the way up to $6,300. He's still an option there with this volume in a plus matchup, but he's only $400 cheaper than Kittle at that mark. Pascal's likely the more desirable piece, though Doyle remains in play.

As for Pascal, he's $6,100. That's not a bargain, but he has averaged three deep targets per game in the past four that Hilton has missed, and he has a pair of 100-yard receiving games this year. He has a solid blend of floor and upside, putting him firmly on the map for tournaments, and he's not out of consideration for cash games.

Marcus Johnson got six targets last week, but his role is shakier. Parris Campbell has missed the past four games but is primed to return this week. It could be Ashton Dulin whose snaps take a hit, but it's enough ambiguity for us to disregard Johnson.

As for Campbell, between several injuries this year, he has played at least 60% of the snaps in just two games. In those games, he does have 17.1% of the targets, which isn't bad for a receiver at $4,800. The issue with Campbell is that he's not getting the deep volume of Pascal, which limits his upside. We should monitor Campbell for future weeks, and you can consider him in game stacks, but the ideal route here is finding the salary to get up to Pascal.

The Steelers (Again) With no JuJu and Conner

Almost every week this year, we've targeted teams facing the Arizona Cardinals, trying to get access to their bad defense and fast pace. That has been a fruitful strategy thus far. This week, it's hard to get too jazzed, even with some injuries to open up volume.

James Conner has been ruled out, and JuJu Smith-Schuster still can't make cuts. That lowers the expected efficiency of the offense, but we do have a sample on this team lacking those two pieces.

For the backfield, our most relevant sample is the past two games with Benny Snell Jr. being back. His snap rates have been uninspiring, but he has dominated the early-down work.

Past 2 Games Carries Per Game Targets Per Game Adj. Opp. Per Game
Benny Snell 18.5 1.0 20.5
Jaylen Samuels 4.5 2.5 9.5

We should expect Snell to get 15-plus carries against a bad defense, and that's attractive. The passing-game work is a concern, though.

There have been 33 running backs in perfect FanDuel lineups this year; they have averaged 4.6 receptions for 42.1 yards per game. Only three running backs have cracked the perfect lineup without logging multiple catches, and Snell has two targets the past two games combined. The odds he scores a touchdown and pays off his salary are decent, but it's hard to generate a ceiling game without receiving yardage in your back pocket.

It's also hard to get excited about the passing-game pieces. Devlin Hodges has a lower aDOT (7.5) than Mason Rudolph (8.1), making it hard for the offense to move the ball in chunks. That's enough to push Hodges off the radar, even in the best matchup imaginable.

The one plus of Hodges is that you have a good idea of where the ball is going. Of Hodges' 32 attempts since taking over in the second half of Week 12, 8 have gone to his new duck-blind mate, James Washington.

With Hodges Targets Deep Targets RZ Targets
James Washington 8 3 0
Diontae Johnson 7 3 0
Vance McDonald 4 0 0
Others 8 1 1

That's really solid volume for Washington, who has 98 yards and a touchdown in both games.

Unfortunately, FanDuel is aware of this and the elite matchup, and they made Washington a fully appropriate salary at $6,700. That makes him $100 less than Odell Beckham, $300 more than Robby Anderson, and $400 more than Tyler Boyd. Although Washington is clearly the top option on the Pittsburgh Steelers if you decide to stack this game, he's not a priority outside of that.

Vance McDonald also got a massive salary hike due to the matchup as he is $5,800. That's what you'll pay for a guy who hasn't hit 40 receiving yards since Ben Roethlisberger's injury and is in a low-volume, low-yardage offense. You could argue that Ian Thomas has better target and yardage projections than McDonald, and he's $1,800 cheaper. We should want to target players facing the Cardinals, but the Steelers and their salaries make that a difficult task in Week 14.

Kenyan Drake's Steadying Profile

The salaries for the Cardinals are much more forgiving. It helps make up for the difficult matchup they've got with the Steelers' defense.

The main attraction here is Kenyan Drake. Last week was the first time we've seen all of Drake, David Johnson, and Chase Edmonds active at the same time, and Drake's role there was top-notch.

In Week 13 Carries Targets Snap Rate
Kenyan Drake 13 5 79.7%
David Johnson 4 2 23.4%
Chase Edmonds 0 0 0.0%

If we were guaranteed that role for Drake again, he'd be the top value running back on the board. That's just not a guarantee we can make.

Drake sputtered along in that game, turning his 13 carries into just 31 yards. With Johnson and Edmonds both options here, it's fully possible the Cardinals could mix things up and get them more involved, cutting into Drake's role. Drake's only appeal for DFS is his volume, and cutting into that even a little would take him off the map.

That's why Drake shouldn't sniff a cash-game roster. For tournaments, though, we can afford to make some assumptions. If we assume that Drake maintains his old role, he's a really good play at $6,100. So as with Cook and McCaffrey, you're going to have to figure out how you think the team handles this and deploy Drake based on those assumptions.

The other potential cheap option on the Cardinals is Christian Kirk. He showed his floor last week with coverage from Jalen Ramsey, and the matchup is tough again. But Kirk has 25.6% of the team's targets and 39.3% of the deep targets since returning from his injury in Week 8. Every receiver below $6,000 has a low floor, but few have a ceiling as good as Kirk's. Both he and Drake are tournament options who won't cost you much at all.

Aaron Jones' Passing-Game Usage

Prior to last week's game, Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said he needed to get more work for Aaron Jones. Jones promptly accumulated 31 yards from scrimmage against the New York Giants, making LaFleur look like a dirty fibber.

Things were better there than they look at first glance, though. Specifically, LaFleur said he needed to get Jones more looks in the passing game, and he came through on that. Jones had six targets, easily his most since Davante Adams returned from injury. One of those was a downfield look, giving Jones eight total deep targets on the season.

Jones' 11 carries and 6 targets amount to 23 adjusted opportunities, which isn't a huge number. But he also spent some time in the injury tent during that game, ceding extra work to Jamaal Williams. Despite that, Jones' snap rate was the highest it has been since Week 9. Even though it didn't translate into fantasy points, LaFleur was true to his word.

Now, it's Williams who is banged up, being downgraded to a limited practice on Thursday due to a knee injury. If Williams sustained an injury and can't play this weekend, then Jones suddenly projects as a bellcow and would be a cash-game option at $7,800. He's an option for tournaments even if that doesn't happen, though.

Assuming that Williams does play, Jones will project for roughly 11 to 13 carries and 4 to 6 targets. There is a very narrow set of circumstances in which a player with that projection is great for DFS, but Jones is in that scenario as a 13-point home favorite against the league's 20th-ranked rush defense.

If Williams plays, Jones is definitely not a cash-game option, and he wouldn't be a core play for tournaments. He'd be a solid rotational option for tournaments, though, with multi-touchdown upside despite a limited touch projection. If Williams sits, Jones becomes one of the better running-back options on the slate. Be sure to keep an eye out here as we enter the weekend.

The Pace for Raiders versus Titans

The game with the fourth-highest total on the main slate is out in Oakland between the Raiders and Tennessee Titans. There are some really fun fantasy pieces in this game, meaning we should want to stack it. A sluggish pace makes it a bit unappealing, though.

The Raiders and Titans rank 19th and 27th, respectively, in Football Outsiders' situation-neutral pace. It's hard to get excited about loading up on a game that slow.

The big reason for the slow paces here is that both teams love to run, which keeps the clock ticking at all times. The Raiders rank 30th in pass rate on early downs in the first half, according to Sharp Football Stats, and the Titans are 23rd. That puts a pretty firm lid on the projected play volume in the game.

You may think that things have been brighter for the Titans since they switched to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback from Marcus Mariota. The offense has been humming, and Tannehill has been decently efficient. But they've actually been more run-heavy with Tannehill at quarterback and would rank 26th in early-down, first-half pass rate if their mark with Tannehill starting were their full-season number.

Of course, when you have Derrick Henry as your running back, this isn't a terrible idea. The dude's a cheat code. But it does ensure that the play volume here will be questionable even with Tannehill playing well.

This does not mean you need to avoid this game. Henry is always a tournament option, even with his salary up to $9,100, and Darren Waller got nine targets last week in the first game without Hunter Renfrow. Both those guys are solid. It just limits the appeal in the quarterbacks and secondary pieces.

The matchup for Tannehill is elite, and we should seek out efficiency and rushing yardage from quarterbacks, two traits Tannehill currently possesses. However, he has 19, 18, and 22 pass attempts the past three games and is in a mediocre game environment. He's getting lots of buzz this week, according to FanShare Sports, but we've got better tournament options at quarterback on this slate.

If you want some exposure to the Titans outside of Henry, the one guy here who has at least some value is A.J. Brown. Brown played 90.0% of the snaps last week, his first time topping a 70.0% snap rate in a game that Corey Davis played. Brown has 20.2% of the targets in games Davis has played since Delanie Walker's injury, which isn't a great number, but it's fine enough. He's just $5,400, so you could certainly do worse in such a good matchup. It's just a bit of a grim game outside of Henry and Waller, and the pace plays a major role in that.

The Broncos' Offense Under Drew Lock

It's going to be hard to get a good read on the Broncos based on Drew Lock's debut. They got a big early lead, deflating the passing volume, and the Chargers' secondary was back to full health, helping them keep some of the Broncos' passing-game assets in check when they did throw. But there are still some takeaways we can apply to this week's game with the Texans.

The first is that Lock was an upgrade for the offense. His 2.77 Passing NEP were the most by a Broncos quarterback since Week 4, and it was only the second time they've been positive since the Emmanuel Sanders trade. The raw stats weren't great, but the underlying numbers were solid.

That's encouraging as they now head indoors to face a Texans defense that ranks 19th against the pass and is missing J.J. Watt. It means we can at least give pieces in the passing game here a sniff despite the low team total.

The obvious guy we'd want to check out is Courtland Sutton. Sutton had three of Lock's five deep targets in Week 13, and that doesn't count the long pass interference he drew at the end of the game. Sutton has come through consistently this year despite poor quarterback play, and he may now have a better option there in Lock. Sutton is costly at $7,300, putting him in a zone where he's surrounded by Edelman, Parker, and Landry, all of whom are elite options this week. We would be smart, though, to scoop up shares of Sutton in tournaments in case the connection he and Lock showed last week carries into Sunday.

Noah Fant is riskier, even at his reduced salary. Fant was out-targeted by fellow tight end Jeff Heuerman last week, and Fant's 71.9% snap rate was his lowest since Week 7.

Fant did, though, run a route on 21 of 28 drop backs, and he had one deep target and one in the red zone. That keeps Fant an option at $4,800 if you want to buy into Lock's presence, though we should rank him below the other values in Ian Thomas and Kyle Rudolph.