Daily Fantasy Football Bargains and Best Buys: Week 7

The AFC and NFC North are loaded with great plays this weekend in daily fantasy football.

One of the toughest things to do in daily fantasy sports is figure out which players to not play during any given week. There will assuredly be dozens of players at each position with logical, defensible justifications for a spot in your lineup, but figuring out which ones should be excluded is never an easy task.

Because in reality, there's almost never a bad daily fantasy play apart from the obvious. Players in extreme matchups, dealing with nagging injuries, or who are losing playing time due to bad performances are often not worth plugging into DFS rosters, but these are easy to research and figure out when setting lineups. Therefore, the format of this column will change moving forward.

Previously I attempted to provide the names of top players you should avoid in the week ahead, but I'll be eliminating that section in favor of an extra value play, and an extra "best buy" option.

So that means I'll provide you with eight players you should build your lineups around based on matchups and circumstances this weekend. The first category - Bargains - is pretty obvious. These are undervalued players who will allow you to spend more elsewhere. The other category is Best Buys, which includes players who are more than worth a large chunk of your budget.

Keep in mind that these players may or may not be used in our weekly optimal lineups. To see who the algorithms are selecting on the week, check out our optimal lineup section, and don't forget to use our custom optimal lineup tool.


Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens - Coming off of a five-touchdown performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rostering Joe Flacco this weekend may seem like chasing touchdowns. He will likely be heavily owned on daily fantasy sites, as players will remember his big day against Tampa Bay and hope for more of the same.

Don't allow these factors to push you away from a great play, however, as Flacco is legitimately primed for a successful day against the Atlanta Falcons. The addition of Steve Smith has revitalized this offense, and that will be more than enough to torch the Atlanta defense, which currently is the worst in NFL.

Flacco bounced back in our rankings last week, moving from 15th to 5th in our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) rankings after his big day against the Bucs. He will carry that momentum into a great matchup this weekend, and makes for a good quarterback play that will free up money to spend elsewhere.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens - If you're worried about Flacco's ability to string together to great games in a row (he has never thrown for three or more scores in back-to-back games), you'll still want to have a share of the action in the Baltimore offense against the horrible Atlanta defense.

Justin Forsett is your best bet outside of Flacco, as the running back has become the featured member of the backfield, ahead of Bernard Pierce. Since Week 4, Forsett has handled 34 of the 75 running back carries (the most of any back in Baltimore) split across the backfield, with 12 targets as well. He didn't play late in the Tampa Bay game, which is actually a good sign, as it shows the team values him as a starter and didn't want him playing in a blowout.

Forsett has been the most productive back in the NFL (according to our data) by a wide margin, with nearly double the NEP of any other back with 50 or more rushing attempts this season. He doesn't need a lot of work to post a good game, and a matchup with a bottom-five run defense should be a perfect spot for another solid day of fantasy points.

Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns - We'll stay in the AFC North for yet another back who has become the lead dog for his team, yet still isn't priced like many other starting runners with similar production. Ben Tate has carried the ball over 20 times in his last two starts, and plays for the team with the second-lowest pass-to-run ratio in the NFL. That's a recipe for volume that you won't get with backs in Tate's price range.

Add in a matchup with Jacksonville, who have allowed eight double-digit PPR performances to running backs so far this year, and you can see why Tate is an appealing option. The Jaguars are the worst team in our team rankings by a wide margin, and struggle on both offense and defense in our metrics. Tate should get plenty of work as the Browns control the clock against Jacksonville, and that provides a safe floor for cash game players looking to save at running back.

Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders - Like Flacco, rostering Andre Holmes this week may feel like a "chalk" play that's simply chasing last week's points. But also, like Flacco, Holmes has legitimate reasons for being in your lineup this week, even if the secret is out on just how good he is.

Holmes and the Raiders play the Cardinals, who have allowed the most PPR points to wide receivers so far this season. Holmes has quickly become Derek Carr's favorite target in the passing game, as the two have combined for 20 targets over the past two weeks (Holmes only had nine over the first three weeks). The Arizona defense is right in the middle of our pass defense rankings, and have looked quite suspect throughout this season. Holmes is still cheap, and is well worth a roster spot this weekend in all DFS formats.

Best Buys

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers - Don't let the matchup with Carolina fool you - this is a great spot for Aaron Rodgers this week. The Panthers secondary is horrible, and their pass defense currently ranks 22nd in the league according to our data. Greg Hardy's extended absence has definitely limited their pass rushing, and they're unable to cover for the lack of talent in the back four on defense.

That's a great thing for Rodgers, who has been on a roll, and will now line up under center in a game that Vegas predicts will be around 50 total points. Carolina has given up 285 yards and two touchdowns in each of their last three games, while Rodgers has thrown for three or more scores in each of his last three matchups. It doesn't matter which site you're on, Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback play this weekend, and should feature heavily in cash games and tournaments alike.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys - Murray's price has finally reached the top of the charts, as he finds himself well ahead of the second tier of backs after being similarly priced for the first few weeks of the season. But even with this sharp increase in salary, you still want to roll with the best running back in football, because his volume and consistency mean he's a lock to provide value in every game he's healthy.

Murray has over 40 carries more than the next closest back, which is a level of volume that often dooms a running back to poor statistics in our metrics. It's tough to be efficient when a back is carrying that much of an offense. But Murray actually leads all backs with 60 or more carries in Success Rate, which is our measure of how often a back's carries go for a positive Net Expected Points total.

Combine his volume, consistency, and a matchup with a middling New York Giants defense, and Murray is worth paying up for this week in daily fantasy football.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals - Giovani Bernard had his best week of the season against Carolina last weekend, going over 100 yards rushing (thanks in large part to a huge 89-yard touchdown) in a 37-37 tie with the Panthers. He'll carry that momentum into this weekend's game against the Colts, who have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

In fact, Indianapolis ranks fourth from the bottom in our opponent-adjusted team run defense metrics, which is a perfect situation for Bernard and the sixth-ranked Bengals rushing attack. This is another game that should be high scoring, and Bernard is among the players most likely to score with A.J. Green still sitting out due to injury. If you want to fade DeMarco Murray (for whatever reason), Bernard is the second best option due to his slightly lower price.

Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears - The Miami Dolphins had yet to be truly tested by wide receivers until last weekend, when the Green Bay Packers had a field day against the defensive backs, and showed that their passing defense might not be as good as it seemed through the first month of the season. Miami ranks as the 10th-best pass defending team according to our rankings, but even when adjusted to strength of schedule, there's reason to believe they'll crumble when faced with a tougher opponent.

Brandon Marshall has only scored once, and has been limited in overall volume since his three-score game when playing on one leg a month ago. He's due to find the end zone again sooner rather than later, and there's no better situation to find pay dirt than against a team that just allowed three passing scores, including one on the final play of the game.

Marshall's price remains relatively low compared to other top receivers, and he's coming off his first 100-yard game of the season in Week 6. This is the right time to buy into the Brandon Marshall bounce back, before his price gets back to its normal "top of the charts" range. (Oh, and he's playing against one of the two teams that has previously traded him, giving him plenty of motivation...if you believe in that sort of stuff.)