Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 17
Our perception of Week 17 is that it's one overflowing with value for NFL DFS.
The big examples stick out in our mind. Rex Burkhead got a chance the final day of the 2016 season and churned out 119 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ryquell Armstead filled in for Leonard Fournette last year and cashed in with 17.0 FanDuel points.
It's a time for auditions, and we've seen players take advantage in the past. It puts our focus squarely on finding who could be this year's Burkhead on Sunday. But reality is a little bit different, and it could be even moreso this time around.
We've got 30 teams ready to fire on Sunday's main slate. Ten of them still need a win to lock down their playoff spot, three more could get a first-round bye, and only one team is locked into its current seed. There's still a ton left to be decided.
The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we build our lineups around those teams still in contention or try to unearth Week 17's revelation. The correct answer is obviously going to be a mix, but where should the core of our lineups lie?
At least based on past data, it seems like we need to focus primarily on the playoff teams. Let's dig into that and then outline other situations primed to impact the Week 17 main slate.
Past Perfect Lineups
One way to suss out the optimal approach is by looking at past perfect lineups. They also have to comply with a salary cap, meaning they give us a template of what we should expect in a wonky week. They also can illustrate the value of uncovering a juicy value, which should play into the hands of all the hopeful Burkheads.
In order to get a big enough sample, we'll look back at the past three seasons. This does mean checking out one slate where FanDuel still had kickers, but a two-year sample just won't quite cut it.
In total, this gives us 27 players who made a perfect lineup, 26 if you lop off the kicker. Of those 26, 16 played for teams with big incentive to win. It's noteworthy that mere seeding was not counted as a big incentive to win here; this was just teams that were in a must-win scenario or could lock up a bye or home-field advantage with a win. That's 61.5%, or roughly 5.5 per lineup.
In addition to the win-needy teams, two other players made a perfect lineup on teams that were already locked into their seed for the playoffs. This means when you add it all up, only 8 of 26 players (30.8%) were on teams that had been eliminated from postseason play.
As a result of this, our core plays on Sunday should be players in games where there's a lot on the line. We can better predict their usage, and we know that usage will come in situations where the team is trying for all four quarters. We can't say that with the random value plays.
It's also worth noting which positions tended to come from playoff contenders. Running back was the big one with all seven backs in perfect lineups coming from teams looking for a win. Armstead was solid last year, but three backs on contending teams put up 29.4 FanDuel points. We don't tend to get those from players whose teams are mailing it in.
At quarterback, two out of three were in high-leverage games. It was five of nine at wide receiver and two of three at defense and special teams.
The only position where the majority came from eliminated teams was tight end. There, all four tight ends (the 2018 perfect lineup included a tight end in the flex) were in low-leverage games, though one was on a team already locked into their seed.
Basically, every position where you needed a hefty point total skewed toward the playoff contenders. At tight end, where you don't need as many points, it was less of a requirement.
We're going to have value pop up throughout this week, and it's possible one of those plays winds up pulling a Burkhead. But historically, those haven't been the kinds of plays that have truly popped and posted ceiling games. If you want to give yourself more cracks at identifying said ceiling games, it's the playoff teams that deserve your attention.
As a result of that, we're going to focus on just playoff teams throughout today's piece. Because of the New Year, it's going up on a Wednesday, and we're not going to know the value plays for non-contending teams at that point. You'll have to be reactive to news on Sunday morning and decide which potential values have the upside necessary to move the needle.
Thankfully, we've already got some clarity on what the playoff teams will do. The Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers will rest staters, so we can likely cross those offenses off our lists. The Buffalo Bills haven't said outright that they'll sit starters, but their incentive to push goes down with the Steelers not gunning for the two seed. The Bills aren't an overly safe option as a result.
After we take those offenses off the table, we're left with these teams trying to get a win on Sunday's main slate.
|Team||Incentive to Win|
|Tennessee Titans||Playoff Berth|
|Miami Dolphins||Playoff Berth|
|Baltimore Ravens||Playoff Berth|
|Cleveland Browns||Playoff Berth|
|Indianapolis Colts||Playoff Berth|
|Green Bay Packers||Bye|
|New Orleans Saints||Bye|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Seeding|
|Los Angeles Rams||Playoff Berth|
|Chicago Bears||Playoff Berth|
|Arizona Cardinals||Playoff Berth|
|Dallas Cowboys||Playoff Berth|
|New York Giants||Playoff Berth|
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only team fighting exclusively for seeding. But getting the 5 seed locks them into a matchup with the NFC East champs, which sounds a whole lot more attractive than traveling to New Orleans or Seattle. They should be pushing here, and bookmakers are handling them as such. The same is true for the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, who have a shot to snag the 1 seed from the Green Bay Packers.
We've got plenty of playoff teams to choose from with 14 teams looking for a win. We won't have trouble building our cores around those teams, and past data says we should do exactly that. Here's how we should handle situations impacting those 14 teams.
Moving Parts Galore for Rams Versus Cardinals
Of our high-leverage games, only three feature incentive to win on both sides. Unfortunately, one of those is the Los Angeles Rams versus Arizona Cardinals, and this thing is about as gross as can be.
Jared Goff is doubtful after getting surgery on his thumb. Kyler Murray has a lower-body injury and is far from a lock to go. If both guys are out, this game could very well wind up being a crossoff despite the stakes.
Even if Murray is able to go, it's a tough matchup. The major absences for the Rams are on the offensive side, so Murray won't get a break from the Rams' second-ranked schedule-adjusted pass defense. Add in a potential inability to run, and it's hard to see a scenario where the Cardinals post a slate-busting total.
The one potential spot you could turn to here is Kenyan Drake. Chase Edmonds' status is unknown after another injury in Week 16. The injury paved the way for Drake to play 63.4% of the snaps, his highest rate since Week 6. Drake has 38.6% of the team's red-zone opportunities since returning from his injury, so although he has been touchdown-dependent, we should expect the touchdowns to continue to come. If Murray plays while Edmonds sits, Drake becomes a viable option at $6,200.
There could be volume for the taking on the Rams' side with Darrell Henderson on injured reserve, Cam Akers banged up, and Cooper Kupp on the COVID-19 list. However, with Goff likely out, the Rams aren't likely to hang a big number here. Players like Josh Reynolds or Malcolm Brown might hit value, but without Goff, their ceilings are all muted. As such, it does seem as though this game lacks the appeal it would have otherwise had if everyone had been healthy.
Loading Up on the Titans
Over the past few weeks, I've been tinkering with an algorithm that projects offensive efficiency for each team. This can help me see which teams might be able to move the ball with ease, making them ripe for stacks.
Before accounting for motivation, the Tennessee Titans rank first for Week 17. That won't change as they need a win to lock up a playoff spot and the AFC South.
But the opposing Houston Texans rank fourth on that list, as well. As long as the Texans decide to try, this game has the potential to blow out some bulbs on the scoreboard.
We can also feel pretty good about the Texans putting forth an effort here. They've effectively been eliminated from playoff contention for months, but they're still playing hard. In three games since Will Fuller's suspension with Brandin Cooks active, Deshaun Watson is still averaging 0.20 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. NEP is the expected points model we use at numberFire, and Passing NEP includes deductions for expected points lost on negative plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. The league-average mark is 0.13, and Watson's full-season number is 0.28. He's not as good as he was then, but they're still a solid offense.
They're aren't a ton of games on this slate that set up well for traditional game stacks. This seems to be one of them.
That might not be quite enough to load up on Watson himself. As mentioned earlier, we do want to lean on playoff-bound teams at quarterback, and the Texans aren't that. He's also banged up, which may lower his incentive to scramble. This lack of motivation also dings David Johnson, though he'd still be a consideration given the role he has had the past two weeks with Duke Johnson out.
The main benefactor here is Cooks. His salary is $7,300, but in the three games he has played without Fuller, his role has warranted that. Here, a "deep" target is at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
|Without Fuller, With Cooks||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Cooks cashed in with 141 yards and a touchdown last week. Against the Titans' brutal defense, you can fully justify including Cooks as a bring-back option when you utilize the Titans' offense. Keke Coutee also works, though the appeal there is muted relative to Cooks.
The other ripple effect of the Texans' liveliness is that it jacks up the viability of the Titans' passing game. In Ryan Tannehill's five games with at least 26 FanDuel points, the opposing team has scored 28.4 points per game. And using Tannehill doesn't mean we have to pass up the ever-delicious Derrick Henry.
Henry has 24 or more FanDuel points five times this year. Tannehill also hit 29 FanDuel points in two of those, including their first matchup with the Texans. Stacking Tannehill with Henry likely gets you access to every touchdown the Titans score and nearly every yard. In this spot, there could be a bunch of both. It's not the most traditional stack due to the lack of double-dipping in the passing game, but it's among the best stacks on the slate.
Of course, pairing Tannehill with Henry would not prohibit you from utilizing the other pass-catchers. And there are three legit options there. Here's the team's target distribution in nine games where they've had all of AJ Brown, Corey Davis, and Jonnu Smith healthy.
|With All Three Healthy||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
It's obvious that you'll want to use Brown and Davis. But Smith's value is the highest it has been in a while.
The big thing for Smith is that his salary has come back down. It's $5,300, tying the lowest it has been since Week 2. Smith left early due to injury the first time they played the Texans, but Anthony Firkser went off with 113 yards and a touchdown in his absence. Smith is touchdown-dependent, but with his red-zone role, those touchdowns aren't a fluke. Everybody tied to this offense is a rockstar play, and there's enough juice on the other side to make this a traditional game-stacking option.
Stacking the Packers Versus the Bears
The other game in which we'll definitely want exposure to both sides is this one between the Packers and Chicago Bears. The Packers are gunning for a bye, and the Bears need a win to make the playoffs. And there are logical pieces on both sides.
The matchup could seem daunting for Aaron Rodgers. The Bears rank 10th against the pass, per numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. And we did see the Packers fold earlier in the year when facing the Bucs, who rank sixth against the pass.
But if you look at the Packers' other three games versus top-10 pass defenses -- including their first game with the Bears -- Rodgers has averaged 0.38 Passing NEP per drop back. That would lead the league if it were his full-season mark. Rodgers' floor is a tick lower than usual, but he still has his usual ceiling.
That clearly translates to Davante Adams, too, not that you should need much convincing to use him. Those two are another key stack for the slate for obvious reasons. Our view of Aaron Jones depends on the injury reports throughout the week.
Jones got banged up in Week 16, allowing AJ Dillon to blow up. But in previous games with Jamaal Williams sidelined, Jones has been a focal point of the offense. Here are Jones' splits in games with Williams and Adams healthy versus what he did in the two with Williams out. "Adjusted Opportunities" is carries plus two-times his target total as targets are worth twice as much as carries for running backs on FanDuel.
|Jones in 2020||Carries||Targets||Adj. Opp.||Yards From Scrimmage|
|With Adams and Williams||14.3||4.6||23.5||104.0|
If we get Jones fully healthy with Williams still sidelined, Jones will be a top-notch play. If he's still hobbled -- or if Williams is able to return -- the value in Jones takes a hit, though he'd still be a rotational tournament play.
On the other side, we might not get to Mitchell Trubisky. He has feasted on plus matchups recently, but it's important to remember the Bears trailed 41-10 in the third quarter the last time they faced this defense (Trubisky's first game back as starter). That's not enough to keep us off of David Montgomery, Allen Robinson, and Cole Kmet, though.
Montgomery is arguably the top running back play on the slate. In his nine full games without Tarik Cohen, Montgomery is averaging 26.2 adjusted opportunities per game and has 43.1% of the team's red-zone opportunities. If you look at the most relevant sample for other backs on teams looking for a win, Montgomery is tied for third in adjusted opportunities and ranks second in red-zone share. Montgomery had 143 yards from scrimmage against the Packers in Week 12 and needs to be part of our core.
As far as the passing-game pieces, you don't need me to tell you that Robinson is in play, even against the Packers' quality corners. Kmet might be a tougher sell.
Kmet seems to be back to playing second fiddle after Jimmy Graham's two-touchdown day last week. But Kmet played 90.3% of the snaps there and got a downfield look. His workload since the Bears' bye week isn't bad.
|Past 5 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Kmet is getting enough work to be an option at $5,000 at a bad position. We should prioritize Smith over him, but Kmet works as a differentiation piece.
Lamar Jackson in a Must-Win Game
One of the quarterbacks in a must-win game for Week 17 is Lamar Jackson. With how well he's playing, you know what to do.
Jackson has played four games since returning from his COVID-19 absence. In those, he's averaging 11.3 rushes for 83.3 yards per game. The yardage alone is equivalent to two extra passing touchdowns per game.
The passing has been pretty, too. Jackson's averaging 0.40 Passing NEP per drop back, a massive leap from his mark of 0.12 before the missed game. Jackson's the top quarterback option on the slate, even with his salary up to $9,000.
Mark Andrews' $7,200 salary is going to be tough to get to with our obsession over the high-salaried backs. Still, with Travis Kelce unlikely to play and Darren Waller in a low-leverage game, not many guys can match Andrews' yardage upside. His four highest yardage outputs have come in his past four games, so we have some incentive to find our salary savings at wide receiver and jam in Andrews.
Marquise Brown is in a better spot than he was earlier in the year with double-digit FanDuel points in five straight games, but he's a full tier below Andrews when stacking with Jackson. Brown's four touchdowns have buoyed his scoring stretch, and it's tougher to bank on that than yardage. If you've got 10 Jackson lineups, Andrews is likely the optimal stack for half with Brown in three and Jackson by himself in two.
Dallas' Resurgent Offense
If we want to get to guys like Jackson, Andrews, Henry, Montgomery, and Adams, we've gotta find savings somewhere. This NFC East battle between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants can fill that role.
The big reason we can feel good about stacking it is that the Cowboys' offense is back to scoring points. It's not just Week 16, either; Andy Dalton is averaging 0.16 Passing NEP per drop back since returning in Week 11. We can live with that.
Michael Gallup's big game in Week 16 wasn't a fluke, either. He actually leads the team in each relevant target category since Dalton came back.
|Past 6 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
It may feel weird to rank Gallup first among the receivers given his volatile season, but the usage says we should do so. That makes him an option at $6,200.
The potential for popularity on Gallup could be an incentive to check out Amari Cooper, though. Cooper is higher-salaried at $6,700 and isn't coming off a monster game, making it a lock he winds up being on fewer rosters. But Cooper has been productive, topping 110 yards twice in this span and falling short of 11 FanDuel points just once. Cooper actually finished with more receiving yards than Gallup last week; he just didn't score twice. If Gallup is projecting to be a crowd favorite, then Cooper becomes a top-tier pivot.
Speaking of salaries, Ezekiel Elliott's may have finally come down enough to justify re-investment. Elliott had 27 adjusted opportunities in Week 16, his second time in three games hitting that number, and he had a season-high 139 yards from scrimmage. The Giants' defense is built to stop the run, which is what keeps Elliott from being more than a rotational tournament piece. But he's at least a consideration for the first time in months.
The true salary-savers in this game may be on the other sideline, though. The Giants' offense has been putrid of late, failing to hit even 20 points since Week 10. But with Daniel Jones another week removed from his injuries, we can be open to them, and we know right where the ball is going.
The most relevant sample on the Giants is the past four games. That's the time since Darius Slayton's snap rate went back up following his mid-season injuries. Slayton's deep-ball volume in that time has been enticing for a guy at $5,000.
|Past 4 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Slayton hasn't cashed in on that volume yet. He and Jones did, though, have a quality rapport earlier in the year. Using him at that salary will give us plenty of flexibility, and we should be happy to do so.
That's not to say we should exclude Sterling Shepard at $5,500 or Evan Engram at $5,400. The reason to favor Slayton is that his yardage upside is better than Shepard's (four 70-yard games for Slayton versus one for Shepard), and Engram got banged up at the end of Week 16. All three are at least options, making this the best game to stack when you're hunting for value.
Exploiting the Colts' New Focal Points
For most of the season, the Indianapolis Colts were a cross-off in DFS because they didn't give concentrated volume to any one player. But the past few weeks have made it clear we can trust Jonathan Taylor and TY Hilton for exposure to a team desperate for a win.
Taylor's up to five games since his snap rate spiked in Week 11. In that time, he's averaging 116.6 yards from scrimmage per game, the fourth-best mark among backs in must-win situations in their most relevant sample. The Jacksonville Jaguars rank 19th in success rate allowed to opposing backs, so his run shouldn't stop here.
Previously, Taylor's lingering bugaboos were his snap rate and role in the red zone. The past two games have alleviated those concerns. He has played his highest and fourth-highest snap rates in those two games, and his red-zone share has gone up to 42.9% with a mark of 60.0% inside the 10. We should rank Henry and Montgomery above Taylor, and Myles Gaskin belongs ahead of Taylor, too (more on him in a second). Taylor is a fringe-core play, though, and firmly in the second tier at running back.
As for Hilton, his salary is back down to $6,300 after getting as high as $6,800 two weeks ago. That's a better mark for him given that he is still sitting at just a 21.4% target share over the past 5 weeks. But in that same span, Hilton is averaging 2.8 deep targets per game, and he has shown the ability to cash in on those looks. He's another guy who could serve as a pivot off of Gallup if Gallup is tracking to be too popular.
Myles Gaskin's Meaty Role
Earlier on, I said Montgomery was arguably the top back on the slate. Henry was a big part of the reason the word "arguably" was in there. The other guy is Gaskin.
I admittedly had some concerns around Gaskin entering Week 16. The Miami Dolphins were a force on the ground without him in Week 15, and Gaskin was recovering from a positive COVID-19 test. It seemed like there was a chance he could split time with Salvon Ahmed, and initially, that was the case. But Gaskin put that talk to rest in a hurry. Getting 169 yards from scrimmage will do that.
This allows us to put stock in what Gaskin has done over a larger sample. He's up to six games now since Jordan Howard lost his goal-line role with the team. In those six games, Gaskin is averaging 26.2 adjusted opportunities and 118.0 yards from scrimmage per game with 47.3% of the red-zone opportunities. You're getting all of that for just $6,700. With the Bills potentially resting some starters, Gaskin is one of the top three backs on the slate, right up there with Montgomery and Henry.
The Dolphins' other pieces depend on injury news. DeVante Parker was inactive again in Week 16 but could be back out there. Whether Parker goes or not, though, Mike Gesicki belongs in our player pool.
Before Parker's injury in Week 14, the team had played four games since Preston Williams hit injured reserve. Parker was a target hog, but Gesicki still managed to get good volume for a tight end.
|Weeks 10 to 13||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
A 30.0% deep target share would be decent for a wide receiver at $5,900. But Gesicki gets you that and fills tight end. If you're not crawling up to Andrews, Gesicki's one of the top options on the board.
Parker's outlook depends on news later in the week. If he can't get in a full practice by Friday, he'll be tough to trust coming off a multi-week absence. But if he does that and the Bills decide to rest any key members of their secondary, Parker will suddenly leap off the page at $6,100. This is a spot where we'll have to adjust based on how things play out later on. No matter what happens there, though, we know we'll at least have Gaskin and Gesicki as low-salaried options with a ceiling.
Cleveland Versus a Resting Steelers Team
Last week was obviously brutal for the Cleveland Browns. It puts them in a spot where they need a win in Week 17, something that seemed far-fetched a few weeks ago. Luckily for them, it's a radically different situation this time around.
As mentioned, the Steelers have already committed to resting some starters. It has led to the Browns' being favored by 10, indicating bookmakers think it won't be just Ben Roethlisberger sitting. If we can get guys like TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick sidelined, it'll be arrows up for the entire Cleveland offense.
Nick Chubb isn't going to be a core play at running back regardless of how things wind up there. He doesn't get enough usage for that.
But Chubb's snap rate has been up the past five games, and it has led to a bit of a role shift. He's averaging 26.6 receiving yards per game in that span; he had 16 the entire season before that. Chubb is a rotational tournament play but someone to whom we should get exposure due to his upside and his team's desperation.
Any defensive players sitting would also increase the desire to use the passing offense. We were jazzed to use the Browns in Week 16 in large part thanks to the matchup, but the target concentration played a role, too. Here's the distribution in five non-COVID-impacted games with Austin Hooper and without Odell Beckham.
|With Hooper, Without Beckham||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Jarvis Landry is $6,700, and Rashard Higgins is $5,600. Assuming both are able to come off the COVID-19 list, they're on the map no matter what Pittsburgh does defensively. Their appeal just goes up with every key player confirmed to be out.
Another Favorable Matchup for Tampa Bay
The final three teams we have to discuss have flimsier motivation, which means there's more risk here than with the others. But there are still some viable plays to discuss.
As noted, the Bucs have decent motivation as they try to position themselves for a date with the NFC East. They get that in yet another plus matchup for the passing offense.
The Atlanta Falcons held up well in the first half against the Bucs in Week 15. But Tom Brady blew up in the second half, and even when you count what happened early on, Brady averaged 0.38 Passing NEP per drop back. The flimsier motivation prevents Brady from being a priority, but it does mean we can go right back to Mike Evans.
Evans' blow-up was last week, but the building blocks had been in place for that for a while. Evans leads in all the key categories since Antonio Brown joined the fold.
|Past 7 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Evans has hit 110 yards in two straight games, so he has solidified himself as the top option here, and he's worth his $8,100 salary.
The running-back situation, unfortunately, won't be clear until inactives come out. If Ronald Jones shows enough in practice to make Leonard Fournette a healthy scratch -- as he was in Week 14 -- Jones is very much in play. He has averaged 28.5 adjusted opportunities and 114.5 yards from scrimmage per game when Fournette is inactive or barely plays. But when Fournette is involved, those numbers fall to 16.7 and 67.4, respectively.
We're unlikely to know before inactives come out what Jones' outlook is. As a result, we'll have to be flexible here and adjust an hour and a half before lock. If Fournette is inactive, fire away on Jones. If Fournette is a go, this is likely a situation we'll want to avoid.
Hoping the Saints Don't Scoreboard-Watch
We know the Saints are going to try early on. Sean Payton said as much on Monday. We just have to hope the scoreboard doesn't break against us.
The Saints can get the 1 seed only if the Packers lose and the Seahawks win. So, if the Packers get up big in the first half or the Seahawks are trailing, it's possible Payton pulls the plug and puts the starters on the sidelines. It's a legit scenario, and we have to account for it.
That doesn't mean we have to avoid everybody here.
Both the Packers' and Seahawks' games project to be competitive, so there are definitely scenarios where the Saints push for all four quarters. If they do, Alvin Kamara will obviously be one of the best options we've got.
Kamara's six-touchdown day was flashy, but it's not a surprise. In eight games with Drew Brees and without Michael Thomas, Kamara is averaging 148.3 scrimmage yards per game; that's tops on the slate among our playoff contenders by 22.2 yards. Yowza.
We do need to put a lid on our Kamara exposure because there are paths to him sitting late in the game. But we should still include him as a fringe-core play at $9,400 in case we get him on a full leash.
Buying Low on DK Metcalf
The Seahawks' offense has been brutal for a while now. They've exceeded 20 points just once in the past four games, and Russell Wilson hasn't thrown for 300 yards since the week of the presidential election. It has made the pieces here just unsavory.
That has also led to depressed salaries, though, which may allow us to get back in on DK Metcalf.
Metcalf has lagged along with the offense, topping 80 yards just once in that time since Wilson's last 300-yard game. Comparatively, he had at least 80 yards in seven of the first eight games.
The yardage hasn't been there, but the targets still have. Metcalf has averaged 8.6 targets per game over the past five. That's actually a smidge higher than the 8.5 targets per game he had in the first half.
So, the volume is still there, even with the offense being more run-heavy. He just hasn't had a blow-up game of late. That could easily change this weekend.
Although the San Francisco 49ers have been playing better of late, they're still super banged up. They had five defensive backs on the injury report entering Week 16, and Richard Sherman wound up sitting due to a calf issue. They're beatable if the player is good enough; we know Metcalf fits that bill.
The salary on Metcalf is down to $7,600. He has been an easy avoid of late due to the offense's inefficiencies and shift in philosophy. But at a reduced salary in a must-win game, this shapes up well as a time to get back in on our early-season darling.