The regular season comes to a close on Sunday with all 32 teams in action. Week 17 is probably the most challenging week of the NFL year for DFS purposes as we have a mix of teams with everything to play for and those that are looking ahead to the offseason. Playing time for starters on teams that have locked up their playoff positioning becomes a major wrinkle we have to consider, while we also try to determine the motivations of those teams with nothing to play for. As challenging as Week 17 may be, it also shapes up as a great week to employ some contrarian thinking and pinpoint some of this week’s hidden gems. Let’s get right to it, starting with some games and matchups that just may fly under the radar in Week 17.
This Week’s Projected Low-Scoring Games
- New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills. Jets -3, 42. Intriguing matchup between a Jets team looking to lock up a playoff berth against their former coach, who would undoubtedly love to spoil their plans.
- Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals. Bengals -9, 41 ½. The Ravens came to life last week and shocked the Steelers – can they do the same to another division rival?
- Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys. Cowboys -4, 39 ½. Washington has locked up their playoff position and will be limiting snaps for starters as they look ahead to Wild Card weekend.
- San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos. Broncos -9, 41. The Broncos can lock up a first round bye with a win.
- St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers. Rams -3 ½, 37 ½. The game with the lowest projected total of the week will be well off the radar for DFS purposes.
Despite the low totals, there are still some intriguing matchups to key in on, namely the Jets, Bengals and Broncos as all three teams have plenty of motivation to close out the season with a win. Their opponents will fly under the radar and for good reason – all three will be facing off with solid defenses and would count as little more than GPP fliers for Week 17. Washington is probably best avoided due to playing time uncertainty, while the Cowboys offense could offer up a potential diamond or two as they face off with the second string. The doubtful status of Todd Gurley removes any shine that may have been present on the game between the Rams and 49ers.
Matchups That Will Scare People Off
- Arizona Cardinals vs. QBs. The Cardinals punished Aaron Rodgers last week by sacking him eight times and forcing three turnovers
- New York Jets vs. RBs. The Jets have allowed exactly two rushing touchdowns this season.
- San Diego Chargers vs. WRs. The Chargers secondary has been one of the few bright spots in a disappointing season.
- Baltimore Ravens vs. TEs. The Ravens have allowed only two touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season.
- Arizona Cardinals vs. DEF. The Cardinals have not allowed one solid performance to an opposing defense this season and has pushed several into negative points territory.
We could make an argument for a contrarian play in each of the above matchups, but at this point in the season, it’s probably best to avoid them. Russel Wilson and the Seahawks are probably the most intriguing option to break through against the Cardinals, while a returning Tyler Eifert could find the end zone against the Ravens.
Last Week’s Disappointments
- GB QB Aaron Rodgers. A disappointing 2015 season for Rodgers reached a low point against the Cardinals.
- TB RB Doug Martin. Martin was held to 49 yards and a score against the Bears.
- PIT WR Antonio Brown. The Steelers offense as a whole was Week 16’s biggest disappointment for DFS purposes.
- NYG TE Will Tye. The expected bump in targets failed to materialize as the Giants were hammered by the Vikings.
- Seahawks DEF. 1.0 fantasy points was not quite what was expected from the Seahawks defense at home against the Rams.
Rodgers, Brown and Tye are solid bounce back candidates for Week 17, but don’t necessarily qualify as contrarian selections as they will find their share of supporters. Enthusiasm for Martin will be tempered with a date with the Panthers on tap, while the Seahawks should fly under the radar for a potentially high-scoring game against the Cardinals.
Here are this week’s top contrarian selections, starting with the quarterback position.
AJ McCarron, $5,300
Since taking over for an injured Andy Dalton in Week 14, AJ McCarron has filled in admirably by throwing for four touchdowns. He’ll face off with a Ravens squad on Sunday that disrupted the DFS leaderboards by stifling a Steelers offense that was expected to have their way with them. Last week’s impressive performance aside, there are still major issues on the Ravens defense and in the secondary in particular. Week 16 may have simply been a case of veteran pride taking over to deliver an inspired performance against a divisional rival. McCarron and the Bengals may not have the upside of the Steelers offense, but they could deliver a performance more in line with what was expected from the Steelers against a Ravens team that could be spent after an emotional victory.
Brock Osweiler, $5,100
Brock Osweiler remains at the helm for the Broncos as they look to knock off the Chargers to secure a first round bye. The Chargers have been one of 2015’s disappointments, but have actually done a solid job against opposing quarterbacks by allowing only five passing touchdowns since their Week 10 bye. Quite simply, the Broncos need the win and Osweiler needs a strong performance to quiet the calls for Peyton Manning to take the reins back if he’s healed up for the playoffs. The calls for Manning will not go away completely, but Osweiler can make a strong case for classifying it as just media noise with a strong performance in the regular season finale.
Frank Gore, $4,000
A disappointing season for the Indianapolis Colts comes to a close this Sunday and will likely lead to several changes for the Colts. The Colts are incredibly banged up and have yet to decide on a starting quarterback for the regular season finale. When the options include Josh Freeman, Ryan Lindley and Stephen Morris, we can be fairly confident that we’ll see a heavy dose of the running game in Week 17, which leads us to Frank Gore as a top contrarian selection at running back. Gore delivered his finest performance of the season last week against the Dolphins and looks to be in line for another solid outing against the Titans, who he ran for two touchdowns against back in Week 3.
DeMarco Murray, $4,000
Speaking of 2015’s disappointments, the signing of DeMarco Murray has not delivered the anticipated results for the Eagles. It’s pretty fascinating that it was determined he didn’t quite fit into the Chip Kelly offense after making a substantial investment in his services, as opposed to perhaps attempting to determine that fact prior to signing him. Be that as it may, Kelly has been granted an early vacation and Pat Shurmur will handle coaching duties for the regular season finale. You don’t suppose he may want to show Eagles ownership that he’s the man to maximize Murray’s talents on Sunday, do you? This is definitely a contrarian play of a boom-bust nature, but a well-rested Murray with a heavy workload could deliver an outstanding return against a troubled Giants defense.
A.J. Green, $7,500
Building on the theory of AJ McCarron as a solid contrarian play, we arrive at A.J. Green as a solid contrarian candidate for Week 17. Green has been the recipient of two of McCarron’s four touchdown tosses over the past three games and should be in line for a healthy diet of targets against the Ravens. Adding to the intrigue of Green is the fact that his finest performance of 2015 came in Week 3 against these same Ravens, when he hauled in 10 balls for 227 yards and two scores. Granted, that was with Andy Dalton behind center, but he could find a decent measure of success against a porous Ravens secondary that may have shot their final bullet of the season against the Steelers in Week 16. McCarron and Green have developed some decent chemistry in their short time together and should build on it against the Ravens, making them an intriguing against the grain stack.
Jarvis Landry, $6,600
Jarvis Landry has been one of the only bright spots in a forgettable Dolphins season, as the target monster has caught 104 passes for 1,085 yards and five scores this season. Over the past three weeks alone, he has been targeted a whopping 39 times, hauling in 26 of them. There’s a pretty good chance that the Patriots will have their way with the Dolphins before pulling their starters, pointing us to some outstanding garbage time opportunities for Landry as the Dolphins attempt to catch up. Landry comes in at a very reasonable price of $6,600 and may have similar upside to Week 17’s more expensive wide receivers.
Zach Ertz, $3,600
Over the past three games, Zach Ertz has quietly crept up and become a large factor in the Eagles offense. His fantasy points production has risen as folows:14.8 points in Week 14, 21.8 points in Week 15 and 27.2 points last week against Washington. The Giants are at the bottom of the barrel in terms of covering tight ends by allowing 89 catches for 1,108 yards and nine scores to the position this season. One thing the Eagles may not want to change this week is a steady stream of targets heading Zach Ertz’s way.
Benjamin Watson, $4,600
The game between the Saints and Falcons has the highest projected total of the week at 53 points. We’ll definitely want some exposure to this game, but we can also expect to see some high ownership percentages for players from this game. For a little uniqueness, we’ll look to the second most highly-targeted Saint. Watson has put together a solid 2015 season by hauling in 66 of his 98 targets for 949 yards and three scores, good enough for an average of 12.0 points per game. We’ll look for him to exceed that output this week in a potential shootout.
New York Jets, $2,800
The Jets offense should receive plenty of attention for their Week 17 ‘win and in’ showdown with the Bills, but we’ll look to the defensive side of the ball for a contrarian play. The defense is averaging 9.0 points per game over the past three and has held all three opponents to 20 points or less. Although we can expect Rex Ryan to have his troops properly motivated for a date with his former employer, the Jets simply have much more to play for and should deliver an inspired performance on Sunday. Look for the Jets as an under the radar source of 10+ points at defense.
Dallas Cowboys, $2,100
Washington will be limiting snaps for their starters, providing a solid opportunity for the Cowboys to close out the season with a win and putting their defense in position to deliver a nice return on a salary of $2,100. We can expect plenty of attention to be paid to the expensive defenses of Week 17 as usual, but we’ll look to save some salary and see if we can nail down a low cost diamond in the rough by rostering the Cowboys.
That’s a wrap for The Contrarian for Week 17. It’s a difficult week to prepare for due to so many question marks, but by following the same successful principles we’ve used throughout the course of the season, we can place ourselves in position for some similar success. Best of luck this week!