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Greetings and welcome to Week 15! What follows is a weekly strategy guide covering the main slate of FanDuel guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). It will be available every Friday from now until the Super Bowl.
Thoughts on Chalk
Even though creating roster uniqueness has long been the default strategy for GPPs, there’s a reason why certain players hold the confidence of the public. Remember that fading a player simply because he’s popular checks in as one of the worst processes. You wouldn’t build a lineup full of chalk; nor should you ignore a great situation in the name of contrarianism. With that said, this section will be dedicated to finding reasons why you might consider fading the players listed below. Keep in mind that all of these players are expected to have big games, so outright fades are never recommended, and be sure to check out Steve Buzzard’s percent rostered projections.
QB: Andrew Luck - $8,100
Despite a challenging matchup, Luck tops our projected exposure percentages among quarterbacks. He’ll face a defense that has played incredible football down the stretch, effectively bailing out their shaky, mistake-prone offense numerous times. From a fantasy standpoint, the Cowboys have been strong, but not totally dominant, against quarterbacks. They’ve allowed 18.5 FanDuel points per game since Week 8, which puts them in about the middle of the pack. But Carson Wentz managed three scores last week, Colt McCoy managed two in Week 12 plus 268 yards, and back in Week 10, Wentz draped 360 yards and two scores on them while tossing one interception. They shut down both Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, but that’s not enough to scare us off.
Enter Luck, who has been outstanding this season. Only six quarterbacks have attempted more passes since Week 8, yet he ranks seventh in completion percentage and has parlayed those attempts into the fourth-most yards and third-most FanDuel points per game. The Colts offer one of the most pass-happy offenses, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Cowboys handle it. Dallas has found success by neutralizing opposing team’s best player, unafraid to put cornerbacks on running backs and tight ends, like they did with Alvin Kamara in Week 13 (11.2 FanDuel points), and Zach Ertz last week (6.3 FanDuel points). It wouldn’t be surprising to seem them attempt that this week and hope to remove Eric Ebron from the game while taking chances with T.Y. Hilton. If they’re successful, it might be a slow day at the track for Luck supporters. He’s a fine play thanks to his efficiency and multi-touchdown upside, but both of these teams present good/great defenses and the Cowboys’ offense, though obviously much better lately, isn’t the type to push over/under projections.
RB: Ezekiel Elliott - $8,800
His production and guaranteed volume, along with a lack of quality options at running back, combine to make Elliott the most popular play of the slate. There was some concern regarding the stinger he suffered last week, but all signs point to him playing. More concerning is his matchup as the Cowboys hit the road to take on one the NFL’s hottest teams. The Colts are cooking both offensively and defensively. Since their bye week, they’ve scored an average of 23.6 points per game despite getting shut out a few weeks ago, and have allowed only 17.4 points per game to opponents. Those opponents = the Jaguars (x2), Titans, Dolphins, and Texans, so not exactly a tough crowd. But the Cowboys, despite their recent surge, don’t inspire much awe offensively either.
Not that it matters for Elliott. He profiles as the team’s WR2 while also handling RB1 volume. Since Week 8, no player has more total touches and only two have more red zone opportunities. It’s awfully difficult to fade those numbers regardless of his price and popularity. It is worth noting, however, that this is not an easy situation. The Colts haven’t faced an elite RB1 all year besides Leonard Fournette (and Joe Mixon), but we shouldn’t ignore that they rank 26th in points per touch allowed, and even when you normalize their strength of schedule, they still allow the 11th fewest fantasy points per game to running backs over their last five. Again, Elliott can rise above all of these numbers; just something to think about if his expected roster percentage holds, even worse, grows.
WR: Amari Cooper - $6,600
Ridiculously priced, Cooper leads the league in receiving yards since joining the Cowboys in Week 9, and ranks seventh in targets and receptions. Over 61% of those yards and all but one of his touchdowns came in two games (Week 12 and Week 14). If you remove those two games, he looks a lot more like the player he was in Oakland for years. Of course, we’re not in the business of making sample sizes smaller. It’s clear that Cooper will continue to be a huge part of this offense going forward and his price makes him almost impossible to fade.
He’ll have a challenging matchup on his hands Sunday. The Colts have limited wide receivers to the sixth-fewest points per game. Previous competition includes DeAndre Hopkins twice (11.6 and 27.9 FanDuel points), Corey Davis (3.9), Josh Gordon (12), Julian Edelman (9.2) Keke Coutee (16.2), Will Fuller (12.9), A.J. Green (16.2), and Tyler Boyd (4.1). That’s not a Murderer’s Row by any means, but it at least provides some context for the quality of the Colts’ secondary. We should also keep in mind that Dak Prescott is not a good passer and he could disappear on any given Sunday. The crowd, as evidenced by every player here in the chalk section, is going to be all over this game. GPP strategy urges us to look elsewhere and limit our exposure to players like Cooper, even though his salary provides a lot of building options. Get him in a few lineups to hedge but come in under the crowd.
TE: Eric Ebron - $6,500
As mentioned under the Luck blurb above, the Cowboys are unafraid to lineup cornerbacks on tight ends, such as they did with Ertz last week. That will be harder for them to do against the Colts thanks to Hilton, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them try it anyway. Ebron represents a massive chunk of the Colts’ offense. Over the last three weeks, only six players including wide receivers have drawn more targets. That kind of volume almost justifies his highly projected exposure percentage, which could come close to representing a third of the field. The Cowboys’ season-long stats against tight ends, where they rank 11th in FanDuel points per game allowed and third in total receptions, are sure to influence the crowd even more. But if you believe the Cowboys defense will focus on Ebron and make Luck beat them somewhere else, then you should come in way under with your exposure.
Core players need no explanation: they are the meat and potatoes of lineups. Developing a list and building around them is DFS Strategy 101.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger - $8,600
We need to pack Roethlisberger’s injury concerns into our decision making before committing, but all signs seem to guarantee that he plays. A rib injury is no joke and you have to wonder if it will be a factor, especially after he endures a few hits on Sunday. But the matchup alone outweighs the injury/bad performance because of injury risks:
|Patrick Mahomes II II||6||23||36||352||4||2||2||9||0||28.98||9000|
Cousins failed us in this spot a couple of weeks ago, but the Patriots have otherwise been a reliable source for fantasy points. On the season, only six teams have allowed more FanDuel points per game to the position, most of which come from the Patriots’ inability to keep quarterbacks from throwing touchdown passes. Roethlisberger happens to throw a lot of touchdowns, ranking third in that category since Week 8 despite missing most of last week’s game. Almost guaranteeing those touchdowns, the Steelers own the league’s highest passing rate of all teams, which is why he ranks second in yards per game. Not that you need much convincing to roster him in this spot. One of two late afternoon games, the Patriots welcome Pittsburgh to New England with the slate’s highest over/under (52 points). Both teams rank top-11 in pace with New England ranking third, and both teams rank top-six in total points, total yards, plays run by offense, and neither team allows many sacks, ranking bottom-five in sack percentage. Normally, it’s wise to search for under-the-radar games and hope they hit, but feel free to load up on this one starting with Roethlisberger.
QB: Tom Brady - $7,900
In addition to the team stats noted under Roethlisberger’s blurb, the Patriots rank fifth in success rate and have generated at least 400 yards on offense in three straight games. If you choose not to go with Roethlisberger, Brady jumps off the page as a solid option against a defense that just allowed Derek Carr to dump 322 yards and two scores on them while completing 73.5% of his 34 passes. Brady enters Week 15 ranked only 18th in FanDuel points per game since Week 8, but he was finally pushed into volume last week and responded with 358 yards and three touchdowns—his second consecutive 300-yard game. Per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the Steelers represent the league’s seventh-best rushing defense while ranking 21st against the pass, setting up an obvious funnel situation for the Patriots’ offense despite their ability to ground-and-pound at will.
The most challenging part of this matchup is picking Brady’s stacking-mate. Edelman is the volume guy (more on him later), Rob Gronkowski is the touchdown guy, Gordon is the upside guy, and James White is the contrarian option. Edelman and Gronkowski make the most sense given their respective matchups, but this is a situation where you might ride Brady alone and not worry about stacking his offense since he could easily spread four touchdowns between four different players and cap everyone’s ceiling except his own.
RB: Joe Mixon - $7,800
With A.J. Green out of the picture, Mixon handled 31 touches and racked up 138 total yards and one score last week. Cincinnati was surprisingly competitive despite missing their starting quarterback and WR1. They should be competitive this week again against the Raiders, who have allowed more rushing yards than all but two other teams and the seventh-most yards per game to running backs. We always talk about the big names and their elite volume, Mixon deserves a part in that conversation. Since Week 8, he ranks sixth in market share of carries, ninth in rushing yards, and 10th in total yards and touches. He doesn’t carry a lot of receiving upside or touchdown upside, but the latter seems bankable against this soft Raiders’ front.
Of course, the Bengals offense is quite bad, and their offensive line brings questions marks thanks to injuries and inconsistencies. So, this isn’t exactly a smash-spot for Mixon. But he is a home-favorite who has a near monopoly on the backfield and comes with a reasonable price tag considering the situation. Don’t sweat his projected roster percentage or the uneasy nature of his offense.
RB: Dalvin Cook - $6,200
Cook finally looks like he’s regained full health after handling 17 and 18 touches over his last two games. He’s become a fixture in the passing attack, mostly because Kirk Cousins has had zero time to look downfield for his receivers. Cook’s 17 targets over the last two weeks tie him for the most among all Vikings players and only two running backs have seen more. With the Dolphins coming to town fresh off of an outstanding upset of the Patriots, we should bet on even more work for Cook in a game that both teams absolutely must win. The Dolphins have allowed the fourth most yards to running backs, 690 of which have come via the pass (11th most), and include six receiving touchdowns (tied first most). Here’s to hoping the removal of John DeFilippo as Vikings offensive coordinator ushers in a more creative game plan that makes full use of Cook’s skill set.
We do need to keep in mind that neither of these offenses can be trusted, so this game could bust. But that also means there’s less of a chance that a blow out happens on either side, which neutralizes the game script. For $6,200, Cook is a risk worth taking in a premium matchup.
RB: Jaylen Samuels - $5,500
If James Conner ends up playing, apply this section to him and feel free to lock him in as one of your core builds. If he doesn’t play, Samuels sets up with a positive game script and should return a better box score than he did last week. It looked like he was going to crush all of us when Stevan Ridley snuck in for an early touchdown. But Samuels ended up handling 80% of snaps and drew seven targets in the process that he parlayed into 64 receiving yards. He also carried the ball 11 times (Ridley carried it only five) for 28 yards. In the end, he provided over 12 FanDuel points, which wasn’t terrible considering his $4,600 price tag. He’s obviously a lot more expensive this week, but he gets a good matchup against a Patriots’ defense that’s allowed the 12th-most receiving yards and 10th-most receptions to running backs. They’re also allowing nearly five yards per attempt—the fourth-highest rate in the league. With a script that promises lots of targets and a game that promises lots of points, Samuels is a great low-priced option and worthy stacking considerations with Roethlisberger.
WR: Davante Adams - $8,500
It seems likely that the crowd is going to avoid this game completely after how bad the Bears’ offense looked last week and how inconsistent the Packers’ have looked all season. Making matters more challenging for Adams is the Bears’ rough-and-tumble defense known for slapping offensive linemen around and shortening the time quarterbacks have to throw. But for all their accolades, only the Saints have allowed fewer receptions to wide receivers and only eight teams have allowed more FanDuel points per game. We’ve seen this unit struggle at times this season, including against the Packers way back in Week 1 when Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, and Adams combined for 299 yards and three scores (one each). The matchup isn’t a walk in the park but it’s far from discouraging.
And besides, Adams is as matchup-proof as they come. He ranks top-five in every stat that matters (targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and fantasy points) since Week 8, and ranks first in touchdown opportunities among wide receivers. Considering he has only two games where he scored multiple touchdowns, he probably feels more like a cash-play than a tournament-winner, but this is one of those games where we should place our chips on the over hitting (45 points) mostly thanks to the Packers’ offense. Hopefully, rational coaching will prevail, and Adams gets extra time in the slot, where the Bears will attempt to replace Bryce Callahan with Sherrick McManis. Either way, he’s a risky tournament bet that could pay off big while the crowd isn’t looking.
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster - $7,800
While Ryan Switzer is technically the slot receiver for Pittsburgh (and could be an interesting GPP option), Smith-Schuster spends plenty of time in that spot himself. This is important because the Patriots bleed yards and touchdowns to the slot. Only the Lions and Buccaneers have allowed more yards, and no team has allowed more touchdowns. All things being equal, the Patriots have been solid against wide receivers for most of the year. But they’ll have their hands full with the Steelers’ pass-happy offense.
Smith-Schuster, of course, has been a massive part of their success. On the season, he ranks fifth in targets, sixth in catches, and fourth in receiving yards, which is saying a lot considering he shares the offense with Antonio Brown. His six touchdowns leave a lot to be desired, but he has logged four since Week 10, which is more than all receivers not named Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, or Amari Cooper, who have five apiece. His 562 receiving yards over that stretch ranks third, while his targets and receptions both rank second. He’s a solid play and the top stacking partner for Roethlisberger, even if there’s a chance Brown steals the show. To that end, a classic Roethlisberger/Schuster/Brown stack yields a high-floor and high-ceiling without sacrificing your floor.
WR: Julian Edelman - $7,200
Since rejoining his team in Week 5, Edelman ranks 10th in targets among all players and 15th among wide receivers in FanDuel points per game. He drew 12 targets in a high-volume situation last week, parlaying them into nine catches for 86 yards and one touchdown. He’s set up in another great spot this week for both volume and production, as the Steelers have been repeatedly ripped by slot receivers. When in the slot, he figures to make his money against Mike Hilton, who has allowed the 10th most yards among all nickelbacks per Pro Football Focus. Even when out of the slot, he should have no trouble navigating the Steelers’ vulnerable secondary while drawing another heavy target share in a game that shapes up as the promising of the slate. Since Week 8, only four receivers own a higher market share of targets and only Adams has drawn more red zone opportunities. We already mentioned that Brady looks like a solid play, and even though you don’t need to necessarily stack him with anyone, Edelman makes a ton of sense at a reasonable price tag.
TE: Jared Cook - $6,300
Perhaps one of the best plays on the slate, Cook checks in as the ultimate pivot from super-chalk Ebron. Cook saw 10 targets last week and now ranks 17th among all players since Week 10 in that category. He has logged back-to-back 100-yard games and has scored three touchdowns in his last four. Up next is a cake-walk defense that’s permitted the third-most FanDuel points per game to tight ends. It’s difficult to muster much confidence in the Raiders’ offense, but they pulled off an upset of the Steelers last week and nearly beat the Chiefs two weeks ago. Cook was a major part of both efforts and should be in line for a solid box score on Sunday as the default WR1 for Carr.
Atlanta Falcons - $4,000
The Falcons defense still tends to get destroyed by quarterbacks, but they’ve looked better lately and now welcome Josh Rosen and the Cardinals awful offense to Atlanta. No team has scored fewer points, produced fewer yards, ran fewer players, or managed a lower success rate than the Cardinals. You’re betting on a low-scoring game and praying for a lucky turnover returned for a score if you roster the Falcons, who aren’t good bets for takeaways or sacks. But this is a fine week to plug in their affordable salary and grab a decent floor while you’re at it.
New York Giants - $3,500
Since Week 10, The Giants have logged 14 sacks and 12 turnovers—three of which they parlayed into defensive touchdowns. Add it all up and you find FanDuel’s third-highest scoring defense. Week 15 ushers in an interesting opponent that looks great one week and terrible the next. The Titans are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and have permitted the highest sack percentage of all teams. They’ve been great lately, but Marcus Mariota runs hot/cold and is liable for multiple interceptions and sacks on any given Sunday. That makes the Giants an intriguing tournament play, especially given their price and projected ownership.
Similar to sleepers, contrarian players are those the crowd has completely mispriced and undervalued. In some cases, it’s a player coming off an injury or facing a difficult matchup but still carries a heavy price tag. In other cases, it could be a player that has struggled recently and therefore deemed untrustworthy. In all cases, guard your exposure to players listed in this section but get them in at least a few lineups.
QB: Aaron Rodgers - $8,100
You can dig all you want, good luck finding any meaningful stats that justify rostering Rodgers against this Bears’ defense. They’ve been absolutely brutal on opposing passers, having allowed only 20 touchdowns to 25 interceptions and one of the league’s lowest completion rates (61.6%). Perhaps we should just leave well enough alone and move on to different/better matchups. But Rodgers crushed this defense back in Week 1. So did Brock Osweiler in Week 6 (28 FanDuel points), and Tom Brady in Week 7 (22.7 FanDuel points). In fact, their competition in general has been rather mediocre thanks to the passing “attacks” of the (Sam Bradford-led) Cardinals, the Jets, the Lions (twice), the Bills, the Giants, and most recently, a terrible showing by Jared Goff and Co. That puts the Bears’ success into context. Not that we should dismiss what they’ve accomplished—this is no walk in the park for Rodgers—but if his projected ownership stays below 5%, we’d be wise to throw him into a few contrarian stacks with Adams. In doing so, we take a firm stand that says this game will easily hit the over/under of 45 points and may even turn into a shootout. All we need is for Mitchell Trubisky to rebound after last week’s catastrophe and take advantage of the soft matchup in front of him. If that scenario plays out, Rodgers (and Trubisky) could swing tournaments.
RB: Kenneth Dixon - $5,700
For whatever coach speak is worth, John Harbaugh expects Dixon’s role “to grow going forward.” That likely signifies that they’re done feeding Gus Edwards, who has been dealing with injuries. One these backs figure to have a solid day against the Buccaneers, who have allowed the fourth-most FanDuel points per game to running backs and a combined 20 touchdowns, which ties the Bengals for most of the season. We’d like to use a quarterback in this situation, but with Joe Flacco allegedly healthy, it’s hard to trust Lamar Jackson, who could get benched at any minute. Dixon is in a similar situation in that we can’t project him to lead the team in carries, but if his role does indeed grow from last week (32% of snaps and nine touches), then he’s well worth his affordable salary considering the matchup.
WR: Larry Fitzgerald - $6,000
It’s never a good feeling to watch rosters lock on Sunday and see that you have any part of the Cardinals’ offense. They’re the black hole from which no fantasy points emerge and certainly no tournament winners. We’ve learned that time after time this season while chasing David Johnson in strong matchups. He has a great matchup this week, but even with a ton of volume over his last four games, he ranks 22nd in FanDuel points.
The same is true for Fitzgerald minus the volume. Once a target vacuum, Fitzgerald is on pace to nearly set career lows in targets and receptions. But we saw signs of life last week after he drew nine targets and managed 55 yards on five catches against a shaky Lions’ secondary. He gets an even shakier secondary this week. The Falcons have improved lately, but they still struggle to keep wide receivers out of the end zone, having allowed more touchdowns than every team except the 49ers. Fitzgerald projects to spend most of his day against slot corner Brian Poole, who, according to Pro Football Focus, has allowed the 11th-most yards and the second-most touchdowns among slot corners, and a healthy 120.4 passer rating. If ever there were a week for Fitzgerald to explode and swing tournaments, it’s this one.
WR: Isaiah McKenzie - $5,100
While there’s a lot to love about both Zay Jones and Robert Foster, McKenzie offers a speedy dual-threat that gets a beautiful matchup (assuming Jones draws shadow coverage from Darius Slay). The Lions have allowed the most FanDuel points per target to wide receivers and a healthy 69.4% catch rate. We can’t expect volume in this game, but McKenzie should continue to enjoy a heavy snap share while earning reps out of the backfield. He drew seven targets last week and has run the third-most routes of all Bills since Week 12. A risky play, he doesn’t need much to pay off his salary.
TE: Evan Engram - $5,200
With Odell Beckham sidelined, Engram finally earned a spotlight in the Giants offense last week. He drew five targets and led the team in receiving with 77 yards. Beckham looks iffy once again this week, setting Engram up with another chance to draw a healthy target share. His upcoming matchup isn’t pretty. The Titans have allowed only 6.1 FanDuel points per game to tight ends—the least among all teams. But context, as always, shines light on the situation. Outside of Eric Ebron (who they held without a catch) and Zach Ertz (who wrecked them with 10 catches for 112 yards) the Titans haven’t faced any tight ends of note. Engram isn’t a tight end of note thanks to the Giants offense, but there’s no denying that he is one of the most athletic players at his position and has the skill set to take advantage of defenses when given the opportunity. He should get said opportunity this week and may even come away with a touchdown despite a seemingly challenging matchup.
Def: Indianapolis Colts - $3,600
So much of the chalk this week has filtered towards both offenses in the Cowboys/Colts tilt that it makes sense cut against the grain and roster the Colts’ defense. For as good as Dallas’s offense has played recently, we should acknowledge the fact that Prescott has endured 14 sacks over their last three games while losing five turnovers. Meanwhile, the Colts rank 11th in sack percentage and are tied for the eighth-most takeaways on defense. They’re good against the run and mediocre against the pass—the exact opposite of the Cowboys’ typical playbook. Prescott will likely be forced into volume and deliver turnovers accordingly. Fire up the Colts as a salary-saving and potentially tournament-swinging contrarian play.