Light It Up
I’m writing this on a made-up commercial holiday. Black Friday is every cliché about the American way of life, compressed into a 24-hour window the day after we’re supposed to reflect on all that we are thankful for. We are encouraged, if not urged, to spend our hard-earned and overtaxed dollars on supposed bargains for the greater economic good.
With an eggnog mustache and gravy stains on my sweater, I’ll be haunting the dark alleys of Amazon today. I prefer avoiding the droves of zombies on the hunt for a $300 HiSense TV with a credit card they haven’t even peeled the sticker off of. Plus, I don’t need worry about a cranky old lady pulling her mask down to sneeze on me at Best Buy if I don’t leave my living room
I will have to climb a ladder in my bearskin slippers today to pull Christmas decorations down from the attic. We eventually opted out of chopping down our own natural tree for a pre-lit artificial one a few years ago. I miss the outing and how undeniably sexy I look carrying an axe in a plaid shirt, but I don’t miss my old dog hiking his leg to mark the tree (and gifts) every day until we yeet the spider-filled fire hazard into the street.
If my house wasn’t so pretty all lit up with Christmas lights, I probably would think twice about risking my life by getting on the steep pitch of my second-story roof (also in my bearskin slippers) to hang them. The risks I take in DFS contests don’t involve the loss of life or limb, but there aren’t many people that will drive by and roll their window down to ooooh and ahhhh at my DraftKings lineups.
The main slate is trimmed down to a mere 10 games this week, making it skinnier than Devonta Smith. This is a good thing for playing cash games, limiting the variance of high volume players. We will attack this slate with the same process as always, leaning more on the conservative side with top-heavy salary distribution. Some of our cash picks really smashed as GPP standouts last week, just as we predicted. Expect scoring to be down this week, by comparison. The volume-based formula will be integral to winning on Sunday.
Week 12 Cash Plays
I have a slightly different view from the consensus on how to build winning cash lineups. Instead of focusing on players with a “high floor,” I instead focus on their expected workload. These players often have that safe floor as a result of the VOLUME of opportunities, but they also have a higher likelihood of returning the 3x+ value that most cash games require to end the day above the pay line. A smart cash player has to always consider ceiling as a part of the equation, just maybe weighted lighter than if building for a GPP. I ask myself the same question every time: Does this player’s expected volume of opportunities (EVO) have high odds of accomplishing 3 points per salary dollar, divided by 1,000 (x=3[y/1000]).
KEY INGREDIENT*** — SECRET INGREDIENT*
TOM BRADY: @ INDIANAPOLIS ($7,600)
He might be older than one of my uncles, but Tommy is arguably the MVP frontrunner at this point of the NFL season. Nobody has been as consistent at hitting ceiling games and the 3-point bonus as the GOAT. Indy’s pass coverage has suffered this season after a litany of injuries. They are also a pass funnel defense.
JALEN HURTS: @ NY GIANTS ($7,300)
After three straight games under 10 points on DK, Hurts put up a monster ground game for over 30 against the Saints. The Giants are a rudderless embarrassment of a team and will get shellacked in this divisional game. Some concern might be how run-heavy the Eagles have been during this hot streak, but Hurts is a big part of why it’s working.
KIRK COUSINS: @ SAN FRANCISCO ($6,300)
Cousins is quietly having a remarkable season, highlighted by peak efficiency. I keep waiting for him to turn back into a late-November pumpkin like he always does, but he has been solid. The 49ers have shown signs of life on defense lately, but the weaponry that Cousins has around him is frightening.
JOE BURROW: VS PITTSBURGH ($6,200)***
This will be the most exciting game to watch on the slate. The Bengals’ offense is really clicking this season, even when their defense has been very inconsistent. I expect Burrow to attack this weakened Steelers back end relentlessly with all of his great receivers. They might also be more pass-heavy this week to meter down Joe Mixon’s workload.
CAM NEWTON: @ MIAMI ($5,600)
Cam Newton should have seen a huge hike in his DK salary, but now he’s going to be all sorts of chalk against the Dolphins at this price. Miami’s defense has improved, but Newton is fantasy gold at this value. Don’t be afraid to build your lineup around Cam and two stud running backs.
MATT RYAN: @ JACKSONVILLE ($5,500)
Matt Ryan is ticking me off this year. Some weeks he looks like a vintage muscle car, flying down the field with ease. Other weeks, he looks like every other Boston College quarterback in history except for Doug Flutie. The Jags can’t bring out bad Matt Ryan, can they?
TYROD TAYLOR: VS NY JETS ($5,300)
In the same vein as Cam Newton, these value-priced mobile quarterbacks will be very popular in GPP contests, but will allow you to pile more studs into your cash lineups with the top-heavy salary scales. The Jets don’t play defense, so I have plenty of confidence in Taylor’s ability to hit 18-20 points.
CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY: @ MIAMI ($9,000)
Fade Jonathan Taylor?! After what we just witnessed? Yes. Every week deserves a new evaluation for DFS. I was wrong in expecting the Colts to be trailing Buffalo last week. I have the same prediction for this week against the Bucs. Tampa Bay should roll Indy, pushing for more of a Nyheim Hines game. The Bills don’t have a guy named Vita Vea either. Miami is horrible against opposing running backs and CMC is slightly cheaper. I’ll take the path of least resistance in cash.
NAJEE HARRIS: @CINCINNATI ($8,200)
Volume pays the bills in cash games and few touch the ball more times per game than Najee. The Bengals have also been a sieve against the run, which should boost Harris a bit behind his suspect offensive line. I’m really hoping for a nice shootout here, bringing Najee’s receiving upside back into focus.
JAMES ROBINSON: VS ATLANTA ($6,200)***
JRob sure looked healthy to me last week. He got bottled up against a tough 49ers run defense, but still found the end zone late. The Falcons are pitiful up front and even the Jags should be able to physically impose their will on the ground. At this salary, I will be way over the field on JRob.
JAVONTE WILLIAMS: VS LA CHARGERS ($5,200)
Every week could be the week that Javonte Williams leaves Melvin Gordon in the dust. To Gordon’s credit, he has been just as productive (albeit much less efficient). The Chargers have been run on plenty this season, refusing to load the box to prevent big passing plays. This bodes well for physical runners like Williams to break some big plays and find the end zone at least once.
MILES SANDERS: @ NY GIANTS ($5,100)
Could it be? Are the Eagles finally featuring their best running back? Despite dropping his only target and losing a fumble, Sanders had a season-high 16 carries for 94 yards. That was against a stout Saints run defense. The Birds get the pathetic, comically-terrible Giants this week. They might run for 500 yards on this team. At only $5.1k, Sanders is bound to produce at a value.
DONTRELL HILLIARD: @ NEW ENGLAND ($4,600)
Remember when we were marveling over the Titans’ offense in the preseason? Derrick Henry: OUT. Julio Jones: OUT. AJ Brown: OUT. This isn’t fun anymore. Hilliard had 15 touches (8 catches) last week in a stunning reversal of touch distribution in this backfield. While we have to listen to the Patriots fans pleasure themselves to a short winning streak against bad teams, the Titans are still good enough to beat them. Hilliard will get enough high value touches to hit at this price.
TY JOHNSON*: @ HOUSTON ($4,300)
I love this guy as a player. I also love Michael Carter, but he is inactive this week. Ty Johnson is an explosive back who will give the Texans defense fits on Sunday. Down at this salary, I will not hesitate to pull the trigger on an under-appreciated Jets player.
DAVANTE ADAMS: VS LA RAMS ($8,600)
I don’t give a hoot if Adams is covered by Deion Sanders himself, I’m playing his volume in cash, especially at a cool G less than Cooper Kupp in the same game. Matt LaFleur is a master at moving Davante around the formation to scheme him the ball (see last season). With the Ramsey fear, Adams is also a decent tournament play.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON: @ SAN FRANCISCO ($8,300)
With the way that the Vikings are rolling on offense at the moment, it makes no sense to walk away from the Jefferson heater. Mike Zimmer was peeved when it was leaked that they were planning to get the second-year pro out of LSU more involved, but the results have been nonetheless spectacular. The 49ers’ defense has been decent of late, but they don’t have a particularly strong coverage unit to limit Jefferson and Thielen.
KEENAN ALLEN: @ DENVER ($7,400)
We are finally seeing signs of life from this Chargers’ offense, after four down games. As the coaching staff releases their strangle hold on the playbook for Justin Herbert, the young Duck has been slicing and dicing defenses. Allen is his favorite option, as evidenced last week. Denver isn’t the worst defense, but it has been marred by inconsistent play. Bank on Allen’s target volume in this one.
JA’MARR CHASE: VS PITTSBURGH ($7,300)
This might only be the first or second time that the LSU standout rookie has made the cash list. He has been the ultimate cheat code for tournament play, but his volume is just now inching toward my threshold. The excitement and extreme skill level he puts on the field every week forced me to attack this play against the Steelers, who don’t have a healthy secondary. Burrow to Chase will be a killer stack once again.
CHRIS GODWIN: @ INDIANAPOLIS ($7,000)
Godwin is really on a roll these days with Antonio Brown recovering from a bad ankle injury. Now add in Mike Evans’ nagging back injury and Brady will have even more reason to attack the mismatches created by Godwin in the slot. Gronk’s return to play also helps the Penn State grad, by freeing up the seam and drawing attention in the red zone. The Colts will have no answers for this passing game, with the lion’s share of volume going to Godwin.
DEVONTA SMITH: @ NY GIANTS ($6,400)***
The Slim Reaper has been everything his nickname implies this season. Even with the Birds’ new emphasis on the physical running game, Smith has been the bread winner in the passing game. His elite route running has given Jalen Hurts more than enough space to fit the ball into. Smitty has also shown off a surprising penchant for making spectacular catches, which is the cherry on top for DFS.
DJ MOORE: @ MIAMI ($6,200)
Any time I can get an elite receiver down here in this bracket, I’m going to smash it. Cam Newton puts a ton of stress on opposing defenses as a dual threat. Christian McCaffrey returning adds another behemoth assignment to the front seven. As we saw last week, this frees up Moore to use his elite athleticism to make space plays all over the field in Joe Brady’s offense. Miami has no chance this week.
BRANDIN COOKS: VS NY JETS ($5,800)
Once again, I am returning to the underpriced Brandin Cooks well. I am wishing for another 10-target game against a dreadful Jets’ defense. I’ll get it this week, at an even greater value than before. As the attention draws to other games, I’ll also be stacking this game for its shootout potential.
ELIJAH MOORE: @ HOUSTON ($5,600)
Moore has gone from an exciting rookie GPP pick to an NFL alpha receiver in the matter of four weeks. As the alpha, you shouldn’t worry about the re-insertion of Zach Wilson at quarterback. There isn’t a lot more than bad timing that explains why Moore wasn’t as much of a factor with Wilson at the helm. This pair will be dropping bombs for years to come.
TEE HIGGINS: VS PITTSBURGH ($5,400)
Just like DK’s pricing algorithm finally came around on D’Andre Swift, they are taking their time putting some respect on Tee Higgins’ name. No bother to me. The target volume has been immense to match the Clemson product’s talent. Sometimes, residing in a teammate’s shadow is a great thing for DFS.
BRANDON AIYUK: VS MINNESOTA ($5,300)
While you were sleeping on the East Coast, the 49ers have been shifting their offensive balance of power. With Aiyuk sneaking out of the Shanahan doghouse, plus the healthy return of George Kittle, San Francisco is scheming running back work to keep Deebo Samuel involved. The passing is spread out, which has freed up the more talented receiver (Aiyuk) to make big plays like last season. The Vikings can’t stop anyone, so I’ll take this value and run.
ODELL BECKHAM JR: @ GREEN BAY ($5,000)
OBJ in cash? Yeah, it has been established that I’m insane. What is also established is that you can generally trust Sean McVay this season. He stated earlier this week that Beckham would be a “huge factor” in this week’s game plan. With the dearth of receiving talent around he and Cooper Kupp in the wake of Woods’ injury, I will lean on this offense because the price is definitely right.
LAVISKA SHENAULT JR: VS ATLANTA ($4,400)
It’s been a bumpy road to say the least for Viska truthers like myself. The injury bug has plagued this Jags receiving corps another time, placing Shenault right back into the slash role he should have had from the beginning. There have also been statements about him lining up as a running back like Deebo Samuel. It might be 12 weeks too late for season-long fantasy, but for DFS, it’s a screaming value.
GEORGE KITTLE: VS MINNESOTA ($6,400)
This isn’t spending up. This is a nice price for a tight end with 30-point upside against the lowly Vikings. Don’t overthink it. If you have the salary, punch it in.
KYLE PITTS: @ JACKSONVILLE ($6,100)***
You didn’t think he would disappear, did you? Pitts is back on the map this week, after a couple brutal matchups. Matt Ryan is the catalyst. He shouldn’t look too terrible against a bad Jags’ defense. Pitts will find the end zone this week and crack 100 receiving yards.
NOAH FANT: VS LA CHARGERS ($4,600)
The Chargers funnel everything to the middle of the field on defense. This is why they are very tough against wide receivers, but bad against the run and against the tight end position. Fant is on the verge of a massive game. I’d bet he’s ready for it to be this one.
DAN ARNOLD: VS ATLANTA ($4,000)
A cash play with zero targets last week? Yes, I correctly faded Arnold last week, but now we’re back because it’s the Falcons and they don’t really have many other options to throw to anymore. It was a weird donut, but tight ends have those on occasion.
RYAN GRIFFIN: @ HOUSTON ($2,600)
I don’t usually punt tight end if I can help it for cash, but this is a prime example of DK simply not paying attention to the Jets’ passing game. Griffin is a reliable threat with steady volume. The return of Zach Wilson makes this even better.