Trinkets and Baubles
December is here again. With the holiday season in full swing, my family is also celebrating my in-laws’ 40th anniversary and my nephew’s birthday early in the month. That’s also the precursor to the 29th, where my sister, daughter, close friend Vince (the one who first called me Big Time), and Matthew Berry celebrate their birthday. December is also a special month for football, with the NFL playoff race and college bowl season, but I’ll beg your pardon if I seem distant. I have a lot of things to juggle and stress about.
My daughter will be nine years old this year. She’s as sharp as they come and was gifted with an old soul, full of wisdom beyond her years. She also inherited my inability to pick up after myself in a timely manner. The kid is a tornado of crafting, drawings, video games, and stuffed animals. It took her and I two hours to clean her room last night. We folded clothes and had piles of stuff to throw away, donate to charity, and relocate. In the end, she still staunchly refused to throw away an old Amazon box with a blanket and a couple toys, where our cat Juney “occasionally sleeps when I kick her off the bed.” The cat never sleeps in that box, but tossing it was crossing the line.
Where am I going with this? Let’s just say that I might be too quick to throw things away, while Addison is reluctant to let anything go. I’ve seen too many episodes of Hoarders to think that this behavior is healthy, but maybe it’s better to compromise instead of picking this particular hill to die on. We will make another sweep through with a donation box before another double wave of gifts washes ashore at the end of the month. A couple years ago, her idea was just to “buy a bigger house.” It makes me chuckle (and shudder) to think back at the look of concern my wife and I shared with one another when she suggested that.
In fantasy football, and DFS, it’s a double-edged sword. If you cast away positive notions about a player too soon, you might miss out on future breakout performances. Should you hold onto fond memories of winning with someone, you might also be blinded to potential pitfalls that can cost you down the road. Many were hating on Joe Mixon after an injury-plagued 2020. He’s been in six perfect DFS lineups this season already. I keep trying to shoe-horn Laviska Shenault into lineups because he’s “too good and too cheap.” He hasn’t won me anything. I guess the message this week is, “keep an open mind.” Do I think Alexander Mattison, Myles Gaskin, and Foster Moreau are very good at football? Not exactly. They are still very likely to return value in DFS cash games on the Week 13 NFL main slate.
Week 13 is one of the biggest slates for value plays we’ve had this season. DK salaries are largely inclusive, meaning that there are so many good plays for cash because there aren’t many players too expensive to roster for their expected output. FanDuel is famous for this type of pricing, which I don’t tend to like. Whittling down your roster to the best players will be challenging. The volume-based EVO model should help you do that very thing.
Week 13 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*
LAMAR JACKSON: @ PITTSBURGH ($7,800)
Lamar hasn’t looked like himself the last couple of weeks, culminating with his four interceptions in the last game. He still has a truly elite rushing floor and ceiling and faces a terrible Steelers secondary. Jackson also tends to play very well against the Steelers. I don’t expect Pittsburgh to have the scheme or personnel to confuse Lamar like the Browns did.
MATTHEW STAFFORD: VS JACKSONVILLE ($7,300)
Stafford has recoiled back into a Detroit-like shell the last few weeks. The Jags haven’t been terrible against opposing quarterbacks this season, but they really don’t match up well with this LA passing attack. A hobbled Darrell Henderson will also push the Rams to air it out with Kupp, Beckham (if healthy), Jefferson, and even Higbee.
TOM BRADY: @ ATLANTA ($7,200)
On a normal slate, this would be a nasty, chalky mess. With all the values on the board for Week 13, however, Brady stands to rebound after relinquishing all of his touchdowns to the running backs last week. Atlanta will get destroyed in this game, one way or the other. It’s doubtful that all of the touchdowns will miss Brady once again.
JALEN HURTS: @ NY JETS ($7,000)
Coming into this game, Hurts…hurts. He is dealing with a sore ankle, which might limit his rushing ability. On the other hand, I expect the running backs and receivers to have such a field day that Hurts will score a ton of fantasy points by dispersing the ball to his weapons.
KIRK COUSINS: @ DETROIT ($6,500)
Keeping with the theme of potent passing attacks matching up with horrible defenses, the Vikings will head to Ford Field to beat up on the Lions. Cousins won’t have the dynamic presence of Dalvin Cook to take pressure off of him, so there will be an uptick in passing volume to Jefferson and Thielen against one of the league’s worst pass defenses. Mattison is Cook Ultra-Lite, but is very capable as a receiver out of the backfield to help Cousins further.
DEREK CARR: VS WASHINGTON ($6,000)
Washington’s schedule has really lightened up lately, which has made their defense look less like trash. The Raiders offense has been remarkably consistent this season, especially through the air. Carr has been a prolific passer, even if the touchdowns haven’t come through as well in the last couple of games. It’s safe to say Carr will pass for over 300 yards in this one, with a couple scores to boot.
TAYLOR HEINICKE: @ LAS VEGAS ($5,600)
Across the field from Carr is a less-consistent (but more athletic) option at quarterback that saves $400 in salary. Vegas’ secondary has been tough on bad teams and abysmal against good teams. Washington slots somewhere in the middle, especially with Logan Thomas back off the IR to alleviate coverage on Terry McLaurin.
TUA TAGOVAILOA: VS NY GIANTS ($5,500)***
The accuracy stats should surprise no one. Tua has been laser-precise all the way back to his freshman year at Alabama. Multiple teams tanked to be able to draft him. Now that he is more than a year removed from a catastrophic hip injury, he is dialed in. Miami has put some weaponry around him, namely Waddle and Gesicki. There is no way the Giants can slow down the Dolphins. Miami’s weakness is their offensive line, and the Giants have zero pass rush to exploit it.
TYROD TAYLOR: VS INDIANAPOLIS ($5,300)
Tyrod hasn’t been entirely consistent this season, especially after his stint on the IR with a bad hamstring. He is, however, underpriced this week against a Colts defense that is a wonderful pass funnel. Indy will be ahead early in this game, putting Tyrod squarely in garbage time hero territory for Sunday.
JONATHAN TAYLOR: @ HOUSTON ($9,200)
We all dreamed about this bell cow role for JT. Now that it is truly happening every week, he has become the belle of the ball for running back production. Indy will continue to bludgeon defenses with their great o-line and Taylor. After two “bad” matchups, where JT still feasted, an all-green date with the Texans is dilating my pupils.
AUSTIN EKELER: @ CINCINNATI ($8,300)
He may not be a “household name,” but Ekeler is up there with JT as one of the most consistently-dominant running backs in the game today. His health is part of that equation, but even the toughest matchups haven’t hampered his production in PPR formats. The previously touchdown-challenged Ekeler already has 14 this season.
JOE MIXON: VS LA CHARGERS ($8,100)
Once the most polarizing figures in all of fantasy sports, Mixon is now one of three elite running backs who has not been bitten by the ultra-venomous injury bug. Most of the knocks on Mixon after last season were surrounding how supposedly “injury prone” he is. The 2021 version is getting a bell cow workload without so much as a whimper. He now has a date with the league’s best run funnel defense.
ALEXANDER MATTISON: @ DETROIT ($7,600)***
I had thrown Mattison away after last season. It seemed like he shriveled whenever he was given the chance to shine when Dalvin Cook missed time. The Vikings give one running back nearly all the work, which renders Mattison useless until Cook goes down. This season, Mattison has been awesome when Dalvin Cook is out of action, averaging over 20 fantasy points per game as a starter. The Lions are one of the worst run defenses in NFL history. Mattison will feast, especially as a receiver out of the backfield.
LEONARD FOURNETTE: @ ATLANTA ($7,300)
Wouldn’t you know, Lenny was the ultimate leverage play last week. I watched all my Brady stacks turn my GPP lineups to ashes. I knew JT was a good leverage play, but Fournette was the slate breaker. It’s really hard to imagine him as leverage this week. As a cash play, he is a sure bet to dominate the Falcons. His new salary still made him close to being too expensive for his expected volume in this game.
ELIJAH MITCHELL*: @ SEATTLE ($6,000)
The rookie out of Louisiana is making waves as this year’s version of James Robinson. A waiver wire darling has now commandeered the bell cow role in the omnipotent 49ers rushing attack. The Seahawks have been a massive disappointment this season and will continue to be, when San Francisco lays waste to them in Week 13 behind a truly staggering performance from Mitchell.
JAMES CONNER: @ CHICAGO ($5,900)
Conner is on my GPP radar this week. The bye week blind spot will never be more obscure than on this slate. There are so many good plays to be had that Conner’s volume and receiving upside are easy to overlook. The return of Kyler Murray this week will ensure that Conner won’t need to fret over a loaded box.
MYLES GASKIN: VS NY GIANTS ($5,800)
It was odd to see Gaskin turn in a good game on an even-numbered week. He played terribly, as expected, but happened to also score twice. He is not a good football player at all, but the Dolphins offense is rolling through a Charmin-soft schedule these days. Gaskin will easily return good value yet again versus a putrid, pathetic excuse for a Giants defense.
ANTONIO GIBSON: @ LAS VEGAS ($5,700)
It’s truly a beautiful sight to see an uber-talented running back get so much work on Monday Night Football. We also get the residual benefit of the DK salaries getting released before his huge game, where his fantasy points-scavenging teammate also left with an injury. Gibson would be at $7k if he played last Sunday and Vegas won’t be able to slow him down.
JAMAAL WILLIAMS: VS MINNESOTA ($5,400)
Volume pays the bills and the Lions love to run the football and check down to their backs in the passing game. D’Andre Swift has very little reason to return to play this season, giving the artist formerly known as Jamaawful a clear path to become a darling of the fantasy playoffs. Williams will have a huge role in this game against a below-average Vikings run defense.
MILES SANDERS: @ NY JETS ($5,200)
The Eagles still hate Miles Sanders. They might not have a choice but to give him more carries this week, with Jalen Hurts nursing an ankle injury. Philly inexplicably gave fourth-string running back, Boston Scott more touches than Sanders last week in a loss. This team is a walking brain fart, but Sanders is the perfect weapon against a Jets team that gives up nearly 40 fantasy points per game to the running back position.
TEVIN COLEMAN: VS PHILADELPHIA ($4,500)
I was wrong last week. I incorrectly predicted that the Jets would give their most talented running back (Ty Johnson) the most touches. Instead, that honor was bestowed upon Coleman and even to journeyman practice squad player, Austin Walter (who?). It would be mind-numbing if they went back to Johnson, now that I’m hanging my hat on Coleman.
COOPER KUPP: VS JACKSONVILLE ($9,000)
Kupp is very easily the most consistent receiving threat on this slate, with Davante Adams on his bye week. The Jags have been average against wide receivers, but Kupp has been seeing abnormal volume this season and is well above average in the skill department. The Rams will need to lean even harder into the Kupp section of the playbook this week, with Henderson and Beckham limping around.
DEEBO SAMUEL: @ SEATTLE ($8,300)***
Kyle Shanahan didn’t need to, but he has successfully transitioned Deebo into a full-fledged running back; a really good one. As we mentioned with Mitchell above, the Seahawks are an utter failure this season, especially against “pass catching running backs.” The quotes are for describing whatever it is that Deebo Samuel has become. I want all the pieces of this 49ers offense, in what will be a huge rout.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON: @ DETROIT ($8,200)
The Dalvin Cook injury really does put the Vikings in a tough predicament on offense. They are fortunate to coordinate that injury to a date with the winless Lions. I do see more of an emphasis on the passing game coming for Minnesota, in order to exploit their huge advantage at receiver against this secondary. Both Jefferson and Thielen offer plenty of floor and upside the same.
ADAM THIELEN: @ DETROIT ($7,300)
I emphasized the huge price gap last week, which pointed me to play Thielen over Jefferson against the 49ers (woohoo!), but the gap is smaller this week. In cash, you don’t need to double dip on both guys, but this week will be more of a coin flip based on salary constraints when building your lineups. Thielen is a solid option yet again, especially with him being the favorite red zone option for Cousins.
DIONTAE JOHNSON: VS BALTIMORE ($6,800)
Boy, did the Steelers (Ben) look dreadful last week! This is not a good football team at all, but they are coached well enough to be competitive in most games. Pittsburgh leans into their best players, like Diontae, in these rugged divisional games. Johnson is a target monster and the Ravens have been suspect on the corners all season.
MIKE EVANS: @ ATLANTA ($6,700)
Much like with the Vikings receivers, you can very easily play either one of these guys in cash games this week. Evans and Godwin were extremely quiet last week, as neither one of them cracked double digit fantasy points against Indy. This is great in a way, reducing their salaries to comical levels against Atlanta.
CHRIS GODWIN: @ ATLANTA ($6,600)
Godwin was the receiver who got the ball punched out by Darius Leonard for a turnover in the open field. Chalk it up to an amazing play by a future hall of fame linebacker, but Tampa Bay was intent on winning on the ground last week. Atlanta is so bad at every level of the defense, that they will give it up through the air and on the ground Sunday. Godwin’s target share will hold strong yet again.
MARQUISE BROWN: @ PITTSBURGH ($6,500)
In a stunning development of a player’s role, Brown has already piled up 92 targets this season. Inexplicably, his DK salary also dropped $400 from last week. Pittsburgh is getting roasted by speedy receivers this season. It seems there might be a connection here.
JALEN WADDLE: VS NY GIANTS ($6,400)
These former Alabama receivers are truly special. All of them. I was cautiously optimistic coming into this season about Waddle. Miami misused him early in the season, but a healthy Tua has allowed the speedster to blossom as an NFL wide receiver over the last month. You might know by now that the Giants are a sorry excuse for a franchise and have no defense, so Waddle is a fun play with immense upside this week.
DEVONTA SMITH: @ NY JETS ($6,100)
I think the world of Smith. He is already a polished professional receiver, even if his quarterback doesn’t always deliver accurate, on-time passes to him consistently. The other Alabama rookie first round pick will have zero trouble getting open against the Jets.
HUNTER RENFROW: VS WASHINGTON ($5,800)
The target volume for Renfrow is as placid as an alpine lake on a windless afternoon. His salary has seen a steady rise all season as he continues to exceed expectations. The Cowboys and Football Team have similar struggles against slot receivers, with the former allowing Renfrow’s first 20-plus point performance of the season.
MICHAEL PITTMAN JR: @ HOUSTON ($5,700)
It was a 10 target game for Pittman last week, which came as no surprise to me after my prediction. The unfortunate part was that he only pulled in four of those targets for 53 yards. Houston is goin to have all of their eggs in the stop JT basket this week, freeing up the play action passes that make Pittman absolutely lethal.
BRANDON AIYUK: @ SEATTLE ($5,600)
I love that Aiyuk is cheaper than Kittle again this week. The 49ers never ask their wide receivers to eschew running routes to stay in for pass protection. Aiyuk’s sharp route running and elite athleticism will make him a nightmare down the field in Seattle. The Seahawks will be doing everything in their power to slow down the running game, leaving Aiyuk open to do damage.
VAN JEFFERSON: VS JACKSONVILLE ($5,300)
Jefferson is a true home run hitter this season. I don’t believe the Rams intend for him to assume that role, but with catching only 33% of his targets for 93 yards and a touchdown, we will take it. It would be even nicer if those nine targets were converted at a higher percentage against the Jags.
AJ GREEN: @ CHICAGO ($5,000)
The AJ Green disrespect must stop. We still don’t know if Hopkins will return to full strength at all in the near future, putting the 6’4″ future hall of famer Green in charge of the outside route running. I was ready to put Kirk on this list until I saw that the more-reliable Green was $600 less. He will give the Bears fits, whether Murray and/or Hopkins play or not.
RASHOD BATEMAN: @ PITTSBURGH ($4,900)
The ultra-talented rookie out of Minnesota has been very impressive so far this season. He has not yet eaten into the volume of Brown or Andrews, but his DK salary reflects that. The Steelers will have their hands full to try and slow down this passing offense. Yes, the Ravens passing offense.
MARK ANDREWS: @ PITTSBURGH ($6,000)
He’s the MANdrews! The 2021 TE2 behind Kelce comes in with three-consecutive games over 15 DK points. Pittsburgh is 11th at defending the tight end position, but really haven’t been challenged by many elite ones this season. Baltimore has needed to be more pass-heavy than ever before in the Lamar Jackson era because of their troubles at the running back position. I dig that against a pass funnel like the Steelers.
GEORGE KITTLE: @ SEATTLE ($5,900)
Kittle barely made this list. He is nearly too expensive for the six targets I have him projected for. He is simply too valuable as a blocker, despite his prowess as a game-breaking receiver. If he was under $5.5k, I would be a lot more comfortable with him in cash games. For now, I see him as more of an upside GPP leverage play.
KYLE PITTS: VS TAMPA BAY ($5,600)
Pitts is my favorite rookie receiver this year, but he is similar to Kittle in that he barely made this list. Matt Ryan has been so risk-averse this season in targeting Pitts that it’s infuriating. Even when Ryan does target Pitts, the passes have been largely uncatchable. To make matters even worse, Arthur Smith refuses to draw plays up for the rookie in the red zone. Pitts has only one red zone target since Week 6. Even his six target projection can get him on the watch list, but the coaching and quarterback play for the Falcons has been nothing short of a dereliction of responsibility.
ROB GRONKOWSKI: @ ATLANTA ($5,300)
Gronk is definitely back. He was nearly the key ingredient this week at tight end, narrowly missing out because of Logan Thomas’ incredible value prop. If I have the salary to round out my builds with Gronk, I will not hesitate to lock him in. He was spectacular last week, even without scoring a touchdown. That’s exactly what I hope for in a cash game.
MIKE GESICKI: VS NY GIANTS ($5,100)
For the last time (this week), I will highlight just how abhorrent and embarrassing the New York Giants’ defense is this season. You might have surmised that I will be stacking the Dolphins heavily in GPP, as well as lacing all my cash lineups with Fins (don’t tell PETA). Gesicki is at a very attainable price with his steady volume and touchdown upside in this offense. The only downside is how democratic Tua has been with target dispersal to his various receivers.
LOGAN THOMAS: @ LAS VEGAS ($4,000)***
What was supposed to be a tempered return to action for Thomas turned into a 77% snap share, six target performance against the Seahawks on Monday night. He very nearly cashed in with a late touchdown that was overturned on replay. The Monday night blind spot is smiling upon us this week with a top-flight tight end coming in at $4k against the second-worst defense against the position. I will be over the field on Thomas in GPP as well.
FOSTER MOREAU: VS WASHINGTON ($2,700)
The reason I’ll be able to be over the field on Thomas this week is because the Raiders’ ringer at tight end is going to summon all the chalk at $2,700. Darren Waller’s knee injury thrusts Moreau into the spotlight of this tight end friendly Vegas scheme. His last game as a starter ended up as a 6/6/60/1 performance against the Eagles. Washington is a bit stouter against the tight end position than Philly, so I won’t be eating the chalk pill this week on Moreau. He’s a fine play in cash.