Friday, January 22, 2016

Championship Thoughts: Are We Underestimating the Broncos?

First and foremost, to those of you in the path of Jonas, stay safe and warm. Travel only as necessary and take care of your neighbor. If you’re stuck in an airport, I’ve been there and I feel for you. Just remember to be kind to those around you, especially the employees.

Back to football…

Welcome to the Final Four of the 2015 NFL season! We’re blessed to have the number one seed facing the number two seed in both conferences this coming Sunday. That hasn’t happened since the 2004 season. Only nine times in NFL history has the number one seed from each conference faced each other in the Super Bowl, suggesting that fate is against both the Panthers and the Broncos winning.

I’ve broken down both games through the lens of tournament plays here. I also want to add some additional thoughts, particularly from a contrarian perspective, i.e., a Broncos’ perspective.
The more narrative that surrounds Peyton Manning and Co., the more I’m starting to think the Broncos offense provides a bounty of fantasy points, and everyone is fading them. Everything from the game temperature falling few degrees below Manning’s apparent threshold as a quarterback:

 to the line moving a half point more in favor of the Patriots:

has folks are blindly ignoring the Broncos skill position players and loading up on Patriots and Panthers. But something about the crowd all piling up on the same game script leads me to think the sharp move is to build rosters around Manning and a few his receivers. Let’s, in fact, inject more narratives to this game:

This could be Manning’s last game. Win or lose, I just don’t think it’s realistic to expect him to come back next season. And the last thing he or the Broncos want, obviously, is to end his career with another loss in the playoffs, especially at home, and especially against Tom Brady. Talk about motivation.

He has a financial incentive to win. Hey, it’s a narrative, so we’re going to bring it up. I’m fairly confident Manning’s bank account is in good shape. I mean, his 21 Papa John’s seem to be flourishing. Regardless, an AFC Championship win awards him an extra $2 million, as long as he plays 70 percent of offensive snaps.

The game script favors Broncos receivers. Getting back to a more logical approach to DFS, one that ignores narratives, it makes sense to expect Manning’s receivers to catch lots of passes. If you’re buying into the Vegas lines and jumping onto the bandwagon, then you’re expecting the Broncos to be playing from behind, which would lead us to believe they’ll abandon the run. It also suggests more passing. Both of those beliefs filter to the weakest part of the Patriots’ defense: their secondary. During the regular season, only the Steelers allowed more yards to wide receivers than the Patriots. And while they were stingy in the end zone, their 12 interceptions were below the league average.

Now, for all you Patriots fans, I’m not saying their defense is bad. I’m saying it’s more exploitable via the pass than the run, and the game script might force it that direction anyway. But given what we saw last week from the Broncos offense, it’s likely the Patriots defense will press receivers and attempt to shut down all those short throws Manning makes. Here is a great write up of his pass attempts against the Steelers from Adam Bogdan. I think it’s logical to expect a similar approach this Sunday given Manning’s inability to throw deep. Or…

We should ignore last week’s game completely. The Broncos offense, frankly, looked like shit. They dropped seven passes and struggled to move the ball against a terrible secondary. If not for a forced fumble late in the game, we’re writing about the Steelers here instead. But with a little thought, it’s not hard to explain why the Broncos’ offense was so bad.

First of all, it was Manning’s first full game since Week 9. That’s two months of missed time. Naturally there is going to be some rust. And if his receivers play a little better, he might be a lot more popular this week. I expect things to look and flow a little smoother this Sunday.

Manning’s health, another concern, isn’t an issue. He has practiced in full all week and looked fine last week. He’s not going to be rolling out on bootlegs and scrambling when the protection breaks down, but his ability to read the defense and execute the offense is not something to worry about. He made some great throws in tight windows last week. If the Patriots are going to play man coverage, without fear of a deep ball, one little mistake will lead to ton of yards-after-the-catch. And I would expect a decent amount of bubble screens—something both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas can turn into huge plays.

Putting this altogether, the crowd is off Manning and Co. because Manning is old and not playing well. But if you zoom out and consider all of the matchups for the weekend, the Broncos offense has the best one on the board. The Cardinals, Panthers and Broncos defenses are all elite. The Patriots defense, though above average, is soft compared to the other three. Then, when you consider the home team, a huge advantage for the playoffs, especially in Denver, is a 3.5-point underdog (and growing), stacking up on a pass-friendly game script seems logical.

It’s especially advantageous in big tournaments when everyone else is loading their rosters sans Broncos. So we get a twofold contrarian play: the Broncos offense, and the Patriots/Broncos game. Manning is the cheapest quarterback on the board, which gives us the flexibility of stacking him with one of his receivers and still plugging in Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. On the other side, we can plug in the Panthers defense and Graham Gano, essentially doubling down on our expected game script, and fading the crowd entirely.

Conference Championship Preview Show on The Audible

This week Alex Miglio and Austin Lee offer FanDuel DFS advice as part of the larger Conference Championship Preview show on The Audible. It's a smorgasbord of Footballguys goodness.

Listen here or subscribe to The Audible on iTunes and never miss an episode.

FanDuel Championship Weekend Starting Stacks

I just posted my Championship Weekend FanDuel stacks. It's my 20th and final stacks article of the season. And it's completely FREE! Here's one stack idea. Be sure to check out the full article for tons of other stacks.

Cam Newton ($8,500) + Greg Olsen ($7,000) = $15,500

During their last five games, only two teams allowed tight ends to overperform more than the Cardinals. Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu's absence has left the middle of their defense vulnerable, and Olsen will be this week's beneficiary. This will be a popular pairing, but tight end isn't the position to find differentiation this week.

Twist: I like Ted Ginn Jr. ($6,200) or Devin Funchess ($5,100) in triple stacks. Funchess will be lower owned and is the better value, but you can decide based on how much money you spend at other positions.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Staff FanDuel Cash Plays

Here comes the Divisional Round of the playoffs! And as always, the DFS team has another installment of Friday Staff Cash Plays for the upcoming weekend.

Below we'll explore some of the notable trends teased out from the staffs' lineups -
this week there is a lot of consensus to be found across the spectrum of  possible starters.

David (Johnson, $8,500) is Goliath this week - Johnson appears on 10 of the 11 lineups submitted for this review. He's one of the few options at running back this weekend that doesn't have another runner threatening his featured-back share of the carries. Jonathan Stewart ($6,300) has Cam Newton to siphon off touches and TDs; Fitzgerald Touissant ($6,200) has Jordan Todman ($5,700) to deal with; and the Patriots will have a committee of backs sharing touches vs. Kansas City, to name just three of the other units in play during the weekend games.

The Big D is in Denver ($5,300) this week -  nine of the 11 staff lineups submitted as of this blog posting featured Denver in the team defense spot. The sizable home field advantage of Sports Authority Field at Mile High; Ben Roethlisberger's injured throwing-arm shoulder; and the fact that Antonio Brown has been declared 'Out' for the game all contributed to the enthusiasm for this unit. Arizona ($4,800) and New England ($4,700) each attracted one adherent from the staff.

Greg Olsen ($6,500) is the overwhelming choice at tight end among the staff, with nine owners selecting him - Travis Kelce ($6,600) came in a distant second at two appearances on staff rosters.

Cantanzaro Fever! Chandler Catanzaro ($4,800) is another favorite pick of the staff here in the depths of winter - Catanzaro plays for the powerful Cardinals' offense and will be kicking in a domed environment this weekend, and he landed on nine lineups as a result. Graham Gano ($4,900) and Mason Crosby ($4,500) were both on one lineup for the weekend.

 Enjoy the NFL action this weekend, everyone! Good Luck!

Divisional Round FanDuel Show on The Audible

Check out the Divisional Round FanDuel show on The Audible. Cecil Lammy, Alex Miglio, and Austin Lee dig into the Vegas lines, cover the key WR/CB matchups, dissect some unique tournament stacks, and make their out-on-a-limb picks of the week.

Listen here or subscribe to The Audible on iTunes and never miss an episode.

FanDuel Divisional Round Starting Stacks

I just posted my Divisional Round FanDuel stacks. I cover highly-owned stacks, less common stacks, matchups with shootout potential, and defensive stacks. Here's one stack idea. Be sure to check out the full article for tons of other stacks.

Aaron Rodgers ($8,300) + James Jones ($6,500) = $14,800

I love stacking the team that the sportsbooks predict to be the highest-scoring underdog. Down early, the Packers will lean heavily on the Rodgers-to-Jones connection.

Twist: With Tyrann Mathieu out for the year, the middle of the field should theoretically be the Cardinals' Achilles’ heel. It didn't play out that way in the Week 16 matchup between these two teams, but I could still see Randall Cobb ($6,600) and Richard Rodgers ($5,100) exploiting this weakness if Aaron Rodgers gets going. I prefer Richard over Randall in a triple-stack. Over the last five games, the Cardinals have allowed tight ends to overperform by 42 percent in terms of fantasy scoring. That's the worst percentage of the eight playoff teams.

Shootout: All the info from the Cardinals' stack recommendation applies. Pair Michael Floyd ($6,500) with three Packers for an affordable super-stack.

Friday, January 8, 2016

FanDuel Wild Card Starting Stacks

I just posted my Wild Card FanDuel stacks. I cover highly-owned stacks, less common stacks, matchups with shootout potential, and defensive stacks. Here's one stack idea. Be sure to check out the full article for tons of other stacks.

A.J. McCarron ($6,400) + A.J. Green ($8,300) = $14,700

Pittsburgh's pass defense makes for one of the best matchups on the slate. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton is unlikely to play. But that will lower ownership of the Bengals' AJs. Green will still see decent ownership, but rostering McCarron should help separate you from the field. Playing from behind at home in the game with the highest over-under is a recipie for fantasy success.

Twist: The Steelers play well against the tight end, so fading Tyler Eifert ($6,400) to play Marvin Jones ($5,500) is the shrewd fantasy owner's triple-stack.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Wild Card FanDuel Show on The Audible

Check out the Wild Card FanDuel show on The Audible. Cecil Lammy, Alex Miglio, and Austin Lee dig into the Vegas lines, cover the key WR/CB matchups, dissect some unique tournament stacks, and make their out-on-a-limb picks of the week.

Listen here or subscribe to The Audible on iTunes and never miss an episode.

Staff Cash Plays for Wild Card Weekend

The NFL’s regular season might be over, but there are still games to be played at Fanduel. Wild Card Weekend is upon us and the Footballguys Staff has laid out their lineups for you to take a look at. Subscribers can check out all the lineups here, while I’ve cherry picked some things which are worth discussing more in depth.

Staff Trends

Chalk QB Plays

With less players to choose from at quarterback (just eight), the staff largely went with the more expensive plays. Russell Wilson ($8600) and Ben Roethlisberger ($8400) were the most common two. There were some AJ McCarron ($6400) and Kirk Cousins (YOU LIKE THAT AT $8000) but Cousins isn’t really cheap and is almost chalk in this matchup anyway.
Some positions give you more wiggle room with lighter slates than others. Quarterback is not those positions.

Nobody is taking chances in their cash lineups with Teddy Bridgewater, Alex Smith and Brian Hoyer. Maybe in a GPP, where you are rewarded for uniqueness, but not in cash where you just need to beat 50% of the field and winning in the last spot and the top spot pays the same.

RB Wing and a Prayers

Interestingly, while I personally think there is almost as little wiggle room at running back as there is under center, a lot of the staff went the other way.

Granted, chalk at this position is Adrian Peterson and maybe Marshawn Lynch (if he plays), though an argument could be made for Charcandrick West.

But a lot of the staff took some chances. They grabbed either Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard (who are splitting carries), Pierre Thomas, Jonathan Grimes, Matt Jones and Alfred Morris.

It makes sense though, when you look at some of the choices they made at receiver. Many doubled up on Antonio Brown/DeAndre Hopkins or swapped one of the two for Jeremy Maclin. One staff member had all three.

Ultimately, I think either way is OK, and both have some risk. For myself, I tend to want stability in running backs this week and take a few more chances at receiver. I took Adrian Peterson and Charcandrick West (along with Russell Wilson and Tyler Eifert) and went with Doug Baldwin, James Jones and Pierre Garcon at receiver. I believe Baldwin will play and overpower Minnesota’s defense, and Garcon will do the same against Green Bay. Jones is my biggest long shot, as he is very touchdown dependent, but I also believe this will be a good week for him.

I found it interesting to see I was largely in the minority. While I won’t change it immediately, I do think seeing that will make me look closer at some of the matchups I have and see if I am missing something.

That’s always an important part for any fantasy matchup. Where am I deviating from the herd and is it a good or bad thing?

Diamonds in the Rough

Richard Rodgers ($5200) is an interesting choice. I actually think he’ll have a solid game, but he is very touchdown dependent and that makes him risky. On the other hand, aside from Jordan Reed and maybe Tyler Eifert, there are no sure things at tight end this week.

A few people went with James Jones ($5700) and a couple others are believing in Martavis Bryant ($6900). I suppose you either believe Bryant really took Ben Roethlisberger’s criticism to heart or you think he’ll blow it off. I didn’t go with him because I liked my three guys more, but I am in the camp that Bryant bounces back with a good game against the Bengals. He represents value this week.

I mentioned that AJ McCarron ($6400) got a start from the staff, and I can see the appeal since the Steelers defense is shaky. My problem is, the Bengals are not trying to have him do too much. He has only passed 200 yards once since taking over (280 in Week 14 – was right at 200 in Week 16) so while the Steelers defense can be vulnerable I don’t know that I think McCarron – in his first playoff start no less – is going to put up big numbers. Can he do just enough? Probably and he’s likely not to throw interceptions.  I’m not sure if I want the risk though.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

FanDuel Week 17 Starting Stacks

I just posted my Week 17 FanDuel stacks. I cover highly-owned stacks, less common stacks, matchups with shootout potential, and defensive stacks. Here's one stack idea. Be sure to check out the full article for tons of other stacks.

St Louis Rams ($4,600) + Tre Mason ($4,600) = $9,200

With Todd Gurley doubtful for Sunday's game at San Francisco, Tre Mason will step into the Rams' starting role. Over the last five weeks, the Niners have allowed a league-worst nine rushing touchdowns. Mason is only $100 over the running back minimum price and should be used heavily in all formats. The Rams defense is the best value at their position. They should have have no problem vexing a Niners team that has averaged less than 15 points per game and lost by an average of more than 10 points per game this year.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday Staff Cash Plays

Hello everyone! Welcome to the Week 17 Friday Staff Cash Plays for FanDuel!

Before we plunge into the details of the staff lineups for Sunday, I will address the special problems that Week 17 presents to fantasy owners. In a word - unpredictability. As many teams are eliminated from playoff contention, they may elect to play backups/players recently promoted from practice squad extensively in Week 17 to begin the process of planning for the 2016 NFL Draft and free agency. We don't know with certainty how long a lot of starters are going to be in games. In particular, the Washington/Dallas game appears to be one in which the Washington coaching staff is going to sit down normal starters, because they cannot improve or degrade their playoff seed by the outcome of Week 17. There are other situations where teams may elect to pull their starters or some of their starters around half-time or at the beginning of the fourth quarter (Andy Reid has often done this when playoff-bound - it's going to depend on if the Chiefs get up in a big way on Oakland early in the game) . Just because a team "has something to play for" doesn't necessarily mean that the usual starters will be in the Sunday games for a full 60 minutes.

In short, fantasy owners should be aware/beware of games like WAS/DAL, STL/SF, PHI/NYG etc. where neither team has anything at stake regarding post-season, and should also beware of games where teams might pull starters part-way through - games like OAK/K.C.; NE/MIA; TB/CAR - where one team has a clear possibility of blowing out the opposing team in short order and then may elect to squat on the lead with their backup players.

The above being said, let's look at the lineups submitted by fantasy owners for their cash lineups this week. There are only five such lineups submitted as of posting-time for this blog article - which may indicate that a lot of Footballguys are going to skip Week 17 entirely. As I noted in another article for the site: "...once Wild Card Weekend arrives we know that that players will be leaving it all on the field as they strive to advance to the next round of the tournament."

Of the lineups submitted, there are some notable trends - Ryan Fitzpatrick ($7,800) is on three of the five lineups in the have-to-have-it game against Buffalo. As the Rex Ryan vendetta against New York is well known, the owners (myself included) expect that Buffalo will play their #1's throughout the game, and thus it is very likely that the Jets do so as well.  Two of the Fitzpatrick owners (myself included) are stacking Fitzpatrick with Brandon Marshall ($8,600). 

In fact, I am stacking both Marshall and Eric Decker (7,400) with Fitzpatrick - not something I would do in a normal week for a cash game, but for this week where I am playing entries I am looking to ensure maximum playing time, and I believe that both Marshall and Decker will A). play the full game and B). both be heavily targeted by Fitzpatrick. My running backs include Karlos Williams (who I think will play the full game and be the lead back against the Jets) and Tim Hightower (who is already subbing for an injured starter, and Hightower is seizing his current opportunity to try and re-start his NFL career, so I expect an excellent effort from him despite New Orleans being out of the playoff picture). 

No Consensus on Running Backs - the only running back on more than one lineup is DeAngelo Williams ($8,200) and he is on only two of the lineups. The search for a quality amount of playing time during Week 17 is leading the Footballguys in different directions.

Four of the five teams have Josh Brown ($4,600) at place kicker this week - they evidently believe that the Giants will score a lot of points against Dallas. This is not a viewpoint I agree with, by the way, as I think Ryan Nassib vs. Kellen Moore may wind up being a low-scoring affair. I'm on Randy Bullock as I think the Jets will score many times against the Bills.

Good Luck everyone, and Happy New Year!

Week 17 Footballguys + Rotogrinders Show

Be sure to check out the SEASON FINALE Week 17 episode of The Footballguys Daily Fantasy Hour presented by Rotogrinders. Dan Back, John Lee, and Austin Lee cover key injuries, discuss matchups, and make their bold picks of the week. Dan, John, and Austin send the show off with a bang by performing a group DubSmash and ending the season with a six-minute look back at all the zany lip sync videos they've made this season.

Week 17 FanDuel Show on The Audible

Check out the Week 17 FanDuel show on The Audible. Every Friday morning Cecil Lammy, Alex Miglio, and Austin Lee dig into the Vegas lines, cover the key WR/CB matchups, dissect some unique tournament stacks, and make their out-on-a-limb picks of the week.

Listen here or subscribe to The Audible on iTunes and never miss an episode.