This article is part of our DFS Tournament Guide series.
Some people are grateful for health, wealth, family or friends. Personally, I'm just happy to see Andy Dalton back in the lineup right when I need a big week from Tyler Boyd to stay positioned for a playoff spot in my favorite redraft league.
As always, I'm happy to discuss strategy in the comments section below, or on twitter (@RotowireNFL_JD).
Note: All prices listed come from DraftKings, but most of the logic can be applied to other sites across the DFS industry. Discussion is limited to players from the "main slate" of games kicking off at 1:00, 4:05 and 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday. The strategy below is meant for large-field tournaments, where payouts typically are limited to ~20 percent of lineups, with the vast majority concentrated at the very top.
These are the players with the best projections relative to price — good plays both for cash games and large-field tournaments. While we don't want our tourney lineups to look like cash-game lineups top to bottom, there's nothing wrong with using a few "chalk" picks that have the best odds to outperform their salaries. These players, along with a couple passing-game stacks, tend to form the core that remains fairly consistent throughout my lineups.
- RB Phillip Lindsay, DEN vs. LAC ($5,000)
A pregame report two weeks ago suggested Lindsay would take on a larger role at Royce Freeman's expense, widening the gap of what had essentially been a 55/45 timeshare. It hasn't led to a big stat line so far, but Lindsay did have a 29-to-10 advantage in carries and a 5-to-3 edge in targets over the past two weeks. He'll likely retain his expanded role Sunday against the Chargers, a team ranked 27th in run defense DVOA (0.5%), 27th in DK points allowed to running backs and 20th in rushing yards allowed (112.3 per game). Lindsay took 15 carries for a season-high 114 yards in the first matchup between Denver and Los Angeles, scoring a touchdown on the ground and also adding four catches for 44 yards, despite ceding 15 touches (and 67 total yards) to Freeman.
- TE Jack Doyle, IND vs. TEN ($3,300)
Doyle finds himself in a situation that closely mirrors the circumstances from 2017 when he caught 80 passes in 15 games. Jacoby Brissett is playing quarterback, Eric Ebron (IR - ankle) isn't in the picture, and the Colts don't have much talent at wide receiver behind T.Y. Hilton (who isn't even expected to play). Doyle should see at least five or six targets against a Titans defense that ranks 15th in DK points allowed to tight ends and 26th in DVOA against the position. The only thing that might keep ownership reasonable is an injury absence for Zach Ertz (hamstring) or Gerald Everett (knee) pushing more people toward Dallas Goedert ($4,100) or Tyler Higbee ($2,500).
Stacks are the centerpiece of any tournament lineup, seeking to take advantage of positive correlations between players. It rarely makes sense to use a quarterback without one or two of his pass catchers, even if the player in question scores a decent portion of his fantasy points with his legs. Ideally, a stack also includes a pass catcher from the other side of the contest, hoping to take advantage of a tight game where both teams are still chucking the ball around late in the fourth quarter. (Implied team totals are listed in parentheses.)
Rams(25.25) at Cardinals (22.25)
As bad as he's been on the whole, Jared Goff ($6,000) does have three games with more than 25 DK points, thanks to matchups with the Bucs, Falcons and Bengals. He should bounce back from the MNF disaster against Baltimore, now facing an Arizona defense that lands in the bottom five for nearly every significant pass defense statistic.
Cooper Kupp ($7,100) has a favorable matchup in the slot, and lower-than-usual prices for Robert Woods ($5,500) and Brandin Cooks ($5,200) also offer some intrigue. I can maybe even get behind Todd Gurley ($6,500), who played 96 percent of snaps last week. Now clawing for a wild-card spot, the Rams no longer seem to care about maintaining Gurley's knees.
The other side of the game is less interesting due to matchups against a solid Rams defense, but Kenyan Drake ($5,600) and Christian Kirk ($5,700) both look like reasonable plays, and Kyler Murray ($6,400) always has the rushing upside. We'll have to keep an eye out for any news about Chase Edmonds' expected usage in his (expected) return from a hamstring injury.
- Best Stack: QB Goff + WR Kupp + WR Woods
Buccaneers (24.25) at Jaguars (23.25)
I'm a little surprised the over/under for this game isn't higher, as both teams have been playing lousy defense while ranking top 10 in the league for pass attempts. Jameis Winston ($6,300) is awfully cheap for a player with six straight games above 21 DK points, but Jacksonville's putrid run defense gives Ronald Jones ($5,100) the relative advantage.
That's not to say it's a bad idea to stack Winston with Chris Godwin ($7,700) or Mike Evans ($6,900); it just doesn't allow much room for a stud RB like Christian McCaffrey. The cheaper route involves pairing RoJo with the Jacksonville passing game, where Nick Foles ($5,700), D.J. Chark ($6,600), Dede Westbrook ($5,000) and Chris Conley ($4,500) all appear viable. Conley quietly has five consecutive games with seven or more targets, and his 14.9 aDOT is significantly deeper than Chark's 12.2 and Westbrook's 6.6.
- Best Stack: QB Foles + RB Jones + WR Chark + WR Conley
Raiders (20.5) at Chiefs (30.5)
This one feels like a blowout more so than a shootout, but I don't think Patrick Mahomes ($7,400), Tyreek Hill ($8,900) and Travis Kelce ($7,200) need to stay busy through the fourth quarter in order to put up huge numbers against Oakland's terrible defense. We also have the possibility of LeSean McCoy ($4,800) emerging as a nice value play, depending on the health of Damien Williams (ribs).
The other side of the game is less interesting, as it's been a long time since we saw a big performance from an Oakland pass catcher, and the KC pass defense is better than most people think (6th in DVOA, 11th in NY/A). Granted, the Chiefs are 30th in run defense DVOA and 31st in YPC allowed (5.1), so it's easy enough to come up with a scenario where Josh Jacobs ($6,900) keeps the game interesting. He didn't really have that opportunity in the first meeting between these teams, finishing with 12 carries for 99 yards after Mahomes took over the game with a quartet of long TD passes in the second quarter.
Make sure to keep an eye on the weather in Kansas City if you stack this game, as there's a decent chance for winds above 20 miles per hour.
- Best Stack: QB Mahomes + RB Jacobs + TE Kelce
Jets (22.25) at Bengals (18.75)
This is one of those "it feels gross but the prices all make sense" stacks, with Tyler Boyd ($5,500) and Auden Tate ($3,800) still priced like they're playing with Ryan Finley. Tate scored at least 9.0 DK points in each of his last six games with Andy Dalton ($4,700) at quarterback, and Dalton is badly underpriced relative to his season average of 18.5 DK points. Prior to his benching, the Red Rifle was neck and neck with Matt Ryan for the league lead in pass attempts.
The other side of the game looks best for Le'Veon Bell ($7,200), as the Bengals have allowed running backs to produce 4.7 yards per carry (28th) and 7.7 yards per target (31st). Ryan Griffin ($4,300), Jamison Crowder ($5,600) and Robby Anderson ($4,800) also are viable choices.
- Best Stack: QB Dalton + RB Bell + WR Boyd + WR Tate
We can pair a running back with his team's defense to double our bet on favorable game script in certain matchups. Just keep in mind that the scoring correlations aren't nearly as strong as those between quarterbacks and pass catchers, so it isn't worth forcing into a lineup unless the prices for each individual commodity make sense. We also need to account for specialized backfield roles, i.e., using Marlon Mack rather than Nyheim Hines in conjunction with the Indianapolis defense.
- RB Kenyan Drake ($5,600) + D/ST Cardinals ($2,300) vs. LAR
This pairing gives us a high ceiling at a low cost, though it admittedly involves considerable risk — in part because the Arizona defense stinks and in part because Chase Edmonds could take a big chunk of the backfield work in his first game returning from a hamstring injury. The upside scenario involves 15-to-20 carries and a handful of targets for Drake, along with another lousy outing for Jared Goff. Contrary to general public opinion, I'm more optimistic about the former than the latter.
Honorable Mention: RB Phillip Lindsay ($5,000) + D/ST Broncos ($3,000) vs. LAC
- WR Davante Adams, GB at NYG ($7,000)
Per usual, Christian McCaffrey is the best DFS play among superstars, but I'm sick of discussing him so we'll talk about Adams instead. The Packers' top wideout has drawn double-digit targets in each of three games since he returned from a toe injury, and his per-game averages of 6.6 catches for 82.9 yards aren't far behind what he did last year (7.2 for 92.4). The only thing missing is touchdowns, which have been hogged by Green Bay's running backs at a fluky, unsustainable rate.
Adams has a good chance to hit paydirt for the second time this year, facing a Giants defense that's tied for the third-most touchdowns allowed to wide receivers (15). Even better, the Giants are 32nd in DVOA against No. 1 receivers, allowing 76.1 yards on just 6.8 targets per week. Their past four games saw each of Allen Robinson, Jamison Crowder, Amari Cooper and Kenny Golladay reach 80 yards with at least one TD.
Fading the Field
Every week we see at least one or two players carrying high ownership without the backing of a top point-per-dollar projection. Recency bias is often to blame, but in some cases it even makes sense to fade a player with a strong projection, particularly when there are good alternatives at the same position and price range.
- WR Chris Godwin, TB at JAX ($7,700)
Godwin is a phenomenal player and a weekly threat to explode, but I'm not a fan of the all-time-high pricing for a mediocre matchup on the road. The Jacksonville defense has mostly struggled against running backs rather than wide receivers, ranking 12th in DK points allowed to WRs and 13th in pass defense DVOA. This is also a suboptimal matchup from a micro standpoint, with Godwin's frequent work from the slot putting him up against Jaguars cornerback D.J. Hayden, who has allowed just 0.77 yards per inside cover snap (No. 8 out of 38 CBs, 100-snap min.), per PFF. The next touchdown Hayden allows will be his first of the season.
Other Fades: RB Derrick Henry, TEN at IND ($7,300)
The SMASH Spot
Volume is king, no doubt. But we still need to account for efficiency, pinpointing situations that give players good odds to outperform their typical marks for YPA, YPC or YPT.
- WR D.J. Chark, JAX vs. TB ($6,600)
I was surprised to see Chark's price up by just $200 from last week, considering the Bucs have been the most generous team, by far, when it comes to allowing fantasy production to wide receivers. The season total shakes out to 49.1 DK points per game, while no other team has allowed more than 43.2 (the Giants). Chark accounts for 42.7 percent of the points from Jacksonville wide receivers this season, and 42.7 percent of 49.1 works out to 20.9 points. I'll admit that's an optimistic projection based on flawed methodology, but I do think it's reasonable to at least expect his 2019 average of 18.2 DK points, with a picture-perfect matchup making up for the likelihood of TD regression ahead. Given the opponent, Chark has a good chance to stave off that regression for at least one more week.
Honorable Mention: RB Ronald Jones, TB at JAX ($5,100)
The Bargain Bin
QB Andy Dalton, CIN vs. NYJ ($4,700)
RB Jamaal Williams, GB at NYG ($4,500)
RB Derrius Guice, WAS at CAR ($4,500)
WR Chris Conley, JAX vs. TB ($4,500)
WR Auden Tate, CIN vs. NYJ ($3,800)
WR Tim Patrick, DEN vs. LAC ($3,000)
TE Jack Doyle, IND vs. TEN ($3,300)
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN at IND ($3,300)
D/ST Arizona Cardinals vs. LAR ($2,300)
The "Sunday Scramble" doesn't need to be stressful. We can formulate plans ahead of time for the best way to respond once inactive lists are released.
- RB Jordan Howard (shoulder), PHI at MIA
Miles Sanders ($5,400) played 85 percent of snaps both of the past two weeks, so we can fire him up as a high-end RB2 and an excellent DFS play if Howard misses another game. The Dolphins are 30th in DK points allowed to running backs and 29th in run defense DVOA.
- RB Damien Williams (ribs), KC vs. OAK
An absence for Damien likely would leave LeSean McCoy ($4,800) and Darrel Williams ($4,400) in a timeshare, with the former getting more carries and the latter handling passing downs. With the Chiefs heavily favored to win, McCoy seems like the better DFS play.
- RB James Conner (shoulder), PIT vs. CLE
Conner return to a limited practice Thursday, but his comments earlier this week suggested he'd likely miss at least one more game. Benny Snell ($4,700) took 21 carries for 98 yards last week, albeit on just 49 percent of snaps. Personally, I'd rather spend a bit more for a Phillip Lindsay or Ronald Jone type.
Darius Slayton ($5,300), Sterling Shepard ($4,900) and Saquon Barkley ($7,400) would be locked in as the top receiving weapons without Tate and Engram available. The price on Shepard is especially tempting, though he's burned me countless times in the past.
- TE Zach Ertz (hamstring), PHI at MIA
Dallas Goedert ($4,100) is already getting steady targets, including five or more in each of the past four games. He should see at least seven or eight if Ertz ends up missing this game, though it looks like Alshon Jeffery (ankle) and Nelson Agholor (knee) both have decent odds to play.
- TE Gerald Everett (knee), LAR at ARZ
Tyler Higbee ($2,500) isn't much of a receiving threat, but the price, snap count and matchup will all be working in his favor if Everett doesn't play.
There are a bunch of potential problem games this weekend, including forecasts for winds above 15 miles per hour in Kansas City, Charlotte and Jacksonville. Of lesser concern, Baltimore and New York could see light rain and temperatures a bit above freezing. Titans-Colts and Rams-Cardinals are the only two indoor games on the main slate, and Eagles-Dolphins is the only outdoor game that will be played in warm weather without any threat of considerable wind. We'll need to pay close attention to the forecasts Sunday morning.
Adjusting for FanDuel Prices
The prices listed in this article are from DraftKings, and while most of the logic applies to any DFS site, there are a few specific changes I'll need to apply for FanDuel:
- I like Patrick Mahomes ($8,600) a lot better when he's priced below Lamar Jackson ($8,700) instead of $400 higher.
- Andy Dalton ($6,000) is just as much of a steal on FD as he is on DK. Tyler Boyd ($6,000) and Auden Tate ($5,200) also have favorable prices.
- Carson Wentz ($7,300) is priced at QB12, compared to QB10 on DK. He'll be a solid choice if Ertz and Jeffery are able to play.
- Christian McCaffrey ($11,000) is actually priced high enough to consider fading him...but I don't recommend it.
- Le'Veon Bell ($7,300) is priced at RB10, compared to RB7 on DK.
- Leonard Fournette ($7,500) is tied for RB6 with Saquon Barkley. That's good value even in a tough matchup.
- Keenan Allen ($6,800) doesn't have a great track record against the Broncos, but this is a dirt-cheap price for his combination of workload and talent. Also, he won't necessarily be shadowed by Chris Harris, as the Broncos haven't really used their top CB in the slot this year. Allen struggled in the first matchup between these teams, but he wasn't shadowed by Harris (contrary to the popular narrative).
- D.J. Moore ($6,800) is tied with Allen at WR10, compared to WR6 on DK. Granted, it makes sense for Moore to be relatively more expensive on a full-PPR site, as he wasn't much of a big-play or TD threat prior to last week.
- Travis Kelce ($7,100) is TE1 on both sites, but the pricing system on FanDuel makes him a much better play than he is on DraftKings.
- The Panthers D/ST ($4,700) is my No. 1 ranked play at the position and the No. 4 defense in pricing on FanDuel.
- The Steelers D/ST ($3,700) is the top value defense, priced at No. 16 on FD and No. 4 on DK.