In this article, I’ll discuss plays and strategies to create leverage on the field (diversify your lineup), correlation plays that maximize your upside while creating leverage with chalk, and which of the chalk I’m most comfortable fading. I’ll also provide a core group of players that I will build around in my lines.
“WOPR” = Weighted Opportunity Rating = 1.5*target-share + .7*market-share-of-air-yards.
My Week 5 article details the WOPR Matchup I will refer to throughout the article.
These players will be the foundation of my lineups this week. In most cases, I love them simply for their high expectation. In some, it’s a combination of expectation with a too-good-to-ignore ownership projection.
Jameis is second in the NFL in air yards per game (behind Flacco of all people) and would be leading comfortably if it weren’t for his silly benchings. There are a number of other reasons to like Jameis despite a bad matchup and he will be wildly low-owned.
First, as the weather around the country turns cold and windy, he is indoors. Second, Zeke and Cowboys should put up plenty of points, ensuring we get the full on air-raid Bucs’ offense. Finally, the kicker: Desean Jackson is back. With Desean Jackson in the lineup, the Bucs’ explosive pass % jumps from 18% to a robust 25.4%. Similarly, their average yards per pass attempt increases from 8.42 to 10.5. Those are vastly different numbers that, in my mind, more than make up for the difficult matchup considering how far Winston’s price has fallen.
This is an obvious play, so I’ll run through it quickly. Zeke has a .32 WOPR over the last four weeks, +27% FTA Matchup, +28% WOPR Matchup, and has had 25+ touches in every week since Week 9. The Cowboys implied total of 28 points is a whopping 8.3 higher than their season average, which screams TD equity.
Samuel’s ownership projections are shockingly low for RB1 on Pittsburgh. Whether it’s Bell, Conner, or Samuels, RB1 on the Steelers dominates touches, has a sizable role in the passing game, and benefits from the overall effectiveness of the offense. This week, he heads to the Superdome to face the Saints, who are a +5% FTA Matchup and +22% WOPR Matchup. I expect Samuels to be heavily involved in the passing game considering the Saints have a strong pass rush.
Mack has a +42% FTA Matchup and is a home favorite against the football-dying Giants. The Colts offensive is so dominant, and the Giants defensive line so hapless, that I simply can’t envision Mack falling short of 100 yards barring an injury. Mack should be priced with Samuels/Cook/Chubb.
Typically, I don’t include cheap WRs in my core, but Robby is an exception because of what I perceive to be an enormous floor/ceiling combo. Anderson boasts a true WR1-level .62 WOPR (.11 above his season average), thanks to a 22% target share and,more impressively, a 42% market share of air yards. The first gives him a great floor, while the second gives him a ceiling on par with any other receiver in the league this week. The likelihood that he reaches his ceiling is enhanced by his +34% FTA Matchup and +27% WOPR Matchup. GB is also 25th in true blown block rate, so Robby’s rookie QB should have plenty of time to push the ball downfield to his favorite receiver.
Hilton comes in with a robust .73 WOPR over the last four despite battling through an ankle injury the past couple weeks. He’s bug practicing for the first time in weeks, suggesting he’s getting back to full strength. While he has produced quite well the last couple weeks, it’s still great to see a speedster getting his ankle back to full strength. Hilton is at home (indoors), with a +20% FTA Matchup, and the Giants’ 23rd rated pass rush (according to Josh Hornsby’s true blown block rate created) increases the likelihood of Hilton striking deep downfield.
Jeffery is a bona-fide WR1 in this league, but he’s not priced like it. As such, I expect him to be fairly chalky, but it’s chalk I’m more than willing to eat. In two weeks with Nick Foles, Jeffery has a .68 WOPR, which is a sign that 1. Foles loves him and 2. the move to 12 personnel (two tight ends) has emphasized the stud outside WR. Jeffery has a virtually identical matchup to Anderson; the Texans are a +33% FTA Matchup and +27% WOPR Matchup for WR1s.
Leverage plays are low-ownership/high upside players and/or viable pivots off extreme chalk.
There are two concerns with Roethlisberger. First, historically he struggles on the road relative to his performance at home. Playing in the Coors Field of football alleviates that worry. Second, and more specific to this week, New Orleans is 8th in true pressure created. Despite their ability to create pressure, the Saints are a +6% FTA Matchup thanks to pass-heavy game scripts for their opponents. Herein lies the upside for Ben; he should be throwing a ton, leading to what I believe is the best chance for the 300-yard bonus of any QB.
Do we get Super Bowl MVP Foles or Week 1 Foles? If it’s the former, his $4700 tag is comically cheap. The Texans are a +15% FTA Matchup, but they worry me thanks to their 4th ranked pass rush. Most of my optimism stems from the Eagles’ improvement since moving to 12 personnel. Goedert is out-snapping Golden tate by a wide margin these days.
Darnold has a sneaky amount of athleticism that gives him the potential for some nice rushing upside. I like how improved he looks, I like the fact that GB is 25 in true pressure created, and I like that his lead running back is a strong receiver. GB is a +3% FTA Matchup.
Chubb’s +49% FTA Matchup is an elite matchup, and shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve watched much of the Bengals’ season. Combining Cincinnati’s struggles against RBs with Chubb’s standing in elusiveness rankings (tops in the league) and excellent game script as a large home favorite and you have a stud RB priced in the midtier. I’ll take Samuels for $600 less, but Chubb is every bit as good of a play.
McGuire has eclipsed 20 touches in both of his starts with Crowell on IR. He has a+13% FTA Matchup and Draftkings failed to price him up. I’m not thrilled with his ceiling projections, but his floor is seriously high for the price.
This season has been infuriating for Kenyan Drake. Playing behind the 50-year old Frank Gore has kept his touches significantly lower than what I believe he deserves. Last week, after Gore went down, it still wasn’t Drake leading the charge. Instead, he watched Kalen Ballage dominate touches despite leading the team with a 53% snap share. Now, all of that said, Drake has managed to average 13.3 DK points per game thanks to a .28 WOPR (.26 over the L4). At $3.9k, Drake has a good chance of paying off his pricetag in the receiving game alone, and if he finally gets the carries he deserves, he could be a GPP winner.
Sandwiched between Hopkins, Julio, and the NO/PIT WRs, Adams’ ownership projections suggest he’s being overlooked. He has a .71 WOPR over the last four (.67 on the year), a +12% Matchup in each metric, and he has a strong narrative in his favor. Here’s an excerpt from a story about his chase for some Packers’ records:
What else do the Packers have to play for? Plus, you get some nice correlation with Robby Anderson.
Over the past four weeks, Juju’s .63 WOPR edges out AB’s .57 weighted opportunity. While AB’s matchup is fine (+14% FTA | 0% WOPR), Juju’s is excellent (+40% FTA | +5% WOPR). When you add in Juju’s positive road splits and AB’s negative road splits, the choice is clear for which WR I want to pair with Big Ben.
For the second straight week, Kenny Golladay finds himself on Hermsmeyer’s Airyards Buy-Low Model. Golladay’s .68 WOPR is very strong and the matchup will drive his ownership way down. Personally, however, I welcome a date with Xavier Rhodes’ shadow coverage for Kenny. I’ll take his odds in a 1-on-1 matchup over being doubled (like he has since Jones went down) any day.
Stills continues to put up monstrous opportunity numbers with Tannehill under center. His .67 WOPR over the Dolphins’ past four games is elite and doesn’t fit his price. Furthermore, he plays about 1/3 of his snaps out of the slot, where Jacksonville has been extremely vulnerable all season. Lastly, Miami has struggled with allowing pressure, but Jacksonville is 21st in true pressure created. Stills disappointed last week against Minnesota’s 12th ranked pass rush after he excelled vs New England’s 30th ranked pass rush.
Despite the goose egg last week, Gallup still boasts a last four WOPR of .58, .18 above his season average. TB’s man coverage tendencies benefit his downfield style, giving him a great chance to hit big at $3500. I’m especially intrigued by this play as Gallup gives me exposure to the otherwise chalky Dallas offense, and provides correlation with my favorite QB play.
- Curtis Samuel
- Dante Pettis
- The Three Bills (Zay, Foster, and McKenzie)
- Adam Thielen
Kittle’s .67 WOPR easily paces the other TEs on the main slate.It’s not a great matchup because the Chicago defense is somewhat terrifying, but Kittle is their best chance to move the ball.
Ebron was shut down by Byron Jones last week (one of my chalk fades!), yet still carries a .45 WOPR into this week. As the second option in a passing offense I love, Ebron has a ton of appeal in a weak TE field.
In OBJ’s first absence, Engram disappointingly saw barely over 50% of snaps. Last week, that number climbed to 69%, making him a much more desirable target. We know he’s talented, and now his last four WOPR is up to .46, the highest we’ve seen all year for him.
As I mentioned in the Jeffery and Foles blurbs, the Eagles are going with a lot of 12 personnel. Goedert is playing well over half of the snaps now and he’s been hyper-efficient all season with his targets. In my opinion, no other tight end you would pay down for can compete with his ceiling.
The Bears have a +43% FTA Matchup and are the highest scoring fantasy defense.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have a +51% FTA Matchup. Arizona allows the tenth highest true hurry rate and LAR creates the 9th most true pressure.
The Dolphins have a +33% FTA Matchup and that might be a conservative estimate, given how bad Kessler and the Jags looked against Washington. The Jags allow the 5th highest true pressure rate and Miami quietly creates the 6th highest true pressure rate.
The Houston offense’s number one issue all season has been allowing too much pressure on Watson. They are 11th in true hurry rate allowed and Philly is second in true pressure created. As a bonus for Philly, slot receiver Keke Coutee is out, making it more difficult for Watson to find receivers early.
- Detroit Lions
- Dallas Cowboys
- Minnesota Vikings
This section will focus on pairing leverage plays from the previous section with chalkier, high-expectation plays (preferably core plays). Doing so will simultaneously provide the correlation that maximizes your upside with necessary diversification for your lineup. Italicized names are the chalkier options I only want as part of a stack.
Jameis Winston | Mike Evans | Ezekiel Elliot | Michael Gallup
I won’t always include Gallup here, but Jameis/Evans/Zeke will be in at least 50% of my lines. Gallup’s big play nature makes him extra appealing as an opposing game correlation play, I must admit.
Ben Roethlisberger | Jaylen Samuels | Juju Smith-Schuster
Originally I included a chalky Michael Thomas in this stack, but I don’t think you have to pay up. Tre’Quan Smith has flashed tons of big-play ability and has severe home splits. The New Orleans’ offense is scary enough to keep Pittsburgh aggressive even if they get out to a big lead, so running back a PIT stack isn’t a necessity.
Nick Foles | Alshon Jeffery | Dallas Goedert | DeAndre Hopkins
Personally, I’m passing on Nuk this week, despite his monumental opportunity. That said, he fits perfectly with a cheap Philly passing game stack.
Sam Darnold | Elijah McGuire | Robby Anderson | Davante Adams
I’m not sold that Darnold has week-winning upside, but the NYJ pieces of this stack are so cheap that it might not matter.
Andrew Luck | TY Hilton | Eric Ebron | Marlon Mack | Saquon Barkley | Evan Engram
I never use dual TEs, so I would choose between Engram and Ebron (based on whether or not you need to save the money). For Luck to smash, he needs to keep throwing. In order to keep throwing, he might need Saquon to break one or two big plays.
Robby Anderson | Davante Adams
I prefer this mini-stack to the game-stack by adding Darnold and/or McGuire.
Kenyan Drake | Miami Dolphins
Please, please, please give Kenyan Drake the football.
Dallas Goedert | Philadelphia Eagles
Your weekly reminder that TE-DEF is just as valuable of a correlation play as RB-DEF.
I’m fading Hopkins primarily for ownership, but I also think Adams is the better play because of game environment and the Philly pass-rush. Without Coutee, Philly should be able to keep two guys focused on Nuk at all times, trusting that their pass rush will get home before he can find a way behind them.
Saquon Barkley & Christian McCaffrey
My concern with both backs is an incentive to trim back their workloads dramatically. In CMC’s case, he’s been handling 100% of snaps in his first year as a workhorse. Why add an extra 30 touches in the last two weeks by continuing to force-feed him? While the same applies to Saquon, I’m less concerned for several reasons. 1. He has shown more explosive play ability. 2. He hasn’t carried the entire offense on his shoulders with absurd snap shares and touch totals. 3. His cheaper tag means he’s less dependent on enormous volume.