Welcome to the Daily Fantasy Roundup where we'll cover every inch of what you need to set a great lineup every week. If you've been following this column all year, you should be absolutely pumped for Week 13. There are a number of plays, DFS theory concepts and matchups I'm excited to exploit this week. Let's get after it.
With that being said, there are a number of plays, DFS theory concepts and matchups I'm excited to exploit this week. Let's get after it.
Top quarterback plays
Cam Newton - The Panthers star quarterback is sure to end up as one of the week's most popular plays. At 18.8 percent owned on the Thursday slate, he dwarfed the next highest played quarterback (Andy Dalton at 7.0 percent). The ownership makes Newton a tough sell in large field tournaments, when having a contrarian quarterback is key. However, his floor is secure and his ceiling massive in this matchup.
Ryan Fitzpatrick - Coming off a four touchdown game, it seemed like Ryan Fitzpatrick would be a popular play in DFS. As such, it was surprising to see him check in with just a 3.2 percent ownership on the Thursday slate. The Jets passing game matches up well with the Giants defense, and Fitzpatrick offers a safe floor and high ceiling at a flexible value.
Marcus Mariota - Jacksonville's pass defense has fallen apart at this point in the season, allowing the second-most passing yards in the league the last four weeks and a 9-to-2 touchdown to interception ratio. Their run defense is one of the best in the NFL, with just 3.44 yards per carry given up on the season, which funnels production against them to the air. With the Titans running game inconsistent at best, Marcus Mariota shouldered more of the load lately, and he averaged over 10 air yards per pass attempt over the last two games. What makes Mariota such an attractive daily fantasy option is that the entire offense runs through him, meaning you don't need to worry about guessing a player to stack him with.
Top running back plays
DeAngelo Williams - We saw last week why DeAngelo Williams is an every week option. Despite only totaling 29 rushing yards against Seattle, Williams scored 21.2 points in DFS. He caught seven passes and scored a red zone rushing touchdown, keeping his ceiling still intact. Even with the Steelers and Colts game fielding plenty of passing game options, Williams is in play due to his volume in one of the top NFL offenses and the scoring opportunities that presents.
C.J. Anderson - After a dynamic Sunday night game against the Patriots, it's safe to finally view Anderson as the player we longed for early in the season once again. The 2014 fantasy league winner looks healthy, energized and an ideal fit in the revamped Denver offense in the Kubiak mold. The Chargers have the worst defense in the NFL, giving up the most fantasy points to running backs this season, and allowing 4.73 yards per carry the last four games. You can pivot to Ronnie Hillman in this spot, as well, but Anderson is superior talent and better receiving threat, and won't get phased out by game script.
David Johnson - The scary athletic David Johnson is a popular pick in daily leagues this weekend. He's been hyper-efficient on limited chances, and now has a shot at 20 touches in one of the NFL's best vertical offenses. Johnson, who still isn't all the way there as a between-the-tackles runner, is at his best as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He gets a great matchup for what should be his first career start. The Rams are really struggling with middle of the field coverage, and have been obliterated by pass-catching running backs over the last three games. St. Louis game up a combined 22 catches for 247 yards over that span including a massive game to Jeremy Langford.
Shaun Draughn - While the surprising 49ers starting running back gave us a safe floor the last three weeks, this is the spot where he can mortgage his volume into a high ceiling. Since he and Blaine Gabbert's insertion into the starting lineup three weeks ago, Draughn averages 20 touches per game and leads the team in passing targets. Additionally, he's played 95 percent of the snaps the last two games, including 100 percent of their 56 plays last week. Draughn's last two matchups were daunting, but the 49ers travel to face the Bears in Week 13. Chicago over the last four weeks, allowed 5.99 yards per touch to the running back position and rank near the bottom of the NFL with .717 fantasy points per touch allowed to the position.
Top wide receiver plays
Allen Robinson - No one on the Tennessee defense can hang with Allen Robinson, and they rank 17th in the league in defending No. 1 receivers, according to Football Outsiders. Robinson finds himself with just a 8.8 percent ownership on the Thursday slate, and presents a high-upside pivot move as one of the more under discussed plays. We hardly need to recommend or discuss him anymore because he's so good it is unnecessary, but don't overlook him in DFS this week.
Eric Decker - The Giants rate pretty well at defending outside pass catchers with two capable starting outside corners in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara. However, Eric Decker primarily runs his routes from the slot, which will match him up with inexperienced Trevin Wade on the interior of the Giants secondary. One other key note, the Giants are one of the worst teams at defending the tight end position, allowing the most yards per game (83) to the positon. Decker runs similar routes to a tight end, a position lacking in the Jets offense, and should exploit some of their poor middle of the field coverage. Look for Decker to break 100 yards and score at least once.
Top tight end plays
Travis Kelce - Speaking of those Raiders, they draw a matchup with the talented Travis Kelce in Week 13. Over the Chiefs last three games, Kelce is tied for the leading share of the Chiefs passing targets with 29 percent. Kelce carries a relatively secure floor, and always has multiple touchdown upside.
Antonio Gates - After a quiet stretch, Gates got back on the board in Week 12. However, the public is still overlooking the veteran tight end. He was only played in 3.7 percent of Thursday lineups. The chargers receiving corps of Steve Johnson and Dontrelle Inman won't be the focal point of their efforts to get over on the Denver Broncos. The weakest point of the Denver defense is their work against tight ends.
Top defense plays
Stack(s) of the week
Jay Cutler/Alshon Jeffery- Despite this being a steadier season from Cutler than normal, he still has the potential for a high-ceiling outing. The correlation lies with the presence of his top weapon, Alshon Jeffery. In games where both Cutler and Jeffery took the field together, Cutler averages 4.25 more fantasy points and throws for 35.83 more yards per game. Jeffery had seven catches for 90 yards last week, and looks a full-go for the time being. Both players will square off with a 49ers defense that performs at a league-worst level on the road:
Jeffery was not listed on the Bears injury report for the first time all season. He's a nearly uncoverable weapon with his size and contested catch ability advantages. These two make for a great direct play off each other, as Jeffery will absorb the vast majority of Cutler's production. However, he was the highest owned receiver on the Thursday slate (22.7 percent), so it's worth exploring and getting exposure to other stacks.
Brock Osweiler/Emmanuel Sanders - The new Broncos quarterback showed a greater willingness to uncork deep balls in his second start. Osweiler averaged 9.6 air yards per attempt in Week 12 and had six passes travel at least 20 yards in the air, compared to 6.8 air YPA and only one pass off 20-plus yards in Week 11. The primary beneficiary of that was Emmanuel Sanders, who toasted cornerbacks all night and went for over 100 yards. Sanders runs most of his routes from the flanker and slot positions, and should see plenty of strong cornerback matchups against the Chargers while Jason Verrett ties up with Demaryius Thomas. Often times it takes one of these value contrarian stacks to topple a big tournament. Osweiler offers the flexibility to squeeze big names into your lineups, while Sanders was only 5.0 percent owned on the Thursday slate.
Ben Roethlisberger/Martavis Bryant and Colts WRs - You'll want to play around with several different combinations form this game, as both poor secondaries square off with talent-laden receiving corps. Try creating multiple lineups where you swap between Roethlisberger/Brown and Roethlisberger/Bryant, while adding either one of Hilton or Moncrief. One or both could go off against a Steelers secondary that gave up five touchdowns to Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse last week. Of the two Steelers receivers, Bryant is the better play with a lower ownership (which is confusing), at a better value and set to see more of Greg Toler in the Colts secondary. Bryant's upside this week is intoxicating.
Best contrarian play
Matt Ryan - Credit to Evan Silva and the guys form the Rummy and Ray podcast for this one. With how poorly Matt Ryan is playing of late, no one will touch him in DFS. That's wise in season-long leagues, but this is also a terrific spot to throw out a Ryan/Julio Jones stack in tournaments. The Buccaneers have a lopsided defense, ranking 2nd against the run but 24th against the pass according to Football Outsiders. Ryan may have been exposed this season as an overrated player, but he didn't suddenly forget how to play quarterback. With his value plummeting, it's a good week to investigate if he can return to form.
Dez Bryant - If you want a little action from the Monday night game, Dez Bryant is still the best place to look. The Washington defense got thumped by Odell Beckham in Week 12, and gave up five touchdowns through the air to Carolina the week prior. Bryant was only 2.7 percent owned on the Thursday slate, but his ability in the red zone can make him viable in this matchup even with Matt Cassel behind center.
Best obvious play
My near 100 percent exposure player
Jonathan Stewart - We know their pass defense is awful, but the Saints run stopping is just as poor. Over the last four weeks they rank dead last in allowing fantasy points to the running back positon. Jonathan Stewart sees over 20 touches per game, and leads the NFL in red zone carries, despite the narrative about his scoring chances. The Panthers should control the flow of this game, and feed Stewart against a bad defense to salt away a lead.
Cheat code of the week
DeVante Parker - The rookie is in line for a full workload after seeing 82 percent of the team snaps as an injury replacement for Rishard Matthews last week. Parker certainly still has some work to do as a technician, but he won't need to do much advanced execution to get over in this matchup. The Ravens still struggle to contain receivers, even if they are improving, as their improved numbers are more a factor of playing Case Keenum and a McCown/Davis Browns rotation the last two weeks. Parker could bust off a big play, and a relieving bargain value, he make a good target if you're looking for flexibility. Make sure to scroll all the way down to the punt play range.
Kyle Rudolph- It's simply not fair where Rudolph is listed on DFS sites these days. Rudolph has 19 targets for a clear-cut team lead over the last two games. Even better, he's turning that into production with 13 catches for 159 yards and a score during that span. The Seahawks seem intent on letting tight ends rip through their defense with seven touchdowns allowed on just 86 targets this season. Rudolph makes for a good punt play that could approach the more popular tight ends' production this week, and may be the only way Minnesota moves the ball though the air.