Understanding cash game strategy versus tournament strategy is a basic principle of daily fantasy. This week a lot of the players with a high level of variance reared their ugly head in terms of their flop potential. Options with enticing matchups such as Danny Amendola, Lamar Miller and Eddie Lacy showed why certain players are best left for the tournament formats because of their volatile nature. Amendola’s health continues to betray him, Miller’s coaching staff continues to hate him (only two second half carries) and Lacy’s role changes from week-to-week. All three of those players were ones I actually had some form of interest in this week but, due to their unsure nature, I reserved for tournament lineups because of the vast array of possible results. All three of them ended up near the absolute worst possible outcome which should be another lesson why cash players should be staples of consistency in excellent matchups. You can always take matchups in tournaments where the goal is to finish first but you do not want to take those giant risks in 50/50s and double ups.
Here are other observations I had watching an eventful week number 15:
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings – Due to accuracy issues, Teddy Bridgewater has morphed into a game manager this season and has only attempted more than 40 passes one time (week four against the Broncos). He actually has only even eclipsed the 30 attempt plateau seven times in 14 games but things seemed to change as the game went on Sunday. Adrian Peterson hurt his ankle before half, and although Bridgewater threw his second touchdown (TD) to Jerick McKinnon on the drive Peterson went down, he also came out of the second half launching. He attempted 11 passes in the first half (two after Peterson was injured) and only nine in the second half because two of them went for TDs and he ran another one in when Minnesota made it to the red zone. If Peterson is forced to miss an extended period, we could see Stefon Diggs reemerge (as he began to do Sunday) along with the rest of the Vikings passing game as they’ll need to use it more by default. If they can’t establish the run with Peterson, the yards will have to come through the air and Bridgewater could prove to be a respectable fantasy option which he had not been since week six (the last time he racked up multiple TDs in a game).
Russell Wilson, Seahawks – After throwing three more TDs (two of which to the invincible Doug Baldwin), Russell Wilson set a record for the most TDs without an interception (INT) during a five game stretch: 19. The losses of Marshawn Lynch and backup Thomas Rawls have severely hampered the talent in the backfield meaning the Seahawks, similar to Bridgewater on Sunday, have had to morph into a more pass-oriented team. Wilson is showing his early season struggles in terms of fantasy numbers were more due to the play calling then to some sudden talent drop-off. That simply did not happen and Wilson is still one of the best this game has to offer. In his current situation, he’s a weekly QB1 with four to five TD upside every time he steps on the field especially because he’s not afraid to take off and run inside the red zone (or anywhere on the field, really). He will prove to be both fun to watch and roster down the stretch so strap into your seat belts because it’s going to be a fun ride.
David Johnson, Cardinals – David Johnson: RB1. Hope you enjoyed rostering him this week (he was about 70 percent owned in cash games) because it will be the last time you can get him cheap this season. I reckon his price is about to undergo a steep increase yet it may not even be enough depending on how high it truly raises. Johnson, without Chris Johnson or Andre Ellington to split carries with, is talented enough that his fantasy value is comparable with the absolute best in the game right now. Arizona will draw the Green Bay Packers at home next week with Atlanta facing Carolina at home and the Rams squaring off against Seattle in CenturyLink Field. Of the three, is there any question that Johnson will be the one worth rostering even assuming three of them are priced virtually the same? It’s crazy to put him in the same breath but he’s a threat to take the ball to the house on any carry similar to a healthy Jamaal Charles and we could be talking about the same type of player (assuming he stays healthy). Do not forget Johnson was drafted with a third round pick and earned a role straight out of camp despite the team having two proven backs. If there was any doubt before this week, it’s time to move Johnson into the elite RB1 tier for the rest of the season because both the talent and situation are top notch.
Antonio Brown, Steelers – Is there really anything left to say about Antonio Brown? The announcers of the game even pointed out Chris Harris Jr. was shadowing Brown wherever he moved to in the formation. Spoiler alert: it didn’t matter. Antonio Brown caught 16 passes (on 18 targets) for 189 and two TDs as the Steelers rallied from a 27-10 deficit to take down the Broncos. At this point, taking matchups into consideration with Brown while Ben Roethlisberger is under center is foolish. No matter the condition nor matchup, Brown can get it done against anyone anywhere. If at any point you get caught without shares of Brown in at least one of your tournament lineups, well, that’s on you. Harris is a premier corner in this league and Brown played him like a fiddle. If you made that mistake this week, do not make it again. No player is going to be a monster every week but a tough matchup hardly puts a damper on Brown’s upside. Period.
Jordan Matthews, Eagles – Sure it was in garbage time but it was a breath of fresh air to see Jordan Matthews run a route beyond seven yards. The play I am eluding to occurred early in the fourth quarter when Matthews blew by the defense and caught a 78 yard TD. This season Matthews has been a victim of play calling and never seems to run up the seam like he did last year when he flashed serious potential, scoring eight TDs in 16 games. Through 13 games this season, Matthews has only managed to find pay dirt four times (including the 78 yard TD) and has suffered through a case of “the drops.” Not sure what got into him on Sunday night but he hauled in eight the 11 targets thrown his way and was not credited with an official drop. He actually resembled the player many of us remember from last season and projected to take the next step this season. What this week proved to me is there is still some talent stowed away in that body and he is not ready to just fade away into the night just yet. If the Eagles could find a respectable quarterback (QB) and a coach that would open up the route tree for Matthews, he could be a productive receiver in this league. For now, the Eagles remain in the playoff hunt and will face a red hot Redskins offense next week at home. In what could prove to be a high scoring affair for the division, Matthews could once again be poised to continue breaking out of the extended slump he had been suffering through for most of this season. I would keep him on the radar.
Tyler Kroft, Bengals – While it’s clear Tyler Kroft is not Tyler Eifert, he at least proved he could hold down the fort in week 15 by catching three passes including a 20 yard TD. The Bengals offense is attempting to reestablish an identity sans Andy Dalton and it’s clear targeting the tight end (TE) is still in the plans. Without Eifert, much of the defensive attention focused on A.J. Green and he was only targeted three times. Fourth year receiver Marvin Jones actually led the team in targets, receptions (tied with Giovani Bernard) and receiving yards. Essentially A.J. McCarron is attempting to adjust to life as a NFL starting QB, and although he enjoyed success at Alabama, the pros are a different ballgame. Credit to McCarron because he responded admirably and, to be fair, playing at Alabama is close to playing in the pros in terms of opposing weekly talent and pressure to win every single game. Eifert still could miss more time because you just never know with concussions; they come in all different varieties and the standard is now to approach with extra caution. This means Kroft will continue to start and see targets so he could be an interesting source of salary relief in upcoming weeks if he remains the man. He proved he can succeed in the position and should be a weekly threat to score as long as he sees the snaps.