The Hail Mary (NFL HuLo GPP Plays): Week 17
December 30, 2017 | Doug Shain
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The Huddle – Opening Statement
Welcome to the Hail Mary for Week 17.
For those of you who read this article last year or any of my stuff on The Fake Hockey and The Fake Baseball you’re going to find this article very familiar. For those of you who are new please allow me to take a moment to explain where I’m coming from and what you’re going to see in this article.
First and foremost I’m mostly a GPP player and that’s who this article is mostly designed to help. I write for players like me – the guy or gal who enters a single bullet in a couple of low limit GPP’s each week; the casual DFS player. This group of players probably makes up a much larger percentage of the DFS community than you think. If you are a cash game player or a high buy-in/high volume/multi-entry GPP player you should still read this because it’ll give you an everyman perspective that you might not get in other articles (there are plenty of those on this site and I urge you to read them as well because they are fantastic).
Be advised that playing a single bullet in a large field GPP is a very volatile game and you’re going to lose more often than you win. That’s a fact and it’s something you have to know before you start playing. Due to the volatility of this game I’m going to try to give you plays that can help you zoom to the top of your GPP leaderboard. These plays are very boom or bust, so please know that going in.
One way that I like to separate from the field is by trying to anticipate ownership rates of certain players. Over the course of the year I’ll get into this more deeply, but just know for now that all things being equal (and even in some cases when it’s not), I’m going to recommend the player that’s going to have a lower ownership rate.
I have some musts when building a GPP lineup. They include:
– It is a must that I get a QB that is going to throw a lot when building my GPP teams.
– It is a must that I get RB that are guaranteed touches when building my GPP teams.
– It is a must that my WR have upside when building my GPP teams.
– When building my GPP teams it is a must that my TE is elite or is a punt. There is no in between for me with TE.
– When building my GPP teams it is a must that my defense gets to the quarterback.
– It is a must that I take a min-priced kicker when building my GPP teams.
– It is a must that I include at least some HuLo plays when building my GPP teams.
– It is a must that I remember that chalk is chalk for a reason, and that using chalk isn’t a bad thing.
– It is a must that I remember that bad players and bad players even in good matchups.
With Week 17 being such a crapshoot, I’m going to try to combine my Tuesday and Saturday articles to give you a game by game look at this week along with some of the plays I’m looking at for my teams. Keep in mind that I’m a risk averse type of player so I’m not going to be the guy to tell you to load up on Landry Jones/Justin Hunter stacks. There will be a number of under the radar players that will have big games, and I’ll try to identify who they are for you, but my basic strategy is to play with the guys that got us here. Let’s see how that works out.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
GB: I don’t see a lot of fantasy love here with Brett Hundley back under center and GB having literally nothing to play for. Jamaal Williams should get a heavy workload, but he’s not one of “my guys”. I won’t hate you for using him but I just think that the Packers get smacked in this game and there are other RB in his price range (like Derrick Henry) that I’d rather use. Randall Cobb should see a bunch of targets, but he too won’t be one of “my guys”.
DET: The whole world seems to love Matthew Stafford this weekend. I don’t see it. The Lions have nothing to play for and Stafford is a few weeks removed from being banged up. Do the Lions really want to risk their franchise player in a meaningless game? I doubt it. Instead I think we get a half, maybe, out of him and then it’s Jake Rudock time. I think this game, more than any other, is where I’m making my biggest stand of the weekend by being in nearly full fade mode. I don’t want any part of the RB corps, nor do I want to spend up on a WR. Eric Ebron should be fine and I do like a small play on Kenny Golladay to finish the season strong. The DET defense is surely in play here, and maybe my favorite pick from this game.
My Guys: Eric Ebron (Tier 3), Kenny Golladay (Tier 3), Lions DST (Tier 2)
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
HOU: DeAndre Hopkins is this week. That should leave you with very little interest in the Texans. The only player I’m looking at right now is Alfred Blue, who has somehow ended up on the right side of the hit timeshare with Lamar Miller. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Blue get 20+ touches this weekend in a very juicy matchup. He’s one of the few “too cute” plays that I’m considering in situations where I need an RB punt.
IND: It sounds nuts but I’m pretty much all in on the Colts this weekend. TY Hilton destroys the Texans and is one of my top WR plays this weekend; Tier 1 for sure. Jack Doyle is in the same boat and is one of my top TE plays. He’s not a big TD guy but he should see double digit targets. Frank Gore has an outside shot at 1,000 yards this year and I can see him being force fed to try to get to that number. Jacoby Brissett and Donte Moncrief are guys who are on the fringes of Tier 3, but fall just a bit short. If you wanted to play them in one of your non-primary lineups I’d sign off on that.
My Guys: TY Hilton (Tier 1), Jack Doyle (Tier 1), Frank Gore (Tier 3), Alfred Blue (Tier 3)
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
CHI: I’m not touching the Bears. Sorry, Jordan Howard truthers I just can’t do it. Mitchell Trubisky, I love you but that love will have to wait for next year when you’re my preseason “next Carson Wentz.” For now, fade hard.
MIN: I would like all of the Vikings, thank you very much. This is a great matchup for MIN as they are fighting for a bye and will be playing hard to get there. Case Keenum needs a good game with Sam Bradford back and practicing (Zimmer should be fired on the spot if he makes the switch off of Case), while the WR duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will be the on the receiving end of Keenum’s good day. I prefer Thielen if you can afford him; he needs a big bounce back after a wretched Week 16. Kyle Rudolph continues to be productive with a TD and/or 5 receptions in every game but one since Week 4. Both RB are in play for me but neither are huge values because of their split workload. My preference is Murray as I think the Vikings will be looking to salt the game in the second half as they cruise to a first round bye.
My Guys: Adam Thielen (Tier 3), Case Keenum (Tier 3)
New York Jets at New England Patriots
NYJ: The only Jets player worth taking a shot with is Bilal Powell. I actually think Powell puts up his third straight solid performance. It should fall somewhere in the 75 yards and a potential score range. At his price, he makes for a nice lower mid-tier RB play for sure.
NE: Gronk had 83 yards and 2 TD the last time he played the Jets and he’s currently in the midst of a crazy four game run that has seen him accumulate nearly 10 targets and 120 yards per game. With the Patriots looking to lock down home field advantage in the AFC playoffs, I think Brady looks to end this game quickly with a few drives heavily featuring his massive TE. I’m not interested in any of the other Patriots pass catchers, nor do I love Tom Brady, as I think this game gets out of hand quickly. After the Pats go up early in the second quarter they are going to give Dion Lewis another 20 carries to end this game. With Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee out and James White banged up, this will be the Dion Lewis show. He’s a clear top play at RB this weekend.
My Guys: Bilal Powell (Tier 2), Dion Lewis (Tier 2), Rob Gronkowski (Tier 1)
Washington Redskins at New York Giants
WSH: The Redskins may actually be the chalk of the early slate of games. While the team may have nothing to play for, Kirk Cousins is playing for a $30 million per year contract and is highly motivated to end this season strong. There is no better opponent for him than the New York Giants. NYG is terrible against slot WR so I think that Jamison Crowder breaks out in the same way he did the last time these two teams met (141 yards and a TD). He’s on a two game TD scoring streak and I think he makes it three this weekend. Josh Doctson is also in play for me in a big way. People are going to look at his 2 receptions last week and scoff but let’s dig a bit deeper to see that Cousins looked his way 13 times. This week I think that connection is going to be there triple that reception total. Samaje Perine should see 15+ touches and that should be more than enough for him to pay off his salary. I really like just about everyone on this team. Heck, even the defense is in play for me with the Giants having very little threat on the offensive side of the ball.
NYG: Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Tarvarres King are all out for this game. That means the offense comes down to Rhett Ellison, Roger Lewis, and Wayne Gallman. I don’t really care for Ellison (although he could get a red zone look and a cheap TD), but Lewis and Gallman are cheaper options I’d consider if I wanted to get a little nuts. Over the last three weeks Lewis has seen 32 targets so you know that Eli is going to look his way, and against a suspect Redskins secondary that could mean 100 yards and a TD. Gallman is the most productive back in the Giants rotation and has seen 14+ touches each of the last three weeks, not to mention his 24 targets out of the backfield in the passing game. He hasn’t done anything with those opportunities but volume is volume and he’s a guy worth looking at. I suppose you could throw Eli Manning into the mix at QB but I’ll be avoiding him.
My Guy: Kirk Cousins (Tier 1), Jamison Crowder (Tier 2), Josh Doctson (Tier 1), Wayne Gallman (Tier 3)
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
DAL: There’s no reason for Ezekiel Elliott to not get his usual workload so that’s what I expect to happen; and if it does happen he could be the highest scoring RB on this slate. Zeke will be pricey but if you have the cap space he makes sense at the top end of the salary spectrum. I’ll most likely be fading as I would prefer to spend my money on players that have something to play with (the Saints RB and McCoy come to mind). I do think there is a chance that Dez Bryant has himself a game after all the talk that he may have lost a step or three. It would totally be in his nature to come out and go a little nuts this weekend. I’d use him in maybe 5% of my lineups but I can’t invest heavily on him with the way that Dak Prescott currently looks.
PHI: I don’t expect anyone of value to see much playing time, and that includes Nick Foles. Some guys who may get an uptick in value are Trey Burton, Mack Hollins, and one of the backup RB (either Corey Clement or Wendell Smallwood). As I stated above, I don’t mess with situations like this but if you’re playing an early only slate then Hollins and whichever RB is projected to get the work stand out to me.
My Guys: NONE
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
CLE: I don’t care how many Steelers are sitting, I will not trust the majority of the Browns with my DFS bankroll. The only player I’d consider is Duke Johnson due to his relatively high floor. He’s scored 10+ PPR points in all but four games this year so you kind of know what you’re getting for his reasonable salary. I don’t want any other Browns.
PIT: All the major players for the Steelers should be sitting in this game, and I think that’ll include guys like Jesse James and JuJu Smith-Schuster. As I mentioned in my opening, I think there’s a chance that a Landry Jones/Justin Hunter stack has some value but I’m not going to put my money on it. If I really wanted to save money I could use Jones to lock in higher priced players at other positions. Last year he had 277 yards and 3 TD in Week 16 against CLE so we know a good game is in his range of outcomes and he makes for a great low-owned pivot off of a potentially very popular Patrick Mahomes.
My Guys: Landry Jones (Tier 3)
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
CAR: This game is another one of my bold predictions (like I had with DET) in that I think you completely fade the Panthers. Carolina is already in the playoffs and has a chance at winning the division, although it would take the Buccaneers beating the Saints and a Panthers win in Atlanta against a Falcons team that is fighting to make the playoffs. It’s quite possible that Ron Rivera accepts his fate and rests his ailing squad after a couple of quarters to save them for Wild Card Weekend. That would mean Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, and Christian McCaffrey would find it very hard to hit value. Their ownership is going to be pretty high so a full fade of the team gives you a leg up if my doomsday scenario hits.
ATL: On the other hand, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are going to do everything they can to make the result of this game one without question. We saw Jones go for over 300 yards in this matchup last year, and while I don’t think he goes that crazy this year I can surely see a 150 yard, 2 TD type of game out of him. There’s a lot of love out there for Mohamed Sanu but I don’t see it. To me, this is a Julio game or a pass. I don’t care for either RB when both are playing. Crazy as this sounds, I had a dream that the Falcons scored a defensive TD. Perhaps that’s more wishful thinking (I own them in a season long points league) but I’m all about full disclosure; no, I don’t make picks based on dreams.
My Guys: Julio Jones (Tier 1), Matt Ryan (Tier 2)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
CIN: While I’d prefer not to play any Bengals I do think it’s irresponsible to not mention that Giovani Bernard should see a ton of touches (17+ in three straight; 30 touches in Week 16). I won’t use him but as they say, the more you know…
BAL: With the Ravens wanting to win this game to lock down a playoff spot (yes, I know there are ways they can lose and get in rather easily) I think they play very hard this weekend. Cincinnati shocked the world against the Lions last weekend but they don’t have it in them to do this in back to back weeks. Alex Collins should get a ton of work, 15+ touches for sure. He’s not a top end play because of how he’s used near the goal line (poorly) but his workload should keep him in consideration for you. Mike Wallace is the top WR for the Ravens and he’s consistently been a worthwhile play with double digit PPR points in eight of his last eleven games. Ben Watson is a great low end TE to use to give you some wiggle room at the other positions. I’ve found that using him with Landry Jones at QB opens up a lot cap space for RB/WR. All that said, I don’t love Joe Flacco this weekend. Watson and Wallace can have good games relative to their price while Flacco still doesn’t hit value. I think there are better options in his price range. Despite the injuries, the Ravens defense is one of the top options on the board this week. They’ve had 3+ sacks in two-thirds of their games this year, and failing to reach 2 sacks only twice all season. Andy Dalton is not a QB that reacts well to pressure.
My Guys: Alex Collins (Tier 3), Ben Watson (Tier 1), Ravens DST (Tier 1)
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
BUF: The Bills have an outside shot at making the playoffs so they have a great deal of motivation in this game. I’m going to play it a little cautiously because I think that the ownership for some of these guys is going to outweigh the upside. Tyrod Taylor is not a QB I’m interested in despite his versatility. I just don’t think he has the weapons to put together a strong game for himself. I think Kelvin Benjamin can put together a good game but that’s about it from the pass catchers. I wouldn’t be shocked if KB came out with a 75 yard, 1 TD game on about 10 targets. The real player to watch here is LeSean McCoy. The Dolphins struggle against the run and the last time these two teams faced, McCoy had one of his better games of the year (96 total yards and 2 TD). He’s a guy that’s well worth paying up for this weekend.
MIA: Adam Gase has said that Jay Cutler will get the start this week, which indicates that Miami is in this game to win it. That means a full workload for Kenyan Drake; putting me all aboard the Drake Train. For the third straight week I am going to full advocate for an RB game stack with Kenyan Drake, this time with LeSean McCoy. It worked out well last time (113 total yards and a TD) and I think it does again this weekend. The only other MIA players that interest me are DeVante Parker (22 targets over the last two weeks; perfect troll job to pop off in a meaningless Week 17 game) and AJ Derby (a very talented head case that saw 5 targets last weekend). All it would take from a guy like Derby is a goal line TD to pay off for you, and his salary gives you a TON of flexibility elsewhere.
My Guys: LeSean McCoy (Tier 1), Kenyan Drake (Tier 1), AJ Derby (Tier 3)
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NO: All the Saints are in play this weekend but I’m going to focus heavily on the running game. I’m just not sure that Drew Brees has done enough this year for me to feel comfortable using him when he’s the chalk QB. I know that he’s cheap but he’s only hit 20 fantasy points twice since the trade of Adrian Peterson. I want a QB with more upside than that. Even though I don’t love Brees, Michael Thomas is very much in play for me. He’s been a monster over the last month and a half and even with this team focusing on the run he always seems to pay off. TB is awful against the pass so another 100 yard game is well within reach on double digit targets. My boy Alvin Kamara continues to play well, so well that last week was an “off week” and he still put up 16 PPR points. You’re not rostering Kamara in the hopes that he scores only 16 points, but if that’s the floor then you are in pretty good shape. TB is awful against the run so Kamara’s touches should be high quality. As much as I love Kamara, I think the RB to own here may very well end up being Mark Ingram. He’s less consistent than his running mate but when push comes to shove, he’s the RB with the greater chance to hit 20 carries and get goal line work (12 rushing TD on the season). Against a team like TB that is so bad against the run, it’s well within reason to think that Sean Payton is just going to pound Ingram into that line until it breaks.
TB: Of all the teams that have nothing to play for in the late window, the Buccaneers could very well be the team that puts up the most fight. For some reason they are bringing Dirk Koetter back next year and he’s going to want to head into the off season with some momentum. Over the last couple of weeks Jameis Winston and Mike Evans have played like the guys we drafted back in August. Winston is averaging 305 yards and 2 TD per game over the last month, while Evans has seen 8 targets in each of his last two games while nearing 20 PPR points in each game. They are one of my favorite stacks of the day. Cameron Brate is always in play when Jameis Winston starts at QB, although he’s shown little the last month.
My Guys: Alvin Kamara (Tier 3), Mark Ingram (Tier 2), Michael Thomas (Tier 2), Jameis Winston (Tier 1), Mike Evans (Tier 2)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
JAX: It would be just like Doug Moron to play all his starters in this meaningless game, wouldn’t it? Sure, let’s throw fragile as hell Leonard Fournette out there to get killed before the playoffs. Great strategy. At some point someone is going to knock Marone out before inactives are posted and make sure guys like Bortles, Fournette, and the defensive studs aren’t playing in this game. There’s no way I touch a single Jaguar this weekend.
TEN: You, me, and everyone else in the world is going to roster Derrick Henry this weekend. I don’t care what the ownership is, his upside is just too great to sit at his price. We’ve been waiting ALL YEAR for this one game and there’s nothing that’s going to pull us off it (cue the 12 carry, 32 yard performance). I’ve been calling Derrick Henry a league winning play all year and now that he’s got the starting RB job I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. He’s a top RB play for me. While I do think this is a relatively low scoring game, there is room for Delanie Walker to play well and the Titans defense is definitely in play regardless of who starts at QB for the Jags. The Titans DST have recorded 3+ sacks in four of their last five games and have the upside of 6+ sacks. That’s tasty and I’m all over it if I can afford their price.
My Guys: Derrick Henry (Tier 1), Delanie Walker (Tier 3), Titans DST (Tier 1)
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
KC: Aaaaaaaaand here is the third spot where I take my stand against a popular player. Sure, I think Patrick Mahomes has a ton of upside but with a roster full of backups, as a rookie, he just doesn’t project to have a huge game. I’m not going to ride the chalk in a situation like this. It’s just too likely that he ends the game with 170 yard and a TD rather than 320 yards and 3 TD. I could get burned here but I’m going to take my chances and fade the guy whose top target will end up being DeMarcus Robinson (who I do kind of like as a cheapie WR play). The top target on KC should be Charcandrick West. There’s no way that Kareem Hunt should see the field this weekend and Akeem Hunt is hurt. That leaves West as the most likely handler of the rock. Andy Reid likes to use one primary RB so if West is that guy, you can expect a heavy workload. With Denver playing like garbage, that workload could land West as a top twelve RB when all is said and done.
DEN: With no other real options I suppose Demaryius Thomas could be in line for a ton of targets but when they are coming from Paxton Lynch I’m not sure of the quality of the targets. I’ll probably pass on DT. CJ Anderson, on the other hand, should have a monster game and I’m all over him this weekend. I think that people are sleeping on him a bit but he’s averaging 24 touches per week over the last month and has been quite productive (especially the last two weeks with a 5.4 yards per carry). He’s one of my top RB plays on the slate.
My Guys: CJ Anderson (Tier 2)
Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
OAK: Nope. I’m out on OAK. There is nobody on this team worth playing. They’d better figure things out before they come to my city in a few years. What an embarrassing season.
LAC: I want to be all in on this team but I’ve watched them for a number of years and they always seem to lay an egg in prime spots like this. They have the motivation with a playoff spot still up for grabs, they are at home, and Oakland is terrible. This is just the spot for them to throw up a 10-3 win and make me want to throw my TV out the window. In theory, Rivers and Keenan Allen should have a big game this weekend. Antonio Gates, despite his increase salary, should also pay off nicely (although at a much higher ownership than last weekend). I want Melvin Gordon to be well enough to play but I’m afraid he’s going to try to tough it out and do more harm than good. Branden Oliver is not in play for me at all. If you wanted to take a long shot with Tyrell Williams, this seems like the kind of game he’d excel in (a deep threat against a team that can’t defend the deep pass). My favorite play in this game may very well be the Chargers defense, a squad that hasn’t let me down any time I’ve used them all season.
My Guys: Philip Rivers (Tier 3), Keenan Allen (Tier 3), Tyrell Williams (Tier 3), Antonio Gates (Tier 2), Chargers DST (Tier 2)
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
SF: How popular is Jimmy GQ going to be this weekend? I don’t know if he’ll be the true chalk but his ownership is going to probably outshine his actual performances. Yes, he’s winning games but he’s not a fantasy stud by any means (4 TD total in four starts). The Rams won’t be playing anyone of consequence on their defense but to me that sets up the RB a lot more than the passing game. I guess you can call this my fourth stand of the week with a Jimmy GQ fade. I’ve seen a lot of people hyping up Carlos Hyde but I think this is the week the Breida gets some action at RB. He’s had 11+ carries in three of the four games that Garoppolo has played and at some point they have to give him a chance to see what he can do with 20 carries. Last week it was Hyde with 21 carries and Breida with 11, while this week I can see those numbers flipping. It takes a leap of faith to use him but he could pay off with a big performance against a defense that just won’t care. You know who else doesn’t care? The Rams offense. I see a ton of value in picking a near-min priced 49ers defense and seeing what happens against Sean Mannion.
LAR: Everyone is assuming that Malcolm Brown steps in for Todd Gurley and gets the work for the Rams but don’t be shocked if Justin Davis leads the team in carries. The former USC product is very talented and the Rams may want to see what they have in him. I’m not saying to go out and play Davis, instead I’m saying don’t just blindly grab Brown for a punt RB either.
My Guys: Matt Breida (Tier 3), 49ers DST (Tier 3)
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
ARI: There’s no reason for Larry Fitzgerald to not come out and have a big game this weekend. While the Cardinals have nothing to play for, there’s no reason for them to sit Fitz either. This could be one of those games where they feed him the ball to end the year (and his career?) on a high note. He’s one of my top WR plays from teams that have nothing to play for. I have little interest in anyone else on this team.
SEA: You have to believe that Russell Wilson is going to come out here and play one of his better games of the season, right? I know that offensive line is garbage. I know that he has no running game. I know that his pass catchers have been less than stellar. Some way, somehow Wilson is going to gut this team to victory in a must-win game to keep their playoff hopes alive. All that said, I don’t know if I have it in me to pay up for him. He’s the most expensive QB on the slate that is actually playing and he severely inhibits your ability to spend up elsewhere. I’d much rather spend down and use a guy like Cousins or Winston.
My Guys: NONE
QB RB WR TE DST
Tier 1 Kirk Cousins (WSH) LeSean McCoy (BUF) TY Hilton (IND) Rob Gronkowski (NE) Baltimore Ravens
Jameis Winston (TB) Kenyan Drake (MIA) Julio Jones (ATL) Jack Doyle (IND) Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry (TEN) Josh Doctson (WSH) Ben Watson (BAL) Tier 2 Matt Ryan (ATL) Bilal Powell (NYJ) Jamison Crowder (WSH) Antonio Gates (LAC) Los Angeles Chargers
Dion Lewis (NE) Michael Thomas (NO) Detroit Lions
Mark Ingram (NO) Mike Evans (TB) CJ Anderson (DEN) Matt Breida (SF) Tier 3 Case Keenum (MIN) Frank Gore (IND) Kenny Golladay (DET) AJ Derby (MIA) San Francisco 49ers
Landry Jones (PIT) Alfred Blue (HOU) Adam Thielen (MIN) Delanie Walker (TEN) Philip Rivers (LAC) Wayne Gallman (NYG) Keenan Allen (LAC) Alex Collins (BAL) Tyrell Williams (LAC) Alvin Kamara (NO)
Thank you all for another great season. I will be back in April with The Longball over at The Fake Baseball (and back here in September with another season of the Hail Mary). For now, go check out the great work being done over at The Fake Basketball to get your winter DFS fix.
Your feedback is always welcome. If there’s a player you don’t see or would like to talk more about, you can find me on Twitter @bankster17. I’m around all the time for questions, advice, and comments. I answer every single person that sends me a Tweet.