So you’ve missed the playoffs in your season-long league(s). Maybe you lost multiple heartbreakers by just a point or two. Maybe your top two running backs coming out of your draft were Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster. Maybe you had the highest opponent points against in your league for the third year running. It stinks, pal. Bill Clinton and I feel your pain.
But the regular season isn’t over yet, and you don’t have to be finished with fantasy football. That’s the beauty of DFS: You aren’t tethered to your misfortunes for the long haul. So let’s wipe the slate clean and win some money on FanDuel, shall we?
Let’s look at some of the better bargains and some of the more sensible chalk plays of Week 14, all based on a typical $60,000 salary cap:
Johnny Manziel, Browns QB ($6,400): A lot of DFS players will dismiss Johnny Football out of hand, but he faces a bad 49ers defense at home, and the Browns can’t run the ball. Manziel dropped 372 yards on the Steelers in his last start, and he adds value with his running ability. If you’re into intangibles, consider how badly Manziel needs a strong showing on Sunday for the sake of his NFL future.
Alex Smith, Chiefs QB (6,800): He’s risk-averse and all too often touchdown-averse, but Smith is a reliable yardage producer and has an enticing home matchup against the Chargers.
Ryan Mathews, Eagles RB ($4,700): After missing three games with a concussion, Matthews is expected back against Buffalo this week. He figures to play a prominent role since DeMarco Murray has apparently fallen out of favor with Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Mathews is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has scored six TDs on just 89 touches. The Bills’ defense has been hemorrhaging fantasy points to opposing RBs this season.
Charles Sims, Bucs RB ($4,900): A bargain-basement price for a frisky, versatile performer who’ll be facing one of the worst NFL defenses in recent memory. Targeting the Saints’ defense makes good sense, and this is a sneaky, inexpensive way to do it. If you’re loading up at other positions and need to pinch pennies, Sims could be a cost-efficient option.
Charcandrick West, Chiefs RB ($5,800): He put up pedestrian numbers last weekend in his first game back from a hamstring injury, but West played 84% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps, so concerns about a potential time-share with Spencer Ware are overblown. West has an attractive matchup against a bad San Diego run defense.
Keshawn Martin, Pats WR ($5,100): Although he had only three receptions for 45 yards last week, Martin was targeted eight times and played 97% of New England’s offensive snaps—more than either Danny Amendola or Brandon LaFell. Rob Gronkowski is expected to miss another game with a knee injury, so there will be plenty of Tom Brady targets available when the Patriots face the Texans on Sunday night.
Brian Hartline, Browns WR ($5,300): As crazy as it sounds, a Manziel-Hartline stack might have some merit. Travis Benjamin missed practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury, and Hartline should see ample targets Sunday if Benjamin is out or at less than full capacity.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins WR ($5,900): With a TD catch in each of his last two games, the rookie from Louisville is going to be a popular DFS play this week. I’m fine with following the herd on this one. Parker faces a shaky Giants pass defense in a game that profiles as a track meet.
Vincent Jackson, Bucs WR ($6,800): Nearly all of the Buccaneers’ skill-position players are viable DFS options this week against the porous New Orleans defense. The Bucs attempted only 21 passes when they beat the Saints back in Week 2, but V-Jax still produced 54 yards and a touchdown.
Ben Watson, Saints TE ($5,300): Tight end probably isn’t a good place to cut corners this week, but Watson is one of the few bargain-basement options worth considering. He’s averaged 67.4 receiving yards over his last eight games, with four TDs over that stretch.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB ($8,500): Over his last three games, Wilson has thrown for 879 yards and 11 TDs, with 95 rushing yards. He faces a Ravens defense that’s been generous to opposing QBs this season. Some DFS players studiously avoid using West Coast quarterbacks in early-afternoon East Coast road games, but as hot as Wilson has been, he’s worth considering.
Jameis Winston, Bucs QB ($7,800): How bad is the New Orleans pass defense? The Saints have an opponent passer rating of 116.6 this season. Aaron Rodgers has a career passer rating of 105.1, and Tom Brady’s is 96.3. Winston has produced 17 TD passes and five TD runs, and he’s more than capable of taking the Saints to the woodshed.
Eli Manning, Giants QB ($7,500): I like quarterbacks on teams with weak running games, and I also like Eli’s Monday night matchup in Miami. The Giants-Dolphins game opened with a total of 47.5, the second-highest number on the board this week. This one smells like a shootout.
Doug Martin, Bucs RB ($8,000): It’s a steep price for a guy who’s scored only five TDs this season, but if the game script works in the Buccaneers’ favor, Martin could put up some gaudy numbers on the Saints.
LeSean McCoy, Bills RB ($7,900): Shady has averaged 123.6 yards from scrimmage over his last five games, with three TDs over that span. He’ll be facing his former team in Philadelphia, and he seems hell-bent on sticking it to his ex-coach, Chip Kelly.
Odell Beckham Jr., Giants WR ($9,300): OBJ has rattled off five consecutive 100-yard games, and he now has 10 TDs on the season. FanDuel could add $500 to his price tag and I’d still consider paying the freight.
Mike Evans, Bucs WR ($8,000): A Winston-Evans stack makes a lot of sense.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears WR ($7,500): He’s seen double-digit targets in six of his seven games, and Jay Cutler will have to rely on Jeffery even more heavily now that Bears TE Martellus Bennett is on injured reserve. This week’s matchup with Washington is a good one.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins WR ($7,100): After catching two passes for five yards last weekend, Landry is poised to bounce back in a big way against the Giants. Expect him to be motivated by the presence of his good friend and former roommate at LSU, Odell Beckham Jr.
Greg Olsen, Panthers TE ($6,600): He’s such an appealing play that I find it hard to make a case for any other tight end. His matchup with the Falcons is a good one, and QB Cam Newton continues to rely heavily on Olsen.
Appealing kicker values: Cairo Santos ($4,700), Josh Brown ($4,800), Connor Barth ($4,600)
Appealing defense values: Kansas City ($4,800), Green Bay ($4,800), San Francisco ($4,300)
Here’s the lineup I’m trotting out in FanDuel's "$1 Million Sunday NFL Rush" tournament this week:
Eli Manning ($7,500)
LeSean McCoy ($7,900)
Charcandrick West ($5,800)
Odell Beckham Jr. ($9,300)
Jarvis Landry ($7,100)
Vincent Jackson ($6,800)
Greg Olsen ($6,600)
Connor Barth ($4,600)
San Francisco ($4,300)
Olsen was a slam dunk. I had to get at least one Buc to take advantage of the New Orleans defense, so I settled on the reasonably priced V-Jax and added Barth for good measure. The Giants-Dolphins game is one I wanted to pound, so I went with a Manning-Beckham stack and also bet on a rebound game for Landry. The McCoy vengeance angle appealed to me. At the other RB spot, the price was right on West, and I’m hoping he can return to his earlier form after having a week to get back into the swing of things. I considered a number of lineups that featured Manziel at quarterback, but ultimately I made a small bet against Manziel by taking the San Francisco defense. With so much on the line for Johnny Football this weekend, he might be tempted to take some ill-advised chances, which could lead to turnovers.