Week 15 DFS picks: Lean on Matthew Stafford against the Saints defense

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If you’re still alive in any of your season-long leagues, I tip my bourbon-laced eggnog to you. If you’ve fallen by the wayside … well, let’s discuss this week’s FanDuel docket. Because thanks to the holiday magic of DFS, fantasy football isn’t over until we say it’s over! (Or until a judge or attorney general says so ... but never mind.)

Let’s start by looking at some of the more attractive budget plays for Week 15. Then we’ll touch on some of the players worth the big bucks..

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Smart bargains

Matthew Stafford, Lions QB ($7,800)—This is as cheap as I’m willing to go at quarterback this week. Stafford has a Monday night date against a Saints defense that has given up 36 TD passes this season and is yielding an average of 8.5 yards per pass. Lions-Saints has a Vegas total of 51 points, the highest number on the board this week. Stafford has averaged 38 passing attempts over his last six games, and if he has that sort of passing volume against New Orleans, he could put up circus numbers.

David Johnson, Cardinals RB ($6,500)—Johnson is sure to be heavily owned at such a bargain rate, and I’m inclined to follow the pack. The rookie had 24 touches last week and will continue to be worked hard with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington both injured. Johnson has a good matchup against the Eagles, who are allowing a hefty 21.1 schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game, according to our friends at 4for4.com.

Denard Robinson, Jaguars RB ($6,300)—With T.J. Yeldon likely out with a sprained MCL, Robinson is expected to carry the load against an Atlanta defense that’s given up 17 rushing touchdowns, the second-highest total in the league.

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Lamar Miller, Dolphins RB ($6,700)—The fear, obviously, is that the Dolphins’ coaching staff will continue to underutilize him. But the talented Miller has a nice home matchup against the Chargers, and the price is right.

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Brandon Bolden, Patriots RB ($5,500)—If you need a super-saver for tournament play, here’s your man. With LeGarrette Blount out for the season and James White more of a pass catcher than a runner, Bolden might get ample carries against Tennessee in a game the Patriots are expected to win easily, setting the stage for a run-heavy game script. If you take advantage of the blue-light special and Bolden checks in with a short touchdown or two, you’ll get a big leg up against a large tournament field.

Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs WR ($6,700)—Over his last three games, Maclin has been targeted 30 times and has 24 receptions for 323 yards and three TDs. He has an alluring matchup Sunday against a flammable Ravens pass defense.

Doug Baldwin, Seahawks WR ($7,400)—It seems absurd that he’s so affordable when he’s scored eight TDs in his last three games. I worry that there’s a letdown game coming, but a matchup against the hapless Browns could keep the party going for another week.

Stefon Diggs, Vikings WR ($5,700)—His production has screeched to a halt in recent weeks, but Diggs has had to contend with some of the better cornerbacks in football over the last month, including Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Atlanta’s Desmond Trufant. The Bears don’t have a lockdown cover corner, and in Diggs’ last game against Chicago, he had six catches for 95 yards and a TD.

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Brandin Cooks, Saints WR ($7,000)—Cooks has put up poor numbers in two of his last three outings, but he’s nevertheless had six TD catches in his last six games, and his target totals are consistently solid.

Zach Miller, Bears TE ($5,500)—After scoring four TDs over the first 40 games of his career, Miller has scored five TDs in his last six. He hasn’t been seeing a ton of targets, but with Bears QB Jay Cutler having few other options besides WR Alshon Jeffery, Miller should get enough looks to remain a viable DFS option.

Chalk plays

Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB ($8,800)—Browns head coach Mike Pettine, whose invitation to join Mensa apparently got lost in the mail, said on Wednesday that Wilson doesn’t belong in the top tier of NFL quarterbacks. That might even be true, but it isn’t especially wise to say it four days before your cellar-dwelling team faces Wilson, who’s been going berserk over the last four weeks and now has extra incentive to continue his rampage.

Drew Brees, Saints QB ($8,000)—His per-game averages in indoor games over his career: 307.7 passing yards and 2.34 TD passes. His per-game averages in night games over his career: 296.6 passing yards and 2.27 TD passes. I like Brees’ prospects in a Monday-night home game against the Lions.

Adrian Peterson, Vikings RB ($8,600)—The running back position is a hot mess right now, so there’s a strong case to be made for paying the freight for the most reliable RB in the game.

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LeSean McCoy, Bills RB ($7,900)—You wish he’d score a few more TDs (he has five this season), but McCoy has produced more than 100 yards from scrimmage in seven consecutive games. His matchup against Washington this week is a good one.

DeAngelo Williams, Steelers RB ($7,000)—A date with the Broncos will scare some people away, but the Denver run defense isn’t impregnable. D-Will has scored five TDs over his last five games and has averaged 133.4 yards from scrimmage over that stretch.

Calvin Johnson, Lions WR ($8,000)—A Stafford-Johnson stack looks pretty attractive this week. Megatron is coming off a one-catch game against the Rams but could bounce back in a big way against the Saints and the likely coverage of struggling cornerback Brandon Browner.

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos WR ($7,700)—Thomas hasn’t had a 100-yard day since Halloween weekend, but his TD production has started to pick up gain, he’s seeing double-digit targets most week, and he has a compelling matchup against a shaky Pittsburgh secondary.

Eric Decker, Jets WR ($7,500)—This is a very reasonable price for a guy who’s scored nine touchdowns in 12 games and hasn’t failed to produce either a TD or 80-plus receiving yards this season.

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Greg Olsen, Panthers TE ($6,800)—Olsen continues to be the best weekly value at tight end, and a matchup against a leaky Giants defense makes him all the more worthwhile.

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots TE ($8,500)—The price seems a little steep for a guy who banged up his knee so recently, but he looked entirely Gronk-like in putting up 87 yards and a TD against the Texans last week, and he faces a Titans defense that hasn’t been very good at defending tight ends.

Top kicker values: Stephen Gostkowski ($5,100), Steven Hauschka ($5,000), Kai Forbath ($4,500)

Top defense values: Minnesota ($4,600), Seattle ($5,400), Indianapolis ($4,100)

Optimal lineup

Here’s the lineup I’m rolling with this week in FanDuel’s “$75K Sunday NFL Scramble”:

Matthew Stafford ($7,800)
DeAngelo Williams ($7,000)
David Johnson ($6,500)
Calvin Johnson ($8,000)
Demaryius Thomas ($7,700)
Stefon Diggs ($5,700)
Greg Olsen ($6,800)
Stephen Gostkowski ($5,100)
Seattle ($5,400)

I’m doing more herd-following than usual. The Stafford-Megatron stack will be popular, and David Johnson and Greg Olsen will be widely owned. A lot of people will spend liberally on a kicker and a defense, as I did with Gostkowski and Seattle.

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The linchpin for me this week is Diggs. Everyone is off the bandwagon, but I think this is the time to get back on. After weeks of going up against top cornerbacks, Diggs should have more room to operate this week vs. the Bears. I don’t think many people are going to pay up for Demaryius Thomas, but I really like his matchup against Pittsburgh.

Speaking of Broncos-Steelers, I’m also putting some chips down on DeAngelo Williams, who’s become such a pivotal part of the Pittsburgh offense. The Denver defense is tough, but I don’t think it can shut down D-Will.