Daily fantasy picks: Who should you start in Week 13 of the NFL season?

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Fantasy Football: Players to embrace and avoid for Week 13
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Saturday December 3rd, 2016

Brandin Cooks. Eric Ebron. Thomas Rawls. Amari Cooper. All were popular DFS plays last week for good reason. All came up well short of expectations. The DFS game isn’t immune to the letdown that is all too familiar to season-long owners who had confidence in those players last week. DFS owners, of course, can move on from them this week, but at least one is set for a bounce-back game.

Below are my ideal picks for both DraftKings and FanDuel. I will be playing lineups other than the ones I present here, but these are my go-to lineups for both sites. Be sure to read on and check out Andrew Perloff’s plays, as well.

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Quarterback

Drew Brees (DK: $7,600, FD: $9,300) vs. Detroit

Brees at home. It’s as simple as that. Yeah, you have to pay for the privilege, but you should have to pay up for something this good. Brees has now played six games at home this season after carving up the Rams to the tune of 310 yards, 8.61 yards per attempt, four touchdowns and a rushing score last week. In those six games, he has thrown for 2,142 yards (357 yards per game), 8.74 YPA, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions, with two trips to the end zone on the ground to boot. He’s averaging 30.9 DK points per game and 28.03 FD points per game at the Superdome this season. This week, he gets a hapless Lions defense that has allowed the 11th-most points per game to quarterbacks, 7.47 YPA and 22 passing touchdowns this season. The game total is 53.5, and the Saints have an implied team total of 29.5 points. Brees is going to put on another show for the hometown fans.

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (DK: $9,200, FD: $9,300) vs. New York Giants

It’s impossible to be wrong with Bell, who has more than 100 yards from scrimmage in all but one game this season. The price is a lot harder to fit into DK lineups than ones on FD this week, which is why I have four backs listed here. I just couldn’t get him into a lineup on DK where I was comfortable with all my players, given that I did not want to back off Brees no matter what. If you’re using my picks as a jumping-off point for your own lineups, understand that it is a serious challenge to pair Brees and Bell on DK this week.

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Jordan Howard (DK: $6,900, FD: $7,400) vs. San Francisco

Howard continues to shine amidst a lost season in Chicago. With Matt Barkley under center last week and seemingly all eyes of the Tennessee defense trained on Howard, he still ran for 84 yards on 18 carries and caught three passes for 43 yards. There’s no doubting that Howard is a top-15 fantasy back, and the context of the Chicago offense, bad as it is, cannot hold him back. A great matchup with the 49ers helps, but Howard has earned this spot on his own merit. He’s going to be a force in fantasy leagues next season.

Doug Martin (DK: $5,700, FD: $6,500) at San Diego

Martin has played three games since returning from a hamstring injury that cost him about half the season. He has rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown on 63 carries since getting back, adding six catches for 58 yards. Those solid-if-not-spectacular numbers are a fair reflection of his play, but also hint at his being a bit undervalued this week. Martin hasn’t posted a big game this season, but he’s getting a ton of opportunity in the narrow usage of the Buccaneers offense. In four games he has started and finished this year, he has at least 23 touches in three of them. The Buccaneers clearly haven’t been shy about his health the last two weeks, giving him 24 and 23 carries. That workload combined with his talent makes him a steal at his prices on both sites.

Kennth Dixon (DK: $3,700, FD: $5,100) vs. Miami

Dixon may have moved into pole position in the Baltimore backfield, and there’s certainly enough of a chance of it that he’s worth betting on at his Week 13 prices, especially on DK. Dixon played eight more snaps than Terrance West last week, outgained him by 16 yards despite just one more touch, and is obviously the most explosive player in the Baltimore backfield. A team that is devoid of playmakers does not have the option of minimizing Dixon’s role. There’s a lot of potential for huge profit with him this week.

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Wide Receivers

Julio Jones (DK: $8,700, FD: $8,300) vs. Kansas City

Jones has been a bizarrely boom-or-bust player this season. Outside of Week 1, when he had 66 yards and a touchdown, Jones has had at least 106 yards or fewer than 36 yards in every game this season (six up, four down). He should add another game to the good side of the ledger this week with the Falcons welcoming the Chiefs to Atlanta. The over/under on the game is 49 and the Falcons are favored by 3.5 points, giving them an implied team total of 26.5 points. The Chiefs defensive charms are mostly rooted in stopping the run. They’ve allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and second most to receivers this year. Jones should take advantage.

Brandin Cooks (DK: $6,400, FD: $6,800) vs. Detroit

Yes, I was one of the many people taken down by the zero-target game for Cooks last week. His literal stat-line no-show was one of the most surprising single-week developments of this NFL season, and should be followed up with a dramatic swing in the opposite direction. Reports surfaced earlier this week that Cooks was unhappy with his role in the Saints offense, likely a reflection of him ceding top-dog status to Michael Thomas. Even so, you can bet on the squeaky wheel getting plenty of grease on Sunday in a game with an over/under of 53.5 points.

Dontrelle Inman (DK: $5,200, FD: $5,200) vs. Tampa Bay

Brees, Bell, Howard, Martin, Jones and Cooks. No matter if we’re talking DK or FD, we’ve already got a lot of high-priced talent on the roster. The rest of the team is going to be at the bottom end of the pricing scale, starting with our final receivers. On FD, that’s going to be Inman. He exploded for 119 yards and a touchdown last week, and even though that’s far from his norm, his presence on the field for nearly every play every week cannot be ignored. Tyrell Williams is the No. 1 receiver in San Diego, but Inman’s presence in the gameplan has increased with Travis Benjmain unable to shake his knee injury. The Chargers and Buccaneers are expected to play to a total of 47.5 points, with the Chargers featuring an implied total of 25.5 points. Inman gives us cheap investment in this game and the Philip Rivers-led San Diego offense.

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Malcom Mitchell (DK: $3,600, FD: $5,600) vs. Los Angeles

Over on DK, Mitchell will fill our final receiver slot. He’s far too expensive on FD, where he checks in at $5,600 after a couple of strong games, but he’s still a wildly affordable $3,500 on DK. Over the last two weeks, Mitchell has nine catches, 12 targets, 140 yards and three touchdowns. With Rob Gronkowski out, Mitchell is Tom Brady’s most downfield weapon. The Patriots feature an implied team total of 29.5 this week, tied with the Saints for the highest on the board. Like Inman does for the Chargers, Mitchell gives us our cheapest possible investment in the Patriots offense.

Tight End

Coby Fleener (DK: $3,500, FD: $5,500) vs. Detroit

With saving money at tight end a necessity, why not turn to someone at the position tied to Drew Brees? Fleener, too, has done his best work at home, and he has as great a matchup as a tight end can hope for in 2016. As I’ve stressed time and again, matchup is no more than a tiebreaker or a slight bonus once you’ve already made your decision, but it’s worth noting that the Lions have allowed the most fantasy points per game to the position this season.

Kicker

Caleb Sturgis (FD: $4,500) at Cincinnati

Sturgis is as cheap as it gets despite connecting on 25 of his 29 field goal attempts this season. He’s second in the league in both makes and attempts, and has drilled four from beyond 50 yards. Distance isn’t an issue for him, which should give you more confidence going with a kicker playing in Cincinnati during the first week of December.

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Defense/Special Teams

New England Patriots (DK: $3,700, FD: $4,600) vs. Los Angeles

In the Patriots, we get a defense that is tied to a team favored by nearly two touchdowns playing against Jared Goff at home. It doesn’t get much better than that. Bill Belichick vs. Jeff Fisher is one of the greatest coaching mismatches in the league, as well. It’s well worth it to pay up for the Patriots this week.

DraftKings lineup:

QB: Drew Brees

RB1: Jordan Howard

RB2: Doug Martin

WR1: Julio Jones

WR2: Brandin Cooks

WR3: Malcolm Mitchell

TE: Coby Fleener

FLEX: Kenneth Dixon

DST: Patriots

FanDuel lineup:

QB: Drew Brees

RB1: Le’Veon Bell

RB2: Doug Martin

WR1: Julio Jones

WR2: Brandin Cooks

WR3: Dontrelle Inman

TE: Coby Fleener

K: Caleb Sturgis

DEF: Patriots

Andrew Perloff

At my level of play … the non-algorithm/professional gambler level … DFS can humble you on a given week. After a multi-week win streak and a big Thanksgiving day, I took some hits with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks scoring five points against the Bucs. Who scores five points? But like Wilson, I’m going to rise like a Phoenix this week… thanks to David Johnson having a big game in Phoenix. Actually, Glendale. This week, I’m surrounding three superstars with bargains in my ideal lineup (built around FD prices).

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Quarterback

Drew Brees ($9,300 FanDuel, $7,600 DraftKings)

I’m going heavy with the most obvious play because I like his matchup better than the other chalky QBs. Lots of people will jump on Big Ben at home vs. the Giants, but New York’s pass D is much improved. Tom Brady is adjusting to life without Gronk. And everyone is all about Aaron Rodgers again—for good reason, he’ll be in my alternate lineups. But the Houston matchup isn’t ideal. Brees should have success against a Lions D that have given up 22 passing TDs (fourth worst in the NFL).

Alternate: Colin Kaepernick is on fantasy fire and will be heavily played against the Bears. Russell Wilson should bounce back from last week’s debacle against the Panthers’ flawed secondary. And the aforementioned Rodgers should keep playing well now that he feels comfortable with his targets.

Running Backs

David Johnson ($9,200 FanDuel, $9,500 DraftKings)

You don’t need me to tell you to play Johnson … the question is how do you squeeze him in? I built the rest of my lineup around getting him in.

Jeremy Hill ($5,800 FanDuel, $4,300 DraftKings)

With A.J. Green and Gio Bernard out, Hill became a receiving threat last week, catching all six of his targets. This is a tough matchup and I don’t expect Hill to run easily against Philly. But Cincy QB Andy Dalton has to throw somewhere and the Bengals may play better than expected at home.

Alternate: Chargers RB Melvin Gordon has cooled off a bit the last couple of weeks, but he gets a nice matchup against the Bucs in San Diego. And consider the Bills’ LeSean McCoy—he may not be as popular today, but could go off if Bills- Raiders becomes a shootout. And you want to be there if the Broncos’ Devontae Booker finds the end zone against the Jags.

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Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. ($9,000 FanDuel, $8,500 DraftKings)

I’d think with the game in Pittsburgh, most people will pick Antonio Brown at this price. But the Giants defense is improving and Beckham might be an effective contrarian play. He’ll see a fair amount of rookie cornerback Artie Burns. The Steelers’ defense has looked good of late but that’s because they’ve faced the Browns and Andrew Luck-less Colts.

Dontrelle Inman ($5,200 FanDuel, $5,200 DraftKings)

With the Chargers’ Tyrell Williams dealing with a shoulder injury, Inman is in line for a big target day against the Bucs. He’ll be a popular play and I’m flat-out chasing last week’s points (six catches, 119 yards, TD last week). But I need him at this price to go big at other positions.

Willie Snead ($6,500 FanDuel, $6,500 DraftKings)

Frankly, I’d prefer the Saints’ Brandin Cooks, who had no targets last week and let his coaching staff know. Or rookie Michael Thomas, who defenses haven’t solved. But I do want to stack someone with Brees and Snead’s price point made that possible in this lineup. It’s a bit of a guessing game anyway with New Orleans’s receivers.

Alternate: I’m varying my lineups at WR heavily at this week because there are great options. Green Bay’s Davante Adams isn’t priced like a No. 1 receiver but he should be. The Saints’ Michael Thomas is going to do some damage and is also reasonable. And there’s no way the Chargers can cover the Bucs’ Mike Evans.

Tight End

Travis Kelce ($6,300 FanDuel, $5,100 DraftKings)

This is going to be chalky and I don’t care. I want to get in on this Chiefs-Falcons contest and as we saw last week, K.C.’s tight end is Alex Smith’s security blanket in passing situations. The Falcons are vulnerable against tight ends and have the overall worst pass defense in the NFL.

Alternate: If the Panthers are going to get to the Seahawks in the passing game at all, it will be with tight end Greg Olsen. And on the other side of the ball, Jimmy Graham is a safe play against Carolina’s week pass defense.

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Kicker

Dustin Hopkins ($4,700 FanDuel)

Redskins-Cardinals should have plenty of points and, you gotta love guys kicking indoors this late in the season.

Defense

Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,000 FanDuel, $2,600 DraftKings)

Bear with me here. They face a rookie quarterback, Paxton Lynch, in his second start. They’re at home. And they love their likely soon-to-be-fired coach Gus Bradley. It all comes together for the Jags on Sunday. It better. They do allow you to go big elsewhere, so call it a calculated risk.

Alternates

Everyone knows Bill Belichick eats up rookie quarterbacks, so definitely sprinkle in some Patriots. And the Ravens are great already on D and the Dolphins’ offense has injury issues.

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