• Week 15 is here and we get an appetizer of action on Saturday with three interesting games. This breakdown will be a similar format to when we had the three gamer on Thanksgiving. Instead of giving top plays, I will highlight who will be chalk and who potential pivots will be for tournaments. There is not enough of a player pool to completely avoid chalk without sacrificing too much in projections so the point of highlighting the higher-owned plays is to make sure we do not have too many of them in our lineup together. We want to make sure we are playing the best plays, but mixing in some pivots to help gain leverage on the field and avoid splitting our winnings with duplicated lineups. Without further ado, let’s jump in.

    Feel free to also follow me on Twitter @mlafem10 for additional info and thoughts and feel free to reach out in our Sports Ethos NFL DFS Discord channel with questions.

    Three-Game Slate Considerations:

    • Use late swap to your advantage. This isn’t really a new concept, as late swapping is an advantage to use on typical Sunday slates as well, but it is a little easier to digest on a three-game slate, but still enough people will not consider it. Late swapping is more of an art than a science as each scenario is different based on your standing in the tournament, the field size of the contest you are in, and what your opponents have played/ how much salary they have remaining. A general rule of thumb is to assess where you are after each of the first two games and analyze what you need to do to give yourself the best option to win. If you are ahead of the pack after a somewhat contrarian beginning to the day, I would lean on playing a little chalkier with the rest of my lineup. If you are out of the money and have ground to make up, I would recommend getting pretty spicy with my swaps, as leaving chalky pieces in your lineup will do you no good even min cashing, let alone winning. If the swaps don’t pan out, who cares, you probably weren’t going to cash anyway. If you are heading into the final game with a real opportunity to take a tournament down, take a moment to look at what your opponents within range have used and make a decision about who to play based on whether or not you are chasing them or you have the lead.
    • Correlation is less relevant. Especially in the contest size you select. Normally we are trying to do things like avoid playing any players going against the defense we select or limiting how many pass catchers from the same team without their quarterback. However, with a limited player pool to pick from, it is nearly impossible to implement conventional wisdom from a typical main slate into this condensed version. Don’t be afraid to get weird with your roster construction. This can be leaving more salary on the table than you normally would or perhaps going a complete onslaught and rostering five or so players from the same team (which I think is a pretty viable strategy in small-field contests).
    • Take some shots on some low-owned guys. It is easy to get caught up in trying to fit in all the best plays that are conventional wisdom and before you know it, you have a lineup that looks similar to everyone else. You find yourself in a one-vs-one of a roster spot that is going to swing the amount of money you win when your lineup hits. This is not a green light to come completely off the board and fill your lineup with all pivots, but pick a couple of spots that you think are getting overlooked that STILL have upside and not being different for being different sake. Also take into consideration the contest size you are in, as you need fewer dart throws the smaller the field you are in, because chances are the winning score will not be as high in those contests, and more and more ownership will be condensed on the “top plays” so you can get unique with secondary chalk pieces.

     

    Minnesota Vikings @ cincinnati bengals

    Spread: Cincinnati -3

    Total: 40.5

    CIN Team Total: 22.5

    MIN Team Total: 18.5

    The story of the past couple weeks for the Bengals is how impressive backup QB Jake Browning has looked filling in for the injured Joe Burrow. Browning has racked up over 600 passing yards over the past two weeks with three passing touchdowns compared to only one interception. Browning has also added some with his legs with back-to-back games with a rushing touchdown as well. I do not expect the rushing touchdowns to continue to be a thing, so then the question becomes, is this passing attack going to slow down at all or do is Browning as effective and efficient as we have seen thus far from him? It is an interesting matchup with a Vikings defense that just shut out the Raiders a week ago. What makes this an interesting matchup is how much the Vikings blitz (leading the league with a 47% blitz rate on opponent QB dropbacks) and how the Bengals have been getting done on offense with Browning at the helm, using a lot of screen actions to get the ball out quickly. We saw the Chicago Bears utilize this strategy on Monday Night Football to the utmost extreme a few weeks ago when they faced the Vikings with mixed results. The pressure the Vikings have been generating has led them to be the third-best defense in terms of fantasy points against opposing QBs over the last four weeks (obviously boosted by their dominant performance against the Raiders last week). Coming in as the second highest-priced RB on the slate, Joe Mixon has been on fire scoring over 20 DraftKings points in three of his last four. A lot of that has been touchdown-dependent, but there is no denying that Mixon has a great role in this offense, even with the emergence of Chase Brown bringing some much-needed electricity and breakaway ability to this backfield. Mixon is going to come with ownership and is somebody I am not all that excited about jamming in this week. Ja’marr Chase has been a roller coaster this season as he is easily capable of breaking the slate with his big play ability but is also liable to go quietly into the night as we saw last week with a 3/29/0 stat line on only four targets. Chase being $7,600 makes for an interesting tournament option, given his upside. The other pass catchers on Cincinnati don’t really draw much interest from me given their lack of upside or in Tee Higgin’s case, lack of volume, but Tyler Boyd and Tanner Hudson shouldn’t be taken out of your player pool given their price tags. On defense, the Bengals get to face Nick Mullens and a banged-up offensive line for the Vikings, but with a $3,600 price tag and comes with some ownership, I would reserve them to Bengals onslaught builds only or pairing with Mixon for a mini stack.

    Chalk: Joe Mixon ($6,600), Bengals DST ($3,600)

    Pivot Options: Ja’Marr Chase ($7,600) Tee Higgins ($5,900)

    On the Vikings side of things, we get the first start of the season for veteran Nick Mullens after he took over for an ineffective Josh Dobbs during their thrilling 3-0 win last week. It is tough to gauge what type of a performance we will see from Mullens and company, but my hunch is a lot of people will be scared off given how inept the Vikings looked on offense against the Raiders. The Vikings do get Justin Jefferson in for this week, so they will have a healthy complement of options for Mullens to work with between Jefferson, Addison, Hockenson and Osborne. There is also reason for optimism as the Bengals have been surprisingly bad on defense this season, ranking in the bottom ten in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. Mullens has a career average of nearly 8 yards per pass attempt in his 17 career starts which shows me he is not afraid to push the ball downfield some and with the likes of Jefferson and Addison available, that could be an avenue to explore in tournaments. There will be no Alexander Mattison for the Vikings this week, clearing the way for Ty Chandler to take a crack at lead-back duties in an offense that has struggled to get the run game going all year. I would personally rather take a shot on the Pittsburgh backs that he is priced similarly too. We just haven’t seen anyone be able to be productive from a fantasy perspective coming out of this Minnesota backfield and this matchup is not all that desirable either. Tight end T.J. Hockenson comes in with the best matchup on the slate, as the Bengals have overtaken the Broncos for yielding the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year. The $5,800 isn’t going to scare anyone away, as I see him being pretty heavily owned this week (for good reason), but given the other options available, I have no problem going to him. I expect the Vikings to far and away be the highest-owned defense on the slate given their ridiculous $2,800 price and how strong their performances have been as of late. I am usually not on board with playing such a chalky defense, but I think they are certainly fine to have in your player pool this week.

    Chalk: Vikings DST ($2,800) Ty Chandler ($5,300)

    Pivot Options: Nick Mullens ($5,000)

     

    Pittsburgh steelers @ Indianapolis colts

    Spread: Indianapolis -1.5

    Total: 42.5

    IND Team Total: 21.5

    PIT Team Total: 20.5

    Bernie Sanders is here to once again ask you to play as massively owned Zach Moss in your DraftKings lineups this week. While he has disappointed in back-to-back slates while being the highest-owned player, it is impossible to ignore the role. Since the injury to Jonathan Taylor a few weeks ago Moss has played over 90% of the snaps and has had a ridiculous four carries inside the five-yard line and nine inside the ten. Regardless of the matchup with Pittsburgh, you have to lock in Moss if you are playing cash games and it is an interesting decision in tournaments, but I would lean on playing him. As far as the passing attack goes, the only mainstay of late has been the awesome workload Michael Pittman has seen. Pittman has seen double-digit targets in six of his last eight games and has 29 catches over his last three games with his lowest yardage total coming in at 95 yards. While he will probably be seeing a lot of Joey Porter Jr., much like Moss, his role is almost too good to pass up. If you have been reading me this season, you know I have been a big supporter of Josh Downs, but it has been rough as late. Ever since his injury return, Downs has not been the clear-cut number two target earner in this offense like he has been. It has been very spread out as the Colts have been utilizing four tight ends and have been getting Alec Pierce involved as well. As much as I love Downs, I don’t think this is the spot to play him, even though his price and the theory of him is awfully tempting. I don’t have a ton of interest in Minshew going against Pittsburgh’s defense, but he is at home and makes for an interesting leverage play against a chalky Moss.

    Chalk: Zach Moss ($6,200), Michael Pittman ($7,300), Josh Downs ($4,600)

    Pivot Options: Gardner Minshew ($5,500), Colts DST ($3,500)

    For Pittsburgh, we will always have that first game on offense post Matt Canada where they accrued over 400 yards. It was a rough go of things for this offense led by Mitch Trubisky against New England last Thursday night. Coming off extended rest, what can we expect from this Steelers offense to get a great matchup against a pretty leaky Colts defense? The Colts’ defense has really struggled against big, strong outside receiver types this season, which wreaks of a George Pickens game, but he has been a complete afterthought in this offense as of late, leaving Dionte Johnson in a somewhat appealing state. Both are priced similarly and should come in around the same ownership, perhaps Johnson slightly more, but if that is the case, I would gladly play Johsnon over Pickens in this one. Similar to the wideouts, the running backs are priced nearly identical and both have their merits. I suspect that more of the field will lean on Warren because he seems to be a little more explosive and is a better pass catcher, but Najee has been pretty decent as of late. The Colts have given up the third most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and with Trubisky proving once again to be ineffective through the air, the Steelers may lean on their run game to slow down the Colts and reduce the chance of a turnover. Freiermuth is underpriced at the tight end and could be a nice safety blanket for Mitch, so he is definitely viable, even with some ownership.

    Chalk: Pat Freiermuth ($3,900)

    Pivot Options: Najee Harris ($5,100)

     

    denver broncos @ detroit lions

    Spread: Detroit -4.5

    Total: 48

    DET Team Total: 26.5

    DEN Team Total: 21.5

    After an ugly loss in Chicago last week, the Lions return to the friendly confines of Ford Field this week, putting most of their offense in play. While improved since allowing the Dolphins to hang over 70 on them earlier in the season, I think that this is a great “get right” spot for Detroit. A high total with sharp action coming in on the Lions, as well as being nearly five-point favorites in this one, it leads me to believe this could be a David Montgomery week. It seems as though Gibbs is more involved when the Lions are in a trailing game script and Monty gets a bulk of the work when the Lions have the lead and are in control. This decision will come down to what you make of the Lions in this contest, but for now, the field is leaning heavily into Gibbs. Amon-Ra St. Brown has had a couple of quiet weeks as recently with a combined stat line of 5/70/1. While the Broncos are a tougher matchup for opposing WRs, St. Brown is a target hog and is virtually matchup-proof. Rookie sensation Sam LaPorta is in a position to shred the Broncos, who for much of the season led the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. The $6,000 is what is currently keeping his ownership in check and will be a popular bring-back in Broncos stacks. I don’t mind slotting the big guy into your lineups. I also don’t mind taking a shot at Jameson Williams. Also liable to make a huge play with his difference-making speed, Williams has been playing more and more as of late, but has yet to figure out how to earn more targets. Goff still likes to take a few shots with him per game still and is worth a look in large-field GPPs.

    Chalk: Amon-Ra St.Brown ($7,900), Jahmyr Gibbs ($6,700)

    Pivot Options: David Montgomery ($6,400), Jameson Williams ($3,400)

    If you think you are going to be sneaky by playing the Broncos late against this struggling Swiss cheese defense of Detroit, you’re not. Especially if you plan on stacking Russell Wilson with Courtland Sutton and or Javonte Williams. Again, this is not to say you can’t do these things, just be mindful of the rest of your lineup if you choose to do so. Wilson and company have looked much better this year and as I just mentioned, the Lions have been getting shredded as of late and are bottom five in the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. That being said, Wilson has only eclipsed 20 DraftKings points twice this season and hasn’t done so since Week 4 against Chicago. Javonte Williams finally saw a goal-line carry last week and was able to convert, but the workload just quite isn’t where I would like it to be to comfortably play a fairly owned Williams on a slate that features backs in better roles with similar or better prices. One of these weeks Mims is going to be unleashed (even though that may come next year when they presumably get rid of Juedy) but I feel like they should be getting their first draft selection this past April more involved to see what they have in him. He is worth a dart throw in large field tournaments, just in case.

    Chalk: Courtland Sutton ($6,400), Russell Wilson ($6,000)

    Pivot Options: Marvin Mims Jr. ($3,200), Samaje Perine ($4,500)

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