This is a weekly series where I break down the best contrarian plays for the upcoming NFL week. I’m going to be focusing on high upside, low owned plays and pairings that could really pay off big for you in a large tournament. Major outside the box thinking, cheap pricing and upside is the goal…
Matthew Stafford/Calvin Johnson
Many people have missed it but Matt Stafford has quietly been one of the best QBs the past 5 weeks throwing for 14 TDs v just 1 INT in that span. The Bears have certainly been better than advertised this year but their secondary is still an area of concern. The Lions offense blitzed the Bears back in week 6 and given the way Stafford is playing there’s reason to believe that a repeat might be on the way here. I don’t know what was ailing Calvin Johnson but he looked back in full form last week and will have a massive size and weight advantage over whoever is covering him this week. You might not trust Johnson completely and that’s fine but there’s a great shot he and Stafford end the season on a high note here. The Lions have been playing solid football lately and could jump all over a banged up Bears team.
Many people will be employing Zach Ertz this week as a value play against a weak Giants pass defense, but how many will be targeting the Eagles QB/WR for the same reason? Sam Bradford has thrown for over 350 yards in two straight games and just generally been making better use of his downfield weapons lately. Jordan Matthews has generally been a disappointment this year for fantasy but he’s been benefitting lately from Bradford’s increased volume and is definitely the sleeper target in what should be a popular game to target for fantasy this week. The Giants D has given up the second most receptions and third most receiving yards to WRs this year making a massive game for Matthews a distinct possibility here. I’d definitely take the discount you get with this pair this week and use the savings to surround them with some more studs in tournaments.
I started the year off with this stack and so I figured why not end with it? The Rams will be without Todd Gurley in this game which could easily mean they rely more on Austin as a runner, and even in the quick screen game. Austin has been hard to trust in the Rams dysfunctional offense but he’s still put up some big games this year. Austin still returns kicks too and if he breaks one for a TD using him with the Rams Defense will net you the double bonus. Even with some injuries the Rams D is still a very dangerous unit and squashed the hottest QB in the league last weekend. Given San Fran’s difficulties scoring it’s quite possible that they hold the 49ers to single digits in points and possibly even cause another sack-fumble-TD. I like this stack week 17 versus the 49ers as much as I did week 1 when it paid off big time.
Julian Edelman is not going to play week 17 and Danny Amendola is questionable and slightly banged up. Even if Amendola plays I expect Martin to again be a big part of the game plan. Martin caught a season high 7 passes last week and also received double digit targets. The Miami D has been shaky all year and I definitely expect the Pats to win this game fairly easily. While Martin isn’t exactly an explosive option at WR he’s going to be min-priced or near min priced in salary and very capable of posting a decent to big game with ppr points alone.
Butler’s is a highly athletic WR who got a lot more playing time last week with Dez Bryant out. Butler was honestly a few inches away from posting a massive game last week and still made a couple great catches to post a decent fantasy game. While it sucks that Butler has Kellen Moore throwing him the ball he’ll be facing a depleted Redskins defense this week who will be resting a ton of starters. I fully expect the Cowboys to give Butler a lot of targets and playing time this week and think he could be shock play of the week. A massive game is not out of the question for the semi-freakish WR.
The last time I featured McDonald in this column he got injured about 10 plays into the game and never returned. He was back at full force last week and led the 49ers in every receiving category and even scored a TD. This week the 49ers get the Rams who are great at covering the W position but have struggled against TEs. I’d expect the 49ers to give McDonald a big workload and think he’s a great cheap option to use here, especially if you’re looking to get off the obvious and chalky Zach Ertz.
Artis-Payne was a bit of a disappointment last week and has been splitting time with two other backs since Jonathan Stewart was hurt. This week though Fozzy Whitaker won’t be active and neither will Stewart, leaving Payne as the main RB for the Panthers. While I’m sure Mike Tolbert will see some work I fully expect Artis-Payne to be the first man up and to possibly handle most if not all of the workload if he gets off to a hot start. The Bucs are a good run D but have played terrible since being eliminated from the playoffs. I think a big game is possible here and like the value you get with Payne this week.
This is purely a price and matchup play. The Colts will be starting either Ryan Lindley or Josh Freeman at QB this week and neither are even close to being a starting calibre QB. The Colts as a whole has just been incredibly easy to stop lately and since they’ll be playing a QB who will be literally coming off the street this week it’s likely they’ll be even more ineffective. The Titans aren’t exactly a scary team to face but they do have the 6th most sacks as a team this season and should be able to cause some disruption to whichever man starts this week for Indy. The Titans will be near min-priced on almost every site this week making them a perfect way to get some savings while still rostering a defense that will have a great shot at multiple INTs. I love this play and think they’ll go overlooked for the most part in tournaments.