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…
With Playoffs featuring a short slate I’m altering the format a bit and just going position by position.
It’s hard to say what ownership levels will be like this week on the QBs but I’m pretty sure that in the big tournaments Cam Newton will be the highest owned and Peyton Manning will be the lowest. Manning might seem contrarian but his level of play has been so bad this year that I don’t think he warrants any consideration (at all). Instead I’ll turn to the player who I think has a chance to be the third lowest QB owned this week, Carson Palmer. When looking at the NFC game most people will likely side with the dual threat abilities of Cam Newton over Palmer. Even though Newton is coming off a bad fantasy game last week I think publically he’s the more popular player of the two and been productive all season. Palmer however has had some big games this year, especially when the Cardinals have been forced into catch up mode (not that often). The Cards are underdogs this week however, but that only really bolsters Palmer’s stock in my mind. On top of being less owned I think Palmer can have a big day versus this Panthers team who has given up three 300 yards passing games in a row. Palmer might be the best option if trying to go contrarian on a very short slate.
You’re probably getting sick of me talk about James White, but he’s back for one more week. RB this week is going to be dominated by people playing Jonathan Stewart and David Johnson. Many people trying to be “contrarian” will likely turn to CJ Anderson who is coming off a great game. While I don’t hate CJ I also don’t think he’ll be very low owned. White on the other hand is almost guaranteed to be. Last game White only caught two passes, but he played an incredible 70% of the snaps as the Pats went with a heavy passing attack. Given the fact that Denver has a pretty elite secondary I am guessing the Patriots spread the field a bit more this week once again and make better use of White than they did last week. Denver’s run defense has been pretty good all year but they’ve allowed some big pass catching days to RBs and I think White can take advantage of that in this spot. He’s no lock but if you’re looking to get off the three most popular plays at RB, White is easily the best option and someone who could end up as one of the top two scorers at his position.
Ted Ginn might be hiding an injury and looks like he’ll be covered by Patrick Peterson this weekend anyways. That leaves a bunch of not very attractive options for Carolina from a fantasy perspective at WR and I suspect most people will feel the same and simply ignore this group altogether. However, I would hold that thought a second. Philly Brown may not have had a huge fantasy season (he didn’t catch more than 3 receptions once this year) but he did play more than any receiver not named Ginn last week. Moreover, with Peterson on Ginn, Brown should be free to roam a bit more against a fairly beat up Cardinals secondary, who is without Tyron Mathieu and is also sporting a banged up Justin Bethel. It’s tough say whether Brown has a big game in him but if it’s going to happen it will likely be here as the Panthers will need one of their secondary WRs to step up this week. Given his playing time I like targeting him over all the other Panthers WRs and think he’s the perfect example of a player who no one will be using or thinking about, but who could make a huge difference on the short slate this weekend.
Also consider: The Cardinals John Brown who should be low owned based on the fact Josh Norman is slated to cover him. Norman covered Tyler Lockett last weekend who scored a long TD on a play that had Norman blitzing the QB, don’t think Brown can’t do the same.
TE should be dominated by two players this week (and rightfully so). Outside of Gronk and Greg Olsen it’s hard to justify any of the other remaining options. I will say this however, don’t be shocked if you see Virgil Green score a TD this week. Green played quite a bit last weekend alongside Owen Daniels and is definitely playing over Vernon Davis at the moment. Green’s a very athletic and very big receiver, and is someone who could conceivably be used by Peyton on some short fades or slants around the goal line. He’s by far the riskiest option in this article and only someone to consider if you’re making a ton of lineups… still with only two games in play anything can happen and probably will. He’d be my choice if I was for some reason not playing Gronk or Olsen or wanted a really cheap option for the flex spot.
The Panthers should be relatively heavily owned this week given that they are at home and have consistently put up 10 or more points lately. I also expect New England to be a favorite given their matchup with Peyton. The Cardinals may be facing a tough test this week but it’s one I still think they can produce in, as they’ve produced 10 or more fantasy points in 4 of 8 road game this year. Cam Newton has been marvelous this year but he’s facing one of the most opportunistic defense in the league this season. Newton’s propensity for firing downfield is obviously part of the reason why Carolina is where they are today but it can still get him in trouble, and against a team that features some elite defenders like Patrick Peterson don’t be shocked if the Cardinals force Newton into a turnover or two and possibly even a defensive score. This game has the potential to take a lot of twists and turns as both teams have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and I think writing off the Cards D completely because they’re on the road against Cam is a mistake. Don’t sleep on them if you need a low owned play this weekend.