***We all have our year-long fantasy football league teams. Maybe it’s an office league, or a group of old college buddies. They’re fun, sure. But they don’t require you to make a multitude of critical decisions from week-to-week . If you have Tom Brady or Brandin Cooks, you’re probably starting them regardless of the match up. For some of us, spending ten minutes per week setting a lineup, submitting a waiver claim here or there, and rejecting ludicrous trade offers from that one guy in your office who still thinks Steve Smith plays for Carolina just isn’t enough action. That’s where daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel come in. In this weekly series, we’ll see where the Patriots’ match up fits into this lovely world of daily fantasy football degeneracy by identifying a player to roll with, a player to fade, and a sleeper to keep an eye on. Good luck.***
Week 4: Panthers at Patriots
This weekend’s fantasy outlook should be decidedly more subdued than last Sunday’s shootout in the Super Dome which saw a motivated Patriots offense with three extra days of preparation pitted against the young, sieve-like Saints defense unit. With a lauded front seven and a quarterback who actually possesses a pulse, Bill O’Brien’s Houston Texans roll into Foxborough looking to avenge a 36-14 Divisional Round playoff defeat that ended their season nine months ago.
General Game Info:
Date and time: Sunday 10/1 @ 1:00pmET
Location: Gillette Stadium - Foxborough,MA
Expected weather forecast: 68 degrees and sunny, NW winds at 6mph
Spread: New England -8.5
Over/Under: 48.5 points (tied-7th highest out of 16 NFL games in week three)
Patriots and Panthers injury report.
Player to roll with:
DraftKings price: $6,000 — FanDuel price: $6,900
Brandin Cooks, Tom Brady’s new number one wideout, is coming off of an intrepid five-catch, two-touchdown performance last Sunday which included a tremendous toe-tapping, game-winning catch in the end zone. Furthermore, Cooks racked up 14 catches for 215 yards and a score in two 2016 games against the Panthers, and he’s averaged six grabs for 87 yards in five career contests against them.
So, why not go with Cooks this week? Well, no one is saying you shouldn’t, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t produce nicely. But why pay full price? The Groupon would read something like this:
Get $7,600 worth of Brandin Cooks production for $6,000 — a 21% discount!
No, of course Chris Hogan is not the same caliber of athlete that Brandin Cooks is. But that couldn’t matter less. Fantasy football is all about opportunity, and each resides in the league’s most potent passing attack.
Chris Hogan has just one fewer target this season than Cooks (17 to 18). Each has 10 catches, and Hogan has a three to two touchdown lead thus far in 2017. Yet, Cooks is the fifth-highest priced wide receiver in Draftkings, and the six-highest in FanDuel. Hogan is tied for 17th and tied for 18th respectively. The national media’s constant replaying of Cooks’ heroics last Sunday should also help to boost
As far as this weekend’s contest is concerned, Cooks will command coverage from James Bradberry, Carolina’s steady second-year man who stepped up admirably as a rookie in 2016 to fill the top corner job. Cooks torched Daryl Worley for seven catches, 171 yards, and a score in Bradberry’s absence last season in New Orleans. However, when Bradberry returned in week 10, Cooks’ was only able to turn his seven catches into 42 yards.
Bradberry will be active on Sunday to take on Cooks, while Daryl Worley, Carolina’s CB2, has already been ruled out. This will leave either veteran slot specialist Captain Munnerlyn, former Buffalo Bill Kevon Seymour, or recent waiver claim LaDarius Gunter to cover Chris Hogan.
Cash in the Groupon. Go with Hogan. Save the cash. Use it to stack him with Tom Brady. Win tons of money. Make your dreams come true.
Player to fade:
DraftKings price: $4,300 — FanDuel price: $5,800
The only reason for writing “Jonathan Stewart” here as opposed to “literally every single member of the Carolina Panthers’ offense” was strictly for purposes of symmetry and continuity regrading the outlining of DraftKings and FanDuel pricing for each pick.
Sunday is as good of a day as any for the Patriots defense to begin their annual turning of the corner as they welcome the return of their heart and soul — linebacker Dont’a Hightower. A an over-priced, touchdown-less Jonathan Stewart and his paltry 3.6 yards per carry will attempt to keep a sputtering offense on schedule against a stout New England interior defensive line and without their veteran Pro Bowl center Ryan Khalil.
Then there’s also the Christian McCaffrey problem. The Stanford rookie will continue to be force-fed the ball as one of Carolina’s few healthy and skilled offensive personnel options. In the likely event that the Panthers find themselves trailing, McCaffrey will command a lion’s share of the snaps.
DraftKings price: $3,000 — FanDuel price: $4,500
The trickle-down effect of Daryl Worley’s injury should bode well for a now healthy Amendola, who will continue to command his fair share of snaps from the slot. It won’t be surprising to see the Patriots utilizing more three-receiver packages to force the Panthers’ smaller defensive personnel onto the field and to spread out the talented front seven personnel that remain in regardless of match up.
50% of New England’s offensive snaps have come in one-RB, three-WR packages. Amendola logged 53 of these 103 snaps in “11-personnel”, and that was in two games. There’s a definite possibility of an uptick in his usage this week.
Starting with the good — Ryan Griffin, last week’s “sleeper” selection, was excellent for the Texans. The New Hampshire native snagged five balls on six targets, including a third quarter touchdown.
When it came to starting James White over Mike Gillislee, neither player showed up last weekend. Each player earned just over three points, Gillislee was unable to break anything into the second level, and White was passed up in favor of Brady’s wideouts, who were winning consistently downfield.
Before getting into my selection to fade Tom Brady, some sage advice that industry guru JJ Zachariason of Numberfire.com pointed out on his Late Round Podcast on Thursday.
“The way I look at start/sit choices in fantasy football is that if you’re logical, you’re right. No matter the outcome, you’re right, as long as you were logical in getting to that choice. Process over results.”
Yes, Tom Brady killed it last weekend. But if you’re sticking to a process, you have to absorb these types of outliers from time to time. When the highest priced player on both major DFS platforms faces a top front seven that has given him trouble in the past, the statistical play is to commit resources elsewhere.