Contrarian Plays: Week 12

Brian Malone


What worked:

In a week where the top-owned running backs were duds, James White was a big hit, more than tripling his value and providing cap space for guys like Julio Jones.

Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith hit 2x value and were better buys than most of the top-owned quarterbacks, but they didn’t win you any GPPs.

What didn’t work:

The Lions-Raiders matchup was a stinker, which meant Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron didn’t return value. Ebron dropped a sure touchdown in the first quarter and was never heard from again.

Frank Gore and Stevie Johnson didn’t ruin your chances, but Ahmad Bradshaw stole a touchdown, and the Chargers imploded, leaving these two as middling plays.

Sanchez’s return didn’t provide the expected boost to Jordan Matthews. Matthews cannot be trusted with the Eagles’ offense in disarray. And speaking of disarray, the Eagles’ DST was in shambles, putting up a negative number in week 11.

In general, week 11 was a very low scoring week. The winner of the DLF Championship got just 13.9 combined points from his running backs (Lamar Miller and Charcandrick West). Due to a rash of injuries to chalk running backs, the difference makers in most lineups were kickers, defenses, and quarterbacks.

But this is another week, so let’s get to the week 12 picks.


Russell Wilson ($7600) is my favorite contrarian play this week. He’s coming off a solid performance, which usually portends high ownership, but with Thomas Rawls likely to be very highly owned, I expect folks will shy away from Wilson. That’s a mistake. The Steelers pass defense can be exploited, and the Seahawks will likely have to throw to keep up with the Steelers’ high-flying offense. Vegas puts the Seahawks at 24.5 expected points, which is pretty good for this weekend’s small, low-total slate. Wilson should account for 250 passing yards and two total touchdowns, plus a few points from rushing yards. If it turns into a shootout, Wilson can be a GPP winner.

Blake Bortles ($7300) is coming off back-to-back duds, and he’s the same price as Jameis Winston, who should be highly owned coming off a season-high performance and into a nice matchup against Indianapolis. But I prefer Bortles straight up, especially considering the likely ownership rates. Allen Hurns has had 10 days to get back to health, and Allen Robinson continues to perform. Plus, the Chargers season has gotten ugly quickly, and they’re traveling across the country for a 10:00 am kickoff (San Diego time). This could be a bloodbath. Vegas puts the Jaguars at 25.25 expected points, the third-highest total on the slate.

Running Back

[inlinead]After seeing only 17 snaps in week 11, Chris Ivory at $7000 is as tempting as a loaf of bread with “homemade” yeast — I’m sorry, please don’t click that link …I warned you. But Miami is getting gashed on the ground, and before week 11, Ivory received at least 14 touches in every game this season. The Jets are 3.5-point favorites this week, so the game script should favor Ivory. He’s a classic example of using a player’s recent poor performance to your advantage.

Duke Johnson ($6000) is in the same price range as Rawls, Javorius Allen, Tevin Coleman, and Spencer Ware, all of whom figure to have fairly high ownership. But don’t overlook Johnson, who is averaging 5.5 receptions and 55 receiving yards in six games with Josh McCown. Add in a touchdown, and he hits value — and that doesn’t count anything he gives you on the ground.

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant are better values in the same price range, but I still recommend trying to get some exposure to Sammy Watkins ($6800). The Chiefs are very not good against wide receivers, and if not for some near-misses in recent weeks, Watkins would be higher priced and higher owned. Now, Rex Ryan has publicly stated that Tyrod Taylor needs to force Watkins the ball more often. If Taylor listens, Watkins can put up a dominant performance against this defensive unit, and you’ll be one of the few people profiting from it.

Allen Hurns ($7200) finally failed to catch a touchdown last week in his worst performance of the season. But he’s had 10 days to rest, and Allen Robinson will draw the Chargers’ only feared cornerback, Jason Verrett. With Vegas predicting 25.25 points for the Jaguars, Hurns has very good odds of starting a new touchdown streak in week 12.

Donte Moncrief ($5900) didn’t see much love from Matt Hasselbeck during Hasselbeck’s first stint as the Colts’ starter, but he led the team in targets in week 11. If healthy, John Brown is the better play at $5700, but he’ll likely be much higher owned. Moncrief faces a mediocre Buccaneers’ secondary, and Vegas gives the Colts 25 expected points. If Moncrief can continue to attract Hasselbeck’s attention, I like his chances of returning 3x value.

Tight End

Everyone knows about the Raiders’ inability to cover tight ends, but the Giants have quietly been just as bad. Jordan Reed ($5800) will scare many away because of his sprained MCL, but he’s a massive bargain at his price. In a GPP, I’ll take the risk of reinjury to get the #4 scoring tight end at low ownership in a plum matchup.


This isn’t usually part of the Contrarian Plays column, but I’m writing this week, so you’ll read what I have to say about kickers. Kicker performance is highly correlated to point spread, and the Bengals are 10-point favorites this week. That means I’m targeting Mike Nugent at $4600. The low expected total will cause drafters to look elsewhere, but that’s actually a very poor predictor for kickers. Go a little heavy on Nugent this week.


Are you crazy enough to play a defense facing Tom Brady? You’re not? Good, because there’s no way I’m recommending the Broncos this week. The Cardinals and Bengals are good values, and they’ll be the staples of my cash lineups, but don’t overlook the Browns at home against Matt Schaub and the Ravens. The last time Schaub saw extended action was with the Texans in 2013, when he was a pick-6 machine. In spot duty with the Raiders in 2014, he threw two interceptions in 10 attempts. The Ravens signed Jimmy Clausen this week, and he may throw a few passes before this game is through.


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