50/50 or Heads Up
In 50/50 or Heads-Up contests, always aim for a lineup that has a higher floor rather than a higher ceiling. In 50/50 contests, the top half of all entries finish in the money, meaning you don't have to pick a high-ceiling lineup that shoots for the moon. Build these lineups with the players who are essential to winning regardless of their price.
Andrew Luck, $9,600 - This week was extremely tough to call for every position, starting with quarterback. Peyton Manning hasn't put up a great fantasy game in quite some time and the calf injury to Aaron Rodgers doesn't exactly instill confidence in using him. Romo is on the road, and the Russell Wilson/Cam Newton matchup should be the lowest scoring game of the weekend. That leaves Tom Brady or Luck among the elite quarterback, and recently the Patriots haven't had a lot of luck at home in the playoffs against the Ravens. That leads to Luck, who Vegas has as the odds-on favorite to have the most passing yards this week. There are two scenarios that could play out in this game:
1. The Colts pull off the upset and ride Luck's arm to victory, meaning multiple-thrown touchdowns.
2. Peyton Manning builds a lead and Luck has to play catch-up all game and throw the ball 50 times.
In either scenario, it's probable that Luck throws for at least 300 yards and a couple scores and that could be his floor.
C.J. Anderson, $8,700 - It was very tough going back and forth between using Anderson or Eddie Lacy in this spot. On the one hand Lacy has drastically improved his pass-catching ability out of the backfield and could be leaned on heavily with Aaron Rodgers battling an injury. On the other hand it's too hard to get away from Anderson who has been a fantasy monster over the past six games. Over that span he's scored 23.8 fantasy points or more in five of those contests. To put that in perspective, here's how many times the following elite running backs have had 23.8 fantasy points or more in their last six games: DeMarco Murray (1), Marshawn Lynch (0), Eddie Lacy (2). Unless the Colts dare Peyton Manning to beat them through the air, look for another big game for Anderson.
Dan Herron, $6,100 - After last week's huge fantasy performance it's likely Herron, especially at this price, will be the most owned running back this week. There's no reason to fade him as he made contributions both running and receceiving out of the backfield. Trent Richardson was working with the punt coverage team and didn't even receive a carry last week. The only red flag is Herron's penchant for fumbling, something that could cost him significant touches if it happens early in the game. However, there's no reason to keep him out of the lineup this week; hope he catches a touchdown from Luck if you pair the two up.
Julian Edelman, $7,300 - If you're going to spend on a top quarterback and at least one top running back you'll be left with enough money to go with two medium-priced and one low-priced wide receivers or one high-priced and two low-priced wide receivers. The former is being chosen here as Edelman is back to being the target monster he was earlier this season. Only once in his last six games has he had fewer than seven catches, and he's scored less than double-digit fantasy points only once over that stretch. The Ravens secondary has been killed by injuries this season, and their top priority should be shutting down Rob Gronkowski. Edelman may not have the ceiling of the elite wide receivers, but a solid floor at a fair price is definitely there.
Torrey Smith, $7,000 - After a nice game last week it's likely Steve Smith ($6,600) will be the more owned receiver on the Ravens this weekend. It's Smith, though, who is more likely to get into the end zone. He's scored six times over his last six games and he should be able to get behind the New England defense again this week and either go for a big gain or another score. There's also a good chance New England gets out to a lead and Flacco has to air it out. The presence of Steve Smith and Owen Daniels working the underneath routes should help get Smith into one-on-one coverage as well.
Donte Moncrief, $5,500 - If Andrew Luck is going to have another big game he can't be constantly throwing to T.Y. Hilton the whole game. Enter Moncrief, who at this point of the season appears to have more upside than Hakeem Nicks or Reggie Wayne. Moncrief caught a beautifully thrown ball from Luck last week for a score and has a good chance to do the same this week. It's likely Aqib Talib will shadow Hilton for most or at least part of the game, leaving Moncrief to work against softer coverage. Considering every lineup will have at least one wide receiver in this price range, Moncrief is worth a look even if you're not using Luck as your quarterback.
Coby Fleener, $5,500 - It's hard to argue against paying up for Rob Gronkowski ($7,900) this week, and the other tight end options after him all seem to have fleas. Greg Olsen doesn't have a good matchup and hasn't done anything in weeks, Julius Thomas appears to still be banged up and has done little lately and Jason Witten has scored once in his last seven games. Putting Fleener, Moncrief and Herron with Luck places a nice floor provided Luck doesn't fall flat on his face. The key there is none of those receiving options are overpriced, and between the three they should hit their collective value.
Connor Barth, $4,700 - He's home and has the luxury of kicking in the thin Denver air. The Broncos should be one of the highest scoring teams this week and that will directly impact Barth's production.
Seattle D, $5,200 - All of the defenses are within $700 of each other this week and it seems foolish to gamble on the Cowboys ($4,500) or the Colts ($4,500) just to save that kind of money. Seattle is arguably the toughest place to play for opposing offenses, and Cam Newton didn't exactly look good last week.
For tournament lineups, you have to look at upside and use some "outside-the-box" picks if you want to cash. Don't use this lineup completely as there is a lower floor here with a lot of players. A mix of studs with a few of the cheaper options listed below could net the top overall prize.
Joe Flacco, $7,800 - It will be interesting to see between Flacco and Cam Newton who the lowest-owned quarterback will be this weekend. The scenario discussed earlier where Baltimore upsets New England once again at home would likely involve Flacco playing a large role. He is no stranger to finding road success in the playoffs, and a closer look at his fantasy stats shows he's done really well lately. Flacco has scored 19 or more fantasy points in four of his last six games and scored more than 13 fantasy points in the other two contests. Given he provides almost $2,000 in salary cap relief compared to elite quarterbacks, don't be surprised if he's on the roster of a few winning tournament teams this weekend.
Kelvin Benjamin, $6,400 - Want the ultimate pot-odds play at wide receiver this weekend? Benjamin's last three fantasy games have seen him score 5.3, 1.4 and 7.2 fantasy points. Now he gets to go into Seattle and face Richard Sherman and a stout Seahawks defense. That's doesn't seem to be a recipe for fantasy production. Still, Benjamin was targeted by Cam Newton 145 times this season and put up four catches for 94 yards against the same Seattle defense Week 8. If he can duplicate something close to those stats and find the end zone this weekend, he'll be an incredible value.