This article is part of our DFS Tournament Guide series.
This guide focuses strictly on the main slate of Sunday afternoon games, with recommendations meant to be used for large-field, GPP tournaments. Player prices will only be mentioned for the two largest DFS sites, though much of what's discussed can be applied throughout the industry.
Variance and low ownership are desirable in large DFS tournaments, but we still need building-block players that are strong bets to outperform their price tags even if they don't have the highest ceilings and/or are likely to be popular plays. We'll also want to keep a close eye on injury situations with potential to create value for teammates (this is covered at the bottom of the page).
RB Tevin Coleman, ATL (vs. TB), ($5,400 DK; $6,300 FD)
I'm admittedly making an assumption about Devonta Freeman's foot injury, as this feels like one of those weeks when all of the top value will come from injury situations that don't resolve until Friday afternoon or Sunday morning. Freeman seems to be headed for a fourth absence in six weeks, leaving Coleman with another opportunity to lead the Atlanta backfield. While yet to take advantage with a monster outing, Coleman did have at least 14 carries and two catches in each of the previous three games Freeman missed. The fourth-year pro now finds himself in a premium spot, facing a Bucs defense that's given up 151 scrimmage yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game to opposing backfields. Even if we assume Ito Smith will steal 30-to-40 percent of the production, Coleman shouldn't have much trouble outperforming his price tag with the Falcons carrying an implied total of 30.25 points.
Correlation plays are the centerpiece of any DFS tournament lineup, and this is usually where I start to focus on ceiling and ownership in addition to point-per-dollar projections. The ideal scenario allows us to match our QB with one of his primary targets as well as a pass catcher from the other team, hoping to capitalize on a tight, high-scoring affair in which both sides stay aggressive deep into the fourth quarter. With that mind, here are the games I'm focusing on for Sunday:
Buccaneers at Falcons
The NFC South plays a central role in our stacking options each and every week, and it's no different this time around for an intradivision game that easily has the highest over/under (57.5) on the Sunday main slate. The Bucs are actually three-point underdogs while carrying the third-highest implied total (27.25) on the slate, as they rank second in the league with 10.1 yards per pass attempt and dead last with 9.3 YPA allowed. The Falcons haven't been quite as efficient through the air overall, but Matt Ryan ($6,800 DK; $8,400 FD) has produced 10.4 YPA in three dome games.
I nonetheless prefer to take the discount with Jameis Winston ($5,800 DK; $7,400 FD), who is a good bet to lead all quarterbacks in ownership on both sites. That reality might give some merit to a fade, but it's hard to envision any scenario in which Winston fails to hit value against this putrid Falcons defense. Mike Evans ($8,100 DK; $8,000 FD) is an obvious stacking partner as the only Tampa pass catcher with consistent target volume, and we can also add Cameron Brate ($3,700 DK; $4,500) as an elite option if O.J. Howard (knee) doesn't play.
The Atlanta side of the contest is a bit more difficult, perhaps leading to a choice between the obvious value with Coleman and the sky-high ceiling with Julio Jones ($7,900 DK; $8,500 FD). Of course, there's enough upside in this contest to justify a mega-stack along the lines of Winston-Coleman-Evans-Jones-Brate. I will say that the timeshare situation behind Evans steers me away from DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries, even though they're all good players in a likely shootout. I have similar volume concerns about Atlanta's Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper.
Steelers at Bengals
This game ranks No. 2 in scoring projection on the main slate, with an over/under of 52.5 and Cincinnati favored by one point. The likelihood of a close contest is ideal for a passing stack, though we do need to acknowledge that the Bengals and Steelers have been semi-respectable on defense, unlike the aforementioned NFC South teams. However, any concerns about possible disappointment in the scoring department should be outweighed by the likelihood that players from the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game will have lower ownership.
I can't quite justify paying up for Ben Roethlisberger ($6,500 DK; $8,400 FD) on the road against a decent defense, but there's plenty to like about Andy Dalton ($6,300 DK; $7,500 FD), particularly on FanDuel where he's priced 10th among QBs (compared to fifth on DK). We saw Dalton have a big game without a blow-up performance from A.J. Green ($8,000 DK; $8,800 FD) a couple weeks ago, so it wouldn't be crazy to use Tyler Boyd ($6,000 DK; $6,300 FD) as the FanDuel stacking partner. On DraftKings I prefer Green and C.J. Uzomah ($3,000 DK; $5,100 FD), with the latter seemingly headed for an every-down role in the absence of Tyler Kroft (foot). JuJu Smith-Schuster ($7,300 DK; $7,800 FD) is my favorite choice to balance out the stack on Pittsburgh's side, as Antonio Brown is far more expensive and draws a tougher matchup against outside cornerbacks William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick. Slot corner Darqueze Dennard isn't bad, but he shouldn't be much of a problem for JuJu.
While not nearly as important as quarterback-receiver combos, RB-Defense mini-stacks present another opportunity to take advantage of positive correlations in tournament lineups. We're usually looking for teams that are comfortably favored to win, preferably with a starting running back who dominates goal-line and clock-killing work.
Ezekiel Elliott ($7,000 DK; $8,100 FD) + Cowboys D/ST ($2,300 DK; $4,100 FD)
The pricing makes this a much stronger play on DraftKings, where Elliott is priced far below the top group of running backs and the Dallas defense is dirt-cheap. We all know the danger of a matchup with Jacksonville, but are we really so scared that we can ignore Elliott at just $7,000? Kareem Hunt put up a 22-87-1 rushing line against the Jags last week, and Saquon Barkley went for 18-106-1 back in Week 1. This game doesn't figure to produce many points on either side (41 over/under), but Elliott is always a good bet to push for 20 touches and a score, even in difficult matchups. It helps that the Jaguars are still missing Leonard Fournette (hamstring), whose absence has pushed the team toward a more pass-oriented approach, ranking 27th in run-play rate (35.5 percent). That helps overall play volume in the game, and it also means Dallas should have opportunities to pile up sacks and interceptions.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (at WAS), ($8,300 DK; $8,400 FD)
I know the McCaffrey recommendation may be getting old for regular readers of this column, but I really couldn't think of another top-tier player who makes sense as a stand-alone option (non-stack) on both DK and FD. There's a lot to like with Julio Jones, but the certainty of high ownership points me toward other options in lineups that aren't utilizing a Tampa-Atlanta stack. McCaffrey is a nice fit as the centerpiece of any lineup, averaging 22.5 points per game on DK and 17.4 on FD, despite hitting paydirt just once on 90 touches (22.5 per game). The scoring rate is unsustainably low, while the touch volume is secure in any type of game situation given that McCaffrey is the league's only running back with a snap share above 90 percent for the season (94.1).
Fading The Field
Every week we see at least one or two players carrying high ownership without the backing of a top point-per-dollar projection. Recency bias is often the motivating factor, as many DFSers subconsciously overestimate the predictive value of recent results.
WR Adam Thielen, MIN (vs. ARZ), ($8,500 DK; $8,600 FD)
Thielen is sure to be a popular option after starting the season with five consecutive 100-yard outings, tied for the lead league in targets per game (13.2) while ranking first in catches (9.4) and second in receiving yards (117.8). My concern is that he'll fall shy of double-digit targets for the first time all season, as Minnesota is favored by 10.5 points in a home game against the feeble Cardinals. The massive early success for Thielen has partially been a product of overall passing volume for the Vikings, with Kirk Cousins leading the league at a ridiculous 45.2 attempts per game. Thielen's target share of 24.8 percent isn't actually anything out of the ordinary for a star receiver, so he should fall closer to seven or eight looks whenever the Vikings finally manage to win some games by a comfortable margin. It's not that I expect Thielen to be a bust this week, but rather that his volume projection doesn't justify the high ownership. He should still be efficient with whatever chances he gets.
The Bargain Bin
QB Blake Bortles, JAX (at DAL), ($5,600 DK; $6,900 FD)
RB Dion Lewis, TEN (vs. BAL), ($4,700 DK; $5,500 FD)
RB Phillip Lindsay, DEN (vs. LAR), ($4,500 DK; $6,100 FD)
RB Ito Smith, ATL (vs. TB), ($3,100 DK; $5,000 FD)
WR Antonio Callaway, CLE (vs. LAC), ($4,000 DK; $4,900 FD)
WR Courtland Sutton, DEN (vs. LAR), ($3,500 DK; $4,800 FD)
TE C.J. Uzomah, CIN (vs. PIT), ($3,000 DK; $5,100 FD)
D/ST Redskins (vs. CAR), ($2,400 DK; $3,300 FD)
Pricing Discrepancies Between FD and DK
Injury Situations to Monitor
This is our most important injury situation of the week, with Bilal Powell ($4,500 DK; $5,800 FD) becoming a must-use on both major sites if Crowell's ankle injury prevents him from playing. Crowell, of course, is coming off a 200-yard game against Denver, with the Jets now set to host the Colts as 2.5-point favorites. Powell has always been efficient with whatever work he is given, and sixth-round rookie Trenton Cannon is the No. 3 running back. We can reasonably project Powell for 20 touches in the event of a Crowell absence.
This is a close second in terms of importance for our Week 6 lineups, as Cameron Brate ($3,700 DK; $4,500 FD) will become the obvious point-per-dollar value at a weak position if Howard's knee injury leads to an absence. Brate has been stuck in the wrong part of a timeshare to this point in the season, but he's a proven pass-catching weapon with a career mark of 8.1 yards per target and 19 touchdowns on 135 catches. He was second on the team in red-zone targets both of the past two seasons, finishing far ahead of everyone besides Mike Evans.
It appears Cooks and Kupp are both on track to play, but we should still keep at least one eye on the situation ahead of Sunday's game in Denver. Josh Reynolds ($3,900 DK; $5,100 FD) may play nearly every snap if either of his teammates is unavailable, as the Rams have used three-wide formations on 95 percent of their snaps this season. Robert Woods ($6,900 DK; $7,300 FD) also gets a boost if Cooks and/or Kupp is unavailable, adding more appeal to what's already a pretty nice situation. With Kupp drawing top cornerback Chris Harris in the slot, Woods should have a huge advantage over Bradley Roby and Adam Jones outside.
It looks like our first snow game of the season may come earlier than usual, as the forecast calls for an early taste of winter in Denver this weekend. It's something we'll need to keep an eye on, but the over/under has only moved down one point (to 51.5) as of Friday morning, with most of the snow expected to fall before kickoff. This could actually be one of those times where it makes sense to take advantage of reduced ownership with a game stack.