*Editor's Note: Each Thursday leading into the NFL games, contributing writer Jonathan Auping will break down a few things to consider as fantasy owners set their weekly lineups, including players to start or sit, along with trends to remember. Whether your game is the traditional fantasy league or the daily games from DraftKings, this weekly feature should help you get prepared for the fantasy weekend. *
This week, Cowboys fans have a chance to win a ton of Cowboys' gear by entering this free contest sponsored by DraftKings.
Make the Smart Plays:
Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers, (DraftKings Salary $8,100)
Week 17 is probably the hardest week to predict for Daily Fantasy Sports. There are so many variables that can affect playing time, strategy, and performance. There aren't a lot of sure things, but Nelson might be as close as you're going to get.
Midway through the season there were a lot of questions along the lines of "What's wrong with the Packers?" Well, whatever the answer was, Nelson decided to make it a moot point. The Packers have won five straight games and Nelson has combined for 528 yards and five touchdowns in that time. The Packers need one more win and are facing a defense that just watched Dak Prescott connect with his number one receiver for two touchdowns. Nelson is worth the high salary for this week.
Seattle Seahawks, Defense, (DraftKings Salary $3,700)
If you don't trust the Seattle defense this week then it says a lot about what you think about their chances as contenders. The Seahawks will be looking to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs heading into their final game.
The Seattle defense has still performed like the best in the NFL despite their offensive woes this season. They are allowing an average of one passing touchdown per game and producing .73 interceptions per game, which is a terrific ratio. Against Colin Kaepernick and his shortage of offensive weapons, the Seattle defense will look to make a statement about why they can contend for a Super Bowl.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals, (DraftKings Salary $6,000)
Last week I had Fitzgerald as a player to avoid against the Seattle defense. This week, against the Rams I think Fitzgerald comes up big like he has plenty of times before. He scored a touchdown on the Rams when they played earlier this season. Fitzgerald has scored 16 touchdowns in 25 career games against the Rams. Only the 49ers have given up as many touchdowns (also 16) to Fitzgerald since he entered the league.
Fitzgerald will enter this game 20 yards shy of his eighth 1,000-yard receiving season, which will tie him for third most in NFL history. Look for Carson Palmer to try to get in an early groove with the veteran receiver who might turn back the clock one last time.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans, (DraftKings Salary $6,300)
The DeMarco Murray resurgence was real this season. Unfortunately, it's over, and the Titans' season might be ending with it. Murray only topped 100 yards once in the second half of the season after doing it four times in the first half. He only managed 42 yards against the Jaguars last week.
Now, with Matt Cassel set to start at quarterback for the injured Marcus Mariotta, the already stout Texans defense is going to put all their efforts into shutting down Murray and the Titans' run game. It's hard to imagine Murray being able to muster over 50 yards considering how Houston will be just daring the Titans to throw the ball.
Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles (DraftKings Salary $4,000)
In his first 11 games of the season Sproles found the end zone one time. He's scored a touchdown in each of the last three games. With Ryan Matthews out, Sproles is the only reliable option at running back, and with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz already lacking talented wide receivers, the majority of the playmaking duties will fall on the elusive veteran running back.
The Cowboys have the luxury of resting defensive players, especially their defensive line as the game goes on so Sproles will get opportunities to break big plays at one point or another.
Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles, (DraftKings Salary $5,200)
This week Wentz' DraftKings salary is lower than Tony Romo's. And speculation aside, I would not recommend trying to play out the risk of Romo in a daily fantasy contest.
There's a difference between "being good enough to win" and being a fantasy liability. The Cowboys' defense has come through in the right moments, but they give up a lot of yards, and the Dallas coaching staff would be wise to pull starters as the game goes on.
Wentz, on the other hand, will want to end the season on a high note. No one is going to confuse him with Dak Prescott at this point, but Wentz knows how to make the right play, and Dallas' defense playing 11 healthy starters is average at best. Wentz can get to 300 yards passing and two touchdowns in this game, and it won't make anyone feel any less confident about the Cowboys' chances come playoff time.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
(Season Record: 13-3)
(Off the Board: Bengals, Ravens, Chiefs, Redskins, Steelers, Bills, Packers, Vikings, Dolphins, Panthers, Cowboys, Titans, Patriots, Falcons, Seahawks, Chargers)
Arizona Cardinals over the St. Louis Rams
I picked against the Browns one last time last week and I got burned.
The Cowboys and I are both looking to finish the season with 14 wins this Sunday and I'm taking the Cardinals who are recommitted to scoring points. Last week they managed 31 points against Seattle last week and, although it's too late for playoff contention, they have evolved into a top ten team in both offense and defense this year.
The Rams can't score points and if they give up field position to Arizona they might find themselves on the wrong end of a blowout.