*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. *
Make the Smart Plays:
Jesse James, Tight End, Steelers (DraftKings Salary $3,100)
Tight ends have been hurt, inconsistent, or underwhelming this year. Selecting one for a daily fantasy tournament has been a matter of dumb luck.
There are two philosophies in a tight end year like this one. The first is to put a priority on being one of the few people in a tournament to nail your tight end selection. That rarely works. If there were an easy answer everyone would have it.
My philosophy when everyone is in a crapshoot is don't spend much money. James is as cheap as it gets for a player with any potential for scoring. Roethlisberger may have taken a step back this season, but don't expect him to play like he did last Sunday when he had five interceptions. James is a red-zone threat on an offense with the weapons to get into the red zone. One touchdown at his salary is a lot more enticing than another dud from a high-priced tight end.
Chicago Bears, Defense, (Draft Kings Salary $2,700)
The Bears' defense has talent. They played respectfully against offenses like Pittsburgh and Atlanta. They can get pressure and they have playmakers. They're simply hindered by an inept offense that has kept the Chicago defense on the field for most of the game.
But the ingredients are there for a big-time fantasy performance from this unit. The Bears' rushing attack does have the potential to move the chains and control tempo when both their backs are healthy. The defense can get crucial stops and force turnovers. With Joe Flacco and the struggling Ravens coming to town, this might be the game where the Bears' defense actually delivers on some overlooked talent.
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, Eagles (DraftKings Salary $6,300)
I'm still high on Jeffery even after last week's 31-yard performance. I like to cash in on the weapons of young quarterbacks having breakout seasons. Carson Wentz's confidence is high right now, and for good reason: he's looking like a quarterback who's made enough wise decisions that his coaches are letting him take some risks.
Jeffery is the best player catching passes from Wentz. Teams have tried to take him away and Wentz has delivered to his other options. A big game from Jeffery is coming sooner than later.
Jarvis Landry, Wide Receiver, Dolphins (DraftKings Salary $6,600)
Jarvis Landry caught his first touchdown of the season last week against the Titans. It was overdue considering Jay Cutler has targeted him regularly since the former Bears quarterback showed up in Miami.
Cutler and the Dolphins are going to be playing from behind for the final three quarters of the game in Atlanta. I don't expect them to mount a comeback, but against an average defense, I expect plenty of easy catches from the Dolphins' top receiver while Cutler just tries to move the ball down field. If he's able to find himself in the end zone at some point he'll probably exceed the value of his salary somewhat easily.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
Arizona Cardinals, Defense, (DraftKings Salary $2,800)
You could apply the same logic to the Cardinals defense that I did previously to the Bears. They have a lot of talented pieces on that side of the ball and they're playing a quarterback who has a habit of throwing interceptions.
I wouldn't do that. The Bears can pick off Joe Flacco. They can also come close to shut him out.
Jameis Winston might give the Cardinals an interception, but he could also respond by putting up 35 points on them. The Buccaneers are a dangerous team to try to defend with an average defense. One mistake by Winston will seem like a drop in the bucket if the Cardinals give up numerous touchdowns.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
Houston Texans over Cleveland Browns
This portion of the column has been kept around for comedic purposes. I honestly apologize. Hopefully you only took my advice one of the last five weeks.
I've clearly been too cute with this. If I had just picked against the Browns every single week I would be 5-0. So let's get back on track. Through five weeks it's hard to say with confidence which teams are definitively good. Who is definitely bad? Not quite as tough.
DeShaun Watson can make some rookie mistakes. The Texans will still beat the Browns.