*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. *
*(Editor's Note: With the uncertainty surrounding the Ezekiel Elliott situation for this weekend, fantasy owners need to be aware of Thursday's hearing and a possible announcement before this game. Here are some contingency plans for either scenario) *
Ezekiel Elliot, Running Back, Cowboys (DraftKings Salary $8,800)
If he's available to play, you need to play him as well. You'll find some inexpensive options at other positions below. Those picks are to better allow you to afford Elliot. I just don't see how you could go against him the way he's playing right now. No player is a bigger threat for huge yardage, multiple touchdowns, and multiple receptions.
Elliott leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns. If available, you'd be crazy to pass him up. But if he's suspended for this weekend's game, then you need to take one of his teammates.
Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver, Cowboys (DraftKings Salary $6,900)
Against a team like the Falcons, a lot of things change without Ezekiel Elliot. It might be unreasonable to expect the Cowboys to be able to control the time of possession, and it's hard to see the Falcons not grabbing an early lead at home.
The game might require Dak Prescott's arm for the Cowboys to steal a road victory. How he'll perform is anybody's guess, but Bryant is still the first guy he looks to when he *needs *a completion. He leads the team in targets by a considerable margin.
Make the Smart Play:
Tyrell Williams, Wide Receiver, Chargers (DraftKings Salary $3,400)
It's hard to place near the top of a contest with thousands of entries without selecting a player that less than five percent of other participants selected. This week, that's Tyrell Williams.
He's had the bye week to get over a bad performance in Week 8, and his salary is the lowest it's been all season. The Chargers are an up-and-down team that need to throw the ball to have a chance to win. It doesn't matter who the defense is; Phillip Rivers will fling the ball all over the field, and the Chargers don't have enough weapons to stop going to Williams. I can assure you that when the Chargers come to AT&T Stadium for Thanksgiving Williams will be a more expensive play.
New York Giants, Defense, (DraftKings Salary $3,200)
The Giants' defense needs something to remotely justify the money the organization has spent on that side of the ball. That something is the 49ers' offense.
Against the Cardinals last week, C.J. Beathard was sacked five times. Before that, the Eagles sacked him four times. Before that, the Cowboys sacked him five times. The Giants are going to get to the quarterback and that's the first ingredient to big fantasy production for a defense.
Cam Newton, Quarterback, Panthers (DraftKings Salary $6,400)
Cam Newton has rushed for at least 44 yards in each of his last four games with two rushing touchdowns in that time. He's also 4-1 playing on Monday nights with 11 passing touchdowns, four interceptions, and two rushing touchdowns.
I'm sticking with Newton as long as his salary and production are skewed. His production has been close to a top-tier fantasy quarterback, but his salary suggests a low ceiling. I like Newton at his salary better than Russell Wilson at $1,000 more.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
Los Angeles Rams, Defense, (DraftKings Salary $3,600)
The Rams are going to be a popular play this week, but to spend that much on a defense means you need big plays from them.
Don't get me wrong, Tom Savage is not a great quarterback, but it's worth noting that the Texans are aware of that. In his start last week, Houston did their best to protect him. He was only sacked twice. He didn't throw an interception. The Texans did their best to keep the time of possession relatively even by converting 19 first downs. I don't expect Savage to light up the Rams' defense, but I also don't expect him to giftwrap them fantasy points either.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
New York Giants over San Francisco 49ers
As mentioned above, the 49ers can't protect their quarterback. Say what you will about the Giants' defense, but their pass rush has pride and this is the game they cause havoc. It's been a nightmare season for New York, but I expect the Giants to have a commanding lead by the second quarter of this one.