Editor's note: FanDuel.com is hosting a one-week $2.5 million Fantasy Football contest for Week 12. It's only $25 to join and first prize is $300,000. Starts Sunday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. ET. Enter now to play with Dave.
I should feel good about myself because, for the third week in a row, I produced a lineup that cashed in FanDuel's Sunday Million tournament. But for the second time in as many weeks, it was the "alternative" lineup and not the main one I built that delivered a $60 return on my $25 investment, good for 10,852nd place. The main lineup? 85,140th place and a $0 return on my $25 investment.
What's more interesting is that the alternate roster went against a number of theories I've leaned on for one-week leagues. I didn't pick a monster quarterback (Zach Mettenberger), and I sure didn't pair him with one of his receivers. I went dirt cheap at tight end, kicker and defense, getting very fortunate on the defense (Green Bay, which scored 30). And I loaded up on running backs and receivers -- or so I thought. Only one of them had over 20 points and another had over 15 points.
And that was good enough to cash.
Looking back, Week 11 was weird. Not many quarterbacks, running backs or tight ends did well, so picking the right ones at those spots paid off more than normal because so many others disappointed. Even the team that finished third in the Sunday Million had Jerick McKinnon delivering 7.8 points and Travis Kelce floundering with 3.2 points (he was loaded everywhere else). You know how unpredictable the NFL is -- one week things can be tame and the next it looks like everyone had a great week -- so I'm going to assume my alternate lineup success was more fluke than fantastic.
There's still a lesson to be learned -- it's not "wrong" to go with a cheap quarterback. Three of the top 10 finishers in the Sunday Million last week picked a quarterback salaried at $7,000 or less. Above all, winning any contest with over 100,000 entries will take some lucky breaks, and that includes this one. If you see a quarterback with 300-yard, three-touchdown potential and want to take him over the stud who will suck up an extra G or two in your budget, don't be afraid to take that swing.
The event: FanDuel's NFL Sunday Million with $2.5 million in guaranteed prizes including $300,000 for first place, $100,000 for second place, $500 for 200th place and $50 for 21,840th place. The buy-in is set at $25 and about 115,000 entries will be taken. FanDuel uses a 0.5 PPR scoring system. All you have to do is set the best lineup you can for Week 12 under their salary cap.
The strategy: Like all things football, my focus is on the quarterback first. I'm looking for one with potential for at least three touchdowns and a bunch of yards. The less I can spend on one, the better off I'll be. Then I'll look for the best defense under the same circumstance. I'll then be as thrifty as possible snapping up running backs, receivers, a tight end and a kicker with the caveat being one of the pass-catchers will be on the same team as my quarterback.
The three quarterbacks that stand out to me are Andrew Luck ($10,300), Jay Cutler ($8,800) and Josh McCown ($7,500). Others were also considered around the salaries of all three of these guys, but I feel like the safest bets are among these three. The very safest, of course, is Luck, who is playing at home coming off a loss against a terrible Jaguars team that Luck has beat up badly. Moreover, Luck has averaged close to 300 yards and three touchdowns this year when coming off of a loss, and his run game is a major question mark. The price tag is steep, but it should be worth it.
Nasty. That's how I'll describe the FanDuel price fixers who moved the Green Bay defense from $4,800 last week to $5,500 this week. I desperately want to take them but given the amount I plunked down on Luck I need to save some money here. For $700 less there's the Rams, who have 13 sacks and three interceptions in their last three games and should be able to stay competitive with the Chargers. I don't like any of the other defenses at that price point or less.
I really wanted to go with: Green Bay ($5,500)
Other defenses worth considering: San Francisco ($5,300), San Diego ($5,100), Seattle ($5,000)
This is a great week to get dirt cheap at kicker as two kickers at $4,500 are great values. Brandon McManus of the Broncos might see a bump in field goal opportunities with his offense missing two key pass-catchers against a good Miami defense. He's also the only $4,500 kicker playing at home (plus kicking in Denver doesn't hurt things). But he's made just 72.7 percent of his field goals this season. Billy Cundiff, on the other hand, has made 80 percent of his kicks and has at least two attempts in four of his last five games. He's one of two $4,500 kickers working indoors but the Browns offense should keep moving the chains against a flawed Falcons defense.
Fleener is going to be the most-started tight end in FanDuel this week but I don't care. I love his matchup, his production over the past couple of weeks and the bump in work he will get with Dwayne Allen banged up. Plus, I meet my requirement of getting one receiver with my starting quarterback.
I almost went with: Honestly, there's no one else I'd rather take.
Big-ticket wide receivers I like ($7,000 and up):
Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, Emmanuel Sanders, A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, Mike Evans, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Jordan Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Roddy White
Torrey Smith ($6,500) is a gift from the football gods. He has a touchdown in four of his last five games and the Saints secondary has bottomed out. Plus would you be surprised to see the Ravens throwing a lot in this game? The only catch is that Ravens offensive coordinator tends to lean on the ground game when he plays against the Saints defensive coordinator -- more on that in this week's Fantasy Cheat Sheet.
Another mid-priced receiver I can get into is Mohamed Sanu ($6,800), who was targeted a lot near the end zone but not in it last week. The matchup at Houston is great as the Texans secondary is a mess and Andy Dalton seems as if he's on the brink of breaking out of his funk. Sanu's very much under the radar this week and worth the discount.
I want to go heavy at running back so I'm forced to pick a very cheap third receiver. I'm not really advocating this pick but in order for my lineup to work, I'm spending $4,700 on Jaguars rookie receiver Marqise Lee. He'll see some opportunities as the Jaguars third receiver (I hope) in a game the Jaguars should be trailing in. We've certainly seen Indianapolis struggle against fast receivers in the past -- I'm taking a crazy chance not because I want to but because I have to if I want to keep my lineup the way it is. And in these tourneys, taking crazy chances is the only way to win big. Just ask the 0.3 percent of people who started Jonas Gray last week.
I almost went with: Green ($8,600), White ($7,300), Hogan ($5,400)
It's another tough week at running back because there aren't a lot of choices you can feel good about. But there are enough at the mid-price level to get by if you wanted to go with some big-time playmakers at other positions. I'm half-tempted to scrap my receivers and roll with Jackson ($6,400) and Crowell ($5,500?! Are you serious?!?!).
But I'm reminded why I wanted to save up for running backs -- I can claim some studs with my remaining $17,000 in cap space. I'm taking a lay-up with DeMarco Murray at the Giants, who haven't been able to slow anyone down. I'm hoping for a two-score game out of him. The other is a risk based on past performance but the outlook for LeSean McCoy this week is phenomenal. The Titans run defense is among the worst in the league and they're headed to Philly after playing on Monday night (and allowing over 200 yards to Le'Veon Bell). The hunch here is that the Eagles make an effort to give McCoy enough opportunities against a sorry run defense to put up some big numbers. This is it for McCoy -- he doesn't have a cupcake matchup like this for the rest of the season. If he can't produce this week then we can't count on him again.
I almost went with: Jackson ($6,400), Crowell ($5,500)
My Week 12 team:
QB: Andrew Luck ($10,300)
RB: DeMarco Murray ($9,000)
RB: LeSean McCoy ($7,700)
WR: Mohamed Sanu ($6,800)
WR: Torrey Smith ($6,500)
WR: Marqise Lee ($4,700)
TE: Coby Fleener ($5,400)
K: Billy Cundiff ($4,500)
D: St. Louis ($4,800)
Remaining salary: $300
Bonus alternative lineup (designed to go cheaper at running back):
QB: Andy Dalton ($8,200)
RB: Steven Jackson ($6,400)
RB: Isaiah Crowell ($5,500)
WR: A.J. Green ($8,600)
WR: Mike Evans ($8,400)
WR: Roddy White ($7,300)
TE: Coby Fleener ($5,400)
K: Shayne Graham ($4,700)
D: Green Bay ($5,500)
Remaining salary: $0
Dave challenges YOU to beat him in his one-week challenge at FanDuel ($5 entry fee). Use promo code CBSWIN for a 100 percent deposit bonus up to $200. Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .