It’s Wild Card weekend, and we have some very tricky games to figure out for DFS.
As always, on short slates with just a few games, be very aware of the tournaments you are entering and the number of people you have to beat for 1st place.
Big fields = embrace more variance. Get weird!
Smaller fields = play optimally with 1-2 contrarian angles.
At publishing time, we are still waiting on news on who the Ravens QB will be. I will go in and update the analysis and rankings for Ravens-Bengals when we get that news.
Playoffs?! Playoffs!! Let’s break down the slate.
Pace and Plays Model
This model aims to predict the highest-scoring games – giving us a better idea of the best fantasy scoring environments. It is heavily weighted (90%) towards pace / plays / pass rate over expected with a small weight (10%) for the game’s over/under.
Seahawks at 49ers (Saturday, 4:30 ET)
Key injuries to watch: SEA TE Noah Fant (knee), SEA RB DeeJay Dallas (ankle)
This will be the third time that these two teams have met this year, and the regular season series clearly went to the 49ers. San Francisco won (and covered) both games by 20- and 8-point margins with their defense dominating much of those two games. Geno Smith and the Seahawks offense scored just one TD on their 20 possessions against the 49ers.
Between Seattle’s struggles vs. San Francisco and the 49ers' recent dominance – they’re riding a 10-game winning streak and have scored 161 more points than their opponents in this span – the opening Wild Card game isn’t exactly balanced.
Defense is the big difference. While the 49ers are allowing league-lows in EPA per dropback (-0.13) and EPA per carry (-0.26) over the last 10 weeks, the Seahawks are decent against the pass (-0.01 EPA per dropback; 10th-best) but are getting destroyed on the ground (+0.07 EPA per carry; 31st).
This all sets up for the 49ers to run Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell all game long and let Brock Purdy play point guard when they do need to pass, something he has obviously excelled at. In his five full starts, the 49ers are averaging just 26.4 pass plays per game with Purdy compared to 33.2 pass plays per game with Garoppolo.
Chargers at Jaguars (Saturday, 8:15 ET)
- LAC -2
- O/U 47.5
- Key injuries to watch: LAC WR Mike Williams (back), LAC DE Joey Bosa (groin)
The Chargers looked like they were building up some steam before last week’s debacle in Denver. Despite having nothing to play for, the Chargers played all starters, went down 31-20 at the start of the fourth quarter vs. the Broncos, and then HC Brandon Staley decided to pull his guys. Unreal. This team won just one (1!) game against a playoff team this season and that was right at the start of Miami’s downswing.
The Jaguars didn’t play a clean game at all last week, but closed the season 6-1 after their bye with quality home wins against the Ravens and Cowboys. Trevor Lawrence looked like the #1 overall pick we all wanted him to be in this closing stretch, completing 68% of his throws for 7.5 YPA and 12 TDs (2 INTs) while adding 25/113/2 as a runner. HC Doug Pederson’s mentorship has obviously been paramount, and his playoff experience will pay dividends here.
Jacksonville ripped the Chargers back in Week 3, winning that game 38-10 in a game the Jags’ never trailed. The thing is, this Chargers defense is much-improved since then. Over the last 10 weeks, the Chargers allowed -0.08 EPA per dropback (fourth-fewest)… while continuing to play terrible run defense (0.04 Rush EPA allowed per carry; 30th).
The Jaguars defense made stops when they needed them most against the QB-deficient Jets and Titans, but I have no faith that this secondary is a good unit at all. It all comes down to Josh Allen and the Jags’ front four getting home with pressure.
After losing their best CB Shaq Griffin in Week 6, the Jaguars ranked 27th in EPA allowed per dropback (0.08). In fact, if we strip away their last two games against Zach Wilson and Josh Dobbs – no defense allowed more fantasy points per dropback between Weeks 7-16 than the Jaguars (0.52).
Between the Chargers' suspect run defense and the Jaguars' bad secondary, this game has plenty of avenues to shootout. It also doesn’t hurt that both of these offenses ranked top-12 in pace (Chargers - 4th | Jaguars - 12th) this season.
Dolphins at Bills (Sunday, 1 ET)
- BUF -13
- O/U 43.5
- Key injuries to watch: BUF S Jordan Poyer, BUF WR Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring), MIA LB Bradley Chubb (ankle/hand), MIA RB Raheem Mostert (thumb), MIA QB Teddy Bridgewater (hand), T Terron Armstead (entire body), MIA T Brandon Shell (knee/ankle), MIA T Austin Jackson (I.R. return?), OL Kendall Lamm (ankle), OL Liam Eichenberg (hand)
Miami got into the dance with an ugly win over the Jets last week, but they are in terrible shape heading into Sunday against the Bills. Skylar Thompson is preparing to be the starter, and he may be down a few starters along the offensive line to go along with RB Raheem Mostert.
It’s unfortunate, but the Dolphins not starting Tua or Teddy pretty much nukes this game. Thompson has been awful in his starts/relief appearances, completing just 57% of his throws for 5.1 YPA, 1 TD, and 3 INTs. Among the 52 QBs with at least 100 dropbacks on the season, only Malik Willis (-0.46) and Trace McSorley (-0.43) were worse in EPA per dropback than Thompson (-0.27). Their completely decimated offensive line only makes matters worse.
This game marks the 13th time that the Bills have been favored by double-digit points since the start of 2021. Buffalo is 10-2 in those 12 previous games, with the average scoring margin sitting at a comfortable +17.6 points. The Bills are holding their opponents to 11.3 points per game and the under is 8-3-1 as a result when they are favored by 10 more points.
Giants at Vikings (Sunday, 4:30 ET)
- MIN -3
- O/U 48
- Key injuries to watch: NYG CB Adoree Jackson (knee), NYG DE Leonard Williams (neck), MIN C Garrett Bradbury
This is a rematch of Week 16’s entertaining matchup where the Vikings won with fourth-quarter heroics again, edging the Giants 27-24 with a last-second 60-yarder from Greg Joseph. The Giants gained a whopping 445 yards of total offense in that game, but penalties and poor third-down performance hurt their chances all game long.
The Vikings getting steamrolled on defense was the story of their season. Over the full season, Minnesota allowed a score on 41% of their opponents' possessions (fifth-highest rate) and 33.6 yards per possession (fifth-most). The Vikings are particularly vulnerable in the secondary, allowing the fourth-most yards (1,010) on deep throws (20+ air yards). Giants WRs Isaiah Hodgins (8/89/1 on 12 targets), Richie James (8/90 on 11 targets), and Darius Slayton (4/79 on six targets) all had great games in this spot in Week 16.
Kirk Cousins has been up and down all season, but this offense has routinely delivered enough points for most of their games to shootout. Seven of the Vikings' nine games at home combined for 49 or more points, and those games were 6-3 towards the over. The Giants are going to blitz Cousins all game long behind a potentially depleted Vikings offensive line, but if he can find Justin Jefferson often enough, the Vikings can easily do some damage offensively. Jefferson had 12/133/1 on 16 targets in this spot in Week 16.
Giants-Vikings has my vote for the highest scoring game of the week.
Ravens at Bengals (Sunday, 8:15 ET)
- CIN -7
- O/U 41.5
- Key injuries to watch: BAL QB Lamar Jackson (knee), BAL QB Tyler Huntley (shoulder), BAL RB Gus Edwards (concussion)
This game is in limbo with Lamar Jackson (knee) still not practicing to open the week. If Lamar can’t suit up, the Ravens are in deep trouble. The Tyler Huntley-led Ravens managed just four TDs on 47 offensive possessions in his five appearances.
On the flip side, the Bengals are on another run reminiscent of last season. After dropping their Week 5 game vs. Ravens 19-17, this team closed 10-1 and went 8-2-1 ATS over their final 11 games. In this stretch, Joe Burrow was lights out – he completed 70% of his throws for 7.6 YPA, averaged 287.2 yards per game, and threw 26 TDs to 7 INTs while adding 52/172/4 as a runner. Losing two starters along the offensive line in La’El Collins and Alex Cappa right before the postseason looms large, but Burrow has played behind far worse units in his career.
Cowboys at Buccaneers (Monday, 8:15 ET)
- DAL -2.5
- O/U 45.5
- Key injuries to watch: DAL C Tyler Biadasz (ankle), TB C Ryan Jensen (knee)
Cowboys-Bucs is the #1 game in my pace/plays model for the Wild Card round. In the regular season, Dallas was 2nd in situation-neutral pace (game within a score) and 8th in plays per game, while Tampa was 11th in pace but 1st in plays.
While that is typically a recipe for a fast-paced, high-scoring game we all know how hard it has been to bet on the Buccaneers to actually score this season. Things did get a bit better to close out the season – Brady threw for 2 or more TDs in 5 of his final 8 games and he and Mike Evans shredded the Panthers to win the NFC South. This is by far the healthiest offensive line that Brady has played behind this season, but we’re still dealing with a full season of mediocrity from this offense.
Here’s the thing, though. This Cowboys defense is no longer the same unit. Micah Parsons and the pass rush is still great, but this secondary has fallen apart since losing starting CBs Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. Over the final five weeks of the season, Dallas allowed 7.7 YPA (27th), gave up 9 passing TDs (27th), and allowed the second-most deep passing yards (416). It was an ugly path to get here, but Tom Brady and this Bucs’ passing offense is in an awesome spot.
Dallas’ offense was largely great after Dak Prescott returned from injury, as the Cowboys scored a TD on a league-high 34% of their possessions from Week 7-18. Still, Prescott ended the season as poorly as possible in what ended up being a meaningless game for Dallas. The Bucs’ defense wasn’t great to close the season in their own right, but we have seen Dak airball good matchups plenty of times this season and last.
The Cowboys will desperately want to run the ball well here, but that is the one spot where Tampa has remained decent. Run-stuffing DT Vita Vea being healthy is a large part of that. The Bucs’ are allowing 4.3 YPC when Vea plays, but gave up 5.2 YPC in the three games that Vea missed. DL Akiem Hicks getting healthy to finish the season will also help Tampa in run support.
- Josh Allen ($7900) – In games where the Bills have been favored by 10 or more points, Allen averages 25.1 DK points per game and has scored 20 or more DK points in 10-of-12 games within this sample. Allen absolutely roasted the Dolphins for 704 yards and 7 passing TDs while adding 18/124 as a runner in their two meetings this season. We also have an added layer of upside here because Allen tends to run more in the playoffs, averaging 8.5 carries per game in the postseason compared to 7.1 carries/game in the regular season. Diggs and Knox are the top-two pass catchers to stack with Allen.
- Joe Burrow ($6900) – After dropping their Week 5 game vs. the Ravens 19-17, this team closed 10-1 and went 8-2-1 ATS over their final 11 games. In this stretch, Joe Burrow was lights out – he completed 70% of his throws for 7.6 YPA, averaged 287.2 yards per game, and threw 26 TDs to 7 INTs while adding 52/172/4 as a runner. We’re hoping Lamar Jackson can play and potentially make this a close game, because Tyler Huntley offers almost zero upside. The Tyler Huntley-led Ravens managed just four TDs on 47 offensive possessions in his five appearances. If Lamar sits, I’d rather stack Giants-Vikings on the Sunday slate and pick pieces of the Bengals offense (mainly Ja’Marr Chase).
- Justin Herbert ($6600) – Failed to meet his salary-based expectations in DFS in eight of his final 10 starts, but there is definitely a 300-yard, multiple TD ceiling here. Chargers-Jags’ has plenty of scoring upside, and the Jaguars secondary is burnable. After losing their best CB Shaq Griffin in Week 6, the Jaguars ranked 27th in EPA allowed per dropback (0.08). Keenan Allen is a must-play on Herbert teams.
- Daniel Jones ($5600) – Most of Jones’ fantasy production was tethered to his rushing, so it really does say a lot that his second-best game from a yardage standpoint (334) came vs. the Vikings in Week 16. Jones closed the season with 120/708/7 rushing, so if we see him combine the rushing upside with another strong game through the air – then Jones has massive upside at his price tag. Giants-Vikings is likely the highest-scoring game of the week and Jones is cheap on both sites, making him the best value QB on the slate. Jones stacks are easy to build, too. Depending on which slate you’re playing, you can play him with Saquon Barkley + a Giants WR + Justin Jefferson or just with two Giants WRs.
- Kirk Cousins ($5900) – Finished one yard short of the 300-yard bonus vs. the Giants back in Week 16 when these two teams met, cashing in his fourth-best game of the season in DK points (24.5). Daniel Jones’ rushing upside gives him the advantage in these rankings, but Cousins is a strong value in his own right. Especially on FanDuel.
- Trevor Lawrence ($5700) – Played well in the Jaguars win against the Chargers in Week 3 (262 yards, 3 TDs), but L.A. didn’t have DE Joey Bosa for that game. This is a much better defense now than it was in September. Over the last 10 weeks, the Chargers allowed -0.08 EPA per dropback (fourth-fewest). This certainly seems like a spot for the Jaguars to dial up their run game and I expect him to get involved on designed QB runs. Lawrence set season-highs in carries (7) and yards (51) in their must-win game in Week 16 vs. Jets.
- Tom Brady ($5800) – Micah Parsons and the Cowboys' pass rush is still great, but their secondary has fallen apart since losing starting CBs Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. Over the final five weeks of the season, Dallas allowed 7.7 YPA (27th), gave up 9 passing TDs (27th), and allowed the second-most deep passing yards (416). It was an ugly path to get here, but Tom Brady and this Bucs’ passing offense are in an awesome spot. This is the healthiest Brady’s offensive line has been all season, with Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen potentially back.
- Dak Prescott ($6000) – Led the NFL in INTs (15) despite starting 12 games, and those turnovers absolutely zapped Dak’s ceiling in fantasy. Dak scored over 24 DK points just twice this year after scoring 24+ nine times in 2021. This matchup isn’t overly difficult – Purdy (21.7 FP), Burrow (22.8), and Darnold (21.6) all had great games against Tampa over the final five weeks – but we’ve seen Dak airball plenty of good matchups this season. I expect Dallas to try and win this game with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott.
- Brock Purdy ($5500) – Has been fantastic as the 49ers' point guard and ball distributor. In his five starts, Purdy leads the NFL in YPA (8.9) and has thrown 11 TDs to just 2 INTs vs. Tampa, Seattle, Washington, Las Vegas, and Arizona. Purdy went 17-of-26 for 217 yards and 2 TDs vs. Seattle back in Week 15. The thing is, for as good as he has been, I do question how high Purdy’s ceiling is – especially in this spot. He’s scored between 16.5 and 21.7 DK points in all five of his starts. Can he break above that ceiling this week? That all depends on if Seattle can keep the game close long enough to press San Francisco into throwing deep into the fourth quarter.
Geno Smith – I’d rather play Purdy, Lawrence, or Herbert on the Saturday-only slate and get exposure to Seahawks between DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, or Ken Walker. Geno only scored 6.1 and 15.3 fantasy points in his two previous meetings vs. SF. And, Geno’s play started to taper off a bit to close out the season. Over his final seven games after their Week 11 bye, Geno averaged just 0.01 EPA per dropback (19th).
Tyler Huntley – Tentatively expecting him to start.
Skylar Thompson – Easy fade. Play Bills D/ST.
Running Back Rankings
- Christian McCaffrey ($8500) – Leads all RBs in expected fantasy points (20.0 per game) since becoming a full-time starter in Week 8. In this span, CMC has handled 2.3 red-zone (inside-10) opportunities per game and has scored 10 total TDs (six of which were inside-the-10). He’s got a 30-point ceiling in this perfect matchup.
- Austin Ekeler ($8300) – Is at worst the RB3 on the Wild Card slate, and may be RB1. We know he carries a crazy high TD ceiling. But, the Jaguars have been flamed by pass-catching RBs all season long, allowing 6.3 receptions and 49.3 yards per game – both of which were second-most in the league.
- Saquon Barkley ($7900) – After a rough patch in the middle of the year from Week 8-14, we saw Saquon return to form over the Giants final three games with 44/229/2 (5.2 YPC) rushing while adding 15/77 as a receiver. Barkley will likely play on 95% of the snaps this weekend and never come off the field, giving him a gigantic ceiling even in what is objectively a tougher matchup. The Vikings were decent against the run this season (3.98 YPC allowed; seventh-fewest) but none of that matters at his price tag on DraftKings. Barkley is going to be in every optimizer as the top RB play for the Sunday-only slate.
$5k-$7k range RBs
- Travis Etienne ($6300) – The Jags’ predictably stayed away from trying to run it last week vs. the Titans' strong front-seven, but this is the complete opposite matchup directionally. On the season, the Chargers allowed the second-most rushing yards per game (127.3) thanks to 5.6 YPC allowed (worst). Etienne is the odds on favorite to lead the Wild Card round in rushing, but is just $6300 on DraftKings. He’s the best value at RB on the slate.
Tier break is here. We have a 2-point gap between the top 4 and the rest of the position…
- Joe Mixon ($6800) – This is a tough spot for Mixon on the ground, which is basically the story of his season. Mixon has found little room to maneuver as the Bengals offensive line generated just 1.17 yards before contact (fourth-fewest) this season. Injuries to T La’El Collins and G Alex Cappa don’t help matters, either. The Ravens have been excellent on run defense since acquiring LB Roquan Smith, giving up just 3.5 YPC (fourth-fewest) since Week 9. Baltimore allowed the third-fewest EPA per carry (-0.19) in this stretch. If Mixon is going to smash, he needs to be highly involved in the passing game. Will that be necessary? I’m off of Mixon this week.
- Ken Walker ($5900) – After a foot/ankle injury scare in Weeks 13-15, Walker finished up his rookie season strong with 105, 142, and 124 scrimmage yards while getting 26 carries per game in his final three outings. We know the 49ers run defense is brutal – Walker managed just 57 yards on his 16 carries (3.6 YPC) against them this season – and he’ll have to be involved in the passing game to sustain his floor for fantasy. Monitor DeeJay Dallas’ (ankle) status. Dallas ran 49 routes (and got 11 targets) to Walker’s 42 routes and four targets in their final three games.
- Dalvin Cook ($7000) – Going through one of the worst stretches in his career with 108/374/2 (3.5 YPC) across his last seven games. C Garrett Bradbury hasn’t played since Week 15 while losing RT Brian O’Neil looms large. If the Vikings can get their dormant run game off of the mat, this spot is pretty strong. The Giants closed the season ranked 30th in Rush EPA allowed per carry (0.04) and 31st in YPC allowed (5.3).
- Tony Pollard ($6400) – Should be the healthiest he has been since September after getting Week 16 off with a minor thigh injury and handling just seven carries in Week 18. This has to be the spot where Dallas unleashes Pollard as the clear lead over Zeke. At the very least, we know Pollard will be highly involved as a receiver. After Dallas’ Week 9 bye, they made a point to get Pollard more involved as a receiver. In his last seven full games, Pollard averaged 5 targets/game and put up 27/250/3 receiving. I’m not really into Dak this week, but Pollard should absolutely be used as the second pass catcher in Cowboys stacks.
- Leonard Fournette ($5300) – We’re projecting the Bucs’ backfield as if the coaching staff will prefer the vet Fournette over Rachaad White. In their five games together (from Weeks 13-17) after Fournette returned from an injury, Fournette out-snapped White (202 to 163) overall and by a wide margin in the red-zone (33 to 14). In this span, Fournette ran a route on 49% of the pass plays while White was at 35% – giving Lombardi Lenny the edge in this backfield. I like Fournette a lot as a part of Brady stacks. He has 5-6 receptions well within his range of outcomes.
- Jeff Wilson ($5400) – Has handled 65% of the snaps in back-to-back games since missing time with a knee injury, tallying up 15 and 16 carries. With Raheem Mostert (broken thumb) extremely unlikely to play, Wilson will be relied upon heavily if the Dolphins stand any chance at the upset. Buffalo’s run defense was middle of the road this season (4.36 YPC allowed; 16th), and Dolphins RBs combined for 25/188/1 when these two teams met in Week 15.
- Ezekiel Elliott ($6000) – You know what you’re getting here. Zeke is strictly a TD or bust option with zero passing game upside. It doesn’t help that Elliott closed out the season with 2.71 YPC over the final month after looking all right after a mid-season knee injury. He’s an easy fade.
- Bills RBs – James Cook has turned this backfield into a full-blown committee over the last three weeks with his snaps (36% > 41% > 56%) steadily rising. Cook got 25 carries and 7 targets in the final three games compared to 32 carries and 8 targets for Devin Singletary. The duo also split red-zone snaps (8 to 7, in favor of Cook). Neither of these two are strong plays, but Cook is my preferred option if you’re going down that path. Cook is $700 cheaper than Singletary on DraftKings.
- Ravens RBs – Gus Edwards (concussion) may not play this week, making JK Dobbins the likely lead RB. It’s hard to get excited about playing him, though, especially if Lamar can’t play. The Bengals played strong run defense this season, allowing 3.9 YPC (fifth-fewest).
Rachaad White ($5100)
Elijah Mitchell ($4700) – Is probably a better play for props (over 36.5 yards!) than for DFS, but you could definitely include him in 49ers onslaughts for the Saturday-only slate. If San Francisco beats Seattle by multiple scores, Mitchell has 10-12 carries in his range of outcomes as the closer.
Wide Receiver Rankings
- Justin Jefferson ($8400) – The no-brainer WR1 at the cheapest price he’s been all season. All in.
- Stefon Diggs ($8000) – We were all over a bounceback game last week and Diggs delivered for 7/104/1. I’m going right back to it here. The Dolphins played more man coverage (43%) than any team in the league over the final 10 weeks while no receiver had more receptions (41) against man coverage than Diggs this season.
- Ja’Marr Chase ($8000) – Closed the season averaging 12 targets per game while tallying 40/441/3 in his final five games back from a hip injury. Not bad. I’m lower on Burrow this week, but I’m not lower on Chase.
- CeeDee Lamb ($7700) – Despite Dak’s up and down play, CeeDee Lamb finally emerged as the Cowboys clear top WR. In his final 11 games with Dak (after he returned in Week 7), Lamb averaged 6.7 receptions and 86.4 yards per game with 7 TDs. Lamb was the fantasy WR4 (19.5) from Week 7 on. He also benefits from the easiest matchup, by far, among Cowboys WRs. Lamb runs 65% of his routes from the slot, which is where the Bucs’ gave up a whopping 8.9 yards per target (fifth-most). There is a case for Lamb to be as high as WR2 on the six-game slate and he is my favorite choice for CPT on MNF Showdown.
- Keenan Allen ($7000) – May have lost a step, but it didn’t matter much to close out the season. Allen was fed the rock in his final seven full games after a hamstring injury, averaging 7.9 receptions and 83 yards per contest. Only Justin Jefferson (79) and Garrett Wilson (76) had more total targets than Allen (75) since Week 12. The Jaguars were tattooed for 90.2 yards per game to slot WRs during the regular season (third-most), making Allen one of the best plays on the slate. He’s underpriced by at least $500 on DraftKings.
Keenan Allen's career target shares, results from Justin Herbert in games with Mike Williams injured/inactive:— John Daigle (@notJDaigle) January 10, 2023
Tyreek Hill ($7900) and Jaylen Waddle ($6600) — Not getting Tua or Teddy under center is rough. Skylar Thompson has been awful in his starts/relief appearances, completing just 57% of his throws for 5.1 YPA, 1 TD, and 3 INTs. Among the 52 QBs with at least 100 dropbacks on the season, only Malik Willis (-0.46) and Trace McSorley (-0.43) were worse in EPA per dropback than Thompson (-0.27). Their completely decimated offensive line only makes matters worse for this passing attack. It’s very difficult to click either of these Dolphins WRs' names into lineups at their high price tags, especially since Thompson is afraid to throw over the middle. Thompson has checked the ball down to his RBs on a whopping 27% of his pass attempts.
We have Hill ranked as WR9 on the slate and Waddle at WR16, yet they are priced as WR3 and WR8. These guys are not in play if Thompson starts.
Sorting through the $6K range on DraftKings…
- Mike Evans ($6900) and Chris Godwin ($6400)
Since returning in Week 4, Godwin has at least five catches in 14-straight games and trailed only Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, and Tyreek Hill in total targets in this span.
Mike Evans spent the entire back-half of the season piling high value targets, but never doing much with them until he absolutely eviscerated the Panthers in Week 17.
By XFP (expected fantasy points), Evans was the WR5 and Godwin was the WR9 – but both of these guys massively underperformed based on their opportunity. A lack of TDs was the main culprit. Godwin scored just 3 TDs this season while Evans scored 0 TDs from Weeks 5-16.
As I mentioned at the top, there is nothing scary about this Cowboys secondary. Over the final five weeks of the season, Dallas allowed 7.7 YPA (27th), gave up 9 passing TDs (27th), and allowed the second-most deep passing yards (416).
Outside wide receivers had their way against Dallas, as the Cowboys surrendered the second-most yards (673) and a league-high 6 TDs to boundary wideouts over the last five weeks of the season.
Godwin is the better value, but Evans has massive upside with Dallas getting flamed by boundary wideouts.
- DK Metcalf ($6200) and Tyler Lockett ($6000)
If Seattle is going to pull off the upset, one (or both) of Metcalf and Lockett are going to need to have big games. Lockett has been the most consistent of the duo, but Metcalf is on that Mike Evans-late season diet. He keeps getting high-value targets, but is getting extremely unlucky.
Over the final 10 weeks, Metcalf is the WR11 by XFP (16.0) and he was tied with Justin Jefferson for the lead among WRs in expected TDs (0.7 per game) but was WR19 by actual FPG (14.3). Lockett is gutting it out through multiple injuries and gets the better matchup of the two – the 49ers are a little more vulnerable to slot WRs – but Metcalf is way overdue for a huge game. He could certainly have it here with the Seahawks likely to throw a ton to keep up with the 49ers.
- Tee Higgins ($6500) – Has taken a backseat to Chase over their last four games together. Chase has 45 targets to Higgins’ 29 in their last four games together since Chase returned from injury. On the season, Higgins’ target share is 21% with Chase on the field vs. 29% when Chase has missed games. I’d only include Higgins in Burrow stacks.
- Christian Kirk ($5900) and Zay Jones ($4300)
Both WRs had good games in this spot back in Week 3, with Kirk going 6/72/1 while Jones had 10/85/1. There has been a bit of volatility week-to-week with the entire Jaguars receiving trio (including Evan Engram), but the good news is we know exactly where the ball is going here. Kirk, Jones, and Engram accounted for 64% of the targets over the team’s final seven games with Jones leading the team in total targets (56) in this span.
I prefer Zay Jones this week, because he’s $1600 cheaper on DraftKings and the matchup is brutal for Kirk. The Chargers allowed the fewest yards per game to opposing slot WRs (56.0) this season, which is where Kirk runs 65% of his routes.
- Deebo Samuel ($5700) and Brandon Aiyuk ($5800)
Deebo is one of the toughest players to project in the Wild Card round. After missing three games with a hamstring injury, he returned last week and immediately returned as a full-time player – running a route on 81% of the team’s pass plays. After averaging an NFL-high 18.2 yards per catch last year, Deebo fell back down to earth for a career-low 11.3 YPR largely because he rarely sees deep targets.
Aiyuk benefitted from Deebo’s missed time and down year, averaging 4.6 receptions and 61.3 yards per game with 5 TDs in his last 10 contests. The problem is that Aiyuk has the worst matchup of all of the 49ers skill players this week. Seattle has absolutely shutdown outside WRs all season long, holding them to just 77.1 yards per game (30th).
I’d only use one of these WRs in Purdy-49er stacks, and very slightly prefer Deebo because Aiyuk’s matchup is so difficult. George Kittle is the best non-CMC play on the team.
- Giants WRs
Over the final six games of the season (after losing Wan’Dale Robinson and excluding Week 18), Richie James (42 targets), Isaiah Hodgins (36), Barkley (35), and Darius Slayton (33) combined for 80% of the team’s targets – so we know exactly where the ball is going here.
This is, without question, the best matchup for wide receivers this weekend. The Vikings got rinsed by outside WRs for league-highs in receptions (10.6) and yards per game (143.7), which is where Hodgins (87% outside) and Slayton (72%) primarily line up.
James is the slot man (87%) and he’s in a great spot, too. The Vikings allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to slot receivers (18.6).
On DraftKings, pick your poison here. James ($3900) is the cheapest and will probably be the highest owned but I absolutely love Slayton’s upside. The Vikings are particularly vulnerable on deep passes and allowed the fourth-most yards (1,010) on throws of 20+ air yards this season. I love the idea of stacking Jones with two of these Giants WRs and running it back with Justin Jefferson.
On FanDuel, Slayton ($5800) is a strong tournament play as the cheapest of the bunch.
- Gabe Davis ($4800) – Rough back half of the season ended with a whimper last week (3/39 on 10 targets) making him extremely hard to click into lineups right now. The Dolphins played more man coverage (43%) than any team in the league over the final 10 weeks, and Davis struggled badly to beat man coverage this season. Among the 66 WRs with at least 100 routes vs. man, Davis ranked 45th in yards per route run (1.28) and he was 63rd in targets per route run (0.12). I’d rather play Dawson Knox in Bills stacks.
- Chargers WRs
We’re in limbo here with Mike Williams (back) questionable. Josh Palmer saw more than seven targets in all eight games where he played more than 80% of the snaps, averaging 6.3 receptions and 69.8 yards per start. At $5300 on DraftKings, Palmer would be one of the top-5 values at WR on the slate if Williams is out.
Tyler Boyd – Coming off his worst season of his career with Burrow. Since breaking his finger in Week 14, Boyd has just 13/107/1 in his final three games. He’s only live for Burrow stacks.
Adam Thielen and KJ Osborn – You can use these guys in Cousins stacks, but I’d rather just play the cheaper Giants WRs. I prefer Osborn > Thielen.
Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir, Cole Beasley, and John Brown – Shakir would become interesting if McKenzie (hamstring) misses.
Cowboys WRs – This has just been a factory of sadness after CeeDee Lamb. I don’t think you can really use Michael Gallup, Noah Brown, or TY Hilton outside of the MNF showdown slate.
Tight End Rankings
- George Kittle ($5900) – Scored more TDs (7) in his final four games than he did in all of 2021 (6 TDs in 14 games). Lol. Now he gets the best matchup of the Wild Card round for TEs. Seattle closed the season allowing a league-high 2.36 fantasy points per target and 65.2 yards per game (third-most) to TEs.
- TJ Hockenson ($5100) – Absolutely hammered the Giants for 13/109/2 in Week 16, continuing the trend of TEs going off against New York. On the season, the Giants have allowed the third-worst catch rate (75.4%) and ninth-most yards per target (8.0) to TEs. Since joining the Vikings, Hockenson has averaged 14.3 expected fantasy points per game – second-best behind only Travis Kelce (15.3). Hockenson is the best TE on the Sunday-only slate.
- Mark Andrews ($5200) – Averaging just 4.2 receptions, 49.3 yards, and 9.5 fantasy points per game with Tyler Huntley. He’s the only Raven I feel comfortable playing in Bengals stacks, but we have Hockenson projected ahead of Andrews by a full 2.5 points.
- Dawson Knox ($4000) – Has scored in four-straight games and was quietly the TE most were expecting to close out the last month of the season. In the Bills final four games, Knox was easily third on the team in targets (22) behind Davis/Diggs (26). And, this is a very easy matchup to boot. The Dolphins allowed the second-most receptions (5.8) and ninth-most yards (56.1) per game to TEs. Knox is a strong play, and a must-play in Allen/Bills stacks.
- Evan Engram ($4400) – Closed the season as the TE8 by fantasy points per game (10.3) with insane peaks and valleys week-to-week. Despite being so boom or bust, Engram is right in the thick of the top-5 mix just by nature of this Kelce-less slate. He should be a big part of your plans if you’re game-stacking Chargers-Jaguars. Engram and Dawson Knox are neck-and-neck as the best value TEs on the slate, and I give Knox the advantage (better matchup).
- Dalton Schultz ($4300) – I like Knox and Engram more than Schultz. Though, all three of these guys are boom-or-bust. Schultz paced Dallas’ passing attack back in Week 1 with 13.2 FP on 7/62 receiving on nine targets, but that was way before Dallas started unleashing Tony Pollard as a receiver.
Seattle TEs – Noah Fant has been playing through a knee injury and splitting time with Colby Parkinson since Seattle lost Will Dissly to injury in Week 16. Over the last two weeks, Parkinson leads Fant in routes (49 vs. 41) and targets (10 vs. 7). Parkinson is minimum price on DraftKings, and is in play for the two-game Saturday slate even if Fant plays.
Chargers TEs – Since Donald Parham returned in Week 15, this has been a three-way TE-by-committee with Gerald Everett (52% route share) leading the way in playing time followed by Parham (29%) and Tre McKitty (20%). Everett has gotten 14 targets while Parham has 8 and McKitty has 3. L.A. could use all three of these guys more in more 12-personnel (2 TE) sets if Mike Williams is out, but I am not excited about any of them individually.
Bucs TEs – You’re praying for a TD from Otton or Brate if you play them on MNF showdown.
Mike Gesicki – Just a brutal spot. TEs die vs. Buffalo. The Bills are allowing 5.2 yards per target to TEs (second-fewest) and Gesicki was completely erased for 2 catches and 11 yards in his two meetings vs. Buffalo this year.
Hayden Hurst – You’re praying for a TD in Burrow stacks if you play him.
Daniel Bellinger – Extremely thin. Would only use him in massive field tournaments as a very small part of Giants-Vikings stacks.
Favorite Tournament Ideas
In no particular order.
– D.K. Metcalf regression game
– Zay Jones > Christian Kirk
– Darius Slayton ($5800) on FanDuel