DFS research can be tough. We may not always know what to look for, or where to look for it.
But this article helps solve that problem – by providing some early-week research to give readers solid footing for the upcoming Wild Card DFS slate.
Seattle Seahawks (+10.0) @ San Francisco 49ers (O/U: 43.0)
Geno Smith averages 20.5 DraftKings FPG in the 15 games he played against not-San Francisco opponents. But against the 49ers, Smith averaged just 11.2 DraftKings FPG (high of 15.3).
Only Jarrett Stidham (31.0 DraftKings points), Patrick Mahomes (30.9 DK points), and Marcus Mariota (24.2 DK points) have scored more than 20.0 DraftKings points against the 49ers' defense this year. The remaining QBs average just 11.3 DraftKings FPG (QB43).
As an underdog of 6.0 points or more, Smith averages just 13.9 FPG. He averages 22.7 FPG in his other 14 games this season.
Similar trends can be noted for Kenneth Walker. He scored just 11.9 DraftKings points the last time these teams played on December 15th. Walker and Rashaad Penny combined for just 5.0 DraftKings points when these teams played in September.
And the spread doesn’t help Walker either. He’s averaged just 10.7 FPG in losses of 7 points or more, compared to 14.5 FPG in all other games.
DK Metcalf in his two games against the 49ers: 7.5 targets per game (0.9 less than his per-game average), 45.0 YPG (18.8 YPG less than his per-game average), and 10.0 FPG (3.8 FPG less than his per-game average.
Tyler Lockett fared much better, averaging 10.0 targets per game, 87.5 YPG, and 16.8 FPG. This difference comes down to matchups (discussed more below). Lockett runs 42% of his routes from the slot, compared to just 16% for Metcalf.
Colby Parkinson is the punt TE of the week. He’s averaged an 18% target share and a 68% route share over his last two games.
Brock Purdy has scored fewer than 14.3 fantasy points in a start this season, averaging 17.6 FPG in his six games with double-digit attempts.
Deebo Samuel averages just 11.9 XFP/G in his six games with Christian McCaffrey. He has just 18 total carries in those games, but 5 of those carries did come inside the red zone, so he’s still being utilized in high-leverage spots despite the reduction in raw volume.
Speaking of high-leverage spots, Elijah Mitchell led the team in red zone opportunities (10) in the three games he played with McCaffrey from Week 10 to Week 12. McCaffrey himself logged 7 opportunities in those contests. Mitchell ($4,700 on DraftKings) is a tempting play paired with the 49ers' defense, given the current spread and his proven TD equity in games with CMC. I can’t imagine ownership will reflect this.
San Francisco is the single-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs (-4.4 FPG). A truly brutal matchup for Kenneth Walker.
And the 49ers defense has been more forgiving to slot WRs (+2.3 schedule-adjusted FPG), than outside WRs (+0.6 schedule-adjusted FPG) – showcasing why Tyler Lockett has had a bit more success here than DK Metcalf.
But since Week 12, the 49ers have been a favorable passing matchup. They’ve allowed +1.0 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing QBs (12th-softest), +6.6 FPG to opposing WRs (4th-softest), and +1.3 FPG to opposing TEs (9th-softest). A potentially underrated spot for the Seattle passing attack.
Seattle is the 3rd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs (+3.6 FPG), and the 3rd-softest matchup for opposing TEs (+3.2 FPG). A strong matchup for the 49ers backfield and George Kittle.
That said, the Seahawks are the 2nd-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing outside WRs (-6.5 FPG), so Brandon Aiyuk has a brutal matchup.
Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (O/U: 47.5)
When these teams played in Week 3, the Jaguars won 38-10. It was the Chargers' worst loss (by margin of defeat) of the season. Their 2nd-worst defeat was a 14-point loss to Seattle.
Justin Herbert averages 19.8 FPG as a favorite, compared to 26.7 FPG as an underdog across his career.
It’s important to remember that Austin Ekeler noted his workload has been managed all season for health reasons. Could the Chargers unleash him in the playoffs? I lean yes for what it’s worth.
Mike Williams suffered a back injury in a meaningless Week 18 game. He looks likely to play, but be sure to keep an eye on his status as we head toward kickoff.
Keenan Allen has averaged 17.8 XFP/G (3rd-most), 10.4 targets per game (3rd-most), and 1.8 red zone targets per game (4th-most) since returning from injury in Week 11.
Gerald Everett has exceeded double-digit XFP just once since Keenan Allen returned from injury. He’s recorded a very middling 53% route share and a 9.2% target share over the last four weeks.
Trevor Lawrence is PFF’s 5th-highest graded passer since Week 10 (83.3 passing grade). He’s posted the 5th-highest completion percentage over expectation (+3.6%), the highest percentage of throws to pass catchers deemed ‘open’ (52.9%), and the 5th-highest passer rating (103.8).
It doesn’t look like the receiving role will appear for Travis Etienne, at least not this season. He hasn’t earned more than three targets since Week 7, and has posted a concerningly low 36% route share over his last three games. Jamycal Hasty has a stronger receiving role in this offense.
Evan Engram saw minimal usage the last two weeks (4.5 XFP/G). But, in his prior 15 games, he exceeded double-digit XFP 10 times (the 3rd-most of any TE), averaging 11.1 XFP/G.
Since Week 12, Jacksonville has been the 8th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs (+2.0 FPG), the 4th-softest for opposing slot WRs (+3.5 FPG), and the 7th-softest for opposing TEs (+2.3 FPG). A favorable matchup for Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, and Gerald Everett.
The Chargers have shut down opposing TEs since Week 12, allowing -5.8 schedule-adjusted FPG to the position (toughest). A brutal matchup for Evan Engram, who recorded his 4th-worst game of the season (3.9 fantasy points) when these teams played in Week 3.
But, the Chargers are the 2nd-softest schedule-adjusted rushing matchup for opposing RBs (+3.5 FPG). They’ve allowed the highest YPC (5.4), the most yards after contact per attempt (3.1), and the 2nd-most yards before contact per attempt (2.0). This is the only run defense that might be as bad as the Houston Texans, setting up the perfect matchup for Travis Etienne (who has scored 68% of his fantasy points via rushing this season).
Miami Dolphins (+13.0) @ Buffalo Bills (O/U: 44.5)
McDaniel adds that team is preparing on Wednesday as if Skylar Thompson will start, but Teddy Bridgewater is working to be available for Sunday. https://t.co/ceilO1hpnl— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) January 11, 2023
Skylar Thompson has three games with at least 20 pass attempts. Tyreek Hill averages 11.0 FPG and 14.4 XFP/G in those games – roughly a 51% and 25% dropoff relative to his season-long averages. Jaylen Waddle averages 7.9 FPG and 7.6 XFP/G – roughly a 51% and 39% dropoff relative to his season-long averages. Thompson is a huge downgrade for these WRs.
Thompson has the 7th-highest percentage of off-target throws (21.9%) among QBs with more than 50 attempts (58 qualifiers). Waddle and Hill are only in play if Bridgewater suits up.
Mike McDaniel says Raheem Mostert's thumb injury is "serious."— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) January 9, 2023
"It's hard to know if he'll be able to play this week. I never put anything past Raheem Mostert." He said it was a significant break in his thumb.
No QB has targeted RBs as much as Thompson this season (26.7%). While I’m fading the Miami WRs if he starts, these RBs (or at least Jeff Wilson) are certainly tempting.
In games where Thompson either didn’t play or attempted single-digit passes, the Dolphins’ backfield averaged 18.8 XFP/G. But in the three games where Thompson threw a notable amount of passes, the backfield averaged 31.6 XFP/G – a 68% increase. Both Raheem Mostert (if he plays) and Jeff Wilson profile as strong plays thanks to their notably increased target share if Thompson starts.
Over the last three seasons, Josh Allen has been far more productive as an underdog (32.6 DraftKings FPG), than as a favorite (25.6 DraftKings FPG). Buffalo may want to lean a bit heavier on their backfield to preserve Allen if this game gets out of hand as expected.
Neither of the Bills’ top receiving options managed to do much when these teams played in Weeks 3 and 15. Stefon Diggs averaged just 12.6 FPG – granted he fell well below his expectation (19.7 XFP/G). Gabe Davis averaged just 8.2 FPG, but he also fell below his expectation (13.1 XFP/G). I’m doubtful of this theory, but maybe Miami just knows how to shut these WRs down.
Dawson Knox earned his best usage of the season in Buffalo’s Week 15 matchup with Miami (17.7 XFP). He’s an interesting low-owned option in tournaments.
Miami is the 3rd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs (+3.0 FPG), the 2nd-softest matchup for opposing receiving RBs (+3.6 FPG), and the 5th-softest matchup for opposing TEs (+2.9 FPG). A strong spot for Josh Allen, Devin Singletary, and Dawson Knox.
Buffalo is the 5th-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs (-2.5 FPG), and the 2nd-toughest matchup for opposing TEs (-3.4 FPG).
New York Giants (+3.0) @ Minnesota Vikings (O/U: 48.5)
Both of these teams set season-highs in pass rate over expectation when they played each other in Week 16. Minnesota posted a 19% PROE, and New York recorded an 11.2% PROE. This game is likely the best candidate to shoot out on this 6 game slate, and the slate-high 48.5 total reflects that.
From Week 13 through Week 17, Daniel Jones had the 2nd-most designed rush attempts of any QB (24). I can’t imagine the Giants will hold back on QB rushing attempts in their most important game of the year.
This season, Jones averages 23.9 DraftKings FPG (QB2 on the 6-game slate) when his implied team total is over 21.0 (6 instances). The Giants implied team total this week is 22.75.
Somewhat unbelievably, Saquon Barkley has only played 14 games in his career with an implied team total over 22.0 – but he averages 24.1 DraftKings FPG in those contests – the most among slate-eligible RBs by 1.5 DraftKings FPG.
Barkley also earned a season-high in targets (10) and posted his 2nd-best fantasy performance of the season (27.3) when these teams played in Week 16.
Richie James has been a target hog over his last four games, averaging 8.0 targets per game and a 26% target share. He scored 17.0 fantasy points on 11 targets the last time these teams played (Week 16).
Being favored is a huge boost to Kirk Cousins, who has averaged 22.2 FPG as a favorite (12 instances), but just 15.7 FPG as an underdog (5 instances).
Prior to Week 17, Justin Jefferson had exceeded 20.0 XFP in six of his last seven games, averaging 23.6 XFP/G during that stretch. Keep in mind that across the entire season, only two other WRs (Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill) had at least six games with 20.0 or more XFP.
TJ Hockenson had the most consistent workload among non-Travis Kelce TEs prior to Week 18. He’s earned double-digit XFP in every game, averaging 16.3 XFP/G – a mark that would rank6th-best among slate-eligible WRs. The WRs who average more XFP/G have an average DraftKings salary of $7,760. Hockenson’s salary this week is just $5,100.
Minnesota is the nuts matchup for opposing outside WRs, allowing a league-high +6.5 schedule-adjusted FPG. The Vikings are also the 6th-softest matchup for opposing QBs (+1.7). A great spot for Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, and Daniel Jones.
The Giants are the 6th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing TEs (+2.7 FPG) since Week 12. Another reason to play TJ Hockenson.
Baltimore Ravens (+8.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (O/U: 40.5)
My SportsCenter hit leading up to the start of Ravens practice Wednesday pic.twitter.com/1TtUzds6nH— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) January 11, 2023
Lamar Jackson is almost certainly out, while Tyler Huntley has a decent chance to play.
Huntley is averaging 8.6 rush attempts per game (4th-most among all QBs this season), but, the Ravens have averaged just 11.8 PPG in the five games where Huntley has seen notable action. This has been a bad offense with Huntley at QB.
If we are trusting any Ravens’ pass catcher with Huntley at QB, it has to be Mark Andrews. No QB has thrown a higher percentage of passes to TEs this season than Huntley (46%). The 2nd-best game of Andrews’ career (35.6 fantasy points) came with Huntley at QB.
The Bengals are throwing the ball at an obscene rate as of late. Since Week 6, they’ve posted a 12.6% PROE (2nd among all teams over the full season) and in their last three games, their PROE hasn’t fallen below 16.3%. Joe Burrow crushes when the Bengals let him sling it…
#Bengals: Pass Rate Over Expectation— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) October 24, 2022
Weeks 1-5: 11th (+3.2%)
Week 6: 1st (+19.2%)
Week 7: 1st (+23.5%)
Joe Burrow [2021-2022]
PROE over +3.5%: 32.2 FPG (8 games)
All other games: 18.2 FPG (15 games)#LeagueWinnerAlert
Joe Mixon gets a boost from the expected positive gamescript in this contest. He averages 22.1 FPG as a favorite of 6.0 points or more over the last three seasons, compared to just 16.4 FPG outside of that split.
And despite the incredibly high PROE over the Bengals’ last three games, Mixon’s workload has still been great, as he’s averaged 20.2 XFP/G over that stretch. That mark would lead all slate-eligible RBs over the full season, yet Mixon is priced as the RB5 on DraftKings ($6,800).
Similarly, Ja’Marr Chase’s workload has been awesome since he returned from injury in Week 13. He’s averaged 20.1 XFP/G (2nd-best), 2.4 red zone targets per game (best), 12.0 targets per game (best), and 0.6 XTD/G (3rd-best).
Tyler Boyd is losing some routes to Trenton Irwin. Over the last three weeks, Boyd has posted a route share of 68%, compared to 87% in his first 12 games. I’m skeptical that continues as we head into the playoffs, but it does hurt Boyd’s median outcome slightly if it does.
Baltimore is the 6th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing slot WRs (+2.3 FPG), setting up a favorable matchup for Tyler Boyd.
The Bengals are the 6th-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs since Week 12 (-4.8 FPG). A difficult spot for JK Dobbins and these Ravens RBs.
Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (O/U: 45.5)
Tom Brady averages 19.8 FPG in his 29 playoff games since 2010, a 24% improvement on his 2022 season average. Maybe, just maybe, he can channel some better passing performances for the playoffs.
Leonard Fournette’s snap shares in his last five playoff games with Tampa Bay: 86%, 70%, 69%, 68%, and 85%. His 2022 snap share was just 59%, but he is the most-trusted RB in this Tampa Bay backfield, and is live for a notable increase in both usage and snaps now that it’s playoff time. He’s a top value at just $5,300 on DraftKings.
Current projections suggest Chris Godwin is a stronger play than Mike Evans and will thus carry higher ownership. But, I’m not sure that’s correct. Evans sat in Week 18 (Godwin played), and over the prior four weeks, Evans has posted a better workload (18.1 XFP/G) than Godwin (14.8 XFP/G). Assuming ownership projections hold, Evans is the much stronger play.
Cade Otton may gain some steam as a salary-saving TE option given he’s exceeded double-digit XFP in five of his last nine games. But he’s only scored double-digit fantasy points in two of those games. I greatly prefer Colby Parkinson as a salary-saving option.
The Dallas backfield is the 4th-most productive in fantasy football (27.6 FPG), and Tony Pollard is the cheapest he’s been on DraftKings since Week 8 ($6,400). He profiles as a strong under-owned play given he’s earned more XFP than Ezekiel Elliott in four of their last six fully healthy games together. Pollard is one of my favorite low-owned plays of the slate.
CeeDee Lamb has been far more effective as a favorite this season (19.8 FPG) than as an underdog (13.1 FPG).
Dallas is the 3rd-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs (-3.1 FPG), and the 5th-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs (-2.4 FPG). A tough spot for Tom Brady and Cade Otton.
Tampa Bay is the 2nd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing slot WRs (+3.0 FPG). An underrated spot for CeeDee Lamb.