Wild Card weekend fantasy preview
Jeff Ratcliffe gets you prepped for Wild Card weekend with a detailed breakdown of all for games on the slate.
Wild Card weekend fantasy preview
Kansas City @ Houston
Projected score: KC 20.6 – HST 19.7
The Chiefs enter this year’s playoffs on heels of an improbable a 10-game win streak. Over that span, Alex Smith ranks 14th in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks, with 1918 passing yards and 14 scores. Perhaps the most underrated aspect to Smith’s game is his ability as a runner. Over the last 11 weeks, only Cam Newtown (411) and Tyrod Taylor (381) have more rushing yards than Smith (378). Smith is worth a look as a GPP punt this week (DK: $5,300, FD: $7,100), but it’s tough to endorse him as a cash game play against a Houston defense that has held opposing quarterbacks to the ninth fewest fantasy points over the last five weeks.
Charcandrick West has been a serviceable replacement following the devastating loss of Jamaal Charles back in Week 5. Since taking over as the starter, West ranks 14th in fantasy scoring, though he sits a very inefficient 47th in fantasy points per opportunity. With the Texans ranking as the second-worst matchup for running backs over the last five weeks, it’s wise to look elsewhere at running back this week.
Houston has excelled against opposing receivers down the stretch, but Jeremy Maclin is still worth consideration. He has scored six touchdowns in his last six games and ranks as the No. 7 fantasy receiver over that stretch. Maclin is likely to see plenty of Jonathan Joseph in coverage. The savvy veteran corner has allowed just two touchdowns and 50-of-90 balls to be caught in his coverage. It’s certainly not an ideal matchup, but also not one to be overly concerned with given Maclin’s heavy target volume down the stretch While the Chiefs are certainly on the more conservative side of the spectrum, Maclin’s current form bodes well for Wild Card weekend. He also remains modestly priced across the DFS industry (DK: $6,400, FD: $7,200).
Perhaps the Chief’s best matchup of the day goes to Travis Kelce. Over the last five weeks, the Texans have proven susceptible to the tight end, allowing the eighth most fantasy points. Kelce may not have reached preseason expectations, but he did manage a solid season where he finished seventh in fantasy points at the position. With the tight end always a key part of Andy Reid’s offense, Kelce is a good bet to reach value this weekend on DraftKings ($4,500), though his price is a tad high on FanDuel ($6,400).
Contests with projected low scores can be tricky to navigate at the kicker and team defense positions, but it’s hard not to like the Chiefs DST. This unit leads all defenses in fantasy scoring over the last five weeks, and they’re like to get all-world pass rusher Justin Houston back. Kansas City is worth the premium price (DK: $4,000, FD: $5,100). This doesn’t appear to be the best game for kicker value, though those in FanDuel GPPs may want to take a flier on Cairo Santos. He kicked five-or-more field goals twice this season. That being said, he’s also the No. 29 fantasy kicker over the last five weeks.
It was a somewhat rocky road for this year’s stars of Hard Knocks, as the Texans lost five of their first seven games and seemed destined for an early 2016 draft pick. However, Bill O’Brien’s squad battled back on the strength of stout defensive play and the ascendant play of DeAndre Hopkins.
One of the major areas of concern for this team has been the quarterback position. Brian Hoyer hasn’t been a revelation, but he has given the team stability when he’s on the field. He’s also been a fringe QB1, scoring the 14th most fantasy points over the 11 games in which he’s appeared. Unfortunately, this isn’t the week to rely on Hoyer. The Chiefs have allowed just five passing touchdowns over the last five games, and they did so without Justin Houston. Hoyer has some appeal in GPPs, but should not be relied on in cash games.
After losing Arian Foster in Week 6, the running back position been a bit of a mess for the Texans with Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, Chris Polk, and Akeem Hunt all seeing meaningful snaps. Of this bunch, Blue appears to be the clear lead back heading into this weekend. He’s paced the backfield in snaps over the last three weeks, and topped 100 yards twice over that stretch. Touchdowns could be an issue for Blue, as he’s scored just twice this season. Blue is also unlikely to get any work as a receiver. Grimes figures to be the passing down back, but Blue is the clear preferred fantasy option. He offers nice salary relief (DK: $4,200, FD: $5,700) and should be considered as a cash game play.
DeAndre Hopkins cemented his place among the elite names at wide receiver for fantasy purposes this season. In PPR formats, only Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Brandon Marshall outscored him, and only Brown and Jones saw more targets than Hopkins’ 187. While it’s tough to ignore his production, the matchup is cause for serious concern. Over the last five weeks, only the Seahawks have yielded fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than the Chiefs.
Hopkins is likely to face off against Sean Smith, with Nate Washington likely to see breakout rookie Marcus Peters. Smith was suspended when these two teams met back in Week 1, but since Week 4, he’s allowed just 53.2 percent of balls thrown into his coverage to be caught. Of course, it should be pointed out that Sammy Watkins did torch Smith back in Week 12, catching 5-of-7 targets for 125 yards and two scores. While the matchup is less than idea, Hopkins massive volume and high ceiling still make him an attractive cash game play. Those looking for GPP upside will want to steer clear of Washington. He’s dealing with a hip injury, but more importantly, it looks like Cecil Shorts will be back after missing the last two weeks with a hamstring injury.
Houston’s defense is always in consideration, though Kansas City has turned the ball over just 15 times this season and yielded just two scores to opposing defenses/special teams units. Surprisingly, Nick Novak has the sixth most fantasy points among kickers over the last five games, kicking 10 field goals and nine extra points over that stretch. Novak is just $4,600 on FanDuel, but it should be noted that the Chiefs are the No. 31 matchup for kickers over the last five weeks.
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Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.