Wild card daily fantasy advice: Previewing the week in DFS
Welcome to the first round of the NFL playoffs, and, conversely, the 18th round of the 2016 NFL DFS season. The player pools get smaller — and some of the top tournaments get smaller too — but you still get a few more weekends of DFS fun before the season winds down.
With just four games on tap for Wild Card weekend, there’s a whole lot less to consider. This does, however, give you all the time in the world to analyze (or overanalyze) each available player. As usual, I’ll offer up some of my early-week thoughts to help get you started.
On Saturday, the Houston Texans take on the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks host the Detroit Lions. On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Miami Dolphins while the Green Bay Packers will square off against the New York Giants. If you’re playing one-day slates, the Sunday slate obviously offers more firepower and enticing options.
Below are my early-week musings in DFS for Wild Card weekend.
(Note: I’m providing only DraftKings and FanDuel salaries as I live in Florida, where Yahoo does not operate.)
Ben Roethlisberger is my top DFS quarterback this week. I think. There’s that Aaron Rodgers guy too, but his matchup isn’t peachy. Roethlisberger’s is. He draws the Miami Dolphins, who rank 28th against the pass and have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Only three teams (Atlanta, Detroit and Cleveland) have given up more passing touchdowns than Miami’s 30. When these two teams met in Week 6, Roethlisberger was held to under 200 yards and threw just one score against two interceptions. But that was in Miami, and as we know, Roethlisberger is significantly better at home.
You might have missed it, but the paragraph above low-key mentions that the Lions have also been miserable against fantasy quarterbacks this season. In fact, they have given up the second-most fantasy points to the position, including 32 touchdowns, which also ranks second-to-last. This makes Russell Wilson an intriguing option this weekend, and doubly so because — like Roethlisberger — Wilson is playing at home, where’s he’s been significantly better. Wilson has scored over 30 percent more fantasy points per game when playing at home compared to on the road.
If you’re desperate to squeeze in studs at other positions, I don’t hate sticking Matt Moore into lineups this weekend — presuming Ryan Tannehill is a no-go (you can choose Tannehill too if he plays). Moore has thrown at least two touchdowns in each of his three full games to close out the year, and he has been incredibly consistent with yardage as well, putting up 236, 233 and 205 yards, respectively. Moore seems like a safe bet for 225 yards, two scores and an interception while playing catch-up with Roethsliberger’s Steelers. The Steelers have, however, given up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, so buyer beware.
One stud you’re going to want to do anything to buy is Le’Veon Bell. He’s an extremely expensive $10,300 on both DraftKings and FanDuel, but he’s far and away the best running back option on the slate. If I have to choose between fitting Bell and Brown in a lineup, I’m choosing Bell.
Bell’s opponent in this game, Jay Ajayi, is really the only other attractive running back this weekend. He’s easier to buy on DraftKings ($6,800) than FanDuel ($8,300), but I don’t expect him to be overly popular, since most people will be looking to pay way down at running back after paying up for Bell. But Ajayi ripped the Steelers to shreds earlier this season (25-204-2), and Pittsburgh hasn’t gotten any better against the run since. They have given up the sixth-most fantasy points to the position this year, and they have ceded at least one rushing score to opposing backfields in four straight games.
Zach Zenner has a tough draw against the stingy Seattle Seahawks — in Seattle — but I’m going to take a serious look at him after he logged 97 percent of Detroit’s snaps in Week 17. Over the final two weeks of the season, Zenner ranks third in PPR fantasy points scored thanks to three touchdowns in that span. He’s not going to rack up the yardage, but Zenner clearly has touchdown equity in Detroit’s offense. In a week where you’re probably going to be forced to take a stars-and-scrubs approach, you could do worse than Zenner.
Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jordy Nelson are all fine plays — obviously — but you probably won’t be able to fit more than one of them in your lineup, assuming you are trying to fit Le’Veon Bell in at running back. They are all three fairly close in price on FanDuel, but on DraftKings, Nelson is over $1,100 cheaper than the other two. I have definitely not decided which one is my favorite yet, but I will say that I’m not concerned about Nelson even in a tougher matchup. He has been matchup-proof this season — especially at home.
If you want in on the Giants passing attack, but can’t fit Beckham into your lineup, try Victor Cruz on for size. He’s just $3,800 on DraftKings and minimum-priced $4,500 on FanDuel. Cruz should run just over half of his routes against Damarious Randall, who has given up the fifth-most fantasy points per route run among all starting NFL corners this season. Randall ceded a (tied for) league-high eight touchdowns in coverage this year, and was our 114th-of-120 graded corner. Cruz really hasn’t been much better, and he’s the least likely of Beckham, Sterling Shepard and maybe even Will Tye to score among New York’s receivers, but he also randomly had a 12-target game in Week 16, so he still has some juice left in the tank.
Doug Baldwin is my must-start wideout of the weekend. He will face Detroit slot man Asa Jackson — and/or Don Carey — and will annihilate either of them. Jackson and Carey played a combined 160 snaps on the entire year — including just 100 in pass coverage — but they still managed to give up 11 receptions for 103 yards and two scores. And Darius Slay won’t shadow Baldwin; Slay has forayed into the slot on just 3 percent of his routes in coverage this year, and that’s where Baldwin runs 73 percent of his routes. Baldwin will feast.
With Brock Osweiler currently expected to start for the Texans, one has to consider that a boon for C.J. Fiedorowicz’s stock. Fiedorowicz has seen at least seven targets in four straight games and in nine of his past 11. The Raiders have been susceptible to tight ends this year and have ceded the ninth-most fantasy points to the position, including lines to 10-180-1 to Atlanta tight ends, 7-104-2 to San Diego, 10-128-0 to Houston, 5-101-0 to Kansas City and 9-122-0 to Indianapolis. They have also given up a score to tight ends in two of their past three games.
The Lions have also been bad against tight ends (fifth-most points given up to the position this year), which makes Jimmy Graham an option, despite the fact he’s fallen from grace in recent weeks. Graham did get back on track in Week 17, however, and he caught four-of-seven targets for 64 yards. It was his best game since Week 13. As the most expensive tight end, Graham will definitely be lower-owned as players try to make room for the pricey running backs and wideouts this week.
I like Ladarius Green or Jesse James this week against the Miami Dolphins. Green didn’t play in Week 17 with a concussion, so keep an eye on him. In any event, the Pittsburgh tight end should find room to work in the first round of the playoffs against a Miami team that has given up the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends this year, thanks in large part to the fact they have given up 10 touchdowns to the position, eight of which came over the final eight weeks of the season.