DFS Game by Game Breakdown: Wild Card Weekend

5 Jan 2019 - 12:24am | Roto Coach | Updated: 5 Jan 2019 - 12:09pm | Likes: 95 Like 
DFS Game by Game Breakdown: Wild Card Weekend

Indianapolis @ Houston


Line: HOU -1  O/U: 48.5

The Setup: These two teams have faced off already this season and the road team has come away the victor in both instances. The rubber match features the highest Vegas projected total of the weekend, and we should expect a ton of ownership to be focused on these two rosters.

The Breakdown: Either one of Andrew Luck or Deshaun Watson could easily wind up the highest scoring player on the slate, as the quarterbacks and the passing games figure to be the dominant aspects of the offenses here. Both of these teams feature top five DVOA rush defenses on the season, while both wrapped up the year in the bottom half of the league against the pass and each one was trending down in the second half as injuries and inconsistency took their toll. The only issue here is a lack of experience and talent outside of the number one receiving options for each, but this games has all the makings of an absolute shootout and it wouldn’t be surprising if we saw both quarterbacks throw the ball 40+ times. Watson’s rushing ability gives him the higher upside here, and he’s been fantastic in the second half despite all the injuries to Texans skill position players. But I also don’t think you can’t go wrong with Luck, who’s thrown for at least 265 yards in 5 of his 6 career playoff games and has at least 325 yards passing or multiple touchdown tosses in 4 of those. At running back the Houston situation seems like one to avoid. Despite a very good midseason stretch, Lamar Miller has battled injuries and simply hasn’t looked explosive of late. The Colts field a very underrated run defense and he probably winds up over-owned this weekend. Neither one of Alfred Blue or D’Onta Foreman (if he’s active) should see enough touches to matter here. For the Colts, the two running backs are significantly more interesting. The matchup is a terrible one for Marlon Mack, but it’s hard to overlook his production, as Mack has gone over 100 yards rushing in 4 of 12 games, and twice in the final four, finding the end zone five times over that stretch. One of those final four was a less than stellar 14 carry, 33 yard performance at Houston in Week 14, but the Indy offensive line has been outstanding and Mack is certainly capable of breaking one. Assuming this game goes the shootout route, Nyheim Hines should be on your radar as well. Since Week 13 he’s averaging 6 targets per contest in the passing game with a little change of pace work in the running game (3+ carries per game). The lack of receiver depth for Indy has opened up work in the passing game for the rookie back, and he simply has far too much big play ability for where he’s priced across the industry. The wide receiver position in this game has arguably the two best wideout options on the slate. DeAndre Hopkins is an even bigger target monster than usual right now, as the depleted Texans receiving corps has resulted in his averaging 13 targets over the final three games of the season, turning those into 31 catches for 421 yards and 2 touchdowns over the stretch. There’s no reason to think that slows down here. Right now rookie Keke Coutee is a game-time decision, but has sat for nearly the last month with a hamstring issue. Pat Mahomes’ favorite target back at Texas Tech, Coutee has speed to burn and is a wildcard, as he could easily suffer a setback or not be up to speed enough with the offense to see meaningful snaps. By the same token, if he’s healthy and good to go it’s worth noting that he saw 7 or more targets in three of the six games he played this season. With all of this mind, DeAndre Carter is the next man up and would seem to have a relatively safe floor, albeit a limited ceiling. For the Colts it’s going to be a similar scenario to Hopkins for T.Y. Hilton, who historically has torched the Texans throughout his career, averaging more that 100 yards receiving against Houston over 14 games. But playing the Texans on the road, he’s been an absolute destroyer of worlds. In 7 games at Houston he’s scored 7 times and has topped 175 receiving yards on three occasions, including 9 catches for 199 yards just four weeks ago. Outside of Hilton, guys like Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers are largely salary savers that really need to find the end zone to help you out in a tournament. At the tight end position there’s an obvious play in this game in Eric Ebron, who’s essentially become the de facto WR2 in the Colts offense and enjoyed a career season, seeing 110 targets (2nd on the team behind Hilton), and securing 66 of them for 750 yards and 13 TDs. And his matchup is stellar against a Texans defense that allowed the second most fantasy points to the tight end position this season, behind only the Chiefs. That matchup also could give Moe Allie-Cox comes sneaky value as an off-the-board punt tight end this week. He’s playing plenty of snaps of late, but has largely been used a blocker. But with Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope gone, he’s the next guy up, and has seen 2 of his 7 catches this season go for touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Jordan Thomas falls into a similar category. He’ll be super low owned given his low target volume, but his matchup against a Colts team that allowed the third most fantasy points to the tight end position this season is equally excellent. Thomas hasn’t been targeted heavily of late, but the injury to Demaryius Thomas and the questionable status of Coutee could open the door. He also caught 4 balls for 31 times in the last meeting between these teams so it wouldn’t be surprising to seem him garner a handful of targets here and he’s ultra cheap across the industry. Lastly, I wouldn’t touch the defenses in this game. It’s the only real potential shootout of the weekend, and the poor pass defenses of both teams make giving up a bunch of yardage and pile of points negate the potential upside of a couple turnovers and sacks.

Seattle @ Dallas

Line: DAL -2  O/U: 43

The Setup: The Seahawks finished the regular season going 6-1 down the stretch to secure a playoff berth. And while there’s nothing to envy about a trip to Dallas to play one of the league’s better defenses, this feels like a dangerous spot for the Cowboys. They lost to this same Seattle team early in the season before righting the ship, but at times this is an offense that does seem to go awfully quiet. On the flip side, the Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in the league, having dealt the Chiefs a loss in Week 16 and essentially playing themselves into the playoffs over the final month and a half.  

The Breakdown: Russell Wilson has yet to lose a first round playoff game. As in never. He’s gone 5-0 quarterbacking his team in their opening round of the playoffs since coming into the league and will try to extend that streak at Dallas this week. He’s one of the more difficult players to assess this weekend, as the Seahawks rushing attack has been so potent over the second half that Wilson hasn’t had to throw the ball all that much. The depressed passing attempts obviously negate a lot of his upside, and add in the fact that he’s been running far less this season and there isn’t a ton to like about him in this game. Still, Wilson has historically been solid in the postseason, logging at least 200 yards passing with multiple touchdowns in 8 of his 12 appearances, including the Super Bowl. On the other side Dak Prescott probably only has big game potential if Dallas gets down in this game. Otherwise it’s going to be the Ezekiel Elliott show. To finish out the season Prescott had two massive fantasy performances over the final four games, first against Philly in Week 14 and then against the Giants with Elliott sitting out in Week 17. But his mediocre performances against the Colts and Bucs in the weeks in between are highly concerning, especially because the pass defenses for both of those teams have proven to be very beatable this season. I won’t have much Dak this week, and I have a hard time seeing the Seahawks bend but don’t break defense giving up a big fantasy day to him even if the game script goes in his favor. At running back Ezekiel Elliott probably winds up the most popular option on the slate, and he’s certainly in a good spot against a middle of the road Seattle run defense. Where his real value might come though is in the passing game, as the Seattle defense has been quietly one of the league’s worst at defending running backs in the passing game, surrendering the fifth most receptions (102) this season, the third most yards (908), and the most receiving touchdowns (7). No one else in the Dallas backfield will matter. For Seattle we should again see a heavy dose of Chris Carson, as the Seahawks have been heavily utilizing the running game this season, led by Carson. In fact, he carried 32 times against this same Cowboys team in Week 3, managing just 3.2 yards per carry, but going over 100 rushing yards on the day with a touchdown, and adding a couple catches for 22 yards. He’s a near lock for 20+ touches with the way he’s been used this season, and as long as the Seahawks are in this game he’ll remain a key part of the offense. Mike Davis has been the change of pace and third down back, seeing slightly more work than Carson in the passing game. He probably needs Carson to go down or a big Dallas lead to see more than 8-10 touches here. At receiver Doug Baldwin has been very productive of late, but he’s burned enough people this season that he probably goes under owned on this slate relative to teammate Tyler Lockett, who’s been the team’s most consistent receiver this season. While Dallas is a top five run defense, they have been beatable through the air this season. Lockett is the more big play oriented of the two, and it’s important to note that with a playoff berth on the line Baldwin played a full complement of snaps in Weeks 15 and 16, catching 18 balls for more than 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. He isn’t on the injury report this week so it wouldn’t be that surprising to see Seattle try to loosen things up early by peppering him in the short passing game. Other Seattle receivers like Jaron Brown and David Moore can be rostered in large field tournaments, as both have some boom bust upside, especially if Seattle gets down a couple scores, and they come at rock bottom prices. For the Cowboys it’s basically Amari Cooper and then everyone else. Cooper is the type of receiver that can give the Seahawks corners trouble outside, and he’s a virtual lock to lead the team in targets this week. The question will be what that looks like for Dallas. Cooper has been similarly inconsistent in the same way he was in Oakland from a fantasy production standpoint, but mercifully, his lows haven’t been as low, while his highs have been downright explosive. Still, his range of outcomes is pretty vast. This doesn’t feel like a spot where he goes off, as this game features a low projected total and Elliott should have enough success that the game doesn’t hinge on Prescott, Cooper, and the passing attack. Fellow wideouts Cole Beasley and Michael Gallup are complete opposites, with Gallup possessing some big play ability and virtually no floor, while Beasley will see enough targets in the short passing game to at least have a floor, but comes with zero upside. At tight end Ed Dickson and Nick Vannett aren’t particularly interesting for Seattle, as they are mostly short yardage and red zone targets when they do see passes, but with a healthy Baldwin those targets will be few and far between, even in what profiles as an above average matchup for tight ends versus Dallas. There are simply too many similarly priced punt plays at the position with more upside. For the Cowboys Blake Jarwin has become the go-to guy at tight end down the stretch, but there’s no reason to chase his 7-119-3 line from Week 17. That said, he saw 7 targets or more in three of the Cowboys last four games and was trending in the right direction at the close of the season. Still, that was a game without Elliott and with the Cowboys resting some other key players, and this week’s matchup against Seattle hasn’t been quite as good for tight ends this season. On defense I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking either of these teams. Dallas has been the better defense on the season and draws a matchup at home against a league average offense that relies heavily on the run. Similarly, Seattle faces a Cowboys team that has been one dimensional at times, and has on a few occasions this season looked completely inept. Through his first few seasons in the league Prescott has shown a tendency to get frustrated and respond with increasingly inconsistent play. Lacking the poise of a quarterback like Wilson, If the Seahawks get to him early this defense could put together a solid fantasy day.  

Los Angeles (Chargers) @ Baltimore

Line: BAL -2.5  O/U: 41.5

The Setup: Two weeks ago the Ravens put themselves in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth by going east to west and beating the Chargers in LA with another strong performance from Lamar Jackson and the Ravens defense. It’s difficult to beat even a mediocre NFL team twice in one season, so for Baltimore to topple a Chargers team that finished 12-4 on the season for the second time in three weeks is a pretty tall order.

The Breakdown: Philip Rivers was awful two weeks ago when the Ravens came to town, and while Baltimore’s defense is certainly one of the more complete units in the league, it’s hard to believe Rivers won’t play better this week. The clock is ticking for the 37 year old Rivers, who most certainly is running out of chances to reach the Super Bowl. Additionally, it’s worth noting that as good as the Ravens have been, this defense did surrender more than 375 yards and 3 TD passes to rookie Baker Mayfield at home last week, a game which they nearly lost and would have cost them the division and the playoffs. Facing Rivers and the Chargers passing attack this week isn’t going to be any easier. He could easily be the lowest owned quarterback of the weekend, and as I said on the podcast this week, I think he’s a sneaky good play here. On the other side of the ball is rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, who’s lone 200 yard passing performance of the season came against this Chargers team. The challenge for the Chargers will be containing Jackson in the running game, as the Los Angeles defense has faltered against opposing rushing attacks in the second half. Still, I expect the Chargers will have a much better idea of how to handle Jackson, as they’ll be the first team to face him twice. It’s enough to take me off Jackson this week. At running back Los Angeles look like they will have a healthy Melvin Gordon, who is no longer on the injury report. That’s good news for LA, who will be at nearly back to full strength on offense this week. Gordon is a bit pricey on most sites and this isn’t a great matchup. That said, you could certainly script a game where Jackson turns the ball over a couple times and Gordon’s workload balloons on a couple short fields. Still, I’m inclined to either pay down a bit or try to find the extra money for Ezekiel Elliott in a better matchup. Given the questions about Austin Ekeler’s groin injury and my belief that the team will lean heavily on Gordon, I don’t think he’s necessary this week. On the other side of the ball we should see a heavy dose of Gus Edwards, who ran for 92 yards on 14 carries against this team in their last meeting. He has virtually no role in the passing game so know that if you’re rolling out Edwards and the Ravens get behind a couple scores, you’re probably drawing dead with him. From a game script perspective Kenneth Dixon is the safest back, as he split the carries with Edwards last week and averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 60 totes this season. He’s also the first back up in the passing game as well, so he’s the least situationally dependent of the Baltimore backs. Finally, Ty Montgomery hasn’t seen double digit touches since arriving in Baltimore via a midseason trade. More than anything he looks like an insurance policy for the injury prone Dixon at this point and doesn’t need to be considered this weekend. Despite the Ravens stout secondary, the Chargers top three receivers are all viable options this week at various price points. Keenan Allen represents the most consistent option of the three, as his targets and usage are pretty much locked in, and even against good coverage he’s going to get open. Mike Williams is perhaps the least predictable of the bunch, but he’s got a knack for finding the end zone, scoring 2 TDs in three different games this season and 11 overall on the year. He’s also come on strong at the end of his first full NFL season, and was the hero in the upset at Kansas City after Allen was lost early on in the first half. Tyrell Williams on the other hand hasn’t done much since a midseason stretch where he capitalized on a series of big plays. In fact, more than 36% of his receiving yards and 3 of his 5 touchdowns came in two big games during Week 6 and 7. That said, he’s nicknamed “Tyrell the Gazelle” for a reason and can get behind any defense. With Jackson at the helm there’s virtually no safety in Ravens pass catchers, as John Brown and Michael Crabtree have seen their production plummet. While they weren’t exactly lighting the world on fire with Joe Flacco under center, neither has reached 50 receiving yards in a game since Jackson took over so their fantasy value is nonexistent at this point. Slot receiver Willie Snead has managed to exceed 50 yards thrice with Jackson, but a 5 catch 61 yard day was his best effort and he’s yet to catch a touchdown pass from the rookie. He was also completely shut out by the Chargers two weeks ago. In short, all of these guys are super risky. A tight end there’s been some chatter that the Chargers Hunter Henry, who missed the entire season with a torn ACL, could return for the playoffs. To me it seems like a bit of a longshot, especially given that he hasn’t played a snap all season and this team isn’t exactly short on healthy pass catchers. The one caveat here is that Baltimore does allow some production to tight ends (22nd DVOA vs the position on the season) so if Henry truly is part of the game plan it’s likely he sees work in the red zone. If he sits, Antonio Gates is cheap enough to warrant punt play status with upside. For the Ravens Mark Andrews will fly way under the radar this week and seems to have a decent reporte with Jackson. His price is elevated a bit after a couple solid weeks, but one of those was against this Chargers team who he burned for 83 yards on 2 grabs, including a 68 yard score. Finally, there’s a game script where either defense could have an opportunity to go big here. Should the Ravens get up and Philip Rivers need to throw the Chargers back into this ball game then an opportunistic Baltimore defense could certainly capitalize, as Rivers has always been a bit of a gunslinger. On the flip side I do like the Chargers quite a bit at a bargain price tag. Having seen Jackson before, I expect that they will have made adjustments and could give the rookie all he can handle here. Two weeks ago I really liked the Ravens on the road, but this week I’m on the opposite side and rolling with Los Angeles.

Philadelphia @ Chicago

Line: CHI -6.5  O/U: 41

The Setup: Narratives abound in this one, as head coaches Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy both come out of the Andy Reid coaching tree, with each serving as Reid’s Offensive Coordinator in Kansas City just prior to landing head coaching gigs. They also worked directly together as Offensive Coordinator (Pederson) and Quarterbacks Coach (Nagy) before Pederson left for the Eagles, and their friendship dates back to a time when they both work for Reid back in Philly. As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve got Alshon Jeffery returning to Chicago for the first time since he left via free agency during the 2016 offseason. And don’t forget Bears starting tight end, Trey Burton, who tossed Nick Foles his now famous touchdown reception en route to a Super Bowl win last season. This should be a great capper to the weekend.

The Breakdown: Neither Nick Foles, nor Mitchell Trubisky figure to be highly owned DFS options this weekend, as this game has the lowest projected Vegas total on the slate. That said, Philadelphia’s pass defense has been pretty awful, particularly of late, as injuries have decimated the secondary. It’s unlikely that Nagy wants to saddle Trubisky with the responsibility of carrying the offense on his shoulders in his first playoff game, but he may not have a choice if Nick Foles figures out how to put some points on the board for Philadelphia. Both of the teams feature top tier run defenses and both know how to get after the passer. Assuming the Eagles don’t let Trubisky get outside the pocket and run, he could struggle under the Eagles pass rush, as his inability to make good decisions under pressure has been the biggest knock on him through his first two NFL seasons. The veteran Foles has been here before, but draws the worst matchup of any quarterback this weekend. Still, he’s a veteran facing a very young team for which many of the players are making their playoff debut. I expect the Eagles to come out firing much the way we saw Atlanta do on the road against a very good, but very young Rams team last season. With that in mind I think Foles probably has the safer floor here, with Trubisky’s potential rushing upside combined with a poor Eagles secondary giving him the higher ceiling. Neither one is anything more than a GPP play. The backfields are messy for both these squads, as both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen tend to be heavily game script dependent in their split of the workload. When Chicago is rolling then Howard tends to gobble up the carries as the workhorse back, but the closer the game, the more the explosive Cohen tends to have the ball in his hands. With that in mind, I lean Cohen as the better play here, as anything other than a dominant Bears performance should make him a solid play, and even then he can capitalize with a big play on limited touches. For the Eagles I want no part of the backfield, as various running backs have found success at times, but this team has been mixing and matching like crazy down the stretch. Even in a blowout (24-0) Week 17 win at Washington, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles finished with 14, 16, and 10 touches respectively. If you want to roll the dice on one of these guys finding the end zone as a salary saver as the last one into your lineup, I don’t hate it. And for that I’d have them ranked Sproles, Adams, Smallwood, but it’s difficult to be confident in any of them. At wide receiver Allen Robinson should see WR1 volume and this is a fantastic matchup for him against a bad Eagles secondary, with the obvious caveat that Trubisky will need to play well for him to reach value. He’s both healthy and rested, and should be a relatively safe option this weekend. Rookie teammate Anthony Miller showed flashes in his first season, but failed to top 50 yards receiving in 14 of 15 games and never recorded more than 5 receptions in any game. Still, his 7 touchdowns were tops among Bears wideouts and his 11 red zone targets were just one less than Allen Robinson, who saw 40 more total targets on the season. Taylor Gabriel is the wildcard here, as he’s been utilized at times like a poor man’s Tyreek Hill in Matt Nagy’s offense, and has had big games. By the same token he also gets scripted out of games or can completely disappear. There’s probably not a player on the slate with more boom bust potential, and against an Eagles secondary that allows big plays it’s probably worth having a share or two sprinkled into your lineups. On the Eagles side of the ball it’s difficult not to like the narrative of Alshon Jeffery returning to face a Chicago franchise that didn’t want to pay him WR1 money. And if there’s a Philly receiver that has the potential to give this good young secondary all it can handle, it’s Jeffery. Top shelf wideouts like Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams, and Stefon Diggs have all had big games against this Bears unit, and Jeffery is averaging 5+ catches and more than 100 yards per game over Foles three starts to close out the season. Nelson Agholor generally doesn’t have the upside we want, and that’s especially true against a defense like this, and Golden Tate just doesn’t seem like he’s ever really gotten integrated into the offense in a meaningful way. If you think this game shoots out then either is viable, but I’m not going out of my way to target either one. Despite two of the more attractive tight end options on the board from a talent perspective, in Zach Ertz and Trey Burton, it’s worth noting that neither of these teams has allowed 100 receiving yards to the tight end position in a game all season. Furthermore, the Bears surrendered just 5 touchdowns to the position all season, while the Eagles allowed the second fewest in the league at just 2. I wouldn’t try to talk anyone off Zach Ertz, but given the matchups it’s difficult to prioritize him over a guy like Eric Ebron, who gets a fantastic matchup at a discount. And revenge spot or not, Burton is probably not a guy I’ll own, as his price tag is sort of awkward for this slate and the matchup is just plain brutal. Finally, for the defenses I think there’s some merit to rostering either one. I expect Chicago to be ultra popular, but I do like the idea of a veteran Philadelphia pass rush facing off against a young quarterback making his first playoff start. The Eagles are also priced way down so they can help you fit an upgrade or two at the other positions as well.

Good luck this weekend!


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