Wild Card Weekend: DFS Breakdown

5 Jan 2018 - 9:14pm | Roto Coach | Updated: 6 Jan 2018 - 1:06pm | Likes: 0 Like 
Wild Card Weekend: DFS Breakdown

Saturday-January 6th

Tennessee @ Kansas City

KC: -8.0 O/U: 44.5

Quarterback: On the season the Chiefs have been one the NFL’s worst at defending opposing passing attacks, but that doesn’t exactly play to the strength of the Titans offense. Despite a series of offseason moves designed to bolster the passing attack, Marcus Mariota turned in his most disappointing season as a pro, posting a career low in touchdown passes (13) and a career high in interceptions (15). He also managed to top 300 yards passing just twice this year, and never accounted for more than two total touchdowns in any given week. None of this is all that surprising given how much the Titans have leaned on the running game, but it makes Mariota one of the least appealing quarterbacks on Wild Card weekend, even with what profiles as a strong matchup. On the other side of the ball, Alex Smith once again leads Kansas City into the playoffs, and in doing so this season he did a solid job of sticking it to the naysayers. Smith posted a career high 26 touchdown passes in 2017, throwing for more than 4000 yards for the first time in his career, while turning the ball over just 6 times all season. He’ll face a Titans team that is far better at stopping opposing rushing attacks, but has struggled in the secondary, finishing the season ranked in the bottom third of the league in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and tight ends, and dead last in defending running backs in the passing game. This spot sets up well for Smith, especially since Kansas City may have troubled moving the ball on the ground, and the weather looks to be downright balmy for Kansas City in January, with some sun and kickoff temps projected to be in the low 40s.

Running Back: Running back ownership should be fairly well spread out on this Wild Card weekend slate, given the abundance of top shelf options at the position. And with Demarco Murray lost to an MCL tear, Derrick Henry has the backfield mostly to himself, making him a strong value play. While Kansas City is more than a touchdown favorite in this game, the Titans are only going to stay in this by keeping the Chiefs offense on the sidelines and looking to control the clock. And with Kansas City ranked 32nd in DVOA against the run on the season, Henry’s matchup is ideal, and yet still may go somewhat overlooked. On the other side of the ball is Kareem Hunt, who ran roughshod over the league in the first month of the season before slowing considerably and watched his workload diminish, only to rise again in the final stretch to help the Chiefs capture the division. Hunt logged just one carry in Week 17, a 35 yard scamper for a touchdown that secured him the NFL’s rushing title. But from Week 14 to Week 16 Hunt averaged more than 30 touches per contest, racking up 450 total yards (362 rushing on 78 carries and 88 receiving on 14 catches), finding the end zone four times in those three games. If the Chiefs have their way against Tennessee, Hunt’s usage should be more of the same as they look to advance, making him one of the top running back plays on the slate.

Wide Receiver: With Mariota’s struggles in the passing game this season, it should come as no surprise that the Titans wide receiver corps has underperformed all year. Coming off a breakout 2016 campaign, Rishard Matthews was targeted the most of the Tennessee wideouts, but that was still only 87 times, as he managed a 53-795-4 stat line on the season. Veteran Eric Decker didn’t fare much better, posting 54 catches for 563 yards and 1 TD on 83 targets. And first round pick Corey Davis battled through first half injuries to eventually ascend to the WR2 role in this offense, but posted just 34 catches for 375 yards and zero touchdowns in nine NFL starts. None of the three should be considered core plays, even against a sieve-like Chiefs secondary. But there’s a case to be made for all three in tournaments, as they can be cheap pieces that make your lineup work and possess some upside due to the matchup. To that end I would order them Matthews, Decker, and then Davis. For the Chiefs the only viable wideout to target is Tyreek Hill. Don’t be fooled by Albert Wilson’s big Week 17, as Hill and Travis Kelce sat this one out, and Kareem Hunt didn’t play past the first drive. And all three are significantly ahead of Wilson in the pecking order for targets. Hill is never a cash game play, but his big play ability makes him a solid tournament option against a mediocre Titans secondary if you want to pay for him. That said, the Titans have been far worse at defending the running back and tight end positions in the passing game so I’m not going out of my way to try to jam him in.

Tight End: Delanie Walker and Travis Kelce should be two of, if not the two highest owned tight ends on the weekend. Both players led their respective teams in receptions on the season, with Walker leading the Titans in receiving yards and the Kelce finishing just behind Tyreek Hill for Kansas City. Kelce is the stronger play of the two against a Titans defense that has struggled to contain the position all season. In fact the Titans faced just two tight ends this season that finished inside the top ten in total fantasy points at the position. Jimmy Graham posted a 7-72-0 performance against them in Week 3 and Jack Doyle posted 7-50-1 and 7-94-0 stat lines against them in Weeks 6 and 12 respectively. Kelce ended the year as the highest scoring fantasy tight end and could absolutely smash here. He’s also a fantastic GPP play with so many expensive running backs to pay for. Walker is more of a volume play, as the 34 year old is still Mariota’s favorite target and should see plenty of looks. But we’ve already covered how anemic this passing game is, and Walker has just three touchdowns on the season and no 100 yard receiving games to his name in 2017 so there’s not a ton of upside here.

Defense: The matchup and the venue both put the Chiefs defense in play this weekend, and they make a reasonable pivot off of what looks like it will be a very chalky Jacksonville defense. Kansas City is allowing less than 17 points per game at home on the season, and no team has scored more than 20 points at Arrowhead all year. If the Chiefs are able to jump out to a lead early and force Tennessee to play catch up, the Titans have shown to be sloppy enough with the football this season that the Kansas City defense could post a big number here. On the other side, I want no part of a middling Titans defense facing one of the more underrated offenses in football on the road.


Atlanta @ Los Angeles Rams

LAR: -6.5 O/U: 48.5

Quarterback: Not known as a particularly good road quarterback to start with, Matt Ryan will have his work cut out for him going to Los Angeles to face the Rams. Since Week 1 at Chicago, Ryan has topped 300 passing yards in a road game just once, and has more three interception games (2) on the season, than three touchdown games (0). While 2017 was a noticeable step back for Ryan and the Falcons, it was a quite a leap forward for the Rams pass defense. Since Week 4, only Carson Wentz managed to top 300 passing yards against the Rams secondary, while eight different quarterbacks failed to throw for at least 225 yards against this team during that same span. Ryan is nothing more than a GPP play here and it’s more of a bet on the inexperience of a young Rams squad going against a playoff tested Falcons team than anything we can find in the numbers. On the other side of the ball Jared Goff draws an Atlanta defense that gave up the 11th most fantasy points to the quarterback position on the season. Goff has been a revelation this year, but he’s been particularly impressive in the second half. Since the Rams Week 8 bye Goff has thrown for 300 yards in four of the eight games he started, while logging double digit touchdown passes in seven games over that same stretch. He’ll be popular this weekend to be sure, but with plenty of good options I expect the quarterback ownership to be spread around pretty decently on this slate.

Running Back: Devonta Freeman comes into the weekend battling a knee injury, which is enough to keep me off of him at his price, as he could easily be forced into a 50/50 timeshare with Tevin Coleman, or worse. Though he practiced on Thursday/Friday and is expected to be a full go, the delta in production between Freeman and Coleman on the season is far less than what their price tags might indicate. Against a defense that ranks fourth in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 22nd in DVOA against the run on the season, Coleman has some the upside for tournaments. But if I’m paying in the range where we find Freeman priced then I’m far more inclined to go with what seems like a safer Derrick Henry. For the Rams this is all about the Todd Gurley show, as he was one of the best players in the league this season. The matchup is solid for the NFL’s second leading rusher simply from a ball carrier standpoint, but Atlanta’s inability to stop running backs in the passing game is what really gives Gurley massive upside in this matchup. Atlanta is the only team in the league to have allowed more than 100 receptions to the running back position (107), and on the season Gurley finished 6th in targets and 5th in receptions among running backs, catching 64 balls for 788 yards and 6 touchdowns. He could easily be the highest scoring back on the slate, and the built in floor makes him worth paying the elevated price tag for.

Wide Receiver: With all the high priced running backs this weekend, paying up to get Julio Jones will likely be difficult, and therefore gives you a unique lineup build. One has to assume if the Falcons are going down, they’re going to do it force feeding the ball to Jones. While he had just three 100 yard receiving games and just three touchdowns on the season, Jones still bested his yardage totals and catches from 2016 and should see plenty of action in this game. He obviously has serious upside, and the number of times he’s busted in prime spots this season should help tamp down ownership. Mohamed Sanu is also in play here, and while I don’t love the ceiling he’s certainly safer than some of the boom-bust wide receiver options priced around him. If you think the game script has Atlanta playing catch up most of the evening then I could see rolling the dice on Sanu. On the Rams side Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp both have solid floors due to their steady target volume, and both see enough red zone looks to exceed their price points. I have Woods slightly ahead of Kupp due to his higher average depth of target, but both play significant roles in the offense and are viable plays in all formats this week. Sammy Watkins has been a bit of one trick pony this season, but that one trick has been finding the end zone. Despite catching more than three passes just once over the entire second half of the season, Watkins has touchdowns in six of his last eight ball games, making him the ultimate boom-bust play in this game.

Tight End: Neither side features top tier tight end options, but Austin Hooper is a place you can go for salary relief and you won’t need much for him to pay off. He’s way down in the pecking order for targets, but the Rams have allowed 8 touchdowns to tight ends this season, which puts them squarely in the bottom third of the league against the position this season. Neither Tyler Higbee, nor Gerald Everett see enough looks to warrant consideration on the Rams side.

Defense: The Rams have been one of the best offenses in the NFL this season so targeting a middle of the road Atlanta squad traveling east to west and coming in as touchdown underdogs isn’t something I’m inclined to do. On the other side I think the Rams are at least worth consideration. This is not an elite unit and they do struggle to stop the run, but they’ve also wreaked havoc on opposing offenses when they are able to jump out to a lead. They do have one of the best pass rushing fronts in the NFL and forced 28 turnovers this season, good for fifth best league-wide. They are an intriguing pivot off the chalk.


Sunday-January 7th


Buffalo @ Jacksonville


JAC: -9 O/U: 39.5


Quarterback: This is the only game of the weekend with a Vegas projected total under 40 points, and it features a Bills defense ranked 30th in DVOA against the run this season and a Jags defense ranked 26th. At the same time the Jags have crushed the will of quarterbacks and wideouts all season, leading the league in defending opposing passing attacks, while the Bills also rank in the top third of the league in that category. While I don’t believe there’s a strong reason to play either Tyrod Taylor or Blake Bortles, I could see taking a flyer on Taylor at a bargain basement price due to his running ability. Bortles doesn’t have the same upside, as we assume Jacksonville didn’t draft Leonard Fournette so that he could watch Bortles try to beat teams with his arm in the postseason, especially with the Bills trotting out such an abysmal run defense. I have these two ranked 7th and 8th of the 8 quarterbacks starting playoff games this weeked, and the order doesn’t much matter. If you’re not running out at least a dozen different lineups then I see no reason these guys should be in your player pool.


Running Back: LeSean McCoy is the guy we’re all watching here, because if he’s healthy enough to play, and play effectively then you have to consider him given his usage in this offense. For what it’s worth, nothing I’ve seen make me think he’ll be close enough to 100% to warrant rostering at his price tag, and I’m not going to be at all surprised if he’s only used situationally. That opens up Marcus Murphy and Mike Tolbert as potential running back value, in what is a decent matchup against a leaky Jags front. Murphy should be the primary ball carrier here if McCoy is limited, and he played well last week against Miami. Though undersized, he’s not afraid to take on would be tacklers, is a capable pass catcher who can make guys miss in the open field and has some burst. The big concern with him is pass protection, where he struggles due to his size and will be facing a Jags team that led the league in sacks. He’d probably cede carries to Tolbert on short yardage and at the goal line, making the round veteran a potential value paly as well if you believe the Bills will be able to move the ball. On the other side this game is exactly why Jacksonville used a top five pick on Leonard Fournette this spring. The Bills have been one of the worst run defenses in the league, and have yielded the most fantasy points to the running back position of any team this season. Over his past four games Fournette is averaging nearly 24 touches per contest, and has seen a big uptick in the passing game with 18 targets over that span as well. From a pure matchup standpoint, he is as safe a running back play as there is on the slate, and his recent involvement as a receiver makes T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory all but unplayable.


Wide Receiver: With Jacksonville’s elite cover corners going up against a handful of second and third tier wideouts in Kelvin Benjamin, Deonte Thompson, and Zay Jones, there’s no reason to really consider a Buffalo receiver as anything more than a tournament dart that offers some salary relief. Even then, it’s still not a +EV play. On the other side of the ball I have a hard time stomaching the price tags of guys like Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole with Allen Hurns back in the mix. While Cole has been very good, he should take a backseat to Hurns and we saw that play out to a certain extent in Week 17. Even more importantly, there’s literally no reason for the Jags to put this game in Blake Bortles’ hands. As I mentioned above, Fournette should run wild against one of the league’s worst run defenses, and with the expected slow pace of this game and the low projected Vegas total, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Bortles has to throw the balls enough for Lee or Cole to make value, which leaves Allen Hurns, who I actually think is a solid price play and will go somewhat overlooked, as well as Dede Westbrook, who is priced reasonably and is always a big play threat.


Tight End: Charles Clay has been one of Taylor’s go-to options, having been targeted 27 times over the Bills final three games. Though the Jags have been above average at defending the tight end position this season, it’s not quite the seemingly impenetrable fortress that their cover corners have been. If the Bills are going to move the ball through the air at all in this game, it’s likely to be via passes to the backs and the tight ends. Jacksonville’s Marcedes Lewis is purely a punt play here, and not a particularly good one, as the Bills have allowed just four touchdowns to tight ends on the season, and scoring is generally the only way Lewis makes value.

Defense: While the Jacksonville defense seems like the biggest lock on the board, especially if the Bills are forced to play without McCoy, Buffalo probably isn’t the worst option if you’re looking to get contrarian in tournaments. After all, Blake Bortles is under center on the other side, and while he’s had some solid outings this season, he’s still prone to Bortleseque implosions at times. This game also has the lowest Vegas projected total on the weekend by nearly a touchdown and could certainly wind up a defensive struggle.


Carolina @ New Orleans


NO: -6.5 O/U: 48.5


Quarterback: Carolina heads to New Orleans on Saturday, with these teams facing off for the third time this season and the Saints looking to sweep the series and go 3-0 against the Panthers this year. Since 1970 twenty teams have faced the same opponent three times in a single season, and those teams have gone 13-7 over the span. Despite a very up and down season, Cam Newton possesses the type of upside that is always going to make him an option in GPPs. That said, he’s not someone I’d go out of my way to roster against a very good New Orleans secondary. In their two previous meetings Newton has failed to reach 200 yards passing, going 17 of 27 for 183 yards at home early in the season, and 17 of 26 for just 167 yards at New Orleans. Even more concerning is that the Saints best cover corner, rookie Marshon Lattimore, who is the odds on favorite to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, missed both of those games. After turning the ball over five times (3 picks and 2 fumbles) in their first meeting, Newton played better at the Superdome in Week 13, with two passing scores and 51 yards rushing. Still, neither performance produced a fantasy windfall and Carolina is so thin at the receiver position that you’re almost counting on a big rushing day if you’re rolling him out there. For New Orleans Drew Brees has morphed into the guys that keep the trains running, rather than the focal point of the offense, as he threw for his lowest yardage and touchdown totals this season since he joined the Saints more than a decade ago. That said, he faces a Carolina defense that is much more vulnerable through the air than on the ground, and we know that Drew Brees’ home-road splits are a real thing. He should have a pretty solid floor in this game, and with the way the Saints have run the ball this season I can certainly envision a game script that has Carolina loading up the box and forcing the Saints to throw. If that happens there’s no reason to think Brees won’t be up to the challenge and he could have a field day picking apart this secondary.


Running Back: The most effective way to attack the Saints defense this season has been running the football, which actually makes Jonathan Stewart a bit of a sneaky value play this week. Assuming the Panthers can keep the game close, Stewart could see 15+ carries in this game, as the Panthers don’t have the firepower to withstand a shootout. In their two previous meetings this year, Stewart has run for 102 yards on just 23 carries. That’s almost 4.4 yards per tote, and in both games the Panthers were playing from multiple scores down for half the game or more. After a slow start to the season he’s has averaged nearly 4.3 yards per carry since Week 10, posting two 100 yard rushing performances and finding the end zone five times over that stretch. His backfield mate, Christian McCaffrey, has struggled running the football in his rookie season, finishing with just 435 rushing yards at a 3.7 YPC clip. But with a decimated receiving corps the Panthers relied even more heavily on him in the passing game as the year wore on, with McCaffery leading all NFL running backs in targets per game at 7.1, and finishing third in receptions among running backs with 80. Only Le’Veon Bell (85) and Alvin Kamara (81) had more. That said, the return of Greg Olsen is a bit of cause for concern when it comes to McCaffrey’s usage, as Olsen has out-targeted him in the passing game the last three weeks. While he should remain an integral part of the offense, on most sites he’s still priced up in the range where he was with Olsen out, despite the fact that he’s had 15 touches or more just once since Week 9. It’s concerning because even on a PPR site like DraftKings, McCaffrey failed to 3X his price tag this season in any game where he didn’t get at least 15 opportunities (carries + targets). On the Saints side the two-headed monster of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram continues to roll. Let’s start with Ingram, whose price tag has dipped for the first time in months. In their last meeting he went 14-85-1 on the ground and added 6 receptions for 37 yards through the air. He’s consistently seeing 12-14 carries each week in the running game and 5-7 targets as a pass catcher. It’s a enough of a workload that his floor feels very safe given the price tag. He’s also consistently drawn the late game “hammer” role in this offense when the Saints are closing out with a lead. His counterpart is the more explosive of the two, as evidenced by Kamara’s huge Week 17 in which he rushed 9 times for 44 yards and a score, caught 6 of 7 targets for 84 yards, and added a kick return touchdown for good measure. He’s scored 13 touchdowns on the season as a runner and receiver, but 11 of those have come since Week 8. We know the upside is immense for the rookie, as in addition to the touchdowns he’s posted more than 1554 yards from scrimmage this year on just 201 touches. I think I like Ingram slightly more given the difference in their prices on most sites, but there’s no denying that Kamara’s upside is probably too high to completely fade in tournaments.


Wide Receiver: The injury to Damiere Byrd leaves Kaelin Clay, Brenton Bersin, and Russell Shepard behind Devin Funchess at the receiver position for Carolina. At best, one of these guys is the fourth or fifth option in the passing game, but I wouldn’t got out of my way to play any of them against the Saints as more than deep tournament shot at minimum salary. If I had to pick one it’s probably Shepard, who was targeted five times when these teams last met, but I certainly don’t feel good about it. At the same time, Funchess isn’t a guy I’m going out of my way to play here either, as Olsen’s return has pushed him down in the pecking order behind the veteran tight end, as well as the running backs despite his status as the team’s unquestioned WR1. For frame of reference, Funches has just 6 catches on 14 targets over the past three games, to Olsen’s 13 grabs on 27 targets and McCaffrey’s 13 catches on 19 targets during the same span. He’s also likely to see plenty of Lattimore in coverage, which makes him a wideout I’m not really considering rostering. For the Saints Michael Thomas is a guy I have a lot of interest in, as I believe Carolina will really try to take the running game away from New Orleans and make Drew Brees prove he still has it. Thomas should be the biggest beneficiary, as he’s averaged nearly 10 targets per game since Week 9, and seems to be over a hamstring injury that limited him a bit late in the season. Carolina lacks a shutdown corner to shadow the talented second year wideout, and Thomas has already posted two strong games against this defense on the season, going for at least 70 yards and a score in both. Ted Ginn Jr. is the only other Saints receiver to consider here, and he’s only a tournament play. Ginn is another boom-bust option that can get over the top of a defense and make value in a hurry, but he’s also equally capable of posting a low floor game that you would need to overcome. The revenge narrative is fun for him here, but in the two previous meetings he hasn’t done much outside of catching a 40 yard touchdown pass at Carolina in Week 3. It was one of four games this season in which he had a pass play of 40 yards or more, which is consistent with the all or nothing nature of his game. Some may look to Brandon Coleman or Willie Snead for salary relief, and while I understand the appeal you have to understand going in that a “0” is a very real possibility with both.


Tight End: We can effectively skip this position for the Saints, as Josh Hill’s best performances are a pair of two catch games since Week 9, and the Panthers allowed just the fifth most fantasy points to the tight end position all season. While New Orleans was similarly effective against the position this year (3rd in fantasy points allowed), this team also avoided most of the league’s better tight ends. Greg Olsen missed both games against the Saints with a foot injury, and the only tight end they did face who finished in the top five in fantasy points per game this season was Rob Gronkowski, who dropped a 6-116-1 line on this team in Week 2. Olsen also has a track record of success in the Superdome, posting stalines of 6 catches for 94 yards, 9 catches 129 yards, and 10 catches for 72 yards and a touchdown in his last three games there.


Defense: I’m not sure there’s a defense I’d feel good about rostering on the road at New Orleans, which obviously means Carolina is completely out of play for me this week. On the flip side I do think there’s a lot of merit to considering New Orleans, and they should go somewhat overlooked with seemingly safer options in Jacksonville and Kansas City available, as well as the fact that plenty of owners will roll the dice on Cam and therefore immediately rule out the defense on the other side. We know Newton can turn the ball over with the best of them, and the Saints secondary is one of the most underrated in the NFL. If Carolina finds itself playing from behind for long stretches in this game, New Orleans ability to rush the passer and their talented cover corners could put up a nice game here.

Good luck this weekend!

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