Wild Card weekend is here in a few days which means that we have a couple of options to continue playing fantasy foorball. We have the NFL Playoff Challenge (which I wrote about here) and daily fantasy slates. The great thing about the slates this weekend is that they are small, but this is also a bad thing. Less ways for us to be distracted or pick incorrectly, but that works for everyone else as well which makes building the right lineup that much harder. Hopefully, this will help you in this challenge. Let’s see on whom you should drop stacks or pinch pennies.
Jared Goff – $6700 vs Falcons
The Falcons have allowed the 8th most points to passers over the last four weeks and the 5th most points to receivers. Goff has been good all season scoring an average of 21+ points, but in weeks 13-16 he averaged 2.5 TDs per game. Part of the reason Gurley has been so dominant this season is because of his use in the passing game which is where many of Goff’s TDs have come from. The volume will be there for Goff, McVay has looked like an offensive genius all season, so why doubt this pair now? Goff is a solid cash play by himself, but if you want play him in tournaments it’s not a bad idea in super stacks.
Alex Smith – $6300 vs Titans
Alex Smith has been better lately, and it’s no coincidence that he has been better over his last four games. During that same span Kareem Hunt has come back to life which allows for a more balanced offense. Over the last 4 weeks Tennessee has given up the 12th most points to signal callers and the 10th most points to receivers, but they remain 28th in pass DVOA on the season (the worst passing defense playing this weekend).
Todd Gurley – $9100 vs Falcons
If you read the Playoff Challenge post then there is no more need to discuss why you should pay up for Todd Gurley. He is simply matchup proof. The Falcons defense 8th worst in rushing DVOA and 11th worst in DVOA vs pass catching running backs on the season. Gurley is the best three-down back in the league right now and with all the potential receiving threats that just opens thing up more for him. No need to overthink it; if you can afford it, you play him.
Kareem Hunt – $8100 vs Titans
Hunt has averaged 20+ points on an average of 20+ opportunities per game in his last five. The Titans just gave up 49 points to Gurley two weeks ago so there is no reason to think that Hunt can’t do at least half of that with the opportunities he’s had recently. Of course Andy Reid could lose his mind and reduce Hunt’s opportunities, but that is unlikely as he hasn’t been doing the play calling in a while which has been to the Chiefs benefit. Many will look at the Titans rush DVOA, see their seventh ranking on the season, and feel a pull to fade Hunt. We must keep in mind that we have seen Hunt’s receiving ability many times this season and the Titans have the 31st DVOA vs pass catching running backs. Hunt is a great choice in tournaments as people are likely to gravitate toward Gurley.
Leonard Fournette – $7400 vs Bills
With probably the best matchup on paper, Leonard Fournette seems like a no-brainier with a savings of almost $2k over Todd Gurley. In his last 4 games, he has averaged 100 scrimmage yards and a TD, about 18 PPR points. The Bills are bad against the rush allowing the most fantasy points (third most rushing yards in recent weeks) of any defense playing this weekend which is reflective of their 30th rank in rush DVOA. If Bortles can keep it together by minimizing turnovers, Fournette should have plenty of opportunity.
Michael Thomas – $7800 vs Panthers
Carolina is pretty stout in rush defense and defending running backs in general. They have allowed the least points to rushers over the last four weeks, and they are 6th and 12th in rush DVOA and DVOA vs pass catching backs on the season. They have been terrible in the passing game over the last four weeks however allowing the most points to passers and receivers of any defense playing this week. Now we add future-hall-of-famer Drew Brees to the mix and it is easy to see Michael Thomas having a really nice fantasy day. Thomas’ recent outings have been ~5 points better over his last 5 games, averaging 19+ points.
Tyreek Hill – $6800 vs Titans
Kansas City faces the team giving up the 4th most fantasy points of wild card teams to passers (12th most) and receivers (8th most) over the last four weeks. Hill has averaged 7 targets and 5 receptions for 21+ points in the last 4 games he played. The Titans don’t have anyone that can deal with his speed.
Robert Woods – $6600 vs Falcons
Robert Woods has shown to be Goff’s primary target when healthy. While he hasn’t been great since returning from his injury, it takes time to get back to full speed after any time away from the game. This should be a good opportunity for Woods to get back to that dominating form as the Falcons have given up the 2nd most points to passers and receivers of Wild Card weekend teams over the last 4 weeks. Another encouraging metric is the Falcons DVOA on the season to WR1s and WR2s is 24th or worse. Roberts should be a solid cash game option on this weekend’s slate.
Travis Kelce – $7100 vs Titans
Of the tight ends playing this weekend, Kelce seems to be the most sure fire option. He has produced 20+ point 5 times this season and he has averaged 16.27 points over his last four games. Tennessee is 24th in DVOA vs the position, and if Kelce is going to continue receiving 9 targets as he has in his last 4 games. It may be hard to justify the cost especially as expensive as it will be at the running back position, but if you can find a way, it may be a little more contrarian than usual.
Jacksonville Jaguars – $4400 vs Bills
Tyrod Taylor hasn’t eclipsed 16.3 points over the last four weeks, Buffalo already lacks any solid receiver other than Charles Clay, and LeSean McCoy is dealing with an ankle injury. This is one of those situations where we don’t want to overthink all these cards stacked against the Bills. There is nothing to indicate the Bills have any legitimate shot in this game so why not pick against them.
Kansas City Chiefs – $3400 vs Titans
The Chiefs defense had a rough season until recently when they acquired Revis to improve the secondary. In the last 4 weeks they have allowed the 9th, 3rd, and 15th least points to passers, running backs, and receivers respectively. The only real crack in their armor is against tight ends so perhaps Delanie Walker does some damage. Mariota is worse than Tyrod since week 13 only averaging 16.03 points per game. There is no reason to believe that he will emerge any time soon so saving $1000 in cap space here could be a really attractive option for any lineup.
On Draft Kings, Wild Card weekend isn’t presenting a whole lot of opportunities to save money. Mostly we can save at receiver and tight end as it is almost a requirement to spend over $6k on both running back slots. In order to make some of these expensive combinations work we have to dig deep and/or through some wild darts.
Tyrod Taylor – $4700 @ Jacksonville
Of the two quarterbacks priced under $6k, Tyrod is the only one that I believe could surprise us all with an uncharacteristic performance. Perhaps the cracks in the Jags armor recently revealed by Garoppolo can be used by Buffalo to manufacture some mild success for Taylor. From a value perspective, if Tyrod hits the ~16 points he has averaged since week 13, then he would return close to 3.5x value. This would be a win as his low salary allows for an extra stud or two at other positions. Don’t think that this is impossible because the Jags have given up 18+ points to QBs in recent weeks.
Devonta Freeman – $6300/Tevin Coleman – $4100 @ Rams
It’s hard to call anything over $6000 “Pinchin’ Pennies”, but given the landscape of running backs, it will be hard to find many ways to save money. These two backs do present an opportunity as they face a defense that is 18th in rush DVOA and they have given up eight 20+ point performances to running backs this season. What could cause people to shy away is that the Rams have been 4th best against running backs with regard to fantasy points. That shouldn’t be too scary though as Carlos Hyde just scored 22 fantasy points on them, and the other teams they faced during that span have had issues with their rushing attacks. Freeman, and Coleman when he has the opportunity, are good backs that have the best chance of any backs priced at $6400 or lower of putting up a good fantasy outing. Metrics might drive ownership lower making these solid money-saving options.
Cooper Kupp – $5800 / Sammy Watkins – $5100 vs Falcons
Cooper Kupp has the PPR upside and Watkins has the low-ownership upside for tournaments. Watkins has had averaged 6 targets over the last 5 games, and his TD upside just cant be ignored as he has had a score in 4 of the last 5 outings. Conversely, Kupp has averaged 7 targets over the last 5 games which included two scores. Keep in mind that the Falcons have given up the 6th most points to receivers in recent weeks, and only the Panthers defense has been worse.
Ted Ginn Jr. – $5200 vs Panthers
If you can’t afford Michael Thomas, but you still want stock in the Saints passing game then perhaps Ted Ginn is right up your alley. He saves you over $2k in cap and provides that boom upside. He hasn’t had a great outing against his former team in either game this year which may cause him to be lower owned. Perhaps this is the game where he goes off.
Albert Wilson – $3300 / Demarcus Robinson – $3000 vs Titans
This is more an attack of opportunity than anything else. Wilson have averaged almost 10 targets over his last two games which is nice volume for a player at this price. Yes one of those games was without Tyreek Hill and those targets had to go somewhere. Demarcus Robinson had 10 targets in Hill’s absence, but for him to be a viable play we need to keep an eye on the status of Wilson who is dealing with a hamstring injury. 40 yards and a TD is not out of the realm of possibilities for either of these players which is all they need to return value. Another fun fact that makes this matchup better is the Chiefs have given up 20+ point performances to 7 different receivers on the season.
Austin Hooper – $2900 @ Rams
Hooper has averaged about 4 targets on the season, and while that is less than inspiring our options below the $4000 mark are limited. The Falcons will have to use every possible weapon to keep up with Todd Gurley and the Rams, and the one obvious weakness they can attack based on recent weeks is the Rams defense against the tight end. The Rams allow an average of 1.33 TDs over the last few weeks and as a result they have allowed the most fantasy points to the position recently. Atlanta’s matchup in the passing game appears difficult for their receivers so this may be the outlet they need to move the chains and score.
Marcedes Lewis – $2500 vs Bills
Lewis has been pretty quiet as of late, but playing cold players is a great way to be contrarian. We know that Lewis has TD potential with the most receiving TDs on the team. Yes, three of those came in a stomping against Baltimore, but 4 of his 5 scores came in the red zone. The Jags should be running a lot during this game and if the Bills defense stiffens near the goal line, there is a possibility that Bortles looks for Lewis. The Bills will likely have their hands full defending the Jaguars dynamic wide receivers which could open up opportunities for Lewis. Every time that Lewis has scored it has come against a defense that is bottom half in defending tight ends, and the Bills have been giving up the 5th most point to the position in recent weeks.
Buffalo Bills – $2500 @ Jaguars
This is simply a shot in the dark with a hope that Bortles recent struggles with interceptions continue (5 picks in the last two weeks). In order for the Bills to have a chance in this game they will need to pressure Bortles which could result in turnovers. While this is unlikely, we must acknowledge the possibility of things playing out this way, and perhaps this gives us an inexpensive defense with high upside.