NFL DFS Starting Points: Wild Card Round
You know that targeting the highest scoring games and particularly the teams with the highest implied totals makes sense in fantasy football. This analysis will highlight exactly which situations are the best to take advantage of and which you might want to avoid within those games. We’ll also highlight a couple games to use caution with as well as some less obvious targets. DK=DraftKings, FD=FanDuel.
The playoffs begin with some very good defensive matchups, corresponding low point totals, and narrow spreads. Let’s get an overview of the four game slate!
Indianapolis at Houston, Total 47.5
With the highest total on the slate, this is the game to target for offense. The Colts rank sixth in passing yards per game, and the Texans rank eighth in rushing yards per game. Both teams average over 25 points per game (PPG). They split the regular season series. Andrew Luck averagedover 400 passing yards and three touchdowns in the two games, and while Deshaun Watson was much, much better in the Week 4 game, he looks to be in top form right now. Either makes a good QB in any contest this week.
I’m less comfortable with some of the familiar skill players. Marlon Mack’s salary has risen, deservedly so, but Houston is one of the toughest run defenses; I expect this to be a Luck game. T.Y. Hilton probably won’t be super highly owned thanks to the nagging ankle injury but I like him as a tournament play—2 TDs is well within his range. Dontrelle Inman has filled the void to some extent, with 4-5 catches and a touchdown in each of the last two games. Eric Ebron is a nice lineup fit at TE, significantly cheaper than Zach Ertz but with a solid and reliable role in the Colts pass game.
Lamar Miller has been running well the second half of the season, and though Watson is running more designed plays and scoring (three rushing TDs in the last two games), Miller is very affordable and in a good spot. He was effective vs. the Colts a couple weeks ago and is averaging about seven more fantasy points at home this season. Aside from DeAndre Hopkins, I wouldn’t target any Texans wide receivers with confidence. DeAndre Carter or Vyncint Smith could come away with a touchdown, but they’re hard to trust outside of a showdown slate tourney.
Seattle at Dallas, Total 43.5
The line has come up here, and the spread narrowed a point. Dallas has been terrific at home, so even though the Cowboys lost to the Seahawks earlier this year, I have more trust in Dallas players this weekend. Dak Prescott is playing fantastic to end the regular season, and Ezekiel Elliott is going to be in great shape after missing the Week 17 finale. I do expect Prescott to be popular given the savings he offers over Luck or Watson, but I don’t necessarily think we’re going to get four touchdowns from him in this one. In fact, I think it’s a lower scoring game than the total indicates. Blake Jarwin appeared in a couple bargain bin articles earlier in December, but his 3 TD performance in Week 17 still surprised me. Don’t bet on a repeat, though if you’re punting at TE, Jarwin is nicely priced on DK. Amari Cooper has been quiet for three games straight. He’s never in the discussion as a cash game play, but his ceiling warrants tournament consideration on this small slate. Michael Gallup and Cole Beasely aren’t making my lineups this weekend as I simply don’t think there’s enough to go around with a healthy Elliott in the mix.
The Seahawks have won six of their last seven games, and rank sixth in PPG (26.8). They also lead the league in rushing yards per game, but Dallas is a stingy run defense (fifth-fewest rushing yards allowed). It’s worth noting that Chris Carson did have a nice game vs. Dallas (and some other good run defenses) this season. Tyler Lockett is the Seahawks receiver I trust most, but both of these players are more like guys I’d use if the salary worked out right around the rest of my lineup…I’m not slotting them in first as must-haves.
LA Chargers at Baltimore, Total 41.5
Here’s another game that I think Vegas might have wrong. Yes, Baltimore beat LA in LA a couple weeks ago, but the Chargers are the more experienced team and have a lot more depth than the Ravens. Their defense has also come on stronger over the last few weeks. I think they make the right adjustments and come out ahead of Baltimore. That said, I’m less enthusiastic from a fantasy perspective, because Baltimore isa formidable opponent. They allow the second-fewest points per game, fourth-fewest rushing yards, and fifth-fewest passing yards per game. Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon (who should be fine from a health standpoint) don’t project as high upside players this week. They’ll be lucky to hit 2-3X value, even at somewhat reduced salaries. The return of Hunter Henry is interesting, but he’s certainly not someone I’m using in his first game back.
The Ravens have won three games straight, and six of their last seven. The emergence of Lamar Jackson has everything to do with that, as the Ravens are now the second-best rushing team (yards per game) in the league. Jackson has virtually no chance at the 300-yard bonus on DK, and his salary is too high for my liking on FD (e.g. more than Luck). He has a solid floor (16 fantasy points is his low since taking over in Week 12), but is still making mistakes (nine fumbles in that span, though the Ravens recovered most of them) and seems to lack trust with his wide receivers. Gus Edwards should be in for another 15-touch game, and with his yards per carry recently, that should get him close to 100 yards. A touchdown is always in his range of outcomes.
Philadelphia at Chicago, Total 41
The Bears are all about defense and they’re where I’m looking in that department as well. In the lowest total with the biggest spread, at home, it’s going to be worth paying up for the Bears D/ST. Mitch Trubisky is tempting, given that the Eagles have been a generous fantasy pass defense this season (while being much harder to run on), but the Bears aren’t a team to run up the score (unless it’s on defense). They do what they need to win games, and that hasn’t translated to a big Trubisky game in some time.
Hopefully they’ll have Allen Robinson back for the playoffs, but even without him, guys like Trey Burton, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel have struggled to make a fantasy impact. The latter two receivers are dealing with minor injuries to boot. Like Trubisky, none are trust-inspiring. Jordan Howard is coming off a nice game vs. Minnesota, but again, the Eagles are one of the better run defenses and I don’t see a 100-yard game from him. That said, the price discrepancy on Howard between FD ($7600, third highest) and DK ($4600) is something. I still prefer Miller or Edwards to Howard though. Tarik Cohen is another player that will be a salary-dependent piece of my lineups. He’s affordable on DK, where he also gets the PPR bonus, but I’m not forcing him in.
Have you made money rostering players facing the Bears this season? Me neither, though to be fair, I haven’t tried it. This won’t be the first time either, with many better situations to take advantage of. If I were forced to take one Eagle, it’s Ertz of course, but I don’t think you have to pay up for TE this week. Nelson Agholor would be my No. 2, as he and Nick Foles seem to have more of a connection than Foles and Golden Tate and Agholor is pretty cheap for around seven targets.