DraftKings Picks for NFL Wild Card Weekend 2014

Good morning and welcome to my DFS preview Wildcard Weekend in the NFL for DraftKings.com (but also applicable to other sites).

For those unfamiliar with myself, I have been handicapping games for about two years now and typically hover around 56-57%. Nothing too crazy but it has been a decent sustainable profit over a short period of time. However, recently daily fantasy sports (DFS) have really taken off as a part of my asset allocation and based on my track record I may just move all of my funds into my DFS accounts. Prior to last week, my overall record was sitting at 53-9 at 85% ATP (against the public, an acronym I am planting my flag that will catch on), a number I could never fathom achieving against the spread. At the end of the day we all know that about 1% of sports bettors can beat Vegas 54% of the time (enough to overcome the VIG) but you have to take it into context. Beating Vegas means beating actuaries who are incredibly brilliant setting lines full time.

My goal in daily fantasy sports is to beat the general public 56% of the time (to overcome the -120 VIG). Utilizing my proprietary algorithms I have been able to combine my success in two of my favorite hobbies and become wildly more successful in what I believe is to be the less competitive market. Additionally, we have all been in this situation; on the “right side” of a game and some ridiculous play blows up your bet. Whether it’s a special team’s touchdown, pick six, or maybe RG3 fumbles into the endzone for a safety, essentially a tail end event ruined your day. None of these events typically make much of an impact in daily fantasy sports; it’s a marathon from start to finish.

Last week’s biggest allocations:

Matt Ryan
Matt Asiata
Branden Oliver
Antonio Brown
Julio Jones
Kelvin Benjamin
Delanie Walker
Allen Hurns

Last week I posted a losing week (it happens). I was in great shape going into the Carolina Atlanta game, it was a very low scoring week and my guys were still getting it done. First I waited a week to make sure Julio was healthy and he looked good in week 16 so I was okay buying low in what was still an inexpensive price for a top5 WR. Additionally Matt Ryan at home typically is a guaranteed 300 yards, with that said they were going to be without Steven Jackson and were likely going to be extremely inefficient at running the ball vs. the massive front of Carolina. My thought was with the personal that Atlanta uses they will likely try to get their runningbacks in space, which should be some nice junk screen pass yards much like what Leveon Bell does for Big Ben but less efficiently.

Lesson one: Don’t assume the coach is competent and bad luck happens.

I was completely wrong on this one; Mike Smith thought he could turn Jaquiz Rodgers into a power runningback. Ran on first down for one yard, ran it again on second down for another yard, third and long… incomplete pass rinse repeat.. For the prices I paid, all I needed was an average game out of the Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Then Kelvin Benjamin drops a 70 yard bomb touchdown, ATL fullback drops the walk in TD, Allen Hurns leaves with a knee injury and my remote may as well have ended up in the TV. Clearly my edge over the market isn’t 85% with some of these random events, but it certainly seems sustainable at a much higher % than anything I could accomplish against the spread wise.

Lesson two: Sometimes the public wins.

Last week was a very low scoring week and you could see that ahead of time by looking at the game totals. With not many points to go around in the fantasy market, Odell Beckham Junior played another phenomenal game.

If you have been following my lineups you will know I have been sounding the horn on ODB ever since Victor Cruz went down for the season. With that said his price has been absolutely out of control over the last two weeks and it was impossible to make a competent lineup and fit ODB into your team. Yet he was still drafted and rewarded 40% of the teams out there who still were crazy enough to back him. Paying that price for him was as insane as his stat line and if you want to count on someone catching 12 passes for 185 yards and a score then be my guest, but that’s like taking a divisional road favorite at -21.5 points and cashing a ticket. Sometimes in DFS the over-valued guys keep producing in low scoring weeks and this to me is an example of a –EV play that worked out this week. So be careful, because you cannot win every week but if we grind out an edge every week, I feel very good going forward.

How my process works:

It is very different for me in each sport but for the purposes of this article we will stick to my NFL strategy. I begin by looking at the Vegas lines and trying to understand how the game will unfold. My expected point chart will just point out red flags, as to where I should go with my defense and other positions respectfully. Additionally, I give a .5 adjustment as to which side of the game I will be on; these teams include the Lions, Ravens, Colts and Panthers.

What’s important about the expected points report:

QB: You don’t want a QB that is listed as one of the bottom scoring teams for the week. If you really liked that team to score a bunch of points you may as well back them ATS. I like my QB being on the side in a game that can get out of control in my favor. I don’t care who your QB is, if the total is 41 or less we can definitely anticipate a low scoring game and you can get your points elsewhere.

RB: I don’t want my RB to be on the wrong side of a blowout, once a team is down a few scores hes not only get less touches but they may bring in the third down back for the majority of the snaps. Its better being on the winning side of a game and watching your RB milk out the clock in the second half.

WR: It actually doesn’t make too much of an impact on the decisions I make at WR from a side perspective. The only thing I will be avoiding is spending a ton of capital on a profile WR in a low total game. If my team is expected to get blown out that is just fine because a big time WR on a bad team is our equivalent of a back door cover. Mike Evans for the Buccaneers was fantastic for me all season long, a team with a terrible defense airing it out in the second half for meaningless touchdowns.

Tight end: I don’t care; never spend your money on a tight end. Their upside is too limited to be worried about picking your favorite tight end of the weekend.

Defense: Our goal is to project turnovers, sacks, and points allowed. Understand your fantasy format; in Draft Kings where I play, points allowed stats are almost meaningless. Your defense could allow 14 points and only score 4 someodd fantasy points. The majority of your points will come from turnovers (largely unpredictable) and sacks. Look for low scoring games, teams expected to be blown out, poor offensive lines, and rookie QBs. A fantastic example of this was the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their offensive line took a drumming every week so badly that it forced a rookie QB to make awful decisions week after week.

Today’s Expected points:

Line Total Adj Expected
Colts -3.5 49 0.5 26.75
Cowboys -6.5 48 -0.5 26.75
Steelers -3 44.5 -0.5 23.25
Panthers -6.5 37.5 0.5 22.5
Bengals 3.5 49 -0.5 22.25
Lions 6.5 48 0.5 21.25
Ravens 3 44.5 0.5 21.25
Cardinals 6.5 37.5 -0.5 15

With so few games, essentially this report seems like mostly a wash. The few take aways here are that I will be utilizing the Carolina defense, and the Colts and Cowboys are the likely the highest scoring teams of the week. Then you need to consider how will these teams get their points? Dez Bryant and if healthy Ty Hilton. Dez Bryant will cost you 8,500, however you can get the #1 WR on the highest scoring team this weekend in Ty Hilton for 7,800. Now my projections don’t have him listed very high, obviously mainly due to him recently being off the field and how dangerous a hamstring injury is to a speed receiver. I have been trying all week to get headlines on TY Hilton and it seems that it is an all systems go this week (caution: there’s always smokescreens in the playoffs) With the lack of pass rush from Cincinnati, Hilton should have plenty of time to get open and I anticipate WR1 production from what I can likely get as my WR2.

I understand “wiseguys” are on the Bengals this weekend as these teams are actually closer than we think. However, the lack of pass rush out of the Bengals should give Andrew Luck enough time to have some fun out there and I will look to fade the Colts next week. Also Carolina really has only beaten up on some poor teams but this low scoring affair might be decided by turnovers. Today I believe Arizona will fail to run the ball at all and the Carolina defense front should force some bad decisions out of Lindley.

The value report:

I run my model to determine which players will post the most amount of bang for your buck this weekend

Daily Fantasy Value

Understand this isn’t the end all be all either. It is important to take some players out of this list for your daily fantasy lineup. In example I don’t like players with low ceilings or touches so players like Dwayne Bowe and Steven Jackson will never make my team. This just in: Dwayne Bowe will not catch a touchdown pass and Steven Jackson will not break 100 yards. It is important to have players on your roster capable of breaking 100 rather than just earning you a small profit by netting 9 points when we expected 7. I also remove any player going vs. an elite defense, such as a WR on Revis Island or a running back vs. the Lions. This is a very tough week this week with so few games going but I will be removing DeMarco Murray and Kelvin Benjamin (Patrick Peterson) from my value list.

Injury report:

Understand the injuries during the week. Unlike Vegas lines midweek injury news is not factored into the number. With Trent Richardson being questionable and useless, Herron should get a ton of work this week which is great for his price. Additionally AJ Green is now listed as doubtful. Vontae Davis is a fantastic corner but Andy Dalton sucks at spreading the ball around, he might force a ton to Sanu which should lead to a stat line of 6-60 which would get it done for us at that price. The lack of players going this weekend makes it very hard to find valuable low cost players. I also don’t hate taking a flyer on Josh Harris at this price with Bell out, but I just won’t likely be using him.

Finalizing the lineup:

I use a program that will maximize the expected points given all of the constraints I provide. This is my weekend’s ideal lineup:

Ben Roethlisberger
Jeremy Hill
Daniel Herron
Golden Tate
Steve Smith
Antonio Brown
Heath Miller
Larry Fitzgerald

Submit this lineup at DraftKings for a chance at $100k this weekend…

I think Larry Fitzgerald is an interesting play this week. If Carolina gets to the QB like we all think they do that should mean some quick passes for Lindley. With 39 pass attempts from Lindley last week, Fitzgerald might be the safety net for Lindley.

Thanks for reading and best of luck to you this week, unless you are playing against me. Then I hope your team is a dumperstire. Follow or troll me at @NecessaryPaper.

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