Your chances at viable NFL DFS slates are dwindling starting this weekend, as the wild card round of the NFL playoffs kicks off with four games. It’s the beginning of the end of the daily fantasy football season, as the game pool shrinks considerable in just two weeks.
For now, I rejoice, as there is still some serious money to be made if I can make the right calls. The hope is those right calls also help you make some cash in NFL DFS tournaments, too.
I won’t waste much more of your time, but consider the matchups at hand this week:
- Titans @ Chiefs
- Bills @ Jaguars
- Panthers @ Saints
- Falcons @ Rams
It doesn’t take a genius to assume the first two games are likely to be closer to defensive battles or blowouts, while the two NFC contests boast most of the DFS upside. That does leave the door cracked open for Buffalo and Tennessee options to be very contrarian on this small slate, but I’m not sure you should be rolling lineups out there with Tyrod Taylor and Corey Davis anytime soon.
With that, I do have a roster in mind that features some of my favorite studs and value picks:
QB: Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints ($8.1k)
In the interest of full disclosure, Brees is the last piece to my wild card daily fantasy football puzzle. I have enough cash left over to get any quarterback I want, but by the numbers, he’s my favorite. Alex Smith is probably my second favorite, but I get the weird feeling Carolina (who is solid against the run) makes the Saints shift course and rely on their veteran passer to advance.
Either way, Brees is at home and gets a strong matchup against a Panthers defense that has not been great (30th) over the last four weeks. Brees has ripped them up in two games this year, too, so I have little qualms about going here. In fact, his season-long flirtation with mediocrity (for him) could even have him go low owned.
Brees won’t light the world afire, but he’s traditionally very dangerous at home and this year has put up 20 and 14 fantasy points against these Panthers. I think he can get closer to 20, with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara likely finding success through the air in this matchup.
RB: Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons ($7k)
Freeman feels like an elite value and with some seriously stud backs on the docket, he could go lower owned. Freeman has a nice role in Atlanta’s offense; one that can return value as a rusher, receiver and/or goal-line back. Add in his price against a Rams run defense that ranked 31st against the position in 2017, and I’m sold.
I understand the fear of the Falcons falling behind or Tevin Coleman vulturing some work, but the Freeman we saw in a playoff-type game last week against the Panthers (21 fantasy points) is the one I think you get in the wild card round. The Rams might win this game, but Freeman is going to have something to say about it.
RB: Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars ($8.1k)
Assuming the Jags don’t face-plant in their return to the playoffs, I have to believe their best path toward success (and a win) is their stud rookie running back. Derrick Henry offers elite value and everyone will want to try to fit Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara in their lineups, so there’s a good chance Fournette is low owned.
That’s a potential advantage on the field in big GPPs, as he has a mouth-watering matchup against a Bills defense that stinks against the run (dead last against fantasy RBs). Buffalo will also be on the road and Fournette enters this game in a groove, having put up 14+ fantasy points in four consecutive contests.
This is a GPP team, so the ultimate GPP play will be fading the two perceived best rushers and getting two replacements that ultimately could be just as good, or better. I believe that’s possible with Freeman and Fournette, while Gurley’s absurd $10k price tag demands a true gem.
I’m not saying Gurley can’t or won’t wreck, but it’s not like the Falcons (5th against RBs, overall) are getting gashed left and right. Their main weakness is pass-catching backs, so there is an argument they do a better job on Gurley than some may expect.
WR: Allen Hurns – Jacksonville Jaguars ($5.6k)
I doubt the Jaguars end up passing a whole lot, but a healthy Hurns still gives them a fun weapon, if needed. He returned from a long absence last week and could be in for a big role when the wild card weekend rolls in. Jacksonville has several receivers to work with these days, but he’s one of their best options and the team could also be without Marqise Lee (ankle).
Hurns isn’t safe in terms of game flow, but he’s a good price and should have a fine role to start out. That’s about all you can ask for a pretty weak wide receiver crop this weekend.
WR: Rishard Matthews – Tennessee Titans ($5.5k)
Everyone is going to feel pretty compelled to fit it would-be studs like Julio Jones and Michael Thomas, but the reality is both of these guys were hit or miss in 2017. Jones can crush any matchup, but he’s just scored three times all season and doesn’t have a great matchup by the numbers (Rams rank 10th against WRs).
Either way, I’ll try to save more cash one more time by dropping to Matthews, who still retains a pretty good role with the Titans. Marcus Mariota has been terrible for much of the year, but KC ranks dead last against fantasy wideouts. I’ll take that, Matthews price and role and aim high.
WR: Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs ($7.7k)
I love the Chiefs this week, as they’re going to be out to prove they can finally make a big move in the playoffs and they’re a lot to handle at home. Alex Smith has been up and down this year, but a date with the Titans (21st against WRs) looks good on paper for Hill. I don’t want to necessarily go all in on a full KC stack here, but Hill only needs one big play to pay off.
I think he gets it, while I’m curious to see if fading Julio Jones and Michael Thomas will prove to be the winning route.
TE: Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs ($7.7k)
There are only four games, so understandably, there are only a handful of truly viable tight end options. That’s often the case on a full slate, so it should shock nobody that all roads lead to Travis Kelce. One of the top fantasy tight ends all year, Kelce continues to have a big role and can salvage his day with his improving red-zone chops, as well.
Greg Olsen is worth a shot and both Delanie Walker and Charles Clay have small arguments, but Kelce carries all of the upside at his position this week and this doesn’t feel like the place to get contrarian.
If you feel compelled to do that, my favorite pivot here is probably Delanie Walker. He’s just $300 more than Clay and almost $2k cheaper than Kelce. He’s averaged 8.6 fantasy points per game on the year and has seen 5+ targets in every game this year, save for one. In the last four weeks to close out 2017, KC ranked just 23rd against tight ends, too.
Walker is a fine secondary option, but Kelce can be a monster. I need that upside in cash games and GPPs.
K: Sam Ficken – Los Angeles Rams ($4.5k)
The Rams are at home and have been putting up points all season. Their matchup against an experienced and talented Falcons team certainly isn’t easy, but it’ll be relatively shocking if they don’t find a lot of success in this game.
That naturally should lead to Ficken producing at least reasonable results. Ficken himself isn’t someone I find easy to trust, but his role is fantastic. He replaces an elite kicker that was having a season for the ages. He’ll be operating in a fantastic offense that will punch in touchdowns or at least give him a few cracks at field goals.
Ficken could bomb and be the reason you don’t win all of the money, but I deem that unlikely. The risk is small with him costing the minimum, too.
DEF: Jacksonville Jaguars ($5.6k)
I don’t see much of a way around this. I suppose if you have 100 DFS lineups and they all have the Jags, maybe toss in a few Bills-laden tournament teams just in case. After all, it’d be all of the annoying if you go all-in on Jacksonville and they just completely blow it against the Bills at home.
I just don’t see that happening, though. LeSean McCoy isn’t healthy and might not even play, while one of the league’s worst passing attacks has to go up against the NFL’s very best pass defense. Even if the Bills muster some points here, the Jags still have serious upside in terms of sacks, turnovers and defensive scoring ability.
You can make mild cases for the Rams and Chiefs and they’re cheaper, but for all formats, the Jags are far and away the top team defense for round one of this year’s NFL playoffs.