The regular season is in the books, but it’s not time to put a bow on the NFL DFS season just yet. DraftKings is going all in for the playoffs, and there just so happens to be a lobby full of games for you to partake in for Wild Card weekend. While there may be fewer games on the docket, there’s still plenty of research to be done - and Footballguys has you covered each and every week of the playoffs.
Throughout the regular season, we’ve provided you with a host of picks on a weekly basis from both a chalk and a contrarian perspective. We’ll be doing the same throughout the playoffs, but we’ve decided to combine both approaches into one column that attacks each game from both angles. Before taking a look at this week’s selections, let’s take a walk through this weekend’s slate on a game-by-game basis.
Wild Card Weekend Games
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans
Chalk: There’s simply not too much to be found in this one, We have an offensively-challenged Texans squad welcoming a Raiders team to town that features a rookie quarterback behind center, and the lowest projected total on the board to boot. In fact, that may lead to the biggest interest in this game from the masses to come in the form of rostering the Texans defense. That could prove to be a wise choice, as Connor Cook will be making his first career start in this one.
The Raiders defense will likely not attract as much interest, but we view that as a mistake. Brock Osweiler can implode in an instant, and things of that nature tend to snowball in an instant. (See last year’s Wild Card game between the Texans and Chiefs for validation. Brian Hoyer was at the helm for the Texans, and it wasn’t pretty.) Lamar Miller will attract some interest and is in line for a heavy workload, while question marks about the workload split in the Raiders backfield will likely lead most users elsewhere at running back.
Contrarian: Despite the concerns that this game may set offensive football back a little bit, there will still be yards gained and points scored - but figuring out where they come from may be a little tricky. Miller is likely the safest play from the Texans, but DeAndre Hopkins is an intriguing flier that should be lowly owned. It’s pretty hard to trust either Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree with a rookie at the helm, but there’s an outside chance that Cook surprises.
He was a successful college quarterback out of Michigan State that slid down to the fourth round due to some red flags, and that can manifest itself in several different ways. The flags can turn into full-on red alarm bells that ring non-stop, or the player can develop a chip on his shoulder and use that to propel him to a productive career. No promises that’s the case with Cook, but it’s a thought to keep in the back pocket for the multi-lineup crowd. As for the Raiders backfield, head coach Jack Del Rio made a specific point of mentioning that Latavius Murray is not seeing the rock enough, so it’s pretty safe to say he’ll see a few extra turns at bat this week.
Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks
Chalk: This one’s a little more like it, as we have some more options for both perspectives - but the chalk is only coming from one team. We can look for Russell Wilson to be pretty popular this week, as will primary pass catchers Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. The Lions have allowed nine passing touchdowns over the past three weeks, so it’s pretty easy to see why the masses will be so enthused.
However, we will point out that this wasn’t exactly Russell Wilson’s finest season of pro football, but he did close it out strong with solid games in Weeks 15 and 16. In a week with limited options, you could do much worse than selecting Wilson as your quarterback. Interest would normally be higher in Thomas Rawls, but there are concerns that the carries he lost last week to rookie Alex Collins was not simply a one week anomaly.
Contrarian: Sticking with the Seahawks for a moment, both Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson have come to life in terms of targets over the past two weeks, so that makes them slightly intriguing as low-cost GPP fliers. As for the Lions, the general concern is that they are walking into a hornet’s nest at Seattle, which is generally one of the toughest places to play in the league. We’ll throw out the caveat that this is not the dominating Seahawks defense of year’s past, and that the secondary can be had by an experienced signal caller.
That makes Matthew Stafford an intriguing contrarian option this week, and he closed out the regular season with a nice fantasy performance against the Packers. For stacking options, we can look towards Golden Tate, and also note that this is somewhat of a ‘revenge’ game for his return trip to Seattle. A case can also be made for Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin or Eric Ebron, but Tate is the safest of the bunch due to target volume. Finally, Zach Zenner is in line for a healthy workload at a bargain basement price, and that’s always an attractive combination - regardless of the opponent on the docket.
Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Chalk: The Steelers are the chalk this week. We have the team with the highest projected total of the week, and they also happen to employ the services of two of the most talented skill position players in football. Add those two factors together, and we can expect ownership percentages for Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell to be through the roof - and Ben Roethlisberger won’t be too far behind. There’s no glaring reason to fade any of them, but fitting all three on one squad is a little tough due to salary constraints.
All that being said, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s pretty tough to soar up the leaderboards with a lineup filled with nothing but chalk. Feel free to roster any of this triumvirate - or two of the three - at will, but you should definitely look to mix it up on at least one or two other roster spots to improve your chances of making some noise. For the Dolphins, enthusiasm will be tempered on Jay Ajayi due to the fact that the Dolphins project to be coming from behind, but he’ll still receive enough touches to make rostering him worthwhile. Jarvis Landry may prove to be the most popular Dolphins player off of the theory that the Dolphins will be playing catch-up, and he looks like a fine choice for that very reason.
Contrarian: Eli Rogers and Ladarius Green represent alternative approaches to gain some exposures to the Steelers offense. In theory, the Dolphins should sell out to stop Bell and Brown to the best of their capabilities, and that could open up some more looks for both Rogers and Green. The Dolphins have also had some trouble with opposing tight ends this season, but you’ll want to keep a close eye on injury reports as Green is still on the mend from a concussion. If he ends up being out, Jesse James becomes another intriguing option, but he doesn’t bring the same upside to the table as Green.
DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills are low cost ways to take advantage of the potential that the Dolphins will be throwing in a bid to keep pace. Target volume makes it a veritable toss-up, but a closer look at what they’re doing with those targets tips the scales substantially. Stills has found the end zone nine times, while Parker has only made four trips to the promised land. Dion Sims is another option form the Dolphins, but the Steelers have done a pretty nice job of keeping opposing tight ends in check this season.
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
Chalk: The final game of Wild Card weekend looks like the best of the bunch, and we have plenty of fantasy options on both sides. Aaron Rodgers has been on an absolute tear, and you can be certain that interest will be high on him this week. He absolutely deserves your consideration, but don’t overlook the fact that the Giants defense has come on really strong of late - including Week 17, when the team had absolutely nothing to play for but still managed to shut down Kirk Cousins and a productive Washington offense. The majority of those going the Rodgers route will look to pair him up with Jordy Nelson, and he’s one of the more intriguing receivers on the slate due to sheer volume alone.
We can expect middling interest in Eli Manning this week, and that peaks our interest from a contrarian perspective - and also due to his incredible knack for coming up huge in high pressure games. The masses will definitely be interested in Odell Beckham Jr., but we’ll expect the majority of users to lean towards Brown when shopping for a high-priced receiver. The Packers have had some struggles against opposing signal callers several times this season, and they closed out the season by allowing seven passing touchdowns over the past three games.
Contrarian: Davante Adams and Sterling Shepard are the clear number two options for their respective teams, and they represent an intriguing lower-priced way to gain some exposure to this tilt. Since this is such a short slate, we have to consider nearly every player that sees a decent amount of targets or touches, and that points us to Jared Cook and Will Tye as potential options. Tight end is pretty barren this week, and both players are seeing their fair share of targets of late.
The running games for both squads are slightly intriguing, especially due to the fact that it’s expected to be downright frigid in Green Bay. That could lead to more of a ground and pound type affair than most are expecting, but there’s a slight problem: both squads have been pretty unpredictable in the running back workload department of late. We can easily make a case for any of Rashad Jennings, Paul Perkins, Ty Montgomery or Aaron Ripowski, but you’re salary cap dollars are likely better spent elsewhere unless we gain some serious clarity on workload splits before kickoff.
Before we get to the individual picks, one quick note - you will not see Bell or Brown listed below. Don’t take that as a sign that we recommend fading them. They both look to be fine plays this week, but you’ll need to find some lower cost options to help you fit them in. That’s what we aim to help you with, and we’ve found some good ones for you to include on your short list.
Eli Manning, $6,100. We can safely expect Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Wilson to be the three most popular quarterbacks this week, and while all three look to be solid choices, it prompts us to look elsewhere on the short slate to mix it up. Outside of the differentiation factor, we’re also intrigued by Manning’s pedigree in big games, and the fact that the Packers can be lit up at times. We’re not expecting an all out shootout due to the weather, but Manning should be able to move the offense successfully and put some points on the board.
Matthew Stafford, $5,700. On paper, the Lions should be coming from behind in the second half, and that bodes well for Stafford’s potential output. While the running game will not be completely abandoned, we can expect a healthy amount of passes. That can lead the yardage to add up in a hurry, and DraftKings three-point bonus for 300 yards passing is certainly nothing to sneeze at. While that may seem like a tall task against the Seahawks, three quarterbacks accomplished that feat in the regular season, and two more came within shouting distance. Add in a pair of scores, and we’re looking at a solid day for Stafford if all breaks right.
Latavius Murray, $5,000. The Raiders enter the playoffs with a rookie quarterback at the helm, and that points to a game plan that will lean heavily on the running game. As mentioned above, there’s been some scuttlebutt about Murray not getting enough carries, so we’ll expect that to not be an issue at all this week. In fact, he could find himself with all the work he can handle with a conservative approach to offense for the week, and he’s proven that he can deliver when that’s the case. He’s reached 20 carries in three games this season, and his lowest output was 19.3 points per DraftKings scoring in those tilts. We’ll consider that a best case scenario for this week, but his floor shouldn’t be too far away if our thought on workload comes to fruition.
Zach Zenner, $4,500. Zenner has been a preseason darling for two years running, and he’s provided some serious validation for his believers over the past two weeks. Quite simply, the opportunity was finally presented to him and he seized it. The clock may strike twelve this week in a matchup against the Seahawks, but we’re not overly concerned about that. For starters, the Seahawks have allowed five touchdowns on the ground over the past two weeks. Second, Zenner will continue to see all the work he can handle, and this is far too low of a price for a back that will be involved both on the ground and through the air. We’ll look for Zenner to easily pay off his salary with the potential for some nice upside.
Golden Tate, $6,300. Since we’re high on Stafford’s prospects for a solid outing, we’ll naturally want to consider pairing him up with his top target. While the Seahawks are one of those teams that people shy away from when it comes to rostering their opponents, the reality is that they can be had in the secondary. Several receivers have enjoyed solid days against the Seahawks this season - Julio Jones, Robert Woods, Mike Evans, Davante Adams and J.J. Nelson to name a few - and there’s no reason to shy away from Tate. We’ll look for him to have a really nice day if the coming-from-behind scenario plays out, and a solid day regardless.
Sterling Shepard, $4,800. We’re going to need to save some money at wideout this week in order to fit in our high-priced studs of choice, and Shepard looks like the finest choice of the sub-$5k crowd. He’s often overshadowed by the flashier Beckham, but Shepard has put forth a solid rookie campaign, and the Giants look to be well set at wide receiver for the foreseeable future. For this week, Shepard will be facing off with a leaky secondary that just may devote a little extra attention to Beckham, and that could prove to be a fatal mistake. Shepard can do some damage with the ball in his hands, and we’ll look for that scenario to play out in the last game of the weekend.
Jared Cook, $3,600. As we mentioned above, tight end is pretty tough this week. We have the high-priced Jimmy Graham at the top of the list, and then several players that could have an equally productive day at a lower cost if everything breaks right. Cook is one of those players, and he’s been seeing more targets of late - 21 over the past three weeks, to be exact. The Giants are pretty stout defensively, and that could make things pretty tough for Nelson and Adams to break free. That being the case, Cook could find himself with some more opportunities this week, and he should easily pay off his low price.
Clive Walford, $2,500. This is an outside the box play that we could classify as boom-bust, or more accurately as a low-cost punt that could be surprisingly productive. We touched on the expectation that the Raiders will likely err to the conservative side with Cook at the helm, and you can bet that he’ll be drilled with checkdown options for every scenario that may come his way. A tight end can quickly become BFFs with a rookie signal caller, and Walford is typically seeing a few targets head his way each week as it is. We’ll look for at least double his normal target volume this week, and see if one of them can find him in the back of the end zone.
New York Giants, $3,100. The Giants defense has looked awfully impressive over recent weeks, and they’re bringing it for fantasy purposes as well. They’ve reached double-digits in fantasy points in five of their last seven games, and two of them have been 20+ point outings. Normally, we can expect a team on such a roll to be heavily-targeted for DFS purposes, but that won’t be the case against the high-powered Packers. We’ll take our chances. The weather works in the Giants favor for defensive purposes, and they just delivered a monster performance on the road against a team fighting for their playoff lives. While a monster outing may be a little too much to ask for, double-digits in points is not, and that will suit us just fine in this short slate.
Oakland Raiders, $2,900. While the masses flock to the Texans and Seahawks, we’ll zag over to a Raiders squad that has just as much upside this week. The Texans have had trouble moving the ball all season, and they’ve just handed the keys back over to a quarterback that was benched due to ineffectiveness. Add in the fact that the Raiders will need a seriously inspired performance to give Cook a fighting chance to earn his first career victory and keep their season alive, and we like the Raiders chances to force some turnovers and quiet the home crowd in Houston.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check us out next week for the Divisional round of the playoffs. Enjoy the games and best of luck with your lineups! Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.