After 17 weeks of regular season action that required us to spend time on each and every team on the schedule, Wild Card weekend can look like a breeze at first glance with only four games on the docket. Although it certainly becomes much more manageable with only eight teams to dig into, it can be anything but a breeze to put together a lineup that can really make some noise in a large GPP. In fact, it can be equally as challenging as a full slate of games due to the lineup overlap that will occur due to the much smaller pool of players that we have to build our lineups from.
So how can we give ourselves a fighting chance for Wild Card weekend? By following the same concepts that we have used successfully over the course of the regular season, which includes fading some of the week’s projected higher-owned players. On a short slate, it can be even tougher to pass on the ‘must-starts’ and ‘can’t miss’ players, but the good news is that we don’t have to fade all of them. In love with one of the week’s chalk plays and can’t possibly build a lineup without them? Then start that player at will and look for some differentiation at another position. Before digging into this week’s top fade candidates, let’s take a look at each of the Wild Card games and where we can expect some heavy interest from the masses this week.
Games at A Glance
Kansas City @ Houston. Kansas City -3, 40.
The Chiefs travel to Houston to take on the Texans in the first game of the weekend. The teams met once already this season way back in Week 1, with the Chiefs walking away with a 27-20 victory behind three touchdown passes from Alex Smith. A lot has changed since Week 1 of course and both teams enter the playoffs in peak form and riding winning streaks, with the Chiefs coming in off of an incredible 10-game streak and the Texans checking in with three consecutive victories.
With a low projected total and two strong defensive teams, we can expect mixed interest from the masses for DFS purposes with the exception of both squad’s top wideouts. Jeremy Maclin and DeAndre Hopkins will both find their fair share of supporters and deserve some fade consideration.
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati. Pittsburgh -3, 45 ½.
The divisional rivals split their two matchups in the regular season, with the Bengals victorious by a margin of 16-10 in Week 8 and the Steelers pulling off a 33-20 victory in Week 14. Injuries will impact the ownership percentages for both clubs, just in different ways. The absence of Andy Dalton should lead to some low interest in the skill position players for the Bengals, while the Steelers rolling without DeAngelo Williams could actually lead to an increase in Ben Roethlisberger and the bevy of talented wideouts at his disposal.
With Andy Dalton at the helm, the Bengals appeared to be a serious Super bowl contender. A.J. McCarron has done an admirable job in his stead, including throwing for two touchdowns against these same Steelers when he came on in relief of Dalton, but the talk of the Bengals as a Super Bowl threat has fallen by the wayside. He's developed some nice chemistry with A.J. Green along the way. The duo has combined for three touchdowns over the past four games, something that may fall off the radar for most DFSers this week. The absence of Williams will lead to some heavy interest in Fitzgerald Toussaint as a low-cost running back option, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to produce the plug-and-play output that Williams has delivered over the second half of the season.
Seattle @ Minnesota. Seattle -5, 39 ½.
These two clubs are just a few weeks removed from a regular season meeting that saw the Seahawks drub the Vikings to the tune of 38-7. Russell Wilson threw for three scores and picked up another on the ground. Doug Baldwin hauled in two of Wilson’s touchdown tosses as part of a strong day that saw him finish with five receptions for 94 yards. Many will be looking for an encore performance when the two clubs meet again this Sunday and we can expect the combo of Wilson and Baldwin to be one of the more popular stack options of the week.
A returning Marshawn Lynch will also be a popular choice, while interest may be tepid in the Vikings due to the previous beat down at the hands of the Seahawks, with the exception of Adrian Peterson. He checks in as the most expensive running back of the week, but will likely have plenty of supporters hoping for a breakthrough against a tough Seattle rushing defense.
Green Bay @ Washington. Even, 45.
One of the year’s biggest surprises hosts a team that was thought to be a Super Bowl contender heading into the season when Washington welcomes a struggling Green Bay team to town to close out the weekend. Kirk Cousins enters the playoffs in peak form by having thrown for 11 touchdowns over the past three games and has averaged 31.03 points per game over that span. Jordan Reed has hauled in four of those touchdowns and 11 in total this season. In short, we can expect the combo of Cousins and Reed to have plenty of support among DFSers.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense has scored a total of 21 points over the final two games of the regular season – eight of which came in garbage time of Week 16’s annihilation at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. Expect ownership percentages for Rodgers and his targets to be somewhere in the middle this weekend – not too high that we have to consider fading them, but also not too low if we are looking at them as an against the grain stack.
On to this week’s top fade selections, we’ve changed it up a bit this week due to the reduced number of games. As opposed to the two top fade selections at each position, we’ll dig into the top fade selection by position, followed by one or two others that could make the short list for fade consideration. Let’s take a look at this week’s top fade candidates, starting with the quarterback position.
Ben Roethlisberger, $7,200
It’s neck-and-neck between the week’s two most expensive quarterbacks for the top fade candidate spot, but we’ll give the nod to Ben Roethlisberger over Russell Wilson by a nose. The high-powered Steelers offense is one of the most attractive targets for DFS purposes due to their ability to accumulate a plethora of yardage and points. As mentioned earlier, the absence of DeAngelo Williams may actually result in an increase in interest for Roethlisberger, who will be expected to be in full-on air it out mode to compensate for the uncertainty at running back. Roethlisberger looks tough to pass on at first glance, but if we dig into the two previous meetings with the Bengals we’ll find that he’s only thrown for one score versus four picks. He may very well deliver a much better return this Saturday Night, but if we’re looking for a spot to separate our lineups from the pack, quarterback is always a great place to start.
Other QB’s That Deserve Fade Consideration
Russell Wilson, $7,000: The allure of a repeat of Week 13’s 34.06-point outing against these same Vikings will be a little too much to pass on for many DFSers this weekend.
Kirk Cousins, $5,900: Cousins is on a roll and comes in at a very reasonable price, which will inspire many to click the plus sign next to his name while finalizing lineups.
Marshawn Lynch, $6,500
Marshawn Lynch is currently listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup with the Vikings, but is expected to give it a go. We’ll have to monitor the news as we move forward, but assuming he's ready to roll, we can expect him to be one of the week’s more popular running back selections. Outside of his expected popularity, we can still make a case for fading Lynch due to a couple of factors. This would be his first action since Week 10 and even a back as talented as Lynch may show some signs of rust. Add in the fact the Russell Wilson has firmly put his stamp on the Seahawks offense in Lynch’s absence and we may be looking at a case of Seattle not wanting to disrupt things by altering the game plan too much, which leads us to question exactly how much of a workload we’re looking at for Lynch on Sunday. We’ll take a pass on Lynch and look to some of the week’s cheaper running backs to find a little uniqueness.
Other Running Backs That Deserve Fade Consideration
Adrian Peterson, $7,300: We have a dearth of ‘name’ running backs for Wild Card weekend, which will inspire many to include Peterson in their lineups in spite of the tough matchup against the Seahawks.
Fitzgerald Toussaint, $3,900: Toussaint is one of those players that many will turn to in hopes that they have found a low-cost hidden gem, but will then realize he’s not quite that under the radar when they take a gander at his ownership percentage.
Antonio Brown, $9,600
The most expensive wide receiver of the week also happens to be the one with the largest upside for Wild Card weekend and we can be certain that Antonio Brown will have a large ownership percentage to match it. He brings to the table the highest average fantasy points per game of any player in play this weekend at 26.1 points and is capable of much more as he’s exceeded that mark on seven different occasions this season. All that being said, the Bengals have done a pretty good job holding him in check in their previous meetings, limiting Brown to 16.7 points in Week 8 and 15.7 points in Week 14. With the Steelers expected to air it out even more than usual, we can expect a steady diet of targets heading Brown’s way on Saturday Night. Chances are he’ll exceed his output from the two prior meetings with the Bengals, but we’ll have to consider fading Brown to separate our lineups from the pack.
Other Wide Receivers That Deserve Fade Consideration
Doug Baldwin, $6,700: As with Wilson, the appeal of Week 13’s output against the Vikings – plus his stellar output over the stretch run of the regular season – will lead to increased interest in Baldwin.
Jordan Reed, $6,300
Five touchdowns over the last four weeks certainly captures attention. When we combine that with a reasonable salary and slim pickings at the position, we can pencil in Jordan Reed as the most popular tight end of Wild Card weekend. Reed becomes all the more impressive when we consider the fact that those five touchdowns occurred over a three-week span as he saw limited action last week against the Cowboys. Quite simply, he’s the top play at tight end this weekend. We’ll consider Reed as a top fade candidate, but also won’t hesitate in rostering him and looking for differentiation elsewhere.
Other Tight Ends Deserving Fade Consideration
Heath Miller, $3,300: Low price plus the fact that he’s hauled in 20 passes against the Bengals this season will make Miller a popular low-cost tight end selection.
Seattle Seahawks, $4,100
The Seahawks enter the playoffs coming off of a dominant outing against the Arizona Cardinals that saw their defense post 15.0 fantasy points. They are averaging 10.1 points per game this season and have reached double digits in points eight times, including Week 13 against the same Minnesota Vikings squad they’ll face off with on Sunday. They are the most expensive defense of Wild Card weekend, but the hefty price tag will not temper the enthusiasm for rostering this squad. If you’re looking for some uniqueness on defense, you’ll need to look elsewhere for the opening round of the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs, $4,000 and Houston Texans, $3,900: We can flip a coin between these two teams that face off against each other in terms of ownership percentage. Both clubs bring defenses that are playing at a high level to the table for what is projected to be a relatively low-scoring affair.
That concludes The Fade for Wild Card weekend. Enjoy the games and best of luck!