Greetings and welcome to Wild Card Weekend! What follows is a weekly strategy guide covering the main slate of FanDuel guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). It will be available every Friday from now until the Super Bowl.
Wild Card Weekend Notes
FanDuel has divided their biggest tournaments into Saturday-only and Sunday-only slates. That’s unfortunate since taking sole possession of first place becomes extremely difficult given the size of the player pool. There are a few smaller GPPs that cover the full four-game weekend. This article is designed around those tournaments. You can use the information below and apply it to both two-game slates. Just note that there are salary differences with certain players.
As far as general strategy goes, we should expect the majority of players to pour their attention into the Colts/Texans tilt, which features the highest over/under of the weekend and provides the most comfortable matchups for multiple players. Rostering a quarterback and a few receivers from that game, while targeting running backs and defenses in other games, will be a common strategy. As such, feel free to take a chance on rostering either the Texans’ or Colts’ defense, while targeting offensive players in other matchups. Doing so will give your lineups an immediate boost should the weekend’s first contest fail to deliver the high-scoring, offensive-driven results everyone expects.
Thoughts on Chalk
Luck and Watson finished as QB4 and QB5 respectively in FanDuel scoring this year. They’re the only two top-five passers available to us for the Wild Card round (and two of only three top-10). Both enter Week 18 with great matchups relative the rest of the field and figure to represent the majority of the field as a result.
Luck especially offers a high ceiling against a Texans’ secondary that allowed more passing yards than all but five other teams in 2018 and allowed the third-most FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks from Week 11 to Week 16. Luck contributed 863 yards to this defense in his two games against them, as well as six touchdowns to only one interception. The obvious downside in this spot comes in the form of the Texans’ pass rush that generated 20 sacks and 14 turnovers from Week 11 on while allowing only 18.9 points per game to opposing offenses. Thankfully, the Colts have protected Luck well all season long. Their 18 sacks allowed was the fewest of all teams, which most certainly contributed to their third-ranked number of plays run by the offense and sixth-ranked success rate (percentage of drives that end with an offensive score). Considering that the Texans represent one of the stoutest run defenses, while allowing a 75% catch rate to tight ends (second-highest), this is a spot where Luck should have no trouble falling into volume and making good on his salary and popularity. He deserves to be one of your core building pieces.
Conversely, Watson faces a defense that allowed the 12th-fewest FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks. But context, as always, cleanses those numbers:
|Joe Webb III III||14||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2.3||6000|
Outside of Brady and Watson himself, there’s not a single quarterback on this list that suggests the Colts’ secondary put together an impressive year and should, therefore, be avoided in the playoffs. They faced four backups, one rookie, and a bunch of other guys that failed to produce meaningful numbers or seasons both in fantasy and real life. Watson clocked them for 18.2 points a few weeks ago and 32.1 in Week 4. Those numbers are a good indication of both his floor and ceiling, and we should expect something in the middle on Saturday.
With that in mind, there’s plenty of value to fading both Luck and Watson in the name of GPP game theory. Common roster builds will likely feature a quarterback and a few pass-catchers from this contest, while scooping running backs and defenses from the three other games. By taking the opposite approach, you’ll quickly leapfrog the crowd should this game bust offensively.
RB: Ezekiel Elliott - $8,800
There’s a good chance Elliott ends up as the popular player of the weekend. His obvious volume and work as a pass-catcher solidify his floor, and his usage in goal-to-go situations effectively give him the highest ceiling of anyone on the slate. The Seahawks head to Dallas having allowed six receiving touchdowns and the third-most receiving yards to running backs. And even though they’ve allowed the 10th-fewest rushing yards, elite backs have absolutely crushed this unit. Elliott smashed them for nearly eight yards per carry and 139 total back in Week 3. Todd Gurley combined for 273 yards and four total touchdowns in two opportunities, Melvin Gordon III managed 18.8 FanDuel points in Week 9, and Christian McCaffrey logged 237 combined yards and two total touchdowns in Week 12. Even David Johnson, Aaron Jones, and Damien Williams all provided more-than useful fantasy days against this squad. Without many other trustworthy options, fading Elliott, even though he’ll be on 75% of rosters, seems unwise.
WR: DeAndre Hopkins - $8,800
In a home game the features the highest over/under of the slate by a mile, it makes sense to target the elite wide receiver that figures to draw double-digit targets and has a higher ceiling than any other pass-catcher of Wild Card weekend. Hopkins finished the season with the fifth-most targets, ranked second in receptions, receiving yards, and fantasy points, and ranked fourth in receiving touchdowns. He returned mixed results in two opportunities against the Colts by destroying them in Week 4 with 10 catches for 169 yards and a score and then managing only 36 yards and a touchdown in Week 14. Indy’s game logs against wide receivers suggest this secondary can handle even elite names. But feel free to look at the quarterbacks they faced (listed in the table above) and apply similar logic.
The fear is that the Colts elect to slot double-coverage on Hopkins all game and dare Watson to beat them some other way. Keke Coutee’s return to a full participant in practice should help, but it’s worth noting that Hopkins’ massive Week 4 performance came with Will Fuller V on the field. Regardless, he should still see plenty of targets and offers his usual tournament-swinging upside. But he's also tied with Elliott as the most expensive player on the slate, requiring 14.6% of the cap to roster. The question you need to answer is “does his situation include enough upside to justify his salary, which happens to be $1,100 more than T.Y. Hilton’s, who’s the next closest in price?"
Further complicating matters, if you want to roster Hopkins assuming that he blows up like he has multiple times this season, you’re likely behooved to stack him with Watson, who happens to be the second-most expensive player on the slate. Together, they’ll claim 28.6% of the cap and leave you with a challenging roster construction. We might be able to survive without either and, as mentioned under the Luck and Watson blurb, fading pieces of this game hoping it fails to deliver could pay off.
TE: Eric Ebron - $6,600
A full $1,000 less than Zach Ertz, Ebron sets up with enough upside and soft enough pricing to be the weekend’s chalkiest tight end. The Texans haven’t been a great source of fantasy points outside of quarterbacks, but 15.5% of the FanDuel points they’ve allowed on the year have gone to tight ends—the third-highest rate in the league. Only the Colts allowed a higher catch rate, only two teams allowed more receptions, and only four allowed more FanDuel points per game to the position in 2018. Ebron, of course, has been one of Luck’s top receivers. His 120 targets are only 10 shy of Hilton’s for the team lead, and rank fourth-most among all tight ends. Only Antonio Brown recorded more receiving touchdowns, and only Travis Kelce, Ertz, and George Kittle managed more FanDuel points.
The downside shows up in snap counts. With Mo Alie-Cox healthy, Ebron’s snap counts have gone 53%, 30%, and 49% over their last three games. Thankfully, Alie-Cox hasn’t run many routes and is being used mostly as a blocker. But it’s still difficult to sink salary into a guy that isn’t on the field for half of the game, especially one that features some dominant pass-rushers who require double-teams. That said, in two games against the Texans, Ebron parlayed 18 targets into nine catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a safe bet for a bundle of targets and has the best matchup of all tight ends this weekend.
QB: Mitchell Trubisky - $7,700
Trubisky has the pleasure of hosting an Eagles’ defense that was consistently shredded by quarterbacks throughout 2018. They took care of business against Josh Johnson last week, and held Mark Sanchez and Colt McCoy to 150 combined yards in week 13, but allowed seven other passers to surpass 300 yards:
Only five teams allowed more 300-yard passers and only the Chiefs permitted more yards. It’s a matchup that Trubisky should have no trouble exploiting. The problem is his floor, which looks dangerously low despite scoring the seventh most FanDuel points among quarterbacks from Week 1 to Week 11. His defense can shut this game down and limit fantasy opportunities across the board. Plus, Trubisky may not be asked to throw much as the Bears attempt to lower their risk and move onto the next round.
That said, Nick Foles is coming to the town, and we’ve seen how well he’s responded to serving as a backup. He’ll have a tough time in Chicago, but the Eagles’ feature an offense that has enough talent across every position to take advantage of the few vulnerabilities provided by the Bears’ defense. He might be able to do just enough to keep this one interesting and likely surpass the low over/under total of 41 points. Should that happen, Trubisky is a near lock for a 20+ FanDuel day, and doesn’t even need passing volume to get their thanks to his talents as a runner (although, as Devin Knotts noted in our internal FBG chat, Trubisky hasn’t been running as much since his injury). He sets up as a solid contrarian option with a decent floor and a chance to hit his early-season ceiling.
RB: Melvin Gordon III - $8,400
Melvin Gordon III said he feels good and is ready to roll, and that he will play on Sunday against Baltimore. Despite the ankle injury, Gordon said he's healthier going into this weekend's contest than the first game against the Ravens.— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) January 2, 2019
After logging a full practice on Wednesday, it seems Gordon will suit up in his regular form against the Ravens barring any setbacks. The problem for us, of course, is the looming matchup which is one of the worst on the board. The Ravens win football games by playing stout defense and running the ball—a classic combination boasted by numerous NFL champions. Only two teams have limited running backs to fewer rushing yards, and only the Bears have allowed fewer FanDuel points per game. But Gordon managed a decent outing against the Ravens on limited snaps in Week 16 when he managed 54 total yards and a touchdown on 15 touches. Those numbers don’t look like much, but when you consider his injury situation and the fact that he hadn’t played a snap since early in the second half of Week 12, combined with the elite level of defense he faced, it’s easy to pull positives out of his performance. He’ll need to find the end zone a couple of times to pay off, but that’s more than possible against a turnover-prone Lamar Jackson. And even though the likes of Lamar Miller, Chris Carson, and Marlon Mack are tempting considering their usage, rostering both Elliott and Gordon provides the clearest path to guaranteed volume. Even better, we might get Gordon at suppressed ownership with the crowd afraid of his matchup and injury.
The return of Kyle Long was an obvious boon for Chicago’s running attack last week as Howard produced one of the most efficient games of his disappointing season en route to 109 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He now has touches of 17, 20, 20, 15, and 22 across the Bears’ last five games and ranks sixth in rushing yards over that span. Conversely, Cohen’s usage has dropped off down the stretch. He logged the lowest snap count of the year last week and has seen only 24 touches over their last three games. The split between these two backs is completely biased towards wins and losses. In three of their four losses, Cohen produced 26 catches for a combined 315 receiving yards to go along with his usual five or six carries. And since the team has never waivered on their faith in Howard, Cohen hasn’t carried the ball more than eight times since Week 4.
Accordingly, choosing which of these backs to roster (if not both of them) comes down to how you believe this contest will shake out. If you think the Bears will handily win and have it locked up by the fourth quarter, Howard registers as a solid bet for 20 or so touches and a good chance at returning 15-20 FanDuel points. If this ends up being a high-scoring game, or if Trubisky and Co. fall behind by more than one score, Cohen immediately jumps off the page with tournament-swing upside. The Eagles have a decent run defense, but they’ve been crushed by pass-catching backs. Only the Falcons have allowed more receptions to the position, and only five other teams have allowed more receiving yards. That plays into Cohen’s strengths and may even favor him in this contest over Howard regardless of game script. Neither back offers a monster ceiling, and Howard clearly has a higher floor, but Cohen ended the season ranked 17th in FanDuel points per game despite his limited usage. We’ve seen his ceiling come through when the Bears are forced to go pass-heavy, which could very well be the case on Sunday. Stacking him with Trubisky and chasing that scenario could work out beautifully (or completely tank).
WR: T.Y. Hilton - $7,700
Likely to challenge Hopkins as the most popular wide receiver, Hilton enters the Wild Card round ranked 10th in receiving yards and 14th in FanDuel points despite missing a few games and battling injuries all season. He’ll head to Texas to face a defense that’s he’s abused multiple times in his career, including 13 catches for 314 yards in two games this season. He leads the league in receiving yards since Week 11 and ranks second in FanDuel points despite scoring only two touchdowns in the given sample (both of which came in Week 11). The case for fading him comes down to his lack of red zone use, where he ranks 15th among wide receivers in opportunities on the season and 23rd since Week 8. The good news is that the Colts elect to throw the ball in the red zone more than all teams except the Chiefs. Regardless of touchdowns, it’s difficult to imagine Hilton failing in this spot. He’ll be chalky but worth every penny and deserves to be a mainstay in your rosters.
WR: Allen Robinson - $6,500
Assuming he’s healthy, Robinson has one of the breast matchups on the slate. The Eagles allowed the third-most receiving yards to wide receivers on the season, a lot of which came when their secondary was still healthy. Two of their starting cornerbacks have been on IR since Week 11. They’ve allowed the second-most yards and sixth-most FanDuel points per game since then. That’s great news for Bears’ wide receivers, particularly Robinson, who led the team in targets, receiving yards, and market share of air yards despite missing three games (and playing with a groin injury in a couple of others). If he gets in a full week of practice, consider making him one of your top plays. He lines up all over the formation and should be used to create mismatches wherever he goes. We, of course, need to acknowledge that is floor is dangerously low unless this game turns into a shootout. But for $6,500, you can lock in the WR1 of Matt Nagy’s offense and still have plenty of cap space left to build a solid roster.
TE: Zach Ertz - $7,600
The Bears have faced one team all season that features a tight end and allowed George Kittle to secure seven catches for 74 yards accordingly (Week 16). Their numbers otherwise look solid, and this would be a matchup to avoid if not for the fact that Ertz is the default WR1 for his team. He finished the year ranked sixth in targets among all players and led all tight ends in receptions, was second in receiving yards (1,163), and second in touchdowns (10). Those numbers combine to make him the 12th highest scoring wide receiver and the second-highest scoring tight end.
It’s safe to claim that the Eagles will struggle to run the ball in Chicago and will likely fall behind, potentially by multiple scores. All roads lead to a heavy passing attack, which automatically installs Ertz’s floor as one of the safest of the slate. His ceiling is always in play regardless of opponent and considering his $1,000 cap-hit relative to Ebron, we might get Ertz somewhat under-owned by the masses. Lock him in with confidence if you can budget around him.
Seattle Seahawks - $4,300
Dak’s struggles vs Zone— Derek Brown (@DBro_FFB) January 3, 2019
SEA in zone coverage 4th most (54%) (Zone % Per:@KeeganAbdoo @SportsInfo_SIS)
Dak vs 4 of the top 7 tms in zone coverage rate this yr
(2gms of which w/ Amari TB/IND)
(Pass yd, td/int)
SEA 168 1/2
CAR 170 0/0
IND 206 0/1
TB 161 1/0
Avg 10.5 rush yd/gm
While both the Bears and Ravens grade out as two of the best defensive plays this weekend, they face good, if not great, offenses and may disappoint considering their respective prices and likely high ownership. The Seahawks will go overlooked in the process, yet they head to Dallas to take on an offense that features a quarterback prone to turnovers and sacks. The Cowboys allowed more sacks than all but one other team, and managed mediocre totals in points and yards.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks rank 11th in takeaways and sack percentage, while permitting teams to run the third-fewest plays. When these clubs met in Week 3, the Seahawks defense came away with five sacks, three turnovers, and 15 FanDuel points. A lot has changed since then, but if the above tweet means anything, it's that we could see Prescott struggle on Sunday and take the entire Cowboys’ offense with him. Elliott could survive and still make good on his salary, but there’s a case to be made that you can roster both him and the Seahawks’ defense, despite the negative correlation.
RB: Kenneth Dixon - $6,800
If there’s one guarantee for the Wild Card round, it’s that the Ravens will remain committed to running the ball. That likely means Jackson protects his floor and Gus Edwards sees another heavy dose of carries. Since Week 11, he ranks fourth in rushes with 122 and fourth in rushing yards with 654. But he has scored only two touchdowns over that stretch, mostly thanks to his quarterback operating as the team’s RB1. That threat exits on Sunday and smoothers Edwards’ ceiling.
You can make that exact same case against Dixon, who logged 12 carries last week, four of which gained at least 13 yards. What’s important about last week’s performance is that it was a must-win game for the Ravens and Dixon played 29% of snaps and out-touched Edwards (who played 47% of snaps). Perhaps the team is gearing up to feature Dixon as the ride their rushing attack into the playoffs. No matter what, there might be enough carries to go around for everyone:
Since Lamar Jackson has taken over as the starter, Baltimore has run +98 more offensive plays than their opponent, the largest differential in the league over that span.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) January 2, 2019
It’s also worth noting that the matchup on hand favors pass-catching running backs—something Dixon is better suited to handle than Edwards (and could lead to more snaps for Ty Montgomery, but the team doesn’t seem interested in prioritizing his talents). The Chargers have allowed more receiving yards to running backs than any other team and the fourth-most receptions, all adding up to the ninth-most FanDuel points. Over 31% of the total fantasy points they’ve allowed to opposing offenses has filtered towards running backs—the third-highest rate of all teams. Those numbers serve to confirm our beliefs that the Ravens will attack this defense with their typical run-heavy game plan and Dixon figures to be a big part of that attack.
WR: Nelson Agholor - $6,400
In Foles’ four starts this season (the first two weeks and last two weeks), Agholor has drawn 35 targets and parlayed them into 26 catches for 277 yards and four touchdowns. Granted, Alshon Jeffery wasn’t in the lineup for the first two games, but he was in the last two and Agholor still rose to the top as Foles’ favorite option not named Ertz. Even going back to last year’s three-game Super Bowl run, Agholor drew 18 targets, including 11 in the Super Bowl, and that was with Torrey Smith in the lineup. Clearly, he has his quarterback’s eye and should continue to be a major part of this offense as the Eagles attempt reprise last year’s miracle.
The matchup on tap is quite challenging due to the Bears’ menacing pass-rush. But they’ve struggled against exterior receivers this year, having allowed the fourth-most receptions and 10th-most FanDuel points to the position. Agholor figures to see a lot of Kyle Fuller, who has held quarterbacks to a 66.6 passer rating while logging seven interceptions. He’s also allowed the 11th most receiving yards among cornerbacks, which at least suggests Agholor has a decent chance of posting a solid box score. Jeffery is also in a good spot and gets a bit of the “former team narrative,” but his season has been too streaky with his floor hitting more often than his ceiling, which isn’t all that high anyway. If you’re going to risk a wide receiver in this matchup, Agholor makes the most sense for $1,000 less.
TE: Ryan Griffin - $4,100
Getting a low-owned piece of the Texans/Colts tilt could prove to be a profitable strategy and Griffin, though he projects a dangerously low floor, fits the bill. He doesn’t have a full monopoly on Houston’s tight end position but has claimed at least 72% of snaps in their last five games and his 43 team targets rank third. According to Pro Football Focus, Griffin ran the 16th most routes among tight ends in 2018, and over double that of his teammates since Week 13 (135 vs. 57 for Jordan Akins and 52 for Jordan Thomas).
Regardless of usage, the matchup on tap is the driving force behind plugging him as a contrarian bid. The Colts permitted the most receiving yards to tight ends this season, the highest completion rate, and the third-most fantasy points. Griffin hit them with five catches for 80 yards in their last meeting and should be in another high-volume situation in the week’s highest over/under. Without question, he’s a risky play that could return donuts, but in a tournament where ownership numbers are clustered around the same players, especially at these onesie positions, cutting against the grain and taking some risks on players in great matchups that the crowd won’t touch is the ultimate strategy. Even a touchdown and 50 yards from Griffin would put your lineup in good position to climb the leaderboards.
Def: Indianapolis Colts - $3,700
If you absolutely need some salary, you could roster the cheapest option of the slate and hope the Colts get closer to their Week 4 performance than their Week 14 performance against the Texans. In the former scenario, they sacked Watson seven times and grabbed one interception. They allowed 37 points but still managed to return eight FanDuel points, which wouldn’t hurt this week considering their salary. In Week 14, they sacked Watson five times but failed to come away with any turnovers and scored only five FanDuel points. That is well within the range of outcomes, especially considering that the Texans have permitted the most sacks of all teams. They don’t turn the ball over much and clearly have a solid offense that can light up the scoreboard, but the Colts own the 10th most takeaways on defense and could luck into scoop-and-score after a strip-sack. On the other side of the ball, the Texans’ defense makes for a solid play as well despite the matchup, but they obviously cost a lot more. Regardless, rostering a defense from the game that everyone else is targeting offense makes a ton of sense in large-field tournaments.