DFS Roundtable: Playoff Bound Teams

Evaluating players from playoff bound teams.

Playoff Bound Teams - When we get into the last few weeks of the NFL season there is a divide among the playoff bound teams and the non-playoff bound teams. On the opposite side on teams that are already out of the playoff picture, they are starting to give all players a longer look to see what they have with them moving forward. Do you give extra weight to players on teams that are fighting for the playoffs/seeding or players that are on losing teams that are maybe getting an extra look? Give your top player pick for both situation this week.

Phil Alexander
It definitely makes sense this time of year to analyze the schedule in terms of what the stakes are for each team. Fortunately, we're still at least a week away from discussion on teams who may opt to rest starters entirely, but there's still an edge to be gained from knowing which teams are fighting to get in, jockeying for position, or already playing for next year.

In terms of teams making a push for the playoffs, the Seahawks are currently on the outside looking in. They play at home this week against the division-leading Rams, in a game that will likely decide their season. LA's defense has been leaky against the run all year (second-most fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs), but Mike Davis' status is up in the air due to a rib injury and none of Seattle's other backs can be trusted to exploit the favorable matchup. 

As usual, the Seahawks offensive production will center around Russell Wilson, who deservedly figures to be the chalk at quarterback this week. The Rams third-ranked pass defense (DVOA) showed some cracks in last week's loss to the Eagles and Wilson has scored at least 24 fantasy points in seven of his last eight games. If Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (hamstring) is unable to play this week, Todd Gurley's matchup becomes much less intimidating, while Jared Goff and the Rams receivers are plenty capable of getting over on Seattle's depleted secondary. If Wilson is forced to keep pace due to the shortcomings of his injury-ravaged defense, we could be looking at one of his 40-point ceiling games. It's still early, but I'd bet Wilson will be my top quarterback exposure come Sunday.

My top candidates for a more prominent role on a team playing for nothing in the last few weeks (O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin, Marlon Mack) aren't on the main slate, so it's tough to pinpoint a player that fits this situation. Maybe the Giants take a longer look at Wayne Gallman in a featured role? He played a season-high 46% of the team's offensive snaps last week and has generally acquitted himself well, in comparison to New York's other running backs, when given opportunities. Gallman caught 7-of-9 targets for 40 yards against the Cowboys -- passing game volume that plays well on DraftKings, where he's only $3,900.

Chris Feery: I definitely give more weight to the players and teams that have something to play for this time of the year. Teams that are treading water or looking ahead to the draft are too tough to predict, and I feel more comfortable spending my salary cap dollars on those that are still fighting for something. That said, I won’t thumb my nose at an exceptional matchup or value opportunity for a player on a disappointing squad. 
For this week, I’m interested in a number of teams that are still in contention, but I’m becoming increasingly intrigued by the chances that the Minnesota Vikings will produce some fantasy gold. The Vikings face off with a Cincinnati Bengals squad that was just completely embarrassed by the Chicago Bears, and it’s really hard to see how the Bengals are going to be able to keep pace against one of the top teams in the NFC. I’m expecting Case Keenum to do some serious damage before the club calls the dogs off, and he has a pair of viable stacking options to pair up with him in the form of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Keenum has thrown for multiple touchdowns in five of his last six games, and I’ll be looking for more of the same when the Bengals come to town. 
For the teams that are treading water, I’m intrigued by what I’ve seen out of Jimmy Garoppolo since he was handed the keys to the San Francisco 49ers. While it’s far too early to say for certain, he looks like he’s going to be a fantastic fit for the Kyle Shanahan offense. The Tennessee Titans have done a solid job against opposing quarterbacks over the past three weeks, but they haven’t exactly faced a murderer’s row of offenses (Colts, Texans, Cardinals). Prior to that three game stretch, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, and Ben Roethlisberger tossed for multiple scores in successive weeks. I like Garoppolo to do the same during the home date against the Titans, and I fully expect Shanahan to pull out all the stops to let the home crowd know that there’s a lot to look forward to next year. 

John Mamula: Motivation is a key factor during the final month of the season. It is critical to target teams and players that are still in the playoff hunt. I tend to avoid teams that look to be “going through the motions” and show a lack of effort. 

For Week 14, three matchups stand out where a playoff team is a large home favorite versus an opponent that is out of the hunt:

New Orleans Saints -16 New York Jets
Minnesota Vikings -11 Cincinnati Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars -11 Houston Texans

For these matchups, I have little to no interest in players from the Jets, Bengals, and Texans. Not only are they each playing in a difficult road matchup but they have little to play for at this point of the season. 

For the Saints, much will depend on the staus of Alvin Kamara as he works his way back from a concussion. If Kamara is inactive, Mark Ingram II will be heavy chalk. For the Vikings, Case Keenum, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs are all attractive options for GPP tournaments. Expect the Jaguars to continue to lean on Leonard Fournette and their defense against the Texans. 

Dan Hindery: It’s probably a week too early to start putting a lot of weight onto whether teams are playoff bound or not. The biggest thing I try to figure out is which teams have really given up on the season  and look to just be going through the motions. For example, the Cincinnati Bengals looked disinterested at times last week against Chicago. The Bengals travel to Minnesota this week to face a highly-motivated Vikings team that can secure a first-round playoff bye if they win out. If Cincinnati holds out Vontaze Burfict again, the Vikings running backs both become extremely intriguing GPP options. 

Every year, there are some bad teams with young players that are able to successfully use relatively meaningless late season games to build momentum for the following season. Two teams who potentially fit the mold in 2017 are San Francisco and Chicago. Both have young quarterbacks who are showing flashes of potentially being able to develop into franchise quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo has looked fantastic in his two starts for the 49ers and the new coaching staff has every incentive to try to help him build upon his early success and give the fanbase hope for the future. Garoppolo has a nice home matchup against a bad Tennessee Titans pass defense and could continue to put up big passing numbers. 

Devin Knotts: I don’t typically give too much value to players fighting for the playoffs/seeding as they have been playing in games in which they are needing to win for most of the season. I don’t think there is any “extra motivation” now that we are in week 15 and beyond. On the opposite side of things, I do think some veterans tend to check out this time of the season if they are not in playoff contention whether that is due to lack of effort or due to wear and tear.

My top player for a team fighting for playoff seeding is actually Nick Foles. There will be no easing in of Nick Foles as he is filling in for Carson Wentz this week. The Eagles are still in the hunt to get the number one overall seed, and will need Foles to step in and continue to run this offense as it was before Wentz went out with an injury. 

My favorite player for losing teams that are getting an extra look continues to be Josh Gordon. The Browns are trying to force him the ball to try to get him back in game reps for heading into next season. Gordon will be going up against a Ravens secondary that badly misses Jimmy Smith and this could be the breakout game that the Browns have by just continuing to throw to Gordon as they have nothing to play for this season.

James Brimacombe: You have to look for every edge possible in DFS and late in the season you better believe I am evaluating players based on their teams record. For example if I have to make a decision between Seattle's Doug Baldwin or Miami's Jarvis Landry this week I am giving extra credit to Baldwin as the Seahawks are still battling to get into the playoffs, where as Miami is going to be less motivated based on their losing record. My top pick this week is Antonio Brown as the Steelers and the Patriots are fighting for the top seed in the AFC. Brown's ownership could be down slightly because people will be looking to roster his teammate Le'Veon Bell at RB but trying to fit both players in is hard to do in roster construction. 

From a non playoff team I really like Kenyan Drake this week as he is coming off a MNF game where he touched the ball 30 times (25 rushes, 5 receptions) and he still has a low enough salary where you can fit him easily into your RB2 spot. The Dolphins showed that they are not rolling over and going away despite their losing record as they beat the Patriots. This week it is another division battle versus the Bills a team that is ranked 27th against the run so Drake is in a great spot to have another big game.

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