NFL Playoffs – Wild Card Round
The Playoffs are here! The Playoffs are here! The Playoffs are here! We have two weekends in a row of four game slates and three weekends in a row of two game slates across Saturday and Sunday the next two weeks before the final real DFS slate of the year in the Conference Championship Round.
A couple observations on playing not only the playoff slates in years past but also four game slates in general when it comes to football.
You do not need to be perfect
This is the most common thought about the playoffs and shorter slates. Everyone focuses simply on first place and the HUUUGE contests out there. If this is your goal then go ahead and play with the idea that you can put in 20+ lineups this week built around a core set of thoughts or beliefs and try for that. But if you stick with good higher $ but smaller sized field contests then you’ll find you don’t have to have that $5400 wide receiver that 4% have simply to finish first or even top 10. Balance is key in playoffs, but that doesn’t mean safe. You just don’t want to have a complete dud.
You’re IN or OUT on a STAR
The highest priced plays on the slate (DK pricing for example) this week are Mike Thomas, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Brown, Alvin Kamara, Tyler Lockett. These are the seven skill position players that are north of 7k in price this week. If you play one you are playing them to have that huge game and of all the weeks you should most definitely give consideration to being contrarian with stud players in tournaments this week. The lowest owned of them all might come in around 10% which won’t feel THAT low but compared to 60 or 70% ownership its a huge boost and something to consider on the stud players, who in the playoffs ALL can go off. You’re either IN or OUT on someone and make that stand and don’t be worried if you do not have someone like Nuk Hopkins if he gets 7 catches for 86 yards.
The slate doesn’t end at 7pm on Saturday
This is the hardest thing I think casual or new DFS players have to deal with on these two day slates. “I gotta have someone in that first game, or oh man I’m dead now”. There’s a path to points in every game. Catches, Yards, Touchdowns. Thats it. That’s how our guys will be scoring points this weekend (well, and defenses, but stick with me here). So if there are 500 total yards and 43 points in the Bills vs Texans game and then a projected 625 yards and 51 points in the Saints Vikings game (I’m making these numbers up as examples, dont take them as my projections … yet), then why would we be all upset that one player got 23 points in the Houston game? Sure, that one player may end up being at the top but there’s also gonna be lots of duds early that kill lineups. One of my plans this year is to have a lineup that is entirely Sunday players and based upon how the slate went on Saturday, I’ll adjust who I roll with at different spots. Let say nobody at RB blows up on Saturday, well then on Sunday I can avoid the 60% owned Kamara and go with the lower owned WR like Thomas or Diggs if it looks like lots of ownership was played on WR on Saturday and then its my WR + a steady RB option like Sanders (example) vs the Chalk Kamara. So don’t fear the early game being a must play for the bulk of your lineup.
I will do an article on Sunday morning that talks about the Sunday only slate but specifically how to adjust any late swap decisions for the 4 game Sat-Sun slate. We have to understand that on the smaller slates there are plays which don’t always align with analysis or game theory that will end up being the ones who make the difference. For example, taking a shot on a WR with some upside who maybe hits one big play to get a 14 over a WR who already went that is sitting with an 11 might end up being the difference.
So check in on Sunday morning by 10 AM and I’ll have a full break down on any pivots you should make or how to play the Sat-Sun with two games remaining based upon what started if you go LIGHT on the guys from Saturday like I will.
Now let’s get onto the AMBUSH CORE Plays, which will feature one thought on each game in the Wild Card and Divisional Rounds. These are ranked in order of the schedule of the games, use these along with the full player rankings below for the top plays this week in order.
THE AMBUSH PLAYS
BILLS vs TEXANS
JOHN ‘SMOKEY’ BROWN THE MAIN SATURDAY PLAY
There are two ways I see the Bills going into Houston and beating the Texans. One is obvious through their defense being the strength against a Texans team who allows a high number of sacks. But if someone is going off and is a must play at his price for me, it’s John Smokey Brown. Devin Singletary is bad chalk in my mind and the passing game is going to be Brown and Cole Beasley, with Brown’s big play ability being something that can really set the slate off around his 20-30% ownership. The Texans secondary is vulnerable and on a good playing surface I can see Brown going well over 100 yards receiving with two touchdowns as he has been a big play guy for the Bills all season and in particular on the road.
AMBUSH PLAY #1: JOHN BROWN AND BILLS DEFENSE START THINGS OFF
TITANS vs PATRIOTS
R-E-L-A-X, they’re not dead …. YET!
Sorry Rodgers fans, but I am taking Aaron Rodgers famous quote from a couple years ago and applying it to the New England Patriots. Or maybe more appropriately we should have gone with “I’m not Dead Yet” in reference to Tom Brady and the Patriots illustrious reign as the Champions of the football world. They will survive one more weekend before taking a direct EXIT out of the playoffs in Kansas City next week in an EPIC blowout, but for now we must rely upon the Patriots to do what they have always done. Win at home in the playoffs. The Patriots definitely have some holes showing up on their defense and will have a hard time dealing with the AJ Brown, Derrick Henry and Jonnu Smith trio that look very promising for the Titans. The best way to help out? How about a 3 yard check down to James White. Oh hey there Julian Edelman, let me feed you a 4 yard pass. You know what, I’m feeling frisky says ole Tommy Boy Brady, let me throw it 5 yards to Mo Sanu. Yep. Despite weather concerns the Patriots will do what they have done and throw it within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, dare the Titans Safeties to play close and then hit a sneaky TE pass to Ben Watson or Matt LaCosse. The Patriots will win time of possession and avoid their execution for one more week and they’ll do it with the short passing game, the only way they can really generate offense, while also keeping D-Henry off the field.
Julian Edelman and James White are the PPR machines in this game. The whole world will see Tennesee’s 34-10 win vs New England last year and go there again. Not so fast. Edelman had 11 targets that day and despite seeing a recent drop off and some nagging injuries, he’ll get 10+ again this weekend.
AMBUSH PLAY #2: James White and Julian Edelman PPR machines for Patriots owning the time of possession.
VIKINGS vs SAINTS
Forget Dancing with the Stars, Try Cooking with them
When you get to the playoffs some stars are going to have to shine and this seems especially true in the Wild Card round where we can get more of a Stud vs not quite stud mis-match and the lesser known players do not have to do all the heavy lifting. This game probably has the most combined fantasy star power with Taysom Hill (:laugh_emoji:), Mike Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen all in it. I want to say roll with the stars here but the main focus points for DFS this weekend have to be Dalvin Cook and Jared Cook. Let’s first address Jared Cook as he is the easy one. He’s been on fire the last 6 weeks as the Saints offense has really started to show what it had intended to look like all season before Brees got hurt. Cook looks very healthy and has scored 7 touchdowns since the Saints 26-9 loss versus Atlanta. In that stretch New Orleans has scored 34, 34, 26, 46, 34, 38, 42 points, with the only sub 30 point game being a short week TNF Thanksgiving game against that same Falcons team. To expect New Orleans to stay under 30 points again this week is a bit of an extreme stretch in my mind and Cook has been the #1 reason why they are dominating teams. He isn’t benefiting from Mike Thomas however. Thomas carried the Saints for the first 10 weeks of the year, now its Cook and Kamara who are being used more and more in unique ways such that the defense has to pick their poison with Thomas or these two and Cook has benefited a great deal. On the short slate, he is the #1 TE by far.
Minnesota’s offense is more of a hot mess in DFS terms. I don’t think Thielen is at all close to what he was two years ago or even the first half of 2018. He hasn’t shown it and I don’t think he has the agility to completely stay away from Lattimore if ‘Shon draws the shadow coverage on him like he has in previous meetings. This would mean Diggs gets more double coverage but I’m very confident in Diggs being able to have a decent day when its all said and done, but not necessarily a consistent one. The key for Minnesota has to be their running backs catching the ball out of the back field. If a magical running game shows up after it really hasn’t been there for 6 weeks against a defense who hasn’t struggled vs the run in three years then congrats on that variance. So if we’re gonna ride a Viking catching passes, it has to be Dalvin Cook in my mind and it has to be on DK.
AMBUSH PLAY #3: Jared Cook for the Saints and Dalvin Cook is the best Viking play.
SEAHAWKS vs EAGLES
EAGLES WIN – WARD & METCALF
For whatever reason I have been spot on with the Eagles for most of the season, and I’ll be putting that to the test again this weekend as I am picking them to beat Seattle who I really think has too many flaws and issues right now to go on the road after the tough SNF loss and beat Philly. The Eagles have played much better for a few key reasons on offense but it’s also been their balanced defensive approach which has really kept them from getting completely run out of games. They were never as bad defensively as some made them out to be and while the secondary had its issues, they do have some talent back there. I really liked this game initially for offense but the more I look into it, there’s only two plays in this entire game for me.
For Seattle, DK Metcalf has to get involved and should certainly draw the attention of the Eagles this week as he and Lockett are the main options all around for the Seahawks. I like the size that Metcalf brings against the Eagles secondary and I project him as one of my top WR on the slate. For Philly, the Zach Ertz situation is all noise, I wouldn’t touch him at all and Dallas Goedert is a good play on DK again due to a high catch and yard volume but I still prefer Jared Cook there. Greg Ward continues to be used heavily in the offense and he and Miles Sanders are two guys the Eagles must get going consistently and into the end zone and so for me it’s Metcalf, Ward, Sanders in that order for plays from the late game.
AMBUSH PLAY #4: DK Metcalf and Greg Ward fourth game hammers.
FULL POSITIONAL RANKINGS
Drew Brees … Nobody has his ceiling in my mind this week but I don’t have a must own play for QB in the playoffs, I think you can get away with other options, but he should finish as the highest scoring QB on the week. 300 yards & 2 Touchdown floor.
Carson Wentz … Playing fantastic football of late and is getting near 20 every week, in the playoffs that’s usually good enough
Josh Allen … Yeah the rushing upside helps but he’ll account for 2 touchdowns if the Bills win and with Brown being a must own, there’s reason to consider Allen along side of him. Allen or Brady are the QB’s on Saturday only.
Alvin Kamara … Pardon me while I think back to about a month ago when I was rolling my eyes at all the ‘analysts’ saying Kamara wasn’t good or isn’t right. He was fine and although the ankle injury did limit his burst the real problems were a mixed up offensive line and simply the fact that Mike Thomas was so dominant. AK41 should be able to give the Vikings LB fits in the passing game and is the lead back despite some thinking its a Murray revenge game spot. Alvin will score and should get over 100 combined yards.
James White … I personally am not in love with many RB this week. D-Henry is what he is and I’ll touch on him below. James White is Mr. Playoffs and Mr catch everything. It’s White/Edelman/White/Edelman/White/Edelman with a random Sanu or Harry thrown in for New England. James White should be the first guy you plug in from the Patriots game on DraftKings.
Miles Sanders … Both Sanders and Dalvin Cook are tempting as third RB this week. Miles gets the lean for me because I’m more confident in his health and also his % of the offense that he should be involved in. Either makes sense and Cook is your lower owned play to get a ton of catches, just don’t expect him to rush for much.
Derrick Henry … Henry relies on two things. He relies on wearing the defenses down and he relies on game flow working to where the Titans have the ball all game. I don’t think either happens this week. New England is capable of keeping the ball out of the Titans hands long enough to really limit the Henry damage. If you like James White or Edelman then you SHOULD NOT play Henry. It’s one or the other in terms of clock domination in this game, so for me, I like the Pats side and thus I won’t have Henry — but if you do play Henry — don’t play Pats.
John Brown … With Smokey it’s always about that one big play, however the Bills will be in a spot where they should pass more than usual which increases his reception volume and he’s the much bigger play guy than Beasley. Smoke’m
Mike Thomas … He was 2% owned when the Saints and Vikings met in the playoffs in 2017 (obviously I had him) and he torched Xavier Rhodes back when everyone thought Rhodes was a dominant CB. Basically, Thomas is the guy who ended Rhodes run as a good CB. He’s the best RB/WR/TE on the slate. Water is wet. Nothing else to say here.
Julian Edelman … So with Brown and my theory of waiting until Sunday, I likey won’t have Edelman on my main lineup. But as a pivot off Brown or on a Saturday only he’s the first guy I turn too. The injury news will have folks down on him and at his price that’s another reason for many to shy away. I think he will be fine and get a ton of catches. It’s him or Sanu for New England in the passing game.
D.K. Metcalf … If you roll with Lockett I won’t hate it, but Metcalf’s size to me is the key here for him to haul in a couple red zone touchdowns for Seattle. They will not have any luck running the football.
Greg Ward … He’s too cheap in the offense where he has to get the ball. If you get into Sunday and have a good start on Saturday, he’s your safe value play, the higher upside guys are Sanu and Ginn.
Mohamed Sanu … Nobody is mentioning Sanu and although N’Keal Harry is a nice longer term prospect, the Pats got Sanu for a reason. If Edelman is limited, Sanu will have a huge game.
Tedd Ginn … The Saints have opened all their previous home playoff games the last two years with a similar play concept. Take a deep shot to Ted Ginn. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if we saw that change to a deep shot to Kamara this week (if you see Alvin break the huddle, line up at the top of your screen and Murray & Cook are both on the field then you know what’s coming), but a trend is a trend is a trend. The Saints love to get a big shot early in games at home as they bait teams into higher scoring games in the Dome. Ginn has really fallen off in the offense and is behind Thomas, Kamara, Cook, Taysom and even Tre’Quan in the passing game right now but the vertical threat is a MAJOR key to the Saints offensive attack against Minnesota on Sunday. A shot is coming.
Jared Cook … Not the volume play that Dallas G’ will be, however nobody is doing more in the red-zone than Cook of late. Cook, Alvin, Thomas — I wouldn’t go all three but those guys are your popular Saints for good reason this week.
Dallas Goedert … Ertz isn’t gonna be a factor if he does play. This is Dallas’ offense.
Buffalo … Only Tennessee ranks lower among playoff teams in sacks allowed per game and much of that was associated with Marcus Mariota at Quarterback early in the season. Buffalo should be able to get after Watson and they have a true shut down #1 corner back who can give Hopkins enough of a hassle to contribute to further pressure on Watson and also cause further problems. With Fuller always being a risk of injury (or even not playing) there’s even an extreme path where the Bills completely dominate the Texans offense with their very good defense. I like this game to remain close and lower scoring and with the defenses available to us on this week the Bills are the more secure spot for me on the board with New Orleans being second. Look for Buffalo to generate turnovers, cause some sacks and provide a very nice start to the weekend.
New Orleans … They’re better on the road, but they have the better special teams and Harris is due to break a big one.
Philadelphia … Seattle is gonna be a funnel to throwing the football. Could definitely see a really bad Wilson game with 3+ INT and the Eagles D getting a score.