WildCard Weekend is almost always a tough slate for DFS, but the 2016 version seems to be extra difficult. Pittsburgh is facing off against a team that they have struggled against and will likely be without DeAngelo Williams (or if he plays, a hurt version of him). Cincy is starting a backup QB that hasn’t attempted more than 35 passes or scored more than 18 FanDuel points in any of his starts this year. Seattle, with Lynch fresh off of surgery and a long injury stint, and Minnesota, with a nicked up Peterson (who gained all of 18 yards last game vs. SEA), are playing in what could be sub-zero temperatures at kickoff with negative mid-teens wind chill factor. Aaron Rodgers has had exactly one game of 20+ FanDuel points in his last seven games and Kirk Cousins is the most likely to be highest owned of all the QBs! All in all, this is a very odd and difficult week to figure out whom to play in DFS. Below is our attempt to bring some clarity to your lineup building process with my favorite at the QB position along with some of the best WR targets for the weekend.
RUSSELL WILSON @MIN O/U 39.5 $8600
BRRRRRRRRRRR! This game is going to be cold. Cold, as in it has the chance of being one of the ten coldest games in the history of the NFL with and expected kickoff temperature of 2 degrees with a wind chill of -12 degrees! This would lead one to believe that the running game will take precedence over the passing game for both teams this weekend in Minnesota. The Seahawks coaching staff has lauded the FULL return of Seattle’s favorite superhero “Beast Mode” (Marshawn Lynch in case you have been living under a rock for the past few years) this week as well, which would again lead one to believe that the running game will take center stage. Consider a few things though, Lynch has only practiced 4 times with the team in nearly two months. During those two months, Russell Wilson has been on an epic tear through the NFL en route to posting the top passer rating in the NFL on the year. Also consider that just two weeks ago, Seahawks Assistant Coach, Tom Cable, who also serves as the OL Coach and Running Game Coordinator, stated in an interview that Marshawn Lynch would need to “adapt” to how the team and the offense has grown since he has been out of the lineup and “…that will be his challenge” intimating that the offense has evolved since he has been out of the lineup since they have been free of having to force feed Lynch to keep him happy. Again just two weeks ago, Pete Carroll was saying that there’s a “chance” that Lynch will be ready for the playoffs but that he is rehabbing off-site in the bay area. Only 10 days later, the Seahawks coaching staff is uncharacteristically over-specific on how much Lynch is “ready to rock” with Darrell Bevel, Seattle OC, saying he expects Lynch to be ready to “handle 25-30 carries just like he always does.” It all just feels a bit off to me like the Seahawks are trying to project that they are going to ground and pound the ball all day like they have been known to do in the past, but I think the game will play out much differently. Will Seattle run ball? Yes, they always do. Will they completely abandon the recently record-breaking passing game and just run it for 3 yards and a cloud of dust or frost or whatever happens at -12 wind chill when you fall on the ground? I sincerely do not believe so. While Seattle is known as a run first team, what they really preach is balance on the offensive side of the ball. They use the run to set up the pass and try to keep the defense guessing in an effort to get big “chunk plays”. Even when they do run it, Wilson is always a threat to keep it himself as he did in the first meeting with Minnesota when he rushed 9 times for 51 yards and a TD. Also, keep in mind that Russell Wilson played college ball in cold Wisconsin, has freakishly HUGE hands and should not have a difficult time holding onto the ball in the cold, and has posted HISTORIC PASSING NUMBERS OVER THE PAST SEVEN WEEKS. The Seahawks have been in a groove on offense and I believe that Wilson will continue to throw the ball at the same clip as he has in weeks past. The O/U for this game is very low as one would expect given the weather and expected game script and is set at just 39.5 total points with the SEA individual number at a shade over 22 points. Wilson will continue to look for his two favorite targets in Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett as well as run the ball himself when the opportunities are there. If you are playing GPPs, rookie burner Tyler Lockett provides more home run capability at a lower price point and has been red hot in the return game of late. Baldwin however has a nose for the end zone and is definitely the safer option in a game that could rely shorter passes. Kearse is an even lower cost option that should be very low-owned as well but struggled to just one target and zero catches the last time these teams faced off but has a knack for making big plays in big games. All in all, Wilson be owned at levels less than Big Ben and Cousins and might even fall below Rodgers who seems to be gaining steam as the trendy pick of the week but could still put up the highest point total of the weekend. Wilson is my TOP PLAY OF THE WILDCARD WEEKEND at QB because of his expected lower ownership, ability to run the ball, and my expectation that he continues his hot streak even in the Minnesota cold.
JEREMY MACLIN @ HOU O/U 40 $7200
Maclin is one of my favorite plays at WR this week for GPPs because he is likely to be low-owned and has two TD upside. Maclin will face a HOU secondary that has been very good vs. opposing WRs but has struggled against mobile or semi-mobile QBs. Alex Smith is just that and could give the Texans fits this week. Maclin is Smith’s most trusted target and when the two get in sync Maclin can look unstoppable. He has the speed to break a long TD and one is all that it takes to help push your GPP lineup closer to the top of the heap. At $7200, he will cost $2300 less than Antonio Brown and could outscore Brown this week.
DESEAN JACKSON vs. GB O/U 45.5 $7000
This guy is and always has been the ultimate boom or bust WR which makes him the perfect fit for your GPP lineup this week. Cousins seems to have found his groove (albeit against some awful competition) over the past several weeks and Jackson has shown that he still has the speed to take the top off of a defense and win deep repeatedly. GB is solid vs. the pass as they are ranked 12th in both points allowed to opposing QBs and WRs but if this game turns into a shootout, as Vegas appears to believe it could, DJax is a guy that could win you a tournament.
DEANDRE HOPKINS vs. KC O/U 40 $8800
Hopkins is match up proof, QB proof, and on Sunday we will see if he is pressure proof as he plays in the first playoff game of his your. I believe that the Texans will fall behind early and Hoyer will struggle throughout the day but Hopkins as per the usual will get his dozen plus targets and turn in a good day against a KC secondary that is good but not great. If you think he gets in for a TD play the man. KC defense is playing too well of late for me and with the Texans missing their starting Left Tackle, I say FADE HOPKINS.
ANTONIO BROWN @ CIN O/U 45.5 $9500
Not sure there is much to say here that you probably don’t already know but here goes. Brown hasn’t been great vs. the Bengals this year by his standards (averaging just over 7 catches for 95 yards and .5 TDs per game) but he is going to get a TON of targets on Sunday especially if Bryant continues to struggle to play through his various aches and pains. Brown has receive a total of 56 targets over the last four games and could be in for another 20 target day with DeAngelo Williams likely out and the Steelers left with few viable options at RB. One word of caution, the weather in CIN is going to be a mess with winds gusting up to 10 MPH and rain showers expected to last throughout the entire game. Cost prohibitive but if he has one of his big days, can you win without him? Will have ridiculously high ownership rate.
JALEN STRONG vs. KC O/U 40 $5000
As noted above, DeAndre Hopkins is one of the top WRs in the league and will be one of the top owned WRs this week. Strong however, could provide something that Hopkins cannot, low ownership. What good is low ownership without production you might be asking and I would counter that Strong has quietly come on as of late and could be poised for a breakout day against a KC defense that is ranked 24th in points allowed to opposing WRs. Strong has been drawing praise from his coaches and teammates alike over the past month and has already seemingly established a connection with starting QB Hoyer who in his first game back from injury targeted Strong 7 times which was second most behind Hopkins who received 12 targets. If Nate Washington does not play I believe that Strong could post something along the lines of 5 catches or 90 yards and a TD or two like he had in Week 8, both on passes from, you guessed it Brian Hoyer.
JAMES JONES @ WAS O/U 45.5 $5700
Jones is almost a must play to me this weekend and I will have a lot of exposure to him at this price point. With a total of 33 targets over the last three games (including 13 just last week) it seems clear to me that Jones has again gained the confidence of Rodgers as his most trusted receiver. You will not find this kind of target share at this price anywhere else this weekend, period. On top of the work load, the Redskins have allowed HUGE games to several WRs over the past month including the following: Sammy Watkins, Alshon Jeffrey, Jordan Matthews, Terrence Williams (what?) and Cole Beasley (huh?). Best value WR available but will likely be very highly owned.
JORDAN REED vs. GB O/U 45.5 $7400
Jordan Reed is Kirk Cousins’ favorite target and has been pretty much unstoppable over the past several weeks. Reed is the obvious play at TE and is price accordingly as the highest TE on the board by $1000 over the next highest option (Eifert at $6400). Reed faces a GB team that is 22nd in point allowed to opposing TEs and should put up another big day if you can fit him in your lineup.
HEATH MILLER vs. CIN O/U 45.5 $5600
At $1800 less than top option Reed, Miller should provide solid production against a team that he has dominated of late. Ove the past two games against CIN, Miller has averaged 10 catches for 86 yards against a team that is usually stout against opposing TEs (6th). If Miller can put up similar numbers and sneak in for a TD he might be your best option given the huge cost savings.