The Primer: Wild-Card DFS Edition (Fantasy Football)
Now that the NFL regular season is over, it’s time for us to dive into the playoff matchups. While there are some of you who’ll be partaking in leagues during the playoffs, these editions of The Primer will be focused on DFS. Fortunately, you’ll still be able to get an idea of how I feel on every player on the slate, as I’ll be going through each individual player in-depth.
For those who are new around these parts, The Primer is something that we do every week during the fantasy season (Weeks 1-16), highlighting every relevant fantasy player from every game, giving you a reason for optimism or a reason to place a player on the bench. We’ll talk about WR/CB matchups, recent snap counts, target shares, and trends that you need to know.
For those who are diving into DFS for the first time, when we reference “cash” it refers to games where if you beat half the field, you win. The examples of those are head-to-heads, 50/50’s, and Double-Ups. Playing in those contests, you’ll want to do all you can to ensure a high floor out of the players in your lineup. When referring to tournaments or GPPs (Guaranteed Prize Pools), only those towards the top portion of entries (typically around top 10 percent) earn winnings. In tournaments, you don’t care about floor as much as you do about a player’s ceiling. I should also mention that we’re sticking to DraftKings pricing, as they have all four games included on the main slate. Ok, let’s talk some wild card weekend players.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Line: HOU by 2.5
Andrew Luck ($6,400): The Colts have now scored at least 24 points in 12 of their last 13 games, including at least 33 points in six of them. They’re an offensive juggernaut that’s running into a defense who’s been struggling as of late. Prior to shutting down the Blake Bortles-led, Leonard Fournette-less Jaguars offense that was also down four starting offensive linemen, the Texans had allowed an average of 364.6 yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game to the combination of Marcus Mariota, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Nick Foles, and… Andrew Luck. This will be the third go-around for these two teams, where Luck posted 464 yards and four touchdowns in the first game, and then 399 yards and two touchdowns in the second game. He finished as a top-five quarterback in both of those weeks and that was with the entire league playing. Now on just a four-game slate, it’s tough to avoid Luck, especially when DraftKings ($6,400) isn’t forcing you to pay-up for him. When the Texans cannot get a consistent pass-rush, their secondary cannot hold-up against a competent passing-game. Luck has been sacked just nine times in his last 12 games, while the Texans went from totaling 34 sacks in the first 11 games to just nine sacks over their last five games. Knowing how well the Texans have shut-down opposing run-games, this game rests on Luck’s shoulders, win or lose. He’s worth his cost of admission in cash and tournaments.
Deshaun Watson ($6,700): Over the course of the regular season, Watson hadn’t totaled more than 10 carries in any one game and hadn’t topped 49 rushing yards in 14-of-15 games but was then unleashed in Week 17 where he ran 13 times for 66 yards and a touchdown. This is what happens when you lose Demaryius Thomas and Will Fuller to injuries and have little else to throw to (outside of Hopkins, of course). Watson has just one 300-yard game and one game with more than two passing touchdowns under his belt since Week 5, so those rushing totals matter more to him than most. The Colts allowed just 182 yards on the ground to quarterbacks this season, but 76 of them belong to Watson, who rushed six times for 41 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting and then five times for 35 yards in the second meeting. His 6.9 yards per carry looks pretty nice now that he’s utilizing his legs a bit more. He finished as the QB6 during their game in Indianapolis, while finishing as the QB17 when they were back at home in Houston. The issue is that Watson has now been sacked 29 times in the last six games and that can lead to a lot of problems, including turnovers. Oddly enough, Watson hasn’t thrown an interception in any of those six games, so there’s room for optimism. The Colts defense has played much better than anyone anticipated and has gotten better as the year’s gone on, as they’ve not allowed a quarterback more than 20.4 fantasy points since back in Week 10. But again, looking at both sides of the argument, the Colts have had one of the softest schedules when it comes to opposing quarterbacks. Watson and Dak Prescott were the only top-12 fantasy quarterbacks they played this year. Watson should deliver a high-floor if you want to use him in cash, but the fact that he costs more than Luck doesn’t make all that much sense. He does, however, offer a ceiling that’s worthy of tournament lineups.
Marlon Mack ($6,000) and Nyheim Hines ($3,500): If you’ve paid attention this year, you know that playing running backs against the Texans has been a very bad idea. You’d have to go back to Week 8 to find the last time they allowed a team of running backs to rush for more than 75 yards. The 3.13 yards per carry they allowed this year was the best in the league, but over the span of their last eight games, they’ve allowed just 2.61 yards per carry and haven’t allowed a running back to top 42 rushing yards in any of their last six games. Needless to say, Mack would need to break a really long run in order to hit some sort of value with his 6K price-tag. Many will look at last week’s matchup against the Titans and think, “Well, he overcame that tough matchup and produced 119 yards and a touchdown,” but most don’t realize they were without the glue that held their defense together, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. The last time the Colts played the Texans (Week 14), Mack rushed for 33 yards on 14 carries, though he did find the end zone. Knowing he’s not heavily utilized in the pass-game (just 0-1 receptions in four of the last five games), he’s not going to have a very high ceiling in this game. He should be avoided in cash. The only reason you’d want to play him in a tournament is because his team does offer plenty of points and his ownership should be low, but I wouldn’t have much exposure. As for Hines, he’s a bit more intriguing because of how much he’s used in the passing-game, though the fact that they’re using four wide receivers has limited his workload. He’s seen at least five targets in each of the last five games and did tally a career-high 11 targets for 9/63/2 when these two teams met back in Week 4. He’s not someone you must use in cash lineups, but his salary makes him a good cheap option who could catch a half-dozen balls if you want to pay-up elsewhere.
Lamar Miller ($4,900) and Alfred Blue ($3,500): After 16 games of play, the Colts still haven’t allowed a 100-yard running back under Frank Reich. That’s extremely impressive, especially when they revamped the linebacking corps from a year ago and had two rookies starting. With that being said, they did allow the 15th most PPR points per game to running backs, which is due to the 110 receptions (2nd-most) for 833 yards (7th-most) they allowed to them. Unfortunately, there’s been just three games all season where Miller has seen more than three targets, which doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence in his floor and/or ceiling. On top of that, he’s averaged just 2.85 yards per carry on his last 34 rushing attempts. Is his ankle injury still bothering him after taking Week 16 off? It’s possible. In the two games against the Colts this year, he tallied a combined 82 yards on 28 carries (2.93 YPC) with one touchdown. He didn’t catch a pass in the first game but recorded five catches for 19 yards in the second game. If we’re looking at his two games against this team and combining that with the Colts dominance against the run this year, it’s unlikely we see Miller present a ceiling high enough to win a tournament. He does get a minimum 14 touches per game when healthy, so he’s not someone I’d scratch off cash game lists, but he’s not someone you must roster, either. Blue has been getting more work than he probably deserves, but he hasn’t topped 54 rushing yards all season and has scored just twice. He’s not someone you should be throwing a dart at, even in tournament lineups.
T.Y. Hilton ($7,800): These two teams have played each other twice this year, and in those games, Hilton recorded 13 catches for 314 yards while playing just 97-of-158 snaps. He missed over half of the first game when he was forced to leave with an injury, but still tallied over 100 yards in that one. The Texans aren’t generating much of a pass-rush and their secondary isn’t talented enough to hang with wide receivers of Hilton’s caliber. Prior to shutting down the Jaguars “passing-game,” the Texans had allowed at least one receiver in each of their previous five games to tally at least 96 yards and finish as a top-15 wide receiver against them. The Texans may get Johnathan Joseph back after missing Week 17 with a neck injury, though that’s not likely to help very much, as he’s towards the end of his career and was on the field when Hilton averaged 4.08 yards per route run against them. Even visiting Houston last year with Jacoby Brissett under center, Hilton racked up 5/175/2 against a similar defense. He’s worth his cost of admission in both cash and tournaments.
Dontrelle Inman ($4,300): When Luck targets Inman, he has a 123.1 QB Rating, which is the highest on the Colts roster. Keep in mind that Inman has only been with the team since Week 7, but he’s clearly overtaken Ryan Grant as the No. 2 option at wide receiver. He’s been targeted 11 times over the last two games, which have been the two most important games of the season for the Colts, and he’s turned them into 9/123/2, so there’s little reason they’ll stop going to him. The Texans have Shareece Wright and either Johnathan Joseph or Kareem Jackson covering the perimeter which is where Inman runs 65 percent of his routes. That trio has combined to allow 46-of-69 passing for 590 yards and three touchdowns over the last six weeks. In a game where the Colts will struggle to move the ball on the ground, expect Luck to drop back and pass 40-plus times (he totaled 61 and 42 attempts in the first two meetings), which means that Hilton may not be the only receiver getting production. Inman may not be safe enough for cash lineups, but he makes for a solid tournament option at just $4,300.
Chester Rogers ($3,300): It’s been a weird season for Rogers, who became extremely fantasy relevant back in Weeks 4-7 when he was playing 66-80 percent of the snaps, but then fell off the map completely, playing 51 percent or less of the snaps from Week 8 through Week 15. Over the last two weeks he’s had a resurgence, as he’s played 69 and 56 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, which also explains his 11 targets in those two games after seeing just 15 targets in the previous seven games. If Johnathan Joseph is out for this game (they’re expecting him to return), it’d be great for Rogers, as the Texans would use Tyrann Mathieu to cover the slot. When covering the slot, Mathieu has allowed 23-of-32 passing for 276 yards and two touchdowns. It was a problem for him in Arizona as well. If Joseph plays, Kareem Jackson would move into the slot, which is a much tougher matchup. Rogers isn’t consistent enough to play in cash and likely doesn’t offer much upside in tournaments, but if Joseph is out, it increases his appeal.
Zach Pascal ($3,000): At the bare minimum price, Pascal deserves a look with how bad the Texans secondary has looked the last six weeks. Pascal is sharing time with Ryan Grant, but the difference is that Pascal has actually produced on his targets as of late. He totaled 16 targets in the three games leading up to Week 17, which included a six-target, five-catch, 68-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Texans in Week 14. If you’re looking for a minimum priced option at wide receiver, Pascal could offer double-digit PPR points in this game.
DeAndre Hopkins ($8,700): We knew that Hopkins would be targeted heavily with both Will Fuller and Demaryius Thomas out for the year, but 16 targets against the Jaguars in a game they won easily? Giddy up. The Colts secondary lacks the big names, but they played well above expectations this year, allowing the second-fewest receptions (169) and yards (1,993) to wide receivers this year. The only teams who allowed fewer points to wide receivers were the Jaguars, Vikings, and Bills. It should be noted that wide receivers also saw the fewest targets (258) against them, but that could be what the scheme does, because the Colts did see the 19th-most pass attempts against them. The 47.7 percent target share directed at wide receivers was the lowest in the league (closest was 49.7 percent). Knowing that 319-of-505 (63.2 percent) of Deshaun Watson‘s targets have gone to wide receivers, we have a clash of the two. Let’s be clear – Hopkins will be targeted, heavily. On the 22 targets Hopkins saw against the Colts this year, he totaled 14 receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Colts cornerback Nate Hairston popped-up on the injury report last week with a hip injury and didn’t play a snap on defense and stuck to special teams, which means Hopkins may see more of Quincy Wilson, last year’s second-round pick who has allowed 26-of-36 passing for 275 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. None of those targets were against Hopkins, so the youngster could have his hands full. Hopkins is practically a must-play in cash, as you cannot pass up 10-plus targets. He’s also a solid play in tournaments considering what he’s done with his targets against the Colts this year.
Vyncint Smith ($3,200): With Demaryius Thomas sidelined for the year, Smith walked into the perimeter role opposite Hopkins. The undrafted rookie saw five targets in his starting debut, turning them into three catches for 28 yards against a tough Jaguars secondary, though Smith also had a bad drop in that game. He’s a big-bodied wide receiver at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds and his avenue of fantasy points comes via the touchdown knowing how stingy the Colts have been against receivers. The Colts have allowed just 13 wide receiver touchdowns this year, so he’s not the best bet, even in tournament lineups.
Keke Coutee ($4,000)/DeAndre Carter ($3,300): As of the time I’m writing this, we have no clue whether Coutee will play. They’re giving him a chance to play, though we’ve now heard that for the last three weeks. Carter has taken his place in the slot and has garnered 15 targets over the last three weeks, catching 12 of them for 149 yards, though he hasn’t scored. He’s a replacement-level talent but the slot role has carried plenty of work with the Texans, especially now that Demaryius Thomas is out of the lineup. Kenny Moore has defended the slot for the Colts and he’s done a heck of a job, allowing just 8.1 yards per reception and two touchdowns on 88 targets in coverage. With that being said, the Colts run a zone-heavy scheme which means the WR/CB matchup doesn’t matter all that much. It’s why we saw Coutee tag the Texans for a season-high (for him and the Colts) 11 receptions for 109 yards in Week 4. Coutee didn’t play in their Week 14 matchup, but it’s clear that the Texans found a hole in the zone coverage with Coutee. Because of that, Coutee is on the tournament radar. In the four full games Coutee played, these were his target totals: 15, 7, 5, 9. At just $4,000, he makes for a solid GPP option with DraftKings’ full PPR format. While Coutee makes sense as a cash option at his price, risk of re-injury to his hamstring should be the tiebreaker to move you off him. If Coutee sits, Carter becomes an interesting option in both cash and tournaments given his minimal price-tag and target share with Thomas out.
Eric Ebron ($5,200): He picked an odd time to cool down, as he totaled just 96 total yards and one touchdown during the last three weeks, while seeing ‘just’ 14 targets. That’s still solid volume for most tight ends in 2018 but we saw 31 targets in the previous three games. The Texans allowed more PPR points to tight ends than any other team in the league, though a ton of production came in their Week 16 game against Zach Ertz when he tallied 12/110/2 against them. Ebron saw 18 targets in the two games against them this year, totaling 9/105/2 on them. There’s still been just one game this year where Ebron has totaled more than 81 yards, which would probably surprise a lot of people considering who his quarterback is and how many targets he sees. Knowing there were eight tight ends who finished as top-eight performers against the Texans and that they allow 2.00 PPR points per target to tight ends should give you confidence to pay-up for Ebron in cash if you’d like to do that, even if his recent dip in targets is noteworthy. There’s nobody on the slate with a better matchup at tight end. The fact that he scored more touchdowns than all pass-catchers not named Antonio Brown tells you his upside is worth tournaments as well.
Ryan Griffin ($2,600): The Texans are still using a timeshare at tight end, but Griffin remains the clear-cut leader in both targets and snaps. He’s very much a rollercoaster in his targets, as you can see from his last six games (most recent first): 1, 4, 1, 5, 1, 4. If all holds true in his trend, he’s due for 4-5 targets this game, though that’s hardly what we want to go off. The Colts have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year, which has a lot to do with the way the defense funnels targets to them, as 23.8 percent of opponents attempts go to the tight end position, which is the second-highest mark in the league. It would be great news for Griffin if safety Clayton Geathers were held out once again, as the Colts have allowed 8.5 yards per attempt with him out of the lineup compared to just 7.7 yards per attempt with him. Still, Griffin is nothing more than a dart-throw in tournaments as he’s topped 44 yards just twice all season and he’s yet to find the end zone. Part of that is because Jordan Thomas has seen nine red zone targets, while Griffin has seen 10 of them.
Colts ($2,300): It’s kind of shocking to see the Colts as the second-cheapest option this week with the way that Watson has been running for his life as of late. The Texans offensive line has crumbled and has now allowed 29 sacks over the last six games. Watson has taken care of the football, but when you are under that much duress, turnovers can happen. The last time these two teams met, the Colts racked up five sacks. They’ve posted double-digit fantasy points in four of their last seven games and should provide a solid floor in this matchup.
Texans ($2,700): Did you know that Luck has been sacked just nine times in the last 12 games? The Texans pass-rush is all they have going for them and even that has been mediocre over the last five games, as they’ve netted just nine sacks in those games. On top of that, the Colts offense has scored at least 24 points in 12 of their last 13 games. Defenses are tricky because one pick-six can change the entire outlook, but the Texans defense aren’t one you should play in cash lineups.
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
Line: DAL by 2.5
Russell Wilson ($5,700): There wasn’t one time the entire season where Wilson failed to throw multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games, which bodes well for his wild-card weekend now that he’s coming off a one-touchdown game against the Cardinals in Week 17. Wilson has lacked the ceiling he once possessed and it’s for a few reasons. He’s thrown the ball more than 31 times just once in his last 14 games, which would limit any quarterback’s production. On top of that, he’s not using his legs nearly as much as he used to. After tallying 586 yards and three rushing touchdowns in 2017, Wilson totaled just 376 yards and no touchdowns on the ground in 2018. The Cowboys have been a similar defense in that they’ve been one to bend but not break. They’ve allowed more than two passing touchdowns just once all season (Carson Wentz in Week 14) while not allowing a quarterback to finish better than the QB7 in any one game this year. They allowed a sky-high 67.7 percent completion-rate (fourth-highest in the league) but kept the play in front of them while allowing just 7.35 yards per attempt and a 4.06 percent touchdown-rate. The low efficiency combined with low play-counts doesn’t add up to many fantasy points, as their opponents averaged just 61.3 plays per game. We did see three of the last four quarterbacks to play them finish with at least 18.2 fantasy points, including a 301-yard, two-touchdown performance to Eli Manning last week. It helps that this game is indoors as we don’t have to worry about weather being a factor. Wilson has played nine games in a dome through his NFL career and has completed 69 percent of his passes for 8.2 yards per attempt with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. It’s tempting to play him at his price, but this game has a low over/under (just 43.0) and his implied team total sits at just 20.3 points. You don’t need to play him in cash, but he’s not someone you necessarily need to avoid in tournaments.
Dak Prescott ($5,500): If not for that Week 15 game against the Colts where he went completely cold, we’d feel extremely confident in Prescott as a cash option. Since Cooper joined the team, Prescott has completed 71.3 percent of his passes for 7.71 yards per attempt with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions and has also rushed for four touchdowns in those eight games. After not allowing a quarterback to finish with 20 fantasy points in their first eight games, the Seahawks have allowed five of the last eight quarterbacks to accomplish that. The only ones who didn’t were Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens, and Josh Rosen. They’ve allowed at least one passing touchdown in 15-of-16 games, though they’ve allowed more than two touchdowns just twice all year, so it’s not a smash spot, either. It’s also noteworthy that the Seahawks haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown to a quarterback all season, which included games against Cam Newton, Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Prescott. The Week 3 matchup between these two teams was so long ago and it was before the Cowboys acquired Cooper, so it’s difficult to look into that game very much, but it doesn’t inspire confidence knowing that Prescott completed just 19-of-34 passes for 168 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. The Seahawks opponents averaged just 59.7 plays per game while the Cowboys’ opponents averaged just 61.3 plays per game, so this one figures to be a slow-paced contest. You can do better than Prescott in cash and he’s not someone you should be overexposed to in tournaments, either.
Chris Carson ($6,800), Mike Davis ($3,700), and Rashaad Penny ($3,400): The three-headed monster isn’t so much of a timeshare anymore, as Carson will get as much work as he can handle. The Seahawks averaged a ridiculous 33.4 rushing attempts per game, with 28.2 of them coming from their running backs, which is a league-high. Carson has tallied at least 16 touches in each of the last seven games, including 20 or more touches in each of the last four games. The important note here is that the Seahawks running backs have totaled at least 24 carries in each of their last 14 games. There were five teams who totaled more than 20 carries against the Cowboys this year. Here’s a chart of how those teams did on the ground:
The Seahawks are going to run the ball as much as they can, and the Cowboys have shown vulnerability over the last three weeks, allowing 4.47 yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns. The downside is that Carson isn’t very involved in the pass-game, though they’ve used him at certain times this year. Knowing the pace of this game and how close it should be, Carson should be a near lock for 18-plus touches, making him a fine cash-game play, especially when he’s as hot as he is (three straight games with 115-plus rushing yards). Davis does see more of the passing-down work but knowing the limited passing-game volume for the Seahawks offense as a whole will limit his upside and he’s clearly not safe enough for cash. Penny returning to a limited role last week will also cut into Davis’ potential workload moving forward. On top of that, the Cowboys haven’t allowed multiple running backs from the same team score 12-plus PPR points. Unless you believe Carson will falter or get hurt, Davis and Penny are just hail mary options.
Ezekiel Elliott ($9,000): It’s never a bad thing to give a running back like Elliott a week off to rest his body after another 300-carry season. There wasn’t a game this season where he was active and totaled less than 15 carries or 17 touches. Oddly enough, he’s become even more part of the passing-game with Cooper on the team, which boosts his floor even more than usual. Outside of one game against the Redskins back in Week 7, Elliott has totaled at least 15.2 DraftKings points in every game, including six games with 25-plus points. Over the final nine games of the season, the Seahawks allowed a top-12 running back performance in seven of them with the lone exceptions being David Johnson and Matt Breida. Not only have they allowed a massive 5.13 yards per carry over those nine games, but they’ve also allowed 552 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns in those games. Elliott is a must-play on a slate so small. He should be in every cash-game lineup. We’ve seen five different running backs total 25 or more PPR points against the Seahawks, so the upside is obviously there for tournaments as well.
Tyler Lockett ($5,300): When targeting Lockett, Wilson has a perfect 158.3 QB Rating this year. There’s not another wide receiver with more than three targets who can say that, and Lockett has 71 of them. Pretty crazy, right? I guess that’ll happen when you catch a touchdown every 7.1 targets and average 16.9 yards per reception. The Cowboys have been a thorn in wide receivers’ sides this year, as they’ve allowed just 10 top-20 wide receiver performances this season, though it’s worth noting that five of them have come in the last four games. Alshon Jeffery, T.Y. Hilton, Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, and Cody Latimer all accomplished that feat, and they are all different types of receivers, so it’s not just one type who’s been getting it done. Lockett will see the most of Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown in coverage, which is a good thing, as Byron Jones has been the Cowboys top cornerback, and Lockett should only see him around 15-20 percent of the time. The combination of Brown and Awuzie have allowed a 102.9 QB Rating when targeted in coverage, though a lot of that comes down to completions and yardage, as wide receivers caught just 12 touchdowns against the Cowboys this year, the third-lowest mark in the league. Lockett isn’t someone you should be using in cash, as he simply doesn’t get enough targets to be considered. He’s seen more than six targets once all season and has seen four or less targets on seven different occasions. He’s still on the table for tournaments with his touchdown upside, but you shouldn’t be overexposed.
David Moore ($3,500): We’ve seen Moore fall off a cliff the last five games, as he has totaled just four catches for 32 scoreless yards on 16 targets. For whatever reason, he and Wilson have fallen out of sync, as you almost never see one of Wilson’s receivers with a low completion rate. On top of the recent struggles, Moore has the toughest matchup on the field with Byron Jones, who has allowed just a 53.6 percent completion-rate in his coverage and two touchdowns on 69 targets in his coverage. Moore should be nowhere near a cash-game lineup. As for tournaments, it’s hard to say he’s a clear avoid because you’re just looking for one long touchdown to hit crazy value with low ownership, and his chances are greater than most due to who his quarterback is, though the odds are stacked against him.
Doug Baldwin ($6,200): When these two teams met earlier this season, Baldwin was held out with the knee issue he was dealing with, so you can’t say how much of a priority the Cowboys will make him. Baldwin is on somewhat of a hot-streak, as he’s now scored five touchdowns in the last six games he’s played and appears to be over his hip injury that kept him out in Week 14. There’s been four players who’ve racked-up at least eight receptions against the Cowboys this year, with two of them going to slot-heavy receivers. Both Golden Tate (8/132/2) and Adam Humphries (10/79/0) were experienced veterans who seemed to understand how to navigate the young Cowboys secondary. Their slot cornerback Anthony Brown was forced to miss Week 16 with a back injury, which was when Humphries tagged them for 10 receptions, but he’s returned to the lineup, so it’s not a clear-cut must-play situation, though it’s also not the worst matchup for Baldwin. Brown is a former sixth-round pick from 2016 who has allowed at least a 103.8 QB Rating in his coverage each of his three seasons in the league. Baldwin is a bit too pricey to use in cash this week (has seen five or less targets in 7-of-13 games), but he’s definitely in-play for tournaments.
Amari Cooper ($7,500): After setting the fantasy world on fire in Week 14, Cooper closed out the year with three weak performances, ultimately lowering his price for this game. If you watched the Week 17 game, you know that Cooper got a legitimate 5-8 yards of separation and Prescott missed him for an easy touchdown. As I’ve said for a long time, Cooper can beat anyone in man-coverage and the Seahawks don’t have much star-power in their secondary. Shaquill Griffin is the cornerback Cooper will see the most this week and he was forced to leave their Week 17 game with an ankle injury. If he’s not 100 percent, forget about any chance of stopping Cooper. The targets have been ultra-consistent for Cooper in Dallas, as he’s yet to see less than five and he’s totaled at least seven targets in 7-of-9 games. There’ve been 10 wide receivers who’ve totaled at least 17.1 PPR points against the Seahawks this season, including four of them with 26-plus points, so the ceiling is clearly there. Many will wonder if the Seahawks will “focus” on stopping Cooper, but that’s not how Pete Carroll’s defense works. They play sides and every man has their job, which means the Cowboys can essentially pick their matchups for Cooper. Despite his recent clunkers, Cooper is playable in cash, though if forced to choose just one high-priced option, DeAndre Hopkins would be the preferred play. You can also (obviously) use Cooper in tournaments with little hesitation.
Michael Gallup ($3,600): Outside of one week where he didn’t see a single target (Week 15), Gallup has been seeing a very respectable target share over the last two months. Even with Cooper in the lineup, Gallup has seen 37 targets in the last seven games, which amounts to 5.3 per game, and that includes the zero-target game from Week 15. When you see him priced at $3,600, you want to take a closer look. Gallup will see a lot of Tre Flowers in coverage, who has struggled since the bye in Week 7. Since that time, he’s allowed 31-of-47 passing for 514 yards and three touchdowns, which amounts to a sky-high 10.9 yards per target and a touchdown every 15.7 targets. On top of that, the Seahawks other perimeter cornerback, Shaquill Griffin, injured his ankle last week and may be playing at less than 100 percent. The Cowboys are likely to try and run the ball down the Seahawks’ throat, but they should be able to have some success through the air if they choose to pass. Knowing his target share and super-low price, Gallup can be considered in both cash and tournament lineups.
Cole Beasley ($3,500): Not only is he the least targeted Cowboys receiver (of the starters) since Cooper’s arrival, but he also has the toughest matchup on the field against Justin Coleman this week. Despite covering a high-percentage position in the slot, Coleman has allowed just a 67.1 percent completion-rate with just 10.2 yards per reception and two touchdowns on 73 targets in his coverage. Both touchdowns he allowed were to the Rams, so it’s hard to hold that against him. Prior to his Week 17 outburst, Beasley hadn’t topped 56 yards or scored a touchdown in 13 of his last 14 games. He hasn’t been targeted more than seven times since Cooper’s arrival but has seen at least five targets in each of his last three games. The target floor looks nice, but the matchup is what kills his outlook while the Cowboys have plus-matchups on the perimeter and figure to run the ball a lot. Beasley isn’t the worst option at just $3,500, but I’d prefer someone with a slightly higher ceiling.
Nick Vannett ($2,500) and Ed Dickson ($2,500): This is a timeshare to avoid whenever possible, though you must look at everyone on a four-game slate, so here we are. Vannett ran just eight routes last week but saw three targets, which were the most he’s seen since way back in Week 9. Dickson has continually run more routes than Vannett, but is doing absolutely nothing with them, as he’s averaged just 0.99 yards per route run. The Cowboys have been a team you can target with tight ends, as they allowed the eighth-most PPR points to tight ends this season. But that also required volume, as they saw the fifth-most targets against them. The point-per-target production they allowed ranked 13th, so it’s not as if they’re a can’t-miss spot for guys like Vannett or Dickson. You aren’t touching either of them in cash, but if you want to play one in tournaments, I’d go Vannett, but why do that to yourself?
Blake Jarwin ($3,300): Let’s hope that the three-touchdown performance for Jarwin last week increases his ownership this week because we won’t be investing in his services. The Seahawks have been one of the teams to avoid with tight ends this year, as safety Bradley McDougald has played phenomenally. The duo of George Kittle and Travis Kelce went up against them in Weeks 15 and 16, with those two combining for just eight catches and 105 yards with no touchdowns. It wasn’t due to a lack of targets, either, as they combined for 17 targets. They allowed just one tight end all season to top 54 yards against them, and that was the record-setting Kittle back in Week 13 when he totaled 70 yards. Jarwin should not be played in cash and he’s someone I’d likely avoid in tournaments as well.
Seahawks ($2,600): They’re coming off a game in which they tallied six sacks, which is one more than they had in the first game against the Cowboys. Most people don’t realize that Prescott was the second-most sacked quarterback this year and that the Cowboys offensive line isn’t what it used to be. It’s realistic to expect at least three sacks out of the Seahawks defense, though the issue is that Prescott doesn’t turn the ball over very often. He’s thrown just eight interceptions this year with just three of them coming at home. He did throw two interceptions against the Seahawks in their first meeting, but that was in Seattle and it was without Cooper. At $2,600, the Seahawks aren’t a bad option for cash lineups in what’s expected to be a low-scoring game. They’re also in-play for tournaments.
Cowboys ($2,800): After getting out to a hot start, the Cowboys pass-rush has faded as the year’s gone on, totaling just eight sacks over their final five games, including just one sack against Eli Manning last week. They haven’t tallied more than three sacks since way back in Week 9, which is definitely concerning for their ceiling. Yes, Russell Wilson was sacked six times last week and the Seahawks have a leaky offensive line, but so did the Giants. Wilson has been sacked at least twice in 15-of-16 games, including at least three sacks in seven of the last nine games. This is a scenario where we have two cold units meeting and it’s tough to say which one will win the battle. Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over very much (just seven interceptions this year), so if the Cowboys don’t rack-up the sacks, they aren’t likely to live up to their price. They’re not a bad play, but also not a great play with how mediocre they’ve been as of late. They’re a defense you should limit exposure to.
Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
Line: BAL by 2.5
Philip Rivers ($5,900): After throwing multiple touchdown passes in each of the first 12 games of the season, Rivers cooled off at the wrong time, throwing just four touchdowns over the final four games while throwing six interceptions. To make matters worse, he’s playing against the defense that led him to his worst game of the season. These two teams met just two weeks ago where Rivers completed just 23-of-37 passes for 181 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. The Ravens went through a gauntlet of quarterbacks the last five weeks while playing Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes, Jameis Winston, Rivers, and Baker Mayfield. To the combination of them, they allowed an average of just 244.0 yards and 1.2 touchdowns. This was a common occurrence for the Ravens defense as they allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season despite seeing the 10th-most attempts against them. They allowed just a 58.6 percent completion rate (best in NFL), 6.35 yards per attempt (3rd-best), and a 3.65 percent touchdown-rate (6th-best) on the year. With there being plenty of other solid options, there’s really no reason to play Rivers on the road against the Ravens, even in tournaments.
Lamar Jackson ($5,800): Last week was the first one where Jackson finished better than the QB11, and he did so without throwing a single touchdown. He rushed 20 times for 90 yards and two touchdowns as the Ravens continue to ride him into the playoffs. Similar to Rivers, one of Jackson’s worst fantasy game came in this matchup. When they played in Week 16, Jackson completed 12-of-22 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown, which isn’t bad for him, but he only rushed for 39 scoreless yards in that matchup. The Chargers have only allowed 13 passing touchdowns in their last 12 games, so it’s very possible that Jackson doesn’t toss any of them in this game, though that’s not where we should be looking for fantasy points from him, anyway. The Chargers haven’t allowed a quarterback to rush for more than 41 yards against them this year, which does include matchups with Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Marcus Mariota, and Josh Allen. On the year, they’ve faced 62 rushing attempts by quarterbacks and have allowed just 3.89 yards per carry on them with no touchdowns. Jackson has provided a solid floor in fantasy matchups and if there’s somewhere you can play him, it’s in cash, though I believe there’s better options who offer stable floors with more upside on this slate.
Melvin Gordon ($7,700) and Austin Ekeler ($4,400): Gordon has been missing the spark he had earlier in the season since returning from his knee sprain, as he’s totaled just 83 yards on 22 carries since returning, while chipping in with another six receptions for 37 yards. The concerning part is the touches and not necessarily the efficiency, as he’d totaled at least 15 carries in eight of the first nine games but has totaled just 12 and 10 carries over the last two weeks. Some may say that he may not have been 100 percent, but didn’t the Chargers learn their lesson this year? Whatever the case is, this matchup is a brutal one. The Ravens allowed the second-fewest points per game to running backs this year and haven’t allowed a team of running backs top 91 yards since way back in Week 9. They really showed up over the last two weeks, holding the combination of Gordon and Nick Chubb to just 65 yards on 21 carries, though Gordon did find the end zone, somewhat salvaging his fantasy day. On top of the fact that the Ravens allowed just 3.52 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns all year, they also held running backs to just 3.92 yards per target, which was the best in the NFL. They allowed the fifth-fewest PPR points through the air to running backs this season while allowing the fourth-fewest points on the ground. This is not a matchup you should be using Gordon in cash, as his usage is in question and the matchup is brutal. It’s possible the Chargers were limiting his touches to simply keep him fresh for the playoff run, so you’ll definitely want some exposure in tournaments, but he’s not a must-play or anything. As for Ekeler, he’s back to being Gordon’s backup who’ll likely see 8-12 touches, though as we’ve discussed, running backs haven’t been efficient against the Ravens this year. He’s not playable in cash and he’s not very attractive in tournaments, either.
Gus Edwards ($4,200) and Kenneth Dixon ($4,000): So, the worst possible thing happened in Week 17. We saw a 50/50 split of the carries between Edwards and Dixon, though both were extremely effective. Below is a chart highlighting the touches, which is all we have when trying to determine the direction the Ravens seem to be moving in:
Edwards’ role seems to be trending downward while Dixon’s is clearly increasing since returning from injured reserve. On top of that, Dixon is coming off a career-high 117 rushing yards against the Browns where he consistently gained yards on his carries. The Chargers have shown vulnerability against the run over the last seven games, allowing 4.25 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns. Keep in mind that they allowed just three rushing touchdowns over their first nine games. They’ve also been beaten up pretty bad through the air, allowing an average of 14.7 PPR points per game through the air to running backs, which was the second-most in the league. Dixon has caught at least one pass in each of the last five games, but no more than two of them in any one game. Meanwhile, Edwards has one catch (and target) in his seven games as the starter. With DraftKings being a PPR site, Edwards needs to hit 100 yards or score to justify playing him. Even if he rushes 12 times for 50 yards and a touchdown, 11.0 points is hardly going to win you a tournament. He’s not someone you should feel safe enough with in cash and likely doesn’t offer the upside to take down a tournament. Dixon is in a similar boat, but he’s the superior running back who at least offers something in the passing game. Dixon would be the one I’d prefer in tournament lineups of the two. One of these running backs is likely to deliver a solid return in cash, but not knowing which one it will be means that both should be avoided.
Mike Williams ($4,700): For whatever reason, the Chargers continue to play Tyrell Williams over him, as evidenced by the 99 to 67 snap-count over the last two weeks. Mike is by far the superior player and has netted 42.4 more PPR points on just one more target. He’s now totaled at least 45 yards in five of the last seven games, but there’s one issue… the Ravens held him to just seven yards on three targets when they played each other two weeks ago. Rivers had a brutal game and can only improve, but the Ravens cornerbacks have done a great job all season. Wide receivers catch just 54.3 percent of passes against them, which is by far the worst mark in the league, as the next closest team was at 57.1 percent. They also allowed a league-low 6.91 yards per target to wide receivers, which again was the lowest mark in the league. They allowed a touchdown once every 27.0 targets and there was just one wide receiver who caught more than one touchdown, which was A.J. Green way back in Week 2. Williams is going to be a fine player in this league but he’s not safe enough for cash as a part-time player in a brutal matchup. The odds are stacked against him to capture much upside in tournaments as well, though with his body, he can snag two touchdowns at any point. If you’re putting together multiple lineups, I’d at least have some exposure.
Tyrell Williams ($4,100): He’s finished with less than 50 yards in 11-of-15 games this year and that’s despite being a full-time player ahead of Mike Williams. Even over the last two weeks, he’s played 32 more snaps than his more-talented counterpart. Against the Ravens, who have allowed just six receivers top 80 yards against them, he’s not a great play. Of those six receivers who eclipsed 80 yards, none of them had less than six targets, a mark that Williams has seen just three times this season. He’s also not a big touchdown threat in the red zone, which means you’re just looking for one big play to pay off at his $4,100 salary. He’s not an option in cash lineups and is a weak tournament option, but on a four-game slate with minimal ownership, he’s not the worst tournament play if you can get one long touchdown out of him.
Keenan Allen ($6,900): Similar to Melvin Gordon, Allen hasn’t been quite the same since returning from his injury. He rushed back in Week 16 against the Ravens and finished with five catches for 58 yards, though much of that came in garbage time. If there’s been one spot on the field the Ravens have shown some weakness, it’s in the slot. Of the 12 wide receiver touchdowns they allowed, five of them were in the slot with three of them coming against Tavon Young. Of the 53 cornerbacks who covered the slot at least 25 percent of the time, Young’s 112.5 QB Rating in his coverage ranked as the 13th-highest mark. Just last week, we saw Jarvis Landry tag them for 5/102/1 on nine targets, so we know it’s not a complete hands-off situation. Outside of the game he was injured, Allen has totaled at least 10.4 PPR points in 14-of-15 games this season. Because of the importance of the game and the brutal matchups for the perimeter wide receivers (and running backs for that matter), Allen should be targeted quite a bit. His price is lowered because of the matchup (as it should be), making Allen someone who’s playable in cash if you can’t make your way up to the Hilton/Hopkins tier due to the volume he’ll see and the floor he’s shown all year. He’s not the greatest tournament play because his upside is somewhat capped in this tough road matchup, though he’s not someone you should automatically scratch-off, either. Bottom line is that he’s probably a better cash play this week.
Michael Crabtree ($3,600): Since joining the Ravens, Crabtree has yet to record a 100-yard game and has been held to 66 yards or less in 15-of-16 games. Since Lamar Jackson took over as the starter (span of seven games), he hasn’t topped three catches or 36 yards. He’s not the type to go out there and haul in a long touchdown, but rather someone who needs to consistently get targeted and get 10-20 yards at a time. With Jackson under center, he’s not going to get targeted more than a handful of times, which means he’s touchdown-dependent. The Chargers allowed just 13 wide receiver touchdowns the entire season, which ranked as the sixth-fewest in the league. On top of that, Jackson has thrown just five touchdowns in his seven starts. Crabtree totaled just one catch for 20 yards against them two weeks ago, so his $3,600 price-tag seems about right. He’s not in play for cash or tournaments.
John Brown ($3,700): You’d have to go all the way back to Week 7 to find the last time Brown totaled more than 28 yards in a game. Since Jackson took over as the starter, Brown has seen 30 targets that have netted just eight receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown. That would be a good line in one game (Brown actually totaled 7/134/1 in Week 7 alone), but it’s horrendous over a span of seven games. The Chargers aren’t a defense to target with wide receivers, as they allowed the fifth-fewest PPR points to wide receivers this year. Brown was targeted six times against them two weeks ago, though it netted just two catches for 27 yards. He’s a more attractive option than Crabtree if you wanted to take a shot in a tournament, as Brown can pay-off in one play. It’s odd to see him not have a catch for more than 25 yards with Jackson, but that’s where we’re at after nearly half of a season working together. He’s nothing more than a cheap punt-option where you’re hoping for a long touchdown.
Willie Snead ($3,700): Since Jackson took over as the starter, it’s Snead who’s been the leading receiver in PPR formats, though that’s not saying much. Over the span of seven games, Snead has totaled 17 catches for 203 yards and no touchdowns. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since way back in Week 1 and hasn’t topped 61 yards all season, so there’s very little to work with here. The Chargers have Desmond King in the slot, who has limited receivers to just 8.5 yards per reception and 6.4 yards per target this year. He’s also allowed just two touchdowns on 78 targets, so it’s not likely that Snead gets out of his touchdown funk he’s in. He’s not someone you should be playing in cash and really lacks the upside needed for tournaments.
Hunter Henry ($2,500): Yeah, you read that right. Henry is supposedly going to be on the field for this game as he returns from an ACL injury he suffered this summer. A return from this injury after seven months is unheard of and he may be out there as nothing more than a decoy who’s eased back into action. The Ravens biggest weakness on defense has been with the tight end position, as they allowed the 11th-most PPR points per target on the season, which included four top-six performances along the way. With so much concern on Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams, it’s possible that Henry is the one who receives the least amount of attention from the Ravens secondary. He’s not someone I’d play in cash, as it’s very possible he plays 20 snaps, but why rush a player back if he’s not ready to go? Because of that, he’s in-play for tournament use. There are better options who offer a higher floor but if you’re creating more than just a couple lineups, you should get a few shares at just $2,500.
Mark Andrews ($3,500) and Hayden Hurst ($2,500): If there’s someone who hasn’t lost a whole lot of production with Jackson under center, it’s Andrews. In the seven games with Jackson, he’s totaled 308 yards and a touchdown. That’s good enough to be the TE10 in standard formats, but he takes a big hit in PPR scoring (which is what DraftKings is) and falls to the TE16 because he’s caught just 13 passes in those seven games. He relies on the big plays, as he’s failed to record more than five targets in any of the games. He did get one of those big plays against the Chargers two weeks ago when he scored a 68-yard touchdown, though that was a rare scenario against them this year. The Chargers allowed the third-fewest PPR points per target this year, as the addition of Derwin James has paid massive dividends. Knowing the Chargers allow just 6.15 yards per target to tight ends and have allowed a touchdown every 24.2 targets to them, Andrews should be nowhere near a cash lineup. With his big-play ability, he can be considered for tournaments, though he’s not a great option. As for Hurst, he’s been playing a consistent 17-30 snaps per game and he’s been targeted nine times over the last three games, but that’s not enough to rely on production, especially in a tough matchup. He did run 12 routes last week compared to Andrews’ 14 routes, so it’s not as big of a difference as some think. If you’re looking for a minimum priced tight end who will likely have less than two percent ownership, Hurst could be that guy.
Chargers ($2,400): Since having Jackson take over as the starter, the Ravens offensive line has done a great job protecting him, as mobile quarterbacks tend to take a lot more sacks than pocket passers. In the seven games with Jackson, they’ve allowed 15 sacks and no more than three in one game. Jackson also hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 12 and there’s been just one defensive/special teams touchdown against them all season. During their matchup two weeks ago, the Chargers did get to Jackson three times, but had just one fumble recovery outside of that while allowing 16 points, finishing as the No. 15 defense that week. You should be able to rely on a few sacks out of the Chargers defense and it’s not like they’ll allow the Ravens to rack up points on the scoreboard. If you’re looking for a cheap cash defense, the Chargers aren’t a bad option, though I still prefer the Colts defense. They’re not the best tournament play, but one bad pass can help you take down a tournament, so don’t cross them off.
Ravens ($3,000): One of the best defenses in the league will be at home and favored by 2.5 points in what’s projected to be a very close low-scoring game. They finished as the No. 1 defense in Week 15 when they played the Chargers on the road in Los Angeles, forcing a fumble, intercepting two passes, recording four sacks, and scoring a defensive touchdown. That was a rare case against the Chargers, as they’d not allowed a team to finish with more than 8.0 DraftKings points against them since way back in Week 3. Rivers was sacked just 32 times this year, which ranked 15th among quarterbacks, and there were just four games where he was sacked more than twice. Fortunately, for the Ravens, all four of those games came over the final seven weeks of the season, so it appears the offensive line is starting to fatigue. It just so happens that Rivers has also thrown multiple interceptions in four of his last seven games as well. The Ravens are playable in cash lineups and should get plenty of attention in tournaments as well as a home favorite.
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Line: CHI by 6.0
Nick Foles ($5,400): After suffering what’s being labeled as bruised ribs, Foles will go on the road to play a fierce Bears pass-rush. There were 12 games where Khalil Mack was healthy and on the field this year, and in those games, the Bears totaled 44 sacks, nearly four per game. Of the 38 quarterbacks who’ve played at least 25 percent of the team’s snaps, Foles ranks as the sixth-lowest pressured quarterback, so he’s had time to throw. When he has been pressured, Foles actually has a league-high 90.6 passer rating, completing 30-of-55 passes for 422 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Oddly enough, his quarterback rating isn’t much different when he’s kept clean. The Bears defense has been firing on all cylinders and will be playing at home in front of a crowd that hasn’t seen a home playoff game since the 2010 season. They’ve allowed just two passing touchdowns over their last six games and haven’t allowed a quarterback to score more than 11.5 fantasy points in that time. Included in that sample was Jared Goff, Aaron Rodgers, and Kirk Cousins. You’d have to go all the way back to Week 7 to find the last time the Bears allowed a quarterback to score more than 16.7 fantasy points against them. DraftKings could have made this a bit more interesting by giving him a $4,500 price-tag, but even then, he wouldn’t have been a great option. He’s not someone you should be playing in cash or tournaments.
Mitch Trubisky ($6,200): Since returning from his shoulder injury that kept him out two weeks, Trubisky hasn’t delivered the same performances we came to know over most of the season. He’s finished with 13.1 points or less in 3-of-4 contests during that time, though he’s taken care of the football and hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 14. It’s no secret that the Eagles secondary has been decimated by injuries and it’s forced them to send two of their starting cornerbacks to injured reserve. Because of that, they’ve faced the third-most attempts and allowed the second-most yards through the air. They’ve been extremely inconsistent on defense when it comes to stopping the pass and the run, as opposing teams have essentially picked where they want to attack. They have allowed at least 22 points in six of their last eight games, with the only two teams who didn’t cross that threshold being the Redskins, who were led by Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson. If you remove the Redskins from their opponent list, there’s now been 11 straight quarterbacks who’ve thrown for at least 269 yards against them, including six of them who topped 300 yards. A bonus for Trubisky is that the Eagles have struggled with mobile quarterbacks as well, allowing 265 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, including two to Deshaun Watson a couple weeks ago. He hasn’t run nearly as much since returning from his shoulder injury, though that could have been by design as the Bears locked up a playoff berth three weeks ago. His price is awfully high when you factor in that this game has the lowest total on the slate, so even though he’s not a bad play, he’s too expensive for cash. He’s a great play in tournaments because if the Bears choose to move the ball through the air, Trubisky could have a big day, especially when you factor in his rushing ability.
Josh Adams ($3,600), Wendell Smallwood ($3,300), and Darren Sproles ($4,100): Since Corey Clement went down with a year-ending injury, the snap counts have looked like this: Sproles 111, Adams 88, Smallwood 66. As you can see, it’s a clear tiered timeshare. You should also know that is a four-game sample, so none of them are averaging over 27.8 snaps per game. This is a problem when you’re going up against the team who allowed the fewest fantasy points to the running back position this year. They allowed just four rushing touchdowns all year (no other team allowed less than six rushing touchdowns), which amounted to one every 75.5 carries. Oddly enough, all the touchdowns they allowed were to the Packers and Lions, two divisional opponents. There have been four running backs who’ve had success and finished as a top-12 option against the Bears, so let’s go through the list: James White (19 touches), Kerryon Johnson (20 touches), LeGarrette Blount (20 touches), and Saquon Barkley (27 touches). That doesn’t look great for a three-way timeshare. Adams has touched the ball more than 15 times just twice, while Smallwood has totaled more than 16 times just once, and Sproles has maxed-out at 12 touches this year. Needless to say, none of them are playable in cash. If you want to play one in a tournament, I’d go with Adams, as he’s looked the best of the bunch and should get goal-line carries, though Smallwood has been mixing-in as well. It’s clearly a messy situation in a bad matchup which will drive down ownership, but that’s because it’s nothing more than a coin-flip.
Jordan Howard ($4,600) and Tarik Cohen ($5,400): Prior to holding Adrian Peterson and Alfred Blue (who each had four carries) to nothing, the Eagles run-defense has been among the worst in football. Prior to those two games, they had allowed a top-18 running back in nine straight games, including six top-five performances. Howard has been running much better as of late and the return of guard Kyle Long surely doesn’t hurt. After averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and five touchdowns from Weeks 1-12, Howard has posted a much better 4.5 yards per carry and four touchdowns from Weeks 13-17 and has totaled at least 15 touches in each of those five games. With DraftKings being a PPR format, it hurts him more than most, as he’s caught just nine passes in his last 10 games. That winds up meaning that he scores or busts, even at his low $4,600 salary. The Eagles have allowed just two rushing touchdowns in their last four games, so it’s far from a guarantee he finds the end zone. While I’d put the odds in his favor with the weather conditions and recent play, he’s not safe enough for cash given his lack of usage in the passing game. He is, however, someone who should be played in tournaments, as he can rush for 100 yards and score two touchdowns in this matchup. Cohen has cooled as of late, totaling just 37 touches over the last four games. The Bears have picked their spots to use him, as evidenced by his 13 and 14 target games this season, but do the Eagles present opportunity? Well, yeah. They allowed the second-most receptions (110) to running backs this year and the sixth-most points through the air to them. There’s been four separate occasions where the Eagles have allowed opposing running backs to record at least 10 receptions and 74 yards through the air alone. With Allen Robinson at less than 100 percent and Anthony Miller highly questionable, we should see Cohen play a big role in the passing-game this week. He isn’t a lock for cash lineups, but you also shouldn’t be opposed, as he’s posted at least 11.2 DraftKings points in 10 of the last 13 games despite his limited touch totals. He’s also very much in play for tournaments.
Alshon Jeffery ($5,900): The return to Soldier Field for Jeffery, who’ll get re-acquainted with Kyle Fuller, who he spent a few years with while on the team. Since Foles took over the team three weeks ago, Jeffery has totaled 18 targets, 16 receptions, 301 yards, and a touchdown, so it’s fair to say that Foles starting definitely doesn’t hurt his projection. The issue is that the Bears have been deadly to opposing receivers over their last 11 games. Take a look at the numbers below that represent the yardage of the opponent’s top-three wide receivers combined yardage against them:
|Week||Team||Yardage of Top-3 WRs Combined|
When trying to figure out what that amounts to, you’ll get a headache, especially when we’ve seen Jeffery, Agholor, and Tate all involved in the offense. Jeffery is the go-up-and-get-it receiver most quarterbacks feel confident throwing a 50/50 ball to, but will Foles reconsider that knowing the Bears secondary had a league-high 27 interceptions (no other team had more than 21)? Jeffery isn’t safe enough for cash lineups knowing how difficult the matchup is, but if Foles does give him a few chances on those jump-balls, we could see him score multiple touchdowns. Jeffery would be the preferred Eagles receiver in tournaments.
Nelson Agholor ($3,800): He’s likely going to be very popular this week when you consider his salary and recent surge in production with Foles. He’s caught 10 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns the last two weeks, which is tough to ignore, but knowing he did that against the Texans and Redskins is a little less impressive. Both of those teams have struggled down the stretch while the Bears are reeling and have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers over the last four weeks, which included games with the Rams, Packers, 49ers, and Vikings. He’s going to see Prince Amukamara the most in coverage, who is trusted in one-on-one coverage quite a bit. He’s allowed a 63.9 percent completion-rate in his coverage, but has kept the play in front of him, allowing just 11.5 yards per reception and three touchdowns on 83 targets. Of the wide receivers who have performed well against the Bears, it’s typically the top option on the opposing team, which would be Jeffery. I understand the want to play Agholor at just $3,800, but he’s not safe enough to play in cash. If you’d like to play him in tournaments, I have no issue with that, as he’s a full-time player who’s surged recently and is just $3,800 on a four-game slate.
Golden Tate ($4,200): You may have told yourself that by giving up a third-round pick for the expiring contract of Tate that the Eagles would have big plans for him. It’s time to admit that’s not the case. He’s now played less than 30 snaps in three of the last four games. In those games, he’s totaled 17 targets (no more than six in a game), 12 receptions, and 96 yards with no touchdowns. He and Foles do not appear to be on the same page. When on the field, Tate has the best matchup of the Eagles receivers, as the Bears lost starting nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan a few weeks back and have been forced to start Sherrick McManis in his place, a career special teams player. He’s only seen 69 targets in coverage over his entire nine-year career, allowing 48/606/6 on them, which is good for a 113.6 QB Rating. If the Eagles had hopes for Tate to help them advance, this is the matchup they need him most. He’s not playing enough snaps or getting enough targets for cash, but he’s definitely in play for tournaments.
Allen Robinson ($5,600): After sitting out the regular season finale, Robinson is expected back for this game. He apparently could’ve played last week if needed but seeing that the game didn’t mean anything to their seeding, he took the rest. Against the Eagles, he’ll see a mixture of everyone, though it’ll be Avonte Maddox more than the rest. He’s played well for a fourth-round rookie who was forced into a role, allowing a 54.5 percent catch-rate and just one touchdown on 33 targets. The veteran Robinson should be able to help raise those numbers, as he’s a rare combination of a wide receiver with a big frame (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and good footwork/route running. Prior to missing Week 17, Robinson had seen at least seven targets in each of the previous four games and that’s likely to continue with Anthony Miller dinged-up. There have been 21 wide receivers who’ve seen seven-plus targets against the Eagles, and all but two of them (Donte Moncrief who scored 9.4 PPR points and Jamison Crowder) scored double-digit PPR points. Robinson hasn’t scored a touchdown since back in Week 10, but given the matchup, he’s an attractive option. They didn’t price him very high, either, so he’s usable in cash lineups, though he’s not a necessity. He makes for a solid tournament option as the Bears clear-cut No. 1 option.
Taylor Gabriel ($4,500): Apparently, Gabriel dinged-up his ribs on his 40-yard reception last week, so it’s something to pay attention to as we lead up to Sunday’s game. If he practices in full by the end of the week, he should be all systems go against Rasul Douglas, the Eagles backup cornerback who was their third-round pick last year. He’s been in the starting lineup for quite some time (Week 6) with the injuries off and on to Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Sidney Jones. He’s been picked-on quite a bit since Week 10 where he’s allowed 47-of-66 passing for 590 yards and three touchdowns. His 4.59-second 40-yard-dash is the biggest concern for the Eagles, as Gabriel has the burners to sneak past him and Trubisky has been the second-most aggressive quarterback in the NFL this year, throwing 16.8 percent of his passes over 20 yards down the field. Gabriel has seen just 10 targets over the last three games, so he’s not someone you want to attack in cash games, but he’s a perfect target for tournaments. He’s the type of player who can pay-off in one play and his matchup is one that suggests he’ll get a few chances to connect on one of them. Provided he’s healthy, he could be one of the sneakiest plays on the slate.
Anthony Miller ($3,900): He injured his shoulder once again last week, the same one that caused him to miss time earlier this season. Combining that with the fact that he hasn’t seen more than four targets since back in Week 10 and it’s easy to avoid Miller in cash lineups. He leads the team with seven touchdowns on just 54 targets, so he’s a force to be reckoned with in the red zone, but if he’s playing through an injury, he could be a decoy. Former Bears cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc is the one who mans the slot for the Eagles, and he’s done a fine job while allowing just a 66.7 percent completion rate and one touchdown on 45 targets. During his three years in the league, he’s allowed just three touchdowns on 117 targets, so it’s not a matchup to attack aggressively for the Bears. Miller is nothing more than a touchdown-dependent tournament option this week.
Zach Ertz ($6,400): Remember when the move to Foles wasn’t supposed to put a dent in Ertz’s projections? Well, it’s been an up-and-down three weeks after he totaled just 3/22/0 against the Rams, then went and demolished the Texans for 12/110/2, but followed that up with three catches for 15 yards against the Redskins. All three matchups were good ones, while the Bears matchup has been among the worst in football for tight ends. They held tight ends to just 5.88 yards per target which was the lowest mark in the NFL, and that’s despite seeing a healthy 109 targets. They did allow five touchdowns to the position, though they haven’t allowed one since way back in Week 8. It also doesn’t help Ertz’s cause that Matt Nagy knows the Eagles playbook better than most as he worked under Doug Pederson while in Kansas City. You can also expect Trey Burton to help the Bears defense understand how they plan to use Ertz/Dallas Goedert, as he used to run routes for Pederson last year. Given his massive price-tag this week, he’s not a must-play in cash lineups, though there’s only two tight ends on the slate who fit the role that are guaranteed five-plus targets. I’d take the discount in cash and go with Eric Ebron, but you should definitely have some exposure to Ertz in tournaments.
Trey Burton ($4,400): We haven’t seen Burton as a vital part of the offense as most thought heading into 2018, but he’s started to become more involved the last four weeks, as he’s totaled 23 targets over the last four games, including at least five targets in each game. You’d still have to go all the way back to Week 7 to find the last time he totaled more than 40 yards and he’s scored one touchdown since Week 9. That’s hardly a lock for production, even if the targets are there. On top of that, the Eagles defense has been tough on opposing tight ends, allowing the fifth-fewest PPR points per target this year. A big part of that comes down to the fact that they allowed just two tight end touchdowns on the season, tied for the lowest mark in the league. On top of that, Doug Pederson knows the foundation of Matt Nagy’s offense, as they both come from the Andy Reid coaching tree. Any time you get a tight end who has eight-target upside like Burton does, he’s in-play for tournaments, even if the matchup isn’t ideal. You should be paying an additional $800 to move up to Eric Ebron in cash lineups.
Eagles ($2,200): They’re the cheapest defense on the slate and it makes sense, as they’re road underdogs who haven’t posted many sacks or turnovers this season. Their defense didn’t post a single top-10 week in scoring from Weeks 1-16, but finally got on the board in Week 17 against the Redskins who were down to their fourth-string quarterback. The Redskins were also the team who allowed the most fantasy points to opponents in 2018. Meanwhile, the Bears allowed just the 11th-fewest points to their opponent, and their offensive line just got Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long back last week. Trubisky hasn’t thrown an interception in each of the last three games and the Eagles intercepted just 10 passes all year, so this matchup doesn’t seem to bode well for the Eagles chances at forcing turnovers. They’re just a tournament option (as any team can be on a four-game slate) where you’re looking for a pick-six.
Bears ($3,400): They’re the biggest favorite of the week, at home, and their opponent has an implied total of just 17.5 points. On a slate with just four games, the Bears defense is the best option available, but it all comes down to whether or not they fit in your lineup with the salary allotted. With Khalil Mack healthy (off the injury report) and on the field, the Bears have racked-up 44 sacks in 12 games. This will be interesting because the Eagles have allowed just six sacks over their last five games, though three of them did come in Week 17 against the Redskins. Mack will be lined up across from Lane Johnson most of the game with Leonard Floyd going against Jason Peters, though they’ll mix it up at times. While their tackles are two of the best in the game, Mack often requires double-teams to slow him down. If you have the cash to use the Bears, go for it, as their pass-rush should find their way back to Foles at least three times, and Foles has thrown at least one interception in four of his five starts. They’re obviously in-play for tournaments as well.