The Primer: Wild Card Edition (2020 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.
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
Line: NO by 8.0
Kirk Cousins ($6,100): Remember when Cousins was dominating fantasy leagues for a while? That stretch of seven games before their bye week where he totaled 18 touchdowns with just one interception while hitting the 300-yard bonus four times was getting him MVP consideration by some. In their four games since their bye week, he’s totaled just five touchdowns with three interceptions and hasn’t topped 276 yards. He hasn’t topped 13.5 fantasy points in any of the last three games he’s played, so maybe the week off did him some good? The Saints defense has been a bit up-and-down throughout the year, showing glimpses of what could be a dominant defense at times, while allowing 48 points to the 49ers in others. As a whole, they’ve been slightly above average, allowing just 6.92 yards per attempt and a 61.5 percent completion-rate. This may be an issue for someone like Cousins who didn’t throw more than 38 pass attempts in a game all season. There have been seven quarterbacks who’ve been held to less than 15 fantasy points against the Saints, including Jameis Winston, Matt Ryan, Kyler Murray, and Dak Prescott, which is why you don’t want to play him in cash. He offers nothing with his legs, so if he’s having an off day through the air, there’s nothing to save his fantasy floor. Still, the Saints have allowed 11-of-16 quarterbacks to account for multiple touchdowns, which is why you can’t just write-off Cousins as a play in tournaments this week. We’ve seen pocket-passer Jimmy Garoppolo throw for 349 yards and four touchdowns against them on just 35 pass attempts, a passer who’s had similar hot/cold moments to Cousins over the course of his career. It will help that Dalvin Cook is expected to play in this game, as he’ll be a massive threat when the Saints are game-planning, and it’ll open play-action a bit. Cousins should be a tournament-only option in DFS this week.
Drew Brees ($6,600): If you were to take out the game Brees got hurt against the Rams, he’s thrown at least three touchdowns in each of his last seven non-Falcons games. Brees has started 15 career playoff games throughout his career and he’s averaged 317.3 yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game in them. Looking a bit more recent, he’s totaled 1,220 yards and nine touchdowns over his last four playoff games (305.0 yards, 2.3 touchdowns) that took place in 2017 and 2018. He’s now back at home for a playoff game against the Vikings who’ve been somewhat of a funnel defense this year, allowing the 17th-most fantasy points through the air to opposing quarterbacks (no rushing), though they have turned things around as of late. They haven’t allowed a quarterback to score more than 10.3 fantasy points or throw more than one touchdown in each of their last four games, though they did face-off against some struggling quarterbacks in David Blough, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, and Mitch Trubisky. Three of those four games were also in Minnesota, which helps. Still, holding four quarterbacks to just two touchdowns combined is an accomplishment. However, if you were to remove the games they played against Brandon Allen and Dwayne Haskins, the Vikings allowed at least 21 completions in every other game. With how accurate Brees is, especially while at home in the dome, we should see him rack-up the fantasy points, even if it’s eating them away little-by-little. He played against a better version of Mike Zimmer’s defense back in January of 2018 (divisional round) where he completed 25-of-40 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He’s one of the hottest quarterbacks on the planet and it’s tough to see him slowing down at home against these Vikings. He’s in-play for both cash and tournaments, as he should net more fantasy points than any other quarterback on the slate.
Dalvin Cook ($7,800) and Alexander Mattison ($4,800): It appears Cook will be a go for this game but trusting him in your lineup is a different story. Since Week 10, he’s carried the ball just 47 times, as he’s been knocked out of multiple games with multiple shoulder/chest injuries. Now having had three weeks rest, it’s a risk/reward situation, though the reward for running backs hasn’t been that great against the Saints this year. There were just three instances they allowed a running back to finish top-10, and two of them were Christian McCaffrey. Sure, we don’t need top-10 numbers on a small slate, but how about the fact that just nine running backs were able to finish top-30 against them? The losses of both defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and defensive end Marcus Davenport surely didn’t help, but even since losing them, they’ve held Marlon Mack to 19 yards on 11 carries, and then Christian McCaffrey to 26 yards on nine carries. Most don’t realize that Cook was struggling before the injury, as he hasn’t topped 3.7 yards per carry since way back in Week 8. The good news for him, however, is that he’s heavily used in the passing-game, averaging 4.5 targets per game, which includes his abbreviated games. If there’s been one area a running back can at least be average with efficiency against the Saints, it’s through the air, as the 1.52 PPR points per target is slightly above the league average. Another downside is that the Saints opponents have averaged just 23.8 running back touches per game, which doesn’t bode well for someone who was already in a slight 70/30 timeshare and coming off a multi-week shoulder injury. Still, there’s been just two games this year where Cook has played the full contest and failed to score a touchdown, meaning he’s the one they’ll turn to in scoring situations. If you’re expecting this to be a high-scoring contest, Cook should be in some of your tournament lineups, but he’s not a must-play in cash games. How is Mattison pricier than Sony Michel? He’s an easy fade as someone who’s also coming off a multi-week ankle injury.
Alvin Kamara ($7,400) and Latavius Murray ($5,000): After not scoring for nine straight games, Kamara has exploded for four touchdowns over the last two weeks. He’s still yet to have a 100-yard game on the ground this year, though his 4.7 yards per carry is actually more than he averaged last year. Since returning in Week 10, the only game he didn’t average at least 4.7 yards per carry was against the 49ers. The Vikings had been dominant against the run most of the year, though they’ve struggled a bit as of late while shifting focus to slowing down opposing passing games. Over the last five games (since their bye week), they’ve allowed 636 yards on 137 carries (4.64 yards per carry) with five touchdowns on the ground, while allowing another 36 receptions for 237 yards and one touchdown through the air. Another plus is that Vikings opponents have averaged a rather-high 65.8 plays per game, which allows for plenty of running back touches, as they faced an average of 27.5 per game this year. Knowing their recent struggles, combined with Kamara’s resurgence into the end zone, it’s tough not to play him, as he’s gamescript-proof. He’s my preferred play from the top-tier of running backs, and he also happens to be the cheapest. He’s playable in both cash and tournaments. Murray is someone who relies on a blowout to receive more than 8-10 touches, which is certainly problematic for cash games when you consider his primary role is carrying the ball and he hasn’t topped two receptions with Kamara back in the lineup. We can’t expect a blowout in a playoff game, and while it is possible, you save Murray for tournaments (but don’t have a lot of exposure). He’ll be low-owned due to his price (way too high), so if you’re playing large-field tournaments, he’s a guy that can help you take one down if he sneaks into the end zone a couple times, or Kamara has to leave with injury.
Stefon Diggs ($6,600): Things have died down for the Vikings passing-game as of late, though Diggs has managed to stay afloat, scoring at least 12.0 PPR points in four of the last five games. The return of Thielen has brought down his targets, though. After seeing nine target in back-to-back games in Weeks 13 and 14, he’s seen just 11 targets in the last two games. It’s no secret the Vikings want to be run-heavy on offense, but the Saints offense at home will be hard to contain, and it’s the reason receivers averaged 21.5 targets per game against them. The question is whether the Saints will shadow Diggs with Marshon Lattimore, or if they’ll just play sides now that Janoris Jenkins is in the fold. The Saints did shadow A.J. Brown in Week 16, though the Titans don’t have an Adam Thielen on the other side of the field. If someone were to get the Lattimore treatment, it’d be Diggs, which brings a level of risk to playing him. The good news, however, is that Diggs has wrecked this Saints defense the last three times they played, finishing with 10/119/1 last year, 6/137/1 in the 2017 playoffs, and 7/93/2 in the 2017 regular season. Lattimore was on the field for each of those games. Knowing there have been five wide receivers who’ve scored multiple touchdowns in a game against the Saints this year, Diggs definitely stays in the tournament pool for wide receivers. He’s not a bad play in cash, though he does come with some risk.
Adam Thielen ($6,200): His return has been… less than ideal. He’s totaled seven targets in the two games combined while catching just three of them for 27 scoreless yards. Did the week off give him the rest to fully get over his hamstring woes? The Vikings will need him in this game. The Saints have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year, and the volume certainly doesn’t hurt. They’ve faced 344 wide receiver targets, which also ranks as the fifth-most. Through all 16 games, the Saints allowed exactly 16 top-24 wide receiver performances against them, with another six wide receivers finishing as top-36 options. So, in the grand scope of things, they’re not opposed to allowing two fantasy relevant receivers in a game. In the Week 8 matchup last year, Thielen was able to haul in all seven of his targets for 103 yards and a touchdown. The difference? He’s not playing in the slot nearly as much and will likely match-up with Janoris Jenkins for much of the game. The Saints acquired him after the Giants cut him in Week 15. On the year, he’s allowed just a 55.6 percent catch-rate and a touchdown every 20.3 targets while intercepting five passes. He was the lone bright spot in the Giants secondary, and though he’s not a shutdown cornerback anymore, he is above average. Thielen is not someone you’re going to even consider in cash games given how little he’s produced since returning to the lineup, especially with his price. But he is a wide receiver we’ve seen dominate this Dennis Allen defense in the past, and we can’t forget the Saints defense allowed three different 49ers wide receivers finish as top-24 options just three weeks ago. Thielen remains in the tournament player pool.
Michael Thomas ($9,300): You play Thomas and you don’t think twice about it. Is that enough in this spot? You may be laughing but I’m serious. You have the best fantasy receiver in football about to go against what was one of the weakest cornerback units in the league. You know, the one that’s allowed four different receivers to tally 10-plus receptions, and seven receivers to finish with 106-plus yards. And don’t think that because Thomas is the go-to option that they can simply take him away. Don’t you think other teams would’ve done that? Or how about two weeks ago when the Vikings played the Packers? Everyone knows Davante Adams is the go-to option, right? Well, he caught 13-of-16 targets for 116 yards. Thomas is a lock in cash lineups and you’d better have him in tournaments as well.
Ted Ginn ($3,600): He’s a fading veteran who despite Brees’ dominance, hasn’t finished with double-digit PPR points since way back in Week 5. He’s seen just one or two targets in four of the last five games and hasn’t topped 50 yards since Week 1. He’s obviously not safe enough for cash games and he doesn’t present the upside necessary for tournaments, either. Can he catch one ball that goes for a 50-yard touchdown? Sure, but we can say that about anyone on the slate. He’s played just 62-of-206 snaps the last three games. There are far better options out there.
Tre’Quan Smith ($4,000): Not many have realized it, but Smith has now scored a touchdown in four of the last six games. Does it mean you can start him confidently? Absolutely not, as he’s caught just one or two balls in five of those games. The good news is that he’s coming off a season-high five targets in Week 17 where he caught all of them for 56 yards and a touchdown. He’s playing most of the snaps while the Saints rotate Ted Ginn with Deonte Harris and Krishawn Hogan. The issue with Smith’s projection here is that he’s got the toughest matchup among the Saints receivers, as the slot is where the Vikings have had the best play. Mackensie Alexander has allowed 41-of-60 passing, though the receptions have gone for an average of just 9.5 yards. That amounts to just 6.5 yards per target, which is far from ideal for a wide receiver who doesn’t get much volume. To be fair, he does play in the slot about 50-55 percent of the time, so he won’t always see Alexander in coverage, but it’s enough to make him strictly a tournament play who you’re looking for a touchdown(s) with.
Kyle Rudolph ($3,500) and Irv Smith Jr. ($2,700): As expected with Thielen back in the lineup, Rudolph has gone back to being essentially non-existent in the offense. It doesn’t help that he’s splitting targets with Smith, either. Some may scoff at that but take a look at their totals on the year. It was surprising to me.
Did you think it was that similar? I look at these players every week and it surprised me when putting them next to each other. Keep in mind that’s with Smith seeing just six targets over the first five games. This isn’t me saying Smith is a great play, but rather that you need to consider him if you want to attack a Vikings tight end. There have been nine tight ends who’ve tallied 41-plus yards against the Saints, which is a good sign for a fantasy floor, but they haven’t allowed much of a ceiling, as the 67 yards and one touchdown by George Kittle was the biggest performance they’ve allowed this year. Because of that, they’ve allowed the 10th-fewest points to the position, including just 1.67 PPR points per target. If you’re playing Rudolph, it’s because you’re looking for a touchdown in what’s projected to be the highest-scoring game. He’s edged out Smith in red zone targets 11-10, though that’s obviously not a big gap. They’re both hail-mary plays, so taking the discount with Smith makes sense.
Jared Cook ($4,900): He’s been one of the most consistent tight ends in fantasy football over the last few months, as he’s totaled at least 54 yards or a touchdown in each of the last 10 games. That’s not a misprint. Despite missing two full games since Week 5, he’s been the No. 3 tight end behind only George Kittle and Travis Kelce. Getting him at $4,900 seems like it’s a steal, though you should know just how good the Vikings have been against tight ends this year. Here’s a list of some of the relevant tight ends they’ve played with their results.
Despite having seven tight ends see eight-plus targets against them, there were just two of them who netted more than 13.2 PPR points. There are some big names on that list, too. All-in-all, they’ve allowed just 1.32 PPR points per target to tight ends while no other team in the league allowed less than 1.50 points per target. With how well Cook has played, even in tough matchups, I won’t tell you to avoid him, but you should know he hasn’t seen more than four targets in each of the last four games. If you can get a few hundred more, I’d likely prefer Goedert in cash, though Cook has been super-efficient as of late. He’s fine to play in tournaments.
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles
Line: SEA by 2.0
Russell Wilson ($6,800): After a ridiculous start to the season where he averaged 24.94 fantasy points over the first nine games, Wilson hasn’t even cracked 20.22 fantasy points since that time. Since the start of Week 10, Wilson was the No. 21 fantasy quarterback. He hasn’t thrown more than 286 yards or two touchdowns in any game, including his Week 12 matchup with the Eagles where he completed 13-of-25 passes for 200 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The 9.5 fantasy points he scored in that game was his worst total of the season, though the defense he’ll play this week may look a little different. Cornerback Ronald Darby is out for the year, while Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox are questionable. Those were the starting cornerbacks in Week 12. If you were to look at fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, you’d see they’ve allowed the 14th-fewest points, but if you remove rushing totals, they’ve allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to them. The 7.24 yards per attempt and 4.39 percent touchdown-rate aren’t far from the league average, but the reason quarterbacks tend to do well against them is based on volume, as not many teams have success running the ball. There have been six quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 39 pass attempts against them. Obviously, the Seahawks didn’t have Wilson drop back very often in the first matchup, as they won that game, 17-9. Will it be different the second time around? The unfortunate part is that it’s hard to see the Eagles rack-up points on anyone right now with how banged-up they are, and the Seahawks are not the type to run-up the score when they have a lead. Given Wilson’s price at $6,800, which is the highest on the slate, he’s an easy fade in cash. It’s hard to say he’s a great play in tournaments considering the lack of firepower on the Eagles offense, though it’s also hard to completely write-off one of the best quarterbacks in the game.
Carson Wentz ($6,200): Despite losing seemingly every pass-catcher, Wentz has managed to score at least 17 fantasy points in each of his last five games, though it doesn’t hurt that he played the Giants twice, Dolphins, and Redskins during that stretch. He also just lost one of the best offensive linemen in the league when they announced that Brandon Brooks was out for the remainder of the season. After losing him, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and likely Zach Ertz, Wentz is facing an uphill battle in this game. The Seahawks have allowed a mediocre 7.39 yards per attempt to quarterbacks in their zone-heavy scheme, but have really tightened up when it matters most, as they’ve allowed just 19 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. The 3.19 percent touchdown-rate is the fifth-best in football behind only the Patriots, Bills, Ravens, and Bears. Despite being near full-strength in their Week 12 meeting, Wentz completed 33-of-45 passes for 256 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions as the Eagles offense was able to put just seven points on the board. That game was at home as well, so the location didn’t make a difference. It’s tempting to trust Wentz in cash given his floor recently, but there are simply too many pieces missing against a defense that hasn’t been particularly giving to quarterbacks, as just one quarterback (Lamar Jackson) was able to finish better than QB9 against them all year. This strikes me as one of the lower scoring games, meaning you shouldn’t have too much exposure, even in tournaments.
Marshawn Lynch ($5,200) and Travis Homer ($5,300): It’s somewhat shocking to see Homer costing $100 more than Lynch this week considering the Seahawks said they’d be smart about bringing Lynch on slowly in his first game back. The noteworthy stat was that Homer did run 27 routes while Lynch ran just 9 routes, and also why we saw Homer tally five catches for 30 yards while Lynch wasn’t targeted. On a PPR site like DraftKings, you need to know these things. Unfortunately, the Eagles aren’t a team to attack with running backs. They’ve allowed just 3.72 yards per carry (4th-fewest) and 5.47 yards per target (11th-fewest) to running backs on the season. Not just that, but the volume hasn’t been great, either, as running backs have averaged just 24.1 touches per game against them. The 18.7 carries per game ranked as the third-lowest mark in football. Knowing the lack of volume and efficiency, it should come as no surprise to see just three running backs finish with more than 91 total yards against them all season. Given the fact that this looks like a 50/50 timeshare right now with Lynch the beneficiary of positive gamescript and Homer the beneficiary of negative gamescript, you have to project the outcome of this contest. It’s hard to see any situation where the Eagles pull away in a big way with the injuries they’ve dealt with, so I’d lean Lynch especially when you consider he’ll get all the goal-line work. Still, there’s enough uncertainty to avoid him in cash. He has two-touchdown potential, which does make him a viable tournament option. Homer is probably a better cash-game play, but you should not be willing to pay $5,300 for him.
*Editor’s Note: Miles Sanders will play on Sunday
Miles Sanders ($6,200), Jordan Howard ($4,900), and Boston Scott ($5,800): This running back group is probably the thing that will sway ownership the most in DFS this week, as Sanders would’ve been the lock had he not suffered an ankle sprain in the Week 17 win over the Giants. While Doug Pederson said that he expects Sanders to play, it creates a lot of uncertainty. The issue with the situation is that the Seahawks’ opponents have averaged just 24.6 running back touches per game against them (Eagles had just 21 in the Week 12 meeting), so when you factor in a three-way timeshare, it’s pretty ugly. We can almost consider Scott a slot receiver at this point, as he’s seen at least six targets in each of the last four games due to the shortage in receivers available. This matchup should treat him well, as the Seahawks have allowed 7.56 yards per target, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the NFL. The 0.99 PPR points per opportunity they’ve allowed to running backs is the third-highest mark in the NFL, behind only the Panthers and Jaguars. If Sanders can’t play, Scott should be considered a lock in cash games. To know that he performed well even while Sanders had his breakout, Scott’s the one you can play with some confidence in cash games, though DraftKings is making you pay-up for him. Sanders himself would have far too much risk for cash games, as ankle sprains don’t just heal overnight. You can consider him in tournaments, but my guess would be that his ownership will be higher than you’d like. Howard would only get consideration if Sanders were inactive, as he’s a two-down back who didn’t register a single touch in his first game back. If Sanders is ruled inactive, Howard would suddenly become an interesting option, as we know he’s extremely good around the goal-line, and Scott isn’t a running back built to withstand 20-plus touches like he got last week. The state of the offensive line is an issue, though, as them losing Brandon Brooks is going to sting. Howard would be someone to consider in tournaments, but he’s too touchdown-reliant to play in cash.
Tyler Lockett ($7,200): Outside of a bonkers game against the Panthers in Week 15 where he posted 120 yards and a touchdown, Lockett has failed to top 51 yards in six of his last seven games. The good news is that he’s seeing consistent targets now that the Seahawks have lost some of their pass-catchers. He’s totaled at least six targets in each of the last four games, though it hasn’t helped him produce consistently. When these two teams met in Week 12, he finished with just one catch for 38 yards on two targets, though the cornerback unit may look a bit different this time around. The Eagles have been dealing with a lot of injuries over the last month and it’s led to Golden Tate tagging them for 5/68/1, Randall Cobb for 5/73/0, and Steven Sims 5/45/1 over the last three games. We don’t know which cornerbacks will be out there for the Eagles this week, as both Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox are going to be listed as questionable. It looks like it’ll likely be Cre’Von LeBlanc in the slot, a cornerback who’s been solid when called upon over the years, though he’s played just 82 snaps all season. Lockett’s recent struggles can’t be ignored, as it’s nearly two months at this point, and DraftKings isn’t giving you any sort of discount, making him a hard one to recommend in cash games, though he’s a good play in tournaments.
D.K. Metcalf ($6,100): There were just 20 players who totaled at least 60 yards in nine different games. Metcalf was one of them while Lockett wasn’t. Some look at Lockett as the clear-cut No. 1 receiver on this team, but here’s their splits this season.
It’s much closer than anyone thinks it is, and it’s possible that Metcalf should be the No. 1 receiver this week with the matchup he’ll have. The Eagles have done a solid job with slot receivers through most of the season, though injuries have taken their toll. Still, of the 13 wide receivers who tallied 15-plus PPR points against the Eagles this year, 11 of them were perimeter-heavy receivers, like Metcalf. He’s going to see either Rasul Douglas, Jalen Mills, or Avonte Maddox in coverage this week, so it’s difficult to lock down which one he’ll see the most of in this game. What we do know is that Mills is a 4.61 guy while Douglas is a 4.59, and Maddox is a 4.39. Knowing Metcalf has had a touchdown and/or 75 yards in seven of the last nine games, we really need to stop doubting him. With so many injuries on the Seahawks offense, it’s no wonder he saw a career-high 12 targets last week. Considering the discount in price from Lockett, I’d rather play Metcalf in cash, while both have appeal in tournaments.
David Moore ($3,400): Now that Jaron Brown is out for the foreseeable future and Malik Turner is questionable with his concussion, Moore is a full-time player in the offense. He played 54 snaps in Week 17, which was easily his highest total of this year, and the fourth-highest mark of his career. Now onto a matchup with the Eagles cornerbacks, he might be a solid sleeper this week. Wilson’s receivers don’t typically need much volume to produce, so the fact that wide receivers have averaged 21.0 targets per game against the Eagles is very attractive. Moore has played all over the formation (35 percent LWR/25 percent RWR/40 percent slot) so there’s not one cornerback he’ll see specifically. Don’t get carried away with Moore, as he’s yet to see more than four targets this year, but he’s shown the ability to produce in this league when called upon. At $3,400, you should have a few shares in tournaments if you’re putting together 10-plus lineups.
Greg Ward ($5,200): There have been a lot of surprises this NFL season but not many can top Ward’s rise to fantasy relevance. He went from not playing a single snap in his NFL career (entered NFL in 2017) to seeing 40 targets over his first six games. He’s turned them into 28 receptions for 254 yards and a touchdown. Each of his last three games have netted 10.3 or more DraftKings points, and knowing the Eagles are likely to be without Zach Ertz this week, he should be locked into six-plus targets once again. The Seahawks run a zone-heavy scheme and Ward is running 60 percent of his routes, so he should be a solid check-down option for Wentz, as they’re willing to give up the short plays. The 12.4 receptions per game they allowed to wide receivers ranked as the 13th-most, though the 155.4 yards per game ranked as the 13th fewest. You kind of have to chip away at their defense, which works for the role Ward has been playing for the Eagles with Nelson Agholor out of the lineup. There have been 19 wide receivers who’ve totaled 12.8 or more PPR points against the Seahawks with eight of them being slot-heavy receivers, which is a high ratio. Ward isn’t likely going to break the slate with upside, but he’s safe enough to consider in cash lineups. There may be better options out there, but salary will dictate which player you gravitate towards, and you’ll have a hard time finding a cheaper receiver locked into as many targets as Ward is. I do, however, believe he’s a better cash play than tournament one with the type of player he is combined with the type of defense he’s playing against.
Robert Davis ($3,200): If you played preseason DFS, you may remember Davis, as he hauled in two long touchdowns and helped some win money. That was with the Redskins, but he’s been thrust into the Eagles starting lineup, as they clearly do not trust JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who ran just 10 routes to Davis’ 33 routes in Week 17. Unfortunately, those routes led to just two targets and zero catches. He’s a speedster who can get behind a defense, though the Seahawks have done a good job limiting those big plays, as the six plays of 40-plus yards ranks as the fifth-fewest in the NFL. Davis is worth a flier in big tournaments given his full-time role, but you’re looking for a big play for him to pay off.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside ($3,300) and Deontay Burnett ($3,100): These two rotated behind Ward and Davis last week, as Arcega-Whiteside played 17 snaps while Burnett played 15 snaps. The difference was that Burnett was actually targeted four times while Arcega-Whiteside didn’t see a single target. The Eagles drafted Arcega-Whiteside in the second-round of this year’s draft, so they clearly liked him as a prospect, but even despite all the injuries, he’s failed to record more than two receptions in a game. While I don’t believe either of these two are good plays, Arcega-Whiteside is the better bet for a touchdown at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, while Burnett is better suited as a slot receiver at 6-foot-0 and 186 pounds.
Jacob Hollister ($4,300): After bursting onto the fantasy scene with 99 yards and three touchdowns in Weeks 9 and 10, Hollister has failed to find the end zone in each of the last six games. He’s averaged 35.3 yards per game since then, though he has delivered a decent floor, as he’s finished with at least 5.3 PPR points in each of the last five games, including two games in the double digits. While that may not seem like much, we’re talking about a four-game slate at an extremely volatile position. The next issue is that the Eagles are pretty dang good at defending the tight end position, though they have slipped a few times in the last month, allowing Kaden Smith 8/98/0 last week and Mike Gesicki 5/79/1 in Week 13. With the injuries/suspensions on the Seahawks roster (Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Jaron Brown, Josh Gordon), there are targets up for grabs, as the Seahawks are likely to struggle running the ball on the Eagles. Knowing Hollister has seen at least six targets in four of the last five games, he deserves cash-game consideration if you can’t get up to Goedert. Almost every tight end should be considered in tournaments on a four-game slate and Hollister is no different.
*Editor’s Note: Zach Ertz was cleared to play on Saturday
*Zach Ertz ($6,000), Dallas Goedert ($5,200), and Joshua Perkins ($2,900): I’ll be clear and say that I don’t believe Ertz plays in this game just two weeks removed from a lacerated kidney and cracked ribs. DraftKings almost ensures you won’t play him by pricing him at $6,000 for this game. Even if active, he comes with so much risk that he can’t be considered in cash. Goedert is a different story, as he’s in play even if Ertz is active. Everyone knows the Cardinals were the worst team in the league at defending tight ends, right? Did you know who the second-worst team was? The Seahawks. They allowed 97 receptions (4th-most) and 1,099 yards (2nd-most) to the tight end position, and that allowed 10 different tight ends to post double-digit PPR points against them this year. There were seven tight ends who racked-up at least six receptions against them, highlighting their inability to consistently defend the position. Goedert will get the targets, as he’s now seen at least six in each of the last seven games, including 22 targets over the last two weeks with Ertz out of the lineup (even though he was partially available in Week 16). He hasn’t scored fewer than 7.1 PPR points since way back in Week 5 and now has one of the best matchups available to tight ends, making him the preferred cash-game play on the slate. If Ertz is out (like we expect), Josh Perkins even becomes an interesting cheap option, as he’s seen five-plus targets in two of the last four games. He’s more of a tournament play, but could get cash-game consideration if we see both Ertz and Miles Sanders get ruled out.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans
Line: HOU by 3.0
Josh Allen ($6,500): The Bills decided to give him the day off against the Jets after just two series’ where he threw a few screen passes and one ball down the field. Prior to that contest, Allen’s had somewhat of a rough go over the last three games, completing just 43-of-90 passes (47.8 percent) for 493 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in that time. To be fair, he was playing against some tough opponents, as the Ravens, Steelers, and Patriots were all top-four defenses against fantasy quarterbacks this year. The fact that he did just play those three brutal matchups may be a good thing, as everything might come a bit easier against the Texans, as they allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the quarterback position and have not generated any pressure. Their sack-rate of just 5.0 percent ranks as the fourth-lowest in the NFL. The 5.60 yards per carry they’ve allowed to quarterbacks is also the second-highest mark in the league. There were five different quarterbacks who rushed for at least 20 yards against the Texans, and then another two of them who rushed for touchdowns, so there should be fantasy points to be had on the ground for the mobile Allen. It also doesn’t hurt that the Texans secondary is a bit banged up, as cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Bradley Roby are dealing with hamstring injuries. Even with them relatively healthy throughout the year, they’ve allowed 8-of-16 quarterbacks to hit the 300-yard mark and 11-of-16 quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns. This game is in a dome, so there are no weather conditions to worry about, either. Allen makes for a rock-solid cash-game quarterback and one who comes with enough upside for tournaments, too.
Deshaun Watson ($6,400): This probably wasn’t the way Watson and the Texans offense wanted to limp into the playoffs, but here we are. Over the last three games he played, Watson has completed just 66-of-109 passes for 719 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns, which helped prop-up his fantasy numbers, but the bottom line is that Watson hasn’t thrown the ball particularly well over the last month. Now onto a matchup with the Bills, who didn’t allow a quarterback to average more than 8.32 yards per attempt all year, while allowing just three quarterbacks to throw more than one touchdown. There was no quarterback who finished better than the QB10 against them, and that includes Lamar Jackson who finished with 19.8 fantasy points and as the QB13 in Week 14. They held Jackson to just 40 rushing yards in that game, which was his second-lowest total on the season for him. It all makes sense when you see they’ve allowed just 2.77 yards per carry to quarterbacks, which is the lowest mark in the NFL. The lack of yards per attempt is the biggest issue for Watson, though, as he’s thrown more than 34 pass attempts just three times all season. The 6.19 yards per attempt, 2.71 percent touchdown-rate, and lack of rushing totals for opposing quarterbacks doesn’t bode well for Watson, especially in cash games. If you want to play Watson, do so in tournaments only, though I don’t think he’s a particularly great option in them, either, considering the Bills have not allowed a quarterback more than 22.7 fantasy points since way back in 2017.
Devin Singletary ($6,000): The Bills have told us all we need to know with Singletary, as he received every running back touch in the Week 16 game against the Patriots and was then rested for the Week 17 game against the Jets. He’s their workhorse, though we still do have to worry about the fact that he’s third in line for carries inside the five-yard-line. The Bills have totaled 22 carries inside the five this year and Singletary has received just two of them. Some see the Texans and think they’re good against the run due to how dominant they’ve been over the last few years, but that really hasn’t been the case this year. After allowing a massive 200-yard performance to Derrick Henry in Week 17, they vaulted up to the team that allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. The 4.61 yards per carry they’ve allowed is nice, but the area Singletary can shine is in the passing-game, as they allowed 15.1 PPR points per game through the air alone to running backs, which is the highest number in the NFL. There have been four games this year where Singletary has racked-up six-plus targets. It’s not shocking to see that each of those four teams he did that against pressured the quarterback well, forcing Allen to dump-off more than usual. The Texans haven’t had a great pass-rush this year, which is the only concern. We still have a running back who’s going to get 15-plus touches against a defense that’s allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per opportunity to running backs. He’s a sturdy cash option for those looking to save some money, though the lack of scoring chances does make him slightly less attractive.
Carlos Hyde ($5,100) and Duke Johnson ($4,400): The Texans have told us time and time again that Hyde is the lead back here, and it was all but confirmed when they had Johnson on the field for 21 snaps in a game they rested their starters. If the Texans want to beat the Bills, they’re going to need their ground-game to do a lot of work. The Bills haven’t allowed a running back to total more than 137 total yards all season, but there have been 10 running backs who’ve tallied 92-plus total yards. They’d also had a big problem allowing rushing touchdowns over the first three-and-a-half years under Sean McDermott, though they’ve seemingly turned a corner as of late, as they’ve allowed just two rushing touchdowns over their last nine games, which comes after allowing seven rushing touchdowns in their first seven games. The issue with Hyde is that he’s touchdown-or-bust, as he’s not involved in the passing game at all (10 receptions all season) and has eclipsed 90 total yards just three times all season. Knowing that running backs averaged just 25.6 touches per game against the Bills, it’s tough to say Hyde should be considered anything more than a tournament play who you’re hoping to land two touchdowns with. He hasn’t done that all year, which should worry you, as it would make his best-case scenario something like 80-100 yards and a touchdown. Johnson doesn’t have much appeal with his limited touches, as he totaled just seven touches in the two games leading up to Week 17. The Bills have allowed 10 different running backs to rack-up 32-plus receiving yards, and if Fuller can’t play, it allows for more targets available. Johnson does offer more big-play upside and comes cheaper than Hyde, which makes him more appealing for tournaments, though he’s scored more than 13.4 DK points just twice all year.
John Brown ($6,000): There may be some who forgot just how consistent Brown was prior to the last month, as matchups with the Broncos, Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, and Patriots will do that. The good news is that Brown was still able to record double-digit PPR points in all but one of those game, though his upside did cave. The Texans have been better against wide receivers since they added Gareon Conley, though heavily-targeted receivers can still get the job done. Over the last three weeks, we’ve watched A.J. Brown total 25.4 and 22.4 PPR points, while Breshad Perriman tagged them for 17.2 points, and Justin Watson recorded 15.3 points. They also have a few of their cornerbacks dealing with hamstring injuries, as Johnathan Joseph was pulled from Week 17’s game, and Bradley Roby has been dealing with his for a few weeks. Joseph said he expects to play, but if he’s playing at less than 100 percent, it’s good news for Brown. Since joining the Texans in Week 8, Conley has allowed 20-of-42 passing for 260 yards and two touchdowns, which are solid marks, though there is silver-lining for Brown. He’s scored four of his six touchdowns on go-routes this year, while Conley has allowed two of his six touchdowns on them. Conley isn’t slow, but he’s clearly had an issue, while Joseph may be playing at less-than-100-percent and 35 years old. The Bills should be able to get the matchups they want for Brown, and knowing he’s seen eight-plus targets more often than not, he has cash-game appeal (especially when you consider his price) with upside for tournaments.
Cole Beasley ($5,600): Despite not playing in the Week 17 contest, here’s a list of a few players Beasley scored more fantasy points than in 2019: Christian Kirk, Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson, Mike Williams, Marquise Brown, and Tyrell Williams. The difference is that everyone wanted to play those guys as WR3/4 options, but nobody wanted to play Beasley. He finished with 9.0 or more PPR points in 12-of-15 games, which is something only 12 other wide receivers did more often. The list: Michael Thomas, John Brown, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Julian Edelman, Chris Godwin, Deandre Hopkins, Cooper Kupp, Jarvis Landry, Devante Parker, Allen Robinson, and Courtland Sutton. Every one of those receivers will be drafted in the top-24 next year. The Texans also happen to have an issue in the slot, as they’ve allowed 94-of-130 passing for 1,210 yards and 11 touchdowns as a team while covering the slot this year. They’ve had to resort to Vernon Hargreaves to cover slot receivers while Bradley Roby deals with a hamstring injury. Roby himself isn’t someone who did well in the slot earlier this year, anyway. There have been seven slot-heavy receivers who’ve tallied double-digit PPR points against the Texans, so the matchup shouldn’t worry you, either. Beasley is a solid high-floor option, though his price is now reflecting that. He can be considered in cash, though I’d prefer to take Brown who comes with more ceiling and a similar floor.
Deandre Hopkins ($7,700): The last time we saw Hopkins on the field, it wasn’t great as he totaled just five catches for 23 yards against the horrendous Bucs secondary. The Texans pass-game hasn’t been clicking for a few weeks, though Hopkins was able overcome that in Weeks 14 and 15 when he totaled 119-plus yards in each contest, so we can’t overreact. His target floor would get a boost if Fuller were forced to miss the game, though Hopkins is likely to see a shadow from Bills shutdown cornerback Tre’Davious White in this game. He’s been among the best cornerbacks in the league this year, allowing just 47-of-84 passing for 552 yards in his coverage. What’s even more impressive is that he’s still yet to allow a touchdown in his coverage while intercepting six passes. Combing through the Bills game logs this year, you’ll see that just two No. 1 wide receivers were able to tally more than 10.7 PPR points against the Bills. Those wide receivers were Devante Parker (who did it twice) and Amari Cooper. They’re not similar in any way, so we can’t say there’s a trend with a certain type of receiver they struggle with. Against wide receivers as a whole, Parker was the only wide receiver who hit 100 yards against them this year. The lone piece of good news for Hopkins is that White’s traditionally stationed at LCB, while Hopkins is on the other side of the field nearly 60 percent of the time. White has allowed 2.7 more yards per target while aligned at RCB. Hopkins isn’t someone I’d want to play in cash with his brutal matchup/high salary, though I wouldn’t cross him off tournament sheets, as he’s even more talented than White. Hopkins hasn’t seen less than seven targets in a game this year, something only Michael Thomas and Julio Jones can also say.
*Editor’s Note: Will Fuller was declared inactive on Saturday
Will Fuller ($4,900): It’s going to be a question all week. Will Fuller be able to suit-up for their playoff game? He’s dealt with multiple hamstring strains this year, and when this game takes place, it’ll be just two weeks to the day since he suffered this one. Even if he does play, there’s no possible way you can trust him in cash lineups. It also doesn’t help that the Bills allowed the fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards this year, as there were just 34 of them against them. The lone piece of good news is that Levi Wallace, the starting cornerback who plays opposite Tre’Davious White suffered an ankle injury and is likely to be questionable himself. Considering White is almost certainly going to shadow Hopkins, that would put Taron Johnson on the perimeter against Fuller if Wallace were forced to sit. Wallace is a 4.6-second cornerback while Johnson has 4.5-second speed, so that could be an issue for them covering the speedy Fuller, though the safety play of the Bills is top-notch, hence the reason they haven’t allowed the big plays. Fuller is nothing more than a tournament play this week, though not one you should have a ton of exposure to knowing that even if he plays, he may not be at 100 percent.
Kenny Stills ($4,600): His appeal in this game will have a lot to do with Fuller being in or out for the game, as his role/alignment changes dramatically. With Fuller on the field, Stills runs most of his routes from the slot, which is where the Bills have struggled a bit. Of the 17 wide receivers who’ve hit double-digit PPR points against them, seven of them were slot-heavy receivers, including each of the top-three performances they’ve allowed (Jarvis Landry, Jamison Crowder twice). The downside is that Stills doesn’t match the profile of those receivers at all, as he’s more of a big-slot receiver. The Bills also haven’t allowed many big plays to wide receivers, which is something Stills has relied upon for production, as he’s tallied more than four receptions just once this season. Knowing the Bills were the best in the league at limiting the big plays (as evidenced by the league-low 34 pass plays of 20-plus yards), it’s a bit concerning. If Fuller were forced to sit this one out, Stills would move to the perimeter where he’d match-up with either Levi Wallace or Taron Johnson. While they’re better a better matchup for him than Tre’Davious White, there’s been no receiver who’s scored more than 12.8 PPR points with less than five receptions. Stills is nothing more than a hail-mary tournament play, though not a great one in this matchup.
Dawson Knox ($2,900): He’s their clear-cut No. 1 tight end after they ruled him inactive in Week 17, though we already kind of knew that with his snaps and routes over the last month. Still, it hasn’t amounted to the volume we need to play him confidently. He hasn’t tallied more than four targets since way back in Week 10. That was also the last time he recorded more than 37 yards. The Texans have not been a team you need to avoid with tight ends, but they’re also not one you need to target, either. They’ve allowed 1.74 PPR points per target, which is the 14th-lowest mark in the league, though teams have felt the need to attack that part of the field against them, as tight ends have averaged a healthy 7.3 targets per game against them. There have been nine tight ends who tallied at least four receptions against them but allowed just three tight ends to score more than 11.6 PPR points. Knox makes for an interesting pivot off someone like Cole Beasley in tournaments, as his salary is much more reasonable than the slot receiver’s. If you’re looking for a bottom-of-the-barrel option in cash lineups, Knox isn’t terrible.
Darren Fells ($3,000) and Jordan Akins ($2,800): After watching Akins out there in Week 17 for a game that meant absolutely nothing, we know Fells is the one they value much more. Still, this duo has shared a role throughout the season that forces us to look elsewhere. You’d have to go back to Week 8 to find the last time one of them finished with more than 10.4 PPR points and they’ll now go against the Bills, a defense that’s been the best in the NFL against tight ends over the last two years. Over 32 games, they’ve allowed just 109 receptions for 1,087 yards and nine touchdowns. That would be less than 10 teams allowed in 2019 alone. There was just one tight end who tallied more than 48 yards against them all season, and that was Hayden Hurst, who caught three passes for 73 yards which included a 61-yard play. Fells and Akins have combined for one play over 24 yards all season. Even if one of them averaged five targets per game, it’d be a tough matchup we’d have to talk ourselves into. Knowing it’s an ugly timeshare, it’s easy to avoid them.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
Line: NE by 4.5
Titans notable injuries: CB Adoree Jackson (foot)
Patriots notable injuries: CB Jason McCourty (groin)
Ryan Tannehill ($6,300): Since Week 7 when Tannehill took over the starting job, there have been just two quarterbacks who’ve tallied 17.9 or more fantasy points in more than seven games. One is Lamar Jackson, while the other is Tannehill. In fact, there are just three quarterbacks who did it more than Tannehill over the course of the whole season… Jackson, Dak Prescott, and Patrick Mahomes. If he’d played the full season, he’d be a legitimate MVP candidate. The issue standing in his way is the Patriots defense that’s been a nightmare to go against most of the season. Through a complete 16-game season, they allowed just 12 passing touchdowns while intercepting 25 passes. The good news is that they’ve allowed five of their six biggest fantasy performances over the last seven weeks. There were just two quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns against them, though they came in Week 13 (Deshaun Watson) and Week 16 (Josh Allen). Watson was the only quarterback to eclipse 8.0 yards per attempt against them, but don’t forget that was the game the Patriots defense had the flu and had to fly in on a separate plane. While Tannehill hasn’t averaged less than 7.8 yards per attempt since back in Week 8, this is going to be his toughest test against a defense that’s allowed an average of just 5.99 yards per attempt on the year. They have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks, though Lamar Jackson‘s 61 yards and two touchdowns definitely take up most of the production. Knowing that no quarterback has thrown for more than 234 yards without throwing 40-plus pass attempts is a bit worrisome, as Tannehill hasn’t thrown more than 39 pass attempts all season and hasn’t thrown more than 27 attempts in six of the last seven games. While it’s tough to bet against Tannehill right now, we know the Patriots team is always well-prepared come playoff time. Tannehill isn’t safe enough for cash and likely doesn’t have the upside for tournaments.
Tom Brady ($5,800): For those who’ve been saying that Brady will turn it on when he needs to, there’s no better time than now. He’s been terribly mediocre since Week 5. Over his last 11 games, Brady has completed 255-of-426 passes for 2,648 yards, 14 touchdowns, and six interceptions. That amounts to just a 59.9 percent completion-rate, 6.22 yards per attempt, a 3.29 percent touchdown-rate, and 15.05 fantasy points per game. His numbers over that time compare to Mason Rudolph, who finished the season with a 62.2 percent completion-rate, 6.24 yards per attempt, and a 4.59 percent touchdown-rate. But again, we’re in the playoffs, which is usually the time Brady shows up. The Titans lost cornerback Malcolm Butler back in Week 9 and have been without Adoree Jackson each of the last four weeks, forcing them to play Logan Ryan, Tramaine Brock, and LeShaun Sims/Tye Smith as their starting trio of cornerbacks. The four of them have combined to allow 45-of-60 passing for 526 yards and four touchdowns over the last four games, which included a game against the Texans backups. If there’s a weakness, it’s their cornerback depth. Each quarterback they’ve played in that time finished top-15, including A.J. McCarron. If you’re playing by the numbers, Brady doesn’t have the floor or ceiling you want out of a DFS quarterback. If you’re playing the narrative game that playoff Brady is different and that he’s the key to the Patriots winning, though I’ll warn you that Brady played three playoff games last year and threw just two touchdowns combined in them with a better supporting cast. He doesn’t offer the floor you want in cash games, so if you want to take a shot, do it in tournaments.
Derrick Henry ($8,200): I think it’s fair to say Henry’s hamstring is doing okay, eh? He’s now totaled at least 103 rushing yards in five of the last six games he’s played in, while scoring 12 touchdowns in his last seven games. The Titans offense has been a tough one to stop since Tannehill took over, scoring at least 27 points in seven of the last nine games. Meanwhile, the Patriots defense has allowed more than 17 points scored on them just four times all season. Touches have been the hardest thing to come across against the Patriots, as they faced an average of just 23.1 running back touches per game, which was the second-lowest mark behind only the Ravens. They also allowed just three running back touchdowns all season, which was easily the lowest number in the league, as no other team allowed fewer than seven running back touchdowns. Even worse for Henry was that just one of those touchdowns came on the ground, where he’s scored 16 of his 18 this year. The good news is that we know Henry is the workhorse and is going to get almost all the touches in this backfield, as he’s tallied at least 19 touches in each of his last six games. The Patriots have faced just six running backs all season who totaled more than 16 touches, and five of those running backs were able to record 100-plus total yards. The issue? None of them recorded more than 18.6 PPR points. When you’re paying $8,200 for a running back, you’d better be sure he’s going to crack 20.0 PPR points, even on a small slate like this. Henry is absolutely in play for tournaments, as he offers one-play potential from anywhere on the field, though he’s not a must-play in cash lineups with his price.
Sony Michel ($4,600), James White ($5,700), and Rex Burkhead ($4,500): This backfield was always one that could net value, provided you were able to figure out which one would receive the most touches. Unfortunately, nobody has stood out as much as we’d like. Here are the touch totals since their bye in Week 10.
While Michel is the clear-cut leader here who’s seemingly locked into the most touches, he’s also been the least efficient. To be fair, he’s picked it up over the last three weeks and has averaged 92.7 total yards per game. It’s clear they don’t want Burkhead to be more than a 7-9-touch guy, while White benefits most if the gamescript goes south. The Titans have not been a team you continually attack on the ground, as they’ve allowed just three running backs to record more than 82 rushing yards against them all season while allowing 4.00 yards per carry. They have, however, allowed multiple rushing touchdowns to three different running backs this season. That bodes well for Michel, who did absolutely crush in the postseason last year, averaging 112.0 rushing yards and 2.0 touchdowns per game. With Brady struggling, it would make sense for them to try and ride Michel in a neutral gamescript, though he makes for a much better tournament play with how little (non-existent) he’s involved in the passing game. With that being said, getting a running back who’s slated to get a big workload for just $4,600 does have appeal in cash games. I’d say the odds might actually be better for Michel scoring a touchdown than Henry, who’s almost double in salary. I’m not saying Michel is the better play, but rather he’s someone to at least consider if trying to pay up at wide receiver. The Titans have allowed the third-most receptions to running backs this year, and although they’ve allowed just three receiving touchdowns to them, the 12.2 PPR points per game they allowed through the air to running backs was the eighth-most in football. White’s lack of touches over the last three weeks are concerning, as Burkhead has out-touched him in each game, but White is still the one I’d trust with the game on the line and the one who has higher touch-upside. You should have some exposure to White in tournaments, but given his price, I’m okay fading him in cash games. If you want to play Burkhead, he’s a better cash play than he is a tournament one, though I’d rather shoot for someone with more touch potential.
A.J. Brown ($7,400): It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots handle Brown, as we’ve watched him obliterate the league over the last six weeks. In that time, he’s racked-up 667 total yards and six touchdowns. The only receiver who’s outscored in him in that time is Michael Thomas. There comes a point where you just stop expecting regression and have to just ride the hot wave, and that’s the point we’ve reached with Brown, though the Patriots have not been a team to attack with wide receivers. In Week 17, Devante Parker became the first perimeter-heavy wide receiver to score more than 12.4 PPR points against the Patriots this year. The other top-six performances they’d allowed were all to wide receivers who play the majority of their snaps in the slot, an area Brown runs just 10 percent of his routes from (that’s extremely low). Will the Patriots shadow him with Stephon Gilmore? If you recall the last two times these teams met, Corey Davis has gotten the better of him. He tagged him for 63 yards and two touchdowns in the 2017 playoff game, and then snagged 125 yards and a touchdown in their Week 10 meeting last year. Gilmore has given props to Davis and his talent, but Brown has emerged as the clear No. 1 in this offense. Brown’s hot streak, combined with Parker’s eight-catch, 137-yard game last week, and you don’t have a must-avoid situation with Brown like we’ve done with receivers against the Patriots all year. He’s probably not someone I’d recommend playing in cash given how tough the matchup is combined with the fact that he’s seen five or less targets in four of his last seven games but having some exposure in tournaments makes sense.
Corey Davis ($3,800): Some will just glaze their eyes over Davis and continue reading others, but you shouldn’t be one of them. There’s something Davis does that the Patriots can’t seem to figure out, as his last two games against them have netted 188 yards and three touchdowns, which included a two-touchdown game in the 2017 playoffs. He’s gotten the best of Stephon Gilmore in each game so you must wonder if they’ll have Gilmore on Brown, while asking Jason McCourty to cover Davis. The issue there is that McCourty himself is questionable with a groin injury that’s allowed him to be on the field for just eight snaps over the last six weeks. If he were forced to miss this game, J.C. Jackson would be stepping in opposite Gilmore. While Jackson is extremely good himself, he’s not the shutdown cornerback Gilmore is, and he’s never asked to cover top-tier receivers. As mentioned in the Brown notes, Devante Parker was the first perimeter wide receiver who finished with more than 12.4 PPR points against the Patriots this year, so upside has been non-existent against this defense. Davis’ price of $3,800 is appealing, though he should be reserved for tournament lineups as a pivot off Brown. It’s very possible to see a situation where Davis catches five balls for 60 yards and a touchdown, which would be huge at his cost, though as we’ve witnessed all year, nothing is a given with him.
Tajae Sharpe ($3,800): To put his price even with Davis’ feels odd, but knowing how little Davis has produced, it kind of makes sense. Still, Sharpe isn’t someone that should be considered as anything more than a hail-mary, as he’s seen more than four targets just once all year. He’s also topped 31 yards just twice. He’ll see a lot of Jonathan Jones in the slot, the cornerback who’s allowed just 360 yards and two touchdowns all year while in the slot. However, he has struggled as of late with Jason McCourty out of the lineup, allowing 20-of-27 passing for 322 yards and three touchdowns over the last six weeks in his coverage (being asked to play on the perimeter a lot more). There have been just two wide receivers all year who’ve finished with 12-plus PPR points against the Patriots while seeing less than seven targets. Those receivers were Kenny Stills and John Brown, who both broke big plays, not something Sharpe is known for. I’d rather play Davis.
Julian Edelman ($6,500): He picked the wrong time to cool off, though injuries seem to be playing a big role in his demise. After seeing 10-plus targets in eight straight games, Edelman has seen just 5-6-7 over the last three weeks, and it’s clearly affected his fantasy output, as he’s failed to record more than 5.6 PPR points in two of them. If there’s someone who can dig deep and grind out a game in the playoffs, it’s him. The Titans have been shorthanded in their secondary since losing Malcolm Butler in Week 9 and have been without their top cornerback Adoree Jackson the last four weeks. Edelman’s matchup is going to be with Logan Ryan, though, as he’s the one who plays all the snaps and moves to the slot when opponents go three-wide. Ryan has allowed a 70.4 percent catch-rate in his coverage this year with a touchdown every 19.0 targets. All-in-all, quarterbacks have a 97.8 QB Rating when targeting him. Edelman and the Patriots know him extremely well, as he was a former teammate. The last time they played (Week 10 of last year), Edelman caught 9-of-12 targets for 104 yards. The recent performances will back some off Edelman and lower his ownership, but when the game’s on the line, Brady is looking his way. Edelman is someone you can consider for both cash and tournaments.
Mohamed Sanu ($3,900): While many are gravitating towards Harry (evidenced by his salary), Sanu is the one playing the most snaps among Patriots wide receivers. Yes, even more than Edelman. Over the last three weeks, the snaps go: Sanu 177, Edelman 147, Harry 110, Jakobi Meyers 28, Phillip Dorsett 27, Matthew Slater 5. We can’t forget it seemed as if Sanu was playing through an ankle sprain that was considered a multi-week injury back in 11. He played just 58-of-152 snaps in Weeks 13 and 14, but has been on the field for 177-of-200 snaps over the last three games. His yardage totals aren’t much, but they’re trending in the right direction (13-24-35). He’s also totaled 18 targets in those three games, which is extremely high for a receiver you’re getting for $3,900. If the Titans are forced to play without Adoree Jackson for the fifth week in a row, it’d be a huge upgrade for Sanu who’d see a lot of Tramaine Brock and LeShaun Sims in coverage, a duo that’s allowed 14-of-20 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown in the four weeks Jackson has been out. If Jackson plays, it’d be a downgrade for Sanu, as he’ll play most of his snaps on Jackson’s side of the field. Knowing it’s been a month-long foot injury, it’s possible that even if Jackson does suit up, he may be at less than 100 percent. If you’re looking for a cheap wide receiver in cash, Sanu isn’t a bad option at all. He’s probably better in cash than tournaments, though his price-tag allows you to do some nice things in tournaments as well.
N’Keal Harry ($4,100): There’s a cult-like following in DFS when it comes to Harry, as many are chasing a breakout from the rookie, though I’d argue having Jakobi Meyers on the field has been better for their offense. Harry is definitely someone who should be on the field in the red zone, as his big frame and strong hands can win in contested catch situations, and that’s why he’s scored touchdowns on two of his 12 receptions this year. The fact remains that he still hasn’t topped 29 yards in an NFL game and he has just one game with more than four targets. Sanu is a cheaper option this week and one who’s safer, especially in cash lineups. You’ll want to pay attention to Adoree Jackson‘s status, as him playing would shift Tramaine Brock over to Harry’s side of the formation. Brock has been much better than LeShaun Sims, the cornerback who’d be playing against Harry if Jackson sits. Sims has allowed 20-of-28 passing for 242 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage this year. Brock isn’t a shutdown cornerback by any means and didn’t have a team when the cornerback-needy Cardinals cut him after Week 13. Harry is an extremely touchdown-dependent wide receiver who should have tournament consideration only.
Jonnu Smith ($3,800): How frustrating has the ride been with Smith this year? Just when you think you’ve nailed his role in the offense, he’ll finish with zero catches. Seriously, there was a four-week stretch from Week 7-10 where he had 21 targets, 190 yards and a touchdown. He then proceeded to finish with two catches for zero yards the following two weeks. Then, in Weeks 14-16, he tallied 13 targets, 11 receptions, 152 yards, and two touchdowns. He followed that up with a zero-catch performance in Week 17. If we’re playing the matchups, the Patriots rank No. 1 against quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, but rank No. 7 against tight ends. I’m not going to pretend that it’s a plus matchup or anything, but rather the lesser of evils. They’re still top-10 in yards per target (6.96) and fantasy points per target (1.64) to tight ends, but they have allowed five touchdowns to them. Knowing they’ve allowed just 12 passing touchdowns all year, that’s a significant number. They’ve also allowed 10 different tight ends to post 30-plus yards, which is a solid floor at tight end on such a small slate. I cannot recommend Smith in cash considering he’s coming off a zero-target game, but he’s not a bad option in tournaments.
Matt LaCosse ($2,600) and Ben Watson ($2,700): These two are in a 50/50 timeshare over the last month. Seriously, they’ve each run exactly 59 routes in that time. LaCosse actually has more targets (8) than Watson (6) in that time, and he’s also edged him in yards, though it doesn’t really matter when they combined for just 70 yards over the four-game span. Throughout the entirety of the 2019 season, there was just one game that a Patriots tight end totaled more than 8.2 PPR points and it wasn’t even one of LaCosse or Watson. It was Ryan Izzo way back in Week 5 when he caught two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. Seriously, that’s the best performance by a Patriots tight end all year. There were nine tight ends who finished with double-digit PPR points against the Titans this year, which is a lot, though each of them saw at least four targets, a number a Patriots tight end has hit just six times all season, and once since Week 11. The only reason you’d play one of them was to get low-ownership at a volatile touchdown-dependent position. They both have three red zone targets on the year, so there’s not even a clear-cut one to play if looking for a touchdown, though I’ll side with LaCosse if forced to pick one.