featured Daily Fantasy Expert Advice

12/30/2014
James Davis

Daily Fantasy Football Picks for the Wild Card Round of the Playoffs - FanDuel, DraftKings, and Draftster

PLAYOFFS, BABY! With the rest of the daily fantasy sports world lamenting the end of the regular season, we're here, and we're pumped! Why? Regular DFSR basketball readers know that in these parts, we love us a short slate. Short slate means a bigger difference between the haves and the have-nots, and making the money work because equal parts science and art. I'm feeling good about how the projection system is forecasting this week - so get excited! We are.

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Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger - FD 8500 DK 7300 DD 14800 DFSTR
This one will be a chalk play in all likelihood. The Ravens were one of the two teams that Roethlisberger lit up for 6 touch downs this season, and he's coming with a fully healthy assortment of one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. Throw in the Le'Veon Bell injury, and this looks for all the world like a game that Roethlisberger will be asked to win with his arm. On the Ravens' end, they've allowed the 8th most yards to opposing passers this season. While some people might suggest Luck is safer this week, I'd argue that the savings from Luck to Roethlisberger are much more meaningfully applied in a short slate than a normal one, and the risk you take on by going from someone like Jeremy Hill and the Panthers D to Joique Bell and the Cardinals D outweighs the upgrade from Ben to Luck.

Cam Newton - FD 8300 DK 7600 DD 13950 DFSTR
Cam wasn't asked to do much in the curb-stomping of the Falcons in week 17, and still managed to pay more than 2x this price on FanDuel. Here's the thing about Newton and the Panthers - whatever they were doing to save Newton's legs is totally beside the point going forward. With their backs against the wall, the Panthers have gotten Newton 49+ running yards in each of the last 4 games, and a touchdown in each of the last 3. This raises his floor by a very significant amount. In addition, the Cards have allowed the most passing yards of any team remaining - 4th most in the entire NFL. This would be a great match-up in any week, and in particular as we move into the playoffs and very few bad defensive units exist. The Cardinals' pass defense is one such unit, and I think Cam is one of the safer QB plays on the board.

Matthew Stafford - FD 8000 DK 7200 DD 12550 DFSTR
This one is only for your large tournaments, but let's take a closer look at this for a second. Dallas has allowed the 7th most passing yards to opposing offenses of any team in the NFL this season. To boot, they've also been positively cruising on offense, meaning the Lions are likely to need to put together some drives of their own to keep up. Stafford has some pretty crappy games under his belt, but with that group of receivers and against a Cowboys team that's clicking on offense, I could absolutely see a scenario where he puts up a monster.

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Running Backs

Josh Harris - FD 5600 DK 3500 DD 6250 DFSTR
Obviously contingent on Le'Veon Bell's health, but with Blount out of town, the Steelers see Harris as the only guy who could handle the ball on a down to down basis. While his line for the season isn't very impressive, he's been used largely in short yardage spots, and when Bell went down, he briefly flashed what he could do - running for 50+ yards in one run before having it called back by an away-from-the-ball holding call on Foster. The Ravens certainly have a good run defense, but we're not taking this match-up on an absolute basis. We're looking at price. Harris is basically the only true punt opportunity of the week (assuming Bell can't play), and probably the only way you're going to be able to afford to spend up at QB or WR.

Jeremy Hill - FD 7400 DK 6200 DD 10800 DFSTR
If Le'Veon Bell does play, Jeremy Hill rockets to the top of my RB rankings. The Colts have the worst running defense of any team playing this week (allowed the 14th most yards, and tied for the 9th worst yards per carry), and it's hard to imagine any scenario in which the Bengals trust Andy Dalton to do, well, anything. And it's not just a match-up thing: Hill is a great back by any measure. His yards per carry are second to only Justin Forsett this season, and Bernard's return hasn't really hurt his usage much. And have you seen Andy Dalton recently? Yikes. Hill strikes me as the easy call for cash game play of the week.

Justin Forsett - FD 7000 DK 6100 DD 9750 DFSTR
This one is a little weirder, because Forsett hasn't done much against the Steelers this season, but hear me out. The big problem running the ball against Pittsburgh this season has been the fact that other teams haven't run the ball much against them. On a yards per carry basis (they've allowed 4.4), the Steelers have been awful. As I mentioned in Hill's writeup, Forsett is the quiet league leader among running backs in terms of yards per carry for the season. Now, if Ben lights the Ravens up as we all predict this could look pretty bad, but Forsett's price is very reasonable for the production he could provide.

I'm out on...

DeMarco Murray - FD 9000 DK 8800 DD 15450 DFSTR
The Cowboys have a great offensive line. Ok. The Lions have a really good run defense. They were the best team against the run this year, and allowed 12.5% fewer yards than the next best team against the run. Demarco Murray has touched the ball approximately 4,000 times this season. It's basically impossible for me to imagine that, among all of the big money skill guys this week, that you'll be better off spending on Murray and saving elsewhere.

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Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown - FD 9200 DK 8900 DD 15650 DFSTR
The safest of the safe this week. The NFL's reception leader (and most reliable receiver, period) has a terrific match-up against Baltimore's secondary, and is firing on all cylinders. As the games have mattered more, Roethlisberger has focused more on Brown, and less on his less reliable "upside" receivers like Bryant and Wheaton. With Le'Veon Bell banged up, Brown should be called on even more frequently than usual. And the last time he faced the Ravens? 11 receptions, 144 yards, and a touchdown. If I'm spending anywhere this week, it will be on Brown.

Kelvin Benjamin - FD 6900 DK 5900 DD 9300 DFSTR
Holy moly, it's awfully tough to think of Benjamin as anything other than an upside play at this point, but here we are. What do I love about this spot? Well, I mentioned earlier that the Cardinals have given up a fantastic amount of passing yards this season. While Greg Olsen may be the primary beneficiary, Benjamin is clearly the main down-field option for the Panthers. Make no mistake, Benjamin could certainly underwhelm, but he offers the highest upside of any receiver at this price point.

Torrey Smith - FD 7100 DK 5400 DD 11850 DFSTR
If safety is more your thing, I'd like to submit Torrey Smith. Torrey lacks the conventional markers of a safe receiver in that he's not a huge target or receptions guy - so why do I like him? First and foremost, it's his red zone usage. He's averaged a touchdown a game for the last 10 weeks, and seems to be Flacco's first read in the end zone every time. Next, it's the match-up. I'm not just talking about Pittsburgh's 6th most generous pass defense, I'm talking about the projected game script. I think Roethlisberger and the Steelers will be playing from ahead, leaving room for Smith to put up some decent numbers while the Ravens play catch-up.

Also considered: Mohammed Sanu, if AJ Green sits. Also, Steve Smith for cash games, and Michael Floyd for GPPs.

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Tight Ends

Jason Witten - FD 5400 DK 4500 DD 9800 DFSTR
The forgotten man of the tight end season from hell this season. Witten had two total duds in the not too distant past, but even counting those, he's averaged 9.8 fantasy points per game in his last 9 weeks. His biggest month was December (where he had 9 and 7 targets in must-wins against Philly and the Colts), and is a very comfortable red zone options for Romo. While Detroit is pretty good against the pass, they're unbelievable against the run, and I think the Cowboys will move some of the running game into short passes - the area of the field where Witten excels.

Here's an unpopular opinion alert: While many will call Greg Olsen the safest TE play of the week, I'll be on Witten. Like the Luck/Roethlisberger/Newton comparisons, saving $1,000 on FanDuel is HUGE this week. I don't think Olsen will kill you (though he might, if the last 2 weeks are any indicator), but my money will be with Witten.

 

Kickers

Just a strategy note on kickers, since I figure I'll share what's working well for me this season.

I've been taking kickers against teams that don't have spectacular defenses in decent weather conditions. I don't look at the kicker's individual "skill" at all, just opportunity. Typically kicker will be the very last spot I fill, and while there are situations I'll avoid (I wouldn't play kickers against Seattle, for instance, or any team that's a 6.5 point or more underdog), I think you can justify playing just about any other kicker in a GPP format especially. Don't sweat this too much - just pick a guy that fits in with the rest of what you want to do and go from there.

 

Defense & Special Teams

Carolina Panthers
It's hard to fathom how big a start the Panthers will be this week. They haven't allowed more than 17 points in a month, and they'll be facing off against either Ryan Lindley or a hobbled Drew Stanton. So, yeah. As we get to the playoffs, we're going to be picking against some very sharp offenses. Defensive touchdowns and huge turnover opportunities will likely be at a premium. While the Panthers' defense has holes, the Cardinals' offense has... like no one left.

Arizona Cardinals
So, it's weird to recommend a defense when I've picked 2 of their guys above, but it's a short slate, right? Here's the case: Newton can get turnover prone, the Panthers have a tough time running the ball, and they've been stuffed by some awful defenses even as things have mattered (they scored 17 and 19 points against Cleveland and Tampa Bay in December). Meh. I'll just play the Panthers.

Give a follow on Twitter @dailyfantasysr and @dougnorrie.

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Thanks, and good luck!

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