Daily Fantasy NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Recap and Look Ahead to the Divisional Round FanDuel and DraftKings 1/8/17
What a crazy Wildcard weekend in the NFL. Saturday saw two road underdogs win outright and Sunday had a down-to-the-wire finish in New Orleans along with one of the most boring playoff games in recent memory. All in all, it was a quality weekend in football and sets the stage for some interesting subplots leading into the Divisional Round.
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Tennesse Titans 22 - Kansas City Chiefs 21
Henry left, Henry right, Henry up the middle
Watching the Titans and Chiefs it was easy to think the former’s plan to run the ball come hell or high water on first down, second down and basically every down was a recipe for complete failure. And for a while, it sure looked that way. Derrick Henry racked up 23 carries, good for 156 yards and a touchdown despite being down three scores at halftime. Tennessee continued the gameplan into the second half where the Chiefs happily obliged by refusing to run Kareem Hunt (who was averaging around four yards per carry). Instead, Kansas City continued to pass the ball despite losing their primary pass catcher in Travis Kelce in the first half. Hunt ran the ball exactly four times in the second half and the Chiefs had stalled drive after stalled drive. Meanwhile, playing from way behind in the second half, Henry ran the ball nine times before the drive where the Titans took the lead.
This begs the question: what will be the plan for Tennessee when facing the Patriots? The opening line is set at New England -13.5 but will that matter for the Titans’ strategy? It didn’t against the Chiefs where Henry touched the ball on 25 of the Titans’ 62 offensive plays despite not taking the lead until 6:06 left in the fourth quarter. Typically we want to avoid running backs whose teams are road underdogs, but could this be the exception? The Titans don’t have much of an offense after Henry (short of Mariota throwing touchdown passes to himself) and could just stand their ground with the RB touches.
Atlanta Falcons 26 - Los Angeles Rams 13
Seeing Red (Zone) with Julio
Of the top 20 Red Zone target leaders on the season, Julio Jones had, by far, the worst conversion rate of the group. He converted 18 targets into only 5 catches (27%) and one touchdown. No one else in the top had less than three touchdowns and most had four or more. And yet, because this is football and opportunity (in the long run) trumps all we
In the red zone against the Rams on Saturday Jones went 3/3 with a touchdown that ultimately sealed the game for the Falcons. What would Jones’ price have looked like this season if his red zone conversion rates were even in the same ballpark as the rest of the top group? The 10 targets are encouraging and if we can expect moderate regression on the touchdowns then we could still be buying low on Julio leading into the quarterfinal round of football.
Jacksonville Jaguars 10 - Buffalo Bills 3
Blake gonna Bortles out there
Woof. The Bills - Jags game was a challenge for even the most diehard of football fans, falling short of 500 total offensive yards combined for both teams (493) and a combined quarterback passer rating of 110. This was as brutal an offensive display as you’ll hope to see in a playoff game (or really any game) and yet someone had to win. Leaving us with Blake Bortles heading into the divisional round to face the Steelers. It’s a testament to Jacksonville’s defense that they’re only around a touchdown dog to Pittsburgh because the “offense” was really something.
Bortles ran for more yards than he threw (88 to 87) and completed only 50% of his passes. Without looking back to see the worst (non-snow impacted games) quarterback performances to advance to the next round of the playoffs, this has to be one of them. And yet here we are with another week discussing whether to play the guy in DFS. DraftKings is daring you with the $5000 price tag (the lowest of the weekend by far).
New Orleans Saints 31 - Carolina Panthers 26
Dude, Where’s My Saints’ Run Game
During the regular season, the Saints rushed for a league-best 4.7 yards per carry thanks to the two-headed monster of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Yet both were completely neutralized against the Panthers on Sunday. They combined for a 19/45/1 line leaving fantasy owners totally skunked even with the late Kamara touchdown. Neither was all that involved in the passing game either with only four targets between them. The Saints relied almost entirely on these guys this season, greatly easing the passing attempt burden on Drew Brees.
Carolina has a stout run defense, ranking 6th in DVOA on the season, and Minnesota is even better at 5th. Brees was up to the task on Sunday, getting Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn heavily involved once the Saints realized the ground game wasn’t the answer. But the Vikings were even better against the pass than the run this season (4th in DVOA) and the Saints are likely going to need to establish the ground game early. The running back options leading into the Divisional round are pretty uninspiring and these two guys have as much upside as anyone. But it’s a little disconcerting to be so ineffective in the first round.