Life hit me hard recently, so I apologize for not being able to write my thoughts on the wild card slate as early as I planned. Having said that, I am all the more motivated to crush this wild card slate and hopefully see all of you at the top of the leaderboards!
Reminder: Playoff DFS is a lot like playing the prime time slates. Pivoting is extremely important in a two-day, four-game slate like this – especially for the lineups that are drawing dead. On a small slate, you better go big or go home, so have conviction about your player pool this weekend.
With that in mind, here are some of my thoughts and favorite plays for the wild card slate:
Andrew Luck – Highest floor-ceiling combo. Has scored 27 and 39.66 DK in two meetings with the Texans this year and has attempted 103 – granted 62 came from the Week 4 overtime shootout. I like the Colts to beat the Texans straight-up and think their offensive line is stout enough, especially with Ryan Kelly returning, to give Luck enough time to pick apart the Texans middling secondary. I prefer to stack him with TY Hilton, Eric Ebron, and Nyheim Hines out of the backfield.
X-Factor for Luck’s success: Luck has been phenomenal this year. Luck has a PFF grade of 91.8 against the blitz, just slightly lower than his 92.2 rating with no pressure – but only a 63.6 rating when facing pressure without blitzing. If the Texans are going to have any success against him, it will be with pressure with Clowney and Watt — not with the blitz.
Mitch Trubisky – Arguably as high of a ceiling as any quarterback on this slate, but also one of the most volatile and risky quarterbacks on the slate. For that reason, I feel that there is a lot more to discuss to paint an accurate picture.
While Trubisky has all the physical tools to put up fantasy points in a hurry, but he is still very raw as a decision maker and sometimes struggles with touch passes. He is one of the few quarterbacks who have a 30 FPT ceiling, something he’s done on four different occasions despite dealing with a shoulder injury that knocked him out of multiple games. Trubisky is best when facing a team with a weak pass rush – something that each of his biggest fantasy performances had in common (fantasy points in parentheses) — TB (46.46), NE (36.42), DET (39), and MIA (31).
While Trubisky’s ceiling is as high as Watson and Luck, there is obviously a lot more risk. One area that is worrisome for Trubisky is he typically crushes teams with a weaker pass rush, the opposite is true when he’s under pressure. For the season, he has a grade of 36.7 under pressure and 44.2 when blitzed. The only real silver lining is that his run grade jumps up to 90.9 when under pressure and 87.5 when blitzed. Basically, Trubisky is better with his legs when under pressure and that is partially by design with Nagy dialing up the RPO’s to throw off the pass rush.
We can expect the Eagles to attack since they are built on pressuring the quarterback – if you can find a way to neutralize their pressure, then you can exploit the weaknesses in their secondary. The real question will be if the Eagles pressure Mitch Trubisky and what Matt Nagy do to counter the Eagles pass rush. The answers to those questions will determine the outcome of this game.
On the flip side, the Bears have their home crowd at their back, so Trubisky shouldn’t have as much trouble calling plays at the line – or more importantly, getting instruction from Nagy. If I were a betting man, which I am, Nagy will use the short passing game with constant motions, misdirection, RPO’s, reverses and bubble screens that threaten the Eagles defense horizontally, which will free them up to take the vertical kill shots downfield.
While I think Andrew Luck is the best QB play on the slate, I think Trubisky offers a similar ceiling and at a fraction of the ownership. I think you will need to mix and match some pieces if you’re stacking the Bears – as Trubisky tends to spread the ball around. My preferred stacks would be with a combination of Tarik Cohen, Allen Robinson, and Taylor Gabriel.
X-Factor: Return of the Konami Code – Mitch Trubisky hasn’t been running as much after coming back from his shoulder injury. I’m sure Nagy asked him to run less until they got to the playoffs – but this is do-or-die szn and I expect Trubisky to not hesitate to tuck and run.
Deshaun Watson – I don’t want to talk anyone off playoff Watson, but I plan on being underweight. I think there is a chance that the Colts can play disciplined defense and contain Watson while forcing him to dink and dunk his way down the field. While Watson is an elite athlete and playmaker, he has the tendency to take sacks and turn the ball over. Also, we know that divisional rivals typically score less the second time they meet – due to familiarity with each other’s players and play calling tendencies. That logic seems like it would be just as true if there was a third time they played – but I haven’t seen any studies about that yet. For the record, I think the Colts-Texans game is the most attractive in terms of pace and the way the two offenses match-up, but I also think there’s a scenario where one of these two familiar foes figure out how to stop one another. For me, I prefer Luck, especially given the savings and also prefer Trubisky-Bears stacks in tournaments to leverage the chalky ownership of the Colts-Texans.
Ezekiel Elliott – Far and away the best play on the entire slate from a raw volume and projected point forecast. I have a hard time making a case for a fade and is as close to a lock button play as there is on a four-game slate. The matchup is decent as the Seahawks allow the 12th most fantasy points to opposing running backs and Zeke is playing in front of his home crowd. Fade him at your own risk. I would feel much better about pivoting to Melvin Gordon if he was healthy, but he sounds like he could be limited with what “Pro Football Doc” considers is a mild high-ankle sprain. Note: The included hyperlink gives some good insight into the expectations of some fantasy relevant players.
Tarik Cohen – One of the best GPP values on the slate. I sincerely hope that the community gravitates toward Jordan Howard because I want the Bears most dynamic offensive playmaker – Tarik Cohen. The Eagles defensive line, led by All-Pro Fletcher Cox, is the strength of their defense. The way to beat the Eagles is not by running it down their throat with Jordan Howard – it’s by mitigating their pass rush with quick passes, screens, play action, and RPO’s eventually setting up the down-field kill shots against the Eagles depleted secondary. The game plan that I just described fits Cohen more than Howard and while I think Jo-Ho is a fine play, I don’t think he smashes unless the Bears win by multiple touchdowns.
X-Factor: You can’t always trust coaches to make optimal decisions, but Matt Nagy has proven to be one of the most innovative, fearless coaches and one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL. He knows who the real MVP of the Bears offense is – it’s Tarik Cohen. Now that the Bears are in win or go home mode, Nagy will take the cuffs off the Midway Mighty Mouse. I believe Cohen will be busy Sunday Night, and given his big-play ability and efficiency, I think we are looking at a ceiling game for Cohen.
Darren Sproles – Has been getting more involved in the offense and has looked just as quick and elusive as ever. I don’t see Josh Adams having much success against Akiem Hicks and the Bears elite run defense, and I don’t trust Wendall Smallwood, so Sproles is my favorite option out of the Eagles three-headed backfield. I expect the Bears to jump out in front of the Eagles, then game stacking Sproles is a logical option.
Nyheim Hines – One of my favorite value plays on DK and will be in most of my Andrew Luck stacks. When I try to predict what will happen in this game, I have a hard time envisioning Marlon Mack having much success on the ground. The Texans run defense had one of the best DVOA scores in Football Outsider’s history. For that reason, it would make sense for the Colts to mitigate the Texans pass rush by using quick passes and screens to Hines, rather than slamming Mack into the line of scrimmage for a gain of two.
Other considerations: Lamar Miller — A good play at his price, but always hard to call Miller a great play, especially with his quarterback vulturing carries and touchdowns. It’s possible that he is lower owned than he should be and is a good play considering the lack of great running back plays. Melvin Gordon – I would normally be all in on Gordon on a slate like this, but it sounds like Gordon is dealing with a mild high ankle sprain, which could easily hinder his lateral ability. While his ownership should be suppressed, I have a hard time pulling the trigger on him in an already brutal matchup against the Ravens run defense. Gus Edwards – While I think Dixon is the better overall back, Edwards is better at playing the Alfred Morris role to RGIII — I mean Lamar Jackson. Edwards is the better play and has a decent shot at scoring a touchdown. He is running a few more routes these days but is mostly a touchdown-dependent plodder that needs to get the 100-yard bonus to really offer much tournament upside. I think he’s a decent play, but not someone I’m going all in on.
TY Hilton – If I’m picking between Deandre Hopkins and Hilton, I prefer Hilton, but if you’re stacking the Colts-Texans I think you’re obviously playing a lot of both. I understand some are concerned with his health, but TY is as tough as they come and appears to be good to go. The matchup is ripe, as Houston gives up the sixth most yards to opposing WR1s (77.4). Everyone knows that TY Hilton has owned the Texans. Houston defensive backs will wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, tormented by nightmares of playing TY Hilton. The worst of the massacres have occurred in front of their own fans – the game logs are evidence of an all-out assault: 3-78-1, 7-121-3, 9-223-1, 5-88, 3-49, 5-175-2, and 9-199-0 when playing in Houston.
Keenan Allen – The Ravens have an elite secondary, but Allen is an elite route runner, and at 6.9k he offers significant equity for GPP’s. The best part about Keenan Allen is that he will move around the formation. The Ravens are strongest on the boundary, but I think most of the damage Allen does will be in the slot. It’s hard to get excited about Rivers playing an elite Ravens defense, but if he has any success it will likely be with his star wide receiver. With Gordon not fully healthy, I want to get my exposure to the Chargers offense with Allen. I think he will be under-owned relative to Nuk and TY due to the matchup and I think he offers the best value of the three.
Allen Robinson – A-Rob is fully healthy and I expect him to have a major impact on Sunday night against a suspect Eagles secondary that gives up the third most fantasy points to opposing receivers. While the Bears spread the ball around, Robinson is the WR1 and is Trubisky’s preferred red zone target. My preferred Bears stack: Trubisky – Cohen – A-Rob and mix in Taylor Gabriel.
Taylor Gabriel – Gabriel got a little banged up, but looks to be fully healthy and has the type of speed Nagy will try to use to catch the Eagles sleeping at the wheel. He also offers the quickness to catch a short screen and get upfield in a hurry. Also, with Anthony Miller somehow playing with one arm that keeps popping out of socket, Gabriel should get a decent amount of targets. The Eagles are giving up the third most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and Gabriel has a shot at burning them for a score. Since the Bears tend to spread the ball around, I think you can stack Gabriel and A-Rob with Trubisky – Cohen too if you want to go for the Bears onslaught.
Keke Coutee – Is he fully healthy? I don’t think anyone really knows the answer. However, the Texans desperately need someone to take the pressure off Deandre Hopkins – who may see bracket coverage again. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to work the middle of the field and at only 4k – he is tournament viable. Bottom line: He’s as healthy as he’s going to be, and he once commanded 15 targets against the Colts once this season – for those reasons, I think being overweight on Coutee is worth the risk.
Nelson Agholor – Has really thrived with Foles at quarterback. Cheap piece of the Eagles offense to run it back with Bears game stack. Offers significant YAC ability for a 3.8k receiver – floor is pretty low, but offers a nice ceiling for tournaments and lets you save valuable salary to pay up elsewhere.
Other considerations: Tyler Lockett (I don’t really love the game, but has had great chemistry with Russ Wilson and should be fairly low owned) Alshon Jeffery (revenge game narrative and great chemistry with Foles despite difficult matchup), John Brown (MME – not for smaller fields. Needs a long bomb from Lamar to hit. David Moore, Vyncint Smith
Eric Ebron – Sometimes it pays to #fadethechalk – but in this case, I think it’s time to double down. Eric Ebron is not just the best tight end play, but he’s one of the best plays on the slate – period. Zach Ertz is more expensive and has a much more difficult matchup against the Bears. Ebron is significantly cheaper and offers arguably the same ceiling, especially given that the Texans are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in the NFL in 2018. I don’t typically lock button a tight end, especially if they are the chalk, but in this case, I think being overweight on Ebron is the right call. Note: Playing two tight ends is viable on a shorter slate to differentiate.
Dallas Goedert – Is my favorite punt play at tight end. If you listened to me rant on the Prime Time Process, I have talked up Goedert’s upside ad nauseam. The Eagles finally have begun to realize the best mismatch for their offense is playing Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert at the same time. Recently, Goedert has been on the field more than 60 percent of the snaps. Honestly, I think the Eagles finally realized Goedert needed the rock more during Week 14 against the Cowboys. His game log looks good as he hauled in four of five for 44 yards and a touchdown – but if you watched that game, Goedert had another 50+ yard touchdown called back from a bogus offensive pass interference by the referee. Either way, at near minimum price, I think Goedert is arguably the best punt play on the slate. Goedert is viable at tight end, but I also think you can be contrarian with Ebron at tight end and Goedert in the flex.
Other considerations: Zach Ertz – much lower ownership than Ebron due to matchup, but could offer significant leverage over the field if he smashes and the Ebron chalk busts – Ryan Griffin (decent, yet uninspiring play), Hunter Henry (ceiling is limited due to being on a pitch count, but good chance at seeing end zone targets if he plays), Antonio Gates (if Henry is inactive). I like Mark Andrews upside but preferred him when he was below 3K. Trey Burton has the revenge game factor working in his favor, but he has a difficult matchup and not consistent enough be anything more than fringe play at this point.
Hope to see you at the top of the tournament leaderboards this weekend – good luck!
Joe Paeno is a contrarian with a growth mindset. During the “offseason” he spends all of his free time grinding film, pouring over statistics, and looking for edges for the upcoming season. From March to August he leverages those edges for best ball leagues – which he has been profitable three years in a row and has averaged a 64.5% ROI over the last two.
Once the season begins, he uses his naturally contrarian mindset to find low owned DFS tournament plays. In 2018, he broke down the primetime slates for TQE subscribers with his podcast “Prime Time Process” and brought in a 38.57% ROI.