Fantasy Football: Gdula's Game Notes for Wild Card Weekend
numberFire has no shortage of tools -- lineup generators, fantasy projections, and more -- to help you round out your rosters, but some extra prep never hurt anyone. So, here are some notes to know about each and every game on FanDuel's main slate for Wild Card Weekend.
Buffalo at Houston
Tennessee at New England
Minnesota at New Orleans
Seattle at Philadelphia
Core Plays: Players suited for all types of daily fantasy games -- cash games and tournaments -- and players to target when building a main lineup.
Secondary Plays: Players who have good matchups or situations but are overpriced. Or players who are affordable but have tough matchups.
Tournament Plays: Players with paths to production but who are either overpriced or have tough matchups and who rate out with low production floors. Not everybody is in play in DFS, but players without the best prices and matchups still deserve consideration in large-field tournaments.
Buffalo at Houston
|Over/Under | Spread||43.5||-2.5|
|Implied Team Total||20.5||23.0|
|Percentage of Bets on: Over | Favorite||56%||47%|
|Percentage of Money on: Over | Favorite||37%||44%|
|Adj. Seconds/Play Rank||10||20|
|Adj. Pass Defense Rank||9||24|
|Adj. Rush Defense Rank||19||22|
This is the lowest total on the four-game slate, though it's up 1.5 points and isn't that far off the map at all. We are likely to see a Houston Texans win based on both the spread and numberFire's projections. The Buffalo Bills do boast a top-10 pass defense, however, and we've seen Deshaun Watson ($8,100) struggle without Will Fuller ($5,600). The betting action has been enough to drive the spread down half a point, so this one could be back-and-forth. Blowout risk seems minimal either way.
Buffalo Offense Notes
- Given the Bills' Week 17 plans, we can remove that from the team's outlook for this weekend.
- Devin Singletary ($6,200) is very cheap for what his role has been down the stretch. Singletary's Bills rank 8th in yards before contact generated for running backs this season, according to data compiled from Pro Football Focus, and the Texans are 29th defensively (though they are 13th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs). Singletary has played at least 66.1% of snaps in nine straight games and played 96.3% in Week 16 before resting up in the finale. He rates out as one of the best running back plays of the week despite his status as a road underdog.
- Josh Allen ($7,800) draws the Texans' defense, which was 24th in adjusted passing efficiency, 30th in adjusted pressure rate, and 28th in sack rate on the full season. If J.J. Watt can return, we'd have to revamp our expectations a bit, but he doesn't seem ready to play a full game and have maximum impact, based on reports.
- Allen, in six games against bottom-10 pass defenses this season, totaled 10 touchdowns and 1 pick (a per-game average of only 213.8 yards but 1.7 touchdowns and 0.2 interceptions). He didn't really take full advantage of the easy matchups and averaged 29.8 attempts in them. We could see a good dose of Singletary this weekend.
- Back in Week 11, we saw Cole Beasley ($6,300) return to a bigger role, and he has actually out-targeted John Brown ($6,500) in this six-game sample (again, removing Week 17). The target shares are close (27.3% for Beasley and 26.7% for Brown). Nobody else is above a 13.5% target share (Isaiah McKenzie ($4,600)). Beasley is also getting some downfield work, with nine targets at least 16 yards downfield in this span. John Brown has 15 (a 35.7% share) such targets. Beasley actually projects with a solid floor this week, but Brown has the second-best tournament value in my projections among all receivers.
- Since Beasley's role improved, Dawson Knox ($4,800) has averaged just 3.0 targets per game and faces a Texans defense that is ninth in Target Success Rate allowed to the position. He actually grades out best among tight ends on the Saturday-only slate.
Houston Offense Notes
- Given the Texans' plans in Week 17, we can ignore that week from relevant data.
- Will Fuller's status is a very significant news piece to watch. I mentioned this prior to the Week 17 slate, but I'll just mention it again. In nine games this season in which Fuller has played at least half the snaps, Deshaun Watson ($8,100) has averaged 0.35 Passing NEP per drop back. Without Fuller for at least half the snaps (six games), he's at -0.02. With Fuller, he's basically been Lamar Jackson, and without him, he's been Andy Dalton.
- The good news is that Fuller is trending toward being able to play. If Fuller plays, Watson may be the best quarterback play out of all eight in action. Without him, he's a mere tournament option.
- In these nine games in which Fuller has played relevant snaps, the target shares have been 28.8% for DeAndre Hopkins ($8,300) and 24.5% for Fuller, and nobody else got to even 13.0%. We can sprinkle in Kenny Stills ($5,800) still, but this is a very focused offense with both top receivers healthy. It's also worth noting that in games with Fuller, he has a 37.4% air yards share, besting Hopkins' 30.7%. For the price, Fuller would be an elite play if deemed healthy, but he can't be fully trusted to finish the game.
- Fuller's return would elevate the offense overall and make the targets more valuable for Hopkins. Hopkins will be facing Tre'Davious White here. In a Week 6 matchup last year, Hopkins totaled 6 targets, 5 catches, 63 yards, and 1 touchdown. While covered by White, he had 2 catches for 27 yards and the touchdown on 3 targets, via Pro Football Focus.
- Darren Fells ($4,800) and Jordan Akins ($4,600) are shrug-and-plug options on an awful tight end slate. Akins had seven targets in a meaningless Week 17 game. In Week 14, he had nine targets. Over the final five weeks, that was the only time that either of them had more than four targets. Akins leads with an 11.4% target share in this split, while Fells is at 8.9%.
- Neither Carlos Hyde ($6,400) nor Duke Johnson ($5,300) would be particularly interesting on a full slate normally, but the Texans are home favorites, and the Bills are only 20th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs. Hyde has eight games with at least 16 carries on the year and looks like a low-ceiling pivot away from the passing offense if playing the angle of a Texans grind-it-out win.
Core Plays: Devin Singletary, Deshaun Watson (if Fuller plays), DeAndre Hopkins
Secondary Plays: Josh Allen, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Will Fuller, Dawson Knox
Tournament Plays: Carlos Hyde, Kenny Stills, Duke Johnson, Jordan Akins, Darren Fells
Tennessee at New England
|Over/Under | Spread||44.5||-5.5|
|Implied Team Total||19.5||25.0|
|Percentage of Bets on: Over | Favorite||66%||39%|
|Percentage of Money on: Over | Favorite||58%||34%|
|Adj. Seconds/Play Rank||22||4|
|Adj. Pass Defense Rank||14||1|
|Adj. Rush Defense Rank||6||9|
Another not-super-fantasy-friendly game for Saturday, this one lacks appeal for the four-game slate but is obviously a must consider for Saturday. The Tennessee Titans could have trouble moving the ball, and the New England Patriots' offense just hasn't really been doing much moving of its own down the stretch. There's betting action on the Titans, though, and the total has bumped up a point since the start of the week.
Tennessee Offense Notes
- Derrick Henry ($9,300) is the most expensive player on the four-game slate despite his status as a road underdog and an implied team total shy of 20 points. Henry has maxed out at three targets in a game all season and has averaged just a 53.6% snap rate in losses, so there are reasons to be concerned about his potential role if the Titans play from behind. Even if Tennessee focuses on the ground game, the Patriots are top-10 in adjusted rushing defense, Rushing Success Rate allowed, and yards before contact allowed to backs. This pushes Henry out of core play for the four-game slate, but he still deserves attention in tournaments and on the two-game set. It's hard to get too picky with so few options, but the point is more than Henry's red flags could get the better of him this week from a mere usage standpoint.
- Dion Lewis ($5,000) has both game-script and revenge narratives in his favor -- if playing the angle of a Patriots rout. Lewis plays nearly half the snaps in losses, though he doesn't always see elevated targets. He's merely a Saturday-slate pivot option for Patriots onslaught lineups.
- Ryan Tannehill ($7,800) has played just two top-10 pass defenses, both at home. In them, he totaled 374 yards but had 5 touchdowns to zero picks. That works out to 187.0 yards and 2.5 passing touchdowns per game. On a per-play basis, he averaged 0.10 Passing NEP per drop back. The NFL average against top-10 opponents was -0.04. Tannehill's matchup is tough, though the Patriots proved fallible in Week 17, and Tannehill has ranked seventh in Passing NEP per drop back on the season.
- Since a Week 9 bump in route rate, A.J. Brown ($7,700) has a 24.6% target share (though that's just 6.3 per game due to the low-volume offense) and finished the season with a 38.1% target share in Week 17 (8 targets for 124 yards and a touchdown). He ranks 10th in weighted opportunity rating in this span, according to FantasyADHD.com. Translation: he's getting elite treatment but also has question marks surrounding the volume. Against the NFL's best pass defense, Brown figures to draw tight coverage, either from shadow treatment by Stephon Gilmore or bracket defense (or a mix of both). In terms of median projections, Brown -- at this salary -- isn't one of the best receiver options on the board for the four-game slate. Corey Davis ($5,400) did see a 23.8% target share in Week 17's must-win matchup and has had at least 16.0% of the team's targets in five of six post-bye games. He's the clear second option to target if expecting elevated volume from Tannehill, and he should see more space than Brown is afforded.
- Jonnu Smith ($5,800) draws the 11th-best tight end defense in the NFL as a road underdog. He has had 4, 5, and 4 targets the past three games, a decent enough role in the run-first offense, one that could have to throw more if they fall behind. By default, though, Smith is in play on the Saturday slate, which is not a great one for tight end options.
New England Offense Notes
- The Pats are limping into the playoffs despite being the 3 seed, as they lost to the Miami Dolphins to close out the season. Our algorithm still gives New England nearly a 60% chance to advance.
- Among 42 passers with at least 100 drop backs, Tom Brady ($7,600) ranked 21st in Passing NEP per drop back on the season, and a lot of his value came from avoiding sacks. When looking at his numbers just as a passer, he ranks 29th among those 42 quarterbacks if we remove all sacks. The point here is that Brady's not elevating the offense, and that matters when we need fantasy points. The Titans are 14th in adjusted pass defense on the full season but 31st in Passing Success Rate allowed since Week 10. Either quarterback in the Buffalo/Houston game would be preferable.
- We have a three-game sample where Mohamed Sanu ($5,400) has played elevated snaps with the team to close out the season. In that small -- but relevant -- sample, Sanu actually leads the team with a 21.1% target share (6.3 per game). Julian Edelman ($7,000) is at 20.0% (6.0 per game). So, their roles have been quite similar overall in this stretch. N'Keal Harry ($5,300; 15.6%) and James White ($6,200; 13.3%) round out the balanced market shares. Nobody has averaged more than 52.3 air yards per game in this once-again-horizontal offense, so this also suggests a limited ceiling for the Patriots' passing offense even in a neutral matchup with the Titans' pass defense.
- The past three weeks have also come with a shift to the rushing game, as Sony Michel ($6,700) has had 19, 21, and 18 carries while barely breaking 40% of the snaps in each of them. He has not gotten to 100 rushing yards and has just 2 catches and 4 targets in this split, but the expectation of a Patriots win keeps him in play as a low-ceiling, pass-game-killing pivot -- similar to Carlos Hyde for the Texans. Tennessee is seventh in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs and even better in overall adjusted rushing defense.
- With the emphasis on Michel, White has maxed out at a 45.2% snap rate over the past three weeks but could be a key to beating a Titans defense that is a stout rushing unit but just 23rd in Target Success Rate allowed to running backs. For what it's worth, Rex Burkhead ($5,600) has played 30.8%, 26.0%, and 21.3% of the snaps since Week 15.
Core Plays: Mohamed Sanu, Julian Edelman
Secondary Plays: Derrick Henry, James White, Sony Michel, Jonnu Smith
Tournament Plays: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Ryan Tannehill, Tom Brady, Rex Burkhead
Minnesota at New Orleans
|Over/Under | Spread||49.5||-7.5|
|Implied Team Total||21.0||28.5|
|Percentage of Bets on: Over | Favorite||87%||80%|
|Percentage of Money on: Over | Favorite||83%||73%|
|Adj. Seconds/Play Rank||13||27|
|Adj. Pass Defense Rank||6||12|
|Adj. Rush Defense Rank||13||5|
This one has the highest total on the weekend, and it's up 2.5 points since the start of the week. There is also a hefty spread, so we could be looking at a bit of a one-sided affair. numberFire's algorithm loves the New Orleans Saints, as do the bettors.
Minnesota Offense Notes
- Given the health and motivation for Week 17 and the fact that Sean Mannion played quarterback, we can ignore last week's data here.
- The Minnesota Vikings are expected to get Dalvin Cook ($8,000) back for this week's game, and that naturally removes most if not all of the value from the backup rushers. Cook averaged a 71.5% snap rate through Week 11 but just a 44.4% in three games after that. Because it's common for Cook to get yanked when the Vikings are up big, he actually averaged a better snap rate in losses (70.0%) than in wins (64.4%). Assuming full health, Cook is one of two game-script-proof backs on the four-game slate (with Alvin Kamara ($8,200) being the other).
- It's been a while since Kirk Cousins' ($7,600) turnaround began, and with a 122-yard dud in Week 16, Cousins is probably well off the radar for most DFS players. Cousins, since Week 5, ranks fourth in Passing NEP per drop back among 39 qualified passers. He has averaged 261.0 yards and 2.1 touchdowns in this sample. Even against top-half pass defenses (four games), Cousins has averaged 234.3 yards and 2.3 touchdowns per game for efficiency that well exceeds the average in that split.
- In Weeks 15 and 16 with Adam Thielen ($6,200) back in the lineup, the market shares have been 20.4% for Stefon Diggs ($7,300; 5.5 per game), 16.7% for Ameer Abdullah ($4,900; 4.5 per game), and 13.0% for Thielen (3.5 per game). Diggs has a 16.8-yard average target depth, and Thielen is at 13.1, so there's some downfield juice. Cousins is 17th in downfield attempt rate among 42 qualified passers since Week 5.
- Diggs figures to draw shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore. Last year in Week 8, Diggs had 11 targets for 119 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. Just two of his targets came against Lattimore. Thielen drew seven targets, none against Lattimore.
- With Thielen back in this two-game sample, Kyle Rudolph ($5,000) has a 9.3% target share, and Irv Smith Jr. ($5,300) is at 11.1%. The Saints are 10th against tight ends. With Sunday's tight end options looking better, neither of these two are priorities from a process standpoint.
New Orleans Offense Notes
- The Vikings' defense has rated out well for the season, but the Saints' offense is in the best position of the weekend and particularly stands out on a slate that features few players with elite market shares.
- Drew Brees ($8,500) leads the NFL's fourth-best adjusted passing offense and himself ranks second on the full season in Passing NEP per drop back among qualified passers. Brees has faced only two top-12 pass defenses on the year but totaled 577 yards and 8 touchdowns against them (288.5 yards and 4.0 touchdowns per game). His Passing NEP per drop back in this sample (0.48) would be a league-best -- on the full season against all opponents. Basically, he's shredded his toughest matchups. If we're worried about a small sample, we can expand it to six games and 187 attempts against top-half pass defenses. He averaged 243.0 yards and 2.8 touchdowns in those.
- Michael Thomas ($8,900) will look to build on a record-breaking 2019 against a pass defense that is actually only 29th in Target Success Rate allowed to receivers on the year and 30th since Week 10. Thomas, since a Week 9 bye that coincides with Alvin Kamara's ($8,200) return to the lineup, has a 33.9% target share and averages 12.1 targets per game, both NFL bests. Despite Brees' league-low average target depth, Thomas sees 100.5 air yards per game due to the volume. Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings don't really have an answer for Thomas.
- Behind Thomas in the target tree are Kamara (20.3%) and Jared Cook ($6,500; 13.3%) before a massive drop off to everyone else. Over the past five games, it's Thomas at 36.1%, Kamara at 17.2%, and Cook at 10.7%.
- Despite the low target share, Cook is technically the third option in this offense and checks the box as a tight end who is at home, has a high implied team total, and is favored. Minnesota does rank second against tight ends on the season and is actually first since Week 10. Cook isn't a must play but obviously has a path to production despite the tough individual matchup and volume concerns.
- If seeking differentiation pieces, know that Ted Ginn Jr. ($4,900) has run fewer than 50% of the routes in three straight games while Tre'Quan Smith ($5,500) has run at least 60% in all three of those. Taysom Hill ($5,200) is getting roughly 30% of the routes, so it's a tough situation to love, though Ginn's 14.2-yard average target depth over the past five games keeps him in the tournament dart conversation, same as Smith (7.6-yard aDOT).
- Kamara's pass-game involvement also comes with a steady handful of carries: 13, 11, 11, 13, 14, 11, and 8 over the past seven weeks. Minnesota is only 29th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs on the year. Kamara has scored four times over the past two weeks, making the most of some much-needed touchdown regression. On a fairly bleak running back slate, Kamara looks like one of the two best plays at the position.
Core Plays: Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Dalvin Cook
Secondary Plays: Adam Thielen, Jared Cook, Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, Stefon Diggs
Tournament Plays: Irv Smith Jr., Ted Ginn, Tre'Quan Smith, Taysom Hill
Seattle at Philadelphia
|Over/Under | Spread||45.0||+1.5|
|Implied Team Total||23.25||21.75|
|Percentage of Bets on: Over | Underdog||44%||25%|
|Percentage of Money on: Over | Underdog||45%||18%|
|Adj. Seconds/Play Rank||17||26|
|Adj. Pass Defense Rank||16||23|
|Adj. Rush Defense Rank||25||4|
This could be the game of the week easily because of the tight spread and the close win probabilities. The total is decent, too. The main issue is that both offenses are below-average in situation-based pass-to-run ratio, and both teams have market share issues. The public loves the Seahawks here.
Seattle Offense Notes
- Russell Wilson ($7,900) draws a below-average pass defense in the Philadelphia Eagles. In five games against bottom-10 pass defenses this season, Wilson has thrown just 24.8 times per game for 197.4 yards and 1.4 touchdowns per contest. The per-drop back Passing NEP (0.07) actually pales in comparison to what quarterbacks usually do against weak pass defenses (0.22), and his per-game yardage total is 74.7 yards shy of the average in that split.
- In three games since Tyler Lockett ($7,300) got healthy again, he has commanded a 25.8% target share to lead the team, while D.K. Metcalf ($6,200) and Jacob Hollister ($5,700) own 18.3% target shares of their own. Metcalf (15.4) and Lockett (12.4) have strong average target depths from Wilson in this sample and are easily the go-to options in the passing offense. The Eagles rank 16th in Target Success Rate allowed to receivers and 27th to tight ends, so Hollister is not off the radar, particularly on the smaller Sunday slate. In Week 17, Hollister played 89.3% of the snaps, while Metcalf (98.7%) and Lockett (93.3%) had elite roles of their own.
- It was Travis Homer ($6,100) who led the backfield in snaps (66.7%) over Marshawn Lynch ($5,900; 30.7%) in Week 17. Homer handled 10 carries and 5 targets for 92 total yards. Lynch had 12 carries for just 34 yards but did score. The first-half touches were seven-to-four in favor of Homer. Overall, Lynch handled three of four red zone carries, while Wilson -- not Homer -- had the fourth. Homer ran 27 pass routes. Lynch ran 10. Homer should be the preference, though Lynch should have the claim to the goal-line work.
Philadelphia Offense Notes
- Miles Sanders ($7,000) didn't practice Wednesday due to his ankle injury, so we can't really be certain about his status for Sunday. Sanders played 23 snaps last week (31.1%) before exiting with what turned out to be a low-grade ankle sprain. In his stead, Boston Scott ($6,600) played 55 snaps (74.3%), while Jordan Howard ($5,600) played a single snap. Given Howard's status a week ago, he should still be treated as a secondary option even if Sanders were to sit. This would pave the way for Scott, who ran 19 times last week and had 6 targets. He totaled 138 yards and scored 3 times on the ground. Seattle ranks 25th in adjusted rushing defense and 29th in Target Success Rate allowed to backs.
- Carson Wentz ($7,900) was fine last week, throwing for 289 yards on 40 attempts. He had just one touchdown, however, and he has fumbled in seven straight games (and 12 times in those seven games). Despite this, Wentz ended the season hot as a passer. Over his final five games, he faced defenses that were all 18th or worse (an average of 26.6). In them, he averaged 301.8 yards and 2.0 touchdowns per game. Seattle ranks 16th against the pass when adjusted for opponent on the full season. They are 28th in Passing Success Rate allowed and 25th in sack rate since Week 10.
- Last week with no Zach Ertz ($6,900) among plenty of other offensive injuries, Dallas Goedert ($6,700) led the team with 10 targets, Greg Ward ($5,600) had 7, Josh Perkins ($5,500) and Boston Scott had 6, Miles Sanders had 5 before exiting, Deontay Burnett ($5,200) had 4, and Robert Davis ($4,500) had 2.
- Routes were 88.4% for Goedert, 81.4% for Ward, 76.7% for Davis, 74.4% for Perkins, 60.5% for Scott, and 25.6% for Sanders and Burnett.
- Downfield targets were 3 for Perkins, 2 for Burnett, and 1 for Goedert and Scott.
- Ertz did not practice on Wednesday and has yet to be cleared for contact.
- Goedert should be given number-one treatment here, with Ward providing the best floor and either Davis or Burnett in play as darts, primarily on the Sunday slate. Davis ran significantly more routes (33 to 11), but Burnett had much better usage. Perkins is also in the mix but takes up a tight end slot.
Core Plays: Dallas Goedert, Boston Scott, Russell Wilson
Secondary Plays: Travis Homer, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Marshawn Lynch, Carson Wentz, Greg Ward
Tournament Plays: Jacob Hollister, Josh Perkins