Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor for Wild Card Weekend
During the regular season, there are a lot of factors that will influence the way teams use their players.
They may want to get an extended look at a younger player, keep a key piece's legs fresh for the postseason, or maybe experiment with a new gameplan to see how things play out. This can lead to some quick fluctuations that may not be hard to predict.
That's not an issue in the playoffs. The only motivation there is winning, and it's going to make these teams more predictable.
Throughout the season, most teams have likely had one game that qualifies as being something close to "must-win." In those games, they're not going to dilly-dally with evaluation of certain players. They're going to use their best, and those games are going to give us a good indicator of what to expect in the playoffs.
That's going to be a key part of our task for the wild card round of the playoffs. We want to identify when those must-win games took place and see what the teams did in those spots. Then, we can see what that means from a daily fantasy perspective so we know who benefits and could pop up as a value.
We've also got a couple of injury situations primed to tilt both the two-game and four-game slates, and we've got to account for those, as well. So let's get it cracking now.
We're going to go game-by-game for wild card weekend and see if we can figure out how teams are going to use their players when their season is on the line. When we do so, some clear values are going to emerge, making it easier to afford the studs we so desperately want to use.
Bills at Texans
This game has a blend of the two things discussed in the open: Will Fuller's injury will play a key role in determining how we view the slate, and Devin Singletary's usage in a must-win game makes him one of the better values on the board. Let's start with Fuller and then get to Singletary later.
Fuller is shaping up as a game-time decision after practicing in a limited fashion this entire week. That would seem to bode well for him, but he was also limited heading into Week 14 before he eventually wound up sitting.
The good news is that this is the first game on the slate, so we'll know Fuller's status before anything locks. The bad news is that our entire strategy for the slate could hinge on his availability.
The person whose stock is influenced most by Fuller's availability is Deshaun Watson. Watson has basically been a different player when Fuller has been on the field this year, as you can see in these splits via The Quant Edge's injury tool (with "aDOT" standing for average depth of target).
|Watson in 2019||Yards Per Attempt||aDOT|
Not only does Watson become less effective without Fuller, but he becomes more conservative. That's huge for his value.
If Fuller plays, Watson is arguably the best quarterback play for the four-game slate, and he's the clear standout on the two-game Saturday-only slate. If Fuller sits, you can still justify Watson due to his rushing upside, but his floor gets shaky in a hurry.
The other guy whose value would move significantly depending on Fuller's availability is DeAndre Hopkins. In the games Fuller hasn't played this year, all of the high-leverage looks have gone to Hopkins. A "deep" target is one at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
|Without Fuller||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Nobody else has even been relevant in that time. You could consider Kenny Stills or Darren Fells as dart throws, but Hopkins would have an elite floor even while dealing with coverage from Tre'Davious White.
If Fuller plays, you can obviously still use Hopkins. But in the six games in which both Fuller and Stills have played at least 30% of the snaps this year, Hopkins' high-leverage target shares have taken a hit.
|With Fuller and Stills||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The first takeaway is that Hopkins gets a downgrade if Fuller plays. The second is that Fuller himself would be desirable if he's able to give it a go.
There's big risk of re-injury with Fuller, given that he's coming off roughly his 39th injury of the past three years, and that certainly hurts his appeal. But he's only $5,600 on FanDuel for the four-game slate, which is low enough to compensate for his lack of a floor. He's actually cheaper than Stills, whose target share is under 13% in both of the above splits.
The one way you could feel really good about Fuller is if we were to get confirmation ahead of time (via a late-night Adam Schefter tweet or any other means) that Fuller is good to go. In that scenario, it would seem that he would be prepared to handle a full workload, and we could bask in his upside for a bargain salary. If we don't get that, then it's likely wise to proceed with a bit more caution, both with Fuller and with Watson.
The other player who would benefit from Fuller playing is Carlos Hyde. Hyde played 56.3% of the snaps in the games the Houston Texans won this year compared to 37.1% of the snaps in games they lost. The Saturday-only slate, specifically, is severely lacking in elite running-back options, meaning we'll have to consider guys with imperfect roles. If we think the odds the Texans move the ball and snag a win are higher, then we should give Hyde a bump in our minds.
That doesn't mean he'll be as good of a play as Singletary, who is $6,200 on the four-game slate. That's not a shot at Hyde, though; not many players are as tasty as the Buffalo Bills' bellcow.
For the Bills, their must-win game was in Week 16. If they had won that game, they would have had a shot to win the AFC East. They were going all out, meaning it's a great signal for us of what to expect this weekend.
In that game, Singletary's snap rate was a whopping 96.3%, easily his highest of the season. He finished the game with 15 carries and just 1 target, but it forces us to give him a significant boost in our minds.
The Texans are getting J.J. Watt back on Saturday, and they've allowed just 4.12 yards per rush when Watt is on the field, according to The Quant Edge. It's not a great matchup for Singletary. But with his role relative to his salary, he should be a fixture in our lineups.
If you're not as enthused about Singletary and his new role, you can still get cheap exposure to the Bills via John Brown, who is $6,500 on the full slate. Brown has failed to hit 50 receiving yards in three of the past five games, but his workload has still been superb since Singletary's role expanded.
|Weeks 9 to 16||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Brown's past three games have come against the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New England Patriots. It's understandable that his production would dip. But with the Texans grading out as 24th against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, this is a different scenario. Brown is another potential core play within this Bills offense.
Cole Beasley -- as you can see above -- has a good enough role where we can filter him through, as well. The problem is that he's only $200 cheaper than Brown on the four-game slate, and that offering includes DK Metcalf at $100 less. Beasley's getting enough work to be an option, but he's not a priority in his salary tier.
You could, instead, target Dawson Knox when value-hunting on the Bills. Knox played 74.1% of the snaps in Week 16 and then sat last week, showing that the Bills value his services. Tight end is a disease on the Saturday-only slate, so you can easily justify Knox there, and he's extremely cheap at $4,800 on the four-game offering.
As for Josh Allen, it's hard to expect him to be an efficient passer here, even with the Texans' defensive woes. The Bills are the worst schedule-adjusted passing offense on the slate, and Allen ranked just 27th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back out of 42 qualified passers for the full season. NEP is the model numberFire uses to track the expected points added or subtracted on each play throughout the season, and Passing NEP accounts for expected points lost on negative plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. Allen was nestled between Kyler Murray and Marcus Mariota, so despite the improvements, it wasn't necessarily a glowing season.
That's not enough to push Allen out of consideration in DFS, though, thanks to his rushing abilities. A multi-rushing-touchdown day is within his range of outcomes, and on a slate lacking in surefire stud quarterbacks (especially if Fuller can't play), we should seek that out. Both Allen and Watson seem to stand above the other quarterbacks on the Saturday-only slate, and Allen is worthy of exposure on the four-game offering, as well.
Titans at Patriots
Technically, this game has the higher total of the two Saturday games, sitting up at 44.5 while the Bills versus Texans is at 43.5. It's just hard to figure out how either the Patriots or Tennessee Titans will light up the scoreboard.
That may sound like a weird statement given how well the Titans have played under Ryan Tannehill. But Tannehill has very much benefited from a plus schedule.
Saturday's game will be the first time since Week 10 that the Titans have faced a team ranked inside the top 10 in schedule-adjusted pass defense and only the second time all year that Tannehill has faced a defense of that caliber. The Patriots -- even including their Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins -- rank first in that stat. The schedule forces you to view Tannehill's numbers with a degree of skepticism.
That lowers the outlook for the Titans' entire passing offense, including Tannehill himself. You could still consider A.J. Brown, though, thanks to a meaty target share since his snap rate spiked in Week 13.
|Week 13 On||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Brown is destined to see either double coverage or man coverage by Stephon Gilmore, both of which are daunting. When squaring off with Marshon Lattimore two weeks ago, Brown had just two targets. This prevents him from being a core play at wide receiver. You can still filter him at times, though.
If you think Brown gets blanketed, it could open up some targets for Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. Davis is just $5,400, making him a big-time salary saving option, and he did have a pair of deep targets while Brown was dealing with Lattimore in Week 16. Smith is the only tight end on the Saturday-only slate with a somewhat dependable role. They're cheaper access to this offense, but again, we should temper expectations on the whole given the difficulty of the matchup.
The matchup shouldn't push us off of Derrick Henry. Similar to Singletary, the Titans leaned on Henry in a must-win spot in Week 17 as he handled a season-high 75.8% of the snaps. With no other stud running backs available on the Saturday-only slate, Henry may be a must-have there even if you expect the Titans to struggle. Getting off him is a bit easier if you play the four-game slate and get Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook in the mix, along with Singletary.
The overall vibe around the Titans' offense is wariness given the matchup. The sentiment is similar around the Patriots even though they're paired with a much more lenient secondary.
The Titans finished the regular season ranked 13th against the pass, just fifth-best among the eight teams in action this weekend. That would seemingly make the Patriots' offense attractive. But their offensive ineptitude keeps extending, making it hard to buy in.
The Patriots have struggled all year long. The downturn, though, seemed to happen back in Week 12 when Tom Brady popped up on the injury report with an elbow injury. His play has taken a sharp downturn since then (with "deep rate" referring to the percentage of throws that travel at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage).
|Brady in 2019||Passing NEP Per Drop Back||aDOT||Deep Rate|
|Before Elbow Injury||0.13||7.1||15.2%|
|Since Elbow Injury||-0.04||8.3||13.3%|
It's not as if Brady has faced world-beater opposition, either. He had -0.03 Passing NEP per drop back against the 32nd-ranked Dolphins last week, and he was at -0.08 against the 30th-ranked Cincinnati Bengals two weeks before. Whether it's due to injuries to himself or others, Brady has been brutal recently.
This seems to have led to a shift in the team's philosophy. Over the first 13 games, the Patriots threw 58% of the time on early downs in the first half, according to Sharp Football Stats. The past three games, that number has fallen to 50%. The run game hasn't been lighting it up, but it seems to be better than the alternative.
Julian Edelman said this week that he's feeling better than he was, which could lead to a rebound for Brady and company in the playoffs. But you're expecting a shift in this offense if you are eager to buy into them, even on a four-game slate.
This puts Brady himself beneath both Watson and Allen on the two-game slate, and it means you don't need him in your player pool if you're playing the four-game slate. It also lowers our desire to use anybody else tied to this offense.
Edelman's health comments are noteworthy because his role has decreased recently. His snap rate has been down the past three games, and his target share has collapsed with it.
|Past 3 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
For comparison, Edelman had 27.4% of the team's targets prior to this and had double-digit targets in eight straight games. He had just 17 total targets in this three-game stretch.
If we can take Edelman's word for his health, then he would be the top target on the team at $7,000 on the four-game slate. If not, then it's hard to find anything reliable here.
N'Keal Harry has gotten deep volume, but he's yet to hit 30 receiving yards in a game this year. Mohamed Sanu hit 35 receiving yards last week, his most since early November. Both are cheap, but it's hard to tell whether either have a ceiling.
The more run-heavy nature of the team could funnel you to Sony Michel, and on such a short slate, that's not a terrible idea. He has at least 18 carries and 74 yards in three straight games and would benefit if the Patriots' defense were to shut down Tannehill. We should put him in a similar bucket to Hyde, grading him below Singletary but still using Michel in lineups where we assume the Patriots win.
As you can see above, James White's target share has dipped significantly, and his snap rate has been under 40% in two of the past three games. This is why Michel is the preferred option between the two. Still, White is $6,200 on the four-game slate, and he should get around five targets. It's far from a tragedy if he winds up not being in your player pool, but -- similar to Harry and Sanu -- he's on the table.
With an offense as blurgh-ish as New England's, our goal should be to pay as little as possible in order to reduce our monetary ties to them. That leads us to considering the value-esque options in Michel, Sanu, and Harry. Overall, this game -- on both sides -- just lacks the juice you see with the others on the slate.
Vikings at Saints
Juice won't be an issue as the Minnesota Vikings visit the New Orleans Saints. The total has risen 2.5 points since open and is the highest on the slate by 3.5 points. That's reassuring with two of the better straight-up plays on the slate playing here in Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook.
Starting with Kamara, the appeal in him has become more obvious recently with the touchdowns finally starting to break in his favor, but he has been getting steady work for a while now. After returning from his ankle injury through Week 16, he averaged 11.0 carries and 7.9 targets per game. If you double his target total to account for the fact that targets are worth twice as much as a carry for a running back in a half-PPR scoring setting, you get 26.7 adjusted opportunities per game, a fairly meaty number for a small slate.
That's still less than what we should expect out of Cook. Cook has practiced in full this week, meaning his shoulder injury is a thing of the past. Prior to sustaining that injury in Week 13, he was averaging 29.3 adjusted opportunities per game. With a game projected to be close, decreasing the risk that Alexander Mattison gobbles up volume in garbage time, Cook's expected workload is voluptuous.
You could attempt to poo-poo Cook by pointing to the 7.5-point spread in the Saints' favor and a potential mismatch up front between New Orleans' defensive line and Minnesota's offensive line. The concerns around the Vikings' offensive line are legit. But Cook and the Vikings aren't seeing the Saints at full strength.
After their barn-burner loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Saints placed both Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport on injured reserve. The Saints' defense has taken giant steps back when Rankins has been off the field, as quantified by The Quant Edge.
|Saints in 2019||Yards Per Pass Allowed||Yards Per Rush Allowed|
|With Sheldon Rankins||6.1||3.6|
|Without Sheldon Rankins||8.2||4.7|
We haven't noticed this recently because two of the three games since Rankins' injury have been against Will Grier and Jacoby Brissett. But the Saints have allowed at least 27 points in each of the other four games that Rankins has missed, so this is an impactful injury.
Not only does this amp up the appeal in Cook, but it also makes Kirk Cousins viable for tournaments.
Cousins is $7,600, tying him with Brady for the cheapest starting quarterback on the four-game slate. With Cook and Adam Thielen both healthy, this will be the first time Cousins has had all of his toys at his disposal since Week 6. As long as you're okay with a vomit-worthy floor, Cousins shapes up as being a pretty tasty option.
Speaking of Thielen, we haven't yet seen him fully unleashed since coming back from his injury. He had just seven targets in two games before sitting in a meaningless Week 17 game. There's still enough here for us to be interested.
The week of rest helps as it removes Thielen an extra week from his injury. He's also only $6,200 on the four-game slate, $1,100 cheaper than Stefon Diggs, who is more likely to see coverage from Marshon Lattimore. Before his initial injury in Week 7, Thielen was getting big volume.
|First 6 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
If we assume that Thielen is healthier now than he was earlier, he'd grade out as a glaring value. We don't need to make those assumptions with John Brown and DK Metcalf, so they can still sit above Thielen in this tier, but there's a path to a big game out of Theilen here. He works well with Cousins or if you're looking to bring it back when using Drew Brees.
A date with Lattimore is not an indicator that you should avoid Diggs. He's good enough to win any matchup, and his market shares, when Thielen was healthy, were superb. We just might want to rank Thielen a hair higher thanks to his salary savings.
How you view Brees and Michael Thomas depends -- in part -- on what you think the Vikings' offense will do. Both are solid regardless. But if you think the Vikings can keep pace and force the Saints to keep throwing deep into the game, then the ceiling on both gets a healthy nudge. As such, in most lineups where you have either Brees or Thomas, you should give strong consideration to including at least one Vikings player, as well.
Among the cheaper pieces, it's looking like Tre'Quan Smith is becoming the most desirable option. Ted Ginn Jr.'s snap rate has been under 40% for three straight games after being above 50% in every game before that. Smith is still superbly risky -- his five targets last week, when some starters were resting in the second half, were his most of the season -- but he's preferable over Ginn.
Finally, Jared Cook does work in stacks with Brees, as well. He has just 13.6% of the team's targets since the bye, but he has been so efficient in those looks that he still has double-digit FanDuel points in all but one of those games. Although he's a full tier below Dallas Goedert for cash games, we can give Cook thought in tournaments, especially when stacking this game.
Seahawks at Eagles
Outside of Fuller, there aren't a ton of injuries impacting the first three games of the weekend. This one is different, and it's a full-on bloodbath.
Both the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles are going to be without elite offensive linemen, the Seahawks lacking Duane Brown while the Eagles prepare with Brandon Brooks sidelined. Lane Johnson has gotten in limited practices this week, but the loss of Brooks helps offset that potential gain.
The Brown absence is a big one for the Seahawks. The team's passing offense has cratered when he has been off the field, as you can see in these splits via The Quant Edge.
|Seahawks in 2019||Yards Per Pass||Yards Per Rush|
|With Duane Brown||9.0||4.6|
|Without Duane Brown||6.6||4.5|
The split without Brown does include games against the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, both of which are tough assignments, but it also includes the team's massive flop at home against the Arizona Cardinals. We have to downgrade Russell Wilson and the entire offense with Brown out.
In addition to not having Brooks, the Eagles might also be without Zach Ertz, who is dealing with a lacerated kidney. He has practiced in a limited fashion this week, but Ertz is yet to be cleared for contact. The most likely scenario seems to be that Ertz sits again, which does open up volume for some of the other pieces in the offense but also severely limits the appeal in Carson Wentz.
Wentz has played well of late, and he's a big part of the reason the team is in the playoffs. But his past five games have come against the teams ranked 32nd, 28th, 27th, 18th, and 28th against the pass, per numberFire's metrics (Seattle is 16th). When you take away at least Brooks and potentially Johnson and Ertz, that's enough to make Wentz a tough sell, even on a short slate.
We can still consider the pieces tied to him, though, given the volume available for the taking. With Ertz out last week, Goedert predictably was a focal point of the offense.
|In Week 17||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
If Ertz sits, Goedert is unquestionably the top tight end on the slate, and he's very much in play if Ertz is able to suit up, as well. The potential for the offense to struggle prevents Goedert from being a must-play, but you'll have a hard time replicating his floor anywhere else.
Greg Ward is an option almost entirely because his salary. He doesn't get downfield looks (only two during his entire tenure with the Eagles), but he can still pay off without massive yardage if he gets in the end zone. You'll take that at $5,600. He's just not someone who's likely to burn you if you don't use him.
With Ertz sidelined, Joshua Perkins played 78.4% of the snaps last week and ran the fourth-most routes on the team, according to Pro Football Focus. The three deep targets indicate he at least has a bit of yardage juice, as well. For $5,500 on a slate with limited tight-end options, Perkins is at least on the map as a value play if Ertz can't go.
The other thing that should stand out from the table above is how much volume the running backs got with Boston Scott and Miles Sanders combining for 11 targets. That's even with Sanders being held to just 31.1% of the snaps due to an ankle injury.
Sanders is yet to practice this week but plans to play on Saturday. That makes this backfield complicated.
If Sanders goes, they'll have him, Scott, and Jordan Howard all available with Howard now holding an additional week to get back into game shape following his long absence. That's a lotta cooks in the kitchen, and it shoves everybody out of core consideration.
It would still be hard to cross Sanders off entirely, though. He averaged 15.7 carries and 5.2 targets (26.0 adjusted opportunities) per game from Weeks 11 to 16, which you'll joyously take at $7,000. Even when Scott excelled in Week 14 while Sanders dealt with cramps, Sanders came back the next week to his biggest game of the season. If Sanders is able to go, we can certainly rotate him in our tournament player pool.
If Sanders is sidelined, things get a bit easier. It's possible that Howard's role would increase, but Scott would likely maintain his role in the passing game, which is his main source of appeal. He has at least six targets in four straight games and carried the ball 19 times with Sanders out last week. If Sanders can't go, then Scott is a borderline cash-game play at $6,600, though the loss of Brooks and the possibility of Howard popping back up, keep him ranked below Singletary among the value backs.
The running backs are complicated on the other side of the ball, too, though for different reasons.
If we were to assume the Seahawks kept things the same as last week, then we'd be able to sniff Travis Homer at $6,100. He played 66.7% of the snaps while getting 10 carries and 5 targets as Marshawn Lynch handled just 12 carries on 30.7% of the snaps. In a matchup with a team that is much better against the rush than the pass, you would think things would skew toward more Homer usage.
But we also have to keep in mind that Lynch was serving tequila shots in a parking lot just two weeks earlier, so it's possible his role wasn't fully expanded just yet.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told the media that Lynch will have more of the playbook open to him, according to Brady Henderson of ESPN, but he also noted that they were pleased with Homer's performance. This doesn't answer our question, but it should help us feel better about Homer.
Again, this is a defense that encourages you to pass against it, and Homer seems more equipped for that role than Lynch. Homer racked up 92 yards from scrimmage last week, so Schottenheimer likely wasn't blowing sunshine up Homer's rear in complimenting him. It seems pretty legit.
We shouldn't rank Homer as high as we do Singletary, and we should prioritize getting up to Cook and Kamara whenever we can. But Homer is absolutely an option at $6,100, and we should rank him ahead of Lynch.
There's value elsewhere in this Seattle offense, too, even with Brown out. That's because their pass-catchers are super cheap.
We've got three games now since Schottenheimer said that Tyler Lockett was finally healthy after hurting his leg back in November. In those three games, the high-leverage volume has gone almost exclusively to Lockett and Metcalf.
|Past 3 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
The concentration on those looks means we're not playing a guessing game when trying to figure out who's going to blow up on this offense. It's going to be one of those two guys, and that's reassuring when trying to dabble here.
Lockett is $7,300 with Metcalf at $6,200, making them the same salaries as Diggs and Thielen, respectively. The Vikings have the advantage of playing indoors while the Seahawks could be dealing with some wind, but the Seahawks have the preferred matchup. All four receivers need to be in our player pool with your process determining which set of teammates you prefer.
If you side with the Vikings but still want some exposure to the Seahawks, then you can easily just plug in Jacob Hollister. He played 89.3% of the snaps in last week's monster game and has a far more dependable role than you'd expect out of a tight end who is $5,700. His upside isn't nearly as high as that of Lockett and Metcalf, but Hollister fills tight end for a bargain salary. You can either use him as a standalone play or happily roll him out in the same lineup as Lockett or Metcalf if you expect the Seahawks to light it up through the air.
Wilson is only $7,900, which is pretty tempting, even after we account for the downgrade of playing without Brown. Wilson's in a scoring rut but hasn't logged a rushing touchdown since Week 6. Getting one or two of those is always in play for Wilson, meaning we should target him at times even if we don't expect the offense to hang a big number.