FanDuel Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Wild Card Saturday (Patriots at Bills)
Saturday's nightcap could be a lower-scoring affair between division rivals. This will be the rubber match between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, and frigid temperatures are expected in Buffalo. The Bills are 4.0-point favorites, and the game checks in with a 44.0-point over/under.
For those unfamiliar, single-game slates feature five flex spots with identical scoring to the main slate. However, kickers are included in these contests, and there is an "MVP" roster slot. The MVP receives 1.5-times his total fantasy points, making this spot crucial.
Our Brandon Gdula has done a deep dive on single-game strategy. It's worth checking out before you make your lineups.
Unlike the first Saturday game, there are far fewer desirable options to slot in at MVP.
With the way the Patriots spread the ball around and vary their game plans from week to week, they've been an undesirable team for fantasy this season, leaving most of the top MVP candidates on the Bills.
Add in two top defenses (both top-three in adjusted total defense and pass defense, per our metrics), teams that are familiar with each other, and some classic Buffalo weather, and it's easy to see why only four players are projected for double-digit points in numberFire's model.
Those players are Josh Allen ($17,500), Stefon Diggs ($14,500), and Devin Singletary ($13,500) on Buffalo and Mac Jones ($15,000) for New England. That's it.
Allen finished the regular season as the QB1 in fantasy, averaging 24.6 FanDuel points per game. He predictably owns the highest projection by a country mile, and despite the obvious popularity, it's hard to fault going with him as the chalk MVP.
Diggs is the top Buffalo wideout, and Singletary is their lead back, so no surprises here, as well.
While Diggs didn't quite match his dominant 2020 campaign, he's been the lone constant in this passing attack this season, leading his fellow Bills pass-catchers with a 26.2% target share and 35.5% air yards share.
Singletary's emergence is more recent, taking over as the top running back late in the season. Over the past five games, he's averaged 22.8 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) with a 79.7% snap rate, and he's coming off his two best fantasy scores of 2021-22 (23.0 and 24.2 points).
Jones is the lone Pats' representative of this group, and despite his real-life success as a rookie, he's been an unreliable fantasy quarterback. It's been obvious that New England prefers to rely on their running game and defense to win games, relegating Jones to more of a game manager whenever possible.
That being said, the Patriots may not have that luxury if they fall behind early to Buffalo, which could force Jones into a pass-heavy game script. While Jones' ceiling hasn't been amazing, we've seen him occasionally pop for fantasy-relevant scores, cracking 19 points five times this year. If you're banking on New England pulling off the upset, it isn't crazy to ride with Jones at MVP.
Those four will almost certainly be the most popular MVPs, with Allen having a sizable lead over the other three.
But if you're going to take a stab at someone else, Damien Harris ($14,000) might be the way to go. Harris has been the Pats' go-to option in the red zone, posting the league's fifth-most red-zone carries and second-most carries inside the 10-yard line. His 15 rushing touchdowns were tied for second in the NFL this season.
Unfortunately, due to a split backfield and lack of receiving work, a multi-touchdown game is practically a necessity for Harris to be the top scorer on the night, which is what puts him well behind the first four guys. But it's within his range of outcomes, especially if New England jumps out to a lead.
The best remaining Patriots begin with Jakobi Meyers ($11,500), Rhamondre Stevenson ($10,000), and Hunter Henry ($12,000).
Since the Week 14 bye, Meyers has seen at least 8 targets in all four games, and his 26.3% target share in that time well exceeds all other Pats receivers. He's yet to crack 100 yards in any game this season, which is why he's a tough sell as an MVP, but he carries a reasonable floor as a flex option.
Stevenson is the next man up behind Harris, and the two figure to split carries close to down the middle, perhaps even alternating drives. Harris is the more likely candidate to cash in on touchdowns, but Stevenson should get plenty of touches if the running game gets going.
Henry leads the team in red zone targets, helping him to nine receiving touchdowns, which is tops on the squad. He's logged the second-best target share (18.2%) over the last four games, too. While that makes Henry an appealing option, cracking the end zone might be necessary at his fairly high salary.
It's a little more unpredictable after those three, with Kendrick Bourne ($8,000), Brandon Bolden ($10,000), and Nelson Agholor ($7,500) having their moments but without any sort of consistency. All three fall under the touchdown-or-bust category.
New England occasionally manufactures touches for Bourne with some designed runs, but he plays fewer snaps than Meyers and Agholor and has garnered only a 13.4% target share this season. Expect roughly four targets most weeks, which is about what he's projected for in our model.
Likewise, Agholor owns a 13.9% target share despite his lofty playing time. In his Week 18 return, he logged an 87.9% snap rate, higher than any other New England skill position player. Unfortunately, as the primary deep threat, he simply doesn't get that many opportunities in this conservative passing attack.
Bolden might be the most interesting of this trio if you're making a Bills-heavy lineup. Bolden is the Pats' primary pass-catching running back -- think a poor man's James White -- so he could get a bump in playing time and targets if the Patriots fall behind. He's still third in line behind Harris and Stevenson, so his opportunities are difficult to predict, but he should see at least a quarter to a third of the snaps.
If you don't want to mess with the Pats' passing game for value, there's always kicker Nick Folk ($9,000). He's missed just three field goals all season (36 of 39), and between these two teams, only the MVP candidates I mentioned earlier have averaged more than his 10.1 FanDuel points per game. If you're expecting the under to hit, then there's a good chance Folk is one of the beneficiaries.
Jonnu Smith ($6,000) and N'Keal Harry ($7,500) are the only other (barely) relevant Pats players for mass multi-entry. A surprising disappointment all season, Smith has completely fallen off the map lately, with just one target and two rushes over the last three games. Harry logged a meager 19.0% snap rate last week, and that's unlikely to budge much with the wide receiver group at full strength.
On Buffalo, their other options are a little easier to dissect, though the return of a healthy Emmanuel Sanders ($8,000) could shake things up a bit. Of course, being tied to Josh Allen is a boon to all these guys.
Behind Diggs, Cole Beasley ($10,500), Dawson Knox ($11,000), Sanders, and Gabriel Davis ($9,500) round out the other top pass-catchers. Isaiah McKenzie ($8,500) blew up versus the Pats in Week 16, but that was with both Beasley and Davis out, and he's been relegated back to spot duty ever since. He's only dart-throw material.
Although we haven't seen Sanders and Davis play together since Sanders went down in Week 14, Davis has played well in Sanders' absence, which leaves the possibility that Davis maintains a larger role. Davis is coming off elite usage in Week 18, tallying just as many targets as Diggs (14) and leading all Buffalo wideouts in snap rate (91.1%). He could ultimately be a steal as his salary, and the uncertainty of his role with Sanders back may even keep his roster percentage down.
Davis' emergence naturally leaves a lot up in the air for both Sanders and Beasley. We haven't seen Sanders hit 30 yards in any of his last six games. Meanwhile, Beasley's snap rate has dipped to 48.8% over the past three games, though he's still managed a 19.1% target share.
You're probably still better off rolling with one of these two over the secondary New England options -- because, you know, Josh Allen -- but their roles appear much shakier compared to how they opened the season.
The last of this group is Knox, who has become nearly an every-down player at tight end. He's carried a respectable 14.9% target share across the last eight games, so he's a perfectly fine addition to lineups.
Running back Zack Moss ($7,000) is the final skill-position player who deserves mentioning here. He's backed up Singletary over the past three weeks, averaging 6.3 adjusted opportunities with a 24.9% snap rate. He's unlikely to see an increase in opportunities, but you can consider including him for a multi-entry player pool in case Singletary were to suffer a mid-game injury.
We end with Buffalo's kicker, Tyler Bass ($9,500). The efficiency of this offense tends to leave Bass with only one or two field-goal attempts per game, but just like his Patriots counterpart, a low-scoring game would potentially put him in the spotlight.