FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 18
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the main slate to help you get started on your research.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of this week's top plays of the slate.
Jalen Hurts ($9,000 on FanDuel): The Eagles can secure the NFC's No. 1 seed if they defeat the Giants, and with New York locked into their playoff slot, they have no incentive to go all out on Sunday. Making matters even better for Philadelphia, their star quarterback is trending toward playing, too. The situation leaves Philadelphia as 14.0-point home favorites over their NFC East rivals.
If Hurts is indeed active, it marks the return of fantasy's top quarterback on a per-game basis. He's averaged 26.8 FanDuel points per game this season and had scored 29-plus in four straight prior to sitting out the past two weeks.
Both the return from injury and the game's blowout potential add risk, but in a week with few certainties, this isn't the time to overthink rostering someone who's demonstrated immense upside time and again this year. It also doesn't hurt that even at full strength, the Giants have numberFire's 28th-ranked schedule-adjusted total defense, sitting 22nd versus the pass and 30th against the run.
Josh Allen ($8,800): This will be uncharted territory for this Bills team following Monday night's frightening events, but a win over the Patriots could help their seeding. Buffalo is expected to take care of business as touchdown home favorites, and that's reflected in numberFire's model, which pegs Allen for one of the slate's highest median projections.
That being said, this New England defense is no joke, ranking first in adjusted total defense and first against the pass, per our metrics. The Patriots have produced the league's second-most sacks and have a top-three pressure rate. When Allen faced this defense in Week 13, he scored just 16.9 FanDuel points.
This will be a difficult hurdle to overcome, but Allen joins Hurts and Patrick Mahomes as the only quarterbacks averaging over 25 FanDuel points per game this season. Tough matchup or not, Allen remains a weekly top play.
I get it. Rodgers hasn't cracked even 20 FanDuel points all season. He hasn't thrown for 300 yards in a game yet and has thrown 3 touchdowns just once. This is a far cry from the MVP numbers we saw from 2020-21.
And yet, this Lions-Packers game is the only matchup with a remotely high total (49.5), and Green Bay can clinch the final NFC playoff seed with a win. While Detroit's defense has held up better down the stretch, they're numberFire's 30th adjusted pass defense this year and have allowed the most FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks.
The Lions could be eliminated by the time this game kicks off if the Seahawks win earlier in the day, but it sounds like this team won't be lacking in motivation regardless of the circumstances. While that could make things harder on the Packers in terms of winning, it boosts the likelihood of the shootout we'll need for Rodgers to have any chance of posting a season-best fantasy score.
Despite Rodgers' pedestrian results this season, he checks in as the best quarterback value in our model this Sunday.
Christian McCaffrey ($10,000): The 49ers still have a shot at the top seed in the NFC if they win and the Eagles lose to the Giants. But as noted earlier, New York is likely to rest players in a meaningless game for them.
That should mean plenty of CMC, who continues to thrive in his new home. Over the last five games, McCaffrey has averaged a hefty 31.0 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets), leading to 137.6 scrimmage yards per game and six total touchdowns. During this time, he's dominated red-zone rushes (65.4%), played heavy snaps (79.8%), and remained a constant in the passing game (22.4% target share).
McCaffrey has scored over 20 FanDuel points in four of those five games, and barring a workload reduction, he could do it again versus a Cardinals team with nothing to play for. He leads our running back projections by a country mile.
Kenneth Walker III ($7,700): We're no longer getting Walker at the bargain salary, but the Seahawks have leaned heavily on him lately, and they need a win (and a Packers loss) to qualify for the postseason.
Although we've now seen Walker log below 60% of the snaps in back-to-back weeks -- coinciding with DeeJay Dallas taking on a more prominent pass-catching role -- he's averaged 27.5 adjusted opportunities and 123.5 scrimmage yards in these games, so the dip in playing time hasn't hurt his usage overall. The only that's held him back is a lack of touchdowns, and that isn't something we need to be concerned about, either, because he's logged 100% of the red zone rushes over this span.
The Seahawks are 6.0-point home favorites over the Rams, a team that's roughly league-average at defending the run. Expect another busy day at the office for Walker.
Aaron Jones ($7,400): A limited participant in practice for weeks now, Jones has seen reduced snaps over the last four games, so it's difficult to predict what kind of role we can expect from him on Sunday night. The dynamic running back has played over half the snaps just once during this stretch.
However, it sounds like coach Matt LeFleur has been handling Jones with the big picture in mind, and he intentionally restricted Jones' touches in Week 16 in order to keep him fresh and healthy. Sure enough, while Jones still only played 39.3% of the snaps last week, he logged 20 adjusted opportunities (14 carries and 3 targets) and rushed for over 100 yards for the first time since Week 10.
Does that mean he sees another bump in volume for this must-win game? That remains to be seen, but having some faith could pay dividends. In addition to being the most likely game to shoot out, the Lions rank 32nd in adjusted rush defense, setting the stage for a potential ceiling performance from Jones -- if he gets the work.
Tyler Allgeier ($6,500): We clearly want players on teams with something to play for, but that doesn't mean we have to completely ignore those who have been knocked out.
Since the Falcons turned to Desmond Ridder at quarterback, they've also given fellow rookie Allgeier more chances to showcase his talents, and the running back hasn't disappointed, averaging 23.0 adjusted opportunities over the last three games.
While Allgeier is still splitting time with Cordarrelle Patterson, he's held the edge in snaps over this span (54.5%), and he's converted his chances into 116.0 scrimmage yards per game and scored 22.1, 13.7, and 16.0 FanDuel points.
Tampa Bay typically isn't a team we would normally go out of our way to attack, but with the NFC South crown already in their hands, they're set as a No. 4 seed. Despite reports that they will play their starters, it's hard to envision the Bucs going all out from start to finish, leaving the door open for Allgeier to take advantage of the backups in the second half.
Of course, that includes Chase, who has soaked up a 31.3% target share and 41.5% air yards share since he returned in Week 13. He's logged double-digit targets in each of the last three, and he has the highest target projection in numberFire's model.
Baltimore has a middle-of-the-pack pass defense, so we have to like Chase's chances of posting a big fantasy score to close out the regular season.
D.K. Metcalf ($7,200): Even if Tyler Lockett plays, he's unlikely to be at full capacity, leaving Metcalf alone at the top of the target tree. Lockett played just 31.0% of the snaps in Week 17, and he's been sidelined at practice so far this week.
Metcalf didn't put up big numbers with his teammate hobbled, but that had more to do with Geno Smith attempting just 29 passes in a game that the Seahawks led from start to finish.
Despite the lack of production, his usage could be a better indication of what to expect this weekend. Metcalf led all pass-catchers in snap rate (81.7%) and route rate (84.8%), and while he saw only five targets (17.9%), he led the team in air yards share (35.5%).
Perhaps Seattle will get out to an early lead against the Rams and rely on the running game to coast to a victory again, but given the team's inconsistent play down the stretch, a more competitive matchup could be incoming. If that's the case, expect Metcalf to be front and center in the offense's passing attack, and it just so happens that L.A. is 25th in adjusted pass defense this year.
Allen Lazard ($6,400): Christian Watson has been a spark in this Packers offense since breaking out in Week 10, but a hip injury has slowed him down in recent weeks, and he played only 59.0% of the snaps last week. Watson has been limited in practice this week, and his final injury designation could be an indication of whether we can trust him in the finale.
But we can also turn to Lazard, who has a lower salary and continues to operate as the team's top wideout. In Watson's five fully healthy games dating back to Week 10, Lazard has led the way with a 95.3% snap rate and 94.2% route rate despite sitting slightly behind Watson in target share (18.8%). But with Watson struggling with injuries over the last two games, Lazard has seen a 26.6% target share, leading Green Bay in targets both weeks.
If he's a full go, then Watson is probably the better upside play, but Lazard's role has been stronger than his box score results would suggest, and if this matchup is as high-scoring as expected, perhaps he finally snags his first touchdown since Week 9 -- which also happened to come against Detroit. The Lions have coughed up the fourth-most FanDuel points per game to wide receivers this season.
Rashid Shaheed ($5,800): Since assuming a larger role in Week 13, Shaheed has posted 75 or more receiving yards in three of the last four games, and the fourth one is easy to throw out due to poor weather conditions. He averaged a solid 20.0% target share and 29.1% air yards share in those three weeks while running roughly the same percentage of routes (84.3%) as teammate Chris Olave.
Admittedly, this is a gross offense to be invested in, and this is a meaningless game against the Panthers. But Shaheed has proven he can convert chunk plays in this run-heavy offense, and he produced a season-high 17.0 FanDuel points just a few weeks back against Atlanta. We'll happily take that kind of outing at this salary.
Pat Freiermuth ($5,500): Since Kenny Pickett's return from a concussion in Week 16, Freiermuth has seen his snaps rise back up the past two games (78.7%), and he's tied Diontae Johnson with a team-best 22.2% target share. Like wideouts Johnson and George Pickens, Freiermuth has also run a route over 90% of the time.
The Pittsburgh tight end has been held back by a lack of touchdowns this season -- he has just two -- but he's still managed to hit double-digit FanDuel points seven times. The Steelers have an outside shot of making the playoffs, so motivation won't be a factor against Cleveland.
Hunter Henry ($5,000): Outside of Rhamondre Stevenson, rostering Pats players has generally been inadvisable this season, but with Jonnu Smith out with a concussion in Week 17, Henry would go on to play every single snap with a 97.2% route rate. He would ultimately finish with an 18.8% target share, catching 5-of-6 looks for 52 yards.
Smith returned to a limited practice on Thursday, so it's possible he's cleared to play by Sunday and eats into Henry's snaps. Additionally, the Bills have been a rough matchup for tight ends all season. It isn't a perfect situation.
But the Pats will be in win-or-go-home mode, and if Smith is ultimately held out again, we should see Henry be an every-down player again, which is enough to get on board here.
Minnesota D/ST ($3,700): The No. 2 seed is technically in play for the Vikings but requires an unlikely 49ers loss, and they can't drop below the No. 3 seed, either. Their motivation probably lies somewhere in the middle, but they're expected to play their starters.
Regardless, this is more about who this defense will face this weekend. That's none other than the Bears' Nathan Peterman, who is getting the nod in place of Justin Fields. Back in 2017 for Buffalo, Peterman infamously threw five picks in his first NFL start, all of which came in one half before he was mercifully pulled at halftime.
Fast forward to 2023, and Peterman has thrown 3 touchdowns to 13 interceptions in his career, and there's little reason to expect a dramatic turnaround in a Bears offense that relied almost entirely on Fields' mobility to make plays. Given the matchup, Minnesota feels like a bargain this week.
Miami D/ST ($3,500): The Dolphins project as the best defense value in our model, coming in at just $500 above the minimum. They get to face Joe Flacco and an eliminated Jets team, which should present a golden opportunity to rack up fantasy points.
In Flacco's three games as the starter this year, he attempted 59, 44, and 52 passes, which is precisely what we want for sacks and turnovers. Over those three weeks, he threw 3 picks and was sacked 10 times.