FanDuel Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Wild Card Monday (Cowboys at Buccaneers)
Wild Card Weekend wraps up with what should be a competitive matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cowboys are 2.5-point road favorites, and the two teams are combining for a solid if unspectacular 45.5-point over/under. In terms of pace, this rates as the week's fastest game.
For those unfamiliar, single-game slates feature five flex spots with identical scoring to main slates. 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, and we have projections for the single-game slate if you select the game from the slate tab. It's worth checking out both of those things before you make your lineups.
According to numberFire's model, quarterbacks Dak Prescott ($16,000) and Tom Brady ($15,000) have the slate's best projections, though we have no shortage of MVP options. Eight different players are projected for double-digit FanDuel points on Monday night.
On a team that was just 25th in pass rate over expectation, Prescott occasionally took a back seat to Dallas' run game, and he inexplicably tied for the league's most interceptions (15) despite playing in just 12 games. However, he still managed to clear 20 FanDuel points five times by otherwise being efficient. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs, he ranked ninth in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and third in Passing Success Rate, per numberFire's metrics. It also didn't hurt that he got back to running a little bit, pitching in 15.2 rushing yards per game.
On the other hand, Brady generally demonstrated a high floor through sheer volume, averaging 43.1 pass attempts per game. But he finally regressed in the touchdown department, tossing just 25, and between that and his lacking of any rushing ability, he cracked 20 FanDuel points just twice. This will also be a tough test against a team that's fifth in adjusted pass defense, per our metrics, and ranks top-three in pressure rate.
There's no question that either player could lead the night in scoring, but if we're picking just one, Prescott looks like the better choice.
Quarterbacks tend to be popular MVPs on these slates, though, so let's survey the other options.
Since Prescott returned in Week 7, Lamb has enjoyed a 26.4% target share and 33.0% air yards, and he exceeded 100 receiving yards in five of the last nine games. With the best median projection after the quarterbacks, he's easy to like at MVP, and his roster percentage shouldn't get out of control with so many viable plays.
Between the two Cowboys running backs, I'm inclined to leave Elliott as a flex. While he's clearly the preferred goal line option, he hasn't rushed for 100 yards all season and is used sparingly as a receiver. Even in the two games when he rushed for two scores, Elliott topped out at 17.7 and 17.2 FanDuel points. In a near-even playing time split with Pollard, it's simply hard to see Elliott coming away with a slate-best score.
As for Pollard, he's more likely to bust out for huge chunk plays or take one to the house, making him a more intriguing MVP. While some of Pollard's best fantasy performances have predictably come with Elliott inactive, he's still scored 20-plus points three times alongside Elliott. Pollard has averaged over four targets per game across his last seven, which bodes well for him against a Tampa Bay defense that's 26th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to running backs.
Fournette has averaged 23.6 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) over his last five full games, giving him the most bankable workload of Monday's running backs, and he did hit 20 FanDuel points in one of those weeks. That being said, he's still playing just 54.7% of the snaps, and this is a brutal matchup against a Cowboys defense that's given up the second-fewest FanDuel points to opposing backfields.
That arguably places Evans and Godwin above Fournette for MVP purposes. We will almost certainly see Brady air it out early and often, and it just so happens Dallas is 28th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to wideouts, and they've coughed up the 5th-most FanDuel points to the position.
Over the last 11 full games together, Evans has averaged 9.0 targets with a 20.2% target share and 39.9% air yards share, and Godwin has averaged 10.5 targets while logging a 23.7% target share and 20.5% air yards share. Although neither one has had a plethora of spike weeks, Evans blew up for 43.7 FanDuel points in Week 17, and Godwin had a high-water mark of 23.0 in Week 12, so they're capable of getting there.
If choosing between the two, Evans has better big play upside due to him seeing roughly double the downfield targets compared to Godwin.
Flipping back over to Dallas, Dalton Schultz ($9,500) and Michael Gallup ($8,000) project as the best pass-catchers behind Lamb. Dating back to Prescott's return, Schultz has the team's second-best target share (19.8%), and Gallup has ranked third (16.2%). It's also promising that both players logged elevated snaps down the stretch, with both players comfortably clearing 80% over the last five weeks.
Noah Brown ($6,500) has disappeared lately, catching just one pass in each of the last three. However, he still played 67.3% of the snaps with a 10.7% target share during this stretch, which is just enough to keep him around as a long shot value play. T.Y. Hilton ($7,500) is difficult to recommend, but he posted a season-high 38.5% snap rate in Week 18 and has reached 50 yards in two of his three games, so there's an outside chance he comes through.
On Tampa, Rachaad White ($10,000) is the most notable name we haven't touched on yet. He's averaged 19.8 adjusted opportunities per game with Fournette back, and that volume really isn't all that different from what we should expect from Pollard and Elliott. The downside is he's well behind Fournette inside the 20-yard line, with a mere 21.4% red zone rush share, and we aren't getting any real discount at this salary. That being said, he's a way to be contrarian in one of your slots.
Russell Gage ($8,000), Cade Otton ($7,000), and Julio Jones ($7,000) are the other pass-catchers worth noting. In Weeks 16 and 17, Otton logged an 85.4% snap rate, 81.3% route rate, and 14.4% target share, all of which are encouraging signs for his playoff role. Gage only played 56.3% of the snaps in those weeks, but he still managed a 10.0% target share and projects for about five targets. Jones didn't even play a third of the snaps in this sample, though he's practicing in full if you want to take a shot.
In a game that should see its share of scoring, the kickers aren't must-plays, but Brett Maher ($8,500) projects as the better of the two on the favored side. Prior to last week's no-show by Dallas, Maher had scored double-digit FanDuel points in four straight.
Defensively, the Dallas D/ST ($9,000) is also the preferred side. Tom Brady still avoids sacks better than just about anyone, but the high volume of passes could lead to turnovers. From Weeks 14-16, Brady threw two picks three weeks in a row.