FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Wild Card Round (Sunday)
The second day of Wild Card Weekend brings with it three NFL matchups starting at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
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 the top plays of the slate.
Quarterback for the Sunday slate starts and ends with how you're handling Josh Allen ($9,200).
My simulation model has his odds to get to 25.0 or more FanDuel points at 49.2%. Nobody else is above 25.3%. Allen and the Bills have a pass rate over expectation that's trending down but did spike up to +9.0% in Week 18, a game with heavy stakes. Allen, in five games against mid-tier pass defenses, has averaged 292.8 passing yards and 2.4 touchdowns plus 8.2 rushes for 57.8 yards -- good for 27.7 FanDuel points per contest. That's hard to contend with -- but not impossible.
Joe Burrow ($8,000) makes sense as a pivot whether due to salary necessity or embracing a somewhat difficult on-paper matchup. Burrow is up against the Ravens, who are 5th in adjusted rush defense but 16th in adjusted pass defense, via numberFire's metrics. Burrow has averaged just 216.0 yards and 1.0 touchdowns against Baltimore so far this season but has otherwise been good against average pass defenses: 257.7 yards and 2.7 touchdowns for 24.9 FanDuel points per game in other comparable matchups.
Both Daniel Jones ($7,400) and Kirk Cousins ($7,500) work, as well, to different degrees. Jones, in games since the Wan'Dale Robinson injury, has averaged just 211.3 passing yards and 1.0 touchdowns but also 6.7 carries for 45.8 rushing yards per game (19.9 FanDuel points per game).
Cousins hasn't faced any pass defenses ranked between 14th through 19th in his home games (the Giants are 20th). In home games against defenses 20th or worse, he's averaged 309.4 yards and 2.4 touchdowns for 24.3 FanDuel points per game. Lopping off bottom-four defenses cuts the sample to three games, but that sample has led to 330.3 yards and 3.0 touchdowns per game.
A trio of backs stands out from a salary standpoint on the Sunday slate.
Barkley and Cook are a tier above Mixon for me -- with Barkley alone in Tier 1.
Barkley, in games down the stretch with the Giants' current health, has averaged 13.7 carries and 5.8 targets for 81.2 scrimmage yards along with a 75.7% snap rate and a 61.0% route rate. It would not be surprising to see Barkley's workload and snap rate scale up even more with the playoffs finally here. The Vikings are just an average defense against running backs -- plus 27th against running backs in terms of adjusted FanDuel points per target.
Cook gets a great ground matchup by a few key running back defense metrics. He did exit early in Week 18 but had averaged an 82.2% snap rate in five games leading into the team's final two contests, so we can definitely see him push for the best snap rate among all backs of the day, and that itself has value.
Mixon simply is a tier below these two because his role since returning has been pretty modest. In Mixon's mid-season absence, Samaje Perine ($5,200) played well and, therefore, played himself into the rotation. In games since Mixon's return, Mixon has a 58.9% snap rate for 84.0 scrimmage yards per game, and even in an important game last week, his first-half snap rate was just 56.6%. Although he finished that game with better carry (11) and target (5) numbers than Perine (6 and 1, respectively), the salary is too high to rank him in Barkley's tier, and the snap rate lead for Cook has Mixon third for me among the three.
Yes, Wilson's team is a huge underdog. However, the team has not had Raheem Mostert ($6,100) at practice yet this week because of a thumb injury -- which is far from ideal for a running back. Wilson already has had the better role, too. In three games since returning, Wilson has a snap rate gap of 62.9% to 42.7% over Mostert as well as a lead in carries (13.3 to 9.3) and a narrow deficit in targets (3.7 to 4.3). We could see a lot of work for Wilson -- whether it's productive or not.
This might be a slate not to jam in a third running back for a flex because of the studs at receiver, and banking on punt plays such as Perine, Singletary, or Cook on this small slate doesn't seem like the right approach unless actively fading the top three running backs in favor of a receiver-heavy lineup.
Wide receiver is definitely loaded on this slate.
We have Justin Jefferson ($9,000), Ja'Marr Chase ($8,700), Stefon Diggs ($8,600), and Tyreek Hill ($8,500) above a $7,600 salary before a drop to Tee Higgins ($7,600) and Jaylen Waddle ($7,300) who -- themselves -- are in a tier of their own before the salaries fall to $6,400.
I don't really even need to make a case for Jefferson, Chase, and Diggs, but I will anyway so that I can rank them.
Jefferson is at the top for good reason. He has nine games with at least 20 FanDuel points and can really only go up from here in terms of targets. He's had five targets in consecutive games after totals of 11, 11, 15, 16, and 16 leading into that two-game split. One of those 16-target games came against the Giants in Minnesota. He caught 12 of them for 133 yards and a touchdown. We haven't seen a Jefferson eruption since Christmas Eve, but that doesn't mean we should forget about the huge ceiling.
As for Diggs and Chase, Diggs is the safer bet of the two given the matchup. Diggs has a post-bye target share of 28.1%, which has worked out to per-game averages of 5.9 catches, 8.9 targets, 77.3 yards, and 111.6 air yards. Miami is 30th in yards per target allowed on downfield passes, so explosive plays for Diggs should be there. An Allen-Diggs stack is simultaneously obvious but a mite hard to wrangle from a salary standpoint to a degree, so it'll probably be less popular than it should be.
That's especially true with Gabe Davis ($6,200) sitting there at a reasonable salary with eruption potential of his own. Davis has a better-than-I-realized target share of 20.8% in 10 post-bye games albeit with a catch rate over expectation of -4.4%. If regression hits, the Bills' duo could find themselves each in the optimal lineup by the end of Sunday night's matchup.
Back to Chase. He went for 86 yards and a score against the Ravens in Week 18 while catching 8 of 13 targets. While we here at numberFire let the numbers do the talking, Chase and the Bengals have taken exception to some post-whistle actions by the Ravens from their Week 18 matchup. Chase has a 27.0% target share (10.4 per game) in eight games alongside Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd ($6,000) (with all playing at least 50% of the snaps), so we don't really need more incentive to play him -- but we have it.
Hill and Waddle are tougher to consider building around unless going for pure differentiation reasons. In Week 18 with Skylar Thompson under center, Thompson totaled 152 yards on 31 attempts with no scores and horrid efficiency. Hill and Waddle each had 5 targets, and neither cracked 45 yards (Waddle had 44 yards thanks to a catch rate over expectation of +32.8%, and Hill had 23 with a catch rate over expectation of -7.4%).
For me, the core plays at wide receiver are Jefferson, Diggs, Chase, and Gabe Davis. Tee is a tick below them, and Hill and Waddle are tournament differentiation additions to Bills stacks in hopes of a true offensive shootout situation.
As for the value plays on the slate, we can look primarily to the Giants and Vikings game.
The Giants have three playable receivers with Isaiah Hodgins ($6,400), Richie James ($6,100), and Darius Slayton ($5,800). Since Hodgins' role increased after the Wan'Dale Robinson injury, we've seen James lead the team in target share at 23.0% (7.0 targets per game) with Hodgins (19.7%; 6.0) and Slayton (18.0%; 5.5) following up. Though James holds the highest "floor" of the three, the best leverage on the targets belongs to Slayton (with Hodgins boasting a middling combination of volume and target value). Slayton has a 12.0-yard average target depth in this split, and the Vikings are 21st in target depth allowed plus 23rd in yards per target allowed on downfield passes. For the salary, I like Slayton most, followed by Hodgins.
K.J. Osborn ($6,100) and Adam Thielen ($6,300) are also options -- especially in stacks with Kirk Cousins. That being said, they're a bit harder to justify, as they are clearly behind Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson ($7,000). Thielen has a 14.9% target share since the Hockenson trade; Osborn's number is 14.6%.
T.J. Hockenson ($7,000) could bust open the slate because Mark Andrews ($6,800) is at such a disadvantage with his quarterback situation. Since his debut with the Vikings, Hockenson has a 23.5% target share (9.4 targets per game and 6.6 catches per game) with a catch rate over expectation of +3.7%. The Giants are second-worst in catch rate over expectation allowed to tight ends (+5.0%) and allow an above-average target-per-route rate, as well. Hockenson, in their first meeting, caught 13 of 16 targets for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.
We last saw Mark Andrews get to 100 yards on 9 targets (catching all of them) against the Pittsburgh Steelers on New Year's Day. He didn't play in Week 18. Anthony Brown did throw 44 times in Week 18 -- for 286 yards and some of the worst efficiency by EPA added we've seen all season. We'd be banking on either a huge reversal in efficiency or hollow volume and a true blowout for Andrews to torch us for not rostering him. I'm not saying that can't happen, but it's enough not to put him in the same tier as Hockenson.
Dawson Knox ($5,600) helps to offset the salary of Josh Allen for stacking purposes. He has -- since their bye -- a 14.2% target share and a 16.3% red zone target share with a bit of downfield leverage, as well. Miami ranks 30th in adjusted FanDuel points per target allowed to tight ends this season.
There's a pretty big projection fall-off after these three. In lineups where we need true salary savings, Hayden Hurst ($5,100) and Daniel Bellinger ($4,800) can work when we're actively (or by necessity) avoiding the top three tight ends on the slate.