Wild Card Weekend - Locks and Props
The NFL playoffs have officially arrived! With it comes one of the most fun football weekends of the year. Wild Card Weekend is a blast. Everyone is good, well, almost everyone. Looking at you Chicago! Regardless, there should be plenty of good football and spectacular finishes, especially with the added game this weekend. The player pool will be very small on a slate like this so let's dive in!
My top two for the weekend are going to be Josh Allen at 7.5k and Big Ben at 6.1k. The Bills have built an impressive team to match Josh Allen's strengths and each weekend they implement a game plan that attacks their opponents' weaknesses. The Colts are a very good team but Brian Daboll should have another masterful gameplan in his back pocket that hopefully allows Josh Allen to keep rolling. First in pass rate over expectation since week 9 and second overall, Allen and the Bills should continue chucking it. It was hard choosing between him and Lamar for my high-priced QB but ultimately I just trust Josh Allen more than Lamar, which still feels weird to say.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been horrendous for a month and a half now. However, it's a home playoff game against a pass funnel and Big Ben's price is acceptable at 6.1k. I think he is a solid tournament pivot off the chalkier quarterbacks and if the offense can get rolling then I think he can pay off his price. It's tough betting on offense in the 3rd divisional game of the season but we know the Steelers are going to throw 65% of the time so the opportunity should be there.
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
I am not playing Lamar because I love JK Dobbins this week. The rookie has been unleashed and is absolutely cooking right now. The Ravens have a smart staff so I expect them to just let the most talented player in the Running Back room run wild. JK Dobbins is that dude and I am locking him in. I will have him in most of my lineups because his price is palatable relative to his opportunity. King Henry is a stud and I am never going to trash the Big Dog but 9.2k with Calais Campbell on the other side gives me caution. He is perfectly playable but I might end up with a lineup exempt of Derrick Henry. I once again love Jonathan Taylor. He, too, has been unleashed and should receive 20 or more carries in a game I expect to be closer than the Vegas line says. $7900 is a lot to pay for someone who doesn't catch passes but they are officially force-feeding this kid the ball. Adjusting for Price, I think I like Taylor over Henry this week. Not straight up but purely based on price.
The stunner of the week is Nick Chubb at $6700. The Browns are having Covid issues and might be depleted but if they don't give Chubb the ball 25 times then they deserve to lose. He is Derrick Henry's statistical twin and I don't care how difficult the matchup is, 6.7k for Nick Chubb's ceiling is a risk I am willing to take. To round out the volume plays, I like Cam Akers. Seattle has a tough run defense but McVay has proven that he will run the ball 30 times a game. With Henderson on IR and the sluggish Malcolm Brown being phased out, 20 carries for Akers is not an outrageous expectation. Seattle should win this game but I expect Los Angeles to keep it close as they try to eke out a road playoff win against the Seahawks. If you want to get wild in tournaments then look at Nyheim Hines at 4.7k. He is nice leverage off of Jonathan Taylor and it's reasonable to think the Colts quickly fall behind which forces them to put Hines in and throw the ball more. Just a thought, folks.
This one is simple, just correlate your receivers. If I play Big Ben then I am playing 2 Pittsburgh pass catchers. I like Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Shuster, and James Washington, in that order. If Ebron was going to be out then I would lock in Vance McDonald. He looks like he will play so Ebron is also fine against a Tight End pass funnel. Since I love Josh Allen, I naturally love his receiving options. Adjusted for price, and hopefully healthy enough to play, I like Beasley, Diggs, and Brown, in that order. Barring health, I like Beasley the most because I think the Colts try to force Allen to get rid of the ball quicker which brings Cole Beasley into play. Diggs is a solid play and led the league in receiving yards this year so I'm not here to talk you off of him. He has a massive ceiling so this is purely based on price and how I am structuring my lineup.
My favorite one-off plays are going to be Corey Davis and Marquise Brown. They are cheap enough to correlate together and still have plenty of salary remaining. When teams key on Henry and AJ Brown, the Titans have shown they will pepper Davis with 8-10 targets. Any Titans offensive player is fine because they each have massive upside but Corey Davis is my favorite price-adjusted Tennesse Titan. Hollywood Brown has finally heated up and the Titans have been torched all year. Just awful in the secondary so watch out if Brown can get loose and actually catch the ball. I want so badly to put Metcalf or Lockett in here because they have such a massive ceiling and this is the cheapest DK Metcalf has been in a long time. I don't know if I do it but can Ramsey really slow this monster down 3 times in one year? We will soon find out but until then I am going to wrestle with putting him in my lineup. Like Rob and I discussed on the podcast, you need a Tampa Bay pass-catcher or two in your lineup. It's hard to pick one and the situation is cloudy with Evan's coming off an injury but I like Godwin as my favorite and then it's a toss-up between Antonio Brown and Mike Evans. I will try to get one in my lineup and I have a feeling that AB is going to fit best due to his cheaper price tag.
Tight End and Defense
I am going Gronk here as my favorite Tight End play. He continues to look healthy and receive several targets each week. At 4k he allows you to get exposure to the Buccaneers passing attack without breaking the bank. If you are sitting there with less than 4k left then here are my top 3 sub 4k options: Eric Ebron, Tyler Higbee, and Jonnu Smith. They all present some risk but also come with upside while providing leverage off of some other plays I have discussed here.
As for Defense, seek pressure rate and identify a team that is going to have a reasonable probability of turning a fluky play into a touchdown. I have talked all year about not overthinking a defense or getting scared to play a cheap one. You just need one fluky play to pay off and we see it happen every single week.
Here are my 5 favorite props going into this weekend's games that I took. I like to take these individually and then parlay them. As always, these odds were taken at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Zack Moss, Over 1.5 Receptions (+145) - Indianapolis has allowed the fourth-most catches to Running Backs on the season. The Bills can't run the ball and the Colts don't give up a lot on the ground but they force a lot of targets to the backfield. Moss averages 1 catch a game so there is risk involved here but I expect the Colts to force a couple more dump-offs as they try to slow down Josh Allen. Singletary at +120 to go over 2.5 catches isn't a bad play either.
JK Dobbins, Over 61.5 Rushing Yards (-125) - They have officially released the rook! I expect his success to continue this week.
Jared Cook, Over 2.5 Receptions (-117) - Brees gives Cook about 5 targets per game and the Bears have allowed the 4th most catches to Tight Ends on the season. This is a sharp line but Cook should get there.
Diontae Johnson, Over 65.5 Receiving Yards (-112) - Going up against Cleveland's pass funnel, Pittsburgh is 3rd in Pass Rate over Expectation, per Mike Leone at Establish the Run. You could pick any Steelers receiver here.
Cam Akers, Over 64.5 Rushing Yards (+115) - Seattle has a strong run defense so I am less confident in this one but I expect Akers to get there on volume alone.
The pricing is tight so a balanced build might be best
Don't be afraid to leverage off superstars, Defenses adjust significantly come playoff time
Focus on trends that took place over the final quarter of the season
Have some and be smart with your bankroll