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NFL DFS: Wild Card Weekend Strategy

The playoffs are here! As mentioned in my Week 17 article, we'll be shifting our discussions on the playoff slate from more of a "guys we're targeting" perspective to more of a "roster construction" discussion, which is always most important in my mind but even more important as the slates get smaller.

Let's see if we can find some winning constructions for the first week of the playoffs.

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If you're new to DFS, I'd recommend checking out our DFS 101 article before getting started, as it can give this column a lot more context.

Please note that the authors of this post are also players of daily fantasy sports, and the selections they make when creating their rosters may or may not include players listed below. You can find Derek Devereaux on DraftKings via the username DerekDevereaux.

This week’s roster construction beer of choice

Hoppy hoppy beers, y'all. This IPA has a nice blend of hops with a relatively powerful flavor of, you guessed it, honey. It makes for a really distinct drinking experience, at least from my normal variety of beers.

My entry strategy

As the slates get smaller, I tend to be less likely to play cash games, as lineups are so consolidated that we're looking at a one person change or picking the right or wrong defense being the difference between doubling up or losing entirely. I also tend to pull back the amount of lineups I create in GPPs and am more likely to go towards the limited entry tournaments, either as single entries or three-max.

This week, I plan on entering three sets of three-max contests, with a set in the Saturday slate, a set in the Sunday slate, and a set in the combined slate, and not play any cash games.

Vegas lines

All lines via Bovada, current as of Friday afternoon.

Saturday games

  • Indianapolis at Buffalo -6.5, 51 total

  • LA Rams at Seattle -3.5, 42 total

  • Tampa Bay -8 at Washington, 44.5 total

Sunday games

  • Baltimore -3 at Tennessee, 54.5 total

  • Chicago at New Orleans -10, 47 total

  • Cleveland at Pittsburgh -6, 47 total

Where will the ownership fall?

We have two clear-cut totals to target, which are both games over 50. I think ownership on both sides of those games will be elevated. I also anticipate that ownership on the Saints and the Buccaneers will be high, given their high spreads.

Team-by-team breakdown

Indianapolis (implied team total: 22.25)

Indy is always a tough team to stack because they have so many guys that are involved in the passing game. Because of that, though, it's possible we get guys at low ownership here, and nailing the right pieces could be great leverage. I expect Jonathan Taylor - even as nearly a touchdown underdog - to be somewhat popular. With the ball being so spread around, I would probably target either a 2-1 skinny stack (with a Bills runback of Diggs or Brown or even one of the RBs), or a 3-1 stack and including one of the tight ends in that stack (with a similar runback). In smaller field tournaments or ones with entry limits, you could maybe do one, but if I were playing large field, multi-entry tournaments this week, I think this is a passing game I would want a lot of exposure to.

Buffalo (implied team total: 28.75)

I expect the combination of Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs to be the most popular stack on the slate, and with good reason - they've been elite literally all season. The problem here is there's not really any good leverage on the Bills side to pivot to - which is why for large-field tournaments, the Indy side might be more intriguing at lower ownership while still taking Diggs as the runback. I don't know how owned pairing a second piece to the stack would be - a John Brown or a Cole Beasley/Gabriel Davis, whichever starts, or Dawson Knox - so that could be a way to differentiate, but that also could just be an unnecessary roster spot. I think if you go this route, you just eat all the chalk - Allen + Diggs + Jonathan Taylor runback - and get cute elsewhere, or you add a third piece from the Bills side and see if that differentiates you a little bit.

LA Rams (implied team total: 19.25)

This is such a low total game that I'm not convinced you really need to be in this game in the full slate. For the smaller Saturday slate, you'll probably want something from here, but I wouldn't be prioritizing high-priced guys, as their theoretical ceiling is limited. I may have a cheap one-off from the Rams side, but I don't think you target a stack here - especially because we still don't know who's playing QB.

Seattle (implied team total: 22.75)

The Seattle side is expensive given their total here, but it could easily create an environment where they go overlooked, too. Playing this side would amount to either a Chris Carson one-off or a skinny stack, with Russ + either Lockett or Metcalf. I don't think a runback is necessary, especially because the two guys from the Rams you want to play are also overpriced in my mind, but nobody would stop you from doing it.

Tampa Bay (implied team total: 26.25)

People are going to be on this game because the Bucs should beat the brakes off of Washington, but again, the problem here is that we don't know who to stack with. Godwin? Evans? AB? Gronk? They all are viable in their own right. I tend to think that pairing Gronk and Evans is the least likely thing to do, as both can be somewhat touchdown-dependent. In large field tournaments, I'd probably make a lineup with each combination. In smaller field stuff, if you play it - and I think it's in play - you just have to hope you get lucky. Also, I'd run a Terry McLaurin runback here, although you could choose one of the running backs if you want or Logan Thomas, too. Ronald Jones is playable as a one-off too; I think I'll probably stay away from Fournette given he's more used when the Bucs are down (if he's even active).

Washington (implied team total: 18.25)

Don't. I can see playing a one-off here if you're feeling cute, but the probability of the stack being the highest scoring on the slate is too small to consider. But the same guys I mentioned as runbacks above, sure as a one-off or a secondary correlation.

Baltimore (implied team total: 28.75)

Lamar is back, baby! This game will be the most popular on the slate overall, and I think people will play the Baltimore side more broadly. Lamar + Mark Andrews always makes a ton of sense to me, although you could easily swap Andrews out with Hollywood Brown, too. I wouldn't pair them together. Definitely include a runback here, but whether you choose an always popular Derrick Henry or one of the receivers is a guessing game. I do think JK Dobbins is in play as well, even at his elevated price, but I'm more likely to go there as part of a Titans stack runback. Speaking of...

Tennessee (implied team total: 25.75)

A popular Derrick Henry typically means a less popular Ryan Tannehill. Will that ownership be low enough that he's underowned? I don't think so, but it is leverage nonetheless. Playing Derrick Henry as a one-off or as a secondary correlation is perfectly fine. If you are going the Tannehill route, I would lean to pairing him with one of, but not both of, AJ Brown and Corey Davis, and then add in Jonnu Smith and a runback from Baltimore. It's rare that AJ Brown and Corey Davis both go off in the same game. Davis is at a cheap enough price that he doesn't need to have a massive ceiling game to pay off, but he certainly could have one.

Chicago (implied team total: 18.5)

What a terrible matchup for Chicago. Even with the Saints missing Pro Bowl snub Trey Hendrickson, the pass rush is good enough to get to Trubisky early and often. The two guys you want to play as one-offs here, David Montgomery and Allen Robinson, are too expensive to play given their low implied team total. Could you include one of them in a Saints runback? Sure, if you want, in which case I would probably lean towards Robinson more than Montgomery. I'm more likely, if I want to play the Bears, to take one of their cheap TEs as a one-off and call it a day.

New Orleans (implied team total: 28.5)

Alvin Kamara will be popular. Michael Thomas will be popular. Will Drew Brees? I'm not so sure he'll be chalk, but he'll garner ownership for sure. I think Emmanuel Sanders could be overlooked, as might Jared Cook given his price range. Latavius Murray is cheap enough that you could get cute with him, primarily on the Sunday only slate. There's plenty of ways to build around this Saints team, it's just a matter of how much chalk you want. You want exposure to them, though.

Cleveland (implied team total: 20.5)

I know both of their games basically went to this total during the regular season, but it just feels like this game could go for 60 points or 35 points, and I don't know which one it's going to be. And they just played each other last week! We know what happens with the Browns: If they're up early, they pound the rock all day long with Chubb and/or Kareem Hunt. If they're down early, then they throw a ton - but Baker Mayfield isn't exactly efficient with his passes. The pieces are all cheap enough that I think you can play them - everyone in the passing game is under $6000 - so a Baker + Landry + Hooper stack makes sense to me, plus any runback from the Steelers side.

Pittsburgh (implied team total: 26.5)

This is a similar conundrum to what we had with Tampa Bay. Which guys are you going to stack with? Nobody is overly expensive here, but the dispersion of Big Ben's yards and attempts could go through Juju, Diontae or Claypool, and Ebron gets his looks down in the red zone, too. Getting that right will be key if you're stacking this, and again, in large-field tournaments where you're entering 20 or more lineups, I'd probably have a combination with each. James Conner is very cheap given the matchup, but there's so much uncertainty around his workload, too. I think that drives his ownership down despite the price, so a dart throw with him as a one-off salary saver as part of a more expensive stack seems like a good fit.

But you didn't talk about any defenses. Who should I play there?

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Good luck, and may your screens be green!

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