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Playoff Fantasy Football: Wildcard Weekend



By Doug Orth | 1/12/23 |

As I enter my 14h year of writing this postseason column, I hope I have helped some of you along the way supplement your regular-season fantasy prize winnings.

The layout of this column will remain mostly unchanged from last season. As was the case last season, my focus will be mostly on the NFL.com Playoff Challenge and small-slate DraftKings Classic tournaments. I will also be adding another challenge to the lineup this year, which you will find at the bottom of the article.

The first part of this week's column will be devoted to those owners who participate in the Playoff Challenge or any other format in which it is best or required to keep the players you draft for the duration of the postseason. The second half of the column is for owners who play in leagues in which you reset your lineup each week, such as a salary cap setup like DFS. Regardless of which format(s) you choose to play in, my goal over the next four articles will be to help each of you through your decision-making process as you attempt to boost your bottom line.

NFL.com Playoff Challenge/Multi-Week Leagues

For a complete rundown of how players will score fantasy points for your team, click on the “Rules & Prizing” link on the NFL.com entry page. Some of the content immediately below is included on the “How to Play” page, although the information I provide below should be more than enough to follow along easily.

NFL.com Playoff Challenge scoring system

The requirements: one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE, one K and one D/ST. You will earn fantasy points based on their on-field performance during their game, and if your player's team wins, you will have the option to carry that player over to the next round, where he will earn a bonus point modifier to his score (which will be referred to as 2x, 3x and 4x from here on out).

For example, if you pick Josh Allen in the Wildcard round and the Bills win, you can carry him over to the Divisional Round, and earn two times (2x) the points he earns in his divisional round game. If Buffalo wins again, you can carry Allen into the Conference Championship round for three times (3x) the points and, if the Bills make the Super Bowl, you can earn four times (4x) the points. Additionally, a user can select a player/defense in the Wildcard round even if their team has a bye into the Divisional Round. In this case, the user would not earn any points for the Wildcard round, but be eligible to earn 2x points in the Divisional round, since the player was on the teamís roster for two weekly scoring periods. Further bonus point modifiers would also apply as long as that playerís team continues to advance in the NFL Playoffs.

Before we get into the picks, let us briefly review the rules and how we may use them to our advantage:

1) passing TDs are worth four points, so passing yards are valued the same as DraftKings;
2) all field goals under 50 yards are worth three points, which means we are more concerned about the volume of field goals than distance – unless we can find a kicker who regularly converts from 50-plus (DraftKings does not use kickers);
3) this is a non-PPR format, which favors the big-play threats (DraftKings is PPR); and
4) team wins are worth five points in the NFL.com Playoff Challenge, so picking a “winning” defense is worth almost a touchdown before factoring in the modifiers.

If you have a good feeling about which two teams will meet in the Super Bowl, it is advisable to build your lineup exclusively with players from those two teams. Most previous playoff challenge champions' lineups are made up entirely of 4x Super Bowl participants. (In other words, it is important to project the Super Bowl entrants first and figure out what players from those teams to use afterward.) The multipliers are everything in this contest, so playing the week-to-week matchups are often meaningless. Think about it this way: if I told you that your regular-season fantasy team's scoring would double in Week 2, triple in Week 3 and quadruple in Week 4 if you simply left it the same, would it affect your draft strategy? Of course it would. The big week your team might post in the first week of this challenge - in the somewhat unlikely event you played the matchups perfectly - is going to seem rather insignificant in early February when every passing touchdown is worth 16 points, every other TD is worth 24 and the top teams in this competition are scoring 200-300 (or perhaps more) points per week. There are exceptions, however, and it can be well worth your while to hit big on a couple of significant individual performances in the opening round.

As noted earlier, the main challenges are (in order): 1) correctly predicting the two conference winners and 2) forecasting the best fantasy players in that hypothetical Super Bowl matchup. This will be the only Playoff Challenge write-up I do this postseason, as I have reached the conclusion that any alterations I make to my lineup in the third and fourth weeks would be in response to a wrong pick on my part, and my analysis of a 1x or 2x player isn't going to matter much. Much like in daily fantasy, the chalk plays probably are not going to win. In other words, be bold whenever possible! It is a free contest after all, so crashing and burning - even if it is in front of an audience like what I am doing - is not such a bad thing when you consider the reward is much greater than the risk involved.

Below you will find 14 playoff teams ranked in order of the (percentage) odds I believe they have of making the Super Bowl. I will spend a bit of time after that attempting to nail the bracket before talking a little DFS.

1. San Francisco (42%)
2. Philadelphia (40%)
3. Cincinnati (35%)
4. Buffalo (31%)
5. Kansas City (30%)
6. Dallas (8%)
7. Minnesota (5%)
8. Tampa Bay (3%)
9. LA Chargers (1%)
10. NY Giants (1%)
11. Miami (1%)
12. Baltimore (1%)
13. Jacksonville (1%)
14. Seattle (1%)

With that out of the way, let us next focus on my week-to-week playoff projections and then the players I feel are realistic alternatives for this four-week sprint to the finish:

AFC - Wildcard: Jaguars over Chargers, Bills over Dolphins, Bengals over Ravens
NFC - Wildcard: 49ers over Seahawks, Vikings over Giants, Cowboys over Buccaneers

AFC - Divisional: Chiefs over Jaguars, Bills over Bengals
NFC - Divisional: Eagles over Cowboys, 49ers over Vikings

AFC - Conference Championship: Bills over Chiefs
NFC - Conference Championship: 49ers over Eagles

Super Bowl: Bills vs. 49ers

The rankings below are for those readers in similar leagues that require you to draft players this week and keep them for the duration of the postseason. The number inside the parentheses refers to how many games I expect that player/unit to play.

Quarterbacks

Tier 1
1. Josh Allen (4)
2. Jalen Hurts* (2)
3. Patrick Mahomes (2)
4. Joe Burrow (2)

Tier 2
5. Brock Purdy (4)
6. Trevor Lawrence (2)
7. Kirk Cousins (2)
8. Dak Prescott (2)
9. Justin Herbert (1)
10. Tom Brady (1)

Tier 3
11. Daniel Jones (1)
12. Geno Smith (1)

Tier 4
13. Tyler Huntley (1)
14. Lamar Jackson* (1)
15. Skylar Thompson (1)
16. Teddy Bridgewater* (1)

* - Injury concern

It should not come as a surprise that the four quarterbacks widely recognized as the best ones playing this weekend are the same ones atop these rankings. Perhaps I am letting a "win one for Damar (Hamlin)" mentality set in here by predicting Buffalo to make it to the Super Bowl, but I think the combination of that combined with the memory of the pain the Bills experienced losing in the fashion they did last postseason will get them over the hump this year. Were it not for his shoulder injury and the likelihood of facing San Francisco, Hurts would be my top-ranked option. It would not be a shock to see Mahomes return to the Super Bowl, but Kansas City is a flawed team that has not played up to its considerable talent level very often since knocking off the 49ers in Week 7.

Purdy has been everything San Francisco could have hoped for, throwing for at least two touchdowns in each of his six games (five starts) and accounting for three scores twice. Considering the 49ers have yielded more than 20 points only once during their 10-game winning streak, Purdy is a great 4x candidate. The rest of Tier 2 is full of quarterbacks who will be extremely lucky to play more than two games. The Jags are rolling lately due in large part to Lawrence, but Jacksonville is probably not ready to challenge Kansas City, Buffalo or Cincinnati quite yet - and that assumes the Jaguars do not freeze up on their first big-stage game in a few years this weekend. Minnesota has enjoyed a bit of a fairytale season by going 11-for-11 in one-score games, but it has looked bad against good teams a bit too often. An 8-1 home record is enough of a reason to give Cousins and the Vikings the nod in the first round, but it is hard to imagine this team taking their show on the road and coming out of Philadelphia or San Francisco with a win.

We have seen Dallas play good football more often than Tampa Bay, which is about the only reason Prescott sits where he does above. However, Prescott somehow set a career high in interceptions (15) despite missing five more games than he usually does. Herbert probably belongs where Lawrence is, but I will take home field and the better-coached team over the more talented squad more often than not. If the Bucs can put together a complete game, they could cruise past Dallas. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay's offense has sputtered so much and for so long this season that it is hard to believe it will put it all together now - regardless of how good Brady usually is in the postseason.

Running Backs

Tier 1
1. Christian McCaffrey (4)

Tier 2
2. Joe Mixon (2)
3. Miles Sanders (2)
4. Jerick McKinnon (2)

Tier 3
5. Devin Singletary (4)
6. James Cook (4)

Tier 4
7. Austin Ekeler (1)
8. Saquon Barkley (1)
9. Dalvin Cook (2)
10. Tony Pollard (2)

Tier 5
11. Elijah Mitchell (4)
12. Isiah Pacheco (2)
13. Travis Etienne (2)
14. Ezekiel Elliott (2)
15. Leonard Fournette (1)

Tier 6
16. Jeff Wilson (1)
17. Rachaad White (1)
18. Samaje Perine (2)
19. Kenneth Walker (1)
20. J.K. Dobbins (1)
21. JaMycal Hasty (2)
22. Gus Edwards* (1)
23. Raheem Mostert* (1)

Not a lot of discussion is needed regarding McCaffrey, who is an elite fantasy option attached to a team with a great chance to play four games.

Tier 2 begins with a pair of players who are their team's clear lead back and ends with a player who, in some ways, has become Patrick Mahomes' preferred option near the goal line. The one thing all of them have in common is that play for teams that are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Mixon has 4x potential just like McCaffrey does, but Cincinnati's road back to the Super Bowl includes likely matchups against Buffalo and Kansas City. Even though I believe the Bengals are the best team in the AFC right now, the likelihood they can overcome both of the conference's other top teams in consecutive weeks makes Mixon and his teammates risky bets in this format. In the case of Sanders and McKinnon, both players' upside is hurt a bit by having a three-game ceiling. It also does not help their cause that Philadelphia and Kansas City are not playing the best ball in their respective conferences right now.

Buffalo's running backs deserve their own tier mostly because they are coming very close to splitting touches (knocking them out of contention for Tier 2) but come with 4x upside. It is a tossup which one will be more productive if the Bills make it to the Super Bowl; it may be worth the risk to be contrarian and take James Cook over Singletary in the hopes that the rookie blows up in the final game.

There is a strong case to be made that any of the top four backs in Tier 4 belong in Tier 3. The Chargers and Giants are probably the two teams most likely to win first-round games of the teams above I predicted to lose. Getting two games from Ekeler or Barkley could end up being preferable to either of the Bills' backs playing four. As for Dalvin Cook and Pollard, I do not have enough faith in either of their teams winning this weekend to roll the dice with them in this kind of competition.

Stefon Diggs

Wide Receivers

Tier 1
1. Stefon Diggs (4)

Tier 2
2. Ja'Marr Chase (2)
3. Brandon Aiyuk (4)
4. A.J. Brown (2)
5. Justin Jefferson (2)
6. Deebo Samuel (4)
7. Tee Higgins (2)
8. DeVonta Smith (2)

Tier 3
11. Keenan Allen (1)
12. Christian Kirk (2)
13. Chris Godwin (1)
14. Tyler Lockett (1)
15. Tyreek Hill (1)
16. Mike Evans (1)
17. Jaylen Waddle (1)
18. DK Metcalf (1)
19. Zay Jones (2)
20. JuJu Smith-Schuster (2)
21. Isaiah McKenzie (4)

Tier 4
22. Mike Williams* (1)
23. Kadarius Toney (2)
24. Tyler Boyd (2)
25. K.J. Osborn (2)
26. Marquez Valdes-Scantling (2)
27. Isaiah Hodgins (1)
28. Richie James (1)
29. Mecole Hardman* (2)
30. Josh Palmer (1)
31. Michael Gallup (2)

Tier 5
32. Jauan Jennings (4)
33. Cole Beasley (4)
34. Russell Gage (1)
35. T.Y. Hilton (2)
36. Adam Thielen (2)
37. Darius Slayton (1)
38. Marvin Jones (2)
39. Demarcus Robinson (1)
40. Quez Watkins (2)

Diggs disappointed a bit down the stretch, but he is still an elite receiver in an elite offense that has a very good chance to have a 4x next to his name. Even in a stacked receiver field, that is enough for him to top this list.

If I did not feel as though Buffalo was so motivated to make a Super Bowl run this year, Chase would likely lead the pack. He has returned seamlessly from his hip injury and somehow produced only four single-digit fantasy performances in 32 career games (including the postseason). Aiyuk's ranking is probably a big surprise for most readers, but his 4x potential (donít underestimate what a 5-80-1 line from him in the Super Bowl would look like at 4x) makes him well worth considering early in any postseason draft or competition. The likelihood that Brown is playing later in the postseason (thereby playing in 2x and 3x games) gives him a slight edge over Jefferson, who I expect to feast this weekend before coming back to earth next week against the 49ers. The same thing I said earlier about Aiyuk holds for Samuel. Iím just not sure Samuel will get a chance to build the same chemistry with Brock Purdy this season that Aiyuk already has. Higgins and Smith are great contrarian plays to Chase and Brown for those managers who believe the Eagles and Bengals will make it to the Super Bowl.

Tier 3 is a combination of great one-week options with a realistic chance to play two games and somewhat marginal two-week options that are dicey bets to advance past this weekend. The two exceptions are at the end of the tier. Smith-Schuster has not been a particularly big part of the offense recently, but the fact he is still technically the top wide receiver in Kansas City still means something. McKenzie is not a high-upside option, but all he needs to do is to hit once during a potential four-game stretch to justify his ranking above.

Tight Ends

Tier 1
1. George Kittle (4)
2. Travis Kelce (2)

Tier 2
3. Dawson Knox (4)
4. Dallas Goedert (2)
5. T.J. Hockenson (2)
6. Dalton Schultz (2)
7. Evan Engram (2)
8. Hayden Hurst (2)

Tier 3
9. Mark Andrews (1)

Tier 4
10. Gerald Everett (1)
11. Cade Otton (1)
12. Isaiah Likely (1)
13. Daniel Bellinger (1)
14. Mike Gesicki (1)
15. Noah Fant (1)

It would have been sacrilegious to rank Kittle over Kelce in any kind of redraft competition a month ago, but the insertion of Brock Purdy under center has all but eliminated years of somewhat disappointing touchdown totals for the Iowa product. Kittle's seven touchdowns over the last four games are more than he had in any of his previous five NFL seasons. Meanwhile, Kelce has not scored a touchdown in his last six outings after finding the end zone 12 times in his first 11. It seems highly unlikely that will continue - he is averaging 8.3 targets during his scoreless streak - but I am willing to roll the dice that Kittle will play twice as many games as Kelce and manage to remain Purdy's favorite target.

Knox is on a bit of a scoring streak of his own with a touchdown in each of his last four games. (He only had two through 13 weeks.) He is certainly capable of a blowup game in any week because he is a trusted option for Josh Allen and gets the nod at the top of Tier 2 given his 4x upside, but I can't imagine playing him over Kittle or Kelce in this kind of competition. Goedert would slot ahead of Knox if I had the Eagles going to the Super Bowl. Hockenson would be a Tier 1 option if it were not for the likelihood the Vikings will be done by next week at the latest. Schultz and Engram both have 2x upside, but I have no confidence that the Cowboys or the Jaguars will last very long in the postseason. Hurst might be as high as No. 3 if I felt the Bengals had a second straight Super Bowl run in them.

Kickers

1. Tyler Bass (4)
2. Robbie Gould (4)
3. Evan McPherson (2)
4. Harrison Butker (2)
5. Jake Elliott (2)
6. Brett Maher (2)
7. Greg Joseph (2)
8. Jason Myers (1)
9. Justin Tucker (1)
10. Riley Patterson/James McCourt (2)
11. Graham Gano (1)
12. Ryan Succop (1)
13. Cameron Dicker (1)
14. Jason Sanders (1)

Defense/Special Teams

1. 49ers (4)
2. Bills (4)
3. Eagles (2)
4. Bengals (2)
5. Cowboys (2)
6. Chiefs (2)
7. Jaguars (2)
8. Ravens (1)
9. Vikings (2)
10. Chargers (1)
11. Giants (1)
12. Buccaneers (1)
13. Dolphins (1)
14. Seahawks (1)

NFL.com Playoff Challenge Roster
QB: Josh Allen
RB: Christian McCaffrey
RB: Saquon Barkley
WR: Stefon Diggs
WR: Ja'Marr Chase
TE: George Kittle
K: Tyler Bass
D/ST: 49ers

DraftKings

Below you will find my position-by-position projections. Please note I have included DraftKings' dollar value for each player, followed by their projected point total. Because I went into some detail above, I will not spend a great deal of time explaining each projection here - only some of the more notable ones. Each position is sorted by my DraftKings' projected point total.

Key for quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends:
P Yds - Passing Yards
P TD - Passing Touchdowns
INT - Interceptions
Ru Yds - Rushing Yards
Ru TD - Rushing Touchdowns
Rec Yds - Receiving Yards
Rec TD - Receiving Touchdowns
Rec - Receptions

 Quarterbacks
Player Tm DK$ P Yds P TDs INT RuAtt RuYds Ru TDs DK
Josh Allen BUF $7,900 253 2 0 9 48 1 28.9
Kirk Cousins MIN $5,900 358 3 1 2 2 0 28.5
Trevor Lawrence JAC $5,700 266 2 1 5 23 1 25.9
Dak Prescott DAL $6,000 344 2 1 4 16 0 25.4
Justin Herbert LAC $6,600 359 2 1 3 8 0 25.2
Tom Brady TB $5,800 325 2 1 2 1 0 23.1
Daniel Jones NYG $5,600 291 2 0 6 32 0 22.8
Joe Burrow CIN $6,900 247 2 1 4 12 0 18.1
Brock Purdy SF $5,300 237 2 0 3 0 0 17.5
Geno Smith SEA $5,600 229 1 1 3 17 0 13.9
Anthony Brown BAL $5,000 209 1 1 3 4 0 11.8
Skylar Thompson MIA $4,800 180 0 2 4 11 0 6.3

This appears to be a surprisingly good week at the quarterback position, which is usually enough of a reason to pay down at the position and load up at another position or two. Allen is the great play he usually is, but the shootout potential in Jaguars-Chargers, Giants-Vikings and Cowboys-Bucs should give DFS players plenty of ideas for builds. I could endorse each starting quarterback in those games. Will it play out that way? Probably not, but there should also be no shortage of fireworks either.

My favorite punt of the bunch (sub-$6K quarterback) would be Lawrence, followed closely by Jones and Purdy. The Chargers were playing good football during their four-game winning streak, but I would question how many of those games came against quality opponents (MIA, TEN, IND, LAR). What is more is that Los Angeles' best win of the season may have come against the Dolphins in Week 14, which ended up being a one-score game despite Tua Tagovailoa finishing 10-of-28. Lawrence will be the best quarterback the Chargers have faced since Patrick Mahomes in Week 11 or Kyler Murray in Week 12. Both had their way with LA's defense. The Chargers' listless effort last week against Denver was alarming as well.

If I could have talked myself into one more touchdown for Jones, he would be neck-and-neck with Lawrence. Jones probably has the most rushing upside in this group after Allen and does not turn the ball over very much. Unfortunately, it is hard to get overly excited about Jones' ceiling. While he had eight multi-TD efforts in 2022, he had only one game with three or more. San Francisco probably will not need Purdy to do much this weekend, but he is a wonderful floor play regardless (six straight games with at least two scores).

 Running Backs
Player Tm DK $ Tgt Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs Ru Att Ru Yds Ru TDs DK
Austin Ekeler LAC $8,300 8 7 65 1 14 48 1 30.3
Saquon Barkley NYG $7,900 6 5 46 0 21 116 1 30.2
Christian McCaffrey SF $8,900 6 6 42 0 15 100 1 29.2
Travis Etienne JAC $6,300 3 2 22 0 17 101 1 23.3
Tony Pollard DAL $6,400 6 5 62 1 10 56 0 22.8
Dalvin Cook MIN $7,000 4 3 28 0 15 76 1 19.4
Jeff Wilson MIA $5,400 2 2 17 0 13 48 1 14.5
Leonard Fournette TB $5,300 8 6 42 0 11 40 0 14.2
Elijah Mitchell SF $4,700 1 1 8 0 12 53 1 13.1
Devin Singletary BUF $5,500 3 3 23 0 14 55 0 10.8
Rachaad White TB $5,100 6 5 35 0 6 22 0 10.7
James Cook BUF $4,800 4 3 13 0 11 62 0 10.5
Joe Mixon CIN $6,800 4 3 16 0 16 54 0 10.0
J.K. Dobbins BAL $5,700 2 1 11 0 18 71 0 9.2
Kenneth Walker SEA $6,100 2 2 17 0 13 53 0 9.0
Joshua Kelley LAC $5,000 2 2 17 0 5 32 0 6.9
Ezekiel Elliott DAL $6,000 2 1 11 0 12 46 0 6.7
Samaje Perine CIN $4,900 2 2 11 0 7 23 0 5.4
JaMycal Hasty JAC $4,600 1 1 4 0 4 27 0 4.1
Jordan Mason SF $4,300 0 0 0 0 4 38 0 3.8
DeeJay Dallas SEA $4,300 3 2 11 0 3 7 0 3.8
Alexander Mattison MIN $5,200 1 1 4 0 6 22 0 3.6
Kenyan Drake BAL $4,300 2 2 8 0 3 8 0 3.6
Salvon Ahmed MIA $4,000 2 1 7 0 5 19 0 3.6
Justice Hill BAL $4,000 0 0 0 0 5 28 0 2.8
Kyle Juszczyk SF $4,000 2 1 12 0 0 0 0 2.2
Matt Breida NYG $4,900 1 0 0 0 2 8 0 0.8

There is an exceedingly good chance the majority of DFS winning lineups will have either Ekeler, Barkley or McCaffrey in them. Mike Williams' back injury may be just enough for Ekeler to stay incredibly busy in the passing game. After giving him a week off, the Giants may be poised to ride Barkley as much as possible against the Vikings' shaky run defense. Although the return of Elijah Mitchell lowers McCaffrey's volume ceiling, CMC's matchup and role in San Fran's offense easily keep him inside the top three options at the position.

Playing Etienne and Pollard together could be a savvy move given the relatively high cost of the first three players, if only because the savings should be enough to get another elite receiver under the 50K cap. I would not venture too far below the top five running back options as I have them listed very often. In those rare cases, I would think long and hard about Mitchell, Singletary and Cook. While 49ers-Seahawks may fit into the "division rivals usually play each other close" narrative, HC Kyle Shanahan will likely have no problem giving some of CMC's 20-plus touches to Mitchell during the four-minute drill (if the game is unexpectedly close) or garbage time. With Miami expected to start its third-string quarterback this weekend, Buffalo could easily end up running the clock out for most of the second half if Allen & Co. catch fire in the first half.

 Wide Receivers
Player Tm DK$ Tgt Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs Ru Att Ru Yds Ru TDs DK
Justin Jefferson MIN $8,400 14 10 141 1 33.1
Keenan Allen LAC $7,000 11 8 92 1 23.2
Chris Godwin TB $6,400 11 8 86 1 22.6
CeeDee Lamb DAL $7,700 12 8 104 0 21.4
Ja'Marr Chase CIN $8,000 12 6 89 1 20.9
Tyler Lockett SEA $6,000 10 7 79 1 20.9
Zay Jones JAC $4,300 8 7 78 1 20.8
Mike Evans TB $6,900 8 5 76 1 18.6
Isaiah Hodgins NYG $4,100 8 5 71 1 18.1
Gabriel Davis BUF $4,800 6 4 54 1 15.4
Tee Higgins CIN $6,500 7 4 52 1 15.2
Brandon Aiyuk SF $5,800 5 4 48 1 14.8
Stefon Diggs BUF $7,600 8 6 86 0 14.6
Richie James NYG $3,900 10 7 74 0 14.4
Darius Slayton NYG $4,200 5 3 53 1 14.3
DK Metcalf SEA $6,200 9 6 68 0 12.8
Christian Kirk JAC $5,900 7 5 68 0 1 5 0 12.3
Josh Palmer LAC $5,300 8 5 68 0 11.8
Adam Thielen MIN $4,400 5 2 32 1 11.2
K.J. Osborn MIN $4,500 8 4 71 0 11.1
Jaylen Waddle MIA $6,600 5 5 58 0 10.8
Marvin Jones JAC $3,400 4 2 26 1 10.6
Demarcus Robinson BAL $3,500 7 5 54 0 10.4
Deebo Samuel SF $5,700 5 3 41 0 3 22 0 9.3
Tyreek Hill MIA $7,900 7 4 46 0 1 4 0 9.0
Mike Williams LAC $6,200 5 3 52 0 8.2
Isaiah McKenzie BUF $3,400 4 3 26 0 1 14 0 7.0
Tyler Boyd CIN $4,000 4 3 38 0 6.8
Sammy Watkins BAL $3,300 6 3 37 0 6.7
Russell Gage TB $3,800 5 3 35 0 6.5
T.Y. Hilton DAL $3,200 3 2 42 0 6.2
Trent Sherfield MIA $3,000 4 3 24 0 5.4
Jamal Agnew JAC $3,000 2 2 20 0 1 14 0 5.4
Michael Gallup DAL $3,700 5 2 32 0 5.2
Julio Jones TB $3,500 4 2 27 0 4.7
Noah Brown DAL $3,100 3 2 26 0 4.6
DeAndre Carter LAC $3,600 2 2 18 0 3.8
James Proche BAL $3,000 1 1 12 0 2.2
Jauan Jennings SF $3,300 2 1 12 0 2.2
Cedrick Wilson MIA $3,000 3 1 10 2.0
Cole Beasley BUF $3,000 2 1 8 1.8
Cade Johnson SEA $3,000 1 1 8 0 1.8
Trenton Irwin CIN $3,200 2 1 7 0 1.7
Khalil Shakir BUF $3,000 2 1 5 1.5
Dareke Young SEA $3,000 2 1 5 0 1.5
Ray-Ray McCloud SF $3,100 0 0 0 0 1 4 0 0.4

It seems unlikely that many people will fade Jefferson just because he did not do much in Week 17 or Week 18, but he should be as close to a roster lock as there is in DFS this weekend. The Vikings attacked CB Fabian Moreau relentlessly with Jefferson in their Week 16 meeting and it is not as if the Giants have great options to contain the All-Pro receiver even if targeting Moreau is not the primary focus again this week. It would not be overly surprising if my pro-Allen stance this week ends up backfiring, but I still think he is worth the risk at his price tag if Mike Williams (back) ends up being as limited as I think he will be. I would be willing to use Godwin and Lamb interchangeably for the most part. While I want shares of both in my lineups, the fact Godwin is significantly cheaper ($1300) would make me lean in his direction more often.

Lockett has been the one Seahawk immune to San Francisco's defense this year, posting a 9-107-0 line on 11 targets in Week 2 and a 7-68-0 line in Week 15. I would not expect that to change this week, as the 49ers likely have no desire to watch Metcalf take over instead. My favorite value plays at receiver are a pair of sub-5K Giants in Hodgins and James. Using both in lineups is not only a relatively high-upside play given they are facing a lackluster Minnesota secondary, but their combined price of 8K could end up offering enough savings to DFS players to pay up for Jefferson and not shy away from the elite options at running back and/or tight end.

 Tight Ends
Player Tm DK$ Tgt Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs DK
T.J. Hockenson MIN $5,100 11 8 82 1 22.2
Mark Andrews BAL $5,200 10 7 71 1 20.1
George Kittle SF $6,100 8 6 74 1 19.4
Dalton Schultz DAL $4,300 7 6 67 1 18.7
Dawson Knox BUF $4,000 5 4 38 1 13.8
Daniel Bellinger NYG $3,000 5 4 34 0 7.4
Evan Engram JAC $4,400 6 3 37 0 6.7
Hayden Hurst CIN $3,100 5 3 31 0 6.1
Gerald Everett LAC $3,900 4 3 31 0 6.1
Noah Fant SEA $3,100 5 3 28 0 5.8
Cade Otton TB $2,800 5 3 24 0 5.4
Isaiah Likely BAL $3,300 4 2 16 0 3.6
Donald Parham LAC $2,700 2 1 16 0 2.6
Colby Parkinson SEA $2,500 2 1 13 0 2.3
Lawrence Cager NYG $2,500 1 1 13 0 2.3
Mike Gesicki MIA $3,200 3 1 12 0 2.2
Dan Arnold JAC $2,500 1 1 11 0 2.1
Durham Smythe MIA $2,500 2 1 6 0 1.6
Mitchell Wilcox CIN $2,500 1 1 3 0 1.3

Despite what my projections say, it is either Hockenson or Kittle for me this week. Anthony Brown appears to be in line for the start against the Bengals, which makes Andrews a scary bet for the touchdown I have projected for him. Conversely, Hockenson tore up the Giants in Week 16 (13-109-2) and Kittle is on an incredible four-game run and facing a defense this week that has proven repeatedly it cannot stop tight ends.

Schultz makes sense as a mid-range option given how often Tampa Bay has given up a touchdown to tight ends this season AND how much Dak Prescott checks down to him. The only other tight end from this bunch that will likely appear on multiple rosters of mine is Knox. The problem with him is he feels so much more like a touchdown-or-bust option than the other three players I am willing to recommend this week.

Key for defense/special teams units:
PA - Points allowed
TD - Defensive/return touchdowns
TO - Total turnovers
PA Bonus - Points allowed bonus for DraftKings

 Defense / Special Teams
Team DK $ PA Sacks TD TO PA Bonus DK
Bills $3,300 10 4 3 1 4 20.0
Bengals $3,500 13 4 2 1 4 13.0
49ers $3,600 13 5 2 0 4 13.0
Giants $3,000 30 5 2 0 -1 8.0
Cowboys $3,400 20 4 1 0 1 7.0
Jaguars $2,700 27 3 1 0 0 5.0
Vikings $3,200 27 3 1 0 0 5.0
Chargers $3,100 31 3 1 0 -1 4.0
Buccaneers $2,600 23 2 1 0 0 4.0
Ravens $2,500 30 2 1 0 -1 3.0
Seahawks $2,400 34 1 0 0 -1 0.0
Dolphins $2,300 38 1 0 0 -4 -3.0

I doubt I have ever predicted a 20-point week for any defense/special teams unit in all of my years of doing this column, but it is incredibly rare for a playoff team to trot out its third-string quarterback against an inspired opponent that is also one of the most likely teams to play in the Super Bowl. Cincinnati is also expected to face a third-string quarterback, although the combination of Baltimore's stout defense and running game should allow the Ravens to play within their comfort zone a bit longer. My favorite punt here is the Jaguars, but I don't think I can recommend them too much when a unit like the Bills is only $600 more.

FFPC Playoff Challenge

Due to popular demand, I am adding another section to this edition of the Road to the Super Bowl. The FFPC offers a yearly playoff challenge in which managers must put together a 12-man fantasy squad, selecting no more than one player from each NFL team. Similar to the NFL Playoff Challenge above, players accumulate points throughout their time in the playoffs - be it for one game or four. Unlike the NFL Playoff Challenge, there is no ability to change players once rosters are set and locked for the first round of the postseason. Additionally, the only time the multiplier kicks in is for the Super Bowl (2x).

Because I have expressed my thoughts on many players in the previous sections, I will just share the lineup I would use in this competition. Kicker and defense/special teams are essentially throwaway positions from the perspective that it makes no sense to use those spots on players/units from the top Super Bowl contenders because they are the lowest-scoring positions.

Here are the rules and scoring for this competition:

QB: Josh Allen
RB: Christian McCaffrey
RB: Saquon Barkley
WR: Justin Jefferson
WR: CeeDee Lamb
TE: Travis Kelce
FLEX1: Austin Ekeler
FLEX2: Travis Etienne
FLEX3: Ja'Marr Chase
FLEX4: A.J. Brown
K: Justin Tucker
DST: Buccaneers


Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.