The NFL regular season is over but DraftKings is still running huge GPP contests on Wild-Card weekend, including the $2.25M Fantasy Football Millionaire with a $1,000,000 prize for first place. If you are a regular reader of this article, you should already understand the importance of entering unique lineups in top-heavy, large-field tournaments such as this week’s Milly Maker. On a four-game slate, where competing rosters will overlap much more than usual, the urgency to separate your lineups from those of your opponents becomes amplified.
The most important thing you can do before building lineups this week is to tighten up your player pool by scripting each game. As an example, let’s say you feel strongly about Buffalo pulling an upset in Houston. What would that look like in a box score? Carlos Hyde’s baseline projection and affordable salary make him an OK point-per-dollar value on the surface. But if you don’t think the Texans will be playing with a lead, Hyde is unlikely to see enough touches, or carry enough touchdown equity, to reach his ceiling. If the game goes according to your script, avoiding Hyde completely will help your lineups jump in front of the ~20% that include him.
With this concept in mind, our format will change for the playoff slates. The focus will be on predicting the outcome of each game and building a player pool that is fully in sync with those predictions.
Soft blue highlighting indicates a recommened core player to take a strong overweight stance on.
Bills @ Texans
Deshaun Watson is an average quarterback when forced to operate under pressure and the Bills pass rush, which ranks top-12 in adjusted sack rate, represents a mismatch for Houston’s 22nd-ranked offensive line. On the other side of the ball, J.J. Watt’s return from a two-month layoff won’t be enough to fluster Josh Allen, who should have enough time for downfield plays to develop against a Texans defense that has struggled at every level since beating New England in Week 13.
Josh Allen ($6,500) - At just $100 less than mega-chalky Drew Brees, Allen should go lightly owned relative to the field at quarterback. He faces a defense with a struggling pass rush and awful secondary. Houston has allowed 25% more fantasy points to enemy quarterbacks than league average over the past five weeks.
Devin Singletary ($6,000) - If we’re working under the assumption Buffalo’s defense will dictate the flow of the game, Singletary has the upside for 25 total touches. His lack of red-zone involvement is troubling but at a fair salary, Singletary can deliver 20+ DraftKings points on yardage and receptions alone. Keep an eye on his ownership projection, however. Steve Buzzard currently has him at the second-highest-owned running back, which is suspect for a player who only exceeded a 3x multiple of his current salary twice all season.
Duke Johnson Jr ($4,400) - The Bills rush defense stiffened up during the second half of the season, which spells trouble for the plodding Carlos Hyde. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is stubborn enough to try Hyde at least 15 times regardless, but if the plan fails and Buffalo is ahead on the scoreboard, he’ll have no choice but to turn to the more versatile Johnson.
John Brown ($6,000) - Brown offers a rare blend of dependability and high upside at the wide receiver position. His speed should be too much in coverage for cornerback Jonathan Joseph. Joseph is 35 years old and coming off a hamstring injury in Week 17. Expect Brown to slip behind him for at least one long gain to go along with his typical 7-10 targets.
Cole Beasley ($5,600) - Beasley has quietly posted at least 15 DraftKings points (and as many as 26) in four of his previous five games. As overmatched as Joseph might be defending Brown, Beasley has the best one-on-one matchup of any Buffalo receiver in the slot against Tampa Bay cast-off Vernon Hargreaves III. How bad do you have to be at playing cornerback to be cut by the Buccaneers mid-season? Beasley is a mid-priced, high-floor glue guy fo tournament lineups.
DeAndre Hopkins ($7,700) - Hopkins can’t be ignored despite the projected negative game script. He’s simply too good. But especially if the Bills pass rush is getting to Deshaun Watson, it’s difficult to envision Hopkins reaching the high-end of his range of outcomes while shadowed by stud cornerback Tre’Davious White. Hopkins caught five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown against the Bills last season -- although only two catches for 27 yards and the score came against White, who hasn’t allowed a touchdown in coverage all season.
Will Fuller V ($4,900) - If Fuller is on the field (which doesn’t seem likely as of this writing), he is a requirement in your multi-entry tournament plans. Regardless of the game script, Fuller can 3x his current salary on a single play and has plenty of upside for more.
Kenny Stills ($4,600) - Assuming Fuller sits, Stills makes sense as a run-back option in Buffalo stacks, but he’s also dealing with an injury and has yet to flash much of a ceiling as a member of the Texans. Increase your exposure if Bills cornerback Levi Wallace is declared out.
Isaiah McKenzie ($3,500) - McKenzie is a thin play but seeing enough snaps to use as a low-exposure lineup differentiator. He has enough speed and agility to break a long touchdown.
Dawson Knox ($2,900) - The athletic Knox is an excellent leverage play on the Bills wide receivers. Houston has allowed 56% more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than league average over the last five weeks.
Buffalo Bills ($3,100) - Houston allows over three sacks per game, giving the Bills a solid floor in this matchup. Watson completes only 46% of his passes when pressured, which raises the potential for turnovers.
Titans @ Patriots
The most experienced playoff team of our generation takes care of business at home against a shaky quarterback making his first playoff start. As of this writing, the public is split on how to bet this game, which points to recency bias following the Patriots’ stunning loss to the Dolphins last week. The point spread should be about two points higher in New England’s favor. These are signs most Patriots players will offer leverage on the field in tournaments.
Tom Brady ($5,800) - He is the only starting quarterback priced below $6K on the slate and gets a plus matchup against Tennessee’s bottom-10 pass defense (DVOA). We’re only two weeks removed from Brady looking sharp in an important home win over Buffalo. This sets up as a spot to push against the media narrative surrounding the fall of Brady and the Patriots’ dynasty.
Sony Michel ($4,600) - Michel has between 18 and 23 touches in each of his last three games, yet costs just $100 more than his teammate, Rex Burkhead, who typically receives about half as much opportunity. This is a bargain price for a player who can realistically lead all running backs on the slate in rushing attempts.
James White ($5,700) - White has the highest floor and ceiling of any New England running back. With the season on the line and Julian Edelman ailing, White could be Brady’s most targeted pass-catcher this week, regardless of the game flow. He’s firmly in play and should get shaded a bit by Singletary at $300 more.
Rex Burkhead ($4,500) - Burkhead is a low-exposure contrarian play. He’s been highly efficient as a runner lately and a little lucky in the touchdown department considering he only has one carry from inside the opponent’s five-yard line over the last four games. Due to his versatility, he’s an intriguing stacking option for Brady in large-fields.
Derrick Henry ($8,200) - Henry is priced near his ceiling and facing the defense that allowed the fewest DraftKings points to enemy running backs in 2019. With last week’s 211-yard, three-touchdown performance fresh in the crowd’s minds, this is a spot to fade him relative to the field. But even if we assume New England rolls over Tennessee, it’s conceivable Henry accounts for the majority of the Titans’ offensive production. Don’t come up totally empty.
Julian Edelman ($6,500) - Edelman is clearly compromised by the knee and shoulder injuries that have hampered him in the last few weeks. At least his lack of recent production has made him available at a fair price. We still have every reason to project Edelman as the Patriots’ target leader, but his ceiling is lower until we see him produce in spite of the injuries. Play him in about 20% of your lineups.
A.J. Brown ($7,400) - Since Week 12, Brown is the cumulative WR2 on DraftKings, trailing only Michael Thomas by a fraction of a point. We’re probably going to see Brown come off the board as a top-5 wide receiver in 2020 redraft leagues (which may be justifiable), but he still has to prove himself against better defensive backs than the ones he’s torched in recent weeks. Shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore limited Brown to two targets in Week 16 against the Saints. We could see a similar result as Brown faces off with Stephon Gilmore, one of the best cover corners in the league. Keep an eye on his ownership projection before deciding on your exposure. If he sticks in the 5% range, it’s fine to double the field, but you don’t want much more than that.
Corey Davis ($3,800) - Given their salaries and respective one-on-one matchups, Davis might be the more intriguing run-back play in game stacks ahead of Brown. Some of the best games of Davis’ career have come against New England, including a multi-touchdown performance in the 2017 playoffs.
N’Keal Harry ($4,100) - Harry has played on 55% fo the Patriots snaps over the last three weeks, compared to 14% for Phillip Dorsett. The rookie is steadily becoming more ingrained in the Patriots offense, especially in the red zone, where he’s been Brady’s top option over the last three games. Harry most closely fits the profile of athletic wide receivers that have been smoking the Titans since Malcolm Butler went on IR. You’ll want to be ahead of the curve if this is the week he’s finally set loose for a full complement of snaps and he can still reach value even if it’s not.
Mohamed Sanu ($3,900) - Sanu has been thoroughly unimpressive as a Patriot, but he’ll be out there on ~90% of the offensive snaps and should see at least five targets. Prioritize Harry, White, and Edelman over him.
Tajae Sharpe ($3,800) - If Gilmore and New England’s other talented cornerbacks shut down Brown and Davis on the perimeter, Sharpe could be the recipient of overflow targets as Tannehill tries to bring the Titans back from behind. He’s a low-exposure lineup differentiator for as long as Adam Humphries remains sidelined.
Jonnu Smith ($3,800) - Smith was on a nice roll prior to going untargeted in last week’s win over the Texans. Assuming Ryan Tannehill will be required to throw more than 20 times this week, Smith will have opportunities to break a big play. His speed is a problem for New England’s linebackers.
New England Patriots ($3,400) - The Patriots were widely considered one of the best defenses in recent memory for the majority of the season. Public perception has overcorrected as the team has struggled in recent weeks. If they sell out to contain Henry and force Tannehill to beat them, fantasy points will ensue. New England deserves to be the highest-priced and highest-owned defense on the slate.
Vikings @ Saints
Drew Brees is surgical and Minnesota’s lousy pass defense is unable to come up with an answer. The Saints get out to a commanding lead in the third quarter and Kirk Cousins is able to make the score look closer than it actually was while New Orleans is playing prevent defense.
Drew Brees ($6,600) - Brees enters this game on a heater, passing for at least three touchdowns in six of his previous seven starts. Minnesota is generally a negative matchup for opposing quarterbacks, but the strength of their defense -- the defensive line -- will be neutralized by the Saints, who have the best offensive line in football. Brees should have all the time he needs to pick apart Minnesota’s struggling secondary at home.
Kirk Cousins ($6,100) - Cousins has exceeded a 4x multiple of his salary in about 33% of his games this season, yet as of this writing, he’s projected for 6% ownership. This is a difficult matchup for Cousins and the Vikings. The team’s run-first offense could stall against the Saints stout defensive front, leaving them without many scoring opportunities. But if his ownership projection holds until lineup lock, it’s difficult not to double the field on your exposure to Cousins. Even if Minnesota struggles for most of the game, garbage time production leaves him with an out.
Alvin Kamara ($7,400) - Kamara has scored four times over the last two games after being held out of the end zone since Week 3. His ceiling remains up there with the best running backs in the league, but Kamara is going to appear in more than half of our opponents’ lineups and he needs those touchdowns (or 10+ targets) to pay off as the chalk. The Vikings have allowed the fifth-lowest opponent rushing touchdown percentage on the season, making it fair to wonder if loading up on Saints receivers isn’t the smarter move. Considering what the rest of the field looks like at running back, however, the crowd has it right. Kamara is explosive, active in the passing game, and can safely be projected for 20 touches at home in an offense with the highest implied team total on the slate. He belongs in 35-40% of your lineups.
Dalvin Cook ($7,800) - This is Cook’s lowest salary since Week 3. He’ll pop as a strong value in projection models as a result, but he should be faded relative to his ownership. Cook has been unable to finish the last two games he started and hasn’t played in three weeks due to a nagging shoulder injury. Nevermind the tough matchup. We don’t know if Cooks can make it through the game or if Minnesota will choose to lighten his load with Alexander Mattison expected back and Mike Boone proving himself as an NFL-caliber talent.
Latavius Murray ($5,000) - Murray is worthy of 10-15% exposure on the chance he breaks a long touchdown run or vultures Kamara at the goal line. Given the ownership of Brees, Kamara, and Thomas, you could argue Murray is the best leverage play on the slate (cue Taysom Hill scoring multiple touchdowns).
Michael Thomas ($9,300) - Thomas projects as this week's highest-owned player but it’s still not high enough. He’ll be covered on the perimeter by Xavier Rhodes, who has allowed more yards per route covered than any cornerback playing in the Wild Card round. It’s hard to imagine a scenario -- win or lose for New Orleans -- where Thomas doesn’t score 25-30 DraftKings points.
Stefon Diggs ($6,600) - Diggs will be dealing with shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore, who stepped his game up as the season progressed. Despite the difficult matchup, Diggs is the ideal run-back option for Saints stacks. He led the league in receptions and touchdowns on targets that traveled 20+ yards this season, giving him the upside you can’t pass up on a short slate.
Adam Thielen ($6,200) - We’ve reached the point where Thielen is merely a contrarian dart throw. An injured hamstring wrecked his season, but he’s had two weeks to rest and will enjoy more favorable coverage than Diggs, especially with cornerback Eli Apple expected to scratch. Thielen is theoretically the same guy who dropped 35 DraftKings points on the Giants in Week 5. He’ll get ignored by the crowd in the same price range as DK Metcalf and John Brown.
Tre'Quan Smith ($4,000) - Smith has quietly caught a touchdown in three of New Orleans’ last four games. Don’t fall for the misconception Ted Ginn Jr is Brees’ WR2. He’s been out-snapped by the super-athletic Smith for weeks.
Ted Ginn Jr ($3,600) - Even on limited snaps, Ginn is capable of breaking the one long play he needs to deliver value on his thrift store price tag. Prioritize Smith as a contrarian option for your Brees stacks, but make sure you get Ginn in at least one lineup.
Jared Cook ($4,900) - Somehow, Cook, who has at least one reception of 20+ yards in every one of his starts since Week 6, costs less than Greg Ward. He’s an exceptional GPP play against the Vikings, who rank bottom-10 in opponent tight end target rate.
New Orleans Saints ($3,000) - Minnesota generally keeps sacks and turnovers to a minimum but going into New Orleans as a 7.5-point underdog is a tough spot for any team. If Brees forces Cousins into a pass-heavy game script, the opportunity will be there for the Saints pass rush to pin their ears back and pressure Cousins into a poor decision or two.
Seahawks @ Eagles
More defense than most people anticipate. Philadelphia’s elite front seven will show up to play at home while Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer stubbornly stick to the run for way too long. Russell Wilson will do enough, in the end, to get Seattle past a depleted Eagles offense but it won’t be pretty.
Russell Wilson ($6,800) - Wilson has exceeded 20 DraftKings points once since Week 7. A road matchup against the Eagles, who held him to a season-low 11.5 DraftKings points in Week 11, doesn’t inspire much confidence this is the week we see the return of Wilson's 30+ point ceiling. If Carroll and Schottenheimer’s ultra-conservative play-calling in last year’s Wild Card loss to Dallas is any indication, rostering Wilson will make for a frustrating Sunday evening.
Travis Homer ($5,300) - Homer was in on 67% of the offensive snaps in Week 17 and has way more juice in his legs than Marshawn Lynch. Seattle will find more success moving the ball on screen passes to Homer than they will by running Lynch into Philadelphia’s dominant front-seven. Six-to-eight receptions are within his range of outcomes, and with Homer’s blend of speed and burst, one of those catches can go for a long touchdown.
Boston Scott ($5,800) - Miles Sanders’ injury situation is the most significant one on the slate. Assuming Sanders is active, Scott is a great play in tournaments. The crowd will assume he’s the clear backup and ignore the elevated risk of an in-game injury or reduced workload for Sanders. But if Sanders doesn’t suit up, Scott becomes chalk, at which point he should be faded. At ~50% ownership, he would not be four-to-six times more likely to appear in a first-place lineup than players like James White and Homer in the same price range.
Miles Sanders ($6,200) - As of this writing, it sounds like Sanders avoided a high-ankle sprain and will give it a go this week. Seattle’s defense has allowed 34% more PPR fantasy points to enemy running backs than league average over the last five weeks, so the matchup is exploitable, but it’s difficult to trust Sanders on a bad wheel. Prioritize Scott at lower ownership if Sanders is able to suit up.
DK Metcalf ($6,100) - Even if Seattle’s passing game is hand-cuffed by their coaching staff, Metcalf is in a great spot to connect with Wilson on a deep ball. He’ll line up across from Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas on the majority of his routes. Douglas has allowed the fifth-most yards per route defended among cornerbacks on the slate and isn’t fast enough to keep up with Metcalf on downfield routes.
Greg Ward ($5,200) - Ward doesn’t have the ceiling to support a price tag over $5K, but Carson Wentz has to throw to someone. He’s safe for seven-to-nine targets, giving Ward some usefulness as a high-floor roster filler.
David Moore ($3,400) - Seattle’s loss of Jaron Brown and Malik Turner will fly under the radar but it opens up snaps for the super-efficient Moore in three-wide sets. Moore is a young player with great size and speed who has riffed with Wilson on deep balls and in the red zone when given the opportunity. He’s one of the better punt-plays on the slate.
Dallas Goedert ($5,200) - Goedert is in a great matchup, but assuming Zach Ertz is out, fading him is probably the easiest way to differentiate your lineup. The only way he pays off at ~50% ownership is by catching at least one touchdown and scoring chances might be difficult for Philadelphia to come by. Play him in about 25% of your entries, which should put you at half the field.
Jacob Hollister ($4,300) - Unlike Goedert, Hollister is a tight end you can use for leverage. His recent target volume hasn’t dropped significantly but his results have underwhelmed which should cause him to go relatively lightly-owned. Philadelphia has been vulnerable to tight ends lately, allowing a 7-5-79-1 receiving line to Mike Gesicki in Week 13 and 11-8-98-0 to Kaden Smith last week.
Josh Perkins ($2,900) - Goedert was in the Ertz role last week while Perkins (6-4-50-1) did an admirable Goedert impression. Perkins is a plus athlete with solid college production at Washington. If Ertz is out, he’ll be on the field for about 80% of the offensive snaps and run plenty of pass routes. With the Eagles devoid of quality targets in the passing game, Perkins makes for a great salary-saver.
Both Philadelphia ($2,900) and Seattle ($2,800) have similar outlooks in this matchup, which is reflected by their pricing. Both are in play but prioritize the Seahawks. Russell Wilson can typically be counted on to protect the ball, even if he does take a fair amount of sacks.