NFL Showdown can be a fickle beast. These contests do not rely on median projections so much as leverage and uniqueness. Fading the highest-rostered plays can be a risky proposition. Typically, your edge will come by identifying the best low-rostered plays and finding clever ways to pair them with the juggernauts of the slate.
This article will have a heavy DraftKings lean simply because the decision-making process is more interesting, given the salary premium attached to the Captain spot. FanDuel's pricing is the same for both MVP and Flex spots. You will usually need the slate's top scorer at MVP, so FanDuel strategy revolves around unique Flex builds.
Advice in this article will pertain predominantly to tournament lineups and strategy. For cash lineups, build around median projections. For head-to-head contests, continue to lean into the median projections, but if two options project closely, give the nod to the lowest rostered player.
We know that there’s no such thing as cut-and-dry in the NFL, but tonight sure looks cut-and-dry. The Browns continue to roll through adversity and straight toward the postseason, while the Jets... will also show up to the stadium tonight. They’ll lean on their fourth quarterback of the season, and he’ll try to stay upright long enough to keep a dysfunctional offense afloat against a terrifying Browns defense. Tonight’s Vegas total is low (35), which tells us the sportsbooks expect next to nothing from the flailing Jets.
Of course, this means we need to find (a) value and (b) low-rostered value in the gaps. That will involve holding our noses and intentionally playing Jets tonight, so brace yourself. In fact, one specific Jet may help you take down a GPP tournament – and from the Captain slot, no less.
The Jets will be without quarterback Zach Wilson, who has yet to clear concussion protocol. Veteran backup Trevor Siemian will start in his place, though it would surprise no one to see him chased in favor of fellow journeyman Brett Rypien.
The Browns will be without kicker Dustin Hopkins, and they’ll likely sub in practice-squadder Riley Patterson. Both Amari Cooper and David Njoku either missed or saw limited practice this week, but both look good to go for tonight.
New York Jets
Trevor Siemian (FLEX)
We’ve seen lots of Siemian by now, and we know he’s the worst of both worlds: a small-armed backup won’t push down the field, but still manages to turn the ball over too often. Last week he was inexplicably asked to throw 49 passes, and he turned them into a pitiful 217 yards (4.4 per attempt). It was a Tim Boyle-level performance that would’ve been even worse if not for the after-catch stylings of Wilson and Hall, who accounted for 84% of those yards. The only way you’re plugging in Siemian tonight is in the hope of a 13-9 type of game in which he stumbles into a 1-yard touchdown.
Breece Hall (CPT or FLEX)
Israel Abanikanda (FLEX)
Hall has firmly established himself as the identity of the Jets offense – at least for the moment, while the backup quarterbacks are taking their turns. That said, he’s been wildly inconsistent and inefficient for most of 2023. It’s hard to blame him much, working behind a subpar line and with so little support from the air attack. But we can’t ignore the fact that Hall can be schemed out – he's managed to land below 60 scrimmage yards in 6 of his 15 games. We also can’t ignore the Browns’ dominant run defense, which has allowed only 2 runners to reach 75 ground yards all year. (And one of those guys rode a single 69-yard run to get there.)
Hall carries ample potential for value, of course. He’s extremely dynamic, and his receiving prowess makes him viable in different game scripts. Still, he’s arguably the least attractive of the several high-dollar options on the slate.
Dalvin Cook has fallen off the map (5 snaps last week), which lands Abanikanda, a fifth-round rookie, in the speculative No. 2 role. He showed well last week, turning 9 rushes into 43 yards, and would be heavily involved if Hall went down mid-game.
Garrett Wilson (CPT or FLEX)
Allen Lazard (FLEX)
Xavier Gipson (FLEX)
This attack, already tightly concentrated around Wilson, looks even more so with Siemian at the helm. Wilson had claimed 27% of team targets before last week; against the Commanders, he and Hall combined for 63%. It's clear that the Jets’ only hope for their shaky backup is to feed the ball relentlessly to those playmakers. Assuming they do, and Siemian gets to throw another 49 or so times, volume should take care of the rest for Wilson. He makes for a great way to zig away from the pack, which will largely flock toward Cooper.
Lazard was brought in to caddy for Aaron Rodgers, and his first (and likely only) year as a Jet has been nothing short of brutal. He’s been a mess of drops and penalties and even found himself a healthy scratch at times. Not a single supporting Jets wideout is worth targeting tonight, even for differentiation’s sake.
Tyler Conklin (FLEX)
Conklin has caught 3-4 balls in 4 straight games, averaging just 37 scoreless yards. Quarterbacks love him, but in this “attack” he offers no upside for stretching the seams or finding the end zone.
Under the Radar
Jason Brownlee (FLEX)
Brownlee caught just a single pass in Week 16, but it did go for a red-zone touchdown, and he was on the field for 74 snaps altogether. The pecking order beyond Wilson is as wide open as any in football.
Joe Flacco (CPT or FLEX)
The Browns are now a decidedly pass-first team, and it’s the unlikely Flacco taking advantage in the stat column. Over his four starts, Flacco has dropped back on 65% of the snaps, and he’s thrown no fewer than 42 times in any of them. It’s resulted in a stunning 327-yard average and a deeply confused fantasy football public.
That said, Flacco won’t keep throwing 40+ times forever, and he likely won’t need to in what Vegas sees as an easy Browns win. Much of the public will flock to stack him with Cooper after they teamed up for 11-265-2 last week, and this looks like a sensible place to differentiate. Perhaps we target the Cleveland running backs more, in the hopes that last week’s long passes turn into this week's goal-line touchdown plunges.
Jerome Ford (CPT or FLEX)
Kareem Hunt (FLEX)
Neither Ford nor Hunt has moved the ball effectively here in 2023. Ford has broken off a pair of 69-yard runs, but averaged just 3.2 otherwise. Hunt has stolen several goal-line touchdowns, but he’s posting just 3.0 himself, and he hasn’t reached 50 scrimmage yards in a game since October. That kind of plodding inefficiency is why Flacco finds himself throwing like he’s Justin Herbert.
It will also, however, drive down public perception and roster rates for both of these guys. While many chase Flacco and the gaudy passing totals, they'll lose sight of the fact that the Browns runners have combined to score 15 touchdowns through 15 games. Hunt and Ford have taken a combined 16 touches from inside the 5-yard line, and they’ve found the end zone on 11 of them. If the Browns do indeed score well tonight, we probably have a better chance of profiting from it with these guys.
Amari Cooper (CPT or FLEX)
Elijah Moore (FLEX)
We all saw Cooper erupt for a franchise-record 265 yards in Week 16. We saw him open the game with a 53-yard catch, then find the end zone twice later on. And hopefully, just enough DFSers saw it to inflate his percentage wildly and allow me to fade him (somewhat).
It’s not that I expect Cooper to fail tonight. He will see his share of Sauce Gardner, though, which depresses his ceiling just a bit. When we add in the monstrous roster rate he’ll draw, it becomes hard to see how we can truly benefit from playing him. If the Browns go back to their run-game roots tonight, Cooper could doom half your tournament field with a dud. Ultimately, I’ll play him, but he won't be Captaining any single-entries for me.
Moore remains entrenched in the No. 2 role, though it hasn’t translated much to the fantasy world all year. During this high-octane pass-fest with Flacco, he’s averaged just 3 catches and 40 yards. There’s some revenge narrative here, but that’s about it.
David Njoku (CPT or FLEX)
Njoku enters red-hot, having found the end zone four times over the last three weeks, but his appeal runs deeper than that. He’s the clear-cut second option through the air, gathering % of team targets dating back to Week 7, and % from Flacco. He’s cleared 55+ yards in 5 of 7 games, and only 2 other tight ends (Jake Ferguson and Travis Kelce) have been looked at more often in the red zone.
That floor makes me even more comfortable Captaining Njoku over Cooper. Everyone will play Njoku, but few will Captain him, despite a very similar volume projection to Cooper’s. I like his touchdown ceiling better, too, which makes this a relative no-brainer.
Under the Radar
Cedric Tillman (FLEX)
The rookie has vaulted up the depth chart, claiming 79% of the offensive snaps since Week 8. He’s posted a pair of 4-catch, 50-yard games recently and boasts more of a ceiling than Moore.
Kickers and Defenses
The Browns won’t have Hopkins tonight, and it’s a blow. He’s been outstanding in 2023, hitting on 33 of 36 field goal attempts, including all 8 from beyond 50 yards. Into his place steps journeyman Riley Patterson, who presents a notable drop-off across the board. Patterson isn’t quite as accurate, nor is he the same threat from distance, so we can’t quite plug in Hopkins’ expected numbers.
Still, both Patterson and the Browns defense make ample sense to differentiate lineups. Siemian is nothing short of a mess under center, taking sacks and coughing up the ball left and right. Over 84 dropbacks here in 2023, he’s taken 5 sacks, thrown 3 interceptions, and managed to fumble 5 times. It’s hard not to project the Browns D/ST to 12+ DK points, at a minimum.
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