NFL Divisional Round DFS: PROJECTIONS FOR DRAFTKINGS
What a start to the NFL playoffs we had last weekend. We had a game winning kick in Cincinnati, a missed kick in Minnesota that would have won the game and, for the first time in the history of the Wild Card Round, all four road teams won. As we move to the divisional round, we see better defensive rankings at almost every position from almost every team. This increase in defensive talent should lead to lower scoring games and lower DFS totals, but there are going to be certain players that step it up and turn in strong performances. With that being said, let’s take a look at the projections for this week.
Carson Palmer- Palmer grabs the top spot for this weekend’s round of games, but it was a close race between the top three spots. He averaged 21.8 points on the season and he tallied 17.6 points in Arizona’s Week 16 matchup with Green Bay, so pretty close to his projected total this week. There were two things that gave Palmer a slight edge over second and third: he is at home and he faces the tenth ranked defense against QBs in Green Bay.
Cam Newton- Newton had a great season and his average of 25.9 points per game was tops for all QBs this season. That being said, he faces the Seahawks this week and Seattle’s defense ranked second against QBs this season. When the Panthers and Seahawks met in Week 6, Newton tallied 21.76 points, but Seattle’s D wasn’t playing as well as they are now. Newton does get the benefit of playing at home and the weather is expected to be pretty mild in Charlotte this weekend. While Newton has performed well all season, I don’t see him reaching his season average against this defense. Given his $7500 salary, that doesn’t make him a good value this weekend.
Aaron Rodgers ranks third this week and part of the reason is that he looked pretty solid against the Redskins last weekend. Rodgers averaged 20 points on the season, but only collected 10.94 points against the Cardinals in Week 16. Arizona’s defense ranked 12th against QBs this season, which isn’t bad, but that is subpar for the group of teams playing this weekend. Rodgers has been through the grind of the playoffs before and he definitely looked better last game than he has in a while and I look for that to continue this week. He collected 18.3 points last game and I would look for a similar tally this week.
Tom Brady comes in fourth this week with a projected total of 17.49. The best news for Brady is that it looks like he is getting one of his favorite targets back this week, as Julian Edelman has been cleared to play. The Patriots are hosting the Chiefs this weekend and Kansas City’s defense ranks fourth against QBs this season. Brady hasn’t been as sharp in the second half of the season as he was in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, he only exceeded 20 points three times while he was over 20 points in every contest during the season’s first half. The weather could play a factor in this game as rain is predicted Saturday afternoon. The projected total makes sense when you take recent totals, weather and the opponent into account.
Russell Wilson faces Carolina and their seventh ranked defense on Sunday and it is the second time around for Seattle against the Panthers. In Week 6, Wilson totaled 18.94 points, but that game was at home. Wilson did average three more points per contest at home than he did in road games. I look for this game to be the best game of the weekend, but I don’t look for it to be very high scoring with these two defenses on display.
Alex Smith ranks sixth this weekend as he prepares to face the Patriots in Foxborough. New England’s defense ranks 15th against QBs this season and believe it or not, that is the second lowest ranking among the defenses playing this weekend. Smith averaged 17.3 points per game this season and on the road he averaged 17.8 points, so he was slightly better in away games than he was at home. I expect the usual game from Smith which means nothing spectacular, but a solid game without many turnovers. That is how his whole season has been – consistent.
Ben Roethlisberger is listed as questionable at this time with torn ligaments and a sprain in his throwing shoulder, but Big Ben himself said his status is day to day. Even if Roethlisberger plays, I wouldn’t expect a big game from him. Partly because of the injury, but mostly because he faces the Broncos’ defense that ranks first against QBs this season. Pittsburgh and Denver met up in Week 15 in Pittsburgh and Roethlisberger tallied 27.9 points, the highest total of any QB against Denver this season, but that was a healthy Roethlisberger in a home game. Of all the QBs playing this weekend, no one has a bigger discrepancy between their performances at home (27.7 points) versus road games (16.4 points). I would shy away from Roethlisberger this weekend.
Peyton Manning is the real wildcard in this group of QBs as we don’t really know what to expect from him. Manning sat out from Week 10 until coming in to relieve Brock Osweiler in Week 17. He has been named the starter and he faces a Steelers’ defense that ranks 19th against QBs this season, the lowest of any team playing this weekend. With only a small clip in Week 17, we haven’t seen Manning in a long time. Even before he was injured, he wasn’t playing well. He only eclipsed the 20-point mark on two occasions this season. However, we are talking about Peyton Manning and he could put up 30 points at any given time. He is a high risk, possible high reward player this week.
The RB position is especially tough this week with several starting RBs listed as questionable.
DeAngelo Williams and Fitzgerald Toussaint- DeAngelo Williams is projected at number one this week, but he is one of the RBs listed as questionable. Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin was quoted as saying that Williams is “on the outside looking in” which doesn’t sound promising for him playing this weekend. If he can’t go, Pittsburgh will use a platoon of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman. Toussaint played well last week and tallied 15.8 points against Cincinnati. He is definitely the more attractive of the two in the platoon. Denver’s defense ranks 14th against RBs and the injury to Roethlisberger could force Pittsburgh to run the ball more than usual. If Williams gets the nod, he will be an attractive play. If he can’t go, Toussaint becomes an attractive play by necessity.
Marshawn Lynch and Christine Michael- Lynch is still listed as questionable, even though it seemed like he might play against Minnesota last weekend, but he didn’t even make the trip with the team. In Lynch’s absence, Michael tallied 9.4 points in miserable conditions. Carolina ranks 20th against RBs this season and that makes them the lowest ranked of the eight teams playing this weekend. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said that Lynch’s status “really could” come down to a game time decision. If you put Lynch in your lineup, you are taking a risk and had better be ready to change the selection on Sunday morning if you are playing on DraftKings. If you are playing on FanDuel, Lynch is a risk I would not be willing to take because once the games start on Saturday, there won’t be a chance to change your lineup.
David Johnson is projected to get 13.22 points, but that could be a little low. Johnson has really stepped to the front of the RB crowd in Arizona and he averaged 23.95 points over the last four games of the season and that included a 21.7-point performance against Green Bay in Week 16. The Packers’ defense ranks 15th against RBs this season and that is below average for the group of teams playing this weekend. I like Johnson’s chances of having a strong performance this weekend.
James Starks and Eddie Lacy- it is tough to figure out these two RBs and predict which one is going to be spotlighted from week to week. Last week against the Redskins, Starks had 14 touches and collected 14.5 points while Lacy had 12 touches and ended up with 11.3 points. The Cardinals ranked 9th against RBs this season so it might mean that neither Starks nor Lacy has a great game this weekend. Given the projected totals for the two and given the salary for each player, Starks seems to be the better value if you insist on using a Green Bay RB this weekend.
Jonathan Stewart is yet another starting RB that is listed as questionable at this time. Most indications are that Stewart will play this weekend which would be a big help to the Panthers, but unfortunately they are playing Seattle and the Seahawks’ defense ranks first against RBs this season. Stewart was one of the few RBs that had a good game against Seattle this season when he tallied 21.6 points in Week 6. Given that he is coming off injury and that he is facing Seattle, Stewart is a risky bet this weekend. He could have the same type of game he had in the previous matchup, but he could also have trouble knocking the rust off and get be held under five points.
Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware- this Chiefs’ duo is similar to the Green Bay duo in that it is hard to predict which one is going to get the bulk of the touches. In the last two weeks, Ware has had 16 touches in each contest and has averaged 13.15 fantasy points. West has had 13 touches and then nine touches, but has only averaged 4.35 points in the last two contests. If you are going with momentum, Ware is the better play and his salary is 700 lower. New England ranks 11th against RBs this season, so the matchup is horrible. Ware could end up being a decent play this weekend.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders- the Denver duo project out at number one and number two this week and it is mostly due to the fact that they are facing Pittsburgh and the 31st ranked defense against WRs. Thomas averaged 17.6 points on the season and Sanders averaged 15.9. In the Week 15 matchup against the Steelers, Sanders lit up the scoreboard with 39.5 points, but Thomas also had 23.1 points. In my opinion, you should have both of these guys in your lineup this weekend.
Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola- This New England duo projected out at third and eighth this week. Edelman is still listed as questionable, but ESPN is reporting that the Patriots are pretty optimistic for his chances of playing Saturday. The Chiefs rank 20th against WRs this season and that certainly helped the projected totals for these two. Edelman averaged 19.6 points on the season, but hasn’t played since Week 10. Amendola averaged 11.1 points, but had four games where he tallied more than 20 points.
Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant- the Steelers’ WRs project out pretty well due to their season long averages, but there are several factors that make me think they will not perform well this weekend. First, if Roethlisberger is able to play, how effective will he be throwing the ball? Secondly, the Denver defense ranks 2nd against WRs this season. Yes Brown had the game of his life against Denver in Week 15, but that was at home and healthy QB. This game is in Denver and Big Ben has a bad throwing shoulder.
Jeremy Maclin is the first WR we are seeing that is listed as questionable after suffering an injury late in the game against the Texans. The initial reaction looked as if he may have torn something in his knee, but now we have learned that it is his ankle. If Maclin is able to go at 100%, he could have a solid game against a Patriots defense that ranks 22nd against WRs this season. Like his QB, Maclin hasn’t put up any huge games, but he has been consistent all season long. If he plays, expect him to get in the 17-19 range.
Doug Baldwin projects out at 14.77 points this week as the Seahawks head to Carolina. The Panthers’ defense ranks 10th against WRs this season so that brings Baldwin’s total down a little from his season average of 17.2. In the Week 6 matchup, Baldwin only tallied 5.3 points, but that was before he hit his stride. I look for a better game than what he had in the first matchup, but I wouldn’t look for a huge game from him either. Somewhere in the 13-15 point range is probably realistic.
Randall Cobb projects relatively well this week with projected total of 10.13 points, but considering the other options, I would look elsewhere this week. He averaged 13.4 points on the season, but in the Week 16 game against Arizona he only had 4.7 points. I wouldn’t expect much more than that this week.
Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown- the Arizona trio all averaged over 12.5 points on the season with Fitzgerald leading the way at 18.2. Those numbers are a little skewed by the first part of the season, but he has bounced back a little in recent weeks. Floyd has been the hottest WR of the three in recent weeks and in the Week 16 matchup with Green Bay he totaled 20.1 points while Fitzgerald had 12.9 and Brown had 11.5. We could see similar totals for the three this week.
Greg Olsen ranks as the number one TE this week with a projected total of 16.29 which is considerably higher than the rest of the field. As strong as the Seahawks defense is, the one position they rank below average at is against TEs with a ranking of 21st. In the Week 6 matchup against Seattle, Olsen totaled 29.1 points and that was his second best game of the season. I really like Olsen in this matchup as I think Cam Newton will have to check down to shorter routes as opposed to challenging Seattle’s CBs. I think a total in the 16-18 range is very realistic.
Rob Gronkowski ranks number two this week with a projected total of 12.45 points. What is interesting is that the projected total is 5.55 points lower than Gronk’s season average, but yet he still projects out at number two. The reason for the lower expectations is due to the fact that the Chiefs rank first against TEs this season. Kansas City has only given up three TDs to TEs all season long, so it presents a tough matchup for Gronkowski. That being said, it is hard to keep Brady and Gronkowski out of the end zone in the post season, so that TD total allowed by the Chiefs might go up this weekend.
Richard Rodgers ranks third this week as he is set to go against the Cardinals and their 19th ranked defense against TEs. Rodgers averaged 9.8 points on the season and had a terrible game against Arizona in Week 16 with only 1.2 points. With this being the second time they will have faced the Cardinals in the last few weeks, look for Aaron Rodgers to look for Richard Rodgers a little more often this time around. After the 38-8 drubbing, I would think the Packers will have an entirely different offensive game plan this time around.
Owen Daniels is the fourth TE expected to get at least 10 points this week and he is the last of the bunch as well. As we saw with the WR position, Pittsburgh is not very good against the pass and they rank 23rd against TEs this season. Given the numbers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas put up in Week 15, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers shift more of the focus to the WR which could open things up for Daniels. Finding the end zone would be a big boost to his value as he has only had a few games where he has reached double-digit point totals without getting a TD.
Heath Miller could see the same type of benefit from this matchup that Daniels does. After Antonio Brown went off on the Broncos last time, they may switch the focus so much on to the WRs that Miller gets more open looks. Miller may also benefit from Roethlisberger’s injury in that the shorter passes to the TE are going to be less painful I would think.
Travis Kelce is projected lower than his season average of 12.8 due to the fact that the Chiefs face the Patriots and New England ranks 5th against TEs this season. Despite the fact that Kelce had a good game against Houston last week, my expectations are much lower this week.