Those reading me all year will hardly be surprised that we open the NFL Week 18 daily fantasy (DFS) football picks with a pop culture reference to the band Skid Row. More specifically and even less surprising is that I have their song, "18 and Life" in my head.
This is the first season where Week 18 is part of the regular season. For some teams, it's Week 18 and then life starts with the playoffs. For other teams, Week 18 is the end of the season. Yes, life will go on, but their seasons are over.
We can say the same thing about the NFL DFS season. Some of us will play into the playoffs. However, many prefer to have at least five or six teams from which to choose or prefer to pick players from their favorite teams, many of who might not be playoff teams. This means that Week 18 is the last week.
But all is not lost. Unlike Skid Row's Ricky the young boy, you don't have to fight the world alone. Because you got me! And we'll fight like a switchblade and try to make sure the party never ends.
That definitely happened last week as I hit on most of my picks, whether they were my "safe" picks or "high reward/high risk" picks. Which of course brings us to our weekly reminder that I will go through each position and list one "safe" pick and one "high-risk/high-reward" pick. The first is essentially a cash-game play and the second is a GPP play. By now I'm guessing all of you know the difference. But I would still follow me on Twitter (@MarkStrausberg). I made some valuable last-minute recommendations last week with Antoine Wesley for example.
Not going to waste time flaunting it though because my crime is time, so let's get to it...
Safe Quarterback Week 18 Pick
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers (DK $7500, FD $8100)
One of the first things I always look for the last week of the season is who is playing for what. The Buccaneers have already clinched their division, but their seed could fluctuate anywhere from No. 2 to No. 4. In addition to team goals, Brady has a number of personal incentives that could net him more than a million in bonuses, including finishing in the top five in passer rating, completion percentage, and yards per attempt. Bottom line, Brady won't be sitting this one out or taking an early seat.
In addition to heaps of motivation, Tommy Terrific has been just that. He's fantasy football's No. 2 quarterback right now (Josh Allen is No. 1, depending on scoring), thanks mostly to his 40 touchdown passes and being just shy of 5,000 passing yards. Newsflash, Brady is a good play this week.
High Risk/Reward Quarterback Week 18 Pick
Taylor Heinicke, Washington Redskins at New York Giants (DK $5400, FD $6900)
Heinicke is not looking at seven-figure incentives like Brady, but his incentives are a much larger proportion of his net worth. Heinicke's base salary is proportionally small ($1 million this year), but if he helps his team beat the Giants and plays 60 percent of the snaps, he'll make another $125K. Imagine getting a bonus of one-eighth of your salary!
I am thinking we see a nice game out of Heinicke on Sunday.
Safe Running Back Week 18 Pick
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (DK $9300, FD $10,200)
It's a must-win game for the Colts, and you know Taylor will be fed plenty of carries. Do I think he's going to get the 266 yards he needs to hit 2K? No. Do I think he can get more than 2 bills, however? Yes.
Jacksonville is not a tough matchup, but this is all about Taylor. He has four straight 100-yard games, including one with 170. He leads the league in nearly every rushing stat. He has more carries of 20-plus yards and more carries of 40-plus yards than anyone else, more than double his next-closest contender for the latter. He has 18 rushing TDs already and I wouldn't be surprised if he reaches 20 before the playoffs.
JT is expensive, but I'd try to find the salary space for him.
High Risk/Reward Running Back Week 18 Pick
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets (DK $6000, FD $6700)
Zack who? Singletary is making Moss a forgotten man as Singletary has swallowed up all the carries lately. Singletary also has four touchdowns over the last three games. I don't see the Jets, who have given up the most fantasy points to RBs this season, putting up much resistance. Singletary might not even be risky enough for this section, but his upside might be higher than anyone but Taylor.
Safe Wide Receiver Week 18 Pick
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers (DK $9700, FD $10000)
Kupp is a very similar play to Jonathan Taylor. Both are expensive and fitting both of them in your lineup will take major sacrifices. Both are on teams with playoff positioning on the line. Kupp has a slightly tougher matchup than Taylor, but he too is close to a number of personal milestones and I think he'll get his chances to hit these.
He needs 12 receptions to break the single-season record (149, Michale Thomas) and 136 yards to break that mark (1,964, Calvin Johnson) as well. Kupp has publicly said he thinks 17-game records should be separated from 16-game records.
And I like him even more for saying so. But I also like him to break both those records this week. And I wouldn't be surprised if he adds to his league-leading 15 TDs either.
I know it's not bold, but I'm playing Kupp everywhere I can this week.
High Risk/High Reward Wide Receiver Week 18 Pick
Nico Collins, Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans (DK $3900, FD $5100)
There is not a whole lot worthy of our attention in the DK sub-$4K range, but I won't have a single lineup without someone in that range, especially if I play both Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp. And Collins might be the sexiest of all the options.
That's because I'll take the minority stance that the Titans' defense struggles with the Houston offense this week. Especially the secondary. Only the Vikings have allowed more fantasy points to WRs this season than the Titans. And yes, I'm sure Brandin Cooks will grab a bigger share of the 40-plus PPR WR points that the Titans are allowing. But even if Collins gives us just 12 to 15 points, which I think he will, that still makes us a nifty profit.
Safe Tight End Week 18 Pick
Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers (DK $6300, FD $7400)
No Antonio Brown? No problem. Expect Tom Brady's old pal to pick up the slack, as well as drag a defender or two with him into the end zone. Again, we have some personal incentives for him to do so.
Gronk can earn half a million for each of the following: seven more receptions, 85 receiving yards, and three more TDs. Do I see Brady helping him earn another $1.5 million dollars? Maybe, maybe not, but I'd bank on Gronk being at least half a mil richer at the end of the day Sunday than he will be that morning.
High Risk/High Reward Tight End Week 18 Pick
Brevin Jordan, Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans (DK $2700, FD $4600)
More Houston Texans? Yes, sir. We need to find value and Jordan fits the bill. I already touched upon my doubts about the Houston secondary. And Jordan is second on the team with three receiving TDs.
Jordan jumps out as a bargain on both sites with more FPPG than at least a dozen of the other options around him.
Safe Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 18 Pick
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (DK $3800, FD $4800)
I do believe there is hope for Trevor Lawrence's future and the Jaguars. But not the present. At best, we can call this season a "learning year" for Lawrence and the Jacksonville offense. But you don't need to be very educated to like the Colts' defense against them on Sunday.
The Jags have scored a league-low 14.2 points per game. Meanwhile, the Colts have the third-most interceptions. This could get real ugly real fast.
High Risk/Reward Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 18 Pick
Any AFC North Defense(DK $2600 to $3200, FD $3500 to $4500)
I am pretty confident that none of the defenses from the AFC North will see double-digit ownership. And there's good reason for that. Each one comes with plenty of warning signals. But those signals are all different colors; the two sites definitely disagree upon the net total of the benefits and dangers of each given how different the pricing is on all four teams.
However, here is a reason or two to start each one:
Cleveland: Joe Mixon is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and Joe Burrow said he's not playing to rest up for the playoffs.
Cincinnati: Baker Mayfield is out and Case Keenum is starting. Keenum has 48 passing attempts this year with one TD. FYI, that's not a good ratio.
Baltimore: Only seven teams have fewer TDs than Pittsburgh and you know the Ravens would love for Ben Roethlisberger to end his career with an "L" against them.
Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh DST has been the sixth-best unit over the last three weeks. Lamar Jackson is out.
Good luck with your Week 18 DFS entries!
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.