Wild Card Weekend, excuse me, SUPER Wild Card Weekend, brings us some tough choices when it comes to daily fantasy football (DFS) picks. For the first time ever, we have 12 teams playing on Wild Card Weekend. Some games I like more than others, but I have tried to include at least one player from each. This way, whether you are playing individual showdowns, the entire-six game slate, or either of the three-game slates you will have a recommendation.
It is still a little early, so I am also going to make some assumptions. As of publication, we don't have confirmation whether or Jared Goff or Alvin Kamara will play. For now, I'm assuming the latter does play but the former does not. I will be making some other presumptions as well, but those two might be the biggest.
Speaking of assumptions, be aware that Wild Card Weekend might be one of the most appropriately named weekends of the season, as it is often, well, wild. There is always at least one upset. There is always at least one blowout. Sometimes those two are one and the same. Sometimes they are not. Therefore, one of my general recommendations is to diversify your entries. Hopefully, you've managed your stake correctly up to this point and left yourself some options. And to be clear, this doesn't mean that if you've spent $50 on entries with Steeler and Buccaneer stacks, spend another $50 on Cleveland and Washington stacks. It just means consider spending maybe $5 on lineups that don't feature Bucs and Steelers.
This is not to say that any of those four teams have players I like or don't like. It just means to diversify.
And with my lecture done, let's look at some of the Wild Card Weekend picks so we can continue to build that portfolio!
Safe Quarterback Wild Card Weekend Pick
Lamar Jackson, Ravens at Titans (DraftKings $7800, FanDuel $9300)
Yes, Jackson has yet to win a playoff game. We get it Steeler fans. I wouldn't talk too much smack if I were you. But this could be when Jackson finally breaks through in the postseason. Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers might be picked ahead of Jackson this year, but that's a mistake. For starters, I think Jackson and the Ravens knock off the Titans on Sunday.
And that's not just my purple blood talking. The books have Baltimore favored by 3.5 points over Tennessee, which also means on a neutral field that probably has the Ravens winning by a touchdown. If Baltimore is going to move on, it will likely require a big game from Jackson. The Titans gave up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season. That is by far the most of any playoff team. Seattle is the next closest but the Seahawks' defense has been playing much better since acquiring pass rusher Carlos Dunlap in a trade with Cincinnati.
Recall that the Ravens hung with the Titans earlier this season, with Tennessee winning it in overtime on a Derrick Henry touchdown run. That also was the last game Baltimore Jackson has lost. Since missing the Week 12 loss to Pittsburgh because of COVID-19 protocols, Jackson has been on a tear, throwing 11 touchdown passes and scoring four times on the ground over the last five games.
Avoid Jackson at your own peril.
High Risk/Reward Quarterback Wild Card Weekend Pick
Drew Brees, Saints vs. Bears (DK $5700, FD $7800)
The books have New Orleans at the third-highest implied total this weekend. The Bears have a strong defense, but one that has fared better against the run vs. the pass. Sean Peyton might try to establish the run, but I suspect sooner or later we'll see Brees take to the air.
This might be Brees' last hurrah and I expect him to make the most of it. He has not topped 40 passing attempts in any game since his return from injury. He has attempted 34, 26 and 32 passes for an average of 249 yards a game. And he bookended a zero-touchdown game with two three-score outings, both in which he surpassed 20 DraftKings points.
Recent performances aside, Brees has been a monster at home throughout his New Orleans tenure, including the last two years. During this stretch, he's averaged 23.9 DK points per game at home with nine games of 20 or more points. He's a prime tournament play given the matchup.
Safe Running Back Wild Card Weekend Pick
J.K. Dobbins, Ravens at Titans (DK $6600, FD $6800)
Expect the Ravens to run the ball a lot on Sunday with Dobbins getting plenty of work. I know, I'm really going out on a limb with that prediction. But you might not be aware, however, actually how much support there is for that statement. In the pass-happy NFL, the Ravens are just one of three teams that run the ball more then they pass. But no one is more grounded than Baltimore, who threw the ball 44.11 percent of the time. That's four percentage points lower than the next team.
But the good news continues. The Packers are the only team in the playoffs that gave up more fantasy points to RBs than the Titans. Tennessee has allowed 90 or more rushing yards in their last five games and has held teams under that mark just twice this season. I'll let you look up the results yourself, but running backs from Dalvin Cook down to AJ Dillon saw some of their best games this season against Tennessee.
And Dobbins is absolutely rolling right now. With his two-TD day against Cincinnati last week, he now has seven straight weeks with a rushing touchdown. Since missing Week 12, he has averaged 85 rushing yards a game. Should the Ravens win, they'll be forced to go to Kansas City or Buffalo (or fine, Pittsburgh, who gave up the third-fewest fantasy points to RBs) and the probable game script alone says the Ravens won't be able to give Dobbins as many carries. I'm serious, play the rookie.
High Risk/Reward Running Back Wild Card Weekend Pick
Chris Carson, Seahawks vs. Rams (DK $5900, FD $7000)
This is a GPP-pick only. There is next to no reason to even consider Carson for your cash-game lineups. This Rams defense is GOOD. They gave up just a dozen rushing touchdowns and the third-fewest rushing yards this season.
But GPPs are often about pivoting to just the right player. Even better, Carson is priced outside of the top half-dozen starting RBs for this weekend. He is actually the cheapest he has been all year. In addition to a discounted price, he is sandwiched between Nick Chubb and J.K. Dobbins. Those two players have huge upside and therefore I expect most to ignore Carson. But I will have at least a few shares of him, and here's why.
First off, Super Bowl final plays aside, it is no secret that Pete Carroll prefers to run the ball. One of the best ways to slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush is to not pass and run the ball instead. And yes, perhaps Carroll decides to come out throwing. But it's not the first quarter why I like Carson, it is the fourth. Seattle's defense has been playing much better of late. And with Jared Goff either out or limited because of his surgically repaired thumb, it's not hard to see Seattle having a lead late in the game. And with Seattle up by a touchdown or two, I would not be surprised to see Carroll try and run out the clock. Recall that when Carson faced the Rams two weeks ago he saw 16 carries and averaged a respectable 4.3 yards per attempt. I suspect Carson to do just enough to make him worth playing which frees up salary to spend up elsewhere.
Safe Wide Receiver Wild Card Weekend Pick
Stefon Diggs, Bills vs. Colts (DK $7700, FD $8700)
And one of those places that one might want to spend up is on Stefon Diggs. With both Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill on bye, Diggs is the top WR on the slate. Period. He was the third-best fantasy WR this year, behind only the two other aforementioned studs. However, he was ahead of both of those WRs when it came to total receiving yards. No player in the league had more than Diggs' 1,535 yards. And those numbers are supported by his peripheral stats. He posted a 29.32 percent target share and 1,713 intended air yards (second). All that, and he still finds time for good dental hygiene:
Not only is Diggs a stud, but this matchup also is better than you think. Since their bye, the Colts are allowing 38.5 fantasy points to WRs, which ranks them as the 20th-toughest matchup. Double-check the injury reports to make sure Diggs (oblique) is on track to play. If so, find a way to get him into your lineup.
High Risk/Reward Receiver Wild Card Weekend Pick
Chase Claypool, Steelers vs. Browns (DK $5200, FD $6100)
If you are looking for the huge ceiling game, look no further than Claypool. It seems like ages ago, but back in Week 5, Claypool had his "big breakout" game, and I do mean big. He only caught seven of 11 targets for 110 yards, but three of those went for six. But wait, we're not done! He also carried the ball across the stripe to give him four touchdowns that day.
I will be honest with you, I really don't know who is going to win the Browns-Steelers game. What I do know however is that the Browns will be the best matchup that Claypool will see in these playoffs. The Browns gave up the eighth-most fantasy points to WRs this season and could be done two starting defensive backs because of COVID-19 protocols. Even if the Steelers win, Claypool's matchup is not going to get any better. Take advantage while you can.
Safe Tight End Wild Card Weekend Pick
Mark Andrews, Ravens at Titans (DK $5200, FD $7000)
Andrews might not be the top-scoring TE this week, but he comes with the safest floor. He's had five or more targets in 11 of the 14 games he has played, and the last time he failed to see that many was back in October. The Titans are below average when it comes to limiting the damage done by fantasy TEs. Plus, Andrews has already enjoyed success against Tennessee, recording five catches for 96 yards and a touchdown in the Week 11 encounter. He's averaging double-digit fantasy points on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Expect similar numbers this week.
High Risk/Reward Tight End Wild Card Weekend Pick
Jared Cook, Saints at Bears (DK $4600, FD $5900)
Travis Kelce isn't playing, so he is not an option. When you start looking at who is available, all you are hoping for this week is basically a TD. And only five TEs scored more TDs than Cook (seven) this season.
I am sure the Saints will try to establish the run, but Chicago has a pretty good run defense. Against TEs however, they've been absolutely horrendous. They have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. Drew Brees targeted Jared Cook five times last week and he turned four of them into 43 yards and a touchdown. I expect Brees to target Cook again this week.
Safe Defense/Special Teams (DST) Wild Card Pick
Bills vs. Colts (DK $3500, FD $4100)
Many will be tempted to grab the Steelers, but my gut is telling me no. So instead I will go with the sentimental favorite, the Bills.
The Bills have an implied total of more than 28 points for Saturday's game. To keep up with the Bills, the Colts are going to need Philip Rivers to be more than just a game manager. In his last two games, he has three turnovers and only two TDs. Rivers also is not the most nimble quarterback in the league. This could get very ugly very early. Or if you have the Bills DST, it could be very fun to watch.
High Risk/Reward Defense/Special Teams (DST) Wild Card Weekend Pick
Washington vs. Buccaneers (DK $2400, FD $3700)
Call it my upset special. Yes, Tom Brady and the Bucs are coming in hot. But I don't think people realize how good Washington is. This team has the third-best defensive DVOA. Does that mean Washington is going to shut out the Buccaneers? No. But I am suspecting this to be a much closer game than the lemmings and talking heads do.
Washington is second only to the Rams in yards allowed per game this season. Ron Rivera's defense also is fourth in points allowed per game. Washington has collected 16 interceptions and ranks fifth in sacks. That last one is particularly relevant because we know the best way to get Brady off his game is to bring the pressure. Don't be surprised if Washington manages to rattle Brady into a mistake or two on Saturday night.
Good luck with your Wild Card Weekend DFS picks!
— 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.
(Top photo by Bill Wippert, courtesy of buffalobills.com)