Wild card weekend picks
As a younger, more energetic and less cynical man I would often look forward to the possible excitement Dec 31st could bring. It’s usually branded as the biggest party of the year and a chance to celebrate with hundreds of like minded people at a club or house party. In a way it should be a very straightforward night as it’s purpose is clearly defined from the outset. You go out to count down the clock at 11.59pm and shout, hug, kiss or solemnly shake hands with people around you. A few more drinks, maybe some dancing if the drink count goes up even further and you’re done. Make your way home and wait for a New Years Day hangover.
But as anybody over the age of 25 knows, it’s not that simple. New Years Eve is never as much fun as it seems on the TV. The pictures of people celebrating in Sydney, Beijing or some other time zone ahead of you never seem to equate to your experience of queuing for drinks, waiting in line for an over priced club or trying and failing to get a taxi home. Sure, there are some bright spots in there, but the majority of my NYE’s have been giant let downs and you slowly learn to accept that a party labelled as the ‘biggest of the year’ will almost inevitably fail to live up to the hype.
This dawning realisation took me around 8-10 years and was coupled with an ever increasing age and a slow decline in my hangover fighting powers. My feelings towards this wild card weekend have followed a similar trajectory but in a far shorter period of time. Like any good DFS degenerate I’ve played my fair share of Mon-Thurs NFL games and I know the difficulty of taking down tournaments with a huge amount of overlap, however, when I took my first look at the player pool for this weekend I still thought, ‘Great, I’ll just research the hell out of these games, pick the best possible line-up and win all the monies.’ Case closed. Dust off hands, close laptop – scene.
I don’t know where this naivety sprung from but just like my feelings towards New Years Eve, my appetite for these four games from a DFS perspective has dwindled. Everything and nothing is in play. You couldn’t possibly roster Ryan Lindley this weekend but after making a statement like that, you almost have to consider him. Jonathan Stewart and Jeremy Hill’s price more accurately reflect workloads they might not see this weekend, usually a big stay away for me, but there’s no way you’re ruling them out, DeMarco Murray is the clear No.1 RB but he’s up against the best run D left in the post season so is he a must play in cash games or not? On and on it goes.
What seemed so easy and exciting earlier in the week has turned into a struggle where I’m questioning myself at every turn. Four games provide the illusion of being able to cover all the bases and hedge all your bets. You somehow think if you enter say, 20 line-ups into the $2 GPP on DK that you’ll cover every possible outcome until you realize a monster Philly Brown game or Jed Collins vulturing two TD’s will probably swing most of the big tournaments this weekend. It might not be those two but some low owned guy will end up being the key to securing a high finish and if you’re not on them, come Sunday evening you’re going to be staring at the most depressing sight in all of DFS
In an effort to avoid this, let’s take a look at my GPP team for this weekend that combines some obvious selections with some under the radar plays.
Joe Flacco – $6,700
It’s hard to use the word contrarian when it comes to a four game slate so Flacco isn’t going to be hugely under owned but he might be a somewhat under the radar pick. Here’s a strange stat for you, in Flacco’s last six games he has scored either 23 or 13 DK points in 5 of the last 6 games. In the other one he managed 25. A small sample size of course but when we talk about floors and ceilings I think that’s pretty accurate for Flacco. Fittingly, in his last two games against the Steelers, he had 14 and 22. If he has a monster game on Saturday the Ravens QB could net you around the 25 point mark which would be great considering his price point. Alternatively he could scupper your chances of a nice pay day if he puts up a 13 point dud, but with only four games that’s the same for almost every roster spot. At this point in the season it seems reasonable to predict that the Steelers will attack the Ravens secondary and Baltimore will be forced to follow suit. Historically, the Pittsburgh Baltimore rivalry is defined by low scoring slug fests but this one could turn into a shoot out. Roethlisberger will almost certainly be higher owned and if the game stays tight, both QB’s could end up with similar point totals. As we all know, the lower owned play is the +EV position in this scenario.
Jeremy Hill – $6,200
Hill is shaping up to be the most popular play at the RB position this week. He’s not that expensive, people haven’t been burned by him yet, he’s got a good matchup against the Colts and most importantly of all, the Bengals will almost certainly look to the running game in an effort to avoid the Andy-Dalton-with-no-AJ-Green disaster waiting to happen. As I touched on in the intro however, Giovanni Bernard was more heavily involved last week and he’s the RB they look for in the passing game, crucial on a full PPR site like DK. Since Hill’s monster game in week 15 against Cleveland his DK points have decreased every week with Bernard even out scoring him last week against Pittsburgh. With that being said, Bernard is only $600 cheaper and Hill is still out snapping him which makes Hill the better play in a backfield I definitely want exposure to this weekend.
Daniel Herron – $4,700
I haven’t rostered Herron all year and a quick glance at his game log tells me why, he hasn’t topped 16.6 DK points all year and he hasn’t been over 10 in his last 3. But as we know, game logs only tell a portion of the story and the last two games against the Cowboys and Titans can almost be thrown out as the Colts were either getting blown out or resting their starters for the playoffs. Which brings us to the idea behind selecting Herron. He was taken out of the game against Tennessee which points to him being the clear no.1 in the Colts backfield. The Bengals are weak against the run (ranked 28th in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA) and Herron should hopefully see a season high in touches and snaps as the Colts coaching staff finally phase Trent Richardson out. Another crucial factor in this selection is my decision to fade DeMarco Murray and pay up for WR instead. Herron looks like a great mid priced option this weekend.
Calvin Johnson – $8,800
For a variety of reasons, I see the Steelers-Ravens and Cowboys-Lions games being decided through the air. (This next part will shock you) Therefore I shall be rostering as many wide receivers from those games as possible, starting with Megatron. I think Brown will be the highest owned WR and for good reason as he’ll probably put on a show against the Ravens secondary but with Johnson at just $100 cheaper and with me actively fading Big Ben I think he’s a great play here. I can see him being relatively under owned considering the small amount of games and here comes the best part, he’ll be covered by 90th ranked (per PFF) corner on the season, Brandon Carr. That’s out of 108 qualifying corners. That’s not good. Except for people who roster Johnson this week. The weird part about this is that up until about week 4 Megatron was still considered the top WR in the game. Before the season it was even more unanimous, I’d wager a decent amount of money that he was the first WR off the board in about 90% of leagues. That guy hasn’t gone away. He hasn’t had his best year but I can see him having his best game of the year this Sunday.
Dez Bryant – $8,500
This is looking like a Dez Bryant game to me. He’s been on fire over the last…….well he’s basically been on fire all year actually. Romo is playing like a possible MVP candidate and most importantly, Detroit has a really, really good run defense and a pretty average secondary. I can see Dallas attempting to establish the run with Murray like they’ve done all season but I think they will eventually have to air it out and let Dez go to work. There isn’t too much more to say here, Bryant has a legitimate shot of being the highest scoring fantasy player of the weekend. I’m playing him.
Torrey Smith – $5,400
Obviously if I’m going with Flacco, I’m putting him with a wide receiver and unless you want to go contrarian on top of contrarian I’m going Torrey over Steve Sr. If you take out the two injury plagued weeks of week 14 and 15 Smith has actually been putting up pretty decent numbers for a few weeks now. Taking out those two games Smith has had 16.3, 18.5, 14.8, 24.5, 22.9 and 18.3 DK points over the past 8 weeks. That’s a nice level of consistency. Like Flacco he should draw a low level of ownership and I think he has a good shot at making the 4x salary we’re looking for in a tournament.
Eric Ebron – $3,000
This is my one legitimately contrarian pick, or my ‘Jed Collins’ if you will. Mark my words, some $3,000 player will end up being a ‘must own’ if you want to win a decent size GPP and I’m putting my money on Ebron. He’s only scored double digit DK point on one occasion all year so I don’t think we need to worry about him having high ownership. This pick is based on two things. 1. Dallas have been bad against tight end position all season and 2. I don’t like any TE’s enough this week to pay up and I think Ebron is a decent punt. Olsen will be highly owned but he is an easy fade for me and there’s no one else I like. The savings allow me to roster 2 stud WR’s and a bell cow RB in Hill. To make you feel slightly better about someone who averages 4.3 DK points after a full season, Ebron played 61% of the snaps in week 17 and saw 6 targets.
Martavis Bryant – $4,100
Even though I’m fading the majority of the Steelers skill players I still want some exposure to their offence and as we all know, Bryant is that perfect GPP player. We know what we’re going to get with this guy, he’ll be quiet for the majority of the game and then hopefully he’ll catch a few deep passes with maybe even a touchdown or two.
Bengals – $1,900
I just can’t get past this price. As I’ve said all year long, defense is a crapshoot. The Benglas are probably the lowest ranked D this week but they shouldn’t be $900 cheaper than the next ranked team, the Steelers. Luck is prone to a turnover or two and they could always end up being pick sixes. There’s no predicting this stuff so I’d rather take the savings and spend up somewhere else. If I’m going to spend up, I’d actually go all the way up to the Panthers, which I’ll probably do for cash games.
This is the team I’ll be riding, and probably dying with, this weekend. Good luck to everyone playing this tricky short slate.