Daily fantasy football picks: Who should you start on wild-card weekend?

Make sure to spend your money on one of the two luxury quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers) playing this weekend.
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Regular season fantasy is over, but we still have three weeks left to enjoy the DFS game. The drastically reduced number of teams means that any one standout performance will weigh more heavily than in the regular season. That makes picking the right high-priced players, as well as unearthing the right values, all the more important.

Below are my ideal picks for both DraftKings and FanDuel. I will be playing lineups other than the ones I present here, but these are my go-to lineups for both sites. 

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (DK: $7,600, FD: $8,500) vs. Miami

Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are the luxury options at quarterback this week, and I think you want one of them in your lineup. The price difference between the two is negligible ($300 on DraftKings, $100 on FanDuel), so this comes down to which one you’d rather back in absolute terms. Giants-Packers and Dolphins-Steelers should be the two fastest-paced games of Wild Card Weekend, but it’s the Steelers who have the highest implied team total at 28.25 points. The Dolphins deserve a ton of credit for getting to the playoffs, but their chances of upsetting the Steelers or holding Roethlisberger and the offense in check are slim and none. With Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown the two most expensive players, regardless of position, on both sites, Roethlisberger is the most affordable way to invest in this week’s top offense.

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Running Backs: Latavius Murray (DK: $5,000, FD: $6,700) at Houston; Paul Perkins (DK: $4,100, FD: $5,900) at Green Bay

My first look here was at Le’Veon Bell, but at $10,300 on both sites, it was just too hard to fit him into the lineup without the same player pool we have available during the regular season. The prices fall off a cliff after Bell, making running back an ideal position to find savings this week. Murray and the Raiders go into Houston as underdogs in what should be a low-scoring game. There’s a good DFS argument for both Murray and Lamar Miller given that they’re both affordable and one of them is going to play for a winning team on Saturday. I like the Raiders to pull off the mini-upset and advance to the Divisional Round, which leads me to backing Murray this week. The Raiders have to lean on him with Connor Cook under center, and have stated their desire to do so. The Texans will force Cook to beat them by stacking the box, but Oakland’s offensive line is one of the best units in the league, this side of the Cowboys. The price is right for rostering whichever starting back you believe will play for the winner in Raiders-Texans. For me, that’s Murray.

The Giants finally got Perkins involved in the offense in a significant way the last four weeks of the season, and he did not disappoint. The rookie out of UCLA ran for 271 yards on 62 carries in those four games, including a 102-yard performance against Washington in Week 17. Perkins is clearly the most explosive back on the roster, and the Giants aren’t going to be able to count on their great defense to entirely shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Even if the defense plays well, it’s likely the offense will need to score at least 20 to 24 points for the Giants to advance to the Divisional Round. That should mean more Perkins and less Rashad Jennings. Perkins’s price tag makes it possible to afford some of the big-time receivers alongside either Roethlisberger or Rodgers.

Wide Receivers: Odell Beckham (DK: $9,100, FD: $8,900) at Green Bay; Jordy Nelson (DK: $8,000, FD: $8,500) vs. New York Giants; Davante Adams (DK: $5,600, FD: $7,000) vs. New York Giants; Eli Rogers (DK: $4,000, FD: $5,000) vs. Miami

My initial lineups on both sites had Antonio Brown in both of them, but I kept coming back to Beckham and Nelson. I believe that the top three receivers are the three best investments this week, and with Roethlisberger at the top of my lineups, I’ve already got a line on Brown. By going with Beckham and Nelson, I get all three of them in my lineup, in a way. The over/under on Giants-Packers is a bit lower than expected at 44.5 points, but we can minimize its importance when considering the matchup’s two elite receivers. The Packers can do no wrong on offense, and Nelson just polished off a 97-catch, 1,257-yard, 14-touchdown season. As for Beckham, is it possible for a receiver to quietly post 101 receptions, 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns? It is when you’re Beckham, and you were coming off arguably the greatest two-season start to a career for a receiver in NFL history. The Packers gave up the most points to wide receivers during the season, and their secondary is in far worse shape than when these teams met in Week 5.

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With those two on board, it’s time to find some value at the position. Adams was a touchdown machine during the regular season, hitting paydirt 12 times on 75 receptions. One of those was against the Giants, when he had five grabs for 85 yards and the touchdown. Again, the Packers and Steelers are the premium offenses in action this weekend, with the Seahawks and Giants in the second tier. That’s where you want to focus your investment. It’s very possible that Raiders-Texans plays to a total in the 30s, making the receivers in that game bad bets for DFS purposes. Pairing Adams with Nelson corners the Rodgers market, giving us full investment in both the Pittsburgh and Green Bay passing games.

Finally, we find a stack partner for Roethilsberger in Rogers. There’s really not much more to this than that, getting another line of investment in the Pittsburgh offense and keeping the price down to afford the likes of Beckham and Nelson. Rogers did finish the regular season on an upswing, catching 15 of 17 targets for 220 yards and a touchdown in his last three games.

Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham (DK: $5,300, FD: $6,600) vs. Detroit; Jared Cook (DK: $3,600, FD: $5,200) vs. New York Giants

Graham is clearly the best tight end available, especially if Ladarius Green misses Pittsburgh’s game because of a concussion. It’s hard to imagine the Lions going into Seattle and coming out with a win, and the Seahawks have an implied team total of 25.5 points. With the run game struggling, it’s likely Russell Wilson and the passing attack is most responsible for that production. Even with the offensive line a mess, Wilson should be able to get things cooking at home against the Lions. If he does, he’ll be doing so against a defense that allowed the fifth-most points to tight ends this season.

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Graham is way out of my price range on DraftKings, so there I’ll turn to yet another Packer. Cook, the patron saint of fantasy disappointment, is once again on our radar, thanks to a limited pool of options and the play of his world-beating quarterback. He had a decent enough finish to the season, catching 13 passes for 178 yards. More importantly, however, he had 21 targets in those three games. If he can get seven targets against the Giants on Sunday, he’ll turn a profit on his modest price tag.

Kicker: Steven Hauschka (FD: $4,700) vs. Detroit

As is frequently the case in playoff DFS, we’ve got some extra money to spend at kicker. Why not use it on a guy tied to a team that is favored by eight points and playing at home?

Defense/Special Teams: Seattle Seahawks ($DK: $3,700, FD: $5,100) vs. Detroit; Oakland Raiders (DK: $3,000, FD: $4,700) at Houston

I could copy and paste the Hauschka paragraph and use it for the Seahawks defense, and it would be completely accurate. That’s not the extent of its charms, however. The Lions offense took a wrong turn over the final month of the season, and Matthew Stafford is still playing with a glove on his throwing hand to protect the ligaments he tore against the Bears last month. The contextual factors are in favor of the Seahawks defense, and this should be a plus matchup. They’re worth paying full freight.

Again, I cannot afford the prime rib of the position on DraftKings. As I stated earlier with respect to Latavius Murray, I like the Raiders to knock off the Texans on Saturday. You always want to back a defense tied to a team you expect to win, which should instantly eliminate four options for everyone this week. The Raiders are the cheapest defense I believe will be on the right side of a decision, and they give me a stack with Murray on DraftKings.

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DraftKings lineup:

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB1: Latavius Murray
RB2: Paul Perkins
WR1: Odell Beckham
WR2: Jordy Nelson
WR3: Davante Adams
TE: Jared Cook
FLEX: Eli Rogers
DST: Oakland Raiders

FanDuel lineup:

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB1: Latavius Murray
RB2: Paul Perkins
WR1: Odell Beckham
WR2: Jordy Nelson
WR3: Eli Rogers
TE: Jimmy Graham
K: Steven Hauschka
DST: Seattle Seahawks