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NFL Wild Card Weekend DFS Breakdown: The Ambush

SI Fantasy analyst Steve Renner dissects the full weekend's slate of games and reviews his favorite DFS plays on the board in "The Ambush."

If you like short slate NFL DFS, this is your time of year. We have three 'classic' style slates this weekend that you can choose from as well as six showdown slates.ll. Hopefully wherever you are in this country its weather that makes you want to stay inside and watch some football all weekend long.

My DFS advice to you is to focus on the six game Saturday-Sunday full weekend slates because that allows for the most diversification of ownership within contests. Although they may not have the big glitz and glamour "Million Dollar to 1st" lottery ticket contests, they are still fine for playing DFS.

I have added some general lineup construction thoughts at the end in the AMBUSH Summary section to cover each of the slates.

Let's have a winning Wild Card weekend.

WEATHER AND INJURIES

There's no glaring weather notables for the games this weekend even with only one game being played in a dome. 

There is nothing major that I am monitoring on the injury front as I expect most players with a questionable designation to play.

However, one exception is Mike Evans for Tampa Bay who had a bad looking knee injury and is listed as a game time decision. Evans was the top target for Brady in the red zone all season long and his knee injury in Week 17 does not bode well for Tampa or Brady. As of the time, I am writing this Evans has not practiced and given how the injury looked to the plain eye last week I would suspect he does not play Saturday. If that is the case, it's obviously a big boost for Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin but we also have to consider Scotty Miller or even (*moan*) Rob Gronkowski. Brady has shown he loves the big targets in the red zone and with Evans out it would be Gronk who gets the red zone boost.

Elsewhere, Alex Smith, Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Deonte Harris, Stefon Diggs are all good to go.  In the case of Kamara he was never injured and was just resting due to a positive COVID-19 test but he never showed any symptoms.  Michael Thomas is fully healthy for the first time since Week 1.

The Cleveland Browns are depleted due to COVID once again and will be without LG Joel Bitonio. Not ideal against a very good Pittsburgh front.

OWNERSHIP

It's really hard to do a breakdown on ownership for the two three game slates. No matter what the sport is, there is always greater potential in DFS to consider fading a high priced player on a short slate like we have for the Saturday and Sunday only slates. But do not look at it as fading a player, look at it as playing someone good that nobody else is playing. 

So simply put, which games have the most potential at low ownership this weekend?

Saturday - Rams vs Seahawks

Nobody is touching this game on the Saturday slate and they certainly aren't looking at it on the full six-game slate either. Seattle's defense has greatly improved with Jamal Adams back healthy and they also benefited from a relatively softer schedule in the back half of the season to improve their stats. 

The Rams struggled here two weeks ago in the game that Goff got hurt in, but I still think there's a ton of potential for both Kupp and Woods to have strong games. If you want to fully stack a game on Saturday which has the best group of WR in it at < 10% ownership then this is your spot.

Sunday - Bears vs Saints

Sunday's games are much more even but the Bears/Saints battle has some things in it which will keep good players down. On the Bears side, Allen Robinson will get overlooked because the Saints pass defense has not allowed a 300 yard passer all season and Marshon Lattimore is playing at the top of his game right now. But Robinson can still be elite when he is on and has the size to match-up with Lattimore enough to possibly win a 1:1 battle in the red zone for a touchdown. 

However the wide receiver to own on this game is Michael Thomas, who had an extremely rough season. With Kamara likely ACTIVE, he will get overlooked. I'm not rushing to this game for the six-game slate, but in terms of lower ownership spots this is the game on Sunday.

QUARTERBACKS

Josh Allen

A consistent QB all season long and I joked in my article about how Josh Allen was the guy I always wrote at the bottom in the Q&A under the question, "Who is getting overlooked this week and why is it Josh Allen?" Well, no longer is Allen overlooked as he should be the highest-owned QB this weekend.

Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben was rolling until the schedule got tougher and the undefeated streak got tested. Now against Cleveland, the Steelers are on the right side with everyone back after resting some guys last week and Diontae Johnson has showed signs of removing his drop issues. If that's fixed, it could make for a lethal day for Ben to attack the Cleveland secondary that even Mason Rudolph had some success against last week.

Ryan Tannehill

I usually will lean the QB on teams that I like to win, but in this case I have the Ravens-Titans game projected to be the highest scoring game on the Wild Card slate with the Ravens winning. In that scenario we likely will see Tannehill have to muster back with a ton of yards like he did when they got ran over by Cleveland earlier this season.

Not touching: Tom Brady 

RUNNING BACKS

Image result for chris carson seattle

Chris Carson

You want someone who is going to be completely chalk on Saturday only lineups and fairly ignored on Saturday-Sunday lineups? Welcome to Chris Carson in a game nobody wants to touc. Here, we have a scenario where Seahawks star WR DK Metcalf gets taken out by Jalen Ramsey and what better time to get some mileage out of Carson than now? Carson saw his carries go down after an early season injury, but they ramped back up to 16 against the Rams two weeks ago and if you give me Carson getting that many rushes again this week, I'll bet way over on him beating the 69 yards he got a few weeks back. 

At $5,900 he's a great bargain.

J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins has to be considered throughout the playoffs as the RB1 for Baltimore by a country mile. With them projected in my view to be the highest scoring team we should look at all parts in Baltimore.

Nyheim Hines

My entire roster construction at RB is based upon fading both Henry and Kamara. There's not much else to spend up for and thus my attention focuses on RB who are not in games that appear to be defensive struggles. No sir, that's not the upside we want. Instead, focus on the high scoring games and look to stack with RB in those games. Hines and the Colts are gonna have to do their damage close to the line of scrimmage and I want the passing volume that Hines brings over Taylor.

Also consider: JD McKissic & Latavius Murray

Not touching:  Derrick Henry

WIDE RECEIVERS

Diontae Johnson

Johnson got benched in Week 14 after his drops got too much to ignore. Since then with Ben at QB he had 27 targets, 16 catches, 134 yards and 2 TD in the two games they played together vs the Bengals and Colts. If you have any doubts about Ben trusting Diontae, then move along because this is where Ben is going to go early and often.

Michael Thomas

Image result for michael thomas

When Drew Brees returned from injury in 2019 he connected with Thomas on all 11 targets for 112 yards and a touchdown. Thomas also had no issue in 2019 vs the Bears secondary catching 9 of 11 passes for 131 yards with Teddy Bridgewater at QB (and Kamara missed that game). I expect Alvin Kamara to suit up, but Michael Thomas is the healthy star they will lean on.

Stefon Diggs

It's gonna be tough to get by this weekend without some pieces of the Bills passing game but I'm not going to go overboard with my expectations. The Colts have a good secondary who should be able to keep Diggs from going off but with so many good weapons going for Buffalo outside he will find a way to get his usual seven catches and 85 yards. A nice safe play this weekend.

Corey Davis

This is a game I want pieces of and the Ravens should be smart to come out and ensure that Henry does not run all over them once again. The Titans were able to have passing success in their prior meeting this year and Davis and Brown are the main two receiving threats. His discount makes him a great mid range option.

VALUE GUYS TO CONSIDER (also good for Showdown): Darnell Mooney, Gabriel Davis, Josh Reynolds, Scotty Miller, Zach Pascal, Steven Sims

TIGHT ENDS

Mark Andrews

I have been smashing tight ends against the Titans all season long and no reason to go away from it here. I project Baltimore to score over 30 points this weekend and its going to come from everyon: the defense, running backs, Lamar, and Andrews in the passing game. Get your exposure to Lamar through the cheaper Andrews who should be the top scoring TE all week.

Eric Ebron

The price on Ebron is too good to overlook in Pittsburgh Steelers full-stacks.

DEFENSE

Washington

Sacks, Sacks, Sacks. That is the name of the game with Washington and Chase Young. If they can get to Brady five times (sounds like a lot, but its really not given the matchup) then they'll pay off.

Pittsburgh

Do not be afraid to stack your defenses with your QB-WR stack in the playoff games. There's so much variance when it comes to defenses on the small slates that can flip things. Be creative and consider a defense who gets to face a banged up Browns OL (due to COVID) and was one of the best all season long at getting pressure and forcing turnovers.

THE AMBUSH PLAYS

#1. STEELERS ROLL

Sorry Cleveland Browns fans, it was a nice season. But Ben Roethlisberger, Diontae Jonson, Eric Ebron will power the way for a Steeler win and I see enough value in projections to consider playing these three along with the Steelers defense as well. 

Do not force in a "run it back" option in the playoff games because teams will keep scoring like there is no tomorrow.

#2. FADES OF THE WEEKEND

These are fades for the MAIN six game slate.  Much harder to do on the three game only slate but I would still lean away outside of doing a game stack lineup.

Derrick Henry & Alvin Kamara - Henry is a game flow fade and price tag to pay up for WR instead. Kamara will play but I do not expect him to see the volume he saw the majority of the season when the Saints played either without or a limited Michael Thomas.

Tom Brady - The Washington front four is exactly the type of team who has handled Brady all season -- and not to mention he's been horrific at night after the age of 40. There's absolutely no reason to take Brady when you have Allen, Lamar, Tannehill, Brees, Big Ben all in better spots on the six game slate and Brady is expected to come in as the second highest owned QB on the Saturday only slate. Do not fall for that trap.

#3. STACK GAMES ON SAT & SUN ONLY SLATES

Look at stacking an entire game this weekend, not just on the three game slates but on the full six game slate as well. You'll want to be tempted to be at the party when it starts at 1:00 PM EST on Saturday afternoon, but we're going to avoid going overboard on the Colts/Bills game and just sit back and relax, waiting for some better options to open up throughout the weekend.

The chalk game to get action on in a full game stack is Ravens vs Titans. Both QB are in play with Tannehill being my lean while going J.K. Dobbins and Mark Andrews from the Ravens side. The passing targets are easier to find on the Titans as everything runs through A.J. Brown, Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith.

Our contrarian game to stack is going to be the Rams and Seahawks. It's total boom or bust and as I outlined to some followers earlier this week, your upside in betting the OVER on this game doesn't match the ROI upside of stacking it in DFS if it does go way over. They have played three straight unders, but last I checked those are some good weapons on both sides to consider this a high upside stack.

#4. LINEUP THOUGHTS

For the Saturday and Sunday only slates I would look at two lineups.  One which simply rolls out the top plays across the three games and then a second which utilizes a full game stack that has upside.  We want to avoid the HUGE contests and I remind everyone to focus on contests which are 10x to 20x to first place and not the ones which have a massive first place prize and then terrible distribution elsewhere.

Saturday Only

  • Balanced:  Josh Allen, Chris Carson, Stefon Diggs, Antonio Brown
  • Game Stack:  Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods, Gerald Everett

The Rams/Seahawks game has the most upside at lower ownership

Sunday Only:

  • Balanced:  Ryan Tannehill, JK Dobbins, Diontae Johnson, Michael Thomas, Corey Davis
  • Game Stack:  Drew Brees, Latavius Murray, Michael Thomas, Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney 

The Saints/Bears game has the most upside at lower ownership, however I strongly lean a balanced lineup for Sunday's slate.

Six Game Slate:

  • Balanced:  Chris Carson, JK Dobbins, Corey Davis, Michael Thomas, Mark Andrews

You can obviously roll out any game stack option on the SIX game slate as well from the ones mentioned above.