Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor for the Divisional Round
You want offense? You got it, my friend.
With the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers back on the menu, 7 of the top 10 offenses by numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics are primed to lace 'em up this week. It's led to three of four totals being in the 50s, so we're going to see points.
This means -- even on just two- and four-game slates -- we're going to see high scores in daily fantasy. High-profile flops in the wild card round may have allowed you to skate by with an imperfect lineup, but that seems like a more dubious proposition this time.
The floor for players always matters, and you could argue that it matters more on a shorter slate when there are fewer selections. However, it also means there are fewer players capable of generating difference-making ceilings; if we can get those players on our rosters, we'll be sitting pretty even if we make mistakes elsewhere.
As such, our top priority for the divisional round will be identifying players who can swing contests in a hurry. That's what we'll do here, going game-by-game, dissecting various factors impacting the way the game could play out, and discussing the takeaways from that for NFL DFS.
The main focus will be in the individual two-game slates, though some discussion of the Saturday through Sunday slate will be sprinkled in. So let's kick things off on Saturday afternoon and go from there, trying to identify the difference-makers in play this weekend.
Rams at Packers
Both passing games here have difficult matchups. That could limit the upside within the game as a whole given the importance of passing. But the running backs more than make up for it.
The table below compares the workloads of the main backs on Saturday's slate. The workloads are for each player's most relevant sample, meaning what they've done in the roles they're projected to have on Saturday. For Devin Singletary, that means the three games that Moss missed earlier in the year. Jones' sample is the games he has played alongside Davante Adams and Jamaal Williams.
Here, "Adj. Opp." is adjusted opportunities, or carries plus two-times the player's target total as targets are worth twice as much as carries on FanDuel. "RZ Share" is the percentage of the team's carries or targets they got in the red zone in that time.
|Most Relevant Sample||Salary||Adj. Opp.||Yards From Scrimmage||RZ Share|
The two paths to upside are via yardage and touchdowns. Jones and Akers have clear edges over the rest in both departments. They're the clear-cut top two backs on the slate, and we should pair the two together often.
For Akers, it helps that he meshes well with the Packers' defense. They're built to stop the pass and rank 13th there by numberFire's metrics as a result. They're just 21st against the rush. With the current state of the Rams' passing attack, it'd make sense for them to lean on Akers yet again. After his 28-carry, 2-target performance last week, Akers is among the best plays on the slate even after accounting for the potential for the offense to struggle.
Regarding the offense more broadly, it's fair to expect some bumps. Jared Goff played poorly last week, and he now has to play in 31-degree temperatures on the road. It's a tough spot for sure. We just have to be careful when looking at Goff's splits in cold weather.
The primary reason is that much of this sample came in Goff's rookie year when he was a different quarterback than he is now. Goff's first game in temperatures under 40 degrees with Sean McVay was in December of 2017 against the Tennessee Titans. There, Goff threw for 301 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Rams have scored at least 23 points in 3 of 4 games in sub-40-degree temperatures with Goff and McVay, including last week's game when the temperature was eight degrees warmer than it's expected to be this week.
Does this mean we should expect Goff to light it up? Absolutely not. He's not playing anywhere near the level he was in 2017, and he's less than a month removed from thumb surgery. But it does mean the doom-and-gloom splits you'll likely see this week are misleading, and the offense at least should be able to avoid bottoming out. That's enough to make Akers a priority.
The passing-game pieces are obviously less appealing. The Packers' corners are a strength, and Cooper Kupp didn't practice this week as he deals with a knee injury. Robert Woods has at least gotten good volume in games they've played with Kupp since Josh Reynolds' snap rate decreased.
|Weeks 13 to 16, 18||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Those numbers make Woods viable in the mid-range, and Tyler Higbee can be considered at $5,200 as a low-salaried tight end. But the main attraction on the Rams is Akers by a mile.
If we were to take Jones' numbers at face value, we'd put Akers a full tier ahead of him. However, there's some room for upward mobility in Jones' workload.
Last year during the playoffs, the Packers featured Jones. He played 84.1% of the snaps in the opening game before the Packers got wiped in the conference championship. He played 69.6% of the snaps in a Week 17 game the Packers desperately wanted to win, his third-highest snap rate in a game where Williams was healthy.
We should bake in the possibility that Jones' role increases as part of our expectations. As such, Jones is a firm second on the slate behind just Akers, and the two are a full tier above everybody else.
The bigger question around the Packers is the passing-game pieces. We know Davante Adams will face Jalen Ramsey. That's not enough to move off of Adams; he has proven throughout his career that no one cornerback can shut him down. But if Adams were to see a couple fewer targets as a result of the matchup, it would open up value elsewhere.
The problem is predicting who would benefit.
We've got a seven-game sample on the Packers since Allen Lazard returned from injury. In that time, nobody has emerged as the second fiddle behind Adams.
|Past 7 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Lazard leads in target share but doesn't get high-leverage looks; Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the exact opposite. It's a tough situation to dissect.
The one guy who -- to an extent -- blends raw targets with high-leverage volume is Robert Tonyan. That likely makes Tonyan the third Packer on our list behind Jones and Adams. However, his salary is just $400 below Mark Andrews in the other game, and we're going to prefer Andrews there. It's just hard to get jazzed about anybody here being more than just a salary-saver.
In total, this game is about the running backs. Nobody else grades out as being the top priority in their respective salary tier, and both quarterbacks are behind the guys in the late game. If you're playing the Saturday-only slate, the optimal strategy here is to soak up the volume of Akers and Jones but to minimize other exposures to this game.
Ravens at Bills
The reason to de-prioritize the pieces in the first game is that this game is flat-out the better offering. Game environment matters, and that factor is preferable here.
The two things we want in a game are for it to be high-scoring and with a tight spread. Both marks point toward this one being the preferred game. That's one thing in its favor.
Another thing is that the offenses here should click along better. Utilizing numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, I am able to project out each team's expected offensive efficiency for the game. Among all eight offenses in action this week, the Buffalo Bills are second in projected offensive efficiency, and the Baltimore Ravens are fourth. The Packers and Rams are sixth and eighth, respectively.
That's the reason for ranking Stefon Diggs ahead of Davante Adams. It has nothing to do with Adams' matchup; Diggs' is plenty difficult, as well. It's all about getting access to the game more likely to shoot out, which is this one.
That's also why the two quarterbacks here are full tiers above Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers' salary is $8,400, nestled right between Josh Allen ($8,800) and Lamar Jackson ($8,000). If Rodgers were a massive discount, it'd be a different discussion. Instead, we can save salary by using Jackson. If you've got just 10 lineups, you can easily justify utilizing just Allen and Jackson.
Between the two, Jackson should hold a slight edge, though that's not a disrespect to Allen. It's all because of what Jackson has done recently.
Since returning from his one-game COVID-19 absence, Jackson has been a force on the ground, averaging 12.0 carries for 94.3 yards per game. That -- plus increased passing efficiency -- has allowed him to average 27.4 FanDuel points per game in that stretch. Jackson's the top quarterback on this slate, and you could argue for putting him above Patrick Mahomes on the four-game offering.
The reason not to go all in on Jackson is that this is the first non-sieve matchup he has had in a while. The Bills finished the regular season ranked 14th against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. This is the first time since Week 10 that the Ravens have faced a defense even in the top half of the league. They could regress a bit on offense.
Additionally, Allen just has a lot of appeal himself. He ran 11 times in the wild card round, his most since all the way back in Week 7. Allen was also stout against tough competition this year, averaging 0.45 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back when facing top-10 pass defenses. NEP is the expected points metric we use at numberFire, and Passing NEP includes deductions for expected points lost on negative events such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. Allen led the league in Passing NEP per drop back against top-10 teams among those with at least 50 drop backs.
That thinking on Allen is the other reason we could justify ranking Diggs above Adams among the high-salaried receivers. We can expect the offense to keep humming in a tough spot. We also know that Diggs will get elite volume. Here's the team's target shares in games where John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Dawson Knox have been fully healthy.
|With Brown, Beasley, Knox||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Diggs' shares aren't as good as Adams', and that matters. If we're ranking them in a vacuum, Adams has the edge. But game environment matters a lot, and it's enough to tip the scales in Diggs' favor.
That table is also why we should be willing to go back to Brown despite a donut last week. Brown has at least 70 yards in five separate games this year, so he checks the upside box, even if his floor is clearly non-existent. He gets high-leverage looks and grants us access to the preferred game for just $5,500. Brown's the top receiver in the $5,000 range, ahead of Beasley and the Packers' receivers.
The outlook for Brown is pertinent when discussing Devin Singletary, as well. With Jones and Akers in great spots and possessing better ceilings than Singletary, we should prioritize them even at higher salaries. But Singletary's range of outcomes with Moss out are likely better than those of the $5,000-range receivers you could use in the flex spot.
As mentioned above, we have a three-game sample on Singletary without Moss. He had 121 yards from scrimmage against the Rams in one of them, and he had 30 adjusted opportunities in another. His floor is good, and it's better than that of the receivers in a similar range, which is important as they are his competition for the flex spot moreso than Jones and Akers.
The big issue with Singletary is his ceiling. He had just 22.2% of the team's red-zone chances in those games, and he's hideously inefficient as a runner. You're not getting big gains here, and that matters. It keeps Singletary from being a priority and keeps him ranked below Akers and Jones.
Once you weigh the floor and the ceiling, though, Singletary likely is the top option at all positions in the $5,000 range. Again, that doesn't mean you should use him over the top two guys at running back, and it's fine if you wind up being underweight on Singletary relative to the field. However, if you just want the guy with the best range of outcomes in his salary range, it's Singletary.
The Ravens' backs are the polar opposites of Singletary. They project for minimal volume but bathe in efficiency. Here's the same table from earlier, except focusing on just the three lower-salaried pieces.
|Most Relevant Sample||Salary||Adj. Opp.||Yards From Scrimmage||RZ Share|
Both JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards have gotten roughly half the volume of Singletary but have still produced more yards from scrimmage. The tipping points favoring Singletary over Dobbins is salary and having less competition for touches. That's enough to rank Singletary firmly higher between the two.
Edwards is at least worth considering. He has plentiful flaws, but his workload is almost identical to Dobbins'. In the wild card round, Dobbins played four more snaps than Edwards and got one additional carry and one additional target. With things so equal between the two, it's easy to envision Edwards out-scoring Dobbins, and he's even a bit discounted from Singletary. You shouldn't go hard at Edwards, but he's worth considering as a differentiation piece to deviate from the popularity of the other four backs on the slate.
Not being able to gush over the Ravens' running backs is a letdown. We can, however, feel really good about Andrews and Marquise Brown.
Andrews checks in at $6,600 while Brown's salary is $6,500. That's very acceptable and accounts for the issues with a rush-first offense. We've got a five-game sample on them since Andrews returned from the COVID-19 list, and their per-game target totals in that stretch will certainly work.
|Past 5 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
With Jackson's passing efficiency on the rise, that volume puts both in play. We should favor Andrews by a smidge between the two.
As you can see, Andrews has been the higher-volume player in this stretch. He also fills tight end, isn't coming off a big game, and faces a Bills defense that just let up 70 yards and a touchdown to Jack Doyle. With no high-salaried running backs to save for, Andrews' $6,600 tag should be easy to get to here.
Browns at Chiefs
We know what the Chiefs are going to do here; they're gonna score points.
The only question is whether the Cleveland Browns will punch back. It seems like they very well could, making this the top game of the weekend.
The optimism here isn't based on a small sample; their full-season numbers are rock solid. The Browns rank 10th in schedule-adjusted offensive efficiency, per numberFire's metrics, and that includes their early-season struggles. They've been playing better recently, so putting them 10th may even sell them short.
It's also not a bad matchup. The Chiefs' defense started the year off well, but they finished 15th against the pass and 29th against the rush. As long as the game script doesn't get too out of hand, it's reasonable to expect the Browns to score some points here. That's beneficial for both sides as it could force the Chiefs to keep their foot on the gas all four quarters.
It also allows us to get excited about the pieces on the Browns' side of the ball, many of which are value plays for DFS. The lone exception is Nick Chubb.
Although Chubb is not a value, he's still the second best running back on the Sunday-only slate. As mentioned, the Chiefs struggle to stop opposing ground games, and Chubb can do work against pretty much anyone. This is his first time facing a rush defense in the bottom half of the league since Week 12 when he lit up the Jacksonville Jaguars for 176 yards from scrimmage.
Chubb did lose out on a pair of touchdowns to Kareem Hunt last week, but those mask an otherwise great workload. Chubb's 26 adjusted opportunities in that game were his most of the season, and his 69 receiving yards were his first time topping 40 in that department.
If the Browns get down early, it's possible they shift to Hunt rather than Chubb. That's a known risk, and it does matter a lot. But even with that risk baked in, Chubb is still someone in whom we can feel confident for this week.
The pass-catchers are where we get value. We've had a lot of moving pieces here, which means nailing down the most relevant sample isn't easy. But they've played three games since Odell Beckham's injury in which Austin Hooper has been healthy and Donovan Peoples-Jones' snaps have been up. This is where the targets have gone in those games.
|Weeks 13, 15, 18||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
You've got three guys getting a 20% target share, and two of them check in with salaries of $5,500 or lower. If you think the Browns keep pace, you should be in on Hooper and Rashard Higgins.
Higgins, specifically, is $5,300, helping offset some of the salary tied to Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. Going back to our discussion around upside, we know Higgins has it. He has at least 95 yards in two games this year and has averaged 63.9 per game in non-weather games since Beckham's injury. Higgins should be a focal point among the low-salaried plays on the slate.
And you're going to need that salary because all three of Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce, are rockstar-level plays.
The appeal in Mahomes is obvious, and he's the top play of the Sunday-only slate. For the four-game slate, he's likely second behind just Jackson. Don't overthink it; just use him.
Hill and Kelce seem likely to get a bump up with Sammy Watkins missing practice both Wednesday and Thursday. In the five games they played without Watkins earlier in the year, Hill was a target hog.
|Without Watkins||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Hot diggity dog. Hill had 18 targets in one of those games and 14 in another. If you look at the full four-game slate, Hill's the top option, ahead of even Diggs and Adams. He's that good.
That's not to speak ill of Kelce, who has the most disgusting game logs you will ever see. He had at least 18 FanDuel points in every December game and hasn't had fewer than 12 since nine days before the presidential election. That consistency at such a volatile position is impossible to pass up.
As a result, you should attempt to have lineups with both Hill and Kelce within them. It's tough given the appeal of Alvin Kamara, but it's doable, and it's something you need to explore. They're just too good to pass up.
If you're forced to choose one, it does seem as if Hill holds the edge. Although Kelce has the stability, he didn't have more than 25 FanDuel points in any game this year, a mark Hill doubled up once, exceeded twice, and came within two points of two other times. Again, this isn't an anti-Kelce thing; it's just that Hill is that freaking good.
The value pieces here depend on how the injury report breaks on Friday.
At receiver, you could consider Demarcus Robinson or Mecole Hardman. However, Hardman's snaps remained low when Watkins was out earlier, and Robinson seemed to get a role reduction late in the year due to ineffective play. Both have flaws. We should favor Hardman due to his ability to hit a big play, but both grade out below Higgins within this game.
Running back is also muddy, especially with Clyde Edwards-Helaire sitting out Thursday's practice. He was limited Wednesday coming off his hip and ankle injuries, which wasn't a great sign, but this is even more troubling.
With Edwards-Helaire out in Week 16, Darrel Williams led the backfield with 10 carries, 6 targets, and a 70.2% snap rate. That's enough to justify having shares of Williams at $4,800 if Edwards-Helaire is ruled out. However, the ambiguity in the role prevents him from being a core play.
As for Edwards-Helaire, the best-case scenario for him is a full practice Friday. If he can get that, it puts him in line to return and play.
Before the injury in Week 15, Edwards-Helaire had his best workload in months in Week 14. There, he played 74.2% of the snaps, getting 16 carries and 6 targets. He was also getting solid work before the injury the following game.
We just don't know what his workload will look like given the multi-week absence. If he practices in full Friday, then we should be willing to filter him in at $6,100. If he's a full participant and is removed from the injury report, we can up that exposure even more. But if Edwards-Helaire remains limited on Friday and is listed as questionable, then he'll be a tough sell with no clear read on how heavily he'll be used.
Buccaneers at Saints
If Murray can't play, it's possible Kamara doesn't leave the field. He already had 23 carries last week, his second time topping 20 this year; the other was in Week 16, his most recent game played. Kamara would be a lock-button play if that happens.
Hill being out would jack up the touchdown upside of everybody in the offense. It might even make Drew Brees a consideration at quarterback.
Brees is $7,300, the lowest-salaried starter on the slate. He has played well since returning, averaging 0.28 Passing NEP per drop back and upping his average depth of target to 6.9 yards. That's still very low, but it's a whole heck of a lot better than his 5.3-yard mark before his injury. Both of those are good for his fantasy appeal.
Brees has done nothing for fantasy in that time, maxing out at 20.36 FanDuel points. But not having Hill would increase his touchdown upside, and using Brees makes it easier to jam in Kamara, Hill, and Kelce. Brees still wouldn't be a good play if Hill were to sit, but he'd be a consideration, and that's more than he's been all season long.
The one player unaffected by the injury news is Michael Thomas. Thankfully, Thomas' salary is still just $7,200, so he's a good option regardless of how things break.
In the four games we've gotten with Brees and Thomas together, Thomas has just 20.3% of the targets. He did get to 73 yards last week, though, on 7 targets, one of which was a downfield look. It's possible the numbers on Thomas are low simply due to a small sample. We shouldn't prioritize Thomas over players in the Chiefs/Browns games because the game environment there is better, but just straight up, Thomas is much lower-salaried than he should be.
Salary is a reason we can consider Jared Cook, as well. Typically, Cook's salary has floated close to $6,000, and that's hard to stomach on his volume. But it's down to $5,600 here, and that's a fine number with how many high-leverage looks he gets.
|With Thomas and Brees||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Among the low-salaried Saints, Cook is the easiest to justify.
Harris did turn 7 targets into 83 yards against the Chicago Bears, which is great. However, he did that on just a 28.6% snap rate, and it came with Tre'Quan Smith out. Smith returned to practice this week and may play on Sunday. If he does, it likely means even fewer snaps for Harris. Emmanuel Sanders is the preferred low-salaried wide receiver, though he has serious flaws, as well.
Scenario 1: Jones is out. In this case, you make Leonard Fournette a core play after he played 85.1% of the snaps last week. That role for $6,300 is not something you pass up.
Scenario 2: Jones practices in full and is good to go. In that scenario, both guys will be tough to trust. Fournette played well enough last week to justify being active, and Jones' role when Fournette has been active this year has been underwhelming at best.
Scenario 3: We don't know! This is the worst scenario, but it also seems the most likely.
If the daily fantasy deities truly hated us -- which, clearly, they do -- Jones would be limited on Friday, listed as questionable, and not confirmed to be playing prior to lock on Sunday. Given the tilt-fest that was Jones in the wild card round, this is almost a guarantee to happen. Fun times!
In this scenario, Jones will be an easy cross-off. You don't want to deal with that mess.
You could justify having some shares of Fournette, though, specifically in your flex spot. That way, if Jones winds up being inactive, you get an elite play at reduced popularity. If Jones winds up being active, you can swap Jones out for a receiver. Antonio Brown's salary is just $100 more, so you could bake in that $100 to allow yourself to make the switch if Jones winds up being active. It's certainly not an ideal situation, but it's likely how things will break, and it'll position us to take advantage of it one way or another.
Things are more clear with the passing game. Tom Brady showed last week he can overcome a tough matchup, making him the number two quarterback on the slate behind Mahomes (and likely fourth for the full weekend behind Mahomes plus Allen and Jackson). Based on target shares, we'd love to stack him with Mike Evans; the matchup is just a bit shakier for him.
We've now got a half season of data on this team with Brown and Evans both in the mix. In those games, Evans has sucked up all the money targets.
|With Evans and Brown||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
In most spots, that'd lead us to loading up on Evans at $7,100. But the Saints have been a thorn in his side.
In the first matchup this year, Evans totaled just two yards. He was healthier for the second meeting, but there, he had just one first-half target before the game got out of hand. This is a continuation of a trend for Evans, who even hung a donut in a game against them last year.
That could push us to Brown or Chris Godwin as the top stacking partner. But even with the struggles, it does still seem as though Evans is the optimal play.
Any time we dabble with player-versus-team splits, we're dealing with small samples. If we go back to 2018, Evans averaged 116.5 yards per game versus the Saints. He's also getting more efficient quarterback play now than he has had at any other point throughout his career. This is -- effectively -- a different Mike Evans.
The matchup is tough, for sure, and it does hurt Evans' outlook. We could potentially rank him a hair below Michael Thomas in the same salary range, as well. But if people avoid Evans due to his splits against the Saints, we should try to be overweight on him and exploit the small-sample bias.
Finally, with the tight ends, things are closer than they look on the chart. Since the team's bye in Week 13, Rob Gronkowski has topped an 80% snap rate just once. He did it in 5 of 12 games before that bye. It has allowed Cameron Brate to carve out a bigger role in the offense. Here are their respective target shares since the bye.
|Past 5 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
Those shares aren't high enough to make Brate desirable, especially with his salary being decently high at $4,900. But they do lower Gronkowksi's outlook.
The clear priority on the slate at tight end is Kelce. However, if you're not going there, it does seem like we should be willing to rank both Hooper and Cook higher than Gronkowski at similar salaries. Gronkowski would also grade out behind both Andrews and Tonyan if you're playing the full four-game slate.