3 FanDuel Defenses to Target for the Divisional Round
I think a lot about the stock market.
I don’t hold any stocks (I, like the rest of the bottom 50% of Americans, can’t afford to), and I’m not interested in being a day trader someday or investing all my savings in the financial Plinko game that is Wall Street. I do, however, care a lot about how our national financial health affects common people and their daily lives. To that end, I think many of us implicitly believe that a rising stock market is an indicator of good national financial health -- but that’s not always true.
The market is never your friend, even when you have the ability to play its game.
This simple fact is crucial to understand not only in the game of life, but also when playing DFS; the market is not your friend. We have to find ways to make the most of our investments against a market that is priced intelligently to challenge us as much as possible. It’s a tough game. Still, you have a few factors working in your favor when you play on “FD Street”: we all get the same $60K to build our NFL lineups, you have access to projections and probabilities on numberFire that are both rigorously created and highly predictive, and -- best of all, in my opinion -- you have people like me helping guide you through your lineup construction and giving you added insight to your own intuition.
Let me help you beat the market and make a windfall in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. Which defenses are in the best spot for DFS this weekend?
Green Bay Packers
FanDuel Salary: $4,600
You could be forgiven for being surprised that the Green Bay Packers are the top projected defense of the weekend. The cheeseheads’ favorite team is certainly more well-known for its top-flight offense than a robust defense. Still, we shouldn’t be that surprised once we dig into the numbers a bit more. For the season, top cornerback Jaire Alexander allowed the fifth-lowest Passer Rating when targeted among high-snap count cornerbacks (per Pro Football Focus). Edge rusher Rashan Gary broke out for seven sacks this year on just 285 pass-rush snaps, and Za'Darius Smith posted 51 pressures.
In fact, over the last two months of the season and among remaining playoff teams, the Pack have the highest sack conversion rate (most pressures into sacks), the second-fewest yards allowed per coverage snap, and the third-fewest receptions and targets allowed per coverage snap.
They’re facing the Los Angeles Rams, who have two ailing quarterbacks in Jared Goff and John Wolford and -- even when healthy -- haven’t been a pinnacle of offensive supremacy. Since Week 10 and among the remaining postseason teams, the Rams have allowed the second-highest pressure rate, and Goff has thrown an interception at the third-highest rate when under duress. Without pressure, the top LA signal-caller is at the bottom of the NFL Passer Rating over that same span; the floor is fairly high even for this Packers D/ST even if Green Bay can’t get home to disrupt Goff.
Our model projects the Green Bay D/ST to allow 19.5 points and 360.6 yards, earning 1.9 sacks and 1.3 takeaways, for a total of 7.3 FanDuel points. They’re also our second-best point-per-dollar value on the slate.
FanDuel Salary: $3,600
The Baltimore Ravens may not be projected as our top-scoring fantasy defense this weekend, but pound-for-pound they are the best value on the board. Starting this defense might seem risky, given the fact that Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen turned into a legitimate MVP contender at points throughout this season, but bear with me.
Buffalo allows the third-most pressures among remaining playoff teams (since Week 10), and while under pressure, Allen has been extremely mortal. He doesn’t make the pressure mistakes some other passers will (2.1% pressured interception rate, third lowest; 7.4% pressured sack rate, lowest), but his accuracy goes out the window (44.7% pressured completion rate, second worst) and he shortens his vision (5.81 pressured yards per attempt).
The Ravens re-tooled their defensive arsenal this year mainly with the addition of edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue (42 pressures, seven sacks). This is definitely a bend-don’t-break defense that will rely on the offensive unit to grind out clock in the run game, but they will likely do just enough in the pass-rush and coverage departments (87.5 Passer Rating against since Week 10; fourth lowest among remaining teams) to disrupt Allen and company.
Our model forecasts the Baltimore D/ST to allow 26 points and 374.7 yards, earning 2.1 sacks and 1.4 turnovers for 5.8 FanDuel Points. Due to the blow-up potential of the offense on the other side, the Ravens should end up a low-owned option, too, and a good tournament play therefore.
FanDuel Salary: $3,200
The Cleveland Browns have legitimate potential to put up a good defensive showing against Kansas City in this upcoming game. This isn’t just an analysis trying to chase production, though it certainly helps that Cleveland embarrassed the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round by taking away the ball five times in a romp. The same formula has the chance -- albeit a slim one -- to work this week too.
Let’s start with the trenches. Over the final two months of the season, Kansas City allowed the fourth-highest pressure rate of all the remaining playoff teams. When under duress versus a clean pocket, quarterback Patrick Mahomes' Passer Rating drops to from 112.5 to a paltry 65.9 -- a bottom-half mark among remaining quarterbacks. His touchdown-to-interception ratio in those situations goes from 10:3 to just 3:2, with a 2.4% interception rate squarely in the middle of the pack.
The Browns haven’t generated a ton of pressure themselves since Week 10 (9.9% of snaps, fourth lowest rate among playoff teams), but they’ve been solid enough at getting home for sacks on those pressures (fourth highest). That means the pressure they do get is pretty disruptive and should present issues for Mahomes. On top of that, the Cleveland secondary in that span has allowed the fourth lowest marks in Passer Rating, yards per coverage snap, and targets per coverage snap.
Our model doesn't seem to give as much of a chance to the Cleveland D/ST, projecting them for 33.5 points and 396 yards allowed, earning 2.0 sacks and 1.1 takeaways for just 3.0 FanDuel Points. That said, the peripheral numbers give the Brownies a compelling shot to at least keep the Kansas City offense in check. They’re worth a long look if you need a salary saver and differentiator at D/ST this week.
Joe Redemann is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joe Redemann also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username jayarr_ff. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.