FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 18
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the Sunday main slate to help you get started on your research.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of the top plays in Week 18.
Josh Allen ($8,800 on FanDuel): Similar to last week, Allen and the Bills are heavy favorites over an inferior opponent, this time checking in as 16.5-point home favorites over the Jets. Likewise, we once again find Allen as the frontrunner in numberFire's projections, besting his fellow quarterbacks by a wide margin.
Arguably, the biggest worry entering Allen's Week 17 contest versus the Falcons was that he would be twiddling his thumbs in a blowout win by the final frame. But it didn't exactly go according to script, with Allen tossing 3 picks, no touchdowns, and a season-low 120 yards. While that would normally result in a disastrous day at the fantasy office, he made up for it as a runner, rushing 15 times for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns, allowing him to finish with a rock-solid 23.9 FanDuel points.
The performance was yet another reminder of why Buffalo's star quarterback remains this year's QB1, and it's hard to see him flopping as a passer for the second straight week when New York awaits him on the other side. The Jets rank 32nd in schedule-adjusted pass defense, per numberFire's metrics, and have allowed the sixth-most FanDuel points to the position.
Lastly, motivation is always an important factor to consider in the final week, and the Bills shouldn't be lacking that department. Although blowout risk is on the table again, a victory clinches the AFC East crown, so Buffalo will have added incentive to run up the score and lock in the win.
Kyler Murray ($8,400): There's only one game with a remotely high over/under, and that's the battle between Seattle and Arizona (48.0 points). The Cardinals can win the NFC West with a win and Rams loss, so they'll be a full go, while the Seahawks should be inclined to play spoiler against a divisional opponent. As far as combined motivation goes, this is a pretty good spot, and a 6.5-point spread in favor of Arizona suggests this should remain fairly competitive.
The Seahawks rank 24th in adjusted pass defense, giving Murray a good chance to build on last week's big win against a tough Cowboys defense. It was one of Murray's more efficient passing performances in recent memory, and he now ranks seventh among starting quarterbacks with 0.22 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back -- roughly double the league average.
And while Murray hasn't run as frequently as last season, he's averaged a robust 48.2 rushing yards since returning in early December (five games), so we know he can still pop for some big gains in any given week.
numberFire's model projects Murray to score the slate's second-most quarterback points.
Matthew Stafford ($7,400): When looking at just this main slate, there isn't a game with more on the line for both sides than the 49ers and Rams. San Francisco earns a playoff berth with a win, whereas Los Angeles can clinch the NFC West if they're victorious.
Stafford hasn't exactly been lighting it up in the box score lately, throwing five touchdowns to six interceptions over the last three games. Lacking the rushing prowess of guys like Allen and Murray, that's led to him failing to score 17 FanDuel points in any of those outings.
Despite that rough patch, Stafford still ranks first overall in Passing NEP per drop back (0.27), and he ranks second in both passing yards (290.5) and passing touchdowns per game (2.38) behind only Tom Brady.
Admittedly, this isn't a fantasy-friendly spot against San Francisco, a team that typically likes to play slow and grind it out with their run game. They controlled things from start to finish in the first dual between these two teams in November, holding Stafford in check for a mere 11.82 FanDuel points. On top of that, it's also well-documented that Sean McVay's Rams have lost five in a row to Kyle Shanahan's 49ers.
So, between Stafford's recent play and this specific matchup, a lot could be working against him. But on a slate with next to nothing in the way of projected shootouts, we're going to have to take our chances somewhere.
The Rams are at home for this rematch, and if they're able to impose their will this time around, then a faster, pass-heavy game script could be in the cards, potentially helping Stafford to a far better result. Furthermore, this San Francisco secondary is getting crushed by COVID-19 positives, potentially presenting a golden opportunity for this passing attack.
At a far lower salary than our prior two entries, Stafford's also one of the better values at the position.
Despite all the good vibes and laughs when Urban Meyer was finally booted off the Jags, it hasn't actually led to any wins over the last three weeks, including losses to other bottom-feeders like the Texans and Jets. They finally faced an actual contender in the Patriots last week, and all the Pats did was stomp the hapless Jaguars for 50 points.
So, it's of no surprise to see Indy favored by 14.5 points despite being on the road.
Enter Taylor, who continues to dominate each and every week. He's now tallied at 97 yards from scrimmage in 13 straight games -- often well exceeding that mark -- and he's scored at least one touchdown in all but one game over that span. As a result, he leads the league in both yards from scrimmage (2,076) and rushing-plus-receiving touchdowns (20).
Not only should Taylor enjoy a positive game script, but he isn't likely to face much resistance from a Jacksonville unit that ranks 30th in adjusted rush defense. Taylor's median projection well exceeds everyone else at the position this week.
D'Onta Foreman ($6,900): If you aren't doling out the cash for Taylor's services, there are a number of intriguing names in the high-to-mid range, but the majority of them are naturally on teams that have been eliminated, making it tricky to predict just how much motivation they'll have in the final week.
We needn't worry about that for Foreman, though, as the Titans can secure the top seed in the AFC with a victory over the Texans.
While the Titans have relied on a committee to fill Derrick Henry's shoes, Foreman was the clear lead back in Week 17. He saw season-highs in both carries (26) and snap rate (66.1%) in a blowout win over Miami, helping him to a career-best 132 rushing yards and a touchdown. Even with the split playing time, last week marked the third time Foreman has eclipsed 100 rushing yards, and he's the clear first option in the red zone with Henry out.
A positive game script clearly benefited Foreman, but a similar outcome should play out again on Sunday. Tennessee is a 10.0-point favorite over Houston, and these Texans have allowed the fourth-most FanDuel points to opposing backfields. Foreman isn't a huge factor in the passing game, but it's hard to envision the Titans falling behind with a playoff bye at stake.
Henry is expected to return for the postseason, so Tennessee shouldn't have any qualms about giving Foreman all the work he can handle in their finale.
Devin Singletary ($6,700): Since seeing a rise in playing time in Week 14, Singletary has now logged 18, 24, 24, and 25 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) over the last four games while averaging an 81.1% snap rate. That's helped him to double-digit FanDuel points in all four weeks, and he's coming off his best performance yet.
With Josh Allen struggling as a passer in Week 17, Buffalo leaned on Singletary to finish off Atlanta, and he rewarded them -- and fantasy managers -- with a season-high 110 rushing yards and 2 scores.
As heavy favorites over the Jets, Singletary should get plenty of opportunities to cash in against a defense that ranks 27th in adjusted rush defense and has allowed the most FanDuel points to running backs. We're finally seeing a true lead back on Buffalo, and the salary hasn't caught up to the role yet.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn ($5,900): The depth of this Tampa Bay offense is being tested down the stretch, and that includes their backfield. Ronald Jones has been ruled out, likely leaving Vaughn as the lead back for Sunday's contest against Carolina.
The only other notable back on the roster is an over-the-hill Le'Veon Bell, who was signed just a couple of weeks back and cut by Baltimore earlier this season. While Bell should still get some opportunities, too, most of his Week 17 usage came with both Jones and Vaughn sidelined, so he's clearly third in the pecking order.
Therefore, the stage is set for Vaughn to see his biggest workload of the season. Vaughn's played roughly the third of the snaps behind Jones over the past two weeks, and it would have been even higher following Jones' injury last week were it not for Vaughn suffering a rib injury himself in the fourth quarter. The rib injury appears to be a non-issue, as Vaughn is practicing in full this week.
The Bucs have a chance at the 2 seed in the NFC, so there's incentive for them to pummel the Panthers and fulfill their status as 8.0-point home favorites. Bruce Arians has already stated he won't be resting players, too, further suggesting that they'll go all out.
Carolina is limping to the finish as losers of six straight games, and they were smacked around by Tampa 32-6 just a couple of weeks back. In that contest, Jones and Vaughn combined for 27 carries and 135 rushing yards, and both players scored a touchdown.
The bulk of those touches should go Vaughn's way this time around, making him one of the top values at the position.
Cooper Kupp ($10,000): In a shocking turn of events, Kupp leads all wideouts in numberFire's model -- and it's not particularly close. It's really just a matter of whether you can fit him in, though it helps that Matthew Stafford's salary is on the lower side, making this stacking combination easier to pull off.
Kupp is actually coming off a "down" game in terms of volume, as he saw a season-low in targets (seven), which was just the second time he's seen single-digit targets all season. Of course, he still came away with 18.5 FanDuel points, once again demonstrating how high his floor has been. Kupp's the only wide receiver averaging over 20 points per game (21.5), with the next closest being Davante Adams (18.3).
We're hoping for a ceiling game this week, though, and that's a distinct possibility if the 49ers are missing key pieces in the secondary due to COVID-19. And while Kupp has downplayed the historic milestones he could achieve on Sunday, it's still something to consider when it comes to added motivation.
Mike Evans ($7,800): You may have heard that Antonio Brown is no longer with the Bucs, which leaves Evans as the last man standing in this once deep wideout corp. Evans practiced in full on Thursday, so he shouldn't have any restrictions versus the Panthers. Evans was expected to be limited in Week 17, but he still managed to play 75.0% of the snaps and catch 4-of-7 targets for 47 yards and a score.
It's reasonable to expect Evans and Rob Gronkowski to see the majority of targets from Tom Brady pretty much by default, and as noted earlier, Tampa Bay will be plenty motivated to win.
Evans does come at a fairly high salary, though, so you can also consider Cyril Grayson Jr. ($5,600) or Tyler Johnson ($5,500) as value plays. Grayson's seen elevated snaps over the last two games, and with Brown bowing out in Week 17, he finished 6 receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. In fact, his 8 targets ultimately trailed only Gronkowski.
Johnson made less of a splash last week, catching 4 of 6 targets for 50 yards, though he's been the one who's seen far more playing time over the course of the season.
Christian Kirk ($6,200): We've had three Arizona games without DeAndre Hopkins, and Kirk has emerged as the team's new number one wide receiver. Over that span, he's averaged 10 targets per game, earning a 24.4% target share and 33.6% air yards share.
However, since he's been held out of the end zone the past two games, Kirk still carries a modest salary, giving us another chance to roster him on the cheap. He's one of the better values among wideouts under $7,000, and motivation isn't something we have to worry about with the Cardinals.
Chase Claypool ($5,800): (UPDATE: Diontae Johnson has been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list, pushing Claypool back to a secondary play.) With Diontae Johnson hitting the COVID-19 list, it's possible he misses Pittsburgh's regular season finale versus Baltimore, leaving Claypool as the top remaining wideout. Not only could this be Ben Roethlisberger's final game, but the Steelers actually still have a slim shot at the playoffs, so they'll be raring to go against their division rivals.
And while this passing game has left a lot to be desired behind a way-past-his-peak Big Ben, Baltimore's decimated secondary has struggled down the stretch. The Ravens now rank 26th in adjusted pass defense, and they've allowed the third-most FanDuel points to opposing wideouts.
When Johnson sat out in Week 3, Claypool enjoyed a 25.9% target share, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him command a similar number this weekend. As of this writing, he's the top wide receiver value in numberFire's model.
After curiously seeing just two targets the week prior, Gronkowski would enjoy a far more productive Week 17, logging a team-high 10 targets and turning it into 7 receptions for 115 yards.
With Antonio Brown out of the picture, Tom Brady figures to look for his favorite tight end early and often, and as is, Gronkowski has now tallied at least 8 targets in six of the last seven games. It also probably doesn't hurt that Gronk has some monetary incentives on the line, as well.
In the same salary range, we also shouldn't forget about George Kittle ($6,900), who might see a lower roster percentage following back-to-back duds. Jimmy Garoppolo could be back this weekend, which would give the star tight end a boost. Since Kittle returned in Week 9, he's seen a 24.9% target share from Garoppolo in the previous eight games.
Zach Ertz ($5,600): Like Gronkowski, Ertz is another repeat entry from last week, though in his case he produced an underwhelming 7.6 FanDuel points. But the good news is that the volume was still there (25.0% target share), and the low score keeps his salary in the value range. Overall, Ertz has now logged 11, 13, and 9 targets over the last three games with DeAndre Hopkins out, making him one of Kyler Murray's favorite options.
Ertz pops as the best tight end value in numberFire's model.
Buffalo D/ST ($4,500): Normally, the top defense in numberFire's projections is predictably one hovering around $5,000 -- they're high-salaried for a reason -- but in this case, we're seeing the Bills take the number one spot at a more manageable mark.
Buffalo has just the sixth-highest salary despite taking care of business against Atlanta in Week 17. In that contest, the Bills' defense allowed just 13 points while racking up 5 sacks and recovering a fumble -- all good for 11 FanDuel points.
For the season, the Bills rank first in adjusted total defense, per numberFire's metrics, and they also rank first in quarterback pressures per drop back. As massive favorites over the Jets, this defense could have a field day against an erratic Zach Wilson. Wilson has averaged -0.12 Passing NEP per drop back -- one of the worst marks in the league -- and is tied for the third-highest sack rate (9.0%).
Pittsburgh D/ST ($3,500): The Tampa Bay D/ST ($4,200) is another heavy favorite that ranks favorably in numberFire's model, but if you're looking for a value play, the Steelers' defense is projected as the best option under $4,000.
Although Pittsburgh hasn't been the elite defensive unit of past years -- they especially struggle at stopping the run -- they've held their own against the pass, ranking eighth in adjusted pass defense. Furthermore, they're third in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders, helping them to the league lead in sacks (52).
Tyler Huntley will start at quarterback for Baltimore. While Huntley brings some rushing ability, he's averaged a poor -0.06 Passing NEP per drop back, and he's thrown just three touchdowns to two interceptions across the four games he's played the majority of snaps. He's also showing an 8.7% sack rate.
The Steelers are actually 4.5-point underdogs, so there's some risk here, but keep in mind that the Ravens are losers of five straight games and have been rocked by injuries down the stretch.