4 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 18
The beauty of daily fantasy football is that, unlike a season-long draft where someone is tied to their top players all year, any top players in the NFL can make their way into your lineup. While that can be a blessing, it can also be a curse.
Although you're able to roster Austin Ekeler, Jonathan Taylor, and Alvin Kamara all at once if you want, it is unlikely that all three running backs are optimal plays at their respective salaries for a particular week. There are many elements to decide which players are the best plays, and a large aspect of daily fantasy is the matchup a player has.
While usually encompassed in some respects inside the salary figure, a soft matchup can carry a good running back to a great week. On the other hand, a tough matchup can make superstars suboptimal to roster.
Which matchups are lurking in this weekend's games that we can take advantage of on FanDuel?
Seahawks Passing Attack vs. Cardinals Secondary
The Seattle Seahawks have not had near the offense -- or the season -- many expected entering the year.
However, a four-touchdown performance in Week 17 may mean that Russell Wilson ($7,500) is peaking at the right time.
Yes, that was against the Detroit Lions, but the Arizona Cardinals haven't fared much better defensively since Week 10. In that recent sample, Arizona has allowed 0.22 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back to opposing passers. That's fifth-worst in the league and worse than Detroit's clip. They've ceded massive games to Jared Goff, Cam Newton, and Matthew Stafford in this time.
Now, admittedly, the Cardinals should be a tougher test in a game they need at home. But as long as this matchup is workable, this offense is tremendous for daily fantasy. The target tree this season is supremely condensed between D.K. Metcalf ($7,200), Tyler Lockett ($6,900), and Gerald Everett ($4,900). Metcalf has a 25.7% target share since Wilson returned from injury, Lockett has a 20.7% share, and Everett sits at 17.8%.
With no other Seattle pass-catchers above an 8.0% share since Wilson came back, the stacking options are divine. For me, Lockett's team-best air yards share (38.7%) in this span is worth prioritizing, but all three are quality options with plenty of Cardinals' weapons available for a full game stack.
Jonathan Taylor vs. Jaguars Run Defense
Shocker -- Jonathan Taylor ($10,200) is a quality daily fantasy option in Week 18.
Taylor's monstrous regular season will conclude in Jacksonville. The Colts likely need a final-week win to make the playoffs, so the motivation to play Taylor -- at least to the extent they bludgeon the lowly Jaguars -- is present.
If you're going to be a poor offensive team, the worst thing possible is also having a bad run defense, but the Jags have one. Since Week 10, they're allowing 0.13 Rushing NEP per carry -- tied for third-worst in the league.
We saw the New England committee rush for a combined four touchdowns last week, and there is no committee in Indianapolis. Since Week 10, Taylor has played 80.2% of Indy's offensive snaps, and he's seen 87.5% of the Colts' red-zone carries.
J.T. gashed a good Raiders rush defense for 108 yards and a touchdown, so it's frightening to think what he might do to Jacksonville with a similar workload. Taylor's 21.6 FanDuel points from the Colts' first meeting with the Jags seem like a decent starting point.
Pat Freiermuth vs. Ravens Linebackers and Safeties
The Ravens' pass defense has been atrocious since Marlon Humphrey was lost for the year. They've allowed a horrendous 0.50 Passing NEP per drop back in the past three weeks without Humphrey, and they've allowed three straight 300-yard passers in that span.
Roethlisberger isn't the world's most efficient passer at his age, but the matchup simply doesn't get better. A favorite target of Big Ben all year has been Freiermuth. Freiermuth's 15.3% target share since JuJu Smith-Schuster went down with an injury in Week 5 is third on the team behind Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.
Ben tossed it 46 times in a strictly positive script against Cleveland, so volume will be there in a tremendous spot for all three of the Steelers' top pass catchers. Freiermuth, though, is the only one who fills tight end, and it is a grim week for the position.
This game could be a solid one to target despite its 41.5-point total. Both defenses are struggling mightily in recent weeks, and it's one of few contests on the main slate where both teams have something to play for.
Browns D/ST vs. Bengals Offensive Line
As mentioned in my bold predictions piece, the Patriots' defense is an excellent choice this week. However, it's fairly obvious and will be popular.
When it comes to an alternative, the Cleveland D/ST ($4,500) is an interesting one. The Cincinnati Bengals are punting this game with the division wrapped up and Joe Mixon on the COVID-19 list. Joe Burrow has already told the media he does not expect to play, which opens the door to Brandon Allen being under center.
Allen wasn't horrible in limited action in 2020, but his -0.04 Passing NEP per drop back was still well below the league average. Cleveland's defensive line generates solid pressure (31%; tied for 12th-best in the NFL), and the Bengals' offensive line has ceded the third-highest pressure rate (30%) in the NFL. It's unreal that Joe Burrow has had such success behind it.
Myles Garrett should suit up to perform a closing statement for his NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidacy. With the Bengals' beatable offensive line and Cincy down several key players, the Browns could be a high-ceiling tournament play at a salary where they probably won't be an automatic target for most.