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The Winners Edge: Part 1 (A Fantasy Breakdown of Every Playoff Game)

Part 2 of The Winners Edge is out! You can find it here.

We’re now in the playoffs in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean fantasy football is dead. There are big guarantees in tournaments on FanDuel and DraftKings, and enough games on the slate to have a significant edge on the field. That is, if you make the right picks. Below, using DVOA, fantasy points allowed, snap counts, our sportsbook projection tool, and many other factors, I will break down every game for wild card weekend and recommend specific players.

 

Arizona Cardinals

Sportsbook Point Projection: 16.25 (Pass Point Share: 10.49)

Matchup Breakdown (Carolina’s D Rankings):

DVOA: 9th against the Pass. 22nd against the Run.

FP Allowed vs Postion: 17th vs QB, 16th vs RB, 19th against WR.

Specific Weaknesses: 27th against #1 WRs (DVOA), Passes to the left side of the field (DVOA).

 

Recommendations:

Note: The low scoring projection of Arizona makes me shy away from choosing any player on their team, so these recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt.

Larry Fitzgerald ($5,700 on FanDuel, $4,700 on DraftKings)

Trying to predict which player is going to perform best between Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald this season has been like throwing darts blindfolded, but I like Fitz here because of his great price. Fitz’s price has plummeted on both DraftKings and FanDuel, due to his weak performances coming off of a knee sprain. But Carolina struggles against #1 receivers and I like the safety of choosing Fitz here, his average depth of route is much lower than the big play Floyd, which will pay off big time to ensure at least reasonable production for Fitzgerald, especially on DraftKings where receptions are so important. It seems like a risky play, but I think Fitzgerald is solid value this week.

FanDuel Only

Kerwynn Williams ($5,200)

Williams is too much of a risk on DraftKings since he rarely catches passes, but I think he’s a reasonable cash play on FanDuel. Carolina is 23rd against RBs in DVOA, but #2 against them in the receiving game. A strong runner like Williams will likely put up some yards, and if he gets an unlikely TD, you’re golden.

 

 

Carolina Panthers

Sportsbook Point Projection: 22.25 (Run Point Share 9.69)

Matchup Breakdown (Arizona’s D Rankings):

DVOA: 14th against the Pass, 7th against the Run.

FP Allowed vs Position: 20th vs QB, 2nd vs RB, 17th vs WR, 26th against TEs.

Specific Weaknesses: 26th against TEs (DVOA), Passes deep and over the middle (DVOA)

 

Recommendations:

Carolina D/ST and Graham Gano

Sports bettors are clearly optimistic about Carolina’s scoring in this game, but it will likely come from the defense and the kicking game more than anything. Arizona’s QB Ryan Lindley can’t seem to go a game without throwing a few INTs, and Carolina’s pass rush is solid, ranking well on Profootball Focus as well as sacks per game this year. Field position should be quality for the Panthers, but their red-zone offense leaves a lot to be desired. Their 46.81% TD percentage in the redzone ranks close to last in the NFL. I expect a lot of Graham Gano field goals.

DraftKings Preferred

Greg Olsen ($5,500)

Obviously the numbers in this matchup point to Olsen having a solid game, but I don’t love his price on FanDuel. On DraftKings however, Olsen’s high reception numbers will help pad his fantasy numbers, making him a very reasonable cash game play. You can also use him in tandem with Jermaine Gresham on DraftKings, who’s price is fantastic at $3,700.

Avoid

Kelvin Benjamin ($6,900 on FanDuel, $5,900 on DraftKings)

This is essentially a feel play. While Benjamin’s price is good (especially on FanDuel) and the matchup appears good, I think he struggles in this game. Benjamin has used his size all year to get open in the redzone, but he doesn’t have much of an advantage against 6′ CB Patrick Peterson or 6’2″ CB Antonio Cromartie. I’ve observed throughout the year that Benjamin struggles with big, physical corners (see: both games vs the Saints Keenan Lewis this year). Arizona’s secondary has left a lot to be desired this year, but this is just a perfect matchup for them.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Sportsbook Point Projection: 21.75 (Pass Point Share 13.33)

Matchup Breakdown (Pittsburgh’s D Rankings):

DVOA: 30th against the Pass, 17th against the Run.

FP Allowed vs Position: 27th vs QB, 13th vs RB, 24th vs WR, 19th vs TE.

Specific Weaknesses: 31st vs 3rd/4th WRs (DVOA), 29th against Deep Passes (DVOA).

 

Recommendations:

Torrey Smith ($7,100 on FanDuel, $5,400 on DraftKings)

This one is simple, Pittsburgh not only struggles against the pass in general, they’re at their worst against deep balls. Smith is a deep play threat who has actually been consistent in the latter half of the season. After a slow start in his first few games, Smith actually has 11 TD receptions, good for 10th among receivers this year in the NFL. I think his price on both FanDuel and DraftKings is about the same, his price is lower on DraftKings but fair given he hasn’t caught more than 6 balls in any game this season.

FanDuel GPP Play

Justin Forsett ($7,000)

Pittsburgh ranks in the middle against the run in most categories, so it’s not a spectacular matchup for Forsett. But, his price is reasonable and he’s a quality runner who can overcome a mediocre matchup like this one. He also had a season high in receptions earlier in the season against Pitt, catching 5 balls for 67 yards. Using Forsett in the pass game may be part of Baltimore’s game plan against the Steelers.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Sportsbook Point Projection: 24.75 (Pass Point Share 15.60)

Matchup Breakdown (Baltimore’s D Rankings):

DVOA: 15th against the Pass, 5th against the Run.

FP Allowed vs Position: 14th vs QB, 1st vs RB, 28th vs WR.

Specific Weaknesses: 28th vs WR (FP vs Position), 31st vs Deep Passes.

 

Recommendations:

Pittsburgh Pass Offense

There are many reasons to love the Pittsburgh passing game this weekend, but the biggest reason may be the probable absence of Le’Veon Bell. If Bell doesn’t play, the Steelers will be starting a couple of rookies who don’t stand a chance against the Ravens strong front 7. The Steelers aren’t dumb, they realize this and should game plan a lot more passing into their offense. This bodes well for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers receiving core, especially Antonio Brown who has had very good games in both regular season matchups against the Ravens this season. I also love a particular low priced WR in the Steelers receiving core…

 

Martavis Bryant ($5,600 on FanDuel, $4,100 on DraftKings)

Bryant is a frustrating player in fantasy, he seems to have a ton of talent but the Steelers refuse to play him enough snaps for him to produce consistently on a regular basis. The Steelers simply do not use 3 WR sets very much in their offense. But I think that changes this Sunday. With Le’Veon Bell likely out, the Steelers are going to have to manufacture their offense from somewhere, and they are not going to be effective in 2 WR sets with Josh Harris or Dri Archer in the backfield. If Bryant’s snaps go up Saturday, he’ll be poised for a big game. The matchup against the Ravens is absolutely perfect for Bryant, who runs essentially only deep passing routes, Baltimore’s biggest weakness on defense.

 

Avoid

Dri Archer ($6,600 on FanDuel)

FanDuel manually adjusted Archer’s price this week, but made him borderline unplayable because of it. A small back like Archer against the Raven’s big front 7 should get eaten alive, it’s hard to imagine using him at that horrible price.

Part 2 of The Winners Edge will come out tomorrow night. Happy New Year!

View all posts by Max J Steinberg
Max J Steinberg

About the Author

Max J Steinberg Max Steinberg is a professional poker player and a top Daily Fantasy player who uses his creativity and mathematical abilities he cultivated as a poker player to win money on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He already has several big tournament scores to his name including the Victiv Bowl and countless MLB Monster wins. Follow him on twitter @maxjsteinberg.

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