Wild Card Matchups

Nothing extra up here this week. Let’s get started on some playoff football!

This year’s NFL playoffs are some of the most exciting I can remember, with a wide-open field and with plenty of reasons to believe that any of these 12 teams could advance to the Super Bowl if these games were being played at neutral sites. But while this is a great treat for fans of quality NFL football, the playoffs also bring three additional weeks of DFS play.

Because DFSers inherently love to get some action in play, these weekends tend to be popular — though it is also worth pointing out that, with only four games on tap this weekend, a standard “best play” approach must often be adjusted in order to hunt down profit. That is to say: with so few games (and with ownership so heavily concentrated on a small pool of “best plays”), it is often necessary to break at least somewhat from “what is likeliest to happen” as you build your rosters on these weekends.

As always, we will break down these games taking a look at matchups, at team strengths and weaknesses, at team tendencies, and at everything else that will help you assess the ways in which these games are likeliest to play out; but if playing this weekend, be willing to take some risks along the way, as this will create your likeliest path to a monster weekend.

Kickoff Saturday, Jan 5th 4:35pm Eastern

Colts (
23.5) at

Texans (

Over/Under 48.5


Key Matchups
Colts Run D
24th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
30th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
14th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
12th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Texans Run D
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
9th DVOA/16th Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
17th DVOA/15th Yards per pass


The Colts and Texans have met twice already this year, with the road team pulling out a close win in each contest (and with T.Y. Hilton lighting the Texans’ secondary on fire each time). A strong argument could be made for the Colts as the hottest team in football (they boast a 9-1 record since their 1-5 start), while that same argument could have been made for the Texans through much of the season. Ultimately, these are two closely-matched teams that each have a shot at making noise in a wide-open AFC if advancing. On a weekend with three games that carry an Over/Under of 43.0 or lower (i.e., three games we would not be targeting heavily on a regular season Main Slate), this game stands out for its Over/Under (48.5) and for the potential back-and-forth nature of this contest. Each defense boasts some strong pieces, but each offense is nevertheless capable of putting up points in the spot. The Texans have been installed as 1.5 point favorites.


As should be expected from Frank Reich: the Colts have been one of the most adaptable offenses in the NFL this year, adjusting their approach to fit the situation and the matchup as well as any team in football. To illustrate the Colts’ ability to win in different ways, here is a look at recent pass attempt numbers for Andrew Luck:

29 // 29 // 37 // 52 // 41 // 27 // 47 // 35

It is very much worth noting that one of Luck’s 29-attempt games came in a close 29-26 win, while his 52-attempt game came in a 0-6 loss. In other words: game plan, rather than game flow, tends to dictate the approach the Colts will take. It is also worth noting that the 29-attempt win and the 52-attempt loss both came against the same team (the Jaguars), while the Colts have gone run-heavy against the stout run defense of the Cowboys and pass-heavy against the bottom-barrel run defense of the Dolphins — signaling some level of inability from the outside to know exactly how Reich is scheming to attack a particular opponent in a given week. It would appear overwhelmingly likely that the Colts will lean pass-heavy in this spot (they threw the ball 62 and 41 times against the Texans this year — and unlike the Cowboys, who are also strong against the pass, the Texans show major vulnerability on the back end), but there is also a case to be made in tourneys for betting on variable approaches.

If betting on the Colts leaning run-heavy, it would be Marlon Mack taking on the tough run defense of the Texans (number one in both DVOA and yards allowed per carry). Mack has six games this year of 15 or fewer carries, though he has an additional three games of 25+ carries. He is not a stone zero in the pass game (he has one game this year of 33 yards receiving — though that was his only game north of 17 yards; he has one game of three catches — though he gained -1 yard on those three grabs), but you are mostly betting on him as a yardage-and-touchdown player in this difficult draw. The game against Dallas (27-139-2 on the ground) gives you some room for hope — but the downside he showed in his last game against the Texans (14 carries for 33 yards) needs to also be considered. Joining Mack in the backfield is Nyheim Hines, who has a middling matchup against a Texans defense that ranks 17th in receiving yards allowed to running backs. Hines stands out for his X-factor potential on this slate, though with recent target counts of 5 // 6 // 5 // 5 and only 10 red zone targets (two red zone receiving touchdowns) this year, he’s a hope-to-guess-right tourney play, rather than a player who can be isolated with confidence.

When it comes to players who can be isolated with confidence, there are not many on this small, four-game slate who stand out more than T.Y. Hilton. Hilton has shown a fairly broad range for target counts (across his last seven games: 9 // 10 // 13 // 12 // 8 // 8 // 6), but his importance to this offense and his flexible usage (with regular targets coming within five yards of the line of scrimmage each week, and with multiple targets most weeks coming 20+ yards downfield) make him one of the safer, higher-upside plays on the slate. Hilton has been targeted six and 12 times in his games against the Texans this year, going 4-115-0 and 9-199-0 in the two meetings between these teams. Hilton now has over 1400 receiving yards in 14 career games against the Texans, with 100+ yards in seven of those games. This is not a can’t-fade spot, as the Texans will sell out to try to slow down Hilton, whereas Hilton (six touchdowns this year) typically takes a back seat in the red zone in this offense. (The Texans have also allowed the third fewest touchdowns to enemy wide receivers this year.) But “can’t-fade” or not, Hilton carries as much upside as any player this weekend, and he’ll be involved enough in this offense to have a low likelihood of raw-score failure.

The Colts continue to rotate wide receiver snaps behind Hilton, with Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, and Dontrelle Inman all playing 43 to 49 snaps last week (out of 79 total). None of these guys are exciting beyond hoping for a touchdown, but all three have a shot at seeing three to six targets, and any of them could luck into a broken play or a score — especially if the Texans are able to slow down Hilton.

Regardless of the efficacy of the other Colts wideouts, this team will also lean on Eric Ebron from the tight end position, where he has seen target counts against Houston of 10 and eight. Tight end defense has been a weak link for the Texans all year, with the second most yards and the third most touchdowns allowed to the position. While Mo Alie-Cox played the same number of snaps last week as Ebron (39), Ebron ran 34 pass routes to five for Alie-Cox. Ebron’s backup is a hope-for-touchdown dart throw. Ebron himself projects as a focal point for the Colts throughout this game.


By season’s end, no team in the NFL had forced a shallower aDOT than the Colts, and no team had faced fewer targets to the wide receiver position than the Colts. In all, the Colts allowed the second fewest catches, the second fewest yards, and the sixth fewest touchdowns to wideouts this year — with this team essentially forcing opponents to beat them with tight ends and pass-catching running backs. While there is a big talent gap between DeAndre Hopkins and the Colts’ cornerbacks, the scheme-based elements presented by this matchup will make it a difficult spot for Hopkins to arrive at the ceiling his price tag implies. When these teams met in Week 14, Hopkins turned 10 targets into only four catches for 36 yards. The flip side of that, of course, is that this is DeAndre Hopkins we are talking about; when these teams met in Week 4, an admittedly still-green Colts defense allowed Hopkins to hammer them for a 10-169-1 line on 12 targets — good for 8.5% of the total wide receiver yards the Colts allowed all season. Consider Hopkins a risk/reward bet this week — with a lower floor than his name and talent imply, but with plenty of upside on what is sure to be heavy usage.

The Texans will finally be adding Keke Coutee back to the field this week in their vacant Number Two role. Coutee’s lengthy hamstring injury almost certainly impacted his conditioning enough that he cannot be counted on to play more than 50% to 60% of the Texans’ snaps, but this should still be enough for four to seven targets, with upside for more looks from there. Coutee is a strong bet to run the short-area routes that are likeliest to be open against this zone-heavy Colts defense; these short-area routes carry less upside than the downfield looks Hopkins will see, but Coutee does have enough speed and after-catch ability to post a strong day if everything goes right, with slim opportunity for one or two downfield looks to flow his way as well.

Hopkins managed to finish the regular season ranked sixth in the NFL in targets per game in spite of playing on the seventh run-heaviest team in football — illustrating the immediate dearth of targets available behind him. With Coutee returning as a reliable second piece, targets among Vyncint Smith, Ryan Griffin, Jordan Thomas, and Jordan Akins will be difficult to predict, with each likeliest to land in the “one to three looks” range. DeAndre Carter is likely to have his snaps cut significantly with the return of Coutee — with two to three targets the likeliest range for him as well.


While the Colts’ run defense is not quite in the same class as the Texans, they have been one of the tougher teams to run on this year, ranking sixth in fewest yards allowed per carry while holding running backs to the ninth fewest rushing yards on the year. While Indy has largely slowed down enemy rushing attacks, however, they have allowed the second most receptions and the seventh most receiving yards to the running back position. With the Texans typically boasting one of the more run-heavy offenses in football and likely to dump off a few passes to Lamar Miller when they turn to the pass, Miller has at least some shot at mattering on this slate. In two games against the Colts this year, he has not topped 14 carries, but he did match his season high in receptions in this matchup in Week 14 (five), while his six touchdowns on the year give him some modest upside as well. Miller is never sexy, but he does at least have locked-in involvement on his side in this spot.

Behind Miller, Alfred Blue and possibly D’Onta Foreman will work in as nothing more than hope-for-something-crazy-to-happen options.


The likeliest scenario on the Colts’ side of the ball calls for them to lean pass-heavy in this spot, with Hilton and Ebron operating as the focal points, and with Inman, Pascal, Rogers, Hines, and Mack playing smaller roles behind them. Ebron has a great matchup and shapes up as the top on-paper tight end play on the slate, while Hilton still carries the not-quite-elite floor he always carries, but he also carries slate-winning ceiling. All three of the main pieces on the Colts (Luck included) are among the top on-paper plays on this slate, with Hilton carrying the clearest case among the three (though also the scariest worst-case scenario) for a strategic tourney fade.

On the other side of the ball, the run-heavy Texans seem likely to put this game into the hands of Deshaun Watson as the game moves along — especially as the Colts should do a good job slowing down Lamar Miller and the ground-and-pound side of this offense. This should open opportunities for Upside from Watson, Hopkins, and Coutee, with Miller, the tight ends, and possibly even Vyncint Smith seeing a few looks behind them. Given the matchup and the typically run-leaning nature of the Texans, none of these three are safe — but all three of Watson, Hopkins, and (to a lesser extent) Coutee can have a clear case made for them in tourneys this week.

Kickoff Saturday, Jan 5th 8:15pm Eastern

Hawks (
20.75) at

Cowboys (

Over/Under 43.0


Key Matchups
Seahawks Run D
23rd DVOA/25th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
15th DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Seahawks Pass D
25th DVOA/15th Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
11th DVOA/14th Yards per pass
Cowboys Run D
9th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Seahawks Run O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
6th DVOA/25th Yards allowed per pass
Seahawks Pass O
8th DVOA/12th Yards per pass


The Saturday evening game between the Seahawks and Cowboys gives us a matchup between two teams with solid defenses, dual-threat quarterbacks, and top-of-the-league run games. Each of these teams ranks bottom nine in pace of play on offense, and each team has controlled the clock this year, with the Seahawks ranked sixth in time of possession and the Cowboys ranked eighth. The Seahawks finished the season with the lowest pass play rate the NFL has seen in years, while the Cowboys prefer to work from the ground when they can — having finished the season ranked 23rd in pass play rate. This game will feature its fair share of play-action passing, but the centerpiece of each offense will be the run — with Ezekiel Elliott dominating touches on one side of the ball, and with the Seahawks’ three-man backfield loading up on volume on the other side. This game has been awarded a low Over/Under of 43.0, with the Cowboys installed as 1.5 point favorites.


When the Cowboys and Seahawks played in Week 3, Seattle dedicated their offense to the run — calling on Russell Wilson to throw the ball only 26 times in that game while Chris Carson rushed 32 times in spite of averaging only 3.2 yards per carry. Since that time, Russ has topped 31 pass attempts only once in the 13 games, and on the year he has a monstrous nine games in which he has thrown the ball 26 or fewer times.

While this run-leaning approach has allowed the Seahawks to go 10-4 down the stretch, it has made this offense difficult to target in DFS this year — especially as this team A) rarely leans on running backs in the pass game, and B) leans on the pass near the end zone. Ultimately, this is creating an offense in which most of the yardage is gained by running backs, but most of the touchdowns are scored by wide receivers.

The matchup in this spot is not great on the ground or through the air, with the Cowboys allowing the fifth fewest yards per carry in the league and allowing the third fewest wide receiver touchdowns in the league. Only five teams are allowing fewer points per game than the 20.3 the Cowboys are allowing, and Dallas has been even better at home, allowing only 18.5 points per game.

Although the matchup is difficult for Carson, the workload should be locked in, with recent carry counts in games with a healthy Rashaad Penny of 17 // 16 // 13 // 19, and with target counts in these games of 0 // 4 // 2 // 1. As a largely yardage-and-touchdown back who has rarely topped 20 carries with Penny healthy (and who will be taking on a tough run defense on the road), Carson’s floor is scary-low — but he has seen a recent spike in red zone usage (leading to five touchdowns across his last four games), and he will see enough touches to be given opportunities to hit. Mike Davis should mix in for six to eight touches behind Carson. Penny should mix in for six to eight carries as well. While the Seahawks rarely lean on their backs through the air, it should also be noted that the Cowboys have allowed the fifth most receptions to running backs this year.

The matchup is almost as difficult for the Seahawks’ receivers as it is for their running backs, as Dallas — much like Indy earlier in the day — tilts their coverage heavily toward wide receivers, leading to this team allowing the ninth fewest catches and the eighth fewest yards to the position. As noted above: only two teams have allowed fewer touchdowns to wideouts than the Cowboys have allowed.

Further working against us in DFS is the uncertain nature of targets for Seattle receivers. Across his last four games, Doug Baldwin has target counts of 4 // 6 // 12 // 5 — with two games under 30 yards in this stretch — while Tyler Lockett has seen a mere two targets in three of his last five games. Baldwin is the best bet for a spike in usage (though his likeliest outcome is another five to seven target game). Lockett, astonishingly, finished the season with a perfect 158.3 passer rating on throws in his direction — speaking to his incredibly efficient production on limited targets — but he’s always at risk of a dud with so few guaranteed looks flowing his way.

Behind these two, David Moore has become an afterthought (four catches for 32 yards across his last five games), though he quietly finished the season fifth in the NFL in aDOT, and his big body commands the occasional red zone look (his nine red zone targets are actually three more than Lockett saw on the year). He’s a slim-upside option with a legitimate floor of zero.

Behind the receivers, Ed Dickson and Nick Vannett are as hope-and-pray as it gets.


The Seahawks ranked 18th this year in yards allowed per pass attempt, though they got there by shaving almost 9% off the league-average aDOT, holding opponents to a roughly league-average catch rate, and experiencing some after-catch breakdowns that led to them finishing the year near the bottom of the league in YAC/R allowed. This creates an interesting spot for Amari Cooper, who has held onto his monster price tag across the last few weeks due to largely-FOMO ownership that misinterpreted how Amari came across the two big games he had with the Cowboys: the first (as explored multiple times in this space) coming on a pair of broken-play, huge-YAC opportunities against Washington, and the second (as also explored multiple times in this space) coming against the Eagles in a game in which the Cowboys chose to relentlessly attack Sidney Jones with downfield passes. Outside of that game against the Eagles, Amari’s role in this conservative Cowboys attack has glued him to the short areas of the field, with almost all of his work coming within 10 or 11 yards of the line of scrimmage. The good news in this spot is that Seattle has been prone to some of the after-catch breakdowns that can lead to a big game from Amari. The bad news is that this is not a spot that sets up well for him to finally see a heavy downfield role. Amari has recent target counts of 8 // 13 // 7 // 5 // 11; he should be considered a target-secure alpha with a likely-limited downfield role.

Dak Prescott has topped 39 pass attempts only two times this year — with the first coming in the Cowboys’ 90-play Week 14 overtime win against the Eagles, and with the second coming in Week 17 with Ezekiel Elliott on the sidelines. With the Seahawks allowing the third fewest opponent plays per game and presenting an attackable matchup on the ground (more on this in a moment), we should project Dak to land in his typical 30 to 36 pass attempt range. Across his last five games in this range, target counts among ancillary pass catchers on the Cowboys have looked like this:

:: Cole Beasley — 5 // 7 // 3 // 3 // 5
:: Michael Gallup — 3 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 4
:: Blake Jarwin — 0 // 0 // 2 // 1 // 3

Beasley’s touchdowns (three on the year) tend to come on scramble drills and broken plays, typically leaving him as nothing more than a non-awful floor option. Gallup continues to see downfield looks — with inefficiency a constant risk (across Weeks 11 and 12, he caught only three passes for 29 yards, on 11 targets), but with a slim path to upside each week. Jarwin has the most difficult matchup against a Seattle team that has allowed the fourth fewest receptions to the position.


With the Seahawks limiting opponent plays and typically playing with a lead, they have faced the fifth fewest rush attempts in the NFL this year — but when teams have been able to run against the Seahawks, they have been able to have success, with this team allowing a below-average 4.55 yards per carry to running backs. The Seahawks have also allowed the third most receiving yards to running backs this year.

After resting last week, Zeke — who is averaging 25 touches per game on the year — should be in line for a big workload in a must-win game. Zeke has seen six or more targets in seven consecutive games, and he has added 18+ carries in every one of these games as well. His 39 red zone carries rank eighth in the NFL — helping him to stand out as the safest, highest-upside play this weekend from a raw floor/ceiling perspective. Zeke should be the engine of this Cowboys offense once again, giving him plenty of opportunity for upside, and making it difficult for him to fail.


If this game were on a typical, regular season Main Slate, Zeke would be the only player we would have genuine interest in — but with this slate being what it is (four games, with three of them carrying a low game total), some of the fringe options will need to be considered as well. On the Seahawks: Russ has carried a surprisingly strong floor for much of the year on this run-heavy offense, with the Seahawks comfortable putting the game in his hands when they need a score or a win // Baldwin and Lockett are going to be involved with some downfield looks, giving each guy a chance to hit for ceiling // Carson is a yardage-and-touchdown back in a difficult matchup, but he should push for 20 touches once again. On the Cowboys: Dak has outlier potential to be the highest-scoring quarterback (though Luck, Russ, and Watson all carry higher projections) // Amari will be involved, and he has the talent to break off a big play or two, though he should be expected to operate in a primarily short-area role // maybe one of the other pass catchers on the Cowboys does something worthwhile, though none are safe options. Again: Zeke is the only standard-strong play in this game, but there are other spots where you are at least not drawing dead — which may have to be good enough at one or two positions on your roster on this small, unique slate.

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 6th 1:05pm Eastern

Chargers (
19.5) at

Ravens (

Over/Under 41.5


Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
22nd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Ravens Run O
1st DVOA/3rd Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
30th DVOA/28th Yards allowed per pass
Ravens Pass O
4th DVOA/4th Yards per pass
Ravens Run D
7th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
28th DVOA/28th Yards per carry
Ravens Pass D
1st DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
16th DVOA/21st Yards per pass


In spite of the Chargers finishing the regular season tied with the Chiefs for the top record in the AFC, the mechanics of the NFL playoff structure have them playing a first-round game on the road while division rival Kansas City enjoys a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This is a very good Chargers team, and in most seasons this team would be able to pull the “road favorite” tag in a spot like this. But this year, the Chargers are stuck taking on a run-dominant, defense-dominant Ravens team that has gone 6-1 across their last seven games — including a road win against the Chargers, and a three-point loss at Arrowhead to the Chiefs. If the Ravens had won a couple more games early in the year and were entering the playoffs with a first-round bye, they would be a trendy pick to go to the Super Bowl from this side of the bracket. This is just about as elite as a matchup can get in the first round of the playoffs, with a pair of true contenders matching up in a win-or-go-home battle. This game carries a defense-leaning Over/Under of 41.5, with the Ravens installed as slim 2.5 point favorites.


Throughout the season, anyone who has consistently avoided offensive players against the Ravens has profited from this decision. On the year, Baltimore has allowed the fewest yards per game and the second fewest points per game in the league. But this four-game slate being what it is — with three of the four games carrying an Over/Under of 43.0 or lower — the Chargers’ offense enters the fringes of the DFS conversation. Yards and touchdowns may be difficult to come by, but the same can likely be said about several other spots on this slate.

The Ravens have been stellar against the pass this year, allowing the lowest catch rate in the NFL and allowing the third lowest yards per pass attempt. The Ravens’ combination of stout pass rush and sticky, aggressive coverage has led to them allowing the fifth fewest passing yards and the third fewest passing touchdowns in the NFL. The Ravens have been especially dominant against wide receivers — allowing only 12 more receptions than the league leading Raiders, while giving up the sixth fewest yards and the third fewest touchdowns to the position.

For much of the year, the Chargers were one of the more run-heavy teams in football, though they did show an ability to shape-shift down the stretch as dictated by matchup or personnel, with Philip Rivers throwing the ball 36 or more times in four of the Chargers’ last seven games (after failing to top even 27 pass attempts in his previous five contests). Volume would work in favor of the Chargers’ receivers if this team can get there — though it should also be noted that the Ravens’ recent run-heavy approach has allowed them to absolutely dominate in time of possession, averaging an astonishing 35:41 per game across their last three contests.

When these teams met in L.A. in Week 16, Rivers fired off 37 pass attempts (his fifth highest total of the year), though this volume led to only 181 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. Volume is no guarantee — and even if volume is there, this is no guarantee of success.

Rivers’ primary target in the pass game this year has been Keenan Allen, with recent target counts in his healthy games of 7 // 19 // 8 // 8 // 7. With his typically short-area role in this offense, Allen has topped 100 yards only three times all season, but he’s the safest bet for reliable usage in this group of pass catchers, and his respectable 16 red zone targets (six red zone touchdowns) give him a path to upside even without yardage piling up.

Behind Keenan, Mike Williams has been more consistently involved lately, with recent lines (excluding the game against Kansas City that Keenan largely missed) of 4-25-2 // 3-52-0 // 3-45-0 // 1-7-0 // 5-65-1. Of course, that 1-7-0 game came against the Ravens — just one more indication of the challenges this matchup presents.

As Mike Williams has seen his role grow, Tyrell Williams has seen his role shrink, with target counts in these higher-production Mike Williams games of 0 // 2 // 4 // 2 // 3. Outside of the game Keenan missed, Tyrell has not topped 23 receiving yards in nearly two months. He has not scored since Week 9.

If you want to dig real deep, Travis Benjamin is seeing one to three touches most weeks, and he does have the ability to score from anywhere on the field. Antonio Gates has recent dead-legged target counts of 1 // 2 // 5 // 5 // 2. One of those five-target games came against this Baltimore team that is moderately attackable with tight ends.


The Ravens have one of the best run defenses in the NFL — with the third fewest yards allowed per carry in the league, and with the fifth fewest rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs. Only the Bears, Saints, and Texans allowed fewer rushing yards per game than Baltimore. With the Ravens also allowing the third fewest receiving yards to running backs, no team in football allowed fewer total yards to the position. Only three teams allowed fewer total touchdowns.

While the matchup is legitimately as challenging as a running back matchup can get, the Chargers do have one of the more well-schemed rushing offenses in the NFL, creating a slim path for optimism that Melvin Gordon will be able to generate enough production to matter in this spot. While Gordon touched the ball only 13 times last week, he did play 32 of a possible 49 snaps. If this game were on a typical Main Slate, he would be nothing more than a deep fringe option; but with so little to love on this slate, he can be considered for his locked-in role and touchdown upside — even if the matchup lowers his floor quite a bit.


Lamar Jackson has now completed exactly 12 to 14 passes in each of his seven career starts, with passing yardage totals in this stretch of 150 // 178 // 125 // 147 // 131 // 204 // 179. Jackson has thrown five touchdown passes in his seven games as a starter — with all of these numbers adding up to make it difficult for his pass-catchers to achieve relevance across the last two months. Since Jackson took over under center, here are the target totals among the Ravens’ three wide receivers:

:: John Brown — 1 // 7 // 4 // 6 // 3 // 6 // 3
:: Michael Crabtree — 3 // 6 // 4 // 4 // 1 // 4 // 2
:: Willie Snead — 8 // 0 // 3 // 7 // 6 // 0 // 2

Brown has yet to top two catches or 30 yards with Jackson under center. Crabtree has yet to top three catches or 36 yards with Jackson under center. Snead has finished with 51 to 61 yards three times, but he has also finished below 10 yards three times. Against a Chargers pass defense that has forced the fourth shallowest aDOT in the NFL and has allowed the second fewest wide receiver catches in the league, none of these three are any more than close-your-eyes-and-hope plays. All three should come with low ownership, making them theoretically tourney-worthy on a slate this small, though production expectations should obviously be kept in check.

Behind these three, Hayden Hurst, Maxx Williams, Mark Andrews, and Nick Boyle all continue to take reps at tight end. Derwin James has been stout in tight end coverage, but with the Ravens running so many two tight end sets (and using their run game to creatively spring tight ends free), the matchup should not be viewed as a major concern. Of greater concern is the low target floor carried by primary pass-catching tight ends Andrews (recent target counts of 2 // 4 // 2 // 5) and Hurst (recent target counts of 0 // 3 // 2 // 4). It won’t be a shock if one of these guys hits for a big play, though each carries a scary-low floor.


While the Seahawks closed out 2018 with the lowest pass play rate the NFL has seen in years, the Ravens have been blowing the Seahawks out of the water in the “run-heavy” department since Jackson took over under center — with the Ravens recently piling up rushing yardage totals of 267 // 242 // 207 // 194 // 242 // 159 // 296. While we can enter this game with a fairly clear idea of how the Ravens will attack in this spot, however, this does not necessarily provide us with a clear path to targeting individual players. Across the last three weeks, rushing yardage among the three primary pieces of this backfield has looked like this:

:: Lamar Jackson — 95 // 39 // 90
:: Gus Edwards — 104 // 92 // 76
:: Kenneth Dixon — 48 // 28 // 117

With Edwards adding only two receptions all season, he is at risk of becoming a drain on your roster on weeks in which he fails to score, making him an iffy-floor, solid-ceiling bet this week at his price.

Dixon has four catches across the last three weeks, and he has played only two fewer snaps than Edwards across the last three weeks, though he has yet to see more carries than his backfield mate. His usage is more locked-in than most probably realize (recent touch counts of 12 // 10 // 13), allowing him to join Edwards as an iffy-floor, solid-ceiling bet this week at his price.

Jackson should not be counted on for more than five to 10 points passing (anything over that is a bonus), but his opportunity to add 60 to 70 rushing yards and one or two touchdowns on the ground keeps him in the quarterback conversation.

It is worth noting — in considering all these guys — that the Chargers held the Ravens to their lowest rushing total as a team since Jackson took over (159 total yards), and they certainly have the pieces to slow down the Ravens again. But with how creative and “multiple” this Ravens rushing attack is, “slowing it down” is about the best a team can hope to do — which still leaves these pieces in the conversation on this small, ugly slate.


I certainly would not be targeting this game on a typical Main Slate — but given the slate we have to work with this weekend, there is a case to be made for betting on locked-in usage with Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon on the Chargers, while there is a case to be made for betting on the backfield with Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, or Kenneth Dixon on the Ravens. All of these guys see enough locked-in usage that their price-considered floor is acceptable on this slate, while all carry at least some path to ceiling this week. Behind these guys, there are broad cases to be made for “targeting upside” on Mike Williams or even Austin Ekeler, for “hoping for something to click” on the Ravens’ wideouts or on Tyrell/Benjamin, or for “hoping to guess right” on tight end usage for Hurst or Andrews. None of these are safe plays, but all of them can have a thin case made for them on this four-game slate.

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 6th 4:40pm Eastern

Eagles (
17.75) at

Bears (

Over/Under 41.0


Key Matchups
Eagles Run D
19th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per carry
Bears Run O
10th DVOA/6th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
28th DVOA/13th Yards allowed per pass
Bears Pass O
23rd DVOA/23rd Yards per pass
Bears Run D
4th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
6th DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Bears Pass D
17th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
7th DVOA/11th Yards per pass


Wild Card weekend will wrap up with Nick Foles once again leading the Eagles into January — though whereas last year’s Eagles finished 13-3 and had home field advantage throughout the playoffs, this year’s team squeaked into the postseason with a white-hot finish and a 9-7 record that will send them on the road to take on the 12-4 Bears and the best defense in football. Recent wins against the Texans (home) and Rams (road) give the Eagles some hope in this spot — as does their playoff experience against mistake-prone, second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky — but there is no getting around the fact that the Bears are the better team on paper, and this shows in the Vegas line, where Chicago has been installed as 5.5 point favorites (the only game on this awesome Wild Card weekend with a spread of more than a field goal). As with the second and third games on this slate, this game carries a low Over/Under of 41.0, with offensive fireworks expected to be minimal on either side of the ball.


The Chicago Bears — with the third most sacks in football, the most interceptions in football, and the fewest yards allowed per pass attempt in football — have unsurprisingly been one of the most challenging matchups for quarterbacks this year. Through 16 games, the only quarterback to reach even 290 passing yards against the Bears was Brock Osweiler, on a crazy, YAC-driven day in Miami in which he passed for 380 yards in this matchup.

All of this sets up poorly for media darling Nick Foles, who continues to hammer the short areas of the field — somehow managing only 6.7 yards per pass attempt last week in spite of completing 84.8% of his passes. As noted heading into last week: outside of a few deep shots each game, everything from Foles is coming close to the line of scrimmage. Across the last three weeks, an incredible 92 of Foles’ 113 passes have traveled 12 or fewer yards — with a stunning 71 of these passes coming within five yards of the line of scrimmage (including 19 behind the line of scrimmage). With the Bears allowing the fourth fewest pass plays of 20+ yards this year and the Eagles rarely attacking downfield, it will be difficult for any individual pass catcher on the Eagles to pile up yardage — making volume important for comfortably targeting these players.

In the “volume” department, target counts with Foles under center have looked like this:

:: Zach Ertz — 7 // 16 // 4
:: Alshon Jeffery — 8 // 5 // 5
:: Nelson Agholor — 2 // 7 // 6
:: Golden Tate — 5 // 3 // 6

Only five teams have allowed fewer yards to tight ends than the Bears, but Ertz is still one of the best individual players on a small, ugly slate — keeping him in the tourney conversation for his upside. (His floor — as he has shown in two of three games with Foles — is less than lovely.)

The Bears have allowed the sixth fewest wide receiver touchdowns, and they have allowed a completion rate to wideouts of only 60.5%, though with this defense shutting down running backs and tight ends, they have faced the fourth most wide receiver targets and allowed the fifth most wide receiver catches. Upside will be difficult to come by for Alshon, but his locked-in role should give him a path to a respectable score.

The same could be said for Agholor — though upside is more difficult to come by in his primarily short-area role (all of his targets last week came within five yards of the line of scrimmage, with his two downfield targets in Week 16 the exception rather than the rule). He’ll need another big play or multi-touchdown game to truly matter.

Tate continues to play far fewer snaps than Alshon or Agholor, though the Eagles continue to proactively scheme him the ball when he’s on the field, keeping him in the conversation on this unappealing slate.

If you want to dig deep, Dallas Goedert’s role is typically game plan dependent. His big games tend to come without warning, making him a low-floor Upside bet as a differentiator on this slate.


The Bears have allowed the fourth fewest yards per carry in the NFL, the fourth fewest rushing yards, the seventh fewest receiving yards, the fewest rushing touchdowns, and the second fewest total touchdowns to the running back position.

If wanting to attack this matchup, it is worth noting that Darren Sproles has out-snapped both Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood in back-to-back weeks. While the Eagles are the most opponent-specific backfield in the NFL (i.e., recent deployment is no guarantee of future deployment), Sproles’ “multiple” skill set makes him a more dangerous player than either of the other two options available for this team. With that said: Sproles has touch counts across the last two weeks of only 12 and nine, while Adams and Smallwood (who have split the remaining snaps roughly down the middle across the last three weeks) have recent touch counts of 15 // 11 // 14 (Adams) and 12 // 5 // 16 (Smallwood). If trusting recent trends: all three of these backs will see work, and none of them will see enough for “floor” to be targeted. Consider all three hope-to-guess-right Upside pieces in a tough matchup this week.


As explored in this space throughout the year: although the Eagles have an “attackable secondary” on paper, their pass rush and their disciplined, scheme-based play on the back end have allowed them to compete all season — with this pass defense ranked a respectable 14th in yards allowed per pass attempt while quietly allowing the eighth fewest passing touchdowns in the league (tied with the respected pass defenses of the Bears, the Bills, and the Cowboys).

Of course, those numbers don’t tell the whole story, as the Eagles’ stout front has continued to chase teams to the air against them (in spite of the fact that the Eagles have actually been one of the more attackable run defenses this year on a per-play basis), leading to the Eagles facing the highest opponent pass play rate and the third most pass attempts in the league. This has led to the Eagles facing the third most wide receiver targets and allowing the third most wide receiver yards. The Bears (27th in pass play rate) have shown a tendency to lean run-heavy regardless of matchup, but there is an outside shot they adjust to a more pass-heavy approach, and that target expectations on the Bears’ receivers can be bumped up as a result.

Speaking to the typical slow-paced (30th in pace), run-heavy approach of this Bears team: Mitchell Trubisky has recent pass attempt totals of 30 // 28 // 29 // 26. He has not topped 250 yards in any of these games. He has four total touchdowns in these four games. Even more disappointingly: he has rushing totals of 23 // 16 // 3 // 16 in these games.

Target totals for the Bears’ primary pass catchers across these four weeks have looked like this:

:: Allen Robinson — 8 // 7 // 8 // DNP
:: Taylor Gabriel — 7 // 3 // 3 // 4
:: Anthony Miller — 1 // 0 // 3 // 0
:: Trey Burton — 5 // 7 // 5 // 6

Trubisky has really struggled with downfield passing this year, and the route trees on these pass catchers have been adjusted accordingly — leading to Burton not topping 40 yards since Week 7, Gabriel not topping 61 yards since Week 6, and Miller topping 49 yards only once all year. The one player still seeing somewhat reliable downfield targets is Robinson, who has six targets of 15+ yards across his last three games, and who has recent yardage totals of 79 // 42 // 54 // 85. He is the best bet for yardage upside. All four of these pass catchers have roughly equal red zone roles: 9 targets for Gabriel // 11 for Miller // 12 for Robinson // 14 for Burton. Burton has the most difficult matchup, with the Eagles allowing the fewest tight end touchdowns and the ninth fewest tight end yards in the league.


There is a chunk of missing targets from the list above that belongs to Tarik Cohen — though this chunk is smaller than it was earlier in the year, with this team leaning on the ground more heavily lately and scaling back Cohen’s targets as a result. After a stretch that yielded 34 targets in four games, Cohen has 14 targets across his last four games (4 // 6 // 1 // 3). With his carries remaining in their typical range in this stretch (9 // 5 // 6 // 5), he would benefit from the Bears allowing the matchup to push them a bit more pass-heavy than normal this week.

If the Bears instead continue to remain committed to the ground game, it will be Jordan Howard who will again have a chance to matter. Across the last four weeks, Howard has touch counts of 20 // 20 // 15 // 22, with his first pair of hundred-yard games on the season in this stretch. The Eagles are allowing an attackable 4.57 yards per carry to running backs this year, creating some optimism that Howard can perform again if the Bears go run-heavy. His yardage-and-touchdown role, of course, introduces risk to this play.


As with the second and third games on Wild Card Weekend, there is not much to love in this game from a “typical Main Slate” perspective, with the short-area Philly passing attack and three-headed Philly backfield taking on the best defense in football, and with the slow-paced, run-heavy, spread-the-wealth Chicago offense taking the field on the other side. There are some bet-on-talent plays in this game (with Ertz standing out in particular), some bet-on-upside plays (Alshon and Robinson), and even some bet-on-funky-game-flow plays (i.e., perhaps Foles connects on some deep balls early, and the Bears open up their attack in response?), but ultimately this is a hope-to-guess-right game. Ertz // Alshon // Robinson are the best on-paper plays of the bunch, with Howard // Cohen behind them, but there are plenty of deeper options to consider in tourneys this weekend.