Welcome to the last regular season installment of The A List. This week, I initially intended to do my thank you’s and Happy New Year chatter, but with the events of Monday night, it is hard to write about anything else. So I will save the thanks and sign off for one of my playoff columns. For now, I want to say a few words about the Damar Hamlin situation.
First off, I get the benefit of writing this when we have received news that Hamlin is awake and communicating with teammates. The progress he has made is truly something that should make all of us grateful. We continue to hope and cheer for progress and that Hamlin gets to live his life as he desires.
What has struck me most about the entire situation is the fact that come Saturday, players will walk back on the field and play this game that puts themselves at risk. It is hard for me to imagine that feeling, as I have never played football. The Athletic ran several pieces on player responses to Hamlin’s fall and the ensuing scare it brought.
One quote that stuck out to me came from Cardinals right tackle Kelvin Beachum:
“I think of my safety and my future quite a bit. … Calling my parents Monday night and hearing their voices and hearing my dad ask questions that I’m not ready to talk about. Those things come up from time to time from different people in my life. My grandmother, my mom, my dad, and my kids. … And sometimes you got to find a way to compartmentalize it. Do I want to continue playing? I want to continue playing, but it’s: Do you want to continue compartmentalizing everything that comes along with the game as well?”
What stuck out to me was his discussion on compartmentalizing the risks the players take. I’m pretty adept at compartmentalizing myself, but that is another level that is hard for me to imagine. But what I’ve come to realize is the following: just because the players have to compartmentalize the risk they take doesn’t mean we, as fans have to. We can continue to reflect on the risks players take on, and take action to support increased player safety.
Each person has to decide on their own what that looks like. But what has resonated with me comes from thoughts offered by Dominic Foxworth. He has discussed the benefits players receive under the agreement between the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA). In particular, he addressed the fact that players who have been in the league for over three years have access to up to (only) five years of health coverage after they exit the league.
Damar Hamlin has only been in the league for two years, meaning he does not qualify for those benefits if he left the league today. He deserves more. All players deserve more. Everyone deserves more.
Something Foxworth said on The Mina Kimes Show has stayed with me. He said:
“The public was not on our side, and we were in negotiations with multi-billionaires who were like, ‘we’re not making money.’ And then we would say, ‘that is absurd.’ And our players would then hear – and it would influence them – from the outside world, ‘you make enough money. You’re greedy. Hurry up, get back to work.’ And media members would say the same thing, and it impacts the leverage in the negotiations.”
So for me, the way I will help hold space for the risk the players take on is by supporting players when it comes time for their next set of negotiations with the NFL. Because as much as I love football, the player’s safety is always worth more. And we were reminded of that this week in the greatest way possible.
And with that, there is no easy way to transition. So let’s discuss the Week 18 main slate.
NFL DFS Week 18 Context
Something we need to say from the outset is that Week 18 is complicated and chaotic. So many of our lineup decisions depend on what teams still have something to play for and, thus, whether they will start their starters or not. Because of this, this article should not be the last thing you read before setting your DFS lineups this week. We must stay tuned into last-minute reports from teams on who is on their active roster before the games start. Stick to Twitter or your favorite news site to keep up-to-date.
Cash is in session.
NFL DFS Week 18
NFL DFS Week 18
Kenneth Walker (DraftKings: $6,400 / FanDuel: $7,700)
Christmas came late for the Seattle Seahawks, who are in a win-and-in scenario and have been gifted with a matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have struggled against running backs down the stretch, giving up the fifth most points to the position since Week 14.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Walker has gotten back up to speed after missing some time for an injury, averaging 15.2 DraftKings points since the Week 14 bye. Further, he’s done so while not scoring a touchdown, showing that he hasn’t hit his ceiling yet and is due for some positive touchdown regression. With Seattle favored by nearly a touchdown, look for Walker to get plenty of run as the Seahawks work toward playoff contention.
Jalen Hurts (DraftKings: $8,200 / FanDuel: $9,000)
Currently, signs are pointing to Jalen Hurts playing on Sunday. And with the Eagles looking to lock up the number one seed, they will likely play their starters unless the game gets out of hand. Because of this, I’m locking Hurts into my Cash lineup, as he faces a New York Giants team that is giving up the eighth most points to opposing quarterbacks since Week 14.
There isn’t much more that can be said about Hurts. He has become a fantasy superstar with the ability to be the number-one scorer on any given week. And while there may be a concern that he gets pulled if the Eagles are up big, it’s worth noting that in that scenario, Hurts likely led them to a big lead, so he will already have accumulated plenty of fantasy points to help you hit the cash line.
Lastly, if Hurts is ruled out, I feel very comfortable pivoting to Garner Minshew, who is $5,500 on DraftKings and $7,000 on FanDuel. He has a favorable matchup against the Giants, and last week feels like an outlier to me. We have seen that New Orleans’ defense shut down stellar teams before (recall they shut out Tom Brady last season).
Joe Mixon (DraftKings: $7,100 / FanDuel: $7,500)
With the Bengals and the Ravens fighting for the AFC North, this is one of the few matchups where something is on the line, no matter what happens in other games. Despite that, the Bengals are 7.5-point favorites, so I am leaning toward them when building DFS lineups.
Further, the Ravens have given up the 12th most points to opposing running backs since Week 14 while playing stout defense against opposing pass games. Joe Mixon has been relatively quiet recently, not scoring a touchdown since his five-touchdown game in Week 9. But he has continued to be active in the passing game, providing a safe floor with significant upside.
DeVonta Smith (DraftKings: $7,500 / FanDuel: $7,700)
Devonta Smith has continued to shine, scoring over 20 DraftKings points in four of his last five matchups. He has solidified himself as a Top 10 fantasy receiver this year and surely will remain in that conversation for next season.
And similar to Jalen Hurts, Smith has a positive matchup this week, going against the Giants, who have given up the 10th-most points to opposing receivers since Week 14. But more importantly, he has gotten a ridiculous amount of targets in recent weeks, racking up nearly 50 targets over the past five games. In fact, his targets have increased since Minshew has been under center, which is something to keep in mind based on the Eagles’ decision at quarterback.
D.J. Moore (DraftKings: $6,100 / FanDuel: $7,300)
The Panthers are just playing for pride at this point. D.J. Moore is playing to prove he was worth the contract extension and perhaps to other teams that he is worth the draft capital. Since Sam Darnold has been under center, Moore has been incredible, averaging over 20 DraftKings points per game the past three weeks. While that has been helped somewhat by a touchdown in each game, he has received a consistent target share, making me comfortable going back to him in Week 18.
Before you set your Week 18 NFL DFS lineups, be sure to check out Austin and Ryan’s weekly rankings!
Check the Chalkboard
Christian McCaffrey (DraftKings: $9,300 / FanDuel: $10,000)
The 4:00 games on Sunday have plenty of playoff implications involved, as the San Francisco 49ers can take over the number one seed if the Philadelphia Eagles lose. And while both the Niners and the Eagles are favored by two touchdowns, indicating a blowout, they will both likely begin with their starters and keep an eye on other matchups before sitting on their laurels.
The most logical scenario is that the 49ers will play to win unless they see the Eagles are out to a three or four-score lead, at which point they may bench their starters. But in that scenario, Christian McCaffrey will have had all the time he needs to post a solid fantasy performance, helping you hit the cash line.
Jelani Woods (DraftKings: $2,900 / FanDuel: $4,600)
I just love pulling for Jelani Woods. He is one of those players I was intrigued by during the pre-NFL Draft process but ultimately cooled on when he landed in Indianapolis. That said, he has played a vital role in this offense many times throughout the season, becoming a consistent target. With Travis Kelce playing on Saturday, I’m looking to spend as little as possible on tight ends this week, and Woods provides the safe floor and high ceiling I look for in a punt play.
Back of the Classroom Studs for NFL DFS Week 18
Brock Purdy (DraftKings: $5,700 / FanDuel: $6,900)
Brock Purdy has been one of the great wonders of the NFL this season, as he has competently run the 49ers’ offense to a five-game win streak to finish off the season. Purdy is poised to make that six as the Cardinals continue to struggle to pull together victories. He has also been a relatively consistent fantasy player during that time, averaging nearly 18 DraftKings points per game since Week 13. If he manages that on Sunday, we’ll feel very good about the money we saved at quarterback by starting Purdy.
Aaron Rodgers (FanDuel: $7,100)
I mostly included this to point out that the Sunday night game is included in FanDuel’s Main Slate, as they set their player pool before the Green Bay versus Detroit game was flexed into Sunday evening. So with that, I’m very interested in having Aaron Rodgers in my lineup.
This is the dream scenario you want for Rodgers from a fantasy perspective. He is playing in primetime with an incredible matchup with the Lions, who have given up the seventh-most points to quarterbacks since Week 14. In addition, Rodgers started to gain his cocky mojo back and there is something on the line in a playoff birth. What more could you ask for?
Zack Moss (DraftKings: $5,200 / FanDuel: $6,800)
I cannot believe Zach Moss made my article this year, but here we are. The analysis here is simple, as it has been in recent weeks with teams playing the Houston Texans. Houston cannot stop anyone from running the ball. Zach Moss is the number one running back in Indianapolis, leading the snap counts for the Colts’ backfield. And he’s freaking cheap. Start him and forget about it.
Drake London (DraftKings: $4,900 / FanDuel: $6,500)
I just can’t stop. I freaking love Drake London. And yes, some of my love is because he is the future of my favorite team. But also, he continues to bring in the targets at an incredibly low price. And once again, Tampa Bay is likely to rest their starters, opening up more opportunities for London to thrive. Even if Tampa Bay plays their starters, they have given up the fifth most points to opposing receivers since Week 14. Either way you cut it, this is an excellent matchup for London.
Brandin Cooks (DraftKings: $4,800 / FanDuel: $6,200)
Look, I know Brandin Cooks has been disappointing from a fantasy perspective this year, and there are probably folks reading this who missed the playoffs because of it. But he is just too cheap on the DFS sites at this point, particularly in an incredible matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, remember that great Colts defense? Well, they have given up the second most points to the wide receiver position since Week 14. And in a game that is all about pride and job security, Cooks needs to make one last statement if he wants out of Houston.
Trey McBride (DraftKings: $3,300 / FanDuel: $5,100)
Turns out that all we needed to see the real Trey McBride breakout was to have David Blough under center. McBride saw double-digit targets for the first time last week and is positioned for similar usage and upside in Week 18. In addition, while San Francisco is perhaps the best defense in the league, they have given up points to opposing tight ends, allowing the ninth most points since Week 14. So in a game that could have plenty of junk time, look for McBride to reign in several catches on your way to DFS glory.
Atlanta Falcons (DraftKings: $2,400 / FanDuel: $3,400)
At first glance, this would be an awful pick to bet against Tom Brady, who just had his best game of the season, but it seems incredibly likely that Tampa Bay rests their starters on Sunday. Currently, the Falcons are four-point favorites, which doesn’t happen if Brady is starting. Further, the Falcons are looking to set a positive tone going into next year, so I expect them to play tough and potentially force some turnovers.
Pittsburgh Steelers (DraftKings: $3,200 / FanDuel: $3,900)
Mike Tomlin is one win away from maintaining his streak of never having a losing season. With the Steelers playing from home in a game with playoff implications and where they are favored, I’m looking for them to come out with the win, and the defense will lead them there. And their opponent provides plenty of opportunities for a solid fantasy day, as the Cleveland Browns have only scored 20 offensive points once since Week 13. Time to break out the Terrible Towels.
- A: Scored over three times their price
- B: Scored over two times their price
- C: Matched their price
- F: Scored lower than their price
|New England Patriots||$2,600||12||A|
|New England Patriots||$4,000||12||A|