Welcome to the NFL Wild Card Weekend edition of The A List at DFS Academy. That’s right; we’ll continue rolling out DFS Cash lineup locks throughout the postseason. We’ll even get into some tournament picks later in the playoffs as we reduce the number of games.
Wild Card Weekend
For the purposes of this article, we are treating the main slate as the entire weekend. In other words, this article is designed for contests, including the Saturday through Monday games. That said, the player pricing for the Saturday-only and Sunday-only games is identical to the main slate, so if you want to play in those contests, this article will also help. I also made sure to include players from each day for each position to allow you to take this article and build a lineup for any slate you choose.
This week, in particular, I will continue prioritizing Cash lineups as I do most weeks. However, as we start to see the number of games reduce, I will start adding in more tournament lineups to aim for that ceiling play as well. Why?
As the number of games decreases, the presence of chalk players increases. As a result, it becomes much harder to pivot away from the most popular players on the slate simply because the options can feel so slim. However, this creates opportunities to predict the contrarian play more easily, which can help you max out your tournament performance.
In other words, when the field condenses on certain players as the player pool shrinks, we can strike by targeting the contrarian plays. More on that in weeks to come
NFL Wild Card Weekend DFS Contest Strategy
When starting out in tournament contests, I have two contest selection strategies that I recommend others explore. First, I currently only play in single-entry contests, as it’s a low-stakes way for me to experiment with different lineups. With players only allowed one entry, it reduces the odds someone has played the optimal lineup, increasing your odds of cashing.
Second, I aim for small tournaments (contrary to my Cash contest selection strategy), primarily playing in the 100-person contests on DraftKings (the “Hundo’s”). Essentially, this is where we want to lean into the idea that it’s easier to beat 99 people than 99,999.
A clever way to do this is by first placing a free lineup to get your roster just where you like it. As game time approaches, the large contests will fill, and DraftKings will start adding in new, smaller competitions for users to select. I like joining these both because they are small in size and because they are more likely to have beginner players joining and just throwing together lineups without thinking about it too deeply. This presents an opportunity.
For me, the smaller the contest, the better. I will even enter a contest with a slightly higher entry fee if it means I’m playing against fewer players. Since employing this strategy, I have upped my tournament winnings, supporting my overall bankroll.
We’ll dive a bit more into setting tournament lineups in the coming weeks, but for now, I wanted to leave you with some essential tips on contest selection.
Cash is in session.
Wild Card Weekend NFL DFS
Travis Etienne (DraftKings: $6,300 / FanDuel: $7,100)
Outside of the clear top three running back options (Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, and Saquon Barkley), there are limited alternatives that allow you to save salary space. Fortunately, Travis Etienne saw his pricing drop after a quiet performance against the Tennessee Titans. Nothing should be surprising about Etienne struggling against the Titans’ run game. But this week, he faces the Los Angeles Chargers, who still struggle against running backs despite improving in recent weeks.
For some insight into how the betting market views Etienne this week, Underdog Fantasy had his rushing plus receiving yards line set at 88.5 early in the week. I immediately smashed the over on that mark. As I write this article, it has trended upwards to 96.5 yards. Clearly, the folks at Underdog think Etienne should be successful on Saturday. With his big play ability, he always has the chance to score and hit the 100-yard bonus. DUUUUUVAL!
Tom Brady (DraftKings: $5,800 / FanDuel: $6,800)
Believe it or not, I did not only include Tom Brady because I needed a quarterback to represent the Monday night game. He was actually the first quarterback I wrote down for this column, as he has the best matchup of the week, going up against a Cowboys defense that has averaged over 21 points allowed to quarterbacks since Week 14. The quarterbacks they’ve faced? Davis Mills, Trevor Lawrence, Garner Minshew, Joshua Dobbs, and Sam Howell.
Plus, the last time we saw Tom Brady play a full game (we’re not paying attention to Week 18), he finally unlocked the deep ball with Mike Evans. Brady has his swagger back and is ready to play spoiler in the Wild Card round.
Saquon Barkley (DraftKings: $7,900 / FanDuel: $8,800)
This may be the simplest analysis I provide all season. Saquon Barkley is pretty good at football. And he dominated the Vikings when these teams played in Week 16, racking up 27.3 DraftKings points. I personally see this matchup going somewhat similarly to that Week 16 affair, as the Vikings’ defense hasn’t shown much progress since then. Further, the Giants are actually underdogs (despite the hate the Vikings receive), so they will need to pass the ball, meaning more targets for Barkley. Lock it in.
Tyler Lockett (DraftKings: $6,000 / FanDuel: $7,400)
I think most people look at this matchup and think, “San Francisco 49ers defense? Pass.” And that is well-warranted, as they have arguably the best defense of any playoff team. But the Seahawks are underdogs in this game, and they will need to pass the ball. Both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf caught seven passes when these teams played in Week 15, demonstrating that Geno Smith was indeed able to get them the ball. I would honestly consider playing the cheaper of either player, Lockett on DraftKings and Metcalf on FanDuel. They provide a safe floor with the targets they receive and are always touchdown threats.
Chris Godwin (DraftKings: $6,400 / FanDuel: $7,200)
If Tom Brady has a favorable matchup, then it stands to reason that his receivers do. The Cowboys have allowed 45 DraftKings points per game to opposing receivers since Week 14. Chris Godwin has continued to be a target monster in this offense, providing a comfortable floor for your Cash lineups. I would even consider him in my Captain Slow for the Monday night Showdown. Further, there’s enough value elsewhere that you can pay up at running back and still fit Godwin in your lineup.
Noah Fant (DraftKings: $3,100 / FanDuel: $5,100)
Believe it or not, the 49ers can be had over the middle of the field. They have allowed 16.2 points per game to opposing tight ends since Week 14. In that Week 15 matchup, only one Seattle Seahawks player got into the endzone, and it was Noah Fant. Of course, the hard part about playing Seahawks tight ends is picking which one will fall in the endzone, as it seems to rotate weekly. But you can be confident that Fant will be a part of the passing game.
Saturday Only: Justin Herbert (DraftKings: $6,600 / FanDuel: $7,800)
If you’re playing the Saturday Only contest, take Justin Herbert as your quarterback. Say what you will about his season; he still has the big-play ability in big moments. Remember when the playoffs were on the line last season, and he converted three fourth and longs? That’s the Justin Herbert I expect us to get against a Jaguars team that has struggled to defend opposing pass games.
Check the Chalkboard
Christian McCaffrey (DraftKings: $8,900 / FanDuel: $9,800)
Why is Christian McCaffrey under $9,000 on DraftKings and $10,000 on FanDuel? No, seriously, why? He has the most favorable matchup of the weekend, as the Seattle Seahawks are the worst playoff team against opposing running backs. Further, they gave up the fifth most points to the position of all teams since Week 14. And Christian McCaffrey is always a threat to take it into the endzone. McCaffrey is as sure of a thing as you can get in Cash lineups and is a must-have this week.
Isaiah Hodgins (DraftKings: $4,100 / FanDuel: $6,400)
Once again, we are here to pick on the Minnesota Vikings’ secondary. They’ve improved somewhat the past couple of weeks but still allowed the eighth most DraftKings points since Week 14 (including all 32 teams). Isaiah Hodgins gave them problems when they played in Week 16, recording eight catches on 12 targets and a touchdown. Hodgins has been an unlikely stud for the Giants, and they need him now more than ever in what should be a shootout of a playoff battle. I can also make a case to save a few dollars by playing Richie James instead, but that is more appropriate in tournament settings.
Back of the Classroom Studs
Daniel Jones (DraftKings: $5,600 / FanDuel: $7,400)
This will be the second time I’ve picked Daniel Jones against the Vikings in four weeks in Cash. It worked out last time, with Jones scoring 24 DraftKings points. I’m betting on it happening again.
Joe Mixon (DraftKings: $6,800 / FanDuel: $7,900)
It’s not often we have two teams play back-to-back like we do this week with the Bengals and the Ravens. Joe Mixon was one of my cash picks last week, and while he didn’t hit his ceiling, he brought in a solid 15 DraftKings points. Mixon presents a safe floor with his target share and is simply too cheap to avoid in Cash.
Josh Palmer (DraftKings: $5,300 / FanDuel: $6,500)
Mike Williams is out this week, so Joshua Palmer will be again presented with opportunities. Palmer has thrived most as a WR2 this season and will fill that role behind Keenan Allen. Since I want to fit Christian McCaffrey into my lineup, I need to save money elsewhere. Look no further than Joshua Palmer.
Gerald Everett (DraftKings: $3,900 / FanDuel: $5,600)
Gerald Everett is another player who has thrived when the Chargers’ top receivers have been out of the lineup. Additionally, the Jaguars are the worst playoff team against tight ends, allowing 18 DraftKings points per game to the position since Week 14. Time for Everett to Bolt Up and get in the Endzone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DraftKings: $2,600 / FanDuel: $4,000)
I’ll be honest; this is a bet on Dak Prescott throwing an interception. As always, I’m looking to spend as little as possible at defense, and with the way Prescott has been putting the ball in danger recently, I like the odds the Buccaneers will force a turnover.
Baltimore Ravens (DraftKings: $2,500 / FanDuel: $3,600)
When researching defenses for this week, I was actually surprised at how well the Ravens have performed from a DFS perspective throughout the season. Their worst performance came in Week 17 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where they scored three DraftKings points. That’s honestly enough for me, and with them having at least two sacks in all but two games, I like their odds of forcing turnovers and hitting their ceiling.
Saturday Only: Los Angeles Chargers (DraftKings: $3,100 / FanDuel: $3,900)
If you’re playing on Saturday, the obvious choice is to pay up for the 49ers if you can fit them into your lineup. They will almost certainly be the chalk play. But if you need to save money, I like the Los Angeles Chargers going up against a young Jacksonville Jaguars team that has been known to put the ball in danger.
Sunday Only: Hayden Hurst (DraftKings: $3,100 / $5,100)
My favorite punt play at tight end for the Sunday slate is Hayden Hurst. Hurst has been a consistent part of the Bengals’ offense, averaging just over five targets a game. So I’ll take the cheap, safe floor with Hurst with fewer options on Sunday. If you have the salary space, Mark Andrews is an interesting play, as the Bengals have given up nearly 16 DraftKings points per game to tight ends since Week 14. But I’m planning to spend up elsewhere, so I’ll ride with Hurst.
- A: Scored over three times their price
- B: Scored over two times their price
- C: Matched their price
- F: Scored lower than their price
While our content slows down in the postseason, keep an eye out for our weekly betting and DFS articles here.