Playoffs Show Advancing Teams Have Quarterbacks with Elite Numbers

Playoffs Show Advancing Teams Have Quarterbacks with Elite Numbers
President Harry Truman is credited with saying, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” This is not entirely true, but it is the case that a talented mathematician can manipulate statistics to prove any point. I’m not a talented mathematician, but I have learned that if you take a hard look at year-end NFL statistics, […]

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NFL Award Finalists: Burrow, Hurts, Mahomes Among MVP Candidates

NFL Award Finalists: Burrow, Hurts, Mahomes Among MVP Candidates
Finalists for eight of the NFL’s awards were announced on Wednesday, and three of the four starting quarterbacks on Championship Sunday are among the MVP candidates. Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts are finalists for MVP. They join Bills QB Josh Allen and Vikings WR Justin Jefferson as candidates for […]

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DFS

NFL Wild-Card DFS Two-Game Saturday Slate

If you are new to DFS, check out our introductory pieces, such as DFS 101, Contest Selection, Stacking, Rostership, Leverage and Lineup Construction.

Two game slates force a player to be close to perfect, and the normal rules do not exist. Play three pass catchers with one quarterback, two running backs from the same team or a player against your defense. This one has a big price gap between the top of their positions and the secondary players, giving us an easy way to the top at each position.

We also have rostership data for free, which can be found in the article linked here.

Seahawks vs. 49ers

Passing Game

Seattle Seahawks

  • The 49ers’ secondary will be tough to beat as they have been all year. Geno Smith will see a ton of Cover 3 and Cover 4 looks. He has thrown 43.1% of his touchdowns and 54.6% of his interceptions against those coverages
  • The 49ers will rely on rushing four, allowing them to play seven players in coverage to limit the passing game. The Seahawks couldn’t contain their pass rush in either of the team’s previous two matchups. Smith was pressured on 31% of dropbacks and sacked five times.
  • From a route tree perspective, the two routes the 49ers don’t defend well are corner and post routes, which attack their safeties.
  • The 49ers’ weakest point is the slot position because of the personnel they utilize for their nickel package. Instead of bringing in a slot corner, they bring in a third safety
  • Their safeties are excellent in the box at tackling, which limits what you can do in the run game. Their interior linebackers are also amongst the best cover linebackers in the NFL and can cover a ton of ground. Seattle will have to move the ball from the slot area, but even that will be a challenge
  • The Seahawks mix and match who gets into the slot, but the main player is Tyler Lockett. Lockett has seen the most targets on the routes that hurt the 49ers
  • On the perimeter, the Seahawks have to get DK Metcalf matched up with Deommodore Lenoir because Charvarius Ward covered Metcalf well down the field earlier this season. Metcalf’s strength has allowed him to make a couple of plays against Ward, but Lenoir is the corner giving up over nine yards per target
  • Noah Fant will get some work from the slot but rarely runs the routes that have hurt the 49ers the most, and they have multiple tight ends
  • The last wide receiver to note is Cade Johnson from South Dakota State. To date, 18% of his route tree has consisted of corner and post routes, which is the highest rate on the team, making him a sneaky punt play for the Seahawks’ passing attack
  • Metcalf is the targeted most frequently against the 49ers’ primary coverages, but Lockett is the player averaging more yards per route run. Both players will dominate the target share in this playoff matchup, but I expect Lockett to be the key for this game
  • I don’t believe this is a smash game from Smith, and I will not be getting to him on this slate

San Francisco 49ers

  • Brock Purdy has thrown two touchdowns in every game he’s had at least 80% of the snaps, and it’s a credit to Kyle Shanahan and his play design near the red zone
  • Purdy has averaged more than eight yards per attempt in each game this season, but this will be the first time he’s facing an opponent for the second time
  • The Seahawks run a zone-heavy scheme with a lot of two-high safeties and Cover 3 when they bring one into the box. Purdy has a small sample size to utilize some of his data for, but he has seen 40% of his dropbacks against Cover 3 and has averaged 7.7 yards per attempt
  • Purdy has thrown screen passes on 11.8% of his attempts and is averaging 8.8 yards per attempt on such passes
  • The Seahawks are the best team in the NFL at defending pass catchers on the perimeter but struggle with slot players, tight ends and running backs. The two main routes the Seahawks struggle with are shallow routes and corner routes
  • The 49ers will be at full strength for the second time this season, and this offense has plenty of ways they can win. Brandon Aiyuk plays in the slot more often than Deebo Samuel, but on three wide receiver sets, it’s more likely Jauan Jennings or Ray-Ray McCloud will be the slot player
  • Since Purdy has taken over, Aiyuk has been the player getting more work down the field with an aDOT of 10.4, while Samuel has an average depth of target of 3.7
  • With the exceptional cornerback play of the Seahawks, I do not anticipate them attacking the perimeter or down the field, but instead, mainly focusing on the short areas of the field. Aiyuk will win on shallow routes, which account for 25.7% of his targets, and Samuel will be used on many screens
  • George Kittle is the player to note in the passing attack because of his chemistry with Purdy and the mismatch he creates against the Seahawks. Shanahan will have plays designed specifically for him, and I expect them to have plenty of success
  • I expect Christian McCaffrey to have a high target share because of the struggle the Seahawks have at linebacker.
  • Purdy will continue his efficiency, but it’ll be difficult to picture a big DFS day from someone I do not anticipate throwing much. In the passing game, the work will be divided amongst all of their players, but I expect Kittle and McCaffrey to lead this team
  • Shanahan is all about creating mismatches, and the way they will win is through the running game and play action for Kittle

 

Rushing Attack

Seattle Seahawks

  • Kenneth Walker will be force-fed early to help slow down the 49ers’ pass rush, but San Francisco’s run defense has been stout all season long
  • According to the Trenches Tool, the 49ers have a significant advantage in the run game. If Walker doesn’t see north of 20 carries, it’ll be difficult for him to make it into the optimal lineup.
  • In addition, the 49ers rank first at defending a gap scheme and second at defending a zone scheme. Seattle’s two tight end sets will allow the 49ers to keep three linebackers on the field, so running the ball will be tough.
  • The best shot for Walker will be in the passing game, but I can’t imagine him being effective enough to make a difference.

San Francisco 49ers

  • The 49ers had Elijah Mitchell return, and he looked good in his first game after injury. I expect him to have a role for this rushing attack in late-game situations and lessen McCaffrey’s workload.
  • Mitchell and McCaffrey are playable together on this slate, giving you a chance for uniqueness if you do it.
  • The 49ers have a sizeable advantage in run blocking against the Seahawks, who have been one of the worst teams in the NFL at stopping the run.

Chargers vs. Jaguars

Passing Game

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Justin Hebert has had an underwhelming season for his standards, but he still managed to throw for 4,739 yards and 25 touchdowns without his full weaponry during the majority of the season
  • Mike Williams will not play in this matchup due to a back fracture, leaving DeAndre Carter as the player to step up in three wide receiver sets. The Jaguars struggle to defend deep routes, and the loss of Williams will be felt for that specific reason
  • The Jaguars’ defense has a lot of energy and youth, allowing them to create pressure. Jacksonville can get pressure at the fourth-highest rate among playoff teams, but they sack the quarterback at the second-lowest rate
  • The Chargers are aware of their offensive line struggles, so getting the ball out quickly is going to be a frequent thing we see from Herbert. When they want to go deep, it’ll have to be off of play action or with movement in the pocket
  • Down the stretch, the Jaguars started playing a lot more Cover 4 and Cover 3 coverage, but at the beginning of the year, they played a lot more Cover 1 and Cover 2
  • If the Jaguars take the lead, they will likely play more Cover 2 because the Chargers don’t have the players to win over the top

  • Without Williams, there will be three primary players to consider, with Keenan Allen leading the way. Allen will see a heavy workload in this matchup
  • The Chargers will want to get Josh Palmer active early because he will be their best bet on winning on vertical routes. Palmer showed some ability to win off of these routes when Williams missed time earlier in the season. Palmer also had 99 yards in the first game against this Jaguars’ secondary
  • Carter has mainly been a slot wide receiver, so I expect to see a lot of bunch sets from this group to allow these players to play a similar slot type of role off the line of scrimmage. Carter has been more frequently targeted on posts and corner routes than Palmer, but Palmer has the advantage on the vertical routes
  • The tight end room for the Chargers features three players, Gerald Everett, Tre’ McKitty and Donald Parham. The Jaguars are one of six teams to allow 1,000 yards receiving to tight ends this season, and they gave up seven touchdowns to them
  • Tight ends that split into the slot scored slightly more points than in-line tight ends, Everett is this team’s main slot tight end, but Parham will also see some snaps in that area
  • Parham is my preferred tight end because when he gets targeted, it is down the field, and Everett is more of a check-down player.
  • Austin Ekeler will see high usage against these Jaguars’ young linebackers and will be a safety blanket for Herbert.
  • Jaguars corner Tyson Campbell allows a 46.5% completion rate, but a 7.0% pass touchdown rate when targeted. He is a main player for this Jaguars squad, and Allen will have the advantage against him in the red zone.
  • When you get the Jaguars into their nickel package and Tre Herndon at corner you can go his way often. Herndon allows a 61.8% completion rate and 11.3 yards per target on the season. This is the matchup for Carter or Palmer to win.
  • Overall, I believe this Chargers’ passing game has the advantage against the Jaguars’ secondary, and they can beat them in many ways.
  • Out of the pass-catching group, there’s a lot to love with Allen, but on this two-game slate, Palmer, Carter and Parham will be the preferred long-shot plays in Herbert stacks

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Trevor Lawrence looked rattled in his first “big” game in the NFL
  • A lot of the throws he missed were ones he had made all season long, and it will be up to Doug Pederson to correct those mistakes and get his young quarterback comfortable
  • The Chargers’ secondary will press you and play a lot of Cover 1 and Cover 3. Against these coverages, Lawrence averages around seven yards per attempt and has a low touchdown rate, but many of his touchdowns come from goal-line situations.
  • The Chargers will have Joey Bosa back in this game, and they can get after Lawrence when rushing four, but they also rush five players at a high rate with Bosa.
  • Lawrence is among the best in the NFL at throwing against five pass rushers, ranking first in completion percentage and seventh in yards per attempt. The Jaguars need to establish Travis Etienne against one of the worst run defenses and then allow Lawrence to throw comfortably in the pocket.

  • The Chargers have four key pieces to their secondary, Derwin James, Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis and Bryce Callahan
  • After reviewing the film from the first time these teams met, getting Christian Kirk on Callahan will be a key to his success because Samuel defended him well
  • I anticipate Marvin Jones Jr. beating Davis for big plays along the sideline
  • Evan Engram will draw James, and when he does, I do not anticipate him finding much room to work. The Chargers get beat on a similar route tree as the Jaguars, and Jones Jr. is the player I expect to get utilized most
  • The first matchup featured quick passes to the sidelines for Zay Jones, but I expect Brandon Staley to try and make Lawrence beat them down the field
  • Against the primary coverages of the Chargers, Kirk is the most effective wide receiver and will get targeted most frequently. Jones Jr. gets the most down-the-field action and has an average depth of target of 13.2, while Jones has the lowest average depth of target and second-highest target rate
  • If Lawrence can correct his mistakes from last week’s performance, specifically in the red zone, he can have a multiple-touchdown game. The issue will be the loss of yardage to Etienne in the run game, and if he can keep pace with Herbert, who will have more volume and a similar advantage
  • Jones Jr. is the key player for the ceiling game of Lawrence, and at his price, I am willing to play in my tournament builds

 

Rushing Attack

Chargers

  • Ekeler will have more carries than he did in the first game against the Jaguars, but I am unsure of how effective he will be
  • According to the Trenches Tool, the Chargers have the third-worst run-blocking matchup, and the Jaguars are one of the best teams in a gap scheme 
  • Ekeler will have the goal-line carries and get plenty of usage in the passing game to keep him relevant for DFS

Jaguars

  • Etienne is in the best matchup of any playoff running back. He’s a chalk play but still worth it.
  • The Chargers allow 5.6 yards per carry, which is the most in the NFL. I imagine the Jaguars will use the running game to ease Lawrence into his first playoff start
  • Etienne did not run well in the first game against the Chargers, but he was in a timeshare with James Robinson and was not the starting running back

Player Pool

Player Pos Team Opp DK Salary FD Salary VegasPts
Justin Herbert QB LAC @ JAC $6,600 $7,800 24.75
Trevor Lawrence QB JAC vs LAC $5,700 $7,700 22.75
Brock Purdy QB SF vs SEA $5,500 $7,100 25.75
Christian McCaffrey RB SF vs SEA $8,500 $9,800 25.75
Austin Ekeler RB LAC @ JAC $8,100 $9,000 24.75
Travis Etienne RB JAC vs LAC $6,000 $7,100 22.75
Eli Mitchell RB SF vs SEA $4,700 $5,500 25.75
Keenan Allen WR LAC @ JAC $7,000 $8,400 24.75
Tyler Lockett WR SEA @ SF $6,000 $7,400 16.75
Christian Kirk WR JAC vs LAC $5,900 $7,500 22.75
Brandon Aiyuk WR SF vs SEA $5,800 $6,700 25.75
Deebo Samuel WR SF vs SEA $5,700 $6,900 25.75
Josh Palmer WR LAC @ JAC $5,300 $6,500 24.75
Zay Jones WR JAC vs LAC $4,300 $6,300 22.75
DeAndre Carter WR LAC @ JAC $3,600 $5,700 24.75
Marvin Jones WR JAC vs LAC $3,400 $5,500 22.75
Cade Johnson WR SEA @ SF $3,000 $4,700 16.75
George Kittle TE SF vs SEA $5,900 $7,700 25.75
Gerald Everett TE LAC @ JAC $3,800 $5,600 24.75
Noah Fant TE SEA @ SF $3,100 $5,100 16.75
Donald Parham TE LAC @ JAC $2,700 $4,400 24.75
49ers DST SF vs SEA $3,600 $4,700 16.75
Chargers DST LAC @ JAC $3,100 $3,900 22.75
Jaguars DST JAC vs LAC $2,700 $3,800 24.75
Seahawks DST SEA @ SF $2,400 $3,300 25.75

WATCH: Best Wild-Card Bets

DFS

Wild-Card Week DVOA Dispatch: Mike Evans Ready to Keep it Rolling

Our DVOA-adjusted pass and run game targets are back for the wild-card round.

With so few games, I will peel back the curtain on my EPA stats to help explain my favorite matchups by position. All EPA-related stats provided in this article are since Week 10.

The chart below indicates defensive EPA rank:

Instead of the usual in-season breakdown by pass and run game, we can focus on team-by-team positional targets here.

Buffalo Bills

Miami has a mediocre defense overall, but with a defensive pass DVOA rank of 25th and a hungry Bills offense ranked second in pass DVOA, this could get ugly. I am not sure Dawson Knox usually gets the volume necessary for spike weeks, but Miami’s defense ranks 25th against tight ends, which is the strongest individual matchup for Buffalo.

Don’t count out Stefon Diggs even though Miami is sixth vs. wide-aligned receivers. You could make a leverage play by using slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie with a slightly better matchup. Josh Allen is my second-favorite QB option this week with his dual-threat, no-holds-barred play.

Miami Dolphins

The best and only chance Miami has of upsetting the double-digit favorite Bills is by letting Tyreek Hill run wild. Hill has been the Bills’ playoff nightmare before, and he doesn’t look to have lost a step. The Bills’ defense is last at defending slot receivers, where Hill lines up on 42.8% of his routes.

Hill can run, catch and take a short crosser to the house at any time. I am not sure Miami’s starter, Skylar Thompson, will be prepared for the temperature, excitement and overall raucous atmosphere on the road. But using Hill as a security blanket is his best bet.

Los Angeles Chargers

Jacksonville’s defense is 30th in pass DVOA, and their EPA is terrible against tight ends (32nd) and slot receivers (31st). This implies quarterback Justin Herbert, tight end Gerald Everett and slot receiver Keenan Allen should all have a great game, especially with Mike Williams ruled out.

The Jaguars’ defense is ranked first against wide-aligned receivers like Williams, so we would not be targeting him anyway. Herbert is my favorite QB play this week. While Jacksonville is third against the rush, Austin Ekeler catches his share of passes and could be serviceable. However, if there was a week to risk fading him, this would be the one.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles’ defense ranks 29th in rush DVOA, and their rush EPA is 30th. This is a Travis Etienne game. Trevor Lawrence is making his first playoff appearance, but he has a Super Bowl-winning coach, Doug Pederson, who knows how to win this time of year. This makes me feel like the Jaguars will attempt to control the game on the ground with Etienne.

Lawrence can ground and pound his way to some yards and scores, as well, so be mindful of that. If they start to get behind, Christian Kirk is their alpha-slot WR facing the 21st-ranked slot receiving defense. The Chargers defense ranks eighth against tight ends, which makes me unenthusiastic about playing Evan Engram.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A great quarterback play this week is the old GOAT himself, Tom Brady. He faces the Cowboys’ defense ranked a lofty third in pass DVOA, which also ranks well against slot receivers (10th) and tight ends (first). Yet, they conspicuously rank last at defending wide-aligned receivers.

This is a Mike Evans game through and through. Unless you want to roll the dice on chain-moving slot receiver Chris Godwin, Evans is my top skill-position play from Tampa Bay this week.

Dallas Cowboys

The top player out of Dallas is CeeDee Lamb. He lines up in the slot on 59% of his routes, where Tampa Bay’s defense ranks 30th in EPA and carries a middling rank of 15th in pass DVOA. Coming in at a close second is tight end Dalton Schultz, facing the Buccaneers’ 26th-ranked defense. Dak Prescott has been a bit turnover-happy, and I don’t trust the coaching of Mike McCarthy at all, so he is a risk. But his matchup is good.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

The Ravens’ most glaring defensive deficiency is wide-aligned receivers (26th). That is a conundrum because both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins line up wide on more than 80% of their routes. One or both could have a spike week, and the guy getting them there is QB Joe Burrow.

These men can be triple-stacked together if you think the Bengals take some frustrations out on their divisional foe. Baltimore’s defense is a respectable 11th in pass DVOA, but that doesn’t deter me. I would fade Joe Mixon and Hayden Hurst based on their poor matchups.

Baltimore Ravens

There is not much to say about Baltimore other than “pay the man.” That man, of course, is Lamar Jackson. Cincinnati’s defense is 12th in pass DVOA and defends tight ends well. That is unfortunate for the tight end-reliant Ravens. Still, I would only consider Mark Andrews as a contrarian play. Sorry Baltimore, it’s a no from me dawg.

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco’s success begins and ends with the run game. They have an inexperienced rookie at quarterback, Brock Purdy, and an all-world talent in Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is the play, with my only concern being the presence of Elijah Mitchell to vulture TDs.

Seattle’s defense is 29th in rush EPA and 25th in rush DVOA. The stars have aligned. Another good option to consider is George Kittle since the Seahawks’ defense ranks 19th against tight ends.

Seattle Seahawks

Geno Smith makes his first playoff start against the swarming 49ers’ defense. San Francisco’s defense ranks second in rush DVOA and fifth in pass DVOA. In terms of EPA, they are the best against the rush (sorry Kenneth Walker), and mediocre elsewhere.

Assuming a certain game script, Smith should be passing. If choosing Seahawks players, the guys I want are DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, with a slight lean toward Metcalf.

Minnesota Vikings

The last time these teams met, T.J. Hockenson had a stellar game catching 13 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. What is to stop Minnesota from doing it again? The Giants’ defense is ranked highly in DVOA. They rank 22nd vs. the pass and 32nd vs. the run. We clearly see this reflected in New York’s defensive EPA.

I will play Justin Jefferson anywhere and everywhere, but the smart money is on taking advantage of the matchups. Hockenson and Dalvin Cook make the most sense. Kirk Cousins is at home in a dome; he might be worth a try.

New York Giants

Daniel Jones finally gets his first playoff experience. Minnesota’s biggest defensive deficiency is vs. wide-aligned receivers (27th). The encouraging thing is the Vikings’ defense is also 26th in pass DVOA. The discouraging thing is the Giants have only a “practice squad” level of talent at WR since trading the oft-injured Kadarius Toney to the Chiefs.

Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins are the Giants’ main wide-aligned receivers. They line up there 65.5 and 86.0% of their routes, respectively. If you like to live dangerously, they are the prime targets for this matchup.

Saquon Barkley is an extreme talent with a mediocre offensive line, so his performance will have a wide range of outcomes. Daniel Jones also can run and may need to do so to keep drives alive. Jones is a nice dart-throw option if paying down at the QB position.

(Stats courtesy of Football Outsiders and TruMedia Networks)

WATCH MORE: Top 3 Wild-Card Underdog Picks

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