Three-game slates allow more freedom in the build than a two-game slate, but I believe you can get unique by going outside the normal building rules. Play three pass-catchers with one quarterback, two running backs from the same team, or a player against your defense. This slate has one game that’s projected to be close, but the implied points from the other games are still high enough to find some value.
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With Skylar Thompson at quarterback, Mike Gesicki has four fewer yards than Tyreek Hill on six fewer receptions. Jaylen Waddle leads the group with 131 yards, but in this group, the only player of interest to me would be Gesicki because of tight ends not being able to score many points. Thompson is not a player I have any interest in, and it’s difficult to imagine them being able to throw the ball much against the Bills’ defense.
The Dolphins play man coverage at one of the highest rates amongst playoff teams and blitz at one of the highest rates. Against Cover 1, Josh Allen has a 3.9% interception rate and averages 5.3 yards per attempt. Cover 1 coverage accounts for 42.9% of Allen’s interceptions throughout the season. Allen will have to make better decisions against this coverage, and the Bills will have to win against the Dolphins’ man coverage. Against Cover 3, Allen averages 8.1 yards per attempt, with a 4.5% touchdown rate, and these coverages have been the primary ones for the Dolphins in recent weeks. The Dolphins have utilized a bit of Cover 2 against Allen, but I expect them to have faith in their defensive backs to cover their secondary options and hope Xavien Howard can match up with Stefon Diggs.
Diggs has a 32.5% target share against man coverage on the season and is the only player on the team averaging over 2.5 yards per route. Gabe Davis has struggled this year but has a high aDOT, and the Dolphins have struggled to defend vertical routes this season. Cole Beasley will take the spot of Isaiah McKenzie, and with this blitzing scheme, he will have a high reception total in this game because Allen will need to get the ball out quickly. Dawson Knox has the advantage on every one of these linebackers, and it was not a fluke game he had in their second matchup. Attacking the linebackers of the Dolphins will be the priority for the Bills, and once they get the safeties down to help, you will get the sideline plays for Diggs and Davis.
Jeff Wilson is projected to be a popular player and is the only hope for the Dolphins to move the ball on offense. I do not think he is a bad play off the potential raw point total and price, but factoring in popularity leaves him as an undesirable option. He will get plenty of carries early on, but they aren’t implied many points, and they are missing multiple offensive linemen. Even with a touchdown, I don’t believe he will end up on the optimal lineup.
In the last three postseasons, only two running backs have scored over 15 DK points when his team scored 17 or fewer points.
Jeff Wilson being popular on Sunday is a tough one to wrap my head around, even at his price.
— Jordan Vanek (@JordanVanekDFS) January 14, 2023
This backfield is the most intriguing one on the entire slate, and I will be going with James Cook in this matchup. Cook will likely be the running back to close out the game in a big win, and I believe he will show the explosiveness he’s had all season long. Cook has averaged 1.1 more yards per carry, breaks more tackles, forces more missed tackles, and is a better player in the passing game. The Miami Dolphins have been a good run defense, but this is a game where I expect them to get worn down by their offense not being capable of putting up points.
The Vikings play soft coverage and allow you free releases, which is what these Giants wide receivers need. The Giants don’t have players who can win off press coverage and create separation, and that is why Daniel Jones was able to throw for over 300 yards in their first matchup. The Vikings allow the most yards per target amongst playoff teams on flat, shallow, and crossing routes. The Giants run these routes at the highest rate amongst any team in the entire NFL. This is another smash spot for Jones, and he has become my favorite quarterback on the slate, even with his popularity.
All three of the Giants’ primary pass-catchers have a reason for why they could be successful in this matchup. Darius Slayton averages the most yards per route on these routes, Isaiah Hodgins is targeted most frequently, and Richie James is second in both categories. They are also all in the same price range, and I will be paring two of these players for my Daniel Jones stacks over Saquon Barkley.
I will not leave my lineups without one of these Giants wide receivers because there is plenty to love about their offense in this game. Jones is my favorite quarterback on the Sunday slate, and there are many reasons to love him.
In a 4:30 pm game, Kirk Cousins is weaker than 1:00 pm Cousins, but the Giants will allow him to have big plays down the field because their defensive coordinator is not afraid to bring pressure. The Giants bring five or more rushers at the highest rate amongst playoff teams, leaving one less defender than normal in coverage. The Giants also utilize a lot of man coverage, and with Adoree’ Jackson back, I expect him with safety help going Justin Jefferson’s way. Xavier McKinney is also back in the lineup, and I expect him to try and slow down T.J. Hockenson, who had a massive game in the first matchup. Cousins only averages 6.8 yards per attempt against man coverage this season, but he does have an 8-2 touchdown to interception ratio.
Jefferson is the go-to against man coverage, but I expect him to be doubled in ways he has not seen this season, and Jackson will help them in this matchup. Hockenson has been the second option for Cousins against man coverage, and the chemistry has developed into something of note for this matchup. Irv Smith Jr. is back for this team, but I don’t anticipate him getting on the field much unless they have a big lead and want to run out the clock. The player that needs to step up and win in his matchup will be K.J. Osborn. Osborn didn’t do much in the first game, but that was with Jefferson and Hockenson winning in their matchups frequently enough not to be needed. I expect one of those two players not to have a great game, which will lead to Osborn having plenty of production.
Overall, I don’t believe you need to have heavy exposure to the passing game of the Vikings, and I think the path to this game will be a Jones double-stack with Cook and a Vikings’ pass-catcher.
Saquon Barkley is well-rested and performed well in the first matchup against the Vikings. I do not expect any breaks for Barkley in this game, and he’s going to have heavy involvement in the passing game because the Vikings are good against stopping the run. Barkley had eight receptions in the first game, and that’s a number to expect him to get close to in this game. The trenches tool leans towards the Vikings’ run defense having an advantage, but with Daboll calling plays, I like Barkley’s ability to get some work done on the ground.
The Giants’ run defense is not the strong suit of their overall defense; they give up 5.2 yards per carry and have allowed 16 attempts to go for over 20 yards. Dalvin Cook thrives off being able to break away in the long run and to protect Cousins better; they will utilize him more frequently than they did in the first game. The Giants will have their hands full defending the wide receiving concepts of Kevin O’Connell, and their linebackers will be hesitating at defending the run after Cousins had 117 yards passing of play action.
If Tyler Huntley plays, it will make some of these guys slightly more desirable, but the Bengals are a menacing defense, and it’s hard to envision a lot of points for this offense in the passing game. The Bengals get hurt off of speed at WR by throwing it down the field. Sammy Watkins has gotten on the field for this team and been targeted down the field, so he’s a possible play if Huntley plays. Mark Andrews is coming in as a popular option at the tight end position, and I will not be looking to go there.
The Bengals’ passing game can put up over 300 yards against any team it faces, but the offensive line injuries are a concern for me in this matchup against the Ravens. The Ravens haven’t blitzed as much as in years past and play a heavy amount of Cover 2, Cover 3, and Cover 4 coverage. Joe Burrow has 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions against these coverages this season. The coverage you want Burrow to have is Cover 1, but the Ravens run that at one of the lowest rates among all playoff teams. I don’t see myself getting much of Burrow, but if I do, it’ll be off of a negative game script.
The pass-catchers of the Bengals are still in play, even with Burrow not having the best of games. Tee Higgins averages the highest yards per route against these coverages, while Ja’Marr Chase has the highest target share. Between these two players, I lean towards Higgins because the price is very cheap, and he has a high ceiling against the Ravens. Tyler Boyd doesn’t get utilized much against these coverages, and I will be going elsewhere in that price range. The only other pass-catcher of note will be Hayden Hurst, and he has the highest target per route against these coverages and comes at a position with the easiest path to being the top scorer.
Overall, I don’t mind playing one of these pass-catchers, and if I play Burrow, it will be a double with Hayden Hurst as a part of the stack. I believe the play volume in this game will be too low for a big DFS matchup, and the main game to the stack will be the Giants and Vikings.
The only hope for the Ravens will be running the ball, which will go toward J.K. Dobbins, who took last week’s game off. The Bengals have been one of the most well-run defenses in football; however, the Ravens are amongst the most well-run offenses in football, and their offensive line is healthy. When playing Dobbins, pair it with a Burrow double-stack because that’s the best style of a game script.
I am not interested in Joe Mixon this week, and the Ravens will not give him any room to work in the run game with their right side of the offensive line injured. The Ravens have one of the best linebacking duos in football, and the trenches tool gives the Ravens a significant advantage in run defense. Mixon has two games over 20 DraftKings points, and I don’t think this is where we’ll see him get his third.
Wild Card Sunday DFS Player Pool
|Player||Pos||Team||Opp||DK Salary||FD Salary||VegasPts|
|Josh Allen||QB||BUF||vs MIA||$7,900||$9,200||28.25|
|Joe Burrow||QB||CIN||vs BAL||$6,900||$8,000||24.25|
|Daniel Jones||QB||NYG||@ MIN||$5,600||$7,400||22.75|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||NYG||@ MIN||$7,900||$8,800||22.75|
|Dalvin Cook||RB||MIN||vs NYG||$7,100||$7,800||25.75|
|J.K. Dobbins||RB||BAL||@ CIN||$5,700||$6,600||16.25|
|James Cook||RB||BUF||vs MIA||$4,800||$5,900||28.25|
|Justin Jefferson||WR||MIN||vs NYG||$8,600||$9,000||25.75|
|Ja’Marr Chase||WR||CIN||vs BAL||$8,100||$8,700||24.25|
|Stefon Diggs||WR||BUF||vs MIA||$7,700||$8,600||28.25|
|Tee Higgins||WR||CIN||vs BAL||$6,200||$7,600||24.25|
|Gabriel Davis||WR||BUF||vs MIA||$4,900||$6,200||28.25|
|K.J. Osborn||WR||MIN||vs NYG||$4,600||$6,100||25.75|
|Darius Slayton||WR||NYG||@ MIN||$4,200||$5,800||22.75|
|Isaiah Hodgins||WR||NYG||@ MIN||$4,100||$6,400||22.75|
|Richie James||WR||NYG||@ MIN||$3,900||$6,100||22.75|
|Sammy Watkins||WR||BAL||@ CIN||$3,300||$5,200||16.25|
|John Brown||WR||BUF||vs MIA||$3,100||$4,500||28.25|
|Cole Beasley||WR||BUF||vs MIA||$3,000||$4,600||28.25|
|T.J. Hockenson||TE||MIN||vs NYG||$5,100||$7,000||25.75|
|Dawson Knox||TE||BUF||vs MIA||$4,000||$5,600||28.25|
|Isaiah Likely||TE||BAL||@ CIN||$3,300||$5,000||16.25|
|Mike Gesicki||TE||MIA||@ BUF||$3,200||$4,900||15.25|
|Hayden Hurst||TE||CIN||vs BAL||$3,100||$5,100||24.25|
|Daniel Bellinger||TE||NYG||@ MIN||$3,000||$4,800||22.75|