DFS

Optimal DFS Plays From the 2023 Wild Card Sunday Slate

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

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.

We also have Rostership Data for FREE, which can be found in the link below.
https://www.the33rdteam.com/dfs/how-to-utilize-rostership-data-to-win-dfs-tournaments/ 

Dolphins vs. Bills

Passing Game

Dolphins

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.

Bills

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.

Rushing Attack

Dolphins

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.

Bills

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. 

 

Giants vs. Vikings

Passing Game

Giants

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.

Vikings

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.

Rushing Attack

Giants

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.

Vikings

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.

Ravens vs. Bengals

Passing Game

Ravens

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. 

Bengals

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.

Rushing Attack

Ravens

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.

 

Bengals

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
Bengals DST CIN vs BAL $3,500 $4,500 16.25
Bills DST BUF vs MIA $3,300 $5,000 15.25
Vikings DST MIN vs NYG $3,200 $4,100 22.75
Giants DST NYG @ MIN $3,000 $3,700 25.75
Ravens DST BAL @ CIN $2,500 $3,600 24.25

WATCH: Sleeper DFS Plays for Wild Card Round

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

Betting

2023 NFL Wild-Card Betting: Odds, Spreads, Picks, Predictions For Sunday Slate

The wild-card round of the postseason comes with a three-game Sunday slate. That sounds like a fine day to place some bets. Below you’ll find a summary for each of those three contests, along with a link to my in-depth betting previews for each matchup. 

No. 7 Dolphins at No. 2 Bills

Line Report

  • This line opened as Bills -11
  • This line has moved to Bills -13
  • This total opened at 44 points
  • This total has moved to 43.5 points

Bottom Line

If the Dolphins had Tua Tagovailoa for this contest, this would be a very compelling matchup that Miami could win. With Skylar Thompson at quarterback, Miami is running into a Bills-shaped buzzsaw with a very narrow path to success. In the four games that Thompson has seen significant playing time this season, Miami’s offense has been non-functional. Given Thompson’s uneven play, the Dolphins will need Tyreek Hill and/or Jaylen Waddle to create a scoring drive or two off of one play. On top of that, the Dolphins’ defense will need to hold Josh Allen’s offense below expectations in order to keep this game close. That’s a lot to ask out of a Dolphins team that has dropped five of its past six games.

I’d argue that no team is more hungry for a title than Josh Allen’s Bills. Buffalo has become a perennial title contender with a roster that has a plethora of recent playoff experience. That doesn’t even mention that the Bills are playing for their teammate Damar Hamlin. Whether it’s prestige, motivation, or pure talent, Buffalo has the edge across the board against the Dolphins.

Score Prediction: Bills 31, Dolphins 13

No. 6 Giants at No. 3 Vikings

Line Report

  • This line opened as Vikings -3
  • This line has moved to Vikings -3.5
  • This total opened at 47.5 points
  • This total has moved to 47.5 points

Bottom Line

The Giants are going to be a popular underdog this weekend. We already saw in Week 16 that New York could give Minnesota all it could handle during the Vikings’ 27-24 victory. The Giants’ defensive front is inconsistent, but talented enough to derail a game much like they did in prime time against the Commanders a few weeks ago. If New York’s defensive front can create consistent disruption against the Vikings’ injury-reduced offensive line, that will help the Giants’ defense manage Justin Jefferson and Minnesota’s high-end skill group. If I’m betting on the Giants, I’m building that bet on their defense.

 

Daniel Jones breached 300 yards passing for the second time this season a few weeks ago in Minnesota. The Vikings’ secondary is the one true weakness on their team, but the Giants’ collection of pass-catchers just so happens to be their weakness. Even though we saw New York have considerable success in the air against Minnesota a few weeks ago, I’m treating that particular aspect of this contest as a weakness vs. weakness matchup. The Vikings’ defensive front has their own individual advantages against the Giants’ below-average offensive line, which could end up being the difference in this contest.

Score Prediction: Vikings 27, Giants 20

No. 6 Ravens at No. 3 Bengals

Line Report

  • This line opened as Bengals -6.5
  • This line has moved to Bengals -8.5
  • This total opened at 43.5 points
  • This total has moved to 42.5 points

Bottom Line

With Lamar Jackson missing this contest, it’s primarily on the Ravens defense to give Joe Burrow’s Bengals a game. Cincinnati will be without its starting right guard and right tackle. We can reasonably expect the Ravens to bring pressure against the Bengals’ injury-reduced right side. If Baltimore can achieve consistent disruption while its secondary holds up against Cincinnati’s top-of-the-food-chain skill group, the Ravens can keep the Bengals below their team total.

If Tyler Huntley is able to start for Baltimore, the Ravens are capable of orchestrating a few scoring drives while limiting turnovers. Pair that with another strong defensive effort against Cincinnati, and that’s Baltimore’s clearest path to a cover in this contest. If Baltimore has to give Anthony Brown his second start in a row against Cincinnati, a rout by the Bengals is very much in play.

Score Prediction (with Tyler Huntley): Bengals 24, Ravens 16

Score Prediction (with Anthony Brown): Bengals 31, Ravens 10

WATCH: Matchups to Target on Sunday

Grading NFL’s Biggest 2022 Trade Deadline Deals Entering Playoffs

Grading NFL’s Biggest 2022 Trade Deadline Deals Entering Playoffs
The Rams’ acquisition of edge rusher extraordinaire Von Miller at the 2021 trade deadline was a major factor in the team’s eventual winning of the Super Bowl. There were many trades at the mid-season deadline this year that helped teams reach the playoffs. Will any of these recent additions do for their teams what Miller […]

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Analysis

Put It on the Line: Eagles Boast Best Offensive Line in 2023 NFL Postseason

To rank the playoff teams’ offensive line play, I watched game film with an emphasis on games that were recent and against quality opponents (other playoff teams). Minor adjustments were then made based on SIS data. All rankings assume players who are questionable will play.

>> Forde’s Defensive Line Rankings

OL Ranking

1.) Philadelphia Eagles

LT: Jordan Mailata
LG: Landon Dickerson
C: Jason Kelce
RG: Isaac Seumalo
RT: Lane Johnson

The Eagles earned a spot in the upper tier of these rankings with their effectiveness. You don’t have to tell me they have continuity within the group. It shows up on the screen, from passing off DL stunts in the passing game to combo blocks up to the second level in the run game. What puts them over the top and into the No. 1 spot, however, is their physicality. It starts with the consistent knockback they get, resetting the line of scrimmage. It commonly ends with the defender on his back. This style of play is tough to deal with for four quarters, testing both the physical and mental toughness of the opponent. 

2.) San Francisco 49ers

LT: Trent Williams
LG: Aaron Banks
C: Jake Brendel
RG: Spencer Burford
RT: Mike McGlinchey

This is an athletic group of big men who are able to get out and run, getting to and staying engaged on their blocks, whether at the line of scrimmage or into the second level of the defense. They won’t physically dominate the opponent, but they do create seams in the defense, allowing their talented ball carriers to get one-on-one opportunities with linebackers and safeties. If any position is susceptible, it’s their rotating RG spot, but they’re often able to cover it up with help from  Brendel or McGlinchey.

3.) Baltimore Ravens

LT: Ronnie Stanley
LG: Ben Powers
C: Tyler Linderbaum
RG: Kevin Zeitler
RT: Morgan Moses

The Ravens are a bit of a throwback in terms of the offensive line, as you often see small splits between maulers who get a solid push on double teams and look good coming around the horn on pulls. This style allows them to create ample room for their ball carriers to operate and make something happen. In addition, they allow plenty of time for the QB to make something happen when he drops back to pass. This is a stout group that works well together.

4.) Dallas Cowboys

LT: Tyler Smith
LG: Connor McGovern
C: Tyler Biadasz
RG: Zack Martin
RT: Tyron Smith

This is a physical bunch of players that will make sure you feel the punishment they doled out the next morning. It also doesn’t hurt when you can get in behind veterans Zack Martin and Tyron Smith on the right side of this line when you absolutely need a yard or two. They also hold up well in pass protection and aren’t phased by stunts. The group can sometimes struggle with getting to second-level blocks in the run game, which prevents them from breaking big ones with more frequency.

5.) Kansas City Chiefs

LT: Orlando Brown Jr.
LG: Joe Thuney
C: Creed Humphrey
RG: Trey Smith
RT: Andrew Wylie 

When you play with the odds-on favorite for league MVP, the priority is keeping him upright, and the Chiefs have taken huge strides in that department since their last Super Bowl appearance. This group allows Patrick Mahomes time to come up with some of the improvisations that make him so special and this team so good. While the running game certainly comes second in Kansas City, they are also capable in this aspect as well, particularly when trying to ice games.

6.) Buffalo Bills

LT: Dion Dawkins
LG: Rodger Saffold
C: Mitch Morse
RG: Ryan Bates
RT: Spencer Brown

The Bills’ OL gets a bit of a boost from the guy playing behind them, Josh Allen. I tried to keep that out of it, but it’s difficult to separate the unit from the environment it plays in, and the fact of the matter is that having No. 17’s running ability behind you makes defenses play you a little bit differently. In the passing game, they can keep him clean in part because defenders are more controlled in their rush, not wanting to abandon their rush lanes and see the QB scramble for another 15+ yards. In the run, the defense has to account for another threat, and the offense is able to gain an extra blocker. I’d like to see them be more physical in designed runs, but overall, they get the job done.

7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

LT: Donovan Smith
LG: Nick Leverett
C: Robert Hainsey
RG: Shaq Mason
RT: Tristan Wirfs

The Bucs are better at pass blocking than run blocking, but in their system, they use the short pass so frequently as an extension of the running game that the lack of push running the ball isn’t a major concern. It’s not an imposing group, but they were able to keep the GOAT upright and out of harm’s way, allowing the lowest pressure rate in the league while quietly throwing for nearly 4,700 yards this season.

8.) Jacksonville Jaguars

LT: Walker Little
LG: Tyler Shatley
C: Luke Fortner
RG: Brandon Scherff
RT: Jawaan Taylor

The Jags’ offensive line is a lunch pail group, clocking in, getting the job done, and clocking out. This O-line doesn’t jump out as particularly great at anything, but it is good at most things, which allows its young QB time to process and their ball carriers space to operate. They’re not world-beaters, but they also won’t get you beat in most matchups.

 

9.) Cincinnati Bengals

LT: Jonah Williams
LG: Cordell Volson
C: Ted Karras
RG: Alex Cappa
RT: Hakeem Adeniji

The Bengals completely retooled their offensive line this offseason after getting Joe Burrow rag-dolled in last year’s Super Bowl, and early returns were not promising. However, as the season has gone on, they have seemingly begun to gel and improve since around November. The biggest concern from the sample of games that I watched was that a significant portion of the pressure Burrow was still getting was coming from his blind side, which has the potential to be much more devastating.

10.) Seattle Seahawks

LT: Charles Cross
LG: Damien Lewis
C: Austin Blythe
RG: Gabe Jackson
RT: Abraham Lucas

The Seahawks have a couple of young, promising rookie tackles who haven’t looked like rookies for the better part of the year. That said, they are not without their rookie moments. In particular, RT Abraham Lucas seems to lose focus from time to time and can be picked on by a rusher with speed and bend. In the run game, the group has some nastiness to it, but they aren’t effective enough at getting push on a regular basis. I expect them to be moving up these rankings in the coming years, but for the 2022 playoffs, there is still too much green behind the ears to move them any higher.

11.) Minnesota Vikings

LT: Christian Darrisaw
LG: Ezra Cleveland
C: Garrett Bradbury
RG: Ed Ingram
RT: Olisaemeka Udoh

Christian Darrisaw has come into his own in his second season and brings some aggression to the group. The weak link shows up in this group between the C and the RG, as both struggle generating a push when running and struggle to keep the QB clean when passing. This is the kind of wart that will get exposed at some point in the playoffs. On the flip side, this group does have some athleticism and is better than average at getting out in front on screen plays.

12.) Miami Dolphins

LT: Terron Armstead
LG: Liam Eichenberg
C: Connor Williams
RG: Robert Hunt
RT: Brandon Shell

Free agent acquisition Terron Armstead is solid, however, the unit as whole leaves some to be desired. In the passing game, RG Robert Hunt gets caught playing a bit top-heavy, allowing defenders to get him off-balance and past him. In the run game, this unit is a bit of feast or famine, either hitting the big gainer or not getting much at all.

13.) New York Giants

LT: Andrew Thomas
LG: Nick Gates
C: Jon Feliciano
RG: Mark Glowinski
RT: Evan Neal

The quickest path to the quarterback is through the interior, and that is where the Giants struggle the most in pass protection. Blitz pickup is also an area of concern for the entire group. While their OT positions are more solid, they do struggle with consistency. All of this leads to a good team, like the ones you tend to see in the playoffs, throwing a monkey wrench into your game plan with pressure. 

14.) Los Angeles Chargers

LT: Jamaree Salyer
LG: Matt Feiler
C: Corey Linsley
RG: Zion Johnson
RT: Trey Pipkins

Missing Rashawn Slater, this group lacks a bit of identity. They’re leaky in pass protection and struggle to generate push for inside runs. If anything can be said to be a strength it’d be perimeter runs, as they’re able to get the edge for speedy RB Austin Ekeler. This unit needs to show marked improvement if the Chargers hope to make a postseason run.

 

What to Watch for Wild Card Weekend

Seahawks at 49ers

Advantage: 49ers 

Both of the 49ers’ units are among the best in the playoffs this year, while Seattle has outdone expectations in what many expected to be a rebuilding year. 

Something to watch for: I expect the 49ers will prefer to get Nick Bosa over Abraham Lucas or have him stunting inside against an OG in high-leverage passing situations. 

Chargers at Jaguars

Advantage: Jaguars

The Chargers have dealt with a lot of injuries this year, and Doug Pederson has his team playing inspired football as of late. In particular, I see a significant mismatch favoring the Jags when Los Angeles has the ball.

Something to watch for: Look out for the Chargers’ sub package in 3rd and long situations. They haven’t had all their best pass rushers healthy at the same time most of the season, and I suspect they might have some good stunts set up to help Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, Kyle Van Noy, and Morgan Fox hit home.

Dolphins at Bills

Advantage: Bills

The Dolphins just don’t have the horses in the trenches to deal with Buffalo right now.

Something to watch for: Miami to use the quick game as a way to neutralize Buffalo’s DL. Their skill position players have the skill sets to turn these into big plays, and it has the added effect of keeping Buffalo’s line from getting into a rhythm.

Giants at Vikings

Advantage: Giants

The interior of the Giants’ DL matches up great against the weakness in the Vikings’ offensive interior. The Vikings’ defense probably holds the edge over the Giants’ offense too, but the margin is much closer there.

Something to watch for: Dalvin Tomlinson lining up over RG Mark Glowinski in critical situations. Tomlinson overpowered Glowinski when given the opportunity in the last matchup, and I’d expect the Vikings to look for that matchup again.

Ravens at Bengals

Advantage: Bengals

The Ravens aren’t equipped to take advantage of the Bengals’ deficiencies in pass blocking, and the Ravens’ strength in run blocking is matched by a stout Bengals run D.

Something to watch for: Ravens blitzing when they need to generate pressure and leaving Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd in man coverage.

 

Cowboys at Buccaneers

Advantage: Cowboys

They might not be the same unit they were three or four years ago, but this is still a very good Cowboys offensive line and one that’s equipped to handle the Buccaneers’ personnel. Offensively the Buccaneers may have allowed a league-low pressure rate, but you don’t go against a rusher of Micah Parsons’ caliber each week.

Something to watch for: In high-leverage short-yardage situations, expect the Cowboys to run behind their vets on the right side of the line.

Betting

NFL Wild Card Betting: Odds, Spreads, Picks, Predictions for Giants vs. Vikings

Giants (9-7-1) at Vikings (13-4)

Opening Spread: Vikings -3

Opening Game Total: 47.5

Opening Team Totals: Vikings (25.25) Giants (22.5)

Weather: Indoors

The Line Report

  • This line opened as Vikings -3
  • This line has moved to Vikings -3.5
  • This total opened at 47.5-points
  • This total has moved to 47.5-points

Notable Injuries

Vikings: Out: RT Brian O’Neill. Questionable: C Garrett Bradbury, Edge Za’Darius Smith, S Harrison Smith.

Giants: Questionable: C Jon Feliciano, DL Leonard Williams, Edge Azeez Ojulari, CB Adoree’ Jackson.

Vikings Offense vs. Giants Defense

The loss of right tackle Brian O’Neill has me pushing the Vikings’ offensive line toward the back end of league average. I have the Giants tiered as a top-10 front with one of the best interior duos in the league. The Giants have a moderate, bordering on significant advantage in the trenches in this matchup. New York’s interior has the potential to be a real problem for Minnesota.

Betting Notes Per TruMedia

  • The Vikings are 7-9-1 against the spread this season
  • Minnesota is 11-6 on overs this season
  • Kirk Cousins is 68-67-2 against the spread in his career
  • Cousins is 80-56-1 on overs in his career
  • Kevin O’Connell is 7-9-1 against the spread in his NFL head coaching career
  • O’Connell is 11-6 on overs in his NFL head coaching career 

Vikings Offense

  • Minnesota scores 24.9 points per game, good for eighth in the league
  • The Vikings are second in the league in yards passing per game and 27th in yards rushing
  • Minnesota passes on 68% of plays and runs on 32% of plays, per Sports Info Solutions
  • Per the Edge, Dalvin Cook is sixth in the league in yards rushing with 1,173, and he’s tied for 12th in rushing touchdowns with eight
  • Justin Jefferson led the league in receptions (128), yards receiving (1,809) and he’s tied for 10th in receiving touchdowns with eight. Jefferson is ninth in the league in target share (28.5%) and 10th in air yards share (38.4%)
  • Adam Thielen finished the season with 70 receptions for 716 yards receiving and six touchdowns with a 17% target share and a 22.8% air yards share
  • KJ Osborn finished the season with 60 receptions for 650 yards receiving and five touchdowns with a 14.2% target share and a 15.3% air yards share
  • Starting in Week 9 while removing the regular season finale, T.J. Hockenson has a 23.5% target share and a 20.6% air yards share as a Viking
  • Per TruMedia, Jefferson has played 774 snaps on the perimeter and 243 in the slot
  • Thielen has played 700 snaps on the perimeter and 288 in the slot
  • Osborn has played 326 snaps on the perimeter and 506 in the slot
  • With the Vikings, Hockenson has played 349 snaps as an inline tight end, 61 on the perimeter and 157 in the slot 

Giants Defense

  • New York has allowed 21.8 points per game, which is 17th in the league
  • The Giants are 13th in the league in sacks, second in forced fumbles and 31st in interceptions
  • Per The Edge, New York has allowed the fourth-most yards rushing per game and the third-fewest yards receiving per game to running backs this season
  • The Giants have given up the 16th-most yards receiving per game to wide receivers this year
  • New York gave up the seventh-most PPR points per game to perimeter receivers
  • The Giants allowed the 10th-most yards receiving per game to tight ends this season
  • New York has allowed the sixth-most PPR points per game to inline tight ends 

Giants Offense vs. Vikings Defense

I have the Giants offensive line tiered as a slightly below-average group. The Vikings’ defensive front has been one of the more unique groups to rank, as they have a top-10 level edge duo with an inconsistent interior. The Vikings’ pass rush has a moderate advantage in this contest, and Dalvin Tomlinson has an advantage in the interior, but this matchup is more of a draw in the run game.

 

Betting Notes Per TruMedia

  • The Giants are 13-4 against the spread this season
  • New York is 7-10 on overs this season
  • Daniel Jones is 31-22 against the spread in his career
  • Jones is 21-30-2 on overs in his career
  • Brian Daboll is 13-4 against the spread in his NFL head coaching career
  • Daboll is 7-10 on overs in his NFL head coaching career

Giants Offense

  • New York scores 21.5 points per game, which is 15th in the league
  • The Giants are 27th in the league in yards passing per game and fourth in yards rushing
  • New York passes on 59% of plays and runs on 41% of plays, per Sports Info Solutions
  • Per the Edge, Jones finished the season with 708 yards rushing, which is fifth among quarterbacks
  • Jones had less than 200 yards passing in 11 of his 16 games this season, but he breached 300 yards passing against the Vikings
  • Saquon Barkley is fourth in the league in yards rushing with 1,312, and he’s 14th among running backs in yards receiving
  • Darius Slayton led the Giants in yards receiving with 724, but he’s had less than 50 in three of his last four games
  • Richie James has at least seven targets and 60 yards receiving in three of his last four games, which includes 90 yards receiving against the Vikings
  • Isaiah Hodgins had eight catches for 89 yards and one touchdown on 12 targets against the Vikings a few weeks ago
  • Daniel Bellinger has 40 or more yards receiving in just two of his 11 games
  • Per TruMedia, Slayton has played 473 snaps on the perimeter and 186 in the slot
  • Hodgins has played 354 snaps on the perimeter and 57 in the slot
  • James has played 85 snaps on the perimeter and 404 in the slot

Vikings Defense

  • Minnesota allowed 25.1 points per game, which is 28th in the league
  • The Vikings are 28th in the league in sacks, 22nd in forced fumbles and 10th in interceptions
  • Per The Edge, Minnesota allowed the 21st-most yards rushing per game and the 10th-most yards receiving per game to running backs this season
  • The Vikings gave up the most yards receiving per game to wide receivers this year
  • Minnesota allowed the sixth-most PPR points per game to perimeter receivers and the second-most to those in the slot
  • The Vikings allowed the 18th-most yards receiving per game to tight ends this season 

 

This Is What You’re Betting On

The Vikings beat the Giants in Minnesota 27-24 in Week 16. The Vikings orchestrated the biggest comeback in NFL history in an overtime win against the Colts the previous week. The Giants are 2-5-1 over their final eight games, while the Vikings are 5-3 over the same span.

If You’re Betting on the Vikings

The Vikings are driven by their talented offense. That group has an above-average quarterback in Cousins, one of the best skill groups in the league and an offensive line that has been solid this year. If you’re betting on Minnesota, you are doing so with the expectation they can have significant success against the Giants in the air and on the ground.

Minnesota’s pass rush could also be a factor in this contest, Tomlinson faces a below-average Giants interior while the Vikings edge rush duo could give rookie right tackle Evan Neal some issues in this contest. Another strong offensive performance paired with the Vikings’ pass rush closing this game out is the type of game flow worth building a Vikings bet around.

You have two core concerns as a Vikings’ bettor. The first is the strength of the Giants’ defense. The loss of O’Neill reduces Minnesota’s ability to manage the Giants’ strength on defense. The second concern is the Vikings’ secondary has been routinely shredded this season, which includes Jones breaching 300 yards passing against them just a few weeks ago. If the Giants’ defensive front takes over this matchup while their offense has another solid showing, Minnesota can lose this game.

>> Read: Kirk Cousins Can Change Playoff Narrative

If You’re Betting on the Giants

A Giants bet is built on two core concepts. The first is their defensive front is a talented group capable of taking over a game. New York’s best chance of limiting Minnesota’s talented offense is through consistent disruption in the trenches. If New York pairs that with a strong running game between Barkley and Jones, while Jones has another above-average game as a passer, the Giants can win this game outright.

Most of the Giants’ wins this season have been driven by their defense, while their offense doesn’t turn the ball over. That gameplan doesn’t leave much room for error, which is among the reasons New York only beat two teams above .500 this season. The Giants have received a lot of hype since their blowout victory against the 4-12-1 Colts in Week 17. While the Giants have overachieved this season, I do wonder how many football enthusiasts realize New York finished significantly below .500 in the second half of the season.

One of your biggest concerns as a Giants bettor is New York’s losing ways in the second half of the season. Minnesota’s secondary is its most exploitable weakness. Even though Jones had success through the air against Minnesota a few weeks ago, it’s important to keep in mind the Giants still have one of the most limited groups of pass catchers in the league, and Jones is a better runner than a passer. Your other concern as Giants’ bettor is their ability to cover the Vikings’ talented skill group, especially Jefferson. Even if New York effectively mitigates Jefferson, both Cook and Hockenson have plus matchups in this contest.

Score Prediction: Vikings 27 Giants 20

Ryan’s Recent Betting Record:

ATS 2021: 49-31

ATS 2022: 48-32

Props 2022: 57-40

WATCH: NFC Playoffs Betting Preview

 

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