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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Playoff Fantasy Football: Wildcard Weekend
Road to the Super Bowl

As I enter my 10th year of writing this postseason column, I hope I have helped some of you along the way supplement your regular-season fantasy prize winnings.

The layout of this column will remain unchanged from last season. While I will continue to play the Playoff Challenge and in Fuzzy's Fantasy Football's postseason money leagues, I recognize there are plenty of other formats out there. The first part of this week's column will be devoted to those owners who participate in the Playoff Challenge or any other format in which it is best or required to keep the players you draft for the duration of the postseason. The second half of the column is for owners who play in leagues in which you reset your lineup each week, such as a pick-your-studs league like Fuzzy's or a salary cap setup like DFS. Regardless of which format(s) you choose to play in, my goal over the next four articles will be to help each of you through your decision-making process as you attempt to boost your bottom line. Playoff Challenge/Multi-Week Leagues

For a complete rundown of how players will score fantasy points for your team, click on the “Rules & Prizing” link on the entry page. Some of the content immediately below is included on the “How to Play” page, although the information I provide below should be more than enough to follow along easily. Playoff Challenge scoring system

The requirements: one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE, one K and one D/ST. You will earn fantasy points based on their on-field performance during their game, and if your player's team wins, you will have the option to carry that player over to the next round, where he will earn a bonus point modifier to his score (which will be referred to as 2x, 3x and 4x from here on out).

For example, if you pick Drew Brees in the Wild Card round and the Saints win, you can carry him over to the Divisional Round, and earn two times (2x) the points he earns in his divisional round game. If New Orleans wins again, you can carry Brees into the Conference Championship round for 3x the points and, if the Saints make the Super Bowl, you can earn 4x the points. In addition, a user can select a player/defense in the Wild Card round even if their team has a bye into the Divisional Round. In this case, the user would not earn any points for the Wild Card round, but be eligible to earn 2x points in the Divisional round, since the player was on the team’s roster for two weekly scoring periods. Further bonus point modifiers would also apply as long as that player’s team continues to advance in the NFL Playoffs.

Before we get into the picks, let’s briefly review the rules and how we may use them to our advantage: 1) passing TDs are worth four points, so passing yards are valued more highly here than in the Fuzzy’s leagues I’ll discuss later but the same as DraftKings; 2) all field goals under 50 yards are worth three points, which means we are more concerned about volume of field goals than distance – unless we can find a kicker who regularly converts from 50-plus (DraftKings does not use kickers); 3) this is a non-PPR format, which obviously favors the big-play threats (both Fuzzy's and DraftKings are PPR); and 4) team wins are worth five points, so picking a “winning” defense is worth almost a touchdown prior to factoring in the modifiers.

Let's get the No. 1 rule of this game out of the way right now: if you have a good feeling about which two teams will meet in the Super Bowl, build your lineup exclusively with players from those two teams. Most previous playoff challenge champions' lineups are made up entirely of 4x Super Bowl participants. (In other words, it is important to project the Super Bowl entrants first and figure out what players from those teams to use second.) The multipliers are everything in this contest, so playing the week-to-week matchups are nearly meaningless. Think about it this way: if I told you that your regular-season fantasy team's scoring would double in Week 2, triple in Week 3 and quadruple in Week 4 if you simply left it the same, would it affect your draft strategy? Of course it would. The big week your team might post in the first week of this challenge - in the somewhat unlikely event you played the matchups perfectly - is going to seem rather insignificant in early February when every passing touchdown is worth 16 points, every other TD is worth 24 and the top teams in this competition are scoring 200-300 (or perhaps more) points per week.

As noted earlier, the main challenges are (in order): 1) correctly predicting the two conference winners and 2) forecasting the best fantasy players in that hypothetical Super Bowl matchup. This will be the only Playoff Challenge write-up I do this postseason, as I have reached the conclusion that any alterations I make to my lineup in the third and fourth weeks would be in response to a wrong pick on my part, and my analysis of a 1x or 2x player isn't going to matter very much. Much like in daily fantasy, the chalk plays probably aren’t going to win. (Of the hundreds of thousands of entries receives, how many do you think are going to line up their fantasy squads exclusively with Patrick Mahomes or Drew Brees just because they are the "best" fantasy quarterbacks?) In other words, be bold whenever possible! It's a free contest after all, so crashing and burning - even if it is in front of an audience like what I'm doing - isn't such a bad thing when you consider the reward is much greater than the risk involved.

Below you will find the 12 playoff teams ranked in order of the (percentage) odds I believe they have of making the Super Bowl. I'll spend a bit of time after that attempting to nail the bracket before talking a little DFS.

1. Baltimore (40%)
2. New Orleans (30%)
3. San Francisco (30%)
4. Kansas City (25%)
5. Green Bay (20%)
6. New England (13%)
7. Buffalo (10%)
8. Houston (6%)
9. Tennessee (6%)
10. Minnesota (5%)
11. Seattle (4%)
12. Philadelphia (1%)

With that out of the way, let's next focus on my week-to-week playoff projections and then the players I feel are realistic alternatives for this four-week sprint to the finish:

AFC - Wildcard: Bills over Texans, Titans over Patriots
NFC - Wildcard: Saints over Vikings, Seahawks over Eagles

AFC - Divisional: Chiefs over Bills, Ravens over Titans
NFC - Divisional: Saints over Packers, 49ers over Seahawks

AFC - Conference Championship: Ravens over Chiefs
NFC - Conference Championship: Saints over 49ers

Super Bowl: Ravens vs. Saints

Lamar Jackson

The rankings below are for those readers in similar leagues that require you to draft players this week and keep them for the duration of the postseason. The number inside the parentheses refers to how many games I expect that player/unit to play.


Tier 1
1. Lamar Jackson (3)

Tier 2
2. Drew Brees (4)
3. Patrick Mahomes (2)

Tier 3
4. Jimmy Garoppolo (2)
5. Russell Wilson (2)
6. Josh Allen (2)
7. Ryan Tannehill (2)
8. Deshaun Watson (1)
9. Aaron Rodgers (1)

Tier 4
10. Tom Brady (1)
11. Carson Wentz (1)
12. Kirk Cousins (1)

Just as amazing as it was to see a quarterback throw for over 5,000 yards AND 50 touchdowns in his first full season as a starter in 2018 (Mahomes), it has to be considered equally amazing owners were witness to a player capable of passing for over 3,000 yards, running for 1,200 more and accounting for 43 scores the following season (Jackson). Other than to be contrarian, there's not a particularly good reason to bet against Jackson being the best quarterback play in this challenge. He has his hand in just about every part of the Ravens' offense, plays for a team with very few weaknesses and probably owns the best odds of reaching the Super Bowl in his position group (and thus the 4x bonus).

Brees is not exactly the slam-dunk pick he has been in years past, but it could be argued he plays on the best team in the NFC and is the best candidate of the quarterbacks playing this weekend to make the Super Bowl, which would make him the only likely quarterback to provide owners four games of production. Working against Brees are some statistics we'll touch on in the DFS section, namely how much his production takes a hit away from home. While his actual play didn't drop off much from home versus road this year, his actual counting numbers did. If I felt more obligated to go contrarian here, I would have no problem making Mahomes the top pick. With that said, he doesn't quite possess near the upside Jackson does with potential matchups against the Bills and Ravens. Could he blow up in those games? Of course. But Jackson comes with a safer floor and easier potential matchups.

The only reason Garoppolo gets the nod over the remaining options is the likelihood his games will come attached with the 2x and 3x modifiers. Wilson would be a strong Tier 2 option (probably No. 3 overall) if I felt better about the Seahawks beating the 49ers again in San Francisco. As it is, Seattle could struggle to get past Philadelphia. There is rarely such a thing as an "easy" matchup in the playoffs, so the notion Allen will have his way with Houston just because the Texans have struggled against the pass could be a foolish one. Buffalo could just as easily struggle to stop Houston's running game. The good thing for Allen, however, is that both potential outcomes bode well for him. If the Bills control the game from the outset, it will likely be because the Wyoming product got it going early and cashed in yet again as the team's de facto goal-line back. If the Bills fall behind, Allen will have plenty of opportunities to try to exploit the Texans' below-average secondary. A potential matchup in the next round against the Chiefs isn't a great one for him, but his rushing contributions give him a safe floor. Then again, owners have to weigh that against the risk he'll face the Ravens.

Tannehill has a decent shot at getting two games, but he'll get the Ravens if Tennessee advances past this weekend. In a more ideal situation, Watson probably belongs at the top of Tier 3. As it is, he's got a poor matchup this week and runs the risk of not having Will Fuller able to play an entire game (again). Fuller's presence (or lack thereof) typically has a huge effect on the Texans' offense. Looking at his year-end numbers, Rodgers had another banner season. A closer look reveals that he failed to account for two touchdowns in nine of 16 games. Even if the Packers get by a likely matchup with the Saints, it's hard to forget how thoroughly the 49ers dominated Green Bay in their first matchup.

Running Backs

Tier 1
1. Alvin Kamara (4)
2. Mark Ingram (3)
3. Raheem Mostert (2)

Tier 2
4. Derrick Henry (2)
5. Aaron Jones (1)
6. Latavius Murray (4)
7. Damien Williams (2)

Tier 3
8. Devin Singletary (2)
9. Gus Edwards (3)
10. Dalvin Cook (1)
11. James White (1)
12. Miles Sanders (1)
13. Jamaal Williams (1)
14. Sony Michel (1)
15. Carlos Hyde (1)
16. Tevin Coleman (2)

Tier 4
17. Rex Burkhead (1)
18. Travis Homer (2)
19. Marshawn Lynch (2)
20. Duke Johnson (1)
21. LeSean McCoy (2)
22. Boston Scott (1)
23. Darwin Thompson (2)
24. Matt Breida (2)
25. Justice Hill (3)
26. Dion Lewis (2)
27. Alexander Mattison (1)
28. Frank Gore (2)
29. Jordan Howard (1)
30. Spencer Ware (2)

Much like Drew Brees, Kamara is an attractive fantasy playoff option if you believe the Saints can become the latest wild-card team to make the Super Bowl. The last two weeks of the regular season suggest he is over his ankle injury, and the last two postseasons - particularly last year - suggest that he may be used more in a featured role. The Ravens broke the league's team rushing record this season and are widely considered the favorite to win the Super Bowl, so Ingram is a somewhat obvious choice so long as his calf is good to go. In this challenge, I'll run that risk. (If his condition somehow deteriorates between now and Saturday, I'll either pivot to Mostert or Edwards.) Mostert is a much more dicey Tier 1 selection. However, the 49ers are the most likely team to make the Super Bowl of the 10 that I don't have making it, and Mostert has given no indication he is going to give up the lead-back role in this offense. As long he maintains that title for another month and San Francisco at least makes it to the NFC Championship, Mostert should prove worthy of his ranking.

Henry won't get the benefit of good matchups, but no other back can approach his potential volume. The Patriots and Ravens have each shown vulnerability against the run at times, so while Henry probably won't light it up, he should have no problem holding up his end of the bargain. Jones is easily the highest-ranked one-game back I have listed, if only because I acknowledge the Packers have a good shot at beating the Saints at Lambeau Field. If you feel Green Bay is the better team, I have no issue with Jones being moved ahead of Henry and into Tier 1. Murray is ranked extraordinarily high for obvious reasons; his workload could rival Ingram's in Baltimore and he could give his owners four games of production. I hate how high I have Damien Williams, but his recent efforts have probably given HC Andy Reid all the ammunition he needs to keep Williams in his current role for the rest of the season. Kansas City also has a legit shot at knocking off the Ravens should the two teams meet in the AFC Championship, which would give Williams three games.

Singletary and Edwards top Tier 3 because they possess the best combination of all the remaining backs of decent volume and multiple games. If we could trust Cook's shoulder to make it through a game, he might at the bottom of Tier 2 even though he is likely to only play one game. White, Sanders (assuming his ankle checks out), Jamaal Williams, Michel and Hyde are all reasonable bets to play two games that I have going out after one. Unfortunately, all but Sanders are stuck in somewhat limited roles. The only reason Sanders isn't listed higher is that we have no idea at this point if he will be limited in any way with his ankle injury. If he is ruled out, Scott would ascend into his spot on my list. I get the sense we haven't seen the last meaningful contribution from Coleman with the 49ers. Considering the Niners have a pretty good shot at playing three games, he needs to be included in Tier 2 even if he does nothing more than run for 30 yards and score a touchdown in the Super Bowl (which would be a 36-point effort after accounting for the 4x modifier).

Wide Receivers

Tier 1
1. Michael Thomas (4)
2. Tyreek Hill (2)

Tier 2
3. Deebo Samuel (2)
4. Emmanuel Sanders (2)
5. D.K. Metcalf (2)
6. John Brown (2)
7. Tyler Lockett (2)
8. Davante Adams (1)
9. Cole Beasley (2)

Tier 3
10. Marquise Brown (3)
11. DeAndre Hopkins (1)
12. Tre'Quan Smith (4)
13. Willie Snead (3)
14. A.J. Brown (2)
15. Julian Edelman (1)

Tier 4
16. Mecole Hardman (2)
17. Stefon Diggs (1)
18. N'Keal Harry (1)
19. Greg Ward (1)
20. Demarcus Robinson (2)
21. Ted Ginn Jr. (4)
22. Sammy Watkins (2)
23. Adam Thielen (1)
24. Will Fuller (1)
25. Mohamed Sanu (1)
26. Kenny Stills (1)
27. Corey Davis (2)
28. David Moore (2)
29. Geronimo Allison (1)
30. Phillip Dorsett (1)
31. Robert Davis (1)

It could be argued Thomas belongs atop the receiver board even if the Saints fail to make it out of the divisional round. Would anyone be surprised if he averages 10 catches and 100-plus yards in his first two games? I obviously believe it's quite conceivable the Chiefs make the Super Bowl, so betting on two games for Hill on the low end seems like a smart gamble.

Tier 2 provides owners a plethora of likely two-game options, including a pair of 49ers. Samuel and Sanders aren't what anyone would consider WR1-caliber options, but we have to acknowledge both have a realistic shot at playing three games. Both are also quite capable of a 100-yard game at some point during the postseason. I would have preferred not to place the trio of Metcalf, John Brown and Lockett as high as I did due to the reasonable probability the Seahawks and Bills could make a quick exit, but a two-game stay should be enough to make their owners feel good about their return on investment. Adams would be at the top of Tier 2 if I believed the Packers were going to make the NFC Championship, but there is going to come a time during the playoffs where Green Bay's defense isn't going to be able to cover for the sputtering offense anymore. Beasley is far from a glamorous option to round out Tier 2, but his probable matchups (Texans and Chiefs) are not scary. A pair of six-catch games with about 70 yards and a touchdown in one of the two contests is well within the range of outcomes.

The bulk of Tier 3 are situational players that catch a break because they are projected to stick around in the postseason for a little while. Hopkins and Edelman are the two exceptions; the former is in this tier only because he's going to have his hands full in the first and possibly only game he plays, while the latter is a highly volatile option due to his health. A.J. Brown's potential matchups - he faces the Patriots this week and will get the Ravens if the Titans win in Foxboro - are horrible. Meanwhile, Marquise Brown or Tre'Quan Smith could really pay off big if either or both hits a big scoring play in the Super Bowl. As most owners already will know, both players could go without a catch in one or two games too. Snead is not a great option. With that said, he could easily become a high-volume target if the Ravens fall behind in any game. He is also the one regular player on Baltimore's offense that defenses don't spend much time game-planning for, making him a bit of a contrarian player in both fantasy and reality.

Tight Ends

Tier 1
1. Travis Kelce (2)
2. George Kittle (2)

Tier 2
3. Mark Andrews (3)
4. Jared Cook (4)

Tier 3
5. Jonnu Smith (2)
6. Jacob Hollister (2)
7. Dallas Goedert (1)
8. Nick Boyle (3)
9. Hayden Hurst (3)
10. Jimmy Graham (1)
11. Dawson Knox (2)
12. Zach Ertz (1)
13. Darren Fells (1)
14. Kyle Rudolph (1)
15. Irv Smith Jr. (1)

Tier 4
16. Jordan Thomas (1)
17. Ben Watson (1)
18. Josh Perkins (1)
19. Jordan Akins (1)

The case can be made for Kittle over Kelce, but I'd rather roll with Patrick Mahomes' top target than Jimmy Garoppolo's. For what it's worth, I've already strongly considered the likelihood of making Kittle my No. 1 tight end heading into the offseason.

Andrews gets the nod over Cook in the showdown between the two tight ends in my projected Super Bowl matchup. Once again, the decision comes down to the likelihood of the Ravens making it all the way versus the upside of Cook getting the opportunity to play more games than anyone else at his position.

Much as the case was with A.J. Brown, I'm not loving the idea of Smith going off against the Patriots and/or Ravens. Nevertheless, I'll take that "upside" over the remaining one- and two-game options. Hollister is no sure thing to play more than one game himself, Goedert may lose some work to Ertz (something we may not know more about until the weekend) and the Eagles are likely one-and-done. Boyle and Hurst are "volume plays" (in terms of the potential number of games), while Ertz is the only other option that comes close to moving the needle for me. Given his injuries (cracked rib, lacerated kidney), I'll pass.


1. Justin Tucker (3)
2. Wil Lutz (4)
3. Harrison Butker (2)
4. Robbie Gould (2)
5. Steve Hauschka (2)
6. Nick Folk (1)
7. Jason Myers (2)
8. Greg Joseph (2)
9. Mason Crosby (1)
10. Ka'imi Fairbairn (1)
11. Jake Elliott (1)
12. Dan Bailey (1)

Defense/Special Teams

1. Ravens (3)
2. Saints (4)
3. 49ers (2)
4. Chiefs (2)
5. Patriots (1)
6. Bills (2)
7. Titans (2)
8. Packers (1)
9. Seahawks (2)
10. Texans (1)
11. Eagles (1)
12. Vikings (1) Playoff Challenge Roster
QB: Lamar Jackson
RB: Alvin Kamara
RB: Mark Ingram
WR: Michael Thomas
WR: Tyreek Hill
TE: Jared Cook
K: Justin Tucker
D/ST: Ravens


Since the pick-your-studs competition with Fuzzy's and the salary cap game of DraftKings essentially use the same PPR scoring (six points for passing touchdowns with Fuzzy's versus four fantasy points with DraftKings; three bonus points for 300 yards passing or 100 yards rushing/receiving versus no such bonus with Fuzzy's being the biggest differences), I'm going to essentially combine the two again this postseason.

Below you will find my position-by-position projections. Please note I have included DraftKings' dollar value for each player, followed by their projected point total in that format (DraftKings and then Fuzzy's). Because I went into some detail above, I won't spend a great deal of time explaining each projection here - only some of the more notable ones. Each position is sorted by my DraftKings' projected point total.

Key for quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends:
P Yds - Passing Yards
P TD - Passing Touchdowns
INT - Interceptions
Ru Yds - Rushing Yards
Ru TD - Rushing Touchdowns
Rec Yds - Receiving Yards
Rec TD - Receiving Touchdowns
Rec - Receptions

Player Tm DK$ P Yds P TDs INT Rec Re Yds Re TDs Ru Yds Ru TDs Fuzzy DK
Drew Brees NO 6,500 303 3 0 1 0 30.2 27.2
Josh Allen BUF 6,500 252 2 1 33 1 29.4 26.4
Russell Wilson SEA 6,800 264 2 0 18 0 24.4 20.4
Carson Wentz PHI 6,200 287 1 1 18 0 17.3 16.3
Ryan Tannehill TEN 6,300 250 1 0 18 0 17.8 15.8
Deshaun Watson HOU 6,400 249 1 1 23 0 16.3 15.3
Tom Brady NE 5,800 274 1 1 6 0 15.6 14.6
Taysom Hill NO 4,500 18 0 0 2 26 1 16 0 12.9 12.9
Kirk Cousins MIN 6,100 214 1 2 6 0 11.1 11.1

Brees technically played one more game at home this season than he did on the road, but his home/road splits suggest HC Sean Payton acknowledges what most fantasy owners already know: his quarterback's game is much more suited to playing indoors. In six home outings, Brees averaged 40 pass attempts, 333 passing yards and 2.7 touchdowns. In four full road games, he averaged 33 pass attempts, 236 passing yards and 2.5 TDs. To put it in the simplest terms for fantasy owners, Brees averaged 27.7 fantasy points (using DraftKings' scoring) at home and 15.6 on the road. Minnesota held up well against opposing passing attacks after its Week 12 bye, although it's hard to give the Vikings much credit for showing improvement when three of the quarterbacks they faced over that time were David Blough, Philip Rivers and Mitchell Trubisky.

My most likely pivot from Brees this week will be Allen if only because the other options I want to consider have difficult matchups (Watson and Tannehill). Houston allowed 11 quarterbacks to throw for at least two touchdowns and seven to throw for three or more TDs this season. Add in Tannehill's rushing score versus the Texans in Week 15 and Houston surrendered at least three TDs to quarterbacks in half of their games. Allen still has much work to do in order to become a complete NFL signal-caller, but it would be a pretty big upset if he can't produce at least 220 yards passing and two scores against a defense that allowed an average of 281 yards passing and 2.25 TDs to quarterbacks this season.

 Running Backs
Player Tm DK $ Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs Ru Yds Ru TDs Fuzzy DK
Derrick Henry TEN 8,200 1 9 0 112 2 25.1 28.1
Dalvin Cook MIN 7,800 5 56 0 70 1 23.6 23.6
Alvin Kamara NO 7,400 5 42 0 73 1 22.5 22.5
Miles Sanders PHI 6,200 5 52 0 56 1 21.8 21.8
Carlos Hyde HOU 5,100 1 6 0 78 1 15.4 15.4
James White NE 5,700 6 68 0 14 0 14.2 14.2
Sony Michel NE 4,600 1 8 0 62 1 14.0 14.0
Latavius Murray NO 5,000 2 14 0 37 1 13.1 13.1
Devin Singletary BUF 6,000 3 31 0 70 0 13.1 13.1
Travis Homer SEA 5,300 4 33 0 51 0 12.4 12.4
Boston Scott PHI 5,800 4 46 0 32 0 11.8 11.8
Marshawn Lynch SEA 5,200 1 9 0 36 1 11.5 11.5
Duke Johnson HOU 4,400 4 37 0 21 0 9.8 9.8
Rex Burkhead NE 4,500 3 21 0 26 0 7.7 7.7
Dion Lewis TEN 4,200 2 12 0 17 0 4.9 4.9
Alexander Mattison MIN 4,800 1 10 0 13 0 3.3 3.3
Frank Gore BUF 4,100 0 0 0 17 0 1.7 1.7

It's really anyone's guess whether or not Kamara benefited more from his high-ankle sprain becoming less of an issue late in the season, positive touchdown regression or both, but he seems to be in good shape now. For whatever reason, Minnesota got exposed a bit more often against the run this season than it usually does, making Kamara a safe stud pick with his usual insane upside. A potential lack of volume is usually the only question when it comes to him, as Murray looms as a threat to steal 10 touches and the occasional goal-line score. However, the Saints appeared to set a bit of a precedent in last year's playoffs when Kamara saw a total of 39 touches (on 41 opportunities) during their two-game run. If HC Sean Payton sticks to a similar plan - and it makes sense because he keeps such a close eye on his back's regular-season workload - than Kamara seems like a relatively obvious play in DFS this week.

There's a group of three backs I believe could match or exceed Kamara's fantasy production this week, although each will need plenty of help and luck to do it. With Julian Edelman ailing and not much else working offensively for New England, White has become the Patriots' most effective means to move the chains. The biggest problem for him is his job description doesn't include a ton of goal-line work. As any veteran DFS player knows, it's hard for a non-receiver to be pay off big as a DFS option if he doesn't find the end zone - especially when he doesn't get a ton of work as a runner.

The volume play - and perhaps the smart play - is Henry. Although Ryan Tannehill deserves plenty of credit for the impact he made on this Titans' offense, the offense has run through Henry and A.J. Brown since his promotion. With Brown likely to draw shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore this weekend, it's entirely possible the former Heisman Trophy winner will be asked to carry the offense. However, there are two major issues with him: 1) the Patriots' defense is still a very formidable unit despite falling off considerably during the second half of the season and 2) the Titans' desire to get Henry a league rushing title last week meant he handled 32 carries in a game he could have been rested after 22. New England has shown some vulnerability to running backs lately (Nick Chubb, Mark Ingram and Joe Mixon, most recently), so as long as last week's overuse doesn't come back to bite him this week, Henry should be a fine start.

The high upside play is Cook. Of every running back available to fantasy owners this weekend, Cook might possess the best combination of potential volume and a favorable matchup. That's not to say the Saints are a pushover versus running backs, but all Minnesota has to do is turn on the tape from New Orleans' games against Carolina and San Francisco - all in the last six weeks - to see what Christian McCaffrey and Raheem Mostert did against the Saints. Cook is quite comparable to McCaffrey and is arguably surrounded by a better supporting cast. His downside, as most owners already know, is his durability. Even though he's had two weeks off, there's no guarantee his shoulder is going to allow him to play a full complement of snaps.

 Wide Receivers
Player Tm DK$ Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs Ru Yds Ru TDs Fuzzy DK
Michael Thomas NO 9,300 11 132 1 0 0 30.2 33.2
John Brown BUF 6,000 6 102 1 0 0 22.2 25.2
D.K. Metcalf SEA 6,100 5 81 1 0 0 19.1 19.1
Tyler Lockett SEA 7,200 5 63 1 0 0 17.3 17.3
Julian Edelman NE 6,500 6 64 0 5 0 12.9 12.9
N'Keal Harry NE 4,100 3 37 1 0 0 12.7 12.7
Kenny Stills HOU 4,600 3 37 1 0 0 12.7 12.7
Cole Beasley BUF 5,600 6 64 0 0 0 12.4 12.4
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 7,700 6 63 0 0 0 12.3 12.3
Greg Ward PHI 5,200 6 61 0 0 0 12.1 12.1
Tre'Quan Smith NO 4,000 2 33 1 0 0 11.3 11.3
A.J. Brown TEN 7,400 4 54 0 14 0 10.8 10.8
Stefon Diggs MIN 6,600 5 53 0 0 0 10.3 10.3
Mohamed Sanu NE 3,900 4 44 0 0 0 8.4 8.4
Corey Davis TEN 3,800 3 46 0 0 0 7.6 7.6
Tajae Sharpe TEN 3,800 2 37 0 0 0 5.7 5.7
Adam Thielen MIN 6,200 2 28 0 5 0 5.3 5.3
DeAndre Carter HOU 3,400 2 29 0 0 0 4.9 4.9
Will Fuller HOU 4,900 2 28 0 0 0 4.8 4.8
Phillip Dorsett NE 3,200 2 27 0 0 0 4.7 4.7
David Moore SEA 3,400 2 22 0 0 0 4.2 4.2
JJ Arcega-Whiteside PHI 3,300 2 21 0 0 0 4.1 4.1
Isaiah McKenzie BUF 3,500 2 21 0 0 0 4.1 4.1
Laquon Treadwell MIN 3,000 1 18 0 0 0 2.8 2.8
Ted Ginn Jr. NO 3,600 1 16 0 0 0 2.6 2.6
Deontay Burnett PHI 3,100 1 13 0 0 0 2.3 2.3
Olabisi Johnson MIN 3,500 1 13 0 0 0 2.3 2.3
Keke Coutee HOU 3,300 1 13 0 0 0 2.3 2.3
Robert Davis PHI 3,200 1 11 0 0 0 2.1 2.1
John Ursua SEA 3,000 1 11 0 0 0 2.1 2.1

There are certain to be some contrarian plays, but the odds are overwhelmingly strong that Thomas will be a top-three receiver play this weekend. Minnesota hasn't been particularly good against receivers for the bulk of the season, and there may not be a tougher receiver to defend in the short and intermediate passing game than Thomas.

Given their recent play, it would be difficult to set either Hopkins or A.J. Brown. With that said, I'm not sure either player is anything close to a DFS/start-your-studs lock. There may not be two more difficult cornerbacks for a receiver to face in the game today than Stephon Gilmore and Tre'Davious White, and the aforementioned two receivers will be the ones getting shadowed by those corners for the better part of Saturday's games. That's not to say Hopkins or Brown will bust, however. Hopkins has caught at least five passes in 20 straight games, while DeVante Parker proved last week that Gilmore can get beat. Perhaps this is a game and situation in which the Patriots revert back to their recent past and put their No. 2 cornerback on Brown (with safety help over the top) while Gilmore shadows Davis.

Edelman would typically be a very solid DFS/start-your-studs choice, but it is becoming increasingly clear he's not healthy. He has three or fewer catches and 26 or fewer yards in two of his last three outings. He also hasn't been targeted more than seven times in those three contests after seeing at least eight targets in 11 of his first 13 games. With the Titans struggling to defend slot receivers, it's possible Edelman gets force-fed the ball in this game. However, recent evidence suggests it is also entirely possible he finishes with 5-7 PPR fantasy points.

While I'm sure I will work Hopkins and Edelman into some of my lineups this week, I'll be much more inclined to roll with a cheaper option like Metcalf in my DFS lineups with similar upside. Although Lockett remains Russell Wilson's go-to guy, I'm still not sure we've seen enough to believe Lockett is operating at 100 percent yet. Meanwhile, Metcalf should have a better matchup this week (he should draw Rasul Douglas most of the time while Lockett faces Avonte Maddox) and it seemed as though the rookie became more of a priority near the goal line as the regular season came to an end.

Given the matchup, Buffalo can't exactly be considered an under-the-radar source of fantasy production in the passing game this weekend. The problem for owners is deciding whether or not the Bills will try to exploit the Texans against slot receivers or follow in the footsteps of Houston's most recent opponents (Tennessee and Tampa Bay) and give their top perimeter threat all the opportunities he can handle. The likelihood is that both John Brown and Beasley will get their share, but I'll probably lean more toward Brown and his potential upside (even though he showed a pretty safe floor in 2019) over Beasley, who will almost certainly need to score a touchdown in order to pay off in a big way.

 Tight Ends
Player Tm DK$ Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs Ru Yds Ru TDs Fuzzy DK
Dallas Goedert PHI 5,200 8 83 1 0 0 22.3 22.3
Jonnu Smith TEN 3,800 5 58 1 0 0 16.8 16.8
Irv Smith MIN 2,700 3 28 1 0 0 11.8 11.8
Jared Cook NO 4,900 4 47 0 0 0 8.7 8.7
Jacob Hollister SEA 4,300 4 45 0 0 0 8.5 8.5
Tyler Kroft BUF 2,800 1 6 1 0 0 7.6 7.6
Dawson Knox BUF 2,900 2 28 0 0 0 4.8 4.8
MyCole Pruitt TEN 2,700 2 22 0 0 0 4.2 4.2
Jordan Akins HOU 2,800 2 17 0 0 0 3.7 3.7
Anthony Firkser TEN 2,500 1 12 0 0 0 2.2 2.2
Josh Hill NO 3,400 1 11 0 0 0 2.1 2.1
Jordan Thomas HOU 2,500 1 11 0 0 0 2.1 2.1
Kyle Rudolph MIN 3,500 1 8 0 0 0 1.8 1.8
Darren Fells HOU 3,000 1 8 0 0 0 1.8 1.8
Ben Watson NE 2,700 1 5 0 0 0 1.5 1.5

As is typically the case during playoff fantasy football, there are only about two realistic options at tight end. After being unable to do much of anything in his first month with the Saints, Cook became a red zone fiend over the last three months of the season. However, if there has been one part of the Vikings' defense that has remained the same as previous years, it is the ability to keep tight ends in check. Considering the quality of players Minnesota has defending the position more often than not (Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith), that news shouldn't come as a surprise.

The other strong option for fantasy owners is Goedert. Of course, this assumes Ertz (ribs, kidney) doesn't make a miraculous recovery over the next few days and plays a significant role. Assuming Ertz is ruled out, Goedert will once again be the most attractive non-running back option for Carson Wentz in the passing game. Ertz's injury has freed up Goedert for 22 targets over the last two weeks, and it certainly bears mentioning Seattle trailed only Arizona in terms of allowing fantasy points to the tight end position during the regular season. While I would expect the majority of fantasy owners to go with a name in Cook this week and a few others to go contrarian and hope for a small miracle from Ertz, Goedert represents the smartest play of the bunch.

Key for kickers and defense/special teams units:
XP - Extra point
FG - Field goal
PA - Points allowed
TD - Defensive/return touchdowns
TO - Total turnovers
F Bonus - Points allowed bonus for Fuzzy's
DK Bonus - Points allowed bonus for DraftKings

Player Tm XP FG Fuzzy
Wil Lutz NO 5 1 8
Nick Folk NE 2 2 8
Jason Myers SEA 3 1 6
Steve Hauschka BUF 3 1 6
Greg Joseph TEN 3 1 6
Ka'imi Fairbairn HOU 2 2 8
Jake Elliott PHI 2 1 5
Dan Bailey MIN 2 1 5

 Defense / Special Teams
Team DK $ PA Sacks TD TO F Bonus DK Bonus Fuzzy DK
Saints 3,000 17 5 0 3 1 1 12.0 12.0
Bills 3,100 17 4 0 2 1 1 9.0 9.0
Eagles 2,900 24 4 0 2 0 0 8.0 8.0
Seahawks 2,800 17 3 0 1 1 1 6.0 6.0
Patriots 3,400 24 4 0 1 0 0 6.0 6.0
Texans 2,600 24 3 0 1 0 0 5.0 5.0
Titans 2,400 20 1 0 1 1 1 4.0 4.0
Vikings 2,200 38 2 0 0 -3 -4 -1.0 -2.0

Despite the Patriots' early defensive dominance, it's hard to get overly excited about them recapturing the magic against a Tennessee team that committed 17 turnovers in 16 games and threw only two interceptions over the last seven contests. Similarly, the Titans don't seem like a particularly good option even with all the Patriots' issues on offense as few take care of the ball better than Tom Brady. Buffalo is a sound defense but not one that has shown much ability to be a great fantasy option (only one return TD in 2019). Even with the return of J.J. Watt, it's hard to feel great about the Texans' ability to force the Bills into multiple turnovers.

On the NFC side, the Seahawks would appear to have the easiest matchup given how ridiculously thin the Eagles are on offense. The problem is Seattle has allowed at least 24 points in five straight games (and seven of eight) and may not have the personnel to take advantage of Philadelphia's injury woes in the same way a team like the Patriots could. As for the Eagles D/ST, not many fantasy owners get rich by hoping Russell Wilson has an off-day. Given the state of Seattle's depth chart running back, it's fair to assume the Seahawks will be asking Wilson to do more this week than they usually do. While I still like the Vikings' defensive personnel, there's no way I'm betting on a good fantasy result for Minnesota in the Superdome - end of story. All of this leads us to their opponent this week - the Saints. Minnesota has been a favorable matchup for opposing defenses for five straight weeks. While I'm not a big fan of narratives - and don't believe in such a thing as Kirk Cousins is a "bad important game quarterback" - the fact of the matter is he has mostly underwhelmed since Vikings returned from their Week 12 bye. Combine that with the likelihood Dalvin Cook is unable to play a full game and there is a possibility New Orleans could go on a feeding frenzy if it gets off to a fast start.

Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”. Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.