This is it, folks. The final DFS week of the season. (I won’t be playing -- let alone giving out picks for -- the truly degenerate 2-game Conference Championship slate.)
It’s a tough week. There are very few obvious spots to attack. Of the 8 teams remaining, 5 rank among the top 9 in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA. The exceptions: Tennessee (21st), Atlanta (22nd) and New England (31st).
The Patriots easily sport the week’s highest implied total at 30.25 (as of Wednesday afternoon). No other team is north of 24.75, and 3 of the 8 are sitting under 20.
Let’s get to the picks …
Tom Brady, Patriots ($7,000)
There’s a big gap between Brady and the rest of the QBs in our projections. The other 7 guys have either been fantasy disappointments, are in tough spots, or both.
Brady limped into the playoffs, completing just 59.4% of his passes with 6 TDs and 4 INTs over his last 4 games. I like his odds of bouncing back this week, though. Brady is at home against a Titans defense that ranked 20th in DraftKings points allowed to QBs -- 3rd worst among the 8 teams playing this week.
Brady has also -- not surprisingly -- been money in the postseason. He’s tossed multiple TDs in 7 of his last 8 playoff games.
With the best combination of floor and ceiling, Brady is this week’s top option for both cash games and tournaments.
Marcus Mariota, Titans ($5,900)
It took a passing TD to himself for Mariota to reach 20 DK points last week for just the 2nd time this season. We can’t count on that again.
But Mariota does seem like a good bet to return value at this price tag. He should have volume on his side with the Titans huge 13.5-point underdogs in New England. And the Patriots rank 28th in DK points allowed to QBs (worst among teams playing this weekend) and 21st in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA (2nd worst).
More importantly, we’ve seen the Titans unleash Mariota’s rushing ability lately. His 2 highest carry counts (10 and 8) and 2 of his 3 highest rushing-yard totals (60 and 46) of the season have come over the past 2 weeks. The Patriots allowed the 14th most QB rushing yards this season, despite facing the 10th fewest QB rushing attempts.
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers ($9,600)
Like Todd Gurley last week, Bell’s elite floor/ceiling combination is even more valuable on this week’s short slate.
He’s fresh off a 2-week hiatus and should be the focal point of Pittsburgh’s attack on Sunday. The Jaguars finished 1st in Football Outsiders’ pass defense rankings this season but just 26th against the run. Jacksonville also sits a mediocre 15th in FO’s RB coverage rankings.
Leonard Fournette, Jaguars ($6,900)
Fournette disappointed last week and is in a worse spot this week on the road as a 7.5-point underdog. I think that’ll leave him lower-owned than he should be.
Fournette is still 1 of the better volume bets at RB. He’s carried 18+ times in 5 straight games and caught 3+ passes in 8 straight. The rookie has also played his 2 highest snap rates of the season (87% and 85%) in his last 2 outings.
And this is a beatable matchup. The Steelers have struggled mightily against the run since losing LB Ryan Shazier, allowing 4.8 yards per carry to RBs over the past 4 weeks.
Fournette, of course, had a big one against a Steelers defense that had Shazier back in October, carrying 28 times for 181 yards and 2 scores.
Mark Ingram, Saints ($5,600)
Ingram is priced way down at his lowest mark since Week 6. But I still think he’ll be relatively low-owned considering he’s coming off 2 straight outings of single-digit DK points and has a tough on-paper matchup.
Minnesota allowed the fewest DK points to RBs this season and finished 5th in Football Outsiders’ run defense rankings. But this is a Saints offense that’s successfully leaned on its running game all season -- even in difficult matchups. On the road against an also-tough Vikings pass defense, look for a run-heavy attack from New Orleans this weekend.
Latavius Murray, Vikings ($5,400)
I’m also expecting Minnesota to pound the rock early and often against a Saints defense that finished 5th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense rankings but 23rd against the run.
Murray emerged as the Vikings’ clear lead back down the stretch, carrying 20+ times in 3 straight to close out the regular season. He also toted it a whopping 8 times inside the 10-yard line over that stretch.
Jay Ajayi, Eagles ($4,600)
We saw his role expand late this season, with 16, 14 and 16 touches in his last 3 games. Then Ajayi got the starter’s treatment, being deactivated for the meaningless finale.
With Nick Foles under center, look for the Eagles to deploy a run-heavy attack featuring Ajayi this weekend. The Falcons finished the regular season 20th in Football Outsiders’ run defense rankings and coughed up 7.2 yards per carry to Todd Gurley last week.
Antonio Brown, Steelers ($8,100)
I’m not sure what to make of Brown’s projected ownership this week. On one hand, he’s at his cheapest price of the season on a short slate with few elite WRs to pay up for. On the other hand, he draws Jacksonville’s top-ranked WR defense and still has that “Q” tag next to his name.
I’m leaning toward Brown coming in lower-owned than he should, so I want some tournament exposure to him. He’s as matchup-proof as they come and proved that again in this year’s 1st meeting with the Jags, posting a big 10-157 line on 19 targets.
While Jacksonville’s secondary remains top notch, it’s worth noting that they ranked “just” 12th in PPR points allowed to WRs over the final 5 weeks of the regular season. Five WRs tallied 14+ points against them during that stretch.
Mohamed Sanu, Falcons ($5,700)
While Eagles slot CB Patrick Robinson fared well in Pro Football Focus’ grading this season, most of the biggest games Philly allowed to WRs came from slot guys. That includes lines of 5-84 (Doug Baldwin), 5-118-1 (Cooper Kupp) and 11-139-1 (Sterling Shepard) over the last 5 weeks.
Sanu runs 67% of his routes from the slot and is coming off back-to-back games of 70+ yards. He’s seen 5+ targets in 7 straight, with 8+ in 4 of those.
Nelson Agholor, Eagles ($4,800)
Here’s my favorite value at WR for the week. We successfully attacked Falcons slot CB Brian Poole last week with Rams WR Cooper Kupp, who went for 69 yards and a score on 8 catches. Now it’s Agholor’s turn.
On top of the plus matchup, Agholor has been Philly’s most productive WR since QB Nick Foles took over. He’s hauled in 16 of 22 targets for 154 yards and 1 TD from the backup. The targets, catches and yards all rank 2nd behind only TE Zach Ertz (18-of-26 for 166).
Eric Decker, Titans ($3,800)
A popular value pick last week, Decker bailed owners out with a late TD. He’ll be lower-owned this time around and is in just as good a spot.
Tennessee’s passing volume will be elevated if this game goes according to script. And Decker has easily the best matchup among Titans WRs. While Patriots outside CBs Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler finished 12th and 44th, respectively, in Pro Football Focus’ coverage grades, slot CB Eric Rowe ranked 102nd. Only 2 CBs playing this weekend allowed more fantasy points per route covered than Rowe.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots ($7,100)
Like Le’Veon Bell, Gronk’s combination of safety and upside makes him uber-valuable on this short slate.
He’s in a particularly strong matchup this weekend against a Titans squad that finished the regular season 25th in DraftKings points allowed to TEs and 24th in Football Outsiders’ TE coverage rankings. They’re easily the worst TE defense still alive.
Zach Ertz, Eagles ($5,800)
The Falcons ranked 8th in DK points allowed to TEs largely because they yielded just 4 TDs. They finished a middling 16th in catches allowed, 17th in receiving yards allowed and 14th in Football Outsiders’ TE coverage rankings.
So this is a fine matchup for Ertz, who’s remained productive with QB Nick Foles. As mentioned above, Ertz leads the Eagles in targets (26), catches (18) and yards (166) from Foles.
Vance McDonald, Steelers ($2,500)
If you’re looking to punt at TE, min-priced McDonald is your man.
In his 2 games prior to the meaningless finale, McDonald posted matching lines of 4-52 on 11 total targets. He could see an expanded role this weekend with Pittsburgh’s WRs dealing with an elite Jacksonville CB group. The Jags finished just 20th in Football Outsiders’ TE coverage rankings.
Our top-ranked defense for the week is too expensive for cash games but makes sense in tournaments.
Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has been Bortling hard lately, completing just 55.1% of his passes with 5 INTs over his last 3 games. If the Steelers can get out to a lead in this one and force Bortles to chuck it, there’s big turnover upside.
It’s also worth noting that Pittsburgh finished the regular season 1st -- ahead of even Jacksonville -- with 56 sacks.
New England might boast this week’s best combination of price and matchup. The Titans ranked 16th in DK points allowed to defenses this season -- worst among the 8 remaining teams. The Patriots, meanwhile, averaged a respectable 8.5 DK points per game at home, including 9+ in each of their last 4 in Foxboro.
They’re big home favorites this weekend -- the setup we’re looking for in cash games.
The matchup is far from ideal -- although it does get a boost with the loss of Saints LG Andrus Peat.
This is mostly about getting a talented defense playing at home for a good price. Minnesota allowed just 8 offensive TDs in 8 home games this season, while racking up 24 sacks and 9 takeaways. The Vikings averaged 8.8 DK points at home and failed to reach 6 just once. (That came against the Saints but was way back in Week 1.)
A similar situation to the Vikings: good defense at a good price in a bad matchup.
Atlanta allowed the 9th fewest DK points to opposing defenses this season. But Philly’s defense scored the 2nd most among teams playing this weekend. That includes a strong average of 11.5 DK points across 8 home games.