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Top Plays for Wild Card Weekend Underdog Pick Ems

By Matt Schauf 11:27am EST 1/11/23


The NFL regular season may have ended, but it ain’t time to quit those Pick Ems just yet.

In fact, I’m shocked at the number of highlighted plays we’ve got this week, considering nearly two-thirds of the league will be sitting it out.

But before we get to the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs, let’s take our regular look back at the season to date. (Spoiler alert: It has gone pretty well.)

Week 1: 16-8
Week 2: 16-8
Week 3: 11-5
Week 4: 8-9
Week 5: 10-8
Week 6: 13-12
Week 7: 18-6
Week 8: 9-7
Week 9: 13-7
Week 10: 17-14
Week 11: 10-8
Week 12: 18-13
Week 13: 11-6
Week 14: 7-9
Week 15: 22-14
Week 16: 15-11
Week 17: 13-3
Week 18: 8-6
Overall: 235-154

How’s this for some Week 18 … stuff: Five of last week’s “wins” came on under plays. How many total unders did we highlight in that article? Five. So we went 5-0 on unders, 3-6 on overs.

I blame Trevor Lawrence, Doug Pederson and the entire county of Duval for any Pick Ems I lost. Lawrence’s player-prop line for passing yards even went significantly up from the number we used. His performance, however, was very much down, dragging Zay Jones (and Evan Engram, though his line came out too late to make our article) down with him.

That said, we still topped .500 for the week and have hit 60.4% of highlighted plays for the year. As always, you can compare our weekly fantasy football rankings to other available player props throughout the week. And if you haven't played on Underdog before, hit the graphic below for some free money ...

Here are this week's 17 highlighted plays, comparing the early lines to our projections …


Passing

Josh Allen, Bills
Draft Sharks projection: 266.2 yards
Underdog: 255.5
Difference: 10.7

Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars
DS: 235
Underdog: 250.5
Difference: -15.5

Are we overreacting to Lawrence’s Week 18 performance? I don’t think so. The guy is coming off 3 straight games of less than 230 passing yards. The Chargers defense, meanwhile, climbed into negative territory as a QB matchup by our adjusted fantasy points allowed. They quietly performed as the #2 defense overall in Football Outsiders DVOA for Weeks 13-17.


Receiving

Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
Draft Sharks projection: 108.2 yards
Underdog: 93.5
Difference: 14.7

George Kittle, TE, 49ers
DS: 56.5
Underdog: 43.5
Difference: 13.1

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers
DS: 57
Underdog: 46.5
Difference: 10.5

Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Giants
DS: 52.5
Underdog: 43.5
Difference: 9

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals
DS: 44.3
Underdog: 35.5
Difference: 8.8

Cade Otton, TE, Buccaneers
DS: 31.4
Underdog: 23.5
Difference: 7.9

Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
DS: 30.1
Underdog: 22.5
Difference: 7.6

Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers
DS: 49.8
Underdog: 42.5
Difference: 7.3

Wait a minute … Is that three 49ers receiving overs without their QB even making the list? Well, if you check our QB rankings for the week, you’ll see that we’re also over on Brock Purdy’s yardage. His gap of +8.6 just didn’t make the 10-yard cutoff I arbitrarily set at the beginning of the year. It is worth noting, however, that he has reached this week’s opening market number (224.5) just twice in 5 starts.

By the way, don't read Hodgins' inclusion as our strong stand in his favor. We just happen to have him slightly ahead of the Giants' other top 2 WRs in yardage, while the market has him 3rd among them. It's a tightly packed group both on Underdog and in our rankings.


Rushing

Travis Etienne, Jaguars
Draft Sharks projection: 87 yards
Underdog: 77.5
Difference: 9.5

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
DS: 56.8
Underdog: 47.5
Difference: 9.3

Saquon Barkley, Giants
DS: 82.4
Underdog: 73.5
Difference: 8.9

Austin Ekeler, Chargers
DS: 59.7
Underdog: 51.5
Difference: 8.2


RB Total Yards

Travis Etienne, Jaguars
Draft Sharks projection: 105.7 yards
Underdog: 94.5
Difference: 11.2

Saquon Barkley, Giants
DS: 110.6
Underdog: 101.5
Difference: 9.1

Christian McCaffrey, 49ers
DS: 104.9
Underdog: 115.5
Difference: -10.6

This is a robust number of RB options, considering how many teams are playing and how many we usually get in this space. McCaffrey might be a surprising under, but he has gotten the ball less when Elijah Mitchell has been available: 16 opportunities per game, compared with 24.6 opportunities per game when Mitchell was out.

Looking at the other names and matchups might make Elliott look odd as an over. The Buccaneers have been 8th-toughest on RBs by adjusted fantasy points allowed. But they’ve allowed the 13th most yards per carry to the position (4.44) – slightly more than the Falcons (among others).

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