Schultz, Cowboys Should Thrive at Home

Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz
Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Wild Card - I guess even an 18-week regular season has to come to an end. But while your traditional fantasy leagues may be finished, there are plenty of ways to enjoy fantasy football in the NFL playoffs. Bryan Knowles runs a staff playoff league that is fun and easy to emulate. And DFS is always an option to add a little spice to the playoff matchups that, if you're like me, may not include your hometown teams.

The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven)—home and road and dome and outside—the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.

You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.

Quarterbacks

Best Week 19 Matchups - Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
M.Stafford LAR 1 ARI Rk 8 7 7 6  
Pts   +2.0 0.0 +0.7 +2.7
D.Prescott DAL 1 SF Rk 6 4 4 5  
Pts   +1.8 0.0 -0.2 +1.6
J.Garoppolo SF 0 DAL Rk 9 9 9 9  
Pts   +1.2 0.0 -0.4 +0.8
K.Murray ARI 0 LAR Rk 4 2 2 3  
Pts   +1.3 0.0 -0.8 +0.5

The four outdoor games have at least some elements of weather. Cincinnati and Kansas City will have kickoff temperatures below freezing. Buffalo will be bitterly cold at 3 degrees Fahrenheit. And while Tampa will be comfortable at 72 degrees, it is forecasted to have 18 mph sustained winds with gusts to 32 mph. In short, you should consider some dome stacks. I particularly love pretty much everybody in the 49ers-Cowboys game. The 49ers' secondary was in shambles even before the bulk of their remaining secondary got COVID last week. Unsurprisingly then, their defense ranks second in run defense DVOA but just 16th in pass defense, and they cut run plays by 4% per game and slightly boost passing touchdowns by 2% per attempt because of it. That's about as good as Dak Prescott could hope for in a playoff opponent, especially coupled with his normal tendency to score 7.2 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road.

The Cowboys defense is better against the pass (second) than the run (16th), a split that is bad for opposing fantasy quarterbacks. But they make their biggest impact with sacks and interceptions (increase by 92%, the most in football), outcomes that are worse in reality than in typical fantasy scoring. In net, expect Jimmy Garoppolo to be better than usual thanks to a dome venue, which tends to increase passing yards and touchdowns by 4% and 8% per attempt even for quarterbacks on the road. Garoppolo is my favorite inexpensive quarterback in DFS this week and a non-traditional stacking option with backfield teammates such as Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel. Fingers crossed for more passing than rushing touchdowns in the red zone.

Best DraftKings Values: Jimmy Garoppolo ($800 underpriced at $5,300), Dak Prescott ($500 underpriced at $6,400), Matthew Stafford ($300 underpriced at $6,300)

Best FanDuel Values: Jimmy Garoppolo ($600 underpriced at $6,800), Ben Roethlisberger ($400 underpriced at $6,400), Matthew Stafford ($300 underpriced at $7,600)

Matthew Stafford has a less extreme home/road split than Prescott in recent seasons. But he has averaged 1.1 more fantasy points at home than on the road, a major advantage, especially with so many quarterbacks outside with weather concerns this week. And while his opposing Cardinals cling to their top-five pass defense DVOA, they have settled into a neutral or slightly plus matchup from a fantasy perspective. The Cardinals increase interception rate by 5%, yes. And Stafford saw his MVP chances evaporate by throwing 10 interceptions inside his 30-yard line. But Stafford has also thrown two or three touchdowns in six of his last seven games, and the Cardinals increase passing touchdown rate by 18%, fourth-most in football.

Worst Week 19 Matchups - Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
J.Allen BUF 1 NE Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.6 +0.2 -1.3 -1.7
M.Jones NE 0 BUF Rk 12 12 12 12  
Pts   -0.5 0.0 -1.2 -1.7
J.Hurts PHI 0 TB Rk 5 6 6 7  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -0.7 -1.1
P.Mahomes KC 1 PIT Rk 2 3 3 2  
Pts   -0.7 +0.2 -0.2 -0.7

Typical cold weather has less of an impact on stats than you might expect, and that wind and precipitation do. It cuts pass and run plays, but by less than 2% per game. It cuts passing yards by 2% per attempt. But it also increases rushing touchdown rate by 15%, which is why noted goal-line runner Josh Allen pops as a weather gainer in our weekly projections model. But 3 degrees Fahrenheit is hardly typical cold weather. There have been just eight games below 10 degrees since 2009, and only the Bears-Cowboys game from Week 14, 2013 bested 404 combined passing yards between the teams. A high total seems particularly unlikely this Saturday since the Bills and Patriots have top-three pass defenses by DVOA and barely got to 600 combined passing yards in two regular-season matchups. We project Allen and Jones to both lose 1.7 fantasy points in those difficult conditions, and those estimates may undersell their likely losses.

Worst DraftKings Values: Joe Burrow ($500 overpriced at $6,800), Tom Brady ($400 overpriced at $7,300), Josh Allen ($200 overpriced at $7,800)

Worst FanDuel Values: Patrick Mahomes ($400 overpriced at $8,700), Tom Brady ($200 overpriced at $8,400), Joe Burrow ($200 overpriced at $7,800)

Tom Brady could be the sneaky weather victim this weekend since high winds increase run plays by 3% per game and cut passing yards and touchdowns by 2% and 5% per attempt. That may not matter for the Bucs as a team. Their opposing Eagles rank 19th in run defense, and both Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard could return from injured reserve this week even if Ronald Jones remains doubtful with an ankle injury. I'm just not eager to pay Brady's $7,300 and $8,400 DFS salaries in circumstances that could incentivize his team to run the ball.

Running Backs

Best Week 19 Matchups - Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
J.Mixon CIN 1 LV Rk 3 3 3 1  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.7 +0.8
D.Williams KC 1 PIT Rk 14 14 14 14  
Pts   0.0 +0.1 +0.3 +0.4
D.Harris NE 0 BUF Rk 11 11 11 11  
Pts   -0.2 +0.2 +0.3 +0.3
R.Stevenson NE 0 BUF Rk 16 17 16 15  
Pts   -0.1 +0.1 +0.3 +0.3

The Bills rank 11th in run defense DVOA, but they are a plus running matchup because they are even better against the pass (first) and increase rushing touchdown rate by 26% because of it. Meanwhile, the Bills are just 29th with a 74% allowed power success rate, a reality the Patriots made clear in their windy first matchup with their division rival when they ran 46 times for 4.8 yards per carry and threw just three passes. The extreme cold may not slow Josh Allen as severely as 40 mph winds did, but the Patriots could still run the ball 30 or more times and prop up both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson as fantasy options. I prefer Harris in an absolute, but Stevenson is the better value proposition in daily formats. He left Week 18 with a head injury but was cleared to return and is not on the injury report this weekend. And that may make it difficult for Harris to continue his insane run of six touchdowns the last three weeks.

Best DraftKings Values: Leonard Fournette ($1,600 underpriced at $5,900), Elijah Mitchell ($900 underpriced at $6,600), Sony Michel ($800 underpriced at $5,400)

Best FanDuel Values: Rhamondre Stevenson ($700 underpriced at $5,200), Leonard Fournette ($600 underpriced at $7,300), Sony Michel ($400 underpriced at $6,700)

Leonard Fournette is an injury risk. His activation from injured reserve and return to practice this week bodes well for a return to the field. But his hamstring injury carries a risk of reinjury and could limit his workload in any case. I prefer to be optimistic. Before the injury cut his Week 15 short, Fournette had settled into a 61.4% carry share that had him 12th at the position in the second half of the season. And even overlapping with receiving back Bernard for much of the year, Fournette has a full-season target share of 14.0%, eight-highest at the position. With Ronald Jones unlikely to play, the Bucs will want to rely on Fournette as much as possible with his superior skill set to his backups Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Le'Veon Bell. I would take a chance on a bell-cow volume in one of the better situations for a runner in Wild-card weekend.

Worst Week 19 Matchups - Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
J.Howard PHI 0 TB Rk 14 15 15 17  
Pts   -0.2 +0.1 -0.6 -0.7
M.Sanders PHI 0 TB Rk 12 13 12 13  
Pts   -0.2 +0.1 -0.5 -0.6
N.Harris PIT 0 KC Rk 1 1 1 3  
Pts   -0.3 +0.2 -0.4 -0.5
E.Mitchell SF 0 DAL Rk 6 6 6 6  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 -0.6 -0.5

The Eagles should see similar rushing reinforcements to their opposing Buccaneers. But as tremendous a running team as they typically are, Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders may not match Fournette for fantasy success given their respective matchups. The Bucs have slipped from first in run defense DVOA last year to 12th this year, but they remain a top-10 cutter of rushing yards and touchdowns by 6% and 25% per attempt. And teams seem just as scared by the Bucs matchup as ever. They cut run plays by 46% per game, by far the most in football. The Eagles are unlikely to quickly abandon their preferred rushing strategy, but I wouldn't want to bet my fantasy fortunes on their success in those efforts. And Howard strikes me as a particular bad bet. He has caught just two passes in seven games this season and almost certainly would need to score to make his fantasy day.

Worst DraftKings Values: Damien Harris ($1,000 overpriced at $6,400), Chase Edmonds ($300 overpriced at $5,000), Cam Akers ($100 overpriced at $4,200)

Worst FanDuel Values: Damien Harris ($1,000 overpriced at $7,500), Ezekiel Elliott ($700 overpriced at $7,700), Chase Edmonds ($700 overpriced at $6,400)

If James Conner were unable to play this Sunday because of the rib injury he suffered last week, then Chase Edmonds would likely see a featured role and become a standout DFS value. But assuming Conner can play, then I would fade Edmonds at his pre-injury daily prices. From Weeks 1 to 8, Edmonds out-targeted Conner 38 to five and ranked seventh among all backs with a 15.5% target share. He effectively matched J.D. McKissic for flex value in PPR formats. But since Edmonds suffered his ankle injury in Week 9, Conner has taken dramatically more targets. He has a 13.4% target share in the second half that just misses the top 10 at the position, and he has been tremendously effective in his expanded role with a 62.4% receiving DVOA that leads the position. I wouldn't count on Conner and Edmonds falling back into their same first-half time share. And Edmonds has his own rib injury to deal with and appears to be as big a question mark for Monday as his teammate. The prudent move may be to avoid the entire Cardinals backfield in fantasy. It's not as if a Rams defense ranked fifth in run defense DVOA is an appealing matchup.

Wide Receivers

Best Week 19 Matchups - Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
C.Kupp LAR 1 ARI Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   +2.3 0.0 +0.2 +2.5
A.Cooper DAL 1 SF Rk 12 10 10 10  
Pts   +1.1 0.0 +0.2 +1.3
C.Lamb DAL 1 SF Rk 9 7 7 6  
Pts   +1.2 0.0 0.0 +1.2
D.Samuel SF 0 DAL Rk 4 3 3 3  
Pts   +0.7 0.0 -0.2 +0.5

The weather concerns I detailed for quarterbacks extend to their receivers and make the wideouts with dome venues the most appealing fantasy options this weekend. Cooper Kupp is a no-brainer building block no matter his matchup. But I want to highlight Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, whose fantasy value has ebbed more than it has flowed in recent weeks. I blame the matchups. They don't match Prescott in their extremity, but Cooper and Lamb have averaged 3.8 and 1.4 more PPR points at home than on the road the last few seasons. And it's probably not coincidence that Lamb's seven-game scoring drought dating back to Week 11 includes just two games in the dome in Dallas. I believe both receivers could rebound on Sunday. Starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley returned from injured reserve to play 100% of snaps in Week 18 and will have the 49ers secondary in better shape than they were in the latter third of the season. But the team is still stuck playing rookie Ambry Thomas; despite his game-sealing interception of Matthew Stafford last weekend, he still ranks last of the 100 cornerbacks with 30 or more targets this season with 10.6 yards allowed per target.

Best DraftKings Values: Cooper Kupp ($2,700 underpriced at $9,000), Cedrick Wilson ($700 underpriced at $4,400), Zay Jones ($500 underpriced at $4,200)

Best FanDuel Values: Zay Jones ($600 underpriced at $5,300), Breshad Perriman ($300 underpriced at $5,200), Cedrick Wilson ($200 underpriced at $6,000)

As bullish as I am on the star Cowboys receivers, Cedrick Wilson remains my preferred choice as his inexpensive $4,400 and $6,000 DFS salaries. Wilson went from playing 10 snaps combined in Weeks 14 and 15 to 47% and 68% snap shares the last two weeks after normal third receiver Michael Gallup tore his ACL. And Wilson has six targets in each of his last two spot starts and three total touchdowns. With the home dome boost, I rank Wilson 14th among all receivers this weekend. But his salaries are just the 24th- and 17th-most expensive in DraftKings and FanDuel.

Along similar lines, Zay Jones and Breshad Perriman should see more targets than usual this weekend and have not seen their DFS prices catch up. Jones has quietly become the Raiders' top outside receiver and has a 22.0% target share since Week 12 that ranks 22nd at the position. Jones hasn't scored in that stretch, but he has 2.0 expected touchdowns and suffers the fifth-biggest touchdown shortfall at his position. His luck should improve if he can continue his current role. Perriman has less extended evidence of his potential renaissance. But he did play 62% of snaps in Week 18 and saw a season-high six targets. And the Bucs don't have many other options to consider. With Antonio Brown released, Chris Godwin out for the season, and Cyril Grayson doubtful for Sunday with a hamstring injury, Perriman should start on the outside opposite Mike Evans with Tyler Johnson in a to-date fantasy-unfriendly role in the slot.

Worst Week 19 Matchups - Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
J.Meyers NE 0 BUF Rk 11 14 14 15  
Pts   -0.5 0.0 -0.5 -1.0
K.Bourne NE 0 BUF Rk 19 20 20 24  
Pts   -0.2 -0.1 -0.6 -0.9
S.Diggs BUF 1 NE Rk 3 4 4 4  
Pts   -0.3 +0.1 -0.7 -0.9
D.Smith PHI 0 TB Rk 14 16 16 16  
Pts   -0.5 0.0 -0.3 -0.8

Assuming I convinced you to avoid the passing options in the impending ice bowl in Buffalo, then DeVonta Smith is the next receiver to consider for his bad matchup. No. 1 receivers offset some of their typical declines from high winds like their target totals and yards per target with a 19% increase in touchdowns per target—teams seem to consolidate their passing efforts to their main weapons when they can't run their full playbooks. But the Bucs rank 10th in pass defense DVOA and cut No. 1 receiver yards and touchdowns by 18% and 31% per target. And as more than a touchdown underdog, the Eagles seem likelier to trend extreme toward a run-focused game plan that, if effective, would limit Tom Brady's offensive opportunities than to sling the ball all over a very windy yard. With the matchup concerns, Smith falls from 14th to 16th at the position this week and stands out as a player to avoid at his typical salaries in daily formats.

Worst DraftKings Values: DeVonta Smith ($600 overpriced at $5,500), A.J. Green ($500 overpriced at $4,900), Stefon Diggs ($300 overpriced at $7,200)

Worst FanDuel Values: Hunter Renfrow ($1,100 overpriced at $7,300), Stefon Diggs ($700 overpriced at $8,000), DeVonta Smith ($100 overpriced at $6,200)

Zay Jones' emergence on the outside for the Raiders hasn't slowed down Hunter Renfrow's fantasy breakout. Renfrow ranks seventh at the position in PPR points in the second half of the season. But Jones' development has dropped Renfrow from a 24.7% target share from Weeks 9 to 14 to an 18.1% share the last four weeks. And while Renfrow has offset those losses in fantasy with four touchdowns, his scoring run seems unlikely to continue. For one, he has a surplus of 1.9 touchdowns over his expected total of 5.1 from the second half, the sixth-biggest at his position. And for another, Renfrow will have to contend with his star tight end teammate Darren Waller, who returned from several injuries and a COVID stint to play in Week 18 and seems likely to reassert his standing as Derek Carr's preferred end zone target. That doesn't make Renfrow a bad fantasy option in general. It just makes him overpriced at his $7,300 FanDuel salary.

Tight Ends

Best Week 19 Matchups - Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
D.Waller LV 0 CIN Rk 5 4 4 4  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 +0.4 +0.6
D.Schultz DAL 1 SF Rk 7 7 7 6  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 +0.1 +0.4
G.Kittle SF 0 DAL Rk 4 4 4 5  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.2 +0.3
C.Brate TB 1 PHI Rk 13 13 13 13  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 +0.3 +0.2

Speaking of Waller, his return to elite fantasy status should be aided by a Bengals opponent that ranks better against the run (13th in DVOA) than the pass (24th) and promotes tight end yards and touchdowns by 14% and 15% per target. But his position-leading matchup boost of 0.6 projected PPR points says as much about his likely volume as it does the matchup. Broadly speaking, tight ends can't face a better matchup than an Eagles team that has allowed 14 touchdowns to the position this season, four more than the Raiders and six more than any other playoff teams.

Elsewhere, the Eagles increase tight end touchdown rate by 76%. And while Rob Gronkowski is a lineup fixture no matter his matchup, backup Bucs tight end Cameron Brate could join Gronk as a fantasy option in this spot and is a compelling option to save some salary for other positions in DFS. Brate has not seen a heavy target volume even as he has lost some receiver teammates, but he has seen 12.0 end zone targets and 7.4 expected touchdowns per 100 targets since Tom Brady became his quarterback in 2020. That latter total has him ahead of popular touchdown-scorers like Hunter Henry (7.2) and Pat Freiermuth (6.5) at the position.

Best DraftKings Values: Cameron Brate ($700 underpriced at $2,800), Dallas Goedert ($400 underpriced at $4,500), Pat Freiermuth ($300 underpriced at $4,200)

Best FanDuel Values: Cameron Brate ($500 underpriced at $4,600), Pat Freiermuth ($400 underpriced at $6,400), Dallas Goedert ($200 underpriced at $5,900)

I may not be eager to rely on other members of the Eagles passing game, but I would make an exception for Dallas Goedert. He has enjoyed an exceptional 24.1% target share since the Eagles traded Zach Ertz in Week 7 that ranks him second at the position behind only Mark Andrews. And while the Bucs are an absolutely bad matchup against tight ends, their cutting of yards and touchdowns by 6% and 9% per target are dramatically less extreme than their effects on other positions. Goedert's $700 and $400 salary decreases in DraftKings and FanDuel from last week may overstate his likely losses for the matchup. To my mind, they make Goedert one of the few elite tight ends that doesn't suffer dramatic salary markups in daily formats.

Worst Week 19 Matchups - Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
T.Kelce KC 1 PIT Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.7 -0.1 -0.6 -1.4
D.Knox BUF 1 NE Rk 11 11 11 11  
Pts   -0.2 0.0 -0.3 -0.5
T.Higbee LAR 1 ARI Rk 9 9 9 9  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 -0.5 -0.3
H.Henry NE 0 BUF Rk 10 10 10 10  
Pts   +0.2 -0.1 -0.3 -0.2

With Kansas City's pedestrian-by-comparison cold-weather concerns and Patrick Mahomes' traditional defiance of matchup considerations in any case, the Chiefs mostly avoid my scrutiny this weekend. They seem likely to crush a Steelers defense that has eroded from first in overall DVOA in 2020 to just 14th this season. That said, the Steelers are dramatically better in pass defense (eighth) than run defense (27th) and tend to increase their opponents' run plays by 9% per game. And they are particularly strong in defense of tight ends, against whom they are a top-10 cutter of catch rate (4%), yards per target (9%), and touchdowns per target (38%). Travis Kelce isn't just any tight end, and he doesn't lose his No. 1 ranking at the position even with the bad matchup. But we do project Kelce to lose 1.4 PPR points for the matchup, a loss that at the very least makes him a tougher start at his outlier prices in daily formats.

Worst DraftKings Values: George Kittle ($1,100 overpriced at $6,000), Dawson Knox ($800 overpriced at $4,800), Travis Kelce ($700 overpriced at $6,700)

Worst FanDuel Values: Travis Kelce ($700 overpriced at $7,500), Dawson Knox ($600 overpriced at $6,000), Tyler Higbee ($300 overpriced at $5,900)

I wouldn't call the Cowboys a bad matchup for George Kittle. Like Kelce, Kittle may not even have bad matchups. And the Cowboys modestly increase tight end yards and touchdowns by 3% and 10% per target in any case, and offer Kittle one of the few dome venues for his position this weekend. But the 49ers have an unusual offense that sometimes demands that their most efficient receiver play primarily as a blocker—and rest assured Kittle is super good at that as well. Kittle saw just 12 combined targets over normal playing time against the Vikings, Titans, and Rams in the second half of the season, and those defenses are all in the top 10 in adjusted sack rate. The Cowboys are near that standard 12th and are dramatically better against the pass (second in DVOA) than the run (16th). The 49ers' path to victory likely includes a bunch of 15-play, 13-carry drives that eat up full quarters. And that may not highlight Kittle in the passing game. I can never recommend you outright avoid one of the handful of Tier 1 options at the position, but Kittle seems overpriced in DFS to me, especially at his $6,000 salary in DraftKings.

Comments

3 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2022, 8:04am

1 Waller vs Higgins?

First year doing playoff fantasy in full PPR. I have to pick between Tee Higgins and Darren Waller. Could also toss in Kittle. Full PPR. Any thoughts?

2 Re: Waller vs Higgins

I have that trio projected fairly close together with Higgins at 14.0 PPR points, Waller at 11.8, and Kittle at 11.6 this weekend. As such, I'd lean on the players for teams I think are more likely to advance. My odds there would go Bengals, then 49ers, then Raiders, so I'd go with Higgins and then Kittle over Waller.