Levitan's Leverage: Top Wild Card Weekend Fantasy Football Matchups, Situations

The Chiefs, Rams, Saints and Patriots are the NFL’s top four teams in points per game. They all will play next weekend. This weekend we get a defensive-minded slate with three of the games featuring slowish, run-based matchups. A single 20-point game from an underowned, cheap player very well could break the slate as there simply aren’t likely to be many of them.

The point of this column is to use the news, snap counts, usage, matchups and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. Note that I am discussing the DraftKings main slate only, aka the four Wild Card games.

SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON

Ezekiel Elliott on a low-scoring slate

Yes, Elliott ($9,000) almost certainly will be the highest-owned player on the slate. But this is a unique four-gamer because of how low-scoring it projects to be. The league’s top two defenses in yards per play allowed (CHI, BAL) play this weekend and so do the Cowboys (eighth) and Texans (ninth). Throw in Chicago’s spread-the-wealth offense plus the extreme run-heavy ways of the Ravens and Seahawks, and we easily can see how getting to even 175 fantasy points will be tough. That will make 20 points worth far more than usual, and missing out on a 30-point game will be almost impossible to overcome.

So even though Elliott is the obvious play, passing on his three-down plus goal-line role and 25.4 touches per game is much scarier than it would be in a different slate context. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s fresh after taking Week 17 off and the Seahawks have sunk to 17th in rush defense DVOA.

Keke Coutee’s expected return to health

The Texans are desperately thin at wideout after losing both Will Fuller (knee) and Demaryius Thomas (Achilles). DeAndre Carter, a 5-foot-8 UDFA out of Sacramento State, has been forced into 74 percent of the snaps and a 16 percent target share over the past two weeks. The good news for Deshaun Watson is exciting fourth-round rookie Keke Coutee (hamstring) got three full practices in this week and is poised to play for the first time since Week 12.

I’d normally be very wary of a wideout in his first game off repeated hamstring pulls, but we’ve seen the Texans throw caution to the wind with Coutee ($4,000) before. He first pulled the hammy in training camp and didn’t debut until Week 4 against these Colts — and was targeted 15 times. Then Coutee aggravated the injury in mid-October, but in his first game back he saw another nine targets. The Colts’ defense forces the shallowest aDOT from opposing passers in the league (via JMtoWin), an ideal scheme for Coutee’s route tree. He ranks 204th in aDOT among 234 wideouts at just 4.66 yards.


GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS

Alshon Jeffery against the Bears

The Bears have the NFL’s best defense by virtually every statistical category, including DVOA and yards per play allowed. However, they are so dominant against running backs and tight ends that it forces volume to the perimeter. The Bears have faced the fourth-most wide receiver targets and allowed the fifth-most wide receiver catches.

Those are intriguing numbers for Jeffery ($5,900), who has turned 18 Nick Foles targets into a 16-301-1 line over the past three weeks. Foles also hit Jeffery for three touchdowns in three playoff games last season. His ability to score touchdowns at 6-foot-3 with elite leaping ability can overcome most matchups. Jeffery has 44 receiving TDs in 95 career NFL games and 18 in 32 as an Eagle.


CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS

Andrew Luck, Nyheim Hines, Dontrelle Inman

The Texans are the league’s biggest pass funnel, ranking 18th DVOA against the pass but first against the run. They’re 20th in yards per pass attempt allowed but first in yards per carry allowed. So we can safely expect Frank Reich to devise a pass-centric gameplan — Luck ($6,400) attempted 62 and 41 passes in two meetings with the Texans earlier this year. The problem is top target T.Y. Hilton (ankle) is operating at far less than 100 percent and appeared to aggravate the sprain in Week 17. “Even him limited, we want him out there,” Reich said. “He’s willing to do that. It is that much more important to spread it around and get everyone involved, and the get him involved at strategic times when we need him to make plays for us.”

The Texans also have stated Hilton is the extreme focal point of their defensive plan this week. So stacking Luck with secondary options such as Eric Ebron, Hines, Inman or Chester Rogers is going to make sense. Inman ran a route on 34 of Luck’s 40 dropbacks last week, has three red-zone targets over the past two weeks and gets a boost with Ryan Grant (toe) out.


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.