The Cardinals v. Panthers, Ravens v. Steelers, Bengals v. Colts, and Lions v. Cowboys. As we look back on Week 17, there are only a handful of games that matter in terms of informing the DFS lineup choices we make here in the Wildcard Round, starting Saturday.
You can start with the Panthers v. Falcons game. The Panthers won, and took the NFC South crown at 7-8-1, despite playing like a seriously flawed team for a lot of the season. And sure, next week the defense they are facing is certainly not the Falcons – the Cardinals have been limiting offenses all season long. But the Panthers find success when Cam Newton ($7,600) finds success, and before his struggles this season, he was basically the definition of matchup-proof. Between the Cardinals solid defense and struggling offense, they have a habit of playing in some low-scoring games, and this will likely not be an exception. If the Panthers are going to win, though, it’s going to be on the back Cam, and what encourages you most from last week is the 50 rushing yards and rushing TD – as the Panthers get more and more desperate to move the ball, you could easily see that kind of performance again, win or lose.
As for the Cardinals, Week 17 showed you that Michael Floyd is actually still a talented receiver (8 for 153 and 2 TDs). But can you trust him? To answer that, just look at the Cardinals over the course of the year – this is a team that has won a lot of games, and they have done it with different offensive contributions from different guys at different times. They have scratched out the points they need to support their defense, and that’s it, even in good matchups. It is hard to trust anyone on this offense because for every single one of them, the potential is there for a goose-egg.
The Ravens needed help to make the postseason, and the Chiefs provided it, beating San Diego in Week 17. But now that they’re there, they are a team that no one will be particularly pleased to face. They play physical defense, and while they are inconsistent on offense, they have the potential to light up the scoreboard on occasion. They have viable fantasy options all over the place because they, as a team, have upside. Torrey Smith ($5,400) caught another TD in Week 17, and Justin Forsett ($6,100) went for well over 100 yards, a product of being one of the RBs in the league with the most consistent usage. And, the Steelers D doesn’t scare you. This Ravens-Steelers game, just looking at the names of the teams, seems like it would be a slug-fest, but not this year – these are two teams that might decide the best way to advance is by lighting up the scoreboard, which could make this game fun to watch as well as making it a vital swing game for daily fantasy contests.
For the Steelers, the big Week 17 news was obvious: the Le’Veon Bell injury. This obviously makes Dri Archer ($4,500) a possibility, but not necessarily a great one. The Ravens do still have a top-notch run defense. So, more importantly, this Bell injury might mean that Big Ben airs it out more than usual. He could be looking at 50 attempts as the Steelers try to both take advantage of their only remaining strength (with no Bell) and also attack the Ravens’ vulnerability in the secondary. Roethlisberger ($7,300), Antonio Brown ($8,900) and even guys like Heath Miller ($3,900) and Martavis Bryant ($4,100) all got a boost in my mind when the news of this injury came out.
Week 17 was just the continuation of a trend for the Colts, and the trend is not inspiring confidence as you look at their chances in the playoffs. For what was a top offense for much of the season, they are not playing at a very high level right now, with no running game to speak of and, between injury and simple underperformance, not a single pass-catcher you can trust. And the sad truth is, the early-season success means that these guys are priced like top options even when they’re not playing like it – with the Bengals D also playing better, you might decide to avoid these guys altogether.
For the Bengals, the big news in Week 17 was another injury, specifically a concussion suffered by A.J. Green. With these kinds of injuries, it is impossible to speculate about a players’ availability, but the NFL’s concussion protocol means you are not going to find out until the very end of the week at the earliest if a player will be available. If he cannot go, this definitely makes Mohamed Sanu ($4,200) a more interesting option, as he did a lot of damage when Green missed time earlier in the year. The Colts have struggled all year against the run, however, which means the biggest change brought on by a Green injury is just even more of a reliance on Jeremy Hill ($6,200). This makes Hill, after his recent string of performances, the kind of back who – say you’re in a head-to-head contest – if you decide not to play, you really hope your opponent doesn’t either.
Detroit and Dallas is an interesting matchup because of the very different identities of the two teams. With Suh winning his appeal and appearing set to play on Sunday, this is a game featuring a great offense and a great defense, and that’s always fun to watch. But there is not a lot to analyze. For the Cowboys, you consider Dez, Demarcus and Romo, and that’s basically it. And for the Lions there is Megatron, and the next guy you’re going to consider is Joique Bell ($5,500). And since he is affordable, he might end up being the most widely used player from this game in DFS contests. You love the Cowboys big three, but this is a tough matchup. Stafford has been shaky, with or without Calvin, all year long, and Calvin is, well, expensive. Totally useable, but you have to pay for it. The Cowboys run defense doesn’t scare you, and in what might end up being a close, low-scoring game, Bell could be exactly the kind of player you need to lean on in a weekend with only four games.