Consider daily fantasy football during the NFL Playoffs as your fake football nicotine patch: perfect for winding down from the never-ending buzz of constructing and deconstructing daily lineups for 17 straight weeks.
While there’s no compelling reason to go in with any serious investment in cash games — head-to-head matches and 50/50 tournaments — composing a lineup or three for large-field tourneys can make playoff matchups — no matter how excruciating — a slightly more interesting affair for NFL agnostics.
Below if my breakdown of the most sensible plays for tournaments available this week on the daily fantasy site Victiv, which uses a salary cap system that forces daily gamers to think twice about investing in the week’s biggest names that cost several times the price of sneakier options.
Victiv’s pricing is based on projections that have proven more accurate than some of the fantasy industry’s most renowned prognosticators.
Ben Roethlisberger ($10,500) vs. Baltimore Ravens: The highest priced play on Victiv this week, Roethlisberger could very well be worth the massive investment as a volume play against a Baltimore secondary that has been one of the league’s worst over the past month and a half. The Ravens, when adjusted for strength of schedule, are the eighth worst defense against quarterbacks. It’s tough to imagine a scenario in which the (likely) Le’Veon Bell-less Steelers take to the ground against the Baltimore front seven. We always seek efficiency over pure volume, but this might be a reasonable exception to that rule.
Andrew Luck ($10,000) vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Luck managed 345 yards and two passing scores against the Bengals in a Week 7 matchup that saw Luck drop back 42 times. He completed 27-of-37 passes and ran four times for a measly five yards. Cincy is an objectively horrid matchup for signal callers: Only Buffalo and Seattle gave up fewer schedule-adjusted points to quarterbacks in 2014. I think the potential for Cincinnati to bleed to clock with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard takes some of the shine off Luck in this one, as his opportunity could very well be limited by a game flow nightmare. Still, for just $100 more than Matthew Stafford and $500 less than Roethlisberger, I find Luck hard to resist. No one, in my humble opinion, has a higher ceiling in the Wild Card Round.
Matthew Stafford ($9,900) at Dallas Cowboys: I mention Stafford here not because I see him as an immense value, but because I think he represents a contrarian take on the quarterback position this week. Stafford’s been less than great. The whole Detroit offense, in fact, has been pretty heinous this year. Stafford’s Wild Card weekend ownership will likely be lower than anyone not named Ryan Lindley and (maybe) Andy Dalton. All fantasy points were created equal, and in a game that sees Dallas favored by 7.5 points, Stafford could go Full Stafford and rack up a few fistfuls of garbage time points. Megatron reportedly still plays for the Lions, which always makes Stafford a threat.
Jeremy Hill ($6,800) at Indianapolis Colts: Hill, in my estimation, is a plug-and-play this week on Victiv. He’s priced as a third-tier running back against an Indy defense that has allowed 135.5 rushing yards per game over the past month. The rookie has been a tremendous beneficiary of the Bengals’ top-five run blocking offensive line, per Pro Football Focus ratings. Hill is $800 cheaper than DeMarco Murray and could fairly easily match Murray’s Wild Card Round production.
Dan Herron ($3,800) vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Herron’s appeal this week doesn’t have much to do with running between the tackles against 3.1 yards per tote since Week 14. The hope here is that Herron will pile up points via the pass game, where he’s proven a good fit in Andrew Luck‘s offense. Bengals’ linebackers have moderate to bad pass coverage grades on PFF, offering some hope that Herron — given the opportunity in a pass heavy attack — can make hay via the air against Cincinnati. Oh, and he’s 11th in Victiv’s running back pricing. Trent Richardson is priced near Herron.
Jonathan Stewart ($5,400) vs. Arizona Cardinals: Only two runners rushed for more yardage than JStew over the season’s final five weeks. Given a full workload on two healthy legs, Stewart showed flashes of his former self throughout December. Arizona isn’t quite the terrible matchup they appear to be. The Cardinals gave up 118.8 rushing yards per game from Week 13-17. That has a lot to do with opponents wearing down Arizona after seizing leads against one of the league’s least threatening offensive attacks. Stewart’s more-than-reasonable price should be attractive to daily gamers.
Steve Smith, Sr. ($4,600) at Pittsburgh Steelers: Remember that this column focuses on tournaments. I see the elder Smith as a logical pivot away from Torrey Smith, who will certainly be a popular play against a disintegrating Pittsburgh secondary that allows the most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to opposing receivers. Going in on Smith, Sr., allows for salary cap space to load up on the week’s elite pass-catching options too. His floor is frightening, but that shouldn’t scare us off in large-field tourneys.
Martavis Bryant ($3,100) vs. Baltimore Ravens: Bryant, after a mostly quiet close to the 2014 season, is priced on Victiv as a bottom-barrel receiver option. Markus Wheaton costs $100 more than Bryant this week. The big pass catcher, who saw just nine targets from Week 15-17, is a living definition of a boom-bust candidate. Bryant is averaging a meager 20 pass routes per game since taking on a more prominent role in the Steelers’ aerial attack in November, but I can’t help but see the rookie as a tournament difference maker against a Baltimore secondary that gave up 30 receptions and 391 yards to Pittsburgh wideouts in two 2014 matchups.
Greg Olsen ($4,000) vs. Arizona Cardinals: Much like Hill, Olsen is a set-it-and-forget it option for me on Victiv on Wild Card weekend. I don’t see a compelling reason to play any other tight end, even for contrarian purposes. Olsen is the only available tight end even remotely close to a target hog and he’s playing against a Cardinals’ defense allowing 16.6 schedule-adjusted fantasy points to tight ends. The Cardinals-Panthers game sports a hideous 38-point Vegas projection, offering little in the way of fantasy options. Olsen, priced $700 cheaper than Coby Fleener, is one of the two or three reasonable exceptions. He’ll be in every one of my lineups.
Below is the tourney lineup I’m going to use this week on Victiv…