Levitan's Leverage: Wild Card Weekend

WATCH: MATCHUPS BREAKDOWN WILD CARD WEEKEND


This is not an easy four-game slate. We cannot simply plug in the highest projected scorers at each position and come close to staying under the salary cap, so tough decisions will have to be made. The one player I can’t live without on DraftKings this week is Le’Veon Bell – after that, there are cases to made for and against just about every player thanks to the tight cap.

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

1. Steelers in a Plus Matchup at Home

My favorite slates are Steelers in Heinz Field slates. This team turns into the league’s best offense, hanging crooked numbers on opponents at will with a narrow concentration of production. Over the last three seasons, Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 27.4 DK points per game at home vs. 15.7 on the road. Note that Aaron Rodgers only averages 24.7 at Lambeau during that span and Russell Wilson actually performs better on the road (21.4 DK ppg away vs. 19.9 at home). In Big Ben’s last 20 home games, he’s thrown at outrageous 59 TDs against 16 interceptions. He’s tossed at least three TD passes in 12 of those last 20 games at Heinz.

So the Steelers would be in a smash spot regardless of opponent, but the Dolphins defense limps into this game with injury concerns at both safety (Reshad Jones, Isa Abdul-Quddus out, Baccari Rambo questionable) and cornerback (Byron Maxwell questionable). They’ve given up 35 points to the Patriots, 31 to the Bills, 23 to the Cardinals, 38 to the Ravens and 24 to the 49ers over the last six weeks. The best part about the Steelers is that when fantasy points are scored we know where they’re coming from as Le’Veon Bell averages 28 touches per game and Antonio Brown averages 7.1 catches per game. Ladarius Green (concussion) is likely to play and was getting strong usage in the three games before his injury: In on 76.4 of Roethlisberger’s dropbacks and averaged 8.3 targets per game.

Update – Ladarius Green is now listed as DOUBTFUL.


MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT

1. Jared Cook Against the Giants TE Defense

The Giants defense has been dominant this season, ranking second in the NFL in points allowed per game (17.8). They’re seventh in pass yards per attempt allowed, second in pass TDs allowed, third in rush yards allowed, second in yards per carry allowed, second in overall DVOA, second in DVOA vs. No. 1 WRs, third in DVOA vs. the run. There is only one spot where they’ve been consistently weak and it’s against the tight end. The Giants are 26th DVOA vs. TEs, giving up 1,048 yards to the position – fourth-most in the league. So while Jordy Nelson has a tough matchup with Janoris Jenkins (more on that in this week’s Target Projection article) and the Packers’ uneven run game also projects poorly, the one player with a truly good matchup is Jared Cook. It’s interesting timing as Cook has recently gained the trust of Aaron Rodgers. Over the last three weeks (all must-win games for GB), Cook has played on 64 percent of Aaron Rodgers’ dropbacks and averaged 7.0 targets per game.


CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS

1. Russell Wilson and Paul Richardson

I expect most of the QB ownership on this four-game slate to be sucked up by Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. It leaves Russell Wilson in an interesting contrarian spot as he faces the the No. 32 DVOA pass defense of the Lions. They’re 29th in yards per attempt allowed, 31st in pass TDs allowed and set the NFL record for highest completion percentage allowed at 72.7 percent. When we couple those facts with the absolute ineptitude of Thomas Rawls and Seattle’s run game, we have a spot where everything is on the shoulders of Russell Wilson, who easily set a career-high in attempts this year with 546.

Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are certainly both strong plays, but if we want to be even more contrarian and save a lot of cap space we can look to Paul Richardson. In the first game since Tyler Lockett’s broken leg last week, Richardson played on 66.2 percent of the snaps and tied for the team lead with seven targets. A talented former second-round pick who has struggled with injury, Richardson will again slide into the Lockett role this week which means he’s technically the No. 3 WR behind Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, but is likely to get his number called on some shot plays. At just $3,400, rostering P-Rich gives us access to the high-priced stars on this slate.


GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS

1. Lamar Miller Finally Getting Healthy

If it seems like Lamar Miller has been playing through injury for most of the year, it’s because he has. He first popped up on the injury report with a shoulder issue following Week 7 and has been a mainstay there ever since due to the shoulder plus rib, knee and ankle concerns. It got so bad that Miller sat out the final two regular season games. That turned out to be a blessing as Miller is back practicing full ahead of Saturday’s home game against the Raiders. He says he feels like it’s Week 1 all over again, which should mean heavy workloads.

Note that in the six games before the aforementioned shoulder injury, Miller averaged a whopping 23.6 touches per game. Now that he’s practicing fully and is healthy, we can expect a similar workload as the Bill O’Brien tries to hide Brock Osweiler. It’s a spot where we should see a positive game script for the run game as well because the Texans defense is a mismatch for Raiders fourth-round rookie Connor Cook, who is making his first career start. With Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing and Johnathan Joseph all back healthy, the Texans project to force a lot of 3-and-outs. Miller averaged 19.9 DK points per game as a favorite this season vs. 11.6 as an underdog.


CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS

(No particular order)

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Russ Wilson, Matt Moore
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Paul Perkins, Zach Zenner, Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi
WR: Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Doug Baldwin, Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Eli Rogers, Kenny Stills, Geronimo Allison (if Randall Cobb is out), Sterling Shepard
TE: Jimmy Graham, Ladarius Green (if healthy), Eric Ebron, Jared Cook
D: Texans, Seahawks, Steelers, Packers, Raiders

 


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.