The beauties of daily fantasy football are never in fuller display than Wild Card Weekend. While traditional league owners are at home licking their wounds over another failed season, DraftKings and FanDuel players are dialing up their lineups for Saturday and Sunday’s opening to the NFL postseason.
The extra access is truly what fantasy football players love and crave the most from DFS platforms, and the NFC and AFC’s wild-card matchups allow owners to split up their weekend action into two days and hence potentially two different leagues and prizes.
On Saturday, the AFC holds the floor with the Houston Texans hosting the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals welcoming the Pittsburgh Steelers to town. Those four teams alone would represent an excellent fantasy pool, but even if you slip there’s always the NFC’s turn on Sunday.
The favored Seattle Seahawks will face frigid temperatures when they meet the Minnesota Vikings on the road, and the Green Bay Packers try to salvage a very difficult campaign by thwarting the Washington Redskins’ surprise postseason appearance.
To say nothing of the immense star power on display that we talked about in our full wild-card rankings, owners appear to be in for a treat this weekend and it can be made all the better with a victory.
So, here’s a breakdown of the players at each position we think you should consider starting in your AFC Saturday league and then the NFC Sunday league.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
With DeAngelo Williams likely out, Steelers fans might remember Roethlisberger’s one-touchdown, two-pick performance in last year’s singular playoff game when Le’Veon Bell was unavailable. There’s also the fact that Roethlisberger’s tossed for 300 or more yards just once in a postseason contest, again last year sans Bell. However, the veteran has maybe the best one-two receiving punch in the postseason in Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant to combat a Bengals secondary that was the third-best unit in fantasy against opposing QBs. Furthermore, despite injuries, the Steelers have the fourth-best offensive line in the playoffs in terms of sacks allowed.
Spencer Ware, Chiefs
The second-year back Ware was given just 16.5 percent of Kansas City’s 436 total rushing attempts this season, but he made the most of every single one by gaining 5.6 yards per carry and he led the Chiefs with six rushing touchdowns. Potential buyers will be wary of Charcandrick West getting the bulk of the carries, or that Houston was the No. 10 unit versus opposing backs this season, and they would be half right.
If anything, the Chiefs figure to pound the ball inside because the Texans only allowed backs to catch 73 balls for 650 yards and three scores this season, which significantly hinders West’s overall value in PPR or standard leagues. Clearly, Ware’s the answer inside for Kansas City.
Antonio Brown, Steelers
When you’re running game consists of Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint, you don’t necessarily panic when Brown is your No. 1 receiver. He’s been held in check in four out of his five postseason games, and the Bengals were 10 th in fantasy against receivers, but like Roethlisberger, Brown’s historically tortured Cincinnati. In PPR leagues Brown will be most valuable since he averages nearly six catches per game and better than 14 yards per reception against the Bengals.
Travis Kelce, Chiefs
The most obvious pick? Maybe, but Kelce’s clearly the best bet for owners now that we know A.J. McCarron will start for Cincy, dropping Tyler Eifert’s value. Nothing against McCarron, but he has never experienced a NFL postseason atmosphere and he’ll have to fret over a top notch Steelers pass rush.
As for Kelce, he does have a difficult matchup against a Houston D that allowed 11.5 points in DraftKings and 9.1 points per week in FanDuel league this season. But as Kelce stands as Alex Smith’s second-most targeted weapon, the Texans will have their hands full against a two-headed running attack, and receiver Jeremy Maclin shuttling down field for big plays, thus opening up the middle for Kelce to operate. No Chief and only six other players took to the open field like Kelce this season, as he led the team with 533 yards after the catch, or rather nearly 61 percent of his total yards.
The Texans lost starting offensive tackle Duane Brown at the worst possible time. The Chiefs get a healthy Justin Houston back into the fold, the same guy that recorded 7.5 sacks in 11 games and still stands as the leader of the league’s fourth-best pass rush. Houston and Tamba Hali will pressure Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer into mistakes and rookie cornerback Marcus Peters, who tied for the NFL-lead with eight interceptions this season, will generate even more points and force turnovers.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Dripping with playoff experience and arguably playing at a higher level right now than presumed MVP and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, Wilson’s going to be an expensive choice but he and the Seahawks stand to dominate a Vikings defense that’s mostly green to the postseason.
Christine Michael, Seahawks
Yes, Marshawn Lynch is coming back, and normally he’d be our choice even if it did mean spending the bulk of your budget on a quarterback and running back on the same team, but in this case we really don’t’ know what we’ll see from Lynch after he sat out seven straight games. Michael has done a fine job in relief of Thomas Rawls, who in turn filled in for Lynch. Michael should be Seattle’s every down back with Lynch entering in spots, either in red zone or short-yardage situations. Otherwise, Michael will get the majority of the carries and yardage.
DeSean Jackson, Redskins
Jackson’s largely fallen flat in six career postseason games, totaling 19 receptions for 321 yards and two scores, with the last touchdown coming in 2009. There’s also Green Bay’s No. 6-ranked secondary, and that it can force Kirk Cousins to make mistakes. However, the Packers have had significant trouble stopping deep threats and big plays down field, allowing 14 pass plays of 40 or more yards, tied for the third-worst mark in the league. And that just happens to be speedster Jackson’s specialty.
Jordan Reed, Redskins
As much of a pest as Jackson might be to Green Bay, Reed could be the monster under its bed. Finally healthy after succumbing to injuries earlier in his career, Reed’s been on fire and has developed an extra-sensory relationship with Cousins. Throw in the fact Green Bay was a middling No. 18 against tight ends this year, and that Washington owns the fourth-most efficient red zone offense among teams in the playoffs and Reed may just win you some cash this week.
Perhaps it’s too easy to pick the Seahawks historically awesome defense in the postseason, but if you go with any chalk or safe pick on Sunday it has to be Seattle’s D/ST. The Vikings can do some damage with Adrian Peterson, and he might break off some good runs, but sneaking into the end zone doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Seattle was No. 1 against the run this year, and allowed just five rushing touchdowns over 16 games. Going a bit further, Teddy Bridgewater has to make his postseason debut against Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Michael Bennett? Yikes.