Week 19 Game Flowbotics – Divisional Round
Considering my inexperience and fantasy football’s natural variance, last week’s foray into DFS with Game Flowbotics went reasonably well. Some of the misses, like my call to fade the Houston defense based on Oakland’s strong offensive line, were avoidable if you followed NFL news leading to game time. Others, including belief in the offenses of Miami and New York, felt like good process anyway. Both teams moved the ball against their respective opponents, but Matt Moore struggled with turnovers, while the Giants’ fell apart through untimely drops and game script blues from the loss of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. C’est la vie.
My biggest regret from Wild Card weekend is failing to touch on the potential value of Brock Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins against Oakland’s 25th-ranked pass defense. Osweiler is #notgood, but the match-up was ripe enough to consider based on his low salary. I was too busy swooning over the match-ups for Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Eli Manning to give Osweiler’s potential punt value a proper look. My too-cute crush on Oakland’s defense as a potential DFS bargain blinded me further. I hope to avoid such oversights heading into the divisional round of the playoffs. Without further ado, here’s your link to the Week 19 Game Flowbotics worksheet:
If you’re new to the Flowbotics page and need a primer, check out last week’s article, which is linked in the first sentence of this post. Now that everyone is up to speed, let’s dive into the Week 19 DFS slate.
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
I called the Lions pretenders leading up to their loss in Seattle, and Detroit’s stinkbomb puts perception of the Seahawks on an interesting fulcrum for this week’s game against the Falcons. Atlanta is a much better team than Detroit, full stop. If public groupthink of the Seahawks becomes “they’re back, and the defense is legit,” a slightly contrarian buying window should open up on Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman. Seattle’s defense hasn’t been the same since losing Earl Thomas, evidenced by their drop from 5th in seasonal DVOA to 9th in weighted DVOA.
With that said, DFS players are generally ahead of the curve in valuing elite offensive players properly. Whether your contests are sharp or not, some portion of your GPP opponents will trot out pieces from the Atlanta lineup simply because it’s the best offense in the NFL. Any dip in ownership for those Falcons players likely represents more value in cash games, where the high salaries of Matty Ice and Julio aren’t as palatable as more discounted options at their respective positions.
Devonta Freeman is a minor exception. The Falcons have an implied total of 28.25 points. If you believe in their offense, Freeman is a nice value relative to the albatross DFS contracts of Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott, particularly in DraftKings’ PPR scoring system. DK degenerates will also want to consider Thomas Rawls, as the Falcons allowed 9.1 targets per game to running backs in the regular season, most in the league by far. Atlanta’s generosity to receiving rushers could also create some deep PPR appeal for Marcel Reece. Don’t even get me started on C.J. Prosise’s potential. He can reportedly suit up for Saturday’s game if he logs a “full speed” practice, but his “doubtful” designation doesn’t inspire confidence.
Austin Hooper is also attempting to return from injury, and his prospects of doing so seem favorable. He and Levine Toilolo could take advantage of Seattle’s 19th-ranked DVOA against tight ends, but both are punt options at best. The tight end from the opposing side, Jimmy Graham, is a much chalkier play against an Atlanta defense allowing nearly nine targets per game to the position. While the match-up is appealing, Graham has only managed 4.0 targets and 2.2 receptions per game since Week 14. Avoid overexposure.
Wrapping up this contest, Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin certainly deserve your consideration. Atlanta’s defense is lackluster and their offense could induce Seattle to throw a lot in negative game script. Paul Richardson is appealing for the third week in a row, but I worry his Wild Card breakout could drive ownership to ridiculous heights. In the end, Richardson’s DFS usage might not matter. His affordable salary could be a necessary evil, particularly in cash games, allowing us to maximize the number of studs we can play.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
After all the revisionist DFS praise for Brock Osweiler above, I can’t recommend him against the Patriots. New England’s defense is notably better than Oakland’s, and Houston’s implied total of 14.5 points is the kiss of death for Osweiler. The Texans will be lucky to score more than one touchdown. You can chase garbage PPR production with DeAndre Hopkins or Houston’s tight ends, but a full-on fade of the Texans is fair, if not wholly justified.
New England’s offense is a different story, with most or all options usable. Still, it’s traditionally difficult to determine which Patriots receivers to trust for red zone production. Malcolm Mitchell asserted himself in that arena toward the end of the regular season, but the signing of Michael Floyd plus Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis returning to health has muddled the mix yet again. The only sure things in New England’s passing attack are Tom Brady and Julian Edelman. Brady is priced accordingly, while Edelman seems like a value as the 6th-, 8th-, or 9th-most expensive wideout, depending on where you play (DK, FD/FA, and Y!, respectively).
The surest of sure things in this game is LeGarrette Blount. He excels when the Patriots are heavy favorites, and ranks as the only the fifth-most expensive rusher everywhere except for Yahoo, where he’s behind only Bell and Zeke. The most fade-worthy New England player is Martellus Bennett. Houston ranks second in DVOA against tight ends, holding the position to 35.4% fewer yards per game than the NFL average on 9.5% fewer targets than average. Yes, Bennett is Brady’s most viable end zone threat, but the Patriots’ plethora of receiving options allows Brady to spread the ball around anyway.
The New England defense carries a hefty price tag, but it’s worth paying up in a handful of lineups based on the match-up. All of the remaining teams in the playoffs have good-to-great offenses, save for the Houston Texans, so the Patriots earn chalk honors on this slate. Overall, though, pricing in DFS seems tougher this week than last. Many of my favorite lineups can’t afford a luxury defense. If other owners have the same trouble, the Pats might not hit expected ownership levels.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
The Steelers’ high-powered offense goes to war against multiple narratives in this match-up. Arrowhead Stadium creates a distinct home field advantage for the Chiefs. Ben Roethlisberger has a reputation for disappointing on the road. Andy Reid is historically successful in games after a week off. All of these story lines are rooted in truth, but I care more about what the numbers say.
Let’s start with the over/under, set at 44 points as of this writing. The spread is only 2 points, indicating Vegas expects a close and relatively low-scoring game. Neither the Steelers nor Chiefs were prone to turnovers on offense this season, but the Kansas City defense led the league in takeaways. The Pittsburgh defense ranks better than KC by DVOA, particularly when we weight for recent performance. Both units deserve consideration for your Week 19 lineups.
The next numbers jumping out at me are Le’Veon Bell’s astronomical prices. He’s amazing and clearly deserves his fake salaries based on performance, but they’re tough costs to eat relative to the slate. The offenses available to us are generally better this week than last week. Paying the premium for Bell hurts when Ezekiel Elliott is at least 14% cheaper on the three one-quarterback DFS sites (Zeke is only 4% cheaper on FantasyAces, where the two-quarterback rosters skew pricing).
Furthermore, the quarterbacks and wide receivers of the newly introduced playoff teams are more appealing, and therefore expensive, than what we had to work with last week. Bell is more difficult to use as a consequence. It’s a shame, because Kansas City ranks 26th in rushing defense DVOA and their defensive line ranks 30th in adjusted line yards. Considering his somehow favorable road splits, Bell could post a monster line in this match-up. If you can find enough value plays at other positions to accept Bell’s salary, you might be rewarded with lower ownership on him than normal.
Speaking of value plays, one of my favorites is Jeremy Maclin. For lack of recent production, he’s fallen behind Tyreek Hill in cost. Since Maclin’s return from injury, however, Hill has only out-targeted him 21 to 20. Target numbers disregard Hill’s volume in the running game, but Pittsburgh’s dead-last rank against #1 wideouts doesn’t relate to rushing plays. Meanwhile, the Steelers rank third in DVOA against #2 receivers. I’m fascinated by the push and pull between these angles. One of these two Chiefs pass-catchers should have a big game, and I’ll admit I don’t know how to best project them, so sign me up for Maclin at his discounted price.
From the backfield, Spencer Ware could also provide plenty of volume given the proper game flow. As long as the game is competitive, look for Andy Reid to milk the clock in an attempt to keep Pittsburgh’s offense on the sidelines. Ware’s match-up against the Steel Curtain’s 11th-ranked run defense isn’t ideal, but he should be exceedingly fresh after two weeks of rest. If the Chiefs can maintain a ball-control game plan and Ware can find the end zone, he’ll have no trouble delivering value on salaries ranked low among the starting running backs available. For instance, I’d much rather use Ware than Lamar Miller, who costs more everywhere but FantasyAces.
A few more quick hits… Antonio Brown is usable every week he’s healthy. I don’t hate a GPP flyer on Eli Rogers or Darrius Heyward-Bey. They’re cheap, but I wouldn’t overexpose myself to either given the match-up and betting lines. Travis Kelce is the only good tight end left in the playoffs, but as with the aforementioned Le’Veon Bell and New England defense, paying premiums for luxury assets is tougher this week because the top quarterbacks and receivers demand so much capital.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Alex Smith. This is TwoQBs, after all. Smith is the slate’s only true punt play at quarterback. If you use him, you’re hoping for Pittsburgh to push the pace and force the Chiefs to throw. An overly conservative script would be detrimental to Smith’s fantasy upside, but the flexibility granted to your lineup by his low cost could justify the downside.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
While not quite at Alex Smith’s price point, Dak Presott seems the slate’s safest value play. He’s the sixth-most expensive quarterback everywhere, and after buying into the Giants against Green Bay last week, it wouldn’t make sense for me to fade Dak and Co. this time around. The Packers rank 22nd against the pass by DVOA, and their 6th-ranked pass rush by adjusted sack rate should be neutralized by Dallas’ elite offensive line. The primary fears with Dak are the possibility of a run-heavy game plan and the likelihood of voluminous DFS usage.
At the other end of Prescott’s passes, Green Bay ranks 28th against top wide receivers, 29th against secondary guys, and 26th against others. Needless to say, I love Dez Bryant as the seventh-most expensive receiver on DraftKings. Even as the fifth- and sixth-most costly wideout at other sites, he appears undervalued. I’m having a hard time keeping him out of my lineups.
Green Bay’s receiving corps will likely be without Jordy Nelson on Sunday, making Davante Adams and Randall Cobb instant values. It seems correct to use at least one, if not both, against Dallas’ 18th-ranked pass defense.
In general, this match-up will likely generate the most stacking this weekend, thanks to the highest over/under among all four games. Stacking with Aaron Rodgers in cash games is a solid play. His high cost can be offset with affordable guys like Adams & Cobb, or Bryant in a game-stack. In tournaments, you may need to seek out more contrarian stacks for Rodgers and Prescott with Jason Witten or Terrance Williams. Green Bay ranks seventh in DVOA against tight ends, but Witten could be fine based on the 7.5 targets and 62.5 yards the Pack allows per game. I prefer Williams to Cole Beasley for touchdown upside. They are your arbitrage plays against Dez Bryant’s likely high ownership.
DFS dumpster divers probably locked Jeff Janis into their lineups as soon as contests opened up for the divisional round. Janis played the hero for Green Bay last year, but don’t sleep on Geronimo Allison for the same sort of unpredictable upside. If you’re legitimately planning to use one of them, vary your usage and sprinkle the other into some lineups. Both have similar chances of busting loose now that they’ve climbed the depth chart. Neither will cost you much or carry high ownership.
If you’re okay with high ownership, Ezekiel Elliott is a no-brainer. He ran wild on the Packers in Week 6, totaling 174 all-purpose yards on 32 opportunities. The Cowboys have every incentive to replicate a huge workload for Zeke here in the playoffs. They want to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field as much as possible. With that in mind, I’m fading Green Bay’s backfield this week. The Cowboys rank 8th in rushing defense DVOA, and Green Bay running the ball plays into Dallas’ plans for the game script. Ty Montgomery should see more action as a pass-catcher with Nelson sidelined, but his touchdown upside is limited, and he might not be fully healthy after injuring his ankle against New York.
This article marks the end of my weekly fantasy output for the 2016 NFL season, but don’t despair. I will continue to infrequently haunt the Twittersphere, and there’s plenty of offseason content on the way from me and the amazing TwoQBs staff. If you are in Nashville next weekend for the FSTA conference, slide into my mentions so we can try to meet up. Thank you for sharing your time in this season-long journey and good luck in all your fake football ventures.
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