For the uninitiated, DraftKings runs fantasy salary-based football contests where users can take home cash each week instead of waiting for the end of the season. If your season-long league wrapped up in Week 16, it's a great time to start playing fantasy football contests on DraftKings.
The regular season may be over, but fortunately DraftKings is still running strong for those of us who just havenít had enough after 17 weeks. Things should be interesting in the Wild-Card round, with sub-zero temperatures and 15+ MPH winds projected for Sundayís 49ers-Packers matchup. Chiefs-Colts will be played indoors, while conditions for Saints-Eagles donít appear to be particularly worrisome. Things look a bit shakier in Cincinnati, but not to the extent that Iíll be avoiding players from the Bengals and Chargers. As for that Green Bay-San Francisco game, I donít want any part of either teamís passing or kicking game, despite being impressed by the Packer offense in Week 17. Iím not ruling out the possibility that the teams will be able to pass effectively, but itís just not a great risk to take.
Now, on to some of the best picks for the Wild-Card round of the playoffs
Philip Rivers, SD, $7200 at CIN Ė The matchup is tough but thatís often the case in the playoffs. Rivers just turned in an excellent bounce-back season, complete with 4,478 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. Heís the second-cheapest starting quarterback this week, ahead of only Kansas Cityís Alex Smith. As committed as the Chargers have been to running the ball lately, I suspect that the team will be forced into a different approach against Cincinnatiís stout front-seven. In contrast to what weíve seen the last few weeks, look for the Chargers to air things out. Iím a bit nervous about the possibility of cold, windy conditions in Cincinnati, but current projections arenít too bad, and Riversí price tag is friendly enough to overcome those concerns.
LeSean McCoy, PHI, $8800 vs. NO Ė Nearly every lineup on DraftKings this week will feature either McCoy or Jamaal Charles ($9000), and some will even have both. Charles probably had the slightly better season, if you care to split hairs. The two backs have fairly equal matchups, as the Coltsí opponents produced 4.5 yards per carry during the regular season, while the Saints surrendered 4.6 yards per tote. I donít think Iíd be able to make a choice if the prices were equal, but as it turned out, the extra $200 came in handy. Since Iím not in love with the wide receiver options this week, I may experiment with one otherwise-barren lineup that utilizes both McCoy and Charles.
Frank Gore, SF, $5500 at GB Ė Sundayís ugly weather may necessitate a run-heavy approach, which also happens to align with the 49ersí preferred strategy. The team has actually done a fantastic job of passing the ball lately, but Iím thinking that may not continue in near-Arctic conditions. Gore seems to have lost a step from his prime but still finished the regular season with 1,128 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 276 carries. In case youíve been living under a rock, this is probably a good time to mention that the Green Bay defense has been pillow-soft since mid-season. The Packers finished 25th in run defense, allowing 125 yards per game on 4.6 yards per carry. Those numbers actually understate the teamís issues, as the Packers played solid defense for a few weeks in October, before falling apart amid injuries on both sides of the ball.
T.Y. Hilton, IND, $6100 vs. KC Ė Coming off a huge Week 17 performance (11 catches for 155 yards), Hilton is easily the top target in an offense that finally seems to have found its stride. The Chiefsí defense faded a bit towards the end of the season, and the KC pass rush may not be at full strength Saturday, with Tamba Hali (knee) looking questionable for the game.
Keenan Allen, SD, $6100 at CIN Ė Iím already banking on the Chargers to throw the ball around Sunday, so why not double down on Allen? The rookie out of Cal is among the frontrunners for OROY honors, after piling up 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns, despite seeing extremely limited run in San Diegoís first three games. The targets have been a bit disappointing lately, but five of Allenís last 13 receptions went for a touchdown.
Griff Whalen, IND, $3300 vs. KC Ė Whalen has settled in as the unlikely No. 2 target in the Coltsí offense, after tallying 20 targets and 15 receptions over the final three weeks of the regular season. He isnít a particularly explosive player, but heís drawing looks in a functioning offense, and the price is dirt-cheap. As I mentioned before, I really donít love the wide receiver choices this week, with the weather in Green Bay looking so miserable. A lineup focused on other positions makes sense, and cheap receivers such as Whalen, Marvin Jones ($3800), and Riley Cooper ($4600) are a crucial part of that strategy.
Jimmy Graham, NO, $7500 at PHI Ė With Vernon Davis left to freeze in Green Bay, Graham is far and away the top option at tight end. Things really drop off after Antonio Gates ($4800), who didnít exactly finish the season with a bang. I canít say that I love spending $7500 on the position, but Graham is a stud, and heís facing the NFLís 32nd-ranked passing defense. If youíre hell-bent on saving your budget for other positions, Coby Fleener ($3600) makes for a decent sleeper play, despite his recent struggles. Personally, Iíll be sticking with Graham and Gates.
Packers, $2700 vs. SF Ė I already outlined Green Bayís problems on defense, but I donít like any of the D/ST choices this week. Even with the ugly weather predictions, Iíd rather not spend $3600 on a San Francisco defense with a shaky secondary, against Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense. The San Diego offense has been a horrible matchup for fantasy defenses all season long, while the Chiefs ($3900) seem to be priced based on their play from earlier in the year. San Diegoís defense ($2500) isnít particularly good, but at least the price tag reflects that. I want no part of either the New Orleans ($2000) or Philadelphia ($2100) defenses, as both of those teams feature elite offensive attacks. This is a situation where Iíll just fill in my defense last, as I donít have particularly high hopes for any of the options, despite the expectation that passing will be a tough chore in Green Bay on Sunday. The Packers come cheap, and perhaps the frigid conditions will lead to something funky. Thatís about the best I can do here.
Mike Nugent, CIN, $3000 vs. SD Ė Iím more or less indifferent between Nugent and Kansas Cityís Ryan Succop ($3000), who gets to kick in a dome. Nugent had surprisingly few field-goal attempts this season, but that doesnít hold a ton of predictive value for the future. Nugent is good enough that I see no need to spend more than $3000 on a kicker. Save your budget for Jamaal Charles and/or LeSean McCoy.