Point/Counterpoint: Week 18 DraftKings
By Megan Shoup and Steve Shoup:
Every week of the season for daily fantasy brings new debates about core plays, fades, game stacks, and more. For fantasy purposes, it is best to read about both sides of the argument and decide which side, data, and analysis YOU agree with.
For the NFL season, our series of Point/Counterpoint will be a back-and-forth discussion between siblings Megan Shoup and Steve Shoup about the slate strategy, stacks, core plays, and fades for that week.
So let’s get to Week 18 strategy talk!
First of all, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Damar Hamlin of the Bills. As we look at Week 18 there are a lot of playoff implications, injury news, and players resting that we must consider. Also, there are two games are on Saturday and one Sunday night that aren’t included in the main slate.
This is one of the trickiest weeks in DFS and being on top of the news is key. Just as it’s been most of this season, most Vegas totals are rather low at this point for the main slate games.
So which games are you targeting and which QBs will be your core plays?
I do think we need to focus on teams or players with major motivations this week and follow up with beat reporters with what they are hearing. Last year, the Cowboys didn’t have any Week 18 motivation, yet I believe Dak put up 350 and 5 TDs before he was pulled.
Generally speaking the three teams I’m really looking to target right now are the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. All three should have major motivation as the Bills and Eagles could earn the 1 seed if they win, while the Steelers could make the playoffs. The Cowboys also could be motivated, as the Eagles game will be going on at the same time as their contest. If Dallas wins and the Eagles lose they could get the 1st seed in the NFC.
Beyond those four teams, I really want some updates from the media on just what is expected for each team. I also will look at some teams that might be out of it, but will let some young guys get more opportunities. Right now though it’s not fully clear who those teams/players might be.
This makes sense, giving extra weight to the teams with everything to play for. We also need to watch when teams may know if they have something to play for or not. For instance, at the beginning of the week, I was very interested in the Chargers since they want to lock the #5 seed (top wildcard seed) in the AFC. But if the Bengals beat the Ravens at 1 pm, (and I think they will), then the Chargers are locked in the 5 seed and have nothing to play for.
Right now at QB, I have the most interest in Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, and Dak Prescott for teams with motivation. I guess Kenny Pickett is a cheap QB with tons of motivation and a good matchup, but they have been conservative with the passing game. But if Najee Harris is massively owned, that would be a very interesting contrarian play off the Steelers’ ownership. Risky, but I’m guessing very low-owned.
For QBs with no playoff motivation, I’m interested in Russell Wilson and Sam Howell. For both these QBs, it’s more motivation what they want to show before a long offseason. For Wilson, if he can put back-to-back strong games together, he might quiet “some” critics this offseason and more may blame the terrible coaching of fired HC Nathaniel Hackett. For Howell, he is given a chance by Washington to see if there is some hope he can become a future starter.
Again, considering playoff motivations and also bonuses and records, what running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends will be in your core plays?
I think that is an interesting contrarian pivot off of Najee Harris in a Kenny Pickett stack, I will probably run at least one line-up with that build. For QBs with little to no motivation, I like your take on Russell Wilson, especially if the Chargers end up resting a lot of their defensive players. Wilson could play a fair amount of the game vs back-ups. Howell on the other hand faces a tough Cowboys defense with plenty of motivation, and I have zero trust in the Washington coaching staff to prioritize passing the football in this game. One other option I like is Mike White. He didn’t have a strong game last week vs Seattle, but we’ve seen his upside. He’s got some great weapons, and the Jets are probably going to try to figure out if he is their future at QB. While the Dolphins do have something to play for, that defense is giving up passing yards to everyone. I will want some confirmation that White is healthy enough, and his top weapons will play, but if those are true I think he could be a cheap option for 300+ yards and 2-3 TDs.
There is not a lot I like at RB this week, especially at the top end. Joe Mixon, Tony Pollard, Ezekiel Elliott, and Najee Harris are all very much in play. If Miles Sanders doesn’t play I will have an interest in Kenny Gainwell/Boston Scott, as I imagine the Eagles will want to limit Jalen Hurts running as well. I think Allgier or Patterson could be interesting, especially if the Buccaneers sit some of their top defenders. I will want to watch if the 49ers rule out CMC, then I could maybe have an interest in Mason. Outside of that though, I don’t see anyone I really want to prioritize.
Wide receiver is a bit of a different story as I do think there are some interesting top options to pair with some of the top QBs with motivation. Chase, Higgins, Diggs, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Ceedee Lamb are all great options for the top of this group. I also could see Justin Jefferson shredding the Bears’ defense as he is looking at breaking some receiving marks. I’ll probably try to ensure I have at least 2 of these guys to anchor my line-ups. Lower down I think there are some strong options like Garrett Wilson, Courtland Sutton, and Gabe Davis.
At tight end, I will prioritize Goedert, Schultz, Knox, and Freiermuth. But will consider some other cheaper fliers as well, especially if it helps me jam in more stud receivers.
As for lineup construction this week, I generally like paying up at quarterback and receiver compared and saving at running back and tight end positions.
I will push back on Sam Howell, not just because I’m a Washington homer. More because of his ability to run and the value of a dual-threat QB for that cheap price tag. Also, while the Cowboys defense is tough, they’ve given up some points toward the end of this season. And it doesn’t make sense for the Washington coaching staff to get look at Howell just to watch him mostly handoff. I know they’ll try to “establish it”, but they have to see what they have in Howell as a passer.
I’ll also note, now that the Bengals/Bills game has been cancelled, and the NFL outlined how AFC playoff seeding will shake out, I think the Bengals have extra motivation. They have to win to ensure a home playoff game. So I’m very interested in Bengals stacks moreso now.
I agree with most your core plays, and while Justin Jefferson burned my best ball finals lineup to the ground, he could go off Sunday. I believe with a smash performance he’s in reach of a record. Record and bonuses are things we need to pay attention to from beat writers in addition to who’s in and out Sunday.
What do you think of these strategies for Week 18 DFS on DraftKings? Who are your main game stacks and core plays?