Home is where the heart is! That was the theme yesterday with the start of NFL Wild Card weekend. Shortly after the Raiders scored a field goal on their opening drive, Joe Burrow marched the Bengals down the field to take a 7-3 lead and never relinquished that lead throughout the game. Meanwhile the Bills annihilated the Patriots. For any of those who are coaching young kids and want to show them a good example of never letting the foot off the pedal or having a killer instinct, have them watch replays of the Bills-Patriots game. Even with the game well in hand with a 40-10 lead in the 4th quarter, Josh Allen was still throwing dimes and the Bills defense was relentless. Buffalo looks poised to win the AFC title.
We will continue with the "home sweet home" theme for the Sunday slate. If you read my article yesterday, you already saw my models' outputs for QB, RB, and DST but I didn't have any projections for today's RBs. Plus it's good to see the QB and DST projections again. Here are those tables.
Yesterday's DraftKings (DK) lineup did very well! FanDuel (FD) came close to cashing. I knew that the FLEX spot would be a dart throw and clearly Kendrick Bourne's two TDs put us over the top in DK. If we use models with reliable predictive power (like the ones I built and refined) and an optimizer to produce our lineups, we have a great chance to making money. Thank you again to Advanced Sports Analytics (ASA) for the Optimizer tool as well as the Player Correlation App. Here is a link to ASA if you are still on the fence with getting a subscription.
Today's slate is a bit tricky. Clearly we got lucky with putting our eggs in the Burrow basket and fading Allen. It was nice to be on the right side with RBs, WRs, TE, and DST. With three games instead of two and close projections among all home QBs, it would be wise to build three stacks: Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Kansas City. That doesn't mean we completely ignore the home teams but I fully expect the top QB today to be someone playing at home. Instead of breaking down today's slate by position, I will do so by slate just to build our core and then add in those ancillary pieces. Here we go!
Stack #1: Tampa Bay
If you are going heavy with the Bucs, then it would be wise to pair Tom Brady with at least one of his top two pass catchers. Check out the correlation table below from the ASA site (using 2021 stats).
The correlation between Brady and Bell is very, very high but the sample size is also very small. Also, the combined max score between those two is nothing to write home about (remember, home is where the heart is!). Of course Chris Godwin is not an option and we have the same issue with small sample and combined max score with Breshard Perriman. However, if you heeded my advice last week with my Tampa Bay stack, Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski treated us well with a huge pay day on both DK and FD. History could very well repeat itself given that Brady doesn't have too many other reliable options. However, I like Giovanni Bernard as a true wild card in our DFS lineups today. He is a very experienced RB and a dependable receiver out of the backfield. Remember James White of the Patriots during Brady's last 5 years in New England? Bernard could be that guy during Tampa Bay's title defense this postseason. He is cheap and ownership could be low. Plus he might get a decent number of touches with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones still out.
Stack #2: Dallas
It pains me to do this given that I am a die hard 49ers fan but the 49ers pass defense in man coverage is horrible and there is no way the 49ers play zone coverage the entire game, especially given that the Cowboys have two superb RBs. According to Sports Info Solutions (SIS), another great site for sophisticated football analysis, the 49ers allowed a QB rating of 123.4 when playing in Cover 0, Cover 1, and Man Cover 2 schemes this season. The sample size is significant (101 plays) and in fact that allowable QB rating was the worst in the NFL followed by Jacksonville and Detroit. Just naming those two teams tells you how bad the 49ers have been this season in man coverage. We simply cannot ignore this stat and should use it to our advantage. In case you are interested in learning more about SIS, check out the link below.
Out of all QBs who had at least 100 pass attempts in Cover 0, Cover 1, and Man Cover 2 schemes, Dak Prescott had the 4th highest QB rating at 105.6. His TD-INT ratio was even more impressive: 17 TDs - 3 INTs. This was for 171 pass attempts which is about 1/3 of his total pass attempts this season. Multiply that number 3 and you have 51 TDs and 9 INTs. Clearly Prescott knows how to spot weak coverage when the opposition plays man defense. So who do we group with Prescott? Unlike Tampa Bay, there are are so many options. Again, let's lean on ASA and SIS to help us make an informed decision with our Dallas stack. Check out the tables below (using 2021 stats).
We can throw out Michael Gallup who is out for the season so we should focus on the following four players: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson. Cooper clearly has the highest correlation with Prescott and the most targets and receptions in man coverage. However, Lamb has the highest points earned, a proprietary metric SIS uses to evaluate NFL players. Should we decide between those two? I say no. Instead, grab them both! Their correlation is positive and in fact their correlation is 2nd highest when you compare them to all other Cowboys RBs, WRs, and TEs (using 2021 stats). See the table below.
There were two games Dallas had this season where both Cooper and Lamb each exceeded 100 yards: Week 1 against Tampa Bay and Week 7 against Minnesota. It's not out of the question that both of them can repeat such success today. The pricing on DK is very reasonable with Lamb at $6300 and Cooper at $5900. If we project each WR to get 5 receptions, 100 yards, and 1 TD, that is 24 DK points or 4x value. This could be the stack that separates us from the pack.
Stack #3: Kansas City
This one is easy. You would be foolish to not pair Patrick Mahomes with either Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce. It is conceivable that you can stack all three and still have some money left over for other players. Both Hill and Kelce have high salaries but as high in previous weeks. From Weeks 11 - 18, Hill was always $8,000 or higher on DK while Kelce was always $7,000 or higher. Both are below those thresholds today. Also, consider the correlations for the Kansas City playmakers (see table below).
I wouldn't rule out Darrel Williams, especially given that Pittsburgh's run defense is terrible and that hill has a positive correlation with Williams. However, Kelce's correlation with Williams is -0.337. The correlation between Hill and Kelce is 0.217 so maybe we just keep it simple. After all, both of them had outstanding games in Week 15 against the Chargers. The combined for 22 receptions, 339 yards, 3 TDs. Do the math: 79.9 points on DK. Combined salary is $14,000 on DK. That is more than 5x value! I highly doubt there will be more than 20% of lineups in your tournaments and cash games that will have a stack Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce. If all three of them pop off, it will be awfully hard to reach the cash line if your lineups are missing 2 out of those 3 players.
There you have it! Three awesome stacks for today! Before I share some sample lineups, let's take a closer look at the SF-Dallas game. It has the closest point spread and the highest point total. That means that our Dallas stack should feature some 49ers in what should be a barn burner like the 49ers-Rams game last week. Check out the tables below.
While most people will probably play Deebo Samuel, I will most likely lean towards George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk in my Dallas stack. Apparently opposing tight ends do well when Cooper has a good game. On the flip side, Kittle correlates equally as well with opposing WRs. Kittle has a decent correlation Aiyuk but the correlation is very negative with Samuel. Still, I am not going to completely fade Samuel. He is a viable one-off in my Tampa Bay and Kansas City stacks.
Just a couple more tables to consider so that we feel comfortable with the players we are selecting. One is for Air Yards and the other is for Yards After Catch (YAC).
You will see that Hill, Evans, Cooper, and Lamb are all in the top 8 for Air Yards. Samuel, Kelce, Lamb, Kittle, and Hill rate high with YAC. Clearly I think we are going in the right direction with our stacks today. Here are some sample lineups. Good luck!