Happy 2022, everyone! For many, the New Year presents a blank slate. We can redefine ourselves by making resolutions to be better, or do better, or win bigger. I embarked upon last weekend with many short and long-term goals in mind, and looked forward to a midnight sparkling cider toast with my lovely wife, who’s almost eight months pregnant. Topping my list of resolutions: being more active, working out more, bringing in more money, and enjoying more time with my family. But then COVID rudely arrived at my house like an anvil falling from the sky. Those resolutions all got thrown onto the backburner. And life as I know it came to a screeching halt.
I was sick Saturday morning (Happy New Year, sucker!). What I originally thought was allergies or a head cold Thursday afternoon turned into flu-like symptoms 30 hours later. A home test revealed a pink line and a blue line—I was COVID-positive. First step: Call out of my day job. Second step: Isolate from my toddler and pregnant wife. Third step: Try not to get run over by this thing. The third step proved the most difficult. This virus is no joke!
By Sunday morning, we were experiencing our worst nightmare. My daughter Ellie went to the hospital for the first time since she was born. She woke up shaking with a 102 degrees fever, and threw up. My wife was understandably freaked, and she called 911. They took an ambulance to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, RI. I was stuck in isolation, trying to calm down my two-year old daughter via Facetime, as she’s strapped to an emergency carseat on an ambulance gurney at 3:00 a.m. With the weekend ER waiting room bustling with 10 families after the New Years’ surge, my girls waited for hours just to be seen.
Thanks to any and every higher power in existence — and my amazing wife, and Hasbro (great hospital) — my daughter is okay. She got discharged at 9 a.m. once they got her fever down. They said the Omicron wasn’t concentrated in her lungs, a major reason it hasn’t been as deadly a variant as Delta. Five days later, Ellie’s already back to her spunky self, running around screaming for CocoMelon (although a bit raspier than usual). All said, she’s fared much better than me — kids are so resilient! And my wife, somehow, has tested negative three times. I guess the vaccine did its job for the most important people in our house — Mama Bear and our baby bear cub, Ellie’s little brother, due March 22.
Needless to say, Tuesday afternoon DFS sleepers and values did not happen this week. In my two years of writing this column, I have never missed my 5 p.m. ET Tuesday deadline. So, thanks a lot, COVID. You’ve already made me a worse version of myself. But I will make up for it by nailing all my picks this week, and making all of you a ton of money. Hey, it’s one of my five main goals: Make my readers beaucoup bucks.
Every Tuesday this year, we’ve been highlighting our favorite under-the-radar plays. We scour the player pools on the two most popular DFS sites and compile a list of players who we project to greatly exceed their modest price tags. By pinpointing value early and often when setting our DFS lineups, we afford ourselves upgrades at other positions.
If you had read this column last week, you would have once again benefited greatly from our advice. Check out the highlights of our low-cost, high-value DFS hits from Week 17 (matchups, prices, and final PPR output listed).
That’s a tidy list of affordable production. If you hit on any of these DFS plays, you bought yourself elite-level production without paying top-shelf prices. Think about it: for a collective average of $5,680, these five plays netted you an average of over 20 PPR points. By capitalizing on sleepers and values like these, you likely afforded yourself a stud or two at other roster spots.
I’m mostly recovered now, and I’m as focused as ever. Now is the time in the NFL season when the studs really separate themselves from the duds — and now is the time for DFS specialists to really jack up their bankroll. Let’s go find ourselves some cheap production and defeat our DFS opponents like my daughter and I crushed COVID-19. Warriors unite!
All player values are from DraftKings and FanDuel. All stats are from NFL.com and Pro Football Reference.
SATURDAY FULL-SLATE DFS: DraftKings | FanDuel
NFL DFS Picks Week 18: QB sleepers, values for DraftKings, FanDuel
Taysom Hill, Saints at Falcons (DK: $6,200 | FD: $7,700)
Hill didn’t have to don his Superman suit against the offensively inept Panthers last weekend (apologies, Cam Newton), as the Saints D carried New Orleans to an 18-10 victory. We also didn’t see the RPO extraordinaire do much against Tampa’s dominant defense in Week 15. But Hill exceeded 26 fantasy points in both Week 13 against Dallas and Week 14 against the Jets. Much like those two squads, Atlanta’s defense has been generous to QBs this season, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. The Saints have a shot at the playoffs with a win this week (and losses from Philly and San Francisco), so expect a Herculean effort from Hill against the division-rival Dirty Birds.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings vs. Bears (DK: $6,100 | FD: $7,200)
Cousins has been cleared to play this week, although it’s much too late for the Vikings. Despite Minnesota being eliminated from playoff contention, coach Mike Zimmer says he’ll still start his veteran QB on Sunday in a divisional game with Chicago. The last time we saw Cousins on the field, he surpassed 20 fantasy points at home against the elite defense of the Rams. I think Cousins will finish the season strong against the 6-10 Bears, exceeding 20 points for the ninth time this season.
Carson Wentz, Colts at Jaguars (DK: $5,800 | FD: $7,200)
I’m probably staying far away from this play, as the Colts have clearly tried to keep the ball out of Wentz’s hands over the past few weeks. But this is Jacksonville we’re talking about, a squad that ranks 24th in fantasy points allowed to QBs. If ever there was a good time for Indy to practice its passing game ahead of the playoffs, it’s now. The Jags will likely be stacking the box in attempts to contain MVP candidate running back Jonathan Taylor, which is all the more reason for Frank Reich to unleash Wentz. Indy needs to win to get into the dance, and if and when they get there, the Colts stand no chance if they can’t throw the ball. It’s a risky play, but it could pay off. Believe me, it’s slim pickings in the QB pool this week.
WEEK 18 DFS LINEUPS: FanDuel | DraftKings | Yahoo
NFL DFS Picks Week 18: RB sleepers, values for DraftKings, FanDuel
David Montgomery, Bears at Vikings (DK: $6,800 | FD: $7,600)
I know $6,800 seems like far from a value, but consider the talent and opportunity you get with a skilled back like Montgomery in an otherwise-scuffling offense. He’s seen an average of 25 touches per game over the past three weeks, and scored 22.3 PPR points per game over the past two. Minnesota ranks 27th in rushing yards allowed per game this season (133.3), and 28th in ground yards allowed over the past three weeks (149.3). The Packers’ Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon gashed the Vikings for 139 combined yards and two TDs last week, and Montgomery should gash them again this Sunday.
AJ Dillon, Packers at Lions (DK: $6,200 | FD: $7,300)
This beast of a man has been superb this season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry while scoring seven touchdowns across just 206 touches. Dillon has found paydirt three times over the past three weeks, and he should see plenty of volume against the 2-13-1 Lions, who surrender the third-most fantasy points in the NFL to running backs. Give the BC alum a go this weekend, as the NFC-leading Packers should be able to rest starting back Aaron Jones for most of the game. If we hear reports prior to Sunday that Dillon is going to be rested, too, pivot to third-stringer Patrick Taylor, who offers a lot of upside in a premium matchup.
Devin Singletary, Bills vs. Jets (DK: $6,000 | FD: $6,700)
Singletary has been the man for the Bills running game in the home stretch, looking better and better each week. Look at his PPR output from Week 14 to 17: 14.9, 16.6, 18.8, 26.0. That’s called hitting your stride at the right time, and it’s absolutely the right time to cash in on this kid. The potential has always been there, and now Singletary is now paying off with increased usage. The Jets rank dead last in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and they also struggle to contain pass-catchers out of the backfield. Buffalo should have no trouble dismantling Gang Green, and Singletary should see 23-plus touches for the third time in four weeks.
WEEK 18 FANTASY RANKINGS (PPR & STANDARD):
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker
NFL DFS Picks Week 18: WR sleepers, values for DraftKings, FanDuel
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks at Cardinals (DK: $6,400 | FD: $6,900)
As usual, Lockett took the backseat to stud receiver DK Metcalf last week against Detroit, but this weekend should be circled on the calendar for Lockett fans. Over the past three times Seattle has played the Cardinals, the speedy wideout has torched the division-rivals for 382 yards and four TDs. Check the smoke detectors and fire suppression systems at State Farm because unlike a good neighbor, Lockett will be burning Arizona this weekend (put that on your “Wall of Claims,” J.K. Simmons!
Brandin Cooks, Texans vs. Titans (DK: $6,300 | FD: $7,100)
Cooks is the most underrated superstar receiver in football — he just keeps on dominating, regardless of his teams’ futility at the quarterback position. The veteran surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the sixth time in his career last week, and he needs just 89 yards this Sunday to reach 1,100 for the fifth time. Methinks he’ll do just that, as Tennessee surrenders 242.5 air yards per game (23rd in the NFL). Cooks has notched 100-plus receiving yards in two of Houston’s past three games, and he’s scored three TDs over the past two weeks. Get Cooks in your DFS kitchen this weekend (bad puns are apparently a symptom of COVID).
Odell Beckham Jr., Rams vs. 49ers (DK: $5,800 | FD: $6,500)
OBJ clearly plays second-fiddle to Pro Bowl standout Cooper Kupp, who deserves consideration to be the first wideout to win MVP honors, but that doesn’t mean Beckham’s not serviceable at $5,800. The talented veteran has touchdowns in five of his past six games as a Ram, and he’s produced at least 13.7 PPR points in each of LA’s past two games. In a meaningful Week 18 divisional home game against the playoff-hopeful 49ers, you want cheap guys who come up big in the clutch. San Francisco ranks 23rd in PPR points allowed to receivers, so OBJ feels like a great play.
SATURDAY SINGLE-GAME DFS:
KC-DEN FD | KC-DEN DK | DAL-PHI FD | DAL-PHI DK
NFL DFS Picks Week 18: TE sleepers, values for DraftKings, FanDuel
Dawson Knox, Bills vs. Jets (DK: $5,400 | FD: $6,000)
I’m bullish on Knox, just like my friends are bullish on cryptocurrency. The talented tight end should see plenty of targets in Buffalo this weekend against the Jets, who rank 27th in fantasy points allowed to the position. Expect Knox to reach double-digit PPR points for the seventh time.
Pat Freiermuth, Steelers at Ravens (DK: $4,600 | FD: $5,200)
Picking tight end sleepers is kind of like playing numbers in roulette. You can’t really make an educated guess, it’s just all luck. Will the ‘Muth get loose for a touchdown this week against the division-rival Ravens? Maybe so, maybe not. The rookie has seven touchdowns and seven double-digit fantasy performances. He caught five-of-six targets last week, but he finished with just 22 yards (he’s surpassed 44 yards in a game just once all season despite hauling in 54 total passes). Spin the wheel and try your luck, or play it safe with Mark Andrews or George Kittle and grab your sleepers and values in the other skill-position spots.
NFL DFS Picks Week 18: D/ST sleepers, values for DraftKings, FanDuel
Saints at Falcons (DK: $3,400 | FD: $4,900)
The Saints made me look good in Week 17, so I’m riding with them again this weekend despite the $500 increase on DK. New Orleans’ stifling D was the main catalyst in its’ 18-10 win over Carolina, and it will be the main reason for a playoff berth if Who Dat Nation makes it to the postseason. Matt Ryan and the Falcons make plenty of mistakes, allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to D/STs. If all goes to plan, New Orleans could very well log 15 fantasy points for the sixth time this season.
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