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NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown with Matt Savoca | Wild Card Saturday Slate

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The ultimate free guide to making your Week 13 Jock MKT NFL picks for Monday Night Football Patriots vs. Bills with expert IPO projections.

Matt Savoca’s Daily Fantasy Football Matchups Column returns for Wild Card Weekend of the NFL season. In it, he goes through every single game on the Saturday main slate to guide you to the best plays for your season-long fantasy football lineups on Yahoo, ESPN and CBS; and your NFL DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel. There are three games on tap for Wild Card Weekend’s Saturday slate, so let’s dive into the action.

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Wild Card Saturday NFL DFS Matchups Breakdown

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team


Indianapolis Colts (22.25) at Buffalo Bills (28.75)

All Graphs Reflect Last Five Weeks of the Regular Season, Click Graphs to Enlarge

Quick-Hitter Game Summary

  • The Colts, though clear underdogs, are one of only five playoff teams that ranked top 12 in the NFL in both defensive and offensive per-play efficiency and had a +89 point differential this season. The Bills ranked 14th during the regular season in defensive efficiency, meaning that the Colts should have a slight advantage against the Bills’ defense.
  • Jonathan Taylor ranks second at his position in expected fantasy points per game, but based on his recent efficiency and Buffalo’s average rush defense, Taylor’s top running back salary is absolutely worth paying in this presumed high-scoring affair.
  • T.Y. Hilton ranks third among receivers on the slate in expected fantasy points per game over the last five weeks and has an intriguingly modest $5,100 salary, 11th among wideouts. That makes him a strong value play on Saturday.
  • The Bills finished 2020 with a top-five offense, led by quarterback Josh Allen‘s superior play. Allen ranks first amongst all playoff quarterbacks in per-play efficiency. All of his three primary receivers are values at their respective salaries, and the Bills rank No. 1 in Awesemo’s top stacks value.

NFL DFS Upside Analysis

The Bills are one of the most pass-heavy offenses in neutral situations of all the teams in the postseason, while the Colts are one of fastest-paced teams in the NFL, ranking eighth in the NFL in game-adjusted pace of play during the regular season. Even with a Vegas total north of 50, this game has the highest shootout probability on the slate, and despite the teams’ defenses’ best efforts, there could easily be 60-plus points scored in this contest. Allen has been playing at an elite level, while Philip Rivers, as far as playoff quarterbacks go, actually ranks below average in per-drive, per-play, and per-pass efficiency.

Passing and Pace

Teams that play faster and pass more than average tend to score more fantasy points. When both teams play aggressively, it often creates a game environment perfect for fantasy scoring. Games have a higher probability of going over their Vegas total as well. Ideally we’re seeking matchups where both teams are in the upper-right quadrant of the chart below (see the chart’s caption for more details).

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The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).

Quarterback Efficiency

Sustained drives in the NFL rely on efficiency at the quarterback position, so I’ve identified my three favorite performance indicators for assessing quarterback performance. The three bar charts below (see the graph’s caption for more detail) represent a quarterback’s per-drive efficiency (left bar chart), per-play efficiency — including rushes/scrambles (center) — and per-pass efficiency (right). Higher rankings from both players indicate a higher likelihood of efficient play, thus a higher probability of fantasy points.

The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).

NFL DFS Player Pool Picker

The combination of Allen and Stefon Diggs is absolutely worth investing in despite being the highest-salary quarterback-receiver stack on the slate. Cole Beasley could be a spectacular value as well, assuming health, as the 10th-highest active wide receiver on the slate. Hilton, Taylor and Rivers all appear to have expected projections in line with salary-based expectations.

Indianapolis Colts NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
IND Philip Rivers, QB #5 #5 #5 #2 14 Fpts (QB4)
IND Jonathan Taylor, RB #1 #1 #2 #4 17.5 Fpts (RB2)
IND T.Y. Hilton, WR #11 #6 #4 #2 14.5 Fpts (WR4)
IND Michael Pittman Jr., WR #17 #17 #15 #3 6 Fpts (WR17)
IND Nyheim Hines, RB #7 #8 #8 #4 11 Fpts (RB6)

Buffalo Bills NFL DFS Core Offenses

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Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
BUF Josh Allen, QB #1 #1 #1 #5 22.5 Fpts (QB1)
BUF Stefon Diggs, WR #1 #1 #1 #5 19 Fpts (WR1)
BUF Cole Beasley, WR #10 #7 #6 #6 15 Fpts (WR3)
BUF John Brown, WR #12 #4 #17 #6 5.5 Fpts (WR18)
BUF Zack Moss, RB #8 #12 #11 #6 7 Fpts (RB10)
BUF Devin Singletary, RB #11 #9 #9 #6 8.5 Fpts (RB9)

Unless participating in a large-field tournament, the players above are the players that fantasy gamers should be focusing on in their daily fantasy football lineups. For each player, it’s easy to compare their DraftKings main-slate salary ranking (in column 3) to their per-game fantasy scoring (in column 4). A player’s opportunity is measured by expected fantasy points, (column 5), which is curated by PFF.  Defense vs. Position (column 6) is an extremely helpful position-specific and player group-specific metric (for example, the metric delineates between primary wide receiver vs. secondary wide receivers) that helps determine if an offensive player is likely to be in a position to exceed their expected fantasy points. Higher numbers in the Defense vs. Position column indicate easier matchups for the offense, while numbers closer to one indicate a stout defense against that specific position group. Finally, expected projection (column 7) combines a player’s expected fantasy points with their weekly matchup into one helpful value metric. Apart from the Awesemo projections (which should still carry the most weight in determining player value), expected projection is one of my favorite metrics to help me narrow down my favorite plays of the week. The rankings are always specific to the slate, meaning if a player or team is ranked No. 1 at a specific metric, they may not necessarily be ranked No. 1 in the NFL, but they are for this specific slate.

NFL DFS Skill Position Values: Expected Points

The Week 17 explosion from typical non-contributor Antonio Williams reminds fantasy gamers just how valuable a bell cow running back would be in the current iteration of the Bills’ offense. With Buffalo seemingly committing to splitting meaningful opportunities almost exactly evenly between Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, don’t expect either Bills running back to produce a meaningful fantasy score. On the Indianapolis side of the ball, both running backs are in play, with Taylor and Nyheim Hines both strong values compared to salary-based expectations. Beasley once again looks like a tremendous value if he plays a full snap share. Beasley’s expected points per game over the last five weeks are nearly identical to the Colts’ top wideout, Hilton.

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By assigning a value to each play (based on score, down, distance to the goal line, distance to first down, play type, etc.), we can measure not just a player’s workload, but the expected value of that workload using recent league history as a guide. Expected fantasy points should be considered a volume metric. If a player scores more fantasy points (represented by the dots in the bar chart below) than expected, that means the player is either talented or lucky (or both) and may have unsustainable fantasy production based on their usage.

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This chart measures Expected Fantasy Points (DraftKings scoring) Per Game, indicated by each player’s bar, as well as fantasy points per game, indicated by the dot. If a dot is outside the bar, that means the player is performing above expectation. If the dot is within the bar, that means the player is performing below expectation. It includes injured players in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

 

This chart measures Expected Fantasy Points (DraftKings scoring) Per Game, indicated by each player’s bar, as well as fantasy points per game, indicated by the dot. If a dot is outside the bar, that means the player is performing above expectation. If the dot is within the bar, that means the player is performing below expectation. It includes injured players in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

NFL DFS Auxiliary Offensive Players for Large-Field Contests

Fantasy gamers are likely engaging in point chasing, but Isaiah McKenzie proved himself a strong offensive weapon when called upon with multiple touchdowns in Week 17. McKenzie will be the fifth wideout for the Bills on Saturday but could have a play or two designed for him after his breakout performance last weekend. Dawson Knox isn’t the worst value play at tight end, but you can likely find better. For the Colts, tight ends Jack Doyle and Trey Burton stand out as quality plays in large-field tournaments, as the Bills rank second worst on the slate in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends.

Indianapolis Colts NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
IND Zach Pascal, WR 75% 46 #2 MME-only
IND Trey Burton, TE 39% 67 #5 MME-only
IND Jack Doyle, TE 57% 40 #5 MME-only
IND Mo Alie-Cox, TE 49% 20 #5 Look Elsewhere
IND Ashton Dulin, WR 12% 0 #2 Look Elsewhere

Buffalo Bills NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
BUF Dawson Knox, TE 67% 80 #2 Value
BUF Gabriel Davis, WR 83% 61 #6 MME-only
BUF Antonio Williams, RB 44% 53 #6 Look Elsewhere
BUF Isaiah McKenzie, WR 32% 29 #6 MME-only

In daily fantasy football, depending on the size and type of contest you’re playing, it’s often advantageous to expand your player pool to less-utilized offensive players. In this section, we examine every part-time player’s usage based on playing time, opportunity and defensive matchup. For each player, an Opportunity Score is calculated using position-specific predictive metrics, which are then scaled to number between zero (least valuable) and 100 (most valuable). Scores above 50 tend to indicate starter-level opportunity, while scores over 80 indicate star-level usage. Finally, players are categorized as an NFL DFS value, a mass multi-entry option (MME-only) or a player to avoid altogether.

Final Thoughts

Though both teams have defenses that ranked in the top half of the NFL this season, it’s easy to project offensive fireworks, and winning daily fantasy football lineups almost certainly will need to utilize players from this game. Hilton and the Bills’ secondary receivers stand out as strong values compared to salary, but the three bigwigs, Diggs, Allen and Taylor, all look like they could be in a position to produce a slate-breaking score.

Prediction: Bills 31, Colts 23


Looking for more NFL DFS picks and daily fantasy football matchups content? We have loads of articles, data and more on the Awesemo NFL home page. Just click HERE.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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