We have officially made it to the end. The NFL regular season wraps up with a 13-game main slate Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
In this article, I’ll be using various FantasyLabs tools and other industry metrics to break down the slate.
Finally, make sure to check out all the projections available for purchase within the FantasyLabs Models. Subscribers now have the option to purchase Derek Carty’s THE BLITZ from our Marketplace. Projections from One Week Season and Establish the Run are available if you’re a subscriber to those specific sites (our optimizer is a separate add-on feature).
You can also combine them to create your own aggregate projections:
NFL DFS Quarterback Picks
Week 18 brings a tremendous amount of uncertainty to DFS contests. It’s a hybrid between a regular season slate and a preseason slate, so motivation and playing time are far more uncertain than usual.
One of the biggest question marks of the week is the Eagles. Jalen Hurts ($8,200) is questionable after missing the past two games with a shoulder injury, but he will reportedly return to the lineup vs. the Giants. That said, how long he will play is anyone’s guess. The Eagles are still in a position where they need to win on Sunday since a win secures the No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, the Giants are going to be resting their players, so the Eagles should be able to build up a comfortable lead. With that in mind, I’m a bit skeptical that Hurts plays the full four quarters.
Still, Hurts stands out as the clear top option at the position per THE BLITZ. His ceiling projection is nearly eight points higher than every other quarterback, including Josh Allen. Hurts has scored at least 30.38 DraftKings points in each of his past four games, one of which was against the Giants. He should absolutely dominate when he’s on the field, and if he does play the whole contest, he has the potential for another monster outing.
All the uncertainty makes Hurts difficult to trust in cash games, but he’s still worth considering in tournaments.
The list of quarterbacks starting games in Week 18 is hilarious. There are nine starting quarterbacks priced below $5,000 on DraftKings, so it’s a very easy position to spend down at if you choose. It’s hard to trust most of those options, but there is some value to be had.
Andy Dalton stands out as the best of the bunch. He’s priced at $4,800, giving him an identical salary to Joe Flacco, Skylar Thompson, and Nathan Peterman and making him -$100 cheaper than Sam Howell and David Blough. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take my chances with Dalton out of that sextet.
To be fair, Dalton deserves this price tag based on his recent performances. He’s posted a negative Plus/Minus in five straight games, and he’s had 6.96 DraftKings points or fewer in two straight contests. However, he does have a few things working in his favor. For starters, Taysom Hill is questionable for this contest, and his absence would secure Dalton’s spot on the field. Hill is the top touchdown vulture in football, so his absence would give Dalton more opportunities to convert around the goal line.
He also draws a solid matchup vs. a Panthers’ squad that was just eliminated from the playoffs. They should be pretty deflated following that loss, giving Dalton a bit more appeal than usual. He trails only Hurts in terms of projected DraftKings Plus/Minus per THE BLITZ.
The Seahawks need a win to get into the postseason, so they’re a team you can target with confidence on Sunday. Geno Smith has declined over the past few weeks, but he draws an excellent matchup vs. the Rams. They rank 24th in Football Outsiders pass defense DVOA, so it’s a great bounce-back spot for Geno and his top receivers.
Joe Burrow and the Bengals also need a win on Sunday. If they lose to the Ravens, home-field advantage in a Bengals-Ravens playoff matchup would be decided by a coin flip, even though the Bengals have already secured the AFC North crown. They have made no secret of their disdain for the league’s decision, but they have a chance to make all of it moot if they take care of business on Sunday. The Ravens are a tough matchup, but Burrow has played as well as any quarterback in football recently.
The Bills are another team with something to play for this week, and Matt Martin highlights their signal caller in this week’s Quarterback Breakdown.
NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Christian McCaffrey leads the way at running back, and he has provided excellent fantasy value since heading to San Francisco. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in four of his past five games, and he’s scored at least 28.6 DraftKings points in all four contests. McCaffrey is capable of beating teams in multiple ways, racking up yards and touchdowns as a runner and a receiver.
He should have no problem taking care of business this week vs. the Cardinals. They have struggled defensively all year, ranking 23rd in rush defense DVOA and dead last in pass defense DVOA vs. opposing running backs. That is not a good combination for slowing down McCaffrey.
The 49ers are also technically still alive for the top spot in the NFC. They would need the Eagles to lose as massive favorites vs. the Giants, but they won’t know the results of that contest before taking the field. Anything can happen in the NFL, so I expect them to treat their matchup very seriously.
The one negative for McCaffrey is that Elijah Mitchell has been activated from Injured Reserve and will play vs. the Cardinals. McCaffrey saw a nice bump in rushing work while Mitchell was sidelined, but he figures to steal more work than Jordan Mason and Tyrion Davis-Price. The matchup is good enough where there should be enough for both players, but it does give McCaffrey a slightly higher ceiling than usual.
Just like at quarterback, finding value at RB is not an issue on Sunday. Jonathan Williams stands out as the top option. The Commanders are going to be without their top three running backs in Antonio Gibson, Brian Robinson, and J.D. McKissic, leaving Williams as a potential workhorse in the final week of the year.
Williams has bounced around the league since entering in 2016, but he has been effective when given a chance. He’s averaged 5.2 yards per carry this season, and he’s averaged at least 4.6 yards per carry in each of the past four years. He’s also displayed some pass-catching ability, so he could play on all three downs vs. the Cowboys.
Dallas does represent a tough matchup, giving Williams an Opponent Plus/Minus of -2.7. Still, it’s tough to pass up something with that kind of workload potential at just $4,300. He leads THE BLITZ in projected Plus/Minus, and it’s not even that close.
Tyler Allgeier has taken over as the Falcons’ top running back, and he led the team with 63% of their carries in Week 17. He’s been efficient with his carries this season, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt, and he has at least 15.7 DraftKings points in three straight weeks. There’s no reason he can’t make it four in a row vs. the Buccaneers.
For some reason, the FanDuel main slate includes Sunday Night Football this week. I’m not sure why they made that decision, but the Packers’ RBs deserve attention in a potential smash spot vs. the Lions. A.J. Dillon has taken on a larger role recently, but Aaron Jones remains the preferred target. He has a more well-rounded skill set, and he’s averaged more than an additional yard per carry than Dillon this season. Expect the team to lean on him in a must-win game.
Kenneth Walker will be looking to close out an excellent rookie campaign, and Matt Martin breaks him down in this week’s Running Back Breakdown.
NFL DFS Wide Receiver Picks
The other big difference between Week 18 and the rest of the regular season? Record and incentive chasing. Whether or not you believe that teams are going to try to get their players records or statistical incentives, it’s going to have a huge impact on ownership. People like to believe in those types of narratives in a week where there are few sure things.
Justin Jefferson is the clear “narrative play” at receiver this week. He needs 194 receiving yards to break Calvin Johnson’s record, and he needs 229 yards to be the first 2,000-yard receiver in NFL history. Those may seem outlandish, but Jefferson already has a game with 223 receiving yards this season, and he has two others with at least 184. If the Vikings really decide to go after it, 229 yards is definitely possible.
Jefferson also benefits from an elite matchup vs. the Bears. They rank 31st in pass defense DVOA, and they possess one of the worst groups of cornerbacks in the NFL. They’re dead last in DVOA vs. No. 1 receivers, and Pro Football Focus gives Jefferson the third-largest matchup advantage of the week. Jefferson torched this unit for 12 catches and 154 yards in their first meeting, and that was before the Bears had a chance at the No. 1 overall pick. They’re clearly going for it – that’s the only explanation for starting Peterman at quarterback – so don’t expect to see an A+ effort from the rest of the roster.
The Saints have had a revolving door at WR2 this season. Chris Olave has established himself as the team’s top option, but Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Marquez Callaway, and Tre’Quan Smith have all had opportunities alongside him. None of them have worked out, so Rashid Shaheed has gotten the call in recent weeks.
Shaheed has posted a route participation of at least 88% in three straight weeks. He posted his biggest game in terms of target share when Olave was sidelined, but he still has commanded 21% and 26% of the targets in his past two games with Olave. He has at least 13.9 DraftKings points in both of those contests, and he remains very affordable at $4,200.
Ultimately, Shaheed owns the top projected DraftKings Plus/Minus at receiver per THE BLITZ.
Greg Dortch stands out as another strong value at receiver. The Cardinals are going to be without DeAndre Hopkins, and Dortch has played a sizable role the past two weeks. He’s posted a target share of at least 26% in both contests, and his route participation increased to 85% with Hopkins sidelined in Week 17.
Jakobi Meyers has found the paint in back-to-back weeks, and he’s scored at least 16.8 DraftKings points in both contests. He’s been the Patriots’ clear top receiver all season, and a win on Sunday vs. the Bills gets them into the playoffs. Meyers is currently questionable, but expect him to suit up in the team’s most important matchup of the year.
On FanDuel, Amon-Ra St. Brown is worth some consideration as a stud target. He’s been among the league leaders in terms of targets per route run this season, and his price has come down slightly after a subpar outing last week.
Does Ja’Marr Chase deserve stud consideration? Matt Martin makes the case in this week’s Wide Receiver Breakdown.
NFL DFS Tight End Picks
With the Chiefs playing on Saturday, Travis Kelce is not available in the stud tier on Sunday. He’s the clear top choice at tight end when he’s available, so the position is much more open than usual.
Mark Andrews has cooled off after a torrid start to the year, but he did rack up nine catches for 100 yards last week. He has seen a nice uptick in targets with Tyler Huntley under center, including a whopping 45% target share last week. He’s been at 25% or greater in each of his past four contests, so he certainly has a stud-like workload at the position.
Andrews has also been priced down to $5,400 on DraftKings, which is a reasonable price tag for him. He’s historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +1.93 with a comparable salary, and he owns a Bargain Rating of 78%.
Pat Freiermuth is significantly cheaper than Andrews, but he’s not too far behind in terms of targets. Freiermuth ranks second on the Steelers with a 19.4% target share, and he’s been targeted on 24.2% of his routes run. That second mark grades out very well at the tight end position, with only four other high-volume tight ends posting superior marks.
The only thing keeping Freiermuth from being a high-end fantasy tight end is his touchdown production. He has just two scores for the year after catching seven touchdowns in a smaller role as a rookie. His rookie success combined with his size suggests he should be a threat around the goal line, so he’s clearly been a bit unlucky. PFF credits Freiermuth with 4.2 expected touchdowns for the year, which is the eighth-best mark at the position.
If Freiermuth can add a score to his already strong receiving numbers, he has the potential to provide excellent value at his current price tag.
David Njoku’s salary continues to decrease, but his underlying metrics remain promising. He had 20% of the Browns targets last week, but they threw the ball just 18 times, and it’s hard to provide value with such minimal volume. DeShaun Watson should have to throw the ball a bit more this week vs. the Steelers, so Njoku is a solid buy-low target.
Jelani Woods is dirt cheap at $2,900, and his role with the Colts is growing. The third-round rookie out of Virginia possesses an intriguing combination of size and speed, and he’s been targeted on at least 20% of his routes run in back-to-back weeks. His routes are also up over that time frame, so he has some upside in a solid matchup vs. the Texans.
George Kittle is going to have to share the field with Deebo Samuel for the first time in three weeks, but can he continue his recent hot streak? Matt Martin takes a look in this week’s Tight End Breakdown.
This is a very tough week for roster construction. There is value at basically every position across the board, so you can go in a few different directions.
The current optimal lineup for THE BLITZ features Jalen Hurts at quarterback, and it’s hard to knock that construction too much. Using Hurts still allows you to get to Stefon Diggs at receiver and Andrews at tight end, so you’re not exactly sacrificing a ton of upside. It also allows you to utilize some of the top value options on the slate, including Williams, Allgeier, and Walker at running back and flex.
Still, Hurts just feels a bit too risky for me. I think there’s a legit chance they go up big early and that Hurts is watching the second half from the sideline. Garnder Minshew should be enough to get past Davis Webb and whoever else the Giants throw out around him.
If you’re not going with Hurts, you can simply swap him out for Josh Allen. You can also go in a completely different direction with someone like Dalton, which allows you to get up to McCaffrey at running back.
Ultimately, I like the idea of paying up at QB given all the value at running back, I’m just not sure that either of the top quarterbacks are particularly strong plays. For that reason, I lean towards the Dalton construction.
The FanDuel roster construction is pretty similar. Hurts or Allen gets the nod at quarterback, while Williams, Allgeier, and Walker make the optimal at RB. The big differences are the St. Brown replaces Diggs, while Chris Olave gets the nod over his cheaper teammate. Njoku also stands out as the best per-dollar tight end option given his 73% Bargain Rating.