Here’s a breakdown of the two NFL Wildcard Weekend Sunday Showdown slates that kick off on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 4:35 p.m. ET with Chiefs-Colts, followed by Rams-Cowboys at 8:15 p.m. ET.
Cash Game Strategy
Patrick Mahomes has a 2.5-point edge in median projection over any other player on the slate in our DK Showdown Models. Locking him in the Captain spot saves enough salary to field a lineup that also includes Andrew Luck, Marlon Mack, and Damien Williams, as well as Harrison Butker, the top projected player under $6,600, and Nyheim Hines, who basically functions as Mack’s insurance.
Not all four of Mahomes, Luck, Williams, and Mack fit here, and since Mahomes and Luck are both projected for 21-plus while everyone else is under 15, it comes down to Williams vs. Mack. Williams projects to outscore Mack and comes $2,500 cheaper, so Williams it is. That leaves $15,500 remaining, which can be used on a Chester Rogers–Sammy Watkins pairing. Butker-Chris Conley would be the pivot if Watkins (foot) ends up sitting out.
- Per our NFL Correlations Dashboard), the Chiefs have a strong QB-RB1 correlation (0.63 correlation coefficient), which has no doubt been enhanced by Williams catching 18 passes and two touchdowns over the past four games.
- The numbers don’t necessarily back jamming in both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce — while the Chiefs have a positive and relatively strong QB-TE1 correlation (0.62), they’ve seen negative correlations with QB-WR1 (-0.21) and WR1-TE1(-0.29).
- Mahomes and the opposing passer have a 0.68 correlation while Luck and the opposing passer’s correlation is 0.50.
- We’ve seen Mack pile up at least 26 touches in three of his past four games, the last of which came as Hines failed to record a single touch. This falls in line with Indy’s negative RB1-RB2 correlation (-0.22).
- The Colts also have negative correlations at RB1-WR1(-0.43) and RB1-TE1 (-0.19), but positive correlations at RB2-WR1 (0.32) and RB2-TE1 (0.56). Indy’s WR1-TE1 correlation is also positive (0.36).
- Mahomes edges Luck by a point for the top projected ceiling on the slate, followed by T.Y. Hilton, Hill, Williams, and Kelce in that order. The next tier goes Mack, Dontrelle Inman, Watkins, Rogers, Eric Ebron. Ebron has averaged 8.5 targets per game in 11 games without Jack Doyle (IR) in the lineup and is particularly intriguing.
- Mahomes-Luck: To leverage the opposing QB correlations.
- Mack-Mahomes: If KC ends up playing from behind.
- Mahomes-Williams-Kelce: Home-favorite onslaught with the more positively correlated pass catcher to Mahomes in the better matchup.
- Hines is the obvious leverage play as a potential foil to Mack.
- Darrel Williams could also provide leverage on Damien Williams, who is still yet to exceed 13 carries. Charcandrick West is more of a shot in the dark — he’s operated as the No. 3 back, but the one thing he has working for him is 25 of his 30 snaps this season have come on pass downs compared to 21-of-40 for Darrel Williams.
- Aside from the starters and Hines, Zach Pascal and Mo Alie-Cox were the only Colts to run pass routes last week. Pascal has popped for two five-catch, 55-plus-yard games with a touchdown, and Cox has two touchdown grabs on just 13 targets.
Cash Game Strategy
Healthier than Todd Gurley and set to face the Rams’ 28th-ranked defense in rushing DVOA, Ezekiel Elliott is the safest bet in the Captain spot. Elliott, Gurley, Jared Goff, and Dak Prescott fit under the cap with enough salary to punt the final two spots with Greg Zuerlein, the top projected player on the slate under $6,200, and Dalton Schultz, the top value under $2,400. Schultz has an outside chance to start if Blake Jarwin (ankle) ends up sitting. The Rams allowed the fourth-most schedule-adjusted yards in the league to tight ends during the regular season (67.0), per Football Outsiders.
Here it makes more sense to fade both quarterbacks, which allows you to fit Elliott, Gurley, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks if you punt the last slot with Schultz; especially with Jarwin and Cole Beasley (ankle), there just isn’t enough upside to justify punting the last two spots in lieu of pairing Woods and Cooks.
Amari Cooper is an option here as well, but especially on FanDuel where the value of touchdowns is enhanced relative to full-PPR sites like DraftKings, I’d prefer to lock in the top two receivers for the team with the higher scoring expectation; the Rams are implied to outscore the Cowboys 28.25-21.25 as of this writing (view live odds here).
- Goff has had an extremely strong correlation with the opposing QB (0.90), and Prescott and the opposing QB have been strongly correlated as well since acquiring Cooper (0.62).
- As you may expect for an offense with a highly concentrated target distribution, the Rams have positive correlations for WR1-WR2 (0.45), RB1-WR1 (0.15), and RB1-WR2 (0.32). The team’s TE1 has also been positively correlated with all but the running backs.
- At -0.67, Cowboys’ WR1-TE1 correlation is strongly negative since acquiring Cooper.
- Neither team has seen much of a correlation between its QB and RB1: 0.05 for the Rams and 0.02 for the Cowboys (since Cooper joined the team).
- Lining up for a home favorite projected to outscore its opponent by a touchdown, Gurley has the top ceiling projection on the slate in our Models, followed by Elliott, Goff, and Prescott.
- Among pass-catchers, the highest projected ceilings belong to Woods, Cooper, Cooks, and Josh Reynolds in that order and then a huge gap.
- Goff-Prescott: To leverage the strong QB-opposing QB correlations for both teams.
- Goff-Gurley-Woods: Home favorite onslaught with the Rams’ highest-projected receiver.
- Thanks to averaging 6.8 targets — including 1.8 in the red zone — over his past six games, Reynolds’ ceiling is, as I mentioned a few moment ago, in line with the other top pass catchers on the slate. He provides leverage on ownership his more expensive teammates, and so too does Everett, who has a batter matchup than Reynolds; Dallas’ perimeter cornerback duo of Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie is a strength.
- Allen Hurns (foot) is out; Jarwin is banged up; Beasley is banged up; and Noah Brown has caught only 4-of-9 targets for 29 yards since December. Four words: Tavon Austin revenge game.
Let’s get this shmoney!
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Chris Raybon is a Senior Editor at the Action Network and a co-host of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+. He has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2010 — even the kneel downs. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRaybon and read about how he quit his accounting job and got paid to watch sports.
Pictured above: Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30)
Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports