SB Nation has brought you the top Daily Fantasy options each week of the preseason, regular season and playoffs. Now, we are down to the final NFL DFS contest of the 2017-18 season and it is a whole new ballgame on DraftKings. Historically, the only way a DFS contest could be run -- in any sport – is with a minimum of two games to choose from. For events like the NBA Finals and World Series, this means combining games over a two-game span to make the contest legal.
As you may have noticed during the early playoff weekends, DraftKings began offering one-game contests called “Showdowns,” which features a six-player lineup, instead of the usual nine, and for the first time on DraftKings, requires the selection of individual defensive players.
In the Showdown option, users select four offensive players – either 2-and-2 or 3-and-1 from the two teams – and two defensive players, regardless of team, with a salary cap of $50,000. Offensive points are awarded as they would be in a regular multi-team contest. The defensive players earn points for tackles (1), assists (.5), sacks (5), interceptions and fumble recoveries (3), forcing a fumble (3), defending a pass (1.5), safties (10) and the usual six for defensive or special teams touchdowns. Individual players also earn 10 points for a blocked kick and two points for returning a two-point conversion.
So, clearly, picking the right defensive players – ranging from $5,100 to $2,000 in salary – is a key component. In this case – and in most cases, I suspect – the “right” defenders are not necessarily the most expensive. In fact, selecting two defenders combining for roughly $6,000 in salary allows for almost limitless combinations on offense, including using both Tom Brady ($15,500) and Nick Foles ($12,800) in the same lineup, without having to reach for risky, cheap plays.
Two of my favorite defensive plays in this game are the Patriots’ slot DB Eric Rowe ($2,300) and Eagles slot corner Patrick Robinson ($3,500), who should be two of the busiest defenders in this game, racking up tackles and pass defenses – and if we get lucky, a pick-six.
Although it figures to be popular, I think the top overall strategy on offense calls for using three Patriots and Foles, as the Pats should be able to score points – maybe not at will, but enough to produce 3 or 4 touchdowns and a boatload of yards in a pass-heavy, no-huddle attack, which also puts Foles in a pass-first game script.
The key is finding the right three Patriots to target. Brady pretty much has to be on the roster, as his $15,500 salary is actually not as prohibitive as it seems, especially if we decide early on to fade Rob Gronkowski ($12,400), a bit of a wild card because of his concussion and the strength of the Eagles’ defense against tight ends.
Because the Patriots are a good bet to throw a lot of no-huddle at the Eagles, as well as utilizing quick throws to neutralize the Eagles’ pass rush, Dion Lewis ($8.900) could be set up for a monster game as the dual-threat option that has shredded opponents over the past five weeks.
The Patriots’ receiver who intrigues me the most in this game is Chris Hogan ($6,400), who appears to be over his injury problems and has the best draw of Eagles’ cornerbacks in Jalen Mills ($4,000). Mr. January, Danny Amendola ($9,500), actually has the toughest matchup against Robinson. I think Robinson wins this matchup, which is why I like him as a defensive play. But that also works for this particular lineup construction, as Hogan should benefit from his easier matchup – the Patriots always target the top weakness on the opposing defense – and that brings Mills ($4,000) into the conversation as a defender to pair with Rowe.
Brady-Lewis-Hogan-Foles-Mills-Rowe = $49,900 out of $50,000.
The contrarian offensive stack is going to be PHI-3/NE-1. Foles is automatic in this scenario. And Brady is still the top Pats option. But what of the other two Eagles on offense?
Nelson Agholor ($7,400) has the best matchup of all the Eagles pass catchers against Rowe, who grades out as the worst of the Patriots’ defensive backs. The top target for Foles this postseason has been Zach Ertz ($9,300), but the Patriots have been one of the better teams in the league at defending the tight end, so even a lot of looks doesn’t guarantee a big game for Ertz.
Agholor has underwhelmed in the Eagles’ two postseason games, which could serve to depress his ownership. I think he is going to emerge as the top target for Foles because of his matchup in the slot. He also offers a steep discount from Ertz and Alshon Jeffery ($10,000), who has a brutal matchup against Stephon Gilmore ($3,700).
The other top target on the Eagles’ side is Jay Ajayi ($8,300), who has been coming on in the touch department since late in the regular season and is the top option as the pass-catching back against a Patriots defense that has had its issues in that department. Corey Clement ($4,300) would be a deep sleeper pick because of his pass-catching ability, but at $8,300, Ajayi is thrifty enough to roster at a higher guarantee of carries and targets.
If you are going to go heavy on Philly, it’s Foles-Ajayi-Agholor, then bring it back with Brady. That leaves you $6,000 for your two defensive players. As we said, Rowe is $2,300, and if we’re using this lineup because of the game-script, Rowe should be targeted heavily, increasing his opportunity for tackles, pass defenses and interceptions. You don’t lose points for allowing production to offensive players, so even if Agholor goes off (as we hope he does in this lineup construction), as long as Rowe can make 3-4 tackles and knock down 3-4 passes, he’s going to get a baseline of 7-8 points, and that’s just fine at his salary.
The remaining $3,700 can go to Robinson, who, like Rowe, should be busy defending the red-hot Amendola in the slot, or Gilmore, who had a terrific game against the Jags in the AFC Championship.