*Editor's Note: Each Thursday leading into the NFL games, contributing writer Jonathan Auping broke down a few things to consider as fantasy owners set their weekly lineups, including players to start or sit, along with trends to remember. Whether your game is the traditional fantasy league or the daily games from DraftKings, this weekly feature should've helped you get prepared for the fantasy weekend. This will be the final installment for the Fantasy columns for this football season. *
Make the Smart Plays:
Pittsburgh Steelers, Defense, (DraftKings Salary $3,500)
In daily fantasy contests, choosing the right defense is crucial during Wild Card Weekend. There are only eight to choose from, and theoretically they are all playing pretty competent offenses. With three backup quarterbacks (well, two and whatever you want to call Brock Osweiler) likely starting games this weekend, you're probably trying to decide which one to bet against.
Here are the two things you'll want from your fantasy defense in the playoffs: the ability to make plays and an offense that won't put them in challenging situations. The Steelers' defense has nine interceptions in their last seven games and at least one in each of those games. They've also only given up 20 passing touchdowns all season, which is tied for fifth best in the NFL, and they'll be going up against career backup Matt Moore. Perhaps most importantly, their offense will be controlling field position and eating up time of possession.
Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks (DraftKings Salary $6,300)
The Detroit Lions won nine games this season by getting the ball out quickly and Tate has been Matthew Stafford's number one target. The bouncy receiver will have his work cut out for him against his former team, but the Lions' only chance of being competitive in Seattle is relentlessly doing what they do best.
There won't be any secrets to how Detroit plans on getting Tate open against the Seattle defense. He's going to run very simple short routes and look for yardage after catch. He's always valuable in DraftKings' points-per-reception format, and there are few guys his size who are as difficult to tackle. Without Earl Thomas looming, the Seahawks' heralded defense could be vulnerable to a couple big plays.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants, (DraftKings Salary $6,100)
Eli Manning didn't exactly light up the league this season, but at this point, we all know better than to assume he can't turn it on in the playoffs. Turning momentum into another Giants Super Bowl run might be a tall order, but Manning will head to Lambeau Field to face the weakest secondary in the playoffs.
The Packers' defense gave up 4,309 passing yards this season, just 77 short of being the worst in the entire NFL. The last time Eli played a postseason game in Green Bay was in 2011. He put up 330 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception on his way to a 37-20 win. He's played quite a few games since then, but he also has a guy named Odell Beckham Jr. on his team now to go along with a healthy and dangerous selection of other weapons.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions, (DraftKings Salary $4,100)
There's no question Tate is the safer play based on his ability to rack up receptions even if they don't all go for long yardage. Jones is the Lions' deep threat and while throwing deep on the Seahawks has been one of the toughest tasks in football the past few years, if Detroit makes Seattle respect their short yardage game it will open up some opportunities for Jones to make a huge play. Earl Thomas has been the single biggest factor in Seattle's ability to prevent the deep pass. Without him, a good quarterback can expose some issues.
Finding low salary options with high upside is really tough in the playoffs. I'd rather play a receiver with a good quarterback like Stafford—even against a solid defense—than a receiver whose quarterback doesn't know how to get him the ball (of which there are a couple this weekend).
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins, (DraftKings Salary $6,800)
When the Dolphins faced the Steelers earlier this season Ajayi made a name for himself. He ran the ball 25 times to the tune of 204 yards and two touchdowns. It was the moment Miami realized he was the most productive member of their offense and they didn't ignore that fact. He broke 200 yards in a game two more times in the season and mixed it up in the passing game as well.
Against the Steelers his floor will be relatively low. The Dolphins don't want to put the game in Matt Moore's hands. Ajayi will get more than 20 carries. Even if the Steelers win the game comfortably it's totally reasonable to expect over 100 yards, a touchdown, and 3-5 receptions from their young running back.
But Don't Outsmart Yourself:
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans, (DraftKings Salary $6,700)
It might seem like the biggest hindrance to a receiver having a good fantasy performance would be facing a stifling defense. That certainly doesn't help, but it's nothing compared to being saddled with an inept quarterback.
From a talent standpoint, Hopkins fits in the conversation with any receivers you want to claim are the league's best. But playing with the quarterback combination of Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage this season, Hopkins was much closer in passing yards to Cole Beasley (883) than he was to T.Y. Hilton (1,448). He doesn't need to be taken out of the offense because no one can get him the ball in the first place.
It might seem like there's big play potential from Hopkins, but it's just not realistic to think Osweiler is competent enough to get the job done in a playoff game.