The 2021-2022 NFL regular season is over, but fantasy football doesn’t have to stop. If you’re playing playoff fantasy, particularly in one-and-done formats, you need the best plays for this week. Let’s take a look at the top start ’em and sit ’em picks for Wild Card Weekend.
NFL Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for Wild Card Weekend: Quarterbacks
During the first week of the 2021-2022 NFL playoffs, which quarterbacks are starts and sits in the Wild Card round?
Start ‘Em | Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (vs. SF)
It’s a whole different process deciding who to start and who to sit in the NFL playoffs. Dak Prescott isn’t the best fantasy quarterback this weekend, and he doesn’t have the best matchup. What he does have is the best combination of upside and value.
Prescott is $6,700 on DraftKings for Sunday’s slate, the third-most-expensive quarterback. Patrick Mahomes ($7,300), Tyreek Hill ($7,300), and Travis Kelce ($6,700) will be popular choices. As will Tom Brady ($7,200), Mike Evans ($7,000), and Rob Gronkowski ($6,700).
Both Brady and Mahomes have the better matchups. By starting Prescott, you could put together a more contrarian DFS lineup consisting of lesser-rostered players. Prescott can more easily be stacked with Amari Cooper ($5,900) and CeeDee Lamb ($6,300). You can even add Cedrick Wilson ($4,300) for the super stack.
The Cowboys vs. 49ers matchup has sneaky shootout potential. Prescott has been phenomenal at home this season, throwing 23 touchdowns against just 2 interceptions. This game is in Dallas, and if game flow goes in your favor, you could end up with a high-scoring lineup with players not many other lineups have. Start Prescott.
Sit ‘Em | Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (@ LAR)
This is an ironic choice for me because I think the Cardinals are winning this game. With that said, it makes sense given the disparity between Kyler Murray’s perception and reality.
Murray returned from a five-week absence in Week 13. In that game, he threw for just 123 yards but managed a monster fantasy day due to his 4 total touchdowns. Since then, he hasn’t rushed for a score and has thrown multiple TD passes in just one game.
Murray’s status as an elite fantasy quarterback is a bit fraudulent. From Weeks 1-4, he averaged 28 fantasy points per game. From Weeks 5-18, he averaged 19.9 ppg. It’s a stark reminder how much of his overall QB4 finish was buoyed by the first month of the season.
This week, Murray gets a Rams defense he has had success against (268 passing yards, 2 TDs, 39 rushing yards in Week 4 and 383 passing yards, 61 rushing yards, no TDs in Week 14). With that said, Murray checks in at $7,000 on DraftKings for the prime-time slate, $800 more than Matthew Stafford. Given Murray’s recent struggles and the difficulty in stacking him with his pass catchers, he’s a fade this week.
So many of the top fantasy running backs are on teams that didn’t make the playoffs. Which running back should fantasy managers start, and who is better left on the bench this week?
Start ‘Em | Sony Michel, Los Angeles Rams (vs. ARI)
I believe head coach Sean McVay wants to get Cam Akers more involved. It’s just difficult to see that happening immediately. Perhaps by the end of a potential postseason run, Akers takes over this backfield. But in just his second game back from a torn Achilles, I still expect this to be Sony Michel’s unit.
Michel has been a workhorse since taking the starting role from Darrell Henderson Jr. He played 80% of the snaps last week with Akers back. While that’s a slight dip from his pre-Akers numbers, it’s still a massive snap share. Even a drop to 70% keeps Michel valuable.
Michel costs just $5,600 on DraftKings — $600 cheaper than James Conner and $900 cheaper than Najee Harris. At his current cost, I like him more than both of them. In fact, I’d pair Michel with the guy $100 cheaper than him, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, allowing you to spend up at WR and TE.
Michel rushed for 79 yards on 20 carries the last time these teams met. He’s had at least 18 carries in six consecutive games, and despite not being known for his receiving prowess, Michel has averaged 3.33 targets per game since taking over as the starter six weeks ago. Michel is a good combination of value and upside this week.
Sit ‘Em | Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (vs. SF)
As you may gather, I’m banking on a bit of a pass-heavy game plan from the Cowboys this week. We now have a full season of data suggesting Ezekiel Elliott is declining. He only managed two 100-yard rushing games all season. From Weeks 6-18, Elliott’s highest rushing total was 87 yards in Week 18 against the Eagles’ backups. Before that game, he went 10 straight contests with 52 or fewer rushing yards.
The Cowboys may have force fed Zeke a bit during the regular season, but if Tony Pollard continues to look like the superior player, they will ride the hot hand in the playoffs.
Zeke’s fantasy value is almost entirely dependent upon touchdowns. Sure, he may find the end zone, but if we want upside in DFS lineups, we need the full production for a guy that costs $6,100 on DraftKings.
At $500 more than Leonard Fournette and $600 more than CEH, I prefer both to Elliott, allowing you to spend up for Cowboys pass catchers. Elliott hasn’t been efficient all season, and he isn’t going to start now.
NFL Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for Wild Card Weekend: Wide Receivers
Which wide receivers should fantasy managers use in the Wild Card round? Hopefully, these start ’em and sit ’em plays will help.
Start ‘Em | Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ KC)
This is the week to use Diontae Johnson because there won’t be another chance. The Steelers are going to lose this game. If you’re in a one-and-done fantasy playoff format, Johnson makes for a great option in a game the Steelers should have to throw a ton.
I expect Ben Roethlisberger to surpass 40 pass attempts in a negative game script. The Chiefs are double-digit home favorites and just beat the Steelers 36-10 three weeks ago. In that game, Johnson had 6 catches for 51 yards and a garbage-time touchdown.
I actually like Johnson at $6,700 on DraftKings more than Tyreek Hill at $7,300. Hill is dealing with a heel injury, and the Chiefs should be able to control this game on the ground. They’ll be running with a lead while the Steelers will be throwing to catch up.
Johnson has 12 games this season with at least 10 targets. Big Ben’s depleted arm strength limits Johnson’s ability to be efficient, but the volume remains. He comes with a high floor and a reasonably high ceiling. Johnson’s price also allows for a nice game stack with CEH ($5,500), which I think is the best move for attacking this particular game in DFS lineups.
Sit ‘Em | Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. PIT)
Tyreek Hill’s pricing ($7,300 on DraftKings) makes sense based upon his ability, but there are several reasons to think this will be a down week.
First, we have game script. The Chiefs are double-digit favorites and should lead throughout, limiting Mahomes’ passing attempts. Second, Hill hurt his heel last week. Although he’s a full go this week, if the Chiefs get a lead, they could easily limit Hill’s snaps to keep him fresh for the Divisional Round.
Third, even when healthy, Hill just hasn’t been that good recently. Stop reading right now for just a moment and hazard a quick guess as to where Hill ranked in average fantasy points per game over his final six outings. Think about it. Just ballpark an answer in your head. Got it? Okay, great. Now for the answer.
Amongst wide receivers who played at least three games over that span, Hill was the PPR WR39. From Weeks 13-18, Hill averaged 10.7 PPR fantasy points per game. That’s fewer than the likes of Jalen Guyton, Jakobi Meyers, and Laquon Treadwell. If Kansas City makes a run, Hill will undoubtedly play a significant role. The blow-up spot is probably coming — it just won’t be this week.
The tight end position is a disaster in fantasy football. With seldom few reliable options, can we find start ’em-worthy TEs?
Start ‘Em | Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (@ TB)
This one is almost entirely based on cost. Dallas Goedert ($4,400) is the second-cheapest tight end on DraftKings for Sunday, ahead of Pat Freiermuth ($4,200). Goedert didn’t play in Week 18 due to COVID-19 and the Eagles resting starters. In Week 17, he had 6 catches for 71 yards.
Goedert has been a 90% snap share player since Zach Ertz left for Arizona. On a slate that features Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Rob Gronkowski, pivoting to Goedert is a great contrarian play that could give your lineup a significant advantage over others if it works out. Take a shot on Goedert this week.