Sunday Night NFL DFS Picks: Optimal lineup includes Austin Ekeler, Josh Jacobs, and Darren Waller

If you're making Week 18 Sunday Night Football picks in DFS, here are two of our highest-upside, highest-probability NFL lineups.

It’s time to make our DFS picks for Week 18 Sunday Night Football — the final game of the 2021-2022 NFL regular season. Game 272 out of 272. If the Chargers win, they’re into the playoffs. If the Raiders win, they’re in. The loser goes home. If you’re competing in DFS fantasy football tournaments or 50/50 competitions, here are our two recommended NFL DFS lineups. Each set of picks reflects the most likely game scripts. As always, this DFS lineup is based on FanDuel pricing.

Top NFL DFS picks for Sunday Night Football Week 18 | Lineup No. 1

This DFS lineup assumes a close game led by two capable backfields. It also assumes Derek Carr will spread the ball around more than usual, while Justin Herbert will focus on his top two playmakers.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers ($15,000)

No SNF DFS lineup is complete tonight without Austin Ekeler, fantasy’s RB2 and one of the NFL’s most electric players. He’s enjoyed double-digit fantasy production in all but one game and is an elite pass catcher (65 receptions for 612 yards and 7 touchdowns). Despite the steep price, Ekeler’s extraordinary ceiling makes him a must-start in DFS.

Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders ($13,500)

Sometimes it’s important to zig when others zag. Many experts would advise starting the $13,000 Hunter Renfrow instead. After all, Derek Carr has not exceeded 12.4 DFS fantasy points in any of his last five games. What could change now?

Josh Jacobs has been targeted a lot more in the second half of the season. More dump-off passes against a beatable Chargers defense would elevate Jacobs and Carr. Meanwhile, the ascending Zay Jones and the expected return of Darren Waller make this receiving unit tough to bet on individually. Carr enables us to bet on it collectively.

Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders ($12,000)

The Raiders have reached the postseason once in the last 18 seasons. If they return this year, it probably will be on the back of Jacobs. The third-year RB has been one of fantasy’s steadiest contributors. Jacobs had one 8.6-point performance in Week 10 and then double-digit production every other week.

As a result, he’s the RB13 despite a weak 3.9 yards per carry. 52 receptions (tied for fifth-most among NFL RBs) have kept him in the RB1/2 conversation. The Chargers are yielding the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing backfields. Jacobs has massive upside and belongs in your DFS MVP slot.

Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers ($12,000)

A fantasy mainstay and the longtime No. 1 Chargers wideout. No Chargers receiver has more pop than Keenan Allen — not even the formerly popping Mike Williams, who’s priced only $1,000 less.

Assuming the Chargers score 3+ touchdowns (likely), Ekeler won’t be the sole fantasy beneficiary. Allen is a great bet for 10+ targets in a must-win game. Simply put, the team would be making a mistake not figuring out how to get him the ball.

Joshua Palmer, WR, Los Angeles Chargers ($7,500)

There’s $7,500 remaining. DeSean Jackson is remaining at this price, but Joshua Palmer is preferable. The rookie has flashed twice when given the opportunity in the last month, including a 5-66-1 receiving line in Week 14 and a 5-43-1 receiving line in Week 16. Tonight’s contest could be a preview of what he can deliver for this team if he earns the No. 2 job in 2022.

Top NFL DFS picks for Sunday Night Football Week 18 | Lineup No. 2

This DFS lineup assumes a Chargers victory led by Justin Herbert, with the Raiders forced to keep pace through the air. In this lineup, Herbert would slide into the DFS MVP slot. The following are the three additions, replacing Carr, Jacobs, and Allen.

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers ($17,500)

As referenced above, Herbert would be the biggest scorer in this scenario. Fantasy’s QB2 is also in the top 10 in rushing attempts and rushing yards.

His ability to find the end zone on the ground (3 rushing TDs) can elevate him beyond his normal passing prowess. Herbert has the ceiling to dominate.

Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders ($10,500)

Darren Waller has missed more than a month with a knee injury. His return in a must-win game should be viewed as a sign that the Raiders plan to utilize him. While his 19-target blowup in Week 1 looks like an anomaly in hindsight, the reality is that few tight ends can do what Waller can do on the field. At this relatively affordable price, he’s a risk worth taking.

Zay Jones, WR, Las Vegas Raiders ($9,000)

This is purely a value pick. Zay Jones might not score, and he might not even get more than 8 fantasy points. But 34 targets in his last four games is no fluke. He’s developed chemistry with Carr and has become a solid No. 2 receiving option. Assuming Carr is throwing more than the team wants him to, Jones should be in line for a decent night.

BJ Rudell is the Fantasy Football and Betting Product Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of BJ’s work here and listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast. Give him a follow on Twitter: @BJRudell.