The NFL puts a bow on the regular season and starts 2021 off right with the biggest Sunday slate of football this season. There are a massive 15 games in play for DraftKings’ main slate since there are no primetime or Saturday matchups except for the Sunday Night Football game between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles. The other 30 NFL teams are all in the pool for this main DraftKings NFL slate, so get ready for a wild ride this Sunday.
Every single one of the games on tap for this weekend are divisional matchups, and the seven games that kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET include the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants meeting to see who will win the NFC East if Washington loses Sunday night. The Cleveland Browns don’t have a shot at the division anymore after losing to the New York Jets last week, but they do still have a shot at the playoffs since they are one of four teams battling for the three AFC Wild Card spots. The Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins are two more AFC teams in the hunt and can secure their trips to the postseason with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, respectively. In the later wave of eight games kicking off at 4:25, the Tennessee Titans need to beat the Houston Texans to wrap up the AFC South, although they could fall all the way out of the playoffs if they lose to Houston and the Dolphins, Ravens and Indianapolis Colts all win. The Colts will need one of the teams above them to lose, and they’ll also need to take care of business against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers need a win to wrap up the top seed, but they’ll have a tough contest against the Chicago Bears, who have been surging lately and can get into the playoffs with a win. The other NFC Wild Card spots will go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who clinched a postseason trip last week, and the winner of the NFC West matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals. If the Cardinals lose that game, the Bears advance even with a loss, but the Rams would advance if they and the Bears both lose since they have the head-to-head tiebreaker with Chicago.
Whether you can keep all that straight or not, it should still be a great week of fantasy action, so get your DraftKings roster locked in. Make sure to take a look at the affordable plays listed below that come with some great upside at a very affordable salary. Each week, I dive into the bargain bin and give you my favorite cheap plays based on recent form, matchup and expected opportunity. Check out the plays I like the most this Sunday.
($6,000 and under)
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $5,900 – The Falcons are out of the playoffs and the Bucs are in, with nothing to play for this week. Atlanta has been playing much better since their early-season woes under former coach Dan Quinn, and Ryan has a high ceiling as he looks to finish the year strong, heading into an offseason of uncertainty. Ryan has thrown for 300 yards in each of his past two games, including going off for 356 yards, three touchdowns and 30.84 DKFP just two weeks ago against these same Bucs in a 31-27 loss. The Falcons will look to finish their rough season with a win and avenge that defeat with a big game this Sunday.
When they played the Chiefs last week, Ryan actually outplayed Patrick Mahomes ($8,400), but a missed FG cost the Falcons a chance at overtime against the Chiefs. Ryan trails only Mahomes, Deshaun Watson ($7,700) and Josh Allen ($7,600) for total passing yards this season after his 300 yards last week. There’s no need for the Falcons to “see what they have” in Ryan’s backup Matt Schaub ($4,200), so expect Ryan to play the whole game against the Bucs, who could definitely rest their starters as they prepare for the playoffs.
Andy Dalton, Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, $5,600 – Dalton had a huge game last week as one of my value picks, producing 30.58 DKFP as the Cowboys routed the Eagles, 37-17. Dalton’s yards-per-attempt jumped to 12.57 in that win, by far his highest mark of the season. Dalton has turned the Cowboys’ season around and likely secured his spot in the NFL at least as a backup with a strong second half. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns and produced over 15 DKFP in four straight games, and he went 9-for-11 for 111 yards after relieving Dak Prescott in the Cowboys’ loss to the Giants earlier this season.
Dalton has a nice ceiling due to the speed and talent of his WRs, as everyone was reminded of last week against the Eagles with big games for Amari Cooper ($5,800), CeeDee Lamb ($5,200) and Michael Gallup ($5,000). Dalton can earn a $1 million bonus if Dallas reaches the playoffs and Dalton plays over 50% of their snaps. He moved to 50.3% of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps last week and will need a win Sunday and a Washington loss to earn that incentive which was part of his one-year deal with Dallas.
Other Options: Mitchell Trubisky ($5,600), John Wolford ($4,900)
($5,000 and under)
Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals, $4,300 – The Rams had a three-man rotation at RB for much of the season, but they may be down to just Brown as they play the Cardinals this week with the playoffs on the line. Darrell Henderson Jr. (ankle) was placed on IR and will miss at least this week and the first two rounds of the playoffs, and Cam Akers ($6,100) is battling a high ankle sprain sustained two weeks ago against the Jets. Akers could be rushed back for this matchup, but even if he is active he will likely not be ready for a full workload. Since QB Jared Goff (thumb) has also been ruled out, the Rams may need to rely on the running game this week and getting practice time with new QB John Wolford ($4,900) will be important this week.
If Brown gets most of the work, he has shown he can be effective enough to be a nice fantasy value option. In Week 1, he played 60% of the snaps and piled up 26.0 DKFP against the Cowboys. In Week 4, he played 61% of the snaps against the Giants and had 10.7 DKFP, and in Week 10, he only needed 41% of the snaps to post 19.1 DKFP against the Seahawks, although last week he was limited to 4.5 DKFP despite playing 59% of the snaps in the rematch with Seattle. He played a limited role in the Rams’ first meeting with Arizona, but the Cardinals just gave up 183 yards and 30.4 DKFP to Jeff Wilson Jr. ($6,000) last week. Especially if Akers is out or limited, it looks like a good week to see what Brown can do for you.
Ty Johnson, New York Jets at New England Patriots, $4,300 – The Jets won’t have Frank Gore (lung contusion) or La’Mical Perine (reserve/COVID-19) this week, as they go for their third straight win with a visit to Foxboro. With Gore and Perine out, Johnson will carry the load with Josh Adams ($4,000) possibly mixing in as a change-of-pace option. Johnson flashed upside earlier this season with 104 yards and 22.7 DKFP against the Raiders in Week 14 but was firmly behind both Gore and Perine last week for touches. He’ll get a good matchup as well since the Patriots have given up the 12th-most DKFP to RB this season and were trampled by the Bills last week after giving up big rushing days to Salvon Ahmed ($4,400) and Cam Akers the previous two weeks.
Johnson is still on his rookie deal in his second season in the NFL after the Jets claimed him off waivers in October. He could go a long way to locking up his roster spot for next season with a big Week 17. Gore will be 38 next year and is an unrestricted free agent, although it’s definitely possible Adam Gase brings him back again.
Other Options: AJ Dillon ($4,900), Gus Edwards ($4,900), Darrel Williams ($4,800), Dare Ogunbowale ($4,500)
($5,000 and under)
Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts, $4,200 – The Jaguars will finish out yet another tough year, but they do have the top pick in the NFL Draft which means Trevor Lawrence will likely be at QB next season. One promising option he’ll have to work with is Shenault, who has had a good rookie year after being snagged in the second round out of Colorado. Shenault has been very involved when healthy this season and has 24 targets over the past three weeks. In those three games, he has made 16 catches for a total of 140 yards and a touchdown, which he scored last week against the Bears on his way to 15.8 DKFP. Shenault has over 9.0 DFKP in four straight games and should be in for a big workload this week with Collin Johnson (hamstring) out, DJ Chark ($4,900; shin) uncertain and Mike Glennon ($4,900) back under center. Shenault’s best games have been with Glennon under center, and he could even get some work in the backfield with Jerome Robinson (ankle) ruled out once again.
The Colts allowed the Steelers to storm back last week in the second half and have allowed five WR touchdowns in the past three weeks. While the Jaguars probably won’t put up a ton of points, Shenault’s volume gives him big-time potential in this matchup.
Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos vs. Las Vegas Raiders, $4,200 – While Shenault was the ninth WR off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jeudy was the second WR picked when the Broncos grabbed him at No. 15 overall. Jeudy and Drew Lock ($5,000) haven’t had the year Broncos fans would have hoped for, but there is potential for a strong finish against the Raiders, who are also eliminated from the playoff hunt. Jeudy has been the WR1 for most of the season since Courtland Sutton (knee) landed on IR in Week 2. He leads the team with 106 targets and has hauled in 47 catches for 716 yards and a pair of scores.
Last week, he had a season-high 15 targets against the Chargers, catching six passes for 61 yards and 12.1 DKFP. He could have had a much bigger game if he hadn’t been plagued by drops. He finished with five drops including a potential touchdown and two other big, game-changing plays. Usually, he’s a very sure-handed pass-catcher, so he should be able to bounce back this week if Lock continues to rely on him. Jeudy had four catches for 68 yards in Las Vegas earlier this season, and he should be able to take advantage of the matchup once again. Jeudy has big-play upside since he ranks in the top 25 in the NFL in average depth of target on the season.
Lynn Bowden Jr., Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, $3,500 – Bowden is also going to be relied on this week since the Dolphins will be without Jakeem Grant (ankle) and possibly DeVante Parker ($5,300; hamstring). Bowden has played over 90% of Miami’s offensive snaps the past two weeks and flashed some nice upside. He was quiet against Vegas on Saturday night with Grant in action but had 13 catches on 16 targets in his previous two games for a pair of double-digit DKFP performances.
With Grant out again, Bowden should get more targets this week from Tua Tagovailoa ($5,100), who likes to lean on his fellow-rookie. Bowden doesn’t run a ton of deep routes (just a 5.3-yard average depth of target) but is a solid possession option out of the slot with nice run-after-the-catch potential. The Bills won’t have much to play for, so they could rest some of their top defensive options, leaving more room for Bowden.
Marquez Callaway, New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers, $3,200 — The Saints still have plenty to play for since they can move into the No. 1 seed with a win and a Packers loss to the Bears. They’ve got a favorable matchup against the Panthers, but they will be short-handed at WR with Michael Thomas (ankle) and Tre’Quan Smith (ankle) both on IR. Callaway is in a good spot to pick up more work after returning from his own knee injury last week against the Vikings, playing 56% of snaps and catching 3-of-4 targets for 26 yards.
Callaway showed his upside in the Saints’ earlier matchup with the Panthers, catching 8-of-10 targets for 75 yards and 15.5 DKFP. While that was his only real standout performance, he could be in for an encore against Carolina this week since the Saints will likely let him play a lot regardless of game situation in order to let the undrafted rookie get some reps. Callaway has a high ceiling for a player whose salary is barely over the minimum.
Other Options: Jamison Crowder ($5,000), Rashard Higgins ($4,500), Darnell Mooney ($4,100), Josh Reynolds ($3,200), Richie James ($3,100)
($4,000 and under)
Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions, $3,900 – It has been a rough year for the Vikings, but one of the few bright spots has been the emergence of Smith as a very useful TE option over the second half of the season. Smith has multiple catches in five straight games he has played in and had six catches for 53 yards, two touchdowns and 23.3 DKFP last Friday against the Saints. Smith and the Vikings close out their season against the Lions in a matchup of non-playoff-bound NFC North teams. In Week 9, Smith had two touchdowns against Detroit and finished with 15.0 DKFP. With Kyle Rudolph (foot) on IR, Smith should get another chance to prove he’s ready to take over as the team’s top TE since Rudolph carries a big cap number moving forward.
Dan Arnold, Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, $3,100 – Arnold had two touchdowns and 20.1 DKFP against the Rams in Week 13, and he’ll likely continue to serve as the Cardinals’ top TE with Maxx Williams ($2,500; ankle) still not able to return to practice. Arnold has been targeted five times in each of the past two weeks, although he did have a costly fumble against the 49ers. Arnold is more of a vertical threat than many TEs and has a robust 12.9 yards average depth of target, which puts him ahead of many deep threats like Tyreek Hill ($8,300), Will Fuller and T.Y. Hilton ($5,800). It’s a smaller sample size than those elite options, but it shows that Arnold definitely comes with big-play potential since Kyler Murray ($7,500) trusts him on the deep routes called by Kliff Kingsbury.
Other Options: Evan Engram ($3,700), Cole Kmet ($3,000)
($2,800 and under)
Cardinals DST, Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, $2,800 – The Cardinals can still get into the playoffs with a win against the Rams despite their ugly loss last Saturday to the 49ers. Arizona’s defense had three sacks and forced a fumble in that game, producing 6.0 DKFP. They have at least that many DKFP in three straight games and four of their past five. They’ll be facing Wolford in his first NFL start and should be in a good spot to create turnovers if they keep getting pressure on the QB.
Vikings DST, Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions, $2,600 — The Vikings’ defense gets a good matchup against a banged-up Lions team that has had a season that may be even more of a disappointment than Minnesota’s. Matthew Stafford ($5,600) is battling through multiple injuries and is uncertain to play, but whether he does or not, the Vikings will be in a good matchup. The Lions have given up 19 sacks and turned the ball over 10 times over the past six weeks. When these two teams met in Week 9, Minnesota had 9.0 DKFP with three interceptions and two sacks in their 34-20 win.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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