The NFL regular season is finally in the books. Sunday Night Football between the Chargers and Raiders was an instant classic and provided drama deep into the night.
However, we also had plenty of exciting football during the final main slate of the year. The Jaguars engineered one of the biggest upsets of the season, and they knocked the Colts out of the playoffs in the process. The Steelers punched their ticket to the playoffs with an overtime win over the Ravens. The 49ers also earned a spot in the playoffs thanks to their win over the Rams.
Davis Mills, Houston Texans
Davis Mills ended up getting thrown into the fire after Tyrod Taylor went down with an injury earlier this season. He struggled mightily in his first taste of NFL action, averaging just 4.87 adjusted yards per attempt. There were many – myself included – who thought this guy simply did not belong in the NFL.
However, Mills got another chance to start later in the year, and he’s actually been pretty impressive! He put together easily the best game of his career this week against the Titans, racking up 30.24 DraftKings points thanks to 301 passing yards and three touchdowns. The Texans ultimately came up just short on the scoreboard, but Mills looked the part of an NFL quarterback.
It’s possible that his play down the stretch has earned him some consideration as the Texans’ quarterback of the future. After all, he was a third-round pick, and it seems like Deshaun Watson will not be a part of the organization moving forward.
Danny Amendola was also a winner this week. He racked up seven catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and his 35.3 DraftKings points made him the highest scorer of the entire week.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp ultimately came up short in his chase of history, but who really cares? He just turned in an absolutely dominant season, finishing with the league-lead in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. It wasn’t particularly close, either, with Kupp running away with most of those categories.
He turned in another excellent performance in Week 18. He caught all seven of his targets, which he turned into 118 yards and one touchdown. Kupp finished with 29.6 DraftKings points, and he scored at least 20.5 DraftKings points in all but three games this season. That’s remarkable consistency.
Kupp’s team ultimately came up short against the 49ers, but they still clinched the NFC West thanks to the Cardinals’ loss. That sets up Rams-Cardinals Round 3 next week, which should be a good one.
James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
Speaking of the Cardinals, you have to feel good for James Conner. He overcame cancer during his collegiate career at Pittsburgh, and he had some great seasons with the Steelers in the NFL. Unfortunately, his effectiveness suffered last year behind the Steelers’ dreadful offensive line, which led to him being discarded in the offseason.
No one really expected Conner to make an impact with the Cardinals this season, but he has been fantastic. He finished with more than 1,100 scrimmage yards, and his 18 total touchdowns trail only Jonathan Taylor’s mark of 20.
He was excellent once again for the Cardinals in Week 18, finishing with 52 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground and six catches for 41 yards and a score through the air. He ultimately scored 27.6 DraftKings points, making him the second-highest scoring running back on the slate.
Cyril Grayson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cyril Grayson was expected to take on a significant role for the Buccaneers, who have lost Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette in recent weeks. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass for the Buccaneers last week, so DFS players made him the fourth-highest owned receiver on DraftKings in Week 18.
Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned. Grayson went down with a hamstring injury in the first half, and he was eventually ruled out for the rest of the game. He wasn’t particularly involved before getting hurt either, failing to record a single target or touch.
Injuries are unpredictable, so it’s possible that Grayson would’ve made an impact if he stayed on the field. However, that’s not how DFS works. Those who rostered him were rewarded with a big fat zero and forced to move on to the next slate. Such is life.
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Jonathan Taylor wasn’t a disaster – he finished with 12.5 DraftKings points – but that wasn’t nearly enough to justify his massive price tag across the industry. He also checked in with the third-highest ownership at the position, so plenty of people were left disappointed.
However, the biggest reason Taylor is here is because his team was knocked out of the playoffs by the lowly Jaguars. That wasn’t necessarily Taylor’s fault – the Colts’ defense was horrendous against Trevor Lawrence – but it reinforced the fact that a running back should NEVER win the MVP award again. When his team needed him most, Taylor could do very little while watching Carson Wentz try to lead the team to a comeback victory. Taylor very well may be the best running back in football, but that probably doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. Quarterbacks and pass rushers are way more important to their team’s success.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
Outside of Conner, there wasn’t much to feel good about for the Cardinals on Sunday. The Rams opened the door for the Cardinals to win the division, but the Cardinals could not get the job done against the Seahawks.
They struggled in most facets of the game. The Seahawks racked up 37 points and 431 yards of total offense. Kyler Murray’s struggles continued, and the Cardinals were outgained by more than 125 total yards. If not for a defensive score to start the game, the Cardinals could’ve been outclassed by their division rivals.
Christian Kirk was one of the bigger disappointments from a fantasy perspective. He was the third-highest owned receiver this week – trailing only Kupp and Justin Jefferson – and he had assumed the role of the Cardinals’ top receiver following the injury to DeAndre Hopkins. However, he finished with just 6.3 DraftKings points and saw a meager three targets.
The Cardinals have basically collapsed over the second half of the year. They’ve lost four of their past five games, and they’ll head to Los Angeles next week as underdogs against the Rams. That’s not what this team anticipated following a 7-0 start to the year.
Winning tournament lineups
NFL $3M Fantasy Football Millionaire
DFS can be a fickle mistress. This user ultimately won by a comfortable five-point margin, but it was much closer than the final scores indicated. In fact, this user wouldn’t have won if not for a late garbage time TD by the Dolphins defense. The Patriots needed to go 99 yards in one play to try to win the game, but they ended up fumbling in their own end zone instead. That gave the Dolphins defense an additional eight fantasy points.
That’s DFS in a nutshell. You need to make the right decisions to put yourself in a spot to get lucky late, but you do need some luck to win a tournament.
The rest of this lineup was built around a Rams-49ers game stack, which worked out very well. Matthew Stafford was mediocre at quarterback, but Kupp and Tyler Higbee more than picked up the slack. Jauan Jennings was also used as a bring-back, and he put together a monster performance for his salary. Finding a value receiver was tough this week, so Jennings was a key factor.
The rest of this lineup featured Conner and Antonio Gibson at running back, who were chalky options that delivered excellent value. Tyler Lockett and Chase Claypool were the other two receivers, and both did enough to get this team across the finish line.
NFL $1.25M Wildcat
This winning lineup does not feature the Dolphins defense, instead choosing to eat the chalk with the Browns. That didn’t end up mattering much because the rest of this squad was excellent.
They used a Seahawks stack, featuring Lockett with quarterback Russell Wilson. Both players were among the highest-scoring players at their positions.
This lineup also featured Gibson at running back, along with another popular option in Devin Singletary. The real wild card was Eno Benjamin, who was good enough at $4,000. Conner ended up exiting early for the Cardinals, which allowed Benjamin to see a few additional touches down the stretch.
Marvin Jones was another strong value option at receiver this week, racking up 21.8 DraftKings points at just $4,300. This lineup pivoted from Kupp to Jefferson as their stud receiver, which helped them pay up for Rob Gronkowski at tight end.
$1.3M NFL Sunday Million
The big FanDuel GPP was also decided by the late Dolphins touchdown. That vaulted this user to the top of the standings, but the rest of this lineup was strong.
Like the big DraftKings winner, this team used a Stafford-Kupp stack along with two value RBs in Conner and Singletary. The biggest difference was this team opted for four receivers instead of three running backs. Michael Pittman got the nod in the flex, and he delivered a respectable 17.4 FanDuel points.
The true difference-makers were Russell Gage and Allen Lazard at receiver. Neither player was owned in more than 3.8% of lineups, but both players delivered at least 22.0 FanDuel points.
I hope you all have enjoyed the regular season. It’s been a wild, occasionally frustrating ride, but the playoffs should be a blast. Make sure to enjoy it while you can!
Matt LaMarca has covered sports betting and daily fantasy sports full time for the past five years, and his work has been featured at sites like FantasyLabs, The Action Network, DraftKings, and Rotoviz. He has a proven track record as a sports bettor, using an analytic approach to create trends, study spread movement, and leverage public betting percentages. He has posted a positive ROI in each of the past three years, focusing primarily on the NFL, NBA, and MLB. He was also just one of three fantasy football analysts to go undefeated during the 2019 Scott Fish Bowl, which pits 1200 teams against each other in an industry-wide competition