Postseason Fantasy Football: Conference Championship DFS plays and sleepers
Four teams, two games and one last chance to set your old fashioned DFS lineup. Dave Richard has some recommendations to help you come away with a win.
This is it — the last Sunday with multiple NFL games until August (or September if you don't count preseason games). And, obviously, this is the last Sunday we can set a traditional NFL DFS lineup for a long time.
So let's make it count.
With only two games featuring the four best teams in football, it's going to be hard to set a unique lineup and even harder to find cheap sleepers to help open up spots for expensive studs. But it can be done!
At first, I wanted to go with Patrick Mahomes, but concerns about the weather and the difficulty of the matchup and a potential risk of not meeting value pushed me into the safe, waiting arms of Brees. I love his track record — he's posted at least two touchdowns in 11 of 14 postseason games and has 294 or more yards in seven of his last eight in the playoffs. The Rams' pass defense has looked good over the last six games but haven't played a bunch of dominant passers in that span and did give up three scores to Nick Mullens in Week 17. The hunch is Brees will play just fine and give a safe stat line, though not necessarily one like he did back in Week 9 against the Rams (four touchdowns and 346 yards passing).
To be fair, Mahomes is playing great and the Patriots don't figure to have enough pass rush help to squash the Chiefs offense this week (Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET, available on fuboTV). The cold weather might scare some people off, as might Mahomes' expensive listing ($9,000 FanDuel, $6,600 DraftKings) and low return on investment last week. Perhaps that'll keep Mahomes from being over-owned, which doesn't hurt things. The Chiefs are averaging over 30 points per game at home and should generate more good numbers this week.
The Rams did a nice job containing Ezekiel Elliott last week, but he barely made a dent as a receiver and still found a way to score. L.A's allowed six total touchdowns (five rushing) to running backs in their last four games. Kamara had three touchdowns and 116 total yards on 23 touches against the Rams back in Week 9, taking advantage of linebackers and safeties. Expect Kamara to be a huge part of the Saints' plan again. He's $8,100 on FanDuel and stunningly cheap $6,500 on DraftKings.
The Patriots have been strong against the run all year, but Andy Reid has a way of giving the Patriots fits with his run game. In each of the last four meetings between Reid's Chiefs and Belichick's Patriots, a Kansas City runner has posted at least 70 total yards with a touchdown. Go back to Reid's days in Philly and that streak is seven straight with at least 60 total yards and a touchdown. Williams has been a revelation since taking the main job and should be worth the tag ($7,200 FanDuel, $6,400 DraftKings) this weekend.
Kansas City's run defense has allowed 5.0 yards per carry on the season, 4.6 yards per carry in its last five games, and 5.8 yards per carry last week to the Colts. Had Marlon Mack been given more carries, he would have had a fantastic game. The Patriots are certain to take aim at this aspect of the Chiefs defense for obvious reasons — not only is it a perceived weak spot, but any success the Pats have running the ball will mean keeping the Chiefs offense off the field. Michel has at least 17 carries in five of his last seven games, four of them wins and one a loss to Miami on a crazy last-second play. In fact, the only games lately Michel hasn't had a big workload were Week 17 against the Jets (a Pats blowout) and the Week 15 loss at Pittsburgh. Michel is the fourth-most expensive running back on the board ($7,500 FanDuel, $5,600 DraftKings).
The snap data from last week suggests the Gurley-C.J. Anderson timeshare issue is overblown. Forty-four percent of Anderson's snaps and nine percent of Gurley's snaps came in the fourth quarter last week. Chances are the Rams decided to keep Gurley's touches limited in his first game back, especially since Anderson was effective once a lead was built. Maybe a similar situation goes down this week, but there's probably a better chance we see more of Gurley as the Rams stick in a competitive game and/or play from behind at the Saints. New Orleans' run defense has held backs to one rushing touchdown over the last seven matchups but losing defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins will hurt. About the only drawback to trusting Gurley is his luxury listing ($8,500 on FanDuel, $7,500 on DraftKings).
Through his last five games he's brought in at least six catches on 10-plus targets in four games with an uncharacteristically high 12.9 yard-per-catch average. There's no doubting his role in the Patriots offense, and chances are the Pats will throw a bunch this weekend. Edelman is not only the prime target for Tom Brady, but he should draw a pretty good matchup against Kendall Fuller, whom he scored on back in Week 6. The third-most expensive receiver on the board, Edelman is a must ($7,900 FanDuel, $6,600 DraftKings).
The Patriots didn't have an answer for Hill in Week 6 (7-142-3) and seemingly won't have a good answer for him this time, either. Their secondary is a bit stronger with guys like J.C. Jackson playing much better of late, but Hill's speed and usage makes things difficult for every opponent. Cold weather didn't slow Hill down last week when he totaled over 100 yards with a rushing touchdown. He's been solid gold in each of his last two games and would need another 100-total-yard game with a score in order to redeem his expensive price (8,400 FanDuel, 7,700 DraftKings).
Thomas sank the Rams for 12 catches, 211 yards and a touchdown in Week 9. He came close to those numbers last week and has been dynamite in two of his last three games. With Marcus Peters struggling and Aqib Talib limited to his side of the field (he hasn't traveled against a receiver in years), chances are the Saints will scheme Thomas effectively. About the biggest deterrent to using Thomas is knowing he would need another huge game in order to return value based on his price tag ($8,800 FanDuel, $8,200 DraftKings).
Look for Woods to line up mostly in the slot against the Saints. That would keep him away from Marshon Lattimore and likely lined up against slot corner P.J. Williams, who gave up the long touchdown to Jordan Matthews last week. He's the weak link in the Saints' pass defense, and it just so happens that Woods is the strongest part of the Rams passing game. You could roll with ex-Saints receiver Brandin Cooks for a little less, but he'll see tougher coverage and typically gets fewer targets. Woods isn't cost prohibitive ($7,100 FanDuel, $5,700 DraftKings).
The Chiefs have moved to Steven Nelson and Charvarius Ward as their starting outside cornerbacks. Nelson has allowed a touchdown in five of his last six games and Ward was only promoted to starter in the last three weeks. He's done well (no scores allowed) but is still inexperienced. The Patriots don't have much at outside receiver but Dorsett has had five targets, at least 34 yards and a touchdown in each of his last two games. He's among the cheapest receivers you'll consider this week ($5,500 FanDuel, $3,900 DraftKings), which is great because finding cheap starters is crucial when there are only two games to pick from.
FanDuel wised up on Ginn, popping his price to $5,300, but DraftKings kept his value low at $4,300. The Saints tried to get Ginn involved last week, getting him six of his seven targets in the first half (two over the Saints' first three plays from scrimmage). In a week where you'll need to put someone cheap in your lineup, figure Ginn has the most upside to make it work.
Either you bulk up at tight end with Kelce or you take a big risk with someone else. At least we know Kelce has had at least nine targets in seven straight games and is due for a touchdown after going four straight without one. The Patriots gave up a pair of touchdowns to tight ends last week (both in garbage time) and 10 total on the year. Kelce will be very highly-owned but should provide plenty of points.
If I had to pick someone else
Gronkowski got a lot of attention for his blocking and his lack of involvement on offense, but he still ran 40 routes, tied for the most since Week 8. The Patriots should see that the Chiefs are among the worst in the league at defending tight ends, giving up an average of 12.2 yards per catch with 10 touchdowns on the year. Priced at an incredibly cheap rate (5$,600 FanDuel, $4,100 DraftKings), the time's right to take a chance on Gronk, particularly since it won't take much (40 yards and a touchdown) to return moderate value.
Top (only?) play
The Saints' top price might sway others from starting them, and the loss of run-stuffer Sheldon Rankins definitely hurts their cause against L.A's amazing run game, but there are still reasons for optimism. In his last six games, Jared Goff has thrown multiple scores once, totaled multiple scores twice, has eclipsed 220 yards once, has completed 58 percent of his passes, has averaged 6.4 yards per attempt and has as many passing touchdowns (six) as interceptions (six). That's not very good. The Saints have the second-most sacks of any defense playing this weekend (49) and tend to play much better at home. With Goff playing so shaky, the Saints should be able to rack up some sacks and turnovers.
If I had to pick a different DST
Kansas City's offense has been unstoppable at home and the Patriots are allowing 24 points per game when on the road. The Rams and Saints figure to put up plenty of points. So, by the process of elimination, it leaves only the Chiefs DST as a viable choice. Picking a defense versus Tom Brady's offense usually doesn't work out, but the Chiefs do have a league-best 55 sacks in 17 games and found a way to humble Andrew Luck behind his big O-line last week. If Kansas City's run defense was a little better, we'd go with them as the top DST.
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