DFS: FandDuel NFL Championship Weekend, A WR Heavy Approach
The AFC and NFC Championship games are projected to score a combined 113 points. All that scoring is a double-edged sword from a DFS perspective. While the action is fun and will likely create several moments to cheer for from a fantasy perspective, it also makes it impossible to build a lineup that doesn’t have a glaring weakness in missing several players that could have big days.
Our strategy in a lineup build is to have an angle and compose it with players that are statistically justified.
In just about every lineup created this season we have used an RB in the flex and focus on the three RBs with the best matchups. In the playoffs that has not worked so far because RBs in great matchups have not necessarily produced, while those in poor matchups have several times done better than expected.
With both games having projected scores of over 50 combined points, it appears there will be plenty of passing by all four teams. While typically we start at RB for our core players to build around, this week our core is the four WRs that have the best CB matchups: Michael Thomas, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Chris Hogan.
We are concerned this lineup does not have either RBs Todd Gurley II (LAR, $8,500) or Alvin Kamara (NO, $8,100). Both players are capable of scoring north of 30 fantasy points. Their price makes it difficult to build a solid lineup, and if they don’t perform at a high-level, it will be hard to overcome.
Another scary element missing from of our lineup is that it is absent of any Chiefs players. The gamble here is the belief that Bill Belichick and the Patriots are capable of finding a magical answer to slowing down the Chiefs offense just enough.
QB Drew Brees (NO, $8,700) completed 28 of 38 passes for 301 yards and two TDs against the Eagles last week. Brees has now thrown 23 of his 34 passing TDs at home in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He has also thrown 30 of his TDs in games that the Saints won. In the last eight playoffs games, Brees has averaged 358 yards and 2.26 TDs a game.
RB Sony Michel (NE, $7,500) had a monster performance against a solid Chargers run defense last week when he had 24 carries for 129 yards and three TDs, plus one catch for nine yards. Michel has an opportunity for another big game against the Chiefs who allowed a sixth-worst 132.1 yards a game rushing during the season. Kansas City also allowed a third-worst 19 rushing TDs.
RB Mark Ingram (NO, $6,100) is $2,000 cheaper than his teammate RB Alvin Kamara. The matchup against the Rams in one in which they both have an opportunity to make value, and playing Ingram allows spending elsewhere.
“Over their last 10 games, the Rams have allowed at least 100 yards on the ground to seven teams of running backs, including two of them (Seahawks, Bears) to go for more than 160 yards,” wrote Mike Tagliere in his weekly column The Primer for FantasyPros. “The area to beat the Rams is on the ground, as they allowed a ridiculously high 4.87 yards per carry this year. The only teams who allowed more were the Chiefs, Bengals, and Cardinals, three teams we continually attacked in DFS.”
WR Michael Thomas ($8,800) caught 12 of 16 targets for a franchise-playoff-record 171 yards and a TD. Those 16 targets were not an anomaly. Thomas was targeted 147 times this season, the highest of any WR still in the playoffs. You can virtually count on Thomas being heavily targeted on Sunday night (yeah, I wrote the same thing last week). Over the last three playoff games, Thomas has caught 27 of 48 targets for 387 yards and three TDs. Thomas has one of the most mouth-watering CB matchups on the slate. He will face off against CB Marcus Peters who last season allowed a 62.7% catch rate and 2.11 fantasy points per target.
WR Robert Woods (LAR, $7,100) has the best CB matchup on the slate from the perspective of points allowed per target. Saints CB P.J. Williams has allowed a 63.4% catch rate and a gaudy 2.22 points per target. If there has been one consistent way to attack the Saints defense, it has been to use the slot WR. Woods should see plenty of opportunity in this game.
WR Brandin Cooks (NE, $6.900) narrowly beat out Julian Edelman (NE, $7,900) for this spot. Cooks faces Saints CB Marshon Lattimore who has allowed a 63.4% catch rate, 15.78 per reception, 10 yards per target, and 1.8 fantasy points per target. Edelman faces Chiefs CB Kendall Fuller who has allowed 65% catch rate, 12.81 yards per reception, 8.33 per target, and 1.78 fantasy point per target.
Cooks matchup appears to be slightly better than Edelman’s. Cooks also has 80 receptions on the year, while Edelman has 75. Edelman, however, does have six TDs while Cooks has five.
Overall the numbers are very similar. Cooks got the nod because he is $1,000 cheaper. This savings allowed us to play RB Sony Michel over C.J. Anderson (LAR, $6,500). We acknowledge the swap could backfire in both directions, but the matchups suggest Michel/Cooks is a better play than Edelman/Anderson.
WR Chris Hogan (NE, $5,200) ownership projections are less than 1% on FantasyPros, and that may make him the sneaky play of the whole slate. Hogan faces Chiefs CB Charvarius Ward who has a target rate of 24.60%. That’s over five percent higher than any other CB on the slate and 10-12 percent higher than most of the others. Ward also allowed a 76.5% catch rate which is 11.5% higher than Fuller who is second-worst. Additionally, Ward allowed a fourth-worst on the slate 1.78 fantasy points per target.
With a matchup to exploit, Hogan should see an increase in targets in a game where Brady will likely throw a lot.
TE Rob Gronkowski (LAR, $5,600) has virtually dropped off the fantasy relevant radar with only 9.5 FanDuel points over the last four games. Before that, however, he did score 20.7 points against the Dolphins in Week 14. The possibility for a big game is still there because the name Gronkowski is on the back of his jersey. The opportunity for a fantasy relevant day presents itself in the Chiefs. Kansas City allowed a league second-worst 13.4 FanDuel points a game to TEs last season.
The Patriots ($4,000) defense is the cheapest on the slate because they seem like a crazy play against the Chiefs, but In this slate, there is no defense to trust. New England has averaged 10.75 FanDuel points over the last four games. Over that span, they have recorded eight sacks, three INTs, five fumble recoveries, and a defensive score. The opportunity is present for the defense to score enough points to offset what they lose from the Chiefs offense. The Patriots defense also makes for a good stack RB Michel. If the Pats do jump out to an early lead, look for Michel to get plenty of touches to keep the ball out of the hands of QB Patrick Mahomes. Unfortunately, the converse may also be true.
Dan McLellan’s AFC and NFC Championship Lineup:
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