Conference Championship NFL DFS Starting Points: Vegas Lines
You know that targeting the highest scoring games and particularly the teams with the highest implied totals makes sense in fantasy football. With only two games in this weekend’s playoff slate, and this being the final NFL slate I’ll write about this season, I’m going to give a DFS perspective on each. All salaries listed are for FanDuel.
The high scoring games:
Jacksonville at New England, Total 46.5
A true test of offense vs. defense comes to New England this Sunday. The Patriots scored 28.6 points per game, second-most in the NFL this season, while the Jaguars allowed only 16.8 points per game, second-fewest in the NFL. The Jaguars led the league in passing defense by a wide margin (around 30 fewer passing yards per game than the next best, Minnesota), was second in sacks (55), second in interceptions (21), third in fumble recoveries, and led the league with seven touchdowns off turnovers. These trends have continued in the postseason, with Jacksonville leading the pack with three interceptions and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown, the only team to do so in the playoffs.
The clash of styles will be fascinating. The Patriots snap counts double or sometimes nearly triple those of the Jaguars. Tom Brady threw 53 times vs. Tennessee! On paper, the Patriots are one of the better rushing and passing matchups, but in the playoffs, they cannot be considered an “easy” matchup. For one thing, they lead the playoffs with eight sacks, despite playing just one game, and Brady hasn’t been sacked at all. Still, I expect Blake Bortles to be a popular play this weekend, and it’s hard to argue against him. The point total on the other game is 10 points less than this one, and both defenses are top notch. This could be another shootout like we saw in Pittsburgh, except with 2-3 passing touchdowns for Bortles. His affordable salary ($7,600) is very useful on this two-game slate.
Do what I often recommend and pair him with that tank, Leonard Fournette. Coming back into the game after an ugly looking ankle injury to score his third touchdown of the day, Fournette was a must have last week. If you think the Jaguars score points here, and I do, then rostering Bortles and Fournette should account for most of them. If you need a cheap receiver, Dede Westbrook appeared to have a slight usage edge over Marqise Lee, but Lee is the player to bank on.
Fournette made Dion Lewis’ day seem paltry, but 19 fantasy points without a score (thanks a lot Brandon Bolden and James White) is impressive. He’s still the Patriots back to roster. One reason I haven’t come out strongly in favor of Brady is that a strong rushing attack is essential to beating the Jaguars. I don’t see 50-plus passing attempts in Brady’s future. If Rex Burkhead is cleared to play without restriction, I’d consider using him in tournaments, along with White, but Lewis is the primary target here.
On the receiving end, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski profile as the best options underneath or in the middle of the field. The Jacksonville corners are just too good for Brady to attempt numerous passes to Brandin Cooks or Chris Hogan this week—and their salaries reflect this.
Minnesota at Philadelphia, Total 38.5
We saw what Pittsburgh and Jacksonville thought of a 38-point total last week…can these offenses show up in the same way? Probably not, given that they are both extremely talented defenses. And how does Philly feel about being a home underdog again? I bet they love it. Nick Foles threw for only 238 yards in the win over Atlanta, but averaged 8.2 yards per completion, a better mark than any QB left standing. He’s the lowest priced of the QBs this weekend, but Minnesota is second only to Jacksonville in pass defense, and Foles has shown his conservative side. He’s apparently going to game manage, not be a hero.
I can’t quit Nelson Agholor, who is notably cheaper than Alshon Jeffrey, and who has a 100 percent catch rate over his last two games with Foles. We have to expect Xavier Rhodes to follow Jeffrey, leaving Agholor, and maybe Zach Ertz, in line for some easier sledding. I’m generally using these guys without Foles or any Eagles running back.
The run game here is probably going to be pretty futile, with both teams averaging around 80 rushing yards per game, the two lowest marks in the game. Sure, someone can break a big play, but outside of a tournament flier, that’s hard to rely on. Latavious Murray and Jay Ajayi are the priorities, but both are splitting carries to a significant extent. We talked about the LeGarrette Blount playoff touchdown factor last week, and as the clear goal line back, that’s in play again. I’m not sure it’s worth it at $5700. We also saw Corey Clement catch all five of his targets, and look good doing it. Again, he’s a tournament flier at $5K where you’re hoping he breaks one for a touchdown. On the other side, Jerrick McKinnon and Murray both scored vs. New Orleans, but Murray was clearly more involved. With only $100 separating them, Murray is the one to trust.
Case Keenum is my second-favorite QB option behind Bortles this week (Brady is third). Even though the amazing last second Stefon Diggs touchdown contributed substantially to his ultimate fantasy output last week, Keenum was level-headed and methodical for most of the game. He ended with a 62.5 completion percentage, including six receptions for both Adam Thielen and Diggs. I’ll continue to advocate for the less expensive Diggs this week, because he has the volume plus big play ability I want in all formats. Nothing against Thielen, but he is the most expensive receiver on the slate. If you’re thinking bargain, think $4900 Jarius Wright, who caught three of six passes for 56 yards vs. the Saints. I will have an all-in Vikings pass game stack in one of the lower dollar tourneys this week.
That’ll do it for this NFL DFS season. Enjoy the games, win some money, and if you don’t already, check out our daily NBA stuff!