In this weekly article, we’ll use the early betting lines from Vegas to take a deeper look at which games to target and avoid for NFL DFS. Implied team totals have positive correlations with fantasy output, especially for quarterbacks. For the playoffs, we’ll simply go over the pros and cons of each game based on what the early lines are telling us. Note that these lines will probably change over the course of the week, which is why we call it ‘starting’ points.
Buffalo at Kansas City, Total 53.5 points
The question in everyone’s mind is whether or not Patrick Mahomes will clear the concussion protocol in time to play on Sunday. Vegas is giving that a better than average chance, I’d guess, with this line. Assuming Mahomes does play, he and the Chiefs will get the best remaining matchups, pretty much across the board. The Bills’ defense isn’t bad, in fact they are close in step with KC’s own when you look at regular season numbers, and to be fair, Bills’ defense played a big role in beating Baltimore. Still, one would have to consider Mahomes a top QB play on this small slate if he’s healthy.
I said a top play, not the top play for two reasons. One is that I have another favorite QB play (see below) and the other is that from this game, I think the top play honor has to go to Travis Kelce. Who else are you going to use at TE? Considering that Buffalo has been brutalized by opposing tight ends all season long as well as in the playoffs thus far, Kelce is worth his ridiculous salary. Tyreek Hill was only one target behind Kelce’s 11 last weekend, and both went over 100 receiving yards without scoring a touchdown. Although WR is more of a priority to spend on than RB, I am sadly probably not going to be able to afford Hill very often.
The Chiefs running back situation is the other question mark, as it is possible that Clyde Edwards-Helaire can return from a nasty ankle sprain this week. Even if he does, would you trust him? I’m not confident. The Chiefs ran relatively few rushing plays last week, with Hill himself getting three handoffs in the backfield, and the lead back was Darrell Williams with 13 carries. The Bills, again, are a fine running back matchup, but unless there’s a clear No. 1 option, which there isn’t for KC, you’re taking unnecessary risk with CEH, Le’Veon Bell, or Williams.
On the Bills’ side, Josh Allen is coming off a not-so-hot fantasy game, with only 12.5 fantasy points. Speaking of few running plays, Allen threw 40 times vs. the Ravens, while Devin Singletary has totaled 10 carries and six targets in the two post-season games. Allen has 18 attempts, and remains the Bills’ best running option. The thing about Allen this week is that he’s either the No. 1 or No. 2 priced QB on all the sites. In my mind, he’s a tournament play along with Stefon Diggs. It’s true that the Chiefs’ pass rush was basically non-existent in their win over the Browns, but during the regular season, they allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, and were among the toughest playoff teams in that respect through the first two rounds. Diggs has upside galore, but for a cheaper Bills’ receiving option, go with John Brown. Brown and Diggs both had 11 targets last week, and you can bet that KC will be aiming to limit Diggs as much as possible. That may also open up opportunities for Gabriel Davis, Cole Beasley and even Isaiah McKenzie in tournament lineups, as the Bills may be forced to take what the Chiefs are giving them. One thing is sure, it will take some creativity and luck to win the big field tournaments on this slate.
Tampa Bay at Green Bay, Total 51 points
Although the total on this game isn’t quite as high, the Packers are where I’m starting when it comes to cash game lineups. Aaron Rodgers is second- or third-cheapest at his position, but feels like the safest option given Mahomes’ unknown health status. He’s been on fire in his last few games, perfect again in the win over LA last week with three total touchdowns and no turnovers. The Bucs are a terrific run defense, but have been beatable through the air, ranking fifth in fantasy points allowed to both QB and WR in the playoffs. Davante Adams is matchup proof anyway, but should be the glaring focal point of the Packers’ offense. Don’t let the fact that Allen Lazard’s long touchdown pushed him past Adams in fantasy scoring dissuade you from paying up for Adams. If you want to chase the points, Lazard is fine for the risk/reward GPP lineups you’ll make (same with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, both of who saw eight targets in the Divisional round win).
Aaron Jones was the leading rusher for Green Bay, and AJ Dillon is still questionable with a quadriceps injury. Jamaal Williams wasn’t too far behind in carries, but his production lagged considerably. Jones is also the most expensive running back on this slate, again highlighting the pass-heavy offenses we have on tap. I noted above that Tampa Bay was one of the best rushing defenses in the league this season, a trend that continued in the playoffs. Given the priority to spend at TE and WR, I’m having a tough time giving Jones a spot in my lineups this week. Though the Packers are the most expensive defense on two sites, they are a reasonable $13 on Yahoo. No one wants to roster a defense against any of these potent offenses, but I’m on board with this price for the at home Packers unit.
For the Bucs, Tom Brady feels like a bargain at QB. Of course, he’s not afraid of the cold after just one season in sunny Florida and arguably has more weapons than the other three teams combined. Leonard Fournette has been a fantasy and real-life playoff hero the past two weeks, with Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Cameron Brate and Rob Gronkowski all eating into each other’s value. There are definitely scenarios where it will be worth it for the rest of the lineup for you to save the $500 (DK), $900 (FD), or $5 (Yahoo) to go from Rodgers to Brady, but I’m generally trying to avoid doing that. I’d rather utilize one or both of Fournette and Ronald Jones against the Packers notoriously weak run defense. Jones played more and was utilized more in the Divisional Round (not a hard feat to achieve after not seeing the field during the Wild Card game), and could be a nice value play. It looks like the Bucs are content to let Fournette do the heavy lifting at the position, but we have all been burned before by this situation. Beware. Hedge.