Sunday Divisional Round Games
1:05 PM ET Game
LA Chargers @ New England
Team Totals: Patriots 26, Chargers 22
The Patriots come off their bye to host a Los Angeles team playing its second straight East Coast game at 1pm ET after last Sunday’s upset of Baltimore. Bolts-Pats has the lowest total on the slate pitting Tom Brady against an L.A. defense that has allowed the NFL’s sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Brady’s odds of beating expectations will improve if the Pats embrace a quick-pass approach to mitigate havoc caused by DEs Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. It does help that the Patriots kick off the postseason at home, where they averaged 32.9 points per game versus 21.6 on the road. … Quick passing would favor James White in a plus draw; the Bolts allowed the NFL’s fourth-most catches (6.7) and second-most receiving yards per game (60.8) to running backs in 2018, then a perfect 3/53/0 receiving line on three targets to Ravens backs in Wild Card Week. Unfortunately, White’s touch counts were 6 – 7 – 10 – 8 in the season’s final month, barely superior to Rex Burkhead’s 5 – 7 – 17 – 6. Sony Michel remained the Patriots’ clear-cut lead back (20 – 13 – 18 – 14) but hasn’t caught a pass since Week 13 and has three receptions since Week 6. As rushing attempts are also intermittently siphoned by FB James Develin and swiss-army-knife Cordarrelle Patterson, this became one of fantasy’s least-stable backfields as soon as Burkhead came off I.R./return in Week 13. Michel remains the best bet favored at home with a 15-18 carry projection. White is worth PPR-specific flex consideration. Burkhead is a low-floor shot in the dark.
Julian Edelman is New England’s best box-score bet with six-plus catches and/or a touchdown in 11-of-12 games since returning from suspension. His matchup is also most favorable against Chargers CB Desmond King, who allowed an AFC-high 51 catches on slot targets this season. … As Brady and Chris Hogan lacked chemistry all year, Brady went out of his Week 17 way to rebuild it by firing a team-high 11 targets at Hogan in New England’s 38-3 romp over the Jets. Hogan’s 35 routes run were his most since Week 10, and his 94% snap rate was Hogan’s second highest all year. This is not a plus draw – the Chargers yielded the NFL’s fourth-fewest receiving yards per game to wideout units on the year (132.8) – but sheer opportunity at least gets Hogan on the Divisional Round DFS map. … Phillip Dorsett is a Week 19 sleeper despite target counts of 0 and 5 on route totals of 13 and 17 in Weeks 16-17 following Josh Gordon’s year-ending ban. Brady completed an efficient 32-of-42 passes (76.2%) for 290 yards and three touchdowns when targeting Dorsett on the season. A 4.33 speedster, Dorsett should play over half of Sunday’s offensive snaps as the Patriots’ No. 3 receiver. … Cordarrelle Patterson is No. 4 in the wideout pecking order but can fill the box score in a variety of ways after averaging 1.5 kickoff runbacks, 1.9 targets, and 2.8 carries per game as New England’s jack-of-all-trades weapon. Quietly, Brady’s passer rating when targeting Patterson this season (141.8) was highest in the Patriots’ receiver corps. Patterson also correlates with the Patriots’ D/ST with a long-shot chance at double points if Patterson returns a kickoff to the house. … Held below 60 yards in 9-of-13 games and six of his last seven, Rob Gronkowski devolved into a touchdown-or-bust tight end in 2018. Armed with elite safety play keyed by Derwin James, the Chargers never pose plus tight end matchups.
Late-season tailspins are nothing new for 37-year-old Philip Rivers, who visits Foxboro with 220 passing yards or fewer in four of his last five starts and a 3:6 TD-to-INT ratio over his last four. The Patriots closed out 2018 allowing 17 points or fewer in five of their last six games, including just 17 to the high-powered Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 15. Beginning with most recent, Rivers’ last four yards/TD/INT totals against Bill Belichick defenses are 212/1/1 – 189/1/1 – 378/2/2 – 336/1/1 with a lifetime record of 0-7 versus the Patriots when Brady is active. Rivers is a low-floor, contrarian DFS-tournament play in his third straight road game and second straight 1pm ET time start on the East Coast. Of further concern is that Rivers’ completion percentage (60%), yards per attempt (7.9), and interception rate (3.2%) are all much worse versus man coverage than zone (75%, 9.4, 1.8%). The Patriots play man at the NFL’s highest rate. … Melvin Gordon entered last week’s Wild Card win with right knee and ankle injuries. He injured his left knee in the first quarter against the Ravens, only to gut it out for 43 yards and a touchdown on 18 touches, playing 49% of the snaps. Gordon has been unable to generate yards after contact, hasn’t drawn more than three targets in a game since mid-November, and may have to play this game with braces on both legs. Whereas Gordon’s health is a significant concern, his matchup is not versus a Patriots Defense that got run over by enemy backs for 157/834/4 rushing in its final eight games and coughed up the NFL’s eighth-most receiving yards per game to backs (49.9) on the year. Austin Ekeler remained the Chargers’ clear No. 2 back at Baltimore, out-touching Justin Jackson 15 to 2.
Rivers’ Weeks 16-18 target distribution: Keenan Allen 21; Mike Williams 14; Antonio Gates 11; Jackson 10; Tyrell Williams 9; Gordon and Travis Benjamin 7; Ekeler 5; Virgil Green 4. … Allen has faced Belichick twice in his career, managing anemic 4/61/0 and 2/3/0 box-score results. Using combinations of Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson in interior coverage, the Pats stymied similar-styled WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster (4/40/0) and Adam Thielen (5/28/1) late in the year. Allen is a bet-on-volume, bet-on-talent play in an unideal draw…. Mike’s likeliest coverage adversary is Stephon Gilmore, who has allowed just two TDs since Week 3 and played the leading role as New England contained Robby Anderson (3/24/0), Robert Foster (4/52/0), and Antonio Brown (4/49/1) in Weeks 15-17. Mike does remain a superior opportunity-based gamble to Tyrell after the former out-targeted the latter by five in three games since Allen returned from his hip injury. … Officially activated to the 53-man roster, Hunter Henry will turn the Chargers’ tight end corps into a three-man rotation, rendering Gates and Henry DFS options to avoid.
Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Chargers 17
4:40 PM ET Game
Philadelphia @ New Orleans
Team Totals: Saints 29.5, Eagles 21.5
The Saints host the Eagles on nearly two weeks rest after sitting most starters in Week 17, then enjoying a first-round bye. Sean Payton’s club imposed its will on Doug Pederson’s 48-7 in Week 11, racking up an otherworldly 546 yards from scrimmage. Philadelphia gave up 300-plus passing yards in four of its last five games and was especially vulnerable to vertical attacks after losing four-fifths of its first-team nickel package to injury. Quarterbacks facing the Eagles averaged 11.6 yards per attempt with five TDs on 20-plus-yard throws in Weeks 14-18. Drew Brees led the league in QB rating (128.6) on 20-plus-yard passes in 2018 and averaged his second-most yards per attempt all year (12.1) in these clubs’ Week 11 date. And Brees’ home-away splits were as stark as ever, logging a 21:1 TD-to-INT ratio and 9.54 YPA in Superdome games versus an 11:4 TD-to-INT ratio and 6.88 YPA on the road. … Even against an Eagles team that defended the run stoutly in the last month, this game sets up nicely for Mark Ingram with New Orleans favored by two scores at home. Whereas Alvin Kamara is game-script proof, Ingram’s production is lopsided with a touches/yardage/TD average of 14.7/83.6/0.9 in wins by over a touchdown versus 11.2/46.0/0.2 in one-score games. Ingram scored six of his seven TDs in two-score victories and pummeled Philly for 16/103/2 rushing in Week 11. … Kamara remains Payton’s 1a to Ingram’s 1b; Kamara out-touched Ingram 26 to 21 in last year’s playoffs, and Kamara rested in Week 17 while Ingram played. After Ingram returned from his Weeks 1-4 suspension, Kamara out-touched him 70 to 49 in one-score games with both backs active. Kamara would benefit if the Eagles keep this one close. It can’t hurt that Philadelphia surrenders the NFL’s seventh-most receiving yards per game to running backs (54.8). Since Ingram returned, Kamara has out-targeted him 58 to 27.
Preying on bite-sized rookie LCB Avonte Maddox (5’9/184) and slowpoke RCB Rasul Douglas (4.60), perimeter WRs Amari Cooper (10/217/3), Allen Robinson (10/143/1), DeAndre Hopkins (9/104/0), and Josh Reynolds (5/70/0) all met or beat expectations against the Eagles over the last five weeks. In the Saints’ last full-strength game – Week 16 vs. Pittsburgh – Michael Thomas led the team in outside routes (28) followed by Ted Ginn (19) and Tre’Quan Smith (11). While Thomas is an obvious top-five DFS receiver on the Divisional Round slate, Ginn and to a lesser extent Smith are lower-cost sleepers. In his Week 16 return from a three-month knee injury, Ginn racked up 74 yards on eight targets and led New Orleans in Air Yards (126), especially noteworthy against an Eagles secondary that can be beaten deep. Only two defenses allowed more 20-plus-yard completions per game than Philly this season (3.8), and Jim Schwartz’s unit gave up five more in the Wild Card Round. Ginn’s average receiving line over his last five home games is 4.4/77.6/0.6 versus 3.2/25.4/0.0 on the road. Since joining the Saints in 2017, Ginn has scored five of his seven TDs at the Superdome. … Keith Kirkwood operated as the Saints’ main slot receiver in Weeks 13-16, averaging 2.8 targets on 23.3 routes per game before resting for most of New Orleans’ meaningless finale. Big (6’3/221) and fast (4.45), Kirkwood is a DFS sleeper as the Saints’ No. 3 or 4 receiver. … In Weeks 14-16 before Brees rested, Ben Watson led Saints tight ends in routes (49) and targets (7), just barely ahead of Josh Hill (46, 7), and well out in front of Dan Arnold (11, 2), who was active for only one of the games. Playing in a rotation, all three tight ends are low-floor dart throws.
After doing just enough to outlast the Bears in last week’s 16-15 Wild Card upset, Nick Foles visits the Superdome for another tough draw with a Saints team that held its last seven non-Week 17 opponents to 14.6 points per game while finishing No. 5 in sacks (49), No. 9 in QB hits (101), and No. 9 in tackles for loss (96), causing constant penetration keyed by do-it-all LE Cameron Jordan, explosive first-round RE Marcus Davenport, and underrated DTs Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata. Foles’ average of 2.22 seconds before pass attempts (PFF) is quickest in the league since replacing Carson Wentz four games ago, however, and Philly’s offensive line kept Foles clean on 70.4% of dropbacks in Weeks 15-18, the NFL’s seventh-highest rate despite facing a brutal pass-rush schedule of Chicago, Washington, Houston, and the Rams, who all finished top 15 in sacks. Foles has also thrown the ball best versus man coverage; the Saints' man-coverage rate has spiked since acquiring CB Eli Apple. This game’s total and spread suggest Foles will be chasing points, giving him serious box-score appeal in a probable shootout. … The Eagles narrowed their backfield to a two-man committee at Soldier Field. Darren Sproles led the tailback corps in playing time (55%) and touches (15) with Wendell Smallwood (42%, 10) in the No. 2 role. Ex-lead runner Josh Adams played only one snap. New Orleans was giving from neither a rushing nor receiving standpoint to enemy backs this season, but Sproles is clearly the top play from this unit.
Foles’ Weeks 15-18 target distribution: Zach Ertz 34: Alshon Jeffery 27; Golden Tate 22; Nelson Agholor 21; Sproles 16; Smallwood 13; Dallas Goedert 12; Adams 5; Jordan Matthews 4. … Keyed by elite safety and linebacker play, the Saints’ shining moment in tight end defense came when DC Dennis Allen’s unit held record-breaking catch machine Ertz to 15 scoreless yards on three targets in Week 11. Ertz’s upside remains as high as any tight end’s on the Divisional Round slate, but his matchup is unappealing with highly inconsistent game-to-game production in Foles’ starts. … Jeffery led the Eagles in Week 18 targets (9), catches (6), and yards (82) and has cleared 80 yards and/or hit pay dirt in 7-of-9 career games with Foles. In Weeks 12-16, fellow perimeter WRs Antonio Brown (14/185/2), Julio Jones (11/147/0), JuJu Smith-Schuster (11/115/0), Calvin Ridley (8/93/1), Mike Evans (4/86/0), Amari Cooper (8/76/0), and Michael Gallup (5/76/0) all turned in fantasy-viable results despite strong coverage from RCB Marshon Lattimore and LCB Eli Apple. … Tate set two-month highs in routes run (27) and snaps (61%) in last week’s win, leading the Eagles in slot routes (24), finishing second to Jeffery in targets (8), and scoring the game-winning TD. In Weeks 11-17, PFF charged Saints slot CB P.J. Williams with 20-of-27 (74.1%) targets allowed for 235 yards (8.7 YPA), two touchdowns, and no picks. A major disappointment for half the season, the table is now set for Tate to be a playoff hero. … Agholor still played 91% of Philly’s Wild Card snaps, ran 40 routes, and drew six targets. As Tate figures to carry higher DFS ownership, Agholor is a contrarian-tournament pick with more playing time in a game where the Eagles project to chase points. … Although more Tate meant less Goedert, Philly’s impressive rookie tight end still paid off with a ten-yard score and could see more snaps at a moment’s notice. Goedert is another small-slate sleeper.
Score Prediction: Saints 30, Eagles 27