Our DFS options are drastically restricted with four games on the main slate rather than the six we had on Super Wild Card Weekend. It's going to require some imagination -- perhaps even a finely tuned galaxy brain -- to identify unique lineup construction designed to rise to the top of a large-field DFS tournament.
Let's see how we might gain a little leverage on the field this weekend, with three of four games profiling as potential shootouts.
But first, ranks!
Divisional Round Rankings
1. Tyreek Hill
2. Stefon Diggs
3. Davante Adams
4. Chris Godwin
5. Michael Thomas
6. Marquise Brown
7. Mike Evans
8. Jarvis Landry
9. Antonio Brown
10. Robert Woods
11. Allen Lazard
12. Cooper Kupp
13. Gabriel Davis
14. Sammy Watkins
15. Emmanuel Sanders
16. Rashard Higgins
17. Cole Beasley
18. Marquez Valdes-Scantling
19. Mecole Hardman
20. Deonte Harris
DFS Stacking Options
Browns (+10) @ Chiefs
If this game goes according to schedule -- with KC’s passing attack pouncing on the Browns’ vulnerable coverage unit -- we’re going to have our choice of run-back candidates among Cleveland pass catchers.
This four-game slate, I think, is conducive to a two tight end build if those tight ends are Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews, both of whom are target hogs in superb matchups. A mere three teams allow more tight end receptions than the Browns this season. Opponents shredded Cleveland’s defense via the tight end: only three teams gave up a larger target share to tight ends this season. That worked out to 7.94 targets per contest. Just last week, we saw Eric Ebron -- Pittsburgh’s fourth pass-catching option -- grab seven of 11 targets for 62 yards and a score against the Browns. Kelce should be in for a mind-boggling stat line this week.
If you’re going all in on a Mahomes-Kelce-Hill stack, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to fade a run-back option. Jarvis Landry, who last week had 92 yards and a score, makes the most logical (and priciest) option. Squeezing in viable players after a Mahomes-Kelce-Hill-Landry foundation is going to be tough action. Rashard Higgins and Austin Hooper are my preferred options to use alongside the Chiefs.
Higgins’ Divisional Round DFS price tag doesn’t reflect his recent opportunity: he had seven targets last week against the Steelers while running 31 pass routes, second most on the team behind Landry. In late-season shootouts against Tennessee and Baltimore, Higgins saw nine and ten targets, respectively. Negative game script against KC should inflate his target numbers.
Hooper would be in position to gobble up a bunch of short passes if Baker Mayfield is in fact forced to drop back in catchup mode against the Chiefs. He led the team in targets last week and notched a score in a decidedly terrible tight end matchup. This week, Hooper gets a KC defense that’s seen tight ends account for 24 percent of the receiving yardage against them -- the fourth highest rate in the NFL. Hooper’s Wild Card usage was excellent: he ran 28 pass routes on Mayfield’s 34 pass attempts. His snap share is spiking at just the right time.
Bucs (+3) @ Saints
This game’s over-under, by the bye, has seen a two-point jump since Monday, with the Bucs seeing a 1.5-point bump in their implied total and the Saints getting another half a point.
Tom Brady and the entire Tampa offense were a total mess in two games against the New Orleans defense this season. Brady throwing five picks in those two games and completing just 60 percent of his passes could keep DFS players off the old man in this week’s truncated slate. That should open up leverage opportunities for DFSers who go heavy on Brady and his pass catchers this week. Tampa is utilizing play action far more today than they were early in the season -- setting a season high in play action usage last week against Washington -- with the Bucs’ offense hits its stride when it matters most, as my dearest Rotoworld colleague Hayden Winks pointed out. Play action works, as we saw last week in Tampa’s Wild Card victory.
Chris Godwin led all Tampa receivers in targets against the Saints this season. Brady tried to pick apart the Saints with his slot receiver with Mike Evans struggling mightily against Marshon Lattimore, who always seems intent on starting a brawl with Evans for no reason whatsoever. Pairing Brady with two of his wideouts would seem to make sense if you like the Bucs to meet or eclipse their implied total of 24.5 points. The Saints, like the Bucs, are a pass funnel defense, with 70.27 percent of yardage against New Orleans coming through the air this season. Only six teams -- including Tampa -- had a higher rate in 2020.
As anyone who played Irv Smith against the Saints in Week 16 can attest, New Orleans is a quietly great matchup for tight ends. In Week 1, Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard combined for nine targets, six catches, 47 yards, and a touchdown against the Saints (most of that production belonged to Howard, but the point stands). Eight weeks later, Gronk caught one of his six targets for a two yard score. No team, in fact, allowed a higher target share to tight ends this season than the Saints. That puts Cam Brate in play after he ran more pass routes thanks Gronk last week against the Football Team while Gronkowski stayed in to block. Against one of the league’s most ferocious pass rushes, we could see a repeat of Gronk’s usage as a blocker.
Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara would be the normie run-back options alongside a Bucs stack. Deonte Harris, who led the Saints in targets, catches, and receiving yardage last week against Chicago, would be the galaxy brain run-back play. Yes, Harris only ran 14 pass routes, drawing a target on half of those opportunities, but as a low-priced DFS option in a game that could shoot out, you could do worse. Plus, Bruce Arians is more afraid of Harris than he is of Thomas. So there’s that.
Ravens (+2.5) @ Bills
Lamar Jackson is the only QB on this week’s slate you can play naked (without a pass catching option). I’m not sure that’s the wisest path because the aforementioned Mark Andrews has a dream matchup against a Buffalo defense that allowed the most regular season receptions to tight ends and last week was gouged by Colts tight ends for an absurd 14 receptions. Bills opponents target wideouts 58 percent of the time -- one of the lowest rates in the league. Tight ends, meanwhile, see 24.3 percent of the targets against the Bills, the third highest mark. A back-and-forth affair or a couple quarters of negative script for Baltimore should give Andrews every opportunity to go off against Buffalo.
Devin Singletary is exciting in the way the last popsicle in the freezer is exciting. It’s the only one left. You’re grateful for it, even if it’s not the cherry flavor. Whatever.
Singletary is in line for all the playing time he can stand this week with Zack Moss (ankle) done for the postseason. Singletary notched 17.3 touches per game this season in games Moss missed compared to 10.9 touches with Moss in the lineup. A touch count hovering around 20 for a back priced like Singletary should seize the attention of anyone throwing a bunch of salary at receivers and tight ends this week. He makes for a cost-efficient run-back option if you have Jackson and Andrews in your lineup. That doesn’t mean Singletary should be your only run-back, or that you can’t stack him with Josh Allen. Running backs averaged 6.7 targets per game against Baltimore this year.
Mahomes, Jackson, and Rodgers in the mix this week means Allen could see a marked dip in DFS ownership. That could come at the right time for those rolling with Allen in the Divisional Round. Buffalo's favorite son has feasted on defenses that primarily run man coverage (as Baltimore deos). Allen has the second most touchdown passes and the third highest yards per pass attempt against man coverage this season, per Pro Football Focus. Stacking him with Diggs almost seems boring at this point, but there aren’t many scenarios in which Allen rips Baltimore’s secondary without Diggs posting a fat stat line.
Rams (+7) @ Packers
This game certainly feels like it could be the sort of ugly, low-scoring affair that’s come to define Sean McVay’s struggle to get by with Jared Goff under center. Maybe that makes the game a sneaky stacking contest with DFS players flocking to the three other games on the slate. Or maybe I should just watch the tape. It’s hard to say.
Davante Adams is going to have depressed usage in DFS lineups this week with the prospect of Jalen Ramsey haunting Green Bay. While I’m not wild about paying all the way up for Adams in a less-than-ideal spot, his target dominance (34 percent target share) makes him impossible to fully fade this week. The Adams faders have this going for them: his target share drops from 34 percent to 27 percent when the Packers face zone coverage. The Rams, as you may know, run one of the zone-heaviest defenses in the NFL. But it’s not often we can gain leverage on the field with the best receiver in the game.
Robert Tonyan makes for a secondary stacking option alongside Aaron Rodgers in a matchup that’s better than it looks. Tight ends this season saw 22.1 percent of the targets against LA’s defense, which largely shut down opposing wideouts. Tonyan, who doesn’t have more than five targets in any of his past seven outings, is the best Andrews alternative with plenty of touchdown equity. I’m not keen on going Rodgers-Adams-Tonyan in a game that profiles as the ugly DFS duckling of the Divisional Round slate. No offense to ducklings that aren't classically beautiful.
If Cooper Kupp -- who is expected to give it a go this weekend -- is a surprise inactive, Van Jefferson becomes a somewhat interesting punt play at wideout. With Kupp sidelined against Arizona in Week 17, Jefferson drew eight targets while Josh Reynolds saw six targets from John Wolford. Jefferson is $200 cheaper than Reynolds on DraftKings and $300 cheaper on FanDuel. Against a Green Bay secondary that’s given up the seventh fewest fantasy points to QBs since Week 13, no LA receiver has a clear path to any sort of ceiling.
The secret is out on Cam Akers after he wrecked the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. That doesn’t mean he’s an auto-fade. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: Green Bay has given up solid rushing performances time and again this season, allowing 4.5 yards per carry, the tenth highest mark in the NFL. LA is running the ball a hefty 46.6 percent of the time in neutral and positive game script this season. Unless the Rams get railroaded by Rodgers and company, Akers is going to see another 20-something touches. Akers had 28 of the team’s 37 running back carries in last week’s win over Seattle. Look at him. He’s the captain now.