What the NFC Championship Game's Historic Total Means for Daily Fantasy Football

How will the historically high total affect the players from a fantasy perspective?

The old adage "defense wins championships" usually ends up coming true by the end of the NFL season.

Last year, the elite play of Peyton Manning stout defense of the Denver Broncos won them the Super Bowl. This year, things are different.

Bookmakers have set the total so high in the NFC Championship between the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers that the defenses should probably just stay home and hope for the best.

The over/under is currently set at 60 points.

Per Bet Labs, games with a total of more than 57 points have gone over the total seven out of seven times. They also point out that only about one percent of games have an over/under of 55 points or more.

What does it mean for the contest from a fantasy football perspective?

Welcome to Atlanta

The game will be played in the Georgia Dome, where defenses have gone to suffer all season long. Think of the Georgia Dome as the Upside Down and all of the defenses are poor Barb.

Falcons home games have miraculously gone over the total in all nine games this season. This includes last week's demolition of the Seattle Seahawks. Head coach Dan Quinn should do his team a favor and just make their punter, Matt Bosher, inactive.

Games in Atlanta this season have not only gone over the total consistently but have done so by an average of 11.1 points per game. If that average remains the same, we could see a game ending with a total score of 70 points or more.

Looking at our metrics, it's not so surprising that the total is this high.

The Metrics

The Falcons and Packers have been offensive juggernauts this season. The Falcons rank first in Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play on offense while the Packers rank third. Atlanta's offense actually graded out as the most efficient on a per-play basis since 2000 by our metrics.

Their defenses rank. No, I mean, they are just rank. The Falcons are 27th in Adjusted NEP per play on defense while the Packers rank 22nd.

Because this game could get out of hand early, let's take a look at how players from these teams have performed in games with high over/unders.

This Could Get Offensive

Using the Rotoviz Game Splits App, we are able to see how players have done in their careers in games with high totals. For this game, I used performance in games with a total of 55 points or higher.

The scoring used is half-PPR (point per reception).

Quarterbacks Team Games With Total 55+ Avg FP Avg FP All Games Diff
Matt Ryan ATL 5 29.08 20.99 8.09
Aaron Rodgers GB 4 30 25.25 4.75

Running Backs Team Games With Total 55+ Avg FP Avg FP All Games Diff
Devonta Freeman ATL 5 10.72 13.27 -2.55
Tevin Coleman ATL 2 10.7 8.93 1.77
Ty Montgomery GB 0 N/A 8.61

Pass Catchers Team Games With Total 55+ Avg FP Avg FP All Games Diff
Julio Jones ATL 4 25.32 16.14 9.18
Mohamed Sanu ATL 1 11.2 6.88 4.32
Taylor Gabriel ATL 0 N/A 6.23
Jordy Nelson GB 4 12.88 11.36 1.52
Randall Cobb GB 4 11.18 10.94 0.24
Davante Adams GB 3 9.07 8.63 0.44
Jared Cook GB 0 N/A 6.05

You will notice that many players have not experienced playing in a game with this high of an over/under. Historical splits with a small sample size such as these are good for reference but should be taken with a grain of salt.

The primary takeaway is that players such as Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, and Julio Jones have seen their numbers spike in these games while others have seen a minimal difference.

Those three are your safest bets for cash-game purposes in daily fantasy, but they can also be used in tournaments because our weekend slate is only two games.

Foot Locker

While the punters may be napping during the game, kickers should be very busy. numberFire's Jim Sannes wrote a very useful article last January on how kickers performed based on measures such as Vegas spreads, implied totals, and favorites versus underdogs. Based on his findings, we need to target kickers on heavily-favored teams, with implied team total as the tiebreaker. Matt Bryant fits the bill for this description.

While the Falcons aren't necessarily heavy favorites, they are favored by 4.5 points and have a massive implied team total of 32.25 points. Sannes found that kickers on teams with an implied total of 30 or more points scored an average of 10.64 fantasy points per game. Bryant averaged 10.75 fantasy points per game at home during the regular season.

Bryant does have the highest price among kickers this weekend on FanDuel at $5,000, but the cheapest option, Chris Boswell, is only $400 less. Bryant is an ideal kicking target for all formats.

Getting Defensive

The online sportsbook Bookmaker opened this game at the total of 59.5, and it rose to 60.5. We usually try to avoid defenses involved in games where the total is growing. As I wrote last March, line movement can affect the scoring of your fantasy defense. When the totals rise, the performance of the defenses involved usually declines.

Also, teams playing in games where the total was 49.5 points or higher averaged only 6.69 fantasy points per game in 2015. The highest total in a game in 2015 was only 55 points and those defenses scored 5 and 4 points each.

Let's face it, picking a defense this weekend is going to be a crapshoot. You will be betting on a defense to face Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Rodgers, or Ryan. It's your typical lose-lose-lose-lose situation. That being said, I'd prefer to only play the Green Bay D/ST and Atlanta D/ST as punt options in tournaments because of the record total.