DraftKings Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Conference Championship Weekend
The NFL regular season might be over, but daily fantasy rolls on throughout the playoffs. Not only is every postseason slate a small one, these are all winning teams that got into the postseason. We'll see many situations in which good offensive players are pitted against a good defense. Those easy, flowchart-type matchups are no longer available. Thankfully, even the two-game slate we'll see for the Conference Championships will have a few carve-outs to exploit.
Plus, numberFire has several excellent premium tools to sharpen your process. The heat map provides a very useful overview of the slate while the projections and lineup generator allow you to really fine tune things. Best of all, you aren't limited to just the NFL DFS tools. As a subscriber, NBA and NHL content is also available as those sports are each well into their respective regular season.
But you are here for football and this week's top plays on DraftKings. Let's get to it!
Tom Brady ($7,700) - Ruh-roh! After he was accidentally run into by a teammate during practice on Wednesday, Brady skipped his scheduled press conference to get treatment and X-rays on a jammed right throwing hand. While this is not expected to be an issue for Brady on Sunday, more than a few eyebrows have been raised after he also missed practice on Thursday.
After an uneven December in which Brady threw just six touchdowns and was intercepted five times, the GOAT cast aside the latest chorus of imminent decline by shredding the Tennessee Titans for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns. And while the opposing pass defense has been dialed all the way up to the max, the Jacksonville Jaguars -- far and away numberFire's top pass defense -- just gave up 469 yards and 5 touchdowns to another future Hall of Famer, Ben Roethlisberger. It's also interesting that Brady's former backup -- Jimmy Garoppolo -- was successful against Jacksonville in a Week 16 victory. And just a few weeks earlier, Russell Wilson slung multiple long touchdown passes against the Jags.
That's not to say Jacksonville has suddenly become a sieve in the secondary, but they are ninth in pass defense by our metrics since Week 10. Additionally, "Brady at home in the playoffs" are the six magic words that have ended many a season.
Blake Bortles ($5,000) - Haters are going to hate, but Bortles produces fantasy points, and that's all we really care about. Unfortunately, those points have been very inconsistent. Over his last nine games, Bortles has flashed a 28-plus-point ceiling on DraftKings three times yet hit a single-digit floor twice.
Thankfully, this sets up like a game where the pass volume will be there for Bortles. He's an eight-point road underdog. Meanwhile, Leonard Fournette -- while productive in the box score last week -- really struggled when he returned after suffering yet another ankle injury. In their last three games, the New England Patriots gave up an impressive average of only 63.0 rushing yards to the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Tennessee Titans. Fournette hasn't been the same since returning in Week 10 and is highly susceptible to being bottled up or scripted out of the game plan once the score gets lopsided.
It's no wonder Bortles is far and away the top points-per-dollar play on the entire slate based on our projections, regardless of position.
Dion Lewis ($8,100) - Over his last three contests, Lewis is averaging more than 140 yards of offense and nearly 30 DraftKings points per game. Last week, James White returned and promptly scored red zone touchdowns both as a rusher and a receiver. Even Brandon Bolden got in on the touchdown vulturing action.
In any event, Lewis is still the lead dog in the Patriots backfield. He played on 53 percent of the snaps against Tennessee while White remained at 40 percent, right in line with his season average. Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead was close to returning last week and is expected back this week.
According to Sharp Football Stats, the Jaguars were 27th in Rushing Success Rate and 28th in Explosive Rushing (carries of 10 or more yards). Despite a more healthy and suddenly crowded backfield lurking, Lewis is understandably the most expensive player on the Conference Championship slate because his workload is the safest to predict and because he plays well in either positive or negative game script.
Jerick McKinnon ($5,100) - Even though he's not going to get the majority of the carries, McKinnon has outsnapped Latavius Murray in all but three games this season, and it has only happened once over the last six games.
Speaking of Murray, he has seen a range of 19 to 21 carries each of the last four games while only averaging 3.8 yards per carry. However, he's also scored four touchdowns during that span. Good luck in Philadelphia, though. The Philadelphia Eagles rank fourth in our scheduled-adjusted metrics against the run and are inside the top 10 in both Rushing Success Rate and Explosive Rushing.
Meanwhile, McKinnon is averaging 4.0 yards per carry over the same period on just 9.0 carries per game. Although the Eagles allowed the fewest rushing yards to running backs, the Vikings may try to avoid the fearsome interior by trying spring McKinnon on the outside after seeing Tevin Coleman find some success in the Divisional Round.
T.J. Yeldon ($4,200) - As we've already gone over, the Jags are significant road underdogs, and Leonard Fournette is dealing with another ankle injury. When and if the Patriots get ahead by multiple scores, we should see quite a lot of Yeldon in the backfield. And he'll be matched up against a defense that allowed the second-most receiving yards to running backs.
Based on what we've seen Yeldon is best suited for tournament lineups as his path to a serious number of touches requires the game script to turn negative quickly for Jacksonville. In a Week 12 loss against the Arizona Cardinals, Yeldon outsnapped Fournette for the first and only time this season. During their Week 16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the split was 55 to 45 in favor of Fournette, but Yeldon saw double-digit targets.
Stefon Diggs ($6,900) - Even when he's not performing miracles, Diggs is producing touchdowns on the regular. Diggs has now scored in five consecutive games after going through an eight-game stretch in which he only scored once. It makes an interesting bookend to a season in which Diggs scored four touchdowns in the first three games. In addition to the current scoring streak, Diggs has caught five or more passes in six of his last seven games.
Meanwhile, teammate Adam Thielen ($7,400) has scored once since Week 12 and sat out of Wednesday's practice with a lower back injury in what's being considered a maintenance day. Thielen returned on a limited basis on Thursday.
The Eagles are a top-four pass defense by our metrics, but considering the Jaguars and Vikings are also in that group, this slate is absolutely loaded with tricky wide receiver matchups. Our projections have both Minnesota wideouts in the top three of fantasy points scored at the position, so investing in one of them makes a lot of sense in cash games.
Chris Hogan ($5,000) - If you don't think that analytics are being used by NFL teams, then you should know that the Patriots have been using statistical models since the 1990s. So the next time you hear Bill Belichick talk about SnapFace, realize that you're being trolled.
And perhaps the Patriots already have this nugget. Either way, here goes: the Jaguars have been really strong against three wide receiver sets but have struggled when the offense is using only one or two wide receivers, according to this study from Warren Sharp.
Instead of chasing after Danny Amendola ($5,500) after he saw 13 targets last week, the preference ought to be the less expensive Hogan. Against the Titans, Hogan caught a red zone touchdown (his only reception of the game) and outsnapped Amendola by more than 20 percent.
Either by tape or by spreadsheet, if New England is aware of this weakness in the Jacksonville defense expect additional opportunities for Hogan while Amendola may see very little action.
Dede Westbrook ($3,900) - The once depleted Jaguars receiving corps is now healthy after getting both Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns back on the field for the playoffs. In the Wild Card Round, none of the four wide receivers exceeded 60 percent of the snaps. Last week, Westbrook had a slight edge on the group by playing 69 percent of the snaps. And over the last five games, Westbrook's 81 percent of the snaps is 10 percent higher than fellow rookie Keelan Cole.
Even though the playing time is spread out, the reason to comb through the Jacksonville wide receivers is pretty simple. They are the only ones not looking a nightmare secondary. The Patriots are a bottom 10 pass defense by our metrics while the other three playoff teams are at the very top.
Rob Gronkowski ($7,900) - If New England indeed opts to use a lot of two-receiver sets, Gronkowski benefits greatly from a more narrow passing attack. Not that Gronk really needs any help in crushing the opposition. If you remove whatever that was in Week 17, Gronkowski is averaging 9.6 targets, 6.8 receptions, 109.0 yards, and 0.8 touchdowns over his last five games.
In terms of limiting yards to tight ends, Jacksonville was among the very best in the league. Last week, however, Vance McDonald led the Steelers in targets (16) and receptions (10) while putting up 112 yards. Add that to the list of reasons why the people want to see Jalen Ramsey attempt to cover Gronk. (That's not going to happen, by the way.)
Kyle Rudolph ($4,500) - Even if you play Gronkowski in every single lineup, Rudolph is a strong enough value to consider using in the flex spot and a name to consider should you opt to late swap between games. While he was not very productive as a receiver late in the season due to an ankle injury suffered in Week 14, he's no longer on the injury report. Rudolph is also coming off a game in which he saw 8 targets and came close to playing 90 percent of the snaps. That's his highest usage, by far, since the injury.
While all four of the remaining defensive units were below the league average in yards allowed to opposing tight ends, Philadelphia was the most generous by a small margin over New England.
New England D/ST ($3,500) - After averaging just 1.7 sacks per game in their first 10 contests, the Patriots have recorded 4.7 sacks per game over their last seven. They've only managed four turnovers (all interceptions) during that time but should get one or two more if they make it to the Super Bowl for the eighth time during in the Brady era.
In the six games in which the Jaguars lost this season, Bortles averaged 1.6 interceptions and was sacked 2.3 times per game. In his 10 regular season victories, Bortles was only intercepted a total of three times and averaged a single sack taken per game.
Philadelphia D/ST ($3,000) - Over nine home games, which includes the playoffs, Philadelphia has only allowed 12.3 points per game while giving up more than 10 additional points when they are on the road. Even though the Eagles did not create a turnover last week against the Atlanta Falcons, they did sack Matt Ryan three times. But such an occurrence has been rare for the Eagles. Only twice during the regular season did Philadelphia fail to record a turnover. In addition to the being the second-cheapest defense on the slate, our projections give Philly top billing.