FanDuel Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Helper: AFC Championship (Bengals at Chiefs)
The Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals meet again in the AFC Championship Game. This one kicks off at 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday night.
On FanDuel Sportsbook, the Bengals -- despite being on the road -- are 1.0-point favorites in a game with a 47.5-point total. That makes the implied score 24.25-23.25 in favor of the Bengals.
For those unfamiliar, single-game slates feature five flex spots with identical scoring to main slates. However, kickers are included in these contests, and there is an "MVP" roster slot. The MVP receives 1.5 times his total fantasy points, making this spot crucial.
Our Brandon Gdula has done a deep dive on single-game strategy, and we have projections for the single-game slate if you select the game from the slate tab. It's worth checking out both of those things before you make your lineups.
The health of Patrick Mahomes ($16,500 on FanDuel) is obviously a big deal for this slate. Mahomes is reportedly "doing OK" and is going to play, according to Chiefs coach Andy Reid. However, with the Chiefs listed as a home 'dog, it sure seems like the betting market is operating as if Mahomes is less than 100%.
Our projections follow suit as we have Mahomes projected for only 19.2 FanDuel points -- 1.2 fewer than Joe Burrow ($16,000). It'll be interesting to see how MVP popularity shakes out between the two of them. With Mahomes dinged up and the Bengals' offense playing so well last week, Burrow may wind up being the most popular multiplier. If it looks like that's going to be the case and we haven't gotten any negative reports on Mahomes' health, I'll load up on Mahomes.
Mahomes is averaging 24.75 FanDuel points per game for the season -- 3.12 more than Burrow -- and averaged 314.3 passing yards per game at home. His DFS outlook takes a hit if he isn't able to run as much, but the chance to get Mahomes as anything other than the most popular MVP play on a single-game slate is awfully enticing.
As for Burrow, he's a great play, too. He certainly has the softer matchup between the two signal-callers as the KC defense ranks 11th-worst by our metrics, compared to the Bengals' D ranking 7th-best. Burrow has two high-upside options for stacking partners and has shown a little rushing juice, running for at least 20 yards in seven games this season, including 31 a week ago. He tops our projections at a clip of 20.4 FanDuel points.
Ja'Marr Chase ($14,500) and Travis Kelce ($14,000) are excellent MVP choices, as well, if you want to pivot off the chalky quarterbacks. Our algorithm projects both for 15.1 FanDuel points.
Kelce was unreal last week, catching 14 of 17 targets for 98 yards and a pair of tuddies. He's clearly the number-one option in the Kansas City passing game. Kelce had 10 receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown in last year's AFC title bout, but he was held to 56 and 25 yards in a pair of regular-season meetings with Cincy over the past two campaigns.
Chase is probably going to be the most popular non-quarterback MVP, and he checks a lot of boxes. The Chiefs' defense surrendered the seventh-most FanDuel points per game to wideouts (29.6) in the regular season, and over the last two years, Chase's worst fantasy outing against the Chiefs has been a 7-catch, 97-yard day, which came in Week 13 of this past regular season.
Joe Mixon ($12,500) is another guy who deserves an MVP shout. Mixon was at his best last week -- 123 total yards and a score -- and he can have another quality outing on Sunday. Our metrics have Kansas City as the 12th-worst run defense, and while Mixon's 56% snap rate from last week leaves a lot to be desired, he was busy when he was out there, amassing 20 carries and 3 targets. At his salary, Mixon is easy to like, and our model has him producing 14.7 FanDuel points.
Tee Higgins ($11,500) is a fun pivot off the Chase chalk. Chase has certainly had a big leg up in these two playoffs -- seeing 20 looks to Higgings' 10 -- but that can flip at any point. In last year's AFC Championship Game, Higgins led the charge with 10 targets, which he turned into 6 catches for 103 yards. Higgins is shaping up as a core play for me on this slate.
Hayden Hurst ($8,000), Tyler Boyd ($7,500) and Samaje Perine ($7,000) are viable value plays from Cincinnati.
Hurst has been solid in the playoffs, generating 45 yards on 4 receptions in the Wild Card Round before totaling 5 grabs for 59 yards and a tud a week ago. Hurst's Divisional-Round output will likely bring him to the forefront as a popular value pick.
Perine has played 53% and 44% of the snaps through two playoff games, which gives him a path to solid volume at a low salary. He would benefit from Cincy getting into a hole and having to throw a lot.
Boyd is a clear third wheel at wideout. While he typically plays plenty of snaps -- 90% and 71% snap rates through two postseason affairs -- he would almost surely need a touchdown (or two) to get into the optimal lineup.
On the Kansas City side, Isiah Pacheco ($10,500) and Jerick McKinnon ($11,000) are splitting things in the backfield. Last week, McKinnon played a lot more snaps -- 65% to 35% -- and handled 11 carries, but he wasn't targeted in the passing game and racked up just 25 yards. Pacheco vastly out-produced McKinnon, taking 12 rushes and 1 target for 101 total yards.
Despite the zero-target game from McKinnon last week, he's a safe bet to see pass-game work this week and has been a constant red-zone threat. He was also the back on the field late in the Divisional Round as the Chiefs tried to run out the clock. If you're building under the idea of a Bengals' win, McKinnon makes a lot of sense.
With that said, if Mahomes is hobbled and the Chiefs have to rely more on their running game, Pacheco could bust out on Sunday. Plus, there is a chance his superb showing last week earns him more touches this weekend.
We forecast McKinnon and Pacheco for 10.6 and 10.5 FanDuel points, respectively.
Despite being receivers in a Mahomes-led offense, JuJu Smith-Schuster ($9,500), Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($7,000) and Kadarius Toney ($8,500) are tough to get excited about. JuJu hasn't bested four catches in a game in four weeks. He's a tough sell at this salary. I much prefer Toney and Valdes-Scantling.
Toney is KC's most talented skill guy outside of Kelce. I'd hoped he would see more snaps in the Divisional Round, and he wound up playing just 29% of the snaps. Banking on his snaps to increase this week comes down to blind faith, and I'm not expecting it to happen. But he has the ability to rip off a big play and did get seven targets last week. He's my favorite play of this KC trio.
MVS made only one grab last week (a six-yard touchdown), and while we haven't seen many downfield plays from him this year, we know he has that in his locker. At $7,000, MVS is someone I'll look to for salary relief. He can help you pack in a couple of this slate's high-salary studs.
Our model has Evan McPherson ($8,000) and Harrison Butker ($9,000) projected for 8.1 and 7.2 FanDuel points, respectively. Given their salaries, McPherson looks like the better play.
Neither D/ST is all that appealing. We project the Kansas City D/ST ($9,000) for 6.3 FanDuel points and have the Cincinnati D/ST ($8,500) scoring 5.7.