The winning streak continues with NFL DFS! We had a great performance with the Saturday slate capped by the 49ers defense/special teams dominance at Lambeau Field. The week before was great as well with sleepers Kendrick Bourne and Giovani Bernard propelling us over the cash lines. Even Week 18 was outstanding thanks to our Tampa Bay stack which consisted of Tom Brady, Mike Evans, and Rob Gronkowski. Speaking of Brady, congratulations to him on completing one of the most remarkable sports careers of all time. Even though I always thought he would retire immediatelt after winning another Super Bowl, he is getting out at the right time while he still has his health and can now focus on family and whatever post playing aspirations he has in mind.
Now, on to this wonderful two game slate awaiting us on championship Sunday. Two game slates can be tricky since you can't afford a full-on fade for any of the studs. Also, you have to play the correlations. What do I mean by that? For example, does it make sense to grab two players from the same team if they happen to compete for red zone looks? No! However, you can still grab two players from the same team if they tend to score from different locations on the field. For example, Clyde Edwards-Helaire tends to see the end zone when he is handed the ball within the 10 yard line while Tyreek Hill usually scores on long passing plays.
Game script matters too. I expect the CIN-KC game to feature more offense and that point total should exceed 50. I also expect the Chiefs to cover the spread which probably means that the Bengals will be playing from behind often. For the NFC title game, it all depends on how the first couple of drives go for each team. If we get a slow and heavy type of game, then points will come at a premium much like the SF-GB last weekend. The game between SF and LA should be very close and might come down to the final second.
Here are tables displaying my models' outputs for QB, RB, and DST.
No surprise that Mahomes is by far and away the top QB for this weekend. After all, this is his 4th straight AFC Championship game. RB will be tricky since Joe Mixon is the highest rated RB but the game script may not do him any favors should the Chiefs open up the game with an early 14-0 or 21-0 lead. FYI, the WR and TE outputs come from the Advanced Sports Analytics (ASA) site.
As usual, let's break down this slate by position.
QB: Patrick Mahomes
Unlike other slates, there are just four choices but let's not kid ourselves ... we really have three choices. No way in hell are you going to roster Jimmy Garoppolo unless you like to throw money in the garbage. While Joe Burrow and Matt Stafford are viable options and could lead you the promised land due to low ownership and the potential of earning the highest score of the day, the data suggests you let Mahomes be your Mahomie. As mentioned earlier in this article, Mahomes will be playing in his 4th straight conference championshp game where he is 2-1 and could be 3-0 if the Chiefs didn't lose to New England in overtime during the 2018 season. Each time Mahomes passed for at least 294 yards and 3 TDs. No INTs in any of those three games. His QB rating never dipped below 117. This year alone, Mahomes has been superb in the postseason passing for nearly 800 yards, 8 TDs, just 1 INT and completing more than 75% of his pass attempts. He even has a rushing TD. As for the opposition, the Bengals pass rush is non-existent. Mahomes will have plenty of time to throw and it doesn't hurt that he gets to play at home.
An implied point total of 31 points pretty much means that the Chiefs will score 4 TDs. Usually 70% of KC's TDs are through the air. Do the math and we should expect 3 TDs from Mahomes. If he reaches 300 passing yards (a very real possibility) then we are looking at 27 points on DK (including the 3 point bonus). At a salary of $7400, that is close to 4x value. Don't fade the best QB in the universe.
RB: Elijah Mitchell, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (CEH), and Sony Michel
Mitchell is an easy choice. He is the workhorse for San Francisco and the 49ers love to run. Of course the TDs haven't quite been there recently but with enough volume (20+ carries) he has a very good chance to hit pay dirt in LA. If we get a 100 yard day with a TD that adds up to close to 20 DK points. The FD points would be similar since Mitchell tends to do almost all of his damage on the ground.
CEH is a bit risky since the Chiefs are in a timeshare with RB. Even though Jerick McKinnon has had a very generous snap share during the last 2 games, one can't ignore how good CEH looked last week, his first game back in nearly a month. I am expecting a 50/50 split between CEH and McKinnon with CEH getting most of the early down looks and McKinnon helping out on 3rd downs. Even though McKinnon carries more value in DK given his penchant for catching the ball out of the backfield and a slightly cheaper salary, I think CEH is the one who gets the goal line touches and is a solid bet to score once or twice. He can be a great complement to your Mahomes-Hill or Mahomes-Kelce pairings.
Another risky RB is Sony Michel. He received just 1 carry last week while Cam Akers got most of the touches. However, Akers fumbled the ball twice and the 2nd one nearly cost LA the game. Plus, Rams head coach Sean McVay knows full well that Michel is a big time player who will play big in big time games. In the Super Bowl three years ago, Michel scored the only TD in that game (what a boring game that was!) while he was with the Patriots and of course that game was against LA. Michel also looked great during a 5 game stretch from Week 13-17. I am guessing that there will be a 50/50 split with Akers doing all of the work on one drive and then Michel being the exclusive ball carrier for the next drive. If that is the case, Michel is tremendous value given that he is one of the cheapest RBs available. I kind of find that odd since he is arguably the most talented RB playing this weekend.
WR: Cooper Kupp, Tyreek Hill, and Tee Higgins
WR is where the slate will make us or break us. Let's start with Kupp. Are you going to fade him? FUCK NO! Sorry for the language but you don't fade the best offensive player in the game, especially someone who has had a historic season. The 49ers struggle with man coverage and Kupp thrives against man. Well, Kupp thrives against zone as well. Kupp pretty much catches everything that comes his way against any type of coverage. He is matchup proof! Even if Kupp doesn't quite reach 3x or 4x value, you are going to need the raw points on a small slate.
I love Hill if you are playing Mahomes. Yes, Mahomes also correlates well with Travis Kelce and it's plausible that both Hill and Kelce pop off in the same game but you will need some shares of Hill on this slate. In the AFC title game two years ago, Hill caught 2 TDs for 5 receptions and 67 yards. Last year, Hill exploded for 9 receptions and 172 yards as KC blew past Buffalo for a return trip to the Super Bowl. At a salary of $7000 on DK, we can get 4x value should Hill repeat any of those two performances. Hill looked sharp last week and should look sharp again this Sunday against a mediocre pass defense.
Higgins is a WR who can offer us some differentiation. I suspect that Ja'Marr Chase will garner high ownership and he should. He is a very talented WR who connected well this season with his former LSU teammate. Plus, if we expect Cincinnati to play from behind (like they did against KC in Week 17), then Chase could have a repeat performance. Such a fade will kill your day. However, I want to fade Chase and play Higgins instead for one primary reason: Tyrann Mathieu. He is a perennial Pro Bowler and will most likely be covering Chase on most deep plays. Higgins is cheaper and is very capable of big plays himself. He gets just as many red zone looks as Chase and is right there with Chase when it comes to air yards and target share. And you get significant salary relief on both DK and FD.
TE: Travis Kelce or CJ Uzomah
If you don't play Hill in your lineups and you have Mahomes as your QB, then you better get Kelce in there. Otherwise, what the heck are you doing?! I love the pairing of Kelce with McKinnon since Kelce and CEH might cancel each other out given that both of them score TDs when the Chiefs are close to the end zone. Kelce tends to show up in big games. Last year, Kelce never had a game below 100 yards and scored 3 TDs during last year's run to the Super Bowl. He has been just as good in this year's postseason.
As for Uzomah, he is risky since he can have a dud but it seems that Burrow has shown more trust in him during the playoffs. Plus he is super cheap so it doesn't take much to reach value. If he get 6 receptions for 60 yards, that is 12 DK points and we are already close to 4x value. A TD would be icing on the cake.
FLEX: Deebo Samuel or George Kittle
Like Kupp, Samuel is a very dangerous fade. He can beat you in so many ways: deep plays, running plays, YAC on short passes, and an occasional TD pass. Deebo's last three games against LA have been impressive. Last year he had 11 receptions for 133 yards. This year, Samuel has earned 29 and 30.3 DK points against LA. Clearly he has the Rams' number and is a big reason why the 49ers have been so successful against LA. It's awfully hard to shut down Samuel given that he is all over the field. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has been masterful in the way he utilizes Samuel and I expect no different in the NFC title game.
Kitte is another possible flex play. He hasn't done much lately and he might be called upon to block more frequently than usual given that Trent Williams is dealing with an ankle injury. One thing for certain is that you don't play both Kittle and Samuel in the same lineup. They kind of cannibalize each other since they tend to get their scores in the red zone. Plus I am not so sure if I trust Garoppolo's arm for big gains to Kittle in the middle of the field. Samuel seems like a safer play given his success with YAC on short plays.
DST: San Francisco or Kansas City
Interestingly the optimizer I use for my model liked one FanDuel lineup with CIN as the DST. This is with my Mahomes stack. I suppose such a lineup would be unique and offers some salary relief! Still, I am going to roll with either SF or KC. Burrow was sacked NINE times last week and is the most sacked QB in the NFL. With the game at Arrowhead Stadium where it will be very loud, I can see Burrow being somewhat hesitant in the pocket and/or make some errant throws. Either way, the Chiefs DST should be able to rack up points.
The 49ers are another great choice. Since their Week 18 win in LA, the 49ers have sacked the QB 5 times each week and forced at least one turnover. They have also limited the other team's ability to score and in fact shut down two prolific offenses. Apparently 60 - 70% of the crowd at SoFi Stadium this Sunday will be 49ers fans so it will feel like a home game. Should we start calling SoFi Stadium "Levi's South"?
Hopefully all of this analysis will help steer you in the right direction with your DFS roster construction. We may not get the wild endings of last weekend but the games should be very competitive. Some sample lineups are shown below where two of them use my model and the optimizer on the ASA site. The other two are kind of by feel but still use the analysis mentioned in this article. Good luck and GO NINERS!