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In this weekly article, we’ll use the early betting lines from Vegas to take a deeper look at which games to target and avoid for NFL DFS. Implied team totals have positive correlations with fantasy output, especially for quarterbacks. Plus, we’ll highlight some potentially under the radar teams with high implied team totals despite a lower over/under. Note that these lines might change over the course of the week, which is why we call it ‘starting’ points. This week the article focuses on Sunday’s slate of two NFL Conference games.
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Cincinnati at Kansas City, 3:00 PM ET, Total 54.5 points
While it seems unlikely that anything will top the Chiefs’ divisional round win over Buffalo, this Sunday should have some fireworks of its own. The second-best weekend in NFL football is here, and we jump right in with the offensive showdown. This should be the better option for fantasy, with both teams making their mark by scoring. Patrick Mahomes is the most expensive QB option, second-most expensive player overall, but why not? In two playoff games, he’s averaged over 40 fantasy points. Sign me up, especially when you consider that the Chiefs’ run game takes a backseat to the pass game. I have no problem with Tyreek Hill either, as he had the anticipated big game at a nice price last week (13 targets, 150 yards and a score). Mecole Hardman ran one in and Byron Pringle also caught a touchdown in the Conference win, making it three in this post-season. On a two-game slate, you’ll have to be creative with your salary, and saving on one of the cheaper Chiefs receivers is not the worst idea given the total here. There are surprisingly four viable TE options on this slate, all with decent target share and definite upside, but Travis Kelce is your safe TE play. He’s not prohibitively expensive and the Bengals were ranked as the seventh-most generous DvP for TE during the regular season.
Joe Burrow is also a fantastic QB option. His post-season numbers haven’t been as gaudy as Mahomes’, but in their regular season meeting, it was Burrow who dominated the stat sheet with 446 mistake-free passing yards and four touchdowns. He’s the best GPP QB play along with Ja’Marr Chase, who could be used in any lineup. The connection between the two is undeniable, and while Burrow’s playoff stat lines haven’t been slate-breakers, Chase is averaging over 20 PPR fantasy points per game in the playoffs, without scoring. He’s hit the 100-receiving yard mark in both games, with a 78 percent catch rate. Tee Higgins was massively better against the Titans (96 yards, nine targets) than he was vs. the Raiders (one catch for 10 yards), which gives some optimism for his usage this weekend. His two-score game with almost 200 receiving yards against Baltimore feels like forever ago, but that is in his range. I’m looking at him in tournaments because he’s kind of expensive for a true flier, and the floor is brutal. Still, Kansas City’s pass defense is the one to target this week and the Bengals certainly seemed to have their number a couple weeks ago. Tyler Boyd broke a long string of double-digit PPR fantasy games and consecutive games with a touchdown (four) and was quiet in the win over Tennessee, but he’s a true bargain flier this weekend. Joe Mixon is easily the safest RB play this weekend. He’ll be on most rosters, but what can you do? His efficiency is mediocre in the second half of the season, but his usage is great, and that includes 5-8 targets per game in the last four Bengals’ games. Neither defense should be on your radar, unless you’re building your 50th GPP lineup.
San Francisco at LA Rams, 6:30 PM ET, Total 46 points
One of the purposes of this article is to see what the expert oddsmakers are telling us with the lines on the games. I think a gut reaction is that the Rams are going to dominate this game and the 49ers are weak and have no chance. My Twitter timeline on Monday had zero to say about San Francisco and their big win, instead focusing on all that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers got wrong in their loss. So, let’s take a minute and give the 49ers some credit – they are not here by accident, and the fact that the Rams are only small favorites says a lot. During the regular season, the Rams were better on offense (scored 27.1 PPG vs. 25.1 PPG) and approximately equal on defense (21.9 vs. 21.5 PPG allowed). In fact, the Rams were the better passing offense, but only by about 25 yards per game, while the 49ers were the league’s seventh-best run team, averaging 127.4 rushing yards per game to LA’s 99.0 (which was slightly less than the Giants).
Looking at the regular season history between these two, Matthew Stafford wasn’t great (about 240 passing yards per game, four total touchdowns and four interceptions in their two meetings), while Jimmy Garoppolo was actually slightly above his overall season average in their meetings (about 250 passing yards per game, three total touchdowns and two interceptions). Although Garoppolo has been a disaster for fantasy the past two weeks, I’m not sure the numbers support his being as cheap as he is, or at least as much cheaper as he is compared to Stafford. More on that tomorrow…
One thing doesn’t change and that is Cooper Kupp’s fantasy takeover of 2021-22. Even while Stafford wasn’t fantastic in these prior meetings, Kupp still managed his lion’s share of the offense, averaging over 20 fantasy points per game vs. San Fran this season. I expect he’ll find a way to extend his scoring streak to five games with another 10-12 targets. He is so expensive that you do have to make some sacrifices to make a good lineup, but it is doable, especially if you focus on this game and/or the Bengals. Odell Beckham Jr. is doing his job in LA, and his two playoff performances have been worth his salary. It’s up a bit this week, and I’m not prioritizing making the spend on him, but if he fits into what you’re doing, it’s very reasonable to include him in any kind of lineup. Cam Akers has dominated the touches for LA, but this is a situation I’m not really eager to target. Sony Michel has been mixed in, and there is a chance that Darrell Henderson returns for the Conference Championship. San Francisco held the Rams to 52 and 64 rushing yards in their regular season meetings, while ranking 23rd in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. Aaron Jones did a lot of his damage last week through the air, something the Rams’ RBs aren’t known for. Cam Akers fits my strategies on DraftKings more than Yahoo or FanDuel, and Sony Michel’s salary is tempting, but overall, I’m trying to use Mixon and Eli Mitchell.
Mitchell has been ok in the playoffs, facing two of the league’s best run defenses in Dallas and Green Bay. The Rams will be his best matchup, but it’s still not a good one. He failed to score in either regular season game, averaging about 88 rushing yards per game. He is reasonably priced, and should get plenty of opportunity, though the red zone attempts for SF have been few and far between in the post-season. It also wouldn’t completely surprise me if the 49ers used Trey Lance in a couple of goal line situations to mess with the Rams and take some pressure off Garoppolo. But still, that is pure speculation at this point, and Mitchell is the back to trust most after Mixon. The rest of the 49ers’ offense is a wild card. Deebo Samuel hurt his ankle but should be fine. His being used more as a running back than receiver (20 rushing attempts and seven targets in the two playoff games) isn’t ideal for racking up the yards, but he is so dynamic that using in him in tournaments is not a bad idea. George Kittle will probably disappoint me and my lineups one more time at least. It seems like he should be key to the offense’s success but he’s had only five catches on nine targets in the post-season. Maybe they’ve been saving him for this weekend. He’s a lot cheaper than Kelce, but he should be in the Uzomah range, considering Uzomah has like 3X the fantasy points per game in the playoffs. I’m steering clear of Brandon Aiyuk or any other secondary 49er this week. Since you have to roster a D/ST, I’m trying to make it one from this game. If I squeeze in Kupp, I’m choosing the Rams, but if not, I’m generally going with SF to save some salary (DK and FD, anyway).