DFS Game by Game Breakdown: Conference Championships

20 Jan 2019 - 12:44pm | Roto Coach | Updated: 20 Jan 2019 - 12:44pm | Likes: 56 Like 

Los Angeles @ New Orleans


Line: NO -3  O/U: 56.5

The Setup: These two teams faced off in the Superdome in Week 9, with the Saints prevailing 45-35 in the shootout. These are arguably the two best offenses in the NFC, as both bring a balanced approach and are capable of lighting up the scoreboard. While the AFC Championship will be played outdoors in Kansas City, this one is will be in ideal conditions in the dome, and much like the first meeting this season, should be a track meet.

The Breakdown: With just four teams remaining, all the quarterbacks are in play this weekend. That said, Jared Goff and Drew Brees could very well wind up the two best plays for a variety of reasons. When these teams met earlier this season, Goff threw for 391 yards, tossing 3 touchdown passes and 1 interception in the loss. His 40 pass attempts were a high water mark for the season at that point, and it ultimately marked one of just four times in 17 games this season where he topped 40 attempts. The Saints have been an elite run defense for the bulk of the season so we’re unlikely to see a repeat of the ground and pound effort we witnessed against Dallas. Even if the Rams are able to get out to a lead, we’re all too aware that no lead is really safe against Drew Brees in the Superdome so I don’t expect Sean McVay to take his foot off the gas at all this week, especially with a Super Bowl trip on the line. In an alternative game script, Los Angeles would be playing from behind, and that’s how Goff got to his big fantasy day the last time around. The way to beat this team is through the air, as the Saints allowed the second most fantasy points to the position during the regular season. Playing indoors the weather won’t be a factor here either. Regardless of the game script, Goff is in a solid shape and is likely to be just the third or fourth most popular quarterback this week. Drew Brees’s home success is well documented, and the 2018 regular season was no different. The veteran signal caller averaged more than 320 passing yards and 3 touchdowns tosses per game at home. And his one interception last week against Philadelphia matched the total number of picks he threw at home all season. Over his last 8 home games Brees has now passed for 23 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. The Rams have gotten healthier in the secondary with Aqib Talib’s return, but much of the struggles for this defense on the backend have been masked by the pressure they can generate with their front four. Against the Saints that’s unlikely to be as big a factor, as the New Orleans offensive line is one of the best in the business, allowing just 1.3 sacks per game on the year, tied with New England for second fewest in the league. Drew Brees is pretty much always going to Drew Brees at home, and he’ll be popular, as he’s arguably the safest quarterback on the board this week. Running back is where things get pretty interesting in this game, as C.J. Anderson’s late season rebirth gives both offenses a pair of backs that could see significant work. Anderson and Mark Ingram are the thumpers for their respective squads, and the backs we’re likely to see in the fourth quarter if their respective teams are holding a lead. If it’s New Orleans protecting a lead, then Ingram should be in an excellent spot against a Rams team that finished the season ranked just 28th in DVOA against run. Anderson isn’t likely to find the same sort of running room, as the Saints finished 3rd DVOA against the run, yielding nearly 25% less production than league average. All of this is a long way of saying I’m off Anderson this week and don’t think you want to chase the late season performance. Yes, he’s got fresher legs and it’s been a good story, but I expect the Rams to ride or die with Todd Gurley here. Furthermore, the Saints have been one of the worst teams at defending the running back in the passing game. While Gurley’s 6 catches in their last meeting went for just 11 yards, I expect the Rams to figure out how to get more production out of him in the passing game this time around. On the other side Alvin Kamara may very well wind up the highest owned running back this week, and that makes a good deal of sense. In addition to the carries he’ll see against a suspect Rams run defense, Kamara essentially functions as the Saints WR2 in this offense. In must-win games down the stretch (Week 13-16), the Saints top back averaged 8 targets per contest, turning them into 24 catches for 190 yards. He’s as good a play as there is at running back this week, and gets an extra bump on full point PPR sites. While both teams utilize their elite running backs plenty in the passing game, there are still a number of receivers to target in this game. On the Rams side Robert Woods would seem the safest of the LA options. Since Cooper Kupp’s injury Woods has been running most of his routes out of the slot, with Josh Reynolds kicking outside as a better perimeter option. Woods will see most of his coverage from Saints slot corner P.J. Williams, who graded out as Pro Football Focus’s 109th ranked cornerback this season and is a place to target the New Orleans secondary. Brandin Cooks returns to New Orleans, the team that drafted him, and the last time he was here (Week 9) he posted 6 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Expect the Rams to go out of their way to funnel top corner Marshon Lattimore Josh Reynolds’s way, and if they’re successful, Cooks should once again have a big day. Speaking of Reynolds, he makes a nice salary saver this week with plenty of high priced guys to jam in. There’s virtually no safety in the pick, as he caught just 1 ball for 19 yards last week on 4 targets, but he’s playing a ton of snaps (more than 85% in six of the Rams last seven games) and is the kind of player who would benefit significantly from a shootout. On the Saints side Michael Thomas could wind up the highest owned player on the slate. Last week against Philly he caught 12 of 16 targets for 171 yards and a touchdown, and his usage in the Saints offense is simply massive. The last time these teams squared off he torched the Rams for a 12-211-1 stat line, helping salt away the victory with a late touchdown. But that was a Rams secondary without Aqib Talib, the Rams top cover corner. But fortunately for fantasy owners, Thomas will probably avoid a lot of Talib. The injury to slot receiver Keith Kirkwood, who has been ruled out, should force Thomas inside quite a bit, as the Saints other two wideouts, Tre’Quan Smith and Ted Ginn Jr., both play on the outside and aren’t really capable of playing in the slot. Talib lined up against the slot less than 5% of the time this season so having him shadow Thomas there would be a dramatic shift. Instead, Thomas should see plenty of Nickell Robey-Coleman, who has been excellent this season. Still, his experience in facing off against players with the size and skill level of Thomas’s, have been few and far between so it should be a spot the Saints exploit. Both Ginn and Smith are boom bust options, as they both are heavily big play dependent receivers. Fortunately, the Rams secondary has given up plenty of long touchdowns this season so either one makes a solid dart throw in tournaments. As super deep salary savers, one of Tommylee Lewis or Austin Carr is likely to be active in Kirkwood’s sted and could see some run out of the slot. Neither team really utilizes the tight end as a static part of the offense, though situationally there are players that could be involved here. Last week Tyler Higbee saw most of the snaps for Los Angeles, but that had far more to do with his exceptional blocking ability and the fact that the Rams were carving up Dallas on the ground and controlled the game from the jump. If this is the shootout we project then Gerald Everett will see most of the run for the Rams as the better receiver and runner after the catch, though it’s worth noting the Saints were one of the best at defending the tight end position this season. For the Saints it’s anybody’s guess how the tight ends shake out, but Ben Watson and Josh Hill both saw 4 targets the last time these teams faced off. Watson was the more productive of the two, catching 3 passed for 62 yards and a score, but he’ll miss this game with appendicitis, so Hill could wind up a sneaky good play. With four explosive offenses playing this weekend, there really isn’t an “optimal” defensive play. I’ll be letting salary dictate where I go this week, and will likely wind up with less of the New Orleans and Los Angeles for a couple of reasons. First, they’re the two most expensive options on most sites, and second, the extreme cold and outdoor elements in Kansas City would seem to give the Chiefs and Pats more potential opportunities at turnovers and big plays. It’s not a big edge, but the reality is that none of the defenses is really a “good” play this week, but we have to roster one.


New England @ Kansas City

Line: KC -3  O/U: 56.5

The Setup: The second game of the day gives us the G.O.A.T. (Tom Brady) vs the Kid (Patrick Mahomes) at Arrowhead. There are any number of storylines to follow in this game, as these teams have split their last two meetings-both high scoring affairs. There’s the matchup between the likely MVP, second year quarterback Patrick Mahomes and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, as well as the battle between the two head coaches, a pair that squared off in Super Bowl XXXIX, with Belichick’s Pats topping Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles. But one storyline that won’t go under-reported here is likely to be the weather, as the temperature is expected to be in the high teens at kickoff with 10-15 mph winds pushing it much lower with the windchill.

The Breakdown: Without a doubt, the dynamic Patrick Mahomes is likely to be the highest owned quarterback on the slate. In the Week 6 meeting between these two teams, Mahomes torched New England for 352 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air, but he also threw a pair of interceptions. It’s hard to argue with the upside Mahomes brings to the table, as his escapability helps him keep plays alive far longer than he should, and that coupled with Tyreek Hill’s deep speed provides an ever present big play threat to secondaries. And no one knows that better than New England, who saw the pair shred them on those types of plays in their last meeting. That said, Mahomes could easily be outscored by any of the three quarterbacks on this slate, which calls into question the viability of loading up on the slate’s highest owned and most expensive quarterback. With that in mind, if I were building one lineup he’s probably not in it. On the other side we’re going to have the day’s most contrarian option in Tom Brady. And while that feels weird, Brady hasn’t really looked like Brady this season. Still, last week he was on, and despite New England’s success on the ground, still passed for over 340 yards and a touchdown. He could easily replicate that performance here, as Kansas City, much like last week’s opponent the Chargers, fields one of the best pass rush units in the league so there will be a premium on getting the ball out quick to guys like James White and Julian Edelman. The one concerning aspect of relying on Brady here is how atrocious the Kansas City run defense has been all season. Ranked 32nd DVOA on the season, there’s a significant chance that the Pats elite running blocking unit and rookie Sony Michel are able to gash the Chiefs on the ground all evening. The upside with Brady is certainly there, especially given how often the Patriots utilize running backs in the passing game, but he’s certainly not without risk. Last week New England dialed up James White over and over again in the passing game, and the Patriots do it all back finished with 15 receptions, and it could have potentially been more if the Chargers had been able to keep up offensively. Michel’s three touchdowns will make him a popular option this week, but White’s involvement at this time of year rarely seems to waiver, and he’s a PPR beast at a reasonable price. The wildcard for New England is Rex Burkhead, who only saw 5 touches last week, but managed to find the end zone. He’d hold some sneaky running back value spelling Michel if the Patriots deploy a run heavy approach on offense. On the Kansas City side of the ball I find it hard to buy into the Spencer Ware talk, as Damien Williams has been excellent in his absence and should retain the lead role in this backfield for as long as the Chiefs keep playing. Ware’s impact is probably on Darrell Williams, as he jumps in as the change of pace back, relegating the second Williams to the bench in this one. Damien Williams is one of the best running back options on the slate. Utilized largely in the same way as Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara, his ability to contribute in both the running and passing game means he rarely leaves the field, and at the same time he’ll likely come in at a fraction of the ownership of the two aforementioned backs. The targets at the wide receiver position for Kansas City are the now healthy Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill. One has to assume the Patriots do everything they can to contain Hill, who went for 7-142-3 in their last meeting. Watkins was well defended in that game and both receivers have big upside here as New England is likely to shift more attention to Hill. Punt options like Chris Conley, DeMarcus Robinson, and Gehrig Dieter can be used as dart throws given the high projected total of this game, and the order they’re listed is how I would rank them. For the Patriots the receiver position is about Julian Edelman, and then everyone else. As noted above, the Chiefs have an elite pass rush, and Edelman should be one of the beneficiaries of Brady looking to unload the ball quickly. Much like last week (9-151 on 13 targets) he should be peppered with targets all game. The other New England receivers to consider are Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson. Dorsett and Hogan both saw 5 targets last week, but given the context of the game I’m giving a slight nod to Hogan. Dorsett played his college ball at Miami and spent the first few years of his career playing half his games indoors for the Colts, where he struggled before finding a role this season with New England. Hogan played four years in Buffalo and the last two in New England so he would profile as the player with more experience in the extreme cold of Kansas City. Patterson is a bit intriguing given the Chiefs struggles against the run. He is a player that has always excelled when getting the ball in space, and he even played running back at times this season when New England was dealing with injuries at the position. It would not be surprising if Belichick schemed to take advantage of him more than usual against a bad Chiefs defense so he’s an interesting GPP flyer. The two most popular tight ends this week can both be found in this game. Travis Kelce is the 1B to Tyreek Hill’s 1A in this offense, but New England has found ways to contain the All Pro tight end in the past. The question will be whether shifting attention to Hill on defense will come at the expense of some of the prior success against Kelce. My sense is that New England recognizes that Kelce makes the Kansas City passing game go, and they’ll continue to focus on making someone else beat them. It’s for that reason that his New England counterpart, Rob Gronkowski is super intriguing this week. For certain, Gronk’s best days are behind him, but this matchup couldn’t get much better. Kansas City was 25th DVOA at defending tight ends and allowed the most fantasy points to the position, as one of only two teams (Cincinnati) to allow double digit touchdowns to tight ends during the regular season. With Gronk projected to come in at half the ownership of Kelce in a good spot, I’m likely to be over the ownership of the field here. Once again, I’ll reiterate that I think these two teams represent the best options on defense this week. I slightly prefer the Patriots to the Chiefs, as Mahomes is more likely to gamble and statistically speaking turns the ball over at a higher rate than Brady.            

Good luck this week!

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