DFS Game by Game Breakdown: Divisional Round Weekend

11 Jan 2019 - 10:33pm | Roto Coach | Updated: 12 Jan 2019 - 2:36pm | Likes: 69 Like 
DFS Game by Game Breakdown: Divisional Round Weekend

Indianapolis @ Kansas City


KC: -5.5  O/U: 57


The Setup: Once again the weekend opens with the game Vegas projects to be the highest scoring of all four on the slate. Similarly, this week’s matchup, which features Luck and Mahomes squaring off, figures to command plenty of attention and ownership. But unlike last week, the three games that follow all have Vegas projected totals north of 48 points so owners shouldn’t feel quite as boxed in this week and may not need to be as heavily invest here. That said...

The Breakdown: Andrew Luck and company travel to Kansas City, where Arrowhead is about the last place anyone wants to find themselves in a playoff game in January. What’s more, the weather looks like it may not cooperate. Between Friday and game time the area is slated to get 5-6 inches of snow, with the precipitation turning to sleet and freezing rain shortly after kickoff. Assuming it plays out like this, it’s a slight downgrade to Luck, who isn’t nearly as effective outdoors on the road. And his number one receiver’s struggles in such conditions have been well documented over the years. Look, I still think he winds up in the top half in scoring among quarterbacks this weekend, but I’m not nearly as confident in a big Andrew Luck game as I was earlier in the week. In the Colts, Patrick Mahomes will face the league’s 20th ranked DVOA defense against the pass, and one that’s been torched by opposing tight ends and running backs this season. Travis Kelce and the backs should be targeted early and often, and offer a way for Mahomes to get the passing game going, even in poor conditions. The likely MVP tossed 50 touchdown passes this season and has far more weapons at his disposal than Deshaun Watson and a banged up Texans teams did did last week so shutting down will be a much bigger challenge. Furthermore, Mahomes has proven to be a killer under pressure. He’s plenty mobile, but where Watson got out of the pocket and ran last week to escape the pass rush, Mahomes is far more likely to buy time with his legs and use his arm to shred a mediocre Colts secondary. At running back Marlon Mack is one of the best plays of the week, with the only concern being his touches if the Chiefs start to run away with this game. Even then, he should be involved in the passing game. The Colts offensive line is healthy and playing absolutely fantastic football right now, and last week Mack hammered Houston for 148 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. The Texans finished the season as the number one DVOA defense against the rush. The Chiefs ended the season 32nd. He should absolutely eat here as long as the game stays within reach. Nyheim Hines was a hot name as a sleeper last week, but he probably needs Indy to be down big to see substantial work in this one. For the Chiefs Damien Williams has been the guy since Kareem Hunt was sent packing and Spencer Ware went down. Since Week 14 he’s been Kansas City’s primary back in both the running and passing game so even if Ware is active he should see the majority of the work. Over the holidays the Chiefs signed Williams to a 2 year extension, which keeps him under contract until 2020. It’s a testament to how well he’s played, but this is anything but an easy matchup. The Colts have been excellent against the run this season and I don’t expect that to change here. He’ll still have value in the passing game, but this far from an ideal spot. At wideout the viable Colts options are T.Y. Hilton, Dontrelle Inman, and Chester Rogers. Hilton is always an option, as his big play ability means he’s always in play for tournaments. That said, historically he’s been far less impressive on grass and outdoors. And given the weather forecast this is a less than ideal spot. Inman is probably, points per dollar, the Indy receiver I have the most confidence in, as he’s developed a solid chemistry with Luck and has seen a steady target share in recent weeks. Rogers is a better PPR option running out of the slot, but his yardage totals are middling and you really need a score for him to help in tournaments. For the Chiefs it’s essentially Tyreek Hill, and then everyone else. This is a defense Hill can certainly get on top, and the bracketing tactics the Colts have successfully deployed against DeAndre Hopkins in recent weeks won’t help much against a receiver like Hill who can simply run by everybody. He’s another guy for whom the weather is a bit concerning, but he also has slate breaking ability so he’s pretty tough to fade completely. Even if he is active, Sammy Watkins is impossible to trust coming off a multi-week injury and limited practices. It’s also likely he winds up on some kind of snap count. With Watkins in, guys like Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, and Kelvin Benjamin lose some appeal. I have them ranked in the order I just listed them, but none of the three is anything more than a hail mary punt play. At tight end is where things get super interesting in this game. One has to assume that Travis Kelce is the most popular tight end option on the slate, but with Eric Ebron on the other side of the field, and Rob Gronkowski and Zach Ertz playing on Sunday, ownership may be somewhat spread out here. Both Kelce and Ebron make fantastic plays, as they each essentially function as their team’s number two target at worst most weeks. Even more encouraging is that by nearly any metric these two teams ranked at or near the bottom of the league at defending the tight end position, with the Chiefs allowing a league worst 16.1 fantasy points per game and the Colts just two spots behind at 15.6. You could even play these two together in a lineup and feel pretty good about it. It would be silly to consider the Indianapolis defense on the road against Mahomes and this offense, even with how well they’ve played of late. And to a certain extent the Kansas City defense makes little sense as well. While the Colts could be pressed into a turnover or two the offensive line allowed the fewest sacks of any team in the league so the upside is pretty limited here.  

Dallas @ Los Angeles (Rams)

LAR: -7  O/U: 49.5

The Setup: Dallas squeaked out a win at home last week in what was quite an ugly football game. The reward is a trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams and a presumably healthy Todd Gurley. The Rams were 7-1 at home this season and averaged well over 450 yards of offense per game when playing there. Dallas can’t afford many mistakes on either side of the ball to have any real chance in this one, and even then the task seems pretty daunting.

The Breakdown: Dak Prescott is hardly in an ideal spot this week, and likely winds up the lowest owned quarterback on the slate. And for good reason. Dallas is less than fantastic in pass protection and will be up against against a Rams defensive line that is one of the best pass rush units in the league. The Rams secondary has struggled this season, but is now healthy, and it looks like Dallas is going to be down multiple pass catchers here which will make things a little easier on this unit and tougher for the Cowboys. In short, Dak as a contrarian play might be too cute by half. Jared Goff will have it a little easier, as the Cowboys defense is more vulnerable through the air than on the ground. That said, the Cowboys pace of play and desire to run the football limits some of Goff’s upside. He’s been lights out at home all season, but the Cowboys offensive deficiencies aren’t likely to require a big performance from Goff for the Rams to prevail. At running back Ezekiel Elliott is going to see a ton of touches against a bad Rams run defense, and it’s likely the Cowboys will look to control the clock and keep Goff, Gurley, and company on the sidelines. Success in that endeavor seems unlikely, but Elliott should still threaten 30 touches or more and is one of the safest players on the slate due to his usage in both the running and passing game. Even if the Cowboys are down 20, he’s not coming off the field. On the other side Todd Gurley has been rested the last few weeks with a knee issue and was left off the week’s injury report. This is a spot where he can smash value, even against a good Dallas run defense. That Cowboys front has been far more susceptible to opposing rushers on the road, and has been giving it up to running backs in the passing game as well. That’s a dimension where Gurley can excel. He makes a solid pivot off Elliott at lower ownership and the only real risk is a Rams blowout that sees him hit the sidelines early. At wideout the Cowboys will roll with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and then a lot of question marks. Cooper is pricey and it’s not a great spot, but there’s certainly some potential for big numbers here if you want to get different. Gallup is interesting as well if we assume the Cowboys need to pass and are playing from behind for most of this game. Both could also benefit from some garbage time run too. Allen Hurns suffered a brutal season-ending injury in the Wild Card round, and both Cole Beasley and tight end Blake Jarwin seem unlikely to play this weekend. That leaves Tavon Austin and Noah Brown as the other options at receiver. Neither is enticing, but if you were dead set on picking one it’s probably Austin, who has the revenge narrative, big play ability, and likely takes over punt return duties for Beasley. For the Rams Brandin Cooks is a steal at his price across the industry. A healthy Gurley helps to open things up for this offense and he’s a guy with massive upside against an average Cowboys secondary. He caught 26 more balls at home than on the road this season, and averaged more than 40 more yards per game more receiving there as well. Josh Reynolds slid into the spot vacated by Cooper Kupp’s injury, and makes a nice value play, but it’s been Robert Woods that has really benefited the most, as he’s largely taken on the slot duties since Kupp went down. His target share and production has followed suit and he’s also a very strong play. At tight end Dalton Schultz probably gets Blake Jarwin’s snaps, but Jarwin wasn’t even a real option until a few weeks ago so it’s hard to see Schultz have much value in his stead. On the other side Gerald Everett was productive at times late in the season, but some of that likely had to do with Gurley’s absence in the passing game. With him back in the lineup and so many other good tight end options on the board it’s probably not something I’d chase. By now it’s pretty apparent that Los Angeles looks like a good play against a less than formidable Cowboys offense. There are both sack and turnover opportunities to be had here, with the Rams the top defensive option on the board. On the flip side it’s hard to make an argument for the Dallas defense on the road against an explosive Rams attack. It’s not somewhere I’m going.

Los Angeles (Chargers) @ New England

NE: -4  O/U: 48


The Setup: After finishing 12-4 in the regular season the Chargers came east in the Wild Card round and beat the Ravens at home. It was an impressive win against a good defense on their home field, but a strong defensive effort of their own that tightly contained rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson for most of the game was perhaps the most impressive aspect. It won’t get any easier this week going to Foxboro, but this is a very good football team and the Patriots have some questions to answer.

The Breakdown: Of all the games this week, this one has the lowest Vegas projected total heading into the weekend. At the same time it features offenses led by Tom Brady and Philip Rivers so it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise if we saw some serious fireworks. We talk regularly on the podcast about Rivers and the fact that he’s always going to go down slinging the rock. This week should be no different. He didn’t quite deliver last week in a spot where I was pretty fond of him, but the matchup gets considerably better here. New England fields a mostly average pass defense and a slightly below average run defense. That said, Rivers simply hasn’t been sharp over the final month of the season, though it’s safe to assume that the Chargers and Rivers will need to pile up some points to have any shot at pulling the upset. He’s purely a tournament play this week, one with a high ceiling, but a potentially brutal floor. If Tom Brady wants to add to his gaudy postseason stats then he’ll need to get the ball out quickly against an impressive Los Angeles pass rush. It shouldn’t be a problem given the loss of downfield threat Josh Gordon, and this team’s reliance on dink and dunk stalwart pass catchers like Julian Edelman and James White. With two weeks to prepare for this defense, don’t be surprised to see Brady do what Brady has always done in January and put up a big day here. Despite the fact that Sony Michel led this team in touches over the second half, we’ve seen time and time again the willingness of Belichick to lean on James White in must-win games. Furthermore, Michel has taken on the primary ball carrier role and gets a difficult matchup against a Chargers defense that has been much stingier to rushers than pass catching backs. We might see more of Michel late if the Patriots are up, but this profiles as a game where White could get some heavy usage. On the Chargers side of the ball Melvin Gordon will play banged up again this week, but could find some easy sledding against a New England defense that allowed more than 800 rushing yards in the second half and has their own trouble neutralizing pass catching backs. Gordon can do damage either way, even at 80%, but he’s hard to prioritize over a healthy Marlon Mack so he’s more of a contrarian pivot. Change of pace back Austin Ekeler makes for a nice value play here, as he’s done a lot of his damage this season in the passing game and should help spell Gordon a little more than if he were healthy. For the Patriots the wide receiver corps isn’t what is used to be. Edelman should be a PPR monster, as the slot is the best place to attack this Chargers secondary. The rest of this group is led by Chris Hogan, whose season was inconsistent at best, followed by Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett. Hogan is the WR2 in this offense and saw more targets late in the year as the Patriots sought to replace Josh Gordon’s production. He makes for a solid play, but the Chargers secondary doesn’t make for an easy matchup on the outside. Dorsett saw very little work after Edelman returned in Week 5 and retook the slot receiver role, but with this group so thin he may see some additional run, especially if the Patriots wind up playing from behind. Patterson is the most boom-bust of the options. More gadget player than true receiver, he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands, bu simply doesn’t get that many opportunities. For the Chargers the pecking order is pretty clearly Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and then Tyrell Williams. Allen should should see plenty of opportunities as the number one target in the offense, but the Patriots defense has been able to slow top shelf wideouts at times. Still, he’s a relatively safe play due to his talent and role in the offense. Mike WIlliams has ascended to the WR2 role over the course of the season, and as a big receiver able to go up and get the football, he could cause some problems for this secondary and has shown a penchant for finding the end zone. Tyrell Williams comes in at a bit of discount, but might be the most intriguing of the three due to his skill set. He’s adept at taking the top off a defense and generally gets at least one opportunity a week at a big play over the top. If he and Rivers connect, he’s capable of making value in a single snap. It could be worth rolling the dice. On a four game slate it’s almost unfathomable to think that Rob Gronkowski could wind up the fourth highest owned tight end or perhaps lower, but that’s where we are in 2019. His best days are clearly behind him, but the Chargers are about league average against the tight end position and the wide receivers aren’t what they need to be for this team so it wouldn’t be surprising if Gronk posted a good fantasy day at what is a bargain price tag for him. Hunter Henry’s activation off IR is interesting, and makes him a boom bust punt play. Unfortunately it also does the same to Antonio Gates, who had been seeing a little more work of late. If they’re going to split the snaps it probably makes sense to go with the cheaper Henry, but there are so many better tight end options on this slate. As for the defenses, there’s obviously a case to be made for New England at home against a west coast team, particularly given Rivers willingness to gamble. On the flip side it’s hard to recommend a defense going into Foxboro in January, and I’m not going to start now.     


Philadelphia @ New Orleans

NOR: -8  O/U: -8

The Setup: Will the Nick Foles magic continue? Vegas thinks not, with the Eagles more than a touchdown underdog on the road. That makes some sense with Drew Brees facing a bad Philly secondary at home, but the Saints have had their own struggles against the passing game and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if this turned into a high scoring affair.

The Breakdown: Drew Brees is probably the safest quarterback on the entire slate this weekend, having enjoyed a bounceback season after his numbers were down a bit in 2017. As as has been the case throughout his career, Brees was dominant at home, tossing 21 touchdown passes to just 1 interception in the Superdome, and averaging nearly 322 passing yards per game at home with a completion percentage north of 76%. While his numbers did dip a bit when Mark Ingram returned from suspension, the Eagles front has been stout against the run and fields one of the leagues better pass rushes. The secondary on the other hand is essentially duct taped together at this point, and full of both young and replacement level players that an experienced and highly accurate future Hall of Famer like Brees should feast on. And in Week 11 he did just that, posting 363 passing yards and four touchdowns in a blowout win against this same Eagles team in New Orleans. But things have changed on the other side, as Nick Foles is now under center and will face a New Orleans secondary that has improved over the course of the season. After getting shredded repeatedly in the first half, starting in Week 10 the Saints allowed more than 250 yards passing just three times, and it’s probably more like twice, as we can throw out Carolina backup backup quarterback Kyle Allen’s Week 17 performance since the New Orleans had already clinched home field and rested players. That said, both Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger each threw for over 375 yards and multiple touchdowns against this team, and both of those games were in the dome. The question is whether or not Foles can replicate that kind of success and keep the Eagles in this football game. One would assume that Doug Pederson and his staff know going in that they aren’t likely to hold Brees and company in check the way they did the Bears last week so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them open up the playbook early and take more chances from the outset than they did at Chicago last week. And the result could very well be a big fantasy day for Foles, who will be tasked with keeping Philly in the ballgame. At running back the Saints deploy Alvin Kamara all over the formation, and in their previous meeting this season he posted 108 combined yards and two touchdowns while Mark Ingram saw rush 16 rushes for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns of his own. Both backs are firmly in play this week, with multi-touchdown upside. Kamara likely has the higher ceiling if you think the Eagles can stay in this game, but it’s hard to see either one struggling to be productive in this matchup. For the Eagles Josh Adams was completely phased out of the backfield last week at Chicago, which narrows our focus to Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. Unsurprisingly, neither was effective against the Bears stout defensive front, but Sproles did see 16 touches to Smallwood’s 11, with each getting three targets in the passing game. New Orleans has been a top five run defense for most of the season so don’t expect either to find much success on the ground, but the Saints finished the season ranked 29th DVOA vs running backs in the passing game. While both backs are active in that aspect of the Eagles offense, the pace and likely game script here would seem to heavily favor Sproles. At wide receiver Michael Thomas looks like a lock and load option, and could very easily wind up the most popular receiving option on the slate. He’s the unquestioned number one wideout in the Saints offense and we just saw Allen Robinson carve up this secondary in the Wild Card round last week. Few players feel safer this weekend. The other Saints receivers could provide some value options here as well, as Tre’Quan Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., and Keith Kirkwood are all in play. Many players will want to chase Smith’s big Week 11 game (10-157-1) against the Eagles, but it’s important to note that it was the high watermark of his season, and came with Ginn still on IR. From Week 12 on, Smith saw just 11 total targets, which was 3 less than Kirkwood, who was rested in Week 17 with Ginn, while Smith played and saw 4 of his aforementioned targets from backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. While Ginn missed most the season, he was heavily involved in Week 16, as the Saints sought to lock up homefield for the playoffs. It was his first week active since Week 4 and he caught 5 balls on 8 targets for 74 yards so would seem to have somewhat supplanted Smith at this stage. Kirkwood seems the sneakier of the three, but has been mildly productive as the regular slot receiver over the final stretch of the season, will likely be very low owned, and has some sneaky touchdown upside. For the Eagles, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Golden Tate are all viable options at their price points. On the season the Saints ranked fifth worst in the league, allowing 8.2 yards per pass attempt on their way to being the 22nd ranked DVOA defense against the pass on the year, and surrendering 43.8 fantasy points per game to wide receivers on the season. Only the Jets allowed more. While all three are in play here, I have them ranked Jeffery, Tate, and then Agholor. The game script should in their favor in this matchup and I’m not opposed to building most of a lineup and then seeing which of three I can afford to round it out. At tight end it’s tough to target anyone on New Orleans, as the Ben Watson, Josh Hill, and Dan Arnold are truly sharing snaps. Watson generally gets more run, but the matchup is awful here against an Eagles team that allowed just two touchdowns to the position all season. For the Eagles I expect Zach Ertz to be more popular than he probably should be. Ertz’s 5 catches for 52 yards last week was in line with what I expected when I warned against paying for him against the Bears, who ranked 3rd in DVOA on the season against the position in the passing game. Things don’t get much better here, as the Saints were 4th and surrendered half a fantasy point less per game on the season to the position. Point per dollar, he’s hard to justify. But because so much attention will be focused on him, Dallas Goedert could once again sneak into consideration, where moderate yardage with a few catches and a score is certainly attainable and makes him a reasonable punt play. Playing defenses against Drew Brees at the Superdome is a good way to lose money. And because that’s the opposite of our goal, I’d run away from Philadelphia. If you aren’t a Nick Foles believer or think the Saints can run away with this one, or simply need to save on a defense, New Orleans probably won’t kill you and should come up with a couple turnovers and some sacks, even in a shootout.

Good luck this week!         

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