FanDuel NFL GPP Lineup Advice: Championship Round
The Patriots are the biggest betting favorites as 7.5-point favorites and have the highest implied team over/under total at 27 points, according to Pinnacle. With that in mind, it should come as little surprise that their representation is maxed out at four players on the roster below.
The second favorite in this week’s playoff games is the Vikings, and they’re also well represented with three players on the roster. The Jaguars wrap up the remaining two spots with a pair of players who’d benefit from the game going according to the script, and Jacksonville being forced to pass it more often than they typically do.
Tom Brady (NE): $9,000 vs. Jaguars
Last week, the Steelers exploited some of the chinks in the armor in Jacksonville’s top pass defense. Namely, tight end Vance McDonald punched them in the mouth for 112 yards receiving on 10 receptions, Jesse James added another grab for 12 yards, and Le’Veon Bell caught nine balls for 88 yards and a score. Ancillary piece Eli Rogers also reeled in all five of his targets for 42 yards.
The Patriots are all about wisely taking the path of least resistance, and for the year, Football Outsiders (FO) ranked Jacksonville 11th defending “other” receivers, 15th defending running backs as receivers, and 20th defending tight ends. The Patriots are unlikely to call on Brady to air it out 50-plus times like he did last week, but the G.O.A.T. is the leader of the team with the highest implied team over/under total, as I noted in the intro. Brady’s hand issue warrants monitoring, but assuming all signs point toward him playing, he’s my preferred choice at quarterback.
This season, Brady posted MVP-caliber numbers ranking first in pass attempts (581), fifth in completion percentage (66.3%), third in touchdown passes (32), and tied for fourth in passing yards per attempt (7.9). He was also third in adjusted yards per pass attempt (8.4), first in passing yards per game (286.1), and third in both QB Rating (102.8) and QBR (70.2), per Pro-Football-Reference.
Dion Lewis (NE): $7,700 vs. Jaguars
Lewis closed the regular season and opened the postseason for the Patriots as a workhorse back. Rex Burkhead is expected to rejoin the mix, but Lewis is the lead back. While FO ranked Jacksonville first defending the pass, they also ranked them a less flattering 26th defending the run.
As I noted in Brady’s write-up, Jacksonville ranks in the middle of the pack defending backs as receivers, too. Lewis is an excellent receiver and secured nine of his 10 targets for 79 yards last week. Game script should favor Lewis, and I like his odds of touching the ball 15 times or more.
That kind of workload would award him a chance at besting 100 yards from scrimmage for the fourth straight week. Lewis is no stranger to the end zone, either. He scored nine combined rushing and receiving touchdowns in the regular season.
T.J. Yeldon (JAC): $5,200 @ Patriots
Leonard Fournette is the focal point of Jacksonville’s offense, but he suffered an ankle injury last week that prematurely ended his first half. Fournette had been creaming the Steelers before aggravating his ankle.
He returned in the second half, but it’s important to note that his ankle has been a problem before. The chance of re-aggravating it elevates Yeldon’s ceiling, but it’s not the only reason for touting the third-year pro.
Yeldon’s carved out a third-down back role, but he also had a career year in terms of yards per attempt (5.2) as a runner, albeit on a career-low 49 carries. In 10 games played in the regular season, Yeldon averaged 25.3 yards rushing per game, 3.0 receptions per game, and 22.4 yards receiving per game. Against the Steelers last week, he rushed for 20 yards and a score on five carries, and he caught all three of his targets for 57 yards receiving.
Yeldon’s receiving skills mesh nicely with New England’s struggles defending running backs as receivers. FO ranked New England 22nd defending running backs as receivers in the regular season. The Patriots surrendered the sixth most targets (125), tied for the 12th most receptions (89), ceded the second most receiving yards (844), and tied for the ninth most receiving touchdowns (four) allowed to running backs in the regular season. If the Jaguars fall behind early, it could open the door to more work for Yeldon in a pass-heavy comeback attempt.
Adam Thielen (MIN): $7,400 @ Eagles
Stefon Diggs (MIN): $6,700 @ Eagles
I love both of Minnesota’s receivers this week. If forced to choose only one, Diggs would get the nod over Thielen, but this roster features both. Both Thielen and Diggs had stellar seasons, and the duo has frequently shown that there’s enough football to go around.
One additional reason I love using both is Latavius Murray’s road struggles this year. The former Raider averaged a paltry 3.31 yards per carry and 48.4 yards rushing per game on the road. His struggles don’t bode well for him succeeding against a stout run defense that FO ranked as the third best in the regular season.
Jerrick McKinnon offers Minnesota another option on the ground, but they may simply opt to lean on their supremely talented receivers instead. The Vikings have the second highest implied team over/under total this week at 20.75 points.
Dede Westbrook (JAC): $5,500 @ Patriots
Westbrook is my favorite member of Jacksonville’s receiving corps. He’s had an unexciting postseason to date, but he leads the club’s receivers in offense snaps through two playoff games, and he led the team in targets (eight), receptions (five), and receiving yards (48) in their first game of the playoffs against the Bills.
The rookie wideout quickly emerged as a favorite of Blake Bortles‘ after first becoming active in Week 11. In nine games including the playoffs, Westbrook has been targeted six or more times seven times, eight or more times six times, and bested 70 yards receiving three times. He has a plus matchup this week, too.
New England allowed the fifth most FanDuel points per game to receivers in the regular season. The Patriots ranked 26th defending No. 1 receivers, 20th defending No. 2 receivers, and 21st defending “other” receivers, per FO.
Big plays were also an issue for New England’s defense. According to NFL.com, the Patriots were tied for the 14th most 20-plus yard passes and tied for the ninth-most 40-plus yard passes allowed.
Rob Gronkowski (NE): $8,400 vs. Jaguars
Perhaps Gronk will face more resistance than McDonald did last week as an ancillary piece in Pittsburgh’s passing attack, but one of these tight ends might retire as the best at the position, and the other is McDonald. Among tight ends this year, Gronk ranked sixth in targets (105), fifth in receptions (69), first in receiving yards (1,084), and tied for second in touchdown receptions (eight).
The stud tight end’s ranks are all the more impressive when factoring in that he missed two games (one due to injury and the other due to suspension). The Jaguars are likely to make a concerted effort to slow down Gronk, but as I noted in Brady’s write-up, Jacksonville ranked just 20th defending tight ends this year.
Stephen Gostkowski (NE): $5,000 vs. Jaguars
Gostkowski is tied to the highest team over/under total, and none of the kickers have the luxury of kicking indoors this week. That essentially sums up why I prefer Gostkowski to the rest of the pack, but for his part, Gostkowski was good this year going 37-for-40 on field-goal attempts and 45-for-47 on point-after attempts.
Vikings D/ST (MIN): $4,900 @ Eagles
Minnesota’s opponent, the Eagles, have the lowest implied team over/under total (17.75 points) this week. The Vikings played excellent defense this year and tied for the fewest yards allowed per play (4.6) and led the way in scoring defense (15.8 points per game). They ranked slightly below average in sacks (tied for 17th with 37) and turnovers forced (tied for 23rd with 19), but their matchup with the Nick Foles-led Eagles is a plus.
Excluding Philadelphia’s meaningless Week 17 game in which Nick Foles and many other starters were pulled early, the Eagles fell short of 20 points in two of three of his starts. Foles has also fallen short of 250 yards passing in all of his starts. The limitations he places on Philadelphia’s offense helps make the Vikings the top D/ST this week.