The Primer: Conference Championship DFS Edition (Fantasy Football)
Remember when I said that Week 16 would be the last version of The Primer? Well, this time I really mean it. This is the last call for those of us addicts who can’t get enough stats on our favorite players. It’s just a two-game slate, with both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from each conference playing each other. In fact, we’ve already seen these games played during the regular season.
We’ll talk about what that means and whether anything should be taken from those games, as well as recent trends in production, injuries that were sustained in the divisional round, or anything else that would affect a player’s DFS reliability.
For those who are new around these parts, The Primer is something that we do every week during the fantasy season (Weeks 1-16), highlighting every relevant fantasy player from every game, giving you a reason for optimism or a reason to place a player on the bench. We’ll talk about WR/CB matchups, recent snap counts, target shares, and trends that you need to know. For the playoffs, it’s been full-on DFS. During the regular season, it’s a combination of season-long leagues and DFS.
If you’re diving into DFS for the first time, when we reference “cash” it refers to games where if you beat half the field, you win. The examples of those are head-to-heads, 50/50’s, and Double-Ups. Playing in those contests, you’ll want to do all you can to ensure a high floor out of the players in your lineup. When referring to tournaments or GPPs (Guaranteed Prize Pools), only those towards the top portion of entries (typically around top 10 percent) earn winnings. In tournaments, you don’t care about floor as much as you do about a player’s ceiling. I should also note that all pricing is for DraftKings, as it’s my preferred site for DFS. Ok, let’s talk some divisional round players.
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
Line: NO by 3.5
Jared Goff ($5,400): Over Goff’s last six games, we’ve seen him throw a total of just six touchdowns, and four of them were in one game against the 49ers in Week 17. The Rams didn’t ask him to do much against the Cowboys last week, as he completed just 15-of-28 pass attempts for 186 yards with no touchdowns. The run-game is thriving right now and knowing the Saints just lost star defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, it could be a recipe for another run-heavy attack. After coming out of the gate slow, the Saints defense were able to get it together against the Eagles and hold Nick Foles to just 201 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. After starting the game 9-of-10 with a touchdown, he finished completing just 9-of-21 pass attempts with two interceptions. While many may not have noticed, the Saints have now held seven of the last nine quarterbacks they’ve played to 248 yards or less. The two exceptions were Ben Roethlisberger, who threw the ball 50 times, and Matt Ryan, who threw the ball 47 times. Goff has eclipsed 40 pass attempts just three times all season, and in two of those games, he failed to throw a touchdown pass. Bottom line, the Rams need Goff to get it together for this game. One of the biggest strengths of the Saints defense is their pass-rush and ability to take away an opponent’s No. 1 receiver. Goff hasn’t been sacked in his last two games and the Rams don’t have a clear-cut No. 1 receiver in their offense, so this could be trouble for the Saints defense. The first time these two teams met, Goff threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns, though that was with Cooper Kupp in the lineup and with Goff playing at a high level. His price is appealing in cash, but I’d prefer playing a quarterback who’s a bit safer in the way he’s played recently. Goff makes for a solid tournament play, as he has plenty of stackable options.
Drew Brees ($5,900): It may not have been the massive performance that some had hoped for last week, but 301 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles should be considered a win. I say that because Brees went into the playoffs not having thrown more than one touchdown since back in Week 12. He also went into that game after not playing for three weeks (sat out Week 17, had first-round bye), so there should have been some rust expected. Similar to last week, he’s already seen this defense before, and like the Eagles, he destroyed them in the first meeting. But there’s one big X-factor in this game that changes everything… Aqib Talib was not on the field for their first meeting when Brees threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns. In the eight games without Talib, the Rams defense allowed 182-of-277 passing (65.7 percent) with an average of 299.8 yards, 2.88 touchdowns, and 0.75 interceptions per game. In the nine games with Talib, they’ve allowed 184-of-286 passing (64.3 percent) with an average of 215.8 yards, 0.89 touchdowns, and 1.33 interceptions. The touchdowns are obviously much different, but the yards per attempt is what’s alarming as it goes from 8.66 without Talib to just 6.79 with him. Needless to say, they’re a much better defense with him on the field. With that being said, Brees at home is a different monster. His splits are even more drastic than the Rams with/without Talib.
As I mentioned here last week, when playing a team for the second time, they have the chance to gameplan much more appropriately now that they’ve seen the way the offense runs. Naturally, you’d expect regression the second time around, which is what we saw with the Eagles last week. The Rams defense needs to generate more pressure than they’ve been to stop Brees, though. Outside of games against the Cardinals and 49ers, the Rams have just three sacks in their last three games against formidable opponents. They didn’t sack Brees once in the first meeting, either. At home, it’s hard not to like Brees in cash lineups and he’s obviously in-play for tournaments.
Todd Gurley ($7,500) and C.J. Anderson ($5,000): This was one of my biggest misses last week, as I didn’t expect Anderson to have a role with Gurley healthy. Some may have not watched the game and assumed that Gurley isn’t 100 percent, but I can assure you that I did watch it, and he’s clearly doing fine. Anderson is just playing so well that they’ve decided to make this somewhat of a timeshare backfield, something that we’ve never had to worry about with Gurley. He still wound up with 16 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown, but it’s near certainty they don’t reach the 48 carries they had as a team last week. Gurley played 43 snaps compared to Anderson’s and that’s in a game that was not really close. This game figures to be much closer than that one and the Rams are projected to be playing from behind, which would best suit Gurley’s role, as Anderson ran just five pass routes with Gurley back in the lineup. The Saints lost a massive part of their dominant run-defense last week, as defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins tore his Achilles tendon and is obviously out for the year. With Rankins on the field this year, the Saints have allowed just 3.41 yards per carry. That number jumps to 3.83 yards per carry with him off the field. He didn’t miss much time in 2017, but going back to 2016, they allowed 4.40 yards per carry without him, but just 3.17 yards per carry with him. This is clearly a downgrade for the defensive line that allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL this year. The Eagles didn’t have the run-game to take advantage of that (totaled just 13 running back carries), but the Rams obviously do. It’s still a pretty remarkable stat that the Saints have yet to allow a team of running backs more than 92 yards on the ground. What most don’t know is that they’ve also not allowed a team of running backs to score more than 28 PPR points against them. This should tell you that it’s highly unlikely that both Anderson and Gurley provide value this week, even with Rankins out. Knowing the potential gamescript, Gurley should be the one you’re attacking in this game. The Saints did allow 1.69 PPR points per target to running backs (7th-most), which was the only weak spot to running backs. The only way you’d want to bet on Anderson is if you believe the Rams jump out to a lead and look to coast, though I’m not one of them. Take Gurley’s price-drop and play him in both cash and tournaments.
Alvin Kamara ($6,500) and Mark Ingram ($4,600): Paying up for running backs was a common theme last week and most of them let you down. Kamara did receive a healthy 20 touches against the Eagles, though they netted “just” 106 total yards without a touchdown. Meanwhile, Ingram carried the ball nine times for 53 yards, including a 36-yard scamper late in the game, and netted nine yards on two receptions. The Rams pass-defense has been much better with Aqib Talib on the field, but teams have adjusted and simply run the ball more against them. Over their last 10 games, the Rams have allowed at least 100 yards on the ground to seven teams of running backs, including two of them (Seahawks, Bears) to go for more than 160 yards. There were just three running backs all season who finished with top-10 numbers against the Rams, though it’s also important to note that there wasn’t a single running back who reached 20 carries against them in the regular season. There were three running backs who hit the 20-touch mark against them: Chris Carson 20 touches for 127 total yards and no touchdown, Jordan Howard 20 touches for 103 yards and no touchdown, and… Kamara 23 touches for 116 yards and three touchdowns. In fact, Kamara was the only player to score more than 20 PPR points against the Rams this season. They allowed a miniscule 4.46 yards per target to running backs this year, the third-lowest mark in the league, so to see a spike in Kamara’s receiving numbers shouldn’t be expected. He’s now totaled less than 40 receiving yards in 10 of his last 12 games, as Ingram’s snaps have eaten into his production. The area to beat the Rams is on the ground, as they allowed a ridiculously-high 4.87 yards per carry this year. The only teams who allowed more were the Chiefs, Bengals, and Cardinals, three teams we continually attacked in DFS. The reason the Rams weren’t was due to gamescript and opponents not being able to run the ball as much as they would like. The Saints really shouldn’t have that issue at home. Kamara is likely too expensive to use in cash but remains an excellent tournament option with his three-touchdown upside. Ingram is much more usable in cash, as the Rams defense better suits his strengths. He only touched the ball 10 times the last time these two teams played but you should expect more from him this time around. He’s cheap enough to consider in cash considering the Rams allowed the 12th-most touchdowns this year, though you likely have other options who might offer a higher floor. He’s a rock-solid tournament play.
Brandin Cooks ($5,300): To say that Cooks’ target share has been all over the place would be an understatement, as he went from one of the most consistently targeted wide receivers in all of football, to one we cannot guarantee more than six targets. He’s going back to New Orleans, the place where he tallied six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown back in Week 9, though that was when Cooper Kupp was still healthy. That’s important because it’s changed the production we’ve seen out of Cooks. He’s now gone six straight games without topping 65 yards after totaling at least 74 yards in eight of his first 11 games with the Rams. Some may wonder if it’s him or his role, but I believe it has more to do with Goff’s struggles than Cooks himself. Goff has now thrown just six touchdowns in his last six games, and in the one game he threw four touchdowns, Cooks had two of them. The Saints didn’t have Marshon Lattimore shadow Cooks the entire game back in Week 9, though Cooks did line up on his side of the field about 60 percent of the time. His touchdown did not come on Lattimore, as he scored against a zone defense where he was matched with safety Marcus Williams. Do the Saints change that this week and have Lattimore shadow him? It’s enough to move you off Cooks in cash lineups, but he’s still very much in play for tournaments, as he did flash his speed against Lattimore in their first matchup, beating him down the sideline for a 48-yard gain.
Robert Woods ($5,700): His role has changed quite a bit since these two teams met back in Week 9 when he finished with five catches for 71 scoreless yards. Cooper Kupp was active for that game, which meant Woods played in the slot on just 35 percent of his snaps. With Kupp out of the lineup, Woods plays there about 80 percent of the time. That’s a great thing because it means he’ll evade the coverage of Marshon Lattimore, even if Lattimore doesn’t shadow Cooks. Instead, he’ll draw P.J. Williams, the slot cornerback who’s allowed 46-of-64 passing for 541 yards and four touchdowns while covering the slot. We saw Kupp rack-up five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown on just six targets against the Saints when they played, which is the role Woods is now playing. The Rams bring so many issues to the table for a defense that it’s not as if Woods will be the primary focus when it comes to game-planning. Woods has averaged 8.4 targets since Kupp went down and the Rams figure to be passing a bit more this week. Despite Goff’s struggles over the last six games where he’s had just six touchdown passes, Woods has managed to stay afloat while averaging 15.8 DraftKings points. He’s one of the best plays in a cash lineup and can be used in tournaments as well.
Josh Reynolds ($4,200): Due to Cooks getting the majority of Marshon Lattimore in coverage, that means Reynolds will match-up with Eli Apple most of the game. That’s a much better matchup and it just so happens that the Saints have allowed 15 passing touchdowns to the right side of the field while allowing just nine touchdowns on the left side of the field and five touchdowns up the middle. Not to say that Woods or Cooks won’t cross into that side of the field on their routes, but Reynolds plays over 50 percent of his snaps on the right side of the field. Apple played well against the Eagles, limiting receivers to just two catches for 15 yards in his coverage, though we don’t like one-game sample sizes. Prior to that game, he’d allowed nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown in the previous two games. He’s the definition of an average NFL cornerback, though his ceiling was supposed to be much higher as the No. 10 overall pick. Prior to seeing just four targets in the divisional round, Reynolds had seen at least seven targets in 4-of-6 starts since Cooper Kupp went out for the year. Considering the Rams are likely to pass a lot more this week, his targets should come back up. Because of that, he’s not the worst play in cash formats if you’re trying to save a few bucks, though it’s likely not necessary with the other options on the slate. We have a full-time receiver in the Rams offense who’s had two multi-touchdown games this season and is $4,200? He’s definitely in-play for tournaments.
Michael Thomas ($8,200): Remember when I mentioned that Thomas could have the game that Tre’Quan Smith did against the Eagles earlier in the year? Well, I was wrong… it was even bigger. His 12-catch, 171-yard, one-touchdown performance singlehandedly put most in the cash last week while most of the high-priced running backs missed. As crazy as it may sound, that was Thomas’ fourth 12-plus catch performance this year. The previous one came against… the Rams. It’s important to note that you should not expect that to happen again, however, as it came when Aqib Talib was out of the lineup and Marcus Peters was asked to shadow Thomas. That ended poorly for Peters. There were eight times this year where a receiver posted 20-plus PPR points against the Rams, and six of them came while Talib was out of the lineup. Well, Talib is playing this game. The Rams do not shadow with Talib on the field, as he stays at LCB while Peters mans the RCB position. As for where Thomas typically lines up, he’ll see Peters just under 50 percent of the time, which is plenty. Many refer to Peters as a Pro Bowl cornerback, but he’s been far from that this season, allowing over a 70 percent catch-rate in his coverage, over 15 yards per reception, and a touchdown every 12.5 targets in his coverage. DraftKings has boosted Thomas’ price up to the point where you’re going to need 20 points to justify playing him, which is hard to do considering the Rams defense with Talib on the field this year. It’s very unlikely the Saints walk in with the same gameplan. He’s just too expensive to play in cash this week but get plenty of exposure in tournaments.
Ted Ginn ($4,300) and Tre’Quan Smith ($3,600): We talked about how Ginn and Smith were rotated in and out of the lineup when Ginn returned in Week 16, though we had no clue how things would shape-up for their first playoff game. It was more of the same, as Ginn played 39 snaps while Smith played 21 of them. Combining the two weeks together, Ginn has 66 snaps to Smith’s 47 snaps, though that’s not where you need to be looking. Ginn has out-targeted him 15 to 2 in those games. While Smith is clearly an afterthought, this is more about Ginn who’s been targeted on 15 of his 66 snaps since returning from injury. He moves all over the formation, so he’s not going to see just one cornerback more than the others. The Rams did allow 59 passing plays of 20-plus yards this year (fifth-most), including 14 plays of 40-plus yards (third-most), so they’ve been susceptible to the big play. Unfortunately, Brees and Ginn haven’t been able to connect on the deep-ball like they have in the past, as Ginn has caught just 3-of-13 targets for 74 yards and a touchdown. It is worth noting that even though Ginn missed 11 games during the regular season, he still leads the team in deep targets. It’s tough to say he’s cash viable, though his salary combined with his recent flow of targets make it tempting. At his price, one big play pays off, so he’s in-play for tournaments. As for Smith, he’s nothing more than a desperation punt-play who’s playing around 20 snaps a game with Ginn back.
Keith Kirkwood ($3,200): It’s quite odd that he’s priced below both Ginn and Smith, as Kirkwood has played 90 snaps in the two games all three have been active, while Ginn played 66 and Smith played 47. On top of that, we got a Kirkwood touchdown last week. Looking at target share, Ginn makes a lot more sense, but the price-dip for Kirkwood may be what your lineup needs. The Rams have allowed five slot-heavy wide receivers hit double-digit PPR points, but the issue is that they all saw a minimum of eight targets to get there. Kirkwood has yet to see more than five targets in a game, so let’s call that unlikely. Nickell Robey-Coleman is the one he’ll see most of the time, a veteran cornerback who has allowed just a 64.5 percent catch-rate (this is impressive for a slot cornerback) and 7.8 yards per reception in his coverage. The Rams have done some odd things at times this year, pulling him for the horrid Troy Hill, though that didn’t happen in the first playoff game, so we shouldn’t expect it now. Kirkwood is worth a dart-throw in tournaments because of his high snap counts and the quarterback he plays with, but he’s far from a sure thing, even at $3,200.
Gerald Everett ($2,700): After notching season-highs in snaps the previous two games, Everett came back down to earth against the Cowboys, playing just 33-of-77 snaps. It’s likely that with Gurley back in the lineup, they don’t need him running as many routes. He ran just 13 routes against the Cowboys, though the gamescript was obviously not in his favor. The worst part was that he saw just one target all game while Tyler Higbee saw four of them on his nine routes run. It’s just one week but it’s not very promising for the second-year tight end. On top of that, he’ll go against the Saints this week, who were possibly the best team in the league at defending tight ends. Prior to resting their starters in Week 17, the Saints had allowed just one tight end to record more than 8.1 PPR points against them, and it was Cameron Brate, who caught just two passes for 12 yards, though both of them were touchdowns. No tight end topped 54 yards against them all season with their starters on the field, which includes Zach Ertz twice. Everett is nothing more than a desperation tournament option, though he’s not a very good one.
Ben Watson ($2,600) and Josh Hill ($2,500): The Saints tight end room is a mess right now and completely unpredictable. Hill led the team in routes run (19) and targets (3) last week, though that’s far from a confident fantasy start. Watson tallied 15 routes but saw just one target that turned into 12 scoreless yards. Over the last six games, Watson and Hill have combined for just 16 targets, 10 receptions, 103 yards, and no touchdowns. Again, that’s over six games combined for the two of them. The Rams did have a weakness at defending tight ends this year, though their weaknesses were to a clear “type” of tight end. The tight ends who crushed them were George Kittle (twice), Travis Kelce, and Jared Cook, all highly athletic tight ends. Watson did finish with 62 yards (second-highest total of the year) and a touchdown against them back in Week 9, but that’s back when he was being targeted. He saw 32 targets over the first eight games but has seen just 15 targets over the last nine games. With all the Saints pass-catchers healthy, it’s hard to see that changing very much. You cannot confidently play either of these tight ends in cash and they likely don’t come with enough upside for tournaments.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Line: KC by 3.0
Tom Brady ($5,800): As stated last week, you never want to bet against Brady in the playoffs. To know that the running backs scored four touchdowns and Brady still got to 343 yards and a touchdown, you should feel relatively lucky if you rostered Brady. The 300-yard bonus propped him up to 20.6 points last week, which was more than enough in a slate where the high-end quarterbacks underperformed. After watching the Chiefs defense shut down the Colts offense last week, DraftKings decided to lower his price just a bit, though part of that goes into the fact that it’s a two-game slate. The Chiefs were able to sack Andrew Luck three times in that game but it’s important you know that he was under pressure 29.3 percent of the time, which was actually right in line with his regular season average of 29.5 percent. This is important because Brady sees a significant drop-off in his QB Rating when he’s pressured, going from a 105.3 QB Rating in a clean pocket, to just a 71.2 QB Rating under pressure. Luck was very similar, averaging a 108.0 QB Rating in a clean pocket, to just a 73.4 QB Rating under pressure. The Chiefs boasted a 7.47 percent sack-rate in the regular season, which ranked as the 10th-best in the league. If they don’t get pressure, that’s where things can go wrong in a hurry, as their secondary isn’t star-filled like the Chargers was. This should allow Brady to take more shots down the field, though dump-offs to running backs definitely won’t hurt his stats in this game, as the Chiefs allowed 22.4 percent of passing production go through running backs, the seventh-highest mark in the league, and that’s despite only 18.5 percent of targets going to them, which ranked 24th in the league. Quarterbacks have been able to produce elite numbers against the Chiefs this year, as nine quarterbacks were able to post 20-plus fantasy points. The only issue is that just three of them came while playing at Arrowhead Stadium. While there, no quarterback has thrown more than two touchdowns, though it’s important that we note they’ve played just two top-15 quarterbacks there all season. Philip Rivers, who threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, and Andrew Luck, who was just held to 203 yards and one touchdown. The first time these two teams played each other this year, Brady completed 24-of-35 passes for 340 yards and a touchdown while the running backs smashed for 214 total yards and two touchdowns. The game taking place in Arrowhead is the biggest concern, as they were clearly better there, and Brady averaged nearly four fewer points per game while on the road this year. He’s not someone you should avoid, but in cash, I’d find a way to pay-up for Mahomes. Knowing that 9-of-17 quarterbacks have topped 20 fantasy points against the Chiefs, he’s clearly in-play for tournaments. Oh, and the fact that it’s playoff Brady.
Patrick Mahomes ($6,600): So, Mahomes went all 16 regular season games without falling below 18 fantasy points, but then turns in a 17.9-point performance in his first playoff game? Unacceptable! You should know I’m kidding, though sarcasm doesn’t often come through on paper. Unfortunately, he needed the Colts to put up a fight, but they failed to do that while losing 31-13 in a blowout. On to this week, there’s no scenario where I can see the Patriots getting blown out in the playoffs, so get Mahomes back into lineups, especially at his price of $6,600. Prior to allowing Philip Rivers 331 yards (on 51 pass attempts), the Patriots hadn’t allowed a quarterback to top 276 yards since back in Week 8. Prior to that, they had allowed 5-of-8 teams to throw for a minimum of 313 yards, including Mahomes, who tagged them for 352 yards and four touchdowns on just 36 pass attempts while in Foxborough. That’s saying something, as the Patriots allowed just 17.9 points per game at home this year, the fifth-best mark in the league. On the road, that number jumps to 24.0 points per game. Their pass-defense has shown up in a big way over the last four games, allowing just 83-of-154 passing (53.9 percent) for 950 yards (6.17 yards per attempt) and six touchdowns. The quarterbacks in those games: Rivers, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Ben Roethlisberger. We all know Mahomes is in his own category right now, and Andy Reid’s offense has scored 82 points on the Patriots over their last two games (one with Alex Smith where they scored 42 points in 2017, other with Mahomes where they scored 40 in Week 6 this year). Most are going to ignore the fact that Mahomes’ three worst fantasy outputs have come over the last four games, but that’s okay because even his lowest fantasy outputs are worth the $6,600 you’re paying to get him. He’s the preferred cash play this week. As for his ceiling, we’ve already seen multiple 40-point games this year.
Sony Michel ($5,600), James White ($5,400), and Rex Burkhead ($3,400): Holy eruption, Batman! After ending the season on somewhat of a low-note, Michel went off for 129 yards and three touchdowns against the banged-up Chargers last week. The Chiefs run-defense has been one to pick-on all season, though Marlon Mack was unable to get the ball enough to make an impact. He touched the ball just nine times in the loss, while totaling a respectable 46 yards on them. During the regular season, there were just two teams who allowed more PPR points to running backs than the Chiefs, and they were the Bengals and Cardinals. They did allow the most yards per carry (4.96) but the reason they didn’t allow even more points was due to teams not being able to commit to the run, as you saw with the Colts last week. This is where it comes down to gamescript and how you see this game going. If the Patriots have a lead, Michel is going to see plenty of work once again. If the Chiefs jump out in front, you’re going to see a lot less of Michel and a lot more of White. The reason White is the better play is because he’ll be involved no matter what, and on top of that, he costs a few hundred less. The Chiefs were tormented by pass-catching backs this year, allowing a league-high 7.65 yards per target (no other team allowed more than 7.39) and 1.87 PPR points per target to running backs. There were seven different occasions this year where they allowed at least five catches and 50-plus yards to opposing running backs. As stated in the Brady notes, the Chiefs allowed 22.4 percent of the passing production to go to running backs, which ranked as the seventh-highest percentage in the league, and that was despite only 18.5 percent of the targets going to them, which ranked 24th. Chiefs opponents averaged a league-high 39.3 pass attempts per game, so combining that with Brady’s surge in pass attempts during the playoffs, and you have yourself a recipe for targets, especially if the Patriots want to slow the Chiefs pass-rush. White is playable in cash and makes for a great tournament play. Michel should be reserved for tournaments only, as his lack of work in the passing-game is concerning in a game they could fall behind. Burkhead played just 11 snaps last week but touched the ball five times on them and scored a touchdown. If Brady drops back 45-plus times in this game, we could see a much larger role for him, which makes his price-tag of $3,400 attractive in tournaments.
Damien Williams ($6,400) and Spencer Ware ($4,200): As of now, we have no clue whether Ware will play, but we should probably assume he’s active for the sake of value with Williams. With Ware inactive for the game against the Colts, the Chiefs showed us something we hadn’t seen before… a true workhorse role for Williams. Did you know that last week was the first time in his career he’d seen more than 13 carries? He looked great on them, averaging 5.16 yards per carry while also getting into the end zone. He also caught another five passes for 25 yards, though with the game in the bag the way it was, it’s surprising to see him used so much. 30 touches are a lot and they could choose to dial that back a tad if Ware returns, though Williams is locked into 15-plus touches every week at this point. Since being promoted to the starting role, Williams has totaled at least 12.9 PPR points in each of the five games and has 19.0 or more PPR points in four of them. The Patriots run-defense showed up in a big way last week, limiting Melvin Gordon to just 15 yards on nine carries, even if he did score on one of them. We all know that Bill Belichick tends to scheme his defense around slowing down the opposing No. 1 option and Williams is likely far off the radar. The Chiefs used Kareem Hunt more than ever in the last two games against them, as he caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown against them this year, and five passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns against them last year. While the focus gets set on Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, Williams should continue to roll against this Jekyll and Hyde defense. Just two running backs reached 100 yards against the Patriots, but six running backs totaled 45 or more yards through the air. If Ware is held out again, Williams is a lock in cash lineups. You should still consider him for cash is Ware plays, though he does come with a bit more risk and is no longer a lock. Both running backs have appeal in tournament lineups, though Williams is the best bet due to his receiving chops. The Patriots allowed a rushing touchdown in just 5-of-17 games this season, which is obviously not great.
Julian Edelman ($6,600): As mentioned here last week, Edelman is a much better cash-game type play, as he’s like a running back in that he’s guaranteed a certain amount of touches seemingly every game. Unfortunately, they raised his price a tad for this matchup against the Chiefs. Edelman has now seen double-digit targets in seven of his last 10 games, including a season-high 13 of them last week. There were four wide receivers who scored more than 20 PPR points against the Chiefs this year, with three of them being slot-heavy receivers. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Keenan Allen, and Doug Baldwin all scored more than 25 DraftKings points against the Chiefs. They brought in Kendall Fuller to take over the slot duties and he’s the one who’ll be covering Edelman most of the time. In the first meeting between the two, Edelman saw seven targets, netting four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Since 2012, Edelman has played in 11 playoff games. In those games, he’s yet to see fewer than nine targets and has totaled at least 13 targets in five of the last six games. Knowing that’s his target floor, he’s in-play for cash and is one of the higher floor options on the slate. While I’m typically weary about playing him in tournaments due to his lack of touchdown upside, the projected increase in pass attempts and scoring in this game make him appealing there as well.
Chris Hogan ($3,700): He continues to be a full-time player in the offense, though you won’t find him on the stat sheet any time soon. There were 237 wide receivers who were targeted at least once in 2018. Hogan ranked 197th in targets per route run. Meanwhile, Dorsett ranked 84th, Josh Gordon ranked 72nd, Edelman ranked 29th, and Patterson ranked 27th. Hogan is the Tre’Quan Smith of the Patriots offense. Hogan is still playing plenty of snaps in the slot, too, as he played 46 percent of his snaps there last week. It’s been the most giving spot on the field for the Chiefs, though you can’t do anything unless you’re targeted. He’ll see both Kendall Fuller and Charvarius Ward for much of the game, the duo that allowed 9-of-15 passing for 83 scoreless yards to the Colts last week. If this game delivers fireworks like most think it will, Hogan is likely going to be minimally owned, and that could be a spot for you to gain separation from the pack. He’s not even remotely close to the cash radar, but a full-time receiver out there for playoff Brady in a game that’s projected for 57 points? I’ll have some shares in tournaments.
Phillip Dorsett ($3,900): He scored a touchdown last week, which surely raised his price this week. He’s now more expensive than Hogan despite the running 17 fewer routes than him. Production is something everyone will chase, so I’m expecting Dorsett to have higher ownership. Is that right? When on the field, Dorsett has been targeted a lot more than Hogan, as Dorsett was targeted once every 6.1 routes run this year, while Hogan was targeted once every 9.8 routes. Needless to say, it’s likely a coinflip as to which one gets more targets between the two, but it was Hogan who four targets the first time these two teams played while Dorsett had none. Dorsett hasn’t reached 40 snaps since way back in Week 5, though with Josh Gordon back, he’s seen a significant spike in usage (27, 39, 37 snaps over the last three weeks). He’s going to match-up with Steven Nelson for much of the game, a former third-round pick from 2015 who has been much better than most expected him to be this year. With that, he’s been struggling over the last six games, allowing 25-of-39 passing for 324 yards and five touchdowns in his coverage. That’s good enough for a 119.0 QB Rating, the highest among those in the Chiefs secondary. Dorsett is worth a shot in tournaments, though Hogan is likely my preferred dart throw as he’s likely the lesser-owned option.
Tyreek Hill ($7,700): We’ve reached that time again, where the Patriots must choose who to make a priority for their defense. Hill or Kelce? The last two times these two teams played, it’s been Kelce, and Hill has made them pay for it. In those two games, Hill has racked-up 14/275/4 on 20 targets. No, that’s not a misprint. There was actually another should-have-been 24-yard touchdown reception, but Mahomes overthrew him in the end zone. With Watkins in the lineup, Hill ran 41 percent of his routes from the slot, but in that game, Andy Reid upped his usage to 50 percent, and Hill didn’t disappoint while recording six catches for 140 yards and three touchdowns while in the slot. The Patriots have shifted around their secondary since that game, as Jonathan Jones was sent to the bench with J.C. Jackson moving into the starting lineup. It’ll be interesting to see how Belichick handles him, as Stephon Gilmore is too big and physical for the shifty Hill. Jason McCourty would typically be the guy, but he was burned on two of the touchdowns against Hill back in Week 6. What makes the matchup so difficult for the Patriots is because both Kelce and Hill will line-up in the slot, making it impossible to bracket the both of them. One of them is bound to go off and it’s been Hill the last two times. It’s possible they sell-out to stop Hill but that’d leave a glaring weakness when it comes to defending Kelce. You can absolutely consider Hill for cash, as he’s now seen an average of 10.0 targets over the last eight games. You don’t need me to tell you that Hill is one of the best tournament options, even if his ownership is massive.
Sammy Watkins ($4,000): It was surprising to see, but Watkins looked really good last week. In the past, he’d struggled to play through foot injuries, but maybe the Chiefs were just playing it safe with their playoff berth locked-up. He ran 46 routes last week, which led the team, as Hill totaled 38, and Conley totaled 32. While that’s all great, Watkins is going to have the toughest matchup on the field this week when Stephon Gilmore shadows him. He’s far and away their best cornerback on the roster, as he’s allowed just 43-of-96 passing for 509 yards and six touchdowns in his coverage. That amounts to just a 44.8 percent catch-rate and 11.8 yards per reception, not numbers you typically attack in matchups. In the first matchup between these two teams, Watkins was held to just two catches for 18 scoreless yards on four targets, as the Chiefs didn’t aggressively attack that matchup (rightfully so). DraftKings lowering Watkins’ price to just $4,000 is begging you to play him in cash, though he’s still not a must-play there. Knowing that Gilmore has allowed six touchdowns in his coverage, Watkins is in-play for tournaments this week now that we know he’s seemingly healthy.
Chris Conley ($3,500): With Watkins back in the lineup, that means Conley will play a lot more slot snaps, which is a good thing. With Watkins in the lineup, he plays 56 percent of his snaps there, but played there just 43 percent of the time with Watkins out of the lineup. With Watkins getting Stephon Gilmore, Hill potentially getting double-teamed, and Kelce getting the No. 1 treatment, Conley could be a sneaky play in this game. He’s seen more than three targets just once in his last five games, so he’s not an option in cash, but in a game with so much scoring expected, he’s the type of player who can lift a tournament lineup if he scores a touchdown at just $3,500. He saw just one target in the first meeting and hasn’t topped 25 yards in all but two games this year which should keep his ownership numbers down.
Rob Gronkowski ($4,100): It’s odd watching Gronkowski right now, as he’s a shell of his former self. Teams used to have a cornerback or safety match-up with him, but after going back to watch the Week 6 meeting between these two teams, the Chiefs used a linebacker on him for most of the game. He can still win that matchup, but the issue came down to how they defended him in the red zone, as they double-teamed him when the Patriots lined him up out wide. It’s unclear if they’ll still do that this week, as Gronkowski hasn’t been much of a factor for teams to worry about. He’s seen a total of six targets over the last three games, netting just three catches for 39 scoreless yards. He’s scored just three times on 73 targets this season, which is not at all Gronk-like. Prior to this season, he never had a season where it took more than 9.8 targets to score a touchdown. That’s nuts. If there’s a note that should be included with his recent struggles, it’s that he’s played against three dominant teams against tight ends. The Bills allowed the fewest points to tight ends, the Jets allowed the second-fewest, and the Chargers allowed the 12th-fewest. The silver-lining is that the Chiefs have allowed the most DraftKings points to tight ends on the season. Of the 17 tight ends who played against them this year, just three of them scored less than 8.0 PPR points, while nine different tight ends hit the double-digit mark. At just $4,100, DraftKings is giving you the option to play Gronkowski in what might be the best matchup you can ask for. When they played back in Week 6, he totaled three catches for 97 yards while being targeted four times. If you want to save money at tight end, Gronkowski is your answer, even in cash. I’d also have some exposure in tournaments.
Travis Kelce ($7,100): When going back to watch the first meeting between these two teams, it was crazy to see the difference on how each team defended the opposing tight end. The Chiefs were okay with a linebacker trailing Gronkowski, while the Patriots almost always had a cornerback or safety on Kelce. If they matched him up with a linebacker, Kelce was likely getting the ball. You know how Bill Belichick has been known for taking away the opponent’s top option. Well, it’s been Kelce the last few times they’ve played each other, though you have to wonder if the comes to an end after Hill hung 142 yards and three touchdowns against them in Week 6. The Chiefs decided to play Hill in the slot a lot more that game, which makes life difficult for the Patriots, as it’s very difficult to double-team a slot receiver without using too many resources. With Kelce lining up in the slot on nearly half of his snaps, it creates a predicament for the Patriots defense. It’s why we’ve seen them give up 82 points the last two times they played the Chiefs. On top of that, the Patriots had some issues defending tight ends in general this year, allowing both Eric Ebron and Trey Burton to destroy their secondary, as Ebron posted 9/105/2 while Burton tagged them for 9/126/1. If you have the funds to get up to Kelce while feeling comfortable with everyone else in your lineup, he’s the one to play in cash lineups. You definitely want to get some exposure in tournaments, even if you’re not paying up for him in cash.