Divisional Round Saturday FanDuel & DraftKings Showdown DFS Primer (Bengals at Titans)
The Bengals and Titans open the second weekend of the NFL playoffs in the Divisional Round. The weather is often a topic of discussion this time of year in the playoffs. For this game, the weather is unlikely to impact the contest meaningfully. Without a daunting weather forecast on the docket, I think this game has sneaky shootout potential. Thus, while both defenses are rock-solid, neither is included in the tables below. Instead, it’s all about the offensive options.
Game: Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans
Spread: TEN -3.5 Points
Over/Under: 47.0 Points
I'm not crazy about Cincinnati's outlook on the ground for a couple of reasons. First, according to Sharp Football Stats, in neutral game scripts (trailing by six points to leading by six points), the Bengals passed at the ninth-highest rate (59%), including a slow start for cutting Joe Burrow loose to open the year. Second, the matchup is challenging. According to Football Outsiders, the Titans are 14th in rush defense Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). However, per Pro-Football-Reference, Tennessee allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per game (84.6).
Regardless, Joe Mixon is a viable single-game option, ascending as a passing-game option down the stretch. According to Pro Football Focus, in Cincinnati's previous five meaningful games, Mixon ran 109 routes versus only 60 for Samaje Perine. In his last five games, Mixon parlayed his routes into 22 targets, 20 receptions, 150 receiving yards, and one touchdown.
Still, it's the passing attack I'm salivating about using on this slate, starting with Burrow. The Titans were 11th in pass defense DVOA. Yet, they have allowed the eighth-most passing yards per game (245.2). Additionally, Burrow was an assassin this year. According to Pro-Football-Reference, he was eighth in passing touchdowns (34), third in passing yards per game (288.2), and second in Adjusted Net Yards Per Pass Attempt (7.51 ANY/A). He's the must-use player from the Bengals.
Ja'Marr Chase is the unquestioned top option in the receiver room, with all due respect to the excellent Tee Higgins and talented slot wideout Tyler Boyd. The rookie receiver had sky-high ceiling games, and he closed the second on a heater. Excluding the meaningless regular-season finale in which he only played five offensive snaps, he has had three straight games with more than 110 receiving yards, 10 or more targets, and seven or more receptions.
Further, the Bengals unveiled a new wrinkle with Chase last week. After rushing the ball only seven times in the regular season, Chase ran the ball three times for 23 yards. Clearly, Zac Taylor is hellbent on getting Chase the ball. Circling back to Chase's receiving exploits, he is tailor-made for this matchup. Tossing Week 18, according to Pro Football Focus, Chase's average depth of target aDot) of 13.8 yards downfield was the highest among Bengals targeted more than twice. Conversely, the Titans cough up explosive passes. Per Sharp Football Stats, in the regular season, the Titans allowed the 12th-highest average explosive pass rate (nine percent).
Tennessee's susceptibility against explosive passes is a checkmark in the pros column for using Higgins, too. The second-year wideout's 12.3 aDot was directly behind Chase on the Bengals, making him another threat to take the top of Tennessee's defense. Meanwhile, Boyd is a reliable safety valve with a consistent role in the offense and a nose for the end zone of late. In his previous six games, Boyd was targeted five or more times, scoring a touchdown in his last four. Unfortunately, his upside isn't in the same stratosphere as Chase's, and it lags behind Higgins's ceiling as well. Regardless, he's a rock-solid option.
- Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) January 18, 2022
Before suffering a foot injury, Henry was steamrolling the opposition, leading the NFL with 117.1 rushing yards per game. Remarkably, despite playing in only eight games, Henry was ninth in rushing yards (937) and tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns (10). Henry's ceiling is through the roof, especially with Cincinnati's starting defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi out. Still, Henry hasn't played since Halloween. As a result, he might be eased back into action, could have conditioning issues, or might be rusty. Therefore, he's not a slam-dunk selection. Nevertheless, he's a viable option because of his gargantuan scoring upside.
I'm intrigued by Tennessee's passing attack. A.J. Brown and Julio Jones played in only eight games together this year. So, Tennessee's full-season totals don't tell the whole story for their passing potential. To that end, I showcased Ryan Tannehill's notable splits with and without his top-two wideouts.
The following is a Tannehill stats breakdown, using @PFF
8 games w/AJB and Julio: 68.7 COM% 1,881 yards, 11 TD, 6 INT, 8.2 ADOT, 8 TWP, 2.7 TWP%
9 w/o at least one of them: 66.0%, 1,853, 10 TD, 8 INT, 7.6 ADOT, 14 TWP, 4.1 TWP%
My point is to be careful w/his full-season stats
- Josh Shepardson (@BChad50) January 19, 2022
Predictably, Tannehill was much better with Brown and Jones at his disposal. Add in the threat Henry presents on the ground, and he should have downfield opportunities against Cinci's big-play surrendering defense. The Bengals allowed the fourth-highest average explosive pass rate (10%) in the regular season.
Cincinnati's struggles against explosive passes make Jones my favorite per-dollar option on the single-game slate. He had a gaudy 13.5 aDot, deepest on the Titans among players targeted more than two times. According to Pro Football Focus, in eight games played with Brown this year, Jones was second on the Titans in routes (206), targets (40), receptions (27), receiving yards (401), and yards per route run (1.95 Y/RR).
Unsurprisingly, Brown was the top dog in Tennessee's passing attack in the eight-game sample discussed above. He was first in routes (223), targets (67), receptions (42), yards (571), touchdowns (four), and yards per route run (2.56 Y/RR). Brown was also used as a vertical weapon, sporting an aDot of 13.5 yards downfield. Thus, he's an excellent pick, too.
The other passing game options on my radar are Anthony Firkser and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. The former has had a slight edge over Geoff Swaim in routes in a tight end committee. The latter is another option to exploit Cinci deep, albeit at a lower target depth (9.6 aDot in games with Brown and Jones) and on a lower target rate. Regardless, Westbrook-Ikhine is especially enticing as a punt on FanDuel, where it's more challenging to find salary relief to load up on the upper-echelon players.
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