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The Primer: NFL Divisional Playoffs Edition (2022)

Jan 20, 2022
Josh Allen

Well, Super Wild Card Weekend wasn’t so super. 49ers-Cowboys was entertaining, Raiders-Bengals was kind of fun, and the other four games were laughers. So it goes.

The divisional round promises to be more competitive, more entertaining. The biggest spread in any of the four games is 6 points. All four games have totals of 47 points or more. These are heavyweights colliding.

As noted last week, now that we’re into the playoffs, the Primer is devoted primarily to DFS. For the DFS newbies among you, please remember these two definitions:

Cash games: Contests in which you try to beat half the field, whether it’s head-to-head against one other player or a game with a larger field.

GPPs: Large contests with guaranteed prize pools.

(The prices listed here are for DraftKings contests.)

Let’s get to the games …

Matchup Links:

CIN vs. TEN | SF vs. GB | LAR vs. TB | BUF vs. KC |

Create Optimal FanDuel lineups using our DFS Lineup Optimizer tool >>

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans

Date/Time: Saturday January 22, 4:30pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Titans -3.5
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 47 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Titans 25.25, Bengals 21.75

Quarterbacks

Joe Burrow ($6,600): In his last two regular-season starts, Burrow threw for a combined 971 yards and eight touchdowns against the Ravens and Chiefs. He wasn’t quite as electric in the Bengals’ 26-19 wild-card win over the Raiders last weekend, but he was good enough, completing 24 of 34 passes for 244 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Burrow has now gone five straight games without throwing an interception, completing 74.9% of his passes over that span and averaging 9.8 yards per attempt. This week, he’ll face a Titans pass defense that ranks ninth in opponent passer rating and 11th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. The Tennessee pass defense hasn’t been completely airtight, however. In their last regular-season game, the Titans gave up 301 passing yards and three TD passes to Texans rookie Davis Mills. Tennessee has also yielded 300-yard passing games to Jimmy Garoppolo, Mac Jones, Josh Allen and Russell Wilson. Three other QBs – Trevor Siemian, Zach Wilson, and Matthew Stafford – came within six yards of 300 against the Titans. Tennessee has one of the most extreme pass-funnel defenses in the league, with opponents having thrown against them 65% of the time. (The league average is 58%.) Burrow is the fifth-priciest QB option in DraftKings contests this weekend. He’s a sound value.

Ryan Tannehill ($5,800): For the first 15 weeks of the regular season, Tannehill wouldn’t have been much of a fantasy asset if not for his seven TD runs. He was the QB17 in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts. But then A.J. Brown returned from a chest injury in Week 16, and Tannehill’s passing production immediately improved. He completed 70.9% of his throws over the final three games of the regular season, threw seven TD passes and no interceptions, and averaged 7.8 yards per pass attempt. He faces a Bengals pass defense that ranks 24th in DVOA, but Cincinnati has two good cornerbacks in Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton, and the Bengals ranked 11th in sacks this year. Derek Carr threw for 310 yards against the Bengals last week in the wild-card round with one touchdown and one interception, but Carr attempted 54 passes and averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt. Tannehill is inexpensive, but with RB Derrick Henry expected to return from a foot injury this week, it seems safe to assume the Titans will use a run-heavy attack. I’m not especially interested in rostering Tannehill in DFS contests this weekend.

Running Backs

Joe Mixon ($6,600): Both the pro and con arguments for rostering Mixon this weekend are pretty compelling. The most appealing thing about Mixon is the certainty of his workload. He’s averaged 18.2 and 2.7 catches a game this season, which includes his 17-48-0 rushing and 4-28-0 receiving in last week’s wild-card win over Las Vegas. Mixon has had fewer than 17 carries only once in his last eight games. He’s also banged in 16 touchdowns on the year. The case against Mixon is that his matchup against the Titans isn’t a good one. Tennessee allowed 84.6 rushing yards per game this season, second-fewest in the league. The Titans are allowing 3.9 yards per carry and have given up a league-low three runs of 20 or more yards this season. They’ve fared well against workhorse backs this season. The last one they faced, Najee Harris, had 12-18-0 rushing and 2-8-0 receiving against them in Week 15. Darrell Henderson, the Rams’ lead back at the time, had 11-55-0 rushing and 3-3-0 receiving vs. Tennessee in Week 9. The best running back in the league, Jonathan Taylor, had 16-70-1 rushing and 3-52-0 receiving against the Titans in Week 8 – a good game to be sure, but not a volcanic eruption. I don’t mind Mixon as a cash-game anchor, but I think you can get better value from two cheaper backs with a chance to get 20 or more touches: Devin Singletary and Elijah Mitchell.

Derrick Henry ($7,500) and D’Onta Foreman ($5,400): There’s obviously a great deal of anticipation for Henry’s return from a foot injury that truncated what seemed destined to be a historic season. Through eight games, Henry had 219-937-10 rushing and 18-154-0 receiving, putting him on pace to break Larry Johnson’s single-season record of 416 carries. Henry was averaging 24.2 PPR points per game, making him the RB1 by a comfortable margin. The question is whether Henry will get a typically mammoth workload in his first game back from a broken foot. It’s possible Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and offensive coordinator Todd Downing ease back on the throttle. But then again, this is a playoff game. The Bengals have a respectable run defense that ranks 13th in DVOA and is giving up 102.5 rushing yards per game, fifth-fewest in the league. I can understand wanting to splurge on Henry in hopes of a vintage Derrick Henry game with well over 100 rushing yards and a TD or two, but I’m a little too conservative to allot that much of my budget to a running back who hasn’t played in two and a half months. Foreman could be a factor if the Titans elect to be judicious with Henry’s usage in his first game back. At $5,400 though, we’re not being offered nearly enough of a discount on Foreman to make him worth our while.

Wide Receivers

Ja’Marr Chase ($7,100): Chase had a marvelous rookie campaign, and his playoff debut last week against the Raiders was a success, resulting in 9-116-0 receiving on 12 targets, along with three carries for 26 yards. The former LSU star had 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season, averaging 18.0 yards per catch and an obscene 11.4 yards per target. When Cincinnati visits Tennessee on Saturday, Chase will be running most of his routes against Titans CB Kristian Fulton, who was not only Chase’s college teammate at LSU but also his high school teammate at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, Louisiana. Fulton is a sold cover man whom PFF graded 49th out of 121 graded cornerbacks, but this isn’t a matchup prospective Chase investors should fear. I like the value here. This seems like a good week to be frugal at running back, Chase makes a lot of sense as both a cash game anchor and a swing for the fences in GPPs.

Tee Higgins ($5,700): If you’re itching to get a Bengals receiver into your lineup but can’t afford Ja’Marr Chase, Higgins is a cheaper way to tap into Cincinnati’s explosive passing game. After catching 74 passes for 1,091 yards and six touches in 14 regular-season games, Higgins had just one catch for 10 yards against the Raiders last weekend. He gets a winnable individual matchup against 33-year-old Titans CB Jackrabbit Jenkins. There aren’t many mid-priced receivers on this weekend’s slate, but Higgins is a good one who offers solid value at $5,700.

Tyler Boyd ($4,800): Boyd sometimes gets lost in the shuffle in a passing game featuring two fantastic young outside receivers. The veteran slot man has finished with fewer than 40 yards in half of the Bengals’ 18 games. But the presence of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins also creates opportunities for Boyd, who occasionally finds himself wide open. Boyd has scored a touchdown in four consecutive games. He had a 10-yard TD catch in the Bengals’ wild-card win over the Raiders last week on a controversial play where an official inadvertently blew his whistle mid-play. The Bengals and Titans didn’t meet during the 2021 regular season, but Boyd had 6-67-1 in a 31-20 win over the Titans last season. There’s a wide range of possible outcomes for Boyd this week due to all the pass-catching talent around him, so he’s a more viable play in GPPs than in cash games.

A.J. Brown ($6,200): The rock band The Pixies famously have a loud-quiet-loud style of music, frequently shifting from gentle, melodic pieces of work to thunderous aural assaults. A.J. Brown is fantasy football’s version of the Pixies, alternating between unassuming WR3-type performances and bombastic, jaw-dropping eruptions. There was a lot of quiet early in the season, with Brown failing to reach 50 yards in any of his first four games, due in part to a hamstring issue. During a three-week stretch in Weeks 6-8, he had a loud 25-379-2, trailing only Cooper Kupp in fantasy scoring among WRs over that stretch. Brown then turned in three more quiet, sub-50-yard games before sustaining a chest injury that sidelined him for three games. Upon his return, he dropped 11-145-1 on the 49ers in Week 16, then followed it up with a 2-41-0 game against the Dolphins and a 4-68-1 game against the Texans. The Titans’ commitment to a run-heavy offense is one of the reasons for AJB’s statistical inconsistency, and now the Titans are getting workhorse RB Derrick Henry back from a foot injury. Against the Bengals on Saturday, Brown figures to run a lot of his routes against Bengals CB Eli Apple – a (red) delicious individual matchup to be sure. But Will Brown get enough targets to give us one of his loud games? At $6,200, he’s a very attractive GPP option. It’s not a prohibitive price in cash games, either, though there are least a half-dozen receivers on this weekend’s slate with sturdier floors.

Julio Jones ($4,700): A few years ago, it would have seemed inconceivable that Julio could ever have this sort of price attached to his name. But 2021 has been a bleak year for the longtime superstar, who’s clearly in the twilight of his career. Julio has been held under 60 yards in nine of his 10 games with the Titans, and he scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 18. He’s going to get a lot of face time with Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie, one of the top cover men in the league. There are better cheap WR options than Julio.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine ($3,800): You’d think that Westbrook-Ikhine would have lost all fantasy relevance with A.J. Brown and Julio Jones both healthy. But with AJB and Julio both active in Weeks 16 and 18, Westbrook-Ikhine had a 2-38-0 game against the 49ers and a 4-78-1 game against the Texans, playing a combined 89 snaps in those two games. He’s no more than a cheap possible GPP dart throw, but a sneaky-good game from Westbrook-Ikhine isn’t inconceivable.

Tight Ends

C.J. Uzomah ($3,400): There are some top tight ends in play this weekend: Travis Kelce, George Kittle Rob Gronkowski, Dawson Knox. But if you’re going to pay down at the TE position, Uzomah merits consideration at a modest $3,400. He had 6-64-1 against the Raiders in the wild-card round, and he’s scored six touchdowns this season if we include last week’s TD. The Raiders have been abused by tight ends all season, whereas Cincinnati’s opponent this weekend, Tennessee, gave up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to tight ends in 2021. Still, Uzomah has caught at least four balls in each of his last three games, and defenses sometimes forget about him while focusing their attention on RB Joe Mixon and WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.

Anthony Firkser ($3,100) and Geoff Swaim ($2,800): The Bengals have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season, but neither of the Titans’ tight ends is a comfortable bet in DFS. Firkser has scored a touchdown in each of Tennessee’s last two games, but he routinely plays fewer than half of the Titans’ offensive snaps and averaged 2.9 targets, 2.3 catches, and 19.4 yards per game this season. Swaim usually plays about three-quarters of the Titans’ offensive snaps but is more of a blocker than a pass catcher, averaging 2.5 targets, 1.9 catches, and 13.1 yards. I don’t think this is a good week to scrimp on the TE position.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers

Date/Time: Saturday January 22, 8:15pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Packers -6
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 47 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Packers 26.5, 49ers 20.5

Quarterbacks

Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,200): Yards per attempt isn’t a perfect stat, as illustrated by the fact that Garoppolo’s career YPA (8.4) is almost a full yard better than Tom Brady‘s (7.5). But that career number for Jimmy G and his 8.6 YPA for the 2021 regular season suggests that he’s better than he gets credit for. What keeps Garoppolo from being more highly regarded is his penchant for untimely interceptions. He threw 12 interceptions in 15 starts this season, and his fourth-quarter interception last week with the 49ers leading the Cowboys 23-10 gave Dallas life in a game that came down to the final seconds. In his last three games, Garoppolo has thrown five interceptions and only two TD passes. It seems unlikely that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will put Saturday night’s game in Garoppolo’s hands. More likely, Jimmy G’s responsibilities will be handing the ball off to Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel, and converting the occasional third down. Temperatures will be in the single digits Saturday night in Green Bay, so passing conditions won’t be ideal (although Garoppolo grew up in suburban Chicago and is familiar with cold weather), Garoppoplo is dealing with a slight shoulder sprain, and the Packers are expected to have CB Jaire Alexander and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith back from injuries that have kept them out for most of the season. When the 49ers and Packers met in Week 3, Garoppolo completed 25 of 40 passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. In addition to the INT, he was also strip-sacked with just over 5 minutes left in the game, leading to a Green Bay field goal that proved critical in a 30-28 Packers win. Garoppolo is the cheapest starting quarterback on this weekend’s slate, but I don’t think there’s enough upside here to justify using him.

Aaron Rodgers ($7,100): Over his last seven games, Rodgers has thrown 20 TD passes and zero interceptions. Not bad, eh? The future Hall of Famer has topped the 300-yard mark only four times this season, and he doesn’t run as much as he used to, but Rodgers has thrown multiple TD passes in 14 of 16 starts this season. The 49ers have a dangerous pass rush, but they have some leaks in their defensive backfield. Outstanding edge rusher Nick Bosa sustained a concussion last week against Dallas, and the 49ers badly need him this week to put heat on Rodgers and help protect a mediocre group of cornerbacks, because if Rodgers gets time in the pocket, he’ll pick apart a defense. When Rodgers faced the 49ers in Week 3, he completed 23 of 33 passes for 261 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, driving the Packers 42 yards in the final 35 seconds to set up Mason Crosby‘s last-second field goal in a 30-28 Packers road win. Rodgers is the third most expensive quarterback on the board this week, and I’d rather spend $400 more to get the rushing potential of Josh Allen. Rodgers is certainly capable of a big game, but frigid temperatures in Green Bay could limit his yardage ceiling.

Running Backs

Elijah Mitchell ($5,800): The 49ers rely heavily on their running game, and Mitchell has carried the ball 21 or more times in six consecutive games, averaging 24.2 carries, 98.3 rushing yards, and 0.7 TDs a game over that stretch. Mitchell has topped the 100-yard mark in five of 12 games this season. With single-digit temperatures expected in Green Bay on Saturday night, the 49ers might lean even more heavily on their running game than usual. The Packers’ run defense ranks 28th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric and is giving up 4.7 yards per carry. Even though Mitchell doesn’t contribute much as a pass-catcher, he’s one of my two favorite RB values on the board this week.

Aaron Jones ($6,800) and A.J. Dillon ($5,100): In the Packers’ last 10 games, Dillon has out-carried Jones 135-82 and out-touched him 159-108. Dillon has scored six touchdowns over that span, Jones four. That’s not to say Dillon has taken over the Green Bay backfield. Jones is a dangerous dual run-catch threat who’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per catch. But the 247-pound Dillion has become Green Bay’s designated sledgehammer, and the Packers typically increase his usage late in games. The frigid temperatures expected in Green Bay on Saturday night could fairly be referred to as “Dillon weather,” though Jones is no stranger to cold-weather games after five seasons with the Packers. The 49ers have one of the better run defense in the league, ranking second in DVOA against the run. The health of MLB Fred Warner, who strained his ankle last week against the Cowboys, is going to be a key storyline in the run-up to this game. With a $1,700 spread in pricing between the two Green Bay RBs, and the less expensive one the better bet for greater usage, Jones is a stay-away for me this week, and Dillon is a very appealing option, especially in cash games.

Wide Receivers

Deebo Samuel ($7,600): In the 49ers’ 23-17 wild-card win over the Cowboys last week, Deebo had 3-38-0 receiving and 10-72-1 rushing, scoring on a 26-yard run immediately following a Dak Prescott interception. Deebo has had eight TD runs in his last nine games, and he’s had more rushing yards than receiving yards in four of those nine games. Samuels has seen more than six targets in only one game during that stretch, but he’s averaged 7.0 carries in those games, culminating in a season-high 10 carries vs. Dallas last week. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Deebo get more carries than targets Saturday night in Green Bay with the forecast calling for brisk winter conditions. As good as he’s been as a runner, that’s not a bad thing. Deebo isn’t my favorite WR value on the board this week, but he’s still an attractive investment considering how earnestly the 49ers try to get the ball in his hands every week.

Brandon Aiyuk ($5,200): Over his last 11 games, Aiyuk has 48-751-4, a pace that would put him on track for 1,161 yards over a full season. That normally would make Aiyuk seem like a bargain at only $5,200, but icy conditions at Lambeau Field on Saturday night are going to make passing a challenge, and Aiyuk will be running nearly all of his routes against either Jaire Alexander or Rasual Douglas, both excellent cornerbacks. Aiyuk isn’t a bad play in GPPs considering that he’s getting a fairly steady diet of targets (6.1 per game since the start of November), but he’s not a good cash-game play.

Jauan Jennings ($3,400): Jennings has been playing about half of the 49ers’ offensive snaps since Week 10. Over his last six games, he’s averaged 5.0 targets, 3.2 catches, 40.2 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns. If you have to cut corners with one of your lineup spots, playing Jennings isn’t a bad way to do it. He’ll have the best individual matchup of the San Francisco receivers, running the majority of his snaps against Packers slot corner Chandon Sullivan, graded 100th out of the 121 cornerbacks graded by PFF.

Davante Adams ($8,500): Adams might actually qualify as a contrarian option this week since he’s only $100 cheaper than Cooper Kupp, who’s destined to be a chalk play at $8,600. Adams has been on a rolling, scoring eight touchdowns over his last seven games and clearing the 100-yard mark in five of those contests. In the Packers’ Week 3 win over the 49ers, Adams exploded for 12-132-1 on a season-high 18 targets. Adams was born in Redwood City, less than 30 miles south of San Francisco. In five career games against the 49ers, he’s averaged 9.6 catches, 123.6 yards, and 1.0 touchdowns. The Niners don’t have a cornerback who can hang with Adams one on one. I agree with the sentiment that Kupp is a better value than Adams, but Adams nevertheless gives you a great chance to land a heavy punch in both cash games and GPPs.

Allen Lazard ($4,400): Lazard has scored five touchdowns over the Packers’ last five games, averaging 4.2 catches and 58.0 yards over that span. As a wide receiver who plays a lot of snaps and is tied to an elite quarterback, Lazard isn’t a bad spend-down option. Trouble is, I can’t make a strong case for spending $4,400 on Lazard when Gabriel Davis is only $4,600, or when I could spend $200 less to get Byron Pringle.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($4,300): At a price this low, MVS is an intriguing swing-for-the-fences option in GPPs. He’s averaged 17.5 yards per catch over his four-year career, and his average depth of target this season is 17.9 yards. Valdes-Scantling is capable of turning in a monster game against the 49ers this weekend, but he could also pull a vanishing act. MVS has produced 20 or fewer yards in six of his 11 games this season. When the Packers faced the 49ers in Week 3, Valdes-Scantling had 3-59-1 on four targets.

Randall Cobb ($3,100): Cobb is expected to return this week after undergoing surgery to repair a core injury. He hasn’t played since Week 12. Cobb had 28-375-5 in 12 games this season, with a pair of two-TD games. He’s a reasonable option for cost-conscious DFS players.

Tight Ends

George Kittle ($5,300): Kittle’s production has fizzled out lately. Over his last four games, he’s had 9-78-0 on 15 targets, as the 49ers have run the ball on 51% of their offensive plays over that stretch. Such light recent usage suggests that Kittle isn’t the bargain he appears to be at $5,300. On the other hand, we know Kittle can be an absolute monster at times, and he had 7-92-0 against the Packers back in Week 3. Although conditions won’t be suitable for a pass-happy game script Saturday night in frigid Green Bay, I like the value proposition on the Wisconsin-born Kittle at this price.

Josiah Deguara ($3,000): Deguara may be the Packers’ top pass-catching tight end, but he hasn’t played more than 57% of the offensive snaps in any game this season, and he hasn’t had more than three receptions in a game. I’m not interested in using him against a 49ers defense that gave up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends in the regular season.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Date/Time: Sunday January 23, 3:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Buccaneers -3
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 48.5 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Buccaneers 25.75, Rams 22.75

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford ($6,200): Stafford has thrown multiple TD passes in seven of his last eight games and in 14 of 18 games on the year. He averaged 287.4 passing yards a game during the regular season. Stafford threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ wild-card win over the Cardinals, but he only needed to attempt 17 passes in a 34-11 cakewalk for the Rams. Stafford faces the Buccaneers this week, and when he squared off against them in Week 3, he completed 27 of 38 passes for 343 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Buccaneers’ pass defense ranks eighth in opponent passer rating and 10th in DVOA, but it could be argued that the Buccaneers have only faced three good quarterbacks this season: Dak Prescott in Week 1, Stafford in Week 3, and Josh Allen in Week 14. In those three games, the Bucs gave up 1,054 passing yards and nine TD passes. The Buccaneers have the most extreme pass-funnel defense in the league, with opponents throwing against them 67% of the time this season. Stafford isn’t my favorite QB value this week, but I do think he’s a solid buy even though he doesn’t run at all.

Tom Brady ($6,800): Brady led the NFL in pass attempts (719), completions (485), passing yardage (5,316), and TD passes (43) during the regular season. Not too shabby for a 44-year-old. Brady has been managing to put up good numbers even without WRs Chris Godwin (knee) and Antonio Brown (voluntary departure). He threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s regular-season finale against Carolina (the Buccaneers’ first full game without either Godwin or Brown), then completed 29 of 37 passes for 271 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions last week in the Bucs’ 31-15 wild-card win over the Eagles. This week, Brady and the Bucs host the Rams. When Brady faced the Rams in a Week 3 road game, he threw for a season-high 432 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in a 34-24 loss. He attempted a season-high 55 passes in that game. The Buccaneers were without Brown, who was on the COVID-19 list. The Rams have a tough pass defense that ranks fifth in opponent passer rating and sixth in DVOA. They’ve given up only 17 TD passes all season and have intercepted 19 passes. I don’t think Brady is an especially good value this week. Being without Godwin and Brown hasn’t hurt him yet, but the Rams’ defense poses a difficult challenge. Betting against Brady is usually foolish. But we’re not betting against him this week; we’re merely betting on others.

Running Backs

Cam Akers ($5,500) and Sony Michel ($5,300): Akers is a medical marvel. A torn Achilles has traditionally been a career killer for NFL running backs. Akers returned from that injury in six months and looked as good as ever in the Rams’ wild-card win over the Cardinals last week, with 17-55-0 rushing and 1-40-0 receiving. Akers has reclaimed the starting role and out-snapped Sony Michel 32-24 against Arizona. Michel has apparently fallen back into a reserve role, but he’s still likely to see double-digit carries as more of a 1b than a true backup. The Rams are facing a Buccaneers run defense that was nearly impregnable early in the season but has shown signs of slippage. The Buccaneers gave up an average of 45.8 rushing yards over their first five games and 78.4 rushing yards over their first 10 games, but they’ve given up 110.5 rushing yards per game over their last eight games. The Tampa Bay run defense is still no pushover, however, and as underdogs, the Rams probably won’t get as run-friendly a game script as they got against the Cardinals last week. I’m not especially eager to invest in either Akers or Michael this week.

Leonard Fournette ($5,700), Giovani Bernard ($5,000), and Ke’Shawn Vaughn ($4,700): Fournette hasn’t played since Week 15 due to a hamstring injury, but he participated in the Buccaneers’ walk-through practice on Wednesday. He’s carried a big load as both a runner and pass-catcher this season, but it’s hard to tell how much the Buccaneers would put on his plate this Sunday if he were able to go. The L.A. run defense ranks fifth in DVOA. The Rams gave up the ninth fewest rushing yards and the 16th fewest receiving yards to opposing RBs this season. Even if we hear optimistic reports about Fournette’s usage this weekend, he won’t be one of the better RB values on the docket. Jones has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and wasn’t practicing as of Wednesday. Even if he’s able to go this weekend, he’s not worth your consideration in DFS. Bernard returned to action last weekend after spending four weeks on IR with knee and hip injuries. He had 13-44-1 rushing and 5-39-0 receiving in the win over the Eagles, playing about half of the Buccaneers’ offensive snaps. At $5,000, Bernard would be a must-have if Fournette weren’t able to go, and there’s a case to be made for Gio even if Fournette plays. It’s possible the Buccaneers curtail Fournette’s usage and let Bernard play on obvious passing downs. Vaughn, who had 17-53-1 rushing and 2-9-0 receiving last week, would probably only be a viable DFS option if Fournette is unable to play.*

Editor’s Note: Leonard Fournette was activated from IR on Saturday and will play

Wide Receivers

Cooper Kupp ($8,600): Kupp’s DraftKings price has dropped, making him a must-have for this weekend’s slate. Not only did Kupp lead the league in receptions (145), receiving yardage (1,947), and TD catches (16) this season, but he’s been a Bucs-slayer. When the Rams hosted the Buccaneers in Week 3, Kupp had 9-96-2 on 12 targets. He’s faced the Buccaneers two other times in his career, dropping 9-121-1 on them in 2019 and rolling up 11-145-0 against them in 2020. Sometimes DFS is easy.

Odell Beckham ($5,300): OBJ has scored six touchdowns in his nine games with the Rams, including a pretty 4-yarder Monday night in the Rams’ 34-11 wild-card win over the Cardinals. But Beckham has averaged only 39.9 yards per game and 6.9 yards per target with his new team. The price isn’t bad, but there just isn’t much yardage upside with Beckham these days.

Van Jefferson ($4,200): Over the first 14 weeks of the regular season, Jefferson had 41-679-6 receiving on 73 targets and ranked WR29 in PPR fantasy scoring. In the five games since, Jefferson has had 10-164-0 on 17 targets. From Week 7 to Week 16, Jefferson played at least 78% of the Rams’ offensive snaps in every game. He’s played less than 70% of the offensive snaps in the Rams’ last three games. The reduced price makes him tempting, but we just haven’t seen enough signs of life lately to invest with any confidence.

Mike Evans ($6,800): With Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown out of the picture, it stands to reason that Evans will see a lot of action this week against the Rams. The Buccaneers were without Godwin and Brown in their last two games, and Evans had a combined 15-206-3 in those two contests. But with Godwin and Brown no longer around, the Rams might elect to shadow Evans with ace CB Jalen Ramsey. Evans had 8-106-0 against the Rams back in Week 3, and he had 5-49-1 against them last season, but the prospect of shadow coverage from Ramsey has me concerned about investing in Evans at full price. With Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, and A.J. Brown all less expensive than Evans, I’d rather go in a different direction.

Breshad Perriman ($4,000): Seeing an expanded role in the absence of WRs Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, Perriman has played a little over half of the Buccaneers’ offensive snaps the last two weeks and has put up 6-49-0 on nine targets. Perriman has been an all-or-nothing home run hitter throughout his career, so consider him only for GPPs, not for cash games.

Tyler Johnson ($3,700): Johnson hasn’t scored a touchdown all season and hasn’t topped 50 yards in a game since Week 8. However, he played 87% of the Buccaneers’ offensive snaps in their regular-season finale against Carolina and 77% of the offensive snaps in the wild-card win over Philadelphia last week. Johnson has seen 16 targets in his last three games, and he could get plenty of action on Sunday, particularly if the Rams choose to deploy shutdown CB Jalen Ramsey against Mike Evans. I like Johnson as a cost-cutting play and will sneak him into at least one of my lineups this weekend.

Tight Ends

Tyler Higbee ($4,000): Higbee has been consistently involved in the Rams’ passing game all season. He’s averaging 5.6 targets and 4.0 receptions a game if you include his 3-46-0 playoff performance against the Cardinals last week. The targets and catches haven’t been particularly impactful, though. Higbee is averaging just 37.9 yards per game, 9.5 yards per catch, and 6.8 yards per target. Still, he’s been trending up, with more than 40 receiving yards in each of his last five games. He’ll be facing a Buccaneers defense that’s been middle of the pack in terms of production allowed to tight ends, although opponents have 92 TE targets against the Bucs, tied for the six most in the league. He’s a solid value at $4,000.

Rob Gronkowski ($5,800) and Cameron Brate ($2,700): The loss of WRs Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown has kept Gronk busy in recent weeks. He’s had 19-283-1 on 26 targets over his last three games. When the Buccaneers played the Rams in Week 3, Gronkowski had a modest 4-55-0 on eight targets, but Godwin was around for that game. (Brown was on the COVID-19 list.) The Rams have given up only four TD catches to tight ends this season, but I wouldn’t bet against Gronk to find the end zone on Sunday. I also like his chances of seeing eight or more targets. I’ll have him in at least one of my lineups this weekend. Brate has had at least two catches in six straight games, and he’s scored a touchdown in two of his last four. If you splurge at other positions and want to get by on the cheap at TE, he’s a tolerable option.

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Date/Time: Sunday January 23, 6:30pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Chiefs -1.5
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 54.5 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Chiefs 28, Bills 26.5

Quarterbacks

Josh Allen ($7,600): Allen is the priciest quarterback on the board this week, and it’s easy to understand why. Ever since the Bills’ Monday-night loss to the Patriots in a wind-swept Week 13 game, Allen has been on fire. Over his last six games, Allen has thrown for 15 touchdowns and run for three more, averaging 249.8 passing yards and 67.8 rushing yards. On Sunday night, he’ll be facing a Chiefs’ defense that allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks during the regular season. Kansas City’s defense tightened up after being sieve-like early in the season, but Bills-Chiefs nonetheless has immense shootout potential. The total for this one has been set at 54 points – far and away the highest total of the four games in the divisional round. When the Bills and Chiefs met in Kansas City back in Week 5, Allen completed 15 of 26 passes for 315 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, adding 11 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown in a 38-20 Bills victory. I have no problem paying the freight for Allen this week. He’s the best value on the board.

Patrick Mahomes ($7,300): Mahomes came out of a midseason tailspin and has been ablaze ever since. He’s thrown multiple TD passes in six consecutive games, averaging 309.8 passing yards and 2.8 TD passes over that stretch. Mahomes has also averaged 26.7 rushing yards over his last six games, with 20 or more rushing yards in five of those contests. But Mahomes has a tough matchup against a Bills defense that ranked first in opponent passer rating during the regular season, allowing a 56.0% completion percentage and a meager 5.7 yards per pass attempt. Buffalo gave up just 12 TD passes during the regular season. The Bills intercepted the Patriots’ Mac Jones twice last weekend and sacked him three times in a 47-17 blowout. Even though the Chiefs have an implied point total of 28.25 points, playing Mahomes in DFS contests this week feels like sailing into a headwind. I’d rather spend $300 more for Allen and get the easier matchup and the better potential for rushing points.

Running Backs

Devin Singletary ($5,900): The DraftKings pricing on Singletary is still behind the times, which is why he’s one of my favorite buys of the divisional round. The Bills turned Singletary into a workhorse in Week 14, and he’s had weekly snap shares ranging from 68% to 93% ever since. Over his last six games, Singletary has racked up 96-456-7 rushing and 17-123-1 receiving. He’s scored eight touchdowns over his last five games and has scored two TDs in each of his last three games. Singletary is about to face a Kansas City run defense that ranks 20th in DVOA and gave up 4.8 yards per carry during the regular season, more than any other team except Pittsburgh.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($5,200), Jerick McKinnon ($4,800), and Darrel Williams ($4,200): Edwards-Helaire hasn’t played since Week 16 due to a shoulder injury but was able to practice on Wednesday. If he plays, he’ll turn the Chiefs’ backfield into an inscrutable mess. Last week, McKinnon unexpectedly out-snapped Williams by a whopping 51-8 margin and had 12-61-0 rushing and 6-81-1 receiving in the Chiefs’ easy win over the Steelers, grabbing our attention with impressive burst and wiggle. Williams had been an immensely valuable fantasy asset when he made five starts in place of the injured Edwards-Helaire from Week 6 to Week 10, but he had just one carry for four yards against Pittsburgh. There’s no way you can touch him this week even at a rock-bottom price. Nor do we have much reason to be enthusiastic about CEH, who averaged 11.7 PPR points in his 10 games this season but now faces a serious threat to his snaps from McKinnon. It’s McKinnon who’s the interesting play here. He’s an automatic free square if CEH ends up inactive, but McKinnon still has value even if Edwards-Helaire plays. As good as McKinnon looked last week, we probably shouldn’t assume that Edwards-Helaire would operate as Kansas City’s lead back this week. At minimum, McKinnon should see ample work on passing downs.

Wide Receivers

Stefon Diggs ($6,500): Diggs wasn’t really needed last week in the Bills’ 47-17 demolition of the Patriots. He had a respectable game anyway, finishing with 3-60-0 on only four targets. We’ve only gotten one major explosion from Diggs this season – an 8-162-1 performance against the Jets in Week 10 – but we haven’t gotten a complete dud of a game from him all season. There have been only three games in which Diggs had fewer than 50 receiving yards, and he had at least one touchdown in each of those three games. That stability makes Diggs a fine cash-game play. He’s not a bad GPP play either in a Bills-Chiefs matchup with a 54-point total.

Gabriel Davis ($4,600): Davis had 2-41-1 last week in the Bills’ 47-17 win over the Patriots, scoring his fifth touchdown in his last six games. He’s played 71% of more of Buffalo’s offensive snaps over the last five weeks, with 18-248-4 over that stretch. Davis’s snap count has remained stable even with Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders both active, and his big-play potential is appealing in a game with shootout potential. Davis is my favorite Bills pass-catcher to stack with Josh Allen this week.

Emmanuel Sanders ($4,100): Sanders went 2-36-1 against the Patriots last week, scoring his first touchdown since Week 5. The 36 yards for Sanders were the most he’s had since Week 9. He hasn’t been an appealing DFS play for months. No thanks.

Cole Beasley ($4,000): The Beaz got off to a nice start this season, but he’s done very little since Halloween. In his last 10 games, he’s had 40-299-0. The biggest snap share he’s had in any of his last four games is 51%. These are just empty PPR calories. Spend the extra $600 on Gabriel Davis and pay down elsewhere.

Isaiah McKenzie ($3,500): McKenzie grabbed us by the lapels with his 11-125-1 game against the Patriots in Week 16, but Cole Beasley was on the COVID-19 list for that game. Beasley returned the next week, and McKenzie has played no more than about one-third of Buffalo’s offensive snaps in any of the last three games. He’s not a value even at such a low price.

Tyreek Hill ($6,600): At this point, it’s pretty hard to tell what we’ll get from Hill in any given week. He’s mixed in more clunker games than we’re used to seeing from him. But in fairness, post-COVID fatigue and a heel injury curtailed his snap counts in the poor games he had in Weeks 16 and 18 (2-19-0 vs. Pittsburgh and 1-2-0 vs. Denver). Hill has given us some pyrotechnics – four games with 100 or more yards, four games with 11 or more receptions, a three-TD game, and a two-TD game – but he’s been held under 60 receiving yards nine times. Hill gets a tough matchup against a Buffalo defense that has allowed only 31 completions of 20 or more yards – by far the fewest in the league. When Hill faced the Bills in Week 5, he had 7-63-0 on 13 targets, with the Bills preventing him from making any splash plays. Hill won’t see any one Bills cornerback the entire game, but he figures to run a good number of his routes against Bills CB Taron Johnson in what should be a fun matchup. Hill is such a big-play machine that he’s always worth considering in a GPP. I don’t particularly like him in cash games, with the tough matchup creating an unstable floor.

Byron Pringle ($4,200): Pringle’s recent usage surge is worth our attention. Over the first 15 weeks of the regular season, he didn’t see more than six targets in any games. Pringle has drawn at seven or more targets in three of his last four games, accumulating 19-203-4 over that stretch. His snap shares over that span: 80%, 48%, 71%, and 57%. The two larger snap shares came in games where Tyreek Hill played limited snaps due to physical maladies. Still, I’m intrigued by Pringle as a pay-down option with a puncher’s chance at a big game.

Mecole Hardman ($3,900): Like Byron Pringle, Hardman has shown some interesting spark over his last four games, with 16-230-1 on 21 targets. But 8-103-0 of that came in a Week 18 win over the Broncos in which Tyreek Hill played only 14 snaps due to a heel injury. I’m a little more bullish on pringle than I am on Hardman this week, even for an extra $300.

Demarcus Robinson ($3,600): Robinson played 58.2% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps during the regular season and had 25-264-3. There’s just not much meat on the bone here.

Tight Ends

Dawson Knox ($4,900): It’s hard to tell whether this is as good as it gets for Knox, or if the 25-year-old can eventually lift his game to Travis Kelce‘s level. Tight ends generally aren’t as fun as running backs and wide receivers, but it will be entertaining to watch Knox and Kelce go back and forth on Sunday night. Knox is coming off a 5-89-2 game against the Patriots, adding two more touchdowns to the nine he scored in the regular season. The big difference between Kelce and Knox is that Kelce averaged 70.3 receiving yards a game during the regular season, and Knox averaged 39.1 yards a game. However, Knox had a season-high 117 yards and a touchdown when he faced the Chiefs in Week 5. The value here isn’t bad, but this is a week where I’d like to spend up a little more at tight end.

Travis Kelce ($6,500): The Bills have allowed 629 yards and three touchdowns to tight ends this season, but that shouldn’t scare you away from Kelce. He had 6-57-1 when he faced the Bills in Week 5. Kelce has scored five touchdowns in his last four games, with at least one TD in all four. I know I don’t have to talk you into spending up for Kelce. Some of you will plug him into the TE spot first and build the rest of your team from there. I don’t blame you.

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