MSG Conference Championship Round DFS Breakdown
Welcome to The Breakdown for the Conference Championship Round for the NFL playoffs, a deep game-by-game breakdown that covers game theory as well as player/game analysis for the full NFL weekend slate. If you have been with me from a past life, welcome back! I know there are many game-by-game articles out there, so I truly appreciate the loyalty.
For those that are new, here is a basic guide. The “CORE” plays are for a DFS player that is building a single entry or three-max GPP lineup. The “core” plays can be used in cash, but I always send out a morning “cash core” update (I put it at the bottom of this article) to narrow down the player pool even further. Most optimal cash lineups will be centered around opportunity opened up by injury, so no sense of spending hours tinkering. Reserve your cash game entries with the plan of modifying closer to lock.
I encourage you to read the whole article, as there is a lot of roster construction and other strategy tips you will miss. I also have on-going jokes and other fun things I slip in to see who is reading and who is not. OK, enough with my BS, let’s get into the playoff action.
All odds come from FanDuel Sportsbook.
“GPP only” plays that are not in BOLD are for MME only. BOLD CORE plays are the players I will have the most exposure to.
GB -3.5 / O/U 51
TB: 23.75 GB: 27.25
Pace and playcalling
Green Bay has averaged 35.7 points per game (last three, first), annihilating the Bears, Titans and Rams (three playoff teams) by a combined score of 107-48. Green Bay was good at home once again, going 8-1 overall (5-4 to the OVER, 6-3 ATS), holding their opponents to 19.3 PPG in Lambeau.
Green Bay played at the slowest neutral pace this season, which limited their opponents to the fewest snaps per game and the 12th-highest pass rate.
The Packers allowed their opponents to complete 59.22% of their pass attempts (third), thanks to a 9.5% sack rate (fourth) in Green Bay. Last week, they sacked Jared Goff on 12% of his dropbacks, despite the Rams offensive line coming in second in adjusted sack rate allowed (per Football Outsiders).
The Tampa offensive line was also good, third in adjusted sack rate allowed. They will need to stay good against Za'Darius Smith (led all players in QB hurries last week) and Rashan Gary, who have been on fire to end the season. Gary is tied with Aaron Donald in overall QB pressures since Week 14 and Smith is fourth (excluding WC game for Donald, since Green Bay was on a bye).
Tampa was 3-1 ATS as an underdog this season and come in as the hottest underdog I can remember, which speaks to how dominant Green Bay has been (outside of their game against the Bucs).
Tampa Bay has scored 30 or more points in five straight and has 35 PPG in their last three. The Bucs blew out the Packers in Week 6, but like the New Orleans/Tampa Bay game last week, I am not putting much weight in that game.
One thing that we can take from that game and the other two GB losses is a strong running game. The Packers also lost to Minnesota in a high-wind game on 163-3 from Dalvin Cook, lost to the Colts in the dome (183 total yards to Indy RBs) and allowed 30-156-2 on the ground to TB backs.
Tampa’s road games have been fantasy-friendly. The Bucs have had their last five road games go over 53 total points, thanks to them averaging a league-high 32.5 PPG away from Tampa.
Despite all those factors leading to this being a high-scoring affair, the public is pounding the UNDER. William Hill has received 71% of wagers on the UNDER 51, per CBS Sports.
The Packers will try to extend the positive trend of home teams playing in Conference Championship games. Those teams have gone 12-2 straight up and 10-4 against the spread (past seven seasons, per CBS Sports).
Tom Brady only dropped back 27 times in the Week 6 game against GB, tied for his season-low. He passed at the third-highest neutral rate this season and played at the sixth-fastest pace. That is the more likely run/pass mix, with Brady averaging 38.1 pass attempts per game (second) and had 40-plus attempts in four of his last six regular-season games, which led to 40 TD passes (second to Aaron Rodgers).
There are some red flags around Brady this week with the Green Bay pass rush playing well and allowing a low completion rate against. He has completed 40-of-77 passes in the playoffs (54%), after finishing at 65% in the regular season. He has 26 and 22 fantasy points in his two playoff starts, against the second- and third-ranked pass defenses, with last week being saved by a goal-line sneak TD.
The Packers have not been favorable to QBs this season, allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game. They are on a six-game streak of allowing 1 or fewer TD passes without any of those QBs going over 258 passing yards, with just one QB (Deshaun Watson) topping 300 yards. All that said, they have not faced a tough QB schedule. Green Bay only faced three top-10 QBs: Watson, Ryan Tannehill and Brady. Other notable QBs they have faced are Philip Rivers (288-3) and Drew Brees (288-3), showing they are not a shutdown pass D by any means (15th pass DVOA).
Like the past two weeks, pressure is the key. Brady has been pressured on 21 of 77 postseason dropbacks. On those, he is 6-for-17, 124 passing yards (3 sacks). He was 30th in pressure completion during the season. If Green Bay keeps getting after the QB like they have, he will have a long day. if they protect him, he should have no problems, per the usual (73% completion rate, 4 TDs when kept clean in the postseason).
On a two-game slate with Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, being fourth in raw projected points is not a condemnation of Brady, but rather an example of how awesome this slate of QBs have been (the others are the top three QBs in terms of fantasy points per game this season). With him being fourth in everyone’s projections/rankings, he should be (by far) the lowest-owned QB, despite his two top WRs being over 25% (Mike Evans) and 33% (Chris Godwin).
Cameron Brate is averaging 4-65-0 on 5.5 targets per game in the playoffs. Brate has played the second-most slot snaps (52.6%) for TB in the playoffs, which should continue or increase with Antonio Brown (13% slot rate) OUT. Like last week, Travis Kelce will be the priority, but Brate is second in my ranks when considering his price and low ownership. He can be used in the flex to squeeze in a high-priced stack and is a great play in showdown.
Rob Gronkowski hauled in 1-14-0 on 5 targets last week, missing on a couple deep shots from Brady. He will always be a threat to score, second behind Evans in goal-line targets. He gets a slight bump, like all these pass catchers do without Brown, but has trailed Brate 15-8 in receptions over their last five games.
Green Bay allowed Rams slot receivers to catch 8-of-9 targets last week for 81 yards and a TD, which is why I (like most) like Godwin (60% slot rate) in this matchup.
I expect Godwin to stay inside primarily, with TB running three-WR sets on 70% of plays over their last three, which means Tyler Johnson and Scott Miller will see snaps on the outside. I really hope it is Johnson, who I have written about before. Johnson has a legit WR1 profile at 6-2-206 pounds and a 98th percentile target share and college dominator rating (per Player Profiler). He opted to not run the 40-yard dash at the combine and saw his stock fall, but 40-yard dash speed is overrated, and I have seen nothing from Johnson that indicates he is not fast enough to produce in the NFL.
Last week, with Brown banged up (40% snap share), Johnson played 21% of offensive snaps, catching his lone target for 15 yards on 8 pass routes. Miller played 11% of offensive snaps and also caught one pass (7 routes). I liked Johnson to emerge in a showdown slate earlier this year and Jaydon Mickens (5 offensive snaps last week) was the guy that emerged (5-48-0 on 8 targets and 44 offensive snaps).
Brady has the two TEs, Godwin, Evans and Leonard Fournette he can lean on, so rolling out either Miller or Johnson is risky and best for those submitting 150 LUs and/or playing the showdown slate. Miller has seen more consistent playing time throughout the year, so this is a coin toss. Miller makes the most sense based on playtime prior to Brown’s arrival, but I prefer Johnson because of his high-end profile and slight edge in snaps last week. Again, these are showdown plays unless you are a sicko running out 150 lineups on a two-game slate. If you are such a degen, you should be leaving a lot of money on the table in hopes one of these types of players hit around a solid core.
Evans will see some Jaire Alexander (Evans, 27% of routes from the left side) but he has not shadowed since Week 7, so Evans may be able to avoid him if TB sticks Johnson and/or Miller on Alexander’s side. This would allow Godwin and Evans to work on LCB Kevin King and slot CB Chandon Sullivan (Evans, 38% slot rate). Alexander finished top-two among qualified corners with 4.4 yards allowed per target and a 65.2% coverage success rate per Football Outsiders.
It’s worth noting that our guy, and WR/CB guru, Jeff Ratcliffe thinks Green Bay goes back to asking Alexander to shadow, which makes sense given Evans’ struggles against Marcus Lattimore. This is sound logic, but the chance he doesn’t is worth it to me in DFS, given the upside. I am going to get him on one of my three-max teams. Evans has that GPP-winning, 40-plus-point upside, going over 100 yards in three of his last five games, with six games of at least 20 fantasy points this season, thanks to his heavy goal-line usage rate and TD rates.
As a unit, the Packers allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to WRs, but just like the Washington matchup, that is fueled by scheduling and low volume. King allows 1.9 fantasy points per target in coverage (59th) on 15 yards per reception (70th). Sullivan has allowed QBs to complete the last 16 of 18 attempts in his coverage, but those have not yielded much in terms of yards.
Looking at where teams have had success against the Packers (via Sharp Football), we can see it sets up well for Evans on the left side of the field against RCB, Kevin King (assuming Alexander doesn’t shadow)
Per FTNData, Packers LCB Alexander has seen the fourth-fewest targets in coverage this season and fourth-fewest fantasy points allowed in coverage.
Kevin King was held out of Friday’s practice, after being limited Wednesday and Thursday. He was limited last week and ended up playing, but the late week DNP is something to monitor more seriously. Josh Jackson would play in his place, who is not as big or athletic as King.
Despite Ronald Jones being back and healthy, Fournette should be set up for another good game after reaching 20-plus DraftKings points in consecutive playoff games, averaging 22.5 touches. He allows the Bucs to be more unpredictable and use more play-action, something they have done more and more as the season has progressed and Fournette has become the RB1. He has averaged 4.45 targets per game since Week 7 compared to 1.33 for Jones in his last six.
Fournette will be in the mix regardless of gamescript, while Jones needs another favorable script to get to his 10-15 carries. Fournette will be on two of three of my three-max teams. Jones will be less than half the ownership, making him a good leverage play in tournaments. Even in a loss, Cam Akers was able to shred this D for 90 yards on 5.0 YPC, so there is a path for Jones to shake up the slate at his low ownership.
Aaron Rodgers continued his MVP season after pounding the No. 1 defense for 296-2 and a rush TD. That was his third consecutive game over 25 fantasy points, which is what he averages on the season (25.3 FP on DK). Like Brady, pressure is the only thing that has slowed down Rodgers this season. He was behind only Deshaun Watson in clean pocket completion rate (79.1%), compared to 43.1% under duress.
The Green Bay offensive line is the underrated story, giving Rodgers a clean pocket on 75% of his drop backs in route to his league leading 48 TD passes. They held up well without LT David Bakhtiari against the Rams and will need to again against the Tampa pass rush (fifth in pressure, sixth in adjusted sack rate).
Rodgers was the best QB in the league this year according to a number of metrics, with blowouts preventing him from ranking higher in more counting stats (13th in attempts).
- QBR (1st)
- Adjusted YPA (1st)
- Fantasy points per dropback (1st)
- Total (adjusted) Passer rating (1st)
- 48 TD passes (1st)
- Catchable passes (1st)
Aaron Jones hit a 60-yarder last week, scoring later on the same drive. That one drive to start the second half accounted for 12.3 of Jones’ 18.3 fantasy points. Prior to that long run, the Rams had allowed two 20-yard runs all season, so I stand by my fade. Jones played 63% of snaps and totaled 15 touches for 113 total yards. This week the matchup is even tougher, with Tampa first in RB and adjusted line yards allowed. They have shown more vulnerability lately, including 133 total yards to New Orleans last week and 187 total yards to Atlanta backs in Week 17.
Green Bay can attack with Jones in the passing game, something I was surprised to see the Saints not do more last week (Alvin Kamara was only 3-20-0 on 6 targets). Tampa saw the second-most RB targets in the regular season and the most RB catches per game (6.3). With it being a two-game slate, he is projected to be over 50% owned on both sites which is an easy fade for me on my main team and two of my three three-max teams.
Jamaal Williams played 28 snaps (37%) last week and got 12 carries for 65 yards, and rookie RB and leg model A.J. Dillon played 18 snaps but got 6 carries, which is a heavy usage rate while on the field. They are not going to challenge Jones for the lead role, but they help us with our fade.
Davante Adams runs into the same matchup that blew up in our faces last week, a Carlton Davis shadow. Davis has had some great games in shadow coverage, but he also allowed the Tyreek Hill 204-yard, 3-TD game. He matched up with Adams in Week 6 on 65.8% of his snaps, allowing 3 catches for 33 yards on 5 targets. As predicted last week, the Adams/Jalen Ramsey matchup was overblown, as he only matched up with Adams on 52.9% of snaps, allowing 4 catches on 4 targets for 7 YPC and a TD by way of pre-snap motion that created enough space for Adams at the goal line to score. He has shown some signs of being human lately, posting 66, 44 and 42 yards in three of his last four. I think he gets his 7-8 catches, for 85-90 yards and (probably) a TD. Good but not spectacular, which will have him on one of three of my three-max teams, which will be underweight the field at his projected ownership (62%).
Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a guy I have my eye on for this short slate after he saw 8 targets last week. At $3.9K on DK and $5.5k on FD, he makes a perfect boom-or-bust WR3 or flex to squeeze in the big dogs of the slate. He is frustrating and will probably drop or not catch a pass that will tilt us (14% drop rate, first). But he is first in average target distance (17.2 yards per target) and yards per reception (20.1 yards per catch).
Despite all the drops, his deep targets have him averaging 2.12 fantasy points per target (12th). Tampa allowed a 50% completion rate on throws and 11 TDs on throws of 15-plus yards. Their most vulnerable section of the field was right up the middle, where MVS has four catches on seven targets this season for 141 yards and a TD. He has five games of at least 17 fantasy points and five games under 3 points, so buckle up, because it could be a bumpy ride.
Green Bay deployed a “slot WR by committee approach” last week, with Adams (37%), MVS (36%), Allen Lazard (35%, 53% on the season led the team) and even Equanimeous St. Brown getting some work in the slot. St. Brown played 36% of snaps last week, the most playing time he has seen in five weeks. He is a solid value play on the showdown slate to fit in Adams/Rodgers/Brady, or a flier to stack with Rodgers if you multi-enter.
Robert Tonyan has been ultra-efficient, only capped by a lack of volume. He is first in catch rate (88%) and first in TE TDs (12), while being 24th in targets per game. Tampa is a plus matchup for TEs, fifth-most receptions allowed on a 72% catch rate and 9 TDs. At $3.6k, and multi-TD upside, he will end up on one of three three-max teams with Travis Kelce in the flex.
KC -3 / O/U 54
BUF: 25.25 KC: 28.25
Pace and playcalling
It’s an awesome rematch to end the day, featuring two of the most efficient/fun offenses in the league and two of the top young QBs after we get to watch two Hall of Famers battle.
The Bills have used their 30.3 PPG average to win games this regular season, but leaned on their defense to win last week, allowing 3 points and matching the offense with a TD in a 17-3 win. The defense has been improved, but when going up against the Kansas City machine, it is probably best to throw that data in the trash. That said, the machine could use a tune-up lately, scoring 22 and 17 points in their last two non-Week 17 games.
Kansas City was only 14th in PPG at home (third when away) that led to them being 3-6 ATS the spread in Arrowhead (4-5 to the OVER).
These teams passed at the fourth- (Buffalo) and sixth-highest neutral rate, with the Bills being the most pass-happy team on first down (Kansas City, 10th).
Buffalo plays at the eighth-fastest first-half pace (Kansas City the fourth-fastest), with Kansas City passing at the league’s highest first-half rate.
It will be interesting to see if Buffalo sticks to its normal game plan with Kansas City being much more vulnerable to the rush (31st rush DVOA). The Bills have accumulated 80.78% of their yards via the pass (last three games) and 73% this season (fifth) and Kansas City has allowed the majority of its production to backs (142 total yards allowed per game, 28th).
Buffalo does not like to pass much normally and went even more pass heavy against the Ravens with Zack Moss out. Devin Singletary only saw 7 carries despite playing in a positive gamescript, with just one carry in the first half. The two combined for 16 touches and 55 yards in Week 6 against the Chiefs, which is about what we should expect from Singletary again this week. The best thing that can happen for him is Buffalo getting behind and him getting involved in the passing game.
Josh Allen has been nearly flawless this season, with one of the more talked-about blemishes being the game against Kansas City, where he was held to 122 yards on a 51% completion rate. Like Brady and Rodgers, Allen thrives when given time and can still make you scratch your head when under pressure. Bills Mafia will tell you the off game was due to his shoulder, not the KC pressure, but Allen was right with Rodgers and Watson in terms of clean pocket completion rate at nearly 80%, which plummeted to 46% when under pressure. Expect defensive pressure to be the game plan by the Chiefs — they will blitz often (ninth-highest blitz rate this season), and blitz with CBs and safeties to keep him uncomfortable, much like they did last week to Baker Mayfield (2-7 with an INT under pressure).
Stefon Diggs keeps driving up his player props, and he keeps covering them. Over his last six (Week 17 excluded) games, he is averaging a ridiculous 124 receiving yards per game. This week, the bookmakers set it at 7.5 and 94.5 on DK, with a solid TD prop (-105) after scoring six times in his last six games. Even when Kansas City held down Allen, Diggs managed to catch six balls and a score — he has caught at least six passes in all but one game this season (against the Rams in Week 3). He is my No. 1 WR on the slate.
Gabriel Davis returned to a limited practice session on Friday after missing Wednesday and Thursday. He looks to be on track to play but becomes a very risky play as the WR4 with a bum ankle. He played 59% and 54% of team snaps in John Brown’s first two games back, but dropped down to 36% last week, the lowest he has seen since Week 2.
Brown busted out last week, catching 8-of-11 targets for 62 yards in a revenge game, with he and Cole Beasley switching off with goose egg performances. Both players are too cheap on DK at $4.3k and $4.1k respectively. Beasley was a road warrior this season, turning into a legit WR1 when away from Buffalo. He averaged 79.4 yards on over 8 targets per game for 18.4 fantasy points per game compared to 49.8 yards on 5 targets per game at home. Kansas City didn’t allow production to any one particular side but did allow the “most” fantasy points to slot WRs in comparison to LWR and RWR.
Checking back on Sharp Football heat maps, Diggs and Beasley should be able to catch short passes with success on the left side of the field where KC allowed a 109 passer rating. Diggs saw 27% of his targets in the short/left section of the field, with him catching 75% of those targets.
I have Kelce as the spend-up priority, and I like Tonyan and Brate in the early game, which puts Dawson Knox in the “multi-entry/showdown only” category. He is the epitome of a TD-or-bust TE and hasn’t shown any real upside even in games he does score (two games over 10 fantasy points on DK, none over 13). He is under $3k again, which makes him OK as a true flex punt with Allen/Kelce if you multi-enter, but he won’t sniff any of my main lineups.
Patrick Mahomes has been talked about ad nauseam this week. He is going to play and was always going to play after being forced out last week. Mahomes picked apart the Bills secondary in Week 6, completing a season-high 80.8% of his passes on his way to 225 yards and two TDs. That game was just weird and ugly, so I think we can toss it out for both sides. I don’t think he is going to be running as much, at least by design, as he was also limping around last week due to turf toe. The bookmakers set his rush prop at 15.5 yards, like it is nearly every week, so they are clearly not concerned. For DFS, I have him behind Allen in my ranks due to his ability to rush for 50-plus and score multiple TDs, while also being less expensive, healthier and on a team that does not like to run the ball.
Le'Veon Bell isn't expected to play after being unable to practice throughout the week. He was a non-factor last week, with Darrel Williams dominating RB snaps, racking up 94 total yards on 17 touches. I don’t think Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s return sends him back to RB2 status, but rather a true backfield committee with Williams actually leading the way in playing time. DFS players don’t seem to agree, with CEH looking to be 3-4x the ownership despite being the more expensive player.
Bills allowed 4.53 YPC to RBs (21st) and finished 17th in rush DVOA. It would make sense for the Chiefs to lean more on the run here if they are concerned with Mahomes taking hits, especially with them dominating this Buffalo team in Week 6 by doing exactly that.
Tyreek Hill led all Chiefs receivers in slot snaps last week, catching all four of his targets from inside. He has dominated KC slot snaps over his past five games (63%), which sets him up for another big game against the interior of this Bills D. In Week 6, Hill only saw one target from the slot, which plays right into the strength of this defense. Expect Andy Reid to deploy him from inside a lot Sunday as they look to stay away from Tre'Davious White (second-lowest target rate against this season).
Sammy Watkins is expected to play after getting in a week of limited practice sessions. A 2019 postseason hero will face his old team with the thoughts of revenge and a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. His return makes Mecole Hardman even more risky and disqualifies Demarcus Robinson from anything but multi-entry showdown lineups, as even last week he lost target share to Byron Pringle. I would rather play the value WRs on the Bills than these guys but will take a flier or two on Hardman and Watkins on secondary lineups.
I’ve talked about Travis Kelce as the priority, so I’m not sure what else to say. Play him since he is very good at football (nine straight games with at least 8 catches). I may just go lock button and build around him, but at minimum he will be on 75% of my lineups (once again).
Like many, I am scaling back this week. Have fun, but don't go crazy.
Core (FD): Allen - R. Jones - Singletary - Adams- Diggs - Kelce - Knox
After building LUs on FD, I am using Jones and Knox as punts to jam in Adams-Diggs-Kelce in the same lineup, even though I am not thrilled with it. You can use Godwin instead of Adams, which can get you to Aaron Jones &/or Fournette and off Knox and RoJo.
Like on DK, my main LU is Rodgers + MVS, but that is more of a GPP LU than a CORE.
Core (DK): Allen - Fournette - Adams - Diggs - Beasley - Kelce
ALT DK BUILD - I am using this in single-entry
Rodgers - Fournette - Adams - MVS - Diggs - Kelce - Brate
Other players, I am using NOT in the CORE
Tyreek - He is not in the core, but when I checked my FD exposure he is at 45%, right behind Diggs for my most owned (Adams is 42%).
Tonyan - Also have Bob Tonyan on a big Rodgers stack w/ Kelce
Sammy Watkins - If he is active, I will have a good amount as many will be scared to play him after a long absence. Hardman makes an easy pivot on both sites if he is inactive or we get negative reports about playing time
Both KC Backs - I have 100 LUs on FD and about 25 on DK right now so have a lot of both of these guys. I submitted the same team but swapped these two out where salary allowed.
John Brown - Same as above, Beasley is in the CORE, but I inserted Brown in the same LU as Beasley on FD to hedge one of these guys going off and the other throwing up another zero.
Underweight - I am at 28% for Aaron Jones, which will be way under the field. I have about 10% Gronk and 15% Brate, which should be the opposite of the field.