The first weekend of the playoffs is in the books, and this weekend represents one of our final opportunities to partake in a little NFL DFS until next season. As always, Footballguys has you covered with all the info you need to know to build some competitive GPP lineups on DraftKings, including in the friendly confines of this column.
Let’s get started by taking a look at each game on the Divisional Round slate from both a chalk and a contrarian perspective.
Divisional Round Games
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
Chalk: This game features the second-highest projected total of the week, so we can expect interest to be pretty high for DFS purposes. For games with a projected total of greater than 50 points - such as this one - we know going in that the signal callers will be pretty popular, and that will be even more prevalent on this short slate. We can expect Russell Wilson to be the higher owned of the two choices, mainly because most DFSers will think twice before rostering an opponent of the Seahawks. Stacks of Wilson with either Doug Baldwin or Jimmy Graham will be the choice of many - and we certainly won’t talk you out of it - but we would encourage you to look Baldwin’s way due to target volume and the fact that the Falcons secondary has shown plenty of leaks this season.
Enthusiasm will be slightly tempered on Matt Ryan due to the opponent, but a potential MVP playing at home should still check in with a healthy ownership percentage. There’s no reason to look past him, as the Seahawks can be had by a quality signal caller, and Ryan also happened to toss three scores and 335 yards against this defense back in Week 6. Julio Jones had a fine game that week as well - 7/139/1 - and there’s little reason to worry about him delivering a nice return on his home turf. Finally, both Devonta Freeman and Thomas Rawls are intriguing plays on the fast track, and they can fit in nicely on your RB2 spot at this week’s prices.
Contrarian: The main approach to this tilt from a contrarian perspective is to look for a less popular stacking option, and we can find at least one on both sides. For the Seahawks, Paul Richardson saw four targets last week - and found the end zone with one of them - and that could carryover into this week. As for the Falcons, we’ll lean towards the veteran Mohamed Sanu over Taylor Gabriel or Austin Hooper, as he also found some success against the Seahawks in Week 6. The other potential under the radar options from this tilt are Jermaine Kearse and Tevin Coleman, but we have more comfort leaning towards the latter as an option due to his overall body of work this season.
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
Chalk: The chalk mainly resides on one side of the ledger for this matchup. A well-rested Patriots club is widely expected to have its way with an overmatched Texans squad, and we would concur. That will lead to an overwhelming ownership percentage for the Patriots defense, but this is one of those cases in which we’ll throw those concerns out the window and take the points. Other popular targets will be the Tom Brady to Julian Edelman stack, and that also looks like a wise investment for your salary cap dollars.
The only word of caution on that front is that the Patriots could call off the dogs at halftime, but we’ve also seen plenty of scenarios in which they’ve not been shy about running up the score. We’ll look to that as a middling concern, as the pair can still do plenty of damage in a half. For the Texans, the only player we can make a case for being somewhat in the realm of a chalk play is DeAndre Hopkins. The theory behind that line of thinking is that the Texans will be playing catch-up all day, and Hopkins will receive a bunch of targets as a result. That’s certainly possible, but he’s far from a must play in a game in which the Texans could struggle mightily to achieve anything resembling offensive liftoff.
Contrarian: We’ll include LeGarrette Blount in this section, and that’s mainly because he tends to get overlooked despite consistently finding the end zone. That would be a mistake, and we’ll have more to say on Blount down below. There’s plenty of other options on the Patriots from a contrarian perspective as well, but the problem is that the passing attack and overall offense can be pretty unpredictable. We could easily make a case for any of James White, Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola or Michael Floyd, but we’ll caution that we’re entering boom-bust territory for all of these selections. For the Texans, there’s too much risk at play to really consider anyone outside of Hopkins, but Lamar Miller would be the safest choice for those that are so inclined.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Chalk: Even though the Chiefs can be stout defensively, we’ll expect interest to be high in the Steelers big three of Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. We’re not going to discourage you from playing any of them, but rostering all three will cost you a pretty penny - and this game checks in with the lowest projected total of the week. Tempering expectations would be wise, and Bell may be the safest choice of the three. For the Chiefs, Tyreek Hill is a threat to score nearly every time he touches the ball, while Travis Kelce closed out the season on a major upswing. Both look to be solid plays this week, but we’ll caution that the Steelers are stronger defensively than they are generally given credit for.
Contrarian: It’s a little slim pickings on the contrarian front for the Steelers. Eli Rogers and Jesse James are the top options, but we would lean towards Rogers out of the two. Neither player saw many targets headed in their direction last week against the Dolphins, but that could change for Rogers this week on the assumption that the Chiefs provide Brown with extra special attention. Spencer Ware could actually fly slightly under the radar due to the presence of several stud running backs on this slate, but he makes for a fine target for the RB2 spot.
It’s not too hard to envision Andy Reid coming in with a heavy ground-and-pound gameplan in a bid to keep the high-powered Steelers offense off the field, and that’s a boon for Ware’s potential output. One more name worth mentioning is Jeremy Maclin, who has struggled through an injury-riddled and ineffective 2016. Assuming the Steelers go all-out to contain Hill and Kelce, that could open up a few more looks for Maclin, and he’s way overdue on demonstrating that he still has home run capabilities.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
Chalk: This is the chalkiest game on the slate, as we have the highest projected total and a plethora of skill position players to target. Stacks spearheaded by either Aaron Rodgers or Dak Prescott make a ton of sense, and we can expect Rodgers to be pretty popular as he has been playing out of his mind. Jordy Nelson is looking like an extreme longshot to suit up at this point, and he would be incredibly limited if he was able to give it a go. Scratch him off the list and look towards Davante Adams instead, as he’s in line to see a bunch of targets. Randall Cobb makes a ton of sense as well, but you’ll have plenty of company coming of of his three-score outing.
For the Cowboys, Dez Bryant remains the top stacking option with Prescott, and it’s not too hard seeing him have success against the Packers secondary. Flashing back to last week, Giants receivers had no trouble getting open, but hauling in the ball was another matter entirely. Ezekiel Elliott will have plenty of support this week, and that looks like a potentially prescient choice from a game script perspective. In theory, the Cowboys will want to avoid a shootout with a quarterback such as Rodgers, and that points to Elliott receiving all the touches he can handle.
Contrarian: Ty Montgomery, Geronimo Allison and Jared Cook all deserve consideration on the Packers side of the ball. Cook is likely the safest choice as the Cowboys have struggled against tight ends, but the other two have nice upside if things break in their direction. However, they may be a little too boom-bust with so many other viable options on this slate. It’s safe to say that Bryant will receive the majority of attention from the Packers secondary, and that should open up some more looks for Terrance Williams and Jason Witten, with the latter being the safer choice and the former possibly having more upside.
We’re not done yet. Let’s take a look at some individual picks by position that could make some noise in this weekend’s games, starting with the signal callers.
Matt Ryan, $7,000. Ryan will put points on the board in the Georgia Dome. He’s been dialed in all season, and he’s quite possibly the regular season MVP. As mentioned above, others may have some pause due to concerns that the powerhouse Seahawks of old will show up, but we’ve seen several teams put points on the board against them this year - including the Falcons in Week 6. The Falcons ended up losing that tilt due to a debatable pass interference call, and there’s a good chance the loss is still sticking in their craw. We’ll look for a small measure of revenge to be had in a game with bigger stakes, and for Ryan to lead the way with a solid performance.
Dak Prescott, $6,000. The Packers and Cowboys game could easily turn into a shootout, and we’ll look towards the lower-priced signal caller as a means of getting a piece of it. Throughout the regular season, the Packers had their fair share of struggles against opposing quarterbacks. All told, 11 of the 16 starting quarterbacks the Packers faced were able to throw for multiple scores - including Prescott back in Week 6. Prescott can also hit the ground running as needed, and that adds another element of upside to his game at a low price. That price also happens to open up a ton of flexibility for your lineups, and Prescott is a solid upside pick for the Divisional Round.
Ezekiel Elliott, $8,500. The other member of the Cowboys rookie dynamic duo also has some nice upside in this game, as you would expect the Cowboys to do their best to keep the currently on fire Aaron Rodgers off the field as much as possible. That points to plenty of carries for Elliott, who can also do some damage if the game turns into a shootout and more short passes head his way. He’s not going to come cheap, but he also offers up a $2,000 savings over Bell with similar upside. If you’re paying up for one of your RB spots this week, Elliott may even be the safer choice.
LeGarrette Blount, $5,800. We touched on Blount briefly above, and we like his upside in a matchup in which the Patriots are expected to run away with things. While we can certainly expect Tom Brady and company to do the majority of the early damage, it’s pretty easy to see the focus shifting towards the ground game once things get out of hand. This is another rematch from the regular season, and Blount found the end zone twice in that one while running for 105 yards. No promises that happens again, but it wouldn’t shock us either. One side note - keep an eye on injury reports. He’s missed a couple of practices this week, but he’s fully expected to play.
Davante Adams, $7,000. The Packers will throw the ball a ton on Sunday. The only question is if the Cowboys will have more success stopping them than the Giants did last week. Either way, Adams is in line to receive a healthy amount of targets in the absence of Nelson. Adams and Cobb should essentially be 1a and 1b with Nelson off the field, but we’ll lean towards Adams having more success this week. Cobb is not going to sneak in and score three touchdowns again. In fact, he’ll find himself with even more attention as a result of it. That doesn’t mean he won’t produce, but rather that Adams may have a higher probability of success. Adams has delivered 20+ fantasy points in each of his last two games, and reaching at least that mark again is well within reason.
Jeremy Maclin, $4,300. This is a contrarian option with a little boom-bust flavor, but Maclin is an intriguing under the radar option for the Divisional Round. He’s been banged up for a good portion of the season, and he failed to deliver even when he was healthy. However, he enters this game with an extra week of rest, and a whole lot less attention than he would have received earlier in the season. It’s pretty clear that Hill and Kelce are the engine that makes the Chiefs offense go at this point, so the Steelers will rightfully focus attention on containing that pair. That could leave Maclin with the opportunity of receiving a few extra looks, and we’ll see if he can take at least one of them to the house.
Jared Cook, $3,900. Cook could be another beneficiary of the absence of Nelson, and a few extra looks could go a long way in this matchup. The Cowboys have had some troubles against opposing tight ends this season, and they have even allowed three different tight ends to score multiple touchdowns against them. Cook has been receiving some extra looks over the past few weeks to begin with, but he’s only found the end zone once this season. For him to really pay off this week, we’ll need that to happen at least once, and we like his chances in a potentially high scoring affair.
Jason Witten, $3,500. The other tight end in this tilt makes for a fine choice as well. The veteran has had an up and down season, but we’ve seen plenty of instances in which the rookie Prescott has looked for his safety blanket in crucial spots. That could happen a lot this week, as you would expect the Packers to expend most of their efforts on containing Bryant and Elliott. There’s a big price drop from Kelce to the other tight ends this week, and this looks like a week where it makes sense to save some money. Witten looks like one of the best options of the sub-$4k crowd, and he’ll provide you with plenty of much needed salary cap flexibility to boot.
New England Patriots, $4,000. Despite having more than a full year under his belt, we can still safely call Brock Osweiler an inexperienced signal caller. He just so happens to be facing off against a team led by a head coach that is quite adept at devising schemes to confuse and frustrate young quarterbacks, and that doesn’t bode well for his chances at a productive day. In fact, it ramps up the implosion risk considerably, and it wouldn’t be stunning to see the Patriots find themselves with several sacks, turnovers and perhaps a defensive touchdown in the final stat column. While pricey, there’s no reason to overthink this one: click the plus sign next to the Patriots defense and focus on building the rest of your lineup.
Pittsburgh Steelers, $2,900. While the Patriots are far and away the top choice at defense this week, there’s also something to be said for mixing things up and finding the under owned defense with a chance to go off. Perhaps that team is the Steelers, who just so happen to have scored double digit fantasy points in each of their last two. That’s a result of nine sacks and seven turnovers, which is a pretty impressive two-game total - even if one of the opponents was the Browns. While expecting the Steelers to overwhelm a tough Chiefs team is a little much to ask for, it’s not unreasonable to expect them to keep a conservative offense in check - and add in a couple of sacks and a turnover or two on top of it. If you’re pivoting from the Patriots, look towards the Steelers for a little contrarian flavor.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check us out next week for the Conference Championship games. Enjoy the games and best of luck with your lineups! Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.