Greetings and welcome to the Divisional round! What follows is a weekly strategy guide covering the main slate of FanDuel guaranteed prize pools (GPPs). It will be available every Friday from now until the Super Bowl.
Divisional Round Notes
Just like last week, FanDuel has divided their biggest tournaments into Saturday-only and Sunday-only slates. There are a few smaller GPPs that cover the full four-game weekend. This article is designed around those tournaments. You can use the information below and apply it to both two-game slates. Just note that there are salary differences with certain players.
The difference between last week’s QB1 and QB7 was 4.5 FanDuel points, suggesting that paying up for quarterbacks wasn’t a tournament-winning strategy. That seems unlikely this week given the collection of passers this slate offers. The difference between Patrick Mahomes II, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees and the rest of the field could be significant if these games go the way the public expects them to go. But don’t underestimate both Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, who don’t have great matchups but do have great offenses in a game the DFS world seems to be forgetting about. Rivers, especially, looks like a solid contrarian bet as the cheapest option at quarterback. Building lineups around his $7,300 salary makes a lot of things possible and automatically places uniqueness across your lineup, even if certain players end up with massive exposure.
Thoughts on Chalk
Without question, the crowd will source their fantasy points from the Chiefs/Colts tilt, which features a 57-point over/under and a pair of quarterbacks that offer both high floors and high ceilings. This slate begins and ends with Mahomes, who set the NFL on fire in 2018 and has proven to be matchup proof every week. He outscored the next best quarterback by 67.66 FanDuel points in 2018 on his way to the best season by any fantasy quarterback ever. Even against Baltimore’s quarterback-smashing defense in Week 14, Mahomes managed 377 passing yards and two touchdowns with one interception, while completing 66% of his passes. Up next is a vulnerable Colts’ secondary that, as Evan Silva noted, plays mostly zone defense:
#Colts run zone coverage at highest rate in the league.#Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes II played 5 games vs teams that run zone at top-8 frequencies this season, completing 64.1% of his passes at 7.99 yards per attempt with a perfect 14:0 TD-to-INT ratio against them.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) January 8, 2019
Not that coverage styles matter with Mahomes. His accuracy, timing, and the quality of talent surrounding him is enough to overcome any defense. And for that matter, as noted in this space last week, the Colts were gifted a soft schedule of opposing passers. So, if you’re intent on joining the masses and paying up for Mahomes as your core building piece, there’s nothing to suggest you’ll be disappointed.
Luck represents the leading cause to fade Mahomes. Despite being unneeded against the Colts’ rout of Dallas in Week 15, Luck rolled into the playoffs averaging 308 yards per game from Week 14 on and tossed seven touchdowns in the process. He checks in as QB3 in FanDuel pricing and easily has the best matchup of all passers on the slate. The Chiefs took care of business against Derek Carr and Co. in Week 17, but were otherwise a consistent source for fantasy points—allowing 20.9 per game to quarterbacks. What’s interesting about those numbers, however, is that they were surprisingly efficient against wide receivers. From a points per target standpoint, they boasted the fourth-best defense and allowed only 13 touchdowns. That’s not to say that they’ll have an effective answer for T.Y. Hilton, but we should at least show caution here and note that this defense is much more vulnerable to running backs and tight ends. Even with that in mind, Luck should be forced into a lot of volume and feels like the highest ceiling play on the slate, even with Mahomes playing across from him. One of these quarterbacks will likely end up on the winning roster and the difference between them shows up more in price than upside, making Luck a solid option.
If you can make room for both of these backs in your roster, you should do it. Both offer the highest floor and highest ceiling of all backs on this slate and are the clear path to claiming the majority of touches among non-quarterbacks. Elliott in particular sets up as a solid option once again thanks to his usage as a runner, receiver, and goal-line option. The matchup isn’t great, but the Rams did allow the fifth-most yards per carry in 2018 and the eighth-most total touchdowns to running backs. Lock him in as a core play and don’t overthink this one.
Gurley, on the other hand, has a few more concerns to consider. The first being that he hasn’t played a snap since Week 15 yet is listed as questionable to begin the week. That may or may not matter depending on his practice status. If he gets upgraded to full participant, disregard any chatter aimed at his time off and injury. More pressing is the matchup on tap. The Cowboys’ rushing defense is no joke. They allowed only 3.8 yards per carry in 2018 despite facing the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram II, and Saquon Barkley (twice). Of course, Gurley is as matchup-proof as anyone in the league and it’s worth noting that the Cowboys’ run defense wasn’t nearly as strong on the road as it was in Dallas. They allowed over 118 rushing yards per game when traveling versus 70.3 at home. They also the fifth-most receptions and 10th most receiving yards to running backs in 2018, which is an obvious plus for Gurley. Both of these backs deserve consideration as key building blocks. If choosing only one, we might as well save the salary and go with the guy that runs the offense (Elliott, if you weren’t sure).
WR: Michael Thomas - $8,400
Thomas finished the season ranked ninth in targets, first in receptions, sixth in yards, and seventh in FanDuel points among wide receivers. He also claimed the second-highest market share of team targets and the third-most red zone opportunities. Now he gets the Eagles, who ranked fourth in FanDuel points allowed, and third in both yards and receptions allowed to wide receivers. If you watched the Eagles game against the Bears last week, you probably heard Cris Collinsworth fawning over cornerback Avonte Maddox. Maddox played excellent football after he was forced into a starting role beginning in Week 15. But he was charged with 154 yards, one touchdown and a passer rating of 137.5 last week, most of which went to Allen Robinson, who boasted a significant size advantage. We should expect the Saints to take a similar approach by using Thomas’s size and leveraging Maddox’s aggressive tendencies against him. And when Thomas isn’t lined up across from Maddox, he should have no trouble taking care of business against Rasul Douglas or Cre’Von Blanc, since neither player has the skill set to erase elite WR1s.
We should also acknowledge Thomas’s floor. Not counting a meaningless Week 17 game, he logged 9.4 FanDuel points or fewer five times in 2018. From Week 12 to Week 16, he produced only 334 yards, one touchdown and ranked 19th in scoring. And those numbers include three cupcake matchups against the Falcons, Buccaneers, and Panthers. From Week 4 on, he surpassed 100 receiving yards only twice. The good news is that Ted Ginn Jr is back in the lineup, which ultimately should help spread defensive attention out and give Thomas more one-on-one opportunities. And if Nick Foles and Co. keep the magic rolling as eight-point underdogs, we should get plenty of volume from Thomas in a game Vegas expects to be high scoring (50.5-point over/under). Feel free to join the masses and roster him with confidence.
Both of these wide receivers bring tournament-winning upside to the table thanks to their game-breaking speed and usage within their respective offenses. Hill is the poster boy of boom/bust GPP candidates. He posted five games of at least 26 FanDuel points in the regular season but averaged only 11.1 FanDuel points per game outside of those five. He’ll face a decent, if not solid, Colts’ secondary that was effective against DeAndre Hopkins last week at the expense of getting burned by Keke Coutee. On the season, they allowed the second-fewest yards and FanDuel points to wide receivers. But they also faced a soft schedule that featured nothing like the offense they’ll meet in Kansas City on Saturday. This game boasts a mouth-watering over/under total of 57 points with Chiefs favored by 5.5. It seems unlikely they’ll hit their 31-point implied total without Hill making some big plays. He’s a solid bet for a bundle of yards, but he’ll need some luck or busted coverage to score touchdowns, especially with Sammy Watkins back in action (who makes for an interesting contrarian option if he plays) and Travis Kelce likely to smash in this matchup.
On the other side of the field, Hilton projects to be one of the most popular plays on the slate. He drew 10 targets last week and logged 85 yards, most of which came on this play:
TY Hilton on the Colt's first drive— Sports ReUp (@SportsReUp) January 5, 2019
63 yards pic.twitter.com/YH5Ijedzmj
He finished the game with only five catches for 85 yards. But at least he looked healthy and had the Texans generated more offense, it stands to reason that Hilton would have had an even bigger day. The downside, of course, is that ankle injury. As of Thursday Hilton, was missing from practice again. But missing practice at this point of the season is the norm for him. Unless he suffers a setback, feel free to make him a building piece over Hill. The Chiefs were an efficient defense against wide receivers in 2018, allowing fourth-lowest FanDuel points per target and the fifth-lowest catch rate to the position. We need to bare those numbers in mind, along with a potential in-game injury, as we build rosters. Still, volume should be there and his price isn’t preventive.
TE: Travis Kelce - $7,500
There’re only two reasons to fade Kelce this week: Eric Ebron and Zach Ertz. Neither reason makes enough sense, especially considering you can roster both Kelce and Ebron and still get pieces of guys like Elliott and Thomas. The Colts allowed the most yards, the most receptions, the highest completion rate, and the third-most points to tight ends in 2018. They allowed the Texans’ tight ends to combine for only 14 yards on eight targets last week, but Kelce—who ranked 19th in FanDuel points per game among all non-quarterbacks—figures to absolutely feast against this defense. For $7,500, he’s the best points-per-dollar receiver on the slate. He also has a shot at being the most rostered player of the slate, so there’s some game theory at play here that suggests fading him might be a wise move in GPPs. But sometimes, we’re best siding with the crowd when it comes to smash-plays like this one.
QB: Drew Brees - $8,700
After scoring nearly 24 FanDuel points per game from Week 1 to Week 12, Brees’s production crashed over his last four starts. His points per game dropped to 11.8, he managed only 857 passing yards—18th among quarterbacks—and threw only three touchdowns to three interceptions (he also had one rushing touchdown). Those numbers weren’t the results of a heavy running approach. The Saints, despite rostering two solid running backs, ran the ball 28 times per game during that stretch, which was actually lower than their season-long rate of 29.4 carries per game. To that end, Brees’s 33.2 passing attempts per game in the given sample were actually more than his 32.6 season-long rate. This is all to say that his lack of fantasy production wasn’t the result of a sudden shift in play calling and run/pass splits.
Nor was it the result of stiff competition. Aside from the Cowboys, Brees faced three fantasy-friendly defenses in the Buccaneers, Panthers, and Steelers, yet he managed only 12.9 FanDuel points per game against them. Perhaps a second bye week will help. As will a home-date with the Eagles, who allowed more passing yards per game than all teams except the Chiefs, despite facing a soft schedule of passers:
No team allowed more 300-yard passers than Philadelphia even though they faced Washington twice, the Giants twice, the Cowboys twice, and rounded out their schedule by playing against the AFC South. They began their post-season by allowing Trubisky to become the eighth 300-yard passer against them, and even though he scored only one touchdown, he still managed 17 FanDuel points. Lack of touchdowns is the reason the Eagles ranked only 10th in FanDuel points per game allowed to quarterbacks in 2018. But take note of Week 11—the only week of the season where they faced a truly elite passer. Brees absolutely crushed them with 363 yards and four touchdowns on only 30 passing attempts. That game was a testament to his season-long efficiency. No quarterback owned a higher completion rate, only three boasted a higher touchdown percentage, only Aaron Rodgers owned a lower interception percentage, and only Mahomes had a higher adjusted net yards per pass attempt. As mentioned under Thomas’s blurb above, if Foles puts together a solid game, Brees will flirt with closing the weekend out as the slate’s highest scoring quarterback.
RB: Alvin Kamara
The last time we saw Kamara on the field, he racked up 24.5 FanDuel points on only 11 touches. He didn’t play in Week 17 yet finished the season with 77 red zone opportunities—second-most of all players—and 20.9 FanDuel points per game—10th most among all players including quarterbacks. The obvious downside to rostering him is Mark Ingram II’s presence. Ingram played 45.4% of team snaps and handled 11.5 carries per game in 2018. Those numbers are a fair bet to see against the Eagles.
But the matchup favors Kamara’s skill set. Philadelphia allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards to running backs and only nine rushing touchdowns. They also allowed the second-most receptions and the sixth-most receiving yards to the position. They took care of business against the Bears last week by erasing both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. But Kamara, of course, is in a class of his own, and if this game even comes close to approaching its tasty over/under of 50.5 points, he figures to, at a minimum, draw his usual workload and is a solid bet for 6-8 catches. He’s also their top red-zone option and presents multiple-touchdown upside both as a runner and receiver. Stack him with Brees and don’t be afraid to throw out a Brees/Kamara/Thomas roster and hope this game blows up.
RB: James White - $7,400
While rostering a Patriots’ running back feels like throwing darts and hoping you hit on the right one, we should at least acknowledge two things: 1) this game is going to fly under the radar as a potential shootout, and if it does become a shootout, White could draw six or so targets, and 2) in his post-season career (eight games), White has been targeted an average of 7.25 times per game, has logged 4.25 catches per game, and has scored eight total touchdowns. His per game average of 49.8 yards clearly illustrates his floor, and his monster performance in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, where he saw 16 targets, inflates his overall numbers. But this is a spot where he could be used effectively as Tom Brady’s WR2.
The Chargers, though stout against traditional rushers, allowed the most receiving yards and the third-most receptions to running backs in 2018, putting them right in White’s wheelhouse. On the season, only McCaffrey saw more targets and produced more receiving yards among running backs, only seven backs scored more touchdowns than his 12, and while he ranked 13th in total yards, his red zone opportunities ranked eighth. Add in the pass-rush of the Chargers, led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III, and it makes sense to assume White will be busy on Sunday. The return of Rex Burkhead and a healthy Sony Michel could hurt those numbers, to be sure, but on a four-game slate, White offers enough upside to make up for his salary and usage concerns.
WR: Keenan Allen - $7,100
Allen ran 55.6% of his regular season snaps out of the slot—the most of all Chargers—and played 64.7% of his snaps out of the slot last week against a tough Ravens’ defense. Hopefully rational coaching will prevail, and he’ll see that many against the Patriots. No team allowed more touchdowns to the slot than New England, who ranked third in receiving yards allowed and first in fantasy points allowed to that area of the field. Overall, they were solid against receivers, permitting only 159 yards per game and the third-lowest catch rate. But Allen should survive this matchup, especially considering how likely it is Rivers gets pressured into throwing 40-plus passes as road underdogs. The Chargers match up well against this secondary, which will make double-coverage of any wide receiver difficult.
Of course, it’s possible that he draws shadow coverage from either Stephon Gilmore or Jason McCourty, both of whom were excellent and big reason why the Patriots’ secondary presented problems for opposing wide-outs. And we’ve seen Allen’s floor more times that we’d like over the season. He posted six games of under 10 FanDuel points and ranked 18th among wide receivers in points per game, despite ranking fourth in market share of team targets. Conversely, he logged only two games during the regular season where he scored more than 20 FanDuel points, painting an uninspiring view of his of floor and ceiling. But on a slate where Hilton, Hill, and Thomas figure to gobbled up ownership and salary, Allen makes for a nice price-considered contrarian option that could pay off handsomely if this game turns into the shootout it’s capable of. He makes rostering two stud running backs and Kelce possible while still offering some upside.
WR: Alshon Jeffery
Since Foles took over as the starter in Week 15, Jeffrey has parlayed 27 targets into 383 yards and one score, which includes last week’s Wild Card tilt. We saw these two players develop a rapport this time last year too, during which Foles targeted him 18 times in three post-season games and connected 12 times for 2019 yards and three scores. They’ll have their work cut out for them against the Saints, who were crushed all year by wide receivers before hitting the brakes against the Cowboys in Week 13. Since that game, they’ve allowed only 28.3 FanDuel points per game to wide receivers, and that includes Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster combining for 52.5 points in Week 16.
But we shouldn’t simply write off how bad this unit was overall on the season. They allowed more yards to wide receivers than all other teams, permitted the second-highest catch rate despite seeing the fifth-most wide receiver targets, and tied the Jets with the most FanDuel points allowed to the position. No team allowed more 100-yard receivers, and only five teams allowed a higher quarterback rating. Make no mistake about it, this secondary is plenty vulnerable and considering that the Eagles, whose secondary is even more vulnerable, will likely be forced into a pass-heavy game script against the Saints’ funnel defense, Jeffery is in a prime blow-up spot, even if he gets shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore. You should also log plenty of shares of Golden Tate, who saw eight targets last week while operating out of the slot on 88.9% of his snaps. That last stat is important because whoever gets work in the slot this week (likely Tate) will enjoy a dandy of a matchup against P.J. Williams, who allowed the fifth-most receiving yards among slot corners in 2018 and a healthy passer rating of 109.3. And yes, stacking one or both of those guys with Foles is a worthy GPP strategy.
TE: Eric Ebron - $6,600
Ebron looked like he was going to easily pay off his salary and exposure last week when he scored the game’s first touchdown early in the first quarter. He then proceeded to log only two more catches for a total of 26 yards. For what it’s worth, his 10.1 FanDuel points were the most by a tight end on the slate, but the results were disappointing nonetheless. Perhaps he’ll make up for in Kansas City where he’ll face a defense that allowed 10 touchdowns, the third-most yards, and the second-most FanDuel points per game to tight ends. Fairly touchdown-dependent, Ebron saw more red zone opportunities than all but two other tight ends (Kelce and Ertz), ranking 10th among all players in red zone targets. He’s a solid bet to score in this one and brings multiple-touchdown upside even though he may not provide a ton of yards.
Los Angeles Rams - $5,000
The most obvious, and therefore most popular, defense of the slate will be in L.A. this weekend, where a well-rested, home team will take on a Cowboys club whose offense is liable to disappear at any time and whose offensive line permitted the second-most sacks of all teams. Though they don’t get to the quarterback often, ranking 12th in sack rate, the Rams boasted the third-most takeaways on defense. As seven-point favorites, it makes sense to chase their upside under the assumption that Dak Prescott will be forced into more dropbacks (leading to sacks) and will likely make a few mistakes against a secondary that’s finally healthy.
QB: Nick Foles - $7,400
Foles ended up on only 6.25% of rosters last week and yielded 16.5 FanDuel points—only 4.5 points fewer than QB1 Prescott. He checks in this week with a tempting salary and a great situation that figures to result in a ton of passing volume. Said volume will likely lead to a few interceptions, but as mentioned under Jeffery’s blurb, the Saints defense is plenty vulnerable even though their play improved down the stretch. On the season, they allowed the third-most passing yards and second-most FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks. They also boasted the sixth-best sack rate, but Foles just so happens to be elite when under pressure:
During the season’s final month (plus the WC round), no QB had a quicker average time to attempt a pass than Nick Foles’ 2.22 seconds.— Pat Thorman (@Pat_Thorman) January 9, 2019
In his five regular season starts, Foles averaged over 280 yards per game and managed seven touchdowns to four interceptions. He faced an outstanding defense last week in Chicago and completed 62.5% of his 40 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The Eagles match up much better against the Saints thanks to Jeffery, Tate, Nelson Agholor, Darren Sproles, and, of course, Ertz. That’s a solid group of pass-catchers that can take advantage the Saints aggressive and sometimes sloppy defense. Considering his price and likely low ownership, Foles offers a solid contrarian option at quarterback and brings enough upside to build around, even on a slate that features Mahomes, Luck, and Brees.
RB: Nyheim Hines - $5,200
Lots of you asked about Nyheim Hines' snap counts: Sirianni says it wasn't anything more than Marlon Mack having the hot hand, so they kept feeding him. Saturday might be completely different for all we know.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) January 7, 2019
Hines destroyed 18.8% of rosters last week after he was touted by many DFS industry folks and then failed to register a carry or a catch and scored zero fantasy points. He now has 26 touches in his last six games and only 153 total yards. So why on Earth would we want him in our lineups this week? For the same reason 18.8% of the crowd chased him last week: we assume this game will push the Colts into an up-tempo pass-heavy attack, and Hines is best suited for those situations. Marlon Mack figures to get his usual workload, and he’s the better pass-blocker, but Hines brings blazing speed and a dynamic that keeps the Colts multidimensional on offense. It also doesn’t hurt the Chiefs allowed the fifth-most receiving yards and league-leading six receiving touchdowns (tied with four other teams) to running backs. With the crowd potentially scared away after last week’s flop, Hines could be a sharp play even if his floor is super low. He’s the cheapest way to buy into the week’s most exciting game and an interesting stacking partner for Luck.
WR: Ted Ginn Jr - $4,500
Finally healthy, Ginn improves the Saints already elite offense by offering a deep threat they clearly missed without him in the lineup. He made his return after an 11-week absence in Week 16 and parlayed eight targets into five catches for 74 yards, including a 25-yarder. You can bet they’ll use his field-stretching skills against an Eagles defense that allowed the third-most passing plays of at least 20 yards (60 total, just five behind league-leader Kansas City). Considering that this game features a pair of solid run defenses and a pair of vulnerable secondaries while each offense oozes with talent, we should expect the over to hit with ease, with the majority of points coming via the passing attack. Ginn figures to be a major part of that attack and offers solid upside for site minimum and makes for a great pivot away from uber-chalk Thomas.
TE: Gerald Everett - $4,800
Not that we ever want to chase situations that involve ambiguity at tight end, especially on a slate that features the three best tight ends of the season, but it’s worth noting that Everett out-snapped Tyler Higbee in three of the Rams’ last four games and ran 51 more receiving routes in their last five. He also drew 18 more targets and logged more receiving yards than Higbee despite playing half as many snaps on the season. The Cowboys represent one of the best defenses on the slate, but 14.9% of the fantasy points they’ve allowed have gone to tight ends, which is the fourth-highest rate of all teams in 2018 and led to the 10th most points allowed per game to the position. If the Cowboys’ secondary keeps a lid on Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks while displaying their typical stoutness against the run, Everett stands to benefit as the quick-out, check-down option for Jared Goff. For nearly site-minimum, he needs only a touchdown and 50 or so yards to make good on his salary. His game logs from 2018 suggest that’s a lot to ask, but he’s a great way to differentiate your lineup as a flex option while still rostering either Kelce or Ebron.
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