Johnny's Cash Game Plays: Divisional Round

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Johnny's Cash Game Plays: Divisional Round

The Wild Card Round for me included some good calls, like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger, and even Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were solid calls. I had Cam Akers and James Conner in the article, along with two lower-end guys who at least scored in Latavius Murray and JD McKissic. Also, Marquise Brown, Diontae Johnson, and JuJu Smith-Schuster were all good calls.

But it was a mixture of good and bad last week with too many guys coming up small. The Ronald Jones inclusion I can’t truly blame myself for, but I’ve intimated all year that this backfield was a minefield, so maybe I should have known better. Derrick Henry should have been omitted against a healthier Ravens front, and some WRs really let me down like Corey Davis, TY Hilton, and Tyler Lockett. I also had John Brown on here and that didn’t work out at all. Also, TE Mark Andrew crushed me.

This week, things actually look a lot harder to predict, so my first move this week is to be cautious. I’m not going to list anyone just to list them, and with four tricky matchups on the docket, I’m only including players I feel good about at their price.

So this column will be a lot shorter than usual because, again, this is a tough week to handicap - or at least it is for me.

QUARTERBACKS

Drew Brees (NO, vs. TB - $5600 on DK and $7300 on FanDuel) - At the end of the day, Brees has arguably the best matchup of the weekend, and he’s only 6th and 7th in terms of cost on DK and FanDuel, respectively. The general consensus with the struggles Tampa has been having with their pass defense is a lack of a pass rush, and that’s always a problem with Brees, who gets the ball out quicker than anyone. In the previous meetings against this Bucs’ secondary in Week 9, Brees completed 81% of his passes for 222/4, and in his last three games dating back to last year and including Week 1 of this year, Brees is at a 74% completion rate with 9 TDs and 0 INTs. Brees had a rushing TD taken off the board last week or else he’d have been a great DFS value. Michael Thomas looked great, and now Brees should get Tre’Quan Smith back, which gives him another viable target and solid playmaker. He should eclipse 20 FP in this one as the tough Buc run defense slows Alvin Kamara down in the running game.

HIGHER-END GUYS I’M OKAY WITH

Patrick Mahomes (KC, vs. Cle - $8000 on DK and $9200 on FanDuel) - He’s only the fifth-best value on FanDuel, but he’s the third-best on DK. Since he was off last week and all eyes are on running QBs Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, Mahomes may actually be a little sneaky this week, especially if he runs a little more, as he’s done in the playoffs lately (36.5 rushing yards per game in his last four postseason games). The Browns will be at close to full strength on defense with CBs Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson expected back, but they are still easier to throw on than to run on. The Browns have given up multiple TDs in 7 of their last 8 games (only Colt McCoy failed to get 2 TDs in this span), and they have been weak against TEs and slot receivers all year. In addition, due to the way they play their safeties, they are vulnerable to big plays, and they did give up the second-most big plays in the passing game this year. I think the Chiefs will come out throwing and looking to build a big lead and try to reduce their running game’s impact. The Browns are playing well enough on offense to keep Mahomes throwing for 3-4 quarters, so we’re looking at 300+ with 2-3 TDs most likely.

Lamar Jackson (Bal, at Buf - $9200 on FanDuel) - He’s only the eight-best value on DK, so this is FanDuel only, where he’s the top value. The Bills did a great job against Lamar last year, which is a concern because they are a disciplined defense that plays mostly zone, so in theory, it’s a tougher matchup for Lamar. But I do think the Ravens have a decided advantage overall with their running game, and Lamar has 80+ rushing yards in five of his last six games, so he’s still pretty easy to back. The Bills have given up 300+ passing yards in consecutive games, as well. Lamar may not throw for much more than 200 yards, and he may not approach 100 yards rushing, but the numbers should be there. Mark Andrews should be his go-to guy this week, but they won’t likely travel Tre’Davious White against Marquise Brown, which helps.

BARGAIN BASEMENT GUYS

Baker Mayfield (Cle, at KC - $5300 on DK) - He’s the top value on DK, but only the seventh-best value on FanDuel. Drew Brees, for example, has a lower salary on FanDuel than Baker, so this is DK only. I’m a lot less concerned about a lack of volume for Baker in this one, obviously. But they have also slowly been trending more to being a little more aggressive in the passing game, and he’s actually averaging 40 attempts a game the last four weeks.

He has thrown for 258+ yards with 2 TDs or more in 5 of his last 7, and the Chiefs have given up multiple TD passes in 7 of their last 8. Baker got good news on Friday, as it looks like OL starters G Joel Bitonio and RT Jack Conklin will play, which is huge. There is almost no doubt in my mind that Baker will hit at least 16 FP this week, thus qualifying as a win, and I think his floor is 18-20 points.

OTHER QB PLAYS I’M INTO THIS WEEK

Josh Allen (Buf, vs. Bal - $7400 on DK and $8800 on FanDuel) - He’s the fifth-best value on DK and the third-best on FanDuel. I’m in no rush to use Allen this week, but I basically like him every week, and this one could turn into a shootout. Baltimore’s defense may be peaking right now, and they limited a red hot Ryan Tannehill to just 165/1 passing last week while also limiting him on the ground. The Ravens have three great CBs and blitz at a league-high 44.1% rate. Allen's been one of the 2-3 best QBs in the league against the blitz, but his YPA drops from 8.6 when kept clean in the pocket vs. 6.6 YPA when under pressure. Of course, if they blitz Allen, he could take off and run. Again, he’s not a must-use, and I’m not convinced he’s going to crush it with 25+ FP, but he’s going over 20 and the upside is always present.

RUNNING BACKS

Cam Akers (LAR, at GB - $5700 on DK and $7000 on FanDuel) - He’s the top value on both sites per our projections, so he has to be listed. Akers has emerged as their offensive identity down the stretch, and he’s especially that with Jared Goff injured. It’s clear he’s going to get the ball, but his price does not reflect well his talent and his massive role. He’s averaging 24 touches a game in his last five games, and we know what he did last week with volume (30/176/1 scrimmage). Green Bay’s defense may be peaking now, but it’s their pass defense that has been their strength. They did limit Derrick Henry and David Montgomery to a combined 3.7 YPC in Weeks 16-17, but their run defense can be suspect and they allowed a generous 140 total yards/game to RBs this season. I’d expect the Rams to play with a lot of 2-TE sets and come with a major commitment to Akers. If they fall way behind, Akers may still be the guy on the field over Malcolm Brown, given the rookie’s ability to pop off explosive plays. He’s caught 6-of-6 passes thrown to him the last two weeks.

Aaron Jones (GB, vs. LAR - $6800 on DK and $7800 on FanDuel) - He’s a top-4 value on both sites and slightly better on DK. Jones has burned me a couple of times this year, but he’s also come through nicely a couple of times. I really do think it’s a tough matchup for Aaron Rodgers, and while it’s overly simplistic, I think it makes sense to make a stronger-than-usual commitment to Jones. The Rams haven’t allowed an individual back to post 85+ scrimmage yards since September, but they really haven’t faced any great backs this year. Jones is great, so if he gets 20+ touches as I expect, he’s a nice play with 1-2 TDs in play.

HIGHER-END GUYS I’M OKAY WITH

Nick Chubb (Cle, at KC - $6600 on DK and $8200 on FanDuel) - He’s a top-7 value on both sites. Not great, but still decent. Also decent is how Chubb is now expected to have O-lineman Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin back this week. The Chiefs are giving up 4.5 YPC and 149.1 scrimmage yards per game to RBs and they don’t prioritize stopping the run as much as other defenses. I’m encouraged by Chubb’s expanding role in the passing game, with 4 or 5 targets in 2 of his last 3 games including 4/69/1 on 4 targets last week. If the Browns can manage to throw early to gain a lead and keep the game close in the second half, Chubb’s chances for a surprise big game would increase considerably. And I don’t think he’s dead if they’re down two TDs in the second half.

BARGAIN BASEMENT GUYS

Gus Edwards (Bal, at Buf - $5100 on DK and $5300 on FanDuel) - He’s a top-5 value on both sites. I know JK Dobbins is the better choice all things being equal, but for DFS purposes, I think Gus stands out. He’s $1800 cheaper on DK, for example, yet over the last four weeks, Dobbins is averaging only 2 more carries a game and 1 more target per game. In this span, Dobbins is getting 13.2 touches per game with Edwards right behind him at 12.3. Dobbins has been converting on his goal-line carries, obviously, with a rushing TD in seven straight games, but Gus has been more involved in the passing game. He’s also at 5.5 YPC the last four weeks, so he’s a wise economical play in the Ravens backfield this week.

OTHER RB PLAYS I’M INTO THIS WEEK

None of note.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Javis Landry (Bal, at Buf - $5600 on DK and $5900 on FanDuel) - He’s a top-3 value on both sites and the top value on DK. Landry’s playing his best football right now, so it’s a good time to back him. He’s posted 5+ catches and 50+ receiving yards in six straight. The Chiefs aren’t a good matchup by the numbers and give up only 11 WR catches a game their last four, but Baker Mayfield’s damn near a lock to throw it 35-40 times, so Landry’s damn near a lock to get 10+ targets. All he needs to come through, most likely, is a TD, and he’s scored in 5 of his last 6 games

Chris Godwin (TB, at NO - $6100 on DK and $7500 on FanDuel) - He’s the fourth-best value on DK and the second-best on FanDuel, per our projections. Obviously, with Mike Evans’ poor history in this matchup, I have to make the obvious call and back Godwin and also Antonio Brown. Godwin had a bad game last week, but he’s been otherwise on point with Tom Brady down the stretch, and he’s still scored in four straight with 79+ yards in three straight games. Godwin has had mild success against slot CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and the Saints with 9/120 receiving on 13 targets in two games, and when he’s in the slot he’ll get the best matchup against New Orleans.

Antonio Brown (TB, at NO - $5400 on DK and $6400 on FanDuel) - He’s the sixth-best value on both sites. Brown has looked phenomenal the last 2-3 games and he will also get the best matchup at times in the slot. Heck, he might be able to easily blow past Janoris Jenkins for a big play outside, as well, since Jenkins doesn’t run well anymore. The Saints have allowed just 6 TDs to WRs in their last nine games, but Tom Brady has been lights-out lately and AB scoring in four straight games (5 TDs) is a big reason why.

HIGHER-END GUYS I’M OKAY WITH

Tyreek Hill (KC, vs,. Cle - $8000 on DK and $8800 on FanDuel) - He’s not a good value on DK (18th-best), but he’s the fourth-best value on FanDuel. As mentioned in the Mahomes writeup, the Browns are vulnerable to big plays in the passing game, and they have been hit hard lately with the Steelers last week rolling with THREE different WRs who posted 22+ FP against them last week. The Browns will get CBs Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson back this week, but I still want to use Tyreek in half my lineups on the good chance that he blows up. No Sammy Watkins helps his chances, as well.

Michael Thomas (NO, vs. TB - $6700 on DK and $7200 on FanDuel) - He’s a top-3 value on both sites and the top value on FanDuel. Thomas looked really good last week with 5/73/1 on 7 targets against the Bears, and I see him as a major go-to guy in this one, which could be Drew Brees’ last home game. Thomas posted just 8/68 receiving on 11 targets in two games against the Buc this season, but his second game against them was his first game back in two months. The Bucs defense has been unusually bad this year, and Thomas in four games in this matchup from 2018-2019, had an incredible 46 catches. Just last year, Thomas totaled 20/296/3 in this matchup against this exact same defense and DC. Yeah, use him.

BARGAIN BASEMENT GUYS

None of note.

TIGHT ENDS

Mark Andrews (Bal, at - $5000 on DK and $6600 on FanDuel) - He’s the fourth-best value on both sites. Andrews let me down last week, but I have to go right back to the well with him because he has 2-TD upside this week for sure. Andrews has a solid 4+ catches in seven straight, and the middle of the field was wide open for Philip Rivers last week, and Colts TEs totaled an incredible 14/136/1 in this matchup. I don’t think the Bills can contain Lamar Jackson on the ground and also stop Andrews down the seam, so a blowout game would not surprise me.

Jared Cook (NO, v. TB - $4000 on DK and $5600 on FanDuel) - He’s a top-3 value on both sites. I’ve gone to this well a lot lately, and it’s been okay, if not good, with him posting 40+ yards in three straight with 4+ targets in six straight. Cook has also posted 7/110 receiving on 10 targets against the Bucs this season, and Logan Thomas posted a promising 5/74 in this matchup last week. The Bucs gave up a promising 5.4/52.0/.6 receiving per game to TEs in the regular season, but the recent data the last four weeks is even more encouraging: 6/52.8. If this turns into a higher-scoring affair, Cook has nice upside at these prices.

HIGHER-END GUYS I’M OKAY WITH

Travis Kelce (KC, at Cle - $8800 on DK and $8500 on FanDuel) - He’s only the eighth-best value on DK, but he’s the second-best on FanDuel, per our projections. He’s been worth paying up for with 7+ grabs in eight straight games and an incredible 22+ FP in 7 of those 8. The Browns have been a choice matchup for TEs all year and Eric Ebron posted 7/62/1 against them last week. The Browns gave up the fourth-most FPG to TEs (15.4) in the regular season, and the Ohio native and childhood Browns fan should come with some extra juice for this one (not that he needs it).

BARGAIN BASEMENT GUYS

Austin Hooper (Cle, at KC - $3800 on DK and $5500 on FanDuel) - He’s the top value on both sites. I’ve been all about Hooper down the stretch this year, including last week, and I have zero regrets. I’m gladly back this week because he’s damn near a lock to come through at his low price points. Hooper’s rolling with 13+ FP in four straight with a TD in 4 of his last 6. The Chiefs have been a good matchup all year for TEs, as they are giving up 5.3/59.6/.6 receiving per game for 14.5 FP to TEs (7th-most) this season. Over their last four games, they’re giving up even more (18.9 FP to TEs), and the Browns are a lock to throw it 35-40 times.

Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer John Hansen has been an industry leader and pioneer since 1995, when he launched Fantasy Guru. His content has been found over the years on ESPN.com, NFL.com, SiriusXM, DirecTV, Yahoo!, among others outlets. In 2015 he sold Fantasy Guru and in 2020 founded FantasyPoints.com.

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