As always, on short slates with just a few games, be aware of the tournaments you are entering and the number of people you have to beat for 1st place.
Big fields = embrace more variance. Get weird!
Smaller fields = play optimally with 1-2 contrarian angles.
Playoffs?! Playoffs!! Let’s break down the slate.
Pace and Plays Model
This model aims to predict the highest-scoring games – giving us a better idea of the best fantasy scoring environments. It is heavily weighted (90%) towards pace / plays / pass rate over expected with a small weight (10%) for the game’s over/under.
Jaguars at Chiefs (Saturday, 4:30 ET)
Key injuries to watch: JAX G Brandon Scherff (groin) | KC WR Mecole Hardman (pelvis), WR Skyy Moore (hand), RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (return from I.R.)
Fresh off pulling out one of the best comeback victories in NFL history, the Jaguars broke the Chargers’ hearts and won a date with the well-rested Chiefs. This game is a rematch of their Week 10 affair this season, when Patrick Mahomes dusted the Jaguars secondary for 331 yards and 4 TDs en route to an easy 27-17 win. The Jags’ got down 20-0 early in that game and had to throw a ton to try and mount a comeback, with Trevor Lawerence dropping back to pass 45 times compared to just 12 runs.
The Chiefs were almost comically bad at covering the spread this regular season, but that hasn’t been the case for them in the postseason. With Mahomes, the Chiefs are 4-0 (3-1 ATS) in the Divisional Round and they are 7-4 ATS in the postseason since 2018. We’ve also got HC Andy Reid’s long-time trend of dominating out of byes at play here with a 21-3 career record with a week’s rest (H/T Tom Brolley).
In their 11 postseason games, the Chiefs are averaging 32.7 points scored per game and have cleared 31 or more points in 8-of-11 games. Patrick Mahomes has an extra gear he gets to in the playoffs, often scrambling more and extending plays with his legs in a way we don’t see as much in the regular season. Across 11 career postseason starts, Mahomes averages 26.9 fantasy points per game.
This is as good of a spot as we could ask for when it comes to the Chiefs. After losing their best CB Shaq Griffin in Week 6, the Jaguars ranked 27th in EPA allowed per dropback (0.08). In fact, if we strip away their last two games against Zach Wilson and Josh Dobbs – no defense allowed more fantasy points per dropback between Weeks 7-16 than the Jaguars (0.52). Fired Chargers OC Joe Lombardi couldn’t figure it out last week, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is suddenly a good secondary.
On the flipside, the Jaguars are certainly capable of keeping the Chiefs’ offense foot on the gas all game long. Kansas City was mostly bad in the secondary this year, allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per dropback (0.45) and the third-worst adjusted completion percentage (78.2%). The Chiefs faced the second-most pass plays per game (43.5) largely because their opponents had to play from behind, but also because their secondary is burnable.
Overall, this is by far the best game of the slate from a pace/plays perspective and we have multiple avenues to a shootout here with the Chiefs well-rested and in such a strong spot offensively.
Giants at Eagles (Saturday, 8:15 ET)
- PHI -7.5
- O/U 48
- Key injuries to watch: PHI T Lane Johnson (groin), Slot CB Avonte Maddox (toe) | NYG WR Isaiah Hodgins (ankle), CB Adoree Jackson (back), S Julian Love (hamstring), CB Fabian Moreau (hip), LB Azeez Ojulari (quad), LB/S Landon Collins (ankle)
This is the third time these two teams have met this season – however, their final matchup obviously comes with a big grain of salt. The Eagles got off to a sluggish start in their eventual Week 18 win against the Giants backups, but this team absolutely dusted New York (on the road) in a 48-22 Week 14 win, where Philadelphia got up three scores and dominated.
The Giants are much healthier on defense now than they were all season with Adoree Jackson, Xavier McKinney, and Leonard Williams all back in action – but the story of their season has been their inability to stop the run and that was the case back in Week 14 when these two sides met. As a team, the Eagles ran for 31/253/4 against the Giants in that game, with Jalen Hurts contributing 7/77/1.
HC Nick Sirianni will want to come out and expose the Giants on the ground again here.
We were all over the Giants pulling off the “upset” last week, but this is a totally different spot. The main reason I liked New York last week was because Minnesota was so awful defensively all year. However, the same can’t be said for Philadelphia.
The Eagles finished the season allowing a league-low -0.09 EPA per dropback and their opponents scored on just 32% of their possessions (sixth-lowest rate). On the season, the Eagles forced 27 turnovers (fourth-most) and a league-leading 70 sacks. Daniel Jones was arguably the best QB in the Wild Card round last week and is playing at the highest level of his career, but he and Saquon Barkley are going to have to find ways to rip big gains on the ground to sustain offense.
Bengals at Bills (Sunday, 3:00 ET)
- BUF -5.5
- O/U 48
- Key injuries to watch: CIN LT Jonah Williams (knee), G Alex Cappa (ankle) | BUF WR Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring), WR Jamison Crowder (return from I.R.)
The Bengals are on another run like last year, winners of nine straight since getting blown out in Week 8 vs. the Browns. This team has been absolutely stellar against the spread in their last 25 games dating back to last year, going a ridiculous 21-4 ATS in this span.
However, last week marked the first time since Week 8 that the Bengals failed to cover as we saw Joe Burrow and the offense struggle to really catch fire with T Jonah Williams joining starters G Alex Cappa and T La’El Collins on the sidelines with injuries. Williams and Cappa are both extremely unlikely to play this weekend.
Last week vs. the Ravens, Joe Burrow was pressured on 36% of his dropbacks – which is a big tick higher than the 28% pressure rate (sixth-lowest) this line allowed during the regular season. Burrow was sacked four times last week, the second-most sacks he’s taken in a game since Week 2. I have never bet against Burrow and am not starting now, but their offensive line is a massive concern.
Josh Allen continued his extremely sporadic play last week, mixing in incredible throws that only a handful can make with a handful of head-scratching plays. Allen had an awesome game for fantasy, but committed three costly turnovers that kept the Dolphins in the game.
Allen’s splits before and after his Week 9 elbow injury are pretty stark.
In his first seven games, Allen completed 65.5% of his throws for 8.2 YPA while throwing 19 TDs to just 6 INTs. Allen took just 11 sacks (1.6 per game) in this span.
Over his last 10 games since sustaining the elbow injury in Week 9, Allen has completed 61.1% of his throws for 7.1 YPA with 19 TDs and 11 INTs. Allen has taken way more sacks in this span as well, 29 total (2.9 per game).
Allen has gone from 0.34 EPA per dropback in Weeks 1-8 – which ranked third-best in this span – to 0.13 EPA/dropback since his injury.
Cowboys at 49ers (Saturday, 4:30 ET)
- SF -3.5
- O/U 46
- Key injuries to watch: DAL S Jayron Kearse (knee), T Jason Peters (hip) | SF Jauan Jennings (ankle)
I was dead wrong about Dak Prescott and the Cowboys last week, as Dak came out and had the best game of his career. Prescott diced up Tampa all game long, dropping 39.6 DK points in easily his best fantasy performance of the season. Prior to last week, Dak had scored more than 24 DK points just twice all year.
It has certainly been an up-and-down path to get here, but Dallas has scored a TD on 33.6% of their possessions since Dak returned to the lineup in Week 7. That is the highest rate in this span, besting the Chiefs (32.5%), Eagles (31.4%), Bengals (30.9%), and 49ers (30.6%).
One thing is for sure – the Cowboys need Dak to stay hot, because the 49ers have played impenetrable run defense all year long. San Francisco allowed league-lows in EPA per carry (-0.26), rushing yards per game (59.6), and YPC (3.29) during the regular season. Seattle’s RBs combined for 21/76/1 (3.62 YPC) in the Wild Card round.
Brock Purdy’s pocket awareness and ball placement was scattershot all game long vs. Seattle, but he still hit enough throws to post a season-high 332 passing yards to go along with another 3 TDs. Purdy has now thrown for multiple scores in all seven of his appearances.
The 49ers have scored on 33.3% of their offensive possessions with Purdy under center, which is a massive uptick from their 24.5% TD rate in Weeks 3-12 with Jimmy Garoppolo.
One reason for their improvement offensively is because Purdy isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield. When throwing from a clean pocket, Purdy’s average depth of throw is 8.0 yards while Garoppolo’s was just 6.9 yards. While Garoppolo threw deep (20+ yards in air) on just 9.1% of his throws, that rate has spiked to 11.5% with Purdy.
After the Buccaneers inexplicably didn’t try any downfield shots for most of the game last week, I’m sure HC Kyle Shanahan will dial up some aggressive throws over the middle and down the boundaries this week. Micah Parsons and the Cowboys pass rush is still great, but this secondary fell apart after losing starting CBs Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. Over the final five weeks of the regular season, Dallas allowed 7.7 YPA (27th), gave up 9 passing TDs (27th), and allowed the second-most deep passing yards (416).
- Patrick Mahomes ($8000)
- Josh Allen ($7800)
- Jalen Hurts ($7600)
Hurts isn’t even listed on the injury report after missing Weeks 16-17 with a shoulder injury. He projects slightly worse than Mahomes and Allen, but we obviously know what the ceiling is here. If it looks like Hurts is going to come in at lower ownership than Allen and Mahomes, he and his pass catchers are the best stack this weekend.
- Trevor Lawrence ($6000)
Could argue for him as high as QB4. Kansas City was mostly bad in the secondary this year, allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per dropback (0.45) and the third-worst adjusted completion percentage (78.2%). The Chiefs faced the second-most pass plays per game (43.5) largely because their opponents had to play from behind, but also because their secondary is burnable. Lawrence and Mahomes have the same exact passing attempts prop (over/under set at 39.5).
Lawrence + Kirk + Engram + Kelce + One more KC player for a 2TE tournament build is a fun way to get a little different in that game.
- Dak Prescott ($6100)
Dak is really tricky this weekend. On the one hand, he is coming off the best game of his career vs. Tampa and offers a different path to roster construction/stacks on both DraftKings and FanDuel compared to the elite QBs. On the other hand, this 49ers pass defense allowed just 4 QBs to break above 20+ FP against them this year (Mariota, Mahomes, Tagovailoa, and Stidham). Despite this being a tough spot on paper, Dak projects for the lowest ownership among QBs on the 4-game slate – making Cowboys stacks phenomenal leverage over the field. CeeDee Lamb is in an awesome spot as well.
- Joe Burrow ($6500)
Gets dinged in these rankings missing three offensive linemen. Last week vs. the Ravens, Joe Burrow was pressured on 36% of his dropbacks – which is a big tick higher than the 28% pressure rate (sixth-lowest) this line allowed during the regular season. Burrow was sacked four times last week, the second-most sacks he’s taken in a game since Week 2. I have never bet against Burrow and am not starting now, but their offensive line is a massive concern.
- Brock Purdy ($5400)
Everyone will want to play McCaffrey and Deebo, but likely not Purdy because we truly don’t need to punt QB this week with Allen, Mahomes, Hurts, and Burrow all on the slate. 49ers onslaughts make a ton of sense, though. The Cowboys have allowed 19+ FP to QBs in four of their last five games.
- Daniel Jones ($5800)
We were all over Jones as the best value QB on the slate last week, but this is just a totally different spot. The Eagles were the toughest pass defense in the league during the regular season, so we need Jones to scramble often here. Jones had 4/26/1 rushing vs. the Eagles in Week 14. Jones has the lowest passing yardage prop (218.5) of any QB on the slate, and is nearly 20 yards lower than Brock Purdy (235.5).
Running Back Rankings
- Christian McCaffrey ($8000)
CMC scored 24.6 last week and it felt like he ran bad with the refs not taking a second look at what was likely McCaffrey’s second TD of the game. The only hole you can poke in McCaffrey is that Elijah Mitchell is taking some rushing work off his plate. CMC is averaging 11.4 carries per game with Mitchell healthy vs. 18.2 carries per game when Mitchell was out.
- Saquon Barkley ($7900)
Saquon was a true bellcow last week, handling 90% of the snaps – his fourth-highest rate of the season – while tallying 9/53/2 rushing an 5/56 receiving. We aren’t getting Saquon at the stupidly low price he was last week, but he at least gives CMC a run for his money as the RB1 on this slate. While the Eagles are tough to throw on, they ended the season middle of the road against the run (4.37 YPC allowed; 16th).
- Travis Etienne ($6400)
The clear RB3 on the 4-game slate and way too cheap again on DraftKings. Etienne played on 86% of the snaps last week – his second-highest rate of the season – but of course, only got one target. Etienne still hasn’t caught more than 3 balls in a game this season, but his big play upside and low price will surely make him one of the highest-owned players on the slate.
- Tony Pollard ($6100)
Pollard operated as the clear lead back over Ezekiel Elliott last week, but ran dry once again in the TD department. Since Week 11 (when Zeke returned from injury), Pollard has been out-snapped at the goal-line by a 19 to 9 margin. We need Pollard to get involved as a pass catcher for him to really hit a ceiling here, because the 49ers have played impenetrable run defense all year long. San Francisco allowed league-lows in EPA per carry (-0.26), rushing yards per game (59.6), and YPC (3.29) during the regular season. Seattle’s RBs combined for 21/76/1 (3.62 YPC) in the Wild Card round.
- Jerick McKinnon ($6000)
Can make the case he should be RB4 on this slate with how high his TD ceiling is. Everyone is clamoring for regression, but the fact of the matter is that McKinnon’s role is one of the most valuable in fantasy. McKinnon closed with nine targets inside of the 10-yard line in his final 7 games, cashing in on six TDs in that span. The Jags’ allowed the second-most receptions (6.3) and receiving yards (47.9) to RBs this season while McKinnon had 6/56 vs. the Jaguars back in Week 10.
- Miles Sanders ($5700)
Closed out the season poorly, with just 3.7 YPC across his final four games. Still, this is undeniably a smash spot, with the Giants allowing 5.26 YPC and ranking 30th in Rush EPA allowed during the regular season. Sanders got limited work in Week 18 vs. the Giants, but crushed them for 17/144/2 in Week 14.
- Joe Mixon ($6500)
We correctly faded Mixon last week and, once again, he found little room to make anything happen. On the season, the Bengals offensive line generated just 1.17 yards before contact (fourth-fewest) and are now down Jonah Williams along with La’El Collins and Alex Cappa. We need Mixon to be involved in the passing game, and he continues to lose work to Samaje Perine. Last week, Perine ran 19 routes while Mixon ran just nine.
- Bills RBs
James Cook got more carries (12 to 10) and scored, but Devin Singletary led the backfield in scrimmage yards (48 to 31) and snaps (55% to 31%) in the Wild Card Round. Neither of these guys got a target. Cook is still the slightly preferred option here at $4800, but you’re likely better off just looking elsewhere.
Isiah Pacheco ($5500) – The Jaguars have played extremely tight run defense in their last five games, allowing just 3.12 YPC to Cowboys, Jets, Texans, Titans, and Chargers RBs.
Ezekiel Elliott ($5400) – TD or bust play. Averaging a putrid 2.59 YPC across his last five games.
Elijah Mitchell ($4700)
Boston Scott ($4300) – Has 6-10 mop-up carries in his range of outcomes. Probably a showdown-only play. Notoriously kills the Giants and Eagles coaches could actually troll at the goal line (Scott has 17 career TDs. Ten have come against the Giants and he’s scored in all seven games he’s played against them.)
Wide Receiver Rankings
- Ja’Marr Chase ($7800)
Continues to get absolutely funneled targets. Chase has 57 targets to Higgins’ 35 in their last five games together since Chase returned from injury. That volume isn’t touchable on this slate. He could push for 15-16 targets this weekend.
- CeeDee Lamb ($7300)
Averaging 19.3 FPG since Dak Prescott returned in Week 7 while Chase is at 21.0 FPG and Diggs is at 19.8. Lamb is in the alpha WR1 conversation, but is priced at a slight discount from Chase/Diggs against this 49ers secondary that has been burned a bunch as of late and is particularly vulnerable against slot receivers. The 49ers allowed the fourth-most yards per game (87.9) to slot wideouts during the regular season.
- Stefon Diggs ($7700)
Diggs looked like he was on pace for a slate-breaking, monster game before he disappeared for most of the second half last week. Still, we can’t complain about 7/114/1. Go right back to him in Allen stacks.
- Deebo Samuel ($5900)
Still far too cheap on DraftKings. Mispriced by at least $1000. Enough said.
- AJ Brown ($7600) and DeVonta Smith ($7200)
Early ownership projections have Brown and Smith projected at half the ownership of Diggs and Chase, making Eagles stacks the best GPP on the slate.
In case you needed a reminder, DeVonta Smith ended the season on a tear, averaging 6.5 receptions and 97.8 yards per game. AJ Brown thrived right alongside Smith in this span, averaging 5.8 receptions and 110.8 yards per game. Smith had 57 targets while Brown had 59 in their final three games together.
- Christian Kirk ($6000) and Zay Jones ($4700)
Kirk led all WRs with a season-high 14 targets while Jones got 13 last week in the Jaguars furious comeback attempt. I was on Jones > Kirk last week – which ended up being the right call based on their price – but this spot favors Kirk.
The Chiefs got destroyed by slot WRs this year, allowing a league-high 21.6 FPG. Kirk had 9/105/2 vs. KC in Week 10 while Jones had a respectable 8/68. The Chiefs allowed 22.9 FPG to outside WRs (11th-most), so this is far from a bad matchup for Jones. It’s just that the Chiefs are that bad vs. slot wideouts. Kirk ran 85% of his routes lined up in the slot last week, while Jones was outside 75% of the time.
Zay Jones is still underpriced and will pop in most optimizers as the top points per dollar play at WR, however, Kirk has one of the easiest matchups of the slate.
- Brandon Aiyuk ($5000)
Cowboys have allowed a whopping 195 yards per game to WRs over their last six weeks with 8 TDs to outside WRs in this span.
- Gabe Davis ($4800)
Price didn’t increase after finally hitting big for 6/113/1 last week… He’s a must-play in Bills-Bengals game stacks on DraftKings, but correctly priced on FanDuel.
- Tee Higgins ($5800)
Higgins has taken a backseat to Chase over their last five games together. Chase has 57 targets to Higgins’ 35 in their last five games together since Chase returned from injury. On the season, Higgins’ target share is 21% with Chase on the field vs. 29% when Chase has missed games. I’d only include Higgins in Burrow stacks.
- Chiefs WRs
This was a WR-by-committee over the final three games of the season, with JuJu Smith-Schuster leading the way in routes (69%) followed by Marquez Valdes-Scantling (68%), Justin Watson (46%), Kadarius Toney (27%), and Skyy Moore (20%). Gross.
It looks like Moore is going to return after injuring his hand at the end of the season, while Mecole Hardman (pelvis) still isn’t practicing. Hardman returning would obviously throw another wrench in here.
I spent the entire season fading JuJu, which worked except for like two games, but he objectively has the best matchup here. The Jags’ got torched by slot WRs during the regular season to the tune of 90.2 yards per game (third-most), which is where JuJu runs 43% of his routes.
Valdes-Scantling (38% of routes run from the slot in final three games) also gets some burn on the interior, but he closed the season with just nine catches on 23 targets in his final five games. Yikes.
Toney looks incredible with the ball in his hands, but he’s been stuck between a 30-32% snap rate in his last three games.
Watson has a ridiculous 18.6-yard aDOT as the splash play guy.
I have these guys ranked as JuJu > Toney > Watson > MVS > Moore.
- Giants WRs
We were all over Isaiah Hodgins and Darius Slayton last week against the Vikings league-worst outside CB tandem, but this is the direct opposite matchup directionally. Darius Slay & Co. absolutely dominated outside WRs all season long, holding them to the second-fewest yards per game (72.5%) and the second-lowest catch rate (56.8%). Slayton went 2/42, while Hodgins had 4/38/1 in Week 14 vs. the Eagles.
Richie James gets the best matchup by far as the slot man. Eagles slot CB Avonte Maddox (toe) is still out, making this a pretty strong spot for James. Philadelphia allowed the fifth-most receptions (7.5) and 10th-most yards (85.3) per game to slot wideouts this season, while James had 7/61/1 in this spot a few weeks ago.
Richie James is the cheapest of the trio now and gets the best matchup. He’s my favorite Giants WR and a very strong value play at just $3900 on DraftKings. James will catch half of the ownership he saw last week.
- Michael Gallup ($3800) / TY Hilton ($3200)
The top-two values under $4K besides Richie James. Hilton passed Noah Brown as the #3 WR last week.
- Tyler Boyd ($4000)
Only in play in Burrow stacks. Cleared 15 DK points just twice all season.
- Quez Watkins ($3300)
Definitely in play as the salary saver in Eagles stacks.
Tight End Rankings
- Travis Kelce ($7700)
The Jaguars don’t have anyone whatsoever to match up with Kelce in the middle of the field, giving him scorched-earth upside in this spot. On the season, the Jaguars allowed a ridiculous 9.5 yards per target to tight ends (league-high) and just got absolutely cleaned out by Gerald Everett (6/109/1).
I’d prioritize Kelce as the top pass catcher of the slate, even on non-Mahomes teams.
This is a great week for 2-TE builds on DraftKings with four great options in the $4K range to provide some savings…
- Dallas Goedert ($4500)
After Kelce, Dallas Goedert has the second-best matchup of the slate. The Giants' linebackers and safety group almost single-handedly lost them the game last week because they could not cover TJ Hockenson.
- Evan Engram ($4300)
Like Christian Kirk, Engram also benefits from a great matchup against the Chiefs' shaky slot coverage. Engram is essentially a WR in this offense, lining up in the slot on 66% of his routes. I love the idea of playing Kelce + Engram together in the same lineup.
- George Kittle ($5700)
Has tallied just 44 receptions for 537 yards and 4 TDs in 12 games where Deebo Samuel has played (10.4 fantasy points per game) vs. 18/265/7 in 4 games where Deebo was out or limited (21.6 FPG).
You should obviously include him in 49ers stacks, but he is objectively hard to click into lineups when Kelce is so accessible and Goedert and Engram are very strong plays at significantly lower prices.
- Dalton Schultz ($4200)
Schultz absolutely smashed last week (7/95/2), but this is a complete opposite matchup directionally. The Bucs’ struggled to defend tight ends all year, but San Francisco is a tough spot. The 49ers — the Fred Warner Effect, specifically — allowed 40 or more yards to just five individual tight ends during the regular season (Kelce, Higbee, Waller, Moreau, and McBride) and held Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson to 4/25 last week.
Include Schultz in Cowboys stacks, but we have Goedert and Engram projected significantly higher.
- Dawson Knox ($3800)
Knox dropped a TD last week, which would have given him a monster 2 TD game. Still, Knox has scored in five-straight games and is once again a must in Josh Allen stacks for his strong TD equity. This is a pretty easy matchup, too. The Bengals were bottom-8 in receptions and yards per game allowed to TEs while Mark Andrews (5/73 receiving) and Josh Oliver (2/26) combined for 7/99 on 12 targets in this matchup last week.
- Hayden Hurst ($3200)
Only in play in Burrow stacks. The Bills finally gave up a TD to a tight end last week, but Mike Gesicki had just 2/15/1 on six targets. Buffalo allowed just 5.2 yards per target to the position in the regular season (second-fewest).
Favorite Tournament Ideas
In no particular order.
– Eagles onslaughts (Hurts + Brown + Smith + Goedert) at far lower ownership than Bills or Chiefs stacks
– Richie James at way lower ownership than last week
– Kelce + Engram in the same lineup