DFS research can be tough. We may not always know what to look for, or where to look for it.
But this article helps solve that problem – by providing some early-week research to give readers solid footing for the upcoming Divisional Round DFS slate.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-8.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (O/U: 53.0)
Despite overwhelmingly negative gamescript for Jacksonville in the Wild Card Round against the Chargers, Travis Etienne actually logged his highest route share (77%) and snap share (90%) of the season. It resulted in just 1 target and 16.1 DraftKings points, but it’s an especially encouraging sign for Etienne’s receiving moving forward, as his previous season-high in route share was just 63%.
It’s also notable that the Chargers are the single-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing TEs since Week 12 (-5.8 FPG) and Evan Engram still logged 11 targets (3rd-most on the team). He’s force-fed targets no matter the opponent.
During the first 15 games of the regular season, Engram exceeded double-digit XFP 10 times (the 3rd-most of any TE), averaging 11.1 XFP/G. Among remaining playoff TEs, only Travis Kelce offers more consistently reliable volume.
Patrick Mahomes is an even more impressive fantasy asset in the playoffs. He averages 23.5 FPG across his career in the regular season, but 28.5 FPG in the playoffs. He has six career games of 40.0 or more fantasy points, and three (50%) have come in the playoffs.
I would expect Jerick McKinnon’s backfield dominance to continue into the playoffs, maybe even more so than the regular season. He averaged a 75% snap share in last year’s playoffs, which is a notable improvement on the 47% snap share he posted in the final seven weeks of the 2022 regular season.
And we can’t forget how heavily the Chiefs rely on McKinnon in high-leverage spots. Since Week 13, he’s earned 56% of backfield red zone opportunities, 64% of backfield XTD (0.7 XTD/G), 68% of red zone snaps, and 68% of goal line snaps. Even when Kansas City has been leading, he remains the preferred RB (53% snap share with the lead).
All that said, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been designated to return from IR. He may play in the Divisional Round, which could complicate this backfield. But given how good McKinnon has been, I’ll be leaning into him as a DFS play with the hopes that CEH returning lowers his ownership.
Mecole Hardman could play this week. If he does, it hurts Kadarius Toney, who plays a similar gimmicky role.
I’m moderately interested in Noah Gray as a TE punt option for the two-game Saturday slate. He has at least one target in every game this year and sees increased snaps in the red zone (64% snap share since Week 13) and goal line (77% snap share).
Like Mahomes, Travis Kelce is just a different beast in the playoffs. He averages 22.2 DraftKings FPG in his 15 career playoff games, which is an 18% improvement over his regular season baseline from the last four seasons. Two of the four highest-scoring games of his career have come in the playoffs.
Jacksonville is the 5th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for slot WRs (+3.5 FPG), the 7th-softest for TEs (+2.3 FPG), and the 9th-softest matchup for QBs (+2.0 FPG) since Week 12. A great matchup for Patrick Mahomes, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Travis Kelce.
Kansas City is the 2nd-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs this season (+3.9 FPG). They’ve allowed the most passing TDs (33), the 6th-highest fantasy points per dropback (0.45), and the 5th-highest completion percentage over expectation (+2.4%) of any team this year. A very strong spot for Trevor Lawrence.
New York Giants (+7.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (O/U: 48.0)
Daniel Jones’ season-high in rushing attempts during the regular season was 12, while his season-high in designed rushes was 7. Jones managed 17 total rushes in the Wild Card Round, 11 of which were designed. The Giants are going to lean heavily into his rushing ability for the playoffs.
Jones has historically struggled as a heavy underdog, averaging just 15.6 FPG when the Giants are dogs by 6.0 points or more (8 instances), compared to 21.1 FPG outside of that split.
But Jones rushing negatively impacts Saquon Barkley, who recorded his 2nd-lowest touch total (14) of the season, despite a 90% snap share. Barkley and Jones share a -0.17 correlation over their last 17 games together.
Excluding Week 18, here are the target totals for the Giants WRs over their last five games: Isaiah Hodgins (34), Richie James (35), and Darius Slayton (27). Hodgins is the clear top red zone option, leading the WR room with 0.8 XTD/G, 1.4 red zone targets per game, and 0.4 end zone targets per game over that stretch.
Jalen Hurts has smashed as a favorite these last two seasons, averaging 27.4 FPG in games the Eagles are favored by 3.0 points or more, compared to 22.8 FPG outside that split. It’s also worthwhile noting Hurts is not on the injury report in any capacity this week.
This Philadelphia backfield was a serious timeshare in the final few weeks of the regular season. Miles Sanders averaged just 9.7 XFP/G, while Kenneth Gainwell averaged 7.1 XFP/G, and Boston Scott averaged 2.8 XFP/G. I’m slightly interested in Gainwell for large-field GPPs on the two-game Saturday slate, but I’ll otherwise be avoiding this backfield barring a massive ownership discount.
Sanders has scored single-digit fantasy points four times as often as he’s scored 20.0 or more fantasy points.
The Eagles went slightly more pass-heavy than normal against New York, averaging a +5.6% pass rate over expectation, almost triple their season-long rate (+2.0%). It’s worth noting that Jalen Hurts only played in one of those games.
The Giants are the 9th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs (+1.3 FPG). When these teams played in Week 14, Miles Sanders scored 28.5 fantasy points on 20 opportunities. In Week 18, Sanders scored just 3.3 fantasy points on 12 opportunities. I’d consider this a plus matchup for Sanders overall.
The Giants are the 6th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing TEs since Week 12 (+2.7 FPG). A solid spot for Dallas Goedert.
The Eagles are the single-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs since Week 12 (+6.1 FPG). They are also the 2nd-softest matchup for opposing slot WRs during that time (+4.8 FPG). A great matchup for Daniel Jones and Richie James.
Cincinnati Bengals (+5.0) @ Buffalo Bills (O/U: 48.5)
The Bengals implied team total is just 21.75 this week. That should keep Joe Burrow’s ownership in the single digits. He’s exceeded 28.0 DraftKings fantasy points in three of his 10 games as an underdog of 4.0 points or more, so he still has plenty of merit as a GPP play.
And the bearish sentiment around Cincinnati almost entirely stems from offensive line concerns…
The Bengals projected offensive line (per @PFF) against the Bills this week without La'el Collins, Alex Cappa, and Jonah Williams. pic.twitter.com/pSOhUFKEOO— Connor Allen (@ConnorAllenNFL) January 18, 2023
But let’s not forget that Cincinnati was PFF’s worst-graded pass-blocking offensive line in the 2021 postseason and the 4th-worst graded offensive line in the 2021 regular season. Cincinnati still made the Super Bowl, granted Joe Burrow didn’t score more than 22.0 DraftKings points in an individual contest. Still, it shows that the Bengals are arguably the league’s most capable team at putting up points with a poor offensive line.
Joe Mixon averages the 2nd-most XFP/G of any remaining playoff RB since Week 15 (18.0) – just 0.6 XFP/G less than Christian McCaffrey. Mixon has fallen -4.4 FPG short of his expectation over that stretch, but he’s easily the top usage-based value at RB this week.
Speaking of playoff workloads, no Divisional Round WR has earned more XFP since Week 15 than Ja’Marr Chase (20.1) – 13% more than the next-closest playoff WR (DeVonta Smith).
As an underdog of 3.5 points or more, Chase averages an insane 27.4 DraftKings FPG (5 instances). He has games of 58.6 DK points and 37.1 DK points in that sample (the two highest-scoring games of his career).
Josh Allen averages an absurd 30.5 DraftKings FPG in his seven career playoff games. He’s fallen under 27.0 DraftKings points just once in that sample, and has exceeded 40.0 DraftKings points twice.
The Wild Card Round demonstrated the Buffalo backfield is a full-blown committee. Devin Singletary earned 47% of backfield XFP (7.8) on a 55% snap share, while James Cook earned 35% of backfield XFP (5.8) on a 31% snap share. It’s difficult to trust either player, but I’m fine taking some shots on Singletary in GPPs given his $5,200 price tag.
Isaiah McKenzie is expected to play in the divisional round. He’s a solid salary-saving option at just $3,300 on DraftKings given the ceiling he’s shown at times (two games of 30.0 or more DraftKings points over the last two seasons).
The Bills have been the 4th-softest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing slot WRs (+3.9 FPG) and the 8th-softest matchup for WRs (+5.0 FPG) since Week 12. A strong matchup for Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Ja’Marr Chase.
Cincinnati has been a brutal matchup for opposing RBs since Week 12, allowing -4.8 schedule-adjusted FPG (6th-toughest). But, they’ve been much softer against WRs, allowing +6.8 schedule-adjusted FPG (3rd-softest). A tough matchup for these Buffalo RBs, but a compelling one for the WRs.
Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) @ San Francisco 49ers (O/U: 46.0)
Dak Prescott has 16 career games with an implied team total of 22.0 or lower, and he averages just 17.3 DraftKings FPG in those contests. He’s scored over 23.0 DraftKings points in 19% of those games. The Dallas implied team total this week is 21.25.
Christian McCaffrey is the only RB to score more than 20.0 DraftKings points against the 49ers' defense this season. RBs with at least 10 touches against the 49ers' defense this season average just 11.4 DraftKings FPG and 3.4 YPC.
So, maybe we can’t rely on a hyper-efficient RB like Tony Pollard in this matchup. But Ezekiel Elliott – while notoriously inefficient – has far superior TD equity. Elliott (19) has more than twice as many goal line carries this season as Pollard (7). Zeke makes for an interesting contrarian pairing with the Dallas defense, given their 0.27 correlation over Elliott’s last 16 games.
TY Hilton’s route share by week: 11% (Week 16), 30% (Week 17), 38% (Week 18), and 51% (Wild Card Weekend). He leads the team in TPRR over this stretch (0.26) and has seen at least 4 targets in each of his last three games. He’s a compelling salary-saving play at just $3,200.
I wouldn’t chase Brock Purdy’s 37.9-point DraftKings performance from last week, as he hasn’t scored more than 21.7 DraftKings points in his other six games.
Christian McCaffrey averages 25.8 FPG in his San Francisco games without Elijah Mitchell but just 16.5 FPG with Mitchell. There is a strong chance he will go over-owned this week.
Deebo Samuel has four playoff games over the last two seasons, averaging 20.7 DraftKings FPG and 11.5 touches per game in those contests. Over his last two regular seasons, Samuel averages 18.3 DraftKings FPG and 8.1 touches per game. His workload is better, and so is the production.
No player suffers more from Samuel’s presence than George Kittle, who averages 10.6 FPG in games where Samuel has earned at least 4 targets (compared to 15.1 FPG in all other games).
Dallas is the 3rd-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing QBs (-3.1 FPG), the 2nd-toughest matchup for receiving RBs (-3.1 FPG), and the 5th-toughest matchup for opposing TEs (-2.4 FPG). A brutal matchup for nearly every aspect of the 49ers' offense.
San Francisco is the single-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for opposing RBs (-4.4 FPG). They’ve allowed 3.4 YPC (2nd-toughest), a 2.4% explosive play% (toughest), and just 1.7 yards after contact per attempt (toughest). The worst possible matchup for the Cowboys RBs.
That said, the 49ers are a rather soft matchup for WRs, allowing +2.3 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing slot WRs (5th-softest) and +3.2 FPG to WRs (6th-softest). An underrated spot for CeeDee Lamb.