Hey there. If you weren’t already aware, you’re reading Part-1 of a 4-Part breakdown on this week’s DFS slate. In this article, we’re breaking down all relevant QBs, before covering RBs, WRs, and TEs.
We have an exciting collection of teams featuring the best-of-the-best facing off in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Follow along as we examine each positional grouping for each team to identify the DFS value/upside on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Before digging too deep into the individual players, I did want to mention a few important notes this week:
1) On a typical full-game slate, I want to feel comfortable with every player I’m rostering. Ideally, even my punt plays are tremendous values with high upside. On a shorter slate like this (four games or two games, depending on which tournament you enter), it’s okay to roster a relatively “gross” name if you feel they give you a stronger lineup overall – allowing you to pay up elsewhere.
2) I can’t stress enough the importance of late-swap on these smaller slates. If you have any tournament lineups that seem unlikely to cash, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding exposure to some “riskier” lower-owned players. And, I suppose, there is something of an edge towards players with games later in the weekend.
3) In the TLDR, I’ve listed out the top plays in order of value (according to me). This isn’t super strict. And in some cases sort of arbitrary. But it also doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as most of my readers think it does. What really matters, and especially with this short slate, is that you’re building a lineup that is well correlated. Or, as Johnny would say, “That tells a story.” And making sure you’re paying attention to ownership and then working off of that.
As you’d expect this late into the postseason, the Divisional Round is absolutely stacked with high-caliber QBs. By total fantasy points scored, we have the: QB1 (Josh Allen), QB3 (Tom Brady), QB4 (Patrick Mahomes), QB5 (Matthew Stafford), QB6 (Aaron Rodgers), QB8 (Joe Burrow), QB12 (Ryan Tannehill), and QB17 (Jimmy Garoppolo).
In order, Tier 1 in bold:
DK: Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Tannehill, Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo
FD: Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill
Notes: Here’s the order in which I’d rank the QBs of the slate in terms of value. Basically, just play Allen in cash. But, really all of this is irrelevant for tournaments. And our point-per-dollar projections for QBs are all extremely tight. Far more so than for the other positions, there’s no real substantial edge from one QB to the next. So, that’s all the more reason to focus on the game-stack rather than the individual QB for tournaments (as we always recommend). Or to play multiple lineups.
Josh Allen will be the highest-owned QB of the slate, though not very far above Patrick Mahomes. In spite of that, we still like him as the top QB for tournaments. However, Allen stacks aren’t as alluring to me as Aaaron Rodgers,- Joe Burrow-, or Matthew Stafford-stacks. (If that makes sense.) It’s a lot harder to know which of his receiver(s) is/are going to go off. And thanks to his rushing-upside, Allen doesn’t necessarily need a receiver to go nuclear in order to finish as the highest-scoring QB of the slate. After that (and relative to ownership and cost), Rodgers-stacks would be my 2nd-favorite of the slate. And then Matthew Stafford- and Joe Burrow-stacks nearly tied for 3rd-favorite.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans (vs. CIN)
DK: QB7 [$5,800], FD: QB7 [$7,300]
Just 10.9% of Ryan Tannehill's dropbacks this season came with all of D. Henry, Arthur Juan, and Julio on the field. He averaged 9.4 Y/A on those plays.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) January 18, 2022
24.6% of dropbacks without all three: 5.2 Y/A
31.3% without both AJ and Julio: 5.5 Y/A
30.4% with both AJ and Julio: 8.2 Y/A
Throughout his Tennessee tenure, Ryan Tannehill’s FPG average jumps from 15.9 FPG to 20.6 when A.J. Brown plays (+4.7). And his passer rating improves from 87.5 to 104.9.
And we see surprisingly similar splits depending on Derrick Henry’s status. His FPG average jumps from 16.1 to 21.1 when Henry plays (+5.0). And his passer rating improves from 93.1 to 105.1.
With both on the field this year, Tannehill is averaging 17.8 FPG in a seven-game sample, up from 15.8.
Typically, QBs are massively negatively correlated to their RBs, and especially RBs who aren’t too heavily involved in the passing game (like Henry). Their fantasy production coming by way of rushing yards and rushing touchdowns typically comes at the expense of the passing game. But Tannehill and Henry have a far more symbiotic relationship. Stacked together on DraftKings, they’ve provided a 0.11 correlation over the past three seasons.
So, Henry’s return should be good news for Tannehill. And, I think, even if he’s at less than 100%, his mere presence should lead to lighter fronts and improved efficiency from Tannehill and the passing game. And it should be good news for A.J. Brown too, as he provides a 0.16 correlation to Henry. His correlation to Tannehill is massive (0.28) and, consequently, I don’t know how Tannehill even mildly hits if A.J. Brown does not hit big.
And, I suppose, Brown should. Or, at least, he definitely could. Against the Bengals, he’ll get a top-3 matchup on the routes he runs from the slot (35%) and a top-10 matchup on his other 65% of routes from the perimeter.
For Tannehill, it’s tough to get a read on the matchup. Cincinnati ranks 14th-best by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+0.1), but that ranks 3rd-best on the slate. They rank 9th-worst by passing FPG allowed (15.9), but worst on the slate. Otherwise, all of the key stats I typically look at rank as middle-of-the-pack or perfectly neutral.
So, I think the key question with Tannehill this week is, “Is he going to be who he’s been throughout the totality of the 2021 season, when he finished just 15th in FPG (16.6), just +0.7 above Jimmy Garoppolo and 3.9 FPG behind the next-closest slate eligible QB (Joe Burrow)? Or does a healthy A.J. Brown and the return of Derrick Henry dramatically change things?”
The numbers I cited at the top certainly seem to suggest he’s going to be a bit underrated this week if the industry is viewing Tannehill closer to the 2021 version and not the 2019-2020 version. Because, from Tannehill’s first start in a Titans uniform until the end of the 2020 season, Tannehill ranked 1st in YPA (8.54), 1st in AY/A (9.29), 1st in PFF Grade (94.6), 2nd in fantasy points per dropback (0.68), and 4th in FPG (22.2).
If Tannehill is that version of Tannehill this week, he’s a phenomenal play relative to cost and especially projected ownership.
Ruling: I think Tannehill and the Titans overall are a bit underrated this week. He’s a great contrarian option and the Titans are a great contrarian stack. And especially because stacking Tannehill with his RB seems so unconventional. But, on paper and ownership excluded, he’s bottom-3 play on both sites.
Ideal Dub Stack: A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (@ TEN)
DK: QB5 [$6,600], FD: QB5 [$7,700]
The only thing holding Burrow back through the first 15 weeks of the season was a lack of pass volume. He led all QBs in AY/A (9.0) and passing fantasy points per pass attempt during the regular season (0.59), but ranked just 17th in pass attempts per game (32.5, with 9.8 less than Tom Brady).
But down the stretch, with the season on the line, Burrow was fully unleashed. Over their last three games, Cincinnati’s early-down pass rate has jumped by 14% (50% to 64%). And the results have been great. Over this span, Burrow is averaging 39.7 pass attempts per game (up from 31.1), 405.0 passing yards (!), 3.3 touchdowns, and 30.2 FPG with a 136.4 passer rating (10.2 YPA).
Though, interestingly, all three games came at home, and Burrow is averaging 38% more passing YPG at home this season. And Tennessee is giving up 51% fewer points per game at home. And, by the way, HC Mike Vrabel is 8-0 (and 8-0 ATS) with 8 or more days to prepare for an opponent.
When asked about the things he noticed when watching the Bengals’ game against the Raiders last week, Vrabel said (paraphrased) he thought the Raiders did a good job defensively of keeping everything in front of them, but not allowing the big play. They gave up just 2 deep completions (for 57 yards) on 4 deep passing attempts, but weren’t too successful overall, as Burrow finished with a 110.4 passer rating. I assume Vrabel’s defensive gameplan will center around stopping Cincinnati’s deep passing attack, but I’m skeptical they’ll be anywhere near as successful as Las Vegas. Because the Raiders came into the week ranking 3rd-best by FPG allowed to WRs on deep passes (4.7), but the Titans rank 6th-worst (8.9). (The Bengals offense ranks top-5 by the same stat.)
Tennessee ranks 10th-worst (3rd-worst on the slate) by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+1.2). Though they rank fringe-top-10 by opposing passer rating (10th-best) and passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (9th-best). They can be viewed as something of a pass funnel, however, ranking 7th-best in YPC allowed (3.78) and 2nd-best by rushing YPG allowed (64.1).
And, importantly, the strengths of Cincinnati’s offense match up nicely with Tennessee’s defensive liabilities. Which is to say, they’re especially vulnerable to WRs, giving up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+5.4). (Las Vegas ranked 9th-best.)
So, the matchup is favorable, and suits Burrow well. But I also expect Tennessee to be playing defense with their offense, which is to say, they’re going to try to dominate the time of possession and keep Joe Burrow off the field. But they’ve tried to do that all year, and they were still giving up 24.4 points per game when Henry was on the field.
So, pace of play is a concern (2nd-worst of the slate but not as bad as [email protected]). Burrow is a road underdog (+3.5), which matters a lot more to a QB’s expectation than anyone typically mentions. But he’s also been hellfire hot of late, and the on-paper matchup is firmly in his favor. A much better matchup than last week at least. And I do expect Cincinnati to lean as or more pass-heavy as they’ve been in recent weeks.
Ruling: In spite of Cincinnati’s low implied point total (22.0, 2nd-lowest on the slate), we like Burrow as the 2nd-best overall QB of the slate on both sites.
Ideal Dub Stack: Jamarr Chase and Tyler Boyd. If wanting to go more contrarian, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (vs. SF)
DK: QB3 [$7,100], FD: QB3 [$8.400]
Among all slate-eligible QBs, Rodgers ranks 3rd in passing FPG (19.3). He ranks 2nd among all QBs (not just of the slate) in fantasy points per pass attempt (0.58), sandwiched in between Joe Burrow (0.59) and Matthew Stafford (0.57). He’s thrown for multiple touchdowns in 14 of his last 15 games. Minus Week 1 and a meaningless Week 18 game, Rodgers went 13-1, averaging 22.8 FPG and hitting at least 20.0 in 11 of 14 games. And then in that meaningless Week 18 game, Rodgers played only two quarters and was on pace for 28.4 fantasy points.
In a neutral matchup, Rodgers would seem a little overpriced. He averages just 1% more FPG than Burrow on DraftKings, but is 8% more expensive. On FanDuel, 3% versus 9%.
So, a lot (for me) comes down to the matchup. And it’s hard to get a read on how favorable this matchup is. San Francisco ranks middle-of-the-pack by all QB metrics I typically look at, except for opposing passer rating where they rank 8th-worst (97.0). Contrast that with their elite ground game — 2nd-best by YPC allowed (3.63), 6th-best by rushing YPG allowed (75.6) — and you can argue San Francisco is something of a pass funnel defense. And, you can argue further that the greatest strength of Green Bay’s passing attack (Davante Adams) matches up nicely with San Francisco’s greatest weakness, as they rank 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s over the last six weeks (+9.8). They’re also giving up the most YPG to opposing WRs on deep passes (58.2), and Green Bay’s WR unit ranks top-3 by the same stat. (Though, admittedly, Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s absence diminishes this slightly.)
It hasn’t really shown up in the QB stats, but we’ve seen a serious degradation from San Francisco’s secondary in terms of what they’ve given up to opposing WRs. Through the first 7 weeks of the season, San Francisco ranked top-5 in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs, but over the past 4 and 8 weeks they rank bottom-5. Across the last 4, 8, and 18 weeks of the season, San Francisco has ranked fringe-bottom-12 against slot WRs.
When Rodgers faced the 49ers in Week 3 — so, prior to San Francisco’s steep dropoff in performance — Green Bay won in a close shootout (30-28), and Rodgers was only modestly productive. He threw just 33 times, but completed 23 for 261 yards and 2 scores. That was good for a 113.3 passer rating and 18.5 fantasy points. Davante Adams dropped 34.2 DK fantasy points on 18 targets, and Green Bay's RBs gained 100 yards (1 touchdown) on 25 carries (4.00 YPC).
That Week 3 game was in San Francisco, but now Green Bay is at home, favored by 5.5-points, and behind the 2nd-highest implied point total of the slate. I think, given San Francisco’s susceptibility to the pass (in relation to their strengths against the run), DFS players are going to over-rate Green Bay’s RBs this week while underrating the pass-catchers. I do think Rodgers will lean far more pass-heavy than he did in their Week 3 meeting. But I am still worried about pace of play, given the sloth-paced nature of both offenses and HC Kyle Shanahan’s love of establishing the run.
On a typical full-game regular season slate, my favorite thing about Rodgers is you don’t ever really need to play him. Almost all of his points come through Davante Adams. So, you can just play Adams and soak up all of those points, and then play a different QB-stack. Though, admittedly, that strategy does lose some potency on the smaller slates. And, actually, this week’s matchup seems so attractive to the WRs, and the ancillary pieces so cheap, I really do love Rodgers stacks (beyond just Adams) this week.
Ruling: Rodgers is a fringe-top-3 QB value on both sites, and is also a great play for tournaments given the matchup and low-cost of his WR2 and WR3.
Ideal Dub Stack: Davante Adams and Allen Lazard
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (@ GB)
DK: QB8 [$5,200], FD: QB8 [$6,500]
I can probably try to make a somewhat compelling argument for Garoppolo, centered exclusively around his cheap pricetag (allowing you to pay up elsewhere) and his low projected ownership. But I’m not going to do that here. Because I don’t really think Garoppolo is in play beyond a few (1-10% for MME players) super-contrarian YOLO-stacks.
Above all else, maybe even actually winning the game, HC Kyle Shanahan wants to establish the run. And as such, Garoppolo averaged just 15.3 FPG this season (22% less than the 3rd-worst QB on the slate), with only one game over 21.3 fantasy points. Last week, in a 23-17 Wild Card win against the Cowboys, he scored just 6.0 fantasy points.
And in that game, Garoppolo added a sprained shoulder to his list of injuries (which includes a torn ligament in his throwing thumb). Following that injury, Garoppolo threw for 39 yards on 11 passes through two quarters, with 0 touchdowns and 1 interception.
I think there’s now a legitimate chance we see QB Trey Lance come in for a drive or two. And Broncos Insider Cecil Lammey has heard whispers of this from his sources.
Garoppolo threw 40 times for 15.7 fantasy points in their Week 3 meeting. And you can argue that matchup is neutral at-worst and maybe even best on the slate. Green Bay ranks 6th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+2.1), and worst over their last five games, providing an astounding +10.1 FPG boost to opposing QBs. Counting backwards since Week 11, we've seen them give up big games to some lowly competition: Kirk Cousins (25.2), Matthew Stafford (23.0), Justin Fields (20.4), Tyler Huntley (35.9), Baker Mayfield (14.0), Sean Mannion (13.0), and Jared Goff (17.5). They’ve given up 17.5 FPG allowed over this span (4th-worst), but rank very middle-of-the-pack in terms of efficiency. It seems volume is doing much of the heavy lifting, as teams have opted to pass against them on 63% of plays (3rd-most).
But, anyway, I just don’t see Garoppolo as competent enough (especially within the context of how this offense is structured) to take advantage of this favorable matchup. And I’m also not entirely sure it is as favorable a matchup as the numbers suggest. Especially with the temperature expected to be in the low teens, and CB Jaire Alexander expected back.
Ruling: On paper, Garoppolo is the worst QB play of the slate on both sites.
Ideal Dub Stack: If you’re playing Garoppolo I think you’re going to want to get weird. After all, his primary appeal is that he’s going to be the lowest owned QB of the slate (and for good reason). So, I think my ideal dub-stack would be George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk.
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. LAR)
DK: QB4 [$6,800], FD: QB4 [$7,800]
Despite losing Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, Brady is fresh off three monster games, averaging 335.7 YPG, 2.7 touchdowns per game, and 23.7 FPG over this span. He scored 21.6 fantasy points last week, and hit at least 19.8 fantasy points in all four postseason games last year. And, well, I don’t know about you but I do think postseason experience means something — and no QB (in the history of football) is more postseason experienced than the GOAT.
Brady dropped 28.7 against the Rams in Week 3 (with 432 passing yards), but he had to throw 55 times to get there. And well, that’s an argument for the floor. Even if the Rams slow down Brady in terms of efficiency, he’s going to go out swinging. The Rams are top-7 against the run, and the Buccaneers lead all offenses (by a wide margin) in pass rate over expectation (+11.6%).
Otherwise this is an exceedingly difficult matchup on paper. Over their last 7 games, the Rams have given up just 9.3 passing FPG(!), allowing just 2 total touchdowns to 9 interceptions.
They rank 4th-best in FPG allowed to opposing QBs (13.1), but against tougher competition (QBs ranking top-15 by fantasy points scored), the Rams have given up 19.3 FPG, which is still top-10. Brady had the highest score (28.7), then Aaron Rodgers in Week 12 (26.3), and then Kyler Murray in Week 4 (22.6).
It’s certainly encouraging that Brady went off against them earlier in the year. And that he did that without Brown and with Gronkowski for only half of the game (Godwin played), but Los Angeles’ defense has also stiffened up in the second-half. And Brady averages just 17.5 FPG on 46.0(!) pass attempts per game in his three meetings against McVay’s Rams (80.9 passer rating).
The game environment is favorable, but not by much. The Buccaneers are home favorites, with a close spread (-3.0) implying shootout potential, but they have the 4th-lowest implied point total of the slate at 25.25 (19% less than their per game average). The matchup is clearly a concern. And, even more concerning but not as often discussed is the health of Tampa Bay’s offensive line.
All of RT Tristan Wirfs, Backup RT Josh Wells, and C Ryan Jensen picked up injuries last week. Wirfs and Wells haven’t practiced all week, and Jensen only in a limited capacity. Obviously, that’s a massive concern against a Rams front which includes Aaron Donald and Von Miller.
Ruling: By value, we have Brady outside of the top-4 QBs on both sites. I suspect I’m going to be a little underowned relative to the field.
Ideal Dub Stack: Again, I don’t love the matchup and I have serious concerns about the health of the OL. So, I think, if I’m going to play Brady I’m going to want to go all-in — all-in on the “Bro, he’s the GOAT. Never doubt him. Never ever. He sold his soul to the devil. He’s going to win another Super Bowl this year. Just watch.” narrative — so that means Mike Evans plus Rob Gronkowski, who combine for 40.5 FPG over their last three games.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams (@ TB)
DK: QB6 [$6,200], FD: QB6 [$7,400]
Last week, we discussed what looked like a tale of two halves for Stafford, and questioned whether or not this might be injury-related.
Prior to last week, Stafford was averaging 15.5 FPG with a high of just 19.5 over his last four games. And he averaged 2.0 interceptions per game over this span. Obviously, that’s not good, and can’t be neglected. You can argue, based on these numbers, he’s highly volatile, but I don’t know how true that is, as he’s exceeded 20.0 DK fantasy points 11 times (3rd-most) and 18.0 DK fantasy points 13 times (2nd-most).
And, besides, Stafford looked a lot like the Stafford of the first-half in last week’s game against the Cardinals, amassing 22.0 fantasy points and gaining 202 passing yards with two scores on just 17(!) pass attempts (with only 8 in the second half), posting a near-perfect passer rating (154.5). Los Angeles opted to lean run-heavy (68%) in this 34-11 blowout. And it made sense given the matchup, as Arizona ranks 5th-worst in YPC allowed (4.60).
But I’d expect a near-opposite gameplan this week against the league’s top pass funnel defense. Offenses are passing 4.9% more than their expectation based on down-and-distance and gamescript would imply (2nd-most). The Buccaneers rank best by rushing YPG allowed (58.5) and 9th-best by YPC allowed (3.98). They rank 13th-worst by passing YPG (253.1) but better than average by most efficiency stats, a product of them seeing more pass attempts than any other team in football. And by all other key metrics this is a fairly neutral matchup on paper.
But, importantly, they’ve also had a fairly easy strength of schedule. Against QBs ranking top-15 in fantasy points scored, the Buccaneers rank bottom-7, giving up 26.8 FPG through 6 games.
Stafford was lights-out against the blitz last week, and has been the league’s best QB against the blitz this year. And that’s an important point considering no defense blitzes more often than the Buccaneers.
When these two teams met in Week 3, Stafford threw for 343 yards and 4 touchdowns on 38 attempts (134.0 passer rating). Cooper Kupp caught 9 of 12 targets for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns. Slot CB Sean Murphy-Bunting didn’t play in this game, and his return to the defense has dropped Tampa Bay from top-12 to bottom-3 in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs. (However, Murphy-Bunting is dealing with a hamstring injury this week, and looks questionable to play. His absence would be a huge boost to Kupp.) Interestingly, DeSean Jackson was the next most-productive WR, catching 3 of 5 targets for 120 yards and a score.
All of this being said, the Rams have the 3rd-lowest implied point total on the slate. And they’re 3.0-point road underdogs. But I also don’t think there’s any way this game isn’t a hyper-pass-heavy shootout with both QBs hitting the 300-yard bonus.
Ruling: Stafford is a great value, ranking top-3 on both sites. And the primary stack is obvious; Cooper Kupp, who has a great matchup.
Ideal Dub Stack: Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
DK: QB2 [$7,300], FD: QB2 [$8,500]
Mahomes averaged 27.0 FPG over his first 6 games, and he averages 26.7 FPG over his last 6 games. Of course, there was a weird 5-game lull in the middle of the season where Mahomes averaged only 15.8 FPG. But I’m not too worried about that.
What I am worried about is the matchup. The Bills have given up a league-best 12.4 FPG to opposing QBs this year (only 8.9 passing FPG allowed), and their 65.5 passer rating allowed ranks 3rd-best this past decade. And to make matters worse, they’re a bit of a run funnel. Najee Harris imploded last week, but prior to that, opposing RBs averaged 5.35 YPC or better against them in 5 of their last 7 games.
This is just the on-paper matchup. Digging deeper, Buffalo is the best defense against deep passes I’ve ever seen in my history as an analyst. They’ve given up just 9 deep completions all year, against the league average of 25.3. In their last 3 matchups against Kansas City, Buffalo has blitzed on just 6% of Mahomes’ dropbacks. Opting to keep the safeties back, something which stifled this offense before, and especially in that middle-third of the season I told you not to worry about.
Now, I don’t want to say this is a paper tiger of a matchup, because it’s not. I think Buffalo has the league’s best pass defense. But they’ve also had an absurdly easy strength of schedule. They’ve faced only 2 QB1s; Tom Brady, who scored 30.1 fantasy points, and Patrick Mahomes who dropped 21.0. (Though, to be fair, Brady only scored 22.5 passing fantasy points, and Mahomes only 14.9.)
And to get there, Mahomes had to throw 54 times. He threw 2 interceptions in the process (70.9 passer rating), and hit a career-high in rushing yards (61 on 8 carries) to save his day.
That’s not great. But what was great was Mahomes’ performance in the Divisional Round last year against the Bills, nearly a year to the day this week will be played. Mahomes trounced Buffalo, completing 29 of 48 passes for 325 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (127.6 passer rating).
So what happens this week? I don’t know, what happens when an unstoppable juggernaut meets an immovable force? Mahomes posting a below-expectations performance seems most likely to me. Given the close spread (-2.5) and a banged up Tyreek Hill, I think the odds are something like 70/30 Josh Allen out-scores him at a near-identical price-tag. But, of course, Mahomes could also go nuclear like he did against them in the playoffs last year.
Ruling: I like Mahomes, obviously, but I prefer Josh Allen straight up. There’s an argument to be made that Mahomes-stacks are actually more live than Allen stacks, as Mahomes is more productive through the air. And Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have far more slate-breaking upside than any pass-catcher on the Bills. And they’re both historically cheap. But then again, you can also easily stack Allen with Kansas City pass-catchers. At the risk of Mahomes going nuclear, I’m inclined to go lower owned than the rest of the field. We have him as only the 5th- (DK) and 6th-best (FD) value of the slate, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the 2nd-highest-owned QB of the slate.
Ideal Dub Stack: If I’m playing Mahomes, I think I’d want to go all-in, playing (at least) both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills (vs. KC)
DK: QB1 [$7,600], FD: QB1 [$8,800]
Josh Allen has the best overall matchup of the slate, and a top-5 matchup if all 32 teams were playing. Kansas City ranks 4th-worst by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+2.3), and bottom-5 over the last five weeks (+6.9). Ben Roethlisberger’s Wild Card performance isn’t included in those figures, but would only bolster them if included. He scored 16.5 fantasy points with a 92.5 passer rating, his highest marks since Week 14, averaging just 10.1 FPG in the interim (70.8 passer rating).
And, notably, Allen’s skill set matches up nicely with Kansas City’s greatest vulnerabilities. Allen has at least 60 rushing yards in four straight games, and no team gave up more rushing production to QBs than the Chiefs this season (4.6 rushing FPG). Against the more mobile QBs they’ve faced, we’ve seen: Lamar Jackson drop 37.3 DK fantasy points (16-107-2 rushing), Jalen Hurts drop 35.1 (8-47-0 rushing), and Allen himself drop 42.7 (11-59-1).
When these two teams met in Week 5, Buffalo won by 18 points — 38-20. In addition to his 42.7 DK fantasy points, Allen posted a 139.1 passer rating (best of the regular season) and took zero sacks. Stefon Diggs was held in check, catching just 2 of 5 targets for 69 yards. But Dawson Knox (20.7) and Emmanuel Sanders (20.4) posted week-winning scores. Something notable about this game is that this was not the barn-burning pass-heavy shootout some expected it would be. I mean, it was for Buffalo, but Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense fell well short of expectations. Buffalo’s DST led the position in fantasy points that week (17.0), also gifting Allen the league’s best average starting field position of the week.
Allen is the highest-priced QB on both sites, and, well, that’s understandable considering he led the position in fantasy points in back-to-back seasons. His 24.6 FPG this season is +8.4% better than the next-closest slate-eligible QB (Tom Brady). He’s hit at least 21.0 fantasy points in each of his last six games, with three games of at least 31.0, averaging 29.3 FPG over this span. And his best performance of his career, one of the best performances in postseason history, came last week, scoring 38.9 on just 25 passes. He had more touchdowns (5) than he had incompletions (4). And, keep in mind, this came in a worst-possible matchup against a New England defense that ranked best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to QBs (-5.2) and 2nd-best in passer rating allowed (73.3). (Allen had a near-perfect 157.6 passer rating last week.)
Last week Allen was at his best. And when Allen is at his best, no one else comes close. And even when Allen is not at his best, like in his postseason meeting against the Chiefs last year (80.8 passer rating), he can still walk away with 27.3 fantasy points thanks to what he can bring on the ground (7-88-0 rushing).
Ruling: Allen is the best overall QB-value of the slate on both sites…
Ideal Dub Stack: …but the trickiest thing about him is knowing who to stack him with. I don’t have a great read here, but my best guess would be Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox.