Collin Hulbert gives you his analysis and DFS picks for Sunday’s Conference Championship games.
Last week was a perfect example of the volatility associated with playoff DFS. We cashed in one and failed to cash another, due in large to the career-high performance of Travis Kelce. Kelce put up a whopping 44 fantasy points for the week and the Chiefs game as a whole skewed the scores across DraftKings in every contest.
Luckily for us, we had Hayden Hurst, Kendrick Bourne, Willie Snead, and a number of other low priced options who carried us to success. The frustrating part about the Kelce decision was, I had initially slotted him earlier in the week, until the injury reports seemed to get more serious as the week transpired. Instead of checking in on it for gameday, the Saturday games had already been played so it was too late at that point, given both tight ends had already played.
We scored 167 over a 160 cash line and 130 over a 143 cash line in the contests, cashing the first. Raheem Mostert, Tyreek Hill, and George Kittle were our big busts of the week, but we smashed with big days from Davante Adams (39 points), Lamar Jackson (36 points), Damien Williams (27 points), and Pat Mahomes (41 points).
DraftKings Lineup Scores for our 2019 Playoffs:
Wildcard Week: 132 & 90
Divisional Week: 167 & 130
Our Playoff average: 129.75
Avg 50/50 cash in DraftKings playoffs: 128.25
Conference Week Preview
This week, we’re stacking the Chiefs and Titans primarily, with some 49ers sprinkled in, along with Davante Adams and Aaron Jones from the Packers. I’m going to start Derrick Henry this week in a lineup, but of course I’m worried his run will end.
Over the past few weeks, the Patriots and Ravens failed to commit to stopping Henry and it cost them greatly. The Chiefs did the same back in week 10, so I think they’re going to focus on Henry this time around and take their chances with Tannehill.
At Henry’s high price, an average or sub-par effort in DFS could absolutely sink your roster and he offers so little in the receiving game, his upside — which is huge — is capped by a lack of receiving opportunities. Sacrificing Henry, for example, allows you to pivot from a duo of Henry/Samuel and move to a duo like Aaron Jones and Davante Adams. I feel much safer about having the latter, especially given the fact the latter should account for around 50% of their team’s touches.
With all the uncertainty this week with usage on certain teams, the Adams/Jones combo is the closest thing to a sure thing we have. With all that being said, I’ll roll the dice on Henry in a lineup and go cheap in one other spot to make the budget work.
As it is set every week, the prices on DraftKings are listed next to every player in parentheses.
Pat Mahomes (DK-$7,700)
I was elated to have started Mahomes last week. Unfortunately, I didn’t stack him with the right guy and it ended up resulting in a failed cash for our second lineup. Like last week, Mahomes has another relatively nice matchup. The last time these two teams played, Mahomes had 33 points as he threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns. I wouldn’t expect the same output this time but it also wouldn’t surprise me if it happened.
Of all the matchups this week, this one is a no-brainer for everyone playing DFS. Mahomes has an EO this week of 30 over a GPI line of just 20.79. He’s certainly expected to have a big day and there’s little reason to believe he won’t be able accomplish just that.
Ryan Tannehill (DK-$5,500)
As unimpressive as Tannehill has been so far in the playoffs, his 160 total passing yards over the two-game stretch, Tannehill simply hasn’t had to throw the ball much, because his run game and defense have been so stellar. I strongly believe the Chiefs will be focusing their efforts on stopping the run game, thus leaving plenty of favorable matchups for Tannehill to attack the Chiefs secondary.
Tannehill’s EO this week is 19 points with a GPI of 14.85. He’s shown his ceiling is much higher than we saw the past two weeks and there’s a good chance the game script and defensive game plan for the Chiefs will force Tannehill into action.
Aaron Jones (DK-$6,700)
Jones has a line this week of 100 total yards and an EO of 16 and a GPI of 18. Like a week ago, there are few players available in the playoffs who have an EO line better than their GPI and Jones isn’t one of those guys. Alas, the pickings are slim this week and Jones should get around 15-20 touches in the game, so we’re banking on the opportunity translating into points.
In their Week 12 meeting, Joes had just 3.8 points and was limited to 38 yards on 13 carries. This time around, expect Jones to get more work as a receiver, where he either gets split out wide or catches a few dump-offs. Green Bay’s vanilla game plan from Week 12 will not be replicated this time around, so I expect Jones will find more space and opportunity this time around.
Damien Williams (DK-$7,000)
Williams had another big week last week with 27 points. We’ve been riding him ever since he returned from injury and it’s paying off in a big way. Expect less touchdowns this week but just as much involvement, as Damien Williams has proven himself to Andy Reid his value to this offense is immense, especially when compared to his replacements. Williams’ EO this week is 20 points with a GPI of 18.9, so he’s one of the few solid plays this week in a very limited field.
Derrick Henry (DK-$8,700)
Henry is more of a risk than people are willing to admit. I started him at various points this season — including vs the Chiefs in Week 10 — and each time, Henry had a great game. In fact, Henry was my most successful start this season as he had zero bust games when I recommended him in a lineup.
That being said, I am worried the Chiefs will pour everything into slowing him down this week. In Week 10, Henry had 188 yards rushing and it was just his third best rushing performance from a yardage perspective on the year. Henry is a risk due to the price, but we all know how dominant he’s been lately, so the Chiefs are going to be in for a very long day.
Davante Adams (DK-$7,900)
Adams had 39 points last week against the Seahawks. I was elated as it was happening because Adams ended up being the reason for the first lineup’s cash. I was also happy to see the Packers lean so heavily on Jones and Adams, further re-affirming my assumptions that the Packers were going to try to take advantage of the weaknesses in Seattle’s defense, instead of opening up the game attempting to be stubborn and run the ball.
I know Richard Sherman sticks to his side of the field nowadays, but I wonder what the Packers are planning on doing now to scheme him open in this game. I expect they’ll line up Adams a decent bit in the slot and opposite of Richard Sherman’s side of the field. He’s the one receiver Rodgers leans on and trusts, so I’m expecting him to get a lot of action here in what should be a predominantly negative game script.
Adams’ line this week is 8 receptions and about 10 yards, so if he can surpass that threshold of 100 yards, we’ll pick up the two-point bonus. Bonus included, his EO this week is 23 points. With a GPI line of 21.33, Adams is a good value play this week, even with a tough matchup.
Tyreek Hill (DK-$7,200)
Forget what I said about Hill last week. The Chiefs didn’t even need him as they relied on Kelce and Williams to tally six touchdowns between the two. This week, the Titans will be an intriguing matchup for Hill.
In their previous matchup, Hill went for 157 yards and 11 receptions. It was a season high for both. Though he didn’t pop last week, it’s clear the Titans had serious issues with him the last time the two played. The problem for the Titans is, they can’t afford to double Hill while Kelce and field stretchers like Hardman are out there, so I don’t have a lot of confidence in the Titans ability to slow him down much this time around.
Hill’s EO this week is 19 with a GPI of 19.44. I like Hill this week because of what he did the last time against the Titans and for what he’s capable of doing after the catch.
AJ Brown (DK-$5,200)
We already covered why we believe in Ryan Tannehill this week. We know Tannehill’s line this week is 225 yards passing, but we also know the Chiefs are going to do everything in their power to stop Henry this week. With the Titans being a very effective play action team and one that thrived on the AJ Brown connection late in the year, it’s in the Titans back pocket for Sunday and I think it’s going to come front and center this week. Brown’s EO is 15 points with a GPI of just 14, so he checks out as a good value play at a discount price.
George Kittle (DK-$5,800)
Kittle had a stinker last week. It happens, but anyone who watched the game knows the only reason he had such a down week was because of the success the 49ers were having running the ball. Though I don’t expect the 49ers to necessarily get shut down running the ball, it will be more difficult. It’s also worth noting the Packers are one of the worst teams at defending pre-snap motion and they’re one of the worst teams at defending the pass over the middle of the field.
The 49ers throw the ball primarily over the middle of the field (credit to Warren Sharp at Sharp Football Analysis). When these two met in Week 12, Kittle had his second best fantasy output of the season, going six for 129 and a score. He should again be able to find space in the Packers defense and exploit it for big gains this week. Kittle’s EO is 18 points this week and his GPI is only 15.66. Start him with confidence this week.
Jonnu Smith (DK-$3,400)
Aside from Smith’s “One cheek” catch last week, he was relatively quiet. This week, we should see more action from Tannehill and what’s really promising about that is, the Titans run a lot of play action, so Smith should be able to have some opportunities based on formation frequency and releases on plays. The Titans like to get the ball into Smith’s hands as he’s a very strong, fast, and athletic runner for a bigger guy. I like the Titans to get him the ball this week a few different ways.
49ers D (DK-$2,900)
You could make a case for a few of the other defenses to get the nod, but why risk it? The 49ers are only $900 more expensive than the Titans (the cheapest defense this week). They will have big upside, given how they’ve been playing lately, their health, and how they performed the last time they played the Packers (11 pts).
Raheem Mostert (DK-$4,300)
Mostert hurt us last week, but in his defense, he did suffer substantial cramping in his calf. Kyle Shanahan explained Mostert would’ve gone back into the rotation, had it not been for the cramps, but Coleman was running so well, he didn’t see a need for him to return.
This week, Mostert is priced appropriately for his expected production. He’s currently sitting in the driver seat of the running back rotation and his EO is 11.5 this week — highest among 49ers backs. His odds to score a touchdown are +110, so he’s technically the most likely player — along with Kittle at +110) — to score a touchdown for the 49ers this week. We know they’re going to score quite a bit, so he’s a good dice roll this week.
Sammy Watkins (DK-$4,600)
Watkins has an EO this week of 12. That may be surprising to a lot of people but consider the issues the Titans are going to have between Hill and Kelce, two players who combined for well over 200 yards and 18 receptions the last time these two played. Watkins should be free to operate in the Titans secondary. I like for him to have a sneaky good game this week.
Kendrick Bourne (DK-$4,200)
Bourne paid off last week with a touchdown to open the game, as he finished with 40 yards on three receptions. He’s a big dice roll, but if you need a cheap fill this week, look for him.
Adam Humphries (DK-$3,000)
Humphries is going to be a game time decision. Check the injury report an hour out, but the videos this week surfaced, revealing Humphries cutting hard on that injured ankle.
I assume he’s going to play and though he shouldn’t be on the field for a high number of snaps, Humphries is a great third down option out of the slot and could easily be a great value play at a rock bottom price.
Collin is a former Army Intelligence and Logistics officer who got a little too into Football analysis. Since leaving the Army, he’s practically the Jack Ryan of football analysts. But he spends most of his days with his wife and two daughters, so he is clearly a better father than Jack Ryan.
Follow Collin on Twitter @CollinHulbert