A small slate of daily fantasy sports is available this week for Championship Week as Collin Hulbert delivers his topic picks for this weekend.
Divisional Round Weekend was a reality check for the NFL and our perception of the truly elite teams. During the week our single-entry, 50/50 lineup cashed in 4th position out of 10 with 98.4 points (5th place was 97 and 6th was 95). Although the lineup cashed, our goal was 105 and we fell short, courtesy of a bad choice at quarterback, and some bad luck with one questionable holding call that negated a 10-point play from Alvin Kamara. Also, the Chargers defense (-4) almost ruined the week for us.
Through the playoffs thus far, we are averaging 104 points. Overall, the playoffs have gone well and the picks should have yielded you at least one cash in the two weeks. As the field of players shrinks, we will again adjust the goal for the next week.
I’ll pick a primary and an alternate lineup and use them in two entries this week and use the average score of the 5th place entry to determine whether our picks turn out to be a success or not.
A look ahead to Conference Championship Week
Watch the weather in the AFC title game
The weather might be a huge factor this week in the AFC title game with weather projections at kickoff around 17 degrees. Historically, games at this level of cold become more about ball control and avoiding big turnovers.
With passing percentages down in freezing weather, the prospect of a high-flying AFC title game is looking less promising by the day. Even if the weather improves, the Chiefs have been vulnerable on defense this season. Although they managed to stymie the Colts at home last week, the Patriots will find a way to open wounds on defense. I think the Patriots will go ground-heavy and fall back on the dink and dunks on critical downs.
If you’ve watched Belicheck over the years, his strategy against powerful offenses has always been to keep the other quarterback off the field as long as they can. I think Belicheck turns this game into an eerily similar repeat of the 1990 Bills vs Giants Super Bowl. In that game, Belicheck limited the unstoppable Bills offense to their second-lowest point total of the year — not counting resting starters in Week17. Expect the same general strategy this week.
An uncertain NFC matchup
In the NFC, conditions are better, but the matchup has more uncertainty. Both teams have tremendous offensive coaches and talent all over the field. Like the AFC matchup, these are two high-powered offenses. The difference in the game is the contrast between the Saints rushing defense (2nd ) and the Rams (23rd ). Both teams have had issues, at times, in the secondary.
The Saints have been much sharper in the secondary lately, but the game will really be won or lost on the arm of Jared Goff. The Rams will likely not be able to run all over the Saints like they did against Dallas a week ago, so Jared Goff’s ability to execute in play action will be critical towards the success of the Rams this week. I expect the Saints to control this game and dictate on offense, thus forcing Goff into a negative game script early on.
As I mentioned in my small slate tips post, contest types are limited this week, so it’s wise that if you pick a vanilla matchup, avoid a tournament style and just play the safe 50/50 contests (up to 10 lineups competing). Tournaments are always decided by sleepers, so the odds of your lineup cashing in a tournament aren’t great if you go with a balanced lineup.
The strategy this week will be counter to last week. We are focusing on receivers since the matchups will give us two strong rushing defenses (Saints and Patriots) and none of the teams remaining have good passing defenses.
Two lineups with a three-player core
This week, we are putting out our top lineup out as the tournament lineup and suggesting a secondary lineup for 50/50 matchups. Both lineups share a core of three players. The primary difference is one lineup hasBrady, Michel, Edelman, and Gronk. The second lineup has Goff, Ginn, Hill, and Kelce. You just need to decide which you prefer. The core players are Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Josh Reynolds.
Good luck in your Conference Championship DFS picks this week!
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Tom Brady (DK-$5,800/FD-$8,400)
Brees hasn’t been setting the world on fire lately. He’s yet to break 20 points since November 22nd, when he did so against the Falcons. I think Brees is great and was tempted to choose him, but I can see the Saints playing a safe game plan, full of creative run packages, and having tremendous success. The volume of Brees concerns me.
Despite the number of passes Brees could deliver and that Brady and Mahomes are likely playing in the coldest game this season, I like Brady here. Even though the game is on the road and in horrifying conditions, I think the Pats will run the ball all over the Chiefs and allow Brady to take to the air whenever he pleases (especially third down). If the weather is truly awful, go with the alternative roster listed.
Alternate – Jared Goff (DK-$5,400/FD-$8,000): My thoughts on Goff are based on the matchup here, more than Goff’s ability. Goff is easily the worst QB still in the playoffs, but the Rams dynamic rushing attack faces a huge challenge this week against the Saints second-ranked rushing defense. I believe Goff will be forced into passing early and often in this game. I love his potential passing volume here, more than any other quarterback.
Alvin Kamara (DK-$6,500/FD-$8,100)
We expected more from Kamara last week, but we ended up settling on 13 points, following a 10-point play being called back for an iffy holding penalty. Kamara definitely demonstrated his drastic gap in talent over Mark Ingram, who broke one 36-yard run, but was otherwise limited to 17 yards on eight carries. Kamara doubled Ingram in touches and should repeat that usage imbalance again this week against the Rams’ 23rd ranked rushing defense. He is a must-start this week in all game types.
Sony Michel (DK-$5,600/FD-$7,500)
Michel had three touchdowns last week, which might have surprised many of us. The Chiefs have a worse rushing defense than the Chargers, so why would we expect much difference this week? With the weather and assumed game plan of Belicheck, I think Michel will lead all backs in carries this week.
Alternate – James Develin (DK-$3,000/FD-$4,600): Develin is simply a roster-filler this week. I have no confidence he will even get a point. However, contrary to other roster fillers at this price, Develin has been used in short-yardage situations and I could totally see the Patriots using him on the goal line to catch the Chiefs off guard. Stick to the plan, there’s a pot of gold at the end of this alternative roster, I promise.
Michael Thomas (DK-$8,200/FD-$8,800)
Michael Thomas has an absurd playoff stat line over his short career. He has averaged 9 receptions for 129 yards over his three games and is coming off a 12 catch, 171-yard outing against the Eagles. Teams simply can’t guard Mike, even when the situation indicates he is the primary option. Michael Thomas is a must-have this week, regardless of what type of contest you’re playing.
Julian Edelman (DK-$6,600/FD-$7,900)
Edelman had nine receptions for 151 yards last week against the Chargers. Although I believe the Pats will attack primarily on the ground, there will be those signature third down opportunities coming Edelman’s way. With so many holes on defense, Brady should be able to find his favorite target quite often in this one.
Alternate – Tyreke Hill (DK-$7,700/FD-$8,400): It was apparent the Chiefs wanted to get the ball into Hill’s hands last week and it was also fairly obvious why. Hill burned the Colts all day and should see another heavy workload against a Patriots team he ripped apart earlier in the season. Belicheck will try very hard to keep it away from Hill, but the Chiefs will also prioritize Hill as their primary weapon this week. Expect a lot of targets/touches.
Josh Reynolds (DK-$4,200/FD-$5,400)
Reynolds wasn’t great last game and hasn’t been consistent at all this season following the loss of Cooper Kupp. Reynolds has had nice games in the slot but will need to bring his A-game in this critical NFC title game. Reynolds might be the surprise of the week, as the Saints have had trouble, at times, stopping receivers in the slot. For the price, he’s more of a roster fill but Reynolds has as high of a ceiling as any receiver this week, outside of Michael Thomas.
Rob Gronkowski (DK-$4,100/FD-$5,600)
We all have seen the rapid decline of Gronk. I did not envision recommending him this week, but we just can’t afford Kelce with the budget committed elsewhere on the primary roster this week. Gronk grew up in Buffalo and hasn’t seen a ton of action recently, so I’m assuming we see a little more juice from the big man this week against a poor secondary.
Alternate – Travis Kelce (DK-$7,100/FD-$7,400): Kelce just produces. I don’t know the weather situation
quite yet, but rest assured, snow or shine, freeze or slight chill, Kelce appears to be a great cold weather player. If you roll with the alternative lineup, you will be rewarded with solid tight end production.
Rams D (DK-$2,300/FD-$4,200)
I selected the Rams defense here because they have some sack potential with their defensive front line. The rest of their defense doesn’t instill confidence but the Saints haven’t exactly been blowing the doors off the competition lately either.
Alternate – Patriots D (DK-$2,100/FD-$4,000): The Patriots are, at times, good on defense. Their rushing
defense is solid. Combine their defense with the weather and the outlook isn’t too scary this weekend.
Demetrius Harris (DK-$2,600/FD-$4,000)
Harris is a roster-fill this week so we can concentrate the budget on big producers. The best thing we can say about Harris is that he’s going to win you your contest if Kelce somehow gets injured.
Alternate – Ted Ginn Jr. (DK-$4,300/FD$5,300): Ginn had seven targets last week, as an underthrow cost Ginn
a chance at a huge day. Ginn is a good low-cost value play this week for the alternate roster. He has a high ceiling, due to the incredible speed he still has. He also has a pretty low floor, so he’s a great buy-low roll of the dice this week.
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