DraftKings Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Divisional Round
The NFL regular season might be over, but daily fantasy rolls on throughout the playoffs. Not only is every postseason slate a small one, these are all winning teams that got into the postseason. We'll see many situations in which good offensive players are pitted against a good defense. Those easy, flowchart-type matchups are no longer available. Thankfully, the Divisional Round has a number of carve-outs to exploit.
Plus, numberFire has several excellent premium tools to sharpen your process. The heat map provides a very useful overview of the slate while the projections and lineup generator allow you to really fine tune things. Best of all, you aren't limited to just the NFL DFS tools. As a subscriber, NBA and NHL content is also available as those sports are each well into their respective regular season.
But you are here for football and this week's top plays on DraftKings. Let's get to it!
Tom Brady ($7,000) - Not only is Brady numberFire's highest projected fantasy option for the Divisional Round slate regardless of position, he's also the best points-per-dollar play. The New England Patriots are a 13.5-point home favorite with the highest implied total and should not be impacted by weather. Last week, Alex Smith threw two first half touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans, a bottom-five pass defense based on our scheduled-adjusted metrics. Tennessee comes out second-best against the run, so expect to see a lot of the action funnel through Brady, who is no longer on the injury report after dealing with an Achilles issue since late November.
Tuesday also saw Chris Hogan -- who has missed multiple games with a shoulder injury -- back in practice on a limited basis. Brady may also have his full complement of running backs with Rex Burkhead and James White nearing a return. Not only is New England a fully armed and operational battle station setup to shred a hapless pass defense, the Patriots have yet another opportunity to turn media reports into motivational bulletin board material.
Case Keenum ($6,100) - The Minnesota Vikings carry the second-highest implied total as slight home favorites against the New Orleans Saints, who have allowed more than 650 passing yards over the last two weeks. Even though New Orleans ranks as a top-10 pass defense, they have slipped in recent weeks. Rookie sensation Marshon Lattimore returned from injury in Week 14, yet the Saints pass defense has been 22nd in Passing Success Rate on Sharp Football Stats, down 10 spots from their season-long rating.
Unfortunately, a shootout is not assured. While weather and temperature won't be a factor indoors, Xavier Rhodes and the elite Vikings pass defense will be. Even though Drew Brees ($6,300) is coming off a vintage performance, he's still facing the league's second-best pass defense by our rankings. The most points a visiting opponent has scored against the Vikings happens to be -- you guessed it -- the Saints. Back in Week 1, the Vikings saw Sam Bradford throw for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns while the Saints offense settled for four field goals. Over the final eight games, Keenum completed nearly 71 percent of his passes on low volume (throwing the ball 30 or fewer times on six occasions). If the Saints can put up more points, Keenum should see a spike in pass attempts in order to keep pace. And if we see that happen, Keenum stacks with Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs will be nice lineups to have entered into some tournaments.
Matt Ryan ($5,700) - The four words of fantasy football analysis that no one could escape this past offseason was this: Matt Ryan touchdown regression. But last year's NFL MVP has gone way beyond that point. In fact, the last time Ryan threw for multiple touchdowns was back in Week 11. Although he's facing one our top-five pass defenses in the Eagles, Ryan could find a way to finally produce a fantasy-friendly stat line.
In last week's Wild Card victory on the road against the Los Angeles Rams, Ryan completed 70 percent of passes, snapping a streak of five games in which he failed to reach 63 percent. And the Eagles pass defense has struggled at times. Since Week 13, Philadelphia's pass defense sits in the middle of the pack in Passing Success Rate and outside the top 20 in Explosive Passing. That's a stark contrast to their season-long rank of third in limiting big pass plays. Ryan hitting some of those big gainers to Julio Jones is exactly what's needed to have Matty Ice smash value.
Le'Veon Bell ($9,600) - Coming off not one, but two weeks of rest, expect a massive workload for Bell. Even though he sat out of the season finale, Bell still led the league in carries while touching the ball over 400 times this season. Bell averaged a reasonable 16.8 carries per game while also catching 5 or passes in each of his final six games. Also rested is Antonio Brown ($8,100), who missed the final two regular season games with a calf injury and was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. Back in Week 5, a healthy Brown ripped up the Jaguars -- far and away our top-rated pass defense -- for 157 yards on 10 receptions and 19 targets. The list of wide receivers to reach the 90-yard plateau against the Jags thus far have been Brown and Tyler Lockett. A repeat performance is far from a sure thing.
Jacksonville has limited fantasy production to running backs in spots, but are outside the top 20 in both Rushing Success Rate and Explosive Rushing. Not only is Bell going to see a plethora of touches, there's plenty of optimism that'll deliver a performance worthy of the massive price tag. In Week 5, he caught 10 passes and tallied up 93 yards of offense.
Derrick Henry ($7,300) - Now that Henry has finally been unleashed, it's easy to see why DeMarco Murray was so desperate to play hurt for much of the season. Sitting out just one week would put him in serious jeopardy of never getting the starting job back. And as fate would have it, the head coach that didn't believe Henry was good enough to start ahead of Murray all year long has his job saved when the 2015 Heisman winner wrecked the Kansas City Chiefs for 156 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Now Henry will be asked to do the impossible: take out the New England Patriots in Foxborough. Over their last five games, New England allowed three running backs to exceed 90 rushing yards. On the season, the Patriots rank 30th in Rushing Success Rate while clamping down against the pass over the second half. In an assumed blowout, it's impossible to know if the Titans will be able to stick with the running game for four quarters. Regardless, Henry has played 97 percent of the snaps over the last two weeks. With Murray already ruled out, Tennessee has no other choice but to keep feeding the beast they've starved for too long.
Latavius Murray ($5,400) and Jerick McKinnon ($4,900) - Both Minnesota running backs are inexpensive plays that are very much in consideration this week. In fact, each one scores highly in our projections on a points-per-dollar basis. That's because the place to attack the Saints has been in the run game. Even though they are in the bottom 10 of rushing yards allowed to running backs, advanced metrics casts a much different light on the unit. For starters, our scheduled-adjusted metrics flag New Orleans as the 6th-worst rushing defense while also being 27th in Rushing Success Rate.
If Minnesota is playing with a lead, Murray has a good chance to see 20 or more carries for the fourth consecutive game. However, a quick review of the snap counts will show McKinnon is seeing a slight advance in the number of snaps played most weeks. While the savings of $500 could go a long way on a tight slate, McKinnon -- who's only seen double-digit carries once since Week 12 -- would benefit should the Vikings fall behind and need a pass catching back on the field.
Adam Thielen ($7,600) - According to PlayerProfiler, Thielen plays nearly 43 percent of his time in the slot, which is exactly where you want to play a wide receiver when facing the Saints. Slot receivers like Golden Tate, Jamison Crowder, Cooper Kupp, Mohamed Sanu, and even Adam Humphries all put up big games against New Orleans during the course of the season. Back in Week 1, Thielen (10 targets, 9 receptions, 157 yards) and teammate Stefon Diggs (8 targets, 7 receptions, 93 yards, 2 touchdowns) were both extremely successful against the Saints.
Since Week 13, the Minnesota defense has limited five of their six opponents to 10 points or fewer. So it's no wonder that Thielen's once super consistent production has come to a halt. He's been held to under 65 yards in four of five games during that time because the opposition simply hasn't been able to punch back. Expect a far more competitive environment and plenty of big opportunities for Thielen this week.
Mohamed Sanu ($5,700) - Just like Thielen, Sanu is another interior receiver facing a team that's struggled at times to defend slot. In addition to being torched by Sterling Shepard for more than 130 yards on two occasions, the Eagles also had issues with Keenan Allen, Doug Baldwin, and Cooper Kupp. However, a limited ceiling makes Sanu a difficult player to look at in tournaments. He's only crested 80 receiving yards twice all year, and has yet to hit 100 yards since joining the Falcons last year. Including last week's Wild Card game, he has exceeded 60 yards in 7 of the 10 games in which he's seen 6 or more targets. While Sanu isn't a good bet for the receiving yard bonus on DraftKings, he could make up for it with a red-zone touchdown. During the regular season, Julio Jones ($7,900) saw nine more red zone targets than Sanu, but Sanu was more efficient, converting 5 of the 7 receptions into touchdowns. Jones reeled in 8 of his chances yet only got across the goal line twice.
Corey Davis ($3,400) - Based on our projections, Davis is second to only Dede Westbrook as the top points-per-dollar wide receiver this weekend, but since Eric Decker caught a touchdown last week, many might rather pay the additional $400 to start the veteran. However, Marcus Mariota overthrew Davis for what would have been his first professional touchdown on the play right before Decker scored. For the sake of comparison, Davis caught four passes on seven targets while Decker only grabbed two balls with his five targets. Rishard Matthews had been the top wide receiver on the team for much of the season, but he has really struggled -- outside of a Week 15 outburst -- since returning from a hamstring injury. In addition to Westbrook and Davis, a cheap wide receiver situation to closely monitor is in New Orleans. Brandon Coleman ($3,000) missed Wednesday's practice with a neck injury. His absence would allow Willie Snead ($3,000) to take all the snaps at slot receiver for the Saints.
Delanie Walker ($5,000) - You ought to do what it takes to play Rob Gronkowski ($7,100), but Walker does come with $2,100 in savings and is coming off one of his better games. During Tennessee's comeback victory last week at Kansas City, Walker caught 6 of 8 targets for 74 yards. He's also being projected as either the second or third tight end in targets, receptions, and yards for the Divisional Round. New England has been average in allowing fantasy production to tight ends after struggling early in the year to keep them out of the end zone. The Patriots allowed five touchdowns to the position over the season's first six weeks, yet have now managed to keep them out of the paint for 10 consecutive games.
Vance McDonald ($2,500) - On a slate like this, we are willing to do some crazy things to get as many studs into our lineups as possible. One way to do that is paying the minimum salary at tight end for McDonald. Now, just hear me out for a minute. Ben Roethlisberger didn't play in Week 17 due to rest and McDonald didn't play in Week 15 due to a shoulder injury. So looking at just Week 14 and 16, we have a total of 11 targets, 8 receptions, and 104 yards for McDonald. In addition to chasing the tiny sample size of those recent games, there's a sub-optional matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars to worry about. Plus, McDonald is likely to again be out-snapped by Jesse James ($3,500). It's not pretty, but McDonald is perhaps the cheapest dart throw worth looking at.
New England D/ST ($3,200) - What's the best way to stop a 250-pound running back who matched -- per NFL Next Gen Stats -- Tyreek Hill's top ball carrier speed? Get to him at the line of scrimmage with the 350-pound Alan Branch, who's set to return after missing the final three regular season games with a knee injury. In addition to getting a huge piece -- literally and figuratively -- of their run defense back on the field, New England has been taking down the opposing quarterback far more often recently. After averaging a mere 1.7 sacks per game over the first 10 games, the Patriots are over 4.0 sacks per game in the last 6 contests. Earlier in the year, Marcus Mariota went through a six-week stretch in which he was sacked 17 times and threw 10 interceptions. He's been cleaner over the last four weeks, but has a total of two turnovers and five sacks over the last three games.
Philadelphia D/ST ($2,600) - The Eagles might be slight home underdogs, but this a terrific price for a strong defensive unit and makes for the best points-per-dollar play at defense based on our projections. Philadelphia -- fourth in takeaways this season -- hosts the Atlanta Falcons, who feature a subdued offense that is unlikely to blow the Eagles out of their own building. Matt Ryan hasn't throw for multiple touchdowns since Week 11. And over their last six games, the Atlanta offense is only averaging 19 points per game. While Ryan only threw an interception in seven games this season, three of those turned into multi-interception affairs.
Eric McClung is not a FanDuel employee. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.