NFL

DraftKings Daily Fantasy Football Primer: Divisional Round

In this DFS preview, I'll cover the full divisional round slate of games and group players into two categories based on their DraftKings salaries: players to build around and value plays.

Players to build around are those with high salaries but even higher production ceilings, making them worth prioritizing in your lineup. Value plays are guys with lower salaries and typically come with some risk, but adding them to your lineup will help you afford the more expensive players on the slate.

Although this primer covers the full weekend schedule, salaries are the same for the individual Saturday and Sunday slates, so these tips are relevant for each of those sets of games as well.

All references to betting totals and spreads are from FanDuel Sportsbook. All stats are from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.

Players to Build Around

QB Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs ($8,000) vs. CLE

The total for this matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns is set to 56.5 points, which matches the highest number for a Chiefs game all season. In four other games with the total set to at least 55 points, Patrick Mahomes has averaged 31.1 fantasy points. The Browns have played in a league-high six games in which the total score topped 65 points (including last week), proving they're capable of keeping up in a shootout, which means Mahomes will likely need to put a big number on the board in this matchup. Even while carrying the highest salary among quarterbacks, he stands out as the best play on this slate.

QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens ($7,600) vs. BUF

We can safely lock Lamar Jackson in for at least 20 fantasy points in this matchup against the Buffalo Bills (and probably quite a bit more). Buffalo has only held six quarterbacks under 20 points this season: Sam Darnold (twice), Cam Newton (twice), Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Lock. The Bills also allowed seven quarterbacks to reach at least 25 fantasy points (only the Atlanta Falcons allowed more). These numbers make Jackson look like a strong option in both tournaments and cash games.

RB Alvin Kamara, Saints ($7,900) vs. TB

Alvin Kamara could be due for a strong workload in the passing game based on this matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. According to Sports Info Solutions, Tampa is allowing 39.3 receiving yards per game to players lined up in the backfield, the sixth-most in the league. Additionally, opponents target players in the backfield 6.9 times per game against Tampa, the third-most in the NFL. Although Kamara moves around the field, 81 percent of his targets occur while lined up in the backfield.

WR Tyreek Hill, Chiefs ($8,000) vs. CLE

The Browns have activated Denzel Ward from the COVID list, but that's more likely to affect Demarcus Robinson and Sammy Watkins, who usually line up on the outside. Tyreek Hill has seen 66 percent of his targets while lined up in the slot, according to Sports Info Solutions, making him more likely to draw coverage from Kevin Johnson. Cleveland is allowing 8.5 yards per target to receivers in the slot, which ranks 18th in the NFL.

WR Michael Thomas, Saints ($6,700) vs. TB

Injuries have slowed Michael Thomas throughout the year, but he's been productive when on the field lately. The New Orleans Saints activated Thomas prior to their wild card game, and he was healthy enough to play 67 percent of the team's snaps while generating 18.3 fantasy points. He's reached at least 16 fantasy points in four of his last five games, so unless some new injury news pops up this week, it's probably safe to roster Thomas.

TE Travis Kelce, Chiefs ($7,800) vs. CLE

The Browns have surrendered 15.3 fantasy points per game to tight ends, the fourth-most in the league. With Travis Kelce posting at least 20 fantasy points in seven of his last eight games, he looks like a must-play in this matchup, especially in lineups with Mahomes at quarterback.

Value Plays

QB Drew Brees, Saints ($5,600) vs. TB

After a hot start to the season, the Buccaneers' defense stumbled down the stretch. Since Week 8, opposing quarterbacks scored 4.3 fantasy points above their average against Tampa and topped their average in seven of those nine games. Drew Brees hasn't demonstrated much of a ceiling this year -- he's peaked at 25.1 points -- but he's been remarkably consistent, topping 18 points in nine of 13 games. On a reasonable salary, he looks like an ideal cash-game play and is also worth a look in tournaments.

QB Baker Mayfield, Browns ($5,300) vs. KC

Dating back to Week 9, opposing quarterbacks are scoring 5.9 fantasy points above their average against Kansas City -- only the Detroit Lions allowed a worse rate in that span. Applying that trend to Mayfield, we would project him for 22.9 points. This feels like an attainable number for Mayfield based on the likelihood the Browns are playing from behind, forcing them to throw at a higher rate than their preferred game plan allows.

RB Kareem Hunt, Browns ($4,800) vs. KC

During the regular season, Kareem Hunt compiled 48 percent of his fantasy points while the Browns were trailing, compared to 31 percent for Nick Chubb ($6,600). Hunt's elevated usage in the passing game -- he sees 3.2 targets per game, compared to 1.5 for Chubb -- probably makes him the more valuable Browns running back in this matchup, with Cleveland entering the game as 10-point underdogs.

WR Jarvis Landry, Browns ($5,600) vs. KC

The Chiefs are giving up 8.6 yards per target to receivers lined up in the slot, the most among the remaining playoff teams according to Sports Info Solutions. Jarvis Landry has lined up in the slot on 77 percent of his targets and sees 5.1 slot targets per game. With Cleveland likely needing to throw the ball at a higher rate in this matchup, Landry should see an elevated workload.

WR Cole Beasley, Bills ($4,800) vs. BAL

Cole Beasley has been listed as a limited participant in practice this week, but he was facing similar issues last week and still took the field on 69 percent of the Bills snaps against the Indianapolis Colts. Late in the year, Josh Allen has leaned heavily on Beasley, giving him at least seven targets in four of his last five games.

Players to Avoid

QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers ($6,900) vs. LAR

Perhaps Aaron Rodgers is matchup-proof, but this is the most challenging defense he's faced by a wide margin. The Los Angeles Rams are holding opposing quarterbacks 5.8 fantasy points below their average this season and 8.7 points below their average since coming off their bye in Week 9. Rodgers' salary is slightly discounted to reflect the matchup, but he's still a risky play considering the other solid options available.


Ryan McCrystal is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Ryan McCrystal also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username cfbfilmroom. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.