NFL

DraftKings Daily Fantasy Football Primer: Conference Championships

In this DFS preview, I'll cover the full main slate for the conference championship 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 slate featuring both games, much of the same logic can be used to help build rosters on the showdown slates.

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 ($7,600)

Patrick Mahomes' injury against the Cleveland Browns last week may actually work in your favor if you're rostering him on Sunday. His salary dropped by $300 and, due to his limited practice time this week and somewhat questionable status, he'll probably be rostered at a slightly lower rate than usual. Quarterbacks score slightly above their average against the Buffalo Bills (1.1 points per game) and the Chiefs carry the highest implied total (28.8 points) on the slate. So unless more concerning news on Mahomes' injury status breaks over the weekend, he looks like the primary quarterback to target.

RB Aaron Jones, Packers ($6,500)

Aaron Jones is probably the only running back on this slate who can be trusted and will likely appear on an enormously high percentage of rosters. We've seen Jones be consistently productive in Green Bay Packers' victories, and when they're losing he sees a 16.2 percent target share (second on the team behind Adams). Regardless of the game script, Jones should perform in this matchup and he should be in your lineup unless you're simply trying to put together a contrarian roster.

RB Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers ($5,300)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back situation is a bit murky. Leonard Fournette dominated the workload last week, but Ronald Jones was a game-time decision with a quad injury and only played 29 percent of the snaps. If Jones is healthy, he may regain a larger role against Green Bay. However, Fournette has been consistently productive over the last two weeks and has seen 10 targets in the passing game in that span, potentially making him a safe play regardless of the game script. All of the non-Aaron Jones running backs on this slate are risky, but Fournette's recent production probably makes him the safest option.

WR Davante Adams, Packers ($8,000)

Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis is likely to shadow Davante Adams, and while Davis has shut down some receivers, Adams is going to be a tough matchup. Davis helped contain New Orleans Saints' receiver, Michael Thomas, last week and has put together some strong performances throughout the year, but he's had a rough second half of the season. According to Sports Info Solutions, since Week 9, Davis is allowing 10.6 yards per target in coverage. Since Adams appears to be matchup proof and Davis might be struggling a bit, it's probably safe to trust Adams to do his usual damage.

WR Tyreek Hill, Chiefs ($7,200)

According to Sports Info Solutions, the Bills are allowing a 52.8 percent completion rate on throws 15 or more yards downfield, including the postseason, the fourth-worst rate in the NFL. Tyreek Hill was targeted at least 15 yards downfield on 32.8 percent of his targets this year, so it's likely he and Mahomes connect on a couple of deep shots in this matchup.

TE Travis Kelce, Chiefs ($8,000)

This is only the third week this season Travis Kelce's salary has reached $8,000. So you'll have to pay a premium to insert him into your lineup, but it's easy to justify given his recent production (five straight games over 20 fantasy points). During the regular season, Buffalo allowed at least 20 fantasy points to a tight end a league-high four times (including 22.5 points by Kelce in Week 6).

Value Plays

QB Tom Brady, Buccaneers ($6,100)

Tom Brady's salary is more expensive than the typical "value play" but it's the cheapest among the quarterbacks on this slate. Green Bay's defense held opponents 3.1 fantasy points below their average during the regular season, so there's some risk in playing Brady in this matchup. However, with the Bucs as 3.5-point underdogs, Brady will likely see an elevated workload. This also looks like a good matchup for Brady based on Green Bay's use of Cover 3 and Cover 4, their two most common coverage scheme. According to Sports Info Solutions, Brady averaged 8.9 yards per attempt versus those coverage schemes, compared to 7.0 yards per attempt versus all others.

Brady vs CoverageComp%Yds/AttTD-Int
vs Cover 362.3%9.211-3
vs Cover 471.1%8.28-2
vs All Others66.2%7.019-7


RB Devin Singletary, Bills ($4,500)

Including the postseason, the Chiefs are allowing 6.6 yards per target to players lined up in the backfield, the sixth-highest rate in the league. Although Devin Singletary only averaged 3.1 targets per game, it's possible a combination of this weakness in the Chiefs defense and the probability of Buffalo playing in a negative script (Chiefs are favored by three points) leads to an increased role in the passing game.

WR Mike Evans, Buccaneers ($5,800)

As previously mentioned, Green Bay favors Cover 3 and Cover 4, which could lead to an increased role for Mike Evans. Since Antonio Brown joined the squad in Week 9, Evans leads the team with a 23.4 percent target share versus Cover 3 and Cover 4. That's a substantial increase from his 18.4 percent target share in all other coverage types in that span. Evans' increase comes at the expense of Chris Godwin ($5,400) who's share drops to 18.7 percent versus Cover 3/Cover 4 compared to a team-high 20.9 percent versus all others.

TE Cameron Brate, Buccaneers ($3,000)

Over the last two weeks, Cameron Brate has seen 11 targets to Rob Gronkowski's 6. This is a difficult trend to explain, so maybe the usage shifts back to Gronkowski this week. However, knowing Gronk's extensive injury history, it's easy to speculate he's simply worn down at this point in the season. Brate has a zero floor, but he's a reasonable alternative when you're looking to fade Kelce in a lineup.


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.