FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Divisional Round (Saturday Slate)
The 2021-22 NFL playoffs are upon us after the first 18-game regular season. Thankfully, our weekly FanDuel NFL primer doesn't end with the regular season, extending into the playoffs to aid your roster building for postseason slates
However, this shouldn't be your only stop for informing your FanDuel lineup decisions. We suggest you check out the numberFire daily fantasy tools. One of my personal favorite tools is our weekly projections, which help highlight players I might be overlooking or confirm my lofty expectations. Additionally, the heat map offers a quick glance at the slate's highest implied totals and game spreads. Finally, the team power rankings are a great source for determining matchup advantages.
Now, let's look at Saturday's two-game divisional round slate on FanDuel.
Joe Burrow ($7,700 on FanDuel): Burrow has played brilliant football in his return from reconstructive knee surgery. The Cincinnati Bengals have changed playcalling tendencies depending on matchups. However, they've passed at an above-average clip this year, willingly leaning into the passing attack more heavily when the matchup is conducive to doing so. According to Sharp Football Stats, in neutral game scripts (a scoring margin ranging from trailing by six points to leading by six points), Cincinnati passed at the ninth-highest rate (59 percent, versus a league average of 56 percent).
Leading the pass-heavy offense, Burrow was eighth in passing touchdowns (34), third in passing yards per game (288.2), and second in adjusted net yards per pass attempt (7.51), according to Pro Football Reference. Additionally, he's demonstrated a sky-high ceiling when he's been called upon. This week, it potentially sets up as a more pass-heavy approach.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Tennessee Titans held opponents to the second-fewest rushing yards per game (84.6). However, they allowed the eighth-most passing yards per game (245.2). So sign me up for Burrow cutting it loose this week. numberFire's model projects him as the second-highest scorer at quarterback on Saturday with the highest value score -- a measure of points per $1,000.
Ryan Tannehill ($7,300 on FanDuel): Unfortunately, Tannehill played only eight games with both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones this year. However, he was sharp as a tack in those contests. According to Pro Football Focus, out of 35 quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks in the eight weeks Brown and Jones played, Tannehill was their second-highest graded passer, earned their highest adjusted completion percentage (81.4 percent), completed 68.7 percent of his passes, averaged 235.13 passing yards per game, tossed 11 touchdowns, and threw six interceptions.
Of course, Tannehill adds fantasy value as a runner, too. He's scored precisely seven rushing touchdowns in back-to-back seasons, averaging 15.9 rushing yards per game this year. So, yes, the Titans want to run the ball as often as possible. However, Cincy's offense is talented enough to force Tennessee to pass more often. Moreover, Tannehill can make the most of limited opportunities -- evidenced by an explosive Week 18 showing in which he passed for 287 yards and four touchdowns on only 32 attempts. He also spun 265 yards and three touchdowns on only 33 attempts in Week 8. Sure, obviously, a higher passing volume would lift his floor and ceiling.
Regardless, the matchup is also excellent for making the most of limited passing attempts. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Bengals coughed up the fourth-highest average explosive pass rate (10 percent) in the regular season. When not using Burrow, I prefer to spin down to his counterpart in a game I expect to be a shootout. Tannehill's an intriguing leverage play off his forthcoming teammate.
"I spoke to someone in Nashville. Derrick Henry is going to get 20+ carries on Saturday."
A little scoopage from @NFLFilms legend @gregcosell on today's @RossTuckerPod. https://t.co/xhERyGcRxZ
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) January 20, 2022
You can also see Henry moving well in practice this week.
.@KingHenry_2 isn’t messing around out here at Tuesday’s @Titans practice. pic.twitter.com/spBr60lBpt
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) January 18, 2022
Henry hasn't played since Halloween of 2021, so there's a risk of rust in his return from a multiple-month absence. However, his ceiling is unrivaled among the running backs on this slate. The bulldozing back averaged 117.1 rushing yards per game, adding 2.3 receptions and 19.3 receiving yards per game and scoring 10 touchdowns in only eight games.
I don't view him as a must-use option. Still, I'm not crazy about the running back pool on FanDuel's two-game Saturday slate, which adds to the appeal of making room for the King. Unsurprisingly, we project him as the highest-scoring running back, and he also has the highest value score at the position.
Elijah Mitchell ($7,300 on FanDuel): Mitchell is my favorite running back play on Saturday, salary considered. The electrifying rookie has toted the rock 21 or more times in six straight games, reaching at least 84 scrimmage yards in all of those games.
Encouragingly, the San Francisco 49ers are reluctant to abandon the run. When the scoring margin is tied to trailing by 12 points, the 49ers run at the fifth-highest rate (44 percent). So, if the Green Bay Packers race out to a lead, that doesn't sound the death knell for Mitchell touching the ball against Green Bay's soft run defense.
According to our power rankings, the Packers have the third-worst run D. San Francisco is built to exploit Green Bay's defensive deficiency. Per Football Outsiders, the 49ers are 11th in adjusted line yards. However, Pro Football Focus is even more enamored with San Francisco's run-blocking prowess, grading them as the top run-blocking team in the NFL this season.
We project Mitchell as the RB3 on Saturday with the second-highest value score at the position. He is the running back who I'll have the most of.
A.J. Dillon ($6,100 on FanDuel): As I have already noted, I don't love the running back options on this slate. Unfortunately, that includes Dillon. However, at least Dillon is discounted from Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones, making him the most affordable back with a consistent role in his team's backfield.
The second-year runner teamed well with Jones in Green Bay's backfield, touching the ball 12 or more times in nine of his last 10 games in the regular season. During that stretch, Dillon bested 65 scrimmage yards nine times. He also caught multiple passes in eight of those games, an element of his game that could come in handy in this spot as San Francisco is the fifth-best rush defense, per our power rankings.
The Packers are 5.5-point favorites, potentially setting the stage for Dillon to close the show if they have a lead. In the games Jones and Dillon both played, when the Packers led by six points or more, Dillon ran the ball a team-high 56 times for 230 yards and three touchdowns, versus only 33 rushes, 114 yards, and two touchdowns for Jones.
Davante Adams ($8,700 on FanDuel): Adams is one of two elite receivers I will prioritize using on Saturday. I'll have 100 percent exposure to him on my handful of entries. According to Sports Info Solutions, Green Bay's number-one receiver was second in target share (28.2 percent). He turned his gaudy target share into the second-most receptions (7.7) and receiving yards (97.1) per game, reaching paydirt 11 times.
Adams is a superstar, and the 49ers had zero answers for him when they met back in Week 3. He clowned San Francisco for 12 receptions, 132 receiving yards, and one touchdown on 18 targets. As a result, he's the WR1 in our projections and also boasts the top value score among his peers.
Ja'Marr Chase ($8,200 on FanDuel): Chase is the other elite receiver I'm moving all of my chips in the middle with on Saturday. The rookie wideout came out of the chutes hot this year, slowed down in the middle of the season, and blew up down the stretch. I'm most interested in his eye-catching last three full games.
Chase has reached double-digit targets, at least seven receptions, and at least 116 receiving yards in each of his last three full games -- excluding a meaningless Week 18 game in which he played fewer than 10 offensive snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, in Cincinnati's last five meaningful games (again, excluding Week 18), Chase has paced the Bengals in routes (195), targets (44), receptions (33), receiving yards (587), touchdown receptions (five), and yards per route run (3.01).
The supremely talented rookie has a fantastic matchup this week. According to Pro Football Reference, the Titans have yielded the second-most FanDuel points per game to wideouts. I don't envision them slowing Chase's roll. Our algorithm has a favorable outlook for Chase, projecting him as the WR3.
Tyler Boyd ($5,800 on FanDuel): Boyd is a bargain look at Tennessee's secondary that's so giving to wideouts. The sixth-year wideout slipped to third fiddle in Cinci's passing attack. However, even that gig can bear fruit with Cincinnati passing at an above-average rate. Boyd averaged a rock-solid 4.2 receptions and 51.8 receiving yards per game this campaign, scoring five touchdowns.
The touchdowns are especially noteworthy. Boyd has scored a touchdown in four straight games. Obviously, he's not going to score a touchdown in every game from now on. Still, Boyd is an integral part of the offense in the red zone, netting seven targets and three touchdowns in that area of the field, both of which are tied for third on the Bengals. Additionally, Tennessee isn't shy about coughing up touchdowns to wideouts, as the 20 they allowed in the regular season were tied for the fourth-most.
Julio Jones ($5,600 on FanDuel): Jones is my favorite value play on Saturday's slate -- period. Unfortunately, the veteran receiver's first season with the Titans didn't go as either side hoped it would. Nevertheless, he put his nagging injuries throughout the season behind him in Week 18, logging a pair of full practices before posting one of his best lines of the year.
Jones set a season-high for targets with nine, hauling in five receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. Now, he's had a bye week to get even healthier. In eight games Jones played with Brown in 2021, he was comfortably in second in routes (206), targets (40), receptions (27), and receiving yards (401). Also, his average depth of target of 13.5 yards downfield in those games was tops among Titans targeted more than twice.
Jones' vertical usage is a perfect match for facing the Bengals. As I noted above, Cincy allowed the fourth-highest average explosive pass rate (10 percent) in the regular season. As a result, Jones blends a path to volume as Tennessee's second option with home-run potential as a deep threat.
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine ($5,100 on FanDuel): Tennessee's low-volume passing attack isn't ripe with options on a standard full slate. However, if the Bengals can push Tennessee into a shootout, there's room for someone to emerge behind Brown and Jones. Further, Cincinnati's struggles containing explosive passing plays can allow a low-volume option to pop.
Westbrook-Ikhine is another somewhat-vertical option. The young receiver's average depth of target of 9.6 yards downfield in games with Brown and Jones is deep enough to generate a reason to believe he can rattle off a deep grab or two. He was third -- or tied for third -- in receptions (16), targets (18) and receiving yards (226) in the games sharing the field with Brown and Jones while sitting second in touchdowns (two) in the split.
I'm inclined to build a top-heavy lineup on this slate, so that means dipping into the bargain bin to free up cap space. I'm willing to roll the dice on a risky player like Westbrook-Ikhine.
George Kittle ($6,400 on FanDuel): Kittle is a man amongst boys at tight end on Saturday. The position is putrid beyond him. However, Kittle hasn't been a world-beater lately. The stud tight end has fewer than 30 receiving yards in four straight games.
His cold streak snapped a red-hot stretch of 181, 151, and 93 yards in three straight contests from Week 13 through Week 15, and he scored three total touchdowns in those games. Additionally, Kittle has maintained an integral role as a route runner.
During Kittle's cold streak, he has been second on the team in routes (109). Eventually, his talent and the prominent route-running role will lead to an outburst. So, why not this week, especially if the Niners have to throw more than they'd like to? In Week 3, Kittle touched the Packers up for 92 receiving yards on seven receptions, adding a nine-yard rush.
The matchup is above-average, too. Green Bay has allowed the 11th-most FanDuel points per game to tight ends. To no surprise, Kittle is the TE1 with the top value score in our projections.
The Bengals have allowed the seventh-most FanDuel points per game to tight ends. Firkser has reached pay dirt in back-to-back games, catching multiple passes in four of his last five outings and clearing 20 receiving yards in three of his last five.
The bar is low for non-Kittle tight ends to clear to post value. Firkser's recent run has been above that low bar. He's an acceptable second option who you can double-stack with Tannehill.
Green Bay Packers ($4,500 on FanDuel): The Packers are at home and the biggest favorites on this two-game slate. If you have the salary-cap space, they're a stellar selection. They're capable of turning over the opposition, and Jimmy Garoppolo isn't allergic to putting the ball in harm's way.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Packers were tied for the eighth-most turnovers forced (26) in the regular season. Jimmy G has thrown an interception in three straight, tossing five overall in that period. Per Pro Football Focus, out of 31 quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks in the regular season, Garoppolo was tied for the second-highest turnover-worthy play percentage (4.6 percent).
Cincinnati Bengals ($3,400 on FanDuel): The Bengals have the lowest-salaried defense on the slate, and they've played well enough to warrant a look. Cincinnati was tied for 17th in turnovers forced (21) while tying for ninth in sacks (42) during the regular season.
Conversely, according to Pro Football Reference, Tannehill was sacked at the sixth-highest rate (8.1 percent) among qualified passers. He had the 13th-highest turnover-worthy play percentage (3.5 percent). Thus, I'll gladly take the salary savings, and Cincy will be the defense on the majority of my teams.
Joshua Shepardson is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joshua Shepardson also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username bchad50. 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.