FanDuel Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Helper: AFC Championship (Bengals at Chiefs)
The battle for the AFC crown comes down to the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs at 3:00 pm ET on Sunday, with the latter checking in as 7.0-point home favorites. This could be a fun game for fantasy, with the teams combining for a healthy 54.5-point total.
For those unfamiliar, single-game slates feature five flex spots with identical scoring to the main slate. However, kickers are included in these contests, and there is an "MVP" roster slot. The MVP receives 1.5-times his total fantasy points, making this spot crucial.
Our Brandon Gdula has done a deep dive on single-game strategy. It's worth checking out before you make your lineups.
According to numberFire's model, six different players have median projections of 15 or more FanDuel points: Patrick Mahomes ($17,500), Joe Burrow ($16,000), Joe Mixon ($12,500), Tyreek Hill ($13,500), Ja'Marr Chase ($13,000), and Travis Kelce ($14,000).
All of them have blown up for big games this season and deserve strong consideration for your MVP slot.
Unsurprisingly, Mahomes projects for the most points by a decent chunk, and he's the obvious chalk MVP after posting 38-plus FanDuel points in back-to-back postseason games. Particularly after last week's otherwordly performance against a tough Bills defense -- ranked first against the pass in numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics -- no one would be shocked if Mahomes leads this game in fantasy scoring.
But Mahomes' recent play could lead to an absurdly high roster percentage, so if he's merely "good" instead of "slate-breaking," we could get a huge leg up on the field by rostering a different MVP.
Burrow is the first alternative, and while his playoff output has been muted, he went nuclear for 38.10 and 34.84 points in his final two regular-season starts -- one of which came versus Kansas City -- so we know the upside is there. The Chiefs' defense was just eviscerated by Josh Allen and ranks 20th in adjusted pass defense, so another spike week is in the realm of possibilities if we get a shootout.
Moving on from the quarterbacks, Mixon is the top running back on the slate. Since seeing a jump in targets in Week 16, Mixon has logged 28.3 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) with a 17.2% target share over his last four games.
The boost in receiving work should keep him involved no matter what happens, and he could best the field if he cashes in on his red-zone opportunities. In the regular season, Mixon was tied for fourth in carries inside the 10-yard line.
When it comes to MVP pass-catchers, Hill and Kelce need little explanation as Mahomes' top options. In Kansas City's two postseason games, Hill leads the team with a 22.8% target share, with Kelce trailing close behind at 20.3%. If the Chiefs' offense is firing on all cylinders again and Mahomes locks in on one of the two, a slate-high output could be in the cards.
Hill and Kelce aren't exactly going to fly under the radar, but both wideouts and tight ends tend to come in at lower MVP roster percentages, so they should still trail Mahomes' MVP popularity by a reasonable margin. And while tight ends rarely pan out as MVPs, Kelce is a clear outlier at the position.
The historical MVP roster trends for wide receivers also help the cause of slotting in Chase, who could see the lowest MVP percentage of this group. He's logged a team-high 26.9% target share in these playoffs, and if we exclude an abridged Week 18 outing, he's surpassed 100 yards in his last four full games. He's an intriguing choice for single-entry when factoring in popularity.
Finally, Tee Higgins ($11,000) deserves a mention. He lags behind all these guys in the projections, but he's the only other player pegged for double-digit points and could be a semi-sneaky MVP.
Although Higgins was a total bust in Cincinnati's first playoff game, he led the team with nine targets last week, so it isn't a given that Chase will be the top-scoring Cincy receiver. In fact, across 16 games together this season, the two are neck and neck in target share, with Chase's 24.2% only slightly ahead of Higgin's 23.3%. If you expect the Bengals to keep his one competitive, Higgins could be in your MVP mix.
The seven previous players are obvious priorities for your flex slots, as well, but we'll need some mid-to-low range options to maximize how many of them we can fit under the cap. The good thing about these two teams is that the roles of the secondary options are fairly concrete, too.
Beginning with Kansas City's backfield, even with Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($9,500) back last week, Jerick McKinnon ($10,000) maintained a voluminous role for the second straight week, tallying 24 adjusted opportunities and a 68.5% snap rate. McKinnon's now seen 6 and 7 targets this postseason (16.5%), so if nothing else, his pass-catching role feels pretty solidified at this point.
On the other hand, CEH notched just 11 adjusted opportunities with a 31.5% snap rate, making him the more iffy play. But it was his first game back since Week 16, so it's possible his role as an early-down runner increases this weekend.
Both running backs should get their chances, but McKinnon's recent usage suggests that he's the safer bet. Note that Darrel Williams ($7,500) got in a full practice on Wednesday, but his minimal role in the wild card round suggests he'll be well behind these two even if he's active.
Staying with the Chiefs, Byron Pringle ($9,000) has been Mahomes' third receiving option in the playoffs, giving him solid value at this salary. He logged a 17.7% target share and 66.7% snap rate these past two games, putting him safely ahead of fellow wideouts Mecole Hardman ($8,000) and Demarcus Robinson ($7,000) in both categories.
With Hardman and Robinson projected for fewer targets than either Pringle or McKinnon, they're likely touchdown or bust to crack the optimal lineup.
On Cincinnati, Tyler Boyd ($9,000) and C.J. Uzomah ($8,500) remain the top pass-catchers behind Chase and Higgins. In the weeks with all four healthy, Boyd's third in target share (16.1%) and Uzomah is fourth (13.3%). Uzomah's out-targeted Boyd 14 to 8 in the playoffs, but numberFire's model projects them both for roughly the same number of targets.
Kickers Harrison Butker ($9,000) and Evan McPherson ($8,500) round out the top remaining flex options. It's worth noting that kickers tend to be better plays in low-scoring games, per Gdula's study, but it wouldn't be surprising to see one of these guys get into double-digit FanDuel points. For what it's worth, McPherson has scored double-digit points in eight of the last nine games and has gone eight-for-eight on field goal attempts in the playoffs.