Daily fantasy football: Expert picks, lineups for NFL playoffs divisional round

2:35 | Fantasy
Daily Fantasy Football: Players to draft during the divisional games
Friday January 13th, 2017

One of the best weekends of the football season has arrived. Typically, every team still playing in the divisional round of the playoffs is capable of winning the Super Bowl, with possibly one or two exceptions. This year is no different, and that should make for at least three—sorry, Houston—compelling games. In short, get ready for a far more competitive brand of football than we saw last week.

Below are my ideal DFS picks for both DraftKings and FanDuel. I will be playing lineups other than the ones I present here, but these are my go-to lineups for both sites.

Quarterback: Dak Prescott (DK: $6,000, FD: $7,700)

It’s an odd week at quarterback. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are 4.5-point underdogs on the road without Jordy Nelson (ribs). Ben Roethlisberger’s home/road splits are well known and too meaningful to be ignored. Tom Brady and the Patriots are laying more than two touchdowns to the Texans, raising concerns that they pack away the passing game in the second half. The over/under on Falcons-Seahawks is in the low-50s, but there seem to be safer investments in those teams than Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson. Prescott, meanwhile, has discernible upside playing in a game with an over/under of 52.5 where his team is the favorite. There’s always the concern that the Cowboys take the air out of the ball, but they likely won’t be able to beat the Packers that way, given how well Rodgers is playing. Add in the Packers struggles against the pass all season, and it becomes clear that Prescott is seriously undervalued this week.

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Running Backs: Le’Veon Bell (DK: $10,500, FD: $9,900) at Kansas City; Devonta Freeman (DK: $5,900, FD: $7,600) vs. Seattle; LeGarrette Blount (DK: $5,800, FD: $7,300) vs. Houston; Dion Lewis (DK: $3,900, FD: $5,400) vs. Houston

Bell was the first player I looked into this week, and while he’s too expensive on DraftKings to fit into what feels like a winning lineup, his FanDuel price tag is not prohibitive. Bell’s virtues require no explanation. With Roethlisberger’s struggles on the road, the Steelers could lean on their star running back Sunday even more than they typically do, if that’s possible. Bell has a way of feeling like a necessary player in DFS formats. If you want to win, how do you possibly ignore a guy who regularly scores as though he’s two players? If I can have just one Steeler, I want him over Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.

With Bell too expensive on DraftKings, I turned to Freeman. Forget about the Seattle defense. Yes, it’s still a great unit, but it’s not the shutdown group of the last few seasons, and, as we’ve already touched on, the over/under in this game is a healthy 51.5 points. There’s going to be plenty of points up on the board in what could be the Falcons last game in the Georgia Dome, even with Seattle’s defense involved. For what it’s worth, Freeman was better in home games this season, totaling 776 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in those eight contests. The Seahawks shut Freeman down in Seattle back in October, but they’re going to have a much tougher time doing the same on Saturday.

It’s a mortal lock that at least one of Blount or Lewis will go off this week. The Patriots are favored by 15 points, and it would be one of the great playoff shocks if the Texans pulled off an upset. The Patriots have had Lewis pointed to this week all year, easing him along in the regular season with an eye on the playoffs. Blount, meanwhile, is a fantasy monster in games where the Patriots are favored by double digits. Kudos to DraftKings’s Adam Levitan (follow him on Twitter @adamlevitan) for the following stat: Over the last two seasons, Blount has averaged 17.8 DraftKings points per game with the Patriots laying at least 10 points. He has scored 12.6 points per game with the Patriots as single-digit favorites, and 6.2 points per game when they’re underdogs.

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The question, however, is whether you can use both of them in the same lineup. I think you can, and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing on DraftKings. In 2015, Lewis and Blount shared the field in four games in which the Patriots won by more than 15 points. Lewis totaled 325 yards from scrimmage, 23 catches and three touchdowns in those games, while Blount ran for 353 yards and four touchdowns on 77 carries (4.58 yards per carry). There’s plenty of room in a Patriots blowout for both to show up from a fantasy perspective.

Wide Receivers: Julio Jones (DK: $8,400, FD: $8,300) vs. Seattle; Dez Bryant (DK: $6,600, FD: $7,600) vs. Green Bay; Randall Cobb (DK: $5,700, FD: $6,500) at Dallas

When the Falcons and Seahawks met in Seattle in October, Jones had three catches on five targets for 40 yards when matched up with Richard Sherman, though referees missed a blatant pass interference on Sherman on the Falcons final play from scrimmage in what was a 26-24 Seahawks win. Jones caught all four of his targets for 99 yards and a touchdown when anyone else was in coverage. You can bet that he’ll see plenty of Sherman on Saturday, but that shouldn’t scare you away. Jones coming off the board in the low-to-mid $8,000s is simply too great a price to ignore. He’s $1,200 cheaper than Brown on DraftKings, making him an easy selection over the Steelers star receiver there. Jones is just $500 cheaper on FanDuel, but that price difference still makes Jones a better dollar-for-dollar option. And again, not to beat a dead horse, but the over/under in this game is 51.5 points. Seattle is not shutting down this Atlanta offense. The Falcons scored at least 30 points in six of their eight home games this season, and the average game total at the Georgia Dome was 56 points.

Like Jones, Bryant’s price tag feels a little light this week. There is some concern for Bryant surrounding the way Dom Capers typically treats game-breaking wide receivers. As we saw with Odell Beckham last week, Capers is going to focus his pass defense on shutting down an elite option out wide, even if that means granting plus matchups to second and third receivers. It worked just fine against the Giants, and it has worked against Bryant and the Cowboys in the past. Still, with this game expected to play into the 50s and the Cowboys well rested, Bryant makes a strong play on both sites. If you don’t have the money, consider Cole Beasley in the middle tier or Terrance Williams as an extreme value play.

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Rostering Cobb feels a bit like chasing last week’s points, but there’s reason to believe he can provide a worthy encore. First, Rodgers has been playing MVP-caliber quarterback for the better part of three months, and the Cowboys don’t have the horses to slow him down much, at least on defense. Second, with Jordy Nelson likely out because of fractured ribs, Cobb is the No. 2 option in the passing game, trailing Davante Adams. Third, Cobb finally looked healthy last week, repeatedly getting open in the middle of the field against one of the best pass defenses in the league. If Nelson were playing, Cobb would be more of a sucker bet. Without him, however, Cobb should thrive.

Tight End: Jared Cook (DK: $3,900, FD: $5,400) at Dallas

Cook continued his run of respectable production last week, catching five passes for 48 yards. He got nine targets in the game, a number he could duplicate or surpass with Nelson on the sidelines. The Cowboys allowed the most receptions (120) yards (1,206) and fantasy points to tight ends this season. Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham aren’t worth the high prices you must pay to secure them when there’s a value play like Cook on the board.

Kicker: Cairo Santos (FD: $4,600) vs. Pittsburgh

The only kickers I could afford were Santos, Nick Novak and Chris Boswell. It’s awfully hard to trust any Texans this week, and with Bell on at least one of my rosters, I don’t exactly want the Steelers to settle for the field goals that make kickers valuable in fantasy leagues. That leaves Santos as the choice, mostly by default.

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Defense/Special Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (DK: $2,900, FD: $4,500) at Kansas City

If you have a lineup you like that includes the Patriots as your defense/special teams, then by all means go with it. I thought I had that a few times, but the lineups felt a bit light in other spots. Taking price out of the equation, they’re easily the best option this week. You have to pay all the way up to $4,000 on DraftKings and $5,100 on FanDuel to get them, however, and that just proved to be too rich for me. As I said earlier, I think the Steelers are going to beat the Chiefs on Sunday. The Chiefs offense isn’t exactly an explosive unit, even with Kelce and Tyreek Hill emerging in the second half of the season. The Packers and Falcons, the other two teams I think will move on to championship weekend, don’t offer the same upside as the Steelers, and their floors are at rock bottom. That makes Pittsburgh the pick.

DraftKings lineup

QB: Dak Prescott
RB1: Devonta Freeman
RB2: LeGarrette Blount
WR1: Julio Jones
WR2: Dez Bryant
WR3: Randall Cobb
TE: Jared Cook
FLEX: Dion Lewis
DST: Pittsburgh Steelers

FanDuel lineup

QB: Dak Prescott
RB1: Devonta Freeman
RB2: Dion Lewis
WR1: Julio Jones
WR2: Dez Bryant
WR3: Randall Cobb
TE: Jared Cook
K: Cairo Santos
DST: Pittsburgh Steelers

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