The divisional round of the playoffs are here and this is honestly the last real NFL DFS weekend for breaking down games and recommending plays. Sure, there are technically three more "Showdown" slates and one more 'Classic' style slate with the two games next weekend, but I can cover a two game slate in under 100 words or less and how is that any level of entertainment? You come here for the fun and for the rants as much as you do the winning plays, right?
Ok, so you just want winners. Well, none the less this is the best weekend of the year for football with eight of the best teams in NFL playing in very competitive matchups; making for a fantastic two-day NFL DFS sweat.
Let's look at how exactly each team might have a shot this weekend first before diving into the positional recommendations
Rams vs Packers
The Rams best path to winning is?
In addition to the obvious need for their defense to play lights out once again powered by Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, the Rams will need to do two things to pull off an upset of the Packers. Number one, they're going to need special teams to flip the field into a couple of short drives for their offense. I do not see L.A. being able to sustain many long drives with a still banged up thumb on Goff and Green Bay able to limit explosive plays out of the Rams. The second is that once they get into the red zone, the Rams will need to do something they haven't done well this year: score touchdowns.
Out of the 14 playoff teams, only the Chicago Bears had a worse touchdown conversion rate in the red zone than the Rams and we saw how effective that offense was in the first round. The other seven playoff teams remaining were all in the top 14 in the NFL. Simply put, the Rams cannot afford to have short fields turn into field goals against the Packers offense, which, oh by the way, was No. 1 in red zone with a whopping 80% touchdown conversion rate. This is the game in a nutshell; nothing else about it. If the Rams wind up besting the Packers in this category on Saturday, they will most certainly win.
Top Plays: None
Contrarian Play: Robert Woods
The Packers best path to winning is?
One could certainly say Rodgers and Adams, but I don't think they would wind up producing in a must-win scenario, but more of they just happened to "get theirs" in an easy Packers win. If the Packers are in a tight spot this weekend they will need their defense to dominate the line of scrimmage. This is a very good Rams offensive line and so the Packers will need to generate enough of a rush to force Goff into a mistake or two. But the player who can make things flip towards the Packers and also help with DFS productivity is going to be Aaron Jones.
Top Plays: Aaron Jones
Contrarian Play: Stacking this game entirely.
Ravens vs Bills
The Ravens best path to winning is?
Big plays. Baltimore has made a living off the big play since Lamar Jackson took over, and they're going to need it on both sides of the ball. Baltimore cannot win without turning over Josh Allen and they cannot win without Lamar connecting on a 50 yard touchdown pass to Brown or Duvernay in this game. Buffalo has too many weapons in the passing game that they'll eventually be putting up some big plays of their own and the Ravens cannot rely upon the ground game between Lamar and Dobbins alone to keep up in this game. I believe that if you are looking to roster Dobbins in this game you are making a huge mistake as the game flow is going to completely run away from him as the Ravens will be forced to go vertical or rely upon Lamar's legs to get things done. Lamar, Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown are very good DFS stack options in this game.
Top Plays: Mark Andrews, Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown
Contrarian Play: Devin Duvernay
The Bills best path to winning is?
Considering there is some snow precipitation projected for this game they should just go re-sign Shady McCoy from the Bucs and plug him in for an auto 200 yard Shady Snow game. But the rules won't allow it and McCoy is going to be sitting on his couch watching the Bucs on Sunday night. Just play a clean game Buffalo and you'll be in the AFC Championship game. By clean I mean, Josh Allen throws 0 INT, they have no fumbles and the defense doesn't commit endless penalties allowing the Ravens to get gifted points. With the injury to Zack Moss we're likely to see some Devin Singletary chalk pop up and it's understandable but not someone I would think is a must own and I greatly prefer Aaron Jones on the Saturday only slate, not to mention the Sat-Sun slate for early RB exposure.
While I do like Buffalo to put up some points, I am not confident there's one automatic play and Josh Allen has some other QB to compete with on this slate. Consider Buffalo a good "floor" team for fantasy points this week but not a tournament winning shoot the moon team unless you are stacking the game by itself.
Top Plays: Josh Allen, Devin Singletary, John Brown
Contrarian Play: Bills Defense
Browns at Chiefs
The Browns best path to winning is?
Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and lots and lots and lots of ZONE DEFENSE.
Now is the time for the upset of the season and it relies entirely upon Cleveland being real with themselves and trusting a four man pass rush to do enough while they sit back and remove any potential for big plays by Tyreek Hill or Mecole Hardman and watch Travis Kelce catch 10+ passes underneath only to settle for some field goals if the Browns can win third down on defense. That's the entire game combined with the Browns rushing attack and short passing to get things done.
There is one other aspect to the Browns game plan though which can draw from teams who have had some limited success against the Chiefs this year. They gotta hit one 40+ pass play and it's usually going to come down the right side of the field. For the showdown slate on this game, Donovan Peoples-Jones figures to be someone I would strongly advise playing and he is my cheap value 2% owned WR for the weekend slate. A good game from the RB, zone defense and DPJ catching a bomb can lead the Browns to an upset.
Top Plays: Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Hunt is a great value.
Contrarian Play: Donovan Peoples Jones
The Chiefs best path to winning is?
Mahomes throws four touchdown passes and rushes another in. Next question.
Top Plays: Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes
Contrarian Play: Sammy Watkins, Le'Veon Bell
Buccaneers at Saints
The Bucs best path to winning is?
Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones. The Saints did not allow a single team to throw for 300 yards on them this season. A list that includes Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan twice, Derek Carr, Justin Herbert, Tom Brady twice and even Kendall Hinton! (Ok, that last one is a joke obviously). But still, the Saints pass defense was not only excellent this year, but they dominated the Bucs back in Week 9 when Tampa first rolled out Antonio Brown by locking down all three Tampa WRs and destroying the Bucs DL as they have over the last 3+ seasons. Tampa will not be able to suddenly find success giving Brady time in the pocket if he is dropping back 35+ times to pass. Mike Evans will be visiting his father this weekend in Marshon Lattimore and the way Lattimore is playing right now, ole Evans is sure to be in detention all weekend.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is highly likely to get someone tossed on the Bucs side, but he's quietly been defending much better out of the slot when he draws that assignment and has held Godwin to just two catches on eight targets in the two meetings this year. The wild card then is Antonio Brown who will most frequently draw Janoris Jenkins and some bracket coverage help from Marcus Williams over the top. If you want one of the Bucs WRs it's likely Brown, but the Saints CB fit this matchup perfectly and will win over the long course of the game more than they lose it.
Everything points to Tampa having to trust the ground game and dumping passes off to their RBs. New Orleans can actually be attacked with decent pass catching backs when you spread them out with 3 or 4 WR. So I could see a scenario where Brady is doing what he did in New England in the playoffs a ton and that's utilizing his backs like James White. Unfortunately for him and Tampa, none of these guys are as good at what James White did. But if they can give Fournette/Jones a TON of touches this weekend they will win. Well, that and their secondary better figure some things out and fast...
Top Plays: Antonio Brown
Contrarian Play: Leonard Fournette
The Saints best path to winning is?
New Orleans has to tackle the Bucs on the underneath passes and prevent them from converting 3rd and 4 into first downs. This is what the Eagles were able to do to New Orleans a few weeks back and then it lead to the Eagles eventually breaking the Saints rush defense down. There's many other factors which have changed since then, but New Orleans wins this game easily if they're forcing Tampa to air it out deep.
The other likely scenario for a Saints victory is Drew Brees playing like he is in the final season of his career and finally getting his first meeting in the playoffs with Brady. Something he was denied in 2011 by his defense despite putting up 32 points on the No. 11 defense that year - including two late insane touchdown drives in the final five minutes of the game. Or in 2017 when he led the Saints on a second half comeback despite being left for dead, making clutch throw after clutch throw to give the Saints a lead with under 30 seconds to go before a miracle knocked them out. Or in 2018 when despite being banged up and worn down late in the year, he managed to put the Saints in position to advanced to the Super Bowl by running out the clock against the Rams .... and I just won't speak any more on that. Now he gets that meeting with Brady and has every single pass catcher available to him and has his offensive line playing the best they have all season.
The number one asset against Sean Payton's scheme is quality linebackers which Tampa will have with David and White together on the field once again. But the key ingredient to stopping Brees when he is on is quality safety play and Tampa does not yet have that.
Top Plays: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara
Contrarian Play: Emmanuel Sanders
The Ambush Plays
- Drew Brees throws five touchdowns. Two to Sanders.
- Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt do enough COMBINED that you can start them both.
- Aaron Jones finishes as RB1 this weekend.
- Mark Andrews scores two touchdowns. Travis Kelce scores zero touchdowns. But Kelce still has 20 DK points.
The Ambush Fades
J.K. Dobbins, Davante Adams and Devin Singletary