You know that targeting the highest scoring games and particularly the teams with the highest implied totals makes sense in fantasy football. This analysis will highlight exactly which situations are the best to take advantage of and which you might want to avoid within those games. All betting lines are courtesy of Westgate Sportsbook.
The high scoring games: AFC
Houston at Kansas City, Total 51
At this point in the season, a high point total certainly won’t be the only thing you consider when building your rosters. Nor will matchups. The stakes are different now and it’s the extra effort on both sides of the ball that tip these crucial games one way or another. For instance, Buffalo, one of the best pass defenses in the league, gave up a huge day to Deshaun Watson in the Wild Card Round. He was the top fantasy QB. On the other hand, Houston comes into the Divisional Round as the most fantasy-friendly defense, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to QBs and giving up the second-best fantasy day to Josh Allen last weekend. These things are definitely worth noting, but in the playoffs, I give the edge to the player’s talent above all else.
When it comes to talent, it’s hard to put anyone above Patrick Mahomes. That, combined with the high total and generosity of the Texans’ defense, make him my top QB play this weekend. The fact that he’s only the second-most expensive QB is a bonus. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce also get favorable matchups as does Damien Williams. A Chiefs stack isn’t the worst idea and I expect to see all of these guys reasonably highly owned in cash games. Williams’ price is very fair and tryouts are over in this backfield: it’s his job. If you’re looking to take advantage of all the favorable qualities of this matchup, but avoid the high ownership, consider Mecole Hardman or Sammy Watkins. A big play from either one could catch Houston off guard and will certainly vault you up the standings much more than the same from Kelce would.
On the Texans side, running backs get the more favorable matchup. We saw Carlos Hyde go for 48 yards and catch a touchdown pass last week vs. the Bills, while Duke Johnson broke off a big run and a couple of nice receptions. They complement each other well on the real field, but it’s hard to rely on either for DFS. I like Hyde best as a salary saver – the Chiefs allow almost five yards per carry and he’s slightly more of a touchdown threat than Johnson. Watson targeted DeAndre Hopkins eight times in the win over Buffalo, where Hopkins had to contend with Tre’Davious White most of the day. After a slow start, Hopkins prevailed with six catches for 90 yards. Kansas City has actually been tougher on wide receivers from a fantasy perspective, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to that position. Here’s where the talent wins. We can expect Hopkins to be lower owned because of the matchup, but he has as much upside as anyone. As the second- or third-most expensive option, I like him as a tournament play on both sites, with Watson, of course. Kenny Stills, or if active, Will Fuller, make for much more risk than reward despite the low salaries.
It’s always hard to choose a defense in the playoffs; all the teams are good. All four home teams are favored, mostly by a wide margin. The Chiefs have the largest spread right now, and given how they came on in the second half of the season –no fewer than eight fantasy points in the last six games, average 14.2—have to be in contention.
Tennessee at Baltimore, Total 47
Lamar Jackson comes in as MVP frontrunner and most expensive QB option on the four-game slate. The Ravens were the top scoring offense in the league and they did it largely on the strength of Jackson’s legs. The team led the league in rushing by a wide margin as Jackson alone accounted for an average of 80 rushing yards per game. Mark Ingram is a question mark at the moment, but I think he plays. He’s taking it easy to start this week after reportedly going full speed last week, so it sounds like appropriate caution, not panic. If you plan on using Ingram and he isn’t comfortable enough with his calf, it’s an easy swap to Gus Edwards. It’s the role we want in this case, not necessarily the man.
The Ravens high total and overall excellence make Jackson and the running back easy picks for DFS lineups, but the rest of the passing game is a challenge. Mark Andrews, pending his clearance off the injury report, is the safest guy to use, but he’s almost as expensive as Kelce and George Kittle. Marquise Brown offers plenty of big play upside, but the Titans were able to smother Tom Brady and his receivers on the road last weekend. My preferred way to attack Baltimore is with a liberal amount of Jackson, Ingram or Edwards, a little bit of Andrews, and possibly the D/ST. The Ravens Defense allowed the third-fewest points per game, and is the only unit in the playoffs ranking in the Top 6 in both rushing and passing defense. They were eighth in takeaways in the regular season. That said, Tennessee looks like they’re not done proving people wrong just yet…
The Titans are advancing mostly on the strength of Derrick Henry, though their defense showed up in the Wild Card Round to be sure. Henry looks outstanding; his game logs since Week 9 are just jaw-dropping (minus Houston Week 15). He’s FanDuel’s most expensive player and comes in just behind Jackson on DraftKings. It’s not going to be easy for him, but as I said above, I’m taking his talent and volume over Baltimore’s defensive standing. Still, I will have somewhat limited exposure due to the high salary – it does impact what else you can do this week.
I’m less sold on Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown after a tough showing against the Patriots. They’ll need to be better this week, no doubt about it. Brown is still quite expensive but I don’t think the Ravens will sell out to shut him down the way New England did. I’ll be looking for a bounce-back from Brown. Tannehill would shock the world if he was the highest scoring QB this weekend; I don’t think he’s worth a spot again this week. You’ll need a big QB performance to win and I’m going with the odds there.
The low scoring games: NFC
Minnesota at San Francisco, Total 44.5
This should be fantastic. I’m a big fan of the 49ers this post-season despite their unreliability for DFS during the regular season. They managed to be the second-highest scoring team in the league, though the hero changed from week to week. Jimmy Garoppolo is on the cheaper end of the QB range, and he didn’t finish the regular season strong, averaging around 12 fantasy points per game. His low price and decent team total make him an ok tournament play, but it’s too hard to trust him in cash game lineups. The 49ers will try to continue to win on the ground, likely with Raheem Mostert leading the way. He’s priced as the lead back, and certainly finished the season that way, ultimately averaging 5.6 YPC and 10 total touchdowns. I think he’s a cash game worthy play on the cheaper side, but I have a blind spot for Matt Breida that will force him into a tournament lineup or two at superior savings. The Vikings are a good run defense; it makes sense for SF to try a couple guys with different styles to see what works, a strategy they’ve used all season.
Deebo Samuel and George Kittle are the San Francisco receiving options I want. Again, the Vikings ranked fifth in terms of fewest points allowed, finished with the fourth-most takeaways and ranked sixth in sacks per game, so the pass game of the 49ers will be challenged. They’re not automatic plays, but can be worked in around a solid core. Samuel uncovered a new dimension to his game, scoring rushing touchdowns in each of the last two regular season games. He also scored in a couple of tough matchups earlier this year (Baltimore and Green Bay). Kittle was hampered by injuries here and there, missing a couple of mid-season games, but finished strong with an average of 21 fantasy points per game in his last four. He was also notably better at home than on the road, though much of that can be attributed to a game vs. Baltimore and the horrible weather game in Washington.
The 49ers D/ST is a relative bargain on DraftKings, but only slightly cheaper than the Ravens on FanDuel. They’re a solid play this week, given that Kirk Cousins probably doesn’t have two “don’t count me out” performances in a row in him. This is the highest scoring defense for fantasy, ranking first against the pass with a strong pass rush. Cousins is another QB I won’t be wasting a roster spot on.
Dalvin Cook is another story. He was used very smartly last week and giving Alexander Mattison chances to mix it up worked well for the Vikings against a tough Saints’ run defense. SF was not so easy either, allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs. Still, I’m not fading Cook because of the matchup because his talent and coaching scheme can overcome, as they just proved.
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are priced to be rostered. They’re similar to each other, and above only guys like Samuel and Stills. If you make a lineup with one, just make the same lineup with the other to hedge. I’m not high on them, but either is certainly capable of a big stat line. It’d be a bold move to play the Vikings Defense, but they are averaging 3.0 sacks per game and about two takeaways per game if you’re looking to be contrarian.
Seattle at Green Bay, Total 46.5
I think the magic comes to an end for the Seahawks this week. D.K. Metcalf saved a lot of my Wild Card lineups, but I don’t think they’ll get it done on the road in Wisconsin – a very hard place to play in January – against a much better defense. I love the Packers D/ST for DFS this week and think it’s going to be hard to go wrong with Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams or Aaron Jones either. That’s a pricey bunch, in the lowest total game, with the smallest margin, but they’ve got loads of experience, the advantage of an extra week of rest and preparation, and the home field. It matters when it’s in Green Bay. If you want to differentiate at TE, it is a revenge game for Jimmy Graham, who finished the season decently, and Seattle is the second-best TE matchup out there.
I’m not really feeling the Seahawks this week, as noted. They weren’t as good on the road and Green Bay did an excellent job down the stretch, allowing the ninth-fewest points on the season. Russell Wilson had a nice fantasy game in Philadelphia, over 300 passing yards and led the team in rushing (45 yards). He’s priced better this week, but is still a tough sell with Mahomes and Jackson available for not that much more. Metcalf is a favorite of mine, but again, I expect Green Bay to be more effective than the notoriously soft Eagles secondary. Ditto for Tyler Lockett, though he is the cheaper option…
The Seattle run game offered some cheap options last week and they’re out there again this week. Travis Homer had no room to run vs. the Eagles, and Marshawn Lynch didn’t fare much better on the ground, but scored another touchdown and extended some plays in the pass game. Green Bay ranked ninth in fantasy points allowed to opposing rushers, and with the positive reports coming from Seattle, it looks like Lynch is the back you’ll want. That’s good news for us, as he is also the less expensive back. Expect high ownership of Lynch this week as a key to affording that top QB.