NFL DFS Starting Points: Super Bowl
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. DK=DraftKings, FD=FanDuel.
Amid multiple controversies, we’ve entered Super Bowl week. After a predictably ho-hum Pro Bowl, we now have our eyes on the last NFL DFS experience for six months. The ultimate in Showdown slates. If you haven’t played the one-game DFS contests, you’ll need to be prepared to roster five players on FanDuel and six players on DraftKings. One of those players, either the MVP or the Captain, respectively, will have his fantasy points count 1.5X. On DK, you also pay 1.5X his salary. Either way, getting the captain correct is key to cashing these Showdown slates. You can also be prepared for a ton of overlap.
New England vs. LA Rams: Total 56.5, Patriots -2.5
Let’s start with New England. Julian Edelman is the highest priced player on DK, while the QBs top the salary scale on FD. Edelman is a playoff beast, averaging eight catches for about 120 receiving yards in his two 2019 playoff games, and with a long history of success. The other workhorse of the Patriots’ post-season isn’t Tom Brady, it’s Sony Michel. He has racked up FIVErushing touchdowns and an average of 121 rushing yards per game in the last two weeks. James White has failed to score in the playoffs, but is still a reliable target-getter, with 17 vs. the Chargers and six vs. the Chiefs. Rex Burkhead returned and has managed to be successful, especially vs. the Chiefs (64 total yards and two rushing touchdowns), as a hybrid between Michel and White. None of them has really let you down for their price over the last two weeks.
The players who have disappointed most, depending on whether your expectations were reasonable or not, are Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Now, I did recommend Gronk last week on a Travis Kelce or bust TE slate, and he came through on the strength of 11 targets, as many as he’d seen in the prior four games combined. Although he wasn’t fantastic (6-for-79 receiving yards), he was a better value than Kelce for the price. Brady has been fairly steady; with the running game carrying the scoring load, his value has depended on volume (can he get the 300 passing yard bonus on DK?) and not making mistakes (two interceptions vs. the Chiefs).
Based on a combination of fantasy point projections, salary, and ownership levels, Patriots to prioritize include Burkhead and Edelman. The caution against Michel is that the Rams have really bumped up their run defense, allowing just about 100 total rushing yards in their two playoff games (the Saints and Cowboys are no slouches in the rushing department either). That’s one reason I favor Burkhead as the hybrid. His presence on the field creates a little more unpredictability, and Josh McDaniels seems to be employing him in quality (e.g. scoring) situations. He’s also the cheapest Pats back, which is key on this slate.
Gronkowski’s main knock is that he will be very highly owned at his low salary (if you can fit him, he’s better than the options at similar price points). I don’t love the Patriots’ secondary receivers here, like Cordarrelle Patterson or Phillip Dorsett. With Dorsett accounting for Brady’s only two passing touchdowns in the playoffs, combined with his low salary, I bet people will be gobbling him up, but his target reliability is very low. I’m also largely fading White and Brady, though I don’t hate either of them. It’s a matter of roster management, meaning they are simply low exposure options for me.
Let’s get to the Rams. After a largely terrific regular season, both Jared Goff and Todd Gurley have been quiet in the playoff victories. Both have contributed, don’t get me wrong, but neither has been what we expected. The C.J. Anderson debate is endlessly speculative and kind of addicting. Is Gurley really hurt? Is Sean McVey doing some kind of next-level game management that will dazzle us come Sunday? Something feels off with this Rams team so far in the playoffs, though they are all on board with it, whatever it is. I have the utmost respect for McVey and Gurley, so I’m tilting on the side of planned management of the game and opponents’ expectations.
That said, I’m all in on Gurley this weekend and think he’s a fine Captain or MVP candidate. There’s enough uncertainty around him that he won’t be as highly owned as Edelman, for example. I just can’t imagine that he’s not a focal point of the offense in the Super Bowl. Along with that, I’ll be fading Anderson. Of course they say he’ll continue to be involved, but the Patriots have allowed a total of 60 rushing yards in the playoffs. New England plays defense when and where they need to, and as good as Anderson has been, he’s still a between the tackles free agent pickup. Gurley, the more versatile receiving back, will be testing all kinds of stickum/gloves this week, I’m sure, and the warmer temperatures in Atlanta will also help him hold on to the balls thrown his way, a facet of the game I expect him to exploit.
The passing game with Goff, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds, not to mention those pesky tight ends, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee, is as murky as ever. Especially when you’re limited to only 5-6 players. However, the Patriots have given up about 30 points the last two games, with much of the damage coming through the air. I can definitely see rolling with a Goff/Gurley mini-stack and filling my lineup out with Patriots skill players. I expect a close game and that combo covers the Rams scoring (we’re hoping any passing touchdowns and yardage are well-distributed among the receivers, which is reasonable).
You might be left in the salary lurch and need to throw in a kicker or D/ST (DK only). Neither defense here appeals to me; both of their playoff fantasy numbers are bad, consistent with their near league-average ratings during the regular season. I expect both teams to score at least 20 points come Sunday.
On the other hand, both kickers are worth a look, though Greg Zuerlein is my slight favorite. He’s been perfect on extra points going back 20 attempts and has made 7/8 post-season field goals. Zuerlein also made four 50-plus yard field goals this year. Stephen Gostkowski is also a great kicker, with an 18 extra point made streak going, but has attempted only three post-season field goals (making all).