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Inside the Matchup
Conference Championships

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Justin Bales


LAR @ NO | NE @ KC

- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Rams @ Saints - (Bales)
Line: NO -3.0
Total: 56.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Jared Goff has found quite a bit of success this season, averaging 286.7 yards and 1.9 touchdowns on 34.7 pass attempts per game. He has struggled on the road though, which is a major concern this weekend. The Saints have featured one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL, allowing 269.0 passing yards per game although the eye test would suggest they’ve played better the last few weeks. Still, the Saints have allowed 30 passing touchdowns, while recording only 12 interceptions throughout the 2018 season.

Robert Woods has been one of the most consistent receivers in the NFL this season. He has scored double-digit fantasy points in 15 of his 17 games, while averaging 5.4 receptions for 75.8 yards and 0.4 touchdowns on 8.1 targets per game. Brandin Cooks has truly only played in 16 games, and has been another dominant fantasy option. In those games, Cooks is averaging 5.3 receptions for 79.3 yards and 0.3 touchdowns on 7.7 targets. Josh Reynolds is playing plenty of snaps, but he has struggled to become a reliable fantasy option. With that being said, he certainly comes with upside in a high-powered offense. Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee have been splitting snaps at tight end with Everett being the better fantasy option, but neither should truly be considered against an elite defense against tight ends.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: New Orleans has allowed one of the lowest yards per carry (3.6) on the season. They are also allowing only 80.2 rushing yards per game in 2018. With that being said, they have allowed 12 rushing touchdowns this year. Todd Gurley has been an elite option for the majority of the season. He returned from injury last week, totaling 118 yards on 18 rushes. Surprisingly, he split carries with C.J. Anderson, which could limit Gurley’s ceiling against a dominant run defense. Anderson has seen 20+ carries in each of his last three games, averaging 140.7 yards and 1.3 touchdowns in those games. He’s a high upside option, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Los Angeles opts to utilize Gurley a bit more in such an important game.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jared Goff
RB1: Todd Gurley (high-end)
RB2: C.J. Anderson (high risk)
WR2: Robert Woods (high-end)
WR2: Brandin Cooks (high-end)

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees has been an elite fantasy quarterback for quite some time. He has also been playing at an absurd level in New Orleans this season. Through eight home games, Brees is averaging 319.0 yards and 2.9 touchdowns on 34.8 pass attempts per game. He also comes with some rushing upside, as Brees owns four rushing touchdowns on the season. The Rams are only allowing 236.0 passing yards per game but have allowed 31 passing touchdowns, while recording 18 interceptions. Brees is a player that can dominate any defense, especially when playing at home making him an attractive DFS option this weekend.

Through nine home games, Michael Thomas is averaging 8.9 receptions for 110.3 yards and 0.8 touchdowns on 10.7 targets per game. Thomas also posted a 12 / 171 / 1 line on 16 targets in his only playoff game this season, and he could see a similar role this weekend. Ted Ginn Jr. has flashed upside since returning from injury, recording eight receptions for 118 yards on 15 targets. He’s a large part of the offense, and makes somewhat of a boom or bust option this week. They are the only two receivers that should be considered for New Orleans, and that’s including tight ends.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Mark Ingram has shown flashes throughout the season, averaging 67.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns on 13.1 touches per game. While he has flashed upside, he’s far from a safe option for the Saints. Alvin Kamara has been the better running back option all season and that’ll be the case again this week. On the season, Kamara is averaging 106.1 yards and 1.1 touchdowns on 18.4 touches (5.3 receptions) per game. Kamara is also averaging 6.8 targets per game. The Rams have struggled against the run, allowing 122.3 rushing yards per game and 12 rushing touchdowns making Kamara on of the best RB plays on the board this week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees (elite)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (elite)
RB2: Mark Ingram (high risk)
WR1: Michael Thomas (elite)
Flex Ted Ginn Jr.

Prediction: Saints 31, Rams 28 ^ Top

Patiots @ Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -3.0
Total: 55.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Patriots are coming fresh off of a dominant victory over the Chargers where almost their entire offense looked to be in sync. Tom Brady, who has had stretches this year where he appeared to be losing a step, looked every bit the part of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in the divisional round, throwing the ball all over the field, primarily to slot receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White. Those two players are likely the best two options out of the New England passing game again this week as the Chiefs are an offense that can put up a lot of points and the Patriots will need to keep the ball moving down the field in short chunks in order to limit the number of possessions that Patrick Mahomes gets.

It’s also worth considering that this game is expected to be played in very cold conditions which often limits deep pass attempts. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has become almost completely an afterthought in the Patriots passing attack as he continues to play most snaps for the team but really hasn’t been targeted with any sort of regularity. Gronk does, however, face a Chiefs defense that has been horrendous at defending opposing tight ends this season. While they were able to keep Eric Ebron out of the end zone this past week, he was still able to catch five passes for 51 yards against this defense. Phillip Dorsett is the other player to keep an eye on in this passing game, as he will likely play most of the snaps out wide for the Patriots and could approach a double-digit target share if the Patriots get involved in a shootout or fall behind on the scoreboard.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: A 24-carry, 129-yard, three touchdown performance by rookie Sony Michel has fantasy owners salivating as the Patriots head to Kansas City this week to face the Chiefs. Be careful, though, as this game could be very different than the one we saw a week ago when the Patriots got out to a huge lead and were able to lean heavily on their running game. That is not likely to be the case on the road against the high-powered Chiefs, so there’s a real case to be made that James White is the far superior play in the New England backfield this week, especially in PPR formats. White has been used sparingly as a runner but his contributions in the passing game are unbelievable, including a record-breaking 15-catch performance this past week against the Chargers in a game that wasn’t even a negative game script for the Patriots. White is the safer option of the two, certainly, as Michel could find himself competing with Rex Burkhead for goal line touches as he did a week ago when Burkhead scored a second-quarter touchdown from inside the 10 yard line.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady
RB1: James White (PPR)
RB2: Sony Michel
WR1: Julian Edelman (PPR)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski
Flex: Phillip Dorsett
Bench: Rex Burkhead, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson

Passing Game Thoughts: Cold weather conditions certainly contributed to a lack of passing touchdowns in Kansas City this past week as opposing quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck combined for just one touchdown through the air. The game was also heavily in favor of the Chiefs early which led to Mahomes not needing to air the ball out deep nearly as often as he typically does, but there’s still cause for concern that another game where the weather is expected to be well below freezing could cause some issues for the Kansas City passing game.

All of the Chiefs major players in the passing game still contributed in a meaningful fashion for fantasy owners in the divisional round, but we might not be that lucky in the conference championship. These teams met up earlier this season in game in which both hit the 40-point mark, with the Patriots narrowly edging out the victory. Still, in that game there was a monsterous performance from wide receiver Tyreek Hill who blew up for seven catches, 142 yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots knew it was coming and they still couldn’t stop him. That’s something that the Patriots typically don’t let happen twice, though. If there’s one thing this team is good at, it’s learning from their mistakes. Tyreek Hill is still probably one of the top two fantasy wide receivers on the board, but don’t be surprised if the Patriots spend significant resources defending him in this contest.

That could, of course, lead to additional work for tight end Travis Kelce and possibly even wide receiver Sammy Watkins who finally made some contributions this past week when he caught six passes for 62 yards against the Colts. Kelce remains the top tight end in fantasy football and will be again this week even against a Patriots team that held him relatively in check when these teams matched up earlier this year. Watkins, meanwhile, makes for an interesting Flex play and arguably the best lower-salary wide receiver option in DFS given his expected snap and target share.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: The breakout continued this past week for running back Damien Williams as he took 25 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown while also adding five catches for 25 yards in the passing game. This all-purpose skill set continues to make Williams a much better play than even Spencer Ware, who is expected to make his return to the lineup this week. The Chiefs coaching staff has historically leaned toward veterans in situations like this, but Williams has just so vastly outplayed Ware that it would be astonishing to see them give Ware anything more than change-of-pace duties this week against the Patriots.

Williams gets a matchup against a middle-of-the-pack Patriots run defense that got exploited by the likes of Frank Gore and Jaylen Samuels late in the regular season. They did hold Melvin Gordon in check this past week, but much of that was due to the game script which saw the Patriots get out to a large lead early, forcing the Chargers to abandon their running game. Don’t look for that to happen again this week, as the Chiefs offense is too high-powered to fall behind much even against a great Patriots offense. Williams should be heavily involved in this one no matter the game script, which makes him one of the safer running back options on the board, especially in DFS where his salary is substantially lower than the Kamara and Gurley tier.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB1: Damien Williams
WR1: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Flex: Sammy Watkins
Bench: Spencer Ware, Chris Conley

Prediction: Chiefs 31, Patriots 27 ^ Top