Divisional Matchups

Nothing extra up here this week. Let’s get started on some playoff football!

Whereas last week’s slate gave us only one matchup that would have been moderately attractive on a Main Slate in the regular season, the Divisional round brings offense into play, with the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams, and Saints (each of whom finished the regular season ranked top four in the NFL in points per game) joining the fray. Defense may win championships, but offense wins first-round byes — and this year, offense largely earned a first-round win as well, as the Colts and Chargers rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in points scored. Among the eight teams remaining, only the Eagles (18th) and Cowboys (22nd) failed to crack the top eight in scoring this year. All of this leads to a more playable slate than we had last weekend — and while we do have several high-scoring offenses that spread the ball around (likely limiting the ultimate DFS ceiling that can be reached on this slate), we can feel comfortable in the knowledge that points will be scored in some of these games, and DFS goodness will pile up.

It should also be noted that this is simply a great weekend of games, with all six of the “top scoring teams” having a clear shot at a Super Bowl title this year, and with the Eagles and Cowboys certainly not drawing dead behind them. Buckle up for some fun!

And with that: let’s dive into these four games.

Kickoff Saturday, Jan 12th 4:35pm Eastern

Colts (
25.75) at

Chiefs (

Over/Under 57.0


Key Matchups
Colts Run D
15th DVOA/7th Yards allowed per carry
Chiefs Run O
17th DVOA/7th Yards per carry
Colts Pass D
13th DVOA/10th Yards allowed per pass
Chiefs Pass O
1st DVOA/2nd Yards per pass
Chiefs Run D
17th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per carry
Colts Run O
31st DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Chiefs Pass D
22nd DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Colts Pass O
32nd DVOA/31st Yards per pass


In one of the most exciting “six seed vs one seed” matchups imaginable, the white hot Colts (10-1 in their last 11 games; sixth in the NFL in points per game this year) will travel to Arrowhead to take on a 12-4 Chiefs team that led the league in scoring this year and has been a Super Bowl favorite since the first couple weeks of the season. Same as the first game of last weekend’s slate: this game carries the highest Over/Under on the weekend. Unlike last weekend’s slate: there is plenty to like outside this game as well, making this a fun game to balance against the others available this week.


As we know by now, Kansas City was one of the more attackable pass defenses in the league this last year, with the second deepest aDOT allowed, the most pass plays of 20+ yards allowed, the fourth most wide receiver receptions allowed, and the fourth most wide receiver yards allowed. With the Chiefs regularly scoring so quickly this year, they ranked 27th in time of possession — and with opponents speeding up the pace to keep up with Kansas City, only one team allowed more opponent plays per game. The Colts closed out the regular season ranked first in pace of play and third in plays per game, creating what should be an opportunity for plenty of volume to pile up both through the air and on the ground for Indianapolis this weekend.

The biggest way in which Kansas City has been able to mitigate their problems in the secondary this year has been with their pass rush, with the Chiefs finishing the regular season tied with the Steelers for most sacks in the league. This creates a poor setup against the Colts’ ball-out-quick offense and strong offensive line. No team in football allowed fewer sacks than the Colts, which should create opportunity for Indy to develop plays and get guys open.

The foundation pieces of the Colts’ passing attack each have a good matchup here. As with last week: T.Y. Hilton is locked into alpha involvement, with a strong shot at six to eight receptions and 100+ yards. The one major drawback for Hilton is his limited red zone effectiveness, with only seven red zone catches (on 17 targets) and five red zone touchdowns all year.

Eric Ebron is on the opposite end of the “concern” spectrum, with four straight games of six or fewer targets (and only one game in this stretch north of 30 yards), but with his 12 red zone receiving touchdowns in the regular season tied with Antonio Brown for the most in the league. The matchup is great for Ebron, with the Chiefs giving up the sixth most receiving yards and the most receiving touchdowns to the tight end position this year.

Dontrelle Inman and Chester Rogers continue to operate as the primary pass-catching receivers behind these two, with Inman running 35 of a possible 39 pass routes last week, and with Rogers running 24. This followed a similar pattern to Week 17, though it is worth reiterating that the Colts are one of the most opponent-specific offenses in the NFL, and Rogers ran more pass routes than Inman in the preceding weeks. Each guy should remain involved, with Inman seeing four to six targets in seven of his last eight games, and with Rogers seeing four to seven targets in five of his last seven games. Inman sees more downfield work on his targets, while Rogers operates in more of a chain-moving role. Each guy carries slim touchdown upside, with seven red zone targets apiece.


As we explored last week (and several other times this year), the Colts are one of the NFL’s more adaptable offenses, with an ability to adjust between run-heavy and pass-heavy based on matchup, game plan, and game flow. Part of Frank Reich’s mastery as an offensive game planner is his ability to surprise a defense (as we saw last year in Philadelphia, it was impossible to know from week to week which running back would be most heavily involved for the Eagles; and as we have seen this year in Indy, Reich can knock opposing defenses askew with unexpected attack plans), but a shrewd approach in this spot would be to attack the Chiefs’ weakness on the ground (31st in yards allowed per carry). This will be nothing new against the Chiefs. In spite of ranking second in the NFL in average scoring margin, the Chiefs faced the sixth most running back rush attempts in the league this year, and they allowed the fifth most running back rushing yards. Running backs were also successful in the red zone against the Chiefs (sixth most RB rushing touchdowns allowed) and through the air (fifth most receiving yards allowed to backs // most touchdowns allowed to backs).

The one upsetting feature of this spot is the Colts’ multi-headed backfield setup, with Marlon Mack handling the rushing work (only one game all year above three targets // only one game all year above 17 receiving yards), and with Nyheim Hines handling the receiving work (16 total carries across the last five weeks of the regular season // 30 targets in this same stretch of play).

Mack is best considered a yardage-and-touchdown back with a locked-in workload of 12 to 14 carries and with upside for as many as 25 carries if the Colts keep this game close — giving him an iffy price-considered floor, but plenty of upside if everything goes right. Hines is best considered a floor play with his aerial involvement far more locked-in than was shown last week, but with minimal red zone involvement. It should be noted that Hines is a bit underpriced on PPR site DraftKings for what is typically a three- to five-catch role, making him a solid “roster for floor, hope for upside” salary saver this week.


The last time Spencer Ware played for the Chiefs (Week 14 vs Baltimore), he touched the ball 20 times, but he ceded 12 touches to Damien Williams along the way. Williams followed this up with 16 and 20 alpha touches in Weeks 15 and 16 before seeing 12 touches (and ceding 11 to Darrel Williams) in Week 17. With Ware back this week, the Chiefs will likely be comfortable splitting the workload once again — which presents some concerns on a team that has generated running back touch totals of 22 // 33 // 20 // 20 // 23 since parting ways with Kareem Hunt. If the Chiefs land in their typical range of running back workload (20 to 23 touches) and split time between Ware and Damien, we could see no more than 13 or 14 touches for the backfield leader. If betting on this spot, then, the best bet is to hope the Chiefs lean on only one back — as you will otherwise be left hoping for another outlier, 30-touch setup for this backfield as a whole.

From a “matchups” perspective, things look a bit better for Williams than for Ware, with Williams impressively turning 21 targets across his last five games into 20 catches for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Colts — as we are surely all aware by now — allowed the sixth fewest yards per carry in the NFL this year, but they allowed the second most running back receptions and the seventh most running back receiving yards.

Ware, of course, is no zero in the pass game himself (last five games: 12 targets // 11 catches for 135 yards), and while Williams is likely to lead this backfield in touches, there is still an outside shot that Ware retakes the lead role, or that he produces at a higher level even if he’s stuck in the backseat.

Ultimately, we should go into this game expecting under 25 total touches for this backfield, with anything over that considered a bonus. The likeliest setup this week is a split backfield with Williams in the lead, but it won’t be surprising if Williams takes on a good 70% of the work — and while it’s less likely, it ultimately won’t be a total surprise if Ware steps back into the lead role himself.


As we are well aware by now: the Colts allowed the lowest average depth of target in the NFL this year, they allowed the fifth fewest pass plays of 20+ yards, they allowed the second fewest wide receiver catches, and they allowed the second fewest wide receiver yards. On the flip side of that: only two teams faced more tight end targets than Indy; no team allowed more tight end catches; no team allowed more tight end yards.

This is a great spot for Travis Kelce, who incredibly has nine or more targets in six consecutive games. Through 16 games, Kelce went for 95+ yards seven times, and he scored 10 touchdowns (with three multi-touchdown games) along the way. With the Chiefs facing a tough matchup on the ground, it makes sense for them to lean on Patrick Mahomes this week; and if they lean on Mahomes, a large chunk of the pass game work should flow to Kelce.

The matchup is less stable for Tyreek Hill, as the Colts have routinely held downfield pass catchers to below-expectations production, with DeAndre Hopkins last week as their latest victim. On the plus side for Hill: he sees a few of the short-area targets each week on which Keke Coutee unsurprisingly pasted this defense last week, and he is guaranteed two to four downfield looks regardless of opponent — keeping his ceiling very much intact. As was the case in his game against Oakland in Week 17: Hill’s chances of reaching his ceiling are lower than normal. As was also the case that week: he can pop off for a big game in literally any matchup, keeping him very much in the conversation this week.

While the Chiefs’ offense is a point-producing machine, DFS production behind Kelce, Hill, and the running backs has been spotty all year. Sammy Watkins is set to return this week — and while he should play limited snaps, he will also have a shot at four to six targets, giving him a low floor and a decent price-considered ceiling. Kelvin Benjamin, Demarcus Robinson, and Chris Conley will fight for scraps, with all of these guys simply guess-and-hope plays.


Andrew Luck joins Patrick Mahomes as the top on-paper quarterback plays on the slate (Mahomes, of course, sits higher than Luck — but it won’t be surprising if Luck pushes for the top score in the small sample size of a single game), while Hilton and Ebron obviously stand out as two of the better plays at their respective positions. Hilton is in a great spot for his big-play upside to show up — making him a bet-on-yardage, hope-for-touchdown play; Ebron is not guaranteed heavy looks in this spread-the-wealth offense, but on a weak slate for tight ends, with Ebron carrying locked-in involvement and a big red zone role, he obviously stands out as one of the stronger options. Behind these guys, Rogers and Inman can be targeted for floor production with “hope for a score” upside; Zach Pascal can be rostered in large-field tourneys as a guess-and-hope play (Pascal is primarily on the field for his run-blocking, but he did see five targets in Week 14 and seven targets in Week 16; you’re not drawing dead here in large-field tourneys). The Colts’ backfield is also intriguing in what should be a high-scoring affair with plenty of plays available on this side of the ball. Mack will need yards and touchdowns to matter, given his limited pass game role, but he’ll have a shot at both in this spot; Hines should return to his typical four to eight touch role, with most of these looks coming through the air (and with a chance for game flow to boost his touch ceiling this week).

On the other side, Mahomes and Kelce jump off the page, while Hill and Williams (and to a lesser extent, Ware and Watkins) join the “tourney upside” conversation. While the Colts’ defense has been strong this year, it has taken more than “a strong defense” to slow down the Chiefs (unbelievably, their lowest point total on the year was 26) — making this an easy offense to bet on for yards and points. With the Colts so strong against the run, Mahomes should be given a chance to take over in this game, making him and his primary pass catchers enticing options on this four-game slate.

Kickoff Saturday, Jan 12th 8:15pm Eastern

Cowboys (
21.25) at

Rams (

Over/Under 49.5


Key Matchups
Cowboys Run D
5th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per carry
Rams Run O
24th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Cowboys Pass D
3rd DVOA/12th Yards allowed per pass
Rams Pass O
22nd DVOA/30th Yards per pass
Rams Run D
7th DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Cowboys Run O
10th DVOA/18th Yards per carry
Rams Pass D
20th DVOA/17th Yards allowed per pass
Cowboys Pass O
13th DVOA/10th Yards per pass


When the Cowboys were 3-5 and the Rams were 8-0, there were not many people who were expecting this matchup in the Divisional round of the playoffs — and those who did see this matchup coming would certainly not have seen this game carrying potential for a close contest. But with the Cowboys trading for Amari Cooper and rounding into form in all phases of the game, and with the Rams losing Cooper Kupp and now dealing with a hobbled Todd Gurley, this is a much more appealing matchup than would have seemed possible a couple months back. The Rams obviously have the edge in this spot (they are touchdown favorites at home), but there are opportunities for the Cowboys to hang in this game, and it should be a fun, competitive battle from kickoff to final whistle.


In spite of the Rams regularly playing with a lead this year, their big weakness against the run (dead last in yards allowed per carry) led to them allowing the eighth most running back rushing yards in the league this year. With Dallas ranking 24th this year in passing play percentage, we should expect a run-heavy game plan on this side of the ball, as the Cowboys look to control this game as much as they can — slowing down the pace (24th in pace of play on the year) and looking to keep the fast-paced (third in pace), high-powered (second in scoring) Rams offense off the field. This should lead to another game for Ezekiel Elliott of 25+ touches, after recent touch totals of 25 // 30 // 31 // 29 // 40 // 25 // 23 // 30. Zeke has topped 110 yards on the ground in five of these eight games — adding six total touchdowns and at least four catches in every game in this stretch. The one area where this matchup takes a step back is through the air, as the Rams have allowed the fourth fewest receiving yards to enemy backs, though Zeke is as close as you can get to a stone lock for 100+ scrimmage yards, and he’ll be involved in scoring opportunities from there. As is almost always the case: he stands out as one of the safer, higher-upside plays on the slate — with his every-down role and his pass-game involvement keeping him involved regardless of game flow.


The Rams have been an attackable matchup through the air this year, ranking 24th in yards allowed per pass attempt and allowing the seventh most passing touchdowns in the league. The Cowboys did take the second most sacks in the NFL this season, which will open opportunities for stalled drives against this stout Rams front, while the Cowboys should also be expected to roll with a slow-paced, run-heavy approach for as long as they can this week. In spite of the Rams constantly playing with a lead this year, only nine teams faced fewer pass attempts on the season, while the Cowboys threw the ball the 12th fewest times in the league. Volume is not the bet to make in this spot (Dak Prescott topped 36 pass attempts in only one game all year that he shared with Zeke, while that was also the only game “shared with Zeke” that led to 300+ passing yards for the Cowboys), but there should be enough volume for Amari Cooper to be involved, while additional targets will be spread out behind him.

If we take away the monster-volume games for this passing attack, Cooper has seen recent target counts with the Cowboys of 9 // 8 // 7 // 5 // 9. Cooper primarily works the short areas of the field and relies on YAC for his upside (leading to 31 or fewer receiving yards in three of his last four games), though his likeliest range in this spot is something like a 6-70-0 line, with broken play and touchdown upside from there. The conservative nature of this offense limits Cooper’s chances of a big game, but he has the on-his-own talent to get there if things break just right.

With Prescott topping 300 yards only twice all year (with one of these games coming without Zeke, and with both of these games coming in ultra pass-heavy spots), and with Prescott also failing to top even two touchdown passes outside of those two pass-heavy games, production behind Amari has been difficult to bet on — especially as Zeke has seen his pass role grow in recent weeks. Michael Gallup is a low-floor play with slim opportunity for a downfield shot to turn into a big play or a touchdown. Cole Beasley is ankle-hampered with a short-area role that only occasionally yields upside. Nothing in the matchup for either of these players suggests a big game is coming, leaving each as nothing more than a guess-and-hope play. Ultimately, the same goes for Blake Jarwin — though the Rams did allow the third most tight end yards this year, making it possible that Jarwin exists as more than just a floor play this week.


On a per-play basis, the Cowboys’ reputation exceeded their reality in the pass game this year, with this team ranked middle of the pack in aDOT and near the bottom of the league in catch rate allowed — with only their ability to tackle well after the catch (the Cowboys ranked eighth in YAC/R rate allowed) keeping them in the top half of the league in yards allowed per pass attempt, where they finished 13th. With that said, however: the Cowboys’ slow-paced, run-dominant offense allowed them to face the seventh fewest opponent plays per game in the league; their run defense and their strong downfield pass defense (sixth fewest pass plays of 20+ yards allowed) enabled them to rank ninth in yards allowed per play; and their solid red zone defense (ninth in opponent red zone touchdown rate) led to them allowing the sixth fewest points per game. Only nine teams allowed fewer passing touchdowns than Dallas. Only eight teams allowed fewer wide receiver catches. Only seven teams allowed fewer wide receiver yards. This is not a truly scary spot for the Rams’ passing attack, but it is a below-average spot, with the Cowboys lowering passing game expectations across the board. Impressively, only two teams allowed fewer wide receiver touchdowns than the Cowboys this year.

All of this is enough to make Jared Goff a lesser on-paper play than the two quarterbacks squaring off earlier in the day, with concerns in this spot heightened by Goff’s four-game stretch of underwhelming play from Weeks 13 through 16 without Cooper Kupp (only one game above 216 passing yards; two touchdowns and six interceptions in this stretch). The best justification for rostering Goff in this spot is the fact that he and Sean McVay have had two weeks to prepare for this game, creating some optimism that Goff can exceed expectations.

Volume expectations should be held in check for the Rams’ passing attack against this slow-paced, run-heavy Cowboys team, though somewhere in the range of 30 to 36 pass attempts is still a fair projection — which should be enough for Robert Woods (recent target counts of 8 // 13 // 9 // 7 // 3) to land in his typical “seven to nine target” range, and for Brandin Cooks (recent target counts of 6 // 8 // 7 // 3 // 9) to land in his typical “six to eight target” range. Woods’ slot-dominant usage and short/deep role give him a higher floor/ceiling combo, while Cooks — with a low floor in a spot that meshes poorly with his skill set — is a “bet on big play” option.

Behind these two, Josh Reynolds has seen bounce-around usage lately (recent target counts of 5 // 7 // 12 // 2 // 7), with five to seven looks his likeliest range. Reynolds has primarily worked the short areas of the field, leaving yardage upside more thin than it is on his more heralded teammates, though his guaranteed involvement in a high-powered offense keeps him in the conversation on a slate this small.

The most quietly intriguing player on this side of the ball is Gerald Everett, who pulled target counts of 7 // 7 // 6 in Weeks 14-16 before dropping to one target in Week 17. The Cowboys have allowed the fourth most receptions and the 12th most yards to the tight end position, and Everett has run a pass route on 59.9% of Goff’s drop backs across the last four Rams games. It won’t be surprising if he sees four to seven looks in this spot.


The matchup is not great for the Rams’ run offense against a Dallas defense that finished the regular season ranked fifth in DVOA against the run, with the fifth fewest yards allowed per carry in the league — though with the Rams ranked first in adjusted line yards this year (while ranking third in rushing yards per game and third in yards per carry), the matchup is less of a concern than the health of Todd Gurley, who is practicing this week, but who seems to be less than 100%. The likeliest scenario this week is that Gurley handles the bulk of the work, but that C.J. Anderson mixes in for a non-negligible number of touches of his own. If this happens, it will be difficult for either guy to pay off his price tag outside of high efficiency or a multi-touchdown game. Working in Gurley’s favor is the fact that Dallas is better attacked with running backs through the air (only four teams allowed more receptions to the position), where the Rams have been less enthusiastic in their deployment of Anderson (three targets in back-to-back games). If no further clarity arrives in this spot (i.e., late-week reports giving Gurley the full-go), consider Gurley a risky play with big upside, and consider Anderson a hope-for-touchdowns play.


Zeke is the clear top play from this game, with one of the most locked-in workloads in football, and with a matchup that should filter touches in his direction. He carries the highest floor/ceiling projection on the weekend. Elsewhere on the Cowboys, Amari is the most attractive option, with a strong floor, and with a ceiling that is “unlikely to be reached, but very nice if he gets there.” Dak is a candidate to go over-owned compared to expectations on this slate, though he’s obviously very much in the conversation with a small slate and with a potential “chasing points” setup in store. The ancillary pass catchers on the Cowboys are best reserved for rosters that fade Zeke and instead bet on a pass-heavy game from Dallas — with all of these guys simply “hope for the best” options outside of that setup.

On the Rams’ side, no one pops off the page — with workload question marks in the backfield, and with volume and matchup concerns in the pass game — though we should ultimately expect the Rams to push for at least four touchdowns in this spot, keeping several of these guys in the conversation. Goff is a clear second-tier play behind Mahomes and Luck, but you could bet on a big game from this passing attack with an extra week to prepare; Woods/Cooks are “solid but unspectacular,” with Woods the preferred play from a floor perspective, but with both guys carrying ceiling (it is also worth noting that they are very fairly priced on DraftKings, where they have been adjusted for their recent usage and for the matchup); Reynolds and Everett are in play as sneaky tourney plays who are not drawing dead for upside; the backs are risky at their respective prices, but either guy — and Gurley in particular — could wind up as a difference-maker if things break the right way.

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 13th 1:05pm Eastern

Chargers (
21.5) at

Patriots (

Over/Under 47.0


Key Matchups
Chargers Run D
29th DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per carry
Patriots Run O
21st DVOA/21st Yards per carry
Chargers Pass D
10th DVOA/27th Yards allowed per pass
Patriots Pass O
25th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Patriots Run D
10th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per carry
Chargers Run O
22nd DVOA/30th Yards per carry
Patriots Pass D
3rd DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Chargers Pass O
17th DVOA/26th Yards per pass


Either one of these teams could make a clear claim as a top three or four unit in the league, with the Patriots one of four teams that earned a first-round bye, and with the Chargers boasting the better record this year. The Patriots are 8-0 at home this year, while the Chargers have gone an NFL-best 7-1 on the road. In their illustrious careers, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady have squared off seven times, with Brady winning all seven times. Whichever team wins this game will have a strong shot at reaching the Super Bowl, and whichever team loses this game is likely to be back in this position next year. These are two quality opponents — pairing nicely with the Colts/Chiefs game on Saturday to give us two excellent AFC playoff matchups. Each of these teams ranked top eight in both points per game and fewest points allowed per game. The Patriots have been installed as four point favorites in a game with an Over/Under of 47.0.


The Chargers went through a stretch this year in which Philip Rivers failed to top even 27 pass attempts in five consecutive games. During the regular season, Rivers had 10 games with 30 or fewer pass attempts. Two of his games north of 30 attempts came in the first four weeks of the season. Since that time, Rivers has more games with zero touchdown passes (two) than he has games with three touchdown passes (one). While Rivers’ can still support pass catchers through concentrated volume and downfield passing (more on this in a bit), this offense belongs to the run game whenever possible — and against a Patriots team that ranked 29th in yards allowed per carry, we should expect the Chargers to look to establish the run this week.

With the Chargers ranked 32nd in pace of play and 28th in plays per game, the run-leaning likelihood is a positive for targeting this winnable matchup, though we are still dealing with the drawback of an uncertain workload. Across the Chargers’ last three games, Melvin Gordon (knee) has played 66.7%, 54.2%, and 46.4% of the team’s snaps, drawing touch totals of 15 // 13 // 18. He still carries solid upside (aided by the Patriots’ weakness defending pass-catching running backs, with the ninth most yards allowed to the position), though with the Patriots allowing the second fewest rushing touchdowns to running backs this year, there is enough risk that Gordon is more “decent-floor/solid-ceiling” than he is “slam dunk play.” The pricing discount on both FanDuel and DraftKings does make him a bit more appealing than he otherwise would be.

The number two back in this offense has benefitted from Gordon’s capped workload, with Justin Jackson picking up eight touches in Week 15 (in a game Ekeler missed), with Austin Ekeler and Jackson combining for 14 touches in Week 17, and with Ekeler going for 15 touches last week. It is likely noteworthy that Jackson played only three snaps in a playoff game last week, and that Ekeler saw 15 touches to Jackson’s two. Ekeler is only guaranteed around eight or nine touches, but if Gordon continues to see a capped workload and the Chargers are able to keep this game close enough to pile up running back touches, it is worth noting that Ekeler has a big edge over the Patriots’ linebackers in the pass game.

The matchup will be far more difficult when the Chargers take to the air, as the Patriots have allowed an awesome-low catch rate to wide receivers of only 59.26%. With the Patriots playing so much man coverage (and regularly playing with a lead), opponents have skewed pass-heavy against them — allowing stats to pile up through volume; but with the Chargers landing at 30 or fewer pass attempts most weeks this season, you will need to consider, while building rosters this weekend, how much you expect game flow to be able to dictate the Chargers’ approach. Volume is the best path to production against the Patriots, so a bet on this passing attack is best made with a bet on a pass-heavy game from the visiting Chargers.

The player who has been best able to work around the volume issues in this passing attack has been Keenan Allen, who has five games this year of double-digit targets, and who has target counts in his last four healthy games of 8 // 8 // 7 // 6. Working against Allen is a Patriots team that is very comfortable playing Jason McCourty (37% slot snap rate) and Stephon Gilmore (18% slot snap rate) in the slot, which will make it difficult for him to take advantage of the weaker interior matchups he is typically able to hammer. Working in Allen’s favor would be a shootout that pushes the Chargers into pass-heavy mode — which would virtually guarantee double-digit looks.

The player next likeliest to take advantage in this spot is Mike Williams, who has the talent of an alpha receiver, but who will be treated as the number two by the Patriots. Williams’ floor is bone bare, but with recent target counts in Allen’s healthy games of 6 // 3 // 6 // 5 and with an aDOT on the year of 15.2 (top 10 in the NFL), he should have opportunities to hit in this spot.

This passing attack wraps up with Tyrell Williams, who has taken a backseat to Mike lately (recent target counts in Keenan-healthy games of 4 // 2 // 3 // 4), but who still has big-play upside. Behind Williams, Hunter Henry will return on a snap count this week as a hope-for-touchdown play; Antonio Gates will see his typical handful of dead-legged targets; Travis Benjamin will have a few touches manufactured for him that will create thin opportunities for upside.


Much has been made of the Chargers playing with seven defensive backs for almost the entire game against the Ravens last week, though this was not as much of an outlier for the Chargers as the story would make it seem. In Week 15 against the Chiefs, the Chargers played only one linebacker for much of the game, and they did the same thing for large chunks of their matchup with the Bengals the week before. Strong safeties Adrian Phillips and Derwin James have both been full-time players for weeks now, and the Chargers regularly have Desmond King on the field as their nickel back as well. While Gus Bradley deserves plenty of credit for finding a way to slow down the multi-headed rushing attack of the Ravens, a lot of the “personnel genius” was out of necessity, as the Chargers are simply a better defense — especially against the run — with Phillips and James spending time in the box than they are with the underwhelming quartet of Kyle Emmanuel, Jatvis Brown, Hayes Pullard, and Uchenna Nwosu. It won’t be surprising if we see plenty of six and even seven DB formations from the Chargers this week as they look to slow down a Patriots team that ranks sixth in pace of play, sixth in time of possession, second in plays per game, seventh in rush play rate, and third in rush attempts. Rather quietly, the Seahawks and Ravens were the only teams in football that ran the ball more times than the Patriots this year. New England ranks third in adjusted line yards. The Chargers are strong against the run (sixth in DVOA // 12th in yards allowed per carry), but this is their comparative weak link.

While we can expect the Patriots to pile up rush attempts, the below-average matchup and the three-headed nature of the Patriots’ backfield makes this unit difficult to bet on in DFS. Since Rex Burkhead returned to the Patriots in Week 13, snap counts among the Patriots’ running backs have looked like this:

:: Sony Michel — 30 // 33 // 23 // 23 // 25
:: James White — 33 // 33 // 26 // 29 // 27
:: Rex Burkhead — 17 // 17 // 16 // 25 // 17

Michel has only seven catches all season and has carry counts of 17 // 20 // 13 // 18 // 14 since Burkhead returned, making him a yardage-and-touchdown back with a difficult path to a big-yardage game.

White has touch counts of 13 // 6 // 7 // 10 // 8 since Burkhead returned, making him reliant on big plays and touchdowns to provide more than just floor.

Burkhead saw 17 touches in Week 16, but otherwise he has gone for touch counts of 9 // 5 // 7 // 6.

Add it all up, and that’s running back touch counts across the last five weeks of 39 // 31 // 27 // 45 // 28 — stunning numbers that would make this an attractive spot if the Patriots employed a Zeke or a Gurley (or if they were even dividing the work between only two guys). But these touches (and the nature of these touches) are spread thin for each player’s respective price, making each guy a “decent floor, hope for ceiling” option, rather than allowing any of these guys to stand out as a lock-and-load play.


Those touch counts for Patriots running backs illustrate the dearth of remaining touches available on a team that is still happy to spread the ball around to the weapons that remain. Outside of peak Gronkowski years or the couple years the Patriots enjoyed with Randy Moss, this team has capitalized on spreading non-slot/non-RB targets to a wide variety of players, with volume thin across the board. Across the last five weeks (since Burkhead returned), targets to non-slot/non-RBs on the Patriots have looked like this (note: the last two games were without Josh Gordon):

:: Chris Hogan — 2 // 1 // 3 // 0 // 11
:: Phillip Dorsett — 0 // 0 // 0 // 0 // 5
:: Rob Gronkowski — 4 // 8 // 5 // 3 // 2
:: Cordarrelle Patterson — 2 // 3 // 3 // 2 // DNP

(Gordon went 3 // 9 // 2 in Weeks 13-15.)

With the Chargers doing a great job against perimeter receivers and allowing an awesome-low 61.2% completion rate to tight ends (second best in the league, behind only the Saints and Bills), the best way to try to capture upside from the Patriots’ offense is to A) select a running back to bet on, B) isolate Julian Edelman (more on him in a moment), or C) hope for the best from one of the ancillary pass catchers listed above. Hogan and Dorsett are “hope for a big play or a touchdown” options (Hogan is the better bet for a big play on a schemed route that sends him into open space downfield; Dorsett is the better bet to scrape open when others are covered, especially in the end zone). Patterson will see limited touches and is best considered a fourth running back, though his touches are at least designed to get his speed into space. Gronk is a hope-for-touchdown play. A realistic “Option D” is to bet on Brady and hope to capture all the points, though there is obviously concern that this run-heavy team will earn a large chunk of its fantasy production on the ground, making Brady a lesser on-paper play than some of the other options available. He would be a “hope the yards and touchdowns flow through him” option.

As for Edelman: we have explored a number of times in this space the fact that Chargers slot corner Desmond King is a strong tackler and playmaker, but he is not a scary coverage matchup for slot receivers — allowing a 75% completion rate on passes into his coverage this year. Edelman has topped 100 yards only twice this season (and has yet to top 104), while King has allowed only three touchdowns on passes thrown into his coverage; but Edelman is also the Patriots’ best means of moving the ball through the air, and with recent target counts of 8 // 12 // 11 // 10 // 6, he should be reliably involved this week. His path to monster ceiling is slim, but his chances of a pure dud are also slim, keeping him in the conversation as a Safety piece this week.


The Chargers’ offense should do well in this spot, though they are difficult to target from a DFS perspective, as their backfield is split and their wide receivers don’t see enough locked-in volume to be lock-and-load plays against a good secondary that is best attacked with volume. I like Gordon this week, but I don’t love him; his ceiling is attractive, but there are enough paths to a disappointing game that he still carries some risk. I like Ekeler, but I don’t love him; if he sees 14+ touches, he could smash at his price, but there is still a chance he touches the ball only eight or nine times. I like Keenan, but the matchup is difficult, making him a hope-for-volume/hope-for-the-best option. I like Mike Williams (I like his upside quite a bit, actually), but his floor is still scary. The fact that there are several other pieces behind these guys who will also touch the ball on a slow-paced, low-play-volume team says a lot about the lack of locked-in certainty on this side of the ball, but there are certainly paths to one or two guys from the Chargers’ offense mattering this weekend.

As always: the Patriots can be expected to score points, without any guarantee that any individual player pops off for a big game. This offense will be difficult to bet on this week, with seven or more touches likely for three different running backs, and with three or more touches likely for an additional five pass catchers. There are “bet on big plays/touchdowns” cases to be made for all of Burkhead, Michel, White, Dorsett, Hogan, Patterson, and Gronk, while you could also roster Brady and hope the touchdowns flow through him — but while all of these are viable options for upside-hunting or filling out the last space on a roster, the only player who carries any sort of certainty is Edelman. Edelman lacks the upside of guys like Hill, Hilton, and Amari, but his floor still keeps him in the conversation this week.

Kickoff Sunday, Jan 13th 4:40pm Eastern

Eagles (
21.25) at

Saints (

Over/Under 50.5


Key Matchups
Eagles Run D
19th DVOA/24th Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
22nd DVOA/19th Yards per carry
Eagles Pass D
1st DVOA/1st Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
19th DVOA/7th Yards per pass
Saints Run D
21st DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per carry
Eagles Run O
1st DVOA/12th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
11th DVOA/9th Yards allowed per pass
Eagles Pass O
6th DVOA/3rd Yards per pass


The biggest on-paper mismatch on this slate belongs to the final game of the weekend, where the 13-3 Saints will do battle with the 9-7 Eagles. Since early in the year, the Saints and Rams have been the clear and heavy favorites in the NFC, with the Bears and Seahawks recently looking like the best threats to dethrone one of these teams. With the Seahawks and Bears both losing in the first round, however, it will be Nick Foles Magic coming to New Orleans, in a spot where it would be foolish to automatically count the Eagles out. While Philly suffered an embarrassing 48-7 loss at the hands of the Saints in Week 11, this has been a different team since then, with a 6-1 record following that loss, including road wins over the Rams and Bears. If any team can pull the upset without exactly shocking the world, it’s the Eagles. Vegas has kept the visiting team in striking distance in this one, with the Saints installed as 8.0 point favorites in a game with an Over/Under of 50.5.


Only three teams allowed more yards per pass attempt than the Saints this season, and only 10 teams faced more pass attempts, leading to this defense allowing the fourth most passing yards in the league. With the Saints also playing above-average defense against pass-catching running backs and lights-out defense against tight ends (third fewest catches allowed // fourth fewest yards allowed // second lowest catch rate allowed), they have filtered targets heavily toward wide receivers this year, with only one team allowing more catches to the position, and with no team allowing more yards.

Foles and the Eagles have adopted a ball-out-quick passing attack that has allowed Foles to complete 73.2% of his passes across the last four weeks, with an incredible 79% of his passes (121 out of 153) failing to travel more than 12 yards downfield. This week against the man-leaning coverage scheme of the Saints that added 5.9% to the league-average aDOT this year, we should see this offense push some of their five-yard passes seven or eight yards downfield, and some of their 10 to 12 yard passes should turn into 14 to 16 yard passes. This will create quiet opportunity for Foles to push for 300 yards. With recent touchdown totals of 4 // 2 // 2, he’s most than just a hope-to-get-lucky option.

Target totals with Foles under center the last four weeks have looked like this:

:: Zach Ertz — 7 // 16 // 4 // 7
:: Alshon Jeffery — 8 // 5 // 5 // 9
:: Nelson Agholor — 2 // 7 // 6 // 6
:: Golden Tate — 5 // 3 // 6 // 8

Given the nature of this passing attack, all of these targets are best viewed through a “possession receiver” lens (i.e., think of these target counts as belonging to a Julian Edelman or a Keenan Allen, as opposed to an Antonio Brown or a DeAndre Hopkins) — making all of these guys decent floor options with “hope for things to go right” shots at ceiling. Ertz has (by far) the most difficult matchup, making him a thin on-paper play behind Kelce and Ebron this week; his talent will have to win out over a difficult matchup (not impossible, of course — but there is risk with this play). Alshon is the best bet for one or two downfield looks, though Agholor and Tate have each mixed in for a couple such looks of their own across the last few weeks. Mike Wallace is also expected to return this week to take the top off the defense, though he should see somewhat limited play volume and is unlikely to draw more than two or three looks.


The Eagles’ run offense enters one of the toughest matchups on the slate, against a Saints team that finished the regular season second in yards allowed per carry and third in DVOA against the run. Between rushing and receiving yards, only the Ravens allowed less production to running backs than the Saints allowed. Incredibly, 12 teams allowed more rushing yards to running backs than the Saints allowed rushing/receiving yards combined.

While it is always dangerous to try to assume you know what the Eagles will do with their backfield, it is fairly easy to set aside Josh Adams this week outside of simply closing your eyes and hoping for lightning to strike. Last week against a similarly stout Bears front, Adams played only one snap while Wendell Smallwood played 28 and Darren Sproles played 37.

Sproles has touch counts across the last three weeks of 12 // 9 // 15 and is the likeliest bet for heavy involvement in this spot. While the matchup is very tough, Sproles does present enough unique challenges to a defense that he cannot be counted out completely.

Smallwood has recent touch counts of 5 // 16 // 10. It seems likely that he pushes for double-digit touches here, but that still leaves him as simply a hope-for-the-best option in this difficult draw.


One of the most unique problems in assessing matchups against the Eagles this year has been: how will their opponent choose to attack? The Eagles have been below-average against the run this year…but because of the issues in the Eagles’ secondary and their impressive talent up front, teams have generally skewed pass-heavy against them, with no team in the league facing a higher pass play rate, and with no team facing fewer rush attempts. As we know by now, New Orleans is one of the run-heaviest teams in the league (only Seattle, Tennessee, and Baltimore ran the ball more frequently than the Saints), but they certainly have the pieces to win through the air if they choose to do so.

Regardless of how the Saints choose to tilt their attack, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram will be focal points, with Kamara boasting recent touch counts of 15 // 19 // 17 // 21 // 11, and with Ingram seeing touch counts in that same stretch of 13 // 9 // 14 // 14 // 12. Kamara is far more heavily involved in the pass game, making him the safer play to lock-and-load against a Philly team that will present a winnable matchup for whatever volume Kamara sees on the ground, but that also presents a plus matchup through the air, with the second most catches and the sixth most yards allowed to the running back position. Ingram, of course, smashed this matchup for a 16-103-2 line on the ground last time around, though that came in a monster blowout, and there is clear and obvious risk that the Saints will skew a bit more pass-heavy than normal this week, and that Ingram’s opportunities for upside will be limited. He’s best viewed as a bet-on-touchdown play, though he does always carry multi-touchdown upside in this offense.

The Saints’ passing unit is an interesting study this week, as there are several items that come into play in deciding how to attack with this group:

1) You have to first believe that the Saints will lean pass-heavy in order to feel great about targeting this spot. Drew Brees has thrown the ball 31 or fewer times in eight of 11 games since Ingram returned. Brees has gone for 35, 36, and 39 attempts in his other three games, so it’s not as if a 50-attempt game is even in the cards; but 35 or 36 pass attempts would look a lot better than 27 or 28.

2) You have to recognize that the running backs have soaked up an incredible 31.6% of the targets on this team across Brees’ last four games, while this team also spreads passes (including valuable goal line looks) to guys who don’t pile up enough yardage to be true DFS factors outside of long-shot guessing and hoping, with Ben Watson, Dan Arnold, Josh Smith, and Keith Kirkwood involved every week, and with guys like Tre’Quan Smith, Austin Carr, and Tommylee Lewis all candidates to see one or two touches of their own. Additionally, Taysom Hill piles up three to six rushes most weeks, and has vultured two touchdowns of his own.

3) The last time these teams met, the Eagles tilted everything toward taking away Michael Thomas — which led to him seeing a season-low four targets while Tre’Quan popped off for a 10-157-1 line on 13 looks. The Eagles will clearly go out of their way to avoid that mistake this time around, but it’s a guessing game as to what this means for coverage on Thomas, who they certainly want to try to take away once more.

The best bet for point-per-dollar upside in this spot is quietly Ginn, who had target counts of 6 // 7 // 6 early in the year before going down, and who had eight targets in his first game back against Pittsburgh. Every single one of those games was a more pass-heavy spot (pass attempt totals of 45 // 35 // 49 // 39), so his floor is still in the “four to five target” range; but with the Saints likely to skew a bit more pass-heavy, and with the Eagles sure to make an effort to isolate Thomas again, Ginn’s downfield role will give him an opportunity to make a dent this week against a Philly defense that has allowed the third most catches and the third most yards to the wide receiver position, while giving up the third most pass plays of 20+ yards.

Thomas would also benefit from a spiked-volume game for the Saints, though with fewer than 50 receiving yards in four of his last six games, and with only two games since Ingram returned of more than 100 yards, he’s a bet-on-touchdown, hope-for-yardage play. His big red zone role (second in the NFL in red zone targets in the regular season), monster efficiency (85.0% catch rate), and high-scoring offense help to somewhat offset his Amendola-like aDOT of 7.7, but it is always worth reminding — at his price — that he rarely sees downfield targets in this offense, making volume or broken plays a must at his still-elevated price tag.


I like Foles this week; I like Sproles this week; I don’t mind Alshon (with Agholor and Tate and even Ertz not poor plays behind him). And I don’t even think it’s crazy to take a shot on Smallwood in a “hope he scores a touchdown” setup on a slate this size. But there is nothing on this side of the ball that really pops off the page, and I wouldn’t mind fading all these guys either. Foles is probably my favorite of the bunch, as it is massively likely that most of the offensive production will flow through him. Behind Foles, it’s hoping to pick the guys who score, as this team has had a tough time piling up enough consistent yardage in recent weeks for that bet to be comfortably made.

On the other side of the ball, the Saints have been tough for me to bet on all year at their price tags, but a four game slate softens things up a bit. Kamara is obviously not in the same floor/ceiling range as Zeke or a healthy Gurley, but his likely 15 to 20 touches keep him in the same volume range as a less-than-100% Melvin Gordon, and the way this matchup sets up for him (quality on the ground // quality through the air) keeps him in the tourney conversation. Thomas is still a bit tougher for me to get on board with, as his close-to-the-line-of-scrimmage role makes it tougher for him to hit for upside in the same range as the guys who were priced around him this year. Antonio Brown, Davante Adams, T.Y. Hilton, Odell Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, and Mike Evans are just a few of the receivers who carried aDOTs this year of at least 3.5 yards more than Thomas’ mark of 7.7 — with all of these guys seeing similar or greater weekly target counts. Across an eight-target game, a difference of 3.5 yards per target adds up to 28 air yards Thomas routinely falls short of compared to his high-priced counterparts. That has been tough for me to overlook all year (and the results have regularly backed that up), so while the short slate still keeps Thomas very much in the conversation, I’ll continue to have concerns from a salary-allocation perspective. It will not be remotely surprising if Thomas runs into multiple touchdowns, and he could also run into a broken play; but keep in mind the floor concerns when considering this play. Behind these guys, Ingram is interesting for his touchdown upside, while Ginn is interesting for his sneaky floor/ceiling at his price. Brees is also in the conversation for the upside he carries at home. His likeliest scenario is a solid, but unspectacular game — but it shouldn’t shock anyone if Brees pops off in one more game down the stretch, and he’s a fine bet in tourneys because of this.