DFS Advice for Conference Title Games: Where to spend and save when building lineups

Whether you've played Daily Fantasy on Yahoo before or are giving it a try for the first time, this column will take a look at the DFS landscape, revealing whom I like building lineups around, stars to fade, undervalued plays and bargain bin options to help you construct a better team.

Lineup building blocks

Joe Burrow ($37) @ Kansas City Chiefs

Burrow has emerged as the NFL’s second-best player and has averaged 327 passing yards (9.1 YPA) with an 8:1 TD:INT line over his last three games against Kansas City. Chris Jones and Co. might be more of a problem for Cincinnati’s offensive line injuries this week, but the Chiefs’ coverage was easily the worst in the divisional round. Patrick Mahomes’ high-ankle sprain may affect the game script, but there are just two games this weekend, and the NFC matchup could easily become a defensive battle despite a similar over/under to the AFC title game.

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Ja’Marr Chase ($37) @ Kansas City Chiefs

Chase has dominated targets since returning in Week 13 while looking unguardable at times. Opponents had the third-highest pass rate when facing KC this season (and the highest down the stretch), and Chase can be stacked with Burrow. The Bengals could struggle to run against KC’s front given its O-line injuries, leaving Chase heavily involved against a Chiefs defense that allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers during the regular season.

A.J. Brown ($32) vs. San Francisco 49ers

DeVonta Smith ($27) has emerged as a legitimate co-WR1 in Philadelphia, so Brown and him are both DFS options this week. San Francisco’s defense crushes against the run but ceded the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers during the regular season. The 49ers ranked first in DVOA when defending short passes but just 24th on deeper attempts, an area of the field where Brown excels. With a strong offensive line including an ostensibly healthy Lane Johnson, the Eagles should be able to pick their spots to attack downfield. With such a tough run defense, opponents had the second-highest pass rate when facing the 49ers this season. Brown also led all receivers with the highest percentage of his team’s end-zone targets in 2022.

Star to fade

Christian McCaffrey ($38) @ Philadelphia Eagles

McCaffrey was held to just 57 yards on 18 opportunities while playing through a calf injury last week. The Cowboys defense had the third-lowest rush success rate in 2022, so CMC gets an upgrade Sunday (especially as a receiver). But this is still a tough matchup in Philadelphia against a run defense that greatly improved after adding Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph midseason and with Jordan Davis getting healthy — the Eagles defense ranked dead last in rush success rate over the first 10 weeks this season but were the second-best in the league afterward. McCaffrey will be playing through a calf issue while splitting work with Elijah Mitchell (assuming his groin injury cooperates) on a 49ers offense projected to score the fewest points this weekend, so (the disrespected) CMC is tough to pay up for in 0.5 PPR DFS as the highest salaried non-QB on the slate.

You should consider fading Christian McCaffrey at a $38 salary in daily fantasy lineups. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
You should consider fading Christian McCaffrey at a $38 salary in daily fantasy lineups. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) (Ezra Shaw via Getty Images)

Undervalued options

Joe Mixon ($26) @ Kansas City Chiefs

Mixon racked up 123 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches while thriving in the snow last week. Even if he doesn’t enjoy the same efficiency on the ground in Kansas City, Mixon figures to remain busy as a receiver — he saw 20 more targets than any previous season despite missing three games this year. The spread in this game continues to move between the Bengals and Chiefs being slight favorites due to Patrick Mahomes’ very real injury. Mixon is undervalued with a DFS salary 32 percent cheaper than Christian McCaffrey’s despite a game script that projects to be more favorable.

Jerick McKinnon ($17) vs. Cincinnati Bengals

McKinnon also looks undervalued considering he finished as a top-six RB (0.5 PPR) in three of the final five weeks of the season, including back-to-back weeks finishing as the RB1. He set the NFL record for an RB while recording a touchdown catch in six straight games (eight total) to finish the regular season yet oddly wasn’t targeted during KC’s divisional-round game despite playing a season-high in snap share. But the Chiefs figure to rely heavily on their running backs Sunday with Mahomes dealing with a high-ankle sprain that typically sidelines players for weeks. McKinnon is intriguing at an affordable $17.

Bargain Bin

Hayden Hurst ($14) @ Kansas City Chiefs

Hurst has been busier in the red zone recently (five targets over the last three games) and finally cashed in his first touchdown since Week 5 during the team’s win in Buffalo. Joe Burrow is likely to continue focusing on shorter passes with his three top offensive linemen injured and against a KC defense that ranked top-five in pressure rate. The Chiefs yielded the fifth-most touchdowns to tight ends during the regular season, so Hurst is a DFS bargain this week.

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