NFL DFS – Main Slate Optimizer Groups & Stacks + Game Notes – Conference Championship Sunday

This article focuses on building lineups with a quality foundation by utilizing the powerful Groups and Rules/Limits tools within the industry’s optimization tools. All of the concepts and pairings included below can be applied to hand-building as well. The goal is to create lineups that have high-scoring correlation and take advantage of combined outcomes within stacks while limiting the likelihood of building inefficient or negatively correlated entries for a full slate of NFL DFS lineups.

This video was made in a former life and features a detailed demonstration of how to apply these concepts in one leading optimizer tool: Fantasy Cruncher – How-To Video

All references to Sims were done via friends of the site:

Don’t miss the new Above/Below feature article for a few of our top picks


Conference Championship Sunday DraftKings & FanDuel NFL DFS Stacks & Optimizer Groups


Rules and limits are powerful tools for lineup creation for NFL DFS where our primary focus is creating highly correlated lineups via stacking players from the same game. Lineups will typically be coordinated around the quarterback selection, which informs at least one pass-catcher choice, establishes a budget, eliminates a defense, and sets the tone for the lineup. We will typically look to correlate a quarterback and at least one of his pass-catchers in every lineup, with most of those including a skill player from the opposing team who will have a chance to support the stack in a high-scoring game that drives offense on both sides to create additional correlated scoring potential. Stacking multiple pass-catchers in the same lineup is a sound approach as well, though there are typically overall ceilings on how much volume is available at any given position. We do not typically include running backs who are not pass-catchers as priorities in NFL DFS groups, they typically stand alone with the selection of the quarterback-based stack informing remaining salary which then informs the running back selections. High-volume backs and pass catchers out of the backfield can be included in the groups utilized below, but it is frequently not necessary to do so with the very best players, they arrive in lineups without help.

The following rules and limits are typically applied in an optimizer’s Advanced Options menu. Notes are included to elucidate the reasons behind each rule and to explain what it does during the lineup creation process. These settings can typically be saved for re-use, which is highly recommended. Saving the Week 1 groups that will be created below is also a very good idea to save time with updates instead of recreation each week. These groups are created manually, but most optimizers include automated group creators that can help accelerate the curation process.

DraftKings + FanDuel Settings & Advanced Options

Unique Players Per Lineup– This setting forces the optimizer to utilize at least X new players who were not in Lineup 1 when it creates Lineup 2, and so on. It is recommended to utilize at least two, and more can be applied depending on the degree of differentiation desired within lineups.

Team Salary– a minimum or maximum salary spend can be applied here as needed, though this is not a part of the recommended process in this space as leaving salary on the table is an easy path toward creating unique lineups while not necessarily making a negative expected value play.

FLEX position– allows restrictions on what positions can be rostered at the FLEX spot. The only position to consider in this case is tight end, but that is something to be restricted at the individual level via Groups, rather than at the global level.

Global Exposure Settingallows caps on the maximum percentage of lineups a player can appear in within a given pool of lineup construction. This is a powerful tool for shaping lineups but if settings are too low attempts to build a full set will fall short due to a lack of available players, one of the most common errors in optimizer building. Most optimizers include the ability to calculate ownership caps continuously or at the end of the pool creation process. If caps are calculated continuously, a player with a 25% cap who is utilized in Lineup 1 will not be available for use again until Lineup 5 , we recommend turning OFF continuous calculation.

Randomness – provides a random multiplier to each player’s projected point total based on the set values. This is a valuable tool that helps differentiate lineups instead of simply creating them in order of highest median projected scores. Using some randomness for lineup generation is strongly recommended but the degree to which it is applied is down to personal preference, but 15-25% is fine to get started. We suggest heavier randomness to more event-based players like wide receivers while tracking volume-based positions like running backs more toward their median or ceiling projections.

DraftKings + FanDuel Team Stack Rules

This set of rules will force optimizers to build lineups with certain combinations. We are looking to stack at least one skill player, almost always a pass-catcher, with his quarterback while also playing a skill player from the opposing team in the lineup. The theory behind this build is that a high-scoring stack will require some response from the opposing team to deliver a ceiling score in most situations. When that is not the case, the team that is winning will simply slow down and run out the clock. Most optimizers utilize a “complete the sentence” approach for rule creation with selections from drop-down menus following a very straightforward logic. Exceptions to these rules can be added for specific teams and players on most optimizer products.

  • QB with at least one WR/TE from Same Team (note: It is fine to set this to two or to utilize two versions of this rule, one with WR/TE and one with RB/WR/TE, but we refine this via Groups)
  • QB with at least one RB/WR/TE from the Opposing Team (we typically prefer the pass-catchers but high-volume running backs can be effective here)
  • QB with at most zero DST from the Same Team (this is a personal preference; high-scoring teams and quarterbacks tend to leave their defenses on the field, exposing them to simple point-scoring negatives)

Limits & Custom Rules and Requirements

Limit rules can be applied to restrict certain combinations from coming together. This is powerful for limiting multiple running backs from the same team or getting overweight to a certain stack within a lineup.

  • Limit QB/RB/WR/TE from Same Team to three (this should be loosened for short playoff slates)
  • Limit RB/WR/TE from the Same Team to one unless paired with QB from the Same Team OR the Opposing Team (this should be loosened for short playoff slates)
  • Limit RB from Same Team to one (we also do this with WR in a separate rule that adds an “unless paired with QB or opposing QB” but it’s a personal preference for NFL DFS, we typically do not want two pass-catchers from the same team without their quarterback) (this can be loosened for short playoff slates)

We will maintain the list of rules and limits throughout the season, with occasional tweaks, if needed. Each week sees yet another fresh crop of value plays as situations change and injuries create opportunities around the league. These changing roles and emergent value plays are accounted for in the process of creating these groups from week to week. After a large pool of lineups is created utilizing these groups, it is still of critical importance to filter them for factors including ceiling projections and leverage potential. These groups should help ensure that a highly correlated premium set of options that rotates through a variety of combinations is utilized to create the full lineup pool.

Sunday Updates

Any changes and recommended boosts to specific players will be provided in an early morning update each Sunday.

NFL DFS Divisional Round Features & FREE Projections

  • Conference Championship Sunday FanDuel & DraftKings Projections – FREE
  • Divisional Round Above/Below – Key Picks

Construction Concept

Team groups are built by utilizing the quarterback as the KEY player in group settings. The quarterback decision in each lineup is the driving factor in which stack is utilized in that lineup and which corresponding plays are then made to work within the structure and requirements. Built to specification, each team will have two groups, a team group, and an opponent group, both of which utilize the same quarterback as the key player. Each game will have a total of four groups. This is the best approach to truly capture the requirement of playing individual “run-back” plays from the opposing team. A more basic approach would be to include all of the skill players from a game in each quarterback’s group and rely on rules and limits to restrict any potential overflow. It is highly recommended to save the Week 1 groups as a foundation that will be updated for the rest of the season. The recommended groups will include skill players who have an active role in their offense and provide significant correlation with their quarterback’s scoring, often bell-cow running backs who do not specialize in the passing game will not be included in groups as they are projected highly and appear on their own in basically correct distributions, while also not always providing the strongest positive correlation plays. Stacking quarterbacks with pass-catchers and allowing running backs to fall into the lanes then created by settings, available salary, and randomness should create a well-distributed set of quality lineups. These groups are updated weekly to account for changes in utilization, schemes, injuries, target shares, and more.

Team Groups for DraftKings & FanDuel – Conference Championship Sunday

The goal is to create a large pool of well-built lineups that can be utilized in any large-field GPP contest. Our approach is to build far more lineups than needed and utilize a sorting table or sim process to filter to the best set of lineups for entries. The lineups created in these crunches should provide a broad distribution that includes some of the lower-owned high-upside skill players from each stack. Applying boosts is critical in pushing and pulling ownership to individual players within their team’s stacked lineups if they are appearing too much or too little.

The groups below are designed so that each quarterback will have two groups to create, one with his skill players and another with the opposing team. A more basic approach would be to add them all to one large group with an “at least three” and let rules and limits set things, but there is a more granular level of control in creating them separately.

Utilizing two groups also allows us to place running backs into the “run-back” position in certain teams while not including them in the primary stack for their team. This is useful when there is a situation with an extremely highly projected running back who does not necessarily fit into his team’s passing game. These players are threaded throughout the following construction recommendations.

Note for the Rotogrinders optimizer, we recommend trimming the automatically created groups that can be accessed under Team Groups, Opponent Groups, and Max Position Groups to match these groups for lineup building. We typically utilize the Stacks tab to enforce constructions as well, but a key requirement is missed in the automated groups. The Max Position groups need the manual addition of the running backs and tight ends to the group that is created with the wide receivers with a setting of max 1 and the team’s quarterback selected as a key player with the designation of using that group when the quarterback is NOT in the lineup. This is done to eliminate the possibility of three skill players from the same team appearing at running back, tight end, and wide receiver together without their quarterback involved. A simple limit of three players per team will keep things to just a quarterback with two skill players in stacks after that. Update: if one were to reset their saved settings on RG’s optimizer new options will reveal themselves, including thankfully a toggle to take care of this from the main build rules page. There is also a non-QB group with a max-1 setting that works better for this purpose because the toggle on the main page will limit stacks to just a 1-1 combination, seemingly as a bug.

Note for all optimizers the rules can be utilized to force bring-back plays in some sets of crunches and turned off for others as a global function instead of changing each group to “exactly one” bring-back play, wherever applicable, but it will apply to all teams.

Baltimore Ravens

Key Player: Lamar Jackson

Setting: at most two (this allows for “naked” Lamar Jackson lineups)

Team Group: Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews, Odell Beckham Jr., Isaiah Likely, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Justice Hill

Opposing Setting: at most two

Opposing Group: Travis Kelce, Isiah Pacheco (Q), Rashee Rice, Justin Watson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman Jr.

Lineup Notes: Lamar Jackson was fantastic in last week’s game, personally accounting for four touchdowns in the Ravens’ commanding 34-10 victory. Jackson completed 16 of 22 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns through the air, adding another pair of touchdowns on the ground with 100 yards on his 11 carries. The quarterback was the best player on either team and it was not a close contest. Jackson lands as our most highly-projected player at any position this week, narrowly beating out 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey. Jackson averaged more than 22 FanDuel points per week this season in his run for an MVP, stacking up 3,678 passing yards – 8.0 per attempt, the best mark of his career – and 24 passing touchdowns as well as 5.5 yards per rush attempt for 821 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, both the highest numbers he has reached since 2020. Jackson is inarguably one of fantasy football’s elite scorers, he has the potential to dominate another slate this Sunday in a game with a 44.5-point total in which his team is favored by four. Jackson and co. will be taking on a Chiefs defense that ranked third this season with just 5.4 yards allowed per pass attempt and 1.1 passing touchdowns per game. The Chiefs yielded 4.5 yards per rush attempt but just 0.6 rushing touchdowns per game and they were second in the NFL with scores allowed on just 28.5% of the 179 drives they faced, and they run a high-pressure defensive scheme. Kansas City was second only to their opponent with 57 sacks to the Ravens’ 60 on the season, though the Chiefs needed a 32.9% blitz rate to reach that mark while the Ravens managed it with just a 21.9% blitz rate. Kansas City stacked up a league-leading 64 quarterback hurries, 9.8% of the dropbacks they faced on the year and they had a 10.8% quarterback knockdown rate. Jackson will be under fire all game but he has all of the tools necessary to succeed against this defense.

Gus Edwards and Justice Hill should be sharing the bulk of the workload again this week, with Dalvin Cook potentially seeing a key carry here and there. It is worth noting that Cook saw just one snap through most of the early part of the game and his relevant carries, in a very low-scoring fantasy game, came after the Ravens had secured a solid lead. Edwards carried the ball 10 times for 40 yards in his 23 snaps, essentially matching the workload that he saw the week before with 10 carries for 48 yards on 19 snaps. The running back was targeted twice and caught one pass for -1 yards across the two games. Edwards is the wrecking ball running back for the Ravens, he did not see the end zone but he did have a pair of red zone carries and continues to come with touchdown upside at a fair price. Hill caught both of his targets for 11 yards and he carried the ball 13 times for 66 yards on a productive day, out-snapping Edwards 38-23 as the lead back, he also had two carries in the red zone though he did not score. Cook’s work amounted to a mere nine snaps and 23 yards on eight carries. Hill ranks as RB5/3 on FanDuel and RB5/5 on DraftKings, Edwards is one spot behind by fantasy points but slips for value on the blue site at RB6/6, he is RB6/6 on DraftKings as well.

Zay Flowers leads the way for the Ravens’ receiving group once again, though he will be rejoined by elite tight end Mark Andrews. Andrews has been out since Week 11 but he managed to finish the year with 544 yards on 45 receptions and 6 touchdowns, posting an average of 12.1 yards per reception and 8.9 yards per target. Andrews will step back into full action, he does not carry an injury designation this week so we should expect five to six targets as a baseline with an upside trending toward double-digits. Andrews was also frequently targeted in the red zone this season, amassing 20.9% of the team’s targets inside the 20 and 57.1% of the targets from the five or closer, despite playing in only nine and a quarter games. Backup tight end Isaiah Likely has played well filling in, he has touchdowns in three straight games and had nearly identical output the last two times on the field with two catchers for 31 yards and a score in Week 18 and a pair of catches for 34 yards and a touchdown in the Divisional Round. Likely will see more limited snaps, he was on the field for 4 offensive snaps in last week’s game, but his output over the past few weeks has come on limited targets, there is nothing to say that he cannot deliver similar two to three catches, 30+ yards, and a score at lower popularity on a two-game slate this week. Flowers is easily the most talented receiver in a group that also includes Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, and Nelson Agholor. Flowers had 106 yards and a touchdown on just three catches in Week 17 and he posted a big nine-catch 72 yards and a touchdown game with 13 targets the week before. After taking off Week 18 and waiting through the Wildcard Round, Flowers put up a bit of a clunker in last week’s Divisional Round with just 41 yards and no scoring in catching four of five targets. The receiver has plenty of potential on this week’s slate, he had five touchdowns on the season and posted 7.9 yards per target with 858 total on his 77 catches. Flowers is WR5/4 on FanDuel and WR5/3 on DraftKings, he is a strong potential source of points-per-dollar scoring this week. Odell Beckham Jr. ranks right behind Flowers at WR6/6 and WR6/8 on FanDuel and DraftKings respectively. Beckham was a letdown on his 20 snaps in the Divisional Round, hauling in just one catch, albeit on one target, for 12 yards and no score. The receiver was mostly limited down the stretch as well, he had a strong performance in Week 14 with 97 yards and a touchdown on four catches and 10 targets, but he was targeted just three times in each of the next two games, catching three total passes for a combined 27 yards, and he had 33 yards on one catch in Week 17 before resting in Week 18. Beckham finished the season with 565 yards and three touchdowns on just 35 catches but he has low-owned low-price touchdown potential on a short slate. With three targets in last week’s game, Rashod Bateman was slightly more involved, but he also failed to score, though he did have 39 yards and caught all three passes. Bateman has big play potential with a 14.1-yard aDOT on the season, but he managed to haul in just 32 receptions for 367 yards and one touchdown in his 16 games this year. Despite just two catches, Nelson Agholor managed to provide a bit of a fantasy thrill in the Divisional Round since one of them went for a low-owned touchdown. The generally unpopular receiver had 12 yards and the score with two catches on four targets, he was targeted five times and caught all five passes for 39 yards in Week 18 but that was filling in for most of the team’s depth chart. Agholor remains a low-end option but he is easily playable on a two-game slate and he should see a few opportunities. Devin Duvernay played all 19 of his snaps on special teams last week, he has only longshot appeal as a return man. Tylan Wallace is questionable and has very little value if he suits up, he did not play last week.

The Chiefs offer elite bring-back options but they will all be facing an excellent Ravens defense. Travis Kelce is a premium tight end, double tight end constructions with Kelce and Andrews are not bad lineups but they will probably also be more popular than that build typically would be, given the short slate. Rashee Rice is the go-to wide receiver option and Isaiah Pacheco makes it a straightforward three-man priority group, with the bulk of the team coming in more as dart throw options.




Detroit Lions

Key Player: Jared Goff

Setting: at least one

Team Group: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, Jahmyr Gibbs, Jameson Williams, Josh Reynolds, David Montgomery

Opposing Setting: at most two

Opposing Group: Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Jauan Jennings

Lineup Notes: This game is carrying a point total that sits a full touchdown ahead of the AFC game, which has better defense on both sides. The 49ers ranked fifth-best in the NFL with 6.4 yards allowed per pass attempt but they were more middle of the road in a broad tie from 10th-14th overall with 4.1 yards allowed per rush attempt. The 49ers are like the Chiefs, they also allowed just 0.6 rushing touchdowns per game this season and they were good at stopping the pass with just 1.2 passing touchdowns. San Francisco also was ninth in sacks, they had 48 on the season with just an 18% blitz rate and they pressured the quarterback 20.9% of the time but had just a 5.3% hurry rate. The 49ers will be a challenge for Jared Goff and the Lions’ excellent group of pass catchers but they have risen to every challenge so far this season. In last week’s Divisional Round game against Tampa Bay, Goff threw for 287 yards and a pair of touchdowns, completing 30 of 43 pass attempts. Goff adds nothing in the ground game, he ran the ball into the end zone just twice this season but he threw for 4,575 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 407 of 605 passes. Goff matched last year’s output with 7.6 yards per pass attempt while totaling more yards and throwing one additional touchdown pass, though his career high in both categories came with 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2018. Goff has potential this week despite ranking as QB4 by fantasy points on both sites. For one thing, he bounces to QB3 by points per dollar, surpassing the value of Patrick Mahomes on both sites. Goff has a strong connection with his excellent options in the passing game and the Lions have a pair of workhorse running backs to grind things down, with a bit of time to throw the ball he will have a chance to surprise against the 49ers this week as easily the least popular quarterback on the slate.

Jahmyr Gibbs carried the ball nine times for an impressive 74 yards and a touchdown with four catches on four targets for 40 yards in last week’s Divisional Round victory. In the Wildcard Round, Gibbs had eight carries but just 25 yards, though he did score a touchdown and he added another 43 yards on four catches. David Montgomery carried the ball 10 times for 33 yards and added three catches on four targets for another 14 yards in a bit of a letdown for DFS gamers in the Divisional Round. In the Wildcard Round, the veteran had 14 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown with one catch for 11 yards. Both running backs had strong seasons, there are legitimate pathways for both to succeed this week, but they could also easily both fail if the Lions are forced to rely more heavily on the passing attack. Despite the presence of Montgomery, Gibbs posted 5.2 yards per rush attempt with 945 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns on 182 carries in his 15 games while the veteran managed 4.6 yards per rush attempt with 1,015 total yards on 219 carries. Gibbs added 316 yards and a receiving touchdown on 52 catches this season, putting up 4.5 yards per target as the more heavily featured option in the passing game. Between the two, we have a lean toward Gibbs, who will be the more popular option, but Montgomery has easy touchdown potential at half the popularity, were it not for a cheap one-yard poached touchdown by running back Craig Reynolds last week, Montgomery’s fantasy output could have been somewhat better.

Amon-Ra St. Brown had a huge season in Detroit this year, putting up 10 games of 100 yards or more. St. Brown finished the year with 1,515 yards and 10 touchdowns on his 163 targets and 119 catches, and he has posted back-to-back strong DFS games in the playoffs. In the Wildcard Round, St. Brown did not find the end zone but he had 110 yards on seven catches and nine targets. The receiver was targeted a whopping 14 times in last week’s game, though he caught just eight of those passes he did score a touchdown and had 77 yards in a strong performance. St. Brown ranks as WR1/2 on DraftKings and WR2/2 on FanDuel this week, he is an excellent play and easily one of the better pay-up options on the short slate, though he will surely be explosively popular as well. Jameson Williams continues to intrigue from further down the depth chart. The speedy wide receiver continues to see big play potential, he had a 15.7-yard aDOT this season and a 16.7-yard aDOT last season, though he was limited to six games last year and 12 this year. Williams had a mere 24 catches on 42 targets with a pair of touchdowns and 354 yards on the season, he was not a standout in any way and yet his tantalizing skillset is a sweet siren song of DFS potential. Williams has all the makings of a star and could see a breakout in years to come, in this week’s game he should be expected to draw targeting similar to last week’s four opportunities, of which he caught two for 35 yards. Williams has big play potential at a cheap price, he slots in at WR8/7 on FanDuel and WR8/5 on DraftKings this week. Josh Reynolds scored a touchdown in last week’s game, posting 27 yards on two catches and three targets as a low-owned option for those who rostered him. Reynolds had five catches in Each of Week 18 and the Wildcard Round, he drew seven targets in the first playoff game and should be considered an active part of the passing attack with big play potential. The receiver had a 10.3-yard aDOT this year and a 12-yard average last season with 607 yards and five touchdowns on his 40 catches in 2023. The yardage was the second-highest mark Reynolds has put up in his career, he had 618 yards on 52 catches in 2020, and the five touchdowns tied his career high set in 2018. Neither Williams nor Reynolds should be expected to see the volume that tight end Sam LaPorta will get in the passing game this week. LaPorta was targeted 11 times and caught nine passes for 65 yards in the Divisional Round win last week and he is coming off of a season that saw him post an unheard-of 889 yards and 10 touchdowns on 86 catches as a rookie tight end. LaPorta is TE2/2 on FanDuel and TE2/1 on DraftKings this week, on a two-game slate that includes Travis Kelce (1/1 & 1/2), George Kittle (3/4 & 3/3), and Mark Andrews (4/3 & 4/4).

The 49ers offer ideal bring-back options from their killer four-man assassination squad of skill players. Any, or even as many as one can afford, from Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, or George Kittle are terrific plays, while even Jauan Johnson could easily surprise at low popularity.

Update: Kalif Raymond is out. 



Kansas City Chiefs

Key Player: Patrick Mahomes

Setting: at least one

Team Group: Travis Kelce, Isiah Pacheco (Q), Rashee Rice, Justin Watson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman Jr. (large field), Noah Gray (large field), Richie James Jr. (very large field)

Opposing Setting: at most two

Opposing Group: Justice Hill, Gus Edwards, Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews, Odell Beckham Jr., Isaiah Likely, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor

Lineup Notes: If the legend of Patrick Mahomes grows even further this year it will be entirely earned. Mahomes has dragged a sub-standard group of receivers to the Championship Game, he simply knows no other way. The quarterback did not have his best season but much of the blame, as we have highlighted throughout, can be placed at the feet of an insufficient group of pass-catchers that must be remedied prior to next season but will not be before later today. Mahomes is fortunate to have the elite Travis Kelce at tight end, and Rashee Rice has emerged as a strong lead receiver, he is not entirely without weapons but when those two are covered the dice rolls begin. Mahomes managed 4,183 yards and 27 touchdown passes this season with 14 interceptions despite a league-leading 44 drops by his receivers. The quarterback also notably ranked just 30th in the NFL with a mere 6.5 intended air yards per pass attempt, and he was next-to-last in football in both completed air yards per completion and per pass attempt with the Chiefs lacking reliable downfield weapons this season. Of course, none of that mattered to the elite Mahomes in beating the Bills last week. The quarterback threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 17-23 passing and he added 19 yards on six carries. While that was not a standout performance it was not a slate-losing letdown by any means, Mahomes has an upside well beyond that level on any given slate but he will be challenged to reach his ceiling in the AFC Championship game. Mahomes had just one truly elite game this season, he threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns against the Chargers in Week 7. Outside of that game he was over 300 yards three more times and had just one other game in which he threw even three touchdown passes, posting either one or two in most other weeks and failing to throw one for a score in Week 8 at Denver. The Ravens ranked first in football with 60 sacks on a 21.9% blitz rate, a 19.5% pressure rate, and a 3.8% hurry rate while allowing opposing offenses to score on just 28.7% of their drives. Baltimore was first in football with 5.9 yards allowed per pass attempt and they gave up 18 touchdowns with 18 interceptions on the season but they were just 26th with 4.5 yards allowed per rush attempt this year. The Ravens may have bent a bit for rush yardage but they were a brick wall when it came to stuffing the run when things mattered, the team allowed just six rushing touchdowns all season, they are deceptively elite against running backs where it counts, this team does not allow many points.

Isiah Pacheco is technically questionable for Sunday but all signs point to the running back playing through a toe injury that had him out of early practices this week. Pacheco took the reins as the lead back for Kansas City this year, posting 935 yards and seven rushing touchdowns on 205 carries in 14 games with another 244 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. Pacheco sits between the two Detroit running backs as RB3/5 on FanDuel and RB3/4 on DraftKings, he has touchdowns in each of the Chiefs’ first two playoff games with 89 yards on a significant 24 carries in the Wildcard Round. In last week’s game, Pacheco carried the ball 15 times and put up 97 yards and a score while adding another 14 yards on his lone catch. Backup Clyde Edwards-Helaire played just 12 snaps with the offense last week but he had 22 the week before. In the Wildcard game, he had seven carries for 21 yards and one catch for five yards, in last week’s limited action he had two carries but did manage 31 yards, he put up -1 yards on his one catch. From Week 12 forward, Rashee Rice had at least four catches in every game while scoring four touchdowns and putting up three games of 100 or more receiving yards and not falling below 57 yards. Rice had 47 yards on four catches in last week’s Divisional game, he was not a big factor in the win but his targets were largely intact in an offense that was limited to 47 total opportunities. Rice should see chances similar to the 12 targets that allowed him to reach 130 yards and a touchdown on eight catches in the Wildcard Round win over Miami, assuming the Chiefs can buy Mahomes a second of time for plays to develop. If Rice is not the target the odds are strong that the ball is on its way to Travis Kelce who caught five passes for 75 yards and, you may have heard, two very exciting touchdowns. Kelce was targeted six times last week after drawing 10 opportunities and hauling in seven of them for 71 yards but no touchdown in the Wildcard Round. The tight end ranks as TE1/1 on FanDuel and TE1/2 on DraftKings, he remains the top option at the deepest position on this two-game slate. Justin Watson was targeted once last week, playing 19 snaps with the offense. In the Wildcard Round, he saw 51 snaps and caught two of two targets for 20 yards. Watson scored three touchdowns on just 27 catches this season, putting up 460 yards in the team’s 16 games. By contrast, Rams rookie Puka Nacua had 25 catches for 266 yards over his first two NFL games ever. Kadarius Toney is out again this week. Marquez Valdes-Scantling had two catches for 62 yards on his four targets in the Divisional Round and he had a big-play-friendly 17.1-yard aDOT for the season. Unfortunately, those deep targets amounted to merely 315 yards and one touchdown on 21 catches and 42 targets (50%) in his 16 games. Valdes-Scantling is a wildly unreliable option with big-play potential at a cheap price and generally low popularity. It is reasonable to expect that, even on a light slate, most of the Chiefs wide receiver options will be owned in single-digit territory. Mecole Hardman Jr. was targeted just once in each playoff game, he caught both passes for a total of five yards. he also had a carry in each game and managed to fully negate the scrimmage yardage accrued through the air by putting up -5 rushing yards in the two games. Hardman had four touchdown catches and 297 yards on 25 catches in his eight games this season, drawing an average depth of target of just 8.0 yards. Richie James Jr. played 15 snaps with the offense in each playoff game but he was untargeted last week and caught just one of two chances for six yards the week before. James has a minor degree of additional potential in the return game but there is not much to work with overall. Justyn Ross saw no snaps with the offense last week after landing as a DNP in the Wildcard Round. Backup tight end Noah Gray is an interesting low-owned option on a day with much better go-to star tight ends and even better secondary options like the second tight end on the other side of this game. Gray was targeted once in the Wildcard Round and he caught the pass for 20 yards, he followed that up by catching three of three targets for 16 yards in last week’s game and he had 305 yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns on the season.

The Ravens offer solid bring-back options in the rushing game and at tight end, with all of Justice Hill, Gus Edwards, and Mark Andrews carrying touchdown upside and Zay Flowers providing most of the potential from the wide receiver position.

Update: Kadarius Toney is out.


San Francisco 49ers

Key Player: Brock Purdy

Setting: at least one

Team Group: Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud III, Chris Conley (extremely large field)

Opposing Setting: at most two

Opposing Group: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, Jahmyr Gibbs, Jameson Williams, Josh Reynolds, David Montgomery

Lineup Notes: The weak point for the Lions is a pass defense that ranked near the bottom of the league with 7.2 yards allowed per pass attempt during the regular season. Detroit gave up 1.6 passing touchdowns per game on the year, they were not a good defense and they are vulnerable through the air, which is pushing the projection for quarterback Brock Purdy. Purdy lands as QB2/1 on both sites this week, his points-per-dollar value is pushed by both the weak opposing pass defense and his fantastic group of skill players. Purdy threw for 4,280 yards and 31 touchdowns this season, outdoing Patrick Mahomes on both fronts while also throwing fewer interceptions with just 11. Purdy completed a whopping 9.6 yards per pass attempt on the season with a respectable 8.2 intended air yards per pass attempt this season and he led football with 5.0 completed air yards per pass attempt. Despite a reputation for getting to the quarterback, Detroit managed just 41 sacks this season, though they did have a league-leading 28.2% pressure rate, they were second with a 12.2% quarterback knockdown rate, and their 11.2% hurry rate was also tops in the game. Detroit blitzes aggressively but their 28.7% mark lands closer to the middle of the league than the league-leading 51.5% mark posted by the Vikings or the 45.4% mark the Giants put up in second place. Detroit’s defense is gettable, there is little reason to expect Purdy to have a bad game but the Lions’ front seven will likely be the cause if that becomes the case. Detroit ranked just 21st with scoring allowed on 37.3% of the drives that they faced in the regular season, this game is more likely to turn into a bit of a shootout than it is to be a defensive struggle.

Christian McCaffrey ranks as RB1/1 on both sites and it is not overly close. McCaffrey projects like a quarterback from week to week, he is by far the leading skill player on any given slate and he is the only position player for whom touchdowns are the expectation each week. McCaffrey scored 14 times on the ground and seven times through the air this season, racking up 2,023 scrimmage yards on 339 touches. McCaffrey is not quite the price of any two running backs put together on this slate, but he is not far from it on either site, he is absolutely worth the investment. In last week’s game against the Packers, McCaffrey managed 98 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and he caught seven of 12 targets for another 30 yards, he is as elite as the position provides. Elijah Mitchell is mostly an afterthought, he saw one snap with the offense in last week’s playoff game and did not touch the ball, which is also true for Jordan Mason.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was forced out of last week’s contest with what was called a shoulder injury after just nine snaps. Samuel is a key weapon for the 49ers, he does a little of everything in the same mold as McCaffrey. For the season, the elite Samuel had 982 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 60 catches and 89 targets and he added another 225 yards on the ground with five rushing touchdowns coming on just 37 carries. Samuel is a dynamic player with significant explosive play upside, he averaged 6.1 yards per rush attempt and 10 yards per target on the season with a 7.1-yard average depth of target allowing him to do his work after the catch. Samuel is joined by special receiver Brandon Aiyuk who was a highly capable third star in the excellent offense. Aiyuk quietly went about his business as fantasy platinum with 1,342 yards on 75 catches and 105 targets this season, putting up seven touchdown catches along the way. Aiyuk was reliable for seven or eight targets in most games and he typically came home with at least three receptions. He had seven games with more than 100 receiving yard games on the season but he was limited to just three receptions and 32 yards in last week’s game against Green Bay. Aiyuk will see opportunities again this week, even with Samuel returning and particularly if he returns at less than full strength, there is plenty of potential lurking but Aiyuk will likely be popular and he ranks as WR1/1 on FanDuel and WR2/1 on DraftKings this week. Samuel is WR4/5 and WR3/9. Of course, the team also has George Kittle, who sits at TE3/4 and TE3/3 this week. Kittle scored and had four total catches for 81 yards on seven targets last week, he is a very good option at the position and he can be played alongside any of the other key tight ends this week. Kittle was yet another player with a 1,000-yard season for the 49ers this year, putting up 1,020 and six touchdowns on 65 catches in his 16 games for an average of 15.7 yards per reception and 11.3 per target. After Samuel left last week’s game it was Jauan Jennings who drew additional opportunities, ultimately seeing six targets and catching five of them for 61 yards but no score. Jennings is a talented receiver who had five touchdowns on just 24 catches in 2021 but just one last season and one in his 13 games this year. Ray-Ray McCloud played 18 snaps with the offense last week, the most he has seen since Week 8. He had two targets and caught one of them for seven yards while adding 23 yards in the return game, he is an extremely limited dart throw. Chris Conley also saw snaps with the offense last week, playing 25 and picking up one target which he caught for 17 yards. Conley will probably be relegated to backup duties with Samuel back, his opportunity is virtually nonexistent.

The Lions have excellent bring-back options including Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, Jahmyr Gibbs, and David Montgomery, with solid mixers in Jameson Williams and Josh Reynolds.




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