Everyone loves Brock Purdy except the Cowboys and Trey Lance...
In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Bud Light:
- Bills-Bengals is as good as it gets
- Wild Card Weekend: Rankings & Tiers
- Bets From the Group Chat. Load up on Jags
- It's not a 1A + 1B anymore...
- Divisional Best Ball : NFC Strategy
- It's 1/19. Take it away, Peter Overzet.
I can't stop thinking about this Bengals-Bills game on Sunday. There are just so many interesting subplots...
🍿 Who is most prepared for the sequel?
It's been two and a half weeks since these two teams had their first matchup cut short after Damar Hamlin suffered a scary injury in the first quarter. That single play ultimately stopped the game, put the football universe on pause, and altered the entire playoff landscape due to the cancellation ramifications.
Now they'll meet again, this time at Orchard Park, but for a hotly anticipated rematch where the Bills are 5.5 point favorites.
The emotional weight will be heavy on both sides entering this game, The Bengals and their fans were pissed about how the cancelled game impacted their seeding and they'll undoubtedly be fired up. The Bills, on the other hand, will be buzzing after a rollercoaster few weeks:
Bills coach Sean McDermott said that Damar Hamlin has been in the building now almost daily.
— Alaina Getzenberg (@agetzenberg)
Jan 18, 2023
Only time will tell how this bottled up energy will be channeled, but it's going to be great television regardless.
🤝 Something has to give...
There are so many similarities between these two teams:
The Bengals enter the Divisional Round on a 9-game win streak.
The Bills enter the Divisional Round on an 8-game win streak.
Sunday will mark the 6th playoff game ever that both teams enter on 8+ game win streaks.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates)
Jan 18, 2023
The Bills might be favorites in the betting markets, but this is anyone's game.
💥 This game is begging for fantasy fireworks
There was a reason many of us circled their Week 17 matchup on our calendars back in May. When you have two of the best QBs in the league and three Top 12 WRs in the same game, the potential for explosive plays is massive.
In this week's Utilization Report, Dwain wrote about how aggressive the Bills have been recently with dialing up deep balls (ADOT of 21 yards last week) and the Josh Allen/Gabe Davis playoff connection is as potent as they come:
Crazy stat. Only 3 QB-WR duos have had more playoff TD connections in a 2-season span than Josh Allen & Gabe Davis:
- HOF Joe Montana-HOF Jerry Rice (11 TD 1988-1989)
- HOF Kurt Warner-ARI Larry Fitzgerald (9 TD 2008-2009)
- HOF Terry Bradshaw-HOF John Stallworth (7 TD 1978-1979)
— Mike Giardi (@MikeGiardi)
Jan 18, 2023
All four of these divisional games present their own intrigue, and we'll continue breaking them down this week, but this is the undisputed headliner. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't wait.
🥇 Tier 1 – Jalen Hurts
Hurts was the No. 1 weapon in fantasy football, averaging 26.8 points per contest this season. The third-year QB delivered 22-plus points in a tantalizing 11 of 15 opportunities thanks to a unique blend of high-end passing and rushing upside. He leads the NFL in designed rush attempts by a QB (24%) despite missing two games and ranks No. 3 in passing YPA (8.1).
The Eagles are 7.5-point favorites over the Giants in an NFC East matchup, with Philadelphia carrying the second-highest team total on the slate. This season, no team has led by four-plus points on a higher percentage of their plays than the Eagles.
The average NFL team leads on 24% of snaps, but the Eagles more than double that at a whopping 50%. Heavy leading scripts haven’t slowed Hurts down – he averaged 27.3 in games when he led by four-plus points on 50% or more plays.
No team led by four-plus points more than the Eagles in 2022. At 50%, they more than double the NFL average of 24%.
Philly is the 2nd-largest favorite at 7.5 points over the Giants.
Jalen Hurts averaged 265/1.7 TDs passing & 49/0.9 rushing when Eagles lead 50%+ snaps in a game.
— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland)
Jan 18, 2023
Hurts struggled against the Giants' backups in Week 18 in his first game back from a shoulder injury, which could cause some to doubt his No. 1 rank this weekend. However, zooming out the larger picture, New York plays the most man coverage in the NFL and has a bottom-five PFF coverage grade. Look for A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith to exploit mismatches early and often in this one.
In the first matchup with New York, the third-year QB delivered 214 yards and two TDs, plus 77 yards and a TD on the ground on his way to 30.4 fantasy points.
Hurts ranks three spots ahead of industry consensus as my No. 1 QB for the Divisional Round.
🥇 Tier 1 – Christian McCaffrey
We now have five data points with McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell playing in the same game, and it clearly impacts McCaffrey’s role.
McCaffrey averages 34% of rushing the attempts in games with Mitchell and 58% in games without, which impacts fantasy production. CMC averages 9.3 fewer fantasy points per game in contests with Mitchell. Most of this is due to a dramatic drop in rushing yards (54.6 vs. 92), but Mitchell also poached a red-zone receiving TD in the Wild Card Round.
In a condensed slate, McCaffrey still pulls down the top RB ranking, but the likelihood of him finishing as the RB1 on the slate is reduced. That makes him someone we can feel more comfortable pivoting away from in DFS and other contests when seeking leverage.
His current rushing prop is 65.5 (-110) on BetMGM. The under represents a 6.5% edge versus his average with Mitchell.
McCaffrey is a high-end RB1 this weekend, but don’t expect the 25.8 point-per-game version we saw without Mitchell playing.
🥈 Tier 2 – Miles Sanders
Sanders erupted for 31 and 28.5-point performances in Weeks 12 and 14, getting fantasy players excited about his upside. However, since then, he averaged a pathetic 5.4 points per game. That is what we call a boom-bust RB2, folks!
On the positive side, the 28.5-point outburst was against the Giants, who allow more rushing yards per game (138) in non-overtime than any other defense remaining.
Sanders could certainly flop in the Divisional Round, but his upside is undeniable – especially at $5,700 on DraftKings and as a third-round selection in Underdog Playoffs Return contests like The Gauntlet. Use code LIFE to get a 100% first deposit match for up to $100!
Starting with Jalen Hurts + A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith + Sanders isn’t a bad way to kick off a draft. The veteran RB also makes sense on Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes builds, where you could be sitting in a great position if Buffalo or Kansas City square off in the Super Bowl.
Sanders is a boom-bust RB2 with No. 1 overall potential against the Giants.
🥇 Tier 1 – CeeDee Lamb
The third-year WR has eclipsed 16 fantasy points in eight of his last 10 games. Of WRs with at least 250 routes this year, Lamb ranks eighth in PFF receiving grade (86.2), 10th in YPRR (2.35) and 10th in TPRR (25%) – all career highs.
The 49ers' pass defense is a solid unit, but they have struggled to cover slot WRs, allowing the seventh-most yards per game (85) to the position. Lamb operates from the slot on 63% of plays, and the Cowboys love to use motion to protect him. If Dallas is going to hang with San Francisco in this game, Lamb must be a centerpiece.
The Cowboys’ go-to WR is a top-four option in the Divisional Round.
⏳ Times have changed in Cincy. Watch this before it's too late.
⛔ Don't do it, Jets. Seriously, don't do it.
🤔 A QB controversy is brewing in San Fran. Does Lance want out?
🦶 An update on the Cowboys kicker situation. Brett Maher might have to earn it.
😍 Deebo Samuel is every QB's dream. We agree.
🔮 Where do Lamar Jackson and the Ravens go from here? Great piece by Steven Ruiz.
Backing the Chiefs at home in the Mahomes era when they’re favored has been an unprofitable venture.
Against the spread (ATS), the Cheifs have just a 12-15-1 record as home favorites since 2020, and that winning percentage dips even lower when they are favored by more than a TD.
On top of that, the playoffs have been a great spot for underdogs. After underdogs last week went 4-2 ATS, teams who are getting points now have a 40-25 record ATS in the playoffs since 2017.
The Jaguars also have a coach in Doug Pederson who is both experienced and efficient in these spots.
"In seven career playoff games, Pederson has been the underdog six times. He's 5-1 overall and 6-0 against the spread. Count this dude out at your own risk."
— PhillyVoice (@thephillyvoice)
Jan 15, 2023
The Jaguars aren’t just a team to back on the spread, either.
Despite a defense that ranks just 29th in defensive pass DVOA, Jacksonville has proven they can hang against teams with good offenses, posting comeback wins against three winning teams in the back half of the season in the Cowboys, Ravens, and Chargers.
Look for the resilient and well-coached Jags to cover and potentially pull off the shock upset of this year’s playoffs.
Much like last week when we targeted Dalton Schultz against Tampa Bay (who drilled our two TD prop for us) the defense Evan Engram is up against this week should make him a pivotal figure for the Jaguars when they’re deep in Chiefs territory. Kansas City has struggled against TEs all year allowing the fifth-most TDs to the position. The Chiefs last four games also saw them yield four TDs to four different TEs with names like Teagan Quitoriano, Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam all finding the end zone.
Much like Schultz, Engram has been a solid force in the red zone for the Jaguars, especially in the second half of the season where he’s seen multiple red zone targets in three of his last seven games. The +280 for an anytime TD looks like solid value on BetMGM and if you want another way to attack him for pick’em contests or parlays, Engram’s currently projected for 55.2 yards in the Fantasy Life projections this week. That also gives us a solid seven-yard edge to an over play on his 48.5 receiving total.
It’s a good time to keep the TE bets going, as Engram seems set to produce yet another big game in what should be a higher-scoring affair.
- Jaguars ML
- Engram TD
- Travis Kelce over 74.5 Receiving yards
The season-long fantasy season is in the rear view, but Playoff best ball is HEATING up on Underdog Fantasy! One of our resident best ball bros is here to discuss the finer points of playoff strategy. Take it away, Jonathan...
Underdog released a new set of Playoff Best Ball contests that begin with the Divisional Round. Six-person drafts, 10 rounds. No bye weeks to worry about.
These contests are all about picking which teams you think will make the Super Bowl and which players will put up the big performances that take them there. However, like any large field tournament, it also pays to be unique. Let’s take a look at each conference and think through which teams and player combinations can take down a big prize.
Coming out of their bye, the Eagles now face their division rival New York Giants for the third time in six weeks. As one of the conference favorites, most Eagles players are expensive in drafts.
Jalen Hurts is a top three pick in just about every draft while A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith both usually go in the second round. Add in Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert with ADPs in the top five rounds and there is a real opportunity cost to stack this offense.
If you do go heavy Eagles in the first few rounds you are limited to either drafting ancillary pieces in the elite AFC offenses, or players from a Super Bowl long-shot, to round out your roster. However, if you want to play for Hurts rushing upside, you can also do an Eagles mini-stack and pair them with elite options from an AFC team in an effort to build a more unique lineup.
🌉 San Francisco
The 49ers are now joint favorites for the NFC crown after dismantling the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. Brock Purdy’s impressive performance has launched him up draft boards where he is a late first or early second-round pick in the Gauntlet Returns on Underdog Fantasy.
Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel also go with top 10 picks, which makes the 49ers the only team with three players in the top 10.
George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk are available in Rounds 3-5 and are good options if you want to set up the 49ers as a secondary stack which you can then finish off with one of Elijah Mitchell or Jauan Jennings in the late rounds.
The Purdy hype makes it difficult to be overweight on the 49ers in these drafts, but San Francisco is still a team to prioritize stacking in any way you can.
After a strong showing in Tampa Bay on Monday night, the Cowboys are back to looking like contenders. They are just 3.5 point road underdogs at San Francisco this week and offer a nice value in drafts if you think they can pull off the upset.
Dak Prescott is the QB5 off the board but he usually goes several rounds after the top four. CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard are the highest drafted players but neither are off the board until at least the third round.
With Dalton Schultz and Ezekiel Elliot available after pick 30, the Cowboys are also a good late pivot option if your initial plans get blown up. Those two, along with Michael Gallup and T.Y. Hilton at the end of drafts, provides a number of options to get exposure to an offense with one of the highest weekly ceilings remaining.
🗽 New York
The biggest surprise of the remaining NFC teams are the Giants, who took down the Vikings last week and continue to perform greater than the sum of their parts. New York is by far the cheapest NFC team in drafts and is mostly viewed as a one week play to help your team advance from Round 1.
After Saquon Barkley, none of the Giants are particularly expensive.
Emerging WR Isaiah Hodgins looks like the most consistent fantasy option, but Darius Slayton, Richie James, and Daniel Bellinger all have the upside to lead the Giants' pass catchers in a single game.
Personally, I have a few Daniel Jones stacks because anything can happen in the playoffs and it is fun to build teams where you don’t have to worry about QB until the second half of the draft. However, if you are only drafting a handful of teams you could be forgiven for only taking them as a secondary stack.