The AFC Championship will take place Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET, and both DraftKings and FanDuel will be offering tournaments with large prize pools for this slate.
If you’re unfamiliar with the single-game NFL DFS format, it differs a bit on DraftKings and FanDuel. On DraftKings, you have one “captain” spot and five flexes. The captain will score 1.5x fantasy points, but he also costs 1.5x salary. That means if you want to roster Patrick Mahomes at Captain and take advantage of the scoring boost, you’ll have to pay $17,100 as opposed to $11,400.
FanDuel’s single-game format features one “MVP” spot and four flexes. The MVP also scores 1.5x fantasy points, but he doesn’t cost any additional salary. That takes away a bit of the strategy and makes the goal simple: get your highest-scoring player in the MVP spot.
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The stud options were a bit limited for the NFC Championship slate, but that is not a problem on the AFC side. The bigger problem is figuring out how to get as many of these guys into your lineup as possible.
That starts with Mahomes, whose numbers have actually been pretty modest recently. He’s thrown for 278 yards or fewer in each of his past three games, which is well below his regular-season average of 316. There’s no cause for concern – Mahomes is still capable of huge passing yards every time he’s on the field – but it is worth noting.
However, Mahomes has been able to pick up the slack a bit with his legs. He rushed for 14 yards and a touchdown last week vs. the Browns, and he has been significantly more willing to tuck it and run during the postseason. He’s averaged 17.6 rushing yards per game throughout his career during the regular season, but that number increases to 28.0 during the playoffs. That does give him slightly more appeal.
His matchup vs. the Bills is a bit of a mixed bag. They have improved as the season has progressed, ranking eighth in Football Outsiders’ weighted defensive DVOA, and Mahomes owns an Opponent Plus/Minus of -1.1 on DraftKings. Still, the Chiefs are listed as three-point home favorites, giving Mahomes an implied team total of 28.75. Mahomes has historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +5.28 with a comparable implied team total (per the Trends tool), so he can clearly find success in this matchup.
As good as Mahomes is, Josh Allen might be the better quarterback from a fantasy perspective. Both players are capable of racking up points with their arms, but Allen has significantly more upside as a rusher. He scored nine touchdowns during the regular season, and he added another rushing touchdown during the playoffs. He’s also averaged nine carries per game during the postseason. With Zack Moss out of the lineup, Allen should continue to be used in the run game and as a goal-line hammer.
He also draws a significantly better matchup than Mahomes. The Chiefs have been a friendly fantasy defense all year, giving Allen an Opponent Plus/Minus of +3.5. He leads all players in terms of median and Plus/Minus projection in our NFL Models, so you can make a strong argument that he’s the top play on the slate.
Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are Mahomes’ top options, and both players have been spectacular this season. Both players are elite options, but Hill makes for a more logical stacking partner with Mahomes. Their correlation sits at +0.49 on DraftKings, while Mahomes and Kelce own a correlation of +0.25.
Both players stand out from a matchup perspective. Kelce is expected to be guarded by Matt Milano, and Pro Football Focus gives him a 49% advantage in that matchup. That’s the largest advantage in this game. Hill will likely spend some of this contest against Tre’Davious White – who is one of the better corners in the league – but the majority of his snaps should come against Taron Johnson. Hill plays 58% of his snaps in the slot, and White lined up in the slot on just 2% of the Bills’ plays this season. Hill should be able to absolutely toast Johnson, who runs just a 4.50 40-yard dash. That’s not nearly fast enough to keep up with the Cheetah.
Picking between these two players is one of the hardest decisions on the slate. It’s possible to play both together – with or without Mahomes – but you’ll have to get creative with some of your punt plays.
Things are much simpler on the Bills’ side. Stefon Diggs is their clear alpha wide receiver, and he’s been a dominant fantasy player in his first year in Buffalo. He’s posted an average Plus/Minus of +7.05 over his past 10 games on DraftKings, and he’s finished with at least 106 yards and a touchdown in each of his first two playoff games.
The Chiefs were one of the few teams that was able to contain Diggs this season, limiting him to six catches for 46 yards and a touchdown in their first matchup. However, there’s no reason to expect them to do that again. The Chiefs rank just 16th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA, and Diggs will have the advantage against whoever matches up across from him.
John Brown was shut out in the Bills’ first playoff game, but he bounced back in a big way last week vs. the Ravens. He finished with 11 targets, eight catches and 62 yards, resulting in 14.2 DraftKings points. He’s been priced up a bit on DraftKings, but his $10,000 salary on FanDuel comes with a Bargain Rating of 89%. He could also see a few additional snaps if Gabriel Davis is unable to suit up. The Bills elevated Kenny Stills to the active roster this week, which doesn’t bode well for Davis’ availability.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is one of the more intriguing options this week. He’s tentatively expected to suit up after being out of the lineup since Week 15, and he’s been the Chiefs’ leading rusher this season. That role hasn’t always led to a ton of fantasy value, but it could pay dividends vs. the Bulls. They’ve been mediocre against the run, ranking just 17th in rush defense DVOA.
Backup RB Le’Veon Bell is also not expected to suit up, which means CEH could be looking at a big workload in his first game back. The Chiefs do still have Darrel Williams – who finished with 13.4 DKFP last week – but Williams was basically a non-factor this season while Edwards-Helaire was healthy.
The gap between CEH and Williams is virtually non-existent on DraftKings, where CEH costs just $200 additional to roster. That makes him the easy choice there. You can make an argument for Williams on FanDuel, where his $8,500 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 92%.
Devin Singletary should operate as the Bills’ lead back on Sunday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s looking at a huge workload. They started their game last week with 20 consecutive pass plays, and Singletary finished with just seven rushing attempts and three targets. Overall, he scored just 6.7 DraftKings points, which made him a major disappointment.
That said, he did play on all but nine snaps last week, and his matchup vs. the Chiefs absolutely elite. They have been gashed in the run game all season, ranking just 31st in rush defense DVOA. If Singletary can grab a few additional carries and stay active in the passing game, he could be looking at a major bounce back.
Cole Beasley is another Bills WR who is currently dealing with an injury. He was not effective last week, finishing with just two targets and zero catches, which has caused his price to plummet from $7,800 to just $5,000 on DraftKings. That’s a great price tag to potentially buy low on him, and his ownership should be down following his poor performance.
Sammy Watkins is considered a game-time decision, and his absence would open up some value with the Chiefs’ pass-catchers. Mecole Hardman finished third on the team in routes run with Watkins out of the lineup last week, and he racked up four catches and a rush attempt in that contest. He has track-star speed, so he’s capable of taking any touch to the house.
Values & Punts
- Dawson Knox: $4,400 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel – Knox has played on the majority of snaps over the second half of the season, but he’s seen just five total targets over the past two weeks. Still, he’s a threat in the red zone, and he owns an Opponent Plus/Minus of +2.3 in this matchup.
- Kickers & Defenses: These options are always in play in the single-game format. The kickers seem like the better options on this slate given the over/under of 54.5 points.
- Damarcus Robinson: $1,800 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel – Robinson would be another beneficiary if Watkins is unable to suit up. He’s very cheap on DraftKings and owns a correlation of +0.42 with Mahomes. Expect him to be a popular value option.
- Isaiah McKenzie: $1,200 on DraftKings, $7,500 on FanDuel – McKenzie was not on the field very much last week – he played just eight snaps – but he still finished with two targets and two receptions. He could see a slight bump in playing time if Davis is ruled out, which gives him some appeal at $1,200 on DraftKings.
- Byron Pringle: $800 on DraftKings, $5,500 on FanDuel – He played on over 50% of the snaps last week and saw three targets. He doesn’t have the same upside as Hardman or Robinson, but he doesn’t need to do much to return value.
- T.J. Yeldon: $600 on DraftKings, $5,000 on FanDuel – Yeldon wasn’t particularly involved as the backup RB last week, but he could see a bigger workload vs. the Chiefs. The Bills might look to expose KC’s poor run defense, and Yeldon makes more sense as a between-the-tackles grinder than Singletary.
- Kenny Stills: $5,000 on FanDuel – Stills is only in the player pool on FanDuel, and he could warrant some consideration if Davis is ruled out. There’s no guarantee he sees much playing time, but Stills is much more talented than his current price tag indicates.