Finally, we have the bittersweet ending to another NFL season. Two teams remain, playing for the greatest prize, and we have one more chance to win some money on a Showdown slate before September. The 49ers and Chiefs face off in the Super Bowl once again, as the 49ers are listed as two-point favorites, while the total sits at 47.5 points.
Finally, make sure to check out all the projections available for purchase (Chris Raybon’s come included with a FantasyLabs subscription) within the FantasyLabs Models. Subscribers now have the option to purchase Derek Carty’s THE BLITZ from our Marketplace. Projections from One Week Season and Establish the Run are available if you’re a subscriber to those specific sites (our optimizer is a separate add-on feature).
You can also combine them to create your own aggregate DFS projections:
NFL DFS Stud Picks
Despite having a slate chock-full of elite players, Christian McCaffrey sits in a price range of his own. McCaffrey had another stellar performance in the NFC Championship game, taking 20 carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns while catching four of five targets for 42 yards.
A lot was made about how difficult the matchup was with Detroit’s run defense. Despite that and a negative game script, McCaffrey still averaged 4.5 yards per carry and saw 20 carries.
McCaffrey smashed in a bad matchup, and now he gets the best matchup of anyone on San Francisco’s offense. Kansas City has allowed the seventh-most yards per carry to opposing backs but has kept them out of the end zone. No one finds the end zone quite like McCaffrey, though, as he has 38 touchdowns in 32 games as a 49er. McCaffrey is the top overall play on the slate, and the real question, in my opinion, is whether or not to Captain him, as rostering him is almost a lock.
The pricing clusters up once you get past McCaffrey, as Patrick Mahomes follows.
The circumstances are different this time around for Mahomes. In his last three trips to the big dance, the Chiefs offense was the powerhouse unit in the game. This time around, San Francisco boasts the better offensive unit, and the Chiefs’ success has been due to their elite defense.
From a fantasy standpoint, this season has been fairly poor for Mahomes’ standards. He’s topped 20 DraftKings points just twice in his last 12 games, with 20.7 and 20.8 points in his two games above the threshold.
The Chiefs got the job done against Baltimore, but the offense stalled for much of the game after some early success. They looked better in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but they did benefit from two defenses that were ravaged by injuries, especially in the middle of their defense, which is where the Chiefs offense thrives.
Mahomes has thrown between the numbers at the highest rate of his career this year, while San Francisco has allowed the lowest passer rating on throws between the numbers.
The 49ers defense looked beatable in recent weeks against strong offenses in Green Bay and Detroit, but the bulk of their success came outside the numbers. Jared Goff and Jordan Love averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt on 40 attempts outside the numbers, compared to 7.7 yards per attempt on 32 attempts outside the numbers.
The story was similar against Baltimore, however, and Travis Kelce caught all 11 of his targets for 116 yards and a score. Kansas City utilized a lot of motion to free up Kelce, and it worked, at least early. Doubting Kelce and Mahomes seems foolish at this point.
In two straight games, we saw Brock Purdy come out and struggle before rallying his team back and making key throws when needed. San Francisco is going to need to start faster, as Kansas City’s defense thrives on in-game adjustments.
Purdy comes in behind the other three studs from a projection standpoint but stands neck-and-shoulders above his other teammates. It’ll be interesting to see what Steve Spagnuolo opts for, as he’s typically very aggressive. Purdy shredded the blitz in the regular season but hasn’t been great against it in the postseason.
I wasn’t expecting to see Deebo Samuel be effective in the NFC Championship game, and he stuck it to me, catching eight of nine targets for 89 yards and handling three carries. Samuel has led the team in target rate per route run and target share since returning from injury in Week 10.
It’s unlikely that Samuel faces shadow coverage from L’Jarius Sneed here, as Samuel moves all around the formation and sees numerous schemed touches around and behind the line of scrimmage. Sneed will likely travel with Brandon Aiyuk, which will be a matchup of strength-on-strength. Aiyuk has shredded man coverage this year, while Sneed has shut down almost every top receiver he’s faced.
The Chiefs held Tyreek Hill (twice), Keenan Allen, A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson, Stefon Diggs (twice), and Ja’Marr Chase to under 65 yards. Aiyuk is an elite talent, but I’d prefer to take a path of less resistance.
Aiyuk is a touchdown-dependent play, while Samuel is someone I’m very interested in. I’m expecting him to end up the lowest-owned of San Francisco’s studs, and his ability to get rushing touchdowns provides massive leverage.
Don’t forget to check out our SimLabs Lineup Generator to create advanced DFS lineups using the power of simulation:
NFL DFS Midrange Picks
Isiah Pacheco was leaned on heavily once again, turning 24 carries into 68 yards and a score while catching four balls for 14 yards in the AFC Championship game. Jerick McKinnon is listed as questionable, and Pacheco’s role has been elite with McKinnon out.
Even if McKinnon returns, it’s unlikely that he’ll be a huge part of the game plan. I’d expect Pacheco to keep his elite role. We’ve seen San Francisco struggle against the run as of late, specifically on the perimeter. Pacheco has averaged 5.6 yards per carry on outside runs this year.
Pacheco looks like a strong play, and so does teammate Rashee Rice. Rice has been an essential piece of the offense as of late, and he’s shined in the playoffs. He caught eight of nine targets for 46 yards against Baltimore and had a long touchdown called back due to a penalty.
Rice has had a 27.5% target share in the playoffs and has been consistently seeing schemed touches. San Francisco has had more trouble against perimeter downfield threats, but they’ve still given up a lot of production to slot receivers. Rice sees a lot of designed screens for run-after-catch opportunities. San Francisco has been stout against opposing receivers after the catch, but we know Rice will see volume.
George Kittle continues to be a rollercoaster for fantasy purposes, with five games of 20+ DraftKings points and six games below six DraftKings points. Kansas City’s defense stylistically allows teams to attack the middle of the field, as they run a lot of Cover-2 and Cover-4. Kittle is clearly fourth of the 49ers’ top four studs in targets against similar defenses.
Kansas City has allowed the second-most yards per target to opposing tight ends, which does give some hope for Kittle.
Jauan Jennings has been the clear WR3 for San Francisco all season long. He runs a route on just under two-thirds of the dropbacks, but it’s a fairly fruitless role. Without an injury to one of Aiyuk or Samuel, it’s hard to get excited about Jennings’ outlook.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Justin Watson have been the receivers outside of Rice consistently seeing snaps this postseason. Neither has been very effective, but Valdes-Scantling has played a little more, making him my preferred target.
Mecole Hardman and Richie James mix in as well, in more of a gadgety role. James has appeal as he’s cheap, and he saw solid run in the second half of the AFC Championship game.
Noah Gray has seen more work recently, with eight targets over the past two games. He’s run a route on 42% of the dropbacks this postseason, making him a solid value piece to make lineups work.
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NFL DFS Value & Punt Picks
- Defenses & Kickers: These options are always in play in the single-game format, but make sure to correlate the rest of your lineup around them.
- Kyle Juszczyk ($800 on DraftKings, $5,500 on FanDuel): Kansas City has struggled mightily defending the run with multiple backs out there. I’m expecting Kyle Shanahan to use Juszczyk a lot, as he could see a carry or two and some work through the air. He had three targets and a carry last week.