This article is a data-driven deep dive on strategic decision-making and roster construction for DFS cash games and tournaments. It relies heavily upon FantasyLabs’ extensive suite of analytical DFS tools, as well as advanced metrics and film study. For cash games, I walk through narrowing down the player pool at each position and choosing the highest-floor lineup combinations. Then comes a game-by-game tournament breakdown through which I highlight the biggest edges (stacks, pivots, leverage opportunities, etc.) in each game.
The 2019 Divisional Round kicks off Saturday with 49ers-Vikings at 4:35 p.m. ET. DraftKings is featuring its biggest contests in a main slate with all four games and also offers Saturday- and Sunday-only contests, while FanDuel’s featured slates are Saturday- and Sunday-only, though they are also offering a four-game slate.
This breakdown will primarily focus on the main slate, though lineup builds for the one-day slates are also discussed in the Lineup Construction section. Both sites also feature single-game showdown contests, and I will also be publishing Showdown breakdowns for each game.
Divisional Round shmoney time.
- Lamar Jackson, Ravens ($8,400 DK, $9,400 FD) vs. TEN
Lamar Jackson has topped 30 DraftKings points in an absurd 8-of-15 games. And even without the benefit of yardage bonuses, the MVP frontrunner scored fewer than 20 FanDuel points only once all season. For comparison, Patrick Mahomes topped 30 DraftKings points in 4-of-13 healthy games and failed to crack 20 FanDuel points in 7-of-13.
Jackson should be able to keep it going against a Titans defense that allowed opposing quarterbacks to surpass their salary-based expectations at a rate of 71% on DraftKings an 65% on FanDuel, according to our NFL Trends tool. As has been the case for months now with every slate he’s been a part of, Jackson registers the highest median and ceiling projection on the slate in our NFL Player Models.
Running Back (Cash)
- Damien Williams, Chiefs ($6,000 DK, $6,900 FD) vs. HOU
- Aaron Jones, Packers ($7,400 DK, $8,200 FD) vs. SEA
- Dalvin Cook, Vikings ($8,000 DK, $8,000 FD) at SF
Damien Williams leads all RBs in Projected Plus/Minus for both sites. Williams has been the keys to the backfield down the stretch, rattling off 18.3 touches for 120.8 scrimmage yards and 1.0 total touchdowns over his past four healthy games. Williams should be able to find room against a Texans run defense that allowed 5.88 yards per carry to Chiefs backs in Week 6 and went on to finish the regular season ranked 29th in schedule-adjusted efficiency, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Aaron Jones tops all RBs in median projection in addition to clocking in with a top-three Projected Plus/Minus at the position. In the past, a game like this would have been the Aaron Rodgers show, but Jones has been the focal point of the Packers offense under new head coach Matt LaFleur this season, tying for the NFL lead with 19 touchdown.
As a home favorite against a Seahawks squad that finished the regular season 29th in run-defense DVOA before getting gashed for 120 yards on 26 carries by the Eagles last week, Jones is in a smash spot.
Dalvin Cook projects to score the second-most FanDuel points of any non-quarterback, trailing only Jones. Aside from an early exit against the Chargers in Week 15 due to a shoulder injury, Cook has posted at least 11.5 FanDuel points in every contest. He showed no ill effects of that injury last week, piling up 130 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns on 31 touches against the Saints. He’s averaging 22.2 touches per game on the season and figures to be leaned upon heavily against a 49ers defense that rated better in DVOA versus the pass (second) than the run (11th).
Wide Receiver (Cash)
- Sammy Watkins, Chiefs ($4,300 DK, $5,200 FD) vs. HOU
- Marquise Brown, Ravens ($4,400 DK, $5,300 FD) vs. TEN
- Emmanuel Sanders, 49ers ($5,400 DK, $5,700 FD) vs. MIN
- Davante Adams, Packers ($7,800 DK, $8,400 FD) vs. SEA
Sammy Watkins projects as the No. 1 DraftKings value at WR and resides inside the top three for FanDuel, as well. He’s been painfully inconsistent, but you essentially have to play him in order to lock in the top studs.
Like Watkins, Marquise Brown has also been maddeningly inconsistent, though in Brown’s case, much of it stems from having run a route on only 72% of dropbacks during the regular season, a figure which will like tick up closer to his season-high (95%) now that the postseason is upon us. Consistency or not, Brown is way too cheap for a No. 1 receiver.
The weakest link of the Vikings defense is their cornerback unit, which puts Emmanuel Sanders in good position to hit value at a cost of just $5,700 on FanDuel, where he ranks top three in projected value.
Davante Adams has drawn double-digit targets in 7-of-8 games since returning from his toe injury, averaging 11.4 over that span. He figures to continue piling up volume against the Seahawks, who allowed the 11th-most targets (331) and 12th-most catches (198) to wide receivers during the regular season. Our Models have Adams pegged for the highest median projection on DraftKings of any non-QB.
Tight End (Cash)
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs ($6,400 DK, $7,500 FD) vs. HOU
George Kittle has a tough matchup against Minnesota (No. 1 in DVOA vs. tight ends) that leaves him short of Travis Kelce in terms of median projected points. Houston allowed 57.7 schedule-adjusted receiving yards to tight ends during the regular season, 11th-most.
After catching a touchdown last week, Anthony Firkser is well-positioned to pay off as a punt play again given his minimum-priced salary. Baltimore is stingy versus tight ends, but Firkser has blocked on only 4% of his snaps compared to 21% for Jonnu Smith, according to Pro Football Focus, meaning Firkser is more so the team’s co-No. 3 wide receiver along with Tajae Sharpe.
Defense/Special Teams (Cash)
- Green Bay Packers ($2,800 DK, $4,400 FD) vs. SEA
- Minnesota Vikings ($2,700 DK, $3,700 FD) vs. TEN
The Packers have the top Opponent Plus/Minus on the slate for a matchup with Russell Wilson, who was sacked 48 times during the regular season, tied for most in the league.
The Vikings make the most sense on FanDuel, where they have the second-lowest price tag despite a top-four median projection. Though I like San Francisco’s odds of earning the win (and cover), I doubt that Jimmy Garoppolo will play a clean game in his first postseason start.
Roster Build (Cash)
On DraftKings, you can squeeze in Jackson, Jones, Williams, Adams, Kelce, and Packers DST if you go with Watkins-Brown at WR2/3 and punt the FLEX with Firkser. If you don’t want to go as low as Firkser, you could also go own to Patrick Mahomes at QB and pay up to Jonnu Smith or Jimmy Graham at the FLEX.
For Saturday-only slates, you can jam in Jackson, Cook, Kittle, Derrick Henry and Mark Andrews if you punt with Titans DST as well as go cheap at WR with Brown, Corey Davis — who owns the top Projected Plus/Minus at the position for this slate — and Miles Boykin, who has run a route on just more than one-third of Baltimore’s dropbacks this season.
On the Sunday-only slate, you can jam in Jones, Adams, Williams, Kelce and Tyreek Hill while getting DeAndre Hopkins exposure via Deshaun Watson if you punt WR3 with Geronimo Allison, FLEX with Marcedes Lewis, and DST with the Texans.
On FanDuel, you can get in Jackson, Jones, Cook, Williams and Kelce if you go with a WR corps of Sanders-Brown-Watkins and the Vikings at DST.
For Saturday-only, you can jam in Jackson, Henry, Cook, Kittle, Sanders and Brown if you also punt with Davis at WR3, Hayden Hurst in the FLEX, and Titans DST.
On Sunday-only, you can get in Adams, Jones, Williams, Hopkins, and Watkins while getting Hill/Kelce exposure if you punt with Darren Fells at TE, Allison in the FLEX, and Texans DST.
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (GPP)
49ers: With an extra week to prepare, plus matchups for Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, and the benefit of seeing Mike Zimmer’s approach with Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo is my favorite contrarian GPP play at QB. I initially expected George Kittle’s ownership to be depressed, but we have him projected for similar ownership to Kelce, making him the least appealing top-three TE play.
The Vikings rank 23rd in yards per carry allowed to running backs (4.39), as well as 25th in Adjusted Line Yards (4.59), so this could also be a good spot for new lead back Raheem Mostert. He’s averaging 14.0 touches per game over the past five and has found the end zone in six straight.
It also sets up well for Mostert-49ers DST stacks. Now fully healthy, San Francisco’s defense finished second in pressure rate (28.7%) while blitzing at the fourth-lowest clip (20.9%), according to Pro Football Reference. As shown by the Packers in their 23-10 victory over the Vikings in Week 16, getting pressure without blitzing is the blueprint for neutralizing Kirk Cousins and the Vikings passing game.
Vikings: As I just mentioned, this is a tough spot for Cousins, which could also negatively impact the production of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen (ankle, questionable). In Weeks 1-12 with a healthy Jaquiski Tartt, who is expected to make his return from a rib injury, San Francisco ranked top-two in yards per target allowed to wide receivers (6.4) and tight ends (4.5), so none of Diggs, Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith nor Olabisi Johnson are particularly enticing.
Dalvin Cook remains the best bet here.
Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (GPP)
Ravens: Mark Ingram (calf, questionable) is expected to suit up and will offer a high-leverage means of pivoting from Lamar Jackson if active.
Of the top thee TEs, Mark Andrews is not only the cheapest, but also expected to be the lowest-owned, leaving him with easily the most GPP appeal among them. Andrews saw a target share of at least 24% in 10-of-15 games this season. Jackson has shown a stronger correlation with Andrews (0.60) than Marquise Brown (0.49), though Brown and Andrews also share a positive correlation (0.38).
Per PFF, Ryan Tannehill took a sack on 31% of pressured dropbacks this season, putting Ravens DST squarely in play despite a hefty price tag. The Baltimore D’ also has upside as a correlated pairing with either of Jackson (0.30) or Ingram (0.19).
Titans: Due in large part to the acquisition of Marcus Peters and the return to health of Jimmy Smith at cornerback, the Ravens finished ranked No. 1 in weighted pass-defense DVOA, which factors in recent games more heavily. That said, their league-leading propensity to blitz forces opponents to keep in extra blockers, which in turn funneled an NFL-high 69% of targets to wide receivers, so A.J. Brown could see more than the two targets from Ryan Tannehill he saw last week. Tannehill, Brown and, to a lesser extent, Corey Davis, are high-leverage pivots off of Derrick Henry.
The Ravens allowed the second-fewest schedule-adjusted receiving yards to tight ends (36.4), so Jonnu Smith would likely needed one of his patented explosive rushing plays in order to hit value.
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (GPP)
Chiefs: Damien Williams is expected to be mega-chalk and has to be stacked creatively. One option is stacking him with Patrick Mahomes, as Houston allowed the second-most schedule adjusted receiving yards per game to running backs (56.1) and will likely prioritize protecting the deep area of the field to prevent explosive plays from Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins.
That said, Houston has struggled on passes to the deep left over the past six games with its current configuration of cornerbacks, and given that it’s a short slate, Demarcus Robinson (second on the team in deep left targets) and Mecole Hardman (third) both deserve consideration. Hardman earned a Pro Bowl nod as a return man and can be stacked with Chiefs DST. The Kansas City defense also draws upside from facing Watson, who took the sixth-most sacks during the regular season (44) before going down seven times on just 32 dropbacks last week against Buffalo.
Texans: Juan Thornhill (ACL, IR) was seemingly the only safety that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo fully trusted in single-high coverage, so we may see Spags continue to deploy a heavy dose of Cover 2 looks, which would open things up for Carlos Hyde (if the Texans are in positive game script) and/or Duke Johnson (if they’re in negative game script), as well as Darren Fells and/or Jordan Akins (hamstring, questionable).
If Akins is out again, Fells would arguably be the top TE play after the big three. UPDATE: Jordan Akins has been ruled out.
The Chiefs allowed a league-low 50% target rate to wide receivers, so it’s worth considering pivoting from DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller (groin, questionable) and Kenny Stills in Deshaun Watson stacks. Like Andrews at TE, Watson is the cheapest of the Big Three at QB and projects to be the lowest owned, which gives Houston’s franchise QB the most value among them in tournament settings.
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (GPP)
Seahawks: Russell Wilson has shared a stronger positive correlations to Tyler Lockett (+0.77) than D.K. Metcalf (+0.46), but based on matchups, he may end up once again leaning more heavily on Metcalf. Jacob Hollister is the TE4 on this slate — by default, essentially — but he does carry decent upside against a Packers pass defense that finished 24th in DVOA to the position.
The Packers’ run defense improved from 29th in DVOA in the first half of the season to 18th in the second half, so this is a good-but-not-great spot for Marshawn Lynch, who Pete Carroll said will see an increased workload at the expense of Travis Homer this week.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers launched the second-most deep (20-plus yard) attempts since Davante Adams returned in Week 9 but completed only 12, according to PFF. As I mentioned in my Divisional Round QB Confidence Rankings, Rodgers’ alarming lack of efficiency left him with a dink-and-dunkish 5.9 yards per attempt average over the second half of the season. He also averaged just 1.25 TDs during that stretch. I would only use him in game stacks with other Seahawks; Aaron Jones–Packers DST is the top play here.
Jamaal Williams is expected to return from a shoulder injury and generally was in the 40-50% snap range when healthy, giving him some large-field/Sunday-only appeal.
Jimmy Graham’s seven targets in Week 17 were his most since September, and with the Seahawks’ Cover 3 scheme funneling the ball to tight ends at a league-high 25% clip, there’s an outside chance that the 33-year-old can vengefully lumber his way to value against his former team.
Chris Raybon finished No. 4 in FantasyPros’ weekly fantasy football rankings accuracy contest in 2019. He is a Senior Editor and NFL analyst at the Action Network, as well as a co-host of “The Action Network” on Sirius XM Fantasy Radio on Thursdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. ET. He also hosts the weekly NFL Betting edition of The Action Network Podcast and is featured each week on The Fantasy Flex edition of the pod, as well. He has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2010 — even the kneel downs. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRaybon and be sure to read about how he quit his accounting job and got paid to watch sports.