NFL Grind Down: Conference Championships - DFS Breakdown

Written by Notorious

Welcome to the RotoGrinders NFL Grind Down, an all-encompassing preview of the week ahead in the NFL from a daily fantasy sports perspective. We’ll provide all the statistics, insights and analysis you need to set your lineups for this week’s contests.

Every game will be broken down statistically, with several key elements highlighted in our charts. NFL betting odds are broken down to show projected team totals, to give you an idea of who is favored to win, and often more importantly, how many points they’re expected to score. Each contest is then analyzed team-by-team, with a focus on finding matchups to exploit and trends to follow.

Vegas Overview

TEN @ KCC Team Spread Total Implied Moneyline
KCC -7.5 52.5 30 -345
TEN 7.5 52.5 22.5 285

Betting Quick Take: Let me start by saying I don’t have a strong take on the 7.5-point spread or the 52.5-point total. If the Titans are going to keep this game competitive, they will need another big outing from Derrick Henry and they will look to dominate time of possession. This bodes well for a Titans/under parlay. If the Chiefs are able to jump out to a big lead, the Titans will be forced to air it out more. This bodes well for a Chiefs/over parlay. My favorite bet of the week is to tease the Chiefs and Niners down to 1.5-point favorites. Depending on the book, six-point teasers usually pay 10 to 11 and essentially all you need is for both of the big favorites to win.

Chiefs/Niners six-point teaser
Confidence Level: 10 out of 10

Injury Situations

Player Team Pos Status Part Impact
Adam Humphries TEN WR Q Ankle 5
Cody Hollister TEN WR Q Ankle 4

Injuries to Monitor:

Kansas City — Defensive tackle Chris Jones was a late scratch last week and has not practiced so far this week (as of Thursday). This is an important injury to keep an eye on, as he’s one of their best run-stoppers. Travis Kelce (knee) and LeSean McCoy (illness) are both on the injury report, but fully expected to suit up on Sunday.

TennesseeAdam Humphries returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since Week 13. He’s listed as questionable, so keep an eye on his status throughout the week. Jayon Brown, Logan Ryan, Adoree’ Jackson, and Rashaan Evans are all on the injury report, but all four are tentatively expected to suit up this week.

Other News and Notes: It’s expected to be ice-cold in Kansas City on Sunday. While we don’t have to worry about snow, we can expect temps in the low 20s with winds around 11 MPH. As always, make sure to read Kevin Roth’s weather report on Sunday morning.

Matchup Factors, Team Identity Metrics, and Game Flow Expectations

Expected Game Pace and Tempo: We have two contrasting styles of play squaring off in this game. The Chiefs are ranked sixth in situation-neutral pace and try to put points on the board as quickly as possible. The Titans are one of the slowest paced teams in football and try to dominate time of possession by leaning on their ground game. I expect the Titans to run more plays and win the time of possession battle, but that’s only because the Chiefs are going to have more big plays offensively.

Kansas City Chiefs Projections Breakdown

Team Projections

QB Team Rank Proj ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Patrick Mahomes KCC 22.07 QB1 37.28 297.21 Rank 3 Rank 4 Rank 4 Rank 4
RB Team Rank Proj ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Damien Williams KCC 14.82 RB2 57% 11% Rank 1 Rank 1 Rank 1 Rank 1
Darwin Thompson KCC 3.88 RB8 16% 3% Rank 8 Rank 8 Rank 8 Rank 8
LeSean McCoy KCC 2.08 RB11 6% 2% Rank 10 Rank 11 Rank 10 Rank 11
WR/TE Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Tyreek Hill KCC 16.94 WR2 23% 8.95 Rank 1 Rank 4 Rank 8 Rank 4
Sammy Watkins KCC 10.03 WR6 14% 5.53 Rank 7 Rank 7 Rank 3 Rank 7
Demarcus Robinson KCC 4.38 WR14 6% 2.34 Rank 13 Rank 13 Rank 12 Rank 12
Mecole Hardman KCC 4.53 WR13 7% 2.65 Rank 14 Rank 14 Rank 14 Rank 15
Byron Pringle KCC 2.15 WR18 3% 1.11 Rank 18 Rank 18 Rank 18 Rank 18
Travis Kelce KCC 18.39 TE1 27% 10.41 Rank 2 Rank 2 Rank 3 Rank 2
Blake Bell KCC 2.29 TE8 3% 1.19 Rank 8 Rank 8 Rank 8 Rank 8

TEN Adj. Fpts Allowed: QB Rank 17/ RB Rank 12/ WR Rank 16/ TE Rank 5

Rushing Opportunity Metrics of Note:
Snap Share (Playoffs): Williams 97%
Rush Share (Playoffs): Williams 57%
Target Share (Playoffs): Williams 17%

Rushing Efficiency Metrics of Note:
O-Line Adjusted Line Yards: KC 28th
D-Line Adjusted Line Yards: TEN 10th
DVOA against the run: TEN 10th

Remember when everyone said the Chiefs were saving LeSean McCoy for the playoffs? I didn’t buy it at the time and viewed Damien Williams as a must play in the divisional round. He proceeded to play 97% of the snaps against the Titans and handled 57% of the team’s rushing attempts. He also saw six targets in the passing game. He finished the day with 14 touches for 68 yards and three touchdowns. While we obviously can’t expect him to score three times every week, his workload should improve this week against the Titans. The Chiefs fell behind 24-0 against the Texans and essentially abandoned the running game until halfway through the third quarter. As 7.5-point favorites at home, we can project Williams for 15+ carries and 5+ targets on the most explosive offense in football.

With the Chiefs leaning on Williams, the Packers leaning on Aaron Jones, and the Titans leaning on Derrick Henry, we really only have one backfield that still has a timeshare. It is such a great feeling not having to worry about your running back getting vultured at the goal line. Given the salaries and the expected game scripts, Williams is my favorite running back play of the slate and it’s not particularly close. His matchup against the Titans isn’t amazing, but it’s not like you can’t run on them. During the regular season, Tennessee was ranked 10th in defensive adjusted line yards and 10th in DVOA against the run. For what it’s worth, they did allow the third most receptions (101) and the 10th most receiving yards to running backs (757).

Passing Game Opportunity Metrics of Note:
Snap Share (Playoffs):: Hill 94%, Watkins 88%, Robinson 58%, Hardman 17%, Kelce 67%
Target Share (Playoffs): Hill 11%, Watkins 6%, Robinson 11%, Hardman 11%, Kelce 34%
Air Yards Share (Playoffs): Hill 16%, Watkins 20%, Robinson 4%, Hardman 16%, Kelce 35%

Passing Game Efficiency Metrics of Note:
DVOA against the pass: TEN 21st
DYAR: Mahomes +1,322 (3rd)
QBR: Mahomes 76.4 (2nd)

All week I was trying to decide whether to play Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes. I ended up playing Jackson and was feeling pretty good about the decision after he scored 35 fantasy points. However, once the Texans jumped out to that 24-0 lead, I knew Mahomes was going to have a massive outing. He finished the game with 321 passing yards, five touchdowns, and a season-high 53 rushing yards. On DraftKings, that added up to 41 fantasy points. He’s clearly over the injuries that bothered him during the regular season and he’s clearly the top quarterback play this week. The Titans have a slight pass-funnel defense, ranking 21st in DVOA against the pass and 10th in DVOA against the run. The only knock that you can find on Mahomes is that he’s expensive, but he could easily outscore every other quarterback of the slate by 15 points. I can’t bring myself to fade him.

Travis Kelce looked like a man amongst boys against the Texans, catching 10-of-12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns. You can chalk it up to a great matchup, but this week’s is just as enticing. The Titans are ranked 25th in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends this season. Tyreek Hill was quiet last week, but we know he has slate-breaking upside every time he takes the field. It only takes a few catches for him to reach that 100-yard bonus and we shouldn’t be scared of the Titans’ secondary. Malcolm Butler is out for the year and Adoree’ Jackson has been dealing with a number of injuries in the second half of the season. Marquise Brown is essentially a more inconsistent version of Hill and he erupted for 123 yards against Tennessee last week.

The rest of the Chiefs’ wideouts are thin plays at best, but you get the feeling one of them is going to end up breaking the slate. Sammy Watkins has only drawn 13 targets over the last four games, but did have a 20% air yards share against the Texans last week and they even tried to draw up a trick play for him (he ran out of bounds for a sack instead of throwing the ball away). After DeMarcus Robinson dropped four of his six targets last week, we could see a bigger role for Mecole Hardman, who has electric speed and an ability to break big plays at any moment. He only played 17% of the snaps last week, but we could see that number rise this week. And finally, if you are looking for a super punt in showdown, Blake Bell has seen at least two targets in each of the last four games and even caught a touchdown last week.

Team Quick Summary: The Chiefs are playing at home against a mediocre defense and they have the highest implied total of the slate. A Chiefs’ onslaught is viable for showdown and potentially even for the two-game slate. Mahomes is head and shoulders above the other quarterback options this week and Williams is the best point-per-dollar play at running back. The best part is that you can pair the two since Williams is such a threat catching the ball out of the backfield. Kelce and Hill are both in great spots, but I’ll side with Kelce if I have to choose between the two. You get the feeling one of the ancillary pieces from the Chiefs is going to break the slate, but your guess as to who that will be is as good as mine.

Tennessee Titans Projections Breakdown

Team Projections

QB Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Ryan Tannehill TEN 17.8 QB4 35.96 264.81 Rank 4 Rank 2 Rank 1 Rank 2
RB Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Derrick Henry TEN 17.89 RB1 77% 8% Rank 2 Rank 2 Rank 6 Rank 2
Dion Lewis TEN 5.06 RB7 10% 6% Rank 7 Rank 7 Rank 5 Rank 7
WR/TE Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
A.J. Brown TEN 14.21 WR3 24% 8.59 Rank 4 Rank 1 Rank 2 Rank 1
Corey Davis TEN 9.7 WR7 16% 5.75 Rank 6 Rank 3 Rank 1 Rank 2
Tajae Sharpe TEN 4.66 WR12 8% 2.84 Rank 12 Rank 10 Rank 11 Rank 11
Adam Humphries TEN 3.22 WR16 5% 1.80 Rank 16 Rank 16 Rank 16 Rank 16
Darius Jennings TEN 0.66 WR20 1% 0.36 Rank 20 Rank 20 Rank 20 Rank 20
Jonnu Smith TEN 6.06 TE4 10% 3.74 Rank 4 Rank 4 Rank 4 Rank 4
MyCole Pruitt TEN 2.99 TE6 5% 1.80 Rank 6 Rank 6 Rank 6 Rank 6

KCC Adj. Fpts Allowed: QB Rank 20/ RB Rank 9/ WR Rank 31/ TE Rank 4

Rushing Opportunity Metrics of Note:
Snap Share (Playoffs): Henry 81%, Lewis 15%
Rush Share (Playoffs): Henry 83%, Lewis 5%
Target Share (Playoffs): Henry 10%, Lewis 3%

Rushing Efficiency Metrics of Note:
O-Line Adjusted Line Yards: TEN 4th
D-Line Adjusted Line Yards: KC 28th
DVOA against the run: KC 29th

Is anyone else tired of hearing the debates surrounding Derrick Henry? Can he sustain this level of success over the long run? Probably not. Can he put up an outlier stretch of performances? Absolutely. He’s bigger than most linebackers and he runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash. He seems to come alive late in the season and that’s certainly been the case over the last six weeks. Against a tough Patriots’ run defense, he carried the ball 34 times for 182 yards and a touchdown. He followed it up with 30 carries for 195 yards against the Ravens (and even threw for a touchdown). At this point, it feels like there are two camps — those that will continue fading Henry because they’ve missed the boat thus far and those that will continue playing Henry because he has yet to let them down.

The kicker this week is that this is his best matchup to date. The Chiefs have a clear run-funnel defense, ranking sixth in DVOA against the pass and 29th in DVOA against the run. The Titans have a clear advantage in the trenches, as their offensive line is ranked fourth in adjusted line yards, while the Chiefs’ defensive line is ranked 28th. The only concern is game script, but we’ve said that each of the last two weeks and Henry has been just fine. If the Titans can keep the game competitive, they will look to give Henry 25+ carries in an elite matchup. If the volume is there, it’s hard to see the Chiefs slowing him down. He’s currently projected to be the highest owned running back of the slate, but I get the feeling there are too many Henry doubters out there for that to happen.

Passing Game Opportunity Metrics of Note:
Snap Share (Playoffs): Brown 91%, Davis 78%, Sharpe 29%, Smith 91%, Firkser 22%
Target Share (Playoffs): Brown 13%, Davis 13%, Sharpe 17%, Smith 17%, Firkser 10%
Air Yards Share (Playoffs): Brown 8%, Davis 27%, Sharpe 21%, Smith 16%, Firkser 13%

Passing Game Efficiency Metrics of Note:
DVOA against the pass: KC 6th
DYAR: Tannehill +777 (9th)
QBR: Tannehill 62.5 (9th)

Trying to predict the game script for the Titans hasn’t worked out well in their first two games of the playoffs. Against the Patriots, we said Ryan Tannehill would be forced to air it out if they fell behind early. Against the Ravens, we said the exact same thing. Unfortunately, the Titans haven’t had to play from behind much in the postseason. After being one of the most efficient quarterbacks in football during the regular season, Tannehill has thrown the ball 29 times for 160 yards in the last two games combined. He salvaged last week’s fantasy outing by rushing for a touchdown, but that’s not something we can rely on every week. If you think the Vegas line is representative of how this game will play out, then Tannehill is worth a look in tournaments. Personally, I’ll eat the chalk and play the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.

The playoffs have not been kind to the Titans’ pass catchers simply because the volume hasn’t been there. If Tannehill is only going to throw the ball 15 times, it will be hard for any of the wideouts to reach salary-based expectations. However, we can expect the Chiefs to put up points in this one and there’s a good chance the Titans won’t be able to dominate this game like they have the last two. While the Chiefs have been extremely tough on wide receivers (fewest fantasy points allowed this season), A.J. Brown is dirt cheap across the industry. It might only take one play for him to reach and exceed value. I’m willing to take chances on him in all formats, even though he’s more of a boom or bust type of play.

We need to keep an eye on the status of Adam Humphries, as he would take over as the number three wide receiver if active. Whether it’s Humphries or Tajae Sharpe, I expect many to punt one of their receiver spots with the WR3 from the Titans. Corey Davis put up a goose egg against the Patriots and only caught one pass against the Ravens, but it was a touchdown thrown by Henry. He’s surprisingly seen three times as many air yards as Brown in the first two games of the playoffs, so we can sprinkle him into our tournament player pool. The Chiefs aren’t nearly as good at defending tight ends, allowing the ninth most schedule-adjusted fantasy points during the regular season. Jonnu Smith is a reasonable punt play for the main slate and Anthony Firkser is a nice punt play for showdown.

Team Quick Summary: At this point, do we really want to play any Titans not-named Henry? He’s had 67 touches over the last two games and the best way to beat the Chiefs (and keep Mahomes off the field) is on the ground. If you expect the Chiefs to build an early lead, you can certainly make a case to play Tannehill, Brown, Davis, and Smith in tournaments. At the very least, they have enticing price points.

DFS Recommendations

Optimal DFS Plays: Patrick Mahomes, Damien Williams, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Derrick Henry

Leverage Plays: A.J. Brown

Secondary Plays: Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Ryan Tannehill, Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Adam Humphries or Tajae Sharpe

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