NFL Grind Down: Divisional Round

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.

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Every game will be broken down statistically, with several key elements highlighted in our charts. Vegas lines 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.

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Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs

Indianapolis Colts

Notable injuries and suspensions: Grant (Questionable – Toe), Mitchell (Questionable – Strained Calf)

Quarterback: Hello Grinders. We have a really interesting four-game slate this week featuring (at least) six of the top offenses in football. That makes this slate really interesting from a roster construction stand-point. Because any one of the Colts, Chiefs, Rams, Chargers, Patriots and Saints could just go off, that makes me more likely to grab pieces of several offenses as opposed to trying to stack a specific offense. I still think stacking is viable and smart since you’ll want the correlation, but I’m now more likely to keep my stacks smaller (closer to a 2 or 3 man stack) as opposed to an onslaught. Something that is also going to be key is to make sure your lineups tell a story based on how you expect the game flow to go.

A perfect example of telling a story with your lineup is this first game. The Chiefs enter as favorites but I’m going to approach this in two ways. If I assume the Chiefs’ offense continues they high-powered ways, I may want to grab a piece of the Chiefs where I think that production will come from (ex: one of the running backs, or Kelce, or Hill) and bring it back with a Colts stack of Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Eric Ebron or Nyheim Hines. I like Luck as a GPP option this week because the offense will flow through him if the Colts play from behind.

Running Backs: The other way to approach this game, and it’s going to be contrarian (and risky), is to actually assume the Colts play with a steady lead. I’ll admit I was skeptical the Colts could operate with a solid lead last week against the Texans, and that took me off a low-owned Marlon Mack. Mack ended up dominating, rushing 24 times for 148 yards and a touchdown. Mack’s dominance and the Colts playing with a lead led to Nyheim Hines disappearing. I played Hines last week because I expected the Colts to be playing from behind, but that just never happened. My guess (and it’s just a guess) is that most DFS players will be hesitant to play Mack in this spot because he can disappear if the Colts fall behind. At the same time. I fully expect DFS players to be hesitant to go back to Hines after his dreadful performance. So in other words, I expect this entire Colts backfield to be somewhat low-owned this week. If you think the Colts can play with a lead and will feed Mack against the Chief’s 32nd ranked run DVOA, Mack is going to be a fantastic GPP option. Just know there’s a ton of risk here because if the Chiefs do what we know they’re capable of doing, Mack will likely be phased out.

Pass Catchers: Eric Ebron caught a touchdown for his new baby in the #newbaby narrative last week, and he nearly had a second one but it got knocked out at the last second. Ebron remains right up there with Travis Kelce on this slate as the top tight end play. The Chiefs allowed the second most tight end touchdowns this past season, making this a good spot for Ebron. Again, how you approach the Colts’ pass catchers depends on how you expect the game to go. If you expect the Colts to be playing from behind, load up on T.Y. Hilton, Eric Ebron and Dontrelle Inman. I am monitoring the status of Ryan Grant, who missed last week’s game with a toe injury and that freed up more time for Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal. I think regardless of game script, Hilton, Ebron and Inman are all viable given how potent this Chiefs offense is and I doubt the Colts will be able to take their foot off the pedal in this game.

The Takeaway: My recommendation is to decide how you expect the game script to go, and that will determine you level of interest in Marlon Mack. He’s in an elite spot against this woeful Chiefs run defense, and maybe he even hits value with the Colts playing from behind. But I think Mack is only tournament viable given the potential of him getting phased out. Nyheim Hines is an option as a punt GPP play if you think the Chiefs take a huge lead, but I’ll admit I’m scared to play him again after last week’s disaster. I’m likely to get tournament exposure to one or more of Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Eric Ebron and Dontrelle Inman this week as they are all in a great spot. As I mentioned in my intro, I am interested in stacks but I will likely keep my stacks smaller this week because if I roll out a Luck/Hilton/Ebron/Inman stack, for example, I’m really going to need all of them hit and there’s no margin for a dud given how potent the other offenses are on this slate.

Kansas City Chiefs

Update 1-10-19 – Ware and Watkins are officially questionable and both practiced this week, but it’s vague at this point what their roles will be. Right now I’m being very cautious with them and not planning to be heavy on either.

Notable injuries and suspensions: Ware (Questionable – Hamstring), Watkins (Questionable – Foot)

Quarterback: The Chiefs are coming off a first-round bye, and that could be trouble for the Colts as Andy Reid has a dominant record after bye weeks. The big question mark for the Chiefs is how healthy they’ll be for this game. Spencer Ware practiced in full leading up to Week 17, but was ultimately held out due to his hamstring injury. Sammy Watkins hasn’t played for nearly two months now with his foot injury, but he could return at some point in the playoffs. Regardless of their statuses, it should be business as usual for Patrick Mahomes. It’ll be interesting to see what Mahomes’ ownership will be this week considering his price is high and there are amazing stud running backs also on this slate we want to pay up for. Mahomes finished with a ridiculous 50:12 touchdown to interception ratio and now faces a Colts defense that ranked 20th in pass DVOA. It’s worth noting that this Colts defense did limit opposing quarterbacks to throw just 21 touchdowns on them all season, tied for the third fewest in the league. They also held Deshaun Watson to 29/49 for 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception last week while sacking him three times. I personally think this Colts defense is a bit underrated, but I’m not going to talk anyone off Mahomes in any format as he arguably has the highest ceiling of any quarterback on this slate.

Running Backs: Right now I’m under the assumption that Damien Williams will operate as the lead back until further notice. If Spencer Ware is back for this game, we’re really going to have to rely on the beat writers / coach speak to determine what kind of split the two will have. It hasn’t been since Week 14 against the Ravens where we saw both of them in a game together, and when they did play together, it was Ware who out-carried Williams 15 to 8. Both also saw five targets in that game, but Williams was the one who found the end zone twice. Williams finished the year strong, nabbing six touchdowns over his final four games and also getting a contract extension. If Ware is back, I’m going to be cautious here and may have to take a wait-and-see approach as the opportunity cost of whiffing on running back this week could be huge. If Ware is out, I’m fine with Williams in all formats because of his ability to play in both the run and pass games, but keep in mind the Colts ranked 4th in run DVOA so this isn’t the best spot.

Pass Catchers: Tyreek Hill is in play for sure and can destroy any slate he’s on, but the Colts defended the deep-ball well this season. They ranked 22nd in passes of 20+ yards allowed, so they were one of the harder teams to get big plays against. While Hill is an elite GPP option, I probably have a harder time endorsing him for cash games. If you’re not playing Eric Ebron, Travis Kelce is in a smash spot and worthy of his price tag. The Colts only allowed five touchdowns to tight ends all season so they defended that well, but they allowed a league-high 107 receptions to opposing tight ends. This makes Kelce more appealing to me on a full-PPR site like DraftKings, but he’s still obviously in play on other half-point PPR sites. Outside of Hill and Kelce, the secondary options of Demarcus Robinson and Chris Conley (assuming Sammy Watkins isn’t back) are merely touchdown-or-bust options that are too thin for me on this slate.

The Takeaway: Travis Kelce is my favorite option on the Chiefs, but I prefer him on full-PPR sites given how good the Colts were at stopping tight end touchdowns. The Colts were also good at limiting passing plays of 20+ yards, meaning Tyreek Hill profiles more as a GPP option for me. Patrick Mahomes is obviously in play in all formats if you decide to pay up. As for the running game, this isn’t a good spot for Damien Williams and/or Spencer Ware (if he’s back). I will have GPP interest in Williams if Ware is ruled out, but if Ware is back, that makes the situation too dicey for me assuming they are in a timeshare.

About the Author

  • Allan Lem (fathalpert)

  • Allan Lem (aka fathalpert) began playing fantasy sports in high school and transitioned to DFS in 2015. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Economics and lives in California with his wife and two kids. He dreams of winning a big tournament so he can try cashing one of those giant cardboard checks at his local bank.

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