The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs starts Saturday and I'm still exhausted from that Super Wild Card Weekend! I can tell you right now that my Divisional Round daily fantasy (DFS) football picks are not going to be as wild!
As you read below, you will be surprised to find out that I don't have any Packers selections. I also don't have Ravens either. The interesting part is that I like the latter to upset the Bills and I'm not so sure the Packers are not the victims of an upset. But I can only list so many picks and I tried to get most of the eight teams included below. I will probably have shares of all eight teams throughout my entries. But when it came to splitting hairs, the Packers and Ravens fell short.
Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love J.K. Dobbins and Lamar Jackson this week. But would I rather have Patrick Mahomes this week? Of course!
So we might as well start there for my Divisional Round DFS picks.
Safe Quarterback Divisional Round Pick
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs vs. Browns (DraftKings $8000, FanDuel $9200)
C'mon, this is too easy. What's the worst that Mahomes does? Maybe two touchdowns and 225 yards? For his price, he better do a lot more. But no QB this weekend has a floor that high. And the ceiling meanwhile is easily more than 450 yards and as many as six TDs. Pay for the floor and pray for the ceiling. But somewhere in the middle is what you'll likely get. And 350 yards and three or four touchdowns is pretty gosh darn good. You don't need a lot of fancy charts and advanced stats to convince you to play Mahomes this week, do you?
High Risk/Reward Quarterback Divisional Round Pick
Drew Brees, Saints vs. Buccaneers (DK $5600, FD $7300)
We are going to just keep riding this train. I've been one of the drivers of this train, but there's still some room for you to jump on board!
I don't care how old Brees is. He sure seems to have put his punctured lung and 11 broken ribs behind him. Brees is averaging 18.08 fantasy points since he returned in Week 15. And it's not the like Bucs have the stoutest secondary in the league. Tampa Bay allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to QBs this year.
That might explain why Brees seems to love playing Tampa Bay. He posted 23.68 points against them back in Week 9. And that was in Tampa. Can you imagine what he might do to the Bucs in the cushy confines of the Superdome where we know Brees always seems to play better? Coming off a solid 265 passing yards and two TDs against the Bears, Brees should have an absolute field day on his home turf on Sunday.
Safe Running Back Divisional Round Pick
Cam Akers, Rams at Packers (DK $5700, FD $7000)
Sean McVay is not going to get into a shoot-out against Aaron Rodgers in cold Green Bay when his quarterback is Jared Goff (or especially if Blake Bortles has to come on in relief). We should expect a heavy dose of Akers. I would be shocked if he doesn't get at least 20 carries and he might even exceed 30.
And he's been on a serious tear lately.
Last week in his first playoff game, Akers finished with 176 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown. Since Week 12, Akers is averaging 17.1 PPR points per game in that span. He's also somewhat affordable. He's priced outside of the top three RBs, but he actually has the best matchup. The Packers allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to RBs this season, the worst mark of any team left in the playoffs. I will be having plenty of Akers shares this week and so should you.
High Risk/Reward Running Back Divisional Round Pick
Kareem Hunt, Browns at Chiefs (DK $4800, FD $6200)
I don't see Hunt getting more than the two touchdowns he scored last week. But I wouldn't be surprised if he matches that figure and has easily more than 75 combined yards. Hunt is a versatile talent, meaning he should be utilized regardless of game flow. But it is worth noting that this game has an over/under of 55 points, meaning Hunt should see plenty of targets.
But I foresee Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski slow-playing this week and keeping the ball out of Kansas City's hands as much as possible. So I'd expect a ton of action with the Browns RBs. The Chiefs finished the regular season near the bottom (25th) in terms of preventing fantasy points to RBs. Yes, they were resting a handful of starters, but Kansas City allowed the Chargers to roll for 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Week 17 alone. They also allowed nearly 2,000 total rushing yards during the regular season. So the Chiefs' run defense basically looked like they were playing Derrick Henry nearly every week. Hunt will share the workload with Nick Chubb, but he should still be very busy, whether Cleveland is ahead or behind.
Safe Wide Receiver Divisional Round Pick
Michael Thomas, Saints vs. Buccaneers (DK $6900, FD $7200)
Tyreek Hill might actually be the better choice. However, I'd rather roster Travis Kelce than Hill (more on that later). So I'll take the savings and roster the player that was often the first WR off the board in fantasy drafts this summer. Getting Thomas this week at more than 15 percent cheaper than some of the top options is a value you can't pass up.
Thomas is coming off of a rock-solid game last week. He grabbed five passes for more than 70 yards and a touchdown. And that was against the Bears. This week Thomas faces a Tampa Bay secondary that gave up 300 passing yards last week to Washington. I like what I saw from Taylor Heinekie, but he's not quite at the level of Drew Brees. The Bucs couldn't stop Washington's top two targets, who combined for nearly 180 receiving yards. Thomas is one of the easiest plays this week.
High Risk/Reward Receiver Divisional Round Pick
Antonio Brown, Buccaneers at Saints (DK $4500, FD $6400)
Brown really hasn't done much this season. Through 14 weeks, Brown and Michael Thomas had combined for zero touchdowns. He hadn't even sniffed the vicinity of a hundred-yard game. However, have you seen what Brown has accomplished in the last four weeks? He has had at least double-digit fantasy points each of the last four weeks. He has scored a TD each of those weeks, including two scores in a bonanza of DFS points he had the last week of the regular season.
Brown might be the third WR on his own team's depth chart, but you wouldn't know it!
Safe Tight End Divisional Round Pick
Travis Kelce, Chiefs vs. Browns (DK $7800, FD $8500)
Let's start with the matchup. Cleveland got burned by a TE for a touchdown 10 times this year. That's the fourth-worst rate in the league. Only the Jets gave up more fantasy points to TEs this year. As if you really need another reason to play Kelce though, right?
Okay, yes, he's between 30 and 50 percent more expensive than the next option. But he's also posting twice the amount of fantasy points per game. Even if we don't consider the positional disparity, Kelce is still likely to out-produce Tyreek Hill. Kelce is Kansas City's leader in targets (145), catches (105), and receiving yards (1,416). He's surpassed 17,4 FD points 10 times this season. He's snagged a TD in six of his last eight games. He's also seen 10 or more targets in all but one of those games as well. If you want to pivot in a GPP, depending on the size, fine. But Kelce is an absolute must play in all cash games.
High Risk/Reward Tight End Divisional Round Pick
Dawson Knox, Bills vs. Ravens (DK $3100, FD $5000)
Can he score again? Of course he can! After all, Knox has caught four touchdown passes since late November (Week 12), a span of seven games. The Ravens gave up more than 12 fantasy points per week to the tight end position this season, which was right around the mid-point for the league. They have historically struggled to contain TEs. I'd play Travis Kelce or maybe even Mark Andrews, but if you're looking for a high risk/high reward play at TE, Knox is the pick.
Safe Defense/Special Teams (DST) Divisional Round Pick
Rams at Packers (DK $2600, FD $3800)
If you failed to listen to me and played the Steelers instead of the Bills last week, I'm sorry for you. Okay, I'm not. But after last week's success in this space, if you're going to ignore a single recommendation this week, this is the one to ignore. Because here's the honest truth – there are no good or "safe" DST options this week. The better the defense is coming into this week, the better the offense they are facing. Okay, there are exceptions like Cleveland, who is not one of the better defenses and taking on arguably the league's best offense. But there are zero reasons to play the Browns.
But I can give you 53 reasons to play the Rams, as in an NFC-high 53 sacks. Let's suppose the Packers put up 30-plus points on the Rams. I don't think they will incidentally. But suppose they do. Having averaged more than four sacks a game that alone should enable the Rams to provide you with positive points. The "safe move" is to spend down this week because unless one of these eight squads scores a touchdown, you're not going to see a whole lot of points for your DST.
High Risk/Reward Defense/Special Teams (DST) Divisional Round Pick
Bills vs. Ravens (DK $2900, FD $3600)
Hard to overlook the fact that Buffalo is facing last year's NFL MVP who is playing some decent ball right now. But here's the thing, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have been far more mistake-prone this year than last. Meanwhile for the Bills, coordinator Leslie Frazier's defense had one of the better second halves of the 2020 season. From Weeks 9-16, they allowed under 222 passing and 110 rushing yards per game while picking off eight passes and limiting quarterbacks to an 80.9 passer rating.
Jackson has already said he hopes this is not his first snow game as he's never played in those types of conditions in his career. And guess what, there is snow in the forecast for Buffalo this weekend. Could we see the Bills' defense keep up their momentum into the AFC Championship Game?
Good luck with your Divisional Round DFS picks!
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.