Gaming the Game: Conference Championships

Renee Miller looks at how all the key NFL DFS plays stack up according to three metrics for your Championship Weekend lineups

| 2 years ago

Gaming the Game: Conference Championships

Tom Brady

It’s the last chance for NFL DFS for a long time. Hopefully the DFS content at PFF has helped you this season, and maybe you’re already playing or looking ahead to NBA or even MLB DFS.

I know that writing this column has often helped me decide between apparently similar players for my DraftKings lineups. So, one more time, let’s see how the available players at each position stack up with respect to matchup, volume production, and efficiency.

As usual, the player with the best available matchup (fantasy points allowed to the position per ESPN) gets the most points for that category, the highest regular season volume in terms of fantasy points gets the most, and the most efficient (points per opportunity per PFF) gets the most. The total number of points available differs based on the number of players being compared. The players are listed left to right in the order of highest to lowest DraftKings salary.


This is a studly QB selection for Conference Championship Week, as it should be. DraftKings hasn’t done too much to help us choose either, as far as pricing. Tom Brady sits atop the list at $8500, Andrew Luck is $8200, Russell Wilson $8000, and Aaron Rodgers $7800.

At first glance above, the gut reaction is to fade Brady with the worst efficiency and season long volume and the highest price tag. Rodgers appears to be the runaway bargain this week. While these graphs are useful in comparing players to each other, it’s important to remember that all four of these guys are top 10 QB, so while Brady is the worst of the four, he’s not bad. He’s also on fire coming off a 367 yard, 3 TD game. Fade Brady at home vs the Colts at your own risk.

Rodgers is hurt, and I think it’s far worse than anyone is letting on. Yes, he’ll play again this weekend, but it won’t be nearly at full strength. It will be against the league’s stingiest defense across the board, allowing the fewest fantasy points to QB and WR, the second fewest to RB. That said, I’m not all out on Rodgers. Seattle can be beaten, and they can be beaten at home. If that is to happen, Rodgers and the passing game is how to do it. I’ll be using mostly Brady in cash game lineups, and Rodgers/Wilson in GPP lineups.

It’s the last article of the year, so don’t think I’m going to waste the opportunity to say “I love Russell Wilson” one more time. I do, and I will be using him some this weekend. I think he has a very safe floor and decent upside (not as much as Brady or Rodgers).

Luck is the most bland option of the four for me. He’s been winning games, but he hasn’t done that much for fantasy owners in the past five weeks. I maintain that the Colts pass game just isn’t clicking seamlessly down the stretch here. Denver more gave up the game last week than the Colts snatched it…I think the Patriots defense will be an insurmountable obstacle for Luck and the Colts and we could see a lot of mistakes. There could be some garbage time points, but with so few options this week, that’s not something I want to bank on.

Running Back

I’m putting Marshawn Lynch in all my lineups. Yes, I used him a fair amount last week, so I know what 9.5 fpts on DraftKings feels like. This is a time to look past recency bias and go with the most solid producer in the best situation. I want to spend on TE/WR this week (see below), so with my RB2 spot, I’ve been looking at Shane Vereen. Yes, I did this last week also and I know: 8.5 fpts. Vereen is still the RB with the 5th most receptions this season, with higher volume and higher efficiency than LaGarrette Blount.

It’s January 15. None of us can claim to predict the Bill Belichick run game effectively, but people going all in on Blount for the second week of the playoffs in a row, well….good luck. Last week he gained one yard on three attempts (it’s bad when you have to spell the numbers out) and for that his price went UP $200. Maybe he will have the Jonas Gray game, but I don’t think so. One thing about Belichick, he’s not about to wear the same dress to the dance twice.

I’m extremely wary of using Eddie Lacy against the Seahawks at home. In his favor, Lacy could turn out to be a difference maker with Rodgers still gimpy, and he does come at a $1300 discount compared to Lynch.  Against him, the Seahawks have allowed just one 100 yard rusher (DeMarco Murray) and four total TDs at home this season. They are playing stronger than ever right now, making me prefer Lynch that much more.

The middle guy, Dan Herron, is an intriguing option. Even thought the Pats give up the second fewest fantasy points to RB of this bunch, Herron has been as much or more of a threat in the passing game…especially in the playoffs. New England has given up six receiving TDs to RB, tied for second most in the league. I prefer Herron to Vereen by quite a bit if I can find the extra $1600.


Wide Receiver

Randall Cobb has outpriced Jordy Nelson. Wow. Nelson had a couple of bad drops and a couple of bad passes thrown his way last week en route to his second worst performance of the season. It’s only a $100 price difference, but still. I view Cobb and Nelson as I do Rodgers: suitable for a GPP only. Green Bay has demonstrated their ability to find the open man against good defenses all along, and that man has been Davante Adams. He’s the Packer I’m comfortable using for near minimum salary in cash games.

As you may have gleaned from my QB discussion above, I’m interested in the Patriots passing game, and along with Brady, I’d like to slot in Julian Edelman as my WR1. That’s proving difficult to do, as we’ll see later. I think Edelman is the safest play from NE, with Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell representing more risky options…only one is likely to exceed value.

TY Hilton is clearly the top option for the Colts, even though I don’t think that’s saying a ton this week. The NE secondary of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, and Devin McCourty has been more than impressive. In fact, I’m almost all in on the Patriots defense this week (I need to have some Seattle too).

Speaking of Seattle, their receivers get the best matchup with Green Bay’s secondary, but as we always say, who exactly are the Seattle receivers again? Both Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are low ceiling guys, but they’re priced to reflect that. Kearse saved a lot of my Lynch containing-lineups last week! Both Baldwin and Kearse are fine plays this weekend.

Tight End

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you’re using Rob Gronkowski. There are all the reasons to do it, none of the reasons to not do it. There’s not a single player I’d rather spend the salary dollars on than Gronkowski this week. Dwayne Allen is a slightly better option than Coby Fleener again, based on price and efficiency, though they’ll continute to split targets. I’m not chasing TDs from Luke Willson, Richard Rodgers, or Andrew Quarless.

Sample Lineup:

As you can see, it’s not too hard to fit in all the players I discussed above, with the exception of Edelman. I would have had to really skimp at RB2 or FLEX to fit him in this lineup. The choice I struggled with was between a WR/RB combo of LaFell/Vereen or Amendola/Herron.

Going against the all-Patriots side, I’m reluctant to stack more than three players from a single team and I reasoned that with the action Amendola has seen lately (8, 4, and 5 catches on 24 targets in the last three games), he and Herron represent a higher ceiling, higher floor pair than Vereen/LaFell.

That’s it for this final edition for the 2014-15 season. Enjoy the games this weekend and good luck in all your DFS pursuits in the offseason.

Renee Miller is a neuroscientist and fantasy sports enthusiast. She's played NBA and NFL DFS since 2011/12 and added MLB to her addiction this summer. Recently, Renee combined her knowledge of the brain with her love of football in an eBook, "Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is your brain sabotaging your team?". You can find the book on her website She'll be writing this weekly NFL DFS strategy column.

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