DraftKings NFL: Conference Championship Picks
DraftKings NFL: Conference Championship Picks

This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.

The rare two-game slate is here with a pair of excellent championship game matchups on tap Sunday. Given the size of the slate and the softer pricing structure of the player pool, the approach with this week's column will be slightly different. Instead of outlining targets for cash-game lineups and tournament builds, I'm looking at each team and providing ideas for how to best combine players in an attempt to maximize your returns.

Here's a rundown of the Implied Totals based on the point spread and over/under total for each of the Main Slate matchups:

Getting combos from each of the four teams is a relatively easy thing to do this week, and winning a big-field tournament will likely require something bold – last week's Slant winner used Tom Brady, Sony Michel and James White together.

Saints

There are a few ways to go about using the Saints on DraftKings this weekend. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are the two best one-off plays, and they can be combined in the same lineup as part of a Saints' stack since Kamara accrues a large portion of his value with carries out of the backfield, while effectively serving as the Saints' No. 2 receiver in terms of target share most weeks (both players went off in the Week 9 matchup with the Rams, as Thomas posted 42.1 DraftKings points while Kamara finished with 33.6). The Rams were without Aqib Talib in their first meeting against the Saints, but his presence isn't nearly enough to fade a high-volume extremely efficient WR1 like Thomas. The significantly higher price on Thomas this week might also steer more investments in the Saints' offense toward Kamara.

Ownership rates at quarterback should be spread around enough, making it a relatively moot point despite limited options. Brees' production typically slides when the Saints run the ball really well and/or finish drives on the ground with Kamara and Mark Ingram, so the optimal approach with Brees in lineups is to go elsewhere at running back unless you're expecting a similar script to that first meeting, when Brees delivered his third-highest output of the season (34.4 DK points).

Outside of the big three, Ted Ginn's target share in the two games he's played since returning in Week 16 puts him significantly ahead of Tre'Quan Smith, at least in terms of floor output. In a lineup that is omitting Kamara and Brees, Ingram is viable, facing a Rams defense that has allowed more than 5.0 YPC this season, and in a shootout situation where the Saints are favored.

Ben Watson's last good game of the season occurred in the Week 9 matchup against the Saints (4-62-1), but he's a big-field tournament flier like Smith and Keith Kirkwood at this point.

The Saints' defense is an interesting play being at home, and facing the weakest quarterback on the board in Jared Goff, who has posted a 6:6 TD:INT over his last six games. Don't read into the home/road splits for the unit, as they're capable of getting pressure with their pass rush (49 sacks in 17 games) and capitalizing on mistakes if Goff struggles.

Rams

Goff posted his third-best game of the season against the Saints in their first meeting back in Week 9. He's played well in one game since (Week 11 against the Chiefs), but that post-bye stretch included a road trip to Chicago and two games at the end of the regular season without Todd Gurley in the backfield. Nevertheless, he's got a chance to check in as the lowest-owned QB of the week (still, 15-20 percent) and a matchup against a Saints' pass defense that was generous to opposing passers all season.

The Rams spotted something on tape with the positioning of the Cowboys' line, and crafted a gameplan to exploit that weakness accordingly. Gurley was contained in the Rams' first meeting with the Saints, but he still racked up 79 yards from scrimmage and a TD with six receptions (19.9 DK points) in his third-worst game of the season. It would hardly be surprising if the Rams had to scale back C.J. Anderson's usage in this matchup, since the Saints' have been one of the league's toughest run defense all season.

I was wrong about Robert Woods entering 2018, and the ongoing debate between Woods and Brandin Cooks each week evolved into more of a cash vs. GPP approach (Woods in the former, Cooks in the latter). For the season, Cooks topped 20 DraftKings points on six occasions, and one of those games was the first matchup with his former team (6-114-1). Woods was slightly less productive in that game (5-71-0, nine targets), and more often than not, one of the Rams' top two receivers having a huge game comes at the expense of the other, which is not entirely surprising. Given the aforementioned quality of the Saints' run defense, I might be inclined to pair Woods and Cooks in the same lineup for tournament purposes, though it appears that Cooks and Woods are the most mispriced receivers on the board this week.

Josh Reynolds, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee are the other Rams worth considering, but Everett's limited role the last two weeks (three total targets) after he received 20 looks from Week 14-16 makes him a high-risk cheap option at tight end if you're paying up everywhere else. Since Cooper Kupp tore his ACL in Week 10, Everett and Reynolds have been vying for the extra red-zone targets that have been available. Since Week 11, Reynolds has an 11-6 edge in that area, making him the more appealing play if you're avoiding Cooks and Woods. As Higbee goes, the Rams have him on the field a lot, but while the snap counts occasionally favor him over Everett, Everett runs a route on 94 percent of his passing-down snaps, while Higbee only runs a route 59 percent of the time.

Patriots

Like the Rams, the Chiefs' biggest defensive weakness is on the ground. Another heavy dose of Sony Michel is likely on tap, as long as the game script holds up to the expectations of the point spread, and James White has the potential to wreak havoc on the Chiefs' linebackers in coverage. For the second consecutive week, I have no reservations about playing them both in the same tournament lineup, since White might function as the Patriots' second pass-catching option behind Julian Edelman. Last week's win over the Chargers marked the second time this season that Michel and White topped 20 DraftKings points in the same game.

Edelman has been targeted 10-plus times in four of his last five games, and once again looks like a steady option with a reasonably easy path to 3x at $6,600. With or without Brady, Edelman is one of the easiest receivers to lock in this week.

The "everyone is down on the Patriots" narrative feels overplayed at this point in the season, but as a team, everyone outside of Edelman might be lower-owned than they should be on a slate this small. Tom Brady has thrown three or more TD passes in six games this season. His floor is higher than Jared Goff's in any given week, and his ceiling might be equal. Brady might check in with a similar ownership rate to Goff, but it might not matter because the pricing this week makes it fairly easy to do whatever you want with your lineups.

It's strange to think of Rob Gronkowski as a secondary option, but that seems to be the current state of things as he's been targeted 11 times in the last four games. He's still on the field a lot to run block, and as we saw in Week 14 in Miami (before the missed tackle on the last play), he's still capable of the occasional monster game (8-107-1). Less than $4,000, Phillip Dorsett interests me slightly more than Chris Hogan this week, but either can be used as part of a New England stack, or as a tournament one-off play if you're looking for cheap exposure to Brady as the Pats passing game without leaning on Edelman for it.

Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes failed to a throw a TD pass for the first time since Week 5 in the Chiefs' win over the Colts last weekend. (As was the case in Week 5, Mahomes rushed for a score Saturday). The 32-point effort he had in New England during his first meeting with the Pats was one of seven occasions that he's topped 30 DraftKings points this season. With a full complement of healthy pass catchers available this week, Mahomes should be the most heavily used QB on the board this week, and for good reason, though the potential for an "arctic blast" might scare owners away if things take a turn for the worst between now and Sunday evening. If the weather looks like it will be OK (cold, but not frigid, and with minimal winds), consider it a good thing, since Mahomes will draw some interest away from Drew Brees indoors at home.

Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have four games this season in which they've both topped 20 DraftKings points. Both players topped 30 in the Game of the Decade against the Rams in Week 11. It's more likely that one player goes off and the other simply plays well, but there is enough to go around in the Chiefs' offense that you can justify using them both together. My expectation is that most people forced to chose one or the other will lean on Kelce, since the tight-end pool lacks star power otherwise, and there are plenty of viable receivers to use in place of Hill. Based on that belief, I would lean toward Hill in a larger share of tournament lineups if you're going the multi-entry route.

If the last four games are any indication, Damien Williams is still criminally underpriced at $6,400. The attention will one again be focused on Mahomes, Hill and Kelce. Making Williams your only exposure to the Chiefs' offense could be a shrewd tactic.

Sammy Watkins might be the more common cheap path to Kansas City exposure. He didn't appear rusty in his return against the Colts last week, turning eight targets into six catches for 62 yards. If you're going down the Williams over Mahomes-Hill-Kelce path, it might be wise to sneak in Watkins as one of your receivers given his low price ($4,000) and potential to do a lot of damage if he sees a similar number of targets Sunday.

If you can't quite find the $2,700 to use the Saints, the Chiefs are my preferred fallback option from the four defenses available this weekend.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Derek VanRiper plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: RotoWireDVR, DraftKings: BentleysChair, Yahoo: d.vanriper,.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Derek VanRiper
Derek is the Director of Media for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire's shows on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210).
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