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The A List at DFS Academy: NFL Divisional Round DFS

NFL Divisional Round DFS

Wild Card Weekend is over, and six teams have been sent packing. As a result, we are now down to eight teams, significantly reducing our DFS player pool for NFL Divisional Round over the weekend. Because of this, some of the typical rules of engagement start to fade. 

DFS Cash Strategy

Typically when playing Cash, we want to avoid specific roster construction, such as having both running backs in a matchup, playing a defense against other players in our lineup, and double-stacking receivers. The reason behind this is mainly because each of these strategies can hamper our floor in different ways. 

However, as the player pool shrinks, it becomes harder to follow these rules. So while I don’t recommend starting a lineup with five players in the same matchup, we can allow ourselves to break some of these rules based on the situation. 

For example, this week, Jerick McKinnon and Travis Etienne are both in a great spot. I typically wouldn’t consider playing both, but with the value, they present and other running backs having less favorable matchups, I’ll at least consider it. 

Additionally, I usually would avoid starting both McKinnon and Travis Kelce because if the Kansas City Chiefs fail for some reason, your Cash lineup is sunk. But this week, they are two of the best options at their respective positions, so I may break this rule to maximize my floor. 

Again, don’t go overboard on breaking your rules, but give yourself some extra space to avoid constricting your lineup.

While this article focuses primarily on Cash lineups, I’ve added some tournament takeaways, as a reduced player pool means increased opportunity for volatility in tournaments. In addition, I think tournament players can play unique lineups this week in several ways.

If you’re just exploring tournaments for the first time, I recommend focusing on small-field contests to increase your odds of cashing. And once the contest begins, go in and see which players were heavily rostered so that you can get feedback on your roster build.  Here are my other tips for DFS Tournament play this weekend.

DFS Tournaments

First, be willing to pay up for the best players. In particular, start Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Many players will target the likes of Daniel Jones and Trevor Lawrence as the price point of Mahomes, and Allen will scare them away. Lean into this and be willing to spend big and punt elsewhere.

Second, create unique stacks with your starting quarterbacks. For example, don’t just play a Mahomes-Kelce stack and get out of there. Instead, maybe stack Mahomes with Kelce and Smith-Schuster, who people are down on this week as his receiving line has been bet down. Or tell yourself a story that this is the week MVS finally pops off and wins you a tournament. Further, you could explore pivoting away from Kelce and stacking with two other Kansas City pass-catchers, assuming that Kelce fails. 

Third, get unique with your player count from specific teams. Again, this is a place where we need to tread lightly. Don’t just play contrarian players for the sake of being contrarian. But while most DFS players will likely max out at three starters from a single team, consider throwing in a fourth. 

For example, playing Mahomes, Kelce, McKinnon, and Isiah Pacheco could be an interesting build. Tell yourself the story that Mahomes throws three touchdowns in the first half, two of which go to Kelce and one to McKinnon. Then, Kansas City runs the clock out with Pacheco, who finishes with 100 yards and a touchdown. Combined, those four could easily get you 100 to 120 points, giving you a significant advantage on the field with a unique build. 

As always, my DMs are open for feedback and questions, both on Twitter and Instagram.

Cash is in session.

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NFL Divisional Round DFS

NFL Divisional Round DFS

Teacher’s Pet

Patrick Mahomes (DraftKings: $8,000 / FanDuel: $9,200)

There are so many reasons to love Patrick Mahomes this weekend, starting with the fact that he is the best quarterback. He has been playing at a Hall of Fame level, and now it’s time for him to expand his resume. 

The oddsmakers also favor Mahomes, as Kansas City has a 31-implied point total, the highest on the slate. In addition, Kansas City likes to score points through the air, so expect Mahomes to have a big day. Further, because of his price point, I expect folks to avoid him in tournament settings, which makes a Mahomes-Travis Kelce stack an appealing option.

Honor Roll

Josh Allen (DraftKings: $7,800 / FanDuel: $9,000)

Playing only Sunday contests? Look no further than Josh Allen. I know some may feel hesitant to trust him after the Bills struggled to put away Miami last week, but come on, this is Josh Allen. He still hit nearly 30 DraftKings points last week while recording three turnovers. 

But what intrigues me most about Allen this week is that he hasn’t run the ball a lot recently. In other words, he’s continued to have significant fantasy upside while running less. But looking at his game splits, he has more rushing attempts in closer games than when they blow out their opponent. With them playing the Bengals, I expect Buffalo to unlock Allen’s rushing ability as they chart their pathway to the AFC Conference Championship. 

Joe Mixon (DraftKings: $6,500 / FanDuel: $7,700)

The running back position is the most difficult for me to pin down this week. This is mainly because the playoff teams are all relatively good against running backs. Since Week 14, Jacksonville has allowed the most points to running backs among playoff teams, averaging 21.7 points per game. In seventh is Cincinnati, who averaged 18.5 points. With just a three-point spread across the field, I’m focusing on targeting the best and most utilized running backs.

The outlier here is Dallas, who have given up the fewest points in that span at 16.7 points allowed. To that end, I’m fading Christian McCaffrey in Cash, partly because Elijah Mitchell takes touches away from him. Instead, I’m turning to Joe Mixon, who has a solid price point and continues to be quietly consistent, particularly in the passing game. With his receiving upside, Mixon will stay relevant even if the Bengals end up playing from behind. 

Deebo Samuel (DraftKings: $5,900 / FanDuel: $7,100)

How is Deebo Samuel priced below $6,000 on DraftKings? Particularly after he put up 31.5 DraftKings in the Wild Card round. While it may be easy to think that the Cowboys just shut down Tom Brady, and we should avoid opposing pass games, not so fast. Brady still put up over 350 pass yards. Further, the Cowboys have given up the most points of all playoff teams to receivers since Week 14. And we were reminded last week, Deebo is always a threat to take it to the house. 

Christian Kirk (DraftKings: $6,000 / FanDuel: $7,600)

I can make a case for either Christian Kirk or Zay Jones in cash lineups, as both have been heavily targeted by Trevor Lawrence. Because of this, I’m comfortable simply taking the cheaper option of the two. But if you’re looking for floor and ceiling, Kirk is the way to go, making him an ideal tournament player. When these two teams played in Week 10, Kirk had his best game of the season, scoring 34.5 DraftKings points. Look for the Jaguars to keep him involved as they aim to pick apart the Kansas City secondary. 

Dallas Goedert (DraftKings: $4,500 / FanDuel: $6,300)

If you aren’t starting Travis Kelce this weekend, Dallas Goedert is in an incredible spot. With Adoree’ Jackson shadowing more down the stretch, A.J. Brown will likely draw him in coverage. This will open up opportunities for Goedert and DeVonta Smith. But further, the Giants have given up the third most points among playoff teams to tight ends. Plus, did you watch T.J. Hockenson dominate the Giants last week? 

As a side note, I also like the spot Evan Engram is in, but for roster construction purposes, I will likely avoid him to diversify the games I’m targeting for Cash. 

NFL Divisional Round DFSCheck the Chalkboard

Travis Kelce (DraftKings: $7,700 / FanDuel: $8,000)

To me, it’s Travis Kelce or bust this week. When it comes to the playoffs, I expect teams to target their best players. But further, the Jaguars have averaged over 20 DraftKings points allowed to opposing tight ends since Week 14. Most recently, they were shredded by Gerald Everett, who recorded six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. With due respect, Travis Kelce is better than Everett. Play Travis Kelce. 

Participation Grade

Tyler Boyd (DraftKings: $4,000 / FanDuel: $5,600)

Typically this would be the point where I draw names of New York Giants receivers from a hat and go with that. But, unfortunately, the Giants are playing the Eagles, which scares me away from most of their receivers. So instead, I’m looking at Tyler Boyd for a punt play, as he is a frequent Red Zone threat and brings home enough targets to provide a safe floor. If you decide not to start Travis Kelce, you may not need to find value at receiver, but if you do, look no further than Tyler Boyd. 

NFL Divisional Round DFS

Back of the Classroom Studs

Trevor Lawrence (DraftKings: $6,000 / FanDuel: $7,600)

While I love this spot for Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, my favorite Cash quarterback this week is Trevor Lawrence. First off, his price allows you to spend up elsewhere, notably at tight end and running back. Further, the Jaguars being underdogs in the game with the highest total line bodes well for his upside. Finally, we saw that Lawrence can cook on offense, which he’ll need to do to keep up with Mahomes. 

Miles Sanders (DraftKings: $5,700 / FanDuel: $7,200)

I know; I can’t believe I’m returning to Miles Sanders. After he failed me in Week 15, I was done. But he is priced criminally low this week, particularly what happened when Philadelphia played the Giants.

No, not the last time when nothing mattered. I mean the first time when Sanders put up 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns. With the Eagles’ offensive line getting some extra rest, I expect them to come out cooking, giving Sanders an easy pathway to tripling his value.

Jerick McKinnon (DraftKings: $6,000 / FanDuel: $7,000)

Apparently, touchdown regression doesn’t exist when your quarterback is the MVP. Every week I feel like Jerrick McKinnon’s touchdown streak is bound to end. And yet, every week, he proves me wrong. But at this point, I’m not even worried about his touchdowns. His passing game usage is enough for me to feel safe starting him in my lineup. That said, I’d avoid him in tournaments and gain leverage by playing Isiah Pacheco instead.

Travis Etienne (DraftKings: $6,400 / FanDuel: $6,800)

Honestly, this pick is primarily because I try to provide four running back options, and Kansas City is the remaining defense that scares me the least against running backs. Kansas City poses a good matchup for Etienne, as he primarily does his damage outside the tackles, which means he will avoid Chris Jones. While I like other running backs more this week, I will likely have Etienne in my cash lineup to prevent overloading on Kansas City players. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster (DraftKings: $5,100 / FanDuel: $6,600)

With the Kansas City Chiefs having an extra week to prepare for the playoffs, anything is on the table. This is the most creative offense in the league, finding ways to dice up defenses with their host of weapons. JuJu Smith-Schuster has been very quiet down the stretch, which is precisely why I think it’s time for him to pop. 

So no, I’m not particularly targeting him in Cash lineups. If you don’t like your other options, I think he’s cheap enough that you can, but I like him as a double stack in tournaments. I also am intrigued by playing him and not Kelce to gain leverage on people starting Kelce. So whatever direction you want to take it, Smith-Schuster should be in your player pool this weekend.

Sunday Only: Dawson Knox (DraftKings: $3,800 / FanDuel: $5,800)

The Sunday slate leaves plenty to be desired at tight end. George Kittle is a tough option for me, as the Cowboys have averaged fewer than 10 DraftKings points to tight ends since Week 14. So instead, I’ll punt with Dawson Knox, who is a consistent Red Zone target and has a favorable matchup against the Bengals, who give up 16 DraftKings points per game to tight ends. 

New York Giants (DraftKings: $2,500 / FanDuel: $3,000)

We now have the eight best teams in the league playing each other. Because of this, there’s seemingly no defense I feel good about because most opposing offenses scare me. So when punting at defense, I’m picking the cheapest team that scares me the least. The Giants have shown some occasional splash on defense, and they play their divisional rivals tough. So I’m betting on a slower-paced game and for the Giants to get a couple of sacks. I particularly like them in tournaments since most people will want to play the Cowboys or 49ers.

San Francisco 49ers (DraftKings: $3,300 / FanDuel: $4,500)

The best-remaining defense is the San Francisco 49ers, so this is an easy Cash pick. The primary issue is their price point, but if you pivot away from Travis Kelce, you can likely fit them in your lineup. The big warning here, though, is to fade the 49ers in tournaments. People still overplay the chalk defense in tournaments, and they almost never hit. So instead, play the 49ers in Cash if you can afford them and avoid them elsewhere. 

Report Card

Scoring System

  • A: Scored over three times their price
  • B: Scored over two times their price
  • C: Matched their price
  • F: Scored lower than their price


Player Price Points Grade
Travis Etienne $6,300 16.1 B
Tom Brady $5,800 26.04 A
Saquon Barkley $7,900 27.9 A
Tyler Lockett $6,000 9.9 C
Chris Godwin $6,400 18.5 B
Noah Fant $3,100 2.1 F
Justin Herbert $6,600 16.12 B
Christian McCaffrey $8,900 24.6 B
Isaiah Hodgins $4,100 27.5 A
Daniel Jones $5,600 30.84 A
Joe Mixon $6,800 8.6 C
Joshua Palmer $5,300 5.1 F
Gerald Everett $3,900 25.9 A
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $2,600 0 F
Baltimore Ravens $2,500 7 B
Los Angeles Chargers $3,100 11 A
Hayden Hurst $3,100 7.5 B
Overall $88,000 264.7 A
Season Long $1,464,400 3,828.2 B


Player Price Points Grade
Travis Etienne $7,100 12.6 C
Tom Brady $6,800 23.04 A
Saquon Barkley $8,800 25.4 B
Tyler Lockett $7,400 6.9 F
Chris Godwin $7,200 13.5 C
Noah Fant $5,100 1.6 F
Justin Herbert $7,800 16.12 B
Christian McCaffrey $9,800 20.6 B
Isaiah Hodgins $6,400 20.5 A
Daniel Jones $7,400 27.84 A
Joe Mixon $7,900 7.1 F
Joshua Palmer $6,500 4.1 F
Gerald Everett $5,600 19.9 A
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $4,000 0 F
Baltimore Ravens $3,600 7 C
Los Angeles Chargers $5,900 11 C
Hayden Hurst $5,100 4.5 F
Overall $112,400 221.7 C
Season Long $1,784,300 3324.9 C

While our content slows down in the postseason, keep an eye out for our weekly betting and DFS articles here.