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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Jennifer Piacenti

NFL Conference Championship Weekend DFS Playbook

The NFL’s conference championship games kick off on Sunday, and it’s time to set your DFS lineups.

I’ve broken down some players to target at each salary point including a few in the last section that will have lower ownership. With only four games on the slate, it will be more difficult to differentiate yourself in a large GPP. Don’t be afraid to throw a dart or two.

The AFC matchup will be a fun one with Patrick Mahomes hosting Joe Burrow at Arrowhead. By now you have heard all the story lines. Burrow is 3-0 vs. Mahomes, and Mahomes is dealing with an ankle injury. What’s important here is the way these teams matchup. For Cincinnati’s side, the success will likely come through the air vs. a Chiefs defense that allowed the most passing TDs this year during the regular season (33). They also were generous to RBs who catch -- and Cincinnati certainly has that ability. Yes, K.C. has a strong pass-rush, but Burrow has proven he can remain unfazed. For Kansas City, much of it revolves around Mahomes himself. Mahomes practiced in full on Wednesday, however, I am still fading him in this article simply because of his price point. Mahomes remains the most pricy QB on the slate, and the Bengals limited him to only 223 passing yards when he was healthy in Week 13. The Bengals have been tough defensively, but you could throw a dart at any of the receivers if you just want to be different for a large GPP. I’m avoiding the K.C. running backs at their price points vs. a Cincinnati team that allowed the seventh-fewest DFS points to the position this year.

The NFC matchup features two tough defenses, and two run-first offense -- but only one offense has the “Michael Jordan” of the NFL (insert slight eye-roll here). Jalen Hurts is the only QB I am willing to use in this game, but he won’t have it super easy vs. the tough San Francisco defense. He should, however, be able to get something going through the air as the Niners pass defense can be beat (see CeeDee Lamb last weekend). Any of Hurts’s pass-catchers are in play, but I am fading Eagles runners as San Francisco allowed only 77 ground yards per game this season. Even Hurts could struggle to get going on the ground. On the other side of this matchup, Brock Purdy will be facing the league’s toughest pass defense, and James Bradberry and Darius Slay will likely be able to limit Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Of course, Samuel could be used in any number of ways, but in general I am avoiding San Francisco receivers except Geoge Kittle (more on that below).

Now, with all of that said, let’s break it down.

Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Spend Up

QB Jalen Hurts (PHI)
He’s in a category of his own. His rushing ability always gives him the potential to have a big game, though San Francisco will likely be a tougher test than New York last weekend.

RB Christian McCaffrey (SF)
McCaffrey is a beast. Period. Be aware he has been dealing with a calf injury, but even still he could be worth the splurge. It’s hard to attack the Eagles through the air, but they are susceptible on the ground. Plus, Purdy may need to check down more often vs. an Eagles team that has pressures opposing QBs a league-leading 25.6% of the time this season.

WR Ja’Marr Chase (CIN)
Besides being an elite receiver averaging 87 receiving yards per game this season, he’s also likely to find the end zone as Burrow’s favorite target, facing a K.C. defense that allowed a league-leading 33 passing TDs during the regular season. Chase had eight catches for 97 yards when these two teams squared off in Week 13.

WR A.J. Brown (PHI)
He saw only three targets for 33 yards last week. He was not happy about it. You know what that means.

He’s due.

Brown had a 28.7% target share (fourth in the NFL) for the Eagles this year and an average of 88 yards per game.

TE Travis Kelce (KC)
He’s Patrick Mahomes’s No. 1 guy, and last week he had 14 catches for 98 yards and two scores with an injured QB. Don’t overthink it.

Salary Savers

QB Joe Burrow (QB)
How in the world Burrow is the second-least expensive QB this week is beyond me. Don’t pass on the value for the QB that finished as the DFS QB2 when he faced this same Chiefs team in Week 13.

RB Joe Mixon (RB)
Why is Burrow so successful? Because the Bengals aren’t afraid to use the run game. Mixon went for 105 ground yards and a TD last week vs. a tough Bills defense while also adding a pair of catches for another 18 yards through the air. During the regular season, the Chiefs surrendered the fourth-most receiving yards and four receiving TDs to running backs. Mixon could be used in any number of ways on Sunday.

WR DeVonta Smith (WR)
Both A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith should see targets on Sunday, and the price is right for the wideout that finished with the ninth-most receiving yards this season facing a team that allowed the sixth-most receiving yards to opposing wideouts.

WR Tee Higgins (WR)
Higgins or Chase? Well, if you pass on the spend-up play of Chase, you could certainly get lucky with Higgins, who logged more than 1,000 yards and seven TDs during the regular season. Higgins found the end zone when these two teams met in Week 13.

WR Deebo Samuel (WR)
I don’t think Samuel will have a big day as a receiver, but I do think Shanahan will get creative with him on the ground. At this mid-range price-point, he’s worth a start.

TE George Kittle (TE)
Purdy loves to target George Kittle, and with pressure coming from the Eagles, Kittle could be in for a big day. Last week, Kittle led all San Francisco receivers with five catches for 95 yards.

Take a Shot

RB Samaje Perine (CIN)
Remember what I said about running backs that catch vs. the Chiefs? In Week 13 with no Mixon, Perine caught six passes for 49 yards while also adding another 106 on the ground. Zac Taylor could use Perine in any number of ways on Sunday.

RB Elijah Mitchell (SF)
The way to beat Philadelphia is on the ground. With CMC banged up, we could see more Elijah Mitchell vs. the team with the softest remaining run defense this weekend.

WR Tyler Boyd (WR)
Joe Burrow could target any receiver at any time vs. the Kansas City defense. Sure, Higgins and Chase have seen more action, but the talented slot receiver is still worth a dart throw at this salary price-point.

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