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DraftKings Power Pivots: NFL DFS - Conference Championships

Hi RotoBallers! Thanks for joining me here at Power Pivots for the Conference Championship games! Here we are...four teams, two games, a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line. The stakes don't get much higher for NFL players and their organizations. From a DFS perspective we couldn't ask for much more, as four of this season's best offenses are still in action. DraftKings is trying to keep our attention on this short slate with their NFL $2M Conference Special a GPP with a $20 buy-in that pays $300k to first place.

In order to have a shot at taking down a tournament like that, we will need to think outside the box. This is always true in large-field GPPs, but is especially important on a two-game slate such as this one. Let's take a look at this weekend's matchups and try to find some viable pivot options. As I mention every week, ownership considerations should come at the end of your weekly research process. Ownership projections change throughout the week, and I highly recommend that you refer back to this column before finalizing your lineups. I will update ownership projections and add injury notes with additional strategy thoughts on Saturdays.

All ownership projections in this article are courtesy of the awesome folks at UFCollective. They provide the most accurate ownership projections that I have found in the DFS industry and now offer their content directly to the public. It is a premium product that is worth every penny and available here. They offer NFL, NBA, and MLB content for both DraftKings and FanDuel. You can follow them on Twitter @UFCollective.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


QB CHALK: Patrick Mahomes ($6,600)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 35%

POWER PIVOT: Jared Goff ($5,400)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 22%

I never have to remove Patrick Mahomes from the "QB Chalk" header in this article! The KC gunslinger is once again projected to be the most popular DFS QB option this weekend. As always...Mahomes is a terrific play and I won't fault you for rolling with him. However, if you are attempting to gain leverage in a large-field GPP, there is some viability to a Mahomes fade.

There isn't a "bad" play in the bunch this weekend. We're talking about two of the greatest to ever play the position in Tom Brady and Drew Brees, not to mention two of the most exciting young players in the league in Mahomes and Jared Goff. There also isn't a "bad" matchup when any of these QBs are concerned. It's not hard to envision both games turning into shootouts.

While all four signal callers are in good spots, I'm most interested in pivoting to L.A.'s Goff. The rising star is facing a true funnel defense in the Saints. New Orleans has a suffocating run defense. They ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed per carry this season and allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league this season. The Saints face a tall task against L.A.'s tremendous offensive line, but New Orleans has already been successful in slowing down the Rams rushing attack once this season. When these teams met in Week 9 of the regular season, the Saints held star RB Todd Gurley to just 68 yards rushing, one of his worst outings of the year.

In that Week 9 matchup the Rams were forced to turn to Goff due to their inability to run the ball. It resulted in a huge outing for the Cal product. Goff racked up nearly 400 yards passing and three TDs against the Saints. It wouldn't be surprising to see a similar scenario unfold this Sunday. The Rams will attempt to establish the run, but will more than likely be forced to throw the ball either due to ineffectiveness or due to their own leaky defense allowing New Orleans to score easily. While the Saints are stout against the run, they are near the bottom of the league in yards allowed per pass, ranking 29th on the season. Despite the presence of Marshon Lattimore, this New Orleans secondary has some beatable weak spots that L.A.'s excellent receiving corps can take advantage of.

Goff's matchup is a favorable one and despite playing on the road he will at least be in the comfort of a dome, while Brady and Mahomes will be squaring off in a very frigid Arrowhead Stadium. His volume has been down recently, but I expect his workload to spike in this one and wouldn't be surprised to see 35-plus pass attempts. Goff offers what passes for salary relief on this slate and is the cheapest starting QB available this week.


RB CHALK: Alvin Kamara ($6,500)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 66%

POWER PIVOT: Sony Michel ($5,600)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 14%

It's pretty hard to look down the board when we have RBs like Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley at our disposal. While both of those stars have a chance to shine, we aren't without other viable options at the position.

Trying to play "running back roulette" with the New England Patriots has been a huge point of frustration for fantasy players over the years. This season hasn't been much different than the past, but the Patriots do have a legitimate between-the-tackles back in rookie Sony Michel. This Chiefs defense has been very susceptible to runs up the middle (and pretty much anywhere else) and we know how adept Bill Belichick is at finding and exploiting the opposing team's weaknesses.

I look for the Patriots to lean on Michel in this game for two reasons: 1.) KC is HORRIBLE at defending the run, allowing the second-most yards per carry in the NFL this season, with a run defense DVOA that ranks dead last in the league. 2.) They want to keep Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs high-octane offense off the field.

We have seen Michel perform well when given the opportunity. He responded well to a heavy workload last weekend against the Chargers, racking up 129 yards and 3 TDs on 24 carries. In games that Michel has received 20 or more carries (five games) he is averaging 22.56 DK points. When these two teams met way back in Week 6 of the regular season, Michel had 24 carries for 106 yards and 2 TDs.

While James White will play a big role in the passing game, I look for New England to try everything to get Michel going early. If the Pats can keep this one close (it's only a three-point spread) Michel should reach his magic mark of 20 carries.


WR CHALK: Michael Thomas ($8,200)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 75%

POWER PIVOT: Brandin Cooks ($5,300)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 16%

It certainly appears as though Michael Thomas will be THE chalk play of this slate. Thomas is currently projected to garner an absolutely massive 75% ownership share. While the Saints receiver is an unbelievably talented player, any time we see a player projected to be this popular I'm very interested in a GPP fade.

On the flip side of the ownership coin, we have L.A.'s Brandin Cooks. The Rams receiver is currently projected to garner only a 15% ownership share, by far the lowest among this weekend's "elite tier" WRs. He's even projected to be less than popular than players like Ted Ginn Jr. and Sammy Watkins. This lack of interest in Cooks is probably due to a couple of factors...he will see lots of Marshon Lattimore and that's not a matchup we usually want to go out of our way to target. He's also kind of the forgotten man in a Rams offense that focuses so much on Todd Gurley and to a lesser extent Robert Woods.

While Cooks doesn't usually see as much volume on the perimeter as Woods gets in the coveted slot role, he possesses more "big play" potential than his running mate. I don't often consider Cooks for my lineups during the regular season because he's a bit too "boom or bust" for my style of play, but there is a lot to be said for his upside on this two-game slate. We've already discussed how the Saints defense funnels opposing offenses to the pass, which should help to raise Cooks' floor this week.

The "Lattimore factor" is definitely something to consider, but it's not reason enough to totally discount Cooks. In L.A.'s previous matchup against the Saints in Week 9, Cooks managed just fine, catching six passes for 114 yards and a TD. New Orleans has been beatable downfield (Cooks' specialty) and this pass defense is 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per pass.

I'd be somewhat surprised if Cooks' ownership projections don't rise as we get closer to game time. If he continues to be projected the SEVENTH-HIGHEST OWNED WR on the slate, I'll be all-in.


TE CHALK: Travis Kelce ($7,100)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 57%

POWER PIVOT: Rob Gronkowski ($4,100)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 19%

There's not a lot to like at the TE position this week. It pretty much comes down to O.G. Gronk or Gronk 2.0, Travis Kelce. The KC TE is $3k more expensive and expected to garner almost triple the ownership.

I'll be the first to admit that Rob Gronkowski is just a shell of his former self at this point. While he might not possess the explosiveness that he once did, I believe Gronk can still be effective in certain situations. Sunday's matchup with the Chiefs qualifies as one of those situations. KC has struggled mightily against opposing TEs, allowing more TDs to the position than any team in the league. This is a matchup that Gronkowski should be able to take advantage of, even his current form.

In addition to his injuries, Gronk has been faced with difficult matchups and low volume throughout the latter portion of the season. He's only seen five or more targets three times since Week 12 which resulted in the following lines: 3/56/1, 2/21/0, 8/107/1.

This will be Gronkowski's best matchup in over a month and the Pats will have no reason to hold anything back in this game. Gronk may not be able to do as many keg stands as he once could, but the guy still knows how to play football. He's a huge X-Factor this Sunday.


D/ST CHALK: New Orleans Saints ($2,700)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 45%

POWER PIVOT: Los Angeles Rams ($2,300)

Projected DraftKings Ownership: 14%

We've known all season that the Rams have all the pieces in place to be a good defense...they just haven't been for some reason. Their stats are ugly (32nd in yards allowed per carry, 24th in yards allowed per pass), but sometimes I'm willing to throw stats out the window in a one-game do-or-die situation, especially when you have a player like Aaron Donald on your side.

The Rams are in a tough spot, there's no doubt about that, but there isn't a defense playing this weekend that isn't. Despite New Orleans' talent on the offensive side of the ball and perceived scoring prowess, they've actually been sputtering a bit offensively. The Saints have only posted more than 21 points in a game twice since Week 13 of the regular season, once at home against Pittsburgh and once on the road against Tampa Bay.

It's not a spot we feel great about targeting, but the price is right and the projected ownership offers us some serious GPP leverage.

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