Every year there’s something very bittersweet about the arrival of the Superbowl. This is what everything has built towards, months of speculation, and in a few short days, that process will begin all over again, with no meaningful games for seven months. In the DFS world, this will be the last games I play until pre-season. Personally, I don’t play any other sports but I’ve included a list at the bottom of this article of other analysts who cover DFS for other sports if you’re looking to scratch an itch. For me, this will be the last chance to boost the bankroll before sitting and waiting for Draftkings to launch their best ball product for the season, or praying that Underdog opens up to the U.K. I’ll be revamping my website in the coming weeks and starting to post out best ball content for the upcoming season, as well commissioning a few best ball leagues on Sleeper (DM for more info).
Before we dive into the breakdown, I just want to say a huge thank you to all who have read the column, shared their opinions and retweeted or hit the like buttons on Twitter. That stuff really does make a difference for me and has helped this column triple its audience in the space of a year. Neither myself or Adam (@Touchdowntips check out his game preview at Touchdowntips.com) make money from this site, it’s purely about the joy of seeing people win and it’s been incredible seeing multiple readers hit four and five-figure returns this year. For me personally, I didn’t hit the highs I’d hoped, but I’m rolling into best ball season with a healthy balance built on the back of some good times and having survived some bad times. Now is an excellent time to reflect on your own DFS season, what worked and what didn’t and how you can do better next season. It’s important not to leave this for too long or you’ll forget and wander into the next season without making any changes. I felt this year I narrowed down my process to a much more intelligent and repeatable method than in previous years, but whilst last year my more relaxed methods led me to two four-figure wins, this year I was more consistent making a profit, but struggling to hit the top percentiles. Ultimately, I’m okay with that. We play a game of small edges and winning the big prizes is a tough ask. As we approach the 2022 season I’ll have more columns on my process and how I approach DFS, and you can find me on Twitter under my new username @NFL_TStrack, but for now, let’s get to the big game!
Super Bowl Showdown
We have a $20 entry, top 3 get paid – https://www.draftkings.co.uk/draft/contest/123660803 contest and the usual $5 contest running this week as well https://www.draftkings.co.uk/contest/draftteam/123671414
As I mentioned last week, if you haven’t played the Showdown Captain mode before, it’s very different to the usual classic option on Draftkings. Whilst on the main slate you might build a team entirely around ceiling outcomes, in Showdown it’s not always optimal to do so. Instead, we should be looking to build a lineup that fits a certain narrative the best. For instance, if you believe Joe Burrow throws two pick-sixes in the first ten minutes, you could take the Rams running backs and DST as they ease into a run-first control the clock game script. Pair that with Bengals pass catchers who will be forced into a pass-first game script.
I’m not a fan of playing the Quarterback in the captain slot normally unless they have a rushing upside and in this game, it feels like the smart move will be the receivers being optimal in that position.
Generally, I try not to build 3-3 lineups (three players from each team), instead, I will build 4-2 or 5-1 lineups. Lineups with two players from the favourite and four from the underdog have been profitable for me this year and the 5-1 onslaughts have equally paid off well at times.
Cody Main is an essential follow for all things related showdown, and there is nobody whose opinion I trust more on this type of game. Take a look at his feed and enjoy the many great nuggets he’s tweeted out lately.
The Super Bowl will attract a large number of casual players and by making small adjustments away from the chalkiest of methods we can increase our chances of taking their money.
Cincinnati Bengals +4.5 @ Los Angeles Rams: 48
The game features an over/under of 48.0 with the Rams favoured by 4.5 points. Implying an outcome of a 21.75 – 26.25 Rams win. Whilst the Rams will be in their home stadium we’ve seen that it’s by no means a given advantage for them and Super Bowl crowds tend to be heavy on neutrals, there for the occasion rather than a die-hard need to support the team. Given the trendiness of the Bengals in recent weeks, it seems very hard to project a large home-field advantage for the Rams, instead, they’ve earned that 4.5 points by being the better team. I hesitate to call the Bengals lucky for getting to the Super Bowl, and that’s not what I’m implying, but if you give up nine sacks to the Titans and then come back to win in overtime from a large deficit you’ve definitely experienced some favourable moments. Whilst Joe Burrow has deservedly picked up plaudits for his leadership and performances, the defence has somewhat been unheralded despite being adaptable and lacking in star names. Without that defence shutting down Patrick Mahomes the Bengals would be at home by now. On the other side of the ball, the Rams have regressed into a timid offence at times of late, with Sean McVay seemingly feeling it necessary to reduce the number of times Matthew Stafford throws the ball. The situation smells strongly of an off-season surgery for Stafford, but for now he soldiers on. The Rams own the obvious mismatch in this contest with the likes of Aaron Donald and Von Miller likely to take up residence on the right side of the line, in an area which even your Gran knows is a problem for the Bengals. This leaves Leonard Floyd free to take on the left side. These two teams lead the league in plays from eleven personnel (3WR, 1TE, 1RB) so we’re presented with a slate of condensed plays, and it will be essential to think outside the box where possible. Whilst people will be drawn to the stud receivers on both sides of the ball, I have a horrible feeling that we’re going to see a lot of first-down rushing attempts and a score that fizzles below our expectations.
Sunday Morning Update
Good morning all, and happy Super Bowl Sunday. Not a huge amount of late news, but it sounds like Darrell Henderson will be active and play some. Whilst Higbee misses out and Blanton will see a large amount of rostership. Brycen Hopkins looks to be going under the radar as a punt and you can see my thoughts on him in the Tight Ends section. If you’re captaining a WR try not to grab too many more pass-catchers from the same team. If one guy is going off, it’s hard for too many others to pay off their price.
As usual, DM’s always open for any questions you have.
Matthew Stafford – $10,800
Stafford has been excellent against the blitz this year and leads the league in yards per attempt when pressured (8.2). It would be a surprise to see the Bengals try and attack him this way, after enjoying success dropping eight players into coverage against the Chiefs. Stafford’s Draftkings success rests largely on McVay letting him throw the ball often and excluding the uncompetitive game against the Cardinals, Stafford has thrown 83 times for 703 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs. So whilst that conservative play-calling from McVay has been infuriating to watch at times, there’s no denying Stafford can still get there if needs be, and even in a low-scoring game like the 20-17 win over the 49ers Stafford posted 24.3 points. Stafford is a fine choice for most types of lineups but I’m not putting him into my Captain slot due to a combination of cost and only three games over the 30 point mark this season.
Joe Burrow – $10,600
The Prince of Ohio has far exceeded most Bengals fans dreams this year when many were just hoping for a full recovery from last years horrific knee injury. Burrow in some ways is a very similar player to Stafford on paper. Much like Stafford, Burrow excels against the blitz and under pressure, and with Donald, Miller and Floyd heading his way it won’t be surprising to see him get rid of the ball quickly. Burrow’s average time to throw of 2.3 seconds was only bettered by four quarterbacks in the regular season and despite constantly being under pressure it did little to rattle the league leader in completion rate (70.4%). Much like the Rams, the only way that Burrow doesn’t have a fantasy worthy day is if Zac Taylor focuses instead on the running game, which in truth could be an exploitable area. Since the Week 16 and 17 demolitions of Baltimore and Kansas City where Burrow put up 971 yards through the air, he has averaged 280 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game. The 300-yard three-point bonus seems unlikely when you consider the Rams have allowed just six quarterbacks to achieve it all season. In Draftkings points that has averaged out to 17.1 points per game. Much like Stafford, Burrow is a great play, but again I won’t be using him in the captain slot due to the combination of cost and a likely middling ceiling.
Cooper Kupp ($11,600) is the highest-priced player on the slate and it makes perfect sense for him to be so. Kupp leads the league in 15+ yard receptions with nine more than second-placed Ja’Maar Chase. Time and time again Kupp has blown open a slate with his ceiling games this season, with 40% of his games seeing him go over 30 points, and 30% of his games featuring a score over 35 points. We’re witnessing a season for the history books and given how Kupp has performed against tough competition there is no reason to fade him here, where he faces the team that has allowed the most receptions to slot receivers this year. Kupp is my number one choice for captain and whilst that choice will be chalky there are ways to get interesting with it. Pairing Kupp with just Stafford and then four Bengals will be underplayed. Behind Kupp, Odell Beckham ($8400) feels very nicely priced and has established himself firmly ahead of Van Jefferson ($5200) in recent weeks seeing 23 targets to Van Jefferson’s nine, and out-scoring Van Jefferson 53.2-14.5 in DK points. In Van Jefferson’s last seven games he has one double-digit performance and zero touchdowns. With all that said, Van Jefferson saw 126 air yards in the Championship game, including three of 20+ yards. It won’t take a lot to pay off with those kind of targets. If I was to build a lineup with Van Jefferson in it would probably not feature OBJ, trying to gain leverage away from a more chalky play and hope than Van Jefferson catches a long touchdown and OBJ is held to a low game. Ben Skowronek ($600) looks likely to be the lowest priced Rams punt play that catches ownership. Skowronek is the default WR4 on a team that doesn’t use a WR4 and has 21 targets, 11 catches and 133 yards on the season, surpassing four DK points on two occasions. Skowronek’s role is a special team one and it’s nothing more than a punt play to open up salary. Slightly cheaper is Brandon Powell ($200) who has usurped Skowronek from punt returns and successfully returned one for a 61-yard touchdown against Minnesota. If you want to include the Rams DST in a lineup you could do worse than pairing them with Powell who will not only open up salary, but in the rare event he returns a punt for a touchdown you will accumulate those points on both him as an individual and the Rams DST, in a unicorn play that the casuals will be unaware of.
Only one group of three receivers in the NFL all average above 10 yards per target this season and in case you haven’t guessed, it’s the Bengals trio. Ja’Maar Chase ($10,400) will be looking to cap off one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time with a Super Bowl ring and he’s an interesting choice for MVP with his ability to break open the game. Through the playoffs, Chase has averaged 20.9 DK points per game and Zac Taylor has been intelligent with his use of Chase, moving him into the backfield to check coverages and when the downfield passing game is struggling Chase retreats closer to the line of scrimmage to pick up short passes and see what he can open up with yards after the catch. Whilst people might love to see Jalen Ramsey shadow Chase that isn’t how Ramsey has played this year and whilst we may see it in certain situations, I’d expect Chase to see a variety of coverage depending on where he lines up on the field. Much like Cooper Kupp, Chase is an obvious captain choice for both me and the field. I like build’s with Chase at captain, Mixon or Higgins behind him and then four Rams. Or trying to fit a Bengals 5-1 onslaught with just Cooper Kupp. Tee Higgins ($7600) has come back to life in the back half of the season after a slightly quieter start than Chase’s explosive early games and frequently has performed almost as well as Chase in DK points. It would be a bold decision to fade Chase completely for Higgins but if you’re entering multiple lineups we can make an argument that the Rams shut down Chase and Higgins finds the end zone twice to absorb all the points. That’s the kind of galaxy brain thinking we have to be doing for this slate. Tyler Boyd ($5400) is a more interesting play than Van Jefferson at a similar price range. In the Conference Championship preview, I talked about the Rams frequently giving up yardage in the middle of the field near to the line of scrimmage. This is an area where Tyler Boyd typically runs his routes from the slot and whilst Boyd hasn’t exceeded 26 yards per game in the playoffs I’m expecting that trend to be bucked here and for him to put up enough catches in this PPR format that he’s useful to us. Boyd has now caught 77 consecutive balls without a drop, he’s a reliable player who’s slid down the pecking order. It’s hard to envision a lineup with all three of these receivers maxing out enough to take down the slate, but I can happily mix and match all three. No other Bengals receivers have caught a pass in several weeks and even on this very condensed slate where being different can be a massive edge, it’s very difficult to put any conviction in players with next to zero catches who don’t run routes. Trent Taylor ($1000) scored a two-point conversion last week and returns kicks sometimes, but he’s not particularly good at it and for $1000 it feels a bit rich for a longshot play.
By now you’re probably familiar with Cam Akers ($6400) disappointing playoff numbers, his 2.6 yards per carry and PFF grade of 39.7 ranks dead last amongst backs with 50+ carries across the whole season. Whilst his story is incredible, his output is deeply disappointing and with Darrell Henderson ($1600) returning from I.R it further muddies that value Akers had. Akers will no doubt continue to see plenty of work, and Mcvay has run the ball at a higher rate in the playoffs, seeing their neutral pass rate drop from 57% in the regular season down to 54%. Perhaps Akers can shine after having an extra week of rest, particularly if the Bengals play coverage against the Rams in the same way they did to the Chiefs, dropping eight and allowing completions near the line of scrimmage. I’m quite wary of the return of Henderson who whilst no doubt a lesser player was reliable within this system through the season and averaged a healthy 4.6 YPC. It’s also impossible to forget Sony Michel ($5000) who has played well enough at times to warrant touches. At Henderson’s cost I’d be most tempted to play him and hope that he breaks a long play or scores a touchdown, and if we want to get weird, pairing Henderson with Michel creates a lineup that is unlikely to be duplicated often. Michel also is a fine play on his own, as he’s frequently been used to run down the clock or in goal-line situations.
On the opposing side of the game, Joe Mixon ($9600) has a far more secure hold on the ground games workload and catches the fifth-highest salary of the slate to reflect that. Across three playoff games, Mixon has averaged 17.3 rushing attempts and this feels like a game that the Bengals should look to use him early and often to counteract the Rams intimidating pass-rush. The Rams did a good job against the 49ers holding Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell to a combined 18-46, and haven’t allowed more than 60 rushing yards in a playoff game. That figure is slightly tilted by the fact that the Rams jumped out to big leads against the Cardinals and the Buccanneers, forcing those teams to concentrate on the passing game. If the Bengals can keep things tight early on, I’m expecting Mixon to be used frequently and not see high Captain ownership, with people preferring the receivers and quarterbacks as the more obvious choices. Samaje Perine ($2400) caught the eye with a 41-yard receiving touchdown against the Chiefs and then returned to form by putting up two yards on two more catches. His floor is as low as it comes, but if you buy my hypothetical timeline where the Bengals try to lean on the run pairing Mixon and Perine with Chase at captain still leaves you room for Kupp and OBJ. Chris Evans ($400) is as thin a play as you will find, typically seeing less than one rush attempt and one target per game. He feels like the type of player people will jam in to save salary but in the lineups, I’ve built I’ve never felt the need, or the narrative to put him in.
A weird coincidence has seen both of our top options here pick up similar lower leg injuries in the conference games and their availability will shape the way the slate and ownership plays out more than any other position.
Tyler Higbee ($4800) was placed on I.R on Friday, ruling him out of the Super Bowl. Kendall Blanton ($4600) will step into his role and will take on a Bengals defence that has just given up 10/95/1 to Travis Kelce, two weeks after allowing Darren Waller 12 targets. The Bengals have struggled against the position all season, ranking 29th across the regular season versus tight ends. Blanton has seen his price jump by $3600, and after last week’s 10.7 point performance it feels like a good thing. If Blanton had been left in the $1000 range it would have been heavily tempting chalk that shaped the slate. Blanton hauled in each of his five targets and accumulated 57 yards, one week after scoring a touchdown in a goal-line play against the Buccs. For all the reasons Higbee would have been a good play, so is Blanton and he seems to have the trust of his coaches and teammates with designed plays drawn up for him, including flea-flicker screens and shots to the sideline. Blanton is a fine play, but don’t expect that you’re sneaking him past anyone. Brycen Hopkins ($200) is as cheap a play as you can find and whilst he only has one target and reception this season, the Rams love to play a tight end in almost every package they use and if Blanton can’t cope with every-down role then Hopkins is the only option. All it would take is one catch for ten yards for him to pay off his value and rocket him into optimal lineups.
C.J Uzomah ($4400) has guaranteed the Bengals fans that he won’t miss this game, and I’m not a doctor so will take him at his word. Uzomah left the game against the Chiefs in the first quarter, having seen no targets at that point, but he was coming into that game on the back of four games of strong usage, averaging 6.75 targets per game and having put up back to back games of 50+ yards. The Rams, however, are a top ten defence against the position and if George Kittle hadn’t scored a touchdown in the conference championship then his 2-27 stat line would look a whole lot worse. Drew Sample ($4200) is priced up in case Uzomah can’t play and whilst he caught 45 balls after Uzomah was injured in 2020 he remains a primary blocker and against the Rams, the Bengals will need to utilise him much more in that area to slow down Aaron Donald and company. If Sample had been in the $1000-2000 range we could have made an argument that he could get there with a touchdown after faking a block or similar, but at $4200 we really need him to put up 10-15 points and that isn’t in his bag this season, having just 85 receiving yards on the season and no touchdowns. My main cause for concern with Uzomah is that Sample might be called upon to help block the Rams intimidating defensive line and this would force Uzomah off the field as the Bengals won’t want to take one of their top receivers off.
Evan McPherson ($4000) is a man in form and sweeping the hearts of Bengals fans with that smooth kicking action that has seen him not miss a kick since Week 16 against Baltimore. Through three career playoff games, he averages 16 DK points per game and now will kick in an enclosed stadium with no weather concerns. Given the pop around McPherson, it’s hard to see him not being a popular play this week and his floor certainly makes it attractive.
Matt Gay ($3800) has kicked well in general apart from coming up well short against the Buccanneers on a 47-yard attempt. Against the 49ers his only miss came on a 54-yard attempt. His ceiling seems to be lower than McPherson with the Rams more frequently able to get him into short-yardage situations and happy to rely less on their kicker than perhaps the Bengals do. Gay probably represents a leverage play off McPherson, but it’s not a terribly interesting play to me. The only time I see myself putting Gay into a lineup is with the Rams DST and expecting a low scoring game to be reflected in my lineup choices.
L.A Rams ($3400) will likely be a relatively popular play as people wonder if the Rams can outdo the Titans nine sacks of Joe Burrow, and break the Super Bowl record of seven. So far this season the unit has put up fifteen single-digit performances in Showdown competitions, and five double-digit performances. Whilst being steady in both sacks (2.75/gm) and interceptions (1.15/gm) these count for very little unless the defence turns them into touchdowns, something the Rams DST has been credited with only twice this year. A punt return and a Kyler Murray pick-six. If you’re building a showdown lineup with the narrative that the Rams defence could rack up points, it’s worth tempering the expectations for the defence a little.
Cincinnati Bengals ($3200) lack the star power of the Rams but have become a very adaptable and functional defence who have dealt with a variety of offences intelligently. Matthew Stafford led the league in pick-sixes (4) and the best narrative you can build here is that the Bengals score one and hold him in check. If playing the Bengals DST I would lean towards captaining Joe Mixon and hoping for a slow game that relies on Mixon’s abilities.
Receiver’s at captain makes the most sense to me.
Using OBJ or Higgins might be the move that wins.
Unbalanced builds of 4-2, 2-4, 5-1 are my preferred methods rather than 3-3.
The captain doesn’t necessarily need to be the player you deem has the highest ceiling, if it means you can play other players and have a better overall lineup.
Other DFS follows for different sports
As mentioned at the top I don’t play any other DFS, but these guys are all incredible DFS follows and I know they graft the other sports as hard as the NFL.
Chris Robin – @Detroitbeastie – NHL
Jack Humphrey – @JackHumphreyKM – Golf, MMA.
Kyle Williams – @Betonthegame – NBA
As ever, you can find me on Twitter under my new username @NFL_TStrack, where I’m always happy to answer any questions.