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NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown with Matt Savoca | Conference Championship Slate

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Matt Savoca’s Daily Fantasy Football Matchups Column returns for the Conference Championships of the 2021 NFL Playoffs. In it, he goes through every single game on the Sunday main slate to guide you to the best plays for Yahoo, ESPN, CBS; and your NFL DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel. Let’s dive into the action.

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AFC & NFC Conference Championships NFL DFS Matchups

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (23.75) at Green Bay Packers (27.25)

All Graphs Reflect Last Five Weeks of Data, Click Graphs to Enlarge

Quick-Hitter Game Summary

  • The Buccaneers are arguably the most balanced team left standing, having ranked in the top five in both defensive and offensive per-play efficiency. Tampa Bay’s fourth-ranked offense should have a considerable advantage over Green Bay’s 12th-ranked defense.
  • The Packers and Buccaneers ranked first and second in point differential during the regular season.
  • Aaron Rodgers has been by far the most efficient quarterback in the NFL since Week 14. Unsurprisingly, the Packers have the top-ranked offense in per-play and per-drive efficiency during that span.
  • Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams have the highest salary at their respective positions this weekend, and the Awesemo projections have no problem with fantasy-gamers paying-up for any of these premium options.

NFL DFS Upside Analysis

Regardless of what happens Sunday afternoon, Rodgers is your NFL MVP, and the quarterback efficiency chart below perfectly illustrates Rodgers’ dominance. Rodgers ranks No. 1 among all remaining quarterbacks in per-drive, per-play, and per-pass efficiency. Tom Brady continues to fight father time, performing at a level comparable to Rodgers and Buffalo’s Josh Allen over the last six weeks. Both teams tend to lean on their rushing attacks on early downs, but each quarterback’s efficiency makes up for both teams’ relative lack of aggressiveness on early downs. These two quarterbacks should have no problem combining for 50-plus points.

Passing and Pace

Teams that play faster and pass more than average tend to score more fantasy points. When both teams play aggressively, it often creates a game environment perfect for fantasy scoring. Games have a higher probability of going over their Vegas total as well. Ideally we’re seeking matchups where both teams are in the upper-right quadrant of the chart below (see the chart’s caption for more details).

Conference Championship Game NFC Buccaneers Packers Pace and Passing

The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).

Quarterback Efficiency

Sustained drives in the NFL rely on efficiency at the quarterback position, so I’ve identified my three favorite performance indicators for assessing quarterback performance. The three bar charts below (see the graph’s caption for more detail) represent a quarterback’s per-drive efficiency (left bar chart), per-play efficiency — including rushes/scrambles (center) — and per-pass efficiency (right). Higher rankings from both players indicate a higher likelihood of efficient play, thus a higher probability of fantasy points.

NFL DFS Week Conference Chamionship Game NFC QB Efficiency

The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).

NFL DFS Player Pool Picker

Brady seems like a no-brainer option as the lowest-salary starting quarterback on the slate.  The Packers rank second on the slate in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but Brady ranks second in expected fantasy points per game and shouldn’t have an issue reaching salary-based expectations. It might be jarring to see Leonard Fournette as the second-highest-salary running back, but Fournette ranks best on the slate in expected fantasy points per game over the last six weeks. Ronald Jones will certainly eat into Fournette’s workload, but Jones is still battling a leg injury, giving Fournette a solid floor as well as a high ceiling. Even though Rodgers had by far his worst game of the season against this same Buccaneers defense in Week 6, according to the table below, Rodgers looks like one of the best values on the slate, ranking second lowest in salary at his position. Plus, the Buccaneers somewhat surprisingly ranked last in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Adams, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, have decent expected projections and have high odds of meeting salary-based expectations.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
TB Tom Brady, QB #4 #3 #2 #2 22.5 Fpts (QB3)
TB Chris Godwin, WR #5 #6 #4 #1 14.5 Fpts (WR6)
TB Mike Evans, WR #4 #4 #5 #2 15.5 Fpts (WR5)
TB Leonard Fournette, RB #2 #1 #1 #2 18.5 Fpts (RB1)
TB Antonio Brown, WR #6 #5 #6 #4 16 Fpts (WR4)
TB Ronald Jones II, RB #5 #3 #4 #2 13 Fpts (RB2)

Green Bay Packers NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
GB Aaron Rodgers, QB #3 #2 #4 #4 26 Fpts (QB1)
GB Davante Adams, WR #1 #2 #2 #4 24.5 Fpts (WR2)
GB Aaron Jones, RB #1 #2 #3 #1 13 Fpts (RB2)
GB Allen Lazard, WR #8 #11 #11 #4 8.5 Fpts (WR10)
GB Robert Tonyan, TE #2 #2 #4 #2 10 Fpts (TE2)

Unless participating in a large-field tournament, the players above are the players that fantasy gamers should be focusing on in their daily fantasy football lineups. For each player, it’s easy to compare their DraftKings main-slate salary ranking (in column 3) to their per-game fantasy scoring (in column 4). A player’s opportunity is measured by expected fantasy points, (column 5), which is curated by PFF.  Defense vs. Position (column 6) is an extremely helpful position-specific and player group-specific metric (for example, the metric delineates between primary wide receiver vs. secondary wide receivers) that helps determine if an offensive player is likely to be in a position to exceed their expected fantasy points. Higher numbers in the Defense vs. Position column indicate easier matchups for the offense, while numbers closer to one indicate a stout defense against that specific position group. Finally, expected projection (column 7) combines a player’s expected fantasy points with their weekly matchup into one helpful value metric. Apart from the Awesemo projections (which should still carry the most weight in determining player value), expected projection is one of my favorite metrics to help me narrow down my favorite plays of the week. The rankings are always specific to the slate, meaning if a player or team is ranked No. 1 at a specific metric, they may not necessarily be ranked No. 1 in the NFL, but they are for this specific slate.

NFL DFS Skill Position Values: Expected Points

This game features four hyper-productive receivers, led by Adams, who ranks second on the slate (and in the NFL) in expected fantasy points and fantasy points scored per game, but both Evans and Godwin rank in the top six. With the Buccaneers defense struggling against primary wideouts in recent weeks, Adams is still the best play of the bunch. Aaron Jones is a fine play this weekend, but it’s still shocking to see Fournette as both the highest-volume and highest-scoring running back on the slate. Ronald Jones’ injury has helped boost Fournette’s recent production, but Fournette has produced well enough to earn extra touches in this must-win game. Fournette’s projection on Awesemo.com is right in line with salary-based expectations. A.J. Dillon has seen his snap share spike in recent weeks and has been significantly more efficient than fellow backup running back Jamaal Williams. Dillon makes for a quality large-field tournament play this Sunday.

By assigning a value to each play (based on score, down, distance to the goal line, distance to first down, play type, etc.), we can measure not just a player’s workload, but the expected value of that workload using recent league history as a guide. Expected fantasy points should be considered a volume metric. If a player scores more fantasy points (represented by the dots in the bar chart below) than expected, that means the player is either talented or lucky (or both) and may have unsustainable fantasy production based on their usage.

Week Conference Championship Game NFC Buccaneers Packers RB Expected Points

This chart measures Expected Fantasy Points (DraftKings scoring) per Game, indicated by each player’s bar, as well as fantasy points per game, indicated by the dot. If a dot is outside the bar, that means the player is performing above expectation. If the dot is within the bar, that means the player is performing below expectation. It includes injured players in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

 

NFL DFS Week Conference Championship Game NFC Buccaneers Packers WR TE Expected Points

This chart measures Expected Fantasy Points (DraftKings scoring) per Game, indicated by each player’s bar, as well as fantasy points per game, indicated by the dot. If a dot is outside the bar, that means the player is performing above expectation. If the dot is within the bar, that means the player is performing below expectation. It includes injured players in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

NFL DFS Auxiliary Offensive Players for Large-Field Contests

While both Tampa Bay tight ends make for decent large-field tournament plays, neither Rob Gronkowski or Cameron Brate stick out as exciting plays this weekend, as the Packers defense has been excellent over the course of the second half of the season against opposing tight ends. Gronkowski has out-snapped Brate 75%-to-44% during the playoffs, but Brate has nearly double the targets. Williams and Dillon make for solid leverage plays off of Aaron Jones, but they’re all extremely thin plays, as the Tampa Bay defense ranks best on the slate (and second in the NFL) in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to running backs. If looking for a low-salary receiver to pair with Rodgers, first look to Robert Tonyan, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling could be a decent contrarian option as well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
TB Rob Gronkowski, TE 58% 75 #1 MME-only
TB Cameron Brate, TE 36% 67 #1 MME-only
TB Tyler Johnson, WR 18% 0 #4 Look Elsewhere
TB Scotty Miller, WR 20% 24 #4 MME-only

Green Bay Packers NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
GB Jamaal Williams, RB 25% 64 #1 MME-only
GB Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR 60% 71 #1 MME-only
GB Marcedes Lewis, TE 50% 25 #2 MME-only
GB Equanimeous St. Brown, WR 26% 14 #1 Look Elsewhere
GB A.J. Dillon, RB 24% 79 #1 MME-only

In daily fantasy football, depending on the size and type of contest you’re playing, it’s often advantageous to expand your player pool to less-utilized offensive players. In this section, we examine every part-time player’s usage based on playing time, opportunity and defensive matchup. For each player, an Opportunity Score is calculated using position-specific predictive metrics, which are then scaled to number between zero (least valuable) and 100 (most valuable). Scores above 50 tend to indicate starter-level opportunity, while scores over 80 indicate star-level usage. Finally, players are categorized as an NFL DFS value, a mass multi-entry option (MME-only) or a player to avoid altogether.

Final Thoughts

With both teams’ veteran quarterbacks leading top-five offenses, this game likely will come down to defense. The Packers, despite having arguably the best cornerback in the NFL in Jaire Alexander, look to be climbing an uphill battle (at least on paper) in slowing down Tom Brady‘s multitude of weapons in the receiving game. Look for Tampa Bay to play the clock-control game offensively as the Buccaneers aim to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands as much as possible. Rodgers will have to be nearly perfect to keep the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes alive.

Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Packers 27


 

Looking for more NFL DFS picks content? We have loads of articles, data, cheat sheets and more on the Awesemo NFL home page. Just click HERE.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing support@awesemo.com.

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