The NFL season continues with the NFL Playoffs Conference Championship Round and a full slate of NFL DFS action provided by DraftKings and FanDuel. This piece will examine the NFL DFS slate early in the week to find potential NFL DFS picks that will return the most value. Based on the salaries released by both DraftKings and FanDuel, we will go over some of the best Conference Championship Round NFL DFS picks, but keep an eye on the news as the week progresses. A value play early in the week could turn into a bust chalk play due to injury or COVID-related illness and ruin your lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel. The best way to stay plugged in for all the news and notes throughout the week is by catching all the Awesemo NFL DFS Strategy and Picks shows on the Awesemo YouTube Channel.
Conference Championship Round NFL DFS Preview
Patrick Mahomes, CIN vs. KC ($7,400 DraftKings)
The premier quarterback on the Conference Championship slate, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are seven-point favorites over the Cincinnati Bengals in a game with a 54.5-point total. Implied for 30.75 points themselves, the Chiefs are simply a cut above the other teams on this slate. After a late-season slump, Mahomes has absolutely erupted to begin the playoffs with 404 yards against Pittsburgh and 378 yards against Buffalo last week. Cincinnati ranks 19th in passing yards allowed per attempt, creating a neutral environment for Mahomes. However, he continues to complete over 75% of his passes for over nine yards per attempt so far in the playoffs. Even as the most expensive quarterback, there is a chance that Mahomes comes in under-owned.
Joe Burrow, CIN vs. KC ($6,600 DraftKings)
Another player experiencing a late-season surge, Joe Burrow has 525, 446, 244, and 348 passing yards in these last four games. From a game environment perspective, Cincinnati is still implied for 23.75-points, despite being touchdown underdogs to Kansas City. On the year, Kansas City ranked 26th in yards per pass attempt allowed and they lost Tyrann Mathieu to injury last week. While Kansas City’s pass rush presents a tough matchup for Burrow, the Bengals have shown an ability to overcome these deficiencies in the past. For DFS purposes, the shootout potential in this game keeps Burrow live for tournaments.
Matthew Stafford, SF vs. LAR ($6,300 DraftKings)
After struggling a little bit to close out the season, Matthew Stafford bounced back against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round with 366 passing yards and three scores. Through most of the year, Stafford has played excellent football, completing 67.2% of his passes for 8.1 yards per attempt. This includes eight games above 300 yards in the Rams’ pass-heavy offense. In the NFC Championship, the Rams remain 3.5-point favorites in a game with a 46.5-point total. The Rams have already lost to the 49ers twice this year, but home-field advantage should come into play. In their most recent game, Stafford threw for 238 yards, three scores and a pair of interceptions, which he will look to best here. Stafford provides a solid floor for those looking to pay down at quarterback.
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF vs. LAR ($5,400 DraftKings)
A distant fourth option at quarterback this weekend, Jimmy Garoppolo offers a salary-saving option only. Garoppolo has been playing hurt down the stretch and the 49ers have reduced their pass attempts as a result. Garoppolo has 19 and 25 attempts in each of the last two games and will likely require severe negative game script here to coax out a ceiling. Making matters worse, San Francisco has the lowest implied team total on the slate at 21.5-points. Positively, Los Angeles continues to play with a banged up secondary, potentially providing Garoppolo a matchup advantage in an otherwise underwhelming game environment.
Joe Mixon, CIN vs. KC ($6,800 DraftKings)
One of the more interesting running back slates in recent memory, both pay-up options enter the slate as underdogs. Joe Mixon leads the group in terms of pricing, but Cincinnati is also the biggest underdog. Fortunately, that hasn’t mattered much for Mixon, who has recently taken on a larger role in the passing game. Mixon has at least five targets in four straight games for Cincinnati, while also dominating the backfield in terms of carries. Cheaper volume can be found on this slate, but Mixon presents an interesting and potentially contrarian pay-up option at the running back position.
Elijah Mitchell, SF vs. LAR ($5,900 DraftKings)
With San Francisco reducing their pass attempts at the end of the year, Elijah Mitchell has received a consistent workload. The sixth-round rookie has at least 17 carries in six straight games, eclipsing 20 in five of those six. He has also seen decent pass game work when trailing, including four targets against the Packers last week. However, Mitchell does run the risk of ceding opportunity to Deebo Samuel, who continues to rotate between wide receiver and running back. Also playing as an underdog, Mitchell simply brings risks that Mixon does not. Even so, he is a volume-based play here in the 49ers’ run-heavy scheme.
Jerick McKinnon, CIN vs. KC ($5,100 DraftKings)
The most interesting situation to monitor throughout the week, Kansas City’s backfield remains in flux. Darrel Williams missed the Chief’s last game, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned from injured reserve to handle seven carries and two targets. Edwards-Helaire still played behind Jerick McKinnon, who received ten carries and seven targets himself. McKinnon couldn’t get much going as a rusher, but his 54 receiving yards contributed to a productive fantasy outing. Edwards-Helaire was more effective as a pure rusher, but McKinnon’s pass-catching role continues to stand out for Kansas City. Ultimately, both backs can be used with a slight preference towards McKinnon based on the pass catching.
Cam Akers, SF vs. LAR ($5,000 DraftKings)
Arguably the top price-adjusted running back on the slate, Cam Akers finally received a feature back workload in his third game removed from his preseason Achilles tear. Against the Buccaneers, Akers carried 24 times for an inefficient 48 yards, while adding 20 receiving yards on three targets. Efficient for now, Los Angeles continues to slam Akers into the back of their depleted offensive line. As 3.5-point favorites, Akers does not need to be efficient with his current workload. Based on volume, he should be the chalkiest running back on the Conference Championship DFS slate.
Cooper Kupp, SF vs. LAR ($8,800 DraftKings)
Continuing his historic season, Cooper Kupp squashed his volume concerns with nine receptions for 183 receiving yards and a score on 11 targets against Tampa Bay last week. Kupp had received exactly seven targets in the Rams’ three previous games, making his eruption a welcomed sight. On the year, Kupp tallied a 31.7% target share and a 32.4% air yards share in the Los Angeles offense. With only two games below 95 yards, Kupp is still too cheap for his projected offensive role and efficiency.
Tyreek Hill, CIN vs. KC ($7,000 DraftKings)
Still wildly underpriced for his role on offense, Tyreek Hill stands out as perhaps the top price adjusted receiver ahead of Kupp, Deebo Samuel, and Ja’Marr Chase. Last week, Hill caught 11 of 13 targets for 150 receiving yards and a touchdown in vintage Hill fashion. On the year, Hill finished with a 26.2% target share and a 36.6% air yards share in Kansas City’s offense. With Samuel playing running back and Kupp nearly $2,000 more expensive, grabbing Hill in this elite game environment makes sense across DFS platforms here.
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Tee Higgins, CIN vs. KC ($5,700 DraftKings)
Still $1,000 cheaper than Chase, Tee Higgins continues to provide a similar ceiling in Cincinnati’s offense. On the year, Higgins has a 23.9% target share and a 35% air yards share. For reference, Chase has a 23.7% target share and a 37.2% air yards share. While these two players often trade big game, Higgins enters this contest fresh off a seven-catch, 96-yard game after seeing nine targets. With Kansas City banged up in the secondary, defending Higgins, Chase, and even Tyler Boyd creates a unique problem. With similar volume to Chase, saving the $1k with Higgins makes a lot of sense in low-risk contests.
Byron Pringle, CIN vs. KC ($4,300 DraftKings)
Unlike previous seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs have actually received some production from their ancillary receivers in 2021. In particular, Byron Pringle has taken on a larger role to close out the season. Pringle now has at least seven targets in four of Kansas City’s last five games, including both playoff performances. While the yardage has not always been there, Pringle’s scoring expectation is higher than any other punt receiver behind Kansas City’s slate-leading implied team total. Pringle has three touchdowns combined in Kansas City’s last two games, making him the top value receiver on the board.
Travis Kelce, CIN vs. KC ($6,5000 DraftKings)
Simply a cut above the other tight ends on this slate, Travis Kelce deserves to be the most expensive player at the position. On the year, Kelce has a 23% target share and a 23.3% air yards share. On a two-game slate, his volume at the position is unmatched. Last week, Kelce bested the Bills defense multiple times, finishing with eight catches for 96 yards on nine targets. Especially with George Kittle playing a reduced role, this slate simply does not have alternatives with the same ceiling as Kelce in this game environment.
George Kittle, SF vs. LAR ($5,000 DraftKings)
As mentioned above, Kittle has played a reduced role for the 49ers down the stretch this year. Kittle has displayed a similar ceiling to Kelce multiple times this year. However, he doesn’t have more than seven targets in any individual game dating back to Week 14. The 49ers are underdogs in this spot, so a negative game script could coax elevated pass attempts out of Garoppolo. However, Kittle looks much riskier than Kelce on this slate based on recent performance. For tournaments, Kittle’s ceiling is still worth chasing at low ownership.
Tyler Higbee, SF vs. LAR ($3,700 DraftKings)
Surprisingly, Tyler Higbee has consistently received more volume than Kittle to close out the year. Aside from a four-target game in the Wildcard Round, Higbee has at least six targets in each of his last five games. Against the Buccaneers last week, Higbee caught four of seven targets for 51 yards. Higbee certainly has not displayed the same ceiling as Kittle this year, but he has actually provided the more secure floor lately. For those paying down at the position, Higbee looks like the preferred option.
C.J. Uzomah, CIN vs. KC ($3,400 DraftKings)
Closing out the tight end position, C.J. Uzomah has played an increased role for Cincinnati down the stretch. An afterthought to begin the year, Uzomah has at least six targets in four straight games for Cincinnati. Like Higbee, Uzomah is no better than third on the target distribution with Higgins and Chase clearly ahead of him. However, Uzomah remains involved as a touchdown-dependent punt tight end on a two-game slate. Due to his recent involvement, Uzomah looks like a solid pivot off Higbee in tournaments.
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