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NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown with Matt Savoca | Divisional Round Slate

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The best Yahoo NFL Picks for Divisional Sunday Night Football Chiefs vs. Bills single-game contests with expert projections, rankings & ownership

Matt Savoca’s Daily Fantasy Football Matchups Column returns for the Divsional Round of the NFL Playoffs. In it, he goes through every single game on the Saturday-Sunday main slate to guide you to the best plays for your season-long fantasy football lineups on Yahoo, ESPN and CBS; and your NFL DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel. There are four games on tap for the Divisional Round Playoff  slate, so let’s dive into the action.

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Divisional Round NFL DFS Matchups Breakdown

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints


Los Angeles Rams (19.5) at Green Bay Packers (26)

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

Quick-Hitter Game Summary

  • The Rams have the lowest implied total of any team on the slate by a fairly wide margin. Unless this game goes unexpectedly awry for the Packers’ defense, it’s a solid bet that Los Angeles has the lowest amount of total team fantasy production this weekend.
  • Likely MVP Aaron Rodgers ranks No. 1 in the NFC in per-drive and per-pass efficiency since Week 12, but the Rams defense has been No. 1 versus opposing pass offenses during that same span.
  • Jalen Ramsey versus Davante Adams will be must-see TV this weekend. Expect Ramsey to spend a majority of the game attempting to shut down the Packers’ star wideout.
  • Cam Akers ranks second among all running backs on the slate in expected fantasy points per game over the last five weeks.

NFL DFS Upside Analysis

The Packers come into the Divisional Round as one of the slowest-paced teams remaining, and despite Rodgers’ high efficiency on deep attempts this season, at least in neutral situations (and on early-downs), the Packers remain a run-first offense, preferring to play the clock-control game on first and second downs then relying on Rodgers to convert a pass on third. The Rams playoff-team average in both pace of play and early-down pass rate in neutral situations. There’s not much of anything that indicates the Rams want to push the tempo offensively, where at least Rodgers’ absurd per-drive and per-pass efficiency allows the Green Bay offense to stay explosive in spite of conservative play calling. The fact that this is the lowest-total game on the slate appears to be justified through the charts below.

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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).

NFL DFS Picks for DraftKings and FanDUel Daily Fantasy Football Lineups Divisional Round Playoffs

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.

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

Neither of the Rams’ primary passing options, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, look like strong plays at first glance. Kupp is at a slight salary discount, but the Packers have been lights out against wide receivers this season. Akers looks like a solid, yet unspectacular play as the fifth-highest-salary running back on the slate. For the Packers, every core offensive player looks risky compared to salary-based expectations. Adams has an especially difficult matchup on paper. Despite a sky-high ceiling, he’ll be tough to stomach as the highest-salary wideout on the slate.

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Los Angeles Rams NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
LAR Jared Goff, QB #8 #8 #7 #4 12.5 Fpts (QB8)
LAR Cam Akers, RB #5 #3 #2 #3 18.5 Fpts (RB3)
LAR Cooper Kupp, WR #10 #13 #11 #1 11.5 Fpts (WR13)
LAR Robert Woods, WR #7 #14 #8 #4 11.5 Fpts (WR13)

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 #4 #3 #6 #1 20.5 Fpts (QB5)
GB Davante Adams, WR #1 #2 #1 #5 22.5 Fpts (WR2)
GB Aaron Jones, RB #2 #4 #6 #4 14.5 Fpts (RB6)
GB Robert Tonyan, TE #3 #5 #6 #5 9.5 Fpts (TE5)

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.

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NFL DFS Skill Position Values: Expected Points

With the exception of ultra-large-field tournaments, Akers and Aaron Jones are the only running backs fantasy gamers should be considering in this contest. Akers demolishes Jones in the usage department, earning over 20% expected fantasy points per game compared to Jones since Week 14, but Jones has been much more efficient on his touches, making him a quality play despite having the second-highest salary among running backs. Robert Tonyan has relied on touchdown-based efficiency to boost his fantasy production throughout 2020, but he ranks surprisingly high (fifth) among all wideouts in expected fantasy points per game over the last five weeks. Tonyan’s projection is right in line with salary-based expectations.

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.

NFL DFS Picks for DraftKings and FanDUel Daily Fantasy Football Lineups Divisional Round Playoffs

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.

 

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

If the Rams are going to pull off an upset, they’ll almost certainly need points through the air to keep pace with the Packers, making the  Los Angeles secondary weapons, Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, particularly intriguing plays in tournaments this weekend. All three have Awesemo projections that are well-ahead of salary-based expectations. On the Green Bay side of the ball, it’s important to note that Jamaal Williams has only played on 21% team snaps since Week 14 but still receives enough usage as Jones’ change-of-pace back to be considered as a pivot play off of Jones.

Los Angeles Rams NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
LAR Tyler Higbee, TE 82% 79 #1 Value
LAR Josh Reynolds, WR 66% 55 #7 Value
LAR Gerald Everett, TE 67% 71 #1 Value
LAR Malcolm Brown, RB 32% 8 #3 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 Allen Lazard, WR 71% 57 #1 Look Elsewhere
GB Jamaal Williams, RB 21% 60 #4 MME-only
GB Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR 62% 69 #4 MME-only
GB Marcedes Lewis, TE 50% 25 #5 Look Elsewhere
GB Equanimeous St. Brown, WR 1% 10 #4 Look Elsewhere
GB Tavon Austin, WR 13% 5 #4 Look Elsewhere

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

Of all the games this weekend, this matchup has the highest likelihood of becoming a defensive struggle. With the possibility that points (and fantasy production) will come at a premium in this game, even the most dynamic playmakers in this matchup have a larger bust-risk than usual. This isn’t a particularly strong build-around game at all.

Prediction: Packers 27, Rams 24


Looking for more NFL DFS picks and daily fantasy football matchups content? We have loads of articles, data 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 [email protected]

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