Stafford, Kupp, Beckham Look to Shred 49ers

Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Conference Championship - As tends to be the case with just four teams left in the playoffs, the conference championship games feature some of the best quarterbacks and skill talent in the sport. But before you lean on your usual suspects such as Patrick Mahomes and Joe Mixon this weekend, consider the matchups. Because while factors such as domes and weaker pass defenses may only mean so much for individual players, their effects can multiply with the DFS lineup stacks that a weekend with just four teams almost requires.

The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven)—home and road and dome and outside—the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.

You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.

Best Week 21 Matchups - All Players
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
C.Kupp LAR 1 SF Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   +2.2 0.0 +0.2 +2.4
M.Stafford LAR 1 SF Rk 3 2 2 2  
Pts   +1.9 0.0 0.0 +1.9
O.Beckham LAR 1 SF Rk 6 5 5 5  
Pts   +1.2 0.0 0.0 +1.2
D.Samuel SF 0 LAR Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   +0.7 0.0 -0.1 +0.6
C.Edwards-Helaire KC 1 CIN Rk 5 5 5 5  
Pts   -0.1 +0.1 +0.4 +0.4
J.McKinnon KC 1 CIN Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   0.0 +0.1 +0.3 +0.4
V.Jefferson LAR 1 SF Rk 12 11 11 11  
Pts   +0.4 0.0 0.0 +0.4
T.Higbee LAR 1 SF Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 +0.1 +0.3
C.Uzomah CIN 0 KC Rk 3 4 4 4  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.1 +0.2
B.Aiyuk SF 0 LAR Rk 7 7 7 7  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 -0.1 +0.2

Thanks to their upset of the defending champion Buccaneers, the Rams landed a home game this weekend. And while that might not seem as big a deal with Kansas City forecasted for temperatures in the 40s with little wind and no precipitation this Sunday afternoon, consider that Matthew Stafford has averaged 1.1 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road in recent seasons—split between two teams in the Lions and Rams with dome stadiums. And that split follows expectations since home quarterbacks average 3% better completion rates and 6% and 10% more yards and touchdowns per pass attempt in domes than they do in neutral contexts.

Kyle Shanahan has famously beaten his former mentee Sean McVay in six straight games, but that seems to me to say more about the Rams' typical defensive leaning towards stopping the pass and Shanahan's unusual run-oriented offensive philosophy than it does about the opposite units. The 49ers have matured into a top-six pass defense DVOA including the playoffs and cut passing yards and touchdowns by 2% and 6% per attempt. But the 49ers remain better in run defense (second) and therefore cut opposing run plays by 6% per game. And in that way, the 49ers have a similar split to the Bucs defense Stafford just torched for 366 yards and two touchdowns when Cam Akers struggled to move the ball on the ground.

Best DraftKings Values: Cooper Kupp ($1,700 underpriced at $8,800), Cam Akers ($1,300 underpriced at $5,000), Jerick McKinnon ($1,000 underpriced at $5,100), Tyreek Hill ($900 underpriced at $7,000), Jauan Jennings ($800 underpriced at $3,200), C.J. Uzomah ($700 underpriced at $3,400), Odell Beckham ($600 underpriced at $5,100)

Best FanDuel Values: Cam Akers ($700 underpriced at $6,200), Jauan Jennings ($600 underpriced at $4,900), Jimmy Garoppolo ($500 underpriced at $6,200) , Odell Beckham ($400 underpriced at $6,300), Jerick McKinnon ($400 underpriced at $6,200), Brandon Aiyuk ($400 underpriced at $5,600), Matthew Stafford ($200 underpriced at $7,500)

The Rams may not be my favorite team to reach the Super Bowl, but they are my favorite team to stack in DFS this Sunday. Cooper Kupp is so productive that his top shelf $8,800 DraftKings salary still pops as the biggest underpricing on the platform. And Odell Beckham has a decent $600 value and, subjectively to me, could outproduce his projection since the 49ers recently added top cornerback Emmanuel Moseley back to their lineup and could therefore have a relatively bigger deficiency at the second cornerback spot than they had in much of the second half of the season.

I probably won't convince anyone to play the 49ers passing game after Jimmy Garoppolo threw for just 172 and 131 yards the last two weeks and didn't score. But I'll at least point out that throwing 25 and 19 pass attempts is a privilege of a team in a favorable game script. And the Cowboys and Packers invited a run-heavy plan in any case with dramatically better pass defenses than run defenses by DVOA. The Rams are strong in both respects, unfortunately for 49ers. But that may just mean Garoppolo will have to air it out more in a deficit. He threw 32 passes for 316 yards with those circumstances in a Week 17 game in the dome in Los Angeles that the 49ers erased a 17-pont deficit to win late.

Garoppolo is more difficult than his Rams counterpart to stack. But you likely would want to consider Deebo Samuel no matter your roster composition. And Jauan Jennings is a strong value in both DFS platforms. After failing to play even 20% of snaps in a game the first half the regular season, Jennings has played more than 50% of snaps the last three weeks and has five or more targets in five of his last seven games. And guessing right on a Garoppolo-to-Jennings touchdown would net you a major leg up on the undoubtedly more common Rams, Chiefs, and Bengals stacks of your competition.

Many of the Chiefs are overpriced as usual in DFS this week. But Jerick McKinnon is the exception at just $5,100 and $6,200 in DraftKings and FanDuel. His jump to a 78% snap share in the wild-card round could have been a fluke since Clyde Edwards-Helaire remained out with a shoulder injury and Darrel Williams had an injured toe and fumbled early. But McKinnon played a similar 70% snap share in his encore with Edwards-Helaire on the field, and the early returns suggest McKinnon's speed offers the Chiefs a new dimension in their receiving and especially screen game. And that proclivity has netted McKinnon six and five catches for 81 and 54 yards the last two weeks. I expect similar against the Bengals.

Worst Week 21 Matchups - All Players
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Opp Tot
J.Chase CIN 0 KC Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   -0.8 +0.1 -0.2 -0.9
J.Mixon CIN 0 KC Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.3 +0.1 -0.6 -0.8
J.Burrow CIN 0 KC Rk 2 3 3 3  
Pts   -0.8 +0.1 +0.2 -0.5
P.Mahomes KC 1 CIN Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.6 +0.1 +0.1 -0.4
T.Hill KC 1 CIN Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   -0.3 +0.2 -0.3 -0.4
T.Kelce KC 1 CIN Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.5 0.0 +0.1 -0.4
C.Akers LAR 1 SF Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 -0.5 -0.3
T.Higgins CIN 0 KC Rk 5 6 6 6  
Pts   -0.5 -0.1 +0.3 -0.3
T.Boyd CIN 0 KC Rk 8 8 8 8  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 +0.2 -0.2
G.Kittle SF 0 LAR Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 -0.3 -0.2

Forget the Jimmy Garoppolo question. I know I can't talk you out of a Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase stack not even a month removed from the Bengals' first game against the Chiefs, when Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns and Chase accounted for 266 and three of them. Chase may well offer a matchup problem that the Chiefs simply cannot solve with their personnel and scheme. But Burrow enjoyed that standout performance at home, where he has averaged 4.9 more fantasy points per game than on the road in his career. And over the broader schedule, the Chiefs have cut No. 1 receiver touchdowns by 26% and increased No. 2 and slot receiver touchdowns by 68% and 25% per target, both top-five in football. The Bengals seem to alternate between their big Chase and big Tee Higgins games in any case. And if it weren't for the memory of the early-January game between the teams, this Sunday's game would seem as likely to be a Higgins or Tyler Boyd showcase as a Chase one.

However, I wouldn't run from the Burrow-Chase stacks in daily formats. The Chiefs are dramatically better by team DVOA. And they could build a lead that forces the Bengals to pass to catch up. In general, the Chiefs increase their opponents' pass plays by 2% per game, top-10 in football. But the Bengals stars are priced with the memory of their Week 17 outbursts in mind. And for me that makes them less compelling as a stack even if they have a very real chance for a repeat performance.

Worst DraftKings Values: George Kittle ($700 overpriced at $5,000), Sony Michel ($600 overpriced at $4,600), Samaje Perine ($600 overpriced at $4,200), Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($600 overpriced at $5,300), Joe Burrow ($500 overpriced at $6,600), Brandon Aiyuk ($300 overpriced at $5,000), Van Jefferson ($300 overpriced at $3,900)

Worst FanDuel Values: Ja'Marr Chase ($800 overpriced at $8,000), Joe Mixon ($700 overpriced at $8,200), Travis Kelce ($600 overpriced at $7,700), Sony Michel ($500 overpriced at $5,300), Samaje Perine ($200 overpriced at $4,700), Joe Burrow ($200 overpriced at $7,500), Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($200 overpriced at $5,700)

Aside from the Bengals triumvirate, the bulk of the worst DFS values this week are somewhat obvious for their reduced roles of late. Sony Michel has dropped from a 98% to a 19% snap share over the last four weeks as Cam Akers has made his remarkable recovery from an Achilles injury and recaptured his bell-cow role with the Rams. Clyde Edwards-Helaire played just 30% of snaps in his return on Sunday, and McKinnon looks like the top back in Kansas City. And Samaje Perine has seen even his backup workload fade to just two touches the last two weeks with the Rams clearly comfortable riding Joe Mixon almost exclusively in their critical playoff games.

The standout overpricing that doesn't fit that mold is George Kittle at $5,000 in DraftKings. And while Kittle is another player you might not want to leave out of every DFS lineup you make this Sunday—especially if you are bold enough to stack with Jimmy Garoppolo—the Rams do seem like a particularly difficult matchup for opposing tight ends. They have the fourth-lowest DVOA on throws to the position and cut tight end yards and touchdowns by 6% and 45% per target. And Kittle was less involved as a receiver with just 10 catches and 60 yards combined in the two regular-season 49ers-Rams matchups and seems even more important as a blocker this Sunday with All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams fighting an ankle sprain.

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