Christian McCaffrey is the most expensive running back on DraftKings and FanDuel this weekend, which isn't a big surprise. He's the best running back left of the four teams competing in the AFC and NFC Championship Games. But is he worth it?
McCaffrey ($8,000 on DraftKings and $9,000 on FanDuel) is dealing with a calf injury, which caused him to miss practice Wednesday and Thursday. He's expected to play at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game, but he was limited in the divisional round against Dallas after he got hurt. He only had 10 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 22 yards on eight targets.
The hope is McCaffrey can have one more big performance and help the 49ers reach the Super Bowl. But it could be a tall task, especially if he's at less than 100 percent. I would consider McCaffrey a bad buy for DFS this week because of his price tag and the matchup.
The good news is McCaffrey has scored a touchdown in eight games in a row, which coincides with every game Brock Purdy has played. He's excelled as a receiver with four games with at least six catches over that span, and his role in the passing game should again be valuable against the Eagles, especially if the 49ers are chasing points. Philadelphia (-2.5) is favored in this game.
The Eagles have allowed a running back to catch at least six passes in two of their past four games with Tony Pollard in Week 16 (six catches for 61 yards on eight targets) and Matt Breida in Week 18 (seven catches for 12 yards on eight targets). And Philadelphia's run defense has been shaky at times this season.
There have been 13 running backs to score at least 13 PPR points against the Eagles this season, with six topping 16 PPR points. In 0.5 PPR, 13 running backs have scored at least 11 points, with nine topping 14 points. However, Philadelphia has allowed just three total touchdowns to running backs in the past seven games, including the playoffs.
McCaffrey will need to be better than his production in the divisional round to justify his price tag, and hopefully he delivers. The Eagles just held Saquon Barkley to nine carries for 61 yards and two catches for 21 yards on three targets in a 38-7 victory, but McCaffrey should be able to post a better stat line -- if he's 100 percent.
The 49ers can always sprinkle in more of Elijah Mitchell, who is dealing with a groin injury, but is also expected to play against the Eagles. Against the Cowboys, Mitchell had 14 carries for 51 yards, and he scored three touchdowns in his two previous games prior to facing Dallas.
I'll have McCaffrey in a couple of DFS lineups this weekend with the hope he's a star. But I'm more pessimistic than usual for a player of his caliber. The injury is a concern, and Philadelphia's defense will likely make stopping McCaffrey a focal point.
The good news is that if you want to avoid McCaffrey this weekend then there are other good running backs and flex options you can use, which we'll highlight below. Good luck in all your DFS lineups this week.
Joe Burrow (at KC)
DraftKings: $6,800/FanDuel: $8,300
Outlook: Burrow is 3-0 against the Chiefs in his career, and he's completed 72.2 percent of his passes over that span, with eight passing touchdowns and one interception. He has averaged 327.3 passing yards per game against Kansas City. Against the Chiefs in Week 13, Burrow was 25-of-31 passing for 286 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and he ran for 46 yards and a touchdown. He scored multiple touchdowns in five of six games overall prior to this week, and Kansas City finished the regular season No. 3 in Fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks.
Patrick Mahomes (vs. CIN)
DraftKings: $7,600/FanDuel: $8,500
Outlook: Mahomes is listed here with a concern over his injured ankle. He's expected to play, but we don't know if he's 100 percent. And since he's facing a tough defense, he might not be worth his price tag. He struggled against the Bengals in Week 13 with 16-of-27 passing for 223 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and he's been held under 260 passing yards in two of three regular-season games against Cincinnati. In last year's AFC Championship Game, Mahomes passed for 275 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. It's always risky to fade someone like Mahomes, but the Bengals haven't allowed a quarterback to score more than 22 Fantasy points all season. And Cincinnati just held Josh Allen to 265 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception, 26 rushing yards and a score for 16 Fantasy points.
Joe Mixon (at KC)
DraftKings: $6,500/FanDuel: $8,100
Outlook: Mixon didn't play in Week 13 against the Chiefs due to a concussion, and Samaje Perine had a great game with 21 carries for 106 yards and six catches for 49 yards on seven targets. We'll see if Mixon can replicate that stat line, and he just had a big outing against the Bills with 20 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 18 yards on three targets. That was Mixon's first game over 100 rushing yards since Week 9 and just his second touchdown over that span, but the Chiefs also just allowed Travis Etienne to gain 80 total yards and a touchdown with three catches. I'll take my chances with Mixon given his expected workload, and he could be the best running back in this weekend's games.
Jerick McKinnon (vs. CIN)
DraftKings: $5,400/FanDuel: $6,500
Outlook: McKinnon had his six-game streak of catching a touchdown snapped in the divisional round against Jacksonville, and he had a disappointing performance with 11 carries for 25 yards and no targets. That was the first time all season that he didn't have a target, but he should rebound this week against the Bengals. His scoring streak started against Cincinnati in Week 13 when he caught a touchdown with two receptions for 9 yards on two targets, and he also added eight carries for 51 yards. With Mahomes on a gimpy ankle, we could see him checking down more often in this matchup, and McKinnon's role in the passing game could be vital.
Isiah Pacheco (vs. CIN)
DraftKings: $5,300/FanDuel: $6,300
Outlook: Pacheco was the best running back for the Chiefs in the divisional round against the Jaguars with 12 carries for 95 yards and one catch for 6 yards on one target. But I'm concerned about his production in this game. He had a 39-yard run against the Jaguars, which was his best of the season, but you can see what his production would have been without that run. He'll likely need to score to justify his price tag, and that could happen since he had two touchdowns in his previous two games prior to the playoffs. He also scored against the Bengals in Week 13 with 14 carries for 66 yards, along with two catches for 16 yards on two targets. But he doesn't typically have a big role in the passing game. And Cincinnati has been tough to run against for most of the season, finishing No. 7 in fewest Fantasy points allowed for running backs. And if the Chiefs get behind then Pacheco could be in trouble.
Miles Sanders (vs. SF)
DraftKings: $5,200/FanDuel: $6,200
Outlook: Sanders just had a solid game in the divisional round against the Giants with 17 carries for 90 yards and no targets. But that could be the stat line you're looking at again this week against the 49ers. Sanders has now gone five games in a row without a touchdown and three games in a row without a catch, including just one target over that span. The 49ers were No. 1 in fewest Fantasy points allowed to running backs during the regular season, and Sanders will likely lose touches to Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Sanders will likely need a touchdown to save his production, and he's an easy running back to fade this week.
Ja'Marr Chase (at KC)
DraftKings: $7,600/FanDuel: $8,600
Outlook: Chase has scored a touchdown in three games in a row, and he continues to be a target hog with at least eight targets in 10 outings in a row, including eight contests with at least 10 targets over that span. In Week 13 against the Chiefs, Chase had seven catches for 97 yards on eight targets. Kansas City finished the regular season No. 8 in most Fantasy points allowed to opposing receivers and one of three teams to allow at least 20 touchdowns to the position. I'm more than willing to spend the money on Chase this week, and I also think Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are worth using as well.
A.J. Brown (vs. SF)
DraftKings: $7,800/FanDuel: $8,000
Outlook: Brown only had three catches for 22 yards on six targets in the divisional round against the Giants, and he wasn't happy. "They throw the ball to me 100 times, I'm going to want it 101 times," Brown said. "Me personally, I just feel like I can change the game at any moment. Getting the ball often keeps you going, keeps you in a rhythm. It definitely puts you in a zone -- you're locked in. Of course I want the ball." Do we get a squeaky wheel game in the NFC Championship Game? DeVonta Smith has outplayed Brown of late, and that could be part of his frustration. Over the past 10 games, including the playoffs, Smith scored 174 PPR points compared to 154 for Brown. Smith also had 93 targets over that span compared to 82 for Brown. I'm going to buy into the narrative that Brown gets a few more opportunities this week, and I'll use him over Smith in his matchup.
Kadarius Toney (vs. CIN)
DraftKings: $3,700/FanDuel: $5,600
Outlook: Toney could be the difference maker the Chiefs need this week with Mahomes banged up, and maybe we see an increase in usage for Toney against the Bengals. He only played 20 snaps in the divisional round against Jacksonville, but he had five catches for 36 yards on seven targets and one carry for 14 yards. When he's been on the field for the Chiefs, he's gotten the ball, and he could be a wild-card in this matchup. The Bengals secondary has been tough all season, but Toney is cheap and has game-breaking ability. He will be a popular DFS play this week, but he's someone that will be in a lot of my lineups.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs. CIN)
DraftKings: $4,700/FanDuel: $6,100
Outlook: Smith-Schuster was a non-factor against the Jaguars in the divisional round with two catches for 29 yards on two targets. He's now gone four games in a row, including the playoffs, with three catches or less, 35 yards or less and no touchdowns. He continues to get outplayed by Toney, and the Chiefs are winning without Smith-Schuster being a significant contributor. We'll see what happens in the AFC Championship Game against Cincinnati, but with Mahomes injured, it's tough to trust Smith-Schuster given his recent lack of production. And in Week 13, Smith-Schuster was held to three catches for 35 yards on four targets against the Bengals.
Brandon Aiyuk (at PHI)
DraftKings: $4,400/FanDuel: $6,000
Outlook: The bad news with Aiyuk is he continues to struggle when everyone is healthy for the 49ers. In his past three games, once Deebo Samuel returned from a three-game absence with knee and ankle injuries, Aiyuk has combined for nine catches for 158 yards and no touchdowns on 14 targets. By comparison, in two games prior to that without Samuel against Washington and Las Vegas, Aiyuk had 19 targets for 14 catches, 182 yards and a touchdown. Samuel is dealing with an ankle injury, although he's expected to play against the Eagles. The good news for Aiyuk is if you expect the Eagles to win then he could have a good outing. San Francisco only lost four games all season, but in three of them, Aiyuk posted a quality stat line with at least 12 PPR points. And he had at least eight targets in three of the four losses. All of those games were played without Purdy, so take that into account. And this Eagles secondary has been tough all season, ranking No. 6 in fewest Fantasy points allowed to opposing receivers.
Dallas Goedert (vs. SF)
DraftKings: $4,100/FanDuel: $6,400
Outlook: Goedert had a solid stat line in the divisional round against the Giants with five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown on five targets. Hopefully, he'll continue to get plenty of looks from Jalen Hurts in this matchup against the 49ers. There have been eight tight ends to get at least six targets against San Francisco all season, including the playoffs, and four of them have scored at least 13 PPR points, including Dalton Schultz last week in the divisional round when he had five catches for 27 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. Based on his price, I plan to have a lot of shares of Goedert this week.
George Kittle (at PHI)
DraftKings: $5,200/FanDuel: $6,800
Outlook: Kittle had another solid game with Purdy in the divisional round against Dallas with five catches for 95 yards on five targets. Kittle now has a touchdown or at least 95 receiving yards in five of his past six games with Purdy, and the connection has been fun to watch. But we did see Kittle post a dud in the wild-card round against Seattle with two catches for 37 yards on two targets. And he has been at four catches or less in six of eight games that Purdy has appeared in, including five of those outings at 37 yards or less. If he doesn't score against the Eagles then he could post a disappointing stat line, and Philadelphia has only allowed three receiving touchdowns to tight ends all season, including none since Week 9.
QB: Joe Burrow (at KC) $6,800
RB: Joe Mixon (at KC) $6,500
RB: Jerick McKinnon (vs. CIN) $5,400
WR: Ja'Marr Chase (at KC) $7,600
WR: A.J. Brown (vs. SF) $7,800
WR: Kadarius Toney (vs. CIN) $3,700
TE: Dallas Goedert (vs. SF) $4,100
FLEX: Tee Higgins (at KC) $5,400
DST: Bengals (at KC) $2,300
Let's stack the Bengals here and go with Burrow, Chase and Higgins in the passing game, as well as Mixon at running back. Higgins has struggled in his past three games, combining for eight catches for 72 yards and no touchdowns on 17 targets over that span, but two of those games were against the Ravens. He had three catches for 35 yards and a touchdown on five targets against the Bengals in Week 13.
I covered the rest of the lineup here in the good buys above, and the Bengals stack feels like the best play in the championship round. It should be popular, but hopefully the other players I used along with the Bengals will deliver in a big way.
QB: Jalen Hurts (vs. SF) $9,200
RB: Joe Mixon (at KC) $8,100
RB: Jerick McKinnon (vs. CIN) $6,500
WR: A.J. Brown (vs. SF) $8,000
WR: Tee Higgins (at KC) $6,700
WR: Kadarius Toney (vs. CIN) $5,600
TE: Dallas Goedert (vs. SF) $6,400
FLEX: Tyler Boyd (at KC) $5,300
DEF: Bengals (at KC) $4,000
I'll stack the Eagles here, and I hope Hurts and Brown are on the same page so their connection comes through against the 49ers. I'll also play Goedert with the hope he gets enough targets to deliver against San Francisco in this matchup at home.
Boyd hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 15 against Tampa Bay, and he only has four catches for 49 yards on five targets in two playoff games. But I like his matchup against the Chiefs this week, and he had four catches for 50 yards on five targets against Kansas City in Week 13.