This article originally appeared on Lucky Trader: Reignmakers Divisional Round Slate Breakdown
This NFL season, we are pleased to have partnered with DraftKings as a content provider, covering their exciting new NFT-powered fantasy football game, DK Reignmakers! Each week in this space, we will be breaking down the upcoming Reignmakers NFL slate. Be sure to check out our Fair Value Card Estimates and Contest EV tool as you build your lineups.
We have three slates to choose from this week with two-game slates on Saturday and Sunday in the Classic format, and a full week four-game slate in Deep Roster Format. The larger prize pools have been allocated to the two-game slates.
After Justin Jefferson and Austin Ekeler were eliminated in the Wild Card Round, the remaining SuperStars in the Divisional Round are Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Christian McCaffrey. Because CMC is the only remaining SuperStar skill player, the restriction will only affect combinations that pair CMC with Eagles, Chiefs or Bills stacks.
With the 49ers playing on Sunday, there are no SuperStar restrictions to consider on the Saturday two-game slate. With that in mind, I’d expect a lot of lineups on the Saturday slate to include some combination of Travis Kelce, Saquon Barkley and A.J. Brown with either Hurts or Mahomes at QB. If building around that core on the two-gamer, I would want to add a differentiation option like Richie James Jr., Marvin Jones Jr. or Kadarius Toney to find a unique combination.
On the Sunday two-game slate, you won’t be able to create teams that include both Josh Allen and CMC, but all other combinations will be on the table. Some of the top non-SuperStar players on the slate include Ja’Marr Chase, Stefon Diggs and CeeDee Lamb. I would expect that more players will choose to build teams around Allen than CMC, but both paths will be popular.
One approach I may take this week is entering all three slates, with most of my Jaguars-Chiefs players being entered into Deep Roster contests to maximize optionality. If my Deep Roster teams get off to a hot start, I’ll leave my best cards there, but if they get off to a slow start, I’ll swap my Eagles-Giants players back into the Saturday two-gamer, while playing my best cards from the teams playing on Sunday on the Sunday two-game slate.
Next, let’s get into the game-by-game breakdown.
Jaguars @ Chiefs, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET
It took an incredible comeback, but the Jaguars were able to storm back from a 27-7 halftime deficit to defeat the Chargers in the Wild Card Round last weekend and punch their ticket to Kansas City this weekend.
From a usage perspective, Jacksonville’s game plan last week was fairly obvious: they went all-in on their best players, as Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Evan Engram and Travis Etienne Jr. all either matched or set season highs in snap share last week against the Chargers. Additionally, Kirk, Zay and Engram combined to account for 82 percent of Trevor Lawrence’s targets, and Etienne set a career-high with a 95 percent rush share.
In Reignmakers, it’s hard to recommend buying players on teams that are unlikely to advance to the next round – and the Jaguars are 8.5-point underdogs – but if you hold any one of Jacksonville’s key contributors, I would view them as strong plays on this week’s slate.
As for Kansas City, the team comes in hot as winners of 11 of their last 12 games, including a 27-17 win over Jacksonville in mid-November. In that game, Patrick Mahomes notably attempted his second-fewest passing attempts of the season (27), although he was efficient in his efforts with a 331-4-1 passing line.
Heading into this weekend, fantasy owners may be frustrated with Travis Kelce, who has totaled only 81 scoreless yards over his last two contests. The good news for Kelce is that the usage has still been there: he has met or exceeded his season average in target share in each of the last three games, and he led the Chiefs in receiving in the first matchup between these teams.
At wide receiver, the team is still waiting for Mecole Hardman (pelvis) to return to the field. If Hardman were to return this weekend, it would make it difficult to choose between JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney and Hardman for the position. Hardman’s status is murky after he missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday to start the week.
The hierarchy is much more defined at running back, where Isiah Pacheco was rested in favor of Ronald Jones during parts of the team’s Week 18 win over the Raiders. Prior to that, Pacheco had led the team in rush attempts in eight straight games, while backfield mate Jerick McKinnon remains more of a receiving threat. Hardman’s potential return could negatively impact McKinnon, who operates in some of the same areas of the field as Hardman, while a potential Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) return could negatively impact Pacheco. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid had said that CEH was “close” to a return on Dec. 20, but there have been few updates from the team since that time.
Of the SuperStar quarterbacks, Mahomes is the trickiest to play this week as the stacking paths for Jalen Hurts (Hurts-A.J. Brown with a Saquon Barkley bring-back) and Josh Allen (Allen-Stefon Diggs with a Ja’Marr Chase bring-back) are much cleaner. Still, Kansas City is the most likely team to advance to the Conference Championships per the odds listed at DraftKings Sportsbook, and that gives their players immense value in Reignmakers.
Giants @ Eagles, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Coming off their bye week, the Eagles will host a Giants team that has played strong defensively overall in 2022, but has struggled against Philadelphia over two meetings this season. In those two contests, the Eagles have put up a combined 70 points, with most of that success coming on the ground. In Week 18, Philly deployed a balanced attack to garner 135 yards on 35 carries, and in Week 13, Miles Sanders accounted for 144 of the team’s total 253 rushing yards. Overall, New York’s defense has ranked middle-of-the-pack in terms of points allowed to opponents, but sixth-worst in terms of opponent rushing production allowed.
The big question here is whether Jalen Hurts’ rushing volume will be at all limited by a shoulder injury that has plagued him over the latter part of the season. In Hurts’ Week 18 return to action, he totaled only 13 rushing yards on nine carries while posting his lowest yards-per-rush attempt mark of the season. Hurts’ practice participation will be instructive this week – he was limited throughout the week leading up to Week 18, so if he’s able to get in a full practice session this week, it would be a positive indicator. Because New York has been so generous to opposing rushing attacks this season, my preferred approach here would be to single stack Hurts with one of A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith while hoping Hurts adds more production on the ground.
The Giants rode Daniel Jones en route to their 31-24 victory over the Vikings in the Wild Card Round, but they find themselves as 7.5-point dogs to their division rivals this Saturday. Jones was nearly flawless against a Vikings pass defense that has ranked near the bottom of the league all season, throwing for 301 yards with two touchdowns while adding another 78 yards on the ground. Jones sat out what was essentially a meaningless game for the Giants in Week 18 against the Eagles, but in the teams’ first meeting, Jones threw for only 169 yards with another 26 on the ground.
Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton and Richie James Jr. have overperformed their talent levels all year, and especially last week, but it feels to me like the bottom is about to fall against the Eagles. With that being said, Saquon Barkley might be the top running back option on the full week slate when you consider that Christian McCaffrey cannot be paired with Buffalo or Philadelphia stacks due to SuperStar restrictions.
Bengals @ Bills, Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET
The Bills survived a scare from the Dolphins in the Wild Card Round but were able to advance 34-31 behind a 352 passing yard effort by Josh Allen, Allen’s highest total since early October. Allen’s big day led to boom weeks from Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, who both went over 100 yards in the same game for the first time since Week 4. With Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring) sidelined last week, rookie Khalil Shakir had his best effort in months with a 3-51-0 receiving line, while Cole Beasley worked his way back into the rotation and was the recipient of one of Allen’s touchdown passes. Beasley is not available in Reignmakers, but Shakir would have some appeal as a contrarian option on the full week slate if McKenzie were forced to miss another week.
At running back, I had expected the Bills to lean on Devin Singletary over the rookie James Cook given Singletary’s previous playoff experience with the team, and that did play out to some degree, as Cook’s 31 percent snap share was his lowest since Week 12. But when Cook was on the field, he was getting the ball – his 46 percent rushing share tied his season high. Picking a Buffalo running back heading into this week feels like a guessing game.
For the Bengals, Ja’Marr Chase has really begun to separate from Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd as the clear alpha option in this offense of late. Chase has now exceeded a 32 percent target share in four of his last five games, and he has eclipsed the combined target shares of Boyd and Higgins (31%) over that same timeframe. Now that neither Joe Burrow nor Chase is classified as a SuperStar in Reignmakers, starting lineups with a game stack of Burrow-Chase-Diggs with SuperStar Christian McCaffrey thrown in will be an appealing path on the full week slate.
At running back, Samaje Perine out-snapped Joe Mixon for the first time all season when both players were healthy, but Mixon still out-carried Perine 11-2. I would expect Perine to out-snap Mixon in a trailing game script, but Cincinnati played from a positive or neutral game script for the entirety of last week’s win. I don’t think we need to overreact here, but last week’s usage is certainly interesting and something I may use as a tiebreaker against Mixon when building lineups this weekend.
Cowboys @ 49ers, Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET
This week’s Sunday night contest features the lowest total on the slate at 46 points, with the 49ers listed as 3.5-point favorites at home. The 49ers nearly met that number by themselves in last week’s 41-23 win over the Seahawks, but they’ll face a tougher test this week against a Cowboys defense that currently ranks fifth in terms of fewest points allowed to opponents.
In Elijah Mitchell’s second game back from injury last week, he saw nine rushing attempts, only six fewer than Christian McCaffrey, who led the backfield with 15 rushes. McCaffrey added two targets, but you’d like to see him command more than 17 opportunities if you’re going to use your SuperStar slot on CMC this week. Deebo Samuel’s re-involvement in the receiving game is probably not helping matters for CMC either. Deebo led the team last week with nine targets, while CMC’s seven percent target share was his lowest mark since his 49er debut in Week 7.
While the talent crunch may not be good news for any individual San Francisco skill player, it’s great news for Brock Purdy, who may have the best collection of weapons in the league. Purdy’s 332 passing yards against Seattle were a career-high, though he completed only 18 of his 30 pass attempts in the game. Now matched up against a tough Dallas defense, Purdy is going to be difficult to justify in Reignmakers lineups this week, even on the Sunday two-game slate due to the star-studded list of alternatives that includes Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott.
The Cowboys made an impressive statement with their Wild Card beatdown of the Bucs in Tampa Bay on Monday night. They’ll be on the road again this weekend, and this time they’re listed as dogs to the 49ers.
From the Cowboys’ perspective, the first thing to note is that the 49ers have an elite run defense that is ranked second in the league in terms of limiting an opponent’s rushing yardage. Ezekiel Elliott has demonstrated a knack for scoring touchdowns all season (and throughout his career, really), but this doesn’t seem like the right matchup for him. I’m downgrading Tony Pollard in this matchup as well. While Pollard can still get there through the receiving game, he has only four targets in two games since returning from a thigh injury, and I think there are better RB options on this slate that I would prefer to Pollard.
I am quite interested in Dak Prescott on this slate, who stepped up his rushing usage with the stakes now higher in the playoffs. Prescott’s seven rushing attempts against Tampa Bay were a season-high, and the 305-4-0 passing line wasn’t bad either. Although T.Y. Hilton is becoming more involved as the weeks go on and Michael Gallup got into the endzone last week, I think the stacking options are still fairly obvious here: CeeDee Lamb is the premier target, and Dalton Schultz or Pollard can be added on as double-stack partners or used as differentiation options.
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