The NFL playoffs continue this weekend with some exciting matchups in the Divisional Round. One of them will be a battle between two veteran quarterbacks as Philip Rivers and the Chargers take on Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Chargers are coming off of a big win on the road against the Ravens last week while the Patriots enter this contest well rested after enjoying a first-round bye.
In this article, I’ll outline the potential game script for either the Chargers or Patriots to come away victorious. Based on those potential outcomes, I’ll examine some players who could play key roles along the way, discuss potential Captain’s Picks and make a prediction for the final score.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
REID FOWLER’S TOUCH PROJECTION
Austin Ekeler, $7,200 Captain’s Pick, $4,800 Flex — The Patriots DST ($4,000) had difficulties defending change-of-pace backs this season giving up 16 DKFP to Nyheim Hines in Week 5 and 22 DKFP to Tarik Cohen in Week 7. Ekeler comes into this game seeing 33 percent of the team’s carries and registering a 38 percent touch rate last week. He’s an integral part in the Chargers offense, especially on the road, averaging 14 total touches over the last three games.
Ekeler has hit or exceeded the 14 total touch mark five times this season and totaled double-digit fantasy points four of the five games averaging 15.5 DKFP. The Patriots are giving up just under eight catches and 50 yards to pass-catching running backs, which ranks 22nd, per Football Outsiders.
Rushing: 7 Attempts
Receiving: 8 Targets; 7 Receptions
Total: 14 Touches
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Patriots have won each of their last 15 games at Gillette Stadium.
— The Chargers have covered the spread in each of their last seven road games.
— Rob Gronkowski has scored at least one touchdown in each of his four previous games vs. the Chargers.
— James White has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last four postseason games.
— Keenan Allen has scored a touchdown in five of the last seven Sunday games for the Chargers.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
If the Chargers Win….Philip Rivers ($10,200) has only defeated the Patriots one time in his career and that victory came way back in 2008 when Matt Cassel started in place of the injured Tom Brady ($10,400). Playing in Gillette Stadium with the Patriots coming off a bye certainly doesn’t make the odds any more favorable for the Chargers to win this contest. If they are going to emerge victorious, Rivers is going to need to play much better than he has been lately. Including last week’s game against the Ravens, Rivers has thrown four touchdowns passes and six interceptions across his last five games. He even finished with fewer than 200 passing yards in each of the last three games. The Patriots DST ($4,000) has given up some yards through the air, but this unit also finished the regular season with 18 interceptions, which tied for the third-most in the league. Rivers is certainly a risky option this week in DFS.
With Rivers’ shaky play of late, the Chargers’ wide receivers have had some disappointing stat lines. Keenan Allen ($9,200) is clearly the top option, but he’s scored 10.8 DKFP or fewer in each of the last three games. The silver lining is that he received 21 total targets during that stretch and should lead the team in targets again Sunday. Mike Williams ($6,800) has had a couple of productive games of late, but one of them was in Week 15 against a bad Chiefs’ defense after Allen had left due to an injury. He’s received 11 targets across the last two games, but he’s largely a touchdown-reliant option. Tyrell Williams ($4,400) has faded into the background, catching three or fewer passes in seven of his last eight contests. On a positive note, the Chargers will get Hunter Henry ($2,200) back from a torn ACL that has kept him out for the entire year. However, since he’s been out for so long, it’s hard to see him logging a significant amount of snaps. His return also makes Antonio Gates ($2,800) an even more unappealing option.
Melvin Gordon ($9,400) just can’t catch a break on the injury front. He injured his left knee last week against the Ravens, forcing him to miss a brief stretch of the game. Luckily for the Chargers, he was eventually able to return and finished with a rushing touchdown on his way to 11.3 DKFP. There appears to be no risk of him missing this matchup against the Patriots, but it’s hard to get overly excited about deploying him in DFS based on the recent run of injuries. The Patriots also allowed just seven rushing touchdowns all season, which ranked second-fewest in the league. His primary backup Austin Ekeler ($4,800) totaled just 29 yards on 11 carries against the Ravens, but he did haul in all four of his targets for 14 yards. With his involvement in the passing game, Ekeler might be worth considering in tournament play if you’re looking for a cost-effective option.
If the Patriots Win….It’s hard to bet against Brady being successful at home in the playoffs. Across his last seven playoff games at home, he has 18 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. He also threw for at least 287 yards in six of those seven contests. The Chargers shut down the Ravens last week, but Lamar Jackson isn’t much of a passing threat at this stage of his career. Of the two quarterbacks in this game, Brady has the higher upside.
Allen is heavily involved for the Chargers, but Julian Edelman ($9,600) is an absolute target monster for the Patriots. Despite playing in just 12 games, he finished with a whopping 108 targets, including 39 of them across his last four games. He scored three touchdowns during that four-game stretch and is without a doubt the top wide receiver for the Patriots, especially since they lost Josh Gordon. In terms of secondary wide receiver options, Chris Hogan ($5,800) and Phillip Dorsett ($4,200) both come with plenty of risk. It was encouraging to see Hogan receive 11 targets in Week 17 against the Jets, although that came on the heels of a zero-target outing against the Bills in Week 16. Rob Gronkowski ($7,200) had an underwhelming campaign by his standards, finishing with just three touchdowns across 13 games. Maybe even more concerning is the fact that he received just eight red-zone targets all year. He’s very much a boom-or-bust option at this price.
The Patriots enter this game with a healthy running back trio made up of James White ($7,600), Sony Michel ($6,600) and Rex Burkhead ($3,000). With all three players having active roles in the offense, none of them logged more than 45 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in any of the last five games. White still managed to score at least 13.4 DKFP in three of those games and has the highest ceiling of the group based on his involvement in the passing game. Michel is going to have to be productive rushing the ball if he’s going to provide value, which makes him risky considering the Chargers allowed the ninth-fewest rushing yards per game (105.8) during the regular season. If you want a really cheap option in tournament play, don’t sleep on Burkhead, who has received 10 targets across his last three games.
Another cheap route to possibly take in tournament play is rolling with the Patriots D/ST ($4,000). This unit has held its opponents to 17 points or fewer in five of their last six games, scoring at least 10 DKFP three times during that stretch. They did face some bad offenses during that stretch, but the Chargers aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders right now.
THE OUTCOMEIt’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Patriots lose this game. In terms of a Captain’s Pick, Julian Edelman ($14,400 CP) stands out as one of the top choices due to his target share. Tom Brady ($15,600 CP) could also excel as a Captain’s Pick, but rolling with Edelman at that spot also helps free up a little more of your budget.
Final Score: New England 24, Los Angeles 17
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mbarner51) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is reidtfowler) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
Odds and lines subject to change. See website for actual odds.
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