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.
Welcome to Conference Championship week, where DraftKings has at least $100,000 in prizes up for grabs at each rarity tier!
The first thing to consider this week is that the games are split into three different slates: a full-week two-gamer, and Showdown contests for each individual game. Since San Francisco at Philadelphia is the earlier game, my current plan is to enter my best cards from this game into the full week slate, which has the larger prize pools. If my teams get off to a hot start, I will then swap my best cards from the later Cincinnati at Kansas City game into the full week slate to maximize my chances of placing high. If my teams get off to a slow start, I will instead swap in filler cards to the full week slate while using my best Chiefs and Bengals cards in the Sunday evening Showdown slate. Capitalizing on optionality via late swaps in Reignmakers is an essential practice for anyone who is looking to gain an edge over the field.
Looking at the slate through a macro lens, there are three SuperStars available: Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes and Christian McCaffrey, and that means you’ll only be prevented from including CMC with your Chiefs and Eagles stacks while all other combinations are on the table. CMC is far and away the top option at running back assuming he gets a clean bill of health, and my preferred build would involve pairing him with a Bengals stack of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. Of course, this will be a popular path on the full week slate, so if you don’t hold low serial cards (serial number is the tie-breaker for duplicated lineups), you’ll need to consider ways of getting unique through the rest of your lineup.
A few differentiation options I like include:
- Isiah Pacheco: will Kansas City need to lean more on the running game with Mahomes (ankle) limited?
- Elijah Mitchell: probably shouldn’t be rostered with CMC, but offers direct leverage on the top RB play.
- Dallas Goedert: could be overlooked as the clear third option in the Eagles’ passing game.
- Kadarius Toney: still not playing enough, but set a season-high in target share last week.
49ers @ Eagles, Sunday 3:00 PM ET
The NFC Championship game will pit the NFL’s fourth-rated rushing attack (Philadelphia) against the No. 2 rushing defense in a strength versus strength matchup. The Eagles are listed as 2.5-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook at home, a line that implies these two teams would be evenly matched on a neutral field.
The Eagles made quick work of the Giants last week in the divisional round, which led to the offense taking the air out of the ball with 44 rush attempts, Philadelphia’s second-highest mark of the season. Despite an emphasis on the ground game, Miles Sanders commanded less than 50 percent of the team’s rush attempts for the second week in a row, as Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott remained heavily involved. It’s hard to feel confident in playing Sanders right now, but that could mean he becomes a contrarian option on the slate. In any event, I’m not expecting Philadelphia to be able to repeat its rushing performance against San Francisco.
What I am expecting is a bounce-back effort from A.J. Brown, who was held to only 22 yards in the blowout win, assuming he’s a full go after “going through a little something” last week. But with that being said, DeVonta Smith may be an even more attractive target here. Smith has now out-targeted Brown in seven of the last 10 games, though his cards remain cheaper overall than Brown’s in the DraftKings Marketplace across tiers. Dallas Goedert could go a little overlooked here on a week with no Deep Roster contests, where tight ends are the most valuable. He’ll be the third most popular stacking partner with Hurts this week behind the two receivers, which opens up some contrarian builds without going too far off the map.
For the 49ers, all eyes will be on the status of Christian McCaffrey this week, after the star running back confirmed he had played through calf discomfort in last week’s win. During the game, CMC was spotted with a heating pad, and he was out-carried 14-10 by Elijah Mitchell. Pending further clarity, my current plan is to include one of either CMC or Mitchell on every Reignmakers team I enter this weekend. McCaffrey has by far the highest median and ceiling projection at running back on the slate, and Mitchell offers fantastic leverage in the event CMC remains limited.
Brock Purdy had only 214 passing yards in last week’s win, but he avoided mistakes and managed the offense well. However, the 49ers are going to need more from Purdy this week to keep pace with the NFL’s No. 2 scoring offense, especially if CMC is less than 100 percent. Unfortunately for Purdy, the Eagles have allowed the fewest opponent passing yards per game this season.
Among San Francisco’s pass-catchers, my favorite option this week is Deebo Samuel, who has commanded target shares of 33 and 27 percent over the past two weeks, and whose usage may increase if CMC is limited. Brandon Aiyuk’s usage has been trending down in three games since Deebo returned from injury in Week 18, but on a two-game slate, he has a high ceiling and serves as direct leverage on Samuel and George Kittle, who should also be popular after leading the team in receiving last week.
Bengals @ Chiefs, Sunday 6:30 PM ET
For the second straight year, the Bengals will travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. For the first time in Patrick Mahomes’ career, his team is listed as a home playoff underdog with Kansas City currently +2.5 on the spread at DraftKings Sportsbook. Obviously, this is directly related to Mahomes’ ankle injury and we could see further fluctuation based on practice reports throughout the week.
Mahomes was diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain, an injury that would normally lead to a multi-week absence. Initial reports suggest that Mahomes is feeling good and he intends to play, but it’s hard to predict how limited he may be on Sunday.
Last week, Mahomes did miss a couple of series, but he was held to a total of 195 yards passing, and he averaged only 6.5 yards per pass attempt, his lowest mark of the season. This came against a Jags defense that has been sixth-worst in terms of limited opponent passing production on the year. If there’s any good news for the Chiefs, it’s that the Bengals’ pass defense hasn’t been much better – they rank ninth-worst in the same category.
In the receiving corps, the team will likely once again funnel targets Travis Kelce’s way after he saw a season-high 49 percent of the targets last week. Kadarius Toney is an interesting wildcard after he saw a season-high seven targets last week, but with that being said, Toney was still limited to around 30 percent of the offensive snaps, and he’ll have a low floor as long as he remains a part-time player in the offense. Mecole Hardman (core) is another wildcard here – here’s been rumored to return in each of the past several weeks, but has not yet been activated.
With Mahomes hobbled, it would make sense for the Chiefs to place more of an emphasis on the run game against the Bengals, although limiting opposing rushers has been the strength of Cincinnati’s defense this season. Assuming Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) remains out this week, Isiah Pacheco looks like an intriguing option after he rushed for 95 yards last week, his second-highest mark of the season. Pacheco only out-carried Jerick McKinnon by one (12-11), and if CEH were to be re-added to the rotation, that would make me nervous about Pacheco.
The Bengals have beaten the Chiefs in three straight matchups dating back to last year, with their most recent win happening on the back of a 155 yard performance by Samaje Perine, who was filling in for Joe Mixon at the time. Mixon will be back for this one, and he’s coming off his most active game (20 carries) since Week 9. On the single-game Showdown slate, Perine is an interesting contrarian option, as he projects to remain involved in both game scripts where the Bengals attempt to control the game clock on the ground, and in scripts where the Bengals are forced to match the Chiefs’ offense through the air.
In the passing game, we know where the targets are going for the most part. The one new trend to be aware of is the usage of Hayden Hurst, who has now out-targeted Tyler Boyd as the Bengals’ third option in consecutive playoff games. Even in a ceiling outcome, Hurst is probably not getting more than 60 yards and a touchdown, which may not be enough on the full week slate, but could play this week in Showdown, and on a potential Super Bowl slate. Keep an eye on the split between Hurst and Boyd this week against the Chiefs.
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