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Fantasy Football Picks: Browns vs. Chiefs DraftKings NFL DFS Divisional Round Showdown Strategy

Zach Thompson preps you for Sunday’s 3:05 p.m. ET playoff matchup between the Browns and the Chiefs with game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

The NFL Divisional Round usually provides one of the best weekends of football of the entire season, and this week’s four matchups bring plenty of great storylines to follow and contests to enjoy. The first game on Sunday’s slate is the AFC’s top seed, the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the upstart Cleveland Browns, who went on the road to Pittsburgh last week and showed that they weren’t content just to end the NFL’s longest playoff drought. Instead, they took down their hated division rival with a historically great start and held on for a 48-37 win.

Even though this game is a double-digit point spread on DraftKings SportsBook, there are lots of ways to see this being a close game, and I definitely give the Browns a shot to pull off the upset. What would need to go their way and who should you build your fantasy lineups around? Let’s break it all down from a Showdown perspective.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $400K Showdown Special [$100K to 1st] (CLE vs KC)



SHOWDOWN STRATEGY

Captain’s Picks

Travis Kelce ($15,900 CP) — The Browns were the third-worst team in the NFL defending opposing TEs this season, so Kelce gets a great matchup to start his playoff run. He averaged 7.0 catches for 94.4 yards per contest this season and scored 11 touchdowns in 15 games. He had at least seven catches and at least 10 targets in each of his final seven games of the regular season and found the end zone in each of his final four. He set an NFL record for receiving yards by a TE with 1,406 yards this season and led the NFL with 79 catches that went for a first down.

Kelce’s volume and matchup make him an outstanding play in this contest and he has proven he can deliver in the playoffs as well. Last season, he had four touchdowns during the Chiefs’ three playoff games and went off for 12 catches, 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Texans in the Divisional Round. He isn’t quite as flashy of a home-run threat as Tyreek Hill ($10,400), but his extra PPR work and an outstanding matchup make him my favorite Captain’s Pick among the Chiefs’ three superstars.

Nick Chubb ($14,100 CP) — Beating the Chiefs is a tough task for any team, but I do think the Browns have the pieces in place to have a chance to pull off the upset. One of the keys to their success will definitely be relying heavily on their running game led by Chubb and enhanced by change-of-pace play Kareem Hunt ($7,200). This season Chubb and Hunt have averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and the Browns’ offense has the third-longest drives in the NFL measured by time of possession. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs were 31st against the run according to Football Outsiders DVOA. Over the past two seasons, the Chiefs have only lost six games, and in those six games, their opponent has averaged 34.5 rushes for 144.3 rushing yards.

Chubb has found the end zone eight times in his past seven games and just posted 24.5 DKFP against the Steelers last week. He had his first receiving touchdown of the year and caught four passes for 69 yards to go with his 76 rushing yards. Chubb looked very strong after returning from a four-week absence with a sprained MCL and put together another 1,000 rushing yard season. He averaged 21.1 DKFP per game over his past seven contests, and he’ll need to be heavily involved if the Browns are going to get the win in this matchup. There is some risk that Cleveland falls behind big and abandons the run, but coach Kevin Stefanski usually stays committed to it as long as he can. If Chubb gets the volume, this is a matchup in which he should be able to excel.


FLEX Plays

Patrick Mahomes ($12,000) The problem for the Browns is that the weakness of their defense is in the passing game, and that is where the Chiefs can be unstoppable with Mahomes at his best. Even though the Chiefs have been in one-possession games every week since Week 8, Mahomes has been solid, producing over 24 DKFP in six of his past eight contests. He finished with 4,740 passing yards and led the league before being passed by Deshaun Watson while resting in the regular-season finale. He completed 66% of his passes and threw 38 touchdowns in his 16 games while going an impressive 15-1. He showed last postseason that he can go off for huge quarters and halves when needed and carry his team to victory with one big flourish.

Austin Hooper ($6,800) — Hooper hasn’t been nearly as productive as his Chiefs counterpart, but he has grown into a large part of the Browns’ passing attack since returning from his appendectomy. He caught 7-of-11 targets last week for 46 yards, a touchdown and 17.6 DKFP. He was second on the team in targets for the season despite the missed time and hauled in four touchdowns over his past six contests. He has become the Browns’ go-to in their short-yardage passing game and can help them control the clock. The Chiefs have given up the second-most DKFP per game to opposing TEs in the NFL, so Hooper should find room to outproduce this midrange salary.

Browns DST ($2,800) — The Browns are a high-risk, high-ceiling play on defense since they will have to try and slow down Mahomes and have been prone to giving up high point totals due to their leaky secondary. That secondary is coming off a good game, though, after picking off Big Ben and the Steelers four times last week to go with a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown for 12.0 DKFP despite allowing 37 points against. They had a monster 20-DKFP performance against the Eagles in Week 11 and posted at least 5.0 DKFP in six of their nine most recent games. The Chiefs can definitely put up points, as we all know, but they did have seven turnovers in the final three games that the starters played against the Dolphins, Saints and Falcons.

Darrel Williams ($600) — One way to cram in all the Chiefs’ stars on your roster is to go ultra-cheap at a flex spot. Williams actually could end up a great play if Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($6,600; ankle/hip) is ruled out or is limited even if he is active. Williams shared time with Le’Veon Bell ($5,800) following the injury to CEH during the season, and in the Chiefs’ Week 16 game he logged a season-high 70% of snaps. In that action, he ran for 46 yards and caught four passes for 27 yards on his way to a season-high 11.3 DKFP. He had over 5.0 DKFP in three of four games before sitting with the rest of the starters for Week 17, and he only would need a couple of catches or a big run to deliver great value at this bargain-basement salary.


Fades

Kareem Hunt ($7,200) — Hunt definitely has upside as part of the Browns’ rushing attack, and he will have the revenge game narrative that people love to hype. However, he’s just too expensive for his inconsistent workload. He had eight carries for 48 yards and two touchdowns last week on his way to 19.1 DKFP, showing off his ceiling, but he had under 10 DKFP in five of his previous seven games. He’s the ultimate boom-or-bust play, but he costs more than Hooper, who has been much more consistently involved.


THE OUTCOME

The Browns definitely have a chance here coming off their big win in Pittsburgh. While we hear all about Andy Reid’s impressive 23-5 record coming off bye weeks throughout his coaching career, he did lose to the Steelers in 2016 following a bye week to start the playoffs, which was the most recent bye week he had in the playoffs before last year’s Super Bowl run. Coming off their bye last year, the Chiefs didn’t start fast against the Texans but were able to rally and advance. Following that script may be challenging against the Browns, who are so successful running the ball and controlling the clock. There’s no question that Kansas City is elite, but I don’t think they’re unbeatable. They have had to pull out one-possession wins over the Falcons, Saints, Dolphins, Broncos and Raiders since their bye week and haven’t seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. Cleveland definitely has their flaws, though, and have been too beatable in the passing game to match up with Kansas City across the board.

I think there’s definitely a scenario where Mahomes and the Chiefs come out fast, “flip the switch” and dominate from the jump. However, I also think the Browns can keep this close, get some turnovers and run the ball effectively to continue their storybook run and knock off the defending champs.

Final Score: Cleveland 30, Kansas City 27

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL $400K Showdown Special [$100K to 1st] (CLE vs KC)


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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) 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.