We all know that, if you're going to succeed on a small NFL slate, you'll have to stack precisely and copiously. Last year's first-round DFS contests were dominated by Aaron Rodgers/Randall Cobb/Davante Adams combinations, and by Steelers mega-studs Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but there was more to the game than that. DFSers had to fade Jordy Nelson, who was injured early in that game and paved the way for the Packers' WR2 and WR3 to erupt. And while Bell and Brown each went bananas, it generally took both together – a bit of a wonky, conflicting stack on paper – to take down big contests.
So, let us know which stacks you'll be putting into play most this weekend. Give us the following, taking into account value, upside, and ownership strategy:
- The safest correlative (QB/WR, QB/TE, RB/DST) two-man stack, one to (at least theoretically) build cash lineups around
- The sexiest three-man stack, one you think can truly erupt in Rodgers/Cobb/Adams fashion
- The best massive cross-stack - think 4-5 guys from both teams in one game - that you'd be happy to root a GPP lineup in
I always start with the spread and implied totals, and the playoffs are no different.
Saints – 27.75 points (7-point favorite)
Rams – 27.5 points (6.5-point favorite)
Chiefs – 26.5 points (9-point favorite)
Jaguars – 24.25 points (9-point favorite)
Falcons – 21.0 points (6.5-point dog)
Panthers – 20.75 points (7-point dog)
Titans – 17.5 points (9-point dog)
BUF Bills -- 15.25 points (9-point dog)
I'm sure many will talk themselves into scenarios where these point totals are way off base, but it's still wise to make them your starting point. With that in mind, I have a hard time putting much faith in the Bills or Titans, in particular. I'm admittedly surprised the Saints are such heavy favorites against a battle-tested division opponent, and even though they’re the highest-projected scoring unit, I'm more interested in the Rams, Chiefs, and Jaguars.
Call me crazy, but based on value per salary dollar, my favorite stack this week is the Chiefs involving Alex Smith ($7,800 FD, $6,300 DK), Tyreek Hill ($7,700 FD, $6,800 DK), and Travis Kelce ($7,700 FD, $7,100 DK). I also realize it's going to be a highly-owned stack. But in a small playoff-sized roster pool, you HAVE to be willing to have heavy overlap with core players. The key will be getting the right stack (even if highly owned) paired with a few differentiators at other spots.
My favorite "safe stacks" are:
Leonard Fournette ($8,100 FD/$7,400 DK) and Jaguars DST ($5,600 FD/$4,400 DK)
For a cross-stack, I like the idea of running Smith/Hill back with the Titans’ Delanie Walker, who comes affordably. And the Bills offer a few boom-or-bust receiving options – Zay Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Charles Clay – who run back that stack nicely.
Justin Howe: I think Jason nailed the safe stacks – Fournette/Jaguars and various Chiefs look like, by far, the weekend’s safest and more sensible picks. Fournette boasts the weekend’s best running back matchup, and a strong showing by him would probably coincide with a low-scoring game packed with punishing Jaguar defensive play. They’ll be the foundation pieces of most of my lineup iterations.
Kelce looks like the safe must-play of the week behind Todd Gurley and Fournette. I’m not huge on Hunt: the Tennessee run defense has grown Stout (capitalization intended), and for their warts, it’s not a team that finds itself blown out often. Despite the spread, Hunt could be capped well below the massive touch totals he saw in those late-season blowouts. He’s a solid diversification piece, but I’m more interested in Hill and Kelce. Stacking one (or both) with Smith feels sharp.
To cross-stack, I’ll be looking mostly at Rams-Falcons. It’s the closest-projected game, and there’s dynamism all over the place. Todd Gurley is a foundation piece – a great fade in terms of game strategy, but also the weekend’s best stab at 30-point, tournament-winning upside, and I won’t be without him in many lineups. When I do fade him, though, I’ll be loading up on Jared Goff and his wideouts, mixed with Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman.
Justin Bonnema: The safest stack by far is Fournette/Jaguars. The Bills have one of the worst run defenses in football and easily the worst of the weekend. The Jaguars obviously love to run the ball, and they are heavy favorites with a dominant defense. This stack is a no-brainer, even.
The sexiest stack for me is Drew Brees/Michael Thomas/Alvin Kamara. You essentially buy the entire Saints offense in what is ranked as the highest team total of the week. The Panthers have a good-to-great run defense that funnels opposing offenses through quarterbacks and receivers. Thomas has been a frustrating player to own this year given his lack of touchdowns, but his volume and opportunity are always intact. Kamara is trending toward matchup-proof territory and has already logged three touchdowns against the Panthers this year. If Cam Newton pulls together one of his Superman-level performances, we're going to see a lot of Brees and a lot of Thomas/Kamara as his top targets.
As far as a massive cross-stack, take the above Saints onslaught and add in Christian McCaffrey – and maybe Greg Olsen. If the Panthers are going to compete, those two players are going to have big games. It might be chalky, but I love investing most of my exposure to this game while cheering for low-scoring, slow-paced turnouts from the other three contests.
John Mamula: I agree that the Fournette/Jaguars defense is the safest stack to build around this week. The positive correlation has the most likely chance to succeed if the Jaguars are able to build an early lead.
The sexiest stack for me is the Rams offense, as they led the NFL with an impressive 29.9 points per game. The Rams scored at least 26 points in 12 games (75%) this season. My main three-man Rams stack will feature Goff, Gurley, and Robert Woods. For multiple lineups, I will sprinkle in Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins.
I will stick with the Rams/Falcons game for a mega-game stack. After starting with Goff/Gurley/Woods, though, it is difficult to add Julio Jones to the roster. I am more likely to cross-stack the Rams with Freeman, Tevin Coleman, or Mohamed Sanu.
James Brimacombe: I agree on the Fournette/Jaguars Defense stack; hard to beat that this week as it feels like the Jaguars are going to want to control this game right from the start. That could easily put the ball in Fournette's hands 25+ times. The Bills offense has been up and down all season, and with McCoy banged up and the Jaguars pass defense tops in the league, it is hard to see a scenario where they break through for multiple scores.
Another one of my favorite stacks this week is Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs defense. The Chiefs are going to look to get the ball in Hill's hands more often in the playoffs and he should see all special teams duties in the return game, as well as a few snaps as a runner. It is hard for me to not see a Hill touchdown this week in one form or another, and stacking him with the Chiefs defense, who gets a struggling Marcus Mariota, makes a lot of sense to me. You could also add in Smith onto this stack to make it my top three-man stack of the week.
Chris Feery: For a safe stack, I’ll concur with my colleagues that Fournette/Jaguars defense seems to be the way to go. The Jaguars should have little trouble containing the Bills offense, and there’s a good chance they play ball control to simply get through to the next round unscathed. Fournette should be in line for a healthy workload, and he could have himself a nice game against a Bills team that has been porous against the run in the latter part of the season.
For a three-man stack, I’m most intrigued by Goff-Gurley-Kupp, but I wouldn’t be opposed to swapping out Kupp for either Sammy Watkins or Woods. The stack is a little tough to pull off due to Gurley’s exorbitant price for the week, but it could be well worth the effort. The Rams offense was absolutely explosive this season, and there’s nothing to suggest that will change in the Wild Card round. This stack gives you exposure to both facets of the potent offense, and I’ll be finding my value elsewhere to make it happen.
Like John, I’ll also stick with the Rams-Falcons game for a cross-stack. The aforementioned stack can work nicely with Freeman and Sanu, and Austin Hooper is an intriguing under-the-radar pivot option that can save some much-needed salary cap dollars.