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DFS Three And Out 2022 Conference Weekend week 21
Conference Championship weekend means a two-game slate. And that means everybody is in play and you're going to have to pay a premium on some picks. I'm okay with that. In fact, I have three that I'm really keen on and one I'm less so. It's the DFS Tournament Three and Out. Let's play ball!
Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals ($7,600 on DraftKings; $8,600 on FanDuel)
Set the controls on the ol' Wayback Machine to Week 17 of the 2021 season. Chase put up 266 receiving yards against the Chiefs in an efficient day from quarterback Joe Burrow that featured 11 catches on 12 targets. Chase also had three touchdowns and delivered a division-claiming win for the Bengals. It turned out to be the single best pass-catching performance against the Chiefs ever. Jump ahead to Week 13 of the 2022 season. Chase returned from a hip injury that forced him to miss four games just in time to face the same Chiefs team he torched last January. He didn't catch his first of seven passes until near the end of the first quarter, an unspectacular seven-yard gain to convert third-and-2 and extend what would be a second consecutive touchdown drive to open the game with a 14-3 lead. But by the end of the game, Chase had a team-high 97 receiving yards. Jump ahead to this weekend. ... As FantasyLife.com's Dwain McFarland notes, Chase is the most-targeted Bengal and is Burrow's favorite option in critical situations like end-zone targets (35 percent) and third/fourth down situations (26 percent). Since his return from that hip injury, Chase has drawn a 30.7 percent target share, 36.8 percent end-zone target share, and 40.2 percent air yard share. Of course, this isn't necessarily a new development. Chase has enjoyed double-digit targets in nine of 12 regular-season games this season. He's not had fewer than six targets in any of those games. Meanwhile, as McFarland pointed out, not only do the Chiefs allow the most fantasy receiving points per game (59.3), but three of their four primary coverage schemes have been good to Chase. McFarland added, "You didn't need to know all of that to know Chase deserves the No. 1 slot in the ranks because great WRs are good against most coverages." True. But when you're splitting hairs on high-end plays, that knowledge doesn't hurt either.
DeVonta Smith, WR Philadelphia Eagles ($6,800 on DraftKings; $7,700 on FanDuel)
A.J. Brown tweaked his left hip against the Giants, but he's not on the injury report this week and it appears the injury won't be an issue. Still, Smith led the Eagles in receptions, receiving yards and targets against the Giants while also securing a nine-yard touchdown grab to put Philadelphia up by two scores late in the first quarter. He pulled in six of 10 targets for 61 yards to go with the touchdown. This shouldn't be a surprise. As CBSSports.com pointed out, the speedster has produced at least Saturday's reception and yardage totals in four straight games overall. Indeed, FantasyPros' Derek Brown notes that since Week 16, Smith has led all Eagles receivers with a 35.5 percent target share and a 57.1 percent end-zone target share. He's been targeted on 31 percent of his routes. Smith ranks 19th in deep targets and 18th in open rate among wide receivers. But there's more to Smith's success than a hot streak. According to McFarland, Smith's 28 percent target share for the season -- despite playing opposite Brown -- is an amazing accomplishment. Since 2011, no other WR duo has delivered two 28 percent-target share earners. The next closest duo was in 2014, with Andre Johnson (31 percent) and DeAndre Hopkins (25 percent). McFarland add, Smith will be going up against a 49ers secondary allowing the second-most receiving fantasy points per game (54.2) in non-overtime play of the four remaining teams.
George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers ($5,200 on DraftKings; $6,800 on FanDuel)
In case you somehow missed it, Kittle is a big reason the 49ers find themselves preparing for a trip to Philly this weekend. In desperate need of a spark for an offense that for most of the first three quarters had been unable to solve the Cowboys' defense, the 49ers finally got what they needed from their star tight end. With 5:19 left in the third quarter of a tie game, Brock Purdy rolled to his left with the intent to hit receiver Brandon Aiyuk on a crossing route. If that wasn't there, the ball was supposed to go to wideout Deebo Samuel farther down the left side. And if that wasn't available, Purdy was supposed to find fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the flat. With none of those options open, Purdy kept his eyes downfield and saw Kittle streaking down the middle and threw it just in front of his tight end. Kittle reached out with his right hand and deflected the ball back to himself, it bounced off his face mask and he reached back out with both hands to haul it in before it hit the ground and Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs could deliver a big hit. The play went for 30 yards and led to the Niners' only touchdown of the game eight plays later. It also led to the Niners' 12th consecutive win and punched their ticket to a third NFC Championship Game appearance in four seasons. For Kittle, it was the biggest highlight of his best career playoff performance. He finished with five catches on as many targets for 95 yards, the most yards by a Niners tight end in a playoff game since Vernon Davis had 104 in Super Bowl XLVII during the 2012 campaign and the most for Kittle in the postseason, surpassing the 63 he had in a divisional round win against the Packers last year. But this shouldn't have been a surprise either. As ESPN.com's Nick Waggoner notes, Kittle and Purdy have had a strong chemistry since Purdy took over as the starter in Week 14. In those seven games, Kittle has 29 receptions for 425 yards and seven touchdowns. In fact, as Brown points out, with Purdy as his trigger man, Kittle has had a 22.6 percent target share and 50 percent end-zone target share (24 percent air yard share). Even with Samuel returned during the same stretch, Kittle still has maintained an 18.9 percent target share and 33.3 percent end zone target share. Meanwhile, Brown notes that since Week 15, the Eagles have been 23rd in catch rate and 26th in receiving yards per game allowed to tight ends. Over their last four contests, they have also been 28th in fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends from the slot. Since Week 18, Kittle has been second on the team in slot snaps.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,600 on DraftKings; $8,500 on FanDuel)
At this point, there doesn't seem to be any real question about Mahomes playing this week. Yes, he suffered a high-ankle sprain last weekend. No matter. Mahomes will play. Considering he's worked fully Wednesday and Thursday, it appears he'll be in better shape than anybody could have expected. Will he be 100 percent? Probably not. Is that my biggest concern? Also probably not. But it's one of a handful of concerns I have going into the weekend. Of course, as USA Today's Jarrett Bell suggested, if there's anyone who can adapt, adjust and overcome adversity, it is Mahomes. In 2019, he suffered a high left ankle sprain and didn't miss a start. In another context, the NFL's presumptive MVP adjusted fine after his terrific receiver, Tyreek Hill, was traded to Miami last spring. Without "The Cheetah" at his disposal, Mahomes still led the league with 5,250 passing yards and 41 TD strikes. And Kansas City paced the NFL in scoring again, averaging 29.1 points per game. But, Bell went on to point out, for all those numbers, the Bengals have had Mahomes' number in winning all three matchups -- including the AFC title game that went to OT around this time last year -- against the Chiefs since the start of the 2021 season. In addition, as Brown notes, across those last three meetings with Cincinnati, he's eclipsed 260 passing yards once, finished higher than 7.5 yards per attempt once and managed multiple passing touchdowns twice. Since Week 15, Cincinnati has been fifth in success rate per dropback and 21st in explosive pass rate. The Bengals are sixth in DVOA against deep passing. Bell put a finer point on it when he wrote, "In other words, it's one thing for Mahomes to face the prospect of being upstaged again by Burrow and a Cincinnati Bengals defense that has been like kryptonite for him. Now he must also play through whatever pain and tenderness lingers from the high ankle sprain that hobbled him last weekend." On a two-game slate everybody is fair game. But I'm with Brown here, "Mahomes will is more of a contrarian play for me on this slate. I'll likely come in below the field on him. I'll have more exposure to Hurts and Burrow this weekend." It's a fair approach.