AFC Championship Single-Game NFL DFS: Top FanDuel & DraftKings Plays

Jan 26, 2024
AFC Championship Single-Game DFS: Chiefs at Ravens

Welcome to the showdown breakdown for the AFC Championship Game, where the Kansas City Chiefs travel to take on the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens. This game promises to be a clash of styles, with both teams bringing strong defenses but unique strengths in the offensive game that give this contest a huge range of outcomes. The Chiefs, led by Patrick Mahomes, have shown a ton resilience in their playoff run, culminating in a tight road win against Buffalo last weekend, while the Ravens, with the best record in the NFL and a dominant divisional round performance, are cruising into the AFC Championship with sky-high expectations. Let’s dig into the top plays and key strategies for this single-game slate.

Game Environment

This chart represents the general offensive strategies for each team when the game outcome is still in question (win probability between 20% and 80%). The final two minutes of each half are also excluded. We’ll include last year’s statistics through Week 4 of the regular season. Teams in the upper-right quadrant pass more often and play faster than the average NFL team in neutral game scripts, and conversely, teams in the lower-left quadrant play slower and run more often than the average NFL team.

Chiefs (20.5) @ Ravens (24); Over/Under 44.5

The Chiefs tied for the second-best record in the AFC during the regular season, continue to have a pass-focused approach, and consistently play at a top-five pace in neutral game scripts. Despite a dip in overall scoring, the foundations of a high-scoring offense remain evident, with the team now exceeding 25 points in three of their last four games, all victories. Mahomes' deep-passing rate aligns with league averages, but it's his red zone pass rate that sets him apart—he passes more than any other quarterback inside the 20. Still, with the second-highest pass plays per game, it’s resulted in a record-low in Mahomes' career in touchdowns—they averaged just 2.2 per game this season. Mahomes will need to play like he did last week against Buffalo facing the Ravens' robust pass defense.

On the other side, the Ravens earned the NFL's best record with a run-first (read: Lamar Jackson-first) approach. They're not nearly as run-heavy as some other teams in neutral game scripts, especially if we just look at the last month. Their pace is also average, and Jackson attempts slightly fewer deep passes than the league average as well. Despite being ranked 31st in pass plays per game and 28th in pace, the Ravens' offense, including the playoffs, now ranks third in offensive touchdowns per game.

Quarterback Analysis

While there may be 22 people on the field for every play, each play and game is heavily dictated by the performance of each team’s quarterback. While efficiency isn’t everything for quarterbacks, it is the best indicator of future performance, so we use a trio of metrics to suss out top performers at the position compared to lackluster ones. xDrive Success %, or True Drive Success Rate, is a measurement of a QB’s ability to turn drives into scores weighted by sample size. EPA or Expected Points Added, is a measurement of the QB’s contribution, both running and throwing, to the team’s scoring and production vs. the average NFL team. Completion % over Expected (CPOE)represents the accuracy and efficiency of a QB’s passes compared to league expectations.

Mahomes' fantastic postseason numbers are almost a foregone conclusion at this point but this year has been especially impressive because it contrasts with a relatively mediocre December for the Chiefs’ quarterback. Since Week 15, Mahomes ranks in the top 10 in true drive success rate, but his completion percentage over expected (CPOE) and Expected Points Added (EPA) per game fell below the NFL average. Despite this, Mahomes' prowess in high-pressure situations was on full display against Buffalo in the divisional round. He averaged 9.3 yards per attempt, his second-highest per-pass efficiency of the season, throwing two touchdown passes to Travis Kelce in the upset win. His EPA per play was the highest among all quarterbacks in the divisional round.

And yet, these outstanding advanced metrics still did not translate into a top-tier fantasy performance. Mahomes was the fifth-highest-scoring quarterback among the eight playing last weekend. Against the Ravens’ top-five defense, Mahomes' potential for high-scoring performances still exists but the challenge here is formidable. At the very least he adds a solid 24.3 rush yards per game, providing a bit of a boost to what looks like a very tough matchup on paper.

Lamar Jackson continued to show why he’s the 2023 MVP with another stupendous performance in the divisional round. After enjoying nearly three full weeks off, Jackson threw for just 152 yards, the lowest in any game this season, still adding two touchdowns through the air, something he’s now done in three straight games. But he was unstoppable as a rusher, racking up 100 yards on the ground and scoring twice, leading to his second straight start with 35 or more fantasy points.

Jackson ranked third in EPA per game and was the best in the NFL in true drive success rate during December. Facing a Kansas City defense that ranks top five in pass defense DVOA, Jackson might logically pivot to exploiting the Chiefs’ 27th-ranked rush defense DVOA. The Ravens are, unsurprisingly, first in rush DVOA on offense, largely thanks to Jackson's contributions.

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