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

Jan 26, 2024
NFC Championship Single-Game DFS: Lions at 49ers

Welcome to the showdown breakdown for the NFC Championship, where we dissect the highly anticipated clash between the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams tied for the best record in the NFC and bring highly explosive offenses and tons of talent on both sides of the ball. Let's dive into the top plays and key strategies for this exciting one-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.

Lions (22) @ 49ers (29); Over/Under 51

The Detroit Lions, with a regular-season record of 12-5, have looked fantastic in their 2023 playoff run. Their journey to the NFC Championship began with a thrilling victory over the Los Angeles Rams followed by an eight-point triumph against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round. Post-Thanksgiving, the Lions have been on an absolute tear, losing only twice in that span, and one of these losses was the controversial 20-19 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.

The Lions' offensive strategy since that point has been slightly more run-focused than average, with an uptempo pace in neutral game scripts. Jared Goff averages just three deep passes per game, which is slightly below the league average. However, he steps up the passing and pace in scoring range. Because of that, Detroit ranked ninth in pass plays per game this season. This approach has paid off—including the playoffs they now rank third in pass yards per game and second in offensive touchdowns per game.

On the other side, the San Francisco 49ers, also with a 12-5 record, secured the NFC’s top seed and a first-round bye even in a Week 17 loss. Their path to the NFC championship included a nail-biting 24-21 victory over a resilient Green Bay Packers team that wasn’t secured until the final minutes. Since their Week 9 bye, the 49ers are 8-2 and haven’t needed to alter their offensive script in any meaningful way in the process. Their game strategy during neutral scripts leans heavily on the run, and they have the slowest pace in the NFL.

Contrary to relying on high pace or passing volume, the 49ers' offense thrives on misdirection, efficiency in their run game, and quick strikes in the passing game. Brock Purdy, while just league-average in red zone pass rate and actually below average in deep pass rate, has been arguably the most accurate quarterback in the NFL this year, and it has led the team to impressive results. The 49ers ranked just behind Detroit (fourth) in pass yards per game and scored the most offensive touchdowns per game of any team this season.

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.

Jared Goff has had a very solid season, but somewhat surprisingly, doesn’t have out-of-this-world metrics during the team's recent hot streak, ranking at or below average in all three key advanced metrics for quarterbacks in the chart above. His numbers look better when including the entire season. He ranked in the top 10 in true passer rating, adjusted air yards per attempt, and total Expected Points Added (EPA). Despite a slightly below-average completion percentage over expected (CPOE), since Thanksgiving, and hovering around the average in true drive success rate and EPA per game during that same span.

Goff still has a knack for making timely plays in the passing game and is constantly put in advantageous positions by OC Ben Johnson. Goff ranked in the top five in passing touchdowns this season. Still, Goff only surpassed 25 fantasy points twice this season, as the production tends to get spread to his skill position players.

On the other side, Brock Purdy had an exceptional season and is an NFL MVP finalist alongside teammate Christian McCaffrey. Purdy's been above league-average in CPOE and true drive success rate and leads all quarterbacks in EPA per game since Week 13. Purdy finished third in passing touchdowns this season even with the 49ers' ranking last in the NFL in pass plays per game. Purdy excels in play-action, leading the league in completion percentage in such scenarios. Purdy is the only quarterback in the NFL to finish with top-five rankings in completion percentage in a clean pocket, in the red zone, and on deep passes. Particularly lethal against man coverage (which Detroit moderately employs) Purdy may have the most talented offense in the league around him, but he’s a brilliant driver of the offense. He finished the season sixth among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game and scored 25 fantasy points four times this year.

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