This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.
Few predicted a Rams-Bengals Super Bowl. The Rams got here behind a stellar defense and an unbelievable season from Cooper Kupp. The real key, however, was the addition of Matthew Stafford, who has a chance to silence a lot of doubters who wrote him off as a loser in Detroit. The upstart Bengals were thought to be years away at best but second-year stud Joe Burrow has put the team on his back in what's been one of the more impressive runs in recent memory. Burrow and his skill-position players have been playing with a confidence and swagger rarely seen in such a young group.
The game is in Los Angeles this year, which means the Rams will essentially have home-field advantage. Breaking it down from an Xs and Os standpoint, the biggest mismatch is in the trenches. The Rams have an elite defensive line while the Bengals offensive line has really struggled. Burrow was sacked more times than any QB in the league during the regular season and it hasn't gotten any better in the playoffs. The Rams' defense ranked third in the league in both sacks and INTs during the regular season. Cincinnati will have its hands full trying to contain Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Co. All of this sees the Rams as 4.5-point favorites in a game that features a 48.5-point total.
From a DFS perspective, the player pool for this showdown looks especially tight as neither team really uses auxiliary players. That leaves little in the way of good, cheap values. The main GPP on DraftKings will have more than 470K entries and features a $1 million first prize. It's important to look for ways to be unique as the chalky lineups will be duplicated hundreds of times. Consider leaving salary on the table or rostering a less popular captain. You could also choose a lineup construction that might not make as much sense on paper, such as captaining a WR but not pairing him with the QB. Remember that in DFS, it's usually those willing to take the most risk who reap the biggest rewards. Plan for specific scenarios and build lineups to fit those game-scripts. Don't be afraid to take chances. Good luck.
For both teams, I plan on having considerably more exposure to the passing games than the running backs. For the most part, Matthew Stafford ($10,800) had an exceptional season, and he's been great in the playoffs, scoring at least 24 fantasy points in all three games. He's thrown for at least 337 yards in consecutive games and isn't likely to face much resistance from the all-around average Bengals defense. He'll be relatively popular in the captain spot, as quarterbacks usually are, which might be a reason to avoid rostering him there.
Despite underwhelming from a statistical standpoint in the playoffs, Joe Burrow ($10,600) is the reason that the Bengals have made it this far. Much has been made about their leaky offensive line, which has largely been abysmal this season. They rank 30th in pass-block win rate, and Burrow was notably sacked nine times against the Titans in the divisional round. They fared better against the Chiefs in the AFC championship, partly because Burrow used his legs, taking off early a few times en route to a season-high 25 rushing yards. He will have his hands full with Aaron Donald and Von Miller, which could lead to shorter passes and more scrambling opportunities. Regardless of the tough matchup, I still like Burrow. He's a special talent and has shown the ability to beat any defense. If the Bengals are going to stay competitive or even win this game, he's likely to be the reason why.
WIDE RECEIVER + TIGHT END
What more can you say about Cooper Kupp ($11,600)? He had one of the best seasons in NFL history and has been just as good in the playoffs. He's put up at least 35 DK points in consecutive games and has at least one TD in five straight. He's the most expensive player on the slate and rightly so. There is a game-theory based argument to fade him as he's going to be very popular, but it won't be me who does it. I might avoid him in the captain spot based on his salary and popularity, but I want as much exposure in the flex as possible. His receiving yardage prop is 105.5 yards and I think he beats it. He's gone for 142 and 183 in his last two. Odell Beckham ($8,400) is coming off his best game as a Ram when he caught nine of 11 targets for 113 yards two weeks ago against the 49ers in the NFC championship. He's beginning to resemble the elite WR he was early in his career. He's drawn 19 targets his last two games, and that type of volume plus his middling salary makes him a good option for the captain spot as well. Van Jefferson ($5,200) hasn't caught a TD since Week 14 and has failed to reach double-digit fantasy points in his last four games. That said, it's encouraging that he drew five targets against the 49ers. He's not going to be overly popular either, which has me more interested. I think it makes sense to take some chances on him in both the flex and captain spots as we saw him catch multiple long touchdowns earlier in the season. Due to the lack of cheap value, Ben Skowronek ($600) is going to draw some rostership. He dropped what would've been a long TD against the 49ers, but that's been the only target he's had in three postseason games.
Ja'Marr Chase ($10,400) enjoyed a breakout rookie season and carried it over to the playoffs as he's put up at least 17 DK points in all three games. I'd expect him to see a lot of Jalen Ramsey on Sunday, but he has the talent to beat him, especially deep. He'll be the least popular of the four players with five-figure salaries, which makes me want to roster him. From a point-per-dollar projection standpoint, Tee Higgins ($7,600) is the better option. He's drawn 19 targets the last two games and had at least 96 receiving yards in each. The cheaper salary makes him one of the best plays on the slate. I'll have plenty of exposure in both the flex and captain spots. Tyler Boyd ($5,400) has yet to top 26 receiving yards in three playoff games. He has, however, drawn at least five targets in seven of his last eight. Burrow may be forced to get the ball out quicker if the offensive line doesn't hold up. If that's the case, Boyd could be the beneficiary working out of the slot. The cheaper salary makes him appealing as well. Trent Taylor ($1,000) hasn't drawn an official target in the postseason but did catch an important two-point conversion against the Chiefs. Because of the lack of cheap value, he will be rostered. Probably not by me, though.
Tyler Higbee ($4,800) sprained his MCL against the 49ers and is unlikely to play. Kendall Blanton ($4,600) filled in admirably, catching all five of his targets for 57 yards. He caught a touchdown the week before against the Bucs. The cheapish salary makes him a viable option for Sunday. He's likely touchdown-dependent, so it makes sense to pair him with Stafford.
On the Bengals side, C.J. Uzomah ($4,400) sprained his MCL against the Chiefs but is optimistic he will play. Prior to his injury, he had at least six targets in six of last seven games. If he's active, I'll take a chance on him. If not, Drew Sample ($4,200) will start in his place. He caught one of two targets for four yards against the Chiefs after he replaced Uzomah in the first quarter. Even if Uzomah is out, I won't have much interest in Sample as I prefer both kickers for slightly cheaper.
Joe Mixon ($9,600) had 24 touches for 115 yards against the Chiefs. He's had at least 20 touches in all three playoff games. He could find it tough sledding on the ground against the Rams' elite defensive line, but his work in the passing game could make up for that. He's averaging more than five catches in his last five games, and I've bet the over on his receptions prop of 3.5. That said, I prefer Burrow and Chase in that salary range as it's likely that the Bengals will be playing from behind, which would favor the passing game. Samaje Perine ($2,400) scored on a 41-yard screen-pass against the Chiefs. Barring an injury to Mixon, he'd have to score again to end up on the optimal lineup, and I don't like his chances.
The Rams' RB situation is murky. Cam Akers ($6,400) had been seeing the majority of work but suffered a shoulder injury against the 49ers and finished with 13 carries for 48 yards. He was spelled by Sony Michel ($5,000), who saw 10 carries but managed only 16 yards. Both backs caught one of two targets. Akers is expected to play but averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the playoffs. Add to that the potential return of Darrell Henderson ($1,600), who according to Sean McVay, has a "good chance" to return from the injured reserve. Based on the lack of cheap value on this slate, I'd have no problem taking a chance on Henderson if he's active. All it takes is a one-yard TD for him to be optimal at such a cheap price tag. If he's ruled out, I'd have more interest in Akers than Michel, but either could succeed in the right gamescript. If the Rams are playing with the lead, one of the RBs is likely to have a good game.
I'll have exposure to both kickers as the lack of cheap value makes it more likely that one ends up on the winning lineup. Evan McPherson ($4,000) has been incredible this season, especially in the playoffs. He's made four field goals in each of the Bengals' three playoff games and three have been from 50-plus yards. He hasn't missed yet either. Matt Gay ($3,800) has made seven of nine in the postseason, averaging 11 DK points in that span. A double-digit score is usually all it takes for a kicker to be optimal, especially if no one priced lower does much of anything.
For similar reasons as with the kickers, I'll have interest in both defenses. It's possible that no one priced lower puts up an optimal score. The Rams ($3,400) will be more popular, considering their star power and the fact that Burrow gets sacked so often. The Bengals ($3,200) are viable too, however. Stafford has thrown 18 INTs this season and notably threw pick-sixes in three consecutive weeks earlier in the year. Either defense can be rostered in any type of lineup construction as they can end up optimal in myriad ways.