NFL Showdown is not about who you play as much as how you play them. Median projections are a tool in the toolbox, but they are to be trusted far less than they would be on the main slate. This is because of the ramifications associated with a single player underproducing or overproducing relative to their projection. 

If a wide receiver who was projected for nine points instead earns 22 points, then there is a strong likelihood that his performance came at the detriment of a teammate, or even a member of the opposing team. His running back likely received less opportunity, while the opposing team’s running back may have seen a boost. In this scenario, his quarterback may have also produced well.

The game theory is much more intricate than this one example, but it gets you down the path of thinking of showdown as an if/then rather than a raw projection. 

There may be times when Cooper Kupp finishes as the best play of the slate without Matthew Stafford, and other times Jonathan Taylor may rush for 200 yards while Matt Ryan and Michael Pittman still make the optimal lineup. Showdown is non-binary, but over time sound lineup construction will reign supreme.

Most important of all:

The likeliest outcome is only one of infinite outcomes. When rostership dictates that the field has the game figured out, lean into builds around a different scenario. The term “any given Sunday” should be the mantra for successfully building Showdown lineups.

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Slate Breakdown

The Cincinnati Bengals are heading to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs as 1.5-point underdogs. The total is set at 48.

Injury Notes 

Patrick Mahomes – Ankle – Full Participant
Justin Watson – Illness – Did Not Participate
Mecole Hardman – Pelvis – Limited

Cincinnati Bengals Offense 


Joe Burrow: $10,600

In Burrow’s first outing against Kansas City, he completed just 25 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. In his last three games, he has not completed more than 25 passes or passed for over 250 yards, however, two of those contests came against Baltimore, and the other was in the snow against Buffalo. If we look back to Week 16 we see Burrow’s ceiling of 40 completions for 375 yards and three touchdowns. With a banged-up offensive line, expected this outing to look more like Week 16 in terms of attempts, rather than following his three-week trend. 

Running back

Joe Mixon: $9,800

Similar to Burrow, Mixon did not have much volume in either matchup against the Ravens. When omitting those two games, he’s handled over 20 touches per game over the last three games. He’s also playing on nearly 60% of the downs. If you’re going to be underweight on Burrow, you’ll want to be overweight on Mixon.


Ja’Marr Chase: $10,400

Chase narrowly missed a massive two-touchdown performance as his second score was as close to a catch as one can get without catching it. With that being said, he was targeted under 10 times for the first time since Week 13. He still led the team in targets with eight and showed that he can have slate-winning upside even on fewer opportunities. If stacking Chase and Burrow, it’s best to invest heavily in the Bengals with the rest of the lineup.  

Tee Higgins: $8,400

Higgins was targeted just four times last week, and six the week prior. He also played just 76% of the snaps against Buffalo after playing 90% the week prior. He’s been trending in the wrong direction throughout the playoffs, but he still has enough upside to consider in Burrow stacks. If expecting Burrow’s performance to resemble Week 16, then it’s worth considering Higgins had 128 yards and a touchdown.

Hayden Hurst: $5,200

Hurst has been targeted six times in each of the last two games. Last week he was targeted twice in the red zone and scored a touchdown to go along with his 59 yards. He’s important to include in Burrow stacks to save salary and keep the cumulative roster percentage of the lineup down. 

Tyler Boyd: $5,000

Like Hurst, Boyd provides relief for overall salary and cumulative roster percentage while still offering upside. He’s been quiet in the playoffs, with less than three receptions in both outings. He’s still playing the majority of the snaps and has been a focal point of the offense all season. 

Punt Plays

Samaje Perine: $4,600

Perine is expected to play between 45-50% of the snaps and is used on third downs and in the two-minute offense. His roster percentage will be around 10% while receiving around 10 opportunities. He’s an excellent mid-range punt play.   

Trenton Irwin: $2,800

In large field tournaments, Irwin is worth having a small amount of exposure to for Burrow stacks. He will play roughly 25% of the snaps and has been targeted at least 2 times in 8 of his 11 active games. 

Favorite Stack

Ja’Marr Chase / Joe Burrow / Samaje Perine / Patrick Mahomes

Chase is one of the few Bengals that could have slate-winning upside while fending off Burrow for the optimal Captain spot. If he can find success on a high target market share and multiple touchdowns, he could keep all other Bengals receivers out of the optimal lineup. This would likely result in a decent outing for the run game as well. By playing Perine over Mixon we save enough salary to add Patrick Mahomes and pair him with two of his cheaper pass-catchers. 

Kansas City Chiefs Offense 


Patrick Mahomes: $11,400

This is the biggest decision point of the slate. We all saw Mahomes’s ankle injury, and we saw what he looked like when he returned. We also know how long a high ankle sprain is “supposed” to take to heal. However, the line happened to move from Bengals -1 to Chiefs -1.5 shortly after Mahomes was seen running with no limp at practice. If you believe Mahomes will be completely fine, this is a week to be heavily overweight on him. If you believe he will struggle, it’s a week to avoid entirely. I tend to lean towards the former, so most of my lineups will include Mahomes and Travis Kelce to take advantage of any discount we may get in roster percentage.

Running back

Jerick McKinnon: $6,600

McKinnon finished the season as hot as one could be in the receiving touchdown category. In his one playoff game, he produced just 25 yards on 11 carries and played 65% of the snaps. DraftKings did a good job pricing him and Pacheco similarly and forcing us to make the decision. Since I’m assuming Mahomes has a productive game, I’m leaning towards McKinnon as we have a large sample size of him being heavily involved in the Chiefs’ passing success.

Isiah Pacheco: $6,400

Pacheco handled one more carry than McKinnon but played just 35% of the snaps. Even on limited opportunity he nearly hit the 100-yard-bonus and should have an even easier time this week. 


Travis Kelce: $11,000

Kelce has a long resume of playoff success, averaging over 10 targets and 100 yards throughout his time with Mahomes. Last week he nearly broke the single-game target record for a playoff game with 17. He caught 14 passes, narrowly missed the 100-yard-bonus, and scored two touchdowns. I’m comfortable playing Kelce in the Flex without Mahomes, but I’m not comfortable playing Mahomes without Kelce.

JuJu Smith-Schuster: $5,400

Smith-Schuster has been largely disappointing over the last four games, but his salary bakes in his recent shortcomings. He hasn’t been targeted more than five times since Week 15, although he has been a full-time snap participant throughout. At his price, he will be a popular play, even with his recent lack of opportunity.

Kadarius Toney: $4,800

Toney is $600 less than Smith-Schuster and will carry half the roster percentage. If Mecole Hardman continues to be limited, Toney will get all the gadget opportunities in a week where Mahomes may need that added help. Toney received one carry last week in addition to seven targets. He only plays roughly 30% of the snaps, but when he’s on the field, he’s involved. 

Punt plays

Marquez Valdes-Scantling: $3,600

Valdes-Scantling has nearly no projectable nature to his opportunities. He’s just as likely to receive two targets as he is to receive seven. That’s part of the reason we will want to be overweight on his 15% roster percentage. If we’re assuming Mahomes has a great game at his decreased roster percentage, then we benefit from stacking him with options under 20% roster percentage like Toney and Valdes-Scantling. We’ve seen Valdes-Scantling do a lot with a little, but he’s been quiet since Week 13 against the Bengals. 

Noah Gray: $1,400

Gray is good for at least one target per week and often receives designed opportunities. He even has an outside shot at taking a QB sneak for a touchdown as the Chiefs like to motion players in behind center rather than using Mahomes. He’s an excellent stacking option for Mahomes to free up salary, especially if Justin Watson is unable to go.  

Favorite Stack

Patrick Mahomes / Travis Kelce / Jerick McKinnon / Joe Mixon

We’re used to seeing Mahomes utilized about 23% of the time at Captain. On this slate, that number should be around 10%. We’ve got to take a stand on how we think he will produce on the ankle. I’m choosing to assume he can produce just as well from the pocket, which helps me make some other assumptions. Kelce is essentially locked into any lineup where we expect Mahomes to succeed, regardless of his roster percentage. Last week McKinnon was a non-factor, but in the many weeks prior he was a huge part of the passing game, so we go back to him in Chiefs passing game stacks. That takes a lot of the salary off the table for pairing Burrow with one of his receivers. Since we can’t add a Bengals passing stack to this build, we can use either Mixon or Perine to pivot to the Cincinnati run game. 

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