If you’re looking for Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals DFS picks in Sunday’s Conference Championship, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve analyzed each team’s highest-probability game scripts to assess the most likely outcomes, including which players are in line to thrive more than anticipated or fall short of expectations.
The following recommended fantasy football lineup (for tournaments, 50/50, or head-to-head competitions) aims to lock in a relatively high floor while maximizing upside.
The gap between dynastic and nearly dynastic is narrow in the NFL. Sunday will mark the fifth consecutive time the Chiefs have hosted the AFC title game. An incredible feat. Yet, they’ve won only one Super Bowl. Two overtime losses in Conference Championships, plus a shockingly bad loss to the Bucs in the Super Bowl, have left them with one lone ring.
They’re now facing a Bengals team that upset them last January. In fact, Cincy has beaten them by three points in each of their last three meetings during the past 13 months.
In each encounter, KC’s backfield dominated, carrying the ball a combined 57 times for 343 yards (6.0 yards per carry). When crafting our DFS lineup, we need to consider the strong possibility that this trend will continue — or, at the very least, that the Chiefs will try to sustain it.
Because the Bengals have surrendered only 17 TD passes — the league’s fourth-fewest per game. Not that their run defense is any softer (an impressive 4.2 yards per carry). But Kansas City has lost three straight versus Cincinnati, not because of poor running. Quite the opposite.
Instead, their defense hasn’t been able to stop Joe Burrow.
Crafting a DFS lineup that doesn’t include Patrick Mahomes might seem foolish. But he’ll be expensive. The Chiefs have a fantastic backfield. We need to commit to the run or the pass, and overall, the run is cheaper . . . while still having impressive upside.
In last week’s Bills-Bengals DFS article, I discussed the value of roughly $5,000-and-under Cincy options to backfill an otherwise top-heavy slate. In that game, Evan McPherson scored nine points, while Hayden Hurst collected 16.9. Samaje Perine, meanwhile, had 11.4.
Of course, their output came at the expense of Tyler Boyd (3.3) and, more notably, Tee Higgins (5.8 points).
Buffalo presented a unique challenge for the Bengals’ pass-friendly offense. Cincinnati thrived on great defense, terrific running, and elevating some customarily secondary options to primary roles.
The question, then, is whether they’ll approach the Chiefs similarly. KC has been ever-so-slightly better versus RBs than Buffalo was in the regular season. But more than that, we either need to invest fully in Joe Mixon or trust their aerial attack to expose the Chiefs’ subpar pass defense (league-leading 33 TD receptions surrendered).
MORE: Bengals vs. Chiefs Prediction, Odds, and Picks for Conference Championship
Mixon is the X-factor, and I’m choosing to fade him. In 36 regular-season contests from Week 5 in 2019 through Week 2 this year, he had 18+ carries 23 times (64%). In his 14 games since — including the playoffs — he’s hit 18+ only three times (21%), including last week.
Mixon’s durability has been a major question mark throughout his career. He’s earned 623 touches since Week 1 last season. His overall efficiency has diminished.
So either we believe Mixon can dominate again — the second time in an eight-day span — or he’ll once again regress, giving way to a Burrow-or-bust offense.
Top NFL DFS Picks for Chiefs vs. Bengals
Today, we’re playing DraftKings “Showdown Captain Mode,” which includes one player who earns 1.5 times his scoring output, plus five Flex players.
The following NFL betting recommendations are based on proprietary PFN predictive analytics pulled from decades of NFL historical data. Using this data, I’ve built dozens of models showing actionable probabilities of better-than-expected and worse-than-expected outcomes.
Captain: QB Joe Burrow, Bengals ($15,900)
This lineup assumes Burrow will throw early and often against one of the league’s top pass rushes, which also happens to be vulnerable through the air. The Bengals have one of the NFL’s top receiving corps, and I expect them to pressure the Chiefs.
Flex: WR Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals ($10,400)
We can comfortably afford one more big name. Since I’m all in on Burrow, I’m also all in on his top receiver . . . and, for that matter, the highest-upside WR playing today.
Flex: WR Tee Higgins, Bengals ($8,400)
It’s easy to forget that Higgins was a top-20 DFS wideout this season. He stepped up when Chase got hurt. But he’s also stepped up alongside Chase. In other words, we’ve seen instances of both players dominating in the same game. The Chiefs’ defense presents an opportunity for both to thrive.
Flex: RB Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs ($6,600)
I’m a little concerned about his zero targets last weekend. But only a little. Jerick McKinnon is now a primary offensive weapon, good for 7+ touches most weeks.
MORE: Fantasy Football Sleepers Conference Championships
Mahomes should have plenty of space to maneuver behind a line that’s protected him and against one of the league’s weakest pass rushes. The versatile McKinnon should get 30+ receiving yards on three or more receptions.
Flex: RB Isiah Pacheco ($6,400)
As much as I want to secure Mahomes and Travis Kelce, there’s simply not enough salary to do it. So we’re going full-on with KC’s backfield, led by one of the most surprising players of this season.
Flex: WR Justin Watson ($2,200)
Mahomes has many receiving options. Justin Watson is one of the cheapest, and he’s consistently one big play away from being a DFS bargain. With only $2,300 remaining, I feel comfortable rolling the dice.
Whatever you decide, good luck.