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NFL Game by Game Divisional Weekend

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This weekend represents one of the best weekends in the NFL season as we’re down to the final eight and it’s also the last slate that you’re going to have plenty of options. WE’re back this week to break everything down after a mostly successful Wildcard round. I personally had too much Saints exposure to get anything done but we hit on such plays like Derrick Henry (correlated with the Titans D/ST), DK Metcalf, Adam Thielen and Devin Singletary. Let’s keep the good times rolling in the Divisional Round!

Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers, O/U of 45 (49ers -7)

Vikings Overview

QB – Kirk Cousins might have answered some questions about his play in real life this past week but that didn’t exactly translate to fantasy production since he ended under 14 DK points. His price reflects that because only two quarterbacks are cheaper and playing anyone other than Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson could be opportunity cost. Like most QB’s, Cousins sees a pretty dramatic dip as far as production under pressure. His completion rate is only 53% on the season when he’s pressured and the 49ers did finish tied for fifth in sacks on the season with 48. One of the keys to playing Cousins could be Dee Ford. If he’s back and the 49ers can get pressure on Cousins on the road, he’s not likely to pay off. The 49ers did give up more towards the end of the year but still finished in the top 10 against the position on the regular season. I will likely not use much Cousins, if any this weekend.

RB – I wasn’t really on Dalvin Cook last week and he told me to pound sand with his performance, racking up two touchdowns and 130 total yards. Cook is a monster and gets another poor matchup but it just might not matter with him and the way this offense runs. If Cook gets another 31 touches, he should have a floor of at least 2x. There was some frustration watching the game because Cook was off the field around the goal line but he did finish fifth in red zone carries despite missing the so he’s still a fixture when the carries matter most. He is the third-highest salaried player and even with the 49ers only giving up eight touchdowns to the position on the year, Cook is still in play. I’m leaning towards just using him in GPP’s but the volume is likely enough to keep him in cash formats as well.

WR – According to PFF, it would seem that Adam Thielen is in line to see more of Richard Sherman this week which could swing the pendulum to playing Stefon Diggs instead. I was hoping one of these players would be taking more snaps in the slot but against the Saints both players didn’t exceed 10 snaps in the alignment. The 49ers were just mid-pack to receivers this season and did allow 17 touchdowns so if Cousins can play well, I feel like one of these receivers can have a big game. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the Vikings really making an effort to get Diggs involved after he threw a fit might bleed over into this week as well. If he can avoid Sherman more often than not, I’m more willing to play him at his price than Thielen at his.

TE – The 49ers were quite good against tight ends on the season with only giving up six touchdowns overall. The finished as the sixth-best team against the position and I’m still hesitant on playing Kyle Rudolph. Sure he finished with 13.1 points but 7.5 of that came in OT on the touchdown (pushoff) that won the game. The seven targets was intriguing but I just don’t think we can assume Diggs only gets three targets again this week. If he goes back to the 7-9 targets that he should command, Rudolph should go back down to around four or five. You’re just chasing touchdowns with him and even that seems thin this week.

D/ST – The Vikings are interesting at the price. Coming off relatively controlling the Saints in the dome is impressive and it’s not like Jimmy Garoppolo and company have proven to be some unbeatable offense. Minnesota is now at 54 sacks overall and has a solid run defense, 13th in the league. I believe that the only defense cheaper in play could be Seattle because I won’t play the Titans or the Texans this week.

Cash – Cook

GPP – Diggs, Cousins, Thielen, D/ST, Rudolph

49ers Overview

QB – One of the main issues I have with playing Jimmy G in this spot is there is simply no reliable ceiling. Of the 16 regular season games, 12 were under 18.5 DK points, one was right at 23 and then three were above 30 DK. Since his price is so low, we technically only need about 16 DK to hit 3x but there’s a reasonable chance that he gets doubled up by the higher end QB’s on the slate. Garoppolo would struggle to keep up on a point per dollar basis in that scenario but…the Vikings are hurting. They were already missing corners heading into New Orleans. It didn’t work out results wise but Kyle Shanahan is a gifted offensive mind who can pinpoint that weakness and exploit it. People finally realized that Xavier Rhodes isn’t as good as he used to be this past week and if the Vikings can control the run game, Jimmy G could have a good enough game to make it worth playing over the upper echelon.

RB – My original thought was the SF backfield might be kind of messy but upon reviewing Week 17 data, it really isn’t. Raheem Mostert got 11 touches and opportunities to score while Tevin Coleman only played 17 snaps to 36 for Mostert. Since Week 13, Mostert has gotten at least 10 carries in every single game and has scored every single time as well. He has taken over the backfield and has shown serious explosiveness with 5.6 yards per rush on the season. With a price that is under $6,000 he is interesting even in a poor matchup and it only really takes one play. Since Coleman and Matt Breida have taken a back seat, Mostert can be used in all formats at his salary.

WR – Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel are basically the same price but I’m leaning towards playing Deebo here. For one, he turned out to be the second-highest targeted player in the red zone on the 49ers and held a 12-5 advantage over Sanders. Additionally, Samuel has at least one rushing attempt in the past five games and has exceeded 20 yards in four of them. This kid is dangerous with the ball in his hand and Shanahan has had an extra week to cook something up. Since neither player is a target monster, that extra juice from the rushing game could turn out to be HUGE for Samuel and it isn’t something Sanders can match. If the Vikings lose Rhodes on top of it, a stack of Jimmy G, Sanders and Samuel would be a very unique way to approach things because folks will gravitate to George Kittle.

TE – When we talk about the San Francisco passing game, we have to talk about Kittle because he was the man who it ran through this season. Among tight ends with at least 65 targets, Kittle led them with a 3.10 yards/route run mark but was 11th in total routes run. Between Kittle being such a good blocker and the 49ers being 29th in passing attempts on the season, he just didn’t run a ton of routes. He can make the most of them but the Vikings only allowed one touchdown through the season to the position. What is surprising about the routes run is Mark Andrews has the reputation of only running routes but he finished with fewer than Kittle in one extra game. I still prefer Andrews for a few reasons that we’ll get to.

D/ST – If I’m trying to fit in players that I want, paying $3,000 for San Fran seems like a reach. They also really hit the skids coming down the stretch, totaling just 13 DK points from Week 13 onwards. Maybe with Ford back you can make more of an argument but I’m likely not going here.

Update – It appears that Kwon Alexander may be in line to make his return off the IR and the Niners would basically have their starting unit back from Opening Day. They become a more attractive target in this scenario. Fortunately, they are the first game so we’ll have the info we need. 

Cash – Deebo, Mostert, Jimmy G

GPP – Sanders, Kittle, D/ST

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens, O/U of 46.5 (Ravens -9.5)

Titans Overview

QB – I’m not sure Ryan Tannehill could get much of a worse result than he got last week but I’m really iffy on using him, despite being the cheapest option on the board. The is a question of volume as the past three games he’s only thrown the ball 15, 20 and 27 times with six touchdowns to just one interception. It’s the second straight very poor matchup since the Ravens were the second-best team to the position and only allowed 15 touchdown passes, tied for the second-fewest in the league. Playing Tannehill is game script related. If you believe that the Titans are going to be chasing and can’t run Derrick Henry 35 times, Tannehill is in play but not comfortably. If you believe that Henry runs roughshod again, staying away from Tannehill is likely the right call.

RB – Henry was an absolute wrecking ball last week but he also inherited another tough matchup. While Henry has been on a tear lately, he has had almost exclusively good matchups outside New England last week. Baltimore allowed just 93.4 yards per game but the rub is they faced the least rushing attempts in all of football. That tends to happen when the offense leads the league in points per game at 33.2 (no other team was over 30). Much like New England last week, Baltimore could be more susceptible to the run than it looks on the surface. They gave up 4.4 yards a carry, tied for the eighth-worst mark in the league. I’m not quite as heavy on Henry as I was last week but he’s still well in play this week.

WR – AJ Brown could have a bad matchup on either side of the formation on Jimmy Smith or Marcus Peters so the road won’t be easy for him. To win the game, Tennessee almost has to throw a little more than last week and Brown will have to do more than last week as well. Peters especially has a bit of a history of being suckered into giving up big plays but Brown will need that to hit his salary on this slate. The price decrease helps him a bit but he has been extremely boom or bust so far this year so he’s not cash viable to me. Neither Tajae Sharpe or Corey Davis are interesting to me on this slate, as they have done virtually nothing all season long.

TE – I can see some punting with Jonnu Smith just due to the rest of their roster construction but he’s another player that has been wildly hard to pin down. The past two games he has a total of two targets  and the Ravens were pretty easily the best team against tight ends this season. Only two teams allowed fewer yards and they allowed the fewest receptions. Bringing in Earl Thomas can’t hurt that facet of the game and I will not be on Smith personally.

D/ST – Even with a week layoff, I won’t play defenses against Lamar Jackson and company. I was all over the Titans last week but am running away this week regardless of price.

Cash – Henry is closest

GPP – Brown, Tannehill

Ravens Overview

QB – I really want to play Lamar Jackson and I don’t much care that he’s so expensive. If he was a pure pocket passer, I might have some hesitation because not playing for almost three weeks can effect players negatively. I don’t feel like we have to have major concerns with that with Jackson since he can equalize any shortcoming in the passing game with his legs. We’re talking about a player that finished sixth in rushing yards in 15 games and he sat what had to be the equivalent of another game in multiple fourth quarters. The Titans were nothing to write home about either as far as defending the QB since they gave up the seventh-most passing yards on the season. To me, the biggest question is if you think Lamar is worth $900 more than Patrick Mahomes and to me, he does have the upside to find the extra money.

RB – We originally thought the calf issue for Mark Ingram wouldn’t;t be anything serious but we now are getting reports that there’s tightness after some workouts last week. Ingram has always been GPP only for me this season since he barely eclipsed 200 rushes and he’s going to need to score at his current price. If he’s anything less than full speed, he’d be a pretty easy fade for me but then we get into a legit backup option. Gus Edwards is the next man up and saw 22 touches in Week 17. That was likely a good bit more than he would see with Jackson back under center but if he’s starting, he’s just far too cheap and is a plug and play option. We’ll see what the week brings us on this front.

Wednesday Update – Ingram still isn’t practicing and it’s becoming at least more plausible that we can turn to Edwards at this juncture. 

WR – The only receiver I’m going to play from this team will continue to be Marquise Brown. It’s been a while since we’ve seen any amount of upside from him since the last time he exceeded 3x at current price was back in Week 12 against the Rams. He’s been under 15 DK in every game since and has four single digit efforts as far as DK scoring. With an aDOT of 11 on the season, I wouldn’t want to totally ignore him and the Titans did let up over 2,600 yards to receivers. Still, you cannot feel good about plugging him into a cash lineup the way the back half of the season went. With no other receiver above a 10% target share on the season, I’m not trying to find the diamond in the rough for the Ravens receivers.

TE – Mark Andrews is my favorite TE play on the slate, and that includes Kittle and Travis Kelce. Not only did Andrews finish in the top five in targets among tight ends and not only did he lead the position with 10 touchdowns, he has a 24.3% target share and the best matchup on paper over the weekend. Tennessee finished fifth-worst against the position and tied for the third-most touchdowns given up on the year. With Andrews being just the third highest salaried tight end, he’s a little easier to fit as well. Jackson and Andrews is among my favorite stacks on the slate.

D/ST – It’s going to be tough to get to the highest salaried defense on the slate, regardless of the spot. I believe the Ravens get the Titans out of their game plan and that creates more chances for the defense to rack up sacks and/or turnovers but it should be pointed out that Tannehill was very good when blitzed. In 113 drop backs, he had a 67.4% completion rate, 9.9 YPA and a 9:1 TD:INT ratio. He faltered under pressure but if the Ravens can’t get pressure, they could give up production and the price tag could hurt.

Cash – Jackson, Andrews, Edwards (if Ingram is OUT)

GPP – Brown, Ingram (if active), D/ST

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs, O/U of 51 (Chiefs -9.5)

Texans Overview

QB – My view of Deshaun Watson is if you can get it done against Buffalo, you can get it done against anyone. He’s one of the best talents in the game and has every chance to lead the position in scoring, just like he did last week. It would really be great if he got Will Fuller back for a whole game but banking on that seems like a very poor idea. Regardless, the Chiefs were only about mid-pack to QB’s on the strength of a 21:16 TD:INT ratio. We should consider this when evaluating if we want to play Watson as well –

PFF had him graded as a 78 in coverage and Thornhill only allowed a 69.9 passer rating so it is a blow to the defense, regardless of how you feel of the PFF grading system. I wonder where the ownership comes in with Mahomes and Jackson on the slate, but in a game that they are heavy underdogs we could see 40+ passes plus scrambles for Watson. His ceiling isn’t any different than the big two.

RB – As much as I like Mostert, salary is tight this week and that’s especially true if spending up at quarterback. If you need the $800 you have to heavily consider Carlos Hyde. One of the biggest weaknesses of this Kansas City team is the run defense. They finished as the fourth-worst team as far as DK points given up, 29th in run DVOA and eighth-worst in rushing yards given up. On top of that, the 4.9 yard per carry was the fourth-worst as well. The first meeting remained close and Hyde went for 22 DK on 26 carries and the Texans finished in the top 12 in rushing attempts per game. As long as this one is within 10, I expect Hyde to be a huge part of this game plan and really like him as an option this week. I can’t stomach playing Duke Johnson after just six touches last week.

WR – He is the cheapest of the trio including Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill and I would rank DeAndre Hopkins as the third option in that group….if Will Fuller plays. If not, Hopkins is at least equal with those players but I still believe Adams and Hill to have the higher ceilings. Hopkins could draw the inside assignment again after pulling that duty in the first game and he split evenly between outside and the slot against Buffalo (likely to get away from Tre White). Mathieu was the highest snap player in the slot for the Chiefs and he played well. The Honey Badger only allowed one touchdown and a 70.0 passer rating on 48 targets. Hopkins can get loose against any player but there are reasons we’ll get to that I like Adams and Hill better.

If Fuller does suit up, he has to be on the GPP radar but he’s also nearly impossible to trust at this point. He’s got a lengthy injury history and considering most of them are leg related, I can’t feel good about using him coming off the injury. Kenny Stills did see five targets without Fuller last week but it is worth pointing out that Kansas City was the second best team to wide receivers on the season behind only New England.

TE – Going back to Darren Fells really isn’t the worst idea this week either since that is one area the Chiefs were quite bad in defending. They finished as a bottom five team in DK points allowed to the position and the 96 receptions allowed was tied for third-worst, eight off the league lead. Fells isn’t a target monster per se but did see five last week and during the regular season, he was the co-leader in red zone targets with Hopkins. I really want to find a way to work in Andrews but you can A. punt with Fells anyways or B. play double TE in GPP if you positively love the rest of the team.

D/ST – Even with JJ Watt back (who says he played way more than he was supposed to last week, so he may not be as involved this week) and the salary relief they offer, I really can’t justify playing the Texans defense.

Cash – Watson, Hyde, Hopkins

GPP – Fells, Fuller or Stills, pending who is active

Chiefs Overview

QB – Is it possible that Patrick Mahomes might go overlooked on this slate? It almost seems like if a player is spending up in that range for QB, they will make a very strong effort to get to Jackson. Mahomes averaged under two passing touchdowns per game but he fought through some injuries and the offense was unsettled throughout the year. We saw last week that a QB can come close to leading the slate in scoring, albeit with Josh Allen doing it very unconventionally. What we’re looking at is Mahomes having a fantastic matchup since the Texans let up the second-most DK points, 33 touchdowns and the fourth-most passing yards. For $900 less and potentially lower ownership, Mahomes has to look awfully attractive.

RB – In another repeat from last week against the Texans, I really liked Devin Singletary and now we get Damien Williams at the exact same price and in a better offense. The KC backfield has really been a mess for almost the entire season but Williams seized control in the last two games. He’s totaled 35 touches and three touchdowns while the Bills have struggled keeping running backs in check. They gave up the fourth-most receptions on the season and Williams finished tied for the lead in targets among running backs on the Chiefs. Perhaps most importantly, LeSean McCoy hasn’t touched the ball in the past two weeks and Williams is way too cheap in an elite offense in a great spot. If Singletary can total over 100 scrimmage yards, it’s reasonable to expect the same from Williams.

WR – I was all about John Brown last week but it didn’t quite work out. He wasn’t too far away from a big game with a toe drag here or a better throw there and even though I believe Davante Adams is safer, Tyreek Hill has the highest ceiling of any receiver on the slate. He scorched this unit or 5/80/2 in the first meeting and that was coming off an injury that cost him a month. Also consider this when we’re talking about explosiveness –

Hill had a 12.9 aDOT on the season and you have to believe that Andy Reid and company have a few plays drawn up for him to take their shots against a weaker secondary. A 14.8 YPC mark screams upside here.

I’m having trouble going after any of Sammy Watkins, DeMarcus Robinson or others in the receiving corps. First off, they have to still compete with Travis Kelce in the passing game. Secondly, Watkins never eclipsed 15 DK points after the near 50 he scored in Week 1. Thirdly, neither Robinson or Mecole Hardman had more than 10.2% of the targets on the team.

TE – It oddly felt like a “quiet” year for Travis Kelce but that is not really accurate. He had the most receptions, yards and PPR points among tight ends on the season and the only knock was scoring just five touchdowns. He dwarfed the rest of the corps with a 25.5% target share but some of that was injuries to the receivers. With salary being so tight this week, it seems like it might be best to reserve Kelce for Kansas City stacks (which is a great idea in the highest O/U game and the implied total for KC). The Texans were right about mid-pack to tight ends but Kelce is anything but the average tight end.

D/ST – I don’t mind the Chiefs defense at all, even against Houston. The Texans gave up seven sacks last week and if it’s one thing the Chiefs do well, it’s getting to the QB (45 times) and forcing 23 turnovers. Whatever points they give up could be mitigated by the splash plays for the defense and if you can afford them, they have some upside.

Cash – Mahomes, Williams, Kelce, Hill

GPP – D/ST, Watkins, Robinson

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers, O/U of 46.5 (Packers -4.5)

Seahawks Overview

QB – The matchup certainly gets tougher for Russell Wilson but you certainly can’t ever count him out. He rolled up 325 passing yards last week and tacked on 45 rushing yards. Wilson has a 33:5 TD:INT ratio on the year and that’s going to be tested by Green Bay who finished at 18:17 themselves. I would prefer to play Watson just because I believe the floor is safer but we’re hoping that Seattle can’t just run away and hide in this one. They are underdogs and he did throw 30 times to 17 runs last week. The makeshift combo of Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch only managed 19 total rushing yards so the game was squarely on Wilson’s shoulders. You definitely feel like that could be the case yet again…but spot is far different with what Green Bay defends well and what they don’t.

RB – One of the slight concerns for Wilson is the matchup is much better for running backs than it was last week. Green Bay gave up the seventh-most rushing yards on the year and the eighth-most DK points to running backs. Both Homer and Lynch could have some value as cheaper plays if they get the same amount of carries as last week. Beast Mode almost certainly has to score but you also know he’s getting those carries when they get close to the goal line so the TD equity is high. Since Green Bay gave up the third-most touchdowns on the ground there is sneaky double dong potential here for Lynch.

WR – Well then DK Metcalf. He introduced himself to the NFL playoffs in a big way this past week with 160 yards and a score and he’s got that kind of potential every single week. He is projected to see plenty of Kevin King and that matchup is interesting. Most of the time, Metcalf can just bully the opposing corner. I’m not sure that’s a sure thing this week. Both players are listed at 6’3″ and Metcalf is only nine pounds heavier. That doesn’t mean Metcalf can’t get anything done but King was good this year with just an 85.5 passer rating allowed and a 4:5 TD:INT ratio allowed. Tyler Lockett’s individual matchup in the slot doesn’t get easier since Tramon Williams shined in that role with only 35 receptions allowed. I’d give Lockett the slight lean just due to price and the fact that they both saw right about the same targets last week. It really is a coin flip though and it’s a tough choice.

TE – There is a definitive gap between the top three tight ends on the slate and Jacob Hollister, with good reason. All three of the more expensive players can get there without a TD but that’s almost certainly not the case for Hollister. He only saw two games out of 12 that he had more than five receptions and he never exceeded 64 yards receiving. The Packers were right in the middle against tight ends and there’s a lot of reasons to either spend up to the top tier or just go with Fells.

D/ST – They are flat out the cheapest I’m willing to go with defense this week. We’re so trained to be scared of Aaron Rodgers but the Packers were 15th in points per game this year. They were far from some juggernaut and while Rodgers is scary in a playoff setting, the price is right and the Seahawks defense is about as healthy as it can be. I may be playing them just to fit everything else that I want and hope Rodgers is mediocre, like he has been for most of the year.

Cash – Wilson, Lockett, Metcalf

GPP – Lynch, D/ST, Hollister, Homer

Packers Overview

QB – Rodgers played all 16 games this year but just five went over 20 Dk points and he threw all of 26 touchdowns while not even hitting 19 DK points per game. Why exactly is he $6,500 again? This just feels like kind of a trap and the scary part is he threw the fourth-most attempts in one season in his storied career. Simply put, this is not the same offense that we’re accustomed to in Green Bay. They only finished 17th in passing yards per game and the ceiling just hasn’t been there very often for Rodgers. It certainly hasn’t been there enough to feel comfortable playing him over the other options right in his salary this week. Seattle was a little worse than average as far DK points given up but that came from the sixth-most yards. They only gave up 19 touchdowns and I will prioritize others this week.

RB – When we’re talking about the higher priced running backs, I might rank Aaron Jones as the first one of the bunch. For one, he led the league in rushing touchdowns and is a decent chunk of salary cheaper than Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook. Secondly, he has the best matchup on paper and is on a favorite unlike the top two as well. It just so happens that Seattle finished tied for the second-most rushing touchdowns given up on the season so Jones should have a major nose for the end zone this week. Jamaal Williams being back is a slight concern here because he has a knack of taking plenty of playing time and tilting the Aaron Jones truthers right off the face of the planet. I still fully believe that Jones has the much higher upside, but if you MME it wouldn’t hurt to sprinkle Williams in. He’s going to play around 40% of the snaps this week just like most other weeks.

WR – It seems hard to argue that Davante Adams isn’t the safest floor receiver on this slate. He has been a target monster for Rodgers this season and it frankly doesn’t seem like Rodgers trusts any other receiver in the corps. Geronimo Allison was the second-highest targeted receiver on the Packers and checked in with 56 total on the season, 10.8%. Since Week 4 (a span of nine games), Adams has seen double digit targets in eight of them and has exceeded 19 DK in seven of them. It’s been virtual clockwork and he checks in as my number one option at the position.

TE – If we judge just by matchup, Jimmy Graham has to be in the running as the cheapest starter at the position. Seattle was the second-worst team in the league to the tight end, allowing almost 16 DK per game. Graham did have 10 red zone targets but it’s hard to get around he’s been pretty bad this season overall. He finished the season as the TE21 and did only manage three touchdowns. I would rather play Fells but it’s not a stretch to see myself rolling my eyes when he snakes a touchdown I wanted for Adams.

D/ST – I’d be making a strong effort to go after the San Francisco offense at the price or just dropping down to Seattle. Since the Seahawks don’t turn the ball over a lot, you’re relying on the Packers getting sacks (totally plausible) and keeping Wilson off the board. I don’t love the chances there so they fall into no man’s land for me.

Cash – Jones, Adams

GPP – Rodgers, Williams, Graham

Core 4

QB – This might sound like a cop out, but I’m playing three lineups. One will have Lamar Jackson, one will have Jimmy G and one will have Patrick Mahomes. I have them ranked that way and it depends on your comfort level if you want to fade Mahomes or Jackson this week to balance the lineup better across the board.

RB – Damien Williams

WR – Davante Adams

Flex – Mark Andrews