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Conference Championship Matchups - Game Breakdowns


Welcome to our Conference Championship round playoff matchups analysis and starts/sits column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every matchup from the third round of the playoffs to help you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups.

If you're in a playoff fantasy league, be it a weekly pick 'em or elimination-style, make sure to set those lineups in time by analyzing each matchup below to gain the best advantage! We'll also be updating this as injury reports come in so check back often.

Check back here each week to get advice for your toughest start/sit decisions and take a look at our consensus rankings each week. Find me on Twitter @pfunk00 for more insight and help to your start/sit questions.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

Matchups Analysis - NFC Championship

If this game is anything like their regular season meeting, we're in for some fireworks. That game ended up with 80 total points scored and almost 1,000 yards of offense. It may be a stretch to expect a repeat, especially when a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line, but there should be some strong offensive performances on both sides.

 

Rams at Saints - 3:05 PM EST

Matchups We Love:

Alvin Kamara (RB, NO)
When there are only 10 running backs with any potential fantasy value on the board, of course Kamara is in the top-three. That said, the defensive matchup isn't enough to cause concern. He combined for 116 yards and a score the first time these teams met and will continue to be the crux of this offense.

Brandin Cooks (WR, LAR)
Cooks will be shadowed by Marshon Lattimore this game, which shouldn't be factored too much into his value. He came away with a key interception and will come up with big plays but he isn't a shutdown corner. Cooks went off for 114 yards and a touchdown the last time he faced his former team and he'll be targeted frequently once more.

Robert Woods (WR, LAR)
He came within one yard of reaching the 70-yard mark which he had met in 12 games this season, with six receptions and no touchdowns last week. That was still enough to make him the leading receiver on the team and second-best of the game behind Michael Gallup of all people. Woods put up nearly identical numbers in Week 9 against the Saints, with five catches for 71 yards. Is that enough to make him a love? In a week that features only four teams on the slate, yes because he fits into the top five at his position.

Michael Thomas / Ted Ginn (WR, NO)
Both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup put up 18 PPR points last week against the Rams. Just think what Michael Thomas could do... He does get a slightly tougher matchup but Thomas will once again be showered with targets and projects as the overall WR1. Ginn's numbers (three receptions, 44 yards) were uninspiring but he could have had a much bigger day if Drew Brees hit his mark on the first play of the game that resulted in an interception. Ginn is a strong play this week, especially since he'll face Marcus Peters.

Matchups We Hate:

Mark Ingram (RB, NO)
This is as average a matchup as you can get for an average running back (fantasy-wise). The Rams won't shut him down or allow him to explode. Ingram is still a touchdown-dependent player who totaled 36 scrimmage yards in the first matchup between these two.

Keith Kirkwood / Tre'Quan Smith (WR, NO)
Kirkwood caught a touchdown pass last week but it was one of two catches for a total of eight yards. It came in the corner of the end zone on a fourth and goal where the Eagles were smothering Michael Thomas with coverage. Expecting a repeat score is a dice roll. Plus, Kirkwood has missed time in practice this week with a calf injury and may not be 100% if he even plays. Smith may benefit, except he won't. His snap share makes him the WR4 on New Orleans. Not long ago, that still carried a lot of weight, but this team isn't pass-happy anymore. Smith won't be trusted enough to see many targets.

Gerald Everett / Tyler Higbee (TE, LAR)
Even when the Rams are firing on all cylinders, they just don't target their tight ends. Everett put up his second straight zero in the target department while Higbee caught two passes for 30 yards. They won't be a major factor this game.

Benjamin Watson (TE, NO)
There is no good reason to recommend Watson in the first place considering he hasn't scored or surpassed 30 yards in a game since Week 9. Now, he's fighting an undisclosed illness and has been held out of practice this week. Of course, the best game he had all season was against the Rams when he went for 62 yards and a TD. Don't let that fool you into starting him.

Other Matchups:

Jared Goff (QB, LAR)
Goff is not nearly as effective on the road as he is at home. Except for Week 9 in New Orleans when he threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns. It's really the only outlier on this year's schedule where Goff was a fantasy QB1 away from L.A. Game script wound up favoring pretty much every offensive player on both sides. The Saints' pass defense has been considerably better in the second half of the season, while the Rams haven't been as effective without Cooper Kupp. Goff must rank behind Mahomes and Brady, possibly Brees as well this week.

Drew Brees (QB, NO)
Much like his counterpart, Brees put up tremendous numbers in Week 9 (346 yards, four TD) but was disappointing the last few weeks of the season. He managed to barely eclipse the 300-yard mark with a pair of touchdowns last week against an inexperienced Eagles secondary that allowed the second-most passing yards in the league. The Rams are 14 spots lower, landing in the middle of defensive rankings vs QB. We don't expect another huge game from Brees but he is certainly playable in the right circumstance.

C.J. Anderson (RB, LAR)
So, it appears the comeback is real. Anderson is suddenly the best running back in the league and has rendered Todd Gurley unnecessary. Or something like that. Anderson has tallied 167, 132, and 123 rushing yards the last three weeks since being signed off the street. That's more than impressive, it's amazing -- especially considering he totaled 104 yards in nine games with the Panthers. It's clear Anderson will be used even with Gurley healthy and effective. He carried the ball 23 times last week and carved up a Dallas defense ranked sixth against the run. The Saints were first, however, allowing 3.2 yards per carry to running backs. It's a tougher test on the road this time, so while it may seem unwise to bet against Anderson at this point, the numbers say his fortune may take a downward turn this week.

Todd Gurley (RB, LAR)
Even back when the Rams were an offensive juggernaut each week and before Gurley's knee injury, he produced just 68 yards on the ground and 11 through the air in the first matchup between these teams. He did score a touchdown, which is a near-weekly occurrence and the reason he will always be a top-five RB. We now know that Anderson will cut into some touches, so that in conjunction with the tough matchup knocks Gurley down from the top RB spot. He still owns a fairly high ceiling given the lack of options this week.

Josh Reynolds (WR, LAR)
Reynolds wasn't part of the lineup back in Week 9, as Cooper Kupp was still around. With the exception of a two-TD game in Week 17 and some nice stats in the scorefest against the Chiefs in Week 11, he hasn't been a fantasy factor. Reynolds gets the benefit of facing Eli Apple, which could give him some interest as a cheaper or unique WR option in tournaments. You're still betting on red zone action, as the Rams won't look his way often enough to sustain a decent floor without a touchdown.

 

Matchups Analysis - AFC Championship

Another repeat of a mid-season matchup that turned into a score-fest, this game may not see upwards of 80 points again but should still be plenty exciting. Postseason New England isn't the same as regular season New England. Their attempt to play the underdog card (#BetAgainstUs) just shows that they will always find a way to get motivated regardless of how many Super Bowls they attend. The stars should shine in this one, including a Chiefs offense that may need to press more than they did last week.

 

Patriots at Chiefs - 6:40 PM EST

Matchups We Love:

Patrick Mahomes (QB, KC)
Last week's stat line was disappointing for a player who threw 50 touchdowns during the regular season. In a very Dak Prescott-like way, he produced 278 yards, no TD, no INT but saved his day with a short rushing touchdown. The Colts may have ultimately been a bit overrated on defense due to a soft schedule during the regular season. The Patriots ranked slightly worse against the pass this year, allowing 17.3 fantasy PPG compared to 15.9 for the Colts. Mahomes didn't light it up last week but he also didn't need to, as the defense played lights out. Game script could turn this into a higher-scoring game since we know the Patriots aren't going to blink just because they are playing in Arrowhead.

Tom Brady (QB, NE)
The Chiefs clamped down on Andrew Luck, holding him to his lowest completion percentage of the season (52.8%) and just 203 yards, sacking him three times. Could Brady suffer the same fate in Arrowhead? Not likely - as great as Luck has been this year, he's not a five-time Super Bowl champ. Brady went for 340 yards in Week 6 at home but will be on the road this time around. A slight downward adjustment could be made, especially since the Chiefs have Eric Berry now. That just makes him the fantasy QB2 this week.

Sony Michel / James White (RB, NE)
The Patriots will try to get their backs as many touches as possible to control the ball. Despite the lofty score from Week 6, Michel had as many carries as Brady had completions (24) and the Patriots were able to run for 173 yards. Michel was great in his first taste of the playoffs last week, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 24 attempts and scoring thrice. He now faces the third-worst run defense of the 2018 NFL season. He could finish as the top running back of the week. White is the obvious high-floor play but may not need to catch the ball 15 times against a lesser defense.

Tyreek Hill (WR, KC)
If you were a Hill owner during the regular season, you remember Week 6 very well: seven receptions, 142 yards, three touchdowns. You'd think the Pats might game plan against that happening again. He still ranks as the highest-upside WR of the week and borders on must-start territory everywhere.

Julian Edelman (WR, NE)
There's no doubt that Edelman is the go-to receiver, not counting James White as the checkdown option. He caught nine of 13 targets last week for 151 yards and will stay busy all day long in this matchup. His Week 6 numbers weren't overwhelming but keep in mind that was just his second game of the season after serving a four-game suspension and the Pats still had Josh Gordon at that time. Edelman should rank just below Ty Hill and Michael Thomas this week.

Travis Kelce (TE, KC)
He came up big in the divisional round with 108 yards on seven catches. He didn't have an enormous game in Week 6 when facing the Pats but the defense may shift its focus more to slowing Hill down and fail to compensate for Kelce. Either way, he's a mismatch any time he's on the field and reigns as the top tight end option once more.

Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE)
The noise about Gronk possibly playing his last game in the NFL grew a bit louder after he caught just one pass for 25 yards in the divisional round of the playoffs, even though the Pats were able to move the ball and score at will. He shouldn't be counted out just yet, though. This game could be a shootout and the matchup favors Gronk like never before, as the Chiefs were second-worst against the TE. If Kelce's price point is too high or you would gain a bonus from keeping Gronk in your lineup this week, it would be wise to give him a shot.

Matchups We Hate:

Chris Conley / Demarcus Robinson / Kelvin Benjamin (WR, KC)
The Chiefs scored 31 points last week and that didn't involve any of the receivers lower on the depth chart with Watkins back. Conley didn't catch either of his two targets, while Robinson didn't see a single target and Benjamin didn't see the field. Despite the dearth of options at WR this week, there are better options on the NFC side.

Sammy Watkins (WR, KC)
He proved he was healthy last week with a 62-yard game, including a long gain where he showed his typical burst. Optimism about a repeat has to be cast aside, however, as he has the toughest matchup of the week. Watkins will be shadowed by All-Pro Stephon Gilmore, something that led to a two-catch, 18-yard game the first time these teams met.

Other Matchups:

Damien Williams / Spencer Ware (RB, KC)
Maybe Ware will actually play this week, which could impact Williams a bit. Ware was a full participant in Thursday's practice, which would indicate he is leaning toward fulfilling his "Probable" tag. Williams will still be the lead dog given his effectiveness, especially after running for 129 yards in the team's first playoff game of this season. Williams will have a harder time reaching the end zone this week - New England allowed just six rushing touchdowns to RB this year, second only to Chicago. He may not repeat last week's production but is still a fairly high-floor play. Neither player was a factor in the regular season against New England, as Kareem Hunt was the focus of the backfield.

Chris Hogan / Cordarrelle Patterson / Phillip Dorsett (WR, NE)
We had a Dorsett sighting against the Chargers. He caught a touchdown and finished with 41 yards on receptions. Not overly exciting but it's interesting that after four straight games without a target toward the end of the season, he's now scored in two straight, combining for nine targets. If you're a non-believer in Gronk, then Dorsett might be a logical pivot in DFS leagues. Hogan has been hit or miss all year, mostly missing. He gets the better individual WR/CB matchup against Charvarius Ward, so keep Hogan on your radar for tournaments. Patterson has quietly been fading from the gameplan, as the team is relying on him more to be a key return man. He's best left alone this week.

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