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Divisional Round Matchups - Fantasy Football Game Breakdowns


Welcome to our Divisional round playoff matchups analysis and starts/sits column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every matchup from the second 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: All you early birds can get a full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our Draft Kit, In-Season tools and over 150 days of Premium DFS. Sign Up Now!

 

Matchups Analysis - Saturday Games

Things start off with a game to stack, as the Colts take their hot hand into Arrowhead Stadium to face the Chiefs. This is easily the best opportunity to reach deep into the player pool to find a sleeper value, as a number of lesser-known players have scoring potential. The Cowboys-Rams feature some intriguing individual matchups and a battle between the top two fantasy running backs. Which one will lead your fantasy team to victory?

 

Colts at Chiefs - 4:35 PM EST

Matchups We Love:

Andrew Luck (QB, IND)
Luck and the Colts got off to a hot start early in Houston, jumping out to a 14-0 lead. It looked like it was going to be a huge offensive day but he wound up with disappointing numbers (222 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT). While that wasn't the shootout we expected, there's a good chance this will be. The Chiefs led the NFL in total offense and finished 24th in total defense. They also allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. There's only one QB that has a higher ceiling this weekend and he's on the other side of this matchup.

Patrick Mahomes (QB, KC)
Mahomes was by far the top scoring fantasy QB in 2018 but now he gets his first taste of the playoffs. He hasn't been rattled in the biggest games of the regular season and he's no rookie. We don't know how he'll respond, but even in his worst games, Mahomes manages to throw multiple touchdowns. The Colts aren't a shutdown defense and did allow four 300+ yard passing games this season. Typically, two elite QBs on either side of each other leads to a high-scoring affair, which is why the 57 O/U on this game is the highest of the divisional round. Mahomes is a chalky play for a reason.

Marlon Mack (RB, IND)
Overlooked amidst the comeback season by Luck is Mack's breakout. In two straight road games against division opponents, one a must-win against Tennessee and the other a playoff game against Houston, Mack ran for 119 and 148 yards respectively, scoring in each. The Chiefs are known for giving up big plays through the air but they've actually been worse on the ground, allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs. Mack quietly owns the best RB matchup of this round and borders on must-start territory in fantasy playoff leagues of all types.

Dontrelle Inman (WR, IND)
All eyes will be on Hilton and Ebron as receivers to target in Indy but Inman might be the best value play. Inman hasn't put up big numbers but he's quietly scored in three straight games with at least four receptions in each. He's become a dependable WR2 for Luck and could be this week's version of Keke Coutee, albeit it with fewer receptions.

T.Y. Hilton (WR, IND)
The ceiling is sky-high for Hilton, especially if he is matched up against rookie Charvarius Ward as PFF projects. Previously known as a boom-bust player, Hilton has seen at least six targets and come away with at least 60 yards in every game since the team's Week 9 bye. The lack of touchdowns must be acknowledged, as he hasn't scored since Week 11 and only reached the end zone in four games this year. Hilton has a great chance to put up numbers and should be a top-five WR this weekend.

Eric Ebron (TE, IND)
It appears his troublesome hip won't keep him off the field on Saturday, so roll with Ebron as you normally would. His matchup is technically better than Kelce, although we can assume he won't see as many targets. Ebron is always a threat to score as he did last week and should be started over Ertz and Gronk in pick 'em leagues where salary caps don't apply.

Travis Kelce (TE, KC)
In four career playoff games, Kelce averages 5.8 receptions and 73.5 yards per game. That was with Alex Smith at quarterback. Facing Indianapolis' bend-don't-break defense, Kelce should get plenty of chances to work underneath and rack up numbers. He should be the top TE of this playoff round.

Matchups We Hate:

Nyheim Hines / Jordan Wilkins (RB, IND)
Now we know how much the team trusts Hines - zero, as in zero touches in last week's playoff game. Even Jordan Wilkins, who hasn't been worth talking about since Week 2, at least got two carries. Even if the score surpasses expectations, Hines can be ignored, as can Wilkins.

Sammy Watkins / Chris Conley / Demarcus Robinson / Kelvin Benjamin (WR, KC)
These players aren't lumped together out of sheer laziness - they all belong here for a reason. Watkins, a.k.a. Mr. Glass, hasn't played since Week 11 and has been limited in practice this week. Putting Watkins in a lineup is like playing the Powerball - the payoff could be huge but you're probably wasting your money. The other receivers on KC don't get great matchups and none are targeted enough to warrant consideration. You would be better off looking at a Colts receiver instead.

Other Matchups:

Damien Williams / Spencer Ware (RB, KC)
This could be a frustrating situation, as Ware is a firm maybe to play on Saturday. He was a limited participant in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning he will likely hold a questionable tag up until kickoff. If he plays, it would be hard to trust him against a Colts D that was surprisingly solid versus the run. It also would cut into Williams' value, especially if Ware is utilized in the red zone. Williams carried some fantasy teams in Weeks 14-16, so it's tempting to keep rolling with him but much of his value was tied to touchdowns. That's something the Colts have restricted, allowing fewer scores to RBs than all but three teams. Williams is worth starting if Ware sits out but he may still be over-owned based on inflated expectations.

Chester Rogers / Zach Pascal (WR, IND)
Ryan Grant has been ruled out with a toe injury. That's OK - he hadn't gone over two catches or 25 yards since Week 5 anyway. Rogers will get the most targets between these two but he rarely visits the end zone (two TD this year). Pascal will occasionally produce a good game but has the lower floor. If you're playing in a GPP, Pascal may be the differentiation play you're looking for, however Rogers is a better bet everywhere else.

 

Cowboys at Rams - 8:15 PM EST

Matchups We Love:

Jared Goff (QB, LAR)
Goff finished the year in style with a four-touchdown game and had a week off to prepare for the playoffs. Does that mask the fact he had thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions in the previous four games? Sort of. Goff's biggest duds down the stretch, much like the entire season, came on the road. He is a different quarterback at home and he'll have Todd Gurley back after missing the last two games. The Cowboys are tough against the run but simply mediocre against the pass and came away with the sixth-fewest interceptions in the league. The matchup works in Goff's favor so he shouldn't be faded.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL)
The Seahawks, who Zeke ran all over for 137 yards last week, finished the regular season 16th in fantasy PPG allowed to running backs at 18.8. The Rams finished 17th at 18.7 PPG allowed. The matchup is nearly identical but the game script might not be. The Rams boast a better offense than the Hawks, so Jason Garrett might not have the luxury of running Zeke 25+ times. The good thing is that if the Cowboys are forced to pass, it just means more receptions and extra points for Zeke. There just aren't many other options in the passing game, especially with Allen Hurns out and both Cole Beasley and Blake Jarwin questionable. Zeke could be the top fantasy RB once again, even if the Rams win big.

Amari Cooper (WR, DAL)
Seven catches for 106 yards in a Wild Card win last week more than justifies the first-round pick traded for Cooper midseason. He could see more than nine targets in this matchup, especially if the Cowboys find themselves unable to contain the Rams offense. If Cooper finds himself matched up against Marcus Peters at any point, the potential for a big play looms. Cooper could well be the highest-scoring WR of the weekend.

Robert Woods (WR, LAR)
As usual, Woods is the most appealing receiver in L.A. He faces a beatable Anthony Brown and will be one of Goff's top targets. He doesn't have the same ceiling as Amari Cooper, Michael Thomas, or a couple others, so slot him just outside the top-five receivers this week.

Matchups We Hate:

Dak Prescott (QB, DAL)
He silenced many critics and doubters by earning his first playoff victory. That said, the stat line wasn't impressive and he relied on a rushing touchdown at the tail end of the game to make his day. This is a typical Prescott performance and things could get worse against a Rams team featuring Aaron Donald. Prescott may put up more pass attempts than usual but this isn't the Giants he's facing. He should be on the lower end of the QB spectrum this week.

C.J. Anderson (RB, LAR)
He did his best Gurley impersonation the last two weeks but won't get more than a handful of touches as long as Gurley plays. There's been enough recovery time and it's important enough of a game that Gurley should be out there the majority of snaps. Anderson is not a sleeper, he's a backup.

Cole Beasley (WR, DAL)
If Beasley does play through his ankle issue, he draws a fairly tough assignment in slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman. There just isn't enough upside to chase here.

Blake Jarwin / Dalton Schultz (TE, DAL)
Jarwin's three-touchdown day seems more like a Week 17 thing than the start of a trend. He managed just 15 yards last week and now is battling a high-ankle sprain that could keep him shelved. Schultz is the unexciting rookie backup who wasn't even targeted last week.

Gerald Everett / Tyler Higbee (TE, LAR)
If you wouldn't normally start a Rams tight end (you wouldn't) then why this week? Everett started to see some higher reception totals toward the latter portion of the season until Week 17 when he dropped a goose egg but he hasn't cracked 50 yards all season. Higbee is a pretty good blocker from what I hear. There are plenty of good tight ends on other teams to target.

Other Matchups:

Todd Gurley (RB, LAR)
The top-scoring running back of 2018 will make his first appearance since Week 15. He's had time to rest and should be a full go for this matchup but we don't know if he'll truly be 100%. The other issue is a Cowboys defense that was the sixth-ranked run defense during the season and held the NFL's top rushing team, Seattle, to 73 yards on the ground despite their best efforts to run the ball last week. Gurley always provides a high floor due to his pass-catching and proficiency in the red zone, but this doesn't promise to be one of his signature blowup performances.

Michael Gallup (WR, DAL)
The individual matchup could be great for Gallup if he squares off with the always-toastable Marcus Peters. That doesn't mean much if he sees few targets though, especially considering he posted a 48.5% catch rate in his rookie year. They took some deep shots with him last week but couldn't connect, as usual. There is a chance he hits a big play and/or reaches the end zone but his low floor makes him a very boom/bust proposition, ideal for deep tournaments.

Brandin Cooks / Josh Reynolds (WR, LAR)
It's not really a great matchup for the Rams receivers playing outside, as the Cowboys allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points and third-fewest touchdowns to WRs. Byron Jones is fast becoming an elite cornerback but it's not a shadow situation so both Cooks and Reynolds are marginal plays this week.

 

Matchups Analysis - Sunday Games

The Sunday slate features both of last year's Super Bowl teams, although one is at home and the other is somehow still alive thanks to a last-second blocked (it was tipped people!) field goal. Both games feature plenty of offensive talent, but the NFC side is likely to feature much more scoring, even though the current O/U is only a four-point difference.

 

Chargers at Patriots - 1:05 PM EST

Matchups We Love:

James White (RB, NE)
Who loves the playoffs? James White loves the playoffs. Actually, that's not totally true - White only totaled 132 scrimmage yards in three playoff games last year, good for an average of 33 YPG. The four TD he scored offset that to some extent. White isn't the automatic stud we may assume just because the postseason is here but his prospects are good this particular week. No team allowed more receiving yards to RB than the Chargers (973 total - 6.7 receptions and 60.8 yards per game). White also figures to get the important looks near the goal-line in lieu of rookie Sony Michel. White should be a part of most fantasy lineups where differentiation isn't a major factor.

Matchups We Hate:

Philip Rivers (QB, LAC)
To be blunt, this is more of an indictment on Rivers as a playoff QB than the matchup itself. The Pats are smack dab in the middle of the defensive rankings vs QBs but it must be considered that this is a road game in Foxboro where the weather is expected to be below freezing. Rivers is looking rough toward season's end as well - he hasn't reached 200 passing yards and has a 1/4 TD/INT rate over the last three games. Sure, the Ravens account for two of those games so take it with a grain of salt. Still, it's hard to trust a QB with a shaky playoff history in a matchup like this when he's struggling.

Rex Burkhead (RB, NE)
Other than the season opener when Sony Michel was a DNP and an easy victory over Buffalo in Week 16, Burkhead hasn't gotten 10 touches or 50 total yards in a game. As the third option, you're hoping for a touchdown to earn some points and the Chargers don't give up a ton of scores on the ground.

Mike Williams / Tyrell Williams (WR, LAC)
Both will be shadowed by highly-rated CBs and could struggle if things break badly for the offense. There are better options across other matchups as opposed to these low-floor receivers.

Julian Edelman / Chris Hogan / Phillip Dorsett (WR, NE)
The strength of the Chargers defense is their secondary; they allowed the fifth-fewest yards and fantasy points to wide receivers this year. Edelman gets the toughest WR/CB matchup of all, squaring off with Desmond King. This figures to be a James White or Rob Gronkowski type of game, so feel free to fade these receivers.

Hunter Henry / Antonio Gates (TE, LAC)
Henry is supposed to finally suit up, although it's almost sure that he'll be on a restricted snap count. Plus, we don't know if he's truly game ready or simply a decoy. Gates loses snaps which takes his already low fantasy value even lower.

Other Matchups:

Tom Brady (QB, NE)
In reality, Brady at home in the playoffs is easy money. In fantasy, it may not be that simple. We know Brady saves his best for last but the Chargers' defense has been extremely tight, especially since Joey Bosa returned. Since their mid-season bye, the Chargers have held eight of 10 opponents under 250 passing yards. The other concern is that the Pats are leaning more toward the run in the red zone. They finished the year with 74 red zone rushes and 77 red zone pass attempts. By contrast, the Chargers passed it 64 times and ran it 48 times in the red zone, despite having Melvin Gordon in the backfield. In all, Brady is a safer play than most QBs this week but the ceiling isn't as high as you might expect.

Melvin Gordon / Austin Ekeler (RB, LAC)
A clear pattern is emerging in the late part of this season for this stud runner. Earn about 60 total yards, score a touchdown, leave early with an aggravated knee injury. The scoring prowess makes him tough to ignore but that high ceiling from the first portion of the season is gone. Gordon is too risky to be a top-tier RB this week. The possibility for a Gordon re-injury could make Ekeler relevant except that we wouldn't know if he's getting touches until after the game begins. He's best left benched.

Sony Michel (RB, NE)
As with many rookies, Michel has been boom or bust this year. If it's not a 100+ yard game, it's going to be closer to 50 without a score. As mentioned already, James White should out-touch him and render Michel a lesser fantasy play.

Keenan Allen (WR, LAC)
In last year's game versus the Pats, Allen caught four passes for 64 yards. In his last three games, Allen is averaging 4.3 receptions and 53 yards. None of these games include a touchdown. Allen may get targeted as high as double-digits but it figures to be another middling performance in a tough matchup against Jason McCourty.

Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE)
Do we believe in the Gronk from last year's playoffs who put up 16 catches, 218 yards and three touchdowns in three games or late-season 2018 Gronk who posted four catches, 45 yards, and no touchdowns over the last three games? While Gronkowski has looked like a shell of his former self lately, a week to rest and some extra motivation might do the trick. The matchup is just average and there are enough red flags that he can't be loved but we wouldn't hesitate to take a chance on him bouncing back in this game.

 

Eagles at Saints - 4:40 PM EST

Matchups We Love:

Alvin Kamara (RB, NO)
It's unlikely that last year's hyper-efficient version of Kamara will ever reappear but he is still a top fantasy back due to his pass-catching prowess. Philadelphia was OK against the run but allowed the sixth-most receiving yards to running backs. Kamara didn't put up huge numbers back in Week 11 when the Saints won in a rout but he hasn't really put up huge numbers throughout the second half of the season. He should get enough usage to fit within the top five RB group this weekend though.

Michael Thomas / Ted Ginn (WR, NO)
Thoms is the chalkiest of plays this week and deservedly so. The Eagles' secondary woes are well-documented by now and Allen Robinson went for 10 catches and 143 yards in the Wild Card round. If Thomas finishes under those totals, it will be a disappointment. On the other side, Ginn could be the forgotten man that puts up big stats. He'll face Avonte Maddux, who was the main culprit behind A-Rob's big gains. Ginn has only played one game in the last three months and he put up five catches for 74 yards. With two weeks to rest since then, he could better those numbers.

Golden Tate (WR, PHI)
With some hesitation, Tate slots here because the Saints are weakest against slot receivers and Tate enjoyed the best day of all Philly skill players back in Week 11 with a mere five receptions for 48 yards. He is starting to click with Foles a bit and could be the main beneficiary if the team enters pass-first mode.

Matchups We Hate:

Mark Ingram (RB, NO)
As he potentially plays his last games in New Orleans, Ingram has become the RB2 behind Kamara and a touchdown-dependent option. Over the last five games, Ingram has averaged 51.1 total yards and it's not as if the touchdowns are flowing either. His price point in most leagues just doesn't match his projected value and the ceiling isn't there like it used to be.

Josh Adams / Darren Sproles / Wendell Smallwood (RB, PHI)
We could just take last week's results and throw them out the window since the Eagles were facing the top-ranked defense against running backs and best overall defense in football. Then again, the Saints allowed 150 fewer rushing yards on the season than the Bears and allowed the fourth-least production against RBs. In a game nobody expects the Eagles to be ahead at any point, all three of these running backs hold little value unless you are a believer in Philly fever (again). Adams carried just once for two yards and seems to be no part of the team's plans in these crucial playoff games. Sproles has the best chance to produce as the team's top rusher last week (21 yards on 13 carries) but that's not saying much.

Tre'Quan Smith / Keith Kirkwood (WR, NO)
Even with the majority of the starters resting and an extremely favorable game script in Week 17, Smith only saw four targets. He is a bad bet to get much action in this game, as has been the case throughout the latter part of the season. Likewise, Kirkwood may be on the field a lot but the ball won't be thrown in his direction. In the eight games he played since being called up from the practice squad, Kirkwood saw two or fewer receptions in all but one game. Ted Ginn's return renders these players as TD-dependent dart throws.

Ben Watson (TE, NO)
He didn't even get targeted in Week 11 when these teams played and he is basically on the field to block. There is no need to look this way with the other tight ends available.

Other Matchups:

Drew Brees (QB, NO)
Not loving Brees in a home playoff game doesn't seem right, but it's hard to trust that he'll put up big numbers despite being favored heavily. The team leans on its running game and defense more than ever, so even if Brees is as efficient as he's been all year, it could still result in disappointing totals. Brees hasn't posted a great fantasy game since Week 12 and this Eagles defense, while susceptible to the pass, isn't bad enough to change that. He should finish below Mahomes, Luck, and possibly Goff.

Nick Foles (QB, PHI)
It's impossible to doubt Foles or say anything disparaging about him in the playoffs, so we'll simply state that this matchup is not ideal and game script could work against him. Despite leading his team to another improbable victory, he was mediocre for most of the Wild Card game until the fourth quarter. Granted, that was against an elite pass defense. The Eagles could be forced to pass it a ton, so there is certainly a chance for a high volume of yardage but the Saints are playing lights-out D lately and aren't wont to give up huge passing games these days. The decision to roll with Foles depends on your confidence level with the underdog repeating its magic - that 's not generally sound logic in fantasy.

Alshon Jeffery (WR, PHI)
This is a tough call because Jeffery has been on fire since Foles took over but he did nothing in the earlier matchup with New Orleans and will be shadowed by Marshon Lattimore again. He is more of a high-end WR2, even with the dearth of options elsewhere.

Nelson Agholor (WR, PHI)
The idea of matching up with Eli Apple gives some interest to Agholor as a sleeper, although he has played better in recent weeks. His value lies in the red zone, as he's scored three times in the last three games. He's averaging 3.5 receptions per game since Foles went back behind center, so there's a decent-enough floor to consider him in PPR formats.

Zach Ertz (TE, PHI)
Much like with the run game, New Orleans' defensive stats vs the tight end are almost identical to Chicago. That's not good for Ertz, although he has proven to be mostly matchup-proof. He only caught two balls for 15 yards the first time these teams played. Ultimately, the best projection is an average game like last week when Ertz caught five passes for 52 yards. He could get peppered with targets but that means the Eagles would have to stay on the field long enough. He won't be the TE pick this week.

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