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Fantasy Football Start Em, Sit Em - Conference Championships Matchups Analysis

Joe Burrow - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Welcome back RotoBallers to our Conference Championships Matchups Analysis and Start Em, Sit Em column for fantasy football. Often times when we reach this point in the playoffs there is a team that went on a cinderella run and surprises the world. That's really not the case this year, both No. 1 seeds remain, along with one No. 2 seed and one No. 3 seed. Additionally, every team was completely in control during their win last week. We're down to the final four and both games should be spectacular. A note about the fantasy points allowed statistic, the higher a team is ranked the more points they allow, which is negative for that team's defense but positive for the opposing offense.

For those who are unfamiliar, we'll be analyzing every game, helping you optimize your fantasy lineups for whatever format or competition you're participating in. Check back regularly for any updates on player injuries, statuses, or other pertinent information. I also wanted to express my gratitude for some of the great resources that helped me write this article each week such as Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus, Rotovitz, Pro Football Reference, DraftKings Sportsbook, and Fantasy Points. Furthermore, a thank you is deserved by all of you for reading this article.

I will cover both of the conference championship games. Hopefully, you found success during the divisional round and can add to that on Sunday. Regardless of what format you're playing this week, we'll make sure you're ready to go. If you have additional lineup questions, follow me on Twitter @JoshCon, and ask away. Let's dive into the matchups.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Matchups Analysis - NFC Championship

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles

Spread: Eagles -2.5
Implied Total: 49ers (21.75) vs. Eagles (24.25)
Pace: 49ers (32nd) vs. Eagles (8th)
49ers Off. DVOA: 35.7% Pass (3rd), -0.5% Rush (13th)
Eagles Off. DVOA: 23.9% Pass (9th), 15.4% Rush (1st)
49ers Def. DVOA:
-8.0% Pass (5th), -23.6% Rush (2nd)
Eagles Def. DVOA: -15.5% Pass (1st), -1.9% Rush (21st)
Weather: Mild temperatures with 10-15 mph wind (minor impact with a chance for a larger impact if wind increases, favors rushing attack)
Fantasy Points Allowed:
49ers (QB - 27th, RB - 32nd, WR - 5th, TE - 25th) vs. Eagles (QB - 24th, RB - 16th, WR - 27th, TE - 20th)
PFF Coverage:
49ers (1st) vs. Eagles (2nd)
PFF Run Defense:
49ers (4th) vs. Eagles (14th)

Matchups We Love:

Christian McCaffrey (RB, SF)

This matchup features the two best teams in the conference, at least since the 49ers acquired McCaffrey. They also share two of, if not the top-two defenses in the NFL. Much like last week, it'll probably be an offensive grind for the 49ers, which is reflected in the mediocre over/under. Although, the one area Philadelphia struggled this season was against the run. Even last week in a game the Giants were dominated, they still rushed for 118 yards and a score, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

San Francisco ranked ninth in rushing attempts, seventh in rushing yards, and fifth in rushing touchdowns this season, indicating they are well-equipped to attack the Eagles on the ground. McCaffrey dealt with a calf injury during their victory over Dallas, resulting in fewer carries than Elijah Mitchell, but he still played on 67% of the offensive snaps, scored at the goal line, and caught six passes. Despite the possibility of ceding rushing attempts to Mitchell, he's the clear-cut RB1 this week as long as he's active. He missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, making Friday's injury report worth paying attention to.

UPDATE: McCaffrey is off the injury report and good to go. It's possible he loses a few more carries, much like last week, but he's still incredibly valuable as the RB1.

Deebo Samuel (WR, SF)

Samuel wasn't a major factor last week, largely because Brock Purdy only completed 19 passes. He still led the team in targets, finished second in receptions, and added four carries, a number you can expect to increase this week. Samuel is one of the most versatile players in the league, and his skill set as a runner will be an asset in this matchup. The 49ers are dead last in pace of play because they want to maintain possession of the ball and keep their defense fresh. They wear down the opposing defenders, at times lulling them with their slow methodical drives, before hitting an explosive play. Samuel is a good bet for secure volume, plus he has the opportunity to find the end zone as a runner or a receiver. He is on the injury report due to his ankle, but he's practiced all week in a limited fashion. He's ranked as the WR4 this week.

UPDATE: Samuel practiced in full on Friday and is off the injury report, he's good to go.

Jalen Hurts (QB, PHI)

Hurts and company dominated New York from start to finish, proving they are the much better team and deserve to be the No. 1 seed. Things will get more difficult against San Francisco, who ranks first in pass coverage, fifth in pass DVOA, and sixth-best in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. However, Hurts scored in every game he played this season, except Week 18 when he was far from healthy. His dual-threat ability is among the best in the NFL, finding the end zone as a runner in all but six games including last week. Additionally, the one blemish in the 49ers' ironclad defense is they allow big plays to wide receivers, which bodes well for Hurts because he has two fantastic wideouts to throw to along with a top-tier tight end. His multifaceted skill set makes him a great option as the QB2 with QB1 upside.

A.J. Brown (WR, PHI)

Brown was the focal point of the defense as expected, but he also dealt with a hip injury during the game, limiting him to only 73% of the offensive snaps. The other problem was the offense leaned heavily on their rushing attack, running the ball 44 times for 268 yards and three scores, compared to 24 passing attempts. Hurts completed only 16 passes for 154 yards, making it difficult for everyone in the passing attack to succeed. The Eagles will need to stay aggressive from start to finish against San Francisco, which means more volume. It's also more favorable to attack the 49ers through the air, positioning Brown for a bounce-back performance. He's off the injury report and comes in as the WR3 on the week.

DeVonta Smith (WR, PHI)

Smith just keeps rolling, exploiting easier coverage because defenses are forced to divide their attention among so many players, particularly Brown. He's had six or more receptions in four straight outings, topping 100 yards twice and totaling three touchdowns. As mentioned above, the matchup will encourage them to throw more, solidifying his volume. He's also capable of big plays, averaging 12.6 yards per reception with a 20-plus-yard catch in six of his past seven games. Smith's volume and upside slot him as the WR2 on the week, one spot ahead of his counterpart.

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI)

Goedert made an incredible one-handed grab that he took to the house to set the tone on offense last week. The combination of Hurts leading this team and Goedert being healthy is a perfect match. He had a productive season, finishing with 55 receptions for 702 yards in 12 games. Although he struggled to find pay dirt throughout the year, he's been a nice run scoring in each of the past three contests that both he and Hurts were healthy. It isn't a plus matchup, but his presence in the red zone and ability to make spectacular plays makes him the TE2.

Matchups We Hate:

Miles Sanders/Boston Scott/Kenneth Gainwell (RB, PHI)

The matchup from last week to this week could not be more different, which is bad news for this backfield. New York and San Francisco are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their run defense. Scott found the end zone as anticipated, Gainwell came in for cleanup duty in the second half, and Sanders led the team in touches until the game was out of hand. Unfortunately, this defensive unit is going to be a problem. They allowed just 10 rushing touchdowns all season, and only one in the playoffs, plus they allowed the second-fewest rushing yards this year. Scott goes back to being a nonfactor, Gainwell will lead these three in receiving with a handful of carries, and Sanders will operate as the starter, but none of these three are worth chasing. They're all likely to be touchdown or bust options.

Brock Purdy (QB, SF)

Pudry did everything that was asked of him, earning yet another win. His numbers weren't great, mostly because he didn't score. His 214 passing yards were in line with his typical output. He also finished with only five QB hits and two sacks, thanks in large part to Trent Williams, who put on a clinic against the Dallas pass rushers. He'll continue to be opportunistic, making key throws to the many weapons at his disposal, but is ranked the lowest of the four remaining quarterbacks because he lacks their upside. It's also because Philadelphia ranks second in coverage and first in pass DVOA. That said, he could make for an intriguing stack with one of McCaffrey, Samuel, or Kittle, depending on your format and roster construction.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, SF)

The Eagles' secondary is extremely talented, led by James Bradberry and Darius Slay. They limited the Giants outside receivers, Isaiah Hodgins and Darius Slayton, to two receptions for seven yards last week. Moreover, we already saw Aiyuk struggle against Trevon Diggs, who is also an excellent cornerback. There's no reason to believe Aiyuk is heavily targeted or comes through with a big day, making him someone to avoid.

Other Matchups:

George Kittle (TE, SF)

Kittle showcased his athleticism and game-breaking ability, making an incredible grab on their touchdown drive. He had catches of 16, 17, 30, and 31 yards, leading the team in that category. He's a lock to receive three to five targets that allow him the opportunity to make a big play each week, it's merely a matter of whether those hit. He comes in as the TE3 in a matchup the 49ers will try to win on the ground and with their elite defense.

Elijah Mitchell (RB, SF)

As discussed above, Mitchell handled 14 carries filling in for McCaffrey, who was tending to his calf. All but one of his attempts came in the second half, with the majority of them in their final three drives. The status on McCaffrey will dictate just how many touches Mitchell projects to receive in this one. Although, he's also battling an injury that's caused him to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of his groin.

UPDATE: Mitchell will be inactive for Sunday's game, meaning the backup duties will be shared by Jordan Mason and Tevin Coleman, making each an intriguing deeper option.

Injuries:

Christian McCaffrey (calf)

Deebo Samuel (ankle)

Elijah Mitchell (groin)

 

Matchups Analysis - AFC Championship

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs

Spread: Chiefs -1.5
Implied Total: Bengals (23.25) vs. Chiefs (24.75)
Pace: Bengals (20th) vs. Chiefs (11th)
Bengals Off. DVOA: 24.9% Pass (7th), 7.5% Rush (4th)
Chiefs Off. DVOA: 41.1% Pass (1st), 1.3
% Rush (9th)
Bengals Def. DVOA:
-0.5% Pass (12th), -9.5% Rush (14th)
Chiefs Def. DVOA: 6.5% Pass (20th), -6.9% Rush (15th)
Weather: Cold temperatures with minor winds (no impact)
Fantasy Points Allowed:
Bengals (QB - 30th, RB - 25th, WR - 21st, TE - 13th) vs. Chiefs (QB - 2nd, RB - 14th, WR - 9th, TE - 14th)
PFF Coverage:
Bengals (6th) vs. Chiefs (5th)
PFF Run Defense:
Bengals (16th) vs. Chiefs (19th)

Matchups We Love:

Joe Burrow (QB, CIN)

These two teams are meeting for the fourth time in the past 13 months, including a second straight AFC title game. The Bengals are 3-0 outscoring the Chiefs 88-79. During those games, Burrow's thrown eight touches with only one interception, averaging 327 passing yards. He's also added about 30 yards per game on the ground. He just finished picking apart the Bills' secondary and now takes on a group in Kansas City that has been vulnerable to scoring through the air all year, ranking last in passing touchdowns allowed during the regular season. Additionally, his offensive line did a great job last week of protecting him, allowing three QB hits and one sack on 36 dropbacks. The Chiefs ranked 15th in pass rush win rate, managing just seven QB hits and two sacks against Jacksonville. Burrow is primed for another great game, setting him up as the QB1 this week.

UPDATE: Alex Cappa (guard) and Jonah Williams (tackle) were both ruled out again this week. It's not ideal, but it doesn't significantly change Burrow's outlook given the way he performed without them last week.

Ja'Marr Chase (WR, CIN)

What's fantastic about Chase is that he's not only the clear No. 1 option in the offense, but his supporting cast is talented enough to force defenses to account for other players. If they simply sell out to stop him, Burrow will distribute the ball to the other receivers, their tight end, and running backs. Furthermore, even when focus on him, he's more than capable of making contested catches, a category he finished 12th in with 87 this season, accounting for 64.9% of his total receptions. Kansas City has some impressive young players in their secondary including Trent McDuffie, but none of them are equipped to shut down Chase. He comes in as the WR1 this week, matching his ascending signal-caller.

Joe Mixon (RB, CIN)

The Chiefs' rush defense is at worst a neutral matchup for Mixon, if not a favorable one. They rank at or below the league median in the majority of metrics, which has a lot to do with their preference to limit big plays. He capitalized on the weather in Buffalo, pounding the rock 20 times for 105 yards and a score, adding two receptions for 18 yards. It's only his second 100-yard game on the ground all season, but his role in the passing game has kept him involved. It's unlikely the game script enables them to run out the clock and maintain a lead, but Mixon should see 15-20 touches, goal-line work, and three or more receptions, making him the second-best option at the position this week, especially if you believe Cincinnati wins.

Travis Kelce (TE, KC)

Typically when your superstar quarterback goes down, it's a problem. However, Kelce just kept producing with Chad Henne at the helm, hauling in three passes for ten yards and a score on the 98-yard drive he led. Mahomes eventually returned to start the third quarter, but 11 of Kelce's receptions and 65 of his receiving yards were in the first half, along with both of his touchdown grabs. It's nice to know he's not only matchup-proof but also quarterback-proof. He's now found the end zone of eight of their past ten playoff contests, making 12 trips to pay dirt during that stretch. He's also totaled 95-plus receiving yards in all but two of them. He's the obvious TE1 with a sky-high ceiling.

UPDATE: Kelce was added to the injury report with a back injury and is listed as questionable. The last report has him as a game-time decision because the tweak to his back occurred late in practice on Friday. However, he is active, but he is riskier in all formats because of the injury.

Matchups We Hate:

Tyler Boyd/Trenton Irwin (WR, CIN)

Both teams have an alpha receiving option in the passing game along with several secondary pieces. However, for the Bengals, it's not just Chase they're behind, but also Tee Higgins, Mixon, and Hayden Hurst. Burrow threw the ball 35 times last week and they combined two receptions on four targets. Outside of an unpredictable touchdown grab, there's no upside, keeping them off the radar yet again.

Jerick McKinnon (RB, KC)

McKinnon's run as a powerhouse satellite back appears to have come to an end. He failed to earn a target last week, couldn't find paydirt and averaged only 2.3 yards per carry on 11 attempts. He still played on 65% of the offensive snaps, but many of those were because he's more skilled as a pass-protector. He's stuck behind Isiah Pacheco in the running game, and he's competing with as many as six other players in the passing game, making him a touchdown-dependent dart throw, whose floor is very low.

Other Matchups:

Hayden Hurst (TE, CIN)

Hurst surprised many people, myself included, finishing second on the team in targets and receiving yards while tying Chase for the most receptions. It was actually his best performance all year, which is what makes it improbable to occur again. However, he does profile as a red zone threat if Burrow and the offensive coordinator choose to utilize him that way. He's still a tier below the other three tight ends competing on Sunday, but he could be a cheaper option who pays off if he scores. He is on the injury report with a calf injury, but there haven't been any reports indicating he'll miss the game.

UPDATE: Hurst practiced in full on Friday and was removed from the injury report, indicating he'll be active on Sunday.

Samaje Perine (RB, CIN)

Perine resurfaced after touching the ball twice against the Ravens. He finished with seven carries and tied Chase and Hurst with five receptions. It's tough to decipher how much of his usage was because they had a lead the entire game and were up two scores in the second half, but he did play more snaps than Mixon (41-33) and run more routes (18-14). He's interesting as a deeper running back that could contribute closer to the way he did last week, especially if they're winning and using him as a receiver again.

Tee Higgins (WR, CIN)

Higgins hasn't been productive for several weeks now, primarily because his targets keep decreasing. He had a nice game in Week 17 against New England, catching eight of nine targets for 128 yards and a score. Since then though, his final stat lines have been one catch for seven yards on seven targets, four catches for 67 yards on six targets, and three catches for 28 yards on four targets last week. Outside of Hurst and Chase, he's the only one to even consider. However, his volume keeps diminishing, making him a risky option.

Patrick Mahomes (QB, KC)

Mahomes was on his way to torching the Jaguars for another vintage playoff performance, showcasing why he's regarded as the best signal-caller in the NFL before an ankle injury in the first half derailed his day. He fought through the ailment, returning in the second half to lead his team to victory, but his mobility was severely hampered. Everything about his value for fantasy and the Chiefs' chances of winning this game depends on his health. It's also the only thing keeping him from being listed in the "matchups we love" section, where he has been nearly every week this season.

Cincinnati's pass defense shut down Josh Allen last week by honing in on Stefon Diggs and forcing other players to beat them. They'll most certainly attempt that strategy against Kelce and Mahomes in this one, meaning the ability for Mahomes to find other options and elude pressure will be huge. He was listed as a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, which is a promising sign. However, it seems reasonable to expect some limitations in his movement and reducing his ceiling, dropping him to the QB3.

UPDATE: Mahomes practiced in full again on Friday and was removed from the injury report. It seems like he's much closer to full health than originally anticipated, which is evidenced by the 2.5-point swing in the Vegas line. That said, it's far from a guarantee that he'll be able to perform the way he typically does. His ceiling gets a small bump, but he's still the QB3.

Isiah Pacheco (RB, KC)

Pacheco was playing behind McKinnon, rushing the ball four times for 26 yards prior to Mahomes getting injured. However, the team shifted its philosophy, focusing more on their rushing attack, resulting in eight more carries for 69 yards the remainder of the game, much of which came on an exceptional 39-yard run. The state of Mahomes ankle will likely impact the number of opportunities Pacheco receives, but he now has 100 scrimmage yards or a touchdown in three straight weeks. In addition, the Bengals' run defense ranks significantly lower than their pass defense, adding to the intrigue he possesses. He's a less popular name that could play a larger role, ranking as the RB3 on the week.

Kadarius Toney (WR, KC)

It's become quite predictable when it comes to this receiving corps. The team will hyper-target Kelce while distributing the ball among the wideouts, running backs, and backup tight ends, which makes it difficult for any of these players to excel. Toney led this group in targets, receptions, and yards, finishing with five receptions for 36 yards. After that everyone was irrelevant, except for Marquez Valdes-Scantling who happened to haul in a touchdown pass on his lone catch. JuJu Smith-Schuster was second statistically behind Toney, but when Kelce accounts for 14 of the 27 completions (52%) and 17 of the 37 attempts (45.9%), there's barely anything left for everyone else. Given that the Bengals will attempt to slow Kelce down, each of these players will have a chance to step up. The likely candidate is Toney, making him the preferred choice as a player to take a shot on. Otherwise, Smith-Schuster would be next followed by Valdes-Scanting, Justin Watson, Mecole Hardman if he plays, and Skyy Moore.

UPDATE: Mecole Hardman is active for Sunday's game. He hasn't played since Week 9 but becomes a dart throw option. Watson on the other hand is inactive, which narrows the pool of receivers to take a shot on.

Injuries:

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle)

Mecole Hardman (pelvis)

Patrick Mahomes (ankle)

Hayden Hurst (calf)

 



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Rams Seeking Three-Down Role From Blake Corum
Javonte Williams6 days ago

Newcomers Threatening Javonte Williams' Role
Samaje Perine6 days ago

Jaleel McLaughlin Facing Threat To Workload
Courtland Sutton6 days ago

Not At OTAs
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