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Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Conference Championships Matchups Analysis


Welcome to our NFL Conference Championships matchups analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering both of the AFC and NFC contests from the Sunday slate, helping you make the best decisions for your DFS contests this weekend. Be sure to check back regularly because this article will be updated as news comes in regarding injuries and other relevant information.

Spencer Aguiar will start off by covering the AFC Championship game that begins at 3:05 PM ET on Sunday, and Chris O'Reilly will take you home with his analysis of the NFC Championship that takes place later in the day at 6:40 PM ET.

If you have any additional lineup questions, follow us on Twitter @Teeoffsports and @cjoreillyCLE and feel free to ask away! Without further ado, let's get started.

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!

 

Matchups Analysis - Conference Championships Round

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (3:05 PM ET)

Matchups We Love:

Patrick Mahomes (QB, KC)

How will Patrick Mahomes follow up his 321-yard, five-touchdown performance? If stats have anything to say about it, I'd imagine he does quite well. The Titans enter the game ranked 23rd in the NFL when it comes to success rate against the pass, which could become an issue if they fall behind early. Tennessee has had the luxury of being ahead in games and knowing opponents are going to throw, so things could become dodgy if this gets off to a bad start for them.

Tyreek Hill (WR, KC)

Tyreek Hill's marginal showing against the Houston Texans last weekend might allow us to grab the speedster at lower ownership than expected. Hill torched the Titans earlier in the season for 11 catches, 157 yards and one score on 19 targets and could go back to being Patrick Mahomes' primary target on Sunday.

Matchups We Hate:

LeSean McCoy (RB, KC)

LeSean McCoy has been an afterthought for the Chiefs over the past month, and a mid-week illness is not going to help matters. McCoy was held out of practice on Wednesday and shouldn't be an integral part of their gameplan.

Kalif Raymond (WR, TEN)

Kalif Raymond's 45-yard touchdown reception against the Baltimore Ravens wasn't the first time we have seen the speedster break loose this year. His nine regular-season receptions for 170 yards equated to an average of 18.9 yards per catch, but you are really getting desperate if you go back to the well on Sunday for $3,400 on DraftKings. The Chiefs have not given up long passes this season, and Raymond will get a boost in ownership from his performance last week. That is a combination I'd prefer to avoid.

Other Matchups:

Ryan Tannehill (QB, TEN)

Averaging 80 yards per contest to begin the playoffs won't help you win any money in DFS contests, but you would have to imagine Ryan Tannehill will be forced to drop back and pass more often on Sunday. If you are picking Tannehill, you are hoping for the Chiefs to take a sizable lead early, and I do think that has a decent chance of happening. Expect the Titans to be Henry-heavy in the first half before having to eventually lean on Tannehill late.

Damien Williams (RB, KC)

The Titans feature a formidable front line, but Damien Williams gathered 109 yards from scrimmage when these two teams met earlier in the season. I anticipate we see Williams receive a handful of rushes and attempts through the air, making him a threat to find the endzone for the eighth time over his past four playoff games.

Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)

There is no taking away what Derrick Henry has been able to accomplish during the playoffs, but his string of success has come with a perfect game script. None of that means that Henry won't be able to keep the momentum rolling in Kansas City, but it does suggest that the bruising back will be better suited in a game where the Titans are within reach. I don't mind playing him against a weak Chiefs run defense that will likely be exploited early, but we are going to need that level of production to continue into the second half to pay for his salary.

Mecole Hardman / Sammy Watkins (WR, KC)

Both Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins are about as boom-or-bust as they come, but it is difficult to rule them out in a contest against a weak secondary like Tennesse's. The Titans are ranked middle of the pack in explosive plays allowed, and you could do worse if you are looking for a flier in GPP contests.

A.J. Brown / Corey Davis (WR, TEN)

I don't want to overly impact the wideouts for the Titans because of their sub-par showing in the playoffs. Ryan Tannehill has only completed 15 passes in two games, and there should be a more aggressive nature present if the game doesn't go their way early. A.J. Brown is an intriguing selection in GPPS that might go overlooked with the way the first two games have gone, while Corey Davis should have his floor increased if the team does indeed have to throw more often.

Travis Kelce (TE, KC)

Travis Kelce is $1,300 more than George Kittle this week on DraftKings. It will be worth monitoring both Kittle's ankle and Kelce's knee as the week progresses, but I find it challenging to go any route that doesn't involve one of those two for your builds. Kittle's reduced price tag intrigues me this week, but I am not going to talk you out of playing Kelce.


Jonnu Smith (TE, TEN)

If you are determined to go off the beaten path at TE, Jonnu Smith is your best choice available. There is no denying his boom-or-bust nature, but the Chiefs have struggled on multiple occasions this season to defend opposing tight ends.

 

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (6:40 PM ET)

Matchups We Love:

George Kittle (TE, SF)

George Kittle didn't do much in the Divisional round, but he also didn't have to. The 49ers bulldozed the Vikings on the ground, which yielded a passing attack that, even for the 49ers' standards, can be considered low-volume. Though the 49ers are a relatively heavy favorite for a conference championship game, I'm not expecting the Packers to go down without a fight. Kittle should reenter the equation in what figures to be a more balanced offensive attack from San Francisco as the 49ers try to win a more closely-contested game. For what it's worth, last week's dud was the first time since Week 13 that Kittle didn't go for at least 67 yards and/or a touchdown.

Davante Adams (WR, GB)

In the last 10 games Davante Adams has played, including the playoffs, he's seen double-digit targets in all but one. In his last four, he's averaging 8.75 catches and 118 yards, and has hauled in four touchdown receptions. Are the 49ers a tough matchup for wide receivers? Sure. Could the San Francisco secondary cap Adams' upside by committing its undivided attention to him, knowing the Packers barely even act like they have other players to throw the ball to? Why not. But I'm also of the mind that when your record is 14-3, you're not going to suddenly deviate from what has gotten you there. And when you're one win away from a Super Bowl appearance, you're probably going to want your fate resting in the hands of your best players. Adams is arguably Green Bay's best offensive player; his target share and the production he's put up with it are enough to make me look past the tough matchup at hand. Exercise caution, sure, but I'd rather be wrong for trusting Adams than wrong for fading him.

Matchups We Hate:

None

Other Matchups:

Raheem Mostert/Tevin Coleman/Matt Breida (RB, SF)

Last week, I advised against trusting Tevin Coleman in any format due to the fact that he ended the regular season on five straight games with single-digit touches. In true Kyle Shanahan fashion, however, Coleman literally ran away with the bulk of San Francisco's carries in last week's Divisional round win over the Vikings. Coleman logged 105 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, casting a level of doubt on this backfield that we hadn't seen in at least a month. Even though Raheem Mostert did not actually play his way out of the primary role (he and Coleman both averaged the same 4.8 yards per carry last week), we don't have much of a choice but to head into championship weekend believing Coleman is once again going to be a factor. The good news is that any split should be predominantly shared by Coleman and Mostert, as Matt Breida continues to be sparingly involved. The Packers have defended the run well of late, but it's been awhile since they faced a team that is as effective on the ground as the 49ers. Both Coleman and Mostert should receive fantasy consideration with the caveat that they're going to cut into each other's opportunity.

Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, SF)

The Vikings earned seven first downs against the San Francisco defense last week, and one of those was due to a penalty. Minnesota's near-total inability to move the ball limited the need for Jimmy Garoppolo to throw, as he attempted just 19 passes on the day. While the Packers have had their ups and downs offensively throughout the year, one would think that Aaron Rodgers at least gives them the chance to put sustained drives together and keep the 49ers honest on offense. I'd take the over on 19 pass attempts for Garoppolo this weekend, so there's appeal here from an opportunity standpoint. Despite the regular season meeting between these two teams resulting in a lopsided 37-8 win for San Francisco, I'd be surprised to see the rematch go down the same way. Green Bay has played much better on both sides of the ball since that drubbing, and I expect the latter stages of this contest to require Garoppolo to engineer some drives through the air to fend off the underdog Packers at home.

Emmanuel Sanders / Kendrick Bourne / Deebo Samuel (WR, SF)

If you rostered any 49ers wideout in the Divisional round, I sure hope it was Kendrick Bourne. Bourne salvaged what would've been a pedestrian day with a touchdown, while Emmanuel Sanders never quite got going and Deebo Samuel was held mostly in check. We've already discussed the "why" a few times here: San Francisco simply didn't have to throw the ball last weekend. We've also discussed the likelihood of a heavier emphasis on the pass this time around. How much heavier is the valid question at hand, as the 49ers are still predominantly a run-first offense even when they don't totally abandon the aerial game. And that concerns me when trying to decide which of San Francisco's wide receivers will see the most of what's left over from George Kittle's target share in a close game. Samuel did lead the entire team in targets last week with six, but he and Sanders have largely shared the featured role. I'd rank Samuel slightly ahead of Sanders for this week, with Bourne factoring in as a more risky option despite last week's score.

Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)

It can be tough to separate the fantasy quarterback from the real-life quarterback when evaluating a player for these purposes, and that's especially true when the player in question is Aaron Rodgers. You want to believe he's still got that stone-cold assassin in him that can go for 400 yards and five touchdowns without breaking a sweat, and under the right circumstances he can. But a road matchup against the 49ers with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line tells me we're going to see more of what makes Rodgers a great real-life quarterback. In the six games (including the playoffs) since Green Bay got stomped by the 49ers in late November, the Packers Defense has held its opponents under 16 points per game. The Packers won all six games and have averaged well over 100 rushing yards per contest in this span. Does this sound like a trend toward a game plan that involves Rodgers slinging it all over the field from the outset, or is his opportunity likely going to be influenced by whether the 49ers can put him behind on the scoreboard early? San Francisco has been among the least favorable matchups for quarterbacks all year long, and one of its marquee victims during the regular season was Rodgers. The Packers will not win this game without the best possible version of Rodgers, the real-life quarterback, at its most pivotal moments. There is cause for concern over whether that will translate into the future Canton inductee qualifying as a high-upside fantasy QB, however.

Aaron Jones (RB, GB)

Aaron Jones has been the perfect blend of opportunity and production, particularly in the touchdown department. His tendency to find the endzone in 2019 reached the point where you were genuinely surprised when he didn't. He continued his torrid scoring rate in the Divisional round with two one-yard plunges against the Seahawks. He may need another pair of scores to make him a safe fantasy play this Sunday. The well-rested 49ers Defense put a pin in the Dalvin Cook movement last week, proving that while this is still a much tougher unit against the pass than against the run, Jones' rushing windows on Sunday night aren't necessarily going to be as wide open as an Oklahoma prairie. Jones has gone through spells of inefficiency--even last week he only averaged three yards per tote--and it wouldn't be shocking to see the 49ers prevent him from picking up chunks upon chunks of yardage. San Francisco has done well to keep opposing running backs out of the endzone, surrendering just seven rushing touchdowns to the position on the season. I'm by no means going against Jones across the board in the NFC Championship Game, but I have my reasons for not going all-in on him, too.

Other Packers Wide Receivers (WR, GB)

Davante Adams was targeted 11 times in the Packers' first playoff game. The rest of Green Bay's receiving corps was targeted twice. Not twice each. Twice total. This is due in part to the fact that the Packers held two different 18-point leads, which naturally led to a more run-heavy approach, but the point remains. Green Bay probably isn't jumping out to a three-score cushion on the road against San Francisco, which should help open things up a bit more for the Packers' pass-catchers. But will it be enough to raise any of their respective fantasy values? With only four teams on the slate--or even two, if you're playing in one-game showdown formats--it's hard to argue totally against taking fliers on otherwise inconsequential players. That said, we have an entire season's worth of evidence that suggests the Packers' wide receivers other than Adams are extremely risky plays, especially in this matchup.

Jimmy Graham (TE, GB)

Jimmy Graham has caught seven of 11 targets for 98 yards in his last two games, which is certainly more than any other secondary Packers pass-catcher can say. One would think that with the 49ers keying on Adams downfield, the middle might open up for Graham to make a difference on Sunday night. With George Kittle and Travis Kelce still available in player pools, I'd prefer to play it safe here. But I wouldn't try to talk you out of diversifying with a few shares of Graham, provided you're constructing a ton of lineups.

Jamaal Williams (RB, GB)

Jamaal Williams has drifted into the background of Green Bay's offensive scheme. He hasn't recorded double-digit touches in a game since Week 13, and he hit rock-bottom last week with one carry and one reception in a victory over Seattle. That was in a game where the Packers held a substantial lead for most of 60 minutes. I expect Green Bay to get more creative offensively on Sunday night as it tries to pick apart a much better 49ers defense, which means Williams could see a more prominent role as a change-of-pace guy behind Jones. Still, Williams' downward trend is hardly one I want my fantasy hopes hanging on.

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