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Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Divisional Round Matchups Analysis


Welcome to our Divisional Round matchups analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering all of the games from the Saturday and Sunday slates, helping you make the best decisions for your playoff lineups and 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.

Chris O'Reilly will start off by covering the Divisional Round games that begin at 4:35 PM ET on Saturday, and Spencer Aguiar will take you home with his analysis of the games taking place on Sunday starting at 1:05 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 - Saturday Divisional Round

Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (4:35 PM ET)

Matchups We Love:

George Kittle (TE, SF)

Only seven teams allowed more receptions to tight ends during the regular season than Minnesota, but nobody gave up fewer touchdowns to the position (one). George Kittle is obviously in the realm of tight end where touchdowns aren't necessary, but it'd be nice for insurance purposes if he was facing a soft matchup in that regard. In any case, he is the most reliable tight end on the Saturday slate. If you're constructing Saturday-only lineups, it's hard not to go all-in on Kittle and make concessions where you must at other positions. If you're building lineups for the whole weekend, you can't go wrong with Travis Kelce, either.

Matchups We Hate:

None

Other Matchups:

Dalvin Cook (RB, MIN)

The 49ers aren't the type of defense you get excited to see in fantasy, but the one area in which they've been there for the taking at various points throughout the season is on the ground. The Vikings leaned heavily on Dalvin Cook while also employing a relentless pass rush to beat the Saints on the road last week, and a similar formula is likely to be needed in San Francisco this time around. Cook totaled 130 yards on 31 total touches, scoring two short rushing touchdowns for his trouble. That kind of volume is going to pay off more often than not, and Cook should be in line for another heavy workload. For DFS players trying to choose between Cook and Derrick Henry (for Saturday-only contests) in an attempt to spread your budget around, consider that game flow has the potential to get out of hand in the Baltimore/Tennessee matchup if the Ravens jump out to an early lead. Cook has the marginally better chance of playing in a closely contested game.

Stefon Diggs (WR, MIN)

Both of Minnesota's top wideouts are on the injury report, but neither appears to be in jeopardy of actually missing Saturday's game. Stefon Diggs has been dealing with an illness early in the week, while Adam Thielen needed stitches to patch up a cut on his ankle. As for their potential value in this matchup, again, we have to come back to what the Vikings did offensively in the Wild Card round. Kirk Cousins attempted just 31 passes in a textbook road playoff victory; are we expecting Minnesota to pivot to an aerial onslaught this week against one of the league's top pass defenses? As far as Diggs in particular is concerned, his two-catch, three-target outing against the Saints shouldn't be casually dismissed. In the five games Thielen missed this season, Diggs averaged five receptions for 86 yards, and was targeted 7.2 times per game. In the 10 games they played together, Diggs hauled in under four catches per game for an average of 69.5 yards on fewer than six targets per outing. These aren't inviting splits by any means, and Thielen was clearly the preferred option in New Orleans last weekend. I'm exercising caution with Diggs, regardless of format.

***UPDATE: Stefon Diggs has cleared the Vikings injury report, and is expected to play on Saturday.

Adam Thielen (WR, MIN)

The 49ers gave up 20-plus PPR points to a wide receiver in each of their final four regular season games (Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Robert Woods, D.K. Metcalf). Two of them, Thomas and Jones, are clearly their team's top option at the position. Of the other two, you could make the argument that Metcalf has supplanted Tyler Lockett in Seattle, and Woods only looks like such a second fiddle to Cooper Kupp due to a lack of touchdowns. What I'm trying to say here is that the primary receiving option in a team's offense has had remarkable success against the 49ers over the last month. After last week, Thielen sure appears to be that guy in Minnesota again. There are a variety of factors keeping Thielen off the love list this week, not the least of which is San Francisco's extra week to prepare. Toss in the fact that the 49ers are still an exceptional pass defense at the end of the day, and sprinkle in Thielen's minor injury concern (which could reasonably be expected to cause pain, considering the location on his ankle), and I am keeping my hopes high and my expectations reasonable.

***UPDATE: Adam Thielen remains questionable as of Friday afternoon, giving him roughly 24 hours to be fully cleared for Saturday's game.

Olabisi Johnson (WR, MIN)

Olabisi Johnson has not been a factor in Minnesota's passing game at all this season, regardless of who's been on the field. If this were the regular season, I'd be hesitant to even discuss him here. But in the condensed player pool available in the playoffs, there is always the chance a darkhorse hero saves the day. If that hero is Johnson against the 49ers, I'll be surprised to say the least.

Alexander Mattison (RB, MIN)

In a game in which the Vikings clearly opted to pound the ball on the ground last week, Alexander Mattison saw just six total touches (five carries, one catch). Whatever reservations we might've had regarding Dalvin Cook's health coming into the playoffs, those concerns are officially in the rear view. Thus, so is the hope that any secondary running back in Minnesota is in line for fantasy-friendly work. If Mattison isn't going to see at least double-digit touches, he's naturally going to need a huge play or a touchdown to be worth rostering in any format.

Kirk Cousins (QB, MIN)

It's okay to respect the mettle of Kirk Cousins while also acknowledging the Vikings could be in trouble if they have to take to the air to beat the 49ers this week. San Francisco allowed the fewest passing yards per game during the regular season while pressuring the quarterback at the league's second-highest rate. The Niners also ranked sixth in defensive turnover rate. We've already touched on the likelihood that the Vikings showed us how they plan to navigate a brutal NFC playoff field on the road: by running the ball and playing suffocating defense. Cousins will surely be called upon to make plays at pivotal junctures of the game, but unless this game turns upside down, I'm not envisioning a ton of opportunity through the air.

Kyle Rudolph / Irv Smith Jr. (TE, MIN)

For all of their defensive strengths, the 49ers are vulnerable in the red zone. They've allowed 60% of opponents' possessions inside the 20 to end in touchdowns, which ranks 10th-highest in the league. The red zone is naturally the most likely field position for a tight end to score, so there is touchdown potential for Minnesota's. Kyle Rudolph is clearly the go-to guy, and his seven targets in last week's game trailed only Adam Thielen's nine. Rudolph's game-winning touchdown bailed him out from what would've been a rough fantasy outing, but volume certainly worked in his favor. Irv Smith is an extremely risky, touchdown-dependent flier for DFS players who've maxed out their budget at other positions.

Raheem Mostert (RB, SF)

Raheem Mostert has laid to rest whatever concerns we had over who to trust in San Francisco's backfield. He scored at least one touchdown in each of his last six games, a span in which he never recorded fewer than 53 yards from scrimmage. He saw double-digit touches in each of his final five. As for the matchup, a spirited effort from the Vikings held Alvin Kamara to just 55 yards on 15 touches last week, though Kamara did get into the endzone. Regarding Mostert's potential to score, consider that six of his eight rushing touchdowns in the regular season came inside the red zone. The Vikings were the second-toughest red zone defense in the league during the regular season. Mostert's fantasy value this week will stem from his volume in the number-one RB role.

Tevin Coleman / Matt Breida (RB, SF)

What Raheem Mostert giveth to fantasy owners, he taketh from Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida. Coleman hasn't seen double-digit touches in a game since November. The same goes for Breida, but he also missed nearly a month due to injury. Neither Coleman nor Breida have any relevant pass-catching role to offset their lack of involvement in the running game, making both of them risky plays in any format this week.

Deebo Samuel / Emmanuel Sanders (WR, SF)

A low-volume pass offense has capped the ceiling of any San Francisco pass-catcher not named George Kittle. Perhaps more importantly for anyone trying to choose between Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders this week, it has limited the potential for more than one wide receiver to go off as well. Neither Samuel nor Sanders have seen consistently exorbitant target shares on a week-to-week basis since the latter joined the 49ers, and they've mostly taken turns being the go-to guy in any given game. If you're of the mind this game is won largely in the trenches and you're willing to buy into the ruckus Minnesota's defensive line created in the pocket last week, you might want to temper expectations on Samuel and Sanders.

Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, SF)

Jimmy Garoppolo has risen to the occasion when he's had to take to the air, but I have to wonder if that's the kind of game script we're looking at in the Divisional round. Both of the teams in this matchup rank inside the top eight for fewest points allowed per opposing possession, limiting the potential for a shootout. Both also rank top-four in rush attempts, which speaks for itself. The 49ers have won shootouts and they've won slug-fests, but their primary avenue to the best record in the NFC was a reliance on defense and the running game. Super Bowl contenders don't normally choose to abandon what has worked for them in the playoffs, so unless the Vikings force San Francisco's hand into a high-scoring air raid, I'd prefer not to bank on Garoppolo's high-floor efficiency when I need high upside.

 

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (8:15 PM ET)

Matchups We Love:

Lamar Jackson (QB, BAL)

We all know how many ways Lamar Jackson can beat a defense by now. He'll torch you through the air with a couple of deep balls. He'll scramble out of a collapsed pocket and pick up 15 yards. He'll burn you for another 15 on a designed run. And then before you know it, he's got his team lined up inside the red zone, where the Titans were the second-easiest team to score on in the league during the regular season. Jackson has attempted 26 rushes inside the 20-yard line, and five of his seven rushing touchdowns have come from in close. He's not too shabby at throwing the ball in the red zone either; only Russell Wilson had more passing touchdowns inside the 20 than Jackson's 24.

Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)

The two biggest underdogs of the Wild Card round (Minnesota, Tennessee) emerged victorious on the road thanks largely to their star running backs. You already know I'm expecting the Vikings to continue living and dying by the run, and the same goes for the Titans this week. Maybe expecting another 182-yard showing from Derrick Henry is getting a little ahead of ourselves, but against a Ravens team that gave up 4.42 yards per attempt to running backs in the regular season, the Tennessee bulldozer should be in line for another productive day.

Matchups We Hate:

None

Other Matchups:

Ravens Wide Receivers (All WR, BAL)

If it weren't for Jackson, the most fascinating thing about the Ravens offense would be the fact that they don't have a single reliable wide receiver in spite of having the league's most dynamic and unstoppable quarterback. The here-one-day, gone-the-next nature of the Ravens WR corps makes anyone in this group difficult to trust. What's worth pointing out here is that Tennessee gave up the sixth-most air yards on completed passes during the regular season. Baltimore pass-catchers averaged the eighth-highest yards-before-catch per reception. There's certainly potential here for a Ravens wideout to burn the Titans secondary, and if I like anyone to do it, give me Marquise Brown.

Mark Andrews / Hayden Hurst / Nick Boyle (TE, BAL)

Mark Andrews is on the Ravens' injury report, though it would be surprising if he's not out there on Saturday night. If you want to save a little bit of cash at tight end with Andrews over Kittle or Kelce, see the Titans' red zone woes discussed above in the Jackson segment. Andrews leads the Ravens in red zone targets, and seven of his 10 touchdowns have come in such field position. Only the Cardinals and Browns gave up more touchdowns to tight ends than the Titans. Andrews leads the team everywhere else on the field in volume as well, making him a fine option if you want to go this route instead of paying up for the top guys. Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle are extremely touchdown-dependent fliers, but by now you get the point: it's possible against the Titans.

***UPDATE: Mark Andrews remains questionable for Saturday's game as of Friday afternoon.

Mark Ingram (RB, BAL)

Mark Ingram's status for Saturday night is at least a little bit cloudy after a limited practice session on Thursday, but it appears likely he'll play. Assuming he does get the green light, the matchup doesn't jump off the page at you. The Titans held opposing backs to four yards per carry during the regular season and they kept the Patriots ground game in check last weekend. Ingram also doesn't have a role in the Ravens' passing attack, which keeps his floor down despite the fact that Tennessee was one of three teams to give up 100 receptions to his position during the regular season. If you're rostering him in any format, hope for a full workload and a touchdown against the Titans' porous red zone defense.

***UPDATE: Mark Ingram is expected to play on Saturday night.

Gus Edwards / Justice Hill (RB, BAL)

If Ingram doesn't receive a full workload, then we should expect something of a split between Gus Edwards and Justice Hill behind him. It still won't yield anything in the form of PPR work, as the Ravens simply don't throw the ball to their running backs. Even if Edwards and Hill are on the field enough to cut into Ingram's volume, trying to distribute enough opportunity around to make three running backs fantasy-relevant is a tall order. The best-case scenario here is that Ingram is declared a full go prior to kickoff.

Ryan Tannehill (QB, TEN)

You'll see more of this below when we discuss Ryan Tannehill's favorite receiver, but the Ravens' ability to shut down big plays through the air makes the Titans' passing attack a risky roll of the dice this week. Tannehill ranked fourth in the NFL in air yards per completed pass (7.4), and second in yards after catch per completion (6.2). The Ravens ranked inside the top 10 in terms of fewest air yards on completed passes and yards after catch. If Baltimore takes the lead early, Tannehill could wind up being a solid play based on opportunity. But if the Titans are able to keep this game close, I expect them to minimize their risk by relying heavily on their comic book superhero of a running back.

A.J. Brown (WR, TEN)

Lost amid A.J. Brown's breakout second half is that he's still pretty dependent on big plays, as opposed to being a high-floor PPR guy. During the regular season, Brown ranked 14th among all NFL players in yards before catch per reception, and fifth in yards after catch per reception. These metrics were enough to catapult him into WR1 territory, but he ranked 63rd in receptions with 52. He only caught more than four passes in a game three times all season. In the Wild Card round, he was a non-factor thanks to New England's relentless secondary. The Ravens present a similarly tough matchup, as they gave up the seventh-fewest yards after catch and the sixth-fewest air yards on completions during the regular season.

Corey Davis / Tajae Sharpe (WR, TEN)

Shootout potential keeps the fantasy candle of just about any player in this game flickering, but we have to acknowledge the disparity in risk from one tier to the next. Brown might carry a wide range of outcomes, but at least he's proven capable of making good on the positive end of that spectrum. Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe don't even have volume to lean on in this matchup. If you're inclined to get creative with a few of your lineups, Davis and Sharpe are the types of players who could help win you some money with a touchdown or two. But there's just as good a chance of them sinking your ship altogether.

Jonnu Smith (TE, TEN)

Considering the talent available at tight end, I'm not sure we need to be scrolling so far down the player pool that we find ourselves mulling the pros and cons of Jonnu Smith. If it helps make your decision easier, consider that the Ravens allowed the fewest receptions and the third-fewest yards to tight ends during the regular season.

 

Matchups Analysis - Sunday NFL Divisional Round

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (3:05 PM ET)

Matchups We Love:

Patrick Mahomes (QB, KC)

The Kansas City Chiefs have payback on their minds after not only falling just short of making the Super Bowl last season but also from slipping up to the Texans at home in Week 6 this year by a score of 31-24. I was not impressed by how the Texans' secondary defended Josh Allen during the Wild Card round and even more issues are ahead against a Chiefs unit that has had an extra week to prepare. This week in the NFL might turn into the haves and the have nots, and we know Patrick Mahomes is part of the elite company.

Tyreek Hill (WR, KC)

The last thing you want to do is be susceptible to explosive passes when you play Mahomes and company, and the Texans fit that narrative. With a ranking of 22nd in the NFL in combustible throws allowed on the year, Tyreek Hill has a chance to get free deep often.

Travis Kelce (TE, KC)

The Texans have been trustworthy in defending TEs, giving up the 19th-most points to the position on the year, but Travis Kelce is a different animal to defend for defenses. Kelce's sore knee needs to be monitored as we get closer, but I don't view it to be anything other than precautionary at this point. I prefer the All-Pro option over George Kittle given the matchup, so unless you are looking to paydown for someone like Mark Andrews, consider Kelce in play as a possibility.

***UPDATE: Travis Kelce's knee injury has rendered him questionable for Sunday as we head into the weekend, though it does not appear to endanger his chances of playing.

Matchups We Hate:

LeSean McCoy (RB, KC)

It is difficult to be overly bullish on a running back that didn't record a touch in Week 17 and was inactive the week prior. Kansas City is better by most metrics when Damien Williams is in the game, and it seems likely to me that we see the Chiefs go that route.

Other Matchups:

Deshaun Watson (QB, HOU)

I worry a little that we see DeShaun Watson struggle against an extremely underrated Kansas City secondary. Perhaps it won't be entirely his fault, but head coach Bill O' Brien is a significant liability with his lack of aggression. The return of WR Will Fuller would help the offense become more dynamic, but can we really trust O'Brien not to lay an egg on the road?

Damien Williams (RB, KC)

From an analytics perspective, Damien Williams seems to be the RB you want to own against the Texans. Houston's stout front four has been challenging to run on at times this season, and Williams' pass-catching nature should be used often in their attempt to open up the field.

Carlos Hyde / Duke Johnson (RB, HOU)

If Houston wants any chance to win this game on Sunday, they must find a way to get their run game moving. Kansas City has allowed the fourth-worst success rate to opposing backs in 2019, and a combination of both Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson should be employed for the ultimate shake-and-bake combination. Unfortunately, we are still looking at Bill O' Brien in charge, so there is a chance that Hyde receives the bulk some of the work, making Johnson painfully underutilized.

Sammy WatkinsMecole Hardman / Demarcus Robinson (WR, KC)

There's enough vulnerability on the Texans' defense that Tyreek Hill isn't the only option available. I think Demarcus Robinson plays too infrequently to trust what he will bring to the table, but Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins do have a chance to find success. I prefer Hardman because we haven't seen Watkins do much since Week 1, but both options are on the table.

DeAndre Hopkins / Will Fuller (WR, HOU)

I'm not sure how much further you would want to branch out than DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller when discussing this WR core. Fuller would add a dynamic element that could help Houston find victory, but it is a tall task if you are looking for multiple players finding success against a stout KC secondary.

***UPDATE: Will Fuller is officially questionable heading into the weekend.

Darren Fells / Jordan Akins (TE, HOU)

It is worth monitoring if Jordan Akins can make a return for the Texans on Sunday. Fells played a season-high 96% of the snaps during the Wild Card round and could be a cheap option to consider at the position if Akins misses his second straight game.

***UPDATE: Jordan Akins is officially listed as questionable for Sunday.

 

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (6:40 PM ET)

Matchups We Love:

Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)

I like Aaron Rodgers more than I probably should. In general, Green Bay is one of the most overrated teams left in the playoffs, but the same can be said about the Seattle Seahawks, who rank outside the top-20 in both defensive rushing and passing efficiency. There's a lot of ways this contest can go on Sunday, but I think we get Rodgers' best effort.

Davante Adams (WR, GB)

With 42 targets over his previous three games, Davante Adams is beginning to produce as most expected him to in 2019. I worry slightly that rookie head coach Matt LaFleur will stumble under the bright lights, but Adams and Aaron Rodgers could be in store for a big day if the Packers don't tighten up their play-calling.

Matchups We Hate:

Other Matchups:

Russell Wilson (QB, SEA)

The blueprint to beating Green Bay has been laid out all season. Establish the run against them and control the tempo. The Packers rank dead last in the NFL in stopping opposing RBs on the year, which could limit Russell Wilson's upside if the Seahawks decide to become run-heavy - a route they have taken on more occasions than we can count.

Marshawn Lynch / Travis Homer (RB, SEA)

It was a pitiful game for Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch against the Philadelphia Eagles, who combined to produce 17 rushes for 19 yards. That level of return will need to rise exponentially if the Seahawks want to escape Green Bay victorious, but the tandem couldn't have a better matchup on their hands. The Packers have allowed an NFL worst 54% of attempts to grade out successfully, placing both on the table as choices to consider.

Aaron Jones / Jamaal Williams (RB, GB)

It is going to be necessary for the Packers to establish the run if they want to open up the rest of their offense, but I think the team would be better served if they took an aggressive approach that tried to put the Seahawks in a situation where they were forced to play from behind. That would allow them to then control the tempo on their watch when they decide to revert back to a run-heavy nature, but I'm not sure I trust head coach Matt LaFleur to go that route. Seattle has allowed 15% of rushing attempts to grade out as explosive - the third-worst mark in the NFL.

Allen Lazard / Geronimo Allison / Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR, GB)

As a pure dart throw, Allen Lazard is your best bet since he has built the most consistent repertoire with Aaron Rodgers in recent weeks, but the unit hasn't shown much consistency outside of Davante Adams. Geronimo Allison misses a lot of snap because of personnel setups, and Valdes-Scantling hasn't done much all year. I'm fine inserting Lazard in as a cheap filler, but I can't get myself behind anyone else.

Tyler Lockett / D.K. Metcalf (WR, SEA)

While Green Bay has done well opposing WRs this year, they have been susceptive to deep passes. As I mentioned earlier, there's a lot of ways this game can go from a game flow standpoint, but both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are in play as options.

Jimmy Graham (TE, GB)

Jimmy Graham's season has been far from consistent, as each of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow are each plenty involved on a week-to-week basis. The fact that Graham is not all the way washed up might help against a Seahawks Defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game, but his days of being an elite producer are over.

Jacob Hollister (TE, SEA)

Jacob Hollister has been held to 34 yards or less in four his past five contests. The TE has slotted into being the third option for the passing offense, and that is where he will remain on Sunday against a Packers Defense that has been below average in defending the position.

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Many of you have already begun planning and building your 2020 rosters. This includes best ball owners who have assembled teams in that popular format. A number of owners in redraft leagues are inspecting the early rankings, while those of you who are involved in dynasty leagues have continued your process of relentless roster evaluation. As... Read More


XFL DFS Lineup Picks For Week 3: The Checkdown

Check out this week's XFL fantasy football preview including game breakdowns, player analysis, DFS lineup picks and more for week three of the 2020 XFL season. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune... Read More


D.J. Chark - Dynasty Price Check

Are you ready for some football? If you are in a dynasty fantasy football league, you most certainly are! The time between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft is a prime opportunity for hardcore owners to evaluate their current team and prepare for their upcoming rookie drafts. We've already looked at young players like Courtland... Read More


RB Opportunity Share and Impact (NFC South & West): 2019 Review

We roll on with coverage of each of the eight NFL divisions, discussing the teams that are part of them and the running backs that were part of those teams in 2019. To present those teams and players I use a set of easy-to-read charts: treemaps. The graphics will hold all of the players of... Read More


Biggest ADP Surprises: Early Fantasy Football Mock Draft

RotoBaller fantasy football analysts Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano review the draft board from RotoBaller's 2020 Way Too Early Mock fantasy football draft. They look at early ADP, reaches, values, and surprises throughout the first 10 rounds. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us... Read More