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Fantasy Football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em - Wild Card Weekend Matchups Analysis

Matthew Stafford - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Welcome back RotoBallers to our Wild Card Weekend matchups analysis and Start Em, Sit Em column for fantasy football. After 18 weeks of craziness, we finally know who the 14 teams competing for the Super Bowl will be. 12 of them are in action this week, including the Cleveland Browns versus the Houston Texans and the Miami Dolphins versus the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Buffalo Bills, the Green Bay Packers versus the Dallas Cowboys, and the Los Angeles Rams versus the Detroit Lions on Sunday, capped off with the Philadelphia Eagles versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday. There are plenty of fantastic storylines and matchups to break down this week.

For anyone new to the column, we'll analyze every game from Wild Card Weekend, helping you optimize your fantasy lineups for whatever type of format or competition you're in. Check back regularly for any updates on player injuries or other pertinent information. I want to express my gratitude for some of the great resources that help me write this article each week such as RotoBaller's player pages, rbsdm, Pro Football Focus, Rotovitz, FTN Fantasy, Fantasy Life, Pro Football Reference, NFL Next Gen Stats, DraftKings Sportsbook, and Fantasy Points, along with all of you for reading this article.

There are tons of fun playoff challenges and DFS competitions you can join this time of year with great prizes. If you have any additional lineup questions, follow me on Twitter/X @JoshCon, and feel free to 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 - Saturday Games

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans

Spread: Browns -2.0
Implied Total: Browns (23.25) vs. Texans (21.25)
Pace: Browns (9th) vs. Texans (8th)
Browns Off. DVOA: -3.8% Pass (27th), -11.8% Rush (23rd)
Texans Off. DVOA: 25.0% Pass (10th), -19.1% Rush (30th)
Browns Def. DVOA:
-24.3% Pass (2nd), -15.6% Rush (4th)
Texans Def. DVOA: 13.0% Pass (23rd), -17.2% Rush (2nd)
PFF Coverage Grade: Browns (5th) vs. Texans (9th)
PFF Rush D Grade: Browns (28th) vs. Texans (16th)
Offensive EPA/Play: Browns (28th) vs. Texans (15th)
EPA/Play Allowed: Browns (1st) vs. Texans (14th)

Matchups We Love:

Joe Flacco (QB, CLE)

The NFL kicks off with two high-flying teams led by gunslingers at quarterback. They also both play at a higher pace, creating more plays. Flacco massacred the Texans in Week 16 when these two teams met, but C.J. Stroud was inactive for that one. His presence will undoubtedly make it more competitive, but the defense will struggle just the same. Flacco finished the year with four games of 42 or more passing attempts before the offense shut things down in the second half against the Jets. He'll have his top two targets available, so you can fire him up with utmost confidence. He's a top-five QB this week.

Amari Cooper (WR, CLE)

The first of those two weapons is Cooper, who sat out the final two weeks of the season to make sure he's available for this one. He had a career day against Houston, so while he'll garner plenty of attention, there's no one capable of slowing him down. In three games he played with Flacco, he had stat lines of 7/77, 4/109/1, and 12/265/2. He's also in the top five at his respective position. Elijah Moore will be the No. 2 receiver, but he's not worth throwing out there this week.

David Njoku (TE, CLE)

Not to be outdone by Cooper, Njoku has more than held his own. He held down the fort with Cooper out in Week 17, catching six passes for 134 yards. There was not a tight end you wanted more for fantasy during the back half of the season, which is exactly the way you should approach this week. Njoku takes the crown as the TE1 this week, even ahead of the playoff king in Kansas City.

Nico Collins (WR, HOU)

Collins without Tank Dell is a recipe for extreme volume. That was further amplified against Indy with Noah Brown and Robert Woods inactive. While peppering Collins with targets worked against the Colts, Houston would benefit from having additional weapons to face the Browns and their talented secondary. Noah Brown and Robert Woods both returned to practice, but are listed as questionable for Saturday's game. Collins sits inside the top five currently, but would drop a spot or two with the other wideouts active. It's also worth monitoring Mike Ford, Denzel Ward, and Juan Thornhill for Cleveland, who are listed as questionable as well, with Ward as the most important of that group.

Matchups We Hate:

Dalton Schultz (TE, HOU)

Schultz's usage has fluctuated according to who else is active that week. When one of their starting receivers is out, he moves up the pecking order and becomes more relevant. We've seen some monster performances from him this year, but the matchup is tough. Assuming Woods and Brown play, he'd be the TE7 this week with a chance to move up a spot or two if one or both are out.

Kareem Hunt (RB, CLE)

Hunt has a knack for occasionally plunging into the end zone, but that's entirely what you're banking on with him. He has a high of 31 total yards in his past five games, so despite the positive game script, it's wise to look elsewhere this week.

Other Matchups:

Jerome Ford (RB, CLE)

Trying to fill the shoes of Nick Chubb, who suffered a serious knee injury in Week 2, is a big ask. Ford has done enough to keep the Browns rolling, especially as a pass-catcher, hauling in 44 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns. Hunt will always be a factor at the goal line, but Ford made the most of his attempts, converting three of four opportunities inside the five-yard line. As discussed above, Flacco will be airing it out, setting Ford up to earn more targets with a strong possibility of finding the end zone. Additionally, the Texans have already ruled out one of the defensive ends with two more of them and two defensive tackles all questionable. He's just inside the top 12.

C.J. Stroud (QB, HOU)

Stroud ought to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year, especially considering he was in the conversation for the MVP award at one point. Leading this squad from from the second-worst record in 2022-2023 to a division title is incredible. He deserves plenty of credit along with head coach DeMeco Ryans. Hosting the Browns will be a tall task, despite it being at home. Their defense travels and they were able to rest their starters last week. Stroud can still post a top-five finish, but the odds are stacked against him in this matchup, dropping him outside of that range as the QB7.

Devin Singletary (RB, HOU)

It's a little easier to run on Cleveland and the Texans have shown a propensity to pound the rock, but it will be tough for Singletary to break through. The good news is that he accounted for 100% of the running back touches against the Colts, which was essentially a playoff game. His three-down skill set provides a higher floor with a decent amount of ceiling if he scores. He's right on the cusp of the top 12 with a limited number of elite tailbacks at our disposal this week.

Injuries:

Noah Brown (back)
Robert Woods (hip)
Pierre Strong Jr. (back)
Cedric Tillman (concussion)

 

Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs

Spread: Chiefs -5.0
Implied Total: Dolphins (19.25) vs. Chiefs (24.25)
Pace: Dolphins (27th) vs. Chiefs (20th)
Dolphins Off. DVOA: 41.6% Pass (2nd), 12.5% Rush (3rd)
Chiefs Off. DVOA: 25.9% Pass (8th), -5.4% Rush (17th)
Dolphins Def. DVOA:
11.1% Pass (22nd), -9.3% Rush (16th)
Chiefs Def. DVOA: -7.2% Pass (5th), -1.7% Rush (27th)
PFF Coverage Grade: Dolphins (14th) vs. Chiefs (20th)
PFF Rush D Grade: Dolphins (1st) vs. Chiefs (21st)
Offensive EPA/Play: Dolphins (4th) vs. Chiefs (11th)
EPA/Play Allowed: Dolphins (15th) vs. Chiefs (6th)

WEATHER: This game is expected to be extremely cold with moderate wind, which makes for tough conditions, especially for the Dolphins. It makes it harder to throw and catch as well.

Matchups We Love:

Travis Kelce (TE, KC)

If you projected these two to meet in the playoffs when the year began, you would've assumed it would be a shootout with a 50-plus point over/under. Instead, it's currently tied for the second-lowest total of the week. Kansas City's defense is above average while their offense has struggled relative to previous seasons. Combine that dynamic with the cold weather and a banged-up Miami team, and you can understand why the total is lower. One of the biggest storylines for the Chiefs has been their passing attack, featuring Kelce of course. The year began with business as usual, but he crumbled down the stretch. After their Week 10 bye, he had just one top-five finish and three finishes outside the top 20. We know he can take over a playoff contest, so he's still among the elite options, but he's no longer the automatic TE1 overall.

Rashee Rice (WR, KC)

After trading away Tyreek Hill and managing to win the Super Bowl, the Chiefs decided to double down and let JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was their leading receiver in 2022, walk with no clear replacement. It took a long time for them to realize Rice was the closest thing they had to an elite wideout, but once they did, he began to shine. From Weeks 12 to 17, Rice averaged seven receptions for 86 yards and 0.5 touchdowns. He also posted three top-12 finishes. Miami's secondary, led by Jalen Ramsey, is a talented unit, but Xavien Howard is out and Rice is used all over the field. He has been the No. 1 receiving weapon for the Chiefs since their bye week. He's right around the WR10 this week.

Tyreek Hill (WR, MIA)

Speaking of Hill, he'll have a shot to do some damage against his former squad. He's capable of breaking the slate on a normal day, so with extra incentive, you can bet he'll be motivated. L'Jarius Sneed has done a fantastic job of shadowing opposing alpha wide receivers, but Hill's speed makes him matchup-proof. Despite his lingering ankle injury, you can count on him as a top-five wideout with No. 1 overall potential. That being said, there are at least two other players ahead of him this week.

De'Von AchaneRaheem Mostert (RB, MIA)

After missing the past two games, Mostert is practicing and on track to play. It's a big deal considering his ability to find the end zone and the trust the team has in him. It's also significant for Achane, who has been excellent on a moderate workload, scoring in both games without Mostert. The weakness of the Kansas City defense is defending the run, which sets this duo up nicely, not to mention the influence the weather will have. They can both break off a big play, especially Achane, but Mostert has the goal-line role on lockdown, so he gets the edge. They both fall between the RB5 and RB10 this week.

Matchups We Hate:

None

Other Matchups:

Patrick Mahomes (QB, KC)

At home in the playoffs usually means a win for Mahomes, who has a 7-1 record. Assuming the top three seeds in the AFC all win this week, it'll be their only home playoff game, but that's a discussion for next week. The best way to summarize Mahomes' season is to point to the fact that there are at least five other players, probably more like 10, that would be considered ahead of him for the MVP award, which is an anomaly. Miami is missing several of their pass-rushers, including Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Cameron Goode, so Mahomes should have more time to operate in the pocket.

Much like Kelce, we know what he's capable of when January rolls around, but the offense hasn't been asked to carry the load, and when they have, it hasn't often worked out for them. Finishing 15th in points per game and ninth in yards per game on offense while ranking second in points allowed and yards per game allowed illustrates this situation, which is why Mahomes ranks outside the top five despite his historical success.

Isiah Pacheco (RB, KC)

Pacheco entered the season as the lead back with concerns about his involvement as a receiver when the team brought back Jerick McKinnon. He excelled in that category with 44 receptions, including eight games with four or more in his shortened season. Furthermore, the threat of McKinnon taking away from that role is gone because he's sidelined with a groin injury. That leaves Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the backup, who does not typically catch passes. We know they like to pass in the red zone, but when they choose to run, it's Pacheco who gets the call. Miami is a brutal matchup, but as home favorites in frigid conditions, Pacheco projects to see a lot of work with plenty of scoring upside. He lands right around the top five.

Jaylen Waddle (WR, MIA)

Waddle also missed the past two weeks and has been at practice in a limited fashion. It's hard to tell whether he'll suit up and how healthy he'll be if he does. His situation is riskier because so much of his speed and quickness comes from his movement and mobility. He's listed as questionable, so we'll get a firm update ahead of the game, but the concerns of re-injury and inefficiency combined with a tough defense and the weather drop him outside the top 12.

Tua Tagovailoa (RB, MIA)

Tagovailoa started well against Buffalo and then sputtered in the second half. We've seen this offense lose its explosiveness when one or more of their key pieces is inactive. For the Dolphins to pull off the upset, it'll come from strong defense and their rushing attack, so with his playmakers banged up, Tagovailoa falls behind every quarterback except Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield.

Injuries:

Jerick McKinnon (groin)
Kadarius Toney (hip/ankle)
Salvon Ahmed (foot)
Jaylen Waddle (ankle)
Raheem Mostert (knee/ankle)

 

Matchups Analysis - Sunday Games

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Spread: Cowboys -7.0
Implied Total: Packers (21.75) vs. Cowboys (28.75)
Pace: Packers (17th) vs. Cowboys (19th)
Packers Off. DVOA: 34.9% Pass (4th), -4.2% Rush (15th)
Cowboys Off. DVOA: 24.9% Pass (11th), -4.3% Rush (16th)
Packers Def. DVOA:
17.8% Pass (26th), -3.3% Rush (26th)
Cowboys Def. DVOA: -3.3% Pass (7th), -15.4% Rush (5th)
PFF Coverage Grade: Packers (19th) vs. Cowboys (7th)
PFF Rush D Grade: Packers (18th) vs. Cowboys (8th)
Offensive EPA/Play: Packers (5th) vs. Cowboys (2nd)
EPA/Play Allowed: Packers (23rd) vs. Cowboys (4th)

Matchups We Love:

Dak Prescott (QB, DAL)

The revenge narrative continues here as head coach Mike McCarthy hosts his former team. Green Bay has a history of knocking off the Cowboys, so he'll look to rewrite the ending this time around.

Prescott enters the postseason on an absolute heater. Aside from one letdown performance against Buffalo, he's been in the MVP conversation for the entire second half of the year. He massacred Washington as anticipated, landing them the No. 2 seed. Hosting Green Bay is a treat for the offense as the Packers are a perfect matchup for them. In addition, Green Bay has the firepower to force the offense to stay aggressive, creating a shootout environment as evidenced by an over/under above 50. Prescott comes in as the QB2 this week.

CeeDee Lamb & Brandin Cooks (WR, DAL)

The man who can one-up him is his star wide receiver, who repeatedly delivered awesome performances. He finished as the WR1 and WR3 to end the season while adding three more top-four finishes after their bye week. Jaire Alexander is a quality NFL CB, but he's been beaten at times by lesser receivers than Lamb and he's questionable to play, securing Lamb's spot as the overall WR1 this week.

Cooks has proven to be a valuable addition to the offense, stepping up when defenses focus their attention on Lamb. It took some time for him to separate himself from Michael Gallup, but since Week 5 he's scored eight times in 13 games, including each of the last three weeks. He's a good bet to find the end zone in this one with Alexander lined up across from Lamb. He's a nice complement ranking as the WR15.

Jake Ferguson (TE, DAL)

One of the reasons Cooks has been so touchdown-dependent is because Ferguson is the No. 2 receiving option. He's leveled up from his rookie campaign, emerging as one of the more reliable tight ends in the NFL. It's a role we know is valuable with Prescott at the helm, so against the Packers, he's one of the big four.

Tony Pollard (RB, DAL)

If only Pollard could play Washington every week, he wouldn't be a candidate for the most disappointing fantasy player based on ADP. While that's not possible, Green Bay has been exploitable on the ground all season. He typically does well when the offense is leading, they're at home, and the matchup is good. All three criteria apply this week, pushing him inside the top 10.

Aaron Jones (RB, GB)

Don't let Dallas being heavy favorites at home fool you into thinking that you should avoid Green Bay's offense this week. Last week capped off an impressive run, winning six of their final eight outings to earn a spot in the playoffs. Arguably their most talented weapon is Jones, who leads the league in rushing yards since returning from injury. We know he's one of the more versatile backs, he just usually has to split work with a second RB. However, he's handled over 20 carries each of the past three weeks. AJ Dillon is dealing with a thumb injury that will likely keep him out of this one, thrusting Jones into the top five.

UPDATE: Dillon has been listed as doubtful, which almost always means the player will be ruled out. Patrick Taylor will be the backup if Dillon misses.

Jayden Reed (WR, GB)

If not Jones, then Reed is the one you want to design your offense for. His rookie campaign has been overshadowed because he started slower, but since their bye week, he's been outside the top 25 just twice with four top-12 finishes. He's quietly hit 10 total touchdowns thanks to his usage as a runner and receiver. Deciphering the distribution of targets has been a challenge at times, but Reed remains the one player you can count on. He could draw coverage from Stephon Gilmore, who is on the injury report, but they use him all around the formation, so he's the WR11 this week.

Matchups We Hate:

Tucker Kraft & Luke Musgrave (TE, GB)

When they drafted both Musgrave and Kraft, the assumption was Musgrave would open as the starter, which is how it unfolded. Unfortunately, he dealt with injuries that sidelined him for a significant portion of the season, opening the door for Kraft, who nailed his audition. Both would be exciting options if not for the other existing to take away snaps and volume. Combine their shared role with the laundry list of young wide receivers on the roster and it makes both too risky to gamble on.

Other Matchups:

Jordan Love (QB, GB)

Putting Love in the top section against Dallas on the road would be a bit presumptuous given it's essentially his rookie year. However, he's made a statement, not only cementing himself as their starter for next year but causing many to consider if he's among the great signal-callers in the NFL. Fresh off throwing for over 300 yards and two scores against a stingy Chicago defense, he's worth throwing in your lineup as a top-five QB this week.

Packers WR2

The revolving door of receivers has been comical. The likes of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks, Bo Melton, and Malik Heath have all made contributions at one point or another. Watson is undoubtedly the most talented, but he cannot stay healthy. He played in just nine games and hasn't been on the field in over two months. Meanwhile, Doubs, who has a nose for the end zone, injured his chest against the Bears, raising questions about his availability. Watson and Doubs both practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday and Thursday, providing hope for their ability to suit up. If both are active, Watson becomes the one to go after behind Reed with Doubs next. Otherwise, Wicks would enter the equation followed by Melton. Watson would be around WR20 in that scenario.

UPDATE: Watson is listed as questionable while Doubs is good to go, which means we'll need more information over the weekend to know about Watson.

Injuries:

Christian Watson (hamstring)
AJ Dillon (thumb/neck)

 

Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions

Spread: Lions -3.0
Implied Total: Rams (24.25) vs. Lions (27.25)
Pace: Rams (21st) vs. Lions (18th)
Rams Off. DVOA: 25.6% Pass (9th), 3.7% Rush (6th)
Lions Off. DVOA: 26.7% Pass (7th), 8.9% Rush (4th)
Rams Def. DVOA:
10.3% Pass (21st), -7.1% Rush (20th)
Lions Def. DVOA: 6.5% Pass (16th), -18.0% Rush (1st)
PFF Coverage Grade: Rams (31st) vs. Lions (29th)
PFF Rush D Grade: Rams (7th) vs. Lions (5th)
Offensive EPA/Play: Rams (9th) vs. Lions (8th)
EPA/Play Allowed: Rams (20th) vs. Lions (21st)

Matchups We Love:

Jared Goff (QB, DET)

The two quarterbacks who were traded for one another squaring off in the playoffs is about as good as it gets. The burns run deeper for Goff, who watched Matthew Stafford take his old team to the promised land with a Super Bowl win while he battled to keep his job amidst a rebuild in Detroit. This game has the highest over/under of the week, which makes sense because both offenses are elite while neither defense can defend the pass.

Earning the right to host this contest at Ford Field is arguably the most significant of any squad for the Lions because Goff is much better at home. The passing yards are a lock, but the touchdowns could have a wider range of outcomes because both tailbacks are capable of finding the end zone. That being said, he ranks as the QB8 this week as a nice secondary piece in stacks with the other weapons.

Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR, DET)

The primary weapon is St. Brown, who was the most consistent wideout in the league this season. He finished fifth in targets (164), third in receptions (119), third in receiving yards, and tied for fourth in touchdowns (10). No matter how you slice it, he was extraordinary. It's a great matchup as the Rams gave up the most fantasy points to wideouts in the final six weeks, setting him as the WR2 behind only Lamb.

Matthew Stafford (QB, LAR)

After going all-in for a Super Bowl and succeeding two years ago, the Rams entered the year with all sorts of cap issues and young players. Between injuries, aging veterans, and the uncertainty of Sean McVay's desire to coach, they were easy to write off. However, that's proven to be a mistake as they found their stride midway through the year and now enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league. Stafford is responsible for much of that, turning back the clock at times with some vintage performances. After just one multi-touchdown game through his first nine outings, he hit that mark every week except Week 17, tossing 15 of them across his final six contests. There are similarities to Goff in terms of the running game scoring, but the matchup is too good, so he slots in one spot ahead of Goff as the QB7.

Puka NacuaCooper Kupp (WR, LAR)

Nacua played long enough in Week 18 to break the rookie records for receptions (105) and receiving yards (1486) in a season. Those numbers were top-10 in the league among all wide receivers. When we found out Kupp would be inactive to start the year, the questions began about who could replace him. Nacua answered the bell and then some, to the point that he needs to be viewed as their No. 1 WR. Detroit gave up the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers over the final six weeks, making both these two great options. Nacua lands around WR5 with Kupp a handful of spots lower around WR10.

Kyren Williams (RB, LAR)

Earning the label "matchup-proof" is a rare feat for a running back. However, regardless of who the opponent was, you could pencil Williams in for 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. He's been incredible as the starter for Los Angeles, which is a role known to produce fantasy superstars. It's nearly as bad a matchup as you'll find, but he's one of the few remaining workhorse backs with the highest touchdown upside of any starting tailback this week, which is why he's the RB1 overall.

Matchups We Hate:

Tyler Higbee (TE, LAR)

Aside from one outlier performance, Higbee has been an afterthought for most of the season, especially once Kupp returned. He's behind all three of Nacua, Kupp, and Williams along with their third wideout, but the over/under is ideal, making him the last of the tight ends worth considering this week.

UPDATE: Higbee is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. In deeper formats, you could look to Davis Allen, who filled in nicely when Higbbe was out a few weeks ago.

Other Matchups:

Jahmyr Gibbs & David Montgomery (RB, DET)

This duo has given defenses nightmares. The offense is at its best when the pass rush slows down, Goff has protection, and the run game creates opportunities for play-action. That all stems from the effectiveness and the threat these two pose. They combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards, almost 500 receiving yards, and 24 total touchdowns. Both are spectacular backs with different skill sets. Gibbs is an elite receiver who makes explosive plays while Montgomery is a hard runner who knows how to find pay dirt and grind out the tough yards. Given the potential for the passing attack to do more of the damage this week, Gibbs ranks just ahead of Montgomery, but they're both around the top five despite facing what's been the worst matchup over the final six weeks of the season.

Demarcus Robinson (WR, LAR)

The team acquired Robinson to add depth and he quickly overtook Tutu Atwell as the No. 3 receiver. If you remove Week 18 where he barely played, he comes into this one with 92 yards or a touchdown in his past five contests, including four finishes inside the top 24. Once you get past the top 15 wideouts available this week, he's right there as one of the better choices, especially considering his scoring prowess and the potential for a shootout.

Sam LaPorta (TE, DET)

LaPorta suffered a knee injury in Week 18 that made it seem like he would be out this week, but now he's listed as questionable and was practicing on Friday. He'd carry risk if active, but it's hard not to consider him alongside the big four we've been referring to.

Jameson Williams (WR, DET)

Williams may never deliver relative to the first-round draft capital they spent on him in 2022. However, he's shown flashes of his home-run-hitting ability with his exceptional speed. He missed Week 18 with an injury but is good to go for this week. Kalif Raymond is out, and Josh Reynolds has produced at times, but this has the makings of a game that Williams could give you a spike week in, landing him right around Robinson, who we covered above. He would be even more intriguing if LaPorta is ruled out.

Injuries:

Sam LaPorta (knee)
Kalif Raymond (knee)
Tyler Higbee (shoulder)

 

Matchup Analysis - Monday Games

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills

Spread: Bills -10.0
Implied Total: Steelers (13.5) vs. Bills (23.5)
Pace: Steelers (22nd) vs. Bills (26th)
Steelers Off. DVOA: 9.6% Pass (20th), -3.2% Rush (12th)
Bills Off. DVOA: 40.9% Pass (3rd), 3.1% Rush (7th)
Steelers Def. DVOA:
-3.8% Pass (6th), -13.6% Rush (9th)
Bills Def. DVOA: 0.1% Pass (9th), -8.7% Rush (17th)
PFF Coverage Grade: Steelers (17th) vs. Bills (4th)
PFF Rush D Grade: Steelers (9th) vs. Bills (29th)
Offensive EPA/Play: Steelers (23rd) vs. Bills (3rd)
EPA/Play Allowed: Steelers (7th) vs. Bills (11th)

WEATHER: The forecast for Buffalo caused the game to be rescheduled. The new time will still have snow, cold temperatures, and wind, but not nearly to the degree as Sunday. It lessens the impact on the passing attack and overall scoring.

Matchups We Love:

Josh Allen (QB, BUF)

Allen's dominance with another QB1 overall season was extremely impressive. He's also led his team to five straight wins to secure the No. 2 seed and the right to host the Steelers. They've knocked off some quality teams along the way, so while Pittsburgh boasts one of the NFL's best coaches, especially regarding preparation and discipline, this ought to be a blowout. It's a particularly juicy matchup because T.J. Watt is out, which significantly reduces their pass rush. With extra time to carve up the defense, Allen ranks as the QB1 this week.

Stefon Diggs (WR, BUF)

Diggs finally broke through with a good game in Week 18, partially because the Bills put him in motion to avoid Jalen Ramsey. It was great to see and just in time for the playoffs. It also coincided with a knee injury to Gabe Davis, who has yet to practice and seems poised to miss this week. Joey Porter Jr. is a talented CB, so Diggs' value takes a small hit. He does carry some risk given the volatility this year, but in a playoff contest, you'd anticipate they'll be looking his way. He sits around the WR10 this week.

UPDATE: Davis has been ruled out as expected.

Dalton Kincaid (TE, BUF)

The Steelers have been a great matchup for tight ends the past five weeks, which bodes well for Kincaid, who has reemerged. He had a nice run when Dawson Knox was sidelined before disappearing in Weeks 15 and 16. However, he finished the season with stat lines of 4/87 and 8/84. Once you get past the big four at tight end, there's no one better than Kincaid, who has a chance to compete with those other players. You could also throw a dart on Knox in deeper formats given his usage near the goal line.

Matchups We Hate:

Pat Freiermuth (TE, PIT)

Freiermuth is coming off an injury-riddled year with one great game. He hasn't been relevant for several weeks and isn't worth trusting in any format this week.

Mason Rudolph (QB, PIT)

12 signal-callers are suiting up this weekend. You could make a case to order them in a multitude of different ways, except for Rudolph, the clear-cut No. 12 QB. They'll hope defense and a strong run game can keep them close against the Bills.

Other Matchups:

Najee HarrisJaylen Warren (RBs, PIT)

The Steelers have relied heavily on their rushing attack to miracle their way into the playoffs, led primarily by Harris. He's been great on the ground, constantly grinding for extra yards. He's had 19-plus carries each of their past three games with over 300 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in that span. He's the most reliable player on their team for fantasy this week, landing at RB10.

Warren would typically be more of an afterthought as an ancillary piece, but the one area he consistently thrives is in the passing attack. During the regular season, he had a 16% target share while playing 87% of the long-distance down snaps and 44% of the two-minute drill snaps. Given the negative game script, Warren could see better utilization, especially if things get out of hand.

George PickensDiontae Johnson (WR, PIT)

These two have both flashed at different times throughout the year, but consistency remains a problem. Neither ever put together more than two or three productive weeks in a row. After ending his touchdown drought in Week 4, Johnson has hauled in five scores on the year, including four in their past six contests. Pickens on the other hand went nuclear for two straight weeks before failing to catch a pass in the season finale. It's highly unlikely both succeed against the Bills, even with Rasul Douglas who is questionable to play, so while predicting the correct one could be rewarding, there's also an outcome where they both flop. Neither earns a spot in the top 15.

James Cook (RB, BUF)

The roller coaster ride for Cook managers has been eventful. After scorching the earth against Dallas, he's fallen hard with fewer than 60 total scrimmage yards each of the past two weeks. His rushing attempts have steadily declined since that outing, too, with just 13 last week. Part of that is Allen's willingness to tote the rock. The other part is the involvement of Leonard Fournette, or "playoff Lenny" as he's become. Buffalo should be up big with a chance to lean on their rushing attack, but it's tough to envision them handing him the ball over 20 times. Furthermore, his touchdown upside is always capped with Allen and Fournette taking away opportunities at the goal line. Cook is still in a great spot and should have a decent outing, but he's just outside the top 10 this week.

Khalil Shakir (WR, BUF)

Shakir also joined in on the action last week with six grabs for 105 yards. He had a nice stretch earlier in the season when Knox was on injured reserve because they ran more three wide receiver sets. With Davis on track to miss this week, he's worth a shot in the WR15-20 range as a wideout with a higher ceiling.

UPDATE: Davis has been ruled out as expected.

Injuries:

Gabe Davis (knee)

 

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Spread: Eagles -2.5
Implied Total: Eagles (22.75) vs. Buccaneers (20.25)
Pace: Eagles (25th) vs. Buccaneers (14th)
Eagles Off. DVOA: 21.7% Pass (12th), 4.1% Rush (5th)
Buccaneers Off. DVOA: 15.8% Pass (16th), -17.8% Rush (28th)
Eagles Def. DVOA:
21.3% Pass (29th), -5.0% Rush (22nd)
Buccaneers Def. DVOA: 5.1% Pass (14th), -13.7% Rush (8th)
PFF Coverage Grade: Eagles (24th) vs. Buccaneers (22nd)
PFF Rush D Grade: Eagles (4th) vs. Buccaneers (26th)
Offensive EPA/Play: Eagles (7th) vs. Buccaneers (12th)
EPA/Play Allowed: Eagles (29th) vs. Buccaneers (18th)

WEATHER: This game has a chance of rain, but without moderate to high winds, it will have minimal impact on the offenses.

Matchups We Love:

Rachaad White (RB, TB)

White has thrived as a receiving back, which we knew from last year is an area he excels. There were questions about the extent of his role after Fournette departed with hopes that he could be a three-down back. As it turns out, dreams do come true. White handled 336 touches in 2023, second to only Christian McCaffrey. In addition to the massive workload, he frequently ran in touchdowns from the one-yard line and made huge plays for the passing attack. The Eagles, who were once known for their stout run defense, faded immensely during the second half of the year, becoming the sixth-best matchup at the position over the final six weeks. White warrants a spot inside the top five this week.

Mike EvansChris Godwin (WR, TB)

Philly may have opened the season strong against the run, but they were never good at defending the pass. They got torched week after week, which is part of why they're traveling to Tampa Bay instead of hosting a game. Evans found the fountain of youth, putting together one of the best seasons of his illustrious career with over 1,200 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns as the WR8 in points per game. Chris Godwin had a stretch where he disappeared, but he rose from the ashes to produce four consecutive productive outings from Weeks 14 to 17. These two are set up well in what has some sneaky upside to turn into a scorefest. Evans lands inside the top 10 with Godwin around the WR15.

Jalen Hurts (QB, PHI)

From an NFL perspective, Hurts has been playing poorly and costing his team the opportunity to win at times. He's become more one-dimensional, relying on his rushing instead of remaining in the pocket or keeping his eyes downfield when he scrambles, which has been more often given their inability to pass protect. For fantasy, the "brotherly shove" is so effective and automatic that you can't fade him too much, especially after running in 15 touchdowns. That offers a baseline that only Allen can compete with among the available quarterbacks in the Wild Card round. It's enough to keep him in the top five, but there's no guarantee he will end up there or even beat the Buccaneers for that matter, especially if he's playing without one or both of his elite star wideouts.

A.J. Brown & DeVonta Smith (WR, PHI)

Brown, the first of those star wideouts, suffered a knee injury in Week 18. It looked bad but was reported not to be serious. However, he opened the week with a DNP on Thursday, so we'll need to keep an eye on his participation on Friday and Saturday. Similarly, Smith missed that game with an ankle injury but started the week with a full practice, so he has a more optimistic outlook. It's an awesome matchup, but with the offense struggling and these two hurt, it gets risky.

UPDATE: Brown has been ruled out while Smith should be good to go. It's a big loss that opens the door for Julio Jones as a deeper option.

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI)

Goedert has been one of the few bright spots during their losing skid, racking up yards and finding the end zone consistently since returning from injury. He's eaten into DeVonta Smith's role just as we saw a year ago. The Buccaneers are an awesome matchup for tight ends, so he joins the other tight ends discussed already as part of the big four.

Matchups We Hate:

Cade Otton (TE, TB)

Similar to Higbee, who we wrote about above, Otton is buried in the pecking order with three talented players above him. The passing attack doesn't generate enough output to sustain a fourth option, which means he's best to avoid this week as has been the smart move most of the season.

D'Andre Swift (RB, PHI)

Swift was held out of Week 18 with an illness, but it may have been for the best based on how poorly the offense played against the Giants. After shining in his debut as the starter, leading many to believe he would dominate, he slowly but surely ceded work to Hurts and Kenneth Gainwell. Hurts vulturing goal-line carries and Gainwell taking away receptions reduced his upside significantly. Furthermore, aside from a few contests when they were missing key pieces on defense, the Buccaneers have shut down the opposing rushing attack. Investing in this offense feels risky in general this week, never mind a player whose workload is in question. Swift drops to at least the RB12 with players in that range who you could argue deserve to be above him.

Other Matchups:

Baker Mayfield (QB, TB)

Logically, if all three of his primary weapons are fantastic options, you'd assume Mayfield is as well. However, he's not a lock to come through because he's let us down in spots we didn't think he would such as Week 18 against the Panthers and the first three quarters of Week 17 against the Saints. Plus, he looked hurt during that win. He's certainly capable of challenging some of the players in that QB6-QB10 range this week, but aside from Mason Rudolph, he's the lowest-ranked signal-caller.

Injuries:

A.J. Brown (knee)
Baker Mayfield (ankle/ribs)



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