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Inside the Matchup
Divisional Round

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | HC Green





- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Vikings at 49ers - (Swanson)
Line: SF -7.0
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Vikings shocked the world with an improbable 26-20 win over the Saints last week in the Super Dome to earn a trip to take on the No.1 seed San Francisco 49ers on Saturday in the divisional round.

The No.6 seed Vikings beat the Saints by playing solid defense and limiting mistakes on offense while leaning on their ground game and running back Dalvin Cook.

Kirk Cousins played well in the victory, with 242 passing yards and a touchdown, including a 43-yard bomb in overtime to Adam Thielen that set up the game-winning touchdown pass by Cousins to tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Although Cousins managed just one passing touchdown on the day, in the final play of the game, he made critical throws when needed and didn’t put the Vikings in bad situations by forcing throws that were not there. He will need to do the same this week against a 49ers defense that gave up the ninth-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks.

The 49ers enter the game fresh off a bye week that allowed injured players like Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt to get back on the practice field. Tartt missed multiple games with a rib injury and should be able to return to his starting role as the strong safety opposite of free safety Jimmie Ward.

Alexander is back on the practice field after missing significant time with a pectoral injury. He has been cleared to return to the field by the medical staff, but the final decision on his availability on Saturday will come down to head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Outside linebacker Dee Ford is still limited with a hamstring injury and looks to be a long shot to play against Minnesota. His return would have given the team a much-need pass rusher on the opposite side of rookie Nick Bosa.

Two matchups to watch in this game will be the Vikings offensive line’s ability to protect Cousins. Minnesota tied with Baltimore for giving up the fifth-fewest sacks in the regular season, while the 49ers tied with Buffalo with the 5th-most sacks on the season per game. If Cousins is able to have time to find open wide receivers, he could take advantage of the 49ers in the slot with Adam Thielen.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday an illness. He will likely play, but he could be at less than 100%, and his absence would be a hit to Cousins and the passing offense. Adam Thielen was added to the report with a cut on his ankle. Thielen missed Thursday but both players are likely going to play.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: In a classic battle of our best against your best, the battle in the trenches and the ground game of the Vikings going against the No.3 ranked 49ers rush defense is going to be a critical matchup in this game.

The Vikings managed to rush for 136 yards on 40 attempts against the Saints last week, a team that also ranks in the top-5 in fewest yards allowed on the ground. Dalvin Cook carried the ball 28 times for 94 yards, including a 22-yard scamper. Cook scored both of the Vikings rushing touchdowns, and will once again be active in this Week’s game against San Fransisco.

The return of strong safety Tartt going against Cook in the run game will be something to watch. Tartt is a skilled run defending safety who plays like an extra linebacker. The 49ers will play a ton of single-high safety with Tartt up in the box to play the run and guard Kyle Rudolph in the passing game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins (Low-End)
RB1: Dalvin Cook (Elite)
WR2: Stefon Diggs Low-End)
WR3: Adam Thielen (High-End)
TE1: Kyle Rudolph (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Jimmy Garoppolo averaged just under 20 fantasy points per game in his first full season with the 49ers, leading San Francisco to a 13-3 record and a first-round bye as the No.1 seed in the NFC.

His 19.9 points per game placed him 21st overall at the position for quarterbacks with at least ten starts. Although the 49ers are a run-heavy team, Jimmy G threw more touchdown passes than Aaron Rodgers, and the former New England Patriot threw for more yards this season than Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield.

For fantasy purposes, Jimmy G was serviceable at times, but he proved to be more of a solid real-life quarterback than one for fantasy.

The 2019 Vikings are a far cry of the stout defense that the league has grown accustomed to under Mike Zimmer. Although Minnesota gave up the 10th-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks, that same unit gave up the eight-most to opposing wide receivers. The aging secondary, led by Xavier Rhodes, can be beaten, especially on play-action with safety Harrison Smith playing near the line of scrimmage for run support.

The tight end position is huge in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and George Kittle is arguably the most well rounded and talented tight end in the league. Only Baltimore gave up fewer points to opposing tight ends than Minnesota this season, making the matchup of Kittle against the linebackers of the Vikings a matchup to watch.

On the injury front, the Vikings enter this week’s game against the 49ers a beaten-down bunch after their win over the Saints. Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen and defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo are were limited with knee and hamstring injuries this week but are expected to play, along with defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: No other team in the National Football league scored more fantasy points or rushed for more yards at the running back position that the San Francisco 49ers. Running the ball, and running the ball well, is a staple of Shanahan’s offense, and the Niners will look to get all three of their running backs going on Saturday.

With the number of talented defensive linemen and linebackers, the Vikings have what you would think they are one of the best run-stopping teams in the NFL. That has not been the case this season, as Minnesota ranks 19th in fantasy points allowed to running backs while giving up a total of 12 rushing and receiving touchdowns.

The 49ers have a healthy George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk to help seal blocks and create misdirection runs for Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, and Matt Breida.

Look for the Niners to use more screen passes than normal in this game against an aggressive Vikings defensive front.

Another matchup to watch will be the interior line play of Danielle Hunter, Shamar Stephen, and Linval Joseph against center Ben Garland has played well this season in relief of starter Weston Richburg, but he will have his hands full with the Vikings upfront.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jimmy Garoppolo (High-End)
RB2: Raheem Mostert (Low-End)
WR3: Emmanuel Sanders (Low-End)
WR3: Deebo Samuel (High-End)
TE1: George Kittle (Elite)

Prediction: San Francisco 21, Minnesota 17 ^ Top

Titans @ Ravens - (Green)
Line: BAL -9.5
Total: 47.0

Passing Game Thoughts: There wasn't a lot of variety in Tennessee's offensive game plan last Saturday night when Ryan Tannehill went 8-for-15 with 72 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the upset win over the Patriots. Clearly the team felt that they could win by running the ball down New England's throat, and they were right. It's safe to assume the Titans will need more from Tannehill in the divisional round. How well he'll hold up against a hard-charging defense remains to be seen.

With Tannehill reduced to mostly turning around and handing the ball off, the likes of A.J. Brown (one catch, four yards) and Corey Davis (zero receptions) hardly saw action. That's the reason I've been hesitant to endorse Brown as an every-week play since the downside is more significant on a week-to-week basis; though even I was shocked at how little was asked of the Titans' passing game. I still believe Brown is the only playable option in this group. After that you're just hoping someone like Anthony Firkser or Jonnu Smith gets lose for a touchdown.

Baltimore brings one of the NFL's top defenses into the matchup. That includes a sixth-place finish against the pass (207.2 yards per game), which is doubly impressive when you consider how many one-sided games they played where opponents had to try to pass to catch up. The pass rush isn't great (37 sacks), but they have difference makers along the back end, including Earl Thomas and Marcus Peters. This figures to be a tough matchup for the Titans.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: With 34 carries, 182 yards and a touchdown, Derrick Henry was the Titans' offense on Wild Card weekend. He even added a 22-yard reception for good measure, leaving him just a yard shy of Firkser for team-high honors. The Ravens finished fifth in the NFL in run D, allowing 93.4 yards per game, but ball control and limiting Baltimore's possessions have to be high on Tennessee's priority list, so I don't expect them to go away from Henry unless they have no other choice.

Value Meter:
RB1: Derrick Henry
WR2/WR3: A.J. Brown
Bench: Ryan Tannehill, Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith

Passing Game Thoughts: When the teams kick off on Saturday, 20 days will have passed since Lamar Jackson took the field after sitting out Week 17 and getting last week's bye to rest up. Rust could be a factor, particularly with accuracy, but it's hard to find fault in the presumptive MVP. Jackson threw 24 touchdown passes against just one interception over his final seven games while running for 569 yards during that span. He couldn't be more opposite of the largely immobile Tom Brady, who the Titans held down last week.

Despite Jackson's prolific touchdown numbers, he only averaged 208.5 passing yards per game and never topped 300 in a game after Week 1. As such, it's no surprise that the Ravens didn't have a 1,000-yard receiver with Mark Andrews (64-852-10) comfortably leading the club in receptions, yards and TDs. Rookie Marquise Brown (46-584-7) is the top option on the outside, making that tandem the main fantasy options. Players like Hayden Hurst (30-349-2) and Willie Snead (31-339-5) are desperation plays.

Tennessee finished the year 24th in pass defense at 255 yards per game, but they did a nice job last week of shutting down Brady, who should've had a pair of pick-sixes. This isn't a top-tier defense, though, and I'm skeptical they can hold up against what was the NFL's most dynamic offense in 2019 at 33.2 points per game.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: Probably the most interesting subplot is the status of Mark Ingram (calf), who is questionable with a calf injury suffered back in Week 16. Reports are that Ingram was at full speed in practice last week before running into a setback of some variety. Word is he's likely to suit up, though he might cede more carries than usual to Gus Edwards (133-711-2 this season).

Of course, the running game flows from the ability of Jackson, who set a QB record with 1,206 yards on the ground this season. While the Titans finished a respectable 12th against the run (104.5 yards per game), I don't see them as the kind of team that is capable of shutting down Baltimore's ground attack.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson
RB2: Mark Ingram (if active)
RB3/Flex: Gus Edwards (RB2 if Ingram sits)
WR3: Marquise Brown
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Willie Snead, Hayden Hurst

Prediction: Ravens 30, Titans 17 ^ Top

Texans at Chiefs
Line: KC -9.5
Total: 51.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The Texans narrowly escaped their Wild Card Round home playoff game against the Bills and now they head to Kansas City to face a well-rested, highly-talented Chiefs team. This will be a rematch of the Week 6 shootout which saw the Texans go into Arrowhead and defeat the Chiefs by a final score of 31-24. That type of score typically indicates a big game from Deshaun Watson and that’s exactly what we saw as Watson threw for 280 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice, but his fantasy value really came with his legs as he rushed for an additional 42 yards and two scores. We’ve certainly seen the Chiefs defense play better down the stretch but there is certainly reason to believe that Watson will be in for another nice fantasy day here in the Divisional playoff round, especially if the Chiefs offense is clicking which would likely force the Texans to lean more heavily on their passing game. Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson will likely be the top two most heavily-owned passers this weekend both in DFS as well as playoff fantasy leagues, but Watson offers similar upside at likely lower ownership and a lower price tag for DFS.

Will Fuller and Kenny Stills have both been limited in practice throughout the week. Fuller hasn’t played since Week 16 due to a groin injury, including missing this past week’s playoff game so it seems less likely that he’ll be ready to go this weekend. Stills, on the other hand, did play against the Bills and he caught four of the five targets that came his way for 46 yards. The Bills defense is very good, however, so don’t be surprised if Stills is able to improve on those numbers against a less impressive Chiefs defense, especially if Fuller remains out.

DeAndre Hopkins remains the main pass catching weapon for the Texans and his six receptions for 90 yards in a game where he was primarily lined up against Tre'Davious White has to give us confidence that he’ll be ready to produce top-end WR numbers once again this week.

Tight end Darren Fells is also in an interesting spot. He actually led the team with 69 receiving yards on six receptions against the Chiefs when these teams played earlier this season and he could be in line for a high target share particularly if Fuller and/or Stills are out. There are a ton of great tight ends on the board this weekend but if you’re looking for a cheap option to pivot to, you could do worse than Fells.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: One of the biggest takeaways from the Chiefs and Texans earlier matchup has to be that veteran Carlos Hyde dominated the game as he was given a whopping 26 carries which he converted into 116 rushing yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t too involved in the passing game, but that type of workload is extremely impressive and something we need to make sure to give a second look to. While most would expect that a veteran’s workload would reduce down the stretch, Hyde has actually been able to buck that trend and he’s continuing to see heavy usage. He’s now seen at least 17 touches in three of his past four games. Meanwhile, fellow backfield member Duke Johnson hasn’t even reached 10 touches in a game since all the way back in Week 13.

The Chiefs defense was poor against the run when you consider the entirety of the season, but it is worth noting that they were much better down the stretch against opposing backs. That’s not to say that we should be entirely fading Hyde, but it’s probably safe to assume that he won’t approach the 27 total touches that he saw back in Week 6.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson
RB2: Carlos Hyde
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
WR3: Kenny Stills
TE1: Darren Fells (low-end)
Flex: Will Fuller
Bench: Duke Johnson, Jordan Akins

Passing Game Thoughts: The Chiefs did lose to the Texans back in Week 6, but it’s hard to blame Patrick Mahomes for that one as the 2018 MVP threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception. “QB wins” guys will harp on the Chiefs falling short, but us fantasy owners should only care about one thing - fantasy points - and that’s exactly what Mahomes has proven he can deliver throughout his career, including against the Texans. There’s little reason to be worried about this matchup as the Texans have one of the league’s worst pass defenses, so feel free to deploy Mahomes as either the No. 1 or No. 2 overall player on the board this weekend.

With Mahomes locked and loaded for another big game, it only makes sense that Tyreek Hill would be ranked as one of the top wide receivers this week as well. Hill smacked the Texans for two touchdowns on five receptions for 80 yards back in Week 6 and the team just doesn’t look like it’ll have an answer for his skill set this week.

Tight end Travis Kelce’s four receptions for 58 yards against the Texans back in Week 6 would normally be considered a pretty strong game for a tight end but it was actually one of his worst performances of 2019. While he was essentially held in check, don’t be too concerned. The Texans were not particularly good against tight ends throughout the season as they ranked in the top 10 in points given up to the position, so it was probably more of an aberration than a trend that they were able to contain Kelce. He should be one of the top two tight ends here in the Divisional Round.

Other Kansas City pass catchers simply have not been producing with any sort of consistency that fantasy owners should be taking notice of them. There has been some hype surrounding Sammy Watkins throughout the week from some analysts, but don’t fall for that trap. Fool me once, Sammy, shame on me. Fool me 63 times, shame on me...

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: The Kansas City running game has mostly been a completely unpredictable pile of junk throughout the season but it appears that the team is finally committing to giving consistent touches to Damien Williams. He’s touched the ball at least 14 times in four of his past five games, including an important Week 17 victory over the Chargers which helped lock up a first round playoff bye for the team where he touched the ball 16 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, veteran LeSean McCoy has been held to an average of just over eight touches per game over his past five contests and he hasn’t exceeded 12 touches in any of them. McCoy could still sneak into the end zone but his yards per attempt have taken a nosedive down the stretch this season so it’d be pretty surprising if he suddenly blew up with a huge yardage day.

Williams is the player we can have excitement about and there’s a real potential for him to be a major fantasy factor in this game. There are some great fantasy backs on the board this week, but Williams should be the top of the RB2 backs and he has legitimate top overall RB upside.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2: Damien Williams
WR1: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Flex: LeSean McCoy
Bench: Darwin Thompson, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Blake Bell

Prediction: Chiefs 31, Texans 21 ^ Top

Seahawks at Packers - (Katz)
Line: GB -4.0
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Playing Russell Wilson this week is placing a bet on the Packers’ offense. Wilson is a volatile fantasy quarterback because he plays for a coach that has no interest in throwing the ball. Despite being the clear runner up to obvious MVP Lamar Jackson, Wilson averaged just 32.25 pass attempts per game. From Weeks 10-16, Wilson averaged 14.7 FPts/G, good for overall QB25 numbers. Wilson hasn’t rushed for a touchdown since Week 6 and attempted just 30 passes while throwing one touchdown in the Seahawks’ win over the Eagles.

His second half swoon has taken Tyler Lockett down with him. Lockett’s 62 receiving yards last week was actually his second highest total since Week 9. The Packers allowed 14.8 and 10.6 fantasy points per game to opposing WR1s and WR2s respectively this season. Since Week 10, DK Metcalf has averaged more than a full point per game more than Lockett and was the lone bright spot in last week’s game. It’s not unreasonable to consider Metcalf as a better fantasy option than Lockett. Jacob Hollister has been an afterthought in the offense for weeks, but the Packers did give up 10.4 FPts/G to tight ends this season. Given the abundance of tight end options on other teams, it’s hard to imagine any reason to start Hollister.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: With Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise all hurt, Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch form an undesirable running back committee. It is unfathomable that Lynch is still an NFL running back. Lynch and Homer combined to rush for 19 yards on 17 carries last week. The only hope with Lynch is that he is still a massive human and can fall into the end zone from the goal line. Homer is allegedly the preferred option in the passing game, but Lynch out-targeted Homer 3-1 against the Eagles. The matchup does not matter – you are staying far, far away from Seahawks’ running backs.

Value Meter:
WR3: DK Metcalf
WR3: Tyler Lockett
Bench: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Travis Homer, Jacob Hollister

Passing Game Thoughts: Perhaps the most overrated quarterback when it comes to fantasy is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers finished as the overall QB15 this season. If you remove his career worst completion percentage in 2015, Rodgers’ completion percentage has steadily declined every year since 2011. This year’s 62% is better than only the aforementioned 2015 season. In Rodgers’ defense, he lost Davante Adams for a handful of games and beyond Adams, the Packers have an undesirable group of pass catchers. Allen Lazard is vastly superior to every non-Adams pass catcher, but that’s a very low bar – Lazard is a fine WR3 or WR4, but he’s the WR2 on Green Bay. With that being said, the Seahawks were very generous to wide receivers this season, especially WR2s. In fact, only the Ravens, Panthers, Bucs, and Redskins allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing WR2s than the 13.3 allowed by the Seahawks. I do not think Lazard is going to capitalize on this, but it is worth noting if you are looking for a deep contrarian play. As for Adams, he’s all systems go.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Aaron Jones dealt with inconsistent usage all season, but when he was on the field, he produced. I would expect Matt LaFleur to keep Jones on the field as much as possible in a playoff game. The Seahawks struggled mightily against RB1s this season, allowing 20.1 fantasy points per game. Jones has also displayed a knack for scoring touchdowns. Regression is coming next season, but there’s no need to fade Jones now. The Packers are home favorites and like to give Jones the ball at the goal line. With Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook on the road in bad matchups, Jones has a real shot at being this week’s top scoring running back against a banged up Seahawks’ defense. Jamaal Williams’ return is slightly concerning, but Jones has succeeded in spite of Williams’ excess usage.

Value Meter:
QB2: Aaron Rodgers
RB1: Aaron Jones
WR1: Davante Adams
Bench: Jimmy Graham, Allen Lazard, Jamaal Williams

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 20 ^ Top