As discussed in this space last
week, the remainder of my postseason columns will feature my
NFL.com Playoff Challenge roster (for as long as applicable), followed
by my weekly league predictions and DFS prognostications.
NFL.com Playoff Challenge
NFL.com Playoff Challenge Roster
QB: Josh Allen (x2)
RB: Christian McCaffrey (x2)
RB: Saquon Barkley (x2)
WR: Stefon Diggs (x2)
WR: Deebo Samuel (x1)
TE: George Kittle (x2)
K: Tyler Bass (x2)
D/ST: 49ers (x2)
Below you will find my position-by-position projections. Please
note I have included DraftKings' dollar value for each player,
followed by his projected point total. Each position is sorted
by my DraftKings' projected point total.
Key for quarterbacks, running
backs, receivers and tight ends: P Yds - Passing Yards P TD - Passing Touchdowns INT - Interceptions Ru Yds - Rushing Yards Ru TD - Rushing Touchdowns Rec Yds - Receiving Yards Rec TD - Receiving Touchdowns Rec - Receptions
It is hard to find much fault with the pricing at quarterback this
week, as the usual suspects (namely Allen and Mahomes) are a cut
above the rest of the crowd. Hurts would be a good bet to join them
were it not for the uncertainty surrounding his shoulder, which
figures to restrict how often he can run and how much he does with
those opportunities. As it stands right now, it does not make much
sense to roll the dice on him in many lineups considering he is
only $200 cheaper than Allen and $400 cheaper than Mahomes.
Lawrence is intriguing if only because playing the Chiefs tends
to foster a pass-heavy approach and Kansas City finished the regular
season as the second-friendliest matchup for quarterbacks. The
2021 No. 1 overall pick accounted for 285 yards of total offense
(259 passing) and two scores in his Week 10 duel with Mahomes
and could easily find himself in a spot where he needs to attempt
40 passes again. Six quarterbacks accounted for three touchdowns
against Kansas City this season. While Lawrence fell short of
being the seventh, he is undoubtedly playing at a higher level
now than he was in the first meeting.
While Philadelphia's defense showed some cracks near the end
of the season, I have no desire to play Jones in hopes he can
improve on his 195 yards of total offense (169 passing) from the
Giants' Week 14 showdown against the Eagles. Philadelphia's front
seven is not only highly athletic - thus likely limiting Jones'
ability as a rusher - but the Eagles have arguably the best cornerback
duo in the league. Burrow obviously has the weapons, but he could
enter this weekend without three starters on the offensive line.
LT Jonah Williams (knee) and OG Alex Cappa (ankle) are considered
week-to-week, while RT La'el Collins (ACL) was lost for the season
late last month.
While Prescott has the weapons and ability to beat any defense,
it makes little sense to bet on a quarterback facing the 49ers.
The fact he is $100 more expensive than Lawrence with a much tougher
matchup makes him a difficult player to like this week. The Cowboys'
defense is only slightly more forgiving than San Francisco's.
There is no question Purdy has earned our trust with multiple
touchdown passes in each of his first seven NFL games (in which
he wasn't coming in to mop up), but his ridiculous 7.6 percent
touchdown rate is going to take a hit at some point. Purdy is
also not a great bet due to volume; he has attempted more than
30 passes only twice since taking over for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo
in Week 13.
Not including the Week 7 contest against Kansas City in which he
played only 22 snaps after his trade from Carolina a couple of days
earlier, McCaffrey has played six games without Mitchell around
and five with him. Here are the averages for both players in those
McCaffrey in games
Christian McCaffrey (w/o EM)
Christian McCaffrey (w/ EM)
To be fair to both players, only one of the five games Mitchell
has played since McCaffrey's arrival has been decided by less than
13 points and most of the work Mitchell has been getting when he
does play has come late in those outings. What is not up for debate
is that CMC loses the volume that has made him a fantasy superstar
with Mitchell around. Managers should not sneeze at 16.5 fantasy
points on average from their running back, but his $8,000 price
tag is a bit much for someone whose volume ceiling may be limited.
As a result of that information, it becomes much more reasonable
to pay up at other positions this week, possibly even fading McCaffrey
for Mitchell and Etienne. Picking on the Chiefs' run defense hasn't
been all that profitable for most of the year (only six rushing
and four receiving TDs allowed to running backs all season), but
an Etienne-focused game plan could be the play early this week.
The Jags threw 18 passes and handed the ball off to their explosive
running back only six times while falling behind 20-0 in the first
meeting. Etienne has surprisingly found the end zone only once
since scoring twice against the Raiders in Week 9, so he is overdue
to break a long scoring run.
McKinnon's price tag ($6,000) is getting high enough that he
is moving closer to fade territory, especially with the likely
return of CEH. With that said, McKinnon has done nothing to lose
his role in the receiving game. He has become a vital part of
the team's red zone offense as well, which has contributed greatly
to his six-game scoring streak. Despite seeing steady volume (at
least 14 touches in all five games since his return from injury),
Mixon has not shown much of a ceiling (17.8 fantasy points twice).
Buffalo has shown an occasional vulnerability to explosive backs
throughout the season, but Mixon is not one of those - at least
he has not been one recently. Much like McKinnon, he figures to
be a touchdown-or-bust option.
Barkley is a good bet to see more work than he did last week
(nine rush attempts and 14 touches overall), but David
Montgomery is the only running back to have much fantasy success
against the Eagles recently. With Philadelphia's secondary being
as good as it is, it would be a bit of an upset if Barkley did
not finish with at least five catches for the fourth time in five
contests. His ability to find the end zone this weekend is another
story. I would not be opposed to having him in a similar amount
of DFS lineups as McCaffrey.
Most of the top five receivers do not require much in the way of
analysis as to why they should start this week. The Cowboys are
unlikely to run the ball well and Lamb is easily Dallas' No. 1 weapon
in the passing game. Assuming he lines up in the slot more than
half the time as he has most of the season, Lamb will see his fair
share of Deommodore Lenoir, who has experienced his fair share of
rough weeks recently. Eli Apple and Cam Taylor-Britt will unquestionably
have their hands full against Diggs, who got off to a decent start
versus the Bengals in the game that was canceled due to the Damar Hamlin episode in Week 17.
White is quickly rounding into form after his lengthy return
from ACL surgery, Chase is quickly becoming a force of nature.
With four straight games of at least seven catches, one touchdown
and 12 targets, he is almost guaranteed to produce. Brown is a
bit of a discount Chase in that he can approach that level of
volume on occasion, but he is not needed as much because Philly
is nearly as devastating on the ground sometimes as it can be
through the air.
The one shocker from above might be James, who should be a roster
staple in DFS lineups this week. Not only has he been consistently
productive since returning from injury in Week 11, but slot corner
is one of the few weaknesses that Philly's defense has - especially
with Avonte Maddox (toe) expected to miss another game. James Bradberry and Darius Slay may occasionally give up something on
the outside, but the Giants cannot depend on Darius Slayton and
Isaiah Hodgins to beat either one of them consistently. If New
York is going to move the ball against the Eagles through the
air this weekend, it will almost certainly happen between the
hashes and because James is getting open against Josiah Scott.
Samuel may not come as cheap as James, but he is a good bargain
nonetheless. My concerns about the lack of chemistry he might
have with Brock Purdy were quickly put to rest last weekend with
a 30 percent target share (nine targets on 30 pass attempts).
It may be a bit of a guessing game from week to week whether Samuel
or Aiyuk scores a touchdown, but it should be noted that Samuel
has scored at least 12.3 fantasy points in three of the four games
in which he has been healthy and Purdy has played most of the
Higgins seems a bit underpriced at $5,800 as well. He has started
to take a back seat to Chase lately, but back-to-back duds against
the Ravens are not enough of a reason to fade him entirely. It
is easy to forget Higgins was doing well before the canceled Week
17 game with at least 114 yards receiving and/or a touchdown in
five straight. All it takes for Higgins to explode is a defense
that overcommits to Chase. Working against Higgins is the Bengals'
injury issues on the offensive line.
One of the best things about what has been another bad season at
the tight end position is that Engram has been reborn in Jacksonville.
Not only did he play in every game for only the second time in his
six-year career, but the drop issues that plagued him throughout
his time in New York also seem to have been corrected. Kelce is
obviously the preferred play if DFS players can fit him into their
lineups, but Engram offers a similar upside - especially when we
consider Kelce has not scored a touchdown in six consecutive games.
San Francisco's defense has surprisingly allowed a couple of tight
ends to shake loose in recent weeks, but that seems like more of
an aberration than a trend given the 49ers' defensive personnel
at linebacker (Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw) and safety (Tashaun Gipson, Talanoa Hufanga and Jimmie Ward). His one-score projection
above may be too much to ask.
Kittle is certainly capable of being a week-winner against any
opponent, but he is a poor bet to do so this week against a Dallas
defense that has yielded one touchdown to a tight end all season
despite facing Goedert twice, T.J. Hockenson and Engram. Until
Knox begins to show he has more consistent volume and yardage
upside, he will continue to feel like a fluky DFS bet despite
scoring a touchdown in five straight. That gravy train will end
at some point, and it would not be a surprise if it happened against
the Cincinnati defense that gave up only three TDs to tight ends
in 2022. Goedert has consistently given his fantasy managers a
consistent floor this season with at least nine fantasy points
in 11 of 12 games, but the ceiling hasn't been there very often
(17-plus fantasy points only twice). While the Giants' defense
has surrendered a pair of two-score games to tight ends this season,
Schultz and Hockenson account for four of the six TDs scored by
a tight end against New York.
Key for defense/special teams units: PA - Points allowed TD - Defensive/return touchdowns TO - Total turnovers PA Bonus - Points allowed bonus for DraftKings
Defense / Special
Given the combination of great offenses and somewhat conservative
quarterbacks (Daniel Jones and Brock Purdy come to mind), there
is not much to get excited about here. San Francisco and Philadelphia
possess the greatest sack potential and figure to keep their opponents'
point totals to a minimum, but it would be surprising if any of
these eight units truly stood out from the others. Thus, I would
probably pay down as much as possible and pray that Josh Allen takes
more unnecessary chances (Bengals) or Cincinnati's beat-up offensive
line can't hold up against Buffalo. I cannot imagine using one of
the bottom four units above unless my main goal was to be contrarian
in a large-field tournament.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.