May 5, 2021

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Start and Sit: Divisional Round

11 min read
Start and Sit: Divisional Round


The Steelers suffered the most disheartening loss of wild-card weekend, and yet Ben Roethlisberger threw for 501 yards and four touchdowns. That is the power of extreme game scripts and something to consider before you put all of your daily fantasy eggs into Patrick Mahomes’ basket, even though his Chiefs are the biggest favorites of the second playoff weekend.

The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) — home and road and dome and outside — the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.

You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.


Quarterbacks

Best Week 19 Matchups – Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
D.Brees NO 1 TB Rk 6 6 6 6  
Pts   +1.1 0.0 0.0 +1.1
T.Brady TB 0 NO Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   +1.3 0.0 -0.2 +1.1

This weekend is like the last one in that the Saints and their opponent get to enjoy a game in the dome in New Orleans while the rest of the playoff field will have to contend with kickoff temperatures close to freezing. And once again Drew Brees and his receivers should be big beneficiaries, especially since he has demonstrated a 3.8-point fantasy point advantage at home versus on the road since 2017. But domes boost passing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 6% and 9% even for road starting quarterbacks. And since the Bucs and Saints defenses are No. 1 and 2 in run defense DVOA and top-four cutters of opponent run plays, I expect both Brees and Tom Brady to pile up fantasy stats even against quality pass defenses. Brady’s $6,300 and $7,700 DraftKings and FanDuel salaries are likely lowered by his Week 9 near-shutout, but I think that was a fluke, and his Bucs have been the No. 2 DVOA offense in the second half of the season. I see Brady as a top-two DFS value in both platforms, and he is an excellent choice to stack with some of his receivers.

Worst Week 19 Matchups – Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
A.Rodgers GB 1 LAR Rk 5 5 5 5  
Pts   -0.3 -0.3 -1.2 -1.8
J.Allen BUF 1 BAL Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   +0.4 +0.1 -1.9 -1.4
L.Jackson BAL 0 BUF Rk 2 2 2 3  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -0.5 -0.9
P.Mahomes KC 1 CLE Rk 3 3 3 2  
Pts   -0.6 -0.2 +0.2 -0.6

Aaron Rodgers has defied the typical bad-weather passing trends for most of his career, so I’m not scared off by the forecasted 31-degree kickoff temperature in Green Bay this Saturday. I’m scared off by the Rams defense. They are No. 1 in DVOA in the second half of the season and are a top-two cutter of both passing yards and touchdowns per attempt. That confluence of factors isn’t enough to drop Rodgers below fifth in my quarterback rankings, but with his typical high salaries, he is a player to avoid in daily formats.

With respect to weather, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have me more concerned even if their current projections don’t show it. It all hinges on whether it snows in Buffalo. Current forecasts call for some snow earlier in the day that should clear by game time on Saturday night. Keep an eye on that forecast. More than cold, wind, or rain, snow decreases pass plays and passing touchdown rates. The native Floridian Jackson has never played in snow, but he seems the likelier of the two to overcome it in fantasy with his feet. Allen is an excellent rusher as well, but he gains more from punching in touchdowns. If snow limits his ability to move the ball in the air, his fantasy production seems likely to suffer both in the air and on the ground.


Running Backs

Best Week 19 Matchups – Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
C.Edwards-Helaire KC 1 CLE Rk 6 6 6 6  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.2 +0.3
L.Bell KC 1 CLE Rk 12 12 12 12  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.1 +0.2
C.Akers LAR 0 GB Rk 5 5 5 3  
Pts   -0.1 -0.1 +0.2 0.0
D.Singletary BUF 1 BAL Rk 8 8 8 8  
Pts   +0.1 -0.1 0.0 0.0

The Bills, Packers, and Browns seem like enticing running back opponents ranked in step at 17th, 18th, and 19th in run defense DVOA, but they are not equals as fantasy matchups. As 10-point favorites, the Chiefs will likely be able to benefit from the Browns defense that increases rushing touchdown rate by 12% over extra carries in the second half with a lead. Ravens and Rams backs may not have that luxury if their teams fall behind. One of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Le’Veon Bell, and Darrel Williams should be an excellent play this weekend. But since Edwards-Helaire and Bell are questionable with respective high-ankle and knee injuries, you should delay your lineup decision until the weekend.

From a daily perspective, I would use my broader opinions to make my running back choices. If you think the Rams defense can hold Rodgers in check like it did Russell Wilson, then Cam Akers should remain a top priority even as his salaries have rebounded to $5,700 and $7,000. If you think the Browns are a team of destiny, then Nick Chubb would likely excel facing the No. 31 DVOA Chiefs run defense that is easily the worst in per-play efficiency left in the playoffs. I see Devin Singletary as a modest value, not because I expect the Bills to win, but because I expect his workload to increase after Zack Moss’ injury.

Worst Week 19 Matchups – Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
L.Fournette TB 0 NO Rk 4 4 4 5  
Pts   -0.2 0.0 -0.8 -1.0
A.Kamara NO 1 TB Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   0.0 0.0 -0.9 -0.9
N.Chubb CLE 0 KC Rk 3 3 3 4  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -0.6 -0.7
A.Jones GB 1 LAR Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   +0.2 -0.1 -0.4 -0.3
J.Dobbins BAL 0 BUF Rk 7 7 7 7  
Pts   0.0 0.0 -0.2 -0.2

Facing those previously highlighted top-two DVOA run defenses, Leonard Fournette and Alvin Kamara are the backs most hurt by their matchups this week. But neither are mandatory fades. Kamara led all backs with a 20.0% target share this season that raises his floor and maintains his No. 1 ranking at the position this week. Meanwhile, Fournette holds onto premium backup prices at $4,900 and $6,300 in DraftKings and FanDuel, but I expect him to start. Teammate Ronald Jones was active on Sunday but did not play, and he did not practice on Wednesday this week. Even with an opponent-reduced team volume, Fournette should exceed his normal workload if he’s the team’s featured back.

J.K. Dobbins would likely see an increased workload if it snowed on Saturday night, but he would remain the lesser bargain than Gus Edwards, who is $1,800 and $1,200 less expensive in the daily platforms than his teammate. Dobbins has scored six straight weeks and owns a commanding seven-to-two rushing touchdown advantage over Edwards in that time. But their opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdown totals are much closer at 3.5 and 1.9. If Dobbins’ scoring luck fades, then the Ravens backfield will be much closer to an even split than their salaries suggest.


Wide Receivers

Best Week 19 Matchups – Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
M.Thomas NO 1 TB Rk 8 5 5 5  
Pts   +1.4 0.0 0.0 +1.4
C.Godwin TB 0 NO Rk 10 9 9 6  
Pts   +0.7 0.0 +0.4 +1.1
M.Evans TB 0 NO Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   +1.4 0.0 -0.5 +0.9
A.Brown TB 0 NO Rk 11 11 11 11  
Pts   +0.6 0.0 +0.3 +0.9
D.Harris NO 1 TB Rk 23 23 23 23  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 +0.2 +0.1

Michael Thomas made his first start on Sunday since Week 14, and he handled a heavy volume of seven targets over a 67% snap rate and produced with 73 yards and a touchdown. I am confident in his health entering the divisional round, and his production could be even better this week in the dome and against a Bucs defense that boosts pass plays by 2%. But if you need to save some money at wide receiver, consider returner and sometimes slot receiver Deonte Harris. His seven targets in his Week 18 return to action overstate his typical involvement and his likely one this week with Tre’Quan Smith poised to return to the lineup. But the Bucs pass defense becomes dramatically easier to face as you work down the cornerback pecking order from Jamel Dean (5.8 yards per target, sixth) and Carlton Davis (7.6, 40th) to Sean Murphy-Bunting (9.8, 76th). Brees has targeted 12 and nine different receivers in his two regular-season Bucs matchups, and he did that even with Thomas healthy for both games. Expect more of the same this week and at least one of the secondary Saints receivers to enjoy a standout performance.

The Bucs have about as many compelling receiver choices as the Saints, and they are difficult to pick among since they all are expensive in daily formats. Mike Evans should draw the most difficult defensive assignment in Marshon Lattimore, whose excellent coverage skills motivate the Saints’ cutting of No. 1 receiver yards by 22% per target. No. 2 receivers produce 15% more yards per target against their defense. Still, Evans is my favorite DFS choice because he is the likeliest Bucs receiver to score a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski has bested him with 0.102 versus 0.083 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns per target this year, but Gronk has run fewer and fewer routes in recent weeks as the Bucs have suffered some offensive line injuries and difficult pass-rushing matchups have made his blocking critical for the Bucs’ offensive success.

Worst Week 19 Matchups – Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
T.Hill KC 1 CLE Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   -0.6 +0.2 -0.9 -1.3
D.Adams GB 1 LAR Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.7 -0.1 -0.4 -1.2
S.Diggs BUF 1 BAL Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   -0.7 +0.2 -0.7 -1.2
M.Brown BAL 0 BUF Rk 5 8 8 8  
Pts   -0.6 +0.2 -0.3 -0.7
J.Landry CLE 0 KC Rk 5 7 7 8  
Pts   -0.5 +0.2 -0.4 -0.7

Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill face two of the best cover corners in football this weekend in Jalen Ramsey (4.7 yards per target, third) and Denzel Ward (5.8, fifth). But that shouldn’t dissuade you from playing them even at their outlier DFS prices. The same could hold true for Stefon Diggs facing Marlon Humphrey (5.9, seventh), but I would avoid Diggs if it looked like it could snow. And I’d definitely avoid Marquise Brown on the other sideline. Snow seems likely to affect deeper targets more than shallower ones. If necessary, the Ravens could likely rely exclusively on their running game and tight ends and still earn a win.


Tight Ends

Best Week 19 Matchups – Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
J.Cook NO 1 TB Rk 5 3 3 3  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 +0.2 +0.5
A.Hooper CLE 0 KC Rk 4 3 4 4  
Pts   +0.1 -0.2 +0.3 +0.2
M.Andrews BAL 0 BUF Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   +0.1 -0.2 +0.1 0.0

Jared Cook closes out the Saints beneficiaries of Brees’ typical homefield advantage, and he could excel this week in New Orleans in particular since the Bucs are the No. 25 DVOA defense against tight ends but strong in almost every other respect. The Chiefs don’t stand out the same from an efficiency standpoint, but they are a top-10 booster of tight end touchdown rate at 25%. Priced at just $5,600 and $5,500 in FanDuel, Cook and Hooper are the only surplus value No. 1 tight ends to choose from. That said, Mark Andrews is always an option independent of matchup. And I could see his value increasing in snow even if the Ravens throw fewer passes in those conditions than they normally would.

Worst Week 19 Matchups – Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
R.Tonyan GB 1 LAR Rk 3 5 5 5  
Pts   -0.1 -0.2 -0.3 -0.6
T.Kelce KC 1 CLE Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.2 -0.3 0.0 -0.5
D.Knox BUF 1 BAL Rk 7 7 7 8  
Pts   0.0 -0.1 -0.2 -0.3
R.Gronkowski TB 0 NO Rk 8 8 7 7  
Pts   0.0 0.0 -0.1 -0.1
T.Higbee LAR 0 GB Rk 6 6 6 6  
Pts   0.0 -0.1 0.0 -0.1

The Rams have been a bigger cutter of catch rate (15%) and yards per target (19%) for tight ends than touchdown rate (10%), and so maybe you could pick Robert Tonyan in DFS this week and hope his position-leading 6.08-touchdown surplus (11 touchdowns versus 4.92 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns) continues. I just can’t justify a Packers stack since all of their standout fantasy options face difficult draws this weekend.

By DVOA, Rob Gronkowski has a worse matchup than even Tonyan. The Saints are the No. 2 DVOA defense against tight ends. But that isn’t the only the reason to avoid him. After right guard Alex Cappa fractured his ankle last week, Gronkowski stayed in to block on 67% of his offensive plays. And his tight end teammate Cameron Brate has run more routes than Gronk in each of the Bucs’ last three games. Even at just $3,600, Gronkowski is the worst value of the prominent tight ends in DraftKings.


Defenses

Best Week 19 Matchups – Defenses
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
Bills DST BUF 1 BAL Rk 4 3 3 3  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.6 +0.7
Chiefs DST KC 1 CLE Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   +0.1 +0.1 +0.2 +0.4
Rams DST LAR 0 GB Rk 8 7 6 5  
Pts   +0.1 +0.1 0.0 +0.2

The Ravens’ losses of offensive linemen such as Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley have not hurt the team’s running game too badly. But they have motivated an increase in adjusted sack rate from 6.0% last year (eighth) to 7.5% this year (23rd). Expect some Bills sacks this week, especially if it snows and Jackson tries to run even more than he usually does.

The Rams may feel like a risk against the Packers’ No. 1 DVOA offense this week, but they felt like one against the Seahawks’ No. 6 DVOA offense last week too. If Aaron Donald can play despite his torn rib cartilage, then trust in the team’s 8.6% adjusted sack rate on defense (second).

Worst Week 19 Matchups – Defenses
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
Saints DST NO 1 TB Rk 5 7 8 8  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -0.4 -0.8
Bucs DST TB 0 NO Rk 5 5 6 5  
Pts   -0.3 0.0 0.0 -0.3
Browns DST CLE 0 KC Rk 7 5 5 7  
Pts   +0.1 +0.1 -0.5 -0.3

With all of the passing benefits the dome and their respective run defenses will bestow, the Saints and Bucs fantasy defenses are little surprises as matchup losers this week. The Saints are a top-five increaser of interceptions per pass attempt and picked off Brady five times in their two regular season meetings, but I still expect things to be different this week following the Bucs’ second-half offensive improvements. Meanwhile, the Browns were the defensive winners of wild-card weekend, picking off Ben Roethlisberger four times and recovering a high snap for a defensive touchdown. Just don’t expect an encore. Patrick Mahomes threw just six interceptions all season. And the Chiefs are the No. 2 cutter of sacks per pass attempt and tackles for losses. If you have to pick a defense in that matchup, side with the Chiefs. At least theirs could have a chance to force turnovers if Mahomes builds a lead and forces the Browns offense to rely more on Baker Mayfield than they prefer.


https://www.footballoutsiders.com/start-and-sit/2021/start-and-sit-divisional-round