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Inside the Matchup
Wildcard Weekend

By: Sal Marcoccio | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Jake Gordon


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

Raiders at Texans - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: After a strong start to the year, Derek Carr’s production had slipped over the second half of the season prior to going down with a broken fibula a couple of weeks ago. It’s been over a decade since the Raiders made the post season and now they are forced to rely on rookie Connor Cook. The good news is that the supporting cast remains a strength to have fantasy success. The bad news is that the Raiders are going into a hostile environment to square off against a defense that has been the lynchpin to their success. Whether or not you choose any of Oakland’s pass catchers starts with the type of format you will be using. If you simply get one roster of players throughout the entire playoffs then the Raiders are risky investments due to an unlikely long run and below average quarterback situation. However, fantasy managers navigating weekly lineups shouldn’t overlook the Raiders’ passing game.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Cook had his moments in Week 17 that included a nice touchdown pass to Amari Cooper. The opponent and situation are not ideal for him to make his first start of his career so expect a few turnovers and the lowest ceiling amongst all available fantasy quarterbacks this week. That translates into slim pickings for the receivers. Less passes, mean less catches, which mean less yards. All Oakland receivers and tight ends come into the weekend as touchdown dependent fantasy plays. Since their Week 10 bye (or past seven games) Cooper leads the passing attack with three receiving touchdowns followed by Michael Crabtree and Clive Walford with two apiece. Subtract Derek Carr and add Connor Cook to that equation and it adds up to a high bust potential.

Running Game Thoughts: The Raiders backfield will see a lot of Houston Texans home jerseys right up near the line of scrimmage this weekend. Oakland needs production from its rushing attack and a few turnovers from the defense to keep this game close into the fourth quarter. Fortunately, they have the stable of runners to at least have a glimmer of hope heading into this game. The Texans haven’t allowed a team to rush for 100 yards on them since Denver in Week 7. That includes an earlier meeting against the Raiders that saw the Silver and Black held to 32 rushing yards on 18 carries. Ouch! The odds of the Raiders having a complete reversal of fortune are unlikely but Latavius Murray and company will get plenty of chances to improve upon their totals from earlier in the year. Murray projects to be the odds on favorite to get the rock near the goal and has the best path to fantasy success of all of Oakland’s players not named Sebastian Janikowski. That sounds better on the surface than it really is because Murray might not crack 50 yards with 20 carries going up against stacked boxes all game. Deandre Washington may see a few more touches but he’ll need to break one or two for his stat line to be useful in the fake game.

Value Meter:
Flex: Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Latavius Murray
Bench: Everyone else

Passing Game Thoughts: Houston finished the regular season ranked 14th in the NFL passing attempts but only 29th in total passing yards. On a team with a speedy Will Fuller and uber talented DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans have only four pass plays of 40 or more yards from scrimmage. Excited? You shouldn’t be. Brock Osweiler is back in the saddle with Tom Savage concussed. That alone gives Connor Cook a fighting chance to avoid being the worst fantasy quarterback this week. For anyone needing a reminder, Brock Osweiler has 15 touchdowns in 15 games played this season. He also has 16 interceptions and vultured two Lamar Miller touchdowns on the ground. The good news is that Brock is capable of putting up his typical game against the Raiders: 240 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. Okay so maybe that’s not good but it should allow somebody from the receiving corps to be a fringe WR3 this weekend. Fantasy owners cannot rely on DeAndre Hopkins, or anyone from Houston, but they can take a chance on a player with potential to have an elite performance. Such is the case with Hopkins. He has sandwiched two productive outings around a dismal outing versus the Bengals. I am tempted to give the benefit of the doubt to a player with Hopkins’ skill set going up against a team that tied for allowing the 10th most passing touchdowns on the year. Are you willing trust Osweiler to make a fantasy impact in the playoffs? C.J. Fiedorowicz finished the year with the tenth most targets amongst tight ends. The production has been modest but he is the type of target Osweiler can lean on to minimize turnovers and move the ball in a conservative passing scheme. The rest of the gang will be fighting for the leftovers from a quarterback that has a way of not putting up big numbers.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: Opportunity is ripe for the rested Lamar Miller to be a fantasy darling this week. He missed the final two games of the year with an ankle injury and he’s probably not going to be 100 percent until a few months into the off season. Nevertheless, he is expected to start this weekend and you can bet he will be the focal point on offense with the team playing so conservatively on offense these days. Oakland isn’t exactly strong against the run (allowing 12th most fantasy points to opposing fantasy running backs in 2016) which should allow Miller to make a run at the century mark for the fifth time this season. That should make him one of the better options this week and for as long as the Texans keep winning ugly. After receiving 32 carries in Weeks 16 and 17, Alfred Blue moves back into a reserve role where he won’t be a threat to Miller’s touches.

Value Meter:
RB2: Lamar Miller
WR3: DeAndre Hopkins
TE1: C.J. Fiedorowicz
Bench: Brock Osweiler, Will Fuller, Jaelen Strong, Ryan Griffin

Prediction: Texans 20, Raiders 16 ^ Top

Lions @ Seahawks - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: After putting together what has been one of his most efficient seasons, Matt Stafford’s fantasy numbers finally came back to reality in the final quarter of the season. The Lions QB was able to throw a pair of touchdowns in his team’s Week 17 loss to the Packers, but it’s worth noting that it took a hail mary connection with Anquan Boldin to get to that number. Take that pass away and it’s now been four straight contests since Stafford threw for multiple touchdowns in a game. While his passing yardage numbers have still been solid enough to make him a viable fantasy option, the lack of touchdown strikes has led to him being a disappointment down the stretch and he and the entire Detroit passing game will be limping into this game against one of the league’s best pass defenses, on the road in Seattle. The Seahawks gave up a total of just 16 touchdown passes this regular season and while there are multiple Detroit receivers who have the ability to produce good numbers in good matchups, it’d be hard to imagine any of them having a truly big performance here against Seattle. Golden Tate has caught six or more passes in five straight contests so he’s definitely worthy of WR1 status this weekend given the lack of options on Wild Card weekend, but don’t expect anyone in this passing game to produce monster numbers in this contest.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: It hasn’t been a pretty stat line in terms of yards per carry, but Detroit running back Zach Zenner has been getting things done from a fantasy standpoint by plunging himself into the end zone. Zenner has now scored three times in his past two contests, including twice against a very good Dallas run defense in Week 16. The Seahawks haven’t given up 100 or more rushing yards to a team’s running backs since Week 12, but they’ve actually been vulnerable near the goal line as of late, having given up a shocking five rushing touchdowns over their past two contests. Some of that is circumstantial, but it’s noteworthy enough that Zenner should get some serious fantasy consideration this weekend and he could be as good as a top three option at the position despite a tough road matchup against a good defense.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford
RB1: Zach Zenner
WR1: Golden Tate
TE1: Eric Ebron (low-end)
Flex: Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin
Bench: Dwayne Washington

Passing Game Thoughts: Since his atrocious Week 14 performance against the Packers, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has really seemed to turn things around. Wilson threw a total of eight touchdown passes in his final three games and turned the ball over just once over that span. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin has really turned things on down the stretch, leading to him once again being one of the hottest fantasy receivers in the league heading into the playoffs. With Seattle’s running game producing at a less-than-acceptable rate, the team has really turned to Wilson and the passing game to put points on the board and they’ve been able to do so, at least as of late. Their matchup this weekend against the Lions looks like a great one on paper as Detroit gave up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this regular season, including a total of nine touchdown passes over their final three contests, eight of which went to wide receivers. Jimmy Graham’s usage has been down, but he’s still a viable option in playoff draft formats, but there are likely better options on the DFS front.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: It’s no secret that Seattle has struggled to run the ball this season. The retirement of Marshawn Lynch, combined with injuries to just about every running back on the roster, has led to a significant lack of rhythm in the running game and little to no fantasy production most weeks. With rookie Alex Collins seeing an increased number of touches, even Thomas Rawls – considered the team’s “starter” – hasn’t been very exciting down the stretch. C.J. Prosise is expected to practice next week should the Seahawks win this weekend, but thankfully he will not be on the field to add additional confusion to an already crowded backfield. Still, there’s not a lot to like here for Seattle’s running game. The Lions’ run defense did stumble a bit down the stretch, but they’ve been very good throughout the majority of the season, holding opposing running backs to the eighth-fewest fantasy points (standard scoring) on the year.

Value Meter:
QB2: Russell Wilson
WR1: Doug Baldwin
TE1: Jimmy Graham
Flex: Thomas Rawls, Jermaine Kearse
Bench: Alex Collins, Paul Richardson

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Lions 17 ^ Top

Dolphins @ Steelers - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Of all the teams forced into starting their backup quarterbacks for this year’s playoff games, the Miami Dolphins are in the best position with veteran Matt Moore. Moore has been in the league for nine seasons and has long been considered one of the league’s best backups. He’s played well in Ryan Tannehill’s absence, throwing for 721 yards with 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in a little over three games. While Tannehill favored slot receiver Jarvis Landry during his time under center, Moore has spread the ball around more, utilizing Davante Parker and Kenny Stills heavily making the passing attack more difficult to defend. Landry saw nine targets during an earlier regular season game in Miami in which the Dolphins upset the Steelers, but with the distribution of the ball less predictable, the secondary will not be able to solely focus on the slot-man this week. The Steelers’ pass defense was respectable this season finishing 16th in yards allowed (242.6), and came on strong during their six game winning streak to end the season, forcing thirteen turnovers and only giving up more than 20 points once in those games.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Jay Ajayi had his first of consecutive 200-yard games, against the Steelers on October 16th, and will most likely be the focal point of the ‘Phins’ offense – and the Steelers’ defense for that matter – this week. Despite that game, the Pittsburgh defense still held opposing offenses to an average of 100 yards per game on the ground but did yield 15 rushing scores. Despite multiple 200-yard games, Ajayi was held under 80 yards eleven times. The coaching staff still does not seem to have total faith in him working in Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake more than it seems they should. The Dolphins offensive line started to gel this season which helped turn the running game around. If Miami is to have any chance to win this game, they must keep the clock moving and rack up rushing yardage.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Moore
RB1: Jay Ajayi
WR3: Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry
Bench: Kenyan Drake, DeVante Parker, Dion Sims

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger had another strong season, accumulating 3,819 passing yards with a 29:13 TD-to-INT ratio but did have a few rough games and has tossed six interceptions over his last four games of the season. One of those rough weeks was the Week 6 loss to the Dolphins, where he threw for only 189 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions. Ben did play with an injured knee in the second half of that game and has struggled on the road. He should have his way in Heinz Field against an average Miami pass defense. Antonio Brown continues to be his go to guy and he should have little trouble against any cornerback Miami puts on him. Byron Maxwell is the team’s biggest name in the secondary, but the veteran often struggled and was benched at one point during the season. The Steelers struggled to find a consistent threat to take the heat off Brown after Martarvis Bryant’s season long suspension and after Sammie Coates’ inured his hand, so Ben will need to spread the ball around among Eli Rogers, Darius Heywood-Bey, Cobi Hamilton. TE Ladarius Green is capable of taking some heat off of Brown and is expected to play after missing the last two weeks with a concussion. In theory, given the lack of difference makers at the receiver position, Miami should be able to give help to whomever lines up with Brown and shut down the passing game, but Roethlisberger has a knack of making teams pay for over-committing to Brown. Any one of the secondary players in the passing game is capable of a break out performance from week to week.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: Le’Veon Bell has averaged 139 rushing yards over his last six games and should face little resistance against the Dolphins’ 30th ranked run defense, which allowed 140.4 rushing yards per game during the regular season. While the Dolphins did hold Bell to only 50 rushing yards in the last matchup, those yards came on only ten carries. Bell is also heavily involved in the passing game and the ‘Phins do not have anyone on their defense capable of covering Bell, giving Ben yet another option to beat them.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ben Roethlisberger
RB1: Le’Veon Bell
WR1: Antonio Brown
FLEX: Eli Rogers
TE1: Ladarius Green
Bench: DeAngelo Williams, Jesse James

Prediction: Steelers 30, Dolphins 16 ^ Top

Giants @ Packers - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: It wouldn’t be a Giants playoff run without a trip to Lambeau. This is the third time for Eli Manning with Victor Cruz being the only other Giant who was even around in 2012. Obviously what happened five and nine years ago is not necessarily indicative of what will happen Sunday, but there are things we can learn. For example, in both prior playoff trips to Green Bay, Manning zoned in on his elite WR1 and everyone else was purely secondary. In 2008, Plaxico Burress had 11-151-0. In 2012, Hakeem Nicks, in his last of two seasons where he was elite, had 7-165-2. In the playoffs, and at the very least, in Green Bay, Manning likes his top option. That bodes very well for Odell Beckham, who just finished his first career 100-catch season where he did most of his damage in the second half. Also, those other two Packers defenses surely had to be more imposing than the current version as the Packers are down to their 5th and 6th string corners. The only people that can stop Beckham this week are on the Giants sidelines. Eli Manning, by default, is a viable option at QB, especially if you think the Giants are poised for another miracle run. Sterling Shepard is also a viable flex option, but selecting an inconsistent number two receiver for a team that, in theory, should not play more than one game, is a risky proposition.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: After it was reported that Paul Perkins would see a greater role in the final two weeks, it actually happened. Rashad Jennings finished the season averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Paul Perkins averaged 4.1 and over the final three weeks, he averaged 4.8 ypc. He is so clearly superior to Jennings and now that it’s playoff time, allegiances and veteran status all must go out the window in favor of winning the game. Perkins is coming off his first 100-yard rushing effort in Week 17, which likely was the Giants way of giving Perkins a trial run as the feature back. He certainly passed and while I would still expect Jennings to “start” on Sunday, Perkins should see the majority of snaps. The Packers are still stout against the run and the Giants should have a pass heavy attack, but they are stubborn to the core. Perkins is the Giants running back to roll out there this week, but is more suited for daily than for full playoff fantasy leagues.

Value Meter:
QB2: Eli Manning
WR1: Odell Beckham Jr. (the top option this week)
Flex: Paul Perkins
Bench: Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, Will Tye, Rashad Jennings

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers did not play well the last time the Giants visited Lambeau in the playoffs. I’m fairly certain he hasn’t forgotten. The man who has my vote for MVP is playing the best football of his career and is ready for some playoff revenge against a team he has already beaten this season. The Packers’ team composition was very different in that contest. Eddie Lacy and James Starks both still played football. Ty Montgomery was a backup wide receiver. And Randall Cobb was actually relevant. This Sunday, Rodgers will feature Jordy Nelson and apparently good at football once again Davante Adams. Adams finished just three yards shy of 1,000 with twelve touchdowns. Never to be outdone, Jordy had himself fourteen touchdowns and while he never looked like his old self this season, he showed how truly brilliant of a WR he is by adapting into a different type of elite option. The Giants finished the season as one of just two teams with more interceptions than touchdowns allowed, but the Packers are simply too explosive of an offense to contain. Both Packers WRs are in play in both daily and full playoff leagues. If you want a third option, it’s Geronimo Allison over Randall Cobb. As an added caveat, I think the Packers are the team most likely to reach the super bowl other than the Cowboys.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: One of the reasons why I choose Rodgers over Tom Brady as my MVP is that Brady and Belichick work together to win football games. Rodgers wins in spite of his awful coach, Mike McCarthy. After blowing up for 162 yards on 16 carries in Week 15, Ty Montgomery had 17 carries combined the final two weeks. Despite averaging 5.9 yards per carry, McCarthy seems unwilling to truly hand the backfield over to Montgomery because, as McCarthy has proven for years, he is averse to winning. There is no way you are using Aaron Ripkowski or Christine Michael so either you roll the dice with Montgomery or you avoid this backfield all together. I advise the latter. You can’t trust Montgomery’s usage and you can’t even rely on him receiving goal line carries.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (top option this week)
WR2: Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams (like Beckham, AB, and Baldwin more this week)
Flex: Ty Montgomery
Bench: Christine Michael, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Jared Cook

Prediction: Packers 27, Giants 20 ^ Top