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Wildcard Weekend

By: Mike Krueger | Ken Ilchuk | Nick Caron | HC Green
Updated: 1/15/22

Saturday:

SEA @ SF | LAC @ JAX


Sunday:

MIA @ BUF | NYG @ MIN | BAL @ CIN

Monday:

DAL @ TB

Notes:
- Green highlight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)
- Lines and totals updated Saturday/Sunday morning

Seahawks @ 49ers - (Krueger)
Line: SF -7.5
Total: 40.5

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

No Brainers: N/A

Favorite: WR DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett

The matchup for either Metcalf or Lockett isnít scary and the projected game script would indicate the Seahawks could be trailing most of the game, which should be a good thing for the Seattle pass catchers. However, Seattleís ability to maintain drives will be key for either Metcalf or Lockett to post a good fantasy outing. San Franciscoís defense can be suffocating at times, making it difficult for more than one receiver to finish with a decent fantasy day. Iíll lean toward Metcalf who is the healthier of the two but it should be noted that Lockett posted more targets (20) and yards (175) than Metcalf (15, 90) in the two meetings with San Francisco this season.

On the Fence: RB Kenneth Walker

No running back ran for 100 yards against San Francisco this season and as you might imagine, they gave up the fewest amount of rushing yards (1,013) in the league. Walker has seen 20-plus carries has topped 100 rushing yards in three straight games. Itís clear that Pete Carroll would love to ground and pound but how quickly will he get away from that philosophy if Walker starts out with 9 carries for 23 yards? DeeJay Dallas (ankle, quad) has been limited in practice this week giving more ammo to the belief that Walker will see the high majority of touches at running back. Volume wonít be the concern for Walker but efficiency will be.

Fade: QB Geno Smith

In the two games Geno played against San Francisco this season he managed just 1 TD and averaged 218 passing yards. Heís also been trending down from a fantasy perspective, throwing more than 1 TD just once in his last four games. The 49ers-D had a blip back in Week 17 when they allowed Jarret Stidham to finish as the QB3, but with a Seahawks implied team total of just 16, itís hard to get on board with Geno in playoff fantasy leagues and DFS tournaments this week.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

No Brainers: RB Christian McCaffrey

Favorite: TE George Kittle

Kittle has just 29 and 23 receiving yards in his last two games but heís made up for by scoring three times including twice against Arizona last week which ranked 2nd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Guess who ranks first? Nobody has given up more fantasy points to the position than Seattle and Kittle posted a 4-93-2 line the last time these teams met in Week 15. With Kelce sitting this week out, Kittle and Hockenson are the top two tight end options in Wildcard Weekend.

On the Fence: QB Brock Purdy, WR Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk

Deebo returned last week from an ankle injury and played a respectable 68% of the snaps but only saw 3 targets and had one attempt in the running game. It made sense not to give him a full workload in his first game back, but trying to predict his usage this week is difficult. The 49ers will have all their skill weapons available, including Aiyuk who leads the team receiving yards (1,015) and second on the team in receiving TDs (8). Purdy has targeted Aiyuk more than any other receiver since the rookie took over the quarterback job in Week 13 and has thrown at least 2 TDs in every game heís started including 3 last week against the Cardinals. Seattleís defense has held up well against fantasy receivers and this has all the indications of a McCaffrey game, leaving the wideouts and the passing game squarely on the fence for fantasy purposes.

Fade: N/A

Prediction: 49ers 27, Seahawks 20 ^ Top

Chargers @ Jaguars - (Ilchuk)
Line: LAC -2.5
Total: 46.5

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

No Brainers: RB Austin Ekeler, WR Keenan Allen

Favorite: QB Justin Herbert

It wouldnít be out of line for Herbert to be considered a no-brainer this week. He passed for nearly 300 yards and a touchdown against this defense earlier this season. And while the Jaguars defense is playing really well right now (allowing just 15.1 fantasy points per game to QBís over the last three weeks), Herbert has completed 72% of his passes for 7.5 yards per attempt with four touchdowns and no interceptions over his last two games. Heís in play in all formats.

On the Fence: WR Josh Palmer

If Mike Williams canít go due to his back injury, I expect Palmer to be the man to pick up those targets. Herbert forces the ball to Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler will be more receiver than runner against this tough Jacksonville run D. While that may put Palmer third in line for targets, he averaged over 13 yards per catch earlier this year when Allen and Williams were out due to injury and he currently ranks second on the team for the season in targets, catches, and yards. If Williams is out, he has low-end WR2 value.

Fade: TE Gerald Everett

Everett hasnít posted at least 50 receiving yards in a game since Week 13, and at this point is fourth in line for targets, even with Mike Williams out of the lineup. He could see a bump as an outlet against a strong Jaguars pass rush. But even then, Herbert seems more likely to find Allen or Ekeler in those situations. The Chargers are also playing four tight ends which limited Everettís snap percentage to 44% last week.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

No Brainers: RB Travis Etienne, TE Evan Engram

Favorite: QB Trevor Lawrence

Lawrence did not play particularly well in Week 18 against a very tough Titans defense. With HC Doug Pederson whispering in his ear this week, I donít expect that to happen again. Lawrence has seemingly arrived in recent months. Over his last five games heís averaging 8.0 yards per attempt, completing just under 70% of his passes and has eight TD throws to just two interceptions, spreading the ball to a full complement of weapons. I think the Jaguars will run the ball to win, but they will throw to score. Donít expect big yardage numbers, but Lawrence will throw a couple TDs in this game and could add value as a runner on designed run plays against an aggressive pass rush. If you miss out on the big dogs, I donít think Lawrence is hurting you this week.

On the Fence: WR Christian Kirk

The Chargers have a talented secondary and they will be focused on Kirk at every turn this week. Lawrence will force him the ball, but this will be a run-first attack against a Chargers team allowing 5.4 yards per attempt (worst in the NFL), and with coverage rolled to him, Kirkís ceiling may be limited. Donít expect typical WR1 production this week. Iím more inclined to look at Zay Jones, who could be just as productive and have more favorable matchups.

Fade: WR Marvin Jones

Jones caught just two of his six targets last week at the end of what has been a fairly disappointing campaign, and is probably fourth in line for targets right now. I donít expect him to pop this week.

Prediction: Jaguars 21, Chargers 20 ^ Top

Dolphins @ Bills - (Caron)
Line: BUF -14.0
Total: 43.5

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

No Brainers: WR Tyreek Hill

Favorite: RB Jeff Wilson

The Miami running backs been streaky all season, especially since Jeff Wilson arrived on the roster back in Week 9. He and Raheem Mostert have been going back and forth on leading the backfield. It appeared that Mostert had begun to run away with the job toward the latter part of the season, only for Wilson to swoop in and lead the team in carries for three straight weeks to wrap up the regular season. Wilson missed the teamís Week 15 matchup against the Bills, whom theyíll be facing again this weekend, but he stepped right into a split upon his return and then really took over with 15 and 16 carries to go along with five receptions over the final two weeks of the season. This backfield remains extremely difficult to decipher and we could easily see things swing back in Mostertís direction, but Wilson appears to be the guy right now and heís seeing enough volume to justify starting him even against a Buffalo defense that has been above-average at containing running backs this season. Wilson is dealing with an illness that has limited him in practice this week, but heís expected to be ready by game time.

On the Fence: RB Raheem Mostert, WR Jaylen Waddle

If we like Wilson then it makes a bit of sense that Mostert would be in a lower tier for this week, but donít forget that the Dolphins have been messing with fantasy managersí heads all season with the unpredictability in their backfield. He got an opportunity to start a game back in Week 15 when Wilson was out and he actually crushed this very same Buffalo defense that heíll see this weekend. Mostert carried the ball 17 times for 136 yards in that contest, adding an additional 20 yards as a receiver, which was by far his biggest total yardage game of the season. However, Wilson is expected to be on the field this weekend and the same cannot necessarily be said about Mostert as of this time. Mostert is dealing with a thumb injury that has kept him out of practice as of Thursday and heís now very questionable heading into this contest. Even if he does play, thereís a good chance that heíll be limited in action as the second option out of the backfield, but we do have to keep in mind that thereís at least a reasonable possibility that Mike McDaniel will throw all of us a curveball and just roll with Mostert, which would certainly make him a useful fantasy asset.

The quarterback situation in Miami has been brutal down the stretch and itís really seemed to limit Jaylen Waddle. The second-year wide receiver has been held to five or fewer receptions in nine straight games while only once eclipsing seven targets over that stretch. He did mix in a couple of nice performances even on that limited target share, including a three-catch, 114-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Bills who heíll see again this weekend, but we certainly donít want to bank on that kind of efficiency. This is particularly true with a quarterback, Skylar Thompson, who has looked mediocre at best in the few chances heís had this season. We know that Waddle is a threat to score every time heís targeted so thatís why heís not on the ďfadeĒ list, but heís certainly teetering close to that here in the Wild Card round.

Fade: QB Skylar Thompson, TE Mike Gesicki

With Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater both not expected to play, the Dolphins will again turn to Skyler Thompson to start. He got his first start this past weekend against the Jets in what was a must-win game for the Dolphins and while he delivered that W, he certainly did not inspire much confidence in himself or the Dolphinsí offense for fantasy managers. Thompson has two of the best deep-threat receivers in the league as his weapons, but he primarily operated underneath against the Jets in Week 18. This led to a low-scoring performance, which was only really able to be useful because the Jetsí offense was even more incompetent than the Dolphinsí. Facing a Bills defense that held opposing quarterbacks to the seventh-fewest fantasy points on the season just doesnít seem like a great time to take a chance on Thompson for fantasy.

Tight end Mike Gesicki has been bad for most of the season, but we did get a little bit of an interesting situation over the final two weeks of the season with Skylar Thompson at the helm. Gesicki was targeted four and then six times in those final two games which wasnít anything special, but it was certainly a step up from the five-game stretch prior to that in which he did not see more than two targets in a single contest. Thereís probably a bit of excitement about Gesicki heading into this weekendís games because of that, but try not to fall into that trap. Heís essentially a touchdown-or-bust player who scored five times during the regular season and heís now facing a Buffalo defense that was the only NFL defense that did not concede a touchdown to an opposing tight end during the regular season. This is about as bad of a matchup as can possibly be scripted for Gesicki, so avoid him as usual.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

No Brainers: QB Josh Allen, WR Stefon Diggs

Favorite: TE Dawson Knox

Tight end production has been tough to find this season, but one player whoís really stepped up down the stretch has been the Billsí Dawson Knox. Knox struggled throughout most of the regular season, then apparently decided to turn on the burners, scoring a touchdown in each of his final four regular-season games. It hasnít been overly fluky, either, as Knox actually averaged over five targets per game during that stretch which is in line with the better non-Travis-Kelce tight ends in the league. Itís also worth noting that Knoxís best fantasy game of the season came back in Week 15 when he met this Miami defense. He saw season-highs in targets (eight), receptions (six), and yards (98) in that game while also scoring a touchdown. We know that Diggs is the top dog in this passing game, but Knox has really established himself as the second-best option down the stretch and will probably be an under-the-radar great play against this Dolphins defense that really struggled against opposing TEs this season, having conceded the fourth-most points to the position on the year.

On the Fence: RB Devin Singletary

The Buffalo backfield has been more of a committee than weíd like to see for fantasy, but Devin Singletary has maintained a strong hold on the carries for most of the season. That hasnít always resulted in a ton of touches, as he only exceeded 15 carries twice throughout the regular season, but he was somewhere between 11 and 14 carries in seven games throughout the year. He now faces a Miami defense that he performed fairly well against this season. Not typically known as much of a pass-catcher, Singletary quietly caught 12 total passes in the two games he played against the Dolphins. He struggled as a runner, producing just 55 yards on 22 carries in those games, but heís the lead back in one of the leagueís best offenses, so thereís still hope for a decent double-digit fantasy day from him here in the Wild Card round.

Fade: WR Gabriel Davis

With single-digit PPR scores in five of his final six games, Davis really capped off what was an overall extremely disappointing fantasy regular season in 2023. Thereís a bit of reason to be encouraged as he was actually targeted 10 times, tying a season-high, in Week 18, but even then, he was only able to haul in three of those passes for 39 yards and no touchdowns. We know that Davis is always capable of taking very few targets and turning them into useful fantasy production with a long score, but thatís just not something that fantasy managers would be banking on. The Dolphins have generally done well against similar deep-threat receivers throughout the season and Davis himself only caught seven passes for 93 yards and no touchdowns in the two games he played against Miami this season.

Prediction: Bills 24, Dolphins 15 ^ Top

Giants @ Vikings - (Green)
Line: MIN -3.0
Total: 48.5



MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

No Brainers: RB Saquon Barkley

Favorite: QB Daniel Jones

Jones closed the 2022 season with arguably his top two performances, racking up over 500 yards passing, 120-plus yards rushing, and 5 combined TDs. As it happens, one of those efforts came against Minnesota in New Yorkís Week 16 OT loss. In that game, the Duke alum completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 334 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT; he also ran for 34 yards at 8.5 YPC. Granted, this is Jonesí postseason debut, so there could be some nerves, but he rested in Week 18 and should be healthy and ready to contribute as a dual threat against the Vikings.

On the Fence: WRs Richie James/Isaiah Hodgins

Although Darius Slayton (46-724-2) led the Giants in receiving, it was James and Hodgins that came on down the stretch. In the Week 16 meeting with Minnesota, Hodgins turned a dozen targets into eight receptions, 89 yards, and a touchdown; meanwhile, James posted an 8-90-0 line on 11 looks. Over his final four games, James corralled 26 passes for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hodgins scored in four of his last five games, though he only topped 45 yards once in that span, so heís more TD dependent. Both players have a clear pathway to value.

Fade: N/A

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

No Brainers: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Justin Jefferson, TE T.J. Hockenson

Favorite: QB Kirk Cousins

Outside of his brutal performance in Green Bay on New Yearís Day, Cousins was dialed in over the seasonís final five weeks. That includes his 299-yard, 3-TD effort against the G-Men back in Week 16. The veteran has a well-documented history of coming up small in big games, but youíd be hard pressed to call New York a top-tier team, especially after they won just twice over their final eight. At home indoors against a middling opponent, Cousins could be in for a big day.

On the Fence: WR K.J. Osborn

Osborn closed strong, catching 30 passes for 388 yards and 3 TDs over the last five games. While those are good numbers, they should be taken with a grain of salt. His biggest game (10-157-1) came in the historic comeback against the Colts where all the Vikings did was throw. His game against Green Bay (7-59-1) was mostly garbage time production, and Week 18 against Chicago (5-117-0) was a glorified scrimmage. Still, he wildly outpaced Adam Thielen during that stretch, and he may be in line for a bigger role in the playoffs. Then again, maybe Cousins prefers the veteran Thielen with the season on the line. Thatís the risk.

Fade: WR Adam Thielen

Steady but unspectacular for most of 2022, Thielen caught three passes or fewer on six occasions in his final eight games. That was true in each of his last four games, including a season-low six yards on one reception versus New York on Dec. 24. As noted, the one hope with Thielen here is that his experience will make him more attractive than the likes of Osborn, Hockenson (making his playoff debut), and Irv Smith (fresh off IR), but youíd be bucking recent trends.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Giants 23 ^ Top

Ravens @ Bengals - (Green)
Line: CIN -8.5
Total: 40.5

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

No Brainers: TE Mark Andrews

Favorite: RB J.K. Dobbins

Clearly deciding beforehand that their Week 18 matchup against Cincinnati wasnít worth going all-in on, the Ravens held out their two most explosive offensive players in Andrews and Dobbins. That should lead to Dobbins being fresh, and the Ohio State product has looked good in four games since returning from IR, logging 57 carries, 397 yards (6.9 YPC), and a score. While he didnít see heavy usage -- he posted between 12 and 17 touches in the four games -- this is win-or-go-home time, so donít be shocked if he gets more touches in this one. The one caveat is that Dobbins has never done much as a receiver, so if Baltimore falls behind it could lead to more snaps for someone like Justice Hill and fewer for Dobbins.

On the Fence: RB Gus Edwards (concussion)

If you want to know why the Ravens kept the likes of Andrews and Dobbins on ice last Sunday, look no further than Edwards, who departed the Week 18 loss to Cincinnati with a concussion after carrying the ball four times for 16 yards. He hasnít practiced this week and is in danger of missing the seasonís third meeting between these two clubs. If he canít go, itíd be a blow to the Ravens as Edwards averaged 59.3 rushing yards per game in his first seven outings of 2022. If he clears the leagueís protocol, Edwards should have a significant role in what figures to be a run-heavy gameplan. If not, expect veteran Kenyan Drake to see more work.

Update: Ravens are expected to play both Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown

Fade: QB Tyler Huntley (shoulder)/WR Demarcus Robinson

Lamar Jackson (knee) has been ruled out and will miss his sixth straight game this Sunday. Now the question is whether Huntley, who is dealing with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, will be ready to return after giving way to Anthony Brown in Week 18. While Huntley is more accomplished than Brown, he topped 150 yards passing just once in five appearances this season and is, at best, a facilitator. The weakness at quarterback trickles down to the receivers, too, as even last week with Andrews out it was backup TE Isaiah Likely that led the team in receiving with an 8-103-0 line. None of the Baltimore wideouts (Robinson, DeSean Jackson, Sammy Watkins) are reliable.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

No Brainers: QB Joe Burrow, RB Joe Mixon, WR JaíMarr Chase, WR Tee Higgins

Favorite: WR Tyler Boyd

While you donít want to read too much into the Week 18 meeting between the two clubs, Boyd did finish second on the team in both receptions (5) and receiving yards (51) this past Sunday. The veteran also scored a touchdown against the Bills before that game was called off. While his production has been down more often than itís been up this season, Boyd is a trusted target for Burrow, and in a big spot like this itís easy to envision him relying on the guys he went to the Super Bowl with last year.

On the Fence: N/A

Fade: TE Hayden Hurst

As noted, Burrow may prefer to go with his more familiar weapons, which could leave the likes of Hurst and Trenton Irwin to fill supplemental roles. While Hurst had his moments earlier in the year, he did little down the stretch, finishing with fewer than 30 yards in three of his last four games -- that includes a 4-14-0 mark last weekend. With just five of Burrowís 40 passes a week ago going to tight ends (as opposed to 29 to his wideouts), Hurstís opportunities could be few and far between.

Prediction: Bengals 24, Ravens 18 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Buccaneers - (Ilchuk)
Line: DAL -2.5
Total: 45.5

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

No Brainers: WR CeeDee Lamb

Favorite: RB Tony Pollard

Prior to last weekís dud, Pollard had a four-game stretch where he averaged a respectable 3.5 yards per carry. He also had three games with at least four catches. After watching last weekís film, Bucs HC Todd Bowles will have his defense blitzing the snot out of Dak Prescott. The Cowboys will have to counter a concerted effort in the run game, preferably with outside zone runs from Pollard, getting the front moving laterally instead of up field, and with the quick passing game, which is where Pollard excels over Ezekiel Elliott. If itís going to be a good day for Dallas, it will have to be a good day for Pollard.

On the Fence: TE Dalton Schultz

While Tampaís defense has played fairly well against the pass, they have given up 29 touchdowns through the air (2nd most in the NFL) and have been particularly susceptible in the red zone. Thatís where Schultz comes in. Heís second on the team in targets and should be high in Dak Prescottís progressions this week as he looks to get rid of the ball quickly against an aggressive defense. Schultz has two multi-TD games in the second half of the season, and this could shape up to be another opportunity for him if the Cowboys can move the ball and create some red zone opportunities.

Fade: RB Ezekiel Elliott

Elliottís value has been tied to his goal line work all season. I donít think those opportunities present themselves this week as Dallas should be looking to throw against this Tampa defense near the goal line. Zeke has basically been a non-factor in the passing game recently with one reception in his last three games and the Bucs have given up the fifth fewest fantasy points to running backs this season.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

No Brainers: RB Leonard Fournette, WR Chris Godwin

Favorite: RB Rachaad White

While Leonard Fournette has re-emerged as the RB1 in Tampa, White presents some interesting challenges for the Dallas defense. Heís a more explosive runner, and his quickness could help slow the Cowboys pass rush if they have to honor his speed out of the backfield. Heís also a valuable receiver with at least four catches in five of his last six games prior to last weekís limited snaps. Look for him to play a major role as a check-down option for QB Tom Brady against a Dallas front trying to disrupt his rhythm.

On the Fence: WR Mike Evans

The Cowboys posted 54 sacks during the season and will be looking to get pressure up the middle on Tom Brady. For that reason, I donít see him having a lot of time to push the ball downfield to Evans. However, if the Bucs can get the run game going efficiently, Brady will use play-action to open up some deep shots. If Evans draws CB Trevon Diggs, expect Brady to look for other options.

Fade: WR Russell Gage

Gage has had 19 catches and three touchdowns in his last four games. But in a win or go home contest, with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin fully rested, I expect Gage’s role to be limited, especially in a game plan that should be focused on running the ball. Gage was banged up last week but did practice on Thursday so monitor injury reports if you want to take a flier on him. Julio Jones (knee) has also been limited in practice this week.

Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Cowboys 21 ^ Top