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Favorites & Fades

Conference Championships

By: Mike Krueger | Ken Ilchuk | Nick Caron | HC Green
Updated: 1/29/23



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

49ers @ Eagles - (Caron)
Line: PHI -3.0
Total: 45.5

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

No Brainers: RB Christian McCaffrey (calf)

Favorite: TE George Kittle

There aren’t many players who are hotter than 49ers tight end George Kittle. Kittle has been electric down the stretch this season and after a down game against the Seahawks in the Wild Card round, he got right back into elite fantasy production this past week with a five-catch, 95-yard performance against the Cowboys that included one of the best circus catches we’ve seen this year. Kittle has averaged just 5.5 targets per game over his past seven contests and while that number doesn’t sound particularly high, he’s still been able to produce huge numbers, including nearly 400 yards and seven touchdowns over that stretch. He now faces a Philadelphia defense that has allowed nearly 65 receiving yards per game to opposing tight ends over their final six games and they didn’t even face a top-level tight end during that stretch.

On the Fence: WR Deebo Samuel

For the 49ers to win this game they’re likely going to need a different strategy than what worked against the Cowboys when they simply pounded the ball between the tackles. We know that Kittle and McCaffrey allow tremendous flexibility which is why they should be priorities in the San Francisco offense this week, but the other player that will likely need to have a big game in order for the 49ers to walk away with a win is Deebo Samuel. Samuel missed three of the 49ers’ final four games of the regular season and was used sparingly in Week 18, but he returned with fire in the playoffs. He’s been targeted a team-high 16 times over San Francisco’s two playoff games while adding an additional seven carries. He’s compiled 221 total yards in the playoffs and should be in line for a number of manufactured touches as the 49ers attempt to keep up on the scoreboard against the high-powered Eagles offense.

Fade: QB Brock Purdy, WR Brandon Aiyuk

Brock Purdy has been one of the best stories of this NFL season, but when you look at the quarterback landscape of the remaining four teams, his name sticks out like a sore thumb against the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts—all of whom have to be in the running for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award. Purdy has, however, been able to put up some pretty decent fantasy numbers, albeit mostly against subpar defenses. He did struggle this past week against a Cowboys defense that can create pressure. It was the first time he had started a game and failed to throw multiple touchdowns. In fact, he didn’t even throw a single touchdown against Dallas. He may suffer a similar fate this weekend as he faces an excellent Philadelphia defense that was excellent down the stretch of the regular season. Only two quarterbacks reached even 170 passing yards against the Eagles over their final seven contests and Daniel Jones threw for just 135 yards against them this past week in their first playoff game. Purdy has been a nice story and it’s certainly not written in stone that he takes a loss here, but this is a bad game to be looking at Purdy for fantasy production.

Similar to Purdy, top wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk could also be in for a tough afternoon against the Eagles. Philadelphia shut down opposing wideouts down the stretch. Only one wide receiver—CeeDee Lamb in Week 16—has reached even 80 yards receiving against the Eagles over their past seven games, including the playoffs. That doesn’t bode well for Aiyuk who has been struggling as of late. He did light up the Raiders with nine receptions on 12 targets back in Week 16, but otherwise, his usage has been limited. Besides that game against the Raiders, Aiyuk has failed to exceed five receptions in a single game since back in Week 9. He’s been able to reach the end zone a few times so he hasn’t been a complete fantasy disaster, but this matchup is just way too difficult for fantasy managers to be relying on him in this one.

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: WR A.J. Brown

Favorite: WR DeVonta Smith

This past week’s game against the Giants was the first time that A.J. Brown was held to under 70 yards receiving since Week 11, so fantasy managers should be confident that it was just a blip on the radar. Meanwhile, his teammate DeVonta Smith continues to produce huge numbers and is averaging over 88 receiving yards per game over his past seven contests. That includes a six-reception game this past week against the Giants. Smith hasn’t seen fewer than eight targets in a game since all the way back in Week 9 and he now faces a 49ers defense that was the sixth-best matchup for opposing wide receivers throughout the regular season. San Francisco’s defense is excellent overall, but they can be taken advantage of on the perimeter so look for Philadelphia to test that with their high-level wide receiver duo.

On the Fence: QB Jalen Hurts

We were all a bit worried that Jalen Hurts was not fully healthy heading into this past week’s game, but he seemed to at least answer some of those concerns with a nine-carry, 34-yard rushing performance that included a touchdown, to go along with a pair of touchdowns through the air. His passing numbers weren’t overly impressive, but the game against the Giants was pretty much over by midway through the second quarter, so there wasn’t much of a reason to be concerned. The Eagles quarterback now has an extremely difficult matchup against a high-pressure 49ers defense that held him and the Philadelphia offense to just 11 points the last time they squared off back in Week 2 of the 2021 season. A lot has changed since then, of course, but what should really be considered is that despite struggling to produce through the air in that contest, Hurts was able to run the ball effectively against San Francisco as he carried the ball 10 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers were able to avoid most of the league’s top rushing quarterbacks this season, but Marcus Mariota did rush for 50 yards and a touchdown against them. They also struggled to contain rushing quarterbacks on the ground during the 2021 season. The 49ers' edge rushers are almost certainly going to put plenty of pressure on Hurts which is likely to lead to some scrambles from Hurts that turn into decent production on the ground. It could, however, also mean a lower-scoring game than we’re used to from Philadelphia overall.

Fade: RB Miles Sanders, RB Kenneth Gainwell

The Eagles dominated the Giants even more than most of us expected that they would in the Divisional Round, which meant an even heavier rushing attack than usual. While Miles Sanders’ 17 carries for 90 yards were decent enough, he continued to be a non-factor in the passing game while splitting touches with Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell, who out-produced him on the ground with 112 rushing yards. It’s tough to really gain much information from that contest given that the game script was so positive in Philadelphia’s favor, but one thing’s for certain—we shouldn’t expect that kind of production from this backfield again. San Francisco has been the league’s best defense against opposing running backs this season and they are yet to allow a single rushing touchdown to the position yet this season. This is a situation you’ll want to avoid for fantasy.

Prediction: 49ers 24, Eagles 23 ^ Top

Bengals @ Chiefs - (Green)
Line: KC -2.0
Total: 48.5

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

No Brainers: QB Joe Burrow, RB Joe Mixon, WR Ja’Marr Chase, WR Tee Higgins

Favorite: WR Tyler Boyd

Boyd has been quiet thus far in the playoffs, posting four catches for 49 yards in the first two games. It’s a continuation of a late-season fade that saw the veteran top 50 yards in a game just twice over his final 11 outings. The best of the bunch came versus Kansas City, however, when he caught four passes for 60 yards to finish second to Chase in receiving. We know that Chase and Higgins will draw most of the attention from the Chiefs secondary, leaving Boyd with some opportunities to make plays.

On the Fence: TE Hayden Hurst

While Hurst (calf) had a nice game against the Bills, hauling in five passes for 59 yards and a score (and giving him a 9-104-1 line for the playoffs), he picked up a calf injury during the game and has been limited at practice this week. Sure, it could be little more than a precautionary move, but the offseason addition had one of his quietest games of the season back on Dec. 4 when he managed only a dozen yards on two receptions against the Chiefs. Put those two elements together, and Hurst offers a low floor to go with a decent ceiling.

Fade: N/A

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

Update: Travis Kelce (back) was added to the injury report after practice on Friday. Mahomes is not listed.

No Brainers: TE Travis Kelce (back)

Favorite: RBs Isiah Pacheco/Jerick McKinnon

We know Mahomes is going to play. What we don’t know is how effective he’ll be or what kind of adjustments will be made to account for limited mobility. Based on what we saw against Jacksonville, the answer could be more handoffs and more short passes, which should benefit the tandem of Pacheco (101 total yards) and McKinnon (25 yards on 11 carries). Both were effective in the December meeting with Cincinnati where the rookie accounted for 82 total yards and a TD while McKinnon checked in with 60 yards and a score. Look for KC’s backfield to be featured this Sunday.

On the Fence: QB Patrick Mahomes (ankle)

Normally, Mahomes would be a total no-brainer. Even if he were playing through injury in Week 12 or something, you’d want him in your lineup. When you’re talking a one-week play, though, you may not be getting an adequate return on investment with the presumptive MVP. Mahomes will play through a high ankle sprain, which is usually a multi-week injury, and he’s sure to have his ability to extend plays compromised. He threw for a modest 223 yards and just one score versus Cincinnati in December, and he managed 195 yards against Jacksonville last weekend. Other than Brock Purdy, Mahomes looks to be the riskiest QB option on the board.

Fade: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

After seemingly hitting his stride within the offense, Smith-Schuster has gone largely silent during the last two-plus months. Over his last nine games, the former Steeler has topped 40 yards in a game just twice, and those efforts came against punching bags Houston and Denver. He’s posted two catches in three consecutive games, and his 3-35-0 line against the Bengals in Week 13 doesn’t move the needle. Add Mahomes’ injury on top of it and it's difficult to envision a big day from Smith-Schuster.

Prediction: Bengals 27, Chiefs 23 ^ Top