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Favorites & Fades

Wildcard Weekend

By: Nick Caron | HC Green | Eli Mack | John Fessel
Updated: 11/13/23







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

Browns @ Texans - (Mack)
Line: CLE -1.5
Total: 44.5

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

No Brainers: TE David Njoku

Favorites: QB Joe Flacco, WR Amari Cooper

This is the only time in Flacco’s career that he’s thrown multiple TDs in five straight games — 13 total so far. Flacco has been cookin’, and it’s made all the more impressive when we consider he was carpooling in early November. He’s arguably the hottest QB in the league right now. But with Flacco, you must take the good with the bad. Those 13 TDs he’s thrown is against eight INTs, and those turnovers can come in bunches. Houston has allowed the fewest passing TDs this season (17), so Flacco could find it difficult to match his recent productivity. But he’s simply putting up too many quality numbers to bet against him at this point.

Amari Cooper had a career-high 1,250 yards receiving this season, and his 17.4 yards per reception was also a career best. His YPC was third in the league—something few people would have expected at the start of the season. The stat line of Cooper’s last three games is crazy: 22 receptions on 37 targets for 451 yards and three TDs. Gaudy numbers indeed. Houston’s defense surrenders a ton of passing yards (ninth worst in the league), but as stated above, they’ve given up the fewest TD passes. So, we can expect a solid outing from Cooper while keeping our hopes in check about him scoring.

On the Fence: RB Jerome Ford

Cleveland’s running game is roughly a 60/40 split between Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt, which can often limit the effectiveness of each. Ford hasn’t rushed for more than 64 yards since Week 9 and has only one rushing TD in that stretch—although he did find the end zone three times through the air in those games. And that’s where Ford will find success. His 44 receptions are third on the team. Look for any production from Ford to come as a receiver.

Fade: RB Kareem Hunt

Hunt had six rushing TDs through the first seven games he played this season but he’s had only three in the last eight games. The strength of Houston’s defense is limiting rushing TDs. They are fifth best in the league in that category. Don’t expect much from Hunt this week.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

No Brainers: N/A

Favorites: N/A

On the Fence: QB C.J. Stroud, RB Devin Singletary, WR Nico Collins

It will be interesting to see how Stroud performs in his first NFL playoff game. The bright lights of the league didn’t seem to affect him too much in his first season, but of course the playoffs are an entirely different ballgame. I like Stroud’s poise and his experience playing big games in college, so I don’t think this moment will be too big for him. But he faces a Cleveland Browns defense that’s given up the fewest passing yards in the league while also finishing the season with the third most INTs. It will be a huge challenge for the rookie, but I think the home field will prevent him from looking like one.

Devin Singletary was a solid performer this year relative to his ADP, and his three games of more than 100 yards rushing were the most of his career. He supplanted Dameon Pierce as the starting RB, which added significant value to him as a fantasy option. Likewise, Nico Collins had a breakout year as well. He had five games of over 100 yards receiving while leading the team in every receiving category despite missing three games. That said, the Browns have one of the toughest defenses in the league, and I expect them to make things difficult for the Texans offense. Houston won’t shrink in the moment, but it’s going to be a tough road for the upstart Texans.

Fade: TE Dalton Schultz

There won’t be much production to go around in this game, and the Browns gave up the fewest receiving yards (565) and fantasy points (9.2 PPR/G) to tight ends this season. Schultz isn’t much of a fantasy option this week.

Prediction: Browns 24, Texans 14 ^ Top

Dolphins @ Chiefs - (Fessel)
Line: KC -5.0
Total: 43.5

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

No Brainers: N/A

Favorites: WR Tyreek Hill, RB Raheem Mostert, RB Devon Achane

With talk of weather dipping to temperatures far colder than a Miami Dolphins team has ever faced before, it’s impossible to look at any Dolphin as a no brainer – even Tyreek Hill. But Hill spent the first half of his career in Kansas City, where he’s seen these elements before. He’s also one of the most elite and versatile talents (including 766 career rushing yards and 6 touchdowns), which gives Miami a lot of ways to get him the ball, no matter the conditions. Expectations should be downgraded – definitely don’t treat him as an elite option for this matchup - and there’s far more risk than usual, but Hill is one of the few players who can make their fantasy day on just one big play. If you’re bidding on him, and the price is right (think backend WR1/high end WR2 in the regular season), consider him a home run hitter.

It’s sounding like Raheem Mostert will be active this week. Watch the reports, but if this remains true, expect a split in touches between he and Achane. In brutal weather, it’s likely that the run will be heavily leaned on, meaning both players have a great chance to see 15+ touches. Mostert and Achane have an incredible 32 touchdowns between them, and it will be a battle of opposite forces versus a Kansas City defense that has given up just 10 total touchdowns to running backs. Yardage will be critical in a very low scoring game, and Achane has been the better in this department, picking up 91 yards per game versus Mostert’s 79. Mostert also has a history of fumbling (including 4 this season), making him a little more risky, not just due to recent injuries, but also due to the possibility that he could see some bench time if he gets sloppy in the frigid conditions. In short, if you are taking one of the two backs, Achane is probably the safer, stronger bet. Think of him as you would a high end RB2 for this week. Both running backs are probably going to be leaned on, though, and are worthy of at least flex consideration.

Fence: N/A

Fade: QB Tua Tagovailoa, WR Jaylen Waddle

The NFL’s leader in passing yards faces the 4th stingiest defense in that department, in likely sub-zero conditions after playing in warm weather for most of his college and professional career. The Dolphins are 1-4 in games with Tagovailoa as a starter where the temperature in below 50, let alone zero. As a franchise, it’s been so tough for Dolphins players to adjust to cold conditions on the road, that they’ve lost all six playoff games during the Super Bowl era in freezing conditions. And the coldest of those games was 17 degrees.

On a more individual level, as solid as Tagovailoa has been this year, it’s been eight weeks since he’s thrown for 300 yards (a time during which he’s only has two multi-touchdown games). With just 74 rushing yards for the season, he doesn’t offer much with his legs to make up for any shortage in passing yards. The conditions and the opponent are going to make it very tough for Tua to have a productive fantasy day, and there are numerous other QB’s with vastly superior situations this week to turn to.

Waddle’s status for this week has been given a boost by Mike McDaniel’s optimism, but importantly, that’s been coupled with Waddle returning to practice on a limited basis. There’s still some risk that Waddle could miss the game, but that has been decreasing. Of a greater risk is a stifling Chiefs defense that has allowed the 3rd fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this year, aided by unbearable weather. Waddle is a very good receiver (No.22 in fantasy points per game at his position), but has been more of a backend WR2 in far more reasonable conditions. It’s best to look another way this week.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

No Brainers: N/A

Favorites: TE Travis Kelce, RB Isiah Pacheco

The lack of a 50+ yard performance over his last three games and being blanked in the end zone over the last six games, coupled with the weather and a good stock of playoff tight ends to choose from knocks aging Travis Kelce out of ‘no brainer’ country. But in a game where short passes may be plentiful, a rested Kelce has a chance to see solid volume on Saturday. He’s not head and shoulders above other options, so if you’re bidding, make sure the price is right.

Isiah Pacheco, the league’s No.15 running in fantasy points per game this season, doesn’t draw the easiest opponent in the Dolphins - 10th fewest fantasy points allowed per game – but he is the clear lead back for the favored Chiefs who will almost surely lean hard on the run game. With a pair of 100+ yard rushing performances in his last three games and coming off a week of rest, Pacheco is a solid option in your RB1 slot, and an excellent choice as an RB2.

On the Fence: QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Rashee Rice

The struggle to find stability at wide receiver outside of an emerging Rashee Rice has rendered Patrick Mahomes numbers far less impactful than normal. He’s still been a respectable QB1 this year in fantasy, but not his usual elite self. Like everyone else who makes their money in the passing game, Mahomes surely takes a dent with the weather. His ability to make some plays with his legs (389 rushing yards) and the fact the Chiefs offense is built a bit more around short field passing than the Dolphins, plus his experience with inclement weather, make him a possible play this weekend.

Wideout Rashee Rice has been a gem of a rookie (79-938-7) and has seen a boon of targets down the stretch, averaging 9.3 targets over the last six games. Jalen Ramsey will likely have his eye on Rice, this week, which could mute his output. However, Rice is a short field receiver, with an average depth of target of just 4.8 yards on the season, a more ideal type of receiver for bad weather, and has been Mahomes top red zone target. That keeps him in the flex conversation this week.

Fade: All other Chiefs receivers

At this point it may go without saying, but even in DFS format, there is really no price point at which any Chiefs receiver not named Rashee Rice should be considered. Especially this weekend. There’s a good possibility of taking a zero if you take a gamble on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Richie James or Justin Watson.

Prediction: Chiefs 17, Dolphins 10 ^ Top

Steelers @ Bills - (Green)
Line: BUF -9.5
Total: 33.5

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

No Brainers: RB Najee Harris, RB Jaylen Warren

Favorites: WR Diontae Johnson

While Pickens has experienced the higher highs in recent weeks, Johnson has been the steadier option, posting at least 50 yards and/or a touchdown in six of his last seven games, including a 4-89-1 line in Pittsburgh’s win over Baltimore last Saturday. He’s had a taste of the postseason as well, appearing in two playoff games over his career -- while it’s hard to read much into those outings since they came with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, just having gone through it gives him a leg up on a team that’s full of inexperience at the skill positions. The Bills could adopt the Ravens’ strategy of doubling Pickens as well, which could again make Johnson the main target for Mason Rudolph, and if Buffalo makes Pittsburgh chase, the numbers could impress. The caveat here, and for all pass catchers, is the weather, which will be cold and likely windy.

On the Fence: WR George Pickens

After racking up 11 receptions, 326 yards, and 2 TDs in Weeks 16 and 17, Pickens wasn’t even targeted in Week 18, finishing with one carry for three yards in a performance that doubtless ruined many a fantasy owners’ day. It’s an extreme example of the volatility that dogged Pickens throughout his second season, as he posted five games of 100-plus yards to go with six outings of less than 40. He led the team during the 2022 meeting between the Bills and Steelers, fashioning a 6-83-0 line in a blowout loss. The bottom line with Pickens is that he’s capable of having a huge day, putting up a donut, and everything in between. Consider him a classic risk/reward play.

Fade: N/A

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

No Brainers: QB Josh Allen, RB James Cook, WR Stefon Diggs

Favorites: TE Dalton Kincaid

In all honesty, Kincaid is a borderline no-brainer after finishing an impressive debut campaign with 73 receptions, 673 yards, and 2 TDs. That includes a combined 11-171-0 line over the final two games. That strong close was preceded by basically a month of underwhelming results, though, as the rookie finished with fewer than 25 yards in three of five games and never reached the 50-yard mark; he also hasn’t scored a touchdown since Nov. 13. He figures to be a popular target on Sunday, though, particularly if Gabe Davis (knee) is limited or inactive due to a knee injury. The only TD the Steelers gave up in Week 18 was to Isaiah Likely, so there’s a lot to like with Kincaid.

On the Fence: WR Gabriel Davis (knee)

As noted, Davis suffered a knee injury in the regular-season finale, and his status for Wild Card Weekend is up in the air. If he’s inactive, all the mystery is resolved, and suddenly Khalil Shakir moves up to become a very interesting selection. If Davis is active, though, he becomes perhaps the most intriguing boom-or-bust option on any of the 12 teams playing. He earned the moniker “Big Game Gabe” from his postseason exploits, most notably his four-touchdown effort versus KC in 2021, and he absolutely torched the Steelers in 2022 for a 3-171-2 line a season ago. On the flip side, he could be on a snap count or simply see a scaled back role. That makes Davis a lottery ticket.

Fade: N/A

Prediction: Bills 31, Steelers 20 ^ Top

Packers @ Cowboys - (Caron)
Line: DAL -7.0
Total: 50.5

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

No Brainers: N/A

Favorites: QB Jordan Love, WR Jayden Reed

While they’re facing a tough Dallas pass defense that allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, the Packers head into the playoffs with one of the hottest passing games in the league. Jordan Love has been incredible down the stretch, having thrown for multiple touchdowns in eight of his past nine games. He’s not much of a runner, but Love has also been utilizing some tactical scrambling down the stretch, including two games with a rushing touchdown over his past three weeks.

His favorite wide receiver during this stretch has been rookie Jayden Reed, who has now scored 15 or more fantasy points in seven of his eight games. What’s been interesting about Reed’s usage is that, despite Christian Watson’s injury, he’s still only been running routes on between around 45 to 75 percent of the Packers’ passes on a weekly basis. This has meant that he’s been below both Romeo Doubs and Dontayvion Wicks in that category. That hasn’t hurt his production, of course, but it does give him an interesting additional upside if he does end up seeing more playing time in the playoffs.

On the Fence: RB Aaron Jones

The Packers’ running game was hit or miss throughout most of the regular season, but Jones has been an absolute stud when the Packers have needed him most, compiling over 110 rushing yards in each of Green Bay’s final three regular-season contests. That would normally mean that he’s an obvious “favorite,” but what’s been concerning is Jones’ lack of usage near the goal line. He hasn’t seen a single rushing attempt from inside the five-yard line in either of his past two games and along with injuries, this helps paint the picture of why Jones has scored just one touchdown since Week 1. Jones does typically have decent usage in the passing game which can help pull him into RB2 range, but he lacks true high-end RB1 upside at this point.

Fade: WR Christian Watson

Christian Watson has been practicing this week and could be on the field for this weekend’s game, but there’s a reasonable concern to be had that he is no longer the “WR1,” and perhaps might not even be in the top two passing game targets for Green Bay at the moment. The Packers have not had, nor have they needed, Watson down the stretch when they’ve been among the most successful passing games in the league, and it would be very surprising to see him return to the field and immediately get back to his normal usage after the success that players like Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks have had during his absence. This isn’t to say that Watson can’t still deliver a big play, but banking on that seems risky on the road against a good Dallas defense.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

No Brainers: WR CeeDee Lamb

Favorites: QB Dak Prescott

There’s a chance that Dak Prescott wins the NFL MVP this season and he may also be the quarterback on the highest-scoring DFS teams roster this week. Like Jordan Love opposite of him this week, Prescott has been an absolute powerhouse for fantasy purposes down the stretch, having thrown for multiple touchdowns in all but one game since the Cowboys’ Week 7 bye. Now he has the opportunity to face what is a terrible Green Bay secondary - one that really only started to look good over their final two games against the likes of Nick Mullens & Jaren Hall, and Justin Fields. Prior to that, they were coming off of giving up back-to-back 300-yard passing games to Baker Mayfield and Bryce Young.

Given the weather situations in many of the other games, a home game for the Cowboys in what is expected to be a closed stadium should allow both of the offenses to have a chance to score plenty of points and fantasy managers should be targeting this one.

On the Fence: WR Brandin Cooks

Brandin Cooks has been far from a consistent fantasy option this season, but we’ve now seen him score a touchdown in each of his final three contests while having been targeted 16 times over his final two games. That alone isn’t enough to make him an extremely strong starter, but the weather concerns throughout the rest of the league also play a factor in why Cooks should probably be viewed more positively now than he has been throughout much of the regular season.

Fade: RB Tony Pollard

Fading Tony Pollard wasn’t super profitable in Week 18 as he did get into the end zone, but that was also the first time that Pollard has scored a touchdown since Week 13 and he’s now failed to reach even 80 rushing yards since Week 3. The Cowboys’ offensive line remains banged up which hasn’t helped matters, but Pollard’s explosiveness just has not been there this season. The Packers were just an average matchup throughout the regular season, but they really shut down the Panthers, Vikings, and Bears running backs during their final three games. Normally we don’t want to fade players who are in high-scoring offenses like Dallas’, but Pollard hasn’t delivered a multiple-touchdown game since Week 1, so the risks really aren’t all that bad. There are a good number of other games this week that could see teams forced to run the ball much more than they normally do, so it’s probably best to target the backs in those contests.

Prediction: Cowboys 30, Packers 24 ^ Top

Rams @ Lions - (Green)
Line: DET -3.0
Total: 51.5

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

No Brainers: RB Kyren Williams, WR Cooper Kupp, WR Puka Nacua

Favorites: QB Matthew Stafford

In a weekend with some juicy subplots, Stafford’s return to Detroit, where he spent a dozen seasons before being traded to LA and immediately winning a Super Bowl, is by far the juiciest. The veteran did face his old club in 2021, albeit in Los Angeles, where he threw for 334 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs. Much has changed since then with the Lions, which field a far more competitive defense, but it’s hard to imagine there won’t be a little extra juice with Stafford, who, when hot, can be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. He finished the season strong, throwing 15 TDs with just 3 INTs over his final six games before resting in Week 18. While the Lions will be fired up to stop him -- not to mention for their first home playoff game since 1993 -- there is a lot to like about Stafford’s outlook on Sunday night.

On the Fence: WR Demarcus Robinson

Everyone knows Kupp and Nacua. Did you know that Robinson racked up 21 receptions, 319 yards, and 4 TDs over his final five games? The veteran has emerged as the No. 3 option in LA’s passing attack, ahead of Tyler Higbee and Tutu Atwell, who faded after a strong start to the season. That he played basically no role in the Week 18 game with the 49ers speaks to how far Robinson has risen in the pecking order. If you’re looking for a player with high upside at a low cost, you found him.

Fade: N/A

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

No Brainers: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

Favorites: RB David Montgomery

Given how well LA’s offense played down the stretch, it makes sense that the Lions would want to control the clock as much as they can to protect a defense that has been up and down this season. The veteran definitely slowed over the course of the season, starting the year with three 100-yard games in his first six and then never logging more than 85 yards rushing in any of his final eight. Perhaps that’ll mean he’s fresh(ish) for the Rams as the team gave more and more work to Gibbs down the stretch. Detroit will need both backs this weekend, and Montgomery’s experience and physical style could see his usage tick up a bit.

On the Fence: QB Jared Goff

While the focus is on Stafford, Goff facing his former team in the playoffs is an interesting matchup as well. The veteran put up big numbers over the course of the season but was also prone to turnovers during certain stretches. If anyone knows Goff’s tendencies, it’s Sean McVay, who will doubtless try to leverage those to gain an edge over his previous QB. This feels like a tough matchup for Goff, who was picked off twice is his previous meeting with the Rams. He’s been great at home, though, and Detroit has weapons, whether Sam LaPorta (knee) plays or not. So, while there is some downside, you can certainly view Goff as a playable option.

Fade: TE Sam LaPorta (knee)

It’s every coach’s nightmare to lose a key player in a “meaningless” game, and that’s just what happened to Dan Campbell, who chose to play his starters even though the Lions were practically assured of being the No. 3 seed (and could climb no higher than No. 2). The key player was LaPorta, Detroit’s star tight end, who set rookie records during his 86-889-10 campaign. Campbell says LaPorta has an “outside shot” at playing, so the decision may well be made for you. If he does play, however, you can’t expect him to be the same after suffering a hyperextension and bone bruise seven days earlier. It’d be very risky to plug him into a lineup.

Prediction: Rams 27, Lions 23 ^ Top

Eagles @ Buccaneers - (Mack)
Line: PHI -3.0
Total: 43.5

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

No Brainers: N/A

Favorites: QB Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts’ struggles have been discussed at length recently, and rightfully so. His game has seemed to bottom out, along with the entire team. Hurts has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in four of his last five games, including only four passing TDs in that stretch. Of course, we can always expect production from Hurts on the ground, but will that be enough to overcome his recent struggles? We’re still not sure how his injured finger will affect him, either. What looked like an offense that was humming along during the first three months of the season looks like a shell of itself, and we don’t quite know what to expect.

Update: A.J. Brown has been ruled out.

On the Fence: WR A.J. Brown (knee), WR DeVonta Smith

What in the world happened to A.J. Brown? He hasn’t scored since Week 11 and hasn’t topped the century mark since Week 12. Those are numbers opposite of what we saw during the first two months of the season when we recall Brown going for 125 receiving yards or more in six straight contests. Meanwhile, DeVonta Smith is the perfect complementary WR to Brown—a steady and reliable option who can serve as a team’s WR1 for short stretches. His numbers for the season are about where they were last year, but he remains a good No.2. The good news for this duo is the Buccaneers give up the fourth-most passing yards in the league, and this unit is middle of the pack when it comes to TDs allowed. So, there’s a chance that either Brown or Smith will produce, but the way this team has looked over the last month and a half, it’s tough to bank on it.

Fade: RB D’Andre Swift

The true strength of this Tampa defense is their ability to stop the run. Nine times this season they limited opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground, including four times under 50 yards. D’Andre Swift won’t do much this week.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

No Brainers: WR Mike Evans, RB Rachaad White

Favorites: QB Baker Mayfield, WR Chris Godwin

The Eagles have given up the second-most passing yards and the second-most TD passes this season. The Eagles are a team that seems to be in a tailspin, and the Bucs have the personnel to take advantage. Baker Mayfield has had a career resurgence with career highs in passing yards and passing TDs. And Chris Godwin has been his usual steady self as well. After the goose egg he put up in Week 12, Godwin has gone on to have the best five-game stretch of his season, and that should continue this week. I’m not so sure if Philly can right its ship, leaving Tampa on the verge of sending the defending NFC Champions home early.

On the Fence: N/A

Fade: N/A

Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Eagles 20 ^ Top