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Favorites & Fades

Divisional Round

By: Nick Caron | HC Green | Eli Mack | John Fessel
Updated: 1/19/24





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

Texans @ Ravens - (Green)
Line: BAL -9.5
Total: 43.5

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

No Brainers: QB C.J. Stroud, WR Nico Collins

Favorites: TE Dalton Schultz

Despite scoring 45 points in their Wild Card win over the Browns, Stroud completed just 16 passes. Only one of those went to Schultz, though it was a 37-yard touchdown, which is called maximizing your opportunities. Over the previous four games, the tight end had caught 19 of 27 targeted balls, and he’s basically operating as the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Collins. Granted, he was quiet when these two teams met way back in Week 1 with two catches for four yards, but so much has changed since then with Stroud developing into one of the NFL’s top young passers. If Baltimore clamps down on the running game, Schultz could see a lot of work on Saturday.

On the Fence: RB Devin Singletary

When these two teams locked up in the opener, Singletary was filling a complementary role. Now, he’s the lead back. The former Bill ran 13 times for 66 yards and a score against the Browns, which brought the NFL’s No. 1 defense into the matchup. He’s topped 60 yards in all but one of his last six games and is sure to get a healthy number of touches unless the Ravens put Houston in a deep hole early. Baltimore’s ability to slow down the run is enough to give some pause to plugging Singletary into lineups this weekend, but he offers adequate upside.

Fade: RB Dameon Pierce

Thirteen touches for 47 yards were what Pierce posted against Baltimore in Week 1. In his last five games combined, he has 47 yards on 22 touches. Odds are you weren’t thinking about playing him anyway, but this is just a friendly reminder of how much his role has diminished over the second half of the season. Stay far away.

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: QB Lamar Jackson, WR Zay Flowers (calf)

Favorites: TE Isaiah Likely

While many of Baltimore’s top guys sat out Week 18, Likely was active, catching two passes for 31 yards and scoring the team’s lone touchdown. The second-year pro has turned it on since Mark Andrews (ankle) was injured, scoring five times in the last five games. For all the good things Houston did in their playoff opener, the tight end combo of David Njoku and Harrison Bryant went off for 11 receptions and 158 yards. The one caveat here is that Andrews is back at practice and has a shot to suit up on Saturday, which could undercut Likely’s value to a degree. Still, the young tight end has played so well down the stretch he’s worth rolling with in the Divisional Round.

On the Fence: RB Gus Edwards

It was surprising to see Edwards log 10 touches in a meaningless Week 18 loss to the Steelers, but perhaps it speaks to Baltimore not viewing him as a core guy. Odds are he’ll get more carries than Justice Hill or newly signed Dalvin Cook, but it might still be a modest number. His red-zone exploits (13 rushing TDs) kept him relevant throughout the season, and he should get those opportunities again. Still, it creates a relatively narrow path to value. It’s also worth noting that Edwards fumbled in each of the last two games, losing both. That at least raises the possibility that the team could be leery of relying on him entering the postseason.

Fade: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Outside of a five-game burst in November and early December, Beckham’s first year with the Ravens was disappointing from a statistical perspective. He didn’t emerge as the No. 1 wideout -- that would be Flowers -- and didn’t have a meaningful bump after Andrews was injured, either, finishing well behind Likely over the same stretch. He does have big-game experience, having won a Super Bowl with the Rams two seasons ago, but with just four receptions over his final three games of 2023, Beckham is, at best, a lottery-ticket play.

Prediction: Ravens 27, Texans 18 ^ Top

Packers @ 49ers - (Fessel)
Line: SF -9.5
Total: 50.5

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

No Brainers: N/A

Favorites: N/A

On the Fence: QB Jordan Love, RB Aaron Jones, WR Jayden Reed, WR Christian Watson, WR Romeo Doubs

After another sharp performance in a stunning victory on the road in Dallas last week, Jordan Love now has five consecutive games with multiple passing touchdowns, has not thrown an interception that span, and has put up at least 19.5 points in each of those games. Love is really coming into his own alongside a wide receiver corps that is gaining experience.

But Love does walk into different circumstances this week, drawing a very well-rested 49ers defense on grass. The 49ers gave up just 15.1 points per game to opposing QB’s this season, and part of the reason for that was the pressure the front seven gets (48 sacks). San Francisco’s ability to force turnovers in negative game script (22 interceptions) has also been a big factor.

As great as the Love and the Packers story has been, it’s going to be hard for them to keep up with the 49ers, and Love may be under pressure all day. It’s possible that he’s able to make enough big plays – especially if the Packers offense ends up trailing and in garbage time – to put out a solid fantasy day, but there’s also significant risk that Love and the Packers hit a wall in San Francisco. There are a number of superior, arguably safer options at quarterback this week (Brock Purdy for example), so the price should be fairly low to consider Love this weekend.

It was a quiet season for Packers running back Aaron Jones, averaging just 11.1 fantasy points per game, largely due to injuries and having collected just 3 total touchdowns. Jones finished just 26th in fantasy points per game at his position, but began showing signs of heating up late in the year, rushing for over a hundred yards in each of the Packers final three regular season games. Then the Packers went to Dallas, and Jones matched his season touchdown total in just one game. It was also his 4th straight 100-yard rushing performance. Right now, Aaron Jones may be the hottest running back in the league.

Unfortunately, Jones runs into the 49ers defense, which has not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. Who wins out – Jones and his offensive line or the 49ers front 7 – remains to be seen, but the Niners being significant favorites does not bode so well for Jones getting 20 touches for the fifth straight game.

The stellar 49er defense has been average when it comes to holding down opposing wide receivers (14th most fantasy points allowed). In a game where the Packers may be throwing a lot, there are certainly opportunities here for any of Jayden Reed, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs to have a very productive day.

Reed - the Packer's rookie version of Deebo Samuel – led the Green Bay receives in yards from scrimmage (912) and total touchdowns (10) this year. Yet against Dallas he had no touches for first time all year. Watson also had a very quiet day last week, getting targeted only once and turning out just a nine-yard reception. Watson had scored at least one touchdown in each of the previous three weeks he played, and has shown himself to be a significant end zone threat so far in his career (12 touchdowns in 23 games played). Meanwhile, Doubs is coming off huge 6 reception, 151-yard, 1 TD performance, but he had just 1 target and no receptions only one week before.

The Packers wide receivers are developing, but the team is deeper at the position than they've been in recent years, and while any of Reed, Watson or Doubs could have a big day, they could also just as easily have a very quiet one. It’s wise to look at the Packers top 3 wideouts as boom or bust flex options, with Reed (due to his versatility) being the safest of the group. Watson was coming off an injury last week and only played 41% of snaps, but arguably has the highest ceiling of the trio.

Doubs is coming off a massive performance, but it’s the only 100-yard game of his career. Doubs is probably the odd man out for those fantasy managers combing the Packers roster for viable receiving options this week.

Fade: TE Luke Musgrave

2nd round selection Luke Musgrave has showed promise as a rookie tight end, with 352 receiving yards in 11 games and a 3-51-1 line against the Cowboys in the Wild Card round. Yet he only finished 29th at his position in fantasy points per game this year. He’ll also face a 49ers defense that allowed just 9.4 yards per reception and 3 touchdowns to tight ends this year. Facing the likes of Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, this has the ear markings of a low ceiling, low floor game for Musgrave, and there are better low big options on the DFS market this week.

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: RB Christian McCaffrey, TE George Kittle

Favorites: QB Brock Purdy, WR Deebo Samuel

Outside of the Ravens, no team has been able to solve the 49ers offense when all the parts are together. It’s unlikely that the Packers will change that story this week, and that is good news for Brock Purdy. While Green Bay has a strong secondary (assuming Jaire Alexander plays), the defensive unit on the whole is not as stellar. This is likely to be another game where SF limits Purdy’s throws, but with the 49ers once again leading in YAC yardage and controlling field position, it’s not likely to matter. Purdy is one of the very best options to turn to this week at QB and is surely worth the investment.

Meanwhile, Deebo Samuel faces one of the better secondary units. More broadly, the Packers defense has been somewhat tough on receivers (11th fewest fantasy points to the position), but star corner back Jaire Alexander is the key. He’s carrying an injury designation at the moment, but if he suits up, he will likely be per-occupied with Brandon Aiyuk for much of this game. This is especially due to Samuel’s unique ability to move all over the formation, including into the backfield (37 rushes 225 yards 5 rushing touchdowns).

Alexander’s preoccupation with Aiyuk and Samuel’s versatility should make the latter wideout the better fantasy option this weekend. Look at him as a low-end WR1 against the Packers.

On the Fence: WR Brandon Aiyuk

Aiyuk racked up 1324 receiving yards this season - a career high - and had a whopping seven 100+ yard receiving performances. His talent and productivity are not the least bit in doubt, but the big question is how much will he see of Jaire Alexander?

If Alexander suits up, the answer to that question should be “quite a bit”, and it was Alexander who stifled CeeDee Lamb until garbage time in the Packers stunning wipeout of the Cowboys on Wild Card weekend. That performance by Alexander included an interception, and it’s likely that Brock Purdy and the 49ers will feel no need to take risks towards the Packers top corner with so many other options to throw to.

All told, this makes starting Aiyuk a less decisive proposition than normal, and while he finished 14th in fantasy points per game at the position, he’s probably a risky flex this week.

Fade: N/A

Prediction: 49ers 31, Packers 20 ^ Top

Buccaneers @ Lions - (Mack)
Line: DET -6.5
Total: 49.5

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: WR Mike Evans

Favorites: QB Baker Mayfield, RB Rachaad White, WR Chris Godwin

Baker Mayfield is easily having the best stretch of his career. In his last six games, he has 13 TDs and only two INTs, finishing three of those games with more than 300 yards. He’s led the Bucs to a 6-2 record in the team’s last eight games, but only two of those games coming against playoff teams: Green Bay and the dysfunctional Philadelphia Eagles. But 6-2 in the NFL is 6-2, and we need to acknowledge that. The one weakness the Lions have is in the secondary. They give up the sixth most passing yards and surrender big plays seemingly every week. So, if Tampa is going to move the ball, it’ll be through the air.

Evans, of course, will lead in the passing game, complemented by the always reliable Chris Godwin. With Evans immersed in his longest scoreless streak of the season (three games), Godwin has picked up the slack by scoring in two of the last three contests. The Bucs should find success in the passing game this week, including a big play or two.

Meanwhile, Rachaad White will find yardage tough to come by going against the second-best team in stopping the run, but we should expect him to be a major factor in the passing game. It won’t surprise me if Mayfield has more than 40 attempts in this game, with White getting his fair share.

On the Fence: N/A

Fade: N/A

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: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

Favorites: QB Jared Goff, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, TE Sam LaPorta

Both teams struggle to stop the pass, so this should be an entertaining, high scoring affair. Tampa is the fourth worst at defending the pass while Detroit is the league’s second best passing offense. Goff is as efficient a QB that there is in the league, but his turnovers come in bunches. Of his 12 interceptions, seven came in only three games. If he can continue protecting the football, the Lions will be in a position to advance.

Tampa is stingy against the run, ranked fifth in the league in that category. So, like the Bucs, Detroit may find its best shot at moving the ball through the air, which favors Jahmyr Gibbs coming more than David Montgomery. Gibbs is every bit the dynamic playmaker the Lions hoped he’d be when they traded up in the draft to select him. He should continue paying dividends in this playoff showdown.

Sam LaPorta returned last week after it looked like his injury would keep him out for an extended period. While he didn’t seem to be his best, he scored a crucial TD on a fourth down play by the goal line. That’s the kind of potential LaPorta has, even at less than 100 percent. He’s now one more week removed from the knee issue and should be a bigger force in the game.

On the Fence: RB David Montgomery

As mentioned above, Tampa poses a significant obstacle when trying to run the ball on them. Over the last five games, they have held opponents to 91 yards rushing on average and given up just 1 TD to running backs. Montgomery is the thumper is Detroit running attack, and he seems poised to bear the brunt of Tampa’s stellar run defense.

Fade: N/A

Prediction: Lions 34, Buccaneers 27 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Bills - (Caron)
Line: BUF -3.0
Total: 45.5

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: QB Josh Allen

Josh Allen carried his fantasy football heroics from the regular season into the playoffs this past week as he threw three touchdowns while also adding 74 yards and a spectacular (albeit controversial) rushing score against the Steelers. While Pittsburgh has long been known for its defensive excellence, the truth is that the Bills face a much tougher matchup in the Divisional Round as they will be facing a Chiefs defense that is ranked in the top 10 most difficult matchups for both quarterbacks and running backs. This makes Allen a riskier option this week, especially given the potential for some adverse weather. Still, he’s just been too dominant to consider benching even in these more difficult matchups.

Allen only threw for 233 yards and a touchdown with an interception when these teams played back in Week 14. However, what allowed him to deliver for fantasy purposes - as it has throughout most of the season - is that he also rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown in that contest. Allen is a must-start in any matchup. Don’t get overly cute now and start playing the matchups instead of this stud QB.

On the Fence: RB James Cook

James Cook has been a frustrating player to project for fantasy purposes in large part because he has not proven to be the team’s primary goal line back, as quarterback Josh Allen has been so successful in that role. This has meant that Cook only managed to score two rushing touchdowns, while adding four as a receiver, despite touching the ball 282 times during the regular season. This continued in the Wild Card round as Cook rushed for 79 yards on 18 carries while adding four receptions in the passing game, but he failed to get into the end zone which left his final fantasy stat line lacking.

Cook ran the ball just 10 times against the Chiefs when these teams played back in December - a game that the Bills narrowly won by a field goal - but he contributed five receptions for 83 yards in the passing game. That tied the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce for the most in that game among both teams. Unfortunately, Cook has seen a dip in his passing game production since that contest, as he has compiled just 59 receiving yards over his past five games since that matchup with the Chiefs. His overall usage remains strong, but Cook’s lack of touchdown upside and his ever-fluctuating passing game usage make him a risky option this week.

Fade: WR Stefon Diggs

Stefon Diggs’ second-half-of-the-season struggles continued into the playoffs as the former Pro Bowler caught seven of his nine targets for just 52 yards and no touchdown. Diggs hasn’t reached 100 yards in a game in over three months and he’s scored just three touchdowns over his past 12 games, including the playoff matchup with the Steelers a week ago. His overall usage has remained fairly strong, but it’s also worth noting that he’s averaging fewer than eight targets per game over his past 10 games, whereas he had been averaging over 11 targets per game through the Bills’ first six contests.

Certainly, Diggs can still be a fantasy contributor but the potential weather and his recent lack of explosive games make him more of a “safe” option rather than one who can really put your team over the edge.

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: TE Travis Kelce

Favorites: WR Rashee Rice

While no player can truly “replace” Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs seem to have finally found their new WR1 in rookie Rashee Rice. Rice has been excellent down the stretch this season, having reached 14 or more fantasy points in seven of his past eight games, including the Chiefs’ Wild Card victory over the Dolphins. Rice led the team in targets (12), receptions (eight), yards (130), and scored the team’s only receiving touchdown in the win. No other Kansas City wide receiver saw more than three targets in the game.

Rice now faces a Buffalo defense that has been great against opposing receivers this season, but one that he found some success against when these teams played in Week 14. Rice was targeted 10 times in that contest, catching seven of those passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. He’s a safe bet to see a 25 percent target share and that’s always something we want to take advantage of, especially when those passes are coming from Patrick Mahomes.

On the Fence: QB Patrick Mahomes

It seems almost insane to think that Patrick Mahomes could find himself as anything other than a “No Brainer,” or at least a “Favorite” in this article, but if you remove the name and just look at the recent production, there hasn’t been a ton to be excited about from this All-World quarterback down the stretch. Mahomes hasn’t really had any truly terrible performances this season, but he’s been held under 300 yards in nine of his past 10 games and he’s thrown just 13 touchdown passes over that stretch. Worse yet, he didn’t rush for a single touchdown all season long and he’s only exceeded 40 rushing yards in three contests this season. His limited rushing upside and the Chiefs’ overall struggles in the passing game have led Mahomes to be more of a low-end QB1 than the high-end QB1 we’ve become accustomed to.

He’s a reliable option who is very unlikely to truly tank your team - and he always has the upside to go nuclear - but Mahomes is not delivering at the rate of some of the other top quarterbacks who are still playing this weekend.

Fade: RB Isiah Pacheco

The Chiefs got out to an early lead and ended up leaning heavily on their running game in what was a bad weather game against the Dolphins this past week. This meant that Isiah Pacheco carried the ball an impressive 24 times - a season-high for the second-year running back. Even with that impressive workload that resulted in a rushing touchdown, though, Pacheco finished with just 15.8 fantasy points. Of course, that’s a fine number, but we also have to consider that if he had failed to score a touchdown then we’d be looking at a mediocre fantasy day. Pacheco has been able to make that happen quite often this season, but the Bills have also been fairly stingy against opposing running backs during the second half of the season. In fact, no running back has reached 100 rushing yards or scored more than one touchdown against them in any of their past 12 games.

Pacheco is the kind of player who could contribute another 12-to-16-point fantasy day if he’s able to get into the end zone, but he’s also a risk of completely dudding if the Chiefs fall behind on the scoreboard. This makes him a riskier-than-usual option as the Bills remain one of the league’s best offenses, capable of running away with a game if the Chiefs stumble out of the gate.

Prediction: Bills 24, Chiefs 20 ^ Top