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Inside the Matchup
Wildcard Weekend

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Justin Bales





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

Colts vs Texans - (Bales)
Line: HOU -1.0
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The Texans pass defense has been struggling recently, ranking 27th in the NFL in passing yards allowed (260.0) in 2018. They have also allowed 28 passing touchdowns, while recording 15 interceptions. Andrew Luck has been enjoying an elite season, averaging 287.1 yards and 2.4 touchdowns on 39.9 pass attempts per game. He has also dominated the Texans, totaling 863 yards and six touchdowns in only two games… two of his best games this season. Luck could be throwing for all four quarters as this game is expected to stay close throughout, and features the highest implied total on the slate.

T.Y. Hilton has been an elite option, averaging 5.4 receptions for 90.7 yards and 0.4 touchdowns on 8.6 targets per game. Similarly to Luck, he has found plenty of success in two games against Houston, totaling 13 receptions for 314 yards, although he has yet to find a touchdown against them. Dontrelle Inman has also found success over the last two weeks, averaging a 4.5 / 61.5 / 1.0 line on 5.5 targets per game, although he has been inconsistent with low volume in most weeks. Eric Ebron has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL, averaging 4.1 receptions for 46.9 yards and 0.8 touchdowns on 6.9 targets per game. He has also totaled a 9 / 105 / 2 line on 18 targets against Houston this season. Chester Rogers will also see snaps this week but he has been far too inconsistent to consider.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: Marlon Mack has quietly been enjoying a great season (when healthy), averaging 75.7 yards and 0.8 touchdowns on 16.3 carries through 12 games. He has only played one game against Houston, rushing for only 33 yards on 14 carries, although he was able to find the end zone. Nyheim Hines has flashed receiving upside, but he has struggled to consistently produce with Mack healthy. This isn’t a situation to consider him. Houston has featured one of the best run defenses in the NFL, allowing only 82.7 rushing yards per game. They have also allowed only eight rushing touchdowns per game, and Indianapolis will likely need to utilize their passing attack if they want to win this game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Andrew Luck (high-end)
RB2: Marlon Mack (low-end)
WR1: T.Y. Hilton
TE1: Eric Ebron (high-end)
Flex: Dontrelle Inman (high-risk)

Passing Game Thoughts: Deshaun Watson has looked outstanding in 2018, averaging 260.3 yards and 1.6 touchdowns on 31.6 pass attempts per game. Waston also comes with rushing potential, as he’s averaging 34.4 yards and 0.3 touchdowns per game on the ground. He’s also averaging 321.0 yards and 1.5 touchdowns through the air and 38.0 yards and 0.5 touchdowns on the ground in his two games against the Colts. On the season, Indianapolis is only allowing 238.0 passing yards per game. They have also held their opponents to 21 passing touchdowns, while recording 15 interceptions.

DeAndre Hopkins has been one of the best receivers in the NFL throughout 2018, averaging 7.2 receptions for 98.3 yards and 0.7 touchdowns on 10.2 targets per game. He has also totaled 14 receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns on 22 targets in two games against the Colts. Keke Coutee is expected to return to the lineup this week, meaning DeAndre Carter will likely slide back into a reserve role. They have three tight ends playing snaps, limiting the consistency and upside of each player. Even though Indianapolis has struggled against the tight end, none of the three should be considered in this game.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: The Colts have performed well against the run, allowing only 101.6 rushing yards per game. They have also only allowed 12 rushing touchdowns this season. Lamar Miller has been the workhorse for Houston when healthy, averaging 69.5 yards and 0.4 touchdowns on 15.0 carries in 14 games, although he was injured in one of those games. Alfred Blue and D’Onta Foreman (inactive last week) could potentially back him up, although neither will see a major role. Foreman very well could be inactive for this game, although he won’t come with value even if he is active.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson (low-end)
RB2: Lamar Miller (low-end)
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins (elite)
WR3: Keke Coutee

Prediction: Colts 24, Texans 21 ^ Top

Seahawks at Cowboys - (Katz)
Line: DAL -2.0
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Russell Wilson just had one of the strangest seasons in recent memory. He attempted just 427 passes, the fewest in the league among quarterbacks that made at least 14 starts. Despite the low volume, he threw 35 touchdown passes, which amounts to a touchdown on 8.2% of his throws. That is unsustainable efficiency that Wilson managed to sustain throughout the entire season.

When he last played the Cowboys in Seattle, he threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns. However, this is a very different Cowboys defense and this game is in Dallas. Tyler Lockett joined Wilson in having an absurdly efficient year, becoming the 26th receiver since 2000 to post 10 touchdowns with fewer than 1,000 receiving yards. Doug Baldwin did not play against Dallas the first time and has been an unreliable fantasy option all season, failing to exceed 52 receiving yards in nine of his 13 games played. Cowboys shutdown corner, Byron Jones, will likely see more of Lockett than Baldwin, which means Lockett will need a splash play to produce. Both of these teams like to establish the run, which will keep volume down. This shapes up as a lower scoring game, which his not great for your playoff fantasy roster.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Carson, he of the “running backs don’t matter” fold, rattled off 1151 yards on 247 carries, while adding nine scores this season. He actually had his worst game of the season against Dallas, which is not obvious when you see that he rushed for 102 yards, but more apparent when you realize it took him a season-high 32 carries to get there. That won’t happen again. The Cowboys allow just 3.8 yards per carry and have been even better since Leighton Vander Esch took over at linebacker. Mike Davis will work in on passing downs, and Rashaad Penny will also be available for a handful of carries making Carson an unappealing option.

Value Meter:
QB2: Russell Wilson
RB3: Chris Carson
WR3: Doug Baldwin
WR3: Tyler Lockett

Passing Game Thoughts: I don’t want to say it was a tale of two halves for Dak Prescott, but he certainly performed better over the second half of the season as the Cowboys started throwing more on first down and really opening up the offense following the arrival of Amari Cooper. Prescott had his worst game of the season against Seattle, completing a season low 55% of his passes and throwing two interceptions. Prescott only threw the ball to the wrong team eight times all season. Cooper has been very boom/bust, even with Dallas, but he’s had a slightly higher floor than he did in Oakland. The Cowboys would be best served throwing against the Seahawks, as they ranked 25th this season against opposing WR1s, allowing 78.9 receiving yards per game. Beyond Cooper, there’s not much here in the passing game. Those looking to be super contrarian in playoff leagues may consider tight end Blake Jarwin, who is coming off a three touchdown game, but that is in all likelihood, a fluke. Cole Beasley and Michael Gallup aren’t consistent enough to be considered.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 16 times for 127 yards in the Cowboys loss to Seattle back in Week 3. With this game in Dallas and the Cowboys wanting to establish the run, they will feed Zeke, who should be well rested after not playing Week 17. The Seahawks have been dreadful against pass catching running backs, allowing the third most fantasy points to RBs through the air. With every game potentially a team’s last, there is no such thing as too much volume. Zeke may touch the ball 30 times if he needs to. He’s the top running back in the first round slate.

Value Meter:
QB2: Dak Prescott
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott
WR3: Amari Cooper
TE2: Blake Jarwin

Prediction: Cowboys 23, Seahawks 19 ^ Top

Chargers @ Ravens - (Caron)
Line: BAL -3.0
Total: 42.0

Passing Game Thoughts: While he finished the season as a fantasy QB1 yet again, there has to be serious concern about Philip Rivers heading into this opening round playoff game against the Ravens. The Chargers and Ravens matched up just two weeks ago when Rivers had his worst game of the season as he was held without a touchdown for the only time during the 2018 regular season and he added two interceptions while throwing for just 181 yards. The Ravens defense dominated the Chargers’ offense, holding them to just 10 points on the day. The only player in the Los Angeles passing game who did anything of note was wide receiver Keenan Allen who caught five passes for 58 yards - nothing special, but at least a fantasy performance that wasn’t completely useless like the ones turned in by Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates and Virgil Green, who were all held to fewer than 25 yards receiving. While we have to expect that the Chargers will have studied the film heavily and have some new looks for the Ravens, there’s still a lot to worry about for this matchup, so it’s probably best to avoid everyone other than Allen whose volume is strong enough to be productive in most matchups.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: The Chargers passing game was humiliated in Week 16 against the Ravens, but their running game wasn’t much better. Melvin Gordon saved his fantasy day by getting into the end zone for Los Angeles’ only touchdown of the day, but otherwise had a concerning fantasy performance, rushing for just 41 yards on 12 carries while adding three catches for 13 yards. One other thing to note from the previous Chargers-Ravens game is that Austin Ekeler missed that game which led to additional playing time for Justin Jackson, who led the team with seven receptions for 47 yards despite getting just one carry in the game. Jackson could be a sneaky Flex play if Ekeler sits, so keep an eye on that situation. Either way, it’ll be Melvin Gordon leading the way in the Chargers backfield and his volume and skill makes him a RB1 despite his struggles against the Ravens a couple of weeks ago.

Value Meter:
RB1: Melvin Gordon
WR1: Keenan Allen (low end)
Flex: Justin Jackson (PPR only if Austin Ekeler is out)
Bench: Philip Rivers, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates, Virgil Green

Passing Game Thoughts: The passing game in Baltimore continues to be practically nonexistent since Lamar Jackson took over behind center, but Jackson himself remains one of the most consistent mid-to-low-level QB1s in fantasy as he continues to deliver big time production as a runner while still making occasional plays in the passing game. Jackson has thrown for between 125 to 204 yards in all seven of his starts, throwing a total of just five touchdowns during that span, but he’s averaging nearly 80 yards rushing per game and he’s added four rushing touchdowns. The rushing ability of Jackson gives him a nice floor and while he doesn’t have a huge ceiling as a passer, we saw in Week 17 against the Browns that he can get into end zone as a runner multiple times per game and that does make him a threat to have a huge game at any time.

Unfortunately, his receivers continue to be practically useless. The only pass catchers in Baltimore who should be given serious consideration for fantasy are wide receiver Willie Snead and tight end Mark Andrews. Snead is the only Baltimore wide receiver who has caught more than three passes in a game since Jackson took over - and he’s done it three times, with five catches in each of those three games. That’s still not much so don’t be too excited about him, but you could do worse in DFS formats if you’re looking for a low-priced option. For Andrews, he’s been the Ravens’ leading receiver in yardage since Jackson stepped in with over 300 yards receiving in the seven games with Jackson at QB. Like Snead, he’s not a high-end option, but he’s a decent fill-in player if you’re looking for a cheap option in DFS. He did catch a touchdown against this Chargers defense in Week 16.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: The running game in Baltimore continues to be the base of the offense as Lamar Jackson’s presence on the field opens up additional running lanes for his backs that would otherwise not likely be there with a more traditional quarterback like Joe Flacco. The Ravens have essentially gone to a two-back system down the stretch, leaning most heavily on Gus Edwards who has taken at least 12 carries in all seven games since the Ravens’ bye week. Edwards has not been held to fewer than 75 rushing yards in any game while he’s gone over 100 yards in three separate contests. He nearly cracked 100 on the ground against the Chargers when these teams played in Week 16, but he was also able to secure his only reception since Week 8, a 13-yard catch which brought him to 105 total yards against Los Angeles in that contest.

The other back Baltimore has been utilizing is veteran Kenneth Dixon, who has primarily functioned as a change-of-pace back for the Ravens, rushing the ball between eight to 12 times in each of the final five regular season games for Baltimore. Dixon ran the ball 12 times in Week 17’s game against the Browns for 117 yards, outscoring Edwards for the second time in the past five weeks. Dixon is a much more refined pass catcher than Edwards, so there’s some upside there, but it’s worth noting that the Ravens offense hasn’t passed the ball much to backs with Jackson behind center, likely due to the play calling being more focused on getting the ball to the backs quickly rather than on delayed screen passes. Still, Dixon is a usable fantasy asset as a Flex this week while Edwards is an RB2 in PPR formats and possibly even a borderline RB1 in standard scoring leagues.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson
RB1: Gus Edwards (non-PPR)
RB2: Gus Edwards (PPR)
TE1: Mark Andrews (low-end)
Flex: Kenneth Dixon, Willie Snead (low-end, PPR only)
Bench: Ty Montgomery, Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Hayden Hurst, Maxx Williams

Prediction: Ravens 23, Chargers 20 ^ Top

Eagles @ Bears - (Swanson)
Line: CHI -6.5
Total: 41.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles snuck into the playoffs after the Vikings were unable to beat the Bears at home last week to secure that final NFC Wild Card slot. The Eagles took care of their business with a decisive win over the Redskins and benefitted from the Bears taking it to the Vikings last week at US Bank Stadium. Now, Nick Foles and the defending champs will need to defeat the vaunted Chicago defense to survive and advance.

This year’s version of the Eagles offense is nowhere near as explosive as the No.14 ranked offense that hoisted the Lombardi trophy last February. While the Eagles pass offense is still potent and enters that playoffs ranked seventh in total yards, the ground game that made Philadelphia so difficult to defend last season ranks 28th in total yards after an injury-filled 2018 campaign.

The health of Foles will be a significant factor with regards to the effectiveness of the Eagles offense and their ability to upset the Bears at Soldier Field. After tying Philip Rivers for the NFL record of 25 connective completions in a game, Foles suffered what the team is calling a chest injury and was not able to return to the field late against the Redskins. Head coach Doug Pederson told reporters this week that Foles will be ready to go against Chicago, but it remains to be seen how the injury will affect Foles and his ability to throw the ball.

A matchup to watch in this game will be the ability of the front four of the Bears defense to get pressure on Foles and disrupt the passing game. The Bears rank in the lower half of the league in blitzing, with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio using pressure from the defensive line of Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks, and Khalil Mack to get pressure without leaving the secondary vulnerable.

Philadelphia ranks 16th in sacks allowed at 2.5 per game, with stud tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson outside and pro bowl center Jason Kelce working against Hicks in the middle of the line. The battle between these elite pass rushers and offensive linemen will be where the game is won and lost this weekend.

The health of stud safety Eddie Jackson is something to watch as well, as the pro bowl defensive back missed last week’s game with an ankle injury sustained two weeks ago while picking off a pass by Aaron Rodgers. The second-year safety from the University of Alabama filled the stat sheet this season with six interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. He is currently listed as questionable, and his status is unclear right now.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: A big reason why the Eagles struggled the move the ball this season as compared to 2017 was the lack of production at the running back position. An early season-ending ACL injury to Jay Ajayi took away the big back from Pederson’s stable of backs, while Corey Clement, one of the heroes of the Super Bowl, missed the final eight weeks of the season with a hamstring and was not overly effective before being placed on IR.

Rookie Josh Adams has flashed some brilliance at times and Darren Sproles’ return late in the season from the IR-return list gave Pederson’s team a shot in the arm. The two players, along with Wendell Smallwood, will be tasked with running the ball against a Bears defense that ranked first in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (80).

Look for Sproles and Smallwood to find more success that Adams based on their ability in the receiving game. Running the ball up the middle against Hicks and nose tackle Eddie Goldman has proven to be an exercise in futility, while the linebacking corps led by Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith is plenty fast to play sideline to sideline, limiting outside zone runs. The Eagles will use Sproles and Smallwood in the passing game on screens to help mitigate the pass rush by Mack and Floyd.

Value Meter:
QB1: Nick Foles (Mid-Range)
RB2: Darren Sproles (Low-End)
RB3: Josh Adams (Low-End)
WR2: Alshon Jeffery (Low-End)
WR4: Nelson Agholor (Low-End)
TE1: Zach Ertz (Elite)

Passing Game Thoughts: Mitchell Trubisky made excellent progress in his second NFL season, with 3223 passing yards and 24 passing touchdowns to finish as the No.11 fantasy quarterback. The addition of Matt Nagy as head coach proved to be exactly what Trubisky needed to set career marks across the board, including passing yards, touchdowns, completions, and rushing yards. Perhaps the most impressive stat and the one that shows the maturity of Trubisky as a passer is his 66% completion percentage - a full 7% jump from a season ago.

In addition to bringing in an offensive-minded head coach who succeeded in getting the most out of the skill set of Trubisky, the Chicago front office came through with a collection of skill position players to surround Trubisky with enough talent to succeed. Now it is up to Trubisky to prove that the regular season was not a fluke and he is ready to lead the Bears to their first playoff win since 2010.

Like the Bears, the strength of the Eagles defense is up front with the defensive line of Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata, Michael Bennett, and Brandon Graham. This game boasts arguably the two best defensive lines in the National Football League, with the Eagles garnering a slight advantage over their opponent based on their depth.

The Bears received a shot in the arm of their offensive line with the return of guard Kyle Long from injured reserve. Long logged 29 snaps last week against the Vikings and should be a full go this week against the Eagles.

Starting wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller are banged up and are questionable for the game. Robinson missed last week with a rib injury, while Miller left the game after sustaining yet another shouldering injury. The former appears to be more of a lock to play, while the latter could be a game-time decision.

From a defensive standpoint, it is a surprise that the Eagles managed to make the playoffs after sustaining so many key injuries in their secondary. Philadelphia lost Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Rodney McLeod to various injuries, and will line up Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, and rookie Avonte Maddox against Chicago.

Only the Chiefs allowed more passing yards this season than the Eagles, and Philadelphia allowed the 9th-most points to opposing quarterbacks. This is where the Bears need to focus their attack, and Mitchell Trubisky will need to find success moving the ball against the Eagles in the air.

A wildcard in this game is rookie Javon Wims, a 6’4” wideout from Georgia who caught four passes for 32 yards last week against the Vikings. If Robinson is limited and Miller is unable to go, look for Wims to be used more in the passing game, especially in the red zone and with contested catches against the smaller Eagles secondary.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Despite the frustrations of Jordan Howard owners, the Bears were actually very strong running the ball this season, finishing the year as the 8th-ranked unit in fantasy points scored at the position. Howard failed to reach 1000 rushing yards for the first time in his career, but he did post nine rushing touchdowns, including four in his final three games.

Tarik Cohen finished 2018 with 10.3 fantasy points per game as the No.26 ranked running back, just ahead of fellow backfield mate Howard. Cohen thrived in Nagy’s offense as both a running back and receiver, with 71 receptions for 725 yards and five receiving touchdowns. Only Christian McCaffrey and James White managed to score more receiving TDs than Cohen this season.

The return of guard Kyle Long will be a boost for the running game and Jordan Howard, as Long is one of the better run-blocking interior offensive linemen in the league.

A matchup to watch will be Cohen’s usage in the passing game. The Eagles were stout against the run this year, allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs. But only the Falcons allowed more receptions to running backs that the Eagles, and Nagy and the Bears coaching staff will undoubtedly look to exploit that weakness.

Value Meter:
QB1: Mitchell Trubisky (Mid-Range)
RB1: Tarik Cohen (Low-End)
RB2: Jordan Howard (High-End)
WR2: Allen Robinson (Low-End)
WR4: Taylor Gabriel (High-End)
TE1: Trey Burton (Low-End)

Prediction: Bears 21, Eagles 17 ^ Top