- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)
Colts at Bills
- (Katz) Line: BUF -6.0 Total: 51.5
Game Thoughts: There was a nice stretch of time during
the regular season where Philip Rivers was a streamable option.
He tailed off considerably to close out the season, posting finishes
of QB19, QB25, and QB29. The Bills allowed 19 fantasy points per
game this season to quarterbacks, but over four of those points
came via quarterback rushing stats. Rivers is not providing any
After a three game stretch with a WR2 and two WR1 finishes, T.Y.
Hilton went back to being mostly an afterthought. Hilton hit double
digit fantasy points just six times this season and will likely
draw Tre’Davious White this weekend. The Bills are strong
against defending wide receivers, but even stronger against the
slot, where they allowed just 11.5 fantasy points per game. Not
that you were considering it, but Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman
are not options in DFS or playoff leagues.
With Mo Alie-Cox, Jack Doyle, and Trey Burton splitting snaps,
all three are nowhere near fantasy relevance. Regardless of what
fantasy playoff format you’re playing, the only member of
this passing attack even worth consideration is Hilton, but there
are almost certainly better options.
BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7
Running Game Thoughts: The real value on the Colts this week
is Jonathan Taylor, who ended the regular season so scorching
hot that he will likely end up as a top five pick in 2021 fantasy
drafts. The Bills are average against the run, which is enough
for me to be all in on Taylor. He scored eight touchdowns over
his final five games and finished no worse than a high RB2 with
four RB1 finishes. Taylor played a season high 84% of the snaps
in the team’s final game. In a playoff matchup, Frank Reich
has no reason to hold Taylor back at all. With that being said,
negative game script could result in more Nyheim Hines. Taylor
makes for a great contrarian play in full length playoff leagues,
but expect him to be near universally chosen in one and done formats.
Game Thoughts: On the other side of the field is the
breakout player of the season, Josh Allen. What Allen has done
this season is nothing short of incredible. The Colts allow just
18 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, but Allen is matchup
proof. He is the Bills offense. Allen was the overall QB2 in fantasy
semi-finals and the QB1 in finals. With the Chiefs and Ravens
likely the chalkiest picks in the AFC, going heavy on Bills is
a great way to differentiate your lineup and it starts with Allen,
but continues with the most valuable fantasy wide receiver of
2020, Stefon Diggs.
Yes, Diggs was more valuable than Davante Adams because Diggs
didn’t cost you a first round pick. Diggs’ three game
run in the 2020 fantasy playoffs was historic with at least nine
catches and 130 yards in each game. The Colts allow 21 fantasy
points per game to outside wide receivers, but expect Diggs to
overcome a below average matchup because he can’t be covered.
Cole Beasley is a tough mystery to crack when it comes to full
length playoff rosters as he is questionable to play this week,
but you will want as many Bills as you can if you’re going
all in on a Bills super bowl appearance. With the Bills so frequently
in three receiver sets, Gabriel Davis has been running a lot of
routes. Unfortunately for him, the targets haven’t followed.
With there being so few trustworthy tight ends, Dawson Knox is
worth at least a mention. He has at least four targets in five
straight games, but there aren’t many formats where he’d
be worth using.
IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27
Running Game Thoughts: As much as we want to be invested in the
Bills’ passing game is as much as we don’t care about
the running game. Devin Singletary is a replacement level running
back and Zack Moss is slightly below replacement level. They’ve
been splitting snaps right down the middle with neither used intentionally
in the passing game. In fact, the best I’ve seen any Bills’
running back look was Antonio Williams in the second half of last
week’s win over the Dolphins, but I doubt he’s going
to get an extended look in a playoff game. Neither Moss or Singletary
finished as even an RB3 and the Colts are one of the better run
defenses in the league. You can safely ignore Moss and Singletary.
Rams at Seahawks
- (Caron) Line: SEA -3.5 Total: 42.5
Game Thoughts: The world learned about Rams backup quarterback
John Wolford this past week when he made his NFL debut against
the Cardinals. Wolford played in place of regular starter Jared
Goff who may again be unavailable this week, leading the way for
Wolford to start again in the Rams’ wild card weekend game
against the Seahawks.
Wolford was not particularly effective as a passer in Week 17,
throwing for just 231 yards and no touchdowns with an interception
on 38 pass attempts. However, where he was surprisingly useful
was as a runner as he ran for 56 yards on six carries. While he’s
not Kyler Murray, Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson, Wolford does bring
athleticism to the position that cannot be found with Goff. He’s
someone who can also provide some floor from a fantasy standpoint
due to his rushing ability and he didn’t appear to be completely
incompetent as a passer.
If Wolford is behind center, however, we would need to temper
our expectations a bit for the Rams pass catchers as the team
is just not as likely to lean on their passing game with a QB
who is on just his second professional start. We saw Robert Woods
targeted just seven times in Week 17 as he caught four of those
passes for 36 yards and no touchdowns - his worst PPR fantasy
performance since Week 7. Tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett
had just 41 and 25 yards receiving respectively in Week 17, although
it’s worth noting that Everett was targeted seven times
on the day, tying his second-highest number this season.
The player who’s perhaps most interesting in this offense,
though, is wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Kupp missed the Rams’
Week 17 game as he was on the COVID-IR list, but he has now come
off the list and is expected to play this weekend. Wolford appears
more comfortable throwing short-to-intermediate passes so Kupp
could benefit significantly from that with a higher-than-usual
If Goff is available, of course, we have a better idea of what
the Rams offense will be, at least from a passing standpoint.
We know that Woods and Kupp see one of the strongest target shares
of any wide receiver duo in the league and thus their production
is pretty consistent and useful for fantasy. Goff’s own
upside, however, is a bit limited. He’s reached 20 fantasy
points just five times this season and exceeded 25 points just
once. He struggled against Seattle in both games he played against
them this season, failing to throw a touchdown pass in either
contest. The Seahawks were among the very worst pass defenses
in recent memory through the first half of the season, but they
really started to put things together in the second half of the
season. They haven’t allowed more than two passing touchdowns
in any game since all the way back in Week 9. Don’t be tricked
by Seattle’s overall season numbers against opposing quarterbacks
as they are not the same unit that gave up historically bad numbers
early in the year.
SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24
Running Game Thoughts: Cam Akers missed the Rams’ Week 16
game against Seattle but returned to his workhorse role in Week
17 as he carried the ball 21 times while adding four receptions
against the Cardinals. While he was incredibly inefficient with
his rushing attempts, part of that was likely due to Arizona focusing
more attention on the running game due to Los Angeles starting
a quarterback who had never taken a regular season NFL snap.
That could be the case again here in the wild card as the Rams
still have not named a starting quarterback. For Akers’
fantasy sake, we should be hoping that Goff is able to play as
while he has his own limitations, he’s at least proven to
be a reasonably effective NFL quarterback. That will force the
Seahawks to at least respect the passing game which should open
things up for Akers.
Even if it is Wolford, though, Akers is a decent fantasy option
this week. He’s effectively operating in a full bell cow
role now that Darrell Henderson is on the IR, so his floor is
probably around 15 touches. There are plenty of good backs available
this weekend, however, so don’t go too overboard on Akers
who may end up being the focal point for the Seattle defense.
The Seahawks have only given up two 100-yard rushers all season
and they held the Rams backfield in check both times they played
against them this season.
Game Thoughts: After starting the 2020 season by scoring
at least 25 standard-scoring fantasy points in five of his first
six games, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson reached that number
just once in his final ten starts of the season. The dramatic
drop off in passing game efficiency and fantasy scoring is something
that those paying attention have certainly noticed, but the fantasy
community as a whole still seems to believe that Wilson is performing
at an elite level. That simply hasn’t been the case, though,
and it certainly wasn’t the case when he played his two
regular season games against the Rams this season. Wilson failed
to throw for even 250 yards in either of those games and he threw
just one total touchdown pass in the two games, while throwing
two interceptions. In fact, his fantasy numbers would’ve
been a disaster in both games if he hadn’t added 69 rushing
yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Wilson now faces this same Rams defense - one that might very
well be the best in the entire playoffs - again on wild card weekend.
We know that the Seahawks and Rams split their regular season
series so this is really either team’s game and there’s
a real possibility that the Seahawks, again, end up struggling
on the offensive side of the ball. We’re working with a
limited player pool in the playoffs so it’s probably time
to just call Wilson a QB2 - at least in this matchup.
From a receiver standpoint, the only players who we should really
have any interest in with the Seahawks are DK Metcalf and Tyler
Lockett. Metcalf was shadowed by cornerback Jalen Ramsey for much
of the game in both of the Seahawks’ matchups and that certainly
didn’t do him any favors as he was held to just eight total
catches for 87 yards and no touchdowns in those two contests.
While Metcalf has other-worldly athleticism that could spring
him free against really any defender, Ramsey is one of the league’s
best and has seemed to have Metcalf’s number this season.
Because of this, Metcalf moves down from being a weekly WR1 to
a WR2 for this playoff contest.
Lockett also struggled to find much room in his matchups against
the Rams as he caught just eight passes for 110 total yards and
no touchdowns against LA. Lockett, in fact, has been quite poor
through the second half of the season, having finished with fewer
than 12 PPR fantasy points in seven of his final 10 games. He
did step it up in a huge way in Week 17 when he caught 12 passes
on 14 targets for 90 yards and two scores. That game, however,
almost seemed to have a gameplan centered around Lockett to the
magical 100-reception mark for the year. It took the 14-target
day to get him there despite the fact that he had seen no more
than nine targets in any game since Week 7. Certainly it’s
a possibility that Seattle decided to get Lockett more involved
because they’ve realized how underutilized he’s been
as of late, but it seems more likely that they were just exploiting
a specific mismatch they found or simply trying to get Lockett
his counting stats for the year. Given that, we’ll still
look at Lockett as a WR3/Flex for this week’s game against
LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21
Running Game Thoughts: Running back Carlos Hyde is expected to
be back after missing the Seahawks’ Week 17 game, but the
truth is that the Seattle backfield is still centered around Chris
Carson. Carson has been the team’s lead back since returning
from injury and while his overall touch numbers are certainly
down this season, he’s still the only player we should have
any interest in within this backfield.
Carson carried the ball 16 times against the Rams when these teams
played in Week 16 and while he barely produced over three yards
per, he was a key part in the team’s gameplan in a game
they won by 11 points. The Rams are an excellent overall defense,
but the Seahawks are often frustratingly committed to their running
game, even when it’s not effective on a per-carry basis,
and that often leads to goal line opportunities for Carson. He
can have a low per-carry average and still produce useful enough
fantasy numbers to be looked at as an RB2 this week.
Bucs at Football
Team - (Katz) Line: TB -8.0 Total: 44.5
Game Thoughts: It feels like Tom Brady threw the quietest
40 touchdowns in recent memory this season. The Football Team
only allowed 16 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, but it
just feels like Brady is poised to prove a point in this opening
round salvo. The biggest question entering this Saturday is whether
he will be without his top wide receiver. Mike Evans hyperextended
his knee and was unable to practice this week. It seems likely
the Bucs can beat Washington without Evans, but this is still
a playoff game and you have to imagine if there ever were a time
to push a player to play at less than 100%, it’s in the
playoffs. If Evans is out there and isn’t limited, he’s
the best option in this passing game.
As for Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, they are both had strong
finishes to the season. All three Bucs receivers are legitimate
options to select in full length playoff formats and the Bucs
as a whole are a good contrarian choice against the chalk that
will be the Packers and Saints. AB closed out the season with
11 receptions on 14 targets for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
He may not be the best receiver in the NFL anymore, but he is
far from done and looks every bit like he can still be an elite
WR1 if given the volume. That very well may happen if Evans has
to miss this week’s game.
Lastly, we have Rob Gronkowski. The options at tight end are
limited, but Gronk isn’t really in play. He hasn’t
caught more than three balls since Week 12 and has seen an unreliable
snap count. Washington allows about 11 fantasy points per game
to tight ends. I would not trust Gronk this week, but I would
put him on a playoff roster if I was going all in on Bucs.
WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23
Running Game Thoughts: Ronald Jones returned from a two game
Covid hiatus and immediately out-snapped Leonard Fournette. Jones
is a must on a full length playoff league roster going all in
on Bucs, but a shaky start this week against a defense that allows
just over 11 fantasy points per game to running backs via rushing.
Jones is simply a nonfactor in the passing game. He wasn’t
targeted at all last week and the last time he caught more than
one pass in a game was back in Week 9. Fournette did still play
45% of the snaps, but he only touched the ball seven times. If
game script turned against the Bucs, Fournette could be slightly
intriguing, but that’s not going to happen this week. The
reality is Fournette needs a RoJo injury to have any real value.
Game Thoughts: Alex Smith returned to action last week
and looked relatively healthy – certainly healthy enough
to start this week as Washington doesn’t have a real alternative
here. Smith is obviously not a fantasy option, but Terry McLaurin
is. The Bucs are a pass funnel defense and with expected negative
game script, even at less than 100%, McLaurin is a great option
for those in one and done playoff leagues as he could have a big
game in a loss.
The Bucs allow just about 23 fantasy points per game to outside
wide receivers. The two Simses are not on the fantasy radar despite
Cam Sims playing 100% of the snaps the past two games. Steven
Sims only plays in three receiver sets. The real gem on the Football
Team’s passing attack is Logan Thomas, who is this year’s
true breakout tight end. Thomas has hit double digit fantasy points
in six straight games. He is the top tight end pick this week
in one and done formats, but only a worthwhile pick in full playoff
formats if you think Washington is winning this game.
TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10
Running Game Thoughts: One area where the Bucs have been vulnerable
this season is defending receiving running backs. They allow about
12 fantasy points per game to running backs via receiving. With
negative game script likely, J.D. McKissic could end up being
a better play than Antonio Gibson. McKissic played just 44% of
the snaps last week, his lowest since Week 12, but he’s
been targeted eight, 10, and 10 times over his past three games.
Gibson is clearly the primary rusher and goal line back, but the
score may force more McKissic this week. The Bucs are an elite
run defense and allowed under nine fantasy points per game to
running backs via rushing. As much as I like Gibson as a player,
he is not an option in playoff leagues of any format this week.
McKissic is a contrarian play in one and one formats, but he’s
just not good enough for anything else.
Ravens @ Titans
- (Swanson) Line: BAL -3.5 Total: 55.0
Game Thoughts: Lamar Jackson and the Ravens head to Nashville
with revenge on their minds, looking to avenge a loss to Mike
Vrabel, Ryan Tannehill, and Derrick Henry in the 2019 playoffs.
Lamar Jackson passed for 365 yards and a score and rushed for
143 yards on 20 carries in the matchup last season, but made numerous
mistakes including, two interceptions in the 28-12 loss. He should
have far more success this season against a Titans defense that
is far worse against both the pass and the run as they were in
The Titans ended the regular season giving up the fourth-most
points to opposing quarterbacks, with seven different quarterbacks
topping 25 or more fantasy points. Six other quarterbacks threw
from three or more touchdowns, and six opponents topped 300 yards.
Jackson himself posted a modest 186 yards and 51 rushing yards
and one passing touchdown when the two teams faced off this season
in Week 11. Since that game, Jackson has posted no fewer than
25 points per game, including 36 points and 124 rushing yards
against the Browns.
The Ravens will be far more potent on offense in this game, and
Jackson is going to have himself a strong game.
One way he will look to attack the Titans will be with tight
end Mark Andrews. Tennessee gave up the 13th most points to opposing
tight ends, and Andrew himself had five catches for 96 yards and
a score. I would be surprised if Andrews does not post at least
75 yards and a score in this game.
Another player to watch is Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.
After a disappointing start to the season in which he failed to
score more than five points in five of his first eight games,
Brown has been on fire as of late. He ranks 10th in fantasy points
scored at the position over the final five games of the week,
and only Davante Adams has more receiving touchdowns during that
TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14
Running Game Thoughts: The Ravens will look to build upon a record-setting
week in which Jackson and the Ravens running backs combined for
a team-record 404 rushing yards.
J.K. Dobbins finished the regular season with a career-high 160
rush yards and two touchdowns on just 13 attempts against the
Bengals. While we don’t expect a similar rushing performance
in this game based on a more even game script, it should be noted
that the Titans gave up more fantasy points to running backs on
the year than the Bengals.
The Ravens have some injuries that could affect the outcome of
this game. Starting guard D.J Fluker is questionable with a knee
injury, while wide receiver Willie Snead is likely out with an
Game Thoughts: Ryan Tannehill finished the regular season
with 391.5 fantasy points to end as the No.9 quarterback in fantasy.
He scored more points than Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff,
Carson Wentz, Drew Brees, and his opponent in this game, Lamar
Not a bad year, considering that he was the No. 21 quarterback
taken in ADP according to FantasyPros.com. Tannehill was a cheat
code for those who picked him up off waivers, especially in Week
15 of the fantasy playoffs when he posted 39 points and five total
Tannehill had a solid but not spectacular game against the Ravens
when they played earlier this year. He threw for 259 yards and
two touchdowns while adding 35 yards on the ground. Since then,
he has posted three games of 30 or more points, including 30.6
points last week against the Texans.
Only the Rams, Steelers, and Packers gave up fewer points to
opposing quarterbacks, so Tannehill is not quite as fortunate
as Jackson when it comes to this matchup. The Ravens did give
up the 20th most points to opposing running backs, including 131
yards and a score to Henry on 28 carries in Week 11.
The Titans will look to run Henry early and often while attacking
the Ravens defense on play action and read options with Tannehill.
We project a more potent Ravens offense this weekend than earlier
this year, so the Titans may not be able to run quite as much,
making Tannehill more of a decent DFS play.
The Ravens may get some reinforcements on the defense with the
possible return of cornerback Jimmy Smith and pass rusher Yannick
Ngakoue. Should those two players return to the field, it would
undoubtedly make the Baltimore defense more formidable.
BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15
Running Game Thoughts: Derrick Henry became only the 8th player
in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season when he rushed
for 250 yards and a pair of scores against the Texans. Henry is
the focal point of the Tennessee offense and will likely get around
30 touches in this game if the things go to plan for Mike Vrabel
and the coaching staff.
The Ravens will have all three starters on their defensive line
in Derek Wolfe, Calais Campbell, and top run-stopping defensive
lineman Brandon Williams. They did not have their full line in
the first meeting when Henry rushed for 130 yards.
Veteran guard Rodger Saffold III told reporters on Wednesday
that he plans on playing in the game if he can be productive.
Saffold has dealt win numerous injuries this season and is currently
limited with an ankle injury.
Bears @ Saints
- (Swanson) Line: NO -9.5 Total: 47.5
Game Thoughts: The 8-8 Bears snuck into the playoffs
as the 7th seed and are rewarded with a Wild Card matchup on the
road against Drew Brees and the Saints. The Bears rank 22nd in
points per game on offense and 22nd in passing yards per game.
After a terrible start to the season that forced head coach Matt
Nagy to replace him with Nick Foles, Mitchell Trubisky finished
the year strong, with two games of over 27 fantasy points in his
final five, while completing over 70% of his passes during that
It is no coincidence that Trubisky’s late-season success
coincided with David Montgomery’s second-half surge, as
opposing defenses were forced to focus more on the Bears’
rushing attack and opened more lanes for Trubisky to pass the
When the team did not have balance and Nagy relied on Trubisky
to carry the Bears, they floundered. When the Bears ran the ball
successfully, and Trubisky threw the ball 35 times or fewer, the
team was successful.
Trubisky did not play against the Saints when the two teams faced
off at Soldier Field in Week 8. New Orleans won that game 26-23
with Drew Brees throwing for 287 yards and a pair of scores, while
Alvin Kamara posted 164 scrimmage yards.
The way to beat the Saints this season does not fit in with how
the Bears would like to run their offense, as New Orleans is far
better at stopping the run than the pass. No team gave up fewer
points to opposing running backs than New Orleans, especially
if you take out the outlier game that Miles Sanders played in
Week 14 in which he ran for 115 yards and two scores with Jalen
Hurts running the read-option.
Nagy will try to run Montgomery early and often, but for the
Bears to pull off this upset, Trubisky will need to make plays
with both his arm and his legs while avoiding costly turnovers.
NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13
Running Game Thoughts: Only Jonathan Taylor scored more fantasy
points over the final five weeks of the NFL regular season than
David Montgomery, with Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara trailing
Montgomery posted his first 1000-yard season and finally started
getting work in the passing game this season with Tarik Cohen
out with a season-ending knee injury. Montgomery will be the focal
point of the offense this Sunday against the Saints, but he will
likely find it to be rough sledding, as the Saints gave up the
fewest points to opposing running backs this year.
The second-year running back did post a respectable l05 total
yards from scrimmage vs. the Saints back in Week 8 and should
be around the same production this week.
The team could get a shot in the arm with the possible return
of tackle Bobby Massie from IR. Massive was placed on IR with
a knee injury but could be ready for this week’s game against
Game Thoughts: Drew Brees and the Saints finished the
regular season with the number five scoring offense in the league
behind the Packers, Bills, Bucs, and Titans. They averaged two
more points per game than the previous season and nearly three
points per game more at home in the Super Dome than on the road.
Brees finished 19th on the season in fantasy points per game
as injuries, and the team’s use of Taysom Hill torpedoed
Brees’ value. Also, Brees was on pace for the most interceptions
since he threw 15 back in 2016.
In what is likely the last season of his hall of fame career,
Brees will look to get his second Lombardi Trophy by kicking off
the playoff run with a win over the Bears.
From a fantasy perspective, the Bears gave up the 8th-fewest
points to opposing quarterbacks, and only Aaron Rodgers and Matthew
Stafford threw for more than three touchdowns in a game. Rodgers
did the feat twice, while Stafford lit up the Bears for 402 and
three passing touchdowns in a surprising win back in Week 13.
Brees will likely have a solid game from a real-life perspective,
but he is not someone we are targeting for DFS and playoff fantasy
He could get a boost with the possible return of Michael Thomas
from injured reserve. The team designated Thomas to return on
Wednesday and could have him back from an ankle injury.
CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3
Running Game Thoughts: Alvin Kamara is currently on the COVID-19
list after testing positive. According to a report on ESPN.com,
Kamara is participating in live practices remotely this week in
hopes that he is cleared to play.
Per the report, Kamara has a live video decoder at his home and
is watching practices live so he can hear coach Sean Payton call
out plays and work through the game plan.
We do not need to tell you how vital Kamara is to this offense.
No other running back in the league provides a dynamic threat
in both the running and passing attack, and the Saints offense
is built around him.
Should Kamara not get cleared to play, we would anticipate a
heavy dose of Latavius Murray, with more run plans than normal
for Taysom Hill.
The Bears gave up the 10th most points to opposing running backs
this season, including 132 yards and a score to Dalvin Cook two
weeks ago. They are an above-average run defense but not one that
the Saints and Kamara would shy away from in their game plan.
An injury to keep an eye on for the Bears is linebacker Roquan
Smith, who was a non-participant in practice on Wednesday. Smith
is a critical piece in the Chicago run defense, and his absence
would be huge.
Game Thoughts: Needing a win over Pittsburgh to guarantee
the franchise's first postseason berth since 2002, the Browns
once again reeled in Baker Mayfield. He completed 17 passes for
196 yards and a TD; numbers that were a far cry from the 41 attempts,
315 yards and 2 TDs per game he averaged in December. He was sacked
four times, matching a season high that was set in his first meeting
with the Steelers, and last Sunday it was done without Cam Heyward
or T.J. Watt, among others. There's little doubt the Browns want
to keep things on the ground this Sunday night with Mayfield's
arm a "break in case of emergency" scenario.
Cleveland got its full complement of receivers back in Week 17
following their COVID-related absences the previous Sunday. As
you'd expect, Jarvis Landry (5-51) and Austin Hooper (4-37-1),
a pair of short-range possession options, led the way with nine
of the 17 completions. Meanwhile, deeper targets Donovan Peoples-Jones
(1-11) and Rashard Higgins (2-55) were used judiciously. That
approach was a concession to Pittsburgh's pass rush, and it's
likely to be a focus again in the Wild Card rematch.
Only two teams allowed fewer passing yards than the Steelers
(194.4 per game) in 2020, and while they weren't as dominant down
the stretch, Pittsburgh still finished first with 56 sacks. That
Watt, whose 15 sacks topped the league, was able to rest last
Sunday is bad news for Cleveland. On top of that, the absence
of head coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive for COVID,
could be an issue for in-game adjustments.
PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31
Running Game Thoughts: Nick Chubb (14-108-1) and Kareem Hunt
(10-37) were critical to Cleveland's offensive success this season.
They'll need to do it again Sunday minus the services of Pro Bowl
selection Joel Bitonio, who has been ruled out due to COVID. That's
a tough blow against a Steelers D that ranked 11th at 111.4 yards
per game. Given that Pittsburgh will get several players back
that rested in Week 17 combined with Bitonio's absence it could
be tough sledding for the Browns.
Game Thoughts: While nearly every other playoff team
played to win last Sunday, the Steelers took the long view and
decided to rest key personnel. That included Ben Roethlisberger,
who looked to finally get back on track in Week 16 when he passed
for 341 yards and three TDs in a win over the Colts that helped
render the Browns matchup largely irrelevant. Big Ben passed for
a season-low 162 yards in his lone meeting with Cleveland this
season, though that was a byproduct of game situation and not
defense as the Steelers rolled to a 31-point win.
Even with Mason Rudolph at the helm, Pittsburgh still gained
317 yards through the air with Chase Claypool (5-101-1), Diontae
Johnson (3-96) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (6-65-1) leading the way
as usual. It wasn't an encouraging showing from Cleveland considering
it was a must-win scenario against a backup. Given that the run-pass
distribution with Rudolph was 20-44, you should expect the Steelers
to keep featuring the passing game against the Browns this Sunday.
One thing to watch is the condition of Smith-Schuster, who has
missed practice this week with a knee issue. If he sits, James
Washington and/or a returning Eric Ebron could see expanded roles.
Cleveland finished the season 22nd against the pass, allowing
247.6 yards per game to go with 31 TD passes (25th). Despite the
presence of Myles Garrett, the Browns logged a middling 38 sacks,
which tied for 15th in the NFL. They'll be without Olivier Vernon,
who ruptured his Achilles' last Sunday, and DBs Denzel Ward and
Kevin Johnson are currently on the COVID list. That's a lot to
CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4
Running Game Thoughts: There's not much to write about Pittsburgh's
ground game at this point, especially when what limited success
they had Sunday stemmed from using Josh Dobbs in a read-option
setting. With Big Ben under center it's highly unlikely they'll
trot that out there again. James Conner (9-37) has topped 40 yards
rushing just once in his last six games, but he should at least
be fresh if the Steelers try to cross up the NFL's ninth-ranked
run defense (110.8 yards per game) Sunday night.