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Inside the Matchup

Conference Championships

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | HC Green


TB @ GB | BUF @ KC

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

Buccaneers @ Packers - (Green)
Line: GB -3.5
Total: 51.0

Passing Game Thoughts: After struggling in two regular-season matchups against the Saints, Tom Brady did what he usually does this time of year and turned in a winning performance last Sunday. His final line -- 18 of 33 for 199 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs -- wasn't great, but every time the defense gave him the ball on a short field he delivered seven, including a late QB sneak for the backbreaking score. While this was Brady's third game of fewer than 200 yards passing, his season low of 166 actually came against the Packers back in Week 6 in a game dominated by Tampa's defense.

One-two punch Mike Evans (1-3-1) and Chris Godwin (4-34) were quiet on Sunday, though that's something of a running theme against the Saints as Marshon Lattimore has long been a thorn in Evans' side. Antonio Brown (knee), who'd yet to make his Bucs debut when they faced the Packers, checked out early in the Divisional Round with a knee injury, and his availability is unknown. Rob Gronkowski (1-14) was also quiet versus the Saints with Cameron Brate (4-50) leading the team in receiving.

After allowing 221.2 yards per game during the regular season, the Packers limited the Rams to 174 yards through the air this past Saturday. That performance comes with a couple of caveats, though, as Cooper Kupp (knee) was inactive and Jared Goff (thumb) was just a couple of weeks removed from thumb surgery. LA had success with quick counts and short passes, which isn't Tampa's approach, and even in the Week 6 loss the Packers held up fairly well against everyone except Gronk (5-78-1). One key for Green Bay will be their ability to get after Brady; he wasn't sacked in their earlier meeting.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Although their numbers don't jump off the page, the tandem of Leonard Fournette (17-63) and Ronald Jones (13-62) were instrumental in Tampa's win over the Saints. Jones, who has dealt with injuries, appears healthy, and he was the offensive standout earlier this season when he ran for 113 yards and a pair of TDs against Green Bay. The Packers had some trouble with LA's Cam Akers (18-90-1) in the Divisional Round, and given their previous success this figures to be an area that Tampa looks to attack in the NFC Championship Game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady
RB1: Ronald Jones
RB1: Leonard Fournette
WR1: Chris Godwin
WR1: Mike Evans
TE1: Rob Gronkowski

Passing Game Thoughts: Given ample time to diagnose LA's top-ranked defense thanks to strong work from the offensive line, Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of his 36 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns. He also missed two huge plays; badly overthrowing a streaking Marquez Valdes-Scantling and watching Allan Lazard drop a deep shot, both of which likely would've resulted in long TDs. Rodgers also scored on a one-yard scramble. The offensive line's ability to keep Rodgers clean will be critical this week as the Bucs beat up No. 12 in their previous game, leading to the veteran's worst showing of 2020.

Much was made of the matchup between Davante Adams (9-66-1) and Jalen Ramsey, but the All-Pros rarely faced off in man coverage. The attention Adams demanded created plenty of opportunities for Lazard (4-96-1), who, despite the aforementioned drop, enjoyed his best game since a core muscle injury in Week 3. MVS (4-33) looked to have a 92-yard TD lined up, but Rodgers' pass sailed harmlessly out of bounds. While Robert Tonyan (4-60) was held out of the end zone the 60 receiving yards were his fourth-most in a game this season.

If you throw out Jameis Winston's 56-yard touchdown pass on a trick play, the Bucs allowed just 134 yards passing last Sunday and intercepted Drew Brees three times. Although that's well below the 246.6 yards per game they allowed during the regular season, it's actually on par with the 160 they held Rodgers and company to in Week 6. Tampa logged five sacks in that game, and their ability to pressure Rodgers will again be critical to success.

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: Facing the NFL's top overall defense and No. 3 run defense, the Packers deployed all three of their top backs for the first time all season. It worked. Aaron Jones (14-99-1), Jamaal Williams (12-65) and AJ Dillon (6-27) ran around and through the Rams, averaging nearly 6.0 yards per carry. They'll face an even stiffer test in the NFC Championship Game against the league's No. 1 run defense (80.6 YPG), though Alvin Kamara (18-85) ran effectively last weekend. The Packers averaged 4.5 yards per carry against Tampa in the earlier meeting, and you can bet they'd love to control the clock here just like they did against LA.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers
RB1: Aaron Jones
RB3: Jamaal Williams
WR1: Davante Adams
WR3: Allen Lazard
Flex: Marquez Valdes-Scantling
TE1: Robert Tonyan

Prediction: Packers 30, Buccaneers 21 ^ Top

Bills at Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -3.0
Total: 54.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s tough not to look at the Bills-Chiefs matchup and think that it will all come down to the quarterback position. Two of the best QBs from this season will match up with Buffalo’s Josh Allen heading into Kansas City to face Patrick Mahomes. These teams actually matched up earlier this season, back in Week 6, when Allen arguably had his worst game, throwing for just 122 yards on the day with two touchdowns and an interception. He did add 42 yards on the ground so it wasn’t a complete disaster from a fantasy standpoint, but it was certainly not a game that should instill confidence in fantasy owners.

Since then, however, Allen has been on a tear. He went on to finish as the top-scoring quarterback in fantasy football and this matchup now looks even more enticing when you consider that the Chiefs pass defense is coming off of an ugly stretch which saw them give up multiple passing touchdowns in eight straight games to finish the season along with giving up 300 or more passing yards in half of those contests.

With the Bills fully embracing the modern idea of a pass-heavy offense, this is an excellent matchup and one that fantasy owners should be truly excited about. Allen should be considered the top QB on the board in the championship games and he could finish as the top-scoring player overall.

If Allen goes off, it will almost certainly be with him relying heavily on his top two pass catchers, Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, perhaps with some John Brown sprinkled in as well. Brown failed to catch a pass against the Colts in the Wild Card round, but bounced back in a big way in the Divisional Round against Baltimore when he was able to snag eight passes for 62 yards, tying a season high with 11 targets. Brown saw an uptick in playing time when Beasley was limited due to a knee injury. Beasley has now been added to Thursday’s injury report, a not-so-great sign for his chances to suit up this weekend. If Beasley is unable to go, Brown could again be a major contributor in what will almost certainly be a heavy volume day for the Buffalo passing game.

Diggs has been and continues to be an elite fantasy option this season and he has now seen at least eight targets in all but two games this season. He’s delivered both high-end production along with consistency, making him one of the true league winners of 2020. He’s now scored six times over his past six games and he’ll be against a Chiefs defense that he scored against back in Week 6. Davante Adams will likely be the top receiver on most boards, but don’t be surprised to see Diggs deliver another big fantasy day.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: The Bills have seen a monumental shift in offensive philosophy and efficiency this season, but even those who embrace the “pass, pass, pass” mentality could have never predicted that Buffalo would employ the “just forget about the run” gameplan against the Ravens in the Divisional round. Buffalo finished the day with 37 pass attempts while their running backs took just nine total carries. Those final totals are also a bit skewed as they actually ran the ball four of those nine times on their final two drives when they were simply in “run out the clock” mode while being up multiple scores. When the game was close, Buffalo completely abandoned the run for all intents and purposes.

We shouldn’t expect that the Bills will be quite this heavily skewed toward the passing game against Kansas City, but the important note - from a fantasy standpoint - is that the Bills are simply not interested in “establishing the run.” They will pass, pass, and pass some more if it makes sense and when Allen is playing as well as he has been this season, that gameplan has led to great success for the Bills.

If you’re absolutely hell-bent on playing a Buffalo running back, it should probably be Devin Singletary who has been operating as the team’s primary back with Zach Moss out. T.J. Yeldon has contributed a bit as well, but this is Singletary’s backfield for the time being. Look for him to touch the ball around a dozen times this week which could be enough for him to get into the end zone and make his fantasy owners happy, but if he doesn’t score then he’s likely to disappoint as his workload just isn’t strong enough to contribute significant yardage.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen
RB2: Devin Singletary
WR1: Stefon Diggs
WR2: Cole Beasley
Flex: John Brown (if Beasley is out)
Bench: T.J. Yeldon, Brown (if Beasley is active), Dawson Knox

Passing Game Thoughts: He may not have completely lit up the scoreboard through the air, but Patrick Mahomes delivered another nice fantasy performance this past weekend against the Browns. Mahomes has now contributed multiple touchdowns in all but two games this season while also delivering the big spike weeks to practically single-handedly win weeks for his fantasy owners.

This week Mahomes gets a Bills defense that he completed 21 of 26 pass attempts against back in Week 6, for 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While the Bills pass defense has been mostly good this season, they’re not unbeatable. Mahomes should be considered either the No. 2 or perhaps even No. 1 quarterback on the board - just like normal - and the Chiefs will need him to perform if they hope to make it to their second straight Super Bowl.

If there’s any concern for the Bills, it should be with wide receiver Tyreek Hill. While Hill has been incredible this season and will almost certainly deliver something to make fantasy owners at least satisfied, it’s worth considering that he struggled and had one of his worst games of the season against Buffalo back in Week 6. Cornerback Tre’Davious White, one of the top cornerbacks in the game, was locked up with Hill throughout much of the game and Hill was kept to just three catches for 20 yards for the day.

Tight end Travis Kelce is always a top option at his position and a matchup against the Bills won’t change that. He scored twice against Buffalo back in Week 6 and he’s on a five game touchdown streak so there’s plenty to love in this matchup. Look for him to be Mahomes’ top target again.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned to practice this week and is looking increasingly likely to play, which will probably relegate Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson back to being irrelevant for fantasy. Watkins himself hasn’t been much of a fantasy contributor this season, and he’s not someone who we should be trusting given his injury situation, but he typically does limit the upside of the other receivers in the Kansas City offense.

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: Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been out since Week 15, but he finally got back on the practice field this week and is looking likely to suit up for this important Championship round contest. Assuming he’s out there, this could be a great situation for Edwards-Helaire to get back into the good graces of fantasy owners as he’ll be up against a Buffalo defense that he absolutely terrorized for 161 rushing yards back in Week 6. It was the best rushing performance that any player had all year against the Bills.

Edwards-Helaire will likely have to concede at least a few touches to other backs in the Kansas City offense, but the running back position is quite limited with only four teams remaining and he should probably be looked at as a top three option. Darrel Williams should be a top five option if Edwards-Helaire is out, but don’t bother with him if the rookie is in the lineup.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB1: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
RB2: Darrel Williams (if Edwards-Helaire is out)
WR1: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: Le’Veon Bell (knee), Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Bills 27 ^ Top