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Playoff Fantasy Football: Divisional Round

By Doug Orth | 1/18/24 |

My final three postseason columns will feature my weekly DFS prognostications.


Below you will find my position-by-position projections. Please note I have included DraftKings' dollar value for each player, followed by his projected point total. I will not spend a great deal of time explaining each projection here - only some of the more notable ones. Each position is sorted by my DraftKings' projected point total.

Key for quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends:
P Yds - Passing Yards
P TD - Passing Touchdowns
INT - Interceptions
Ru Yds - Rushing Yards
Ru TD - Rushing Touchdowns
Rec Yds - Receiving Yards
Rec TD - Receiving Touchdowns
Rec - Receptions

Jared Goff

Player Tm DK$ P Yds P TDs INT RuAtt RuYds Ru TDs DK
Jared Goff DET $6,300 349 3 1 2 2 0 28.0
Josh Allen BUF $8,000 249 2 1 12 48 1 27.8
Lamar Jackson BAL $7,900 283 2 0 10 67 0 26.0
C.J. Stroud HOU $6,700 234 1 1 3 16 1 20.0
Brock Purdy SF $6,500 255 2 2 5 0 18.2
Patrick Mahomes KC $6,800 285 1 1 6 36 0 18.0
Jordan Love GB $6,200 220 2 0 11 0 17.9
Baker Mayfield TB $6,000 309 1 1 4 14 0 16.8

This is an interesting spot for Jared Goff for multiple reasons. We can begin with what Goff did to Tampa Bay the first time these teams played in Week 6: 353 yards and two TDs. We can also consider that the Bucs held the Lions to 40 rushing yards in that contest, albeit without Jahmyr Gibbs. Also, consider Goff threw for at least two scores in six of nine outings at home. Tampa Bay blitzed at a 40.1 percent clip and generated a 19.7 percent pressure rate during the regular season. Both numbers are important because Goff is a completely different quarterback when the pocket is kept clean for him (25:3 TD-to-INT ratio and 76 percent completion rate - per Pro Football Focus) than when he is under pressure (6:9, 51). His splits when he was blitzed and when he was not were similar, so the Bucs' ability to break through the Lions' very good offensive line on occasion will be a huge part of their ability to keep this game close. With that said, I think he is probably the play of the week at quarterback. He is facing a defense that usually stops the run well but has surrendered 300-plus passing yards six times. Factor in Tampa Bay's propensity to blitz, the likelihood the Bucs will bite hard on play-action and Detroit's ability to protect Goff and there is a real chance he could beat what he did at Tampa Bay in October.

At this point of the week, it is almost impossible to predict how much Josh Allen will be needed. Buffalo relies on him heavily as it is, but the distinction here is that he has thrown 30 or fewer passes in four of his team's last five contests. Buffalo could be without two of its best cornerbacks (Christian Benford and Taron Johnson) and its top three inside linebackers (Terrel Bernard, Tyrel Dotson and Baylon Spector) due to injury. While Kansas City may not have the offensive firepower most expected this year, it probably has enough to score at least 28 points for only the fourth time this season if all of the aforementioned injured Bills are sidelined for this game. I am working under the assumption at least one player from each group will play this weekend, but Allen could be asked to throw 40+ times if all of them miss the game. As such, the final injury report could change my projection for many of the Bills and Chiefs, perhaps Allen more than anyone else.

The most pass attempts that Lamar Jackson has in any game this season is 43. He was at 35 or fewer pass attempts in 14 of 16 games overall. As for his rush attempts, they ranged from 8-12 per game for most of the season. He has not had a rushing score since Week 7. All of that is to say he has become more of a facilitator than a focal point of the offense, except for when the Ravens need him to do something special. This is a game Baltimore should win, so I expect what has become a typical game from him in 2023: 30 pass attempts and about 10 rush attempts while trying to stay out of harm's way.

While C.J. Stroud has been unbelievable as a rookie, it may be a tall order to solve Baltimore's defense. There may not be a team that uses simulated pressure better (or more often) than the Ravens right now. That will almost certainly trip up Stroud a time or two. Matthew Stafford is the only quarterback who has thrown for more than one touchdown against this defense - in a game that was remotely competitive anyway - since Week 8. Perhaps Stroud could force a different outcome this week if Tank Dell and Noah Brown were still around, but both players are out for the season.

Jordan Love has not thrown more than 33 passes during Green Bay's four-game winning streak. I think that will be the plan for this one as well, at least early. The problem is few defenses are equipped to handle the 49ers' offensive balance and explosiveness, which tends to result in San Francisco's opponents throwing more often. (More on that in the running back section.) Love hasn't faltered - for the most part - when asked to throw 40 times, but it is probably safe to say the Packers haven't faced a team like San Francisco yet this season that can have a great deal of success rushing four defenders and playing seven in coverage. Love appears capable of putting an offense on his back, but it might be a bit much to expect him to carve up a defense that gave up two quarterback scores in a game once. Quarterbacks posted a 20:22 TD-to-INT ratio against the Niners in 2023.

 Running Backs
Player Tm DK $ Ru Att Ru Yds Ru TDs Tgt Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs DK
Christian McCaffrey SF $8,800 21 114 2 5 4 38 0 34.2
Isiah Pacheco KC $6,400 18 76 1 5 4 33 0 20.9
Aaron Jones GB $6,700 16 74 1 4 3 23 0 18.7
James Cook BUF $6,300 15 66 0 6 5 62 0 17.8
Rachaad White TB $6,500 14 53 0 8 7 55 0 17.8
David Montgomery DET $6,100 13 54 1 2 2 18 0 15.2
Devin Singletary HOU $5,700 20 83 0 4 3 16 0 12.9
Gus Edwards BAL $5,900 12 38 1 1 1 10 0 11.8
Jahmyr Gibbs DET $6,600 8 33 0 5 4 41 0 11.4
Justice Hill BAL $4,800 4 17 0 3 3 19 0 6.6
Edwards-Helaire KC $4,500 5 19 0 2 2 14 0 5.3
Ty Johnson BUF $4,200 7 36 0 1 1 7 0 5.3
Chase Edmonds TB $4,700 3 11 0 3 2 11 0 4.2
Elijah Mitchell SF $5,200 5 26 0 0 0 0 0 2.6
Kyle Juszczyk SF $4,000 0 0 0 2 1 8 0 1.8
Latavius Murray BUF $4,100 1 1 0 1 1 5 0 1.6
Emanuel Wilson GB $4,200 3 13 0 0 0 0 0 1.3
Dalvin Cook BAL $4,000 2 11 0 0 0 0 0 1.1
Dameon Pierce HOU $4,600 2 3 0 1 0 0 0 0.3

Green Bay's run defense has improved markedly during its four-game winning streak (90 yards during the streak as opposed to 142 before). However, I don't think it matters all that much when it comes to facing a Kyle Shanahan run scheme, especially when Christian McCaffrey is running behind LT Trent Williams. On runs behind left tackle this season, CMC is averaging 6.4 YPC. On runs to the left side of the formation in general, he is averaging 5.8 YPC and has scored 10 of his 13 rushing TDs. Outside of "middle right," there is not a single right side run that he averaged more than he did from any of his left side runs. Another interesting nugget: CMC's longest run to the right side was 27 yards. He had at least one run longer than that running left end, behind left tackle, behind left guard and up the middle to the left.

Aaron Jones is on a serious roll with four straight games of at least 20 carries and 111 rushing yards. He has only one game over that stretch with more than one catch. That needs to change this week because I do not think the Packers have the interior line necessary to block 49ers DTs Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave consistently. (New San Francisco DT Sebastian Joseph-Day should be a factor as well.) Jones might go over 100 total yards again this week, but I would be willing to bet around half of it will be the result of screens and dump-offs. This feeds into perhaps the biggest strength of their defense - the pass-rush ability of their front four. With offensive lines already taxed trying to handle Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead (who is tentatively expected to play for the first time since Week 13), the 49ers can typically rush four and play seven in coverage. Since two of those seven players include stud LBs Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, running backs and short-range tight ends are usually a non-factor.

The only times Detroit has given up more than 115 yards rushing this season are the games they faced a great dual-threat quarterback (Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields). The Buccaneers may try to establish Rachaad White in this one, but he faces long odds of having any success against a defense that did not allow any individual running back to rush for more than 69 yards in 2023. In short, White will likely need to go crazy in the passing game or he will be a non-factor in this one. I have little doubt I have projected him at his rushing ceiling, so it is likely the only way he beats my projection for him is if he finds the end zone on a short red zone play. With that said, a touchdown is unlikely. Detroit has permitted one touchdown to a running back in the last six games.

It feels weird to say Singletary has a great matchup this week, but he does from a certain point of view. Baltimore allowed an individual rusher to top 100 yards in its last three games and four of its last five. That is the (kind of) good news. The bad news is those backs were Kyren Williams, McCaffrey, De'Von Achane and Najee Harris (in a meaningless game for the Ravens). Singletary has his moments, but he is not in the same class as those backs. Baltimore also cares more about slowing down passing games in part because it knows the offense is likely to score around 30 points. The Ravens finished in a tie for fifth for most yards per carry (4.5) during the regular season, so fantasy managers and DFS players have a leg to stand on if they want to roll the dice with the Houston back. However, there is questionable upside with him since Baltimore yielded only eight TDs to running backs in 2023. Singletary only topped five targets and four catches once this season, so the odds of him hitting big in DFS without the touchdown are slim.

 Wide Receivers
Player Tm DK$ Ru Att Ru Yds Ru TDs Tgt Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs DK
Amon-Ra St. Brown DET $8,200 13 10 127 1 31.7
Mike Evans TB $7,200 11 7 117 1 27.7
Nico Collins HOU $7,100 11 7 88 1 21.8
Zay Flowers BAL $6,000 9 7 74 1 20.4
Deebo Samuel SF $7,700 2 23 0 6 5 56 1 18.9
Jayden Reed GB $5,200 1 5 0 6 5 55 1 17.0
Josh Reynolds DET $3,700 6 4 67 1 16.7
Rashee Rice KC $6,800 10 6 87 0 14.7
Dontayvion Wicks GB $4,900 5 3 38 1 12.8
Gabriel Davis BUF $5,000 3 2 28 1 10.8
Chris Godwin TB $6,300 7 5 47 0 9.7
Brandon Aiyuk SF $6,900 6 4 55 0 9.5
Romeo Doubs GB $5,600 6 4 53 0 9.3
Stefon Diggs BUF $7,000 8 5 37 0 8.7
Rashod Bateman BAL $4,000 5 3 55 0 8.5
Khalil Shakir BUF $3,800 5 4 43 0 8.3
Odell Beckham Jr. BAL $4,600 4 3 41 0 7.1
John Metchie HOU $3,400 4 3 37 0 6.7
Jameson Williams DET $3,600 3 2 34 0 5.4
Trey Palmer TB $3,500 4 3 23 0 5.3
Mecole Hardman KC $3,000 1 6 0 4 2 23 0 4.9
Christian Watson GB $4,200 3 2 27 0 4.7
Robert Woods HOU $3,500 3 2 21 0 4.1
Xavier Hutchinson HOU $3,000 1 4 0 2 2 16 0 4.0
Deven Thompkins TB $3,000 1 2 0 2 2 12 0 3.4
Richie James KC $3,000 2 2 13 0 3.3
David Moore TB $3,300 2 1 21 0 3.1
Kadarius Toney KC $3,200 1 6 0 2 1 13 0 2.9
Deonte Harty BUF $3,000 1 1 16 0 2.6
Jauan Jennings SF $3,600 2 1 13 0 2.3
Nelson Agholor BAL $3,700 1 1 11 0 2.1
Justin Watson KC $3,300 2 1 11 0 2.1
Bo Melton GB $3,300 1 1 6 0 1.6

For many of the reasons outlined above with his quarterback (Goff), Amon-Ra St. Brown should be considered the favorite to be the highest-owned receiver in DFS this week. He is on a serious heater right now with at least six catches and 90 yards in five straight. Last week's Wild Card Round win over the Rams snapped his four-game touchdown streak. Why should he be expected to continue his run this week? The Bucs' propensity to blitz will open up the middle of the field. No team left in the tournament runs more "in" routes than Detroit, which is par for the course in this Sean McVay-inspired offense. In short, the middle of the field is where St. Brown often lives. That will usually be the area of the field that Tampa's blitzes will vacate.

The biggest advantage the Bucs have this week is Mike Evans, who only caught four of his 10 targets in the Week 6 meeting but was dealing with a hamstring injury that week. Opponents have wised up against the Bucs in recent weeks and bracketed Evans - which partly explains why Chris Godwin's season is ending well. Lions DC Aaron Glenn - a very good former NFL cornerback - may follow suit and try to bracket Evans as well, but recent evidence from teams facing Detroit suggests it may not matter. While the Lions have faced their share of elite receivers since their Week 9 bye, the worst "lead" receiver performance against them was 12.1 PPR fantasy points (Courtland Sutton). The second-worst effort was 16.9 (Chris Olave). Every other lead receiver has scored at least 20.4 fantasy points. Matchups against obvious alphas such as D.J. Moore (twice) and CeeDee Lamb that should have resulted in regular bracket coverage ended up in fantasy efforts of 22.6 (Moore), 26.8 (Moore) and 42.2 (Lamb). While I would not expect a repeat of what Puka Nacua did last weekend (9-181-1), I would expect the Bucs to use Evans in much the same way.

It is not a big secret that the 49ers' offense is highly focused on four players in the passing game. While Brandon Aiyuk is too good to bet against, one of the Packers' biggest weaknesses on defense is the middle of the field. As such, I would be very surprised if the bulk of targets are not headed in the direction of Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. I expect two or three called runs and some quick screens - 10 touches for Samuel is not out of the question. "Bully ball" might be the best way to minimize Green Bay's offense right now and Samuel should be a big part of that.

One of Josh Reynolds or Jameson Williams is worth playing in many lineups. Perimeter receivers with deep speed have fared very well versus the Bucs this season. While DeVonta Smith is more of a route technician than a speed merchant (he is both, but stay with me here), he tore up Tampa Bay's secondary last week despite the fact the Bucs knew he would be the featured attraction. Reynolds and Williams are not on the same level as Smith (nor will they draw as many targets), but they also will not attract the same attention from the defense. I will lean toward Reynolds here given his consecutive seven-target games, but the only thing regarding Reynolds and Williams that would surprise me this week is if neither player had a big day.

I think the Chiefs have shown us for most of the season what they are offensively and how they have to win now. Run the ball with Isiah Pacheco, move the chains with Travis Kelce and hope Rashee Rice can break off a big play or two. Rice appeared to be the one player Saturday night who was unaffected by the frigid conditions. He is becoming as much of a priority on offense as Kelce, even though he may not have earned the same level of trust (as one would expect). I do not think Buffalo has an answer for him (7-72-1 on 10 targets in the Week 14 meeting). With that said, the Bills have enough injuries at linebacker that I would expect the Chiefs to ride Pacheco early and do as much as they can to isolate Kelce on A.J. Klein. While I want some exposure to Rice in case he finds the end zone again, I am not sure he will finish a top-five receiver this week versus a good defense (if most of the injured Buffalo defenders can play). Conversely, a beat-up Bills defense may not require Kansas City to lean on its rookie receiver as much.

 Tight Ends
Player Tm DK$ Tgt Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs DK
Travis Kelce KC $6,000 11 9 83 1 23.3
George Kittle SF $5,200 7 5 85 1 19.5
Sam LaPorta DET $5,900 7 6 62 1 18.2
Mark Andrews BAL $5,000 6 4 58 1 15.8
Dalton Kincaid BUF $4,800 6 4 38 1 13.8
Dalton Schultz HOU $4,400 5 3 26 0 5.6
Cade Otton TB $3,500 4 3 23 0 5.3
Brevin Jordan HOU $2,700 3 2 30 0 5.0
Luke Musgrave GB $3,600 2 2 18 0 3.8
Isaiah Likely BAL $4,700 2 2 15 0 3.5
Dawson Knox BUF $3,000 2 2 13 0 3.3
Tucker Kraft GB $3,100 2 1 11 0 2.1
Noah Gray KC $2,500 1 1 8 0 1.8

This is a great week to pay up at tight end, which is not something I believe in doing (or say) very often.

The reason Kelce sits atop the position group this week is simple: HC Andy Reid is smart enough to figure out that if Buffalo's best inside linebacker is A.J. Klein, then it might be worth his time to force the Bills' fourth-best linebacker to cover Kelce.

As I stated above, I would be very surprised if the bulk of targets are not headed in the direction of Deebo Samuel and George Kittle this week. As far as how that will play out for Kittle, I expect a fair amount of run fakes to the left and bootleg passes to the right to him, especially if the run game is as successful as I believe it will be. This run-fake-and-boot action - along with crossing patterns - often does a great job of activating Kittle's run-after-catch skills. While this season has been a bit of a mixed bag for Kittle in regards to consistency, I would argue no player at his position has more upside this week. If this is a game San Francisco controls from start to finish, my projection for him is probably a bit too high. If Jordan Love & Co. can push the 49ers for three-plus quarters, there is a real chance Kittle is utilized often enough that he goes over 100 yards.

I would be careful investing too much in LaPorta this week. While he has a wonderful matchup and is coming off a week in which he played 45 snaps (when it was expected he would not play), there is a very strong possibility that he is still going to be limited by his Week 18 knee injury. He would be another example of a player I want exposure to in DFS, but I might settle for ownership in maybe 20 percent of my lineups.

Houston's zone defense (which the Texans play around 80 percent of the time) tends to turn loose tight ends. During the regular season, Houston gave up a league-high-tying 107 receptions to the position. They gave up 11 catches more against Cleveland. I will be investing fairly heavily in Mark Andrews (ankle) as a result if he is cleared. If not, then Isaiah Likely.

Key for defense/special teams units:
PA - Points allowed
TD - Defensive/return touchdowns
TO - Total turnovers
PA Bonus - Points allowed bonus for DraftKings

 Defense / Special Teams
Team DK $ PA Sacks TD TO PA Bonus DK
Lions $3,300 13 3 2 0 4 11.0
Ravens $3,500 20 4 2 0 1 9.0
Bills $2,800 23 2 2 0 0 6.0
Chiefs $2,700 27 3 1 0 0 5.0
49ers $3,400 21 3 1 0 0 5.0
Buccaneers $2,500 31 2 1 0 -1 3.0
Texans $2,900 30 3 0 0 -1 2.0
Packers $2,600 34 3 0 0 -1 2.0

Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.