Happy Divisional Round weekend!
What follows are my thoughts and analysis on pretty much every skill-position player that will be on the field for this weekend's four-game slate of action. This includes paths to success/failure for each QB, the most-important split for every backfield, WR/CB matchups as well as top DFS picks at TE and on defense.
Be sure to check out our Rotoworld DFS Toolkit for specific player projections as well as the ability to create a multitude of lineups both manually and automatically using our lineup builder.
The following price tags refer to DraftKings unless otherwise noted.
Lamar Jackson ($8,400)
Path to success: The Titans can't contain the 2020 MVP because apparently nobody can. The only QB in NFL history to average at least 80 rushing yards per game is one of just eight players regardless of position to accomplish that feat in 2019, as Jackson truly offers the potential to provide both QB1 and RB1 value in the same week. The Ravens' historically great rushing offense hasn't been stopped by anybody to this point, and they're set up well against a Titans Defense that has been much better against the run (No. 10 in DVOA) than the pass (No. 21) this season.
Potential failure: Stud FS Kevin Byard and company contain Mark Andrews, Adoree' Jackson locks up Marquise Brown, and we realize that this rushing attack isn't quite as lethal with Mark Ingram (calf) operating at less than 100%. Still, Jackson's floor is pretty much still the roof it seems. His two worst fantasy performances this season were vs. the Steelers (11.4 fantasy points) and Bills (19.8); he scored over 20 fantasy points in every other contest.
Verdict: Jackson's price tag implies that he's projected to score 23.4 DraftKings points. This salary probably still isn't high enough; he cleared that threshold in 10(!!!) games this season. Jackson scored at least 30 fantasy points in seven games, easily surpassing the previous single-season NFL record of five-such games from a QB. He'll undoubtedly be chalky, but there isn't another player in the NFL, let alone the playoffs, that boasts Jackson's absurd ceiling/floor combination. Lock him into cash-game lineups and realize a full fade in tournaments is risky business.
Patrick Mahomes ($7,500)
Path to success: We see the 2018 version of Mahomes. This isn't to say the 2019 version was bad ...
- Adjusted net yards per attempt: 8.38 (No. 2 among 42 qualified QBs)
- Adjusted yards per attempt: 8.94 (No. 3)
- Yards per attempt: 8.36 (No. 3)
- Touchdown rate: 5.4% (No. 8)
- Completion rate: 69.5% (No. 12)
- QB Rating: 105.3 (No. 7)
- QBR: 78 (No. 2)
Still, we might need to see last season's MVP put the Chiefs on his back in order to win it all. It's tough for anybody to slow down Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but the Texans will be especially screwed if they can't keep Mahomes inside the pocket. Only Jackson (11) and Ryan Tannehill (11) averaged more yards per rush on scrambles than Mahomes (9.3) among all QBs with at least 10 rush attempts on non-designed runs this season (Pro Football Reference).
Potential failure: The Texans manage to stick to the Chiefs receivers and force Mahomes to hold onto the ball. Only Jimmy Garoppolo (6.6) averaged more yards after the catch per completion than Mahomes (6.2), so it'll be vital for this Tennessee defense to limit the amount of easy completions they allow. Additionally, the Chiefs' franchise QB took an average of 2.63 seconds to attempt a pass this season, which was in line with Deshaun Watson (2.64), who is often ridiculed for not getting rid of the ball quick enough and taking unnecessary sacks. This isn't an easy man to get to the ground, but the ability of J.J. Watt and company to at least disrupt Mahomes' timing will be crucial.
Verdict: Mahomes has actually looked human at times in 2019, as he's accounted for four of his bottom-five career performances in adjusted yards per attempt this season. Still, I'm not willing to crown this Texans Defense just yet. They're the least-complete team remaining in the playoffs and boast a below-average defense in pretty much every metric. This Chiefs Offense has more firepower than pretty much any passing attack in the league; I wouldn't actively count on any defense in the playoffs doing much more than somewhat containing them. Mahomes has the best matchup of any QB in the Divisional Round and is a solid tournament pivot off of Jackson.
Deshaun Watson ($6,700)
Path to success: The Chiefs again have no answer to Watson on the ground. He posted a 10-42-2 rushing line during the Texans' 31-24 victory over the Chiefs in Week 6 while somehow taking zero sacks. He's routinely demonstrated the ability to make something out of nothing throughout his short NFL career.
The return of Will Fuller (groin) could help Watson and the passing game rise to the occasion against a Chiefs Defense that was much better against the pass (No. 6 in DVOA) than the run (No. 29) this season. Entering the playoffs, Watson had averaged 8.69 YPA and a 7.1% TD rate in 22 games with Fuller compared to 6.99 YPA and a 3.9% TD rate in 17 games without.
Potential failure: This overly average Texans team plays like it and gets blown out of the water. Watson very well might be the closest thing this league has to Superman, but even he can't do it all. The Chiefs Defense has allowed just nine, 16, three, three and 21 points in five games since their Week 12 bye and has the talent at all three levels to make life difficult on this passing game, particularly if Mahomes and company can jump out to a lead.
Verdict: Jackson, Mahomes, Watson and Russell Wilson each have overall QB1 upside in their potential weekly range of outcomes. Still, I'm inclined to pay up at the position this week in order to cash in on the position's best-case matchups. Perhaps Watson continues to function as a productive one-man offense, but last week's dog fight against the Bills at home wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement for this team's ability to match up with the best teams in the league. I'll be crossing my fingers and mostly fading Watson on this slate. At the very least, keep Watson away from cash-game lineups.
Russell Wilson ($6,600)
Path to success: The Seahawks suddenly realize that Wilson is one of the most-efficient QBs the league has ever seen and accordingly release him against the Packers' potentially-overrated secondary. Stud DE Za'Darius Smith led the NFL in pressures this season and figures to spend a good portion of Sunday in the Seattle backfield. Still, the Seahawks' long-time franchise QB remains ridiculously efficient even when his back is against the wall. Overall, Wilson posted a 10-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio under pressure this season while ranking among the league's top-six signal callers in both yards per attempt and QB rating while under pressure.
Potential failure: The potential absence of two starting offensive linemen in LT Duane Brown (biceps, knee) and LG Mike Iupati (neck) proves to be an absolutely massive issue, leading to Wilson regularly finishing plays underneath Smith and company. Additionally, coach Pete Carroll's promise to get Marshawn Lynch more involved this week turns out to not be a joke and the Seahawks wind up running the ball far too often once again.
Verdict: Running the ball might actually work well enough this week to render Wilson and the passing game a bit more irrelevant than fantasy investors would prefer. This Green Bay rush defense was awful in 2019, as only the Dolphins allowed more adjusted line yards per rush (Football Outsiders). The Seahawks have only made a point of airing out the ball when they've fallen behind in games, something that doesn't appear to be a major likelihood considering the Packers are relatively modest 3.5-point favorites. I think the Seahawks are able to keep this game close throughout, so I'd rather take my chances with any of the other three higher-priced QBs due to their significant advantages in projected volume.
Aaron Rodgers ($6,500)
Path to success: The Packers suddenly figure things out after ranking 15th in scoring offense and 17th in yards per play during the regular season. Aaron Rodgers has been a significantly better DFS asset at home vs. on the road over the past half decade (per the FantasyLabs Trends tool).
Potential failure: Rodgers continues to work as nothing more than an average fantasy QB. He ranked 14th in fantasy points per game in 2019 and now has to face off against a Seahawks Defense that is significantly better with S Quandre Diggs and DE Jadeveon Clowney at full health. The passing game has certainly enabled Davante Adams (2.33 yards per route run) to an efficient season, but Allen Lazard (1.62) and Aaron Jones (1.55) have been the only other signs of life through the air.
Verdict: The Seahawks-Packers' matchup currently boasts a game total of 47.5 points. Only Texans-Chiefs (51) has a higher over/under. Still, neither offense has consistently functioned as an elite unit this season. Rodgers in particular simply doesn't deserve to be priced with these other top QBs after posting the single-worst QBR of his career in 2019.
Kirk Cousins ($5,700)
Path to success: Kirk Cousins has ranked among the league's top-10 most-pressured QBs in each of the past two seasons. Of course, this is also simply a side effect of both Cousins' playing style as well as this scheme. Nobody averaged a longer time between getting the snap and throwing the ball than Cousins (2.83 seconds) this season (PFF). He'll need to continue to play some of the best ball of his career in order to get away with this against Nick Bosa and company.
Potential failure: The expected returns of LB Kwon Alexander (pec), S Jaquiski Tartt (rib) and DE Dee Ford (hamstring) proves to be too much for this Vikings Offense to handle. Kyle Rudolph (4-31-1) was a big factor in the Vikings' Wild Card win over the Saints, but the 49ers boast the type of freaky-athletic LBs in Alexander (PFF's No. 9 LB in coverage) and Fred Warner (No. 11) to force Cousins to have to work outside the numbers.
The 49ers quietly allowed more than 100 rushing yards in 12-of-16 games this season. This Vikings Offense flows through Dalvin Cook, so it's unlikely that we see Cousins drop back all that often if this game remains close.
Verdict: Cousins was magnificent last week ... and threw for 242 yards and a touchdown. This offense simply isn't designed to feature the passing game, and that might actually be the right move against the 49ers' beastly secondary.
I'm inclined to mostly fade this entire passing attack due to the likelihood that Cook and to a lesser extent Alexander Mattison dominate usage.
Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,600)
Path to success: Jimmy G exploits the Vikings' banged-up corners thanks in large part to some brilliant play designs from coach Kyle Shanahan. The Vikings weren't bad against the pass this season, but their CB group is easily the weak link of the defense.
Nobody benefited more from their receivers picking up yards after the catch than Garoppolo this season. The likes of George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, along with the offense's plethora of talented receiving RBs, could produce more of the same in the playoffs.
Potential failure: Beastly DEs Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen make life a living hell for Garoppolo and company. Jimmy G threw as many touchdowns (5) as he did interceptions (5) when under pressure this season and has struggled to put together back-to-back excellent performances. Overall, Garoppolo surpassed 250 pass yards with multiple touchdowns in just five games this season. The complete lack of a rushing floor here means that Jimmy G will need to make the most out of his limited opportunities in this run-first offense.
Verdict: The Vikings were actually slightly better than the 49ers in fewest fantasy points per game allowed to opposing QBs this season. LT Joe Staley and RT Mike McGlinchey are each healthy, but the Vikings' ferocious pass rush is capable of beating any offensive line in the league. Garoppolo surprisingly averaged a league-high 21 yards per attempt on deep balls this season (PFF), but he also threw passes at least 20 yards downfield on a league-low 6.5% of his attempts.
I wouldn't expect this offense to be able to have enough time to overly cash in on their already-limited downfield opportunities. Garoppolo's status as the least-mobile QB remaining in the playoffs makes him an easy fade.
Ryan Tannehill ($5,400)
Path to success: TanneThrill gets back to playing like the best passing QB in the entire league ... because that's what he was during the regular season.
- Adjusted net yards per attempt: 8.52 (No. 1 among 33 qualified QBs)
- Net yards per attempt: 7.98 (No. 1)
- Adjusted yards per attempt: 10.2 (No. 1)
- Yards per completion: 13.6 (No. 1)
- Touchdown rate: 7.7% (No. 2)
- Completion rate: 70.3% (No. 3)
- QB Rating: 117.5 (No. 1)
- QBR: 65.4 (No. 8)
Potential failure: The Ravens continue to shut down opposing passing attacks, as they've done ever since revamping their CB room thanks to the return of Jimmy Smith and decision to acquire Marcus Peters:
- Weeks 1-8: 22.3 PPG allowed, 350 total yards, 265 passing yards
- Weeks 9-17: 14 PPG allowed, 262 total yards, 162 passing yards
Either way, volume is going to be an issue for anyone that rosters Tannehill. The Titans have asked their QB to throw 30 or fewer times in eight of his 11 starts this season. He's thrown just 35 times total over the past two weeks.
Verdict: Tannehill made a few good throws last week, but it's tough to see the Titans surviving with another effort that produces 72 passing yards on 15 attempts (4.8 YPA). At the very least, he'll need to produce some big plays through the air while also providing a rushing floor. The good news is we've seen Tannehill accomplish both of these things throughout the season, and his low price point makes him an affordable tournament play.
- RB1: Cook (79% snap rate, 33 combined carries and targets)
- RB2: Mattison (17%, 7)
- RB3: Ameer Abdullah (4%, 1)
This offense completely revolves around Cook. Sure, Mattison will get a handful of touches per game in relief, but expect to see the Vikings' workhorse RB on the field whenever he's got enough stamina to do so.
The 49ers have allowed at least 100 rushing yards in 12 of 16 games this season, although they still managed to largely shut down their opponent's No. 1 RB more times than not during the regular season:
- Week 1: Peyton Barber RB44
- Week 2: Joe Mixon RB46
- Week 3: James Conner RB39
- Week 5: Nick Chubb RB31
- Week 6: Malcolm Brown RB47
- Week 7: Adrian Peterson RB37
- Week 8: Christian McCaffrey RB6
- Week 9: Kenyan Drake RB2
- Week 10: Chris Carson RB7
- Week 11: Drake RB17
- Week 12: Aaron Jones RB48
- Week 13: Mark Ingram RB38
- Week 14: Alvin Kamara RB48
- Week 15: Devonta Freeman RB37
- Week 16: Todd Gurley RB16
- Week 17: Travis Homer RB22
Still, it's simply impossible to fully fade a RB projected to touch the ball at least 25 times regardless of the price tag. Cook deserves to have the highest projection on the slate *if* Packers RB Jamaal Williams (shoulder) isn't ultimately ruled out.
49ers Offense: Weeks 14-17 with a fully healthy backfield
- RB1: Raheem Mostert (55% snap rate, 13 combined carries and targets per game)
- RB2: Tevin Coleman (29%, 5)
- RB3: Matt Breida (8%, 4.5)
The 49ers have had a fully healthy backfield for the past month and seem to be sticking with Mostert as their featured RB. Coleman and Breida also figure to be involved, but it'd be surprising if Mostert doesn't lead the way in terms of total touches.
Note that Breida fumbled twice in Week 15 and proceeded to play just eight combined snaps in Weeks 16-17.
Coach Kyle Shanahan has enabled each of these RBs to explosive seasons thanks to his RB-friendly scheme. PFF's Breakaway % metric denotes which runners earn the highest (and lowest) percentage of their yardage on big plays. Among 60 RBs the 49ers' backs rank ...
- Breida: No. 2
- Mostert: No. 8
- Coleman: No. 11
The biggest obstacle here is snaps and touches. Kyle Juszczyk adds another wrinkle to the equation as one of the most-used FBs in the entire league.
Mostert ($5,800) is the lead back, but Coleman ($3,500) should be priced much higher than Breida ($3,300) based on their recent usage. Shanahan has shown he isn't afraid to ride the hot hand, so it wouldn't be all that shocking if Coleman has some success early and sees the majority of the work the rest of the way.
- RB1: Henry (78% snap rate, 33.5 combined carries and targets per game)
- RB2: Dion Lewis (18%, 2)
Death, taxes, the Titans feeding Henry the ball with their season on the line.
This 6-foot-3 and 247-pound monster has historically only gotten better as the season has gone on:
- September (3.87 yards per carry)
- October (3.87)
- November (5.87)
- December (5.38)
- January (5.3)
Who can blame any defender for not being all that enthusiastic about tackling this dude. There have only been four instances of a RB averaging over four yards after contact per attempt in a season since 2010 (PFF, minimum 100 carries). Henry in 2018 and 2019 is responsible for two of them.
The Ravens Defense has been much better against the pass (No. 4 in DVOA) than the rush (No. 19). And yet, they join the 49ers, Buccaneers and Patriots as the only defenses that have allowed fewer than 20 PPR per game to opposing backfields. This is in large part thanks to their league-best defense in terms of fewest receptions allowed to opposing RBs.
Thus, Henry could be seen as the perfect kryptonite to attack this middling Ravens' front-seven. Cash lineups featuring Lamar Jackson, Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry are obviously expensive, but there's more capable talent and projected workload in the sub-$5,000 range at WR than there is at RB.
This situation will almost entirely depend on whether or not Ingram manages to suit up.
- December 22: Ingram leaves the Ravens' Week 16 victory over the Browns in a walking boot after suffering a strained calf.
- December 23: NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Ingram has a "good chance" of playing in the Divisional Round.
- December 26: Ingram said he's "pretty confident" he'll be ready for the Ravens' playoff opener.
- December 31: Ingram doesn't practice.
- January 3: Coach John Harbaugh said Ingram is on track to play.
- January 7: Rapoport reports Ingram "felt some tightness" at practice, but still has a shot to play.
- January 8: Ravens OC Greg Roman called Ingram "day to day."
Keep an eye on our industry-leading News Feed for updates on the Ravens' stud RB, but it sure sounds like Ingram hasn't done much over the past two weeks other than potentially re-aggravate the injury as soon as he tried to practice.
Edwards is capable of rushing effectively if Ingram is out or severely limited. The second-year pro has averaged a robust 5.3 yards per carry on 270 career rush attempts and ranked sixth in success rate this season. Perhaps the backup RB doesn't possess the same three-down or breakaway ability as Ingram, but Edwards has consistently proven capable of fitting into this offense, not creating negative plays, and picking up positive yardage more times than not.
And then we have Hill, who is the more dynamic backup Ravens RB. Only the Colts (109 receptions) allowed more catches to opposing backfields than the Titans (101) this season. Still, the Ravens don't seem to particularly trust Hill on passing downs. He's been used as a pass blocker on just 13 snaps all season, and Edwards (12 routes) was used more as a receiver than Hill (8) in Week 17.
Edwards is the slate's prime value play if Ingram is ultimately ruled out. However, I'd rather pivot to Tevin Coleman than Hill as far as sub-$4,000 backs are concerned due to aforementioned concerns about pass-game usage.
Texans Offense: Wild Card game
- RB1: Carlos Hyde (58% snaps, 17 combined carries and targets)
- RB2: Duke Johnson (39%, 6)
- RB3: Taiwan Jones (3%, 1)
Hyde posted a robust 58% snap rate last week and received 16 carries despite the Texans falling behind the Bills by 16 points in the third quarter. He dropped an easy option pitch that would've been a touchdown ... and was rewarded with a designed roll-out target for a score on the very next play.
To reiterate: Johnson is significantly better at football than Hyde.
- Yards per carry: Hyde (4.37, No. 26 among 51 qualified RBs); Johnson (4.94, No. 9)
- Yards per target: Hyde (2.63, No. 51); Johnson (6.61, No. 15)
- Yards per touch: Hyde (4.36, No. 41); Johnson (6.46, No. 3)
- Yards after contact per attempt: Hyde (2.79; No. 31); Johnson (3.64, No. 4)
Some still believe that Hyde is a better runner inside the tackles than the Miami Hurricane's all-time leading rusher. Fine. Either way, there should be zero excuse this week for Hyde to play heavily over Johnson when they're literally facing the league's worst defense in receiving yards allowed to opposing RBs.
And yet, I can't bring myself to believe that coach Bill O'Brien will do the sensible thing and utilize his more receiving-friendly back. Hyde ($5,000) should absolutely be the higher-projected and -owned back than Johnson ($4,700) at their similar price points. Bet on volume, not on talent.
- RB1: Williams (71% snap rate, 19 combined carries and targets)
- RB2: Darwin Thompson (24%, 5)
LeSean McCoy has been a healthy scratch in back-to-back games. He also was a healthy scratch in Week 10, which coach Andy Reid explained by saying Shady is "not getting any younger so it's important I manage him the right way as we go."
Both McCoy and Williams averaged five yards per touch this season, with McCoy (4.6 yards per carry, 5.3 yards per target) functioning as the better runner, and Williams (4.5 YPC, 5.8 YPT) as the superior pass-game option. Neither Shady (3 fumbles) nor Williams (2) have done the best job consistently securing the football this season.
Let's make one thing clear: Shady is not washed.
Still, Williams wins the "what have you done for me lately" argument with back-to-back strong performances against the Bears (16-65-0 rushing, 3-27-1 receiving) and Chargers (12-124-2, 4-30-0).
Patrick Mahomes will undoubtedly look to hit Williams on a wheel route at least once come Sunday. However, I wouldn't be surprised if McCoy and to a lesser extent Thompson are also factors on early downs. Williams (33 pass block snaps) worked well ahead of both Thompson (4) and McCoy (16) when it came to protecting their franchise QB throughout the season, so he's the safest bet for pass-game work.
It's tough for me to warrant exposure to Thompson ($3,400) when Tevin Coleman costs just $100 more. Williams ($6,000) is shaping up to be the chalkiest RB on the slate, meaning he can be played in cash games, but could be a quality tournament fade in favor of Shady ($4,400) as well as Mostert, who comes in $200 cheaper.
- RB1: Travis Homer (67% snap rate, 13.5 combined carries and targets per game)
- RB2: Marshawn Lynch (30%, 9)
- RB3: Robert Turbin (1%, 0)
Coach Pete Carroll noted in his Monday press conference that the Seahawks want Lynch to be more involved. He's had a few nice moments thus far, but ultimately has converted 18 touches into just 41 yards. Credit to Beast Mode for finding the end zone twice on tough runs, although Homer was certainly the superior RB in Week 17 when he racked up 92 total yards on 10 carries and five receptions.
The Seahawks should be able to run to their heart's desire this week. The only defense worse than the Packers in adjusted line yards allowed per rush was the Dolphins.
Both Homer ($5,100) and Lynch ($4,800) should be treated as tournament options that can help provide some salary relief to WR-heavy lineups.
- RB1: Aaron Jones (85% snap rate, 31 combined carries and targets)
- RB2: Tyler Ervin (19%, 4)
- RB3: Dexter Williams (5%, 2)
Jones has had four games with Williams either sidelined or severely limited due to injury:
- Week 4 vs. Eagles: 13-21-1 rushing, 6-37-0 receiving, 84% snap rate
- Week 5 at Cowboys: 19-107-4, 7-75-0, 67%
- Week 16 at Vikings: 23-154-2, 2-6-0, 68%
- Week 17 at Lions: 25-100-0, 2-43-0, 85%
It'd behoove the Packers to feature their objectively better RB even if Williams manages to return from injury. Either way, the Packers should strongly consider getting Jones more involved as a receiver. His usage in the passing game has been inconsistent with Davante Adams in the lineup this season, and the Seahawks (9.5 yards per reception allowed to opposing RBs) have only been better than the Chiefs (9.51) and Lions (10.7) when it comes to limiting opposing backfields through the air.
Jones ($7,400) should probably be rostered in every lineup possible if Williams is out. He's still a great play regardless, but should be approached with a bit more caution in cash lineups without a guaranteed workhorse role.