Immediate fantasy football takeaways from Saturday's NFL wild-card playoff games

Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary (26) runs for a touchdown during the second quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff game against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL regular season is over, but the fantasy football reactions carry on. The first day of Super Wild-Card Weekend gives us back-to-back AFC matchups that featured some of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.

The Cincinnati Bengals started the first game off hot with Ja’Marr Chase while the Las Vegas Raiders played well in the middle of the game but not well enough at the end to complete the comeback.

DFS lineups were flooded with players from this game because the second game — Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots — was expected to be a defensive struggle; however, it wasn't, as Buffalo dominated New England from the start.

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Table Notes
  • Snaps include plays called back due to penalties like offensive holding or defensive pass interference. The other three stats have these plays removed.
  • Targets may differ from official NFL sources. The most likely discrepancy would be from a clear thrown away pass, where the NFL may give the target to the nearest receiver, while this data will not.
  • Carries are only on designed plays. Quarterback scrambles won’t count for the total number of carries in the game.

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Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

  • Ja’Marr Chase: 9 receptions, 116 yards, 0 TD, (33.3% threat rate), 3 carries, 23 yards
  • C.J. Uzomah: 6 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD (2 for 2 on contested catches)
Las Vegas Raiders Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Zay Jones 70 51 8 0
Hunter Renfrow 59 49 11 0
Bryan Edwards 53 40 6 0
DeSean Jackson 21 18 2 0
Darren Waller 71 53 12 0
Foster Moreau 27 10 3 0
Derek Carrier 7 3 0 0
Josh Jacobs 52 32 5 13
Jalen Richard 25 22 1 0
Total 77 58 48 13
Cincinnati Bengals Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Ja'Marr Chase 58 36 12 3
Tyler Boyd 56 31 5 1
Tee Higgins 55 32 4 0
Mike Thomas 5 1 0 0
C.J. Uzomah 52 32 6 0
Drew Sample 19 7 0 0
Mitchell Wilcox 1 0 0 0
Joe Mixon 48 25 5 17
Samaje Perine 13 9 0 1
Chris Evans 3 1 0 1
Total 62 36 32 25

Don’t give up on Tee Higgins: The Bengals wide receiver was shut out for the first 50 minutes of the game with no catches on three targets, and he finished with one catch for 10 yards. He had one of the best matchups coming into the week. The Bengals didn’t change their personnel usage or where Higgins lined up, but he did face the Raiders' best cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. more often than expected, lining up across from Hayward on roughly half of his routes and all of his incomplete targets.

This allowed Ja’Marr Chase to take advantage of the rest of the Raiders' defensive backs. In other matchups, we can expect Chase to see the opponent's best cornerback, which should allow Higgins to have big games in the future.

Monitor Joe Mixon‘s health: Mixon took a few plays off in the fourth quarter to get more tape around his foot/ankle area. He still played the vast majority of the game and received his normal allotment of touches. He hasn’t appeared on the injury report in the last two weeks, but he was on the report in Week 16 with an ankle injury. He should play next week after finishing this game, but keep an eye on the injury report leading up to next week. If he shows up on the injury report, there will be a little more risk in putting him in DFS lineups. 

The Raiders should upgrade at WR this offseason: The Raiders lost this game because of a relatively quiet pass game. Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller led the Raiders in targets and receptions, which was common this season, but they could use one or two new outside wide receivers at the top of the depth chart. Two of their three outside receivers, Zay Jones and DeSean Jackson, are free agents this offseason. 

There will be several wide receivers available in free agency — four of the top-10 and 10 of the top-51 free agents heading into this offseason are wide receivers. The Raiders could also pick a wide receiver in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Las Vegas' inside receivers should remain among the best of the league, and hopefully, the Raiders will significantly upgrade on the outside.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

  • Devin Singletary: 16 carries, 81 yards, 2 TD (2.8 yards after contact per carry), 3 receptions, 13 receiving yards
  • Dawson Knox: 5 receptions, 89 yards, 2 TD (15.6 aDOT)
Buffalo Bills Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Gabriel Davis 40 18 3 0
Stefon Diggs 35 23 4 0
Emmanuel Sanders 26 16 3 0
Isaiah McKenzie 19 12 3 3
Cole Beasley 17 8 1 0
Jake Kumerow 5 2 0 0
Dawson Knox 49 29 5 0
Devin Singletary 48 23 3 16
Zack Moss 6 2 0 1
Total 56 29 24 26
New England Patriots Snaps Routes Run Targets Carries
Jakobi Meyers 55 41 9 0
Nelson Agholor 52 38 2 0
Kendrick Bourne 39 34 8 1
N'Keal Harry 5 3 0 0
Hunter Henry 50 39 3 0
Jonnu Smith 20 5 0 0
Rhamondre Stevenson 23 14 4 8
Brandon Bolden 23 18 6 0
Damien Harris 17 6 1 9
Total 62 43 34 18

The Bills changed their wide receiver rotation: Emmanuel Sanders has missed two of the Bills' previous three games while Cole Beasley also missed a game recently, which opened the door for some of the Bills' younger receivers. Gabriel Davis has recorded five touchdowns since the start of December while Isaiah McKenzie had an 11-catch, 125-yard and one-touchdown performance in Week 16. These impressive performances led Buffalo to change how it uses its receivers.

Davis led Buffalo's receivers in offensive snaps because he was Buffalo's primary wide receiver when six offensive linemen were on the field. He, Stefon Diggs and Sanders rotated as the two outside receivers while Diggs and Davis played in the slot at times. McKenzie and Beasley split time in the slot. The Bills occasionally used four-wide receiver sets, which enabled everyone to play a little more. 

DFS managers should target Buffalo's top four receivers next week. Beasley played around 50% or less of Buffalo's offensive snaps in each of his last four games. He’s only topped 50 receiving yards once since Week 8 and hasn’t scored since Week 6. He can be avoided at this point, and the Bills can save $6.1 million in cap space by cutting him in two months.

The Patriots' ideal backfield for 2022: The Patriots backfield was predictable as ever tonight. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson split playing time on early downs while Brandon Bolden played on third downs and during two-minute drills. New England’s embarrassing loss meant Bolden was the group's leader in snaps. Harris played significantly more than Stevenson, as the rookie did not receive his second carry until the fourth quarter.

The Patriots' skill players will largely look similar next year, as a few of their good young players are still on their rookie contract in addition to recent free-agent signings who will be hard to move. The one area the could change is running back, as James White and Bolden are both scheduled to hit free agency on the wrong side of 30 years old. White and Bolden graded better as receivers than Harris and Stevenson, but for fantasy football purposes, it would be better if the Patriots went with a two-man backfield. Harris and Stevenson will be high-risk/high-reward running backs if the Patrios maintain a three-man backfield.


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