Fantasy News & Analysis

Jahnke: Fantasy Reactions to Sunday Divisional Round Playoffs

Jan 17, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) leaps over Cleveland Browns strong safety Karl Joseph (42) to score a touchdown during the first half in the AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NFL Divisional Round continued on Sunday after an interesting Saturday, and it more than lived up to its reputation of typically being the best sports weekend of the season.

Let's take a look at each Sunday game from a fantasy football perspective and consider how the skill players were used, whether anything was unusual and how any changes will impact the AFC and NFC championship games. I'll look ahead to the 2021 NFL season for the teams that fall short.

As always, this collection of fantasy reactions will include snap counts for skill players on each team, along with notes on players who saw their fantasy stocks rise or fall during the action.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs

Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
WR WR
Jarvis Landry – 58 snaps Tyreek Hill – 61 snaps
Rashard Higgins – 55 snaps Demarcus Robinson – 47 snaps
Donovan Peoples-Jones – 46 snaps Mecole Hardman – 46 snaps
KhaDarel Hodge – 8 snaps Byron Pringle – 30 snaps
Gehrig Dieter – 1 snap
TE TE
Austin Hooper – 40 snaps Travis Kelce – 59 snaps
David Njoku – 30 snaps Nick Keizer – 16 snaps
Harrison Bryant – 13 snaps Ricky Seals-Jones – 4 snaps
HB HB
Nick Chubb – 34 snaps Darrel Williams – 52 snaps
Kareem Hunt – 32 snaps Le'Veon Bell – 11 snaps
Total – 64 snaps Total – 66 snaps

Winners: TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City's two All-Pro players delivered in the divisional round, catching eight passes each. By the end of the game, Hill (110) gained just one yard more than Kelce (109).

Kelce delivered Kansas City their only passing touchdown of the day, while Hill gained Kansas City’s game-sealing first down. And while the Chiefs had plenty of injuries on offense both coming into the game as well as during the game, these two stars helped the team overcome that adversity and punched their ticket to the AFC championship game.

Injury Replacement: RB Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs

Clyde Edwards-Helaire apparently wasn’t ready to return from his high ankle sprain, but there is a chance he will be ready to play next week.

Le’Veon Bell started the first game Edwards-Helaire missed, but Williams finished it. Then, in Week 17, Kansas City played backups with Darwin Thompson leading the way.

Bell was a full participant in practice all week despite his knee injury, but Williams led the way for Kansas City on Sunday afternoon. He gained 78 yards on 13 carries as well as 16 yards on four catches. Bell played the backup role and gained six yards on two carries but didn’t catch either of his targets.

We could possibly see a similar breakdown to this next week, or Williams and Edwards-Helaire could share time with the returning rookie taking as many snaps as he can handle.

Injury Replacement: WR Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs

Sammy Watkins did not practice all week and was ruled out days before the game with a calf injury.

Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle typically split playing time as the third wide receiver when Watkins is healthy. All three players received more playing time than usual, with two of the three seeing time on the field along with Tyreek Hill.

Hardman finished second among the wide receivers in targets (4), catches (4) and yards (58). He is likely to end third in receiving yards again next week, although the matchup isn’t very favorable.

Injury: QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes left the game in the third quarter with a concussion and didn’t return.

Chad Henne entered the game in Mahomes’ absence and put together a few nice plays in the passing game as well as a late 13-yard scramble to help them clinch the victory, but he also let go of a very costly interception in the fourth quarter.

If Mahomes misses next week, it would be a big hit to all of the wide receivers' fantasy value. The matchup wasn’t going to be favorable for them to begin with, but having the drop-off in quarterback play will make matters even worse.

2021 Watch: TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

Njoku finished second in receiving yards for the Browns after catching four of his five targets for 59 yards. He outshined teammate Austin Hooper, who caught two of his three targets for 16 yards. It was Njoku’s best receiving performance of the season when it came to the box score.

Both tight ends are under contract for the 2021 season, though neither can be a reliable top-10 fantasy tight end if both remain in Cleveland. Hooper won’t be going anywhere due to his contract, but Njoku could be cut before the start of the league year when his contract becomes fully guaranteed. Njoku getting cut would ultimately help the fantasy value of both players.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers New Orleans Saints
WR WR
Chris Godwin – 64 snaps Michael Thomas – 44 snaps
Mike Evans – 61 snaps Emmanuel Sanders – 43 snaps
Antonio Brown – 27 snaps Tre'Quan Smith – 33 snaps
Tyler Johnson – 15 snaps Marquez Callaway – 19 snaps
Scotty Miller – 8 snaps Deonte Harris – 3 snaps
Jaydon Mickens – 3 snaps
TE TE
Rob Gronkowski – 54 snaps Jared Cook – 30 snaps
Cameron Brate – 28 snaps Adam Trautman – 28 snaps
Tanner Hudson – 4 snaps Josh Hill – 26 snaps
HB HB
Leonard Fournette – 48 snaps Alvin Kamara – 54 snaps
Ronald Jones – 21 snaps Ty Montgomery – 9 snaps
LeSean McCoy – 1 snap Dwayne Washington – 2 snaps
Total – 70 snaps Total – 63 snaps

Winner: RB Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fournette played well enough in the wild-card round to keep the starting job despite Ronald Jones‘ return from injury. He put up another strong performance with 63 yards on the ground on 17 attempts to go with 44 yards and a touchdown from five catches in the passing game.

Jones hasn’t played back-to-back games since November and has most recently missed time with a quadriceps injury. However, he looked like the better of the two backs on rushing plays tonight, recording 62 yards on 13 carries. Jones got more involved in the offense as the game went on, but Fournette ultimately closed the game out.

It would be good to have shares of both backs next week. The matchup against Green Bay is a favorable one, and either back may get a hot hand early on, which may force the Buccaneers to stick with whoever is playing better. Fournette will be the safer play of the two because he has more upside as a receiver.

Trending Up: TE Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brate continued the recent trend of running just as many routes — if not more — as teammate Rob Gronkowski. This led to Brate leading the Buccaneers in receiving yards with 50 after he caught four of the five passes thrown his way.

On the other hand, Gronkowski caught only one of his five targets for 14 yards. It is hard to bet against arguably the best tight end in NFL history, but recent trends point to Brate being the tight end to trust for the rest of the season. 

Trending Up: WR Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers struggled to find success in the passing game for most of the contest. Brate and Fournette led the team in receiving yards, while the three star receivers all finished under 35 yards.

In the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers started using their backup receivers a little more. Johnson made arguably the most impressive catch of the game, while Miller made the longest catch for Tampa Bay on the day. This could inspire the Buccaneers to rotate their wide receivers a little bit more next week, which could hurt the value of their starters, particularly Antonio Brown, who already sees less playing time than the other two.

2021 Watch: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Brees played in what is believed to be the last game of his NFL career. He ended on a low note, completing just 19-of-34 passes for 134 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. One of his potential replacements, Taysom Hill, missed the game with a knee injury; his other possible replacement, Jameis Winston, completed his only pass on a trick play for a 56-yard touchdown. If this was Brees' last game, then I’d like to thank him for two decades of fantasy football greatness.

The NFL was better for Brees being in it.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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