News & Analysis

Jeff Ratcliffe's Divisional Round fantasy football focus: Facts, predictions, and tips

Jan 4, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) celebrates with fans after defeating the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

We’re heading into the Divisional Rounds, and eight teams remain standing in the NFL. While fantasy football isn’t quite the same during the playoffs as it is in the regular season, there’s still plenty of opportunity to play in DFS contests and one-and-done leagues. Regardless of which format you’re in, we have you covered here at PFF. Like we do every week on the Focus, we’re breaking down every game from all fantasy angles below. And for the playoffs, we included a special section on the best one-and-done plays for each game.

Don’t forget that you can also check out our Divisional Round rankings cheat sheet for your draft-and-hold leagues, along with the rest of our postseason fantasy football rankings, Divisional Round fantasy football projections, and Divisional Round fantasy football matchup charts.

Minnesota @ San Francisco

Greenline: SF 6.2, O/U 44.6

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Matchup upgrade: You’re going to be hard-pressed to find much to like in this one, but the San Francisco wideouts do offer some appeal. Minnesota’s struggles in the secondary are no secret. While the Vikings managed to keep the New Orleans passing game in check, Xavier Rhodes is still allowing nearly 84% of his targets to be caught. On the season, Deebo Samuel ran routes most frequently from left wide receiver (43%) with Emmanuel Sanders playing more on the right. That means Samuel is the better bet to draw more of Rhodes, though both wideouts will be in his coverage. It should be said, that given Jimmy Garoppolo’s relatively poor matchup, it’s wise to not play both Samuel and Sanders in the same lineup. One of them could go off, but it’s unlikely that both do.

Matchup downgrade: San Francisco steamrolled its way through the regular season in large part due to the strength of the defense. The 49ers surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs in the regular season, which isn’t good news for Dalvin Cook. However, that doesn’t mean we should outright fade him. Cook could still have a big fantasy day if he sees another big workload. Let’s not forget that he saw a massive five goal-line carries against the Saints and led all running backs in that stat in the regular season.

Both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are on the injury report this week. Diggs is dealing with an illness and Thielen suffered a cut that required stitches. However, neither sounds like he’s in danger of sitting this week. That said, this is a brutal draw for the Vikings passing game. Kirk Cousins figures to struggle against a 49ers defense that not only boasts a stout secondary, but also can bring the pressure with Nick Bosa. Thielen was the big hero in the Wild Card Round, but he’s a good bet to struggle in this one as he projects to line up against Richard Sherman on close to half of his routes. Diggs was quiet last week, but his big-play upside is always worth at least a little DFS exposure. Kyle Rudolph may have found the end zone last week, but he’s a hard fade against a San Francisco defense that sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends.

As noted above, this is not the best matchup for Garoppolo. The Vikings secondary has struggled this season, but Minnesota allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in the regular season. They also did a good job against tight ends, with just one touchdown allowed to the position. While Jared Cook didn’t find the end zone, he did catch five balls for 54 yards last week. There’s no reason to be concerned about George Kittle here. The all-world tight end is still one of the best plays on the board this week.

Key injuries: Other than Diggs and Thielen, there are no injuries to report in this contest.

Best one-and-done plays: The 49ers are heavy favorites here, so we’re going to eat the chalk and play any Vikings we didn’t put in play last week. If you still have Cook available, he’s one of the best one-and-done plays of the week. Likewise, Diggs is a solid option. However, we aren’t going to go as far as using Cousins. You’ll have better quarterback options on the Sunday slate.

Tennessee @ Baltimore

Greenline: BLT -8.6, O/U 47.9

Matchup upgrade: Perhaps one of the biggest questions heading into this weekend is whether Mark Ingram will be available for the Ravens. The veteran injured his calf in Week 16 and has not practiced yet this week. Ravens OC Greg Roman called Ingram “day-to-day,” which certainly leaves the door open for him suiting up. While this isn’t a slam dunk of a matchup, it is one of the more favorable with the Titans allowing the 11th-most fantasy points per game to running backs. If Ingram doesn’t play, Gus Edwards would become one of the chalkiest plays on the board this week. Stay tuned.

Mark Andrews is also on the injury report, but he should be good to go. While he certainly doesn’t come with the fantasy pedigree of Kittle or Kelce, Andrews did rank fifth among tight ends in fantasy scoring this season thanks to a healthy 10 receiving touchdowns. He’s in play as a pivot from the big two this week against a Titans defense that allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends in 2019.

Matchup downgrade: For the second week in a row, we’re downgrading essentially all the Titans offense. Derrick Henry has to go on the road and face one of the league’s toughest run defenses. Sound familiar? Henry managed to take it to the stout Patriots run defense in the Wild Card Round. While the Ravens are the fourth-worst matchup for running backs, we can’t count Henry out here.

However, the same cannot be said for Ryan Tannehill. After being one of the hottest quarterbacks in fantasy from the mid-point of the season on, we barely heard a peep out of Tannehill last week. Sure, he could be viewed as a contrarian play, but it’s much more likely that we see a similar outcome to last week’s performance. Likewise, it’s almost impossible to have much confidence in Jonnu Smith. Not only was he not the tight end who found the end zone for the Titans last week – that was Anthony Firkser – but he also draws the worst matchup for tight ends.

© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

There’s really no sugarcoating things here: This is a bad matchup all around for Tennessee, but there might be some hope for A.J. Brown. Yes, the same A.J. Brown who caught just one ball for four yards last week. Sure, the Ravens secondary is very good. Heck, they have two first-team All Pros in Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. However, Brown ran 55% of his routes at left wide receiver in the regular season. That means he’s likely to see Jimmy Smith on over half of his routes on Saturday. While Smith isn’t an “easy” matchup, he is the most favorable of the Ravens trio of corners.

Key injuries: Ingram is the big one. If he doesn’t go, get ready to jam Edwards in as many lineups as you can. And let’s be clear that it will be Edwards and not Justice Hill. With Ingram out in Week 17, Edwards played 46 offensive snaps and Hill was on the field for just 19 snaps.

Best one-and-done plays: Like our first game, we’re playing the chalk in this one. If you somehow managed to not play Henry last week, he’s a must play in one-and-done contests. Likewise, Brown should be fired up in lineups. However, we aren’t looking to Tannehill as a viable one-and-done quarterback play this week.

Houston @ Kansas City

Greenline: KC -8.9, O/U 51.8

Matchup upgrade: We essentially have the opposite of the first two games on this week’s slate with upgrades nearly across the board in this one. The Houston pass defense was extremely fantasy-friendly this season, allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks with opposing signal-callers averaging a healthy 2.1 scores and 281 yards through the again against the Texans. Patrick Mahomes has the very real potential to be the top-scoring quarterback of the slate.

Of course, that means plenty of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, both of whom are among the top DFS plays of the week. Back in Week 6, Hill torched this Houston defense, posting 5 catches for 80 yards and two scores. Those looking for a high-ceiling punt may want to consider Sammy Watkins. Sure, the mere mention of his name may evoke a gag reflex, but Watkins did show us back in Week 1 that he’s still capable of putting up a massive performance.

© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Damien Williams is perhaps the chalkiest running back play on the board this weekend. For the most part, 2019 was a massive disappointment for Williams, but he did manage to finish strong with 246 scrimmage yards and three total touchdowns over the last two weeks of the season. Better yet, Houston struggles against the run, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs in the regular season.

This matchup is also favorable for the run game on the other side of this contest. While Carlos Hyde is the clear lead back in Houston, it’s wise to exercise caution. With the Texans heading into this game as heavy underdogs, the gamescript isn’t likely to set up well for Hyde. Duke Johnson is a sneaky option who is worth some exposure if you’re mass-entering GPPs.

Matchup downgrade: While it isn’t a massive downgrade, Deshaun Watson doesn’t draw the best matchup here. The Chiefs finished the regular season as the No. 22 matchup for quarterbacks, allowing just 1.3 passing scores per game to the position. That doesn’t mean outright fading Watson, but the matchup is far from a pushover.

Key injuries: More than the matchup, Watson’s fantasy values hinges on Will Fuller’s status. Fuller’s field-stretching ability really changes what Houston can do on the offense side of the ball. He also takes some of the attention away from DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller managed a limited session at Wednesday’s practice, but is far from a lock to play this weekend.

It’s been tough to trust the Texans tight ends for much of the season, but Darren Fells saw most of the work last week with Jordan Akins sidelined. Akins did get limited work in at practice Wednesday, so there’s certainly a chance he plays. If not, Fells is worth consideration as a deeper tight end play. The Chiefs allow the fifth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.

Best one-and-done plays: The chalk continues. We’re loading up on the Texans here with Watson as the top one-and-done quarterback play this week. If you’re using Watson, it makes sense to stack him with Hopkins. You may also want to consider sliding Fells into lineups if Akins doesn’t play. The pickings are slim at tight end this week with the top three options all on teams favored to win.

Seattle @ Green Bay

Greenline: GB -4.1, O/U 47.3

Matchup upgrade: Don’t let fantasy football narratives fool you: Davante Adams was actually quite good this season. Sure, he had got off to a somewhat sluggish start and suffered an untimely toe injury that cost him a month, but he’s also rattled off double-digit targets in eight of his last nine games. From his return in Week 9 until the end of the season, Adams ranked second among wideouts in fantasy points per game and only Michael Thomas saw more targets. In the regular season, Adams lined up on the left 38% of the time, which means he’ll see the most of Tre Flowers this week. Flowers has surrendered a healthy 12.5 yards per catch and a 64.4% catch this season.

On paper this is also a favorable matchup for the Seattle run game. Green Bay allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to running backs in the regular season with opposing backfields averaging nearly 4.9 yards per carry and 0.9 rushing scores against the Packers. However, neither Travis Homer nor Marshawn Lynch are slam dunks in this one. Homer figures to again lead the Seahawks’ backfield in touches, but Lynch will see any goal-line carries the team runs.

Matchup downgrade: The Packers may struggle against the run, but they’ve had no issues holding opposing quarterbacks in check. Only five teams allowed fewer fantasy points per game to the position in the regular season. But like we’ve seen with some of the other elite players on this week’s slate, that doesn’t mean we outright fade Russell Wilson. Given the state of the Seattle backfield, Wilson is going to need to put his team on his back if they’re going to win. That fact alone makes Wilson worth some DFS exposure even in spite of the matchup.

© Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

D.K. Metcalf was the big hero for Seattle last week, but he draws a very different matchup in this one. Philadelphia simply didn’t have anyone who could cover Metcalf. On the other hand, Green Bay does in Kevin King. Is he a shutdown corner? No. But he is a big-bodied corner who has been asked to shadow at various points this season. It isn’t clear if Green Bay will use King to guard Metcalf as a shadow this weekend, but the coverage does put a damper on Metcalf’s fantasy outlook. Don’t chase last week’s stats.

Key injuries: Fortunately, there are none to report.

Best one-and-done plays: This is the closest game on the slate, so you’ll need to make a decision on who you think is going to win. We’re going to go with the odds on this one and pick the Packers to win. That would put Wilson in play, though Watson is still the preferred one-and-done option. Tyler Lockett and Metcalf would also be in play. If you go the other direction, Adams and Aaron Jones would be your best bets in one-and-done.

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