News & Analysis

Jahnke: Fantasy Reactions to the NFC & AFC Championship

Jan 24, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) runs the ball against Green Bay Packers free safety Darnell Savage (26) during the second quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Championship Sunday gifted us with two games played between four of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL, as well as plenty of firepower on offense.

Let's take a look at both Sunday games from a fantasy football perspective and consider how the skill players were used, whether anything was unusual and how any changes will impact Super Bowl Sunday. 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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Green Bay Packers
WR WR
Chris Godwin – 58 snaps Davante Adams – 68 snaps
Mike Evans – 55 snaps Allen Lazard – 58 snaps
Scotty Miller – 27 snaps Marquez Valdes-Scantling – 46 snaps
Tyler Johnson – 19 snaps Equanimeous St. Brown – 17 snaps
Jaydon Mickens – 3 snaps
TE TE
Rob Gronkowski – 57 snaps Robert Tonyan – 47 snaps
Cameron Brate – 23 snaps Marcedes Lewis – 29 snaps
Tanner Hudson – 2 snaps Dominique Dafney – 17 snaps
HB HB
Leonard Fournette – 44 snaps Jamaal Williams – 35 snaps
Ronald Jones – 18 snaps Aaron Jones – 22 snaps
LeSean McCoy – 1 snap A.J. Dillon – 16 snaps
Total – 64 snaps Total – 71 snaps

Winner: WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Godwin was the X-factor in the Buccaneers' offense. He never found the end zone, but he was the most reliable player moving the ball down the field, catching five of the nine passes thrown his way for 110 yards. No other Buccaneer recorded more than 51 receiving yards.

Godwin has caught exactly five passes in four of his last five games. He also gained the final first down of the game with a 6-yard carry. He should be considered a top-three wide receiver in the Super Bowl, regardless of who wins the AFC championship game.

Injury Replacement: WR Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antonio Brown missed practice all week with a knee injury and was inactive for the game. This allowed Miller and Tyler Johnson to see more playing time than usual.

The duo of wide receivers was mostly uninvolved in the offense outside of Miller scoring a 39-yard touchdown as the first half expired. Both wide receivers had one catch outside of that play.

Leonard Fournette benefited the most from Brown's absence, as he just recorded his second straight game with six or more targets. He caught five of them for 19 yards.

Brown’s health will be a storyline to watch over the next two weeks.

Position To Watch: TE Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Outside of raw touchdown total, Brate has outperformed Rob Gronkowski in several categories over the previous four games. Brate has run more pass routes, been given more targets and has more than double the number of catches.

Gronkowski went back to his usual amount of playing time today, seeing more pass routes and significantly more plays in other situations. The only problem is that he was held to one catch on one target. Gronkowski has just two catches in the playoffs so far. Brate, on the other hand, caught three of his five targets for 19 yards and a touchdown today.

Gronkowski is still more likely to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl, but Brate should be the favorite to tally more targets, catches and yards.

Injury: RB Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Jones suffered a chest injury in the third quarter as he fumbled for the second time in the game. He didn’t return.

Jones ran for 27 yards on six carries and only gained seven yards on his four catches. The Packers went with Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon the rest of the way.

This is the duo the Packers could go with next season. Jones is the top free agent for fantasy football purposes this offseason, and Green Bay has one of the worst salary-cap situations as we head into the offseason. The Packers have other free agents who are a higher priority from their own team, plus they could look to sign a wide receiver. The chances are that Jones will get paid with a new team.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Buffalo Bills Kansas City Chiefs
WR WR
John Brown – 70 snaps Tyreek Hill – 52 snaps
Stefon Diggs – 68 snaps Byron Pringle – 52 snaps
Cole Beasley – 60 snaps Demarcus Robinson – 42 snaps
Gabriel Davis – 17 snaps Mecole Hardman – 23 snaps
Isaiah McKenzie – 15 snaps Marcus Kemp – 4 snaps
Andre Roberts – 1 snap
TE TE
Dawson Knox – 47 snaps Travis Kelce – 59 snaps
Lee Smith – 7 snaps Nick Keizer – 14 snaps
Reggie Gilliam – 1 snap Ricky Seals-Jones – 7 snaps
HB HB
Devin Singletary – 38 snaps Clyde Edwards-Helaire – 32 snaps
T.J. Yeldon – 37 snaps Darrel Williams – 30 snaps
Darwin Thompson – 3 snaps
Total – 72 snaps Total – 65 snaps

Winner: TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Kelce is usually the winner for Chiefs games, and that continued to be true in tonight's AFC championship. He caught 13 passes in total, which tied an NFL record for most catches by a tight end in a postseason game while setting a new career-high for receptions in a game. 

He extended his streak of double-digit targets and a touchdown to six straight games and caught two touchdowns for the eighth time in his career. Not only will he be the top tight end for the Super Bowl, but he could also lead all skill players in fantasy points for the game. 

As usual, Tyreek Hill also deserves a lot of credit after catching nine passes for 172 yards.

Returning From Injury: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

Edwards-Helaire returned to Kansas City after missing the last month of the season with a high-ankle sprain. Kansas City used a two-back committee with Le’Veon Bell also out with a knee injury.

Edwards-Helaire started the game playing more often than usual, taking the field for more than 70% of the first-half snaps. This didn’t necessarily lead to success, as he gained seven yards on six carries and zero yards on his one catch. On the bright side, he did score a touchdown. 

Kansas City split snaps between their two backs in the third quarter, and then Darrel Williams took over in the fourth. This could have been a combination of performance reasons, as well as an attempt to prevent any further injury to the talented first-year back.

Williams gained 52 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and caught a 9-yard pass. A lot of his production came in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.

It will be even harder for the Kansas City running backs to find success in the Super Bowl; they will be facing a stronger run defense, and they will potentially have Bell back to make it a three-person committee.

Injury Replacement: WR Byron Pringle, Kansas City Chiefs

Sammy Watkins missed his third straight game due to a calf injury. He was a game-time decision and will potentially return for the Super Bowl.

Pringle was playing ahead of Mecole Hardman in three-receiver sets more often than not. Outside of Kansas City's All-Pro players, Pringle was the only other player with double-digit receiving yards after catching three of his five targets for 22 yards.

Hardman made the most of his limited opportunities, with a 50-yard carry and one of his two catches resulting in a touchdown.

Tampa Bay has done a great job of slowing down the opposition's top wide receiver over the last month while allowing other wide receivers to have big games. This gives Kansas City wide receivers not named Tyreek Hill upside, but that wide receiver could be Watkins, Hardman, Pringle or Demarcus Robinson.

Benched: RB Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

Singletary’s fantasy production has been relatively disappointing despite being on the field for the vast majority of plays, and he was benched after a dropped pass early in the second quarter. He returned for one play late in the second quarter and then split time with T.J. Yeldon in the second half.

This move made it even clearer that the Bills need to make a change at running back for the 2021 season. They might not yet be ready to give up on Zack Moss, but at the very least, it would be good to have a receiving back. Buffalo should be able to free up enough cap space to add a free agent or spend another draft pick on a back.

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