Divisional Round fantasy football factors: Home/road and weather impact

Orchard Park, NY, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

This is our weekly look at fantasy football adjustments you should make based on venue and/or weather. Entering the weekend action for the Divisional Round of the NFL season, knowing which players should see an improvement or decline in their projection can be a key to victory.

After a defense-focused Wild Card round, this week will feature the bulk of the NFL’s explosive offenses and without any major weather concerns that would rob them of points. That said, both the Colts/Chiefs and Chargers/Patriots games will see temperatures at or below freezing, and my research shows that cold weather alone pushes teams to run the ball more and reduces the effectiveness of their passes. I don’t expect wholesale strategic changes, but even those subtle differences coupled with home/road tendencies can impact expected production enough to swing fantasy matchups. Here are the teams and players I project to see the biggest differences.

(Scroll to the bottom of the page to see a full charting of the expected adjustments to make this week.)

Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

With a game-time temperature forecast of 34 degrees Fahrenheit, this is the milder of the two cold games this week. That is not enough to sabotage a home game for Patrick Mahomes (+0.3), although he did produce three of his five games with fewer than 300 passing yards in cooler temperatures in December. The gap between him and the No. 2 quarterback option, Drew Brees, should be smaller this week given their respective conditions.

You’ll likely be tempted to roll with Andrew Luck (-1.4), who is $800 cheaper than Mahomes and $500 cheaper than Brees on DraftKings. I’m not as keen on the idea because Luck showed pretty substantial home/road splits this year.

I wouldn’t be surprised to instead see the Colts attempt to repeat their strategy from last week and lean heavily on running back Marlon Mack (-0.5). His projected road losses should be somewhat counterbalanced by the cold temperature, and his workload has been trending up all season, culminating in a season-high more than 90% of the team’s running back touches last week.

The Chiefs defense promotes rushing yards per attempt by 14% and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 35 percent. Mack could rack up the fantasy points as the keystone piece of an attempt to keep the Chiefs offense off the field.

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

There is a strong chance of rain overnight and into the early morning of game day in Los Angeles, but that should give way to just clouds and moderate temperatures come the late-afternoon local kickoff. That is better than the alternative, but it’s still prudent to keep your expectations of Dak Prescott (-1.2) in check. With 20.1 fantasy points per game at home and 15.9 on the road this year, he is one of the more venue-susceptible quarterbacks in football.

I’m much more bullish on Rams quarterback Jared Goff (+0.1), who has shown his own extreme home/road splits and will land on the good side of that at home in Los Angeles this weekend.

My projections don’t trust his splits as much as they do those of long-time players like Brees, so I’m more likely too pessimistic than too optimistic. I think he and both of his primary receivers, Robert Woods (+0.4) and Brandin Cooks (+0.4), are decent fantasy options. Cooks broke out of his December slump with two scores in Week 17, but more important for projection purposes, he had nine targets. That was his most in a game since his last 100-yard receiving day in mid-November.

Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots

The 25-degree kickoff temperature in Boston is cold enough to really matter for fantasy purposes. Tom Brady (+0.1) typically enjoys a big home-field advantage, but he’s thrown for just 236 yards and 15.2 fantasy points per game with the temperature below 30 degrees in recent seasons. And Philip Rivers (-1.3) has had so few opportunities in those elements, it’s difficult to trust his mixed results.

Philip Rivers' Sub-30˚ Games
Season Week Temp Yards TD INT FanPts
2007 20 23˚ 211 0 2 4.4
2008 19 26˚ 308 3 1 22.3
2010 16 29˚ 256 1 1 12.4
2013 12 24˚ 392 3 0 27.8
291.8 1.8 1.0 16.7

If I wanted to save money at the position in daily, I’d rather play Goff than either future Hall of Famer.

Melvin Gordon (+0.4) would be primed for a big fantasy day against a Patriots defense that is worse against the run than the pass, but his recurrent knee injury makes him a major risk. I actually feel much more comfortable starting Patriots rookie Sony Michel (+1.3), who has enjoyed massive home benefits this season and shouldn’t have to face the Chargers’ run-stopping quarter defense that stymied Lamar Jackson with Brady under center.

Interestingly, James White (-1.0) has shown an unusual split for a receiving back with better production at home than on the road this year. But since that has been driven much more by touchdowns than by touches and yards, I’m projecting a venue-and-weather loss for him this week.

Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints

I feel like a broken record at this point, but I feel compelled to repeat that Brees’ (+2.9) December swoon that will likely cost him the MVP was the result of his typical home/road splits over a three-game road trip. Brees scored 24.7 fantasy points per game in the dome in New Orleans this year compared to just 16.2 per game on the road. The Eagles are one of the best pass defenses still in the playoffs, but Brees still managed 363 yards and four touchdowns against them at home in Week 11. That may be too high a target for his encore performance, but he should still be an excellent fantasy option this week. So too should his favorite trio of skill players, Alvin Kamara (+0.6), Mark Ingram (+0.5), and Michael Thomas (+1.9). I even like Ted Ginn (+0.9), who saw eight targets in his return from his knee injury in Week 16, second-most on the team.

Nick Foles (-0.4) should see some of his typical road losses mitigated by playing in the dome, but the Saints defense isn’t a dramatically better matchup than the Bears were last week. They cut passing touchdowns per attempt by 10% and promote interceptions and quarterback fumbles by 30 and 55% per attempt, respectively. Foles may end up with strong fantasy stats because of the gamescript, but he’s too risky for my tastes.

Player Team Pos Adjustment
Drew Brees NO QB +2.9
Michael Thomas NO WR +1.9
Sony Michel NE RB +1.3
Ted Ginn Jr. NO WR +0.9
Alvin Kamara NO RB +0.6
Tre'Quan Smith NO WR +0.6
Mark Ingram NO RB +0.5
Keith Kirkwood NO WR +0.5
Josh Hill NO TE +0.5
Dan Arnold NO TE +0.5
Melvin Gordon LAC RB +0.4
Robert Woods LAR WR +0.4
Brandin Cooks LAR WR +0.4
Ben Watson NO TE +0.4
Patrick Mahomes KC QB +0.3
Austin Ekeler LAC RB +0.3
Josh Reynolds LAR WR +0.3
Travis Kelce KC TE +0.3
Gerald Everett LAR TE +0.3
Darren Sproles PHI RB +0.2
Tyreek Hill KC WR +0.2
Phillip Dorsett NE WR +0.2
Cordarrelle Patterson NE WR +0.2
Sammy Watkins KC WR +0.2
Julian Edelman NE WR +0.2
Chris Hogan NE WR +0.2
Tyler Higbee LAR TE +0.2
Demetrius Harris KC TE +0.2
Jared Goff LAR QB +0.1
Tom Brady NE QB +0.1
Todd Gurley LAR RB +0.1
Tavon Austin DAL WR +0.1
Chris Conley KC WR +0.1
Demarcus Robinson KC WR +0.1
Noah Brown DAL WR +0.1
Zach Pascal IND WR +0.1
Rob Gronkowski NE TE +0.1
Mo Alie-Cox IND TE +0.1
Rex Burkhead NE RB 0.0
C.J. Anderson LAR RB 0.0
Wendell Smallwood PHI RB 0.0
Golden Tate PHI WR 0.0
Dallas Goedert PHI TE 0.0
Dalton Schultz DAL TE 0.0
Josh Adams PHI RB -0.1
Rod Smith DAL RB -0.1
Spencer Ware KC RB -0.1
Jordan Wilkins IND RB -0.1
Darrel Williams KC RB -0.1
Nelson Agholor PHI WR -0.1
Justin Jackson LAC RB -0.2
Damien Williams KC RB -0.2
Nyheim Hines IND RB -0.2
Alshon Jeffery PHI WR -0.2
Cole Beasley DAL WR -0.2
Blake Jarwin DAL TE -0.2
Virgil Green LAC TE -0.2
Antonio Gates LAC TE -0.2
Zach Ertz PHI TE -0.3
Nick Foles PHI QB -0.4
Charcandrick West KC RB -0.4
Travis Benjamin LAC WR -0.4
Dontrelle Inman IND WR -0.4
Michael Gallup DAL WR -0.4
Ezekiel Elliott DAL RB -0.5
Marlon Mack IND RB -0.5
Chester Rogers IND WR -0.5
Eric Ebron IND TE -0.5
Amari Cooper DAL WR -0.6
Tyrell Williams LAC WR -0.7
T.Y. Hilton IND WR -0.8
Mike Williams LAC WR -0.8
James White NE RB -1.0
Dak Prescott DAL QB -1.2
Philip Rivers LAC QB -1.3
Andrew Luck IND QB -1.4
Keenan Allen LAC WR -1.5

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