Lineup Prep: Wild Card Weekend

Wed Jan 6 9:36am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Jackson looks to stay red hot


More and more fantasy owners are playing in playoff leagues, and for good reason. They are a lot of fun contests and leagues out there these days. We run several on our site. Your fantasy leagues don’t have to come to an end because the regular season is over. I highly suggest getting involved in a league if you can. It is a great way to get your fantasy fix a little longer. Plus, there are a lot of interesting formats for leagues, giving you a different fantasy dynamic than during the regular season. So we’ll continue with this column throughout the playoffs, getting you ready for your games each week. With that said, here are my random thoughts for the week. . . . .

I do this every postseason and this year will be no different. I’ll give you my picks for the Super Bowl, including the champion. I think the NFC isn’t quite as open as the AFC. For me, it is either the Packers or Bucs. Both these teams are peaking at the right time, so they are my favorites to represent the NFC. I am leaning the Bucs right now with Tom Brady upping his game in recent weeks. This offense looks top notch and the defense is underrated. I think Brady makes one more trip to the Super.

Now the AFC is a much tougher call for me. I really think there are five teams that have a legit chance to go the Super Bowl in the AFC. This side of the bracket is deep and talented. It is a really tough call. It is hard for me to bet against the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes right now, though. I know the Chiefs have played some close games this year, but this is the most complete team in the AFC. Their defense gets overlooked at times, but is very good, especially the pass defense.

So I’m looking at the Bucs/Chiefs matchup in the Super Bowl. I know it is very rare for a repeat champion, but I think the Chiefs repeat and win it all. Patrick Mahomes is having another special season and leads his team to the promise land once again. But any way you look at it, I think we are setup for great games in the playoffs. There are a lot of teams playing at a high level right now. It should be a lot of fun.

I think the MVP race is as tight as ever this year. There are four players that have a legit chance to win it all. Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Derrick Henry all can make a case to be the league MVP this year. It is hard to pick against any of them. If I had to pick, I probably lean Rodgers at this point. He had a near flawless season for the best team in the NFC. Rodgers had an astounding 51 total touchdowns to just five interceptions. Again, you can make a case for all four but Rodgers is my guy right now.

Of all the coach openings, the Chargers is the most intriguing to me from a fantasy perspective. Justin Herbert is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, so I’m hoping the Chargers find a coach that can get him to grow even more. This offense could be really special with Herbert at the helm, Austin Ekeler as the lead back, and Keenan Allen serving as the No. 1 receiver. And I can’t forget about Hunter Henry at tight end. He has the potential to be an elite fantasy tight end if he can stay on the field. The talent is there for the Chargers to have one of the best offenses in football. Let’s hope they get a coach that can take the team to another level in the coming seasons.

Can we know trust David Montgomery? I think that is a tough question going forward. He had a monster finish to the season and ended fourth overall in fantasy running back scoring. I think the volume is there for Montgomery to keep his pace from late in the year. Plus, Montgomery was banged up early in the year, which led to his down production. When he got healthy and started getting a ton of work, Montgomery took off. So I think he is a legit top-10 fantasy back going forward.

It is going to be a tough call to pick a No. 1 overall fantasy player next year. You have several candidates to take that spot. I think Christian McCaffrey is my likely choice, though. He is just 24 years old and has plenty left in the tank. His dual threat ability separates him from other backs, playing like an elite receiver and running back. I think his injury issues from this past year are more of a fluke and not a trend. This guy keeps himself in top shape and showed he can handle a big workload in past seasons.

News and Notes: The Bills signed Kenny Stills to their practice squad on Monday. Stills gives the Bills some veteran depth at the position, providing some insurance for Cole Beasley.

HOT PLAYS

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts. Taylor is playing his best football of his young career right now. He hit the 200-yard rushing mark last week and is second overall in fantasy running back scoring his last three games. Taylor has touchdowns five straight games. Expect more of the same this week against the Bills. Buffalo allows the 10th most fantasy points to running backs this season. The Bills have allowed 140-plus rushing yards two of three games.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens. Jackson is peaking at the right time. He has 25-plus fantasy points five straight games. Jackson has three-touchdown games four of those last five games. He also has 80-plus rushing yards four of five games. Jackson is playing with a lot of confidence once again. He should be able to post big numbers this week against the Titans. Tennessee has a great offense but their defense is shaky. The Titans allow the fourth most fantasy points to quarterbacks and rank 29th overall against the pass.

Antonio Brown, WR, Bucs. Brown is starting to gain a great rapport with Tom Brady. It is showing with his play late in the year, scoring touchdowns three straight games. Brown is fourth overall in fantasy receiver scoring his last three games. He had his best game of the season last week, catching 11 passes for 138 yards and two scores on 14 targets. He could be in for a big workload again this week with Mike Evans hurting.

COLD PLAYS 

Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns. Landry has been a top producer in recent weeks for the Browns, emerging as the go-to target for the Browns. But even with that said, he has more than 65 yards just one time his last nine of 10 games. He is getting his catches but the rest of his numbers are pretty mediocre. It would not surprise to see him have a ho-hum game this week against the Steelers. In two games against Pittsburgh, Landry has eight receptions for 91 yards. The Steelers allow the 10th fewest fantasy points to receivers and are third overall against the pass.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks. Wilson had a bit of a late-season fade. He had fewer than 20 fantasy points four of his last eight games. He has cooled since a red-hot start to his season. He is setup for another mediocre showing this week against the Rams. Wilson had two touchdowns and two interceptions in two games against the Rams this season. Los Angeles is first overall against the pass and allow the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Devin Singletary, RB, Bills. Singletary might be the lead back for the Bills but that doesn’t mean he is much help for fantasy teams. He has 13 carries for 43 yards his last two games. He has fewest than eight fantasy points three of four games. He is a hard player to trust right now in a pass-first Bills offense. Plus, he plays the Colts, a team that is second overall against the run.

SLEEPERS

Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears. Trubisky has looked like a different quarterback since his return from the bench. He has 25-plus fantasy points three of six games. He has three three-touchdown games during that stretch. Trubisky is playing with more confidence and making big plays with this receivers. He should get plenty of chances to air it out this week against the Saints. You could see New Orleans getting up in this game, meaning Trubisky and teammates need to play catch-up.    

Eric Ebron, TE, Steelers. Ebron missed the game last week because he was placed on the COVID list. He should be ready to go for this weekend. Ebron scored a touchdown his last game out and has at least five receptions three of his last six games. He is getting more looks and producing. Ebron could surprise this week once again, playing Cleveland. The Browns really struggled to stop the tight end, allowing the third most fantasy points to tight ends.

Dez Bryant, WR, Ravens. Bryant is a touchdown dependent player but he has been finding the end zone, scoring two of his last three games. It would not surprise to see him score again this week in what should be a high-scoring game. The Titans can’t stop anyone defensively right now. Tennessee allows the second most fancy points to receivers. The Titans have allowed 22 touchdowns to receivers this year.

High/Low Scoring Games

Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.

High Scoring Games: Ravens/Titans.

Low Scoring Games: Rams/Seahawks, Bears/Saints. 

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

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Player Notes
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 25 4:30pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense was shredded by Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the first quarter of their Week 12 matchup, as Hill went off for 203 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns. Cornerback Carlton Davis was left on an island with Hill, and it didn't yield pretty results. "We'll help a little bit more than we did in that ballgame," Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. Tampa's D allowed 462 yards passing to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and three touchdowns. Hill finished with 269 yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches (only 59 yards in the second half). Tight end Travis Kelce had eight catches for 82 yards. With offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz out, Bucs pass-rushers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul must get pressure on Mahomes to have a chance at getting last year's Super Bowl MVP out of his rhythm.

From RotoBaller

Cole Beasley Jan 25 4:20pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (leg) suffered a broken fibula in the Week 16 game against the New England Patriots. Beasley sat out the regular season finale in Week 17 before catching 14 passes for 145 yards in three postseason games against the Colts, Ravens and Chiefs. "It was bad the first game I played but after that, you take a few meds and suck it up," Beasley said with a chuckle. The injury wasn't a full break, but Beasley said it was painful in the wild-card win over the Colts. The 31-year-old veteran hauled in seven of his nine targets for 88 yards in the AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. Beasley set career-highs in catches (82), targets (107), receiving yards (967) and yards per catch (11.8) while visiting the end zone four times in 15 regular season games in 2020. He'll be back as Josh Allen's most trusted third-down weapon in 2021 and will be more expensive in PPR leagues as a result of his career-best season.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Jan 25 4:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said that the team could reach a long-term contract extension with quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason, and the GM plans to speak to the reigning NFL MVP in the next 10 days. Jackson just finished his third season and will command at least $40 million per season on an extension. He's scheduled to make $1.77 million in 2021 on the final year of his rookie deal, which currently ranks 25th among QBs in base salary. "[He] certainly deserves a contract," DeCosta said. Jackson has won more games (30) than any other QB since he took over as the team's starter in 2018 and became the fastest QB in history to reach 30 regular season wins (37 games). Jackson is also the first in NFL history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three seasons. The young signal-caller has been more effective with his legs than his arm and has won just one playoff game, but Jackson should be locked up long term in Baltimore and will be a top-five fantasy QB yet again in 2021.

From RotoBaller

Justin Herbert Jan 25 12:10pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to terms with former Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen on Monday as their new offensive coordinator, according to a source. Steichen was key in the development of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in 2020. New head coach Nick Sirianni and Steichen worked together with the Chargers for four years until Sirianni left for the Colts in 2018. Steichen started coaching in the NFL in Cleveland in 2013 as a quality control coach. He left for San Diego the following season and was their quality control coach for 2014-15. The 35-year-old took over the Chargers offense last season and helped nurture Herbert to a record-setting rookie season. Steichen will try and help Carson Wentz rebuild after the worst season of his career.

From RotoBaller

Justin Herbert Jan 25 12:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi is expected to become the new offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers, according to sources. New head coach Brandon Staley played under Lombardi for one year at Mercyhurst University in 2005 when Lombardi was the offensive coordinator. Lombardi is the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi and was the offensive coordinator for the Lions in 2014-15, but he was fired after a 1-6 start in his second year. He started his NFL career as a defensive assistant with the Falcons in 2006 before being hired by the Saints as an offensive assistant in 2007. Lombardi spent 12 seasons working with head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans and has also tutored QBs Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston in recent seasons. He'll be tasked with working with Justin Herbert, who became the youngest QB in history to throw 30 touchdowns in his rookie season.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Jan 25 11:50am ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was uncertain about his future after the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship on Sunday. The 37-year-old is expected to win the MVP this year and is under contract through the 2023 season via the $134 million extension he signed in 2018. But the Packers also drafted Jordan Love, Rodgers' possible replacement, in the first round last year. Rodgers threw 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions in the regular season in 2020, but he also became the first QB in NFL history to lose four straight appearances in a conference championship. If Green Bay were to move on from Rodgers this offseason, they'd save just $4.76 million on the salary cap and would have $31.556 million in dead money. Rodgers may be contemplating retirement, but the Packers want him back and he'd be a high-end QB1 if he does return after going 33-for-48 for 346 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the loss to Tampa to end the season.

From RotoBaller

Joey Bosa Jan 25 11:50am ET

The Los Angeles Chargers are hiring Denver Broncos defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill as their new defensive coordinator on Monday, according to sources. Hill worked with head coach Brandon Staley in Denver in 2019 and played in the league for a decade. Staley said last week that he will be making the defensive play calls in his first season as head coach in LA. Hill will be replacing Gus Bradley, who left to become the defensive coordinator for the Las Vegas Raiders. Hill will help oversee a defense that ranked 10th in the NFL last year and features three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa, rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. and standout safety Derwin James, who missed all of 2020 with a knee injury.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Jan 25 10:23am ET

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson could sign an extension this offseason, according to general manager Eric DeCosta, who will begin talks with Jackson in 10 days.

Fantasy Spin: Jackson ended up the QB10 in traditional leagues as he missed a game due to COVID-19. With the emergence of Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and others, the position has become pretty loaded. Dak Prescott (leg) is expected back to join the flux of QB1s. A midrange QB1 is probably where Jackson is supposed to be considering the plights he faces through the air. Don't overdraft him for the rushing numbers next season because the gap has narrowed.

From TheHuddle

Josh Allen Jan 24 10:33pm ET

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen completed 28 of his 48 passes for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and rushed seven times for 88 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 24. RB Devin Singletary was bottled up, rushing for 17 yards and six carries and gaining nine yards on two catches. WR Cole Beasley had seven grabs for 88 yards, WR Stefon Diggs had six receptions on 11 targets for 77 yards, and TE Dawson Knox caught six balls for 42 yards and a touchdown. WR Isaiah McKenzie caught a six-yard touchdown pass on his only reception, and RB T.J. Yeldon had seven touches for 56 total yards. S Jordan Poyer led the defense with eight tackles, including six solo stops.

From TheHuddle

Tyreek Hill Jan 24 10:30pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill put together another strong performance on Sunday versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hill caught nine of his 11 targets for a team high 172 yards against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hill wasn't able to get a touchdown in this contest, but he was dominant nonetheless. Hill has had a phenomenal season and he will look to keep that going versus a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense in Super Bowl 55. He remains one of the best at his position and will be a top option for those participating in DFS.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 24 10:23pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes completed 29 of his 38 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 24. WR Tyreek Hill had nine catches for 172 yards, and TE Travis Kelce had 13 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns. WR Mecole Hardman had two catches for four yards and a score to go along with a 50-yard run and a lost fumble on special teams. RB Darrel Williams rushed 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown and added one catch for nine yards. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had six carries for seven yards and a score. LB Frank Clark recorded a pair of sacks, and S Juan Thornhill broke up four passes.

From TheHuddle

Clyde Edwards-Helaire Jan 24 10:20pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire scored a touchdown in his return to action versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. The rookie player a minor role on Sunday with Darrel Williams being the featured back and Le'Veon Bell (knee) inactive. CEH picked up just seven yards on six carries and caught one of his two targets for zero yards, but it was good to see him return to action for the first time since injuring his ankle and hip in Week 15. Edwards-Helaire will now have two weeks to rest up before facing a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense in the Super Bowl and he should be avoided in DFS for that contest.

From RotoBaller

Darrel Williams Jan 24 10:20pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs running Darrel Williams rushed the ball 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Williams has performed well with Clyde Edwards-Helaire sidelined, but the rookie returned on Sunday and figures to play a bigger role in the future. Williams will also have to compete with Le'Veon Bell (knee) who was inactive on Sunday and could return for the Super Bowl. The Chiefs are a pass heavy team and will face a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense Super Bowl 55. That will make Williams a risky option in DFS.

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Patrick Mahomes Jan 24 10:20pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes helped lead his two to their second consecutive Super Bowl with a victory against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes was his usual self and completed 29 of his 38 pass attempts for 325 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed the ball five times for five yards. Mahomes is now the only player in NFL history to reach three straight championship games before the age of 26 and will now go to his second straight Super Bowl. Mahomes is putting up legendary numbers in his young career and he will square off against Tom Brady and a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense for the chance to win his second Super Bowl ring in two weeks.

From RotoBaller

Travis Kelce Jan 24 10:20pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs tight end had a monster night versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Kelce has been setting all kinds of records this season and he has now jumped Rob Gronkowski for the most receiving yards in a season that includes the postseason for a tight end. Kelce had 13 catches on 15 targets for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kelce remains the top option with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for the Chiefs and he should be expected to play a big role in the Super Bowl versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kelce remains the top tight end option in the league and he will be one of the safer options in DFS.

From RotoBaller

Mecole Hardman Jan 24 10:20pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman had himself a day versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hardman had a rough start to the contest by dropping a punt that would lead to a Bills touchdown, but salvaged his day by catching two of his three targets for a 3-Yard touchdown and four total yards on the evening. He also picked up 50 yards on his lone carry. Hardman is an exciting player, but remains a shaky play for managers with the Chiefs having so many options on offense. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) also sat out this contest and his return would factor into Hardman's snap count. Hardman is always capable of breaking a big play and he will look to do that versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl 55.

From RotoBaller

Travis Kelce Jan 24 8:53pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce went over 100 receiving yards in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. He became the first tight end in NFL history with five postseason games of 100 or more receiving yards.

From TheHuddle

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 24 7:50pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense played another strong game in a 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Tampa Bay sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, forcing one interception and a fumble in the huge win. The Buccaneers' pass rush was fueled by two players- linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who had three sacks and four quarterback hits, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks. Rising star Devin White led the team in tackles with 15, as he was a thorn in the side of the Packers' offensive plans all game long. Tampa Bay's defense will have its hands full in the Super Bowl against either Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, though this unit is playing some excellent football at the right time.

From RotoBaller

Rob Gronkowski Jan 24 7:40pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught just one pass for 29 yards in his team's 31-26 win over the Packers. Gronkowski went catch-less through three quarters before picking up 29 yards on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, setting up Tampa Bay for a field goal. The former Patriot has nearly been an every-down player for the Buccaneers in the playoffs but has done little as a pass-catcher, as he's taken a backseat to fellow tight end Cameron Brate. No stranger to the big game, Gronkowski will get a chance to redeem himself in the Super Bowl.

From RotoBaller

Cameron Brate Jan 24 7:40pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate played a key role in another playoff victory for his team. Brate produced just 19 total yards, though he caught a third-quarter touchdown that helped extend the Buccaneers' lead to 28-10. The Harvard product exceeded 50 yards just once in the regular season but has accomplished the feat twice in Tampa Bay's three playoff wins. Tom Brady clearly has a trust for Brate as a pass-catcher, something that appears likely to continue as Tampa Bay prepares to be the first team to host and play in the Super Bowl.

From RotoBaller