Lineup Prep: Divisional Round Games

Wed Jan 19 10:09am ET
Sr Fantasy Writer

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Rodgers could repeat big game

I sure hope the games this weekend are more entertaining than last week. It has to, right? And on paper, these games sure seems like some good ones. I am having a hard time picking all four. I really think all teams playing this weekend could win, including the road teams. This should make for some great football. Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .

I would temper my expectations for Derrick Henry if he plays this week. He is returning from a major foot injury and I would look for the Titans to ease him into action after his long layoff. I think it will be more of a timeshare with D’Onta Foreman. And if the Titans win, Henry might be unleashed more the following week.

I’m not sure what the heck happened got Kyler Murray last week. He was awful. He looked rattled and played like a rookie in his first NFL game. It was a disturbing performance. Murray is going to have a lot of doubters going forward until he wins a big game on the big stage. He needs to let the game slow down and make much better decisions. His interception in his end zone was as bad as it gets. Here is to hoping he can put that one behind him and learn from hit. He certainly has the ability to be one of the best quarterbacks in football.

The Cowboys head-scratching quarterback draw as time was running out is going to be examined all offseason. Head coach Mike McCarthy has had a lot of time management issues over the years, though, so this strange play call fits his resume. I don’t think the Cowboys will fire him over this, but he is going to be on a real short leash going forward. And if the Cowboys lose both coordinators this offseason, which is possible, there is going to be even more pressure on McCarthy. He is not in a good spot.

I think Jimmy Garoppolo proved last week why the 49ers took a quarterback in last year’s draft. He has all the tools but just makes some costly mistakes at key times. The 49ers were in control of that game last weekend until Garoppolo threw a terrible pick six, putting the Cowboys right back into the game. He is likely going to be starting somewhere next year, but expect more up and down production in that starting role.

There are rumors swirling the Vikings are going to shop Kirk Cousins this offseason. I know he can play poorly at bad times, but his overall production is really good. If I were the Vikings, I would hold onto him. But if he is dealt, I think the Broncos would be a great fit. I think Denver is setup similar to the Vikings with a good back and two top-notch receivers. Cousins could be a huge upgrade for the Broncos and help those young receivers get a lot better in a hurry. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

There are a lot of quarterbacks that are making a strong case to be ranked first overall next season. I don’t think there is a clear-cut favorite, showing how good the position is right now. Justin Herbert, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow are my top candidates to rank first for 2022. And I’m not leaning towards any of them at the moment. I even left out Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers, who I think you could make a case for first overall. This position is crazy deep right now.


Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals. Chase hit the 100-yard mark in his first playoff game, catching nine passes for 116 yards on 12 targets. He has 100-yard games three of four and double-digit targets three of those games. He is getting a ton of looks and producing big numbers with all those chances. Expect more of the same this week against the Titans, a team that allowed the second most fantasy points to receiver curing the regular season.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. Rodgers played at an MVP level once again this season, finishing with 40 total touchdowns to just four interceptions. He has at least 22 fantasy points six of his last seven games. He is setup for another big game against the 49ers this week. In Week 3 against San Francisco, Rodgers was 23-of-33 for 261 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover. He scored 22.1 fantasy points.

Titans rushing game. It looks like Derrick Henry has a chance to return this week. He might be eased into action in his first game back in a long time, but you have to like his potential if he gets double-digit touches. He gets a Bengals defense that allowed the 11th most fantasy points to running backs during the regular season. D’Onta Foreman also is a good play, having played very well in a lead role for the Titans. Foreman has 100-yard games three of six. He also has touchdowns three of those games.


Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals. Mixon has not done a whole lot in recent weeks. He has fewer than 70-rushing yards six straight games. He has less than double-digit fantasy points two of those games. It could be more tough sledding for him this week against a Titans team that is bad against the pass but good against the run. The Titans allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs this season and ranked second overall against the run.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Hill was banged up late in the year, causing his numbers to slip a little. He has fewer than 60 yards four straight games and five of seven. He did find the end zone last week but had just 57 yards. He still isn’t making those big plays just yet. Hill is a guy you have to play but it might be another ho-hum game for him against the Bills. He had seven receptions for 63 yards against the Bills in Week 5. Buffalo allowed the fewest fantasy points to receiver this season.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers. Garoppolo led his team to a road win last week but was a little shaky in victory. He didn’t even throw for 200 yards and failed to score a touchdown. He has not topped 20 fantasy points since Week 14. He is not a recommended fantasy play on the road against a Packers team that was 10th overall against the pass.


Van Jefferson, WR, Rams. Jefferson caught just a pass last week but it was a big one, gaming 41 yards. He has made a lot of big plays this year, having four games with 15-plus fantasy points. With the Bucs focusing on stopping Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham, Jefferson could get some favorable coverages. It would not surprise to see him make some big plays in the passing game. The Bucs were just 21st against the pass this season.

Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills. Davis actually led the Bills in snaps last week at receiver, playing 71 percent of the snaps. He scored a touchdown, catching two passes for 41 yards on three targets. He has been getting more and more playing time as the season progressed and has turned into  top red-zone target for the Bills. He has a chance to score again this week in what should be a high-scoring game. The Chiefs allowed the 12th most fantasy points to receivers during the regular season.

Anthony Firkser, TE, Titans. Firkser did not have the breakout season many expected, but did finally show some signs of life late in the year. He had touchdowns each of his last two games, scoring at least 11 fantasy points each of those games. Firkser had double-digit fantasy points three of his last seven games. He might find the end zone again this week against the Bengals, a team that has struggled against tight ends. Cincinnati allowed the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends.

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: Bengals/Titans, Rams/Bucs, Bills/Chiefs.

Low Scoring Games: None.

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 Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

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Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert (knee) agreed to a one-year, $3.125 million contract in March after spending his previous six seasons in San Francisco. During Mostert's time in the Bay Area, he accumulated 1,610 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns and was a hit-or-miss fantasy option for years. However, with the deal, he will follow new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who served as the 49ers run game and offensive coordinator since 2017. The 30-year-old believes his familiarity with the offense will help him this season. Still, with Mostert working his way back from a season-ending knee injury in September, he'll also need to battle Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel, and Myles Gaskin for touches. As a result, the veteran's outlook isn't as bright, although he may have a few sufficient fantasy performances during the 2022-23 campaign.

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Kadarius Toney May 21 10:40pm ET
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New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (knee) hasn't been a full participant at recent OTAs. The 23-year-old was observed wearing the infamous no-contact red jersey, although it was later revealed he hasn't practiced because of minor arthroscopic knee surgery. Fortunately, the 2021 first-round pick should be ready to roll by training camp. Toney, who was rumored to be on the trade block a few months ago, has a chance of establishing himself as the team's top wideout this season. Yet, having Daniel Jones under center may make accumulating fantasy points a challenge, regardless of his place on the depth chart.

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Deshaun Watson May 21 10:10pm ET
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Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits for alleged sexual misconduct. However, when speaking with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Watson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, reported that "no settlement talks are in the offing." The latest update adds another hurdle for the NFL and its investigation, primarily since individual cases likely won't happen immediately, making it much more challenging for the league to determine a potential punishment. It certainly doesn't suggest Watson will be off the hook. Yet, with potential trials delaying things, the veteran may be available for the 2022-23 campaign.

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David Bell May 21 12:50pm ET
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Cleveland Browns wide receiver David Bell could be seeing plenty of action in this offensive unit. The third-round rookie can play both outside and slot roles, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski. That being said, Bell could be a unique option for the Browns offense. They don't have a reliable No. 2 receiver to play behind Amari Cooper. The departure of Jarvis Landry leaves this team without another reliable pass catcher. Possibly, Bell steps up and becomes an important part of the Browns offense.

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James White May 21 12:30pm ET
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New England Patriots running back James White (hip) was cleared for on-field drills. The veteran back was limited to three games due to hip surgery in October. The 30-year-old is making solid progress, but might be held out of full-squad workouts next week. The good news is, White should be ready to go when training camp begins. Although, rookie running back Pierre Strong Jr. might push White back on the depth chart.

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Keaontay Ingram May 21 12:30pm ET
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Arizona Cardinals running back Keaontay Ingram could ended up as the No. 2 option heading into next season. The Cardinals are without a reliable backup since Chase Edmonds departed during the offseason. That being said, Ingram could replace Edmonds as the No. 2 back behind James Conner. Last season, Edmonds averaged 13 touches per game, so it's unlikely that Ingram would see that much action. However, Conner does have a habit of missing time due to injuries. Ingram could be an interesting stash option with Eno Benjamin being basically his only competition.

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Baker Mayfield May 21 12:20am ET
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Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield remains on the roster. Despite multiple clubs, specifically, the Panthers and Seahawks, remaining interested in Mayfield's services, there hasn't been any movement regarding a potential deal. The former Oklahoma Sooner is due to make over $18 million in guaranteed cash this season. However, with teams not looking to take on such a financial burden, especially for a quarterback coming off shoulder surgery, finding a suitor has been a challenge for the Browns. Nonetheless, Deshaun Watson is still potentially facing suspension, so there's a chance Mayfield could end up starting in Cleveland for at least some of the 2022-23 campaign.

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Trey Lance May 20 11:40pm ET
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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance has received plenty of negative press over the last few months. However, despite the unfavorable publicity, tight end George Kittle recently went to bat for the signal-caller. When asked about having Lance under center this season, Kittle was all for it, exclaiming, "it's going to be pretty exciting." The former Bison appeared in six games during his inaugural year, throwing for 603 yards and rushing for 168 yards. He also accounted for six total touchdowns, although he tossed two interceptions and completed only 57.7% of his passing attempts. Nonetheless, while receiving a vote of confidence from Kittle is certainly a good thing for the 22-year-old, it still doesn't mean he'll start this season. But even if he does, he has a way to go before earning the trust of fantasy managers.

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Nick Foles May 20 11:30pm ET
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Kellen Mond May 20 3:20pm ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo May 20 3:10pm ET
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Quez Watkins May 20 12:50pm ET
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Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins doesn't see his role changing at all despite the addition of A.J. Brown. "We're all good guys, we're all going to compete, we're all going to do our part. My role is not going to change -- I'm going to continue to do what I do," Watkins said. The 23-year-old improved in his second NFL season last year, catching 43 passes for 647 yards and one touchdown in 17 games (12 starts). But the Eagles finished first in rushing last year, and the addition of Brown bumps Watkins to third on the receiving depth chart. Watkins' speed and ability to play in the slot will help him in this improving offense, but he'll have to hold off Zach Pascal in order to be fantasy relevant on a weekly basis.

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D.J. Reed May 20 12:50pm ET
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New York Jets cornerback D.J. Reed has been really impressed with rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner early on. Gardner, who was the No. 4 overall pick, didn't give up a single touchdown out of his 1,000-plus career coverage snaps and only allowed 13 catches for 117 yards last year at Cincinnati. "I love him man. I watched his tape and he's everything that the media is saying he is, he's a lockdown cornerback," Reed said. "He did it in college, and I believe he can do it at the NFL. He's prototypical, he has elite characteristics, and he plays with great eye discipline. He can catch, too. He makes great plays on the ball and it's just an overall complete cornerback in my opinion. I'm looking forward to balling with him."

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New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said that wide receiver Kadarius Toney is "doing all the right things...on and off the field." Kafka also said Toney is being attentive in meetings and has been good to work with during offseason team activities this week. At the same time, Toney's workload has been dialed back a bit due to undisclosed reasons. The 23-year-old played in only 10 games in his rookie season last year due to injuries, so the Giants are probably just playing it safe with him early in the offseason. Toney has a lot of playmaking abilities, but there are a lot of mouths to feed in New York's passing attack if everyone is healthy. The former first-round pick will be a high-risk, high-reward fantasy selection after he had 39 catches for 420 yards and no touchdowns in his first NFL season.

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Mac Jones May 20 10:30am ET
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The New England Patriots sound ecstatic with second-year quarterback Mac Jones' offseason dedication. He has spent long hours at Gillette Stadium, often beating the coaches into the building to get a jump-start on film study for the day. Jones is also taking ownership of the offense and is willing to vouch for plays and concepts that he likes while pumping the brakes on plays that haven't worked. The 23-year-old impressed in his rookie season with 3,801 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 521 attempts, and the additions of receivers DeVante Parker and Nelson Agholor should only help his cause in Year 2. However, the loss of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could be significant, and Jones should be considered a low-upside QB2 until further notice.

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Marquise Brown May 20 10:20am ET
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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown is in line to be paid like one of the best receivers in the NFL, and the Cardinals will be compelled to extend his contract. Brown just had the best season of his career with 91 catches and 1,008 yards, but he ranked 14th and 26th in those categories. The soon-to-be 25-year-old is on an upward trajectory and should be better in a pass-happy offense in Arizona. Brown will take on a bigger role early in the year with DeAndre Hopkins suspended for six games, and he has chemistry with quarterback Kyler Murray from their days at Oklahoma. His fantasy ceiling and floor should be much higher in the desert.

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Baker Mayfield May 20 10:20am ET
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The Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks have shown interest in acquiring Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, but the Browns haven't been willing to absorb enough of his fully guaranteed $18.858 million salary for this season. It's unclear how far apart the sides have been, but the Browns want their contractual intake to be commensurate with the asset they receive in return. The Panthers and Seahawks are pushing for the Browns to eat as much as $17.823 million. With Mayfield still rehabbing his surgically repaired left shoulder, it has tempered the urgency to acquire him. The Browns could keep Mayfield as insurance in case Deshaun Watson is suspended this year, but either way, Mayfield's fantasy stock is way down after his disappointing 2021 season.

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George Iloka May 20 12:20am ET
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Former Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings safety George Iloka worked out for the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday with the idea that he could serve as a cover linebacker. Iloka hasn't played since tearing his ACL midway through the 2020 season, but he has been working towards a return to the NFL. The 32-year-old played in only four games with the Vikings before his devastating knee injury in 2020. He was originally drafted in the fifth round by the Bengals in 2012 out of Boise State. Iloka has 365 tackles (246 solo), 10 tackles for loss, three QB hits, nine interceptions, 32 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 103 career games (79 starts) in his eight NFL seasons.

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Robert Woods May 20 12:00am ET
Robert Woods

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Robert Woods (knee) is making good progress in his recovery from a torn ACL that he suffered last November while playing with the Los Angeles Rams. "I actually feel like they're kind of holding me back a little bit," Woods said. "I am trying to get back as well as I can, just doing everything (trainer) Todd Toriscelli has me doing, trying to stay focused and be patient with it. Right now I feel really, really good, getting going, being able to do some things." It remains to be seen if he'll be ready for training camp, but Woods is expected to be the team's No. 1 receiver after they traded A.J. Brown to the Eagles during the draft. The 30-year-old had 367 catches for 4,626 yards and 23 touchdowns in his five seasons with LA, but he's coming off a major injury and is now in a run-first offense.

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