Lineup Prep: Championship Games

Wed Jan 25 10:06am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

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Smith can keep up his hot ways


Let’s hope the games are a little better this weekend. For the most part, the games were’t crazy competitive last weekend like you had hoped. On paper, it sure seems these Championship games will be good, though. Here is to hoping it plays out that way.

Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . . 

The big story for the Bengals last week was their offensive line. With several starters out, the backups had a tall task to try to contain the Bills defensive line. Well, the Bengals actually dominated the game along the line on both sides of the ball. The backups for the Bengals more than held their own, leading to the dominating win for the Bengals. It seems like the concerns for the line might have been a little overblown. Cincinnati is sure riding a lot of momentum into this game with the Chiefs, making it hard to bet against them. 

Brock Purdy looked a little shaky for the first time since taking over as the starter for the 49ers. He made a few bad decisions, including some time management issues at the end of the first half that almost cost his team three points. I am a little worried about him on the road this week against a very good Eagles defense. Maybe he will keep proving everyone wrong, but I think he comes back down to earth a little. I like the Eagles to win and advance to the Super Bowl. 

It is good news for Mac Jones getting Bill O’Brien as his offensive coordinator for next season. The two worked together at Alabama, so expect the offense to suit Jones’ talents very well in 2023. Jones could have his best season to date if the Patriots add some more talent at receiver this offseason. 

So I haven’t completely given up on Russell Wilson. I think he could be a good buy-low risk next season. He showed some signs of life after Nathaniel Hackett was fired late in the year. The Broncos certainly have a lot of talent offensively, so with the right system in place for Wilson, I think he can still produce. Just something to keep in mind this offseason. You are likely to get Wilson at a really good price after his disastrous first season in Denver. 

There is talk that Aaron Rodgers cool be moved this offseason if he decides to play another year. I’m a little intrigued by that. I think a new team with some top options to work with at receiver could rejuvenate Rodgers some. I hate to see him wear something other than a Green Bay uniform, but from a fantasy perspective, a move could be a real positive for his value. 

I know the Ravens keep saying they aren’t going to let Lamar Jackson go, but I’m not so sure. It was a really strange finish to his season, looking like both parties might be a little at odds with each other. I’m not completely sold on a return to Baltimore for Jackson. I really think a move to Atlanta would be great. That offense could be something else with Jackson running the show. 

News and Notes: The Patriots hired Bill O’Brien to take over their offensive coordinator duties. O’Brien should be a huge upgrade over this past season for the entire Patriots offense. 

HOT PLAYS

George Kittle, TE, 49ers. Kittle is the guy that rookie Brock Purdy leans on in the passing game when he is feeling pressured. That really showed last week with Kittle catching five passes for 95 yards. Kittle has at least 12 fantasy points five of six games. He has finished the season really well and should keep it going this week against the Eagles. Kittle can rack up the targets in this one. 

Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals. Higgins has been a little quiet in the playoffs, having two straight game with fewer than 40 yards. Don’t give up on him, though, especially if the Chiefs focus on trying to slow Ja’Marr Chase. This could create more favorable matchups for Higgins. Higgins scored a touchdown against the Chiefs in Week 13. Plus, Kansas City allowed the eighth most fantasy points to receiver during the regular season. 

DeVonta Smith, WR, Eagles. Smith had six catches last week and has at least six catches four straight games. He has at least five receptions seven straight. Smith is getting a ton of weekly work in the Eagles offense. A.J. Brown is considered the No. 1 receiver for the Eagles, but hasn’t gotten the looks as Smith in recent weeks. It could be more of the same for Smith this week against the 49ers. He matches up well in this one, getting looks in the screen game and on short-yardage routes. San Francisco had all sorts of issues containing CeeDee Lamb last week. And this has been a bit of a trend, allowing the sixth most fantasy points to receivers during the regular season. 

COLD PLAYS 

Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles. Sanders played well last week, rushing 17 times for 90 yards. He wasn’t much of a help to fantasy teams, though, scoring just nine fantasy points. He didn’t catch a pass in the game, which really hurt his fantasy numbers. He has not reached double-digit fantasy options five straight games. He is a little hard to trust right now, especially this week against the 49ers. San Francisco allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs during the regular season and ranked second overall against the run. 

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Chiefs. McKinnon has come back down to earth a little after his red-hot play down the stretch. He ran 11 times for just 25 yards last week and didn’t catch a pass in the game. He has less than double-digit fantasy points two straight. McKinnon has the potential for the big game in this offense, but is a little hard to have faith in after his last two. Plus, the Bengals allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to running backs during the regular season. 

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers. Aiyuk had two catches for just 26 yards on four targets last week. He has five or fewer targets three straight. And he has fewer than double-digit fantasy points two of those games. He has enjoyed a fine season but been a little up and down, mainly being down in recent weeks. It would not surprise to see him down again this week against the Eagles. Philadelphia is first overall against the pass this year, allowing just 179.8-passing yards per game. 

SLEEPERS

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals. Boyd has been inconsistent this year as the Bengals as their No. 3 receiver, but it isn’t for a lack of playing time. He is on the field a lot, so the chances are always there for a big game from Boyd in this explosive passing game. It would not surprise if this was a week for Boyd to produce well. He had four catches for 60 yards against the Chiefs earlier in the year. And Kansas City has struggled to stop fantasy receivers much of the year, allowing the seventh most fantasy points. Don’t forget about Boyd in this offense. 

Elijah Mitchell, RB, 49ers. Mitchell actually led the 49ers in carries last week, rushing 14 times for 51 yards. Christian McCaffrey is battling a calf injury, which could give Mitchell a few more chances. He also has double-digit fantasy points two of three games. The 49ers are going to run a lot in this matchup with the Eagles, so look for Mitchell to produce a solid game, getting double-digit touches. 

Marques Valdes-Scantling, WR, Chiefs. Valdes-Scantling had just a catch last week but it was for a touchdown. He is losing snaps to Kadarius Toney but still on a the field a decent amount. He has six or more target two of three games. And he has played at least 50 percent of the snaps three straight. He is a boom or bust play, but more than capable of the big play in this offense. He could break one in this matchup, especially with the Bengals focusing on shutting down Travis Kelce in the passing game. 

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/Chiefs.

Low Scoring Games: 49ers/Eagles.

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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