Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Overall Outlook- I expect the Chiefs to be able to win this game at home, and I also expect the Titans to fire Head Coach Mike Mularkey despite making the playoffs...but that's a story for another time and place. Marcus Mariota did not take the step forward many of us thought he could this season, and his rushing ability has been on keeps him as a viable fantasy play week after week. The Chiefs defense is not as good as it has been in the past, but Mariota is still my last favorite QB on the slate. I am not a fan of Derrick Henry at all, but let me be the first to say that he did not play bad last week. Game-log watchers might be off of Henry this week citing his 51 rushing yards on 28 carries last week against Jacksonville. The Jaguars defensive line absolutely owned the Titans offensive line from the get go last week and Henry is in another great spot against a Chiefs defense that ranks bottom-five in the NFL in run-defense DVOA. He played over 95% of the snaps last week, and even if the Titans are losing he will be on the field virtually every play. I've said it enough this year for everyone to know, volume is king. The Titans pass catcher I'm most interested in this week for savings is Eric Decker. Since Rishard Matthews went down (and returned) from injury the targets have been much more spread out for the Titans and we finally have seen Decker come to life. Decker has seen 26 targets over the last 4 weeks and matches up great in the slot against the Chiefs under-sized DB's. On the Chiefs side of the ball, I really like Alex Smith in tournaments this week. This most-likely is going to be his last run with the Chiefs and he has come back to life with Matt Nagy calling the plays. We have been targeting the Titans secondary for months with the likes of Tom Savage, so I fully expect Smith to be able to put up numbers against them at home. Kareem Hunt has a "tough" matchup on paper as the Titans rank top-ten in run-defense DVOA, but don't let that fool you. We have seen Running Backs destroy them in recent weeks catching passes out of the backfield (Gurley and Fournette) and that's exactly what Hunt can do. Tyreek Hill is always a GPP play given his big-play ability, but my top partner with Smith is Travis Kelce. I think he will be low-owned due to all the expensive Running Back plays and he has been due for some positive touchdown regression for a few weeks now.
Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams
Overall Outlook- This could end-up a shootout and it could be the most exciting game to watch all weekend. The Falcons offense looked better last week, but I don't think Matt Ryan is in play because he has not flashed that ceiling we saw from him last season one time this year. The Falcons showed a more committed approach to getting Devonta Freeman involved in the passing-game last week as he caught 9 of 11 targets for 85 yards and a touchdown. That type of passing game work keeps Freeman firmly in play this week in all formats. Julio Jones is Julio Jones, and he is an elite play pretty much every time he takes the field. I'm also pretty interested in Mohamed Sanu for tournaments, he's priced cheap across the industry and allows you salary flexibility to fit in some of the high-dollar plays. Sanu has had a quietly solid year, and the best place to attack the Rams secondary is in the slot where Sanu will play the majority of the time. Jared Goff is in line with Blake Bortles as a GPP play on this slate. I don't think he has a huge ceiling, but if this game turns into a shootout he can easily end up as one of the highest scoring players at his position. Todd Gurley is an absolute lock if you are playing cash games on this slate, and it's even hard to fade him in tournaments. He's pretty much been the fantasy MVP this season and we have been targeting the Falcons with pass-catching Running Backs for two years...it could get ugly. Robert Woods will see the most time against Desmond Trufant, which is enough to make me un-interested on a short slate. Cooper Kupp is my favorite Ram to play outside of Gurley. The Falcons have struggled in the slot over the second half of the season and Kupp has seen the most red-zone targets on the Rams by a good bit.
Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Overall Outlook- As much as I feel for Bills fans waiting almost as long as I've been alive for a trip to the playoffs, I really don't think they can win this game. Tyrod Taylor is not in play for me for DFS this weekend against this Jaguars defense, but I do actually prefer him to Marcus Mariota. Running QB's can have success against the man-to-man heavy defenses and we know that Tyrod is always capable of a big game on the ground. I fully expect LeSean McCoy to play, and the Jaguars run-defense is bad on paper, but they DOMINATED the Titans offensive line last week and I just don't see myself going there with a plethora of Running Backs in good spots this weekend. Blake Bortles is a solid tournament play on this slate, but I prefer Alex Smith personally. I think that the Jaguars could employ a more run-heavy game play this week and unleash Leonard Fournette. Speaking of him, I love Fournette as a pivot off some of the other guys in GPP's and he has the best matchup on the slate. The Bills run-defense has been the stone worst in the NFL over the last half of the season and Fournette saw passing game for what seems like the first time all season last week. I think they will unleash him in this game and he has huge ceiling if he is catching passes as well. Pretty much all of the Jags pass catchers are in consideration because we are starved for value on this slate. The one I'm looking at the most is Allen Hurns. We saw Hurns return last week, and there has been confirmation from Jags beats that he will see a lot of time in the slot this weekend whether Marqise Lee plays or not. He is a huge target for Bortles and the Bills are not good in slot coverage.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
Overall Outlook- Our second and third NFC South teams square off in the Wild Card weekend finale. I think that the Saints can easily win this game, but there are some solid fantasy options on both sides and don't forget it's taking place in the Coors Field of NFL DFS. Cam Newton has been up-and-down all season and by that I mean mostly down. His rushing ability has been what is keeping him in the fantasy conversation, because he has struggled to throw mightily this season. This Saints defense is much, much improved this season and I won't be targeting Cam on this slate. Christian McCaffrey is always in play on full point PPR sites, and he actually has seen the second most red-zone targets on the Panthers this season. He is a tourney pivot off of the top guys, but I'd rather just play Henry if I'm paying down. Devin Funchess will be chased around by DROY Marshon Lattimore and that is enough to take me off of him completely on a small-slate. That is one of the worst individual matchups in the NFL, and if people are going to play him I will gladly take the opportunity to jump the field that are making a bad play. Greg Olsen is the Panthers pass-catcher that I'm interested in, but his matchup isn't any better. The Saints have been down-right elite against Tight Ends this season, but Olsen has been seeing solid volume over the last few weeks. Olsen's target totals over the last three weeks are 12, 6 and 9. Drew Brees figures to be a popular QB option on this slate, and rightfully so. I don't like predicting game-flow because the NFL has such a wide range of outcomes, but I could see the Saints employing a more run-heavy game plan. Their run game with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara has been what's gotten them in this position, so why go away from that? I think both are playable in all formats this week, but I prefer Alvin Kamara based off his monster ceiling. This could very well be the Kamara coming out party and it should be fun to watch him. I do want some tournament shares of Michael Thomas, who is STILL due for positive touchdown regression. He's eventually going to score touchdowns, and the Panthers are 100% exploitable on the outside.
Written by Ben Hossler (Follow @BenHossler on Twitter)