Welcome to NFL playoff DFS, where the slates are shorter and results are magnified. We've decided to change things up a bit here, breaking matchups into tiers rather than simply note who has good and bad matchups.
The tiers are straightforward -- three stars for great matchups, two stars for decent ones and one star for guys you might want to avoid. We've also taken some other factors into account like weather and potential playing time.
Let's dive in with this week's three-star plays.
A.J. Green, WR, CIN vs. PIT ($8,300)
Marvin Jones, WR, CIN vs. PIT ($5,600)
Miglio: It’s a bit risky to call a playoff matchup against seasoned divisional foes a good one, but the season-long and recent data all points to a good one for Bengals receivers. Pittsburgh has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to the position on the year and the 11th-most over the past five weeks. A.J. Green has done some of that damage, amassing 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns already against Pittsburgh -- with or without Andy Dalton, to boot.
Rudnicki: This game is projected to be one of the higher scoring matchups of the weekend, and you have to figure the Steelers are going to be aggressive with their passing game. If they get going, that will force the Bengals to open things up a bit more and they certainly have the weapons who can do some damage. The Steelers secondary has shown improvement, but they are still vulnerable to giving up plenty of yards through the air.
James Jones, WR, GB @ WAS ($5,700)
Miglio: Quietly, James Jones has been racking up targets. I say quietly because the Packers offense has been squelched. Aaron Rodgers is still capable of going nuclear, though, and Jones could be the primary beneficiary given his likely target count and matchup.
Rudnicki: Jones has been the primary target for Aaron Rodgers of late with 33 targets over the last three games combined. He mostly plays on the left side, which suggests a likely matchup with backups forced into action like Will Blackmon or Quinton Dunbar rather than Bashaud Breeland, who has been playing great.
Jordan Reed, TE, WAS vs. GB ($7,400)
Miglio: There is no better option at tight end than Jordan Reed, who has become one of the most reliable at his position this season. Staying healthy does wonders for your fantasy stock.
Rudnicki: Reed has served as the No. 1 receiver for Kirk Cousins all year as he posted nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Packers secondary is a strength of their defense and they have done very well against the tight ends they’ve faced recently, but most have been the slow plodding type and Reed is likely to give them all they can handle.
Doug Baldwin, WR, SEA @ MIN ($7,300)
Miglio: The Vikings haven’t given up very many fantasy points to receivers over the past three weeks, but that included games against the hobbled Bears, Beckham-less Giants and toothless Packers offense. The last time Doug Baldwin faced Minnesota, though, he torched that defense for two touchdowns.
The downside to Baldwin’s matchup is the possibility we may not see many offensive fireworks in Minnesota this week -- it’ll be too cold to light the fuse. That’s why he’s only a two-star option here. But at just $7,300, Baldwin easily represents the best value among the top-tier receivers going this weekend.
Rudnicki: Baldwin has been red hot for the past two months, but he has a bit of a tough matchup this weekend. He should mostly line up against slot corner Captain Munnerlyn who has played the best of all Vikings cornerbacks this year. The weather is also supposed to be very cold, which could hinder the passing attacks a bit for both teams. There’s certainly some upside here given his touchdown rate of late, but this game might get a little ugly.
Randall Cobb, WR, GB @ WAS ($6,500)
Richard Rodgers, TE, GB @ WAS ($5,200)
Miglio: What is going on with the Green Bay offense? Bad offensive play, that’s what.
If that unit can give Rodgers a bit more time to throw this week, though, he could have a big game. Randall Cobb has been a huge disappointment for much of the season, so it’s tough to trust him even if the matchup is pretty good. But he could be a pleasant surprise, especially if left tackle David Bakhtiari can play.
Rudnicki: The Packers offensive line is struggling, and so is Aaron Rodgers. Can he get enough time to take advantage of what should be a very vulnerable secondary? Washington has struggled against slot receivers and tight ends of late, but both Packer players are inconsistent and tough to count on.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, KC @ HOU ($7,200)
Travis Kelce, TE, KC @ HOU ($6,200)
Miglio: There are going to be a lot of fantasy owners buying into Jeremy Maclin this weekend. They could come away rather disappointed.
Houston’s defense has been playing lights out lately, allowing just 22 points over the last three weeks combined. The Chiefs have been hot -- that’s an understatement given their 10-game win streak -- but Vegas thinks this is going to be a low-scoring affair.
Rudnicki: The Texans defense deserves respect, and Johnathan Joseph is a big reason why. Maclin moves around enough that the Texans may not be able to key on him as much as they’d like to though. The Chiefs are pretty conservative on offense, and this has the makings of being a low scoring defensive battle but he probably has the best chance of any Chiefs player to put up big numbers this week. At tight end, Delanie Walker (9/59/0), Rob Gronkowski (4/87/1), and Charles Clay (4/66/1) all had success, but Kelce has often disappointed in the face of great matchups so it’s hard to have much confidence in him.
DeSean Jackson, WR, WAS vs. GB ($7,000)
Miglio: Assuming he can finally get out of the concussion protocol, speedy cornerback Sam Shields will probably be tasked with slowing DeSean Jackson down for the Packers. More importantly, the Packers defense has been pretty good against receivers the entire season.
Rudnicki: Jackson moves around a lot for Washington, so there may not be a clear matchup to focus on for him this week. The Packers, however, have three pretty good corners and three good safeties to deploy against him. They’ve only allowed 12 touchdowns to opposing receivers all year, but four of them have come in the last three games. (Miglio's note: Shields was out for the past three games.)
Antonio Brown, WR, PIT @ CIN ($9,500)
Markus Wheaton, WR, PIT @ CIN ($5,900)
Miglio: Is there any stopping Antonio Brown? Well, the Bengals seem to think so -- he has caught “just” 13 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown against them this season. That’s a single game’s output for him in a lot of circumstances.
One of those games Brown was without Ben Roethlisberger -- the one where he caught the touchdown, ironically -- but he ticked up to 87 yards last time out. It’s not the best matchup in the world, but he should garner a ton of targets this weekend, per usual.
Rudnicki: This game has the makings of a shootout if A.J. McCarron can deliver, but it’s likely the Steelers will find some way to put points on the board regardless. Brown is pretty much matchup-proof at this point, but he could have some trouble with Adam Jones as he has been relatively quiet against the Bengals in prior meetings this year. Wheaton has shown some flashes of late, but a matchup with slot corner Leon Hall could pose issues. Martavis Bryant also looms large, but is coming off two straight games with a single catch and may not be 100%.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, MIN vs. SEA ($5,100)
Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN vs. SEA ($5,800)
Miglio: Congratulations to the Minnesota Vikings for winning the NFC North. They now have a date against a team that throttled them 38-7 a scant few weeks ago.
Rudnicki: Seattle has often had trouble with the tight position, and Diggs could very well find himself with a favorable matchup against DeShawn Shead. Neither player has been very consistent of late, however, and it’s likely the Vikings will rely heavily on the run game in a cold weather game here.
Nate Washington, WR, HOU vs. KC ($5,300)
Cecil Shorts, WR, HOU vs. KC ($5,200)
Cooper Helfet, TE, SEA @ MIN ($4,500)
Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA @ MIN ($6,200)
Jermaine Kearse, WR, SEA @ MIN ($6,00)
Tyler Eifert, TE, CIN vs. PIT ($6,400)
Miglio: The Steelers were one of the worst teams at defending tight ends during the first 10 weeks of the year. Since then, however, Pittsburgh has given up exactly zero touchdowns to the position, including games against Jimmy Graham, Tyler Eifert and Gary Barnidge.
Rudnicki: The Steelers have definitely tightened things up, and the strength of their defense seems to be over the middle. Eifert hasn’t done much against them in two prior meetings this year, but with 13 touchdowns in 13 games he’s probably going to be a popular choice.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU vs. KC ($8,800)
Miglio: The Chiefs were one of the worst teams at defending wide receivers during the first half of the season, and I have déjà vu all over again. As part of their meteoric rise to the playoffs after a 1-5 start, Kansas City has dominated defensively. Clamping down on opposing receivers became a particular theme as rookie Marcus Peters developed into a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate -- the Chiefs allowed just three touchdowns to wideouts altogether over the past five weeks.
Rudnicki: The Chiefs have turned their secondary from a weakness early in the year to a clear strength. Rookie Marcus Peters may not be as good as his eight interceptions suggest, but he’s held his own in most matchups. Sean Smith has also put some early season struggles behind him. Hopkins is good enough -- and gets enough targets -- that he can produce against anyone, but the Chiefs will likely focus their game plan on slowing him down.
Martavis Bryant, WR, PIT @ CIN ($6,900)
Miglio: Getting into the doghouse just before the playoffs is not a good way to endear yourself to fantasy football owners. The fact Martavis Bryant got pulled last week and got an earful from teammates is discouraging, even if we are hearing that Bryant “got the message” this week.
Rudnicki: Bryant is likely to match up with Dre Kirkpatrick this week, who has been the weak link in the Bengals secondary. That seems like a great matchup on the surface, but he’s been a bust the last couple games and may have lost some trust from his quarterback.
Mike Wallace, WR, MIN vs. SEA ($4,700)
Pierre Garcon, WR, WAS vs. GB ($6,300)
Jamison Crowder, WR, WAS vs. GB ($4,700)
Davante Adams, WR, GB @ WAS ($5,300)
Ryan Griffin, TE, HOU vs. KC ($4,800)
Heath Miller, TE, PIT @ CIN ($5,600)