In this article, we take a look at the list of games in the wildcard round of the playoffs in an effort to give you options that we think can help you get the most out of your lineup. We are looking to maximize your lineup by giving you a few cheaper options that can help you to get your lineup loaded up in other areas.
We give consideration to the script of each of the games to determine how these games will likely play out. In some cases we also give the weather a tip of the cap. We evaluate the play of the wide receivers and tight ends and how they will match up with the defenses they will face. We also look at players that are injured, or those coming back from injury. We then target plays that we like and a few that we don’t.
With the help of our defensive guru Aaron Rudnicki, let’s take a look at players that we both like and a few that we would avoid this week.
3 STAR MATCHUPS - These are players that have the best matchups of the wildcard round of the playoffs.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati ($5,600)
Bischoff: Bryant is a streaky wide receiver capable of producing scores in an instant, but he has not been playing well lately. The Steelers will need Bryant at his best in this matchup if their offense is to put up enough points to move on in the playoffs, and his upside is certainly worth the risk he carries. Most fantasy players will look at his history versus the Bengals this year and fade him this week, but it is a savvy move to roster Bryant in this game.
Rudnicki: Bryant slumped badly at the end of the year and sat out the second half of the finale with a neck strain. So, he certainly carries some risk but he should also have a very favorable matchup against CB Dre Kirkpatrick this week in a game that’s expected to be high scoring.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay @ Washington ($4,100)
Bischoff: The Green Bay Packers are certainly struggling on offense, but Jones’ target volume has dramatically increased with head coach Mike McCarthy taking back play-calling duties back in Week 13. Jones has 33 targets over that three game span and looks to be the main outside option at receiver for the Packers. I’d roster Jones because it should not be all that tough for him to get to value in this game. Four catches and 70 yards with a touchdown get it done, and those numbers are attainable with the volume he has been seeing.
Rudnicki: Jones has seen 24 targets over the last two games, even though he only managed to bring in nine of them. If that trend continues this week, he should be able to take advantage of a Washington secondary that has been quite vulnerable to the pass as they’ve given up a 100-yard game to an opposing WR for four straight weeks.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh ($7,500)
Bischoff: It looked like Green would significantly suffer with starting quarterback Andy Dalton breaking his thumb several weeks ago, and while his yardage totals are down, he is still scoring touchdowns as backup A.J. McCarron is finding him in the red zone. This could be a high scoring game and the Bengals need Green to lead the way this week.
Rudnicki: While the Steelers pass defense has improved significantly, they are still weak at the corner positions and don’t have a great pass rush. The Bengals offensive line has played very well all year, which should give whoever is at QB enough time to find their No. 1 WR. Green posted 6/132/1 against the Steelers back in Week 14, and should be in line for another big game.
Richard Rodgers, TE, Green Bay @ Washington ($4,000)
Bischoff: Rodgers comes into this game with a chance to be one of the Packers offensive leaders in this matchup. Rodgers was hot and cold (like the rest of the Packers offense) to end the season, but this matchup is intriguing as the Redskins have been gashed by opposing tight ends over their recent games. Rodgers certainly carries some risk, but it is outweighed by his ability to get to value in this game.
Rudnicki: Rodgers isn’t always a focal point of the Packers offense, but he posted big numbers last week against the Vikings. Also, take a look what some TEs have done against Washington in recent weeks: Witten (6/58/1), Ertz (13/122/0), Zach Miller (5/85/1) and Tye (6/74/0)
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington vs. Green Bay ($6,300)
Bischoff: Reed has emerged as the primary weapon for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, and he’s realistically a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. Reed will be looked at early and often in this game as the Redskins will make him as focal point of their offensive game plan in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
Rudnicki: Reed has been the clear No. 1 weapon for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins all year. The Packers have a strong secondary, but their numbers against TEs the past few weeks are helped by some relatively weak competition.
2 STAR MATCHUPS - These are players that have neutral matchups. Players in this category should be used because of a potential low ownership number or because of their high upside.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati ($9,600)
Bischoff: Brown shows up here as a 2 STAR player for two reasons, and neither have to do with his talent on the football field. First, the Bengals will roll coverage to him to limit him all day and the second reason is that his price is exorbitant, causing the construction of the rest of your roster to suffer. He’s still a player to consider as he has proven that no team is eliminating him, but there may be better options this week.
Rudnicki: Brown is about as matchup-proof as you can get, so he certainly remains a strong play but he also figures to match up against the resurgent Adam Jones most of the time. His numbers in the previous two meetings with the Bengals this year (6/47/1 and 7/87/0) were good but far from great.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington vs. Green Bay ($4,500)
Bischoff: Jackson makes very big plays in the Washington offense and he is capable of scoring in a flash because of his ability to vertically threaten the defense. However, rostering him makes your team dependent on those big plays and there’s risk to carry in relying solely on big plays. He is a good start this week, but the matchup versus the Packers is one that could give him fits.
Rudnicki: The Packers defense has showed some signs of weakness in recent weeks, but the corners here are generally pretty strong. Jackson should have a slight edge on whoever he lines up against, but it is close enough to rank him just outside the elite options this week.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay @ Washington ($5,800)
Bischoff: The Packers offense has been somewhat out of sync all year and Cobb has certainly had his share of struggles in 2015, but the matchup out of the slot against the Redskins is one he should be able to exploit to his advantage. Cobb is overdue for a big game and this matchup makes him an intriguing start this week.
Rudnicki: It has been a very disappointing season for Cobb, but he has a good chance to turn things around this week. Washington has gotten great play from Bashaud Breeland at one outside corner spot, but slot WRs have had very strong games against them the past couple weeks.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City @ Houston ($6,400)
Bischoff: This is an interesting matchup for Maclin as he’s been getting it done with a limited amount of targets, but there’s a cap to his upside with the Chiefs winning games the wat they have recently. Maclin draws a very good Houston defense that should somewhat limit hit in this game, making him a viable starting option for fantasy purposes, albeit an option with limited upside as it’s tough to forecast him going off in this game.
Rudnicki: Maclin moves around a lot for the Chiefs, so the Texans may not be able to keep their No. 1 CB Jonathan Joseph on him at all times. However, the pass rush for the Texans should force Alex Smith to get rid of the ball quickly and potentially limit Maclin from making any big plays.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, @ Houston vs. Kansas City ($8,400)
Bischoff: Hopkins is another star in this category and a player that will see enough targets to warrant consideration, but when factoring in the quarterback situation in Houston and the matchup against the Chiefs, it is hard to want to pay the price to roster him. The Chiefs struggled in coverage early in 2015 but they’ve found their stride and have done a nice job in the latter part of the regular season.
Rudnicki: The Chiefs secondary went from being one of the weakest to one of the strongest and it helped turnaround their season. Apart from a couple big games by Sammy Watkins and Kamar Aiken, they have held their own against every other WR in the second half of the year. Hopkins is obviously an elite WR though, and he figures to see plenty of targets but the Chiefs will very likely choose to double cover him on just about every play.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle @ Minnesota ($6,700)
Bischoff: Baldwin was ridiculous over the last half of the regular season, and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson certainly looked his way in the second half of the 2015 season. Baldwin caught 12 touchdowns in the season’s last eight games and was a player that won money for fantasy owners over that span. However, the weather looks to be brutally cold for this game and it’s tough to see a game script with a lot of points in this one. He’s another one worth consideration but the upside is limited here and that requires consideration as well.
Rudnicki: Few WRs in the league were as hot as Baldwin over the past two months, but he has a couple of factors working against him this week. The first is the weather which is contributing to this being lined as the lowest scoring game of the weekend. Second is the fact that he’ll be facing off almost exclusively against Captain Munnerlyn, who has quietly played exceptionally well for the Vikings this year. Baldwin did beat them for two TDs on five catches back in Week 13, but he was one of the few slot WRs to have success against Minnesota.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh ($5,000)
Bischoff: The Steelers have done a nice job on tight ends in 2015, and they’ve shown that they can limit Eifert in the two matchups they’ve played against each other this year. However, Eifert was a spectacular receiving option this season and this contest looks to be potentially a high scoring game. He can be a dominant red zone weapon for the Bengals and they should have a few chances in this game.
Rudnicki: Apart from some solid games by Gary Barnidge, the Steelers have held up surprisingly well against opposing TEs after a rough start. They’ve also done well against Eifert in particular, holding him to just 4/39 and 2/42 with no touchdowns in their games this year. With 13 TDs on the year though, it’s hard to count Eifert out in any game, especially one that is expected to be high scoring.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City @ Houston ($4,500)
Bischoff: Kelce is another elite athlete playing tight end, and he should have his way with whoever attempts to cover him in this game. There are limiting factors though, from an offensive scheme that doesn’t fully take advantage of his talent to a Houston defense that is playing very well right now. The Texans pass rush should be able to get to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith to force some throws early, and it could disrupt the rhythm and tempo of the offense which could limit Kelce’s production. Again, he does have an advantage athletically, but there are factors that make his upside limited.
Rudnicki: Kelce had a solid season, but it basically matched his numbers from a year ago despite coming into the year with much higher expectations. He is capable of a big game, but hasn’t quite been able to take advantage of some great matchups already. Now he faces a Texans defense that has been playing at a high level, although they have looked vulnerable against some of the better TEs they faced.
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati ($3,300)
Bischoff: Miller simply dominated his matchups versus the Bengals this season, catching 10 passes in each game they played against each other. The Bengals limited receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant in these games, but it was Miller moving the chains and becoming the focal point for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. At his price, he’s a punt play for me and he allows for very attractive options in how you can build the rest of your roster.
Rudnicki: Miller has not been very productive lately, but he has torched the Bengals for 10 catches in both meetings this year. This defense has also been giving up a healthy dose of catches and yards to opposing TEs in recent weeks with lesser players like Maxx Williams, Owen Daniels, and Blake Bell getting in on the action. He might be a sneaky good play this week.
1 STAR MATCHUPS - These are players that have matchups to avoid. Players in this category should be faded because of the matchup with a cornerback/defensive scheme or because of a bad game script.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay @ Washington ($3,400)
Bischoff: Adams has looked a step out of sync with quarterback Aaron Rodgers this year, almost like he’s injured and can’t separate from defensive backs and that is completely limiting his ability to make plays. He has failed all year and isn’t getting enough volume to warrant consideration. One could make an argument that his ownership number will be so low that at this price he should be played, but that’s super risky.
Rudnicki: Adams has consistently failed to take advantage of his opportunities this year, and he seems headed for a tough matchup with Bashaud Breeland this week.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington vs. Green Bay ($4,200)
Bischoff: The Packers secondary has been fantastic in 2015, saving the season for the Packers and getting them into the playoffs. Tight end Jordan Reed’s emergence has mitigated Garcon’s presence in the Redskins offense and he isn’t seeing nearly the kind of target volume that he would need to see to be worthy of selection here. Both those factors make him a player to fade this week.
Rudnicki: Garcon has found the end zone three weeks in a row, but he’s also seen just four targets in two of those games. He’s now facing off against a secondary that has only allowed only 12 touchdowns to WRs all year, and the Packers corners appear capable of keeping him (and slot WR Jamison Crowder) in check.
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