Armando Marsal (@Armando_Marsal) analyzes Conference Championship Round NFL Gameday Matchups and lets you know who’s in a tough spot, who’s in a soft one, who’s hurt and anything else you need to know before you set your lineups! He will include his top plays and secondary options from each game.
2020 DVOA STATS
Sunday, January 24th
Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Packers and the Bucs will face off for the second time this season. In there first meeting, Tampa Bay had a dominant 38-10 win. In that contest, the Bucs defense held the Packers offense to 201 total yards on 61 plays.
This weekend’s contest is expected to be much closer, as the Packers are favored by 3.5 points in a contest with a 51.5-point over/under.
The Bucs have now won two road playoff games to get here and will have to win their third post season road game if they want to make it to the Super Bowl on their home turf. The Packers on the other hand, had a bye week, then won in an impressive fashion over arguably one of the best defenses in football. They will once again be faced with a tough task against yet another elite defense.
At the end of the regular season, Green Bay finished the season ranked 17th in overall defense according to DVOA, 15th in pass defense DVOA, and 18th in rush defense DVOA. The Packers truly struggled against the run, allowing 91.6 rushing yards per game and 4.4 YPC to opposing backs. They also surrendered the eighth most receptions, third most receiving yards, third most receiving touchdowns, and eighth most rushing touchdowns to the position. Tampa Bay ranked fifth in overall defense according to DVOA, fifth in pass defense DVOA, and first in rush defense DVOA.
On the news front, Antonio Brown is considered a game-time decision due to the knee injury he suffered last week. Defensive tackle Vita Vea was designated to return from injured reserve. If he is able to suit up for this contest, that would be a big boost for this already stout Bucs defense. For the Packers, both A.J. Dillon and Jamaal Williams are dealing with injuries that have limited them in practice this week. Their statuses remain unknown for this game.
The Bucs defense held Aaron Rodgers to 160 passing yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in their meeting earlier this season. It was his worst game of the season and the only game he failed to find the paydirt this year. With that said, outside of that contest, Rodgers has been great in most other games and had a strong performance last week against an elite defense. The Bucs defense is tough as well, but this unit did allow 300+ passing yards in four of their last eight games (includes post season) and multiple touchdown passes in five of those contests. Don’t get me wrong, this defense is not easy to throw it against, but Rodgers showcased last week that even against tough defenses, he can sling it. He is playing with something to prove after all of the criticism he received last year, followed by the Packers drafting a quarterback in the first round. Expecting a ceiling game here is not realistic being that this is a difficult matchup. However, a strong performance is certainly in the realm of possibilities. All quarterbacks are playable this weekend, but Rodgers might be one of the lower owned ones and that is appealing in tournaments.
If Jalen Ramsey could not completely shut down Davante Adams, it’s difficult to believe anyone will. Adams caught 9-of-10 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown last week. He will draw coverage from Carlton Davis who is a good defender, but this is still a matchup that Adams should succeed in. Adams accounted for 34 percent of the Packers target share, as well as 37 percent of the targets inside the 20-yard line. That type of volume alone provides Adams with a solidified floor regardless of matchup. He did not have a great game against the Bucs in their last outing, catching six passes for 61 yards on 10 targets, but we could expect a better performance here with the season on the line. The Bucs did allow the 12th most receiving touchdowns to opposing wide outs this season.
Aaron Jones has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games. He had a nice game last week against the Rams, totaling over 100 yards on 15 touches and scoring a touchdown. The matchup against the Bucs is not great, as this unit allowed the fewest rushing yards to running backs this season, to go along with 3.4 YPC. That said, the Bucs did surrender the most receptions, the ninth most receiving yards, and the third highest catch rate to opposing backs. Jones is a capable pass catcher out of the backfield, so there is a path to success here for him. Truth be told, he struggled immensely against this defense in their first meeting, gaining just 41 yards on 13 touches, though he did score a touchdown. Jones is one of the more appealing running back options on the slate this weekend.
Tom Brady did not have a stellar performance last week as far as yardage is concerned, but he did throw for two touchdowns and ran for one as well. This week he faces a Packers pass defense that was good throughout the season, yielding just 237.1 passing yards per game, a 65 percent completion rate, and 23 passing touchdowns (ninth fewest). In their first meeting, Brady completed 17-of-27 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers struggled against the run, so we could see the Bucs offense exploit that weakness here, which could lead to fewer attempts for Brady. That said, even if he does no rack up the yardage, it would not be surprising to see multiple touchdowns from Brady. It is the playoffs, where he plays his best football, and it is a game where Tampa Bay is expected to be trailing in. Brady scored multiple touchdowns in all but three games this year, including the post season. He is rock solid, and although he might not offer the ceiling some of the other quarterbacks on this slate offer, he still possesses plenty of upside.
Chris Godwin led the Bucs in targets last week and should once again be one of Brady’s go-to pass catchers. In fact, during the post season, Godwin has led Tampa Bay in routes run and targets. He is expected to draw coverage from Chandon Sullivan who allowed a 67.1 percent catch rate this season and a QB rating of 93.3 when targeted. Godwin has now seen no less than seven targets in each of his last four games and has scored four touchdowns during that stretch. His volume has seen an uptick in recent weeks and so has his production. Godwin can be considered a strong option on this four-game slate, viable in all formats.
Mike Evans caught just one pass last week, but made it count as it was a three-yard touchdown reception. Being that Evans moves around a lot, he is not expected to see Jaire Alexander all day on Sunday, so the matchup is not as difficult as some may think. Evans will also see some of Kevin King, who allowed a 70.2 percent completion rate and a QB rating of 105.1 when targeted. This is certainly a matchup that Evans will be able to exploit against King. Evans did not have a great outing against the Packers in their first meeting, catching just one pass for 10 yards, but he saw just two targets. We can expect more targets in this contest for Evans, who accounted for 18 percent of the target share in Tampa Bay this season. Evans also accounted for 23 percent of the Bucs red zone targets during the regular season. He could go overlooked this weekend after a subpar performance and for those who are taking his last performance against the Packers into consideration, that can be a mistake considering he has slate breaking upside.
Ronald Jones has been battling a quad injury, which has led the Bucs to lean on Leonard Fournette. So far in the post season, Fournette has touched the ball at least 22 times, has topped 100 total yards, and has scored a touchdown in each game. This weekend, he faces a Packers team that truly struggles against the run. Green Bay surrendered 91.6 rushing yards and 4.4 YPC to opposing backs during the regular season, while giving up the eighth most rushing touchdowns. In addition, they allowed the eighth most receptions, third most receiving yards, and third most receiving touchdowns to the position. So long as Fournette continues to see the volume he has seen in the first two playoff games, he is in a position to smash here.
Cameron Brate has 11 targets, eight receptions, and 130 yards in the post season. He has run more routes and has seen more targets than Rob Gronkowski. Brate is fifth in routes run, tied second in targets, third in receptions, and leads the team in receiving yards in the playoffs thus far. He remains dirt cheap this weekend and could make for an interesting option for those considering rostering two tight ends.
TOP PLAYS: Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Tom Brady, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Aaron Jones, Leonard Fournette
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Robert Tonyan, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Antonio Brown, Cameron Brate, Ronald Jones, Rob Gronkowski
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills
The top two seeds in the AFC will face off this weekend in what is expected to be a high scoring and competitive game. This contest between the Chiefs and Bills has a 54-point over/under, which is a four-point increase from what it opened up at. Kansas City is a 3.5-point favorite here. These two teams played each other in Week six and the Chiefs won 26-17.
At the end of the regular season, Kansas City ranked 22nd in overall defense according to DVOA, 16th in pass defense DVOA, and 31st in rush defense DVOA. Buffalo ranked 12th in overall defense according to DVOA, 12th in pass defense DVOA, and 17th in rush defense DVOA.
On the news front, well, we know that the biggest news of the weekend is, whether or not Patrick Mahomes will suit up. He suffered a concussion last week, which knocked him out of the game. As of Thursday, Mahomes remained in the concussion protocol and was limited in practice. In order for him to be eligible to play, he must clear the protocol, which is expected to be the case. The Chiefs are also dealing with injuries to their backfield. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is still dealing with a hip injury that kept him out of the last game and the final two games of the regular season. He is considered questionable for this contest. Le’Veon Bell is dealing with knee swelling and his status for this contest is up in the air. Sammy Watkins, who missed last game, was able to log in limited practice this week and is deemed questionable.
As far as the Bills are concerned, Gabriel Davis is battling an ankle injury that he suffered against the Ravens and has kept him out of practice. He was able to play through the injury last week however, but remains questionable for this contest. Cole Beasley was a late addition to the injury report this week with a knee injury, though he has been playing dinged up in the post season, so will likely suit up.
I am fully expecting Mahomes to suit up this week and if that is the case, he is the best quarterback on the slate. The Bills pass defense is certainly a strong one, allowing the 11th fewest passing yards and the ninth fewest passing touchdowns this season. That said, Mahomes was able to complete 80.8 percent of his passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo earlier this season. Truth be told, even great defenses have trouble containing Mahomes. He is simply just too good and can get it done against anybody. Even at less than 100 percent, Mahomes offers the highest ceiling, safest floor, and most upside of any quarterback on the slate. Keep a close eye on his status, but I expect it to be business as usual for Mahomes who shreds defenses for a living.
My favorite Chiefs pass catcher this weekend is Travis Kelce who had a stellar season and continued his dominance in last week’s game. Kelce accounted for 25 percent of the Chiefs target share this season and finished the year with the fifth most catchers, second most receiving yards, and tied for fifth most receiving touchdowns among all NFL players. Needless to say, Kelce is an incredible football player. The matchup against the Bills is one he should feast on. As good of a pass defense as the Bills were in 2020, they struggled against opposing tight ends. This unit gave up the most receptions, second most receiving yards, and eight receiving touchdowns to the position. Kelce has double-digit targets in five straight games, finding the paydirt in each of those contests, while catching no less than seven passes in any of those contests, and finishing with at least 98 receiving yards in four of those games. He lit up this defense for five receptions, 65 yards, and two touchdowns in Week 6 of the regular season. Kelce is not only the best tight end on the board this weekend by a long shot, but arguably one of the best overall plays.
Tyreek Hill did not have a great game the last time that he faced this Bills defense and once again finds himself in a tough matchup. This defense did a great job at preventing Hill from any big plays, containing him to three catches for 20 yards, in what was his worst game of the season. Buffalo will likely attempt to do the same in this contest, but Hill is seeing a ton of volume and his ability to turn one play into a 50+ yard touchdown catch, makes him one of the most dangerous receivers in football. Since Week 9, Hill has seen double-digit targets in all but two games, including the playoffs. He accounted for 23 percent of the Chiefs target share. While the matchup is not ideal, Hill is still a viable option this weekend because of his slate breaking upside.
The Chiefs ran the ball 46 times against the Bills in Week 6 and only attempted 26 passes. This is something that pops out at me considering that for the season, the Chiefs had a 62 percent pass rate. Granted, the weather was not great in that contest, which likely played a role. However, the Bills are also a team that struggles against the run. Buffalo allowed 96.9 rushing yards per game and 4.5 YPC to opposing backs, to go along with the eighth most rushing touchdowns. Edwards-Helaire ran wild against this unit in their Week 6 meeting, rushing for 161 yards on 26 carries. His status for this weekend is unknown, so it is important to keep a close eye on this backfield heading into this contest. Darrell Williams had a nice performance last week, filling in for CEH, and if CEH is out once again, Williams would become a very strong play here.
Josh Allen did not play his best football last week, completing just 62 percent of his passes for 206 yards and a touchdown. That type of performance will not cut it against the Chiefs who are likely going to put up a ton of points on the board. Allen has one of his worst games of the season against the Chiefs in Week 6, throwing for 122 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, while completing just 52 percent of his passes. The Chiefs pass defense is far from elite, but they are no pushovers either. This is a matchup that Allen should be able to find success in, as the Chiefs did allow 29 passing touchdowns on the season, despite giving up just 246.3 passing yards per game. One thing that Allen has going for him in this matchup, is that the Chiefs did give up the third most rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks. Allen offers a great combination of a strong floor with a nice ceiling because of his ability to carve up defenses through the air and on the ground. This should be a shootout and Allen will have to bring his A-game if he wants to a chance at a Super Bowl appearance.
Despite two tough matchups in the post season thus far, Stefon Diggs has eclipsed 100 receiving yards and has scored a touchdown in each game. He now has 100+ receiving yards in five of his last six games, while scoring six touchdowns during that stretch. Diggs led the NFL in targets, receptions, and receiving yards this season. He showcased his ability to run deep routes, intermediate routes, and short routes efficiently, making him extremely difficult to cover. In his meeting against the Chiefs earlier in the regular season, Diggs caught six passes for 48 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. The Chiefs secondary is solid, but they are far from a shutdown unit. We have already seen Diggs post big numbers against two tough secondaries in the first two rounds of the post season and that should continue this week.
Cole Beasley failed to catch a pass last week on two targets. He had a solid game against the Colts in the Wildcard round, catching all seven of his targets for 57 yards. That said, it is pretty obvious that he is not 100 percent, which has limiting his upside here. Normally I would be more optimistic for Beasley, but him playing hurt keeps me hesitant from fully trusting him.
As bad as the Chiefs defense can be against the run, it is very difficult for me to click on Devin Singletary. He has just been brutal most weeks and even struggled against this defense in their first meeting, averaging 3.2 YPC on 10 attempts. He is my least preferred option at the running back position this weekend, despite the cheap price tag and favorable matchup. Even with Zack Moss out, Singletary saw just 10 touches last week, as the Bills elected to go pass heavy. I would not be surprised if they took a similar approach this week.
TOP PLAYS: Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Cole Beasley, John Brown, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrell Williams (if CEH is out), Devin Singletary, Gabriel Davis