Armando Marsal (@Armando_Marsal) analyzes Wild Card 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
Saturday, January 15th
Green Bay Packers vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams defense showed why they were considered one of the best units in the league last week, as they went into Seattle, and held the Seahawks to 278 total yards. They entered the post season as the No. 6 seed, but they are certainly a force to be reckoned with. This week, they head to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers who are fresh off a bye week.
This contest has a 45.5-point over/under and the Packers are favored by seven points. The implied total for this game has gone down a point since it opened, though the spread has not moved.
At the end of the regular season, the Rams ranked fourth in overall defense according to DVOA, fourth in pass defense DVOA, and third in rush defense DVOA. Only one quarterback threw for over 268 passing yards against the Rams this 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.
As far as news is concerned, John Wolford has been ruled out for this contest and Jared Goff is no longer on the injury report. Goff will get the start this weekend, to no surprise. Aaron Donald who was dealing with a rib injury is no longer on the injury report and will suit up. Cooper Kupp who is dealing with inflammation of the knee is considered questionable but is fully expected to suit up. The Packers have a relatively clean bill of health entering this contest.
Aaron Rodgers had a fantastic season, finishing seventh in passing yards, while leading the league in adjusted completion percentage and touchdown passes (48). This is no easy matchup for Rodgers however, as he faces arguably the best pass defense in football and one of the best pass rushes as well. That said, it’s hard to ignore just how good Rodgers played this season and even in difficult matchups he has excelled. Outside of the Bucs game where he was atrocious, Rodgers posted strong numbers for most of the season. He will come in at low ownership this weekend because of the tough matchup and some of the other quarterbacks in better spots. This makes Rodgers a very appealing tournament option this weekend because he does offer a massive ceiling. I would not roster him in cash, but certainly think he is viable in tournaments this weekend.
Davante Adams was fourth in targets among receivers, tied second in receptions, tied fourth in receiving yards, and led all pass catchers with 18 touchdowns. Keep in mind, he missed two games this season. No other player in football saw more red zone targets than Adams did, as he was peppered with 28 targets inside the 20-yard line, which was good for 37 percent of the Packers target share in this part of the field. Adams saw double-digit targets in all but four games this season and in two of those four games, he saw nine targets. The matchup is arguably the toughest one he has had all season, but Adams has flourished in difficult matchups before. Not many quarterbacks were willing to throw to their receiver who drew coverage from Jalen Ramsey, but I fully expect Adams to see his regular dosage of targets this weekend. Ramsey was targeted eight or more times in just four games this season and he gave up more than four receptions once in those games and gave up just one touchdown. Something has to give here, but I am going to side with Adams because he will likely be the first receiver to see double-digit targets against Ramsey this season and will be peppered with volume inside the red zone as well. It might not be a ceiling game for Adams, but a strong performance is certainly possible. It’s also a solid price for him, considering he was $9K or higher in four of his last five games.
Cam Akers is really good, and he was one of my favorite rookies at the running back position going into the year. It took a while for him to get going, but once he got rolling, it was hard to slow him down. The Rams leaned on Akers last week and he ran well against a tough Seahawks defense last week, rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, while averaging a healthy 4.7 YPC. He added two receptions for 45 yards. From Week 12 on, Akers totaled over 80 yard in all but one game and scored three touchdowns (includes Wild Card Round). The matchup against the Packers is a great one for Akers, as they struggled against the run as I mentioned above. He is affordable this weekend, as he is the fifth most expensive back on the slate on DK and should have no trouble running wild against this defense. Akers is one of my favorite running back plays on the slate and I would not hesitate to roster him in all formats.
You can certainly make a case for Robert Woods or Kupp this weekend, especially if you think the Rams will be forced to pass. However, I view them both more as secondary options this week considering some of the other receivers on the slate and their matchups. If I had to choose one of these wideouts, it would be Kupp since Woods will likely draw coverage from Jaire Alexander.
Saturday note: Kupp was ruled out for this contest which gives Reynolds a boost. Reynolds can not be considered a strong value option.
TOP PLAYS: Cam Akers, Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Aaron Jones, Robert Woods, Robert Tonyan, Allen Lazard, Josh Reynolds, Rams defense, Packers defense
Buffalo Bills vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens traveled to Tennessee in the Wild Card Round and beat the Titans on their homefield. They now have to travel to Buffalo to take on the red-hot Bills, who ended their regular season on a six-game winning streak. This is a battle of the No. 2 seed vs. the No. 5 seed.
This contest has a 49-point over/under and the Bills are favored by 2.5 points. Buffalo opened as three-point favorites, but we have now seen the spread move half of a point. This is the closest spread of the weekend.
At the end of the regular season, Buffalo ranked 12th in overall defense according to DVOA, 12th in pass defense DVOA, and 17th in rush defense DVOA. Baltimore finished the year ranked ninth in overall defense according to DVOA, 10th in pass defense DVOA, and 12th in rush defense DVOA.
On the news front, Ravens DB Marcus Peters is listed as questionable for this contest as he nurses a back injury. He’s played through injuries throughout the season and did suit up last week, so expectations are that he suits up. This is certainly something that is worth keeping tabs on. Cole Beasley who played through a knee injury last week, is no longer listed on the injury report, which is great news for his status for this weekend.
Josh Allen shredded the eight ranked pass DVOA defense last weekend, as he threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts, while adding 54 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. This week’s matchup is not much better, as the Ravens are a stingy pass defense. Baltimore allowed the ninth fewest passing yards, the 10th fewest completion percentage, and the second fewest passing touchdowns. That said, they did surrender the ninth most rushing touchdowns to opposing signal callers. Allen’s ability to sling it and run makes him a dangerous quarterback and one that is tough to defend against. Therefore, even in subpar matchups like the one at hand, he has the ability to succeed. After all, he was the only quarterback to top 300 passing yards against the Rams stout pass defense. We saw Allen find success against stingy defenses multiple times this season and even in this difficult matchup, he is a strong DFS play. Allen is viable in all formats this weekend, offering a great combination of a solidified floor and a massive ceiling.
Allen’s go-to receiver is Stefon Diggs who led the league in targets, receptions, and receiving yards this season. Diggs put on a show last week against a Colts secondary that had done a good job against the pass this season. He finished with six receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown, on a team high nine targets. Diggs’ ability to run deep routes, intermediate routes, and short routes efficiently really make him a difficult receiver to cover. He should see plenty of Marcus Peters this weekend, who struggled towards the end of the season. Peters allowed a QB rating of 100+ in four of his last six games during the regular season, giving up two touchdowns during that stretch. That said, he is still a solid DB, and this is not a walk in the park matchup for Diggs. Despite the mediocre matchup, Diggs will see plenty of volume and remains one of the top receiving options on the slate.
Lamar Jackson got his first post season win last weekend and it was not because of what he did throwing the ball, but because of what he did with his legs. Jackson ran for 136 yards and a touchdown against the Titans last week. He threw for just 179 yards and an interception, completing 17-of-24 passes. The Bills did a solid job against the pass this season, limiting quarterbacks to 244.6 yards per game and a 64 percent completion percentage. That said, they did allow 300+ passing yards in five of their final nine games. In addition, the Bills gave up the 12th most rushing yards and third most rushing touchdowns to opposing signal callers. In fact, one of Buffalo’s biggest weaknesses defensively this season was containing the run. This puts Jackson in a terrific spot to put his rushing ability in full display. The fact that he has this arsenal, makes him such a dangerous quarterback, even though he is not the greatest passer. Jackson makes for a viable option in all formats this weekend.
If I am stacking Jackson with anyone, I’d lean on stacking him with Mark Andrews. The tight end position is one that the Bills had trouble defending against this season. They allowed the second most receiving yards, most receptions, and 12th most receiving touchdowns to the position throughout the regular season. Last week the Colts tight ends combined for 14 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown against this defense. Andrews did not have quite the season many expected this year, but he still managed to finish top five in receiving yards, ninth in receptions, seventh in targets, and sixth in receiving touchdowns among tight ends. Keep in mind, he missed two games. Andrews accounted for 25 percent of the Ravens target share, ran the second most routes on the team, had the second most receiving yards, and tied Marquise Brown for most receptions. Brown outperformed Andrews down the stretch, but this is a week that I like Andrews’ matchup much more and think he could go somewhat overlooked.
J.K. Dobbins was somewhat quiet in the Wild Card game, rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, while catching his lone target for negative six yards. That said, he kept his touchdown streak alive, making it seven consecutive games finding the paydirt. This weekend he finds himself in a great matchup against a Bills team that gave up 96.9 rushing yards per game and 4.5 YPC to running backs this season, to go along with 14 rushing touchdowns. And no, they were not better down the stretch. In fact, they surrendered 100+ rushing yards in three of their last four games to the position, with six total touchdowns during that stretch. Running backs scored a touchdown in all but three games against this Bills defense. Dobbins may not have had a great game last week, but he still led the backfield in touches and scored a touchdown. He should once again operate as the primary back in a slam dunk matchup. He is viable in all formats.
TOP PLAYS: Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Mark Andrews, Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Marquise Brown, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Gus Edwards, Devin Singletary, Gabriel Davis
Sunday, January 16th
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns
The Browns went into Pittsburgh and put on a clinic on the Steelers, beating them 48-37. This game was much more lopsided than the score suggests too. This week they head to Kansas City to take on arguably the best team in football and the defending champs. The Chiefs are fresh off a bye week and will be ready to roll.
This is expected to be the most lopsided matchup of the weekend, as the Chiefs are favored by 10.5 points, which is half of a point higher than it opened at 10 points. This contest does have the highest over/under on the slate at 57.5 points, but most of that scoring is expected from the Chiefs who have the highest implied team total on the entire slate at 34 points. Cleveland has a 23.5-point implied team total, which is the second fewest of the weekend.
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. The Browns ranked 25th in overall defense according to DVOA, 25th in pass defense DVOA, and 19th in rush defense DVOA.
On the news front, we have some news to monitor. Sammy Watkins has been ruled out for this contest due to a calf injury. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was limited in Wednesday’s practice, but was unable to participate during Thursday’s practice. He is considered questionable for this contest. For the Browns, Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson were both activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and are both expected to suit up. This is huge for the secondary, who will be without Robert Jackson who was placed on IR with a hamstring injury. Jack Conklin is battling a hamstring injury and is considered questionable for this contest. He is a key part of the offensive line, so his status is crucial for this Browns offense.
Odell Beckham Jr. tweeted out on Thursday, “Don’t be surprised this weekend when they win….just throwin it out there now,” and of course Patrick Mahomes liked the tweet. You know that saying, “don’t poke the bear”, well that is the advice everyone should be giving OBJ. Not that Mahomes needs to prove anything, nor did he need an incentive to come out and put on a clinic against the Browns, but I’m sure this tweet adds some motivation here. Mahomes is the best quarterback play on the entire slate and he also draws the best matchup. The Browns surrendered the 12th most passing yards per game and eighth most passing touchdowns to opposing signal callers during the regular season. Last week, they surrendered 501 passing yards to Big Ben. Look for Mahomes to carve up this secondary on Sunday and turn in a strong performance. Fire him up in all formats.
You can stack him up with Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce or both. I personally like the idea of stacking Mahomes up with both of them this weekend, being that most of the production from this offense should come from this trio. Hill accounted for 37 percent of the Chiefs target share, while Kelce accounted for 27 percent. Even in the red zone, they were the primary targets throughout the season, as Kelce led the team with 20 red zone targets (25 percent), followed by Hill who had 17 red zone targets (22 percent).
The Browns struggled in a big way against opposing tight ends, allowing the fourth most receptions, eighth most receiving yards, the eight highest catch rate percentage, and the fourth most receiving touchdowns to the position. We saw them give up 62 yards and a touchdown, along with seven receptions to the Steelers tight ends last week. Kelce should completely dominate in this matchup and should be considered the best tight end play on the slate.
Cleveland was also generous to opposing wideouts this season. They surrendered the 10th most receptions, eighth most receiving yards, and the fifth most receiving touchdowns to the position. This unit is going to have a difficult time containing one of the most dangerous receivers in football in Hill.
The game script is likely not going to favor the run game here for the Browns, but Nick Chubb is still in a great spot from a matchup perspective. The Chiefs surrendered the ninth most rushing yards on the season, along with a healthy 4.5 YPC. In addition, they gave up the third most receptions and most receiving yards to the position. They didn’t give up a ton of touchdowns however, yielding just 12 total touchdowns on the season. If this game does go as expected, the Browns will be trailing, but Chubb should still be able to post up numbers as a pass catcher as he was more involved in the passing game down the stretch. Taking the final four games of the regular season and the Wild Card round into consideration, Chubb ran 88 routes (most of any RB on the Browns) and was peppered with 14 targets, catching 13 passes for 144 yards. He is far more efficient as a runner but can get the job done as a pass catcher if needed.
Jarvis Landry is an interesting receiver this weekend because we know that he is the primary target for Cleveland and that this offense will more than likely be chasing points. Landry had a really strong stretch to close out the season, averaging 8.8 targets, 6.8 receptions, and 73.8 receiving yards in his final five games of the regular season, while scoring four total touchdowns during that stretch. He also found the paydirt last week against the Steelers in the Wild Card game and caught 5-of-8 targets for 92 yards. The Chiefs secondary did a good job against the pass this season, but the one-on-one matchup here for Landry is a good one against rookie slot corner L’Jarius Sneed. Landry should see plenty of targets this weekend as the Browns play catchup.
Austin Hooper has been consistent over his last four games, averaging 9.3 targets per game and scoring three touchdowns during that stretch. The Chiefs were lenient against tight ends this season, making this a good spot for Hooper and this should also be a favorable game script for him. He should be able to produce quality numbers this week, but then again, this is a week where I want to pay up at tight end. Perhaps in tournaments you can roster two tight ends, putting Hooper at the flex.
TOP PLAYS: Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Kareem Hunt, Baker Mayfield, Mecole Hardman, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (only if he is a full go), Chiefs defense
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints
The Bucs and Saints will face off for the third time this season. So far, the Saints have dominated the series, winning both of their matchups. In their first meeting, they won 34-23 and in their second meeting the Saints dominated with a 38-3 victory.
This is the game I am most looking forward to watching this weekend. It has a healthy 52-point over/under, which is two points higher than what it opened up at and the Saints are favored by three points.
At the end of the regular season, New Orleans ranked second in overall defense according to DVOA, third in pass defense DVOA, and second in rush defense DVOA. 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, Ronald Jones is considered a game-time decision due to a quad injury. He was active last week but did not play a single snap. Mike Evans is also dealing with a knee injury but was able to play through it last week and should once again suit up this week. The same can be said about Chris Godwin who is battling a hip and quad injury but is not expected to sit this one out. For the Saints, Latavius Murray (quad), Tre’Quan Smith (ankle), and Taysom Hill (knee) are all considered questionable.
Alvin Kamara has a tough matchup at hand against a stingy Bucs run defense. That said, this is also a unit that allowed the most receptions, ninth most receiving yards, an 81 percent catch rate, and three receiving touchdowns to the position. Clearly, this makes this matchup much more appealing for Kamara than some may think. Kamara did not do much damage as far as yardage is concerned against the Bucs in their two meetings this season but did score three touchdowns (at least one in each game). His role on the Saints offense is huge and that will continue to be the case this week. Look for another strong outing from one of the more dynamic backs in football.
Michael Thomas turned in a solid performance last week, catching 5-of-7 targets for 73 yards and a touchdown. It was good to see Thomas not bothered by the ankle in the matchup against the Bears and he should be full-go again this week. The matchup is not great by any means here, but Thomas when healthy, is one of the best receivers in football and that is the case this week. This should be a competitive game with plenty of scoring and he will have a lot to do with that. His price tag is too cheap on DK when considering the type of receiver that he is. He’s in play in all formats this weekend.
Drew Brees has a tough matchup at hand, but one he has had some success against this season. In their first meeting, he didn’t do that well, throwing for 160 yards and two touchdowns. However, in their second meeting he carved up this secondary for 222 yards and four touchdowns. Brees may not offer the ceiling some of the other quarterbacks on this slate offer, but he still brings plenty of upside to the table and is likely going to go completely overlooked. If you are running multiple GPP lineups, you may want to sprinkle some Brees in there.
Mike Evans played through his injury last week and finished with six catches for 119 yards. He will once again play through the injured knee and will draw coverage from Marshon Lattimore who is far from a shutdown corner. It’s not the greatest of matchups by any means, but one Evans should be able to beat. In their two meetings this season, Evans caught 5-of-10 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers are far from great, but Evans is an elite receiver, and this is a game where, if the Bucs want to win, it will have to be through the air. Evans led this offense with a 24 percent target share and dominated the red zone targets with 18 (23 percent), so there will be plenty of opportunities for him here.
Chris Godwin, who is also dinged up, turned in a nice performance last week as well. He caught 5-of-12 targets for 79 yards and a touchdown. He had a little bit more success against the Saints than Evans did this year, catching 9-of-13 targets for 120 yards. Again, these are far from great numbers, but Godwin has been playing some really good football down the stretch. He has scored a touchdown in four consecutive games, including last week’s Wild Card game. Godwin accounted for 21 percent of the Bucs target share this season, which was second most. He should see plenty of looks in this contest.
Like Brees, Tom Brady does not offer the ceiling that some of the other quarterbacks on this slate offer, but he still brings plenty of upside to the table. In tournaments, he will come in at a low ownership, despite being in a great game environment. In the two meetings against the Bucs this season, Brady struggled. He combined for 448 passing yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions. That said, this is the post season where Brady takes his game to the next level. If the Bucs come out victorious here, it will have to be because of Brady’s arm. The Saints did allow opposing quarterbacks to throw for three touchdown passes in two of their final four games.
I am avoiding the Bucs backfield this week. The Saints were as stingy as it comes when pertaining to the run. They allowed the seventh fewest yards and just 3.9 YPC to the position.
TOP PLAYS: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin
SECONDARY OPTIONS: Tom Brady, Emmanuel Sanders, Rob Gronkowski, Jared Cook, Antonio Brown