Start and Sit
The best players to target and avoid on your fantasy rosters (with impact from venues, weather forecasts, and opponents).

Start and Sit: Conference Championships

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Conference championship weekend is the last with multiple games to choose from, and both are compelling.  One features the two most accomplished veteran quarterbacks in the game today.  The other has its two most promising young passers.  And both have a chance of bad weather and defenses built to defend the pass.

The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.

You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.


Quarterbacks

Worst Week 20 Matchups - Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
T.Brady TB 0 GB Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   -1.3 -0.4 -0.6 -2.3
J.Allen BUF 0 KC Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.9 -0.4 -0.3 -1.6
P.Mahomes KC 1 BUF Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   -0.3 -0.4 -0.7 -1.4
A.Rodgers GB 1 TB Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   -0.3 -0.3 -0.5 -1.1

Normally, I lead this article with the quarterbacks with the best matchups, but this week, there aren't any. That probably shouldn't be a major surprise since the playoffs favor the better teams, and all four of the Packers, Chiefs, Bills, and Bucs are in the upper half of the DVOA pass defense rankings. More coincidentally, the home team Packers and Chiefs play outside in the elements, which this Sunday could spell trouble for every passing game, with sub-freezing temperatures and a chance of snow flurries in the former and moderate winds and a 40-degree kickoff temperature in the latter that should decline as the night progresses.

For daily fantasy, that makes the major considerations salaries and stacking opportunities. And in both respects, I prefer the road quarterbacks Josh Allen and Tom Brady. They are two of the very few passers who have averaged more fantasy points per game on the road than at home in recent seasons. Allen struggled in the air in heavy winds in Buffalo last Saturday, but he has 18 carries the last two weeks since Zack Moss suffered an ankle injury. He may be the player that benefits the most from a Chiefs defense that is second-worst in DVOA against the run.

Brady may have retired to Florida, but he has yet to demonstrate a sensitivity to cold weather on the field. Since 2009, his passing rates and efficiencies are nearly identical independent of temperature.

Tom Brady's Passing Splits by Temperature, 2009-Present
Temp Gms Att/Gm YPA TD% INT%
< 32° 24 38.2 7.2 5.5% 1.6%
32° to 49° 58 36.9 7.4 5.2% 1.4%
>=50° 132 37.9 7.7 5.5% 1.7%

And since turning 40, Brady has thrown for 330 or more yards and beaten the Titans, Chargers, and Chiefs in his three cold-weather playoff games in 2018 and 2019. That lends me confidence that the Bucs won't over-rely on Leonard Fournette and the ground game. And the Bucs have an unusual abundance of exceptional receivers to overwhelm a Packers coverage team that has maybe the best cornerback in the game in Jaire Alexander but lesser depth behind him. According to Sports Info Solutions, Alexander finished top-two among qualified corners in both yards allowed per target and coverage success rate, but while that success manifested in poor efficiency for opposing No. 1 receivers, teams compensated by shifting their targets to No. 2 and other receivers. Expect Brady to do the same this weekend, and for players such as Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Scotty Miller to excel even if Mike Evans cannot.


Running Backs

Best Week 20 Matchups - Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
L.Fournette TB 0 GB Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   -0.1 -0.1 +0.2 0.0
R.Jones TB 0 GB Rk 5 5 5 5  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 +0.1 0.0

All that said of Brady, his running backs are best positioned to at least meet their typical standards for fantasy. Part of that is that Brady's passing success would trickle down to his backs in the form of touchdown opportunities near the red zone -- the Packers are the No. 6 booster of touchdowns per carry at 26%, following the relative weakness of the Packers' front seven. Their defense is 18th in DVOA against the run and 28th in DVOA against running backs as receivers. They are a top-five booster of running back catch rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target. Both Fournette and Jones have struggled with drops this season, but that hasn't stopped Brady from looking their way, especially against the standout Washington and New Orleans pass rushes so far these playoffs. Fournette has 10 targets and 83 yards and a touchdown receiving the last two weeks. I think he remains a great value in DraftKings with a $5,300 salary, just $700 more than his teammate Jones.

Worst Week 20 Matchups - Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
A.Jones GB 1 TB Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 -0.7 -0.5
A.Dillon GB 1 TB Rk 8 8 8 8  
Pts   0.0 0.0 -0.2 -0.2
C.Edwards-Helaire KC 1 BUF Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   +0.2 -0.1 -0.2 -0.1
D.Singletary BUF 0 KC Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   -0.1 -0.1 +0.1 -0.1

Relative to their projected workloads, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon both suffer from their matchup against the No. 1 DVOA Bucs run defense that cuts yards and touchdowns per attempt by 24% and 20%, respectively, but relative to their DFS prices, I have a clear if somewhat subjective preference for Dillon, especially in FanDuel where he is $3,300 less expensive. The Bucs have the fastest pair of inside linebackers in the sport in Devin White and Lavonte David, but they are somewhat small for the position at 237 and 233 pounds. As such, the Bucs allowed the lowest average yards before contact (1.96) in the league but allowed the 12th highest percentage of yards after contact. Packers head coach Matt LeFleur likely had Derrick Henry in mind when he drafted the 6-foot-0, 247-pound Dillon. And while he has a long way to go to live up to that comparison, Dillon did play to type with 3.20 yards after contact per attempt this season, the second-highest rate among the 78 backs with 40 or more carries. LeFleur trusted Dillon with more carries last week (six) than he had in any of the first 15 weeks of the season, and Dillon may be the perfect north-south runner to attack the Bucs' front. Just be sure he's healthy before you lock him into your lineups. Dillon suffered a seemingly minor quad injury last Saturday, and there is at least some doubt he will be able to return this weekend.

Speaking of injured running backs, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has missed the last month with a high-ankle sprain. It's unclear if he will make his return against the Bills this Sunday, but even if he does, he is a risky DFS choice at just a small surplus value in both DraftKings and FanDuel. For the season, the Bills have an average run defense ranked 17th in DVOA, but they rank 14th in weighted run defense and just played their best game of the season, limiting the otherworldly Ravens run offense to 150 yards on 32 carries, just 84 and 20 of which came from Ravens running backs. Your best shot at value here is if Edwards-Helaire misses this week entirely. Darrel Williams is priced like a starter at $4,800 and $6,000 in the two platforms, but he was a true bell-cow back in the divisional round, taking 13 carries and four targets versus two and two for Le'Veon Bell and taking a carry from the Browns' 3-yard line. Neither of Bell's carries came inside the red zone.


Wide Receivers

Worst Week 20 Matchups - Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
M.Evans TB 0 GB Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   -1.2 -0.3 -2.0 -3.5
S.Diggs BUF 0 KC Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.8 -0.1 -0.6 -1.5
C.Beasley BUF 0 KC Rk 6 6 6 6  
Pts   -0.4 -0.4 -0.2 -1.0
T.Hill KC 1 BUF Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   -0.6 0.0 -0.4 -1.0
D.Adams GB 1 TB Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   -0.5 -0.1 -0.3 -0.9

Jaire Alexander doesn't always follow a specific receiver the way Jalen Ramsey tends to. In their Week 6 contest, Alexander defended Chris Godwin on two of his targets, but Godwin also saw five targets with a different defender in coverage against him. Mike Evans had just two targets total. I think it's fair to assume that Evans will suffer the bad side of the draw this weekend. And while his projected loss of 3.5 PPR points doesn't dislodge him from the fourth spot in my wide receiver rankings, Evans has lesser appeal in daily formats, in particular in DraftKings where his $5,800 salary exceeds that of his teammate Godwin's ($5,400). If I wanted to stack the Bucs, I'd side with Godwin. Although with Antonio Brown dealing with a knee injury, my favorite Bucs values are at running back and tight end.

The Chiefs have some holes in their defense, but those likely won't help Stefon Diggs or Cole Beasley, the two typical standout Bills fantasy options. Kansas City's defense is ranked ninth and seventh in DVOA allowed to No. 1 and other wide receivers and cuts catch rate and yards per target for No. 1 and slot receivers by at least 4% apiece. Still, those efficiencies do not scare me away from a Bills passing stack. The team has passed more than usual since Moss' injury, and Allen may rely more on Diggs this week than even his top-three regular season 29.1% target rate would suggest. Fellow outside receiver Gabriel Davis injured his ankle last Saturday and did not practice on Wednesday this week. If he couldn't play this weekend, then Diggs would likely help to pick up the slack.

If Patrick Mahomes can start, that eases most of my concerns for his skill players for fantasy, but Tyreek Hill will have to contend with 2019 All-Pro corner Tre'Davious White either way. White saw his coverage metrics regress in 2020, but he still finished 21st in both yards allowed per target and coverage success rate and did so while routinely defending his opponents' top wide receiver. He also helped limit Hill to three catches and 20 yards in Week 6, the Chiefs' and Bills' only head-to-head matchup in the last three years. I wouldn't trust that result the way I might if these teams become AFC playoff rivals over the next decade. Still, their results against each other this season mesh with White's broader trends.


Tight Ends

Best Week 20 Matchups - Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
D.Knox BUF 0 KC Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   0.0 -0.2 +0.2 0.0

Dawson Knox is carrying the torch of plus matchups for all four passing games this weekend. And while he normally is a fantasy non-starter, he deserves at least some consideration this week as part of a Bills stack. The Chiefs have the No. 31 DVOA defense against tight ends and boost tight end catch rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target by between 5% and 17%. At just $2,800 and $4,700 in the daily formats, he's an inexpensive option that will save you some money to play multiple elite options at quarterback and wide receiver.

Worst Week 20 Matchups - Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
T.Kelce KC 1 BUF Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.1 -0.4 0.0 -0.5
R.Tonyan GB 1 TB Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   -0.1 -0.2 +0.1 -0.2
C.Brate TB 0 GB Rk 4 4 3 4  
Pts   0.0 -0.1 -0.1 -0.2
R.Gronkowski TB 0 GB Rk 5 5 5 5  
Pts   0.0 -0.1 0.0 -0.1

Price aside, Travis Kelce and Robert Tonyan are the tight ends you want. Their Bills and Bucs defensive matchups aren't plus ones for the position. They cut or boost tight end catch rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target by 11% or less, but that is a better fate that some of their teams' other skill players face. And subjectively, I could see their target volumes balloon while those of their field-stretching teammates fade if some of the nastier weather elements affect these games.

For Tampa Bay, both Cameron Brate and Rob Gronkowski are options at the position, but Brate seems like the better daily play at $200 less than his more popular teammate in both platforms. He has run more routes than Gronkowski in recent weeks as the latter player has remained in to block, and that has led him to a 15-to-12 target advantage since Week 16. Brate has suffered a 0-to-2 touchdown disadvantage in that time, but his and Gronk's respective 0.97 and 1.73 opportunity-adjusted touchdown totals suggest a more similar red zone usage. For me, that is enough to tip the scales to the cheaper choice.


Defenses

Best Week 20 Matchups - Defenses
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
Chiefs DST KC 1 BUF Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 -0.2 +0.1
Bucs DST TB 0 GB Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   0.0 +0.1 -0.1 0.0

I split the four defenses into two plus and two minus matchups this weekend, but those matchup differences amount to just one or two tenths of a fantasy point. Since the four remaining quarterbacks are the top four in regular season passing DVOA, each defense faces a risk of allowing 30 points or more this weekend. Choose one to complement your offensive stack or your broader opinion of how these game scripts will unfold. The Chiefs are a top-three booster of interceptions per pass attempt. Perhaps they can confuse the relatively inexperienced Josh Allen and force some turnovers. The Bucs sacked Aaron Rodgers four times in their regular season meeting and may win the line of scrimmage again this week with their addition of defensive tackle Vita Vea and the latter's loss of offensive tackle David Bakhtiari.

Worst Week 20 Matchups - Defenses
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
Bills DST BUF 0 KC Rk 2 3 3 2  
Pts   0.0 +0.1 -0.2 -0.1
Packers DST GB 1 TB Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   +0.4 +0.2 -0.7 -0.1

The Bills become an obvious choice if Patrick Mahomes can't return from his concussion. And the Packers have the support of homefield and bad weather that they didn't in the Bucs' Week 6 blowout. They also have the Bucs' divisional-round win over New Orleans as an example that regular-season results do not always foreshadow those of a playoff rematch.

Comments

2 comments, Last at 22 Jan 2021, 1:06pm

1 Really?

The Bucs DST is the worst? Is that driven solely by the ST?

2 Re: Bucs D/ST

In reply to by Raiderfan

They are the worst by rank, but their projected 4.2 fantasy points are in line with the Bills and Packers at 4.4.  None of these defenses has a good matchup, clearly.  But the Bucs are projected best in terms of points and yards allowed.  The issue is sacks and interceptions.  The Packers are great at avoiding both.