The Super Bowl is the most enjoyable single game for fantasy football, but that joy takes so many forms with prop bets and head-to-head lineups that it is difficult to distill advice into one format for every audience. I'll tackle this week's Start and Sit column the way I typically do, presenting projected player PPR gains and losses relative to their context-neutral true-talent projections. Hopefully, those movements will help you find the value in whatever game you chose to play this Sunday.
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+
|Best Week 21 Matchups - All Players|
You don't need a matchup table to know to invest heavily in Travis Kelce. Even alongside his MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Kelce has been the Chiefs' star of the playoffs with 21 catches, 227 yards, and three touchdowns in two games. But Kelce also stands out to me as the Chiefs player whose strengths target the main weakness of an otherwise excellent and balanced Bucs defense. That unit is ranked 25th in DVOA allowed to tight ends. In contrast, they are a top-six defender of No. 1 receivers and running backs (both on the ground and in the air). Meanwhile, Kelce has the size and quickness to serve as Mahomes' blitz-beater if the Bucs' No. 6 front in adjusted sack rate can pressure an offensive line that was already overmatched in pass protection before left tackle Eric Fisher tore his Achilles tendon. It's difficult to imagine Kelce suffering a bad game, and that lands him between the quarterbacks both in upside and safety, a rare combination for a player at his position.
The Chiefs are even worse than the Bucs in their defense of tight ends and are in fact a top-10 booster of catch rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target to the position. In absolute terms, that is good news for Rob Gronkowski. But I think his fantasy prospects are reliant on his touchdown scoring now more than ever. Gronk has just 13 total targets the last five weeks and only seven outside of the red zone. In that recent stretch, Gronk has spent more and more time blocking while teammate Cameron Brate has run more routes and seen more targets on fewer snaps. With his lesser popularity, Brate has more value in pretty much every fantasy context. Of course, I'd still side with Gronk in terms of touchdown chances. He has more scores and more opportunity-adjusted touchdowns those last five weeks despite his fewer targets.
The Chiefs seem likely to throw the ball no matter what. The Bucs may have to throw if they fall behind by multiple scores like they did in their previous matchup in Week 12. But there is little doubt the Bucs will try to run early and often to target the Chiefs' weakness in run defense. The latter team is 31st in DVOA in that respect and boosts opponent yards per carry by 4%. If you believe in Tampa Bay's chances, then both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones are compelling fantasy options. The former has played lead back since the latter suffered a hip injury that kept him out of the wild-card round. But even Jones has tallied 13 and 10 carries the last two weeks and owns the superior regular-season rushing DVOA, which offers him the potential to turn these two rest weeks into a promotion and a big over on his modest yardage props. That said, Jones seems more sensitive to Tampa Bay's overall success. Even in his time atop the team's depth chart, he was less clearly Tom Brady's preferred back to target in the passing game. And the last two weeks, Fournette has outpaced Jones 13 targets to one. Fournette has the higher floor and likely won't sink your fantasy teams if the Bucs fall behind.
|Worst Week 21 Matchups - All Players|
I feel a bit silly projecting Tyreek Hill as the biggest matchup loser when he exploded for 269 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs in Week 12. That was far and away Hill's best fantasy game in what was even otherwise a remarkable campaign. But our projections don't put special weight on previous matchups between teams. Instead, they follow broader trends. And in that respect, the Bucs fared better against No. 1 receivers (cutting yards by 55% per target) than they did against No. 2 (5% cut) and slot receivers (4% boost) this year. Cornerback Carlton Davis may not have the speed to stick to Hill's hips one-on-one, but I can't imagine that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would ask him to try again after Hill compiled the bulk of his Week 12 production on that island of coverage. I don't think it's correct to tell you to fade Hill across the board. He may well have a unique skill set that a projection system cannot discern. But I would advise you to think twice if you assume the Bucs can't cover Hill when it seems inevitable that they will approach the task with a different strategy this time around.
That said, take note that half of Hill's projected losses come from his venue. And honestly, I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the Bucs are playing this Super Bowl in their home stadium. Quarterbacks did fare better in fantasy at home than on the road this season, but their 0.2-fantasy point advantage at home was down from 0.9, 1.6, and 0.3 points the previous three seasons. Given that this Sunday's reduced crowd will likely be more neutral than usual and given Mahomes' defiance of typical passing trends -- he has averaged 2.4 more fantasy points on the road than at home since 2017 -- I wouldn't argue if you believed that Hill, Mahomes, and everyone else in the Chiefs' passing game was a bit underrated by their projections. That's especially true since a small chance of light rain is the only condition of the weather forecast that is less than ideal for passing.
Interestingly, Brady suffers a bigger projected opponent loss than Mahomes despite the Bucs' big advantage in pass defense DVOA (fifth vs. 16th by ranking). There are two reasons for it. The first is relative defensive quality. The Chiefs are better pass defenders than run defenders while the Bucs are the opposite. As such, the Chiefs cut their opponents' pass plays by 2% while the Bucs increase theirs by 3%. The second is defensive style. The Chiefs have built a defense that trades yards for turnovers. And while the former boosting should help Brady's fantasy prospects, the latter will likely offset it. The Chiefs increase interceptions by 35% per attempt, fourth-most in football. And Brady threw 12 of his 15 interceptions this season (playoffs included) against the four teams he faced -- the Saints, Packers, Chiefs, and Rams -- in the upper half of overall DVOA. It strikes me as very likely that Brady will throw at least one interception this weekend, making his 0.5 interceptions prop one of my favorite overs.
One might assume that the Chiefs' defensive tendency to bend but not break would help the Bucs receivers if not Brady himself. But that has been true more for tight ends and receiving backs than wide receivers. The Chiefs cut yards per target for No. 1, No. 2, and slot receivers. With or without Antonio Brown, the Bucs have unusual depth at wideout. But unlike in last week's Packers matchup, the Chiefs do not represent a clear boon for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, or anyone else at the position.
If you're hunting for substantial DFS value, your best chance will likely be to wait for the final injury designations in the Sunday lead-up to kickoff. There are several players for whom injuries should provide a major lever. Brown and Scotty Miller are the two sides of that due to the former's knee injury. On Monday, head coach Bruce Arians suggested that Brown would likely be ready to play this weekend. If Brown cannot play, however, Miller and maybe even Tyler Johnson would be sudden values at their inexpensive salaries. Along similar lines, Mecole Hardman would be an excellent choice if either or both of Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson had to miss the game, the former with his lingering calf injury and the latter because of his placement on the COVID list for close contact.
You may be tempted to make the same effort with the Chiefs' running game since Clyde Edwards-Helaire played at less than 100% in and Le'Veon Bell outright missed the AFC Championship Game, but the Bucs' tremendous run defense has cut rushing yards and touchdowns by 23% and 25%, respectively. In a PPR setting, Edwards-Helaire could salvage his value with a return to his regular-season 9.0% target share that was 18th-highest at the position. But I wouldn't target any Chiefs back as a possible 2021 successor to Damien Williams' 133-yard, two-touchdown outburst in Super Bowl LIV, even if other players at his position were designated as inactive.