Saturday: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens 4:30 p.m. EST
These two teams kicked the season off with the Ravens winning 25-9. Nobody could have imagined at that time that these two teams would be meeting again in the Divisional Playoff round. The Ravens were expected to be here, but the Texans were figured to be a seven-win team at best.
I have several concerns about the Texans’ offense in this one. The Ravens have a very good all-around defense and are exceptional vs. the pass. QB C.J. Stroud is having an outstanding rookie season, but the Texans don’t have many reliable options outside of WR Nico Collins. Collins is the go-to guy, but I worry the Ravens can neutralize him. They need another receiver to step up. TE Dalton Schultz has a tough matchup, and receivers John Metchie and Robert Woods haven’t had many targets. I think RB Devin Singletary will have to step in the passing game, making him a sneaky fantasy option. I don’t expect a lot from him in the running game, but if he can get six catches and add 50 yards on the ground, he can be fantasy viable. A touchdown would make him one of the best values on the slate. The Texans have the lowest team total on the slate at about 16.5, which makes stacking them a risky option.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has been outstanding, especially at home, which is a bit shocking considering he hasn’t scored many rushing touchdowns this season. This is the playoffs, though, and I would expect 40 yards rushing minimum from him, plus a rushing touchdown. TE Mark Andrews is practicing in full and is at a discount price. He has an extremely favorable matchup vs. a Texan team that doesn’t cover the tight end. WR Zay Flowers has been the go-to player in Andrew’s absence, and I think he will find space in the Texans’ zone defense and find the end zone. All the other Raven receivers are a pass, as they have shown nothing most of the season. Gus Edwards’ fantasy value relies on touchdowns. He will need not one but maybe two touchdowns to crack 20 points. I would much rather play Singletary over Edwards.
The Texans have been a nice story, but I don’t think they have enough weapons here. Ravens 27-13.
Saturday: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers 8:15 p.m. EST
The Packers are another team that was not expected to be here. Coming off a trouncing of the Dallas Cowboys, they face the number-one seed 49ers, who have been waiting and are well rested.
Packers RB Aaron Jones set the tone last week with over 100 yards and three touchdowns. He has had four straight 100-yard games, but this will be his toughest matchup. Expecting 100 yards may be a bit lofty, but he will get 20 plus touches if they don’t fall behind more than 10 points. QB Jordan Love has also had an excellent season and has four straight 20-point games. He has a full complement of weapons, and I think he is a good bet for 20 points again this week. The problem is figuring out who is going to catch the ball. Last week, it was WR Romeo Doubs, but before that, it was WR Jayden Reed. WR Christian Watson is back, and there is a possibility that he could be the guy. Or it is possible that the ball is spread around, and nobody has that monster game. TE Luke Musgrave remains extremely cheap and could be a sneaky option as well. I do expect Love to put up numbers, but I think you can play him without a Packer stack.
The 49er offense has to start with RB Christian McCaffrey. He has a great matchup and is clearly the top back on this slate. Last week, the Packers were able to neutralize Dallas receivers CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks. They will use Jaire Alexander predominantly on WR Deebo Samuel and use disguised packages to limit WR Brandon Aiyuk. I would expect the ball to funnel over the middle to TE George Kittle, who I think will have a huge game. Expect both Kittle and McCaffrey to have at least five catches and lead the offense. QB Brock Purdy is mid-priced; he could have a big game, but I think the quarterbacks from Tampa and Detroit have the better value.
Last week I did predict the Cowboys to beat the Packers, but I did call the Packers a live dog. I think they are live dogs again because they have a QB with a hot hand and are relatively healthy on both sides of the ball. I can’t call for the upset, though. The Niners are very good on both sides, and McCaffrey is the best player on the planet. Niners 31-23.
Sunday: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions 3:00 p.m. EST
This is another rematch from the regular season, where the Lions controlled Tampa 20-6. I expect a much higher-scoring game this time around, as Tampa’s offense has improved and is much more confident.
Both teams mirror each other as both defenses are solid vs. the run and get after the passer. If they don’t reach the quarterback, both are susceptible to giving up big plays down the field. On offense, they both have solid backs and have excellent playmakers. I think everyone is in play here, as I am expecting this to be the highest-scoring game on the slate.
For Tampa, I think Baker Mayfield is a good candidate to throw for 300 yards. He is confident and may have an extra chip on his shoulder as the members of the Lions’ secondary have been trash-talking a little bit. I really like WR Mike Evans, as I think he has a big game, but WR Chris Godwin could shine as well. I think you need to have one or the other to win, and I think you can play both for leverage in a Tampa stack. TE Cade Otton could be a solid punt play and will allow you to load up elsewhere. Where does all this leave RB Rachaad White? If you play him, it’s just because his ownership will be low. You will be left hoping he has five catches and falls into the end zone.
I am expecting Detroit to win, making them my favorite stack on the slate. They will be popular, but QB Jared Goff should also throw for over 300 yards. WR Amon-Ra St. Brown and TE Sam LaPorta are some of my favorite plays on the slate, especially St. Brown, who should score 20 points minimum. WR Josh Reynolds is viable as a cheap option, but can he score to get over 15 points? The running-game duo, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, do seem to cancel each other out. Gibbs does have the higher upside, and I would think he has an outside shot to score two touchdowns.
As mentioned, I think Detroit wins a high-scoring game. I think their offensive line is better and their defense will make a big play with their heavy pass rush. Lions 34-27.
Sunday: Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills 6:30 p.m. EST
It’s fitting that these two teams would meet again in the playoffs. The Bills have to feel confident as they finally get to meet the Chiefs in their home building in the playoffs. Still, the Chiefs are led by Patrick Mahomes and know how to win in these situations.
The Chiefs’ offense hasn’t been consistent for most of the season. I know they were effective last week, but Miami was severely depleted, and the Chiefs were able to move the ball at will but still struggled in the red zone. TE Travis Kelce hasn’t been that dominant player we are accustomed to, but this is a huge game and it would not shock me if he scored here. RB Isiah Pacheco is a solid back and should see 20+ touches, making him another option to pair with CMC in your lineups. WR Rashee Rice has been the star and he sees a tremendous amount of targets.
The Bills’ offense has also struggled at times, relying heavily on QB Josh Allen’s back. RB James Cook is excellent, but they shy away from him even when they are leading by two scores. WR Stefon Diggs hasn’t scored more than 20 fantasy points in over two months, and this isn’t a good matchup here vs. Chief’s CB L’Jarius Sneed. WR Gabe Davis still isn’t practicing and that leaves the door open for WR Khalil Shakir, but he will be heavily owned in GPP tournaments. TE Dalton Kincaid has to step up, but I don’t know if he can put up the numbers to win a GPP tournament considering the top three tight ends have better matchups.
I want the Bills to win, but I can’t pick them. I don’t trust their coaching staff to make the right decision, and Allen is prone to committing costly turnovers. I have more trust in Andy Reid and Mahomes; I think they will come up with something, and I am calling for WR Mecole Hardman to score on a long touchdown. Chiefs 20-17.