Gus Edwards
Gus Edwards — USA Today Sports Image

The playoffs have arrived, and owners who roster heavy lifters including James Conner, Matt Breida, A.J. Green and Greg Olsen must depart from their best-laid plans. We’re here to help with some not-super-obvious matchups likely to bear fruit. Good luck!   


Ravens (at Chiefs)

We were willing to give the Chiefs a pass for their defensive performance in one of the greatest offensive displays in NFL history two weeks ago. But returning to California to let up another 33 points to Oakland last Sunday confirmed our suspicion: The improvements on ‘D’ from Weeks 7-10 appear fraudulent. Now Lamar Jackson takes aim at fantasy’s 31st-ranked run ‘D’ after setting a modern-era record with 265 rushing yards through three NFL starts. Gus “the (Magic) Bus” Edwards is averaging 20-105 rushing during Baltimore’s three-game win streak. Forget the Ravens’ pass-game options (Baltimore certainly has) and roll with this run-game renaissance.   

Don’t hesitate: RB Gus Edwards

Think twice (but it’s alright): QB Lamar Jackson

Browns (vs. Panthers)

Baker Mayfield salvaged a nightmarish fantasy start Sunday in Houston (where he had three interceptions, five completions and 46 passing yards at intermission) by tallying 345 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Since Hue Jackson’s firing, Mayfield has averaged 20.1 fantasy points — trailing only Mahomes, Roethlisberger, Brees, Goff and Wilson among passers with at least four starts over that five-week span. The Panthers have allowed an average of 30.8 points over the same span, in which they went 1-4 prior to firing their D-line and secondary coach and stripping their D-coordinator of his play-calling responsibilities.

Don’t hesitate: QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, WR Jarvis Landry, TE David Njoku

Think twice (but it’s alright): RB Duke Johnson, WR Antonio Callaway

Packers (vs. Falcons)

You may or may not agree with the Packers’ decision to fire Mike McCarthy in-season, but we all can concur that Aaron Rodgers and interim head coach Joe Philbin get a cushy landing spot with the Falcons coming to town. Atlanta ranks 31st in defending fantasy QBs and 30th against backs, so whether Philbin’s first charge is recharging Rodgers or rediscovering perhaps the must underused back in the league, Aaron Jones, resistance should be minimal. “The Aarons” are obvious plays, but we’d also suggest MVS this week and perhaps even Robert Tonyan for a DFS dart throw as the Packers’ priorities shift to finding out about their “yutes.”

Don’t hesitate: QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Aaron Jones, WR Davante Adams

Think twice (but it’s alright): WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, TE Jimmy Graham

Buccaneers (vs. Saints)

Interesting twist on the Jameis Winston coach-killer narrative: This time it was Winston killing off the Panthers assistants while extending his streak of turnover-free pass attempts to 68. If we throw out his late desperation heave against the Giants that was picked, Winston has tossed six touchdowns while averaging 9.0 yards per attempt and completing nearly 73 percent of his passes since replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick for a second time this season. Coach saver? That still feels like a stretch with Dirk Koetter, and we’re not ready to endorse Winston past the opening round of the playoffs. But in a game with the highest point total of the week (56), the red-hot Winston is a strong bet to change another narrative — never playing well against New Orleans.

Don’t hesitate: QB Jameis Winston, WRs Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries

Think twice (but it’s alright): RB Peyton Barber, TE Cameron Brate


Jaguars (at Titans)

Road teams are 2-11 on “Thursday Night Football” this season, when eight have failed to eclipse 24 points and five were held below 17. The NFL’s plan to strip the Jags of a Thursday game last season for aesthetic reasons backfired (surprise!), and now they’re back in the fold and we don’t want to watch again. Jacksonville’s maligned ‘D’ shut out the Colts Sunday to snap a seven-game skid, but Cody Kessler averaged 6.25 AY/A (Adjusted Yards per Attempt) to raise his average to 5.7 over two appearances. The Titans are a weird team, but they held the Jaguars to 232 yards and six points in Week 3.

We can’t foresee much better for Jacksonville on the road, even with Kessler in for Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette back from the hamstring injury that sidelined him the first meeting and last Sunday’s suspension to battle a club that held him to 3.3 yards per rookie attempt.

Think twice (but it’s alright): RBs Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon

Don’t do it: Jaguars passing game

Washington (vs. Giants)

Even in two-QB leagues, we cannot endorse Mark Sanchez to begin the fantasy playoffs. Sorry. Not only did Colt McCoy’s broken leg basically end Washington’s season in Week 13, Sanchez’s presence destroys the rest of Washington’s fantasy outlook this season. Adrian Peterson? He scampered 90 yards for a touchdown Monday night … and the NFL’s leader in negative runs picked up 8 yards on his other eight totes. With Sanchez at the controls — a sentence we’d hoped to never write again — Washington managed 89 yards and three points on its final seven possessions in Philadelphia.

Think twice (but it’s alright): RBs Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, TE Jordan Reed

Don’t do it: Remainder of Washington’s passing game

49ers (vs. Broncos)

We wouldn’t wish the 49ers’ backfield carnage this season on our worst enemy. With Matt Breida set to miss his first NFL game, it’ll be Southern Miss’ Nick Mullens and North Texas’ Jeffrey Wilson heading Kyle Shanahan’s attack vs. a Broncos club that’s won three straight and is plus-8 in turnover differential over that span. What possibly could go wrong? Mullens threw for more than 400 yards a week ago, when Denver lost CB1 Chris Harris to a broken leg, but he’s yet to stack solid showings.

Don’t hesitate: TE George Kittle

Think twice (but it’s alright): RB Jeffrey Wilson, WRs Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin

Cardinals (vs. Lions)

The Cardinals notched their biggest win of the season — to the pleasure of their fans (and of the Packers’ fans?), but not to Arizona fantasy owners. Chase Edmonds vultured the first two touchdowns of his career from David Johnson. Fellow rookie Christian Kirk, the team’s leader in receiving yardage and lone bright spot in a dark season on offense, suffered a season-ending foot injury. LG Mike Iupati, Arizona’s top blocker, became the fifth Cardinals O-linemen sent to injured reserve after he suffered a knee injury. And the visiting Lions actually have played better up front of late.    

Think twice (but it’s alright): RB David Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald