The Playbook: Your ultimate fantasy football and props-betting guide for the divisional round

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Welcome to the divisional round Fantasy Football Playbook — Player Props Edition!

This will be your game-by-game guide to this week’s slate of NFL games, featuring score projections, over/unders, win probabilities and, of course, player prop picks and analysis. This guide should help you with all sorts of decision-making, including sit/start decisions and lineup choices for DFS and playoff leagues.

For a closer look at this week’s top WR vs. CB matchups, check out this week’s shadow report cheatsheet.


Over/Under: 45.3 (4th-highest)
Win Prob: Bengals 50% (4th-highest)

The divisional round opens with the 11-7 Bengals in Tennessee to take on the 12-5 Titans at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Temperatures will be near freezing, but clear conditions are expected. This projects as a tight game and as the lowest-scoring affair of the weekend.

Cincinnati runs a slow-moving but productive splash-play offense. The Bengals rank 30th in pace of play and 28th in plays per drive but sit seventh in touchdowns. They throw the ball a ton, ranking 10th in game-script-adjusted pass rate during the entire season, but they are sixth over the last eight weeks and first over the last four weeks. Cincinnati has had at least three wide receivers on the field 89% of the time, the league’s second-highest rate.

The Bengals run a balanced defensive scheme heavy on Cover 3 and Man 1 with a touch of Tampa 2 (league-high 6.3% of plays). They don’t blitz very often (19.9% rate is fourth-lowest).

The Titans’ operate a run-heavy, high-volume offense. They sit fourth in snaps per game and their 53% pass rate is lowest in the league. Tennessee has hung around midpack in offensive EPA and touchdown scoring.

The Titans’ defense was in zone 62.3% of the time during the regular season, which is eighth-highest. It’s in Cover 4 and Man 1 most often, but also runs Cover 4 at one of the highest rates. Tennessee’s 18.7% blitz rate is second-lowest in the league.

Props

Ryan Tannehill under 258.5 pass+rush yards (-115), over 0.5 INTs (+105)

Quarterbacks tend to fall short of their pass+rush yards prop (58% of the time this season, in fact) and Tannehill’s outlook suggests he will add to that rate this weekend. Tennessee’s quarterback has been under 259 in this category in 65% of his games this season. The Bengals allowed a hefty 277.4 pass+rush yards per game to the opposing quarterback during the regular season, though they didn’t face the Titans, who operate the run-heaviest offense in the league and will have Derrick Henry back from injury this week. This one could get hairy if the Titans are trailing in the second half, but they’re a home favorite, which suggests they’ll be running as often as possible. A lack of pass volume would limit Tannehill’s opportunities to throw an interception, but he tossed 14 during the regular season (sixth-most) and had at least one in just over half his games. The Bengals are midpack in interceptions and have at least one in 11 (61%) of 18 games this season.

Joe Burrow under 8.5 rush yards (EV)

Burrow has fallen short of 9 rush yards in 65% of his games this season. Of his 42 carries, 22 are scrambles, which have netted 109 yards (5 YPC). He has added 8 yards on eight sneaks and 8 yards on a pair of designed runs and has lost 10 yards on nine kneels. In total, a Burrow carry has averaged 2.8 YPC, so at that rate about three carries would hit this prop. The second-year QB has reached three carries in seven of 18 games this season, but four were prior to Week 7 (he’s averaging 6.5 yards per game since that point). Burrow could hit this with one good scramble, but he’s more likely than not to fall short, so I’ll take it at even money.

Joe Mixon under 17.5 carries (-130), under 61.5 rush yards (-135)

Mixon is averaging 18.2 carries and 73.7 rush yards per game this season and has gone over 17 carries and 61 yards 53% of the time. That suggests we lean over, but there are three reasons why we shouldn’t. One is his recent lack of production, as he has fallen short of 62 yards in five of his last six games. That’s despite averaging 16.8 carries per game during the span (he has reached 18 carries in three of those games). Mixon hasn’t finished a game with a YPC better than 3.8 since Week 12, and that includes the only game he was above 58 yards during this recent slump (65 yards in Week 16). The second reason is that, as noted in the intro, the Bengals have evolved into the league’s pass-heaviest offense over the last month. That’s sure to limit his attempts and especially this week against the Titans, which brings me to my third point: Tennessee is elite against the run. During the regular season, the Titans faced the second-fewest carries, allowed the second-fewest rush yards and allowed the seventh-lowest YPC (3.8) to RBs. Only four backs cleared 55 rush yards against them (two were Jonathan Taylor) and none have since Week 8. The most RB carries they’ve faced in a single game is 18 (Rex Burkhead in Week 11, James Robinson in Week 5) and no other back cleared 16.

Anthony Firkser over 2.5 receptions (+155)

Firkser’s role has fluctuated throughout the 2021 season, but he has caught at least three passes in seven games, including each of his last two. MyCole Pruitt went on injured reserve after Week 17 and Firkser played an expanded role in the regular-season finale, handling four targets on 14 routes (his highest in both categories since Week 14). Geoff Swaim is Tennessee’s No. 1 tight end but spends a lot of time blocking. Swaim ran eight routes in Week 18, compared with Firkser’s 14. Firkser will be the primary receiving tight end for Tennessee this week against a Bengals’ defense that allowed the fourth-most catches to the position during the regular season.

Jessie Bates over 3.5 solo tackles (-110)

We missed on this same bet one week ago, but process over result, so we’re going back to the well. Bates has at least four solos in 12 of his 16 games (75%) this season. That hit rate leaps to 12 of 14 (86%) if we include only games in which he played at least 80% of the snaps. That’s notable, as barring injury or blowout, Bates is a near lock to play 100% of the snaps this weekend (he has played at least 98% in 13 games this season). His projection checks in at 4.4.

Mike Hilton under 4.5 combined tackles (EV)

Excluding a Week 18 game in which the Cincinnati starters rested, Hilton has fallen short of five total tackles in 12 of his 17 (71%) games this season. That includes a Week 19 game in which he played 92% of the snaps (his second-highest snap share of the season) and registered four tackles. Hilton’s five games with five-plus tackles have all come during games in which he played at least 79% of the snaps. That’s above his average snap share of 76%, which is actually a pretty high number for a No. 3/slot/nickel corner. Unless the Bengals are ahead throughout this game, they may not be in nickel as often as usual, as the Titans lean toward heavier sets; they’ve had at least three receivers on the field 59% of the time, which is 24th in the league. Hilton projects for 3.8 total tackles.

Germaine Pratt under 5.5 solo tackles (-160)

Pratt has appeared in 16 games this season and has reached six solo tackles three times. He did so way back in Week 1 before going 12 consecutive games with fewer than six. With top off-ball linebacker Logan Wilson sidelined in Week 15, Thomas racked up nine solos. Pratt’s playing time predictably declined to 72% against the Raiders last weekend, but he reached six solos in the win. Pratt has averaged a 61% snap share during games both he and Wilson played in full this season and, while his snaps could be up a bit against the Titans’ run-heavy offense, he’s likely to be closer to 70% than 90% of the snaps.

Evan McPherson over 1.5 made field goals (+125)

McPherson has nailed at least two field goals in 59% of his games this season. He finished the regular season 11th in FG attempts (33) and converted 28. His 84.8% conversion rate is roughly league average despite an average length of 41.8, highest at the position (min. 15 attempts). The Titans faced 38 FG attempts during the regular season, which tied for fourth-most. This is worth a look at plus money.


Over/Under: 51.1 (highest)
Win Prob: Packers 65% (highest)

Saturday’s slate wraps up with the 11-7 49ers in Green Bay to take on the 13-4 Packers at 8:15 p.m. ET. Green Bay is the weekend’s biggest favorite in what projects as the highest-scoring game on the slate. We’re not worried about wind or precipitation (there could be mild flurries), but it will be cold, as temperatures are expected to fall below 10 degrees. The Packers won 30-28 when these teams played in Week 3.

The 49ers’ operate a run-heavy, slow-moving offense, ranking 30th in game-script-adjusted pass rate and 29th in pace of play. They’re near midpack in drives and snaps, but they’re efficient, ranking eighth in EPA per drive. San Francisco uses a fullback at an unusually high rate and thus ranks second in snaps with multiple backs on the field (33%), as well as 29th in three-plus WR sets (60%) and 30th in two-plus TE sets (9%). The 49ers’ run a zone-heavy defensive scheme, aligning in man only 32.5% of the time (third lowest). They’re often in 2-high and use their fair share of Cover 2, Cover 3 and Cover 4 when in zone, leaning on Man 1 when in man. They don’t blitz much, with their 20.8% rate ranking seventh-lowest.

Green Bay operates a slow-moving, pass-heavy, high-scoring offense. The Packers rank 31st in pace of play and 29th in drives per game, but second in EPA per drive and sixth in touchdowns. The Packers rank fifth in game-script-adjusted pass rate and have scored 75% of their touchdowns through the air, which is third-highest. The Packers are in “12” personnel (aka two tight ends) 23% of the time, the league’s fourth-highest rate.

The Packers lean toward man coverage on defense with a preference for Man 1, as well as Cover 4 when in zone. Green Bay blitzes 20.7% of the time (sixth-lowest).

Props

Deebo Samuel over 54.5 receiving yards (-110)

Samuel has reached 55 receiving yards in 12 of his 17 games (71%) this season. The versatile playmaker has been used more as a rusher over the last two months, but he has still managed 55-plus receiving yards in four of his past five games. Samuel’s rushing and scrimmage yard props are both tempting this week, but the receiving yardage prop is most appealing for one reason: game script. Samuel first saw a big boost in rushing work in Week 10 (he has five-plus carries in nine games since) and the 49ers are 8-1 during the stretch. However, San Francisco is a six-point road underdog against the top-seeded Packers this week. Samuel has reached 52 receiving yards in all six losses this season and has hit 55 in five of the six. That includes a Week 16 loss to Tennessee in which he had five carries (his fewest during the aforementioned nine-game stretch) and nine catches for 159 yards on 11 targets (his highest in all three categories during the span). The Packers are good against receivers and deep at corner, but they face a lot of volume and have allowed 55-plus receiving yards to 18 wideouts this season.


Over/Under: 49.2 (3rd-highest)
Win Prob: Buccaneers 63% (2nd-highest)

The Sunday slate kicks off with the 13-5 Rams traveling to Tampa Bay to take on the 14-4 Buccaneers at 3 p.m. ET. This is a lock to be the warmest game of the weekend, as the forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures around 60 degrees. The Buccaneers are appropriately a slight home favorite, though the Rams won 34-24 when these teams met in Los Angeles in Week 3.

The Rams operate a balanced offense in most categories, slotting in near midpack in pace, drives per game and pass rate. Interestingly, the Rams leaned heavily on the pass early in the season but have progressively moved toward the run in recent weeks. Overall, the plan has worked, as they sit sixth in EPA per drive and seventh in touchdowns. A league-high 80% of those touchdowns have been passes. Los Angeles has had three-plus receivers on the field a league-high 93% of the time this season. The Rams rank first in “11” personnel and last in “12.”

The Rams defense has been in zone coverage 68% of the time this season, which is the league’s second-highest rate. They mix in plenty of Cover 3 and Man 1 but also utilize Cover 4 a league-high 23.3% of the time. The Rams were in 2-high a season-high 63% of the time against the Bucs in Week 3 — a clear effort to slow Tampa Bay’s explosive passing game.

Speaking of which, the Buccaneers operate a fast-paced, high-volume, pass-heavy, efficient offense, ranking sixth in pace, fourth in drives per game, third in snaps, first in game-script-adjusted pass rate, third in EPA per drive and first in touchdowns.

Defensively, Tampa Bay operates a zone scheme that leans heavily on Cover 3, though the Bucs ran a ton of Man 1 and Man 2 in the Week 3 game against the Rams. No team blitzes more than the Buccaneers, who have done so 39.2% of the time this season.

Props

Rob Gronkowski under 63.5 receiving yards (-110)

Gronkowski has been under this line in 62% of his games this season. That includes last week’s win over the Eagles in which he was limited to 31 yards on six targets. Gronkowski has been targeted at least eight times in seven of his last nine games, but has fallen short of 64 yards in five of those outings. The Rams were in the middle of the league in yardage allowed to tight ends during the regular season, but they didn’t allow many big games. In fact, Mark Andrews (89 yards in Week 17) was the only tight end to reach 67 yards against them and just two others cleared 60 yards (both prior to Week 5). Gronkowski turned seven targets into 55 yards when these teams met in Week 3.

Matt Gay over 1.5 made field goals (+110)

Gay has converted at least two field goals in 72% of his games this season, one of which was last week’s win over Arizona. Gay has enjoyed plenty of opportunity (his 34 FG attempts during the regular season ranked ninth) and he has been one of the league’s most effective kickers (his 94.4% FG conversion rate trails only Justin Tucker). Additionally, Gay has converted all but one of his 49 extra points (98%). Tampa Bay was midpack in field goals faced during the regular season (1.8 per game). This is an easy one to take a shot on at plus money.

Aaron Donald over 3.5 combined tackles (-120)

Donald has racked up at least four total tackles in 13 of his 18 games this season (72%). That’s a pretty enticing hit rate, but it gets even better after a closer look. Four of the five games in which he fell short came during Weeks 1-7. Starting in Week 8, Donald produced four or more tackles in 10 consecutive games to finish the regular season. Donald has played 89% of the Rams’ defensive snaps this season, including at least 90% in 11 games. He has been limited to fewer than 80% of the snaps in four games and, not coincidentally, that’s where we find two of the “unders.” One of them was last week against the Eagles, as he was limited to a season-low one tackle while playing 76% of the snaps in Tampa Bay’s comfortable win.


Over/Under: 50.9 (2nd-highest)
Win Prob: Chiefs 52% (3rd-highest)

The final game of the divisional round is set for 6 p.m. ET on Sunday evening with the 12-6 Bills on the road against the 13-5 Chiefs. Temperatures could dip near freezing, but there are no wind or precipitation concerns. This game projects as a high-scoring tossup, though the Bills had little trouble en route to a 38-20 victory when these teams played in Week 5.

The Bills’ offense moves at a relatively slow pace (seventh-lowest pace of play), but it still manages a lot of plays (sixth-most) and it is productive, as the team’s 0.68 EPA per drive is fourth-highest and its 3.5 touchdowns per game is second-highest. Buffalo calls pass at the third-highest rate once we adjust for game script. The Bills have had three-plus receivers on the field 88% of the time (third-highest) and four receivers 11% of the time (fifth-highest).

Buffalo leans toward man coverage on defense, with Man 1 and Cover 2 its primary coverages. However, the Bills made significant scheme adjustments when these teams played in Week 5, leaning heavily on Cover 2 (easily a season-high 53.6% of snaps) and Cover 2 Man (21.4%). Buffalo was in 2-high 85% of the time, which was nearly double its season high otherwise and also the highest rate the Chiefs saw in a game this season.

The Chiefs operate the league’s most effective offense. They average 10.0 drives per game (second-lowest) but 6.7 plays per drive (first) and 0.87 EPA per drive (first). Kansas City is extremely pass-heavy, ranking second in game-script-adjusted pass rate. The unit also ranks fifth in snaps, fourth in touchdowns and fourth in the percentage of touchdowns that are passes. Kansas City is in “11” personnel 77% of the time (sixth-highest).

The Chiefs lean toward man coverage on defense, aligning in Cover 0 at a league-high 7.7% clip while also showing a preference for Cover 2 over Cover 3 and Cover 4 when in zone. The Chiefs blitz 29.5% of the time, which is eighth-highest. Kansas City played more Man 1 than usual against Buffalo in Week 5.

Props

Patrick Mahomes under 2.5 passing TDs (-150)

The Bills have yet to allow more than two passing TDs in any of their 18 games this season. In fact, they’ve allowed more than one passing TD only four times. Mahomes accounted for one of those four, but it required 54 pass attempts way back in Week 5. Mahomes himself has been held below three passing TDs in eight of 18 games (44%) this season. The Bills have enjoyed an extremely light schedule this season, but they’ve also held their opponents below their usual output most of the time. Even in Kansas City’s pass-heavy offense, Mahomes is a longshot to toss three touchdowns in this matchup.

Devin Singletary over 59.5 rush yards (-115)

Singletary took over as Buffalo’s featured back in Week 14 and has played at least 71% of the snaps in all six of its games since that point (81% average). He’s averaging a healthy 16 carries and 76 rushing yards per game during the span and has reached 81 rushing yards in four of his last five games. That includes a 16-carry, 81-yard effort against the Patriots last week. Game script might not be as run-friendly in Kansas City this week, but Singletary has volume (he has handled 84% of the team’s RB carries since Week 14) and efficiency (4.7 YPC) on his side. The Chiefs have not been good against backs this season, allowing 4.6 YPC, which is third-highest. Eight backs have reached 60 yards against them, four of them since Week 13. Granted, Singletary was a situational player back then, but Bills RBs totaled 62 yards on 17 carries in the Week 5 meeting between the teams.

Source: ESPN


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