Welcome to the wild-card weekend Fantasy Football Playbook!
This will be your game-by-game guide to the week’s slate of NFL games, featuring score projections, over/unders, win probabilities and, of course, easily digestible fantasy advice for both season-long and DFS leagues. This guide should help you with all sorts of decision-making, including sit/start decisions, last-minute waiver adds and lineup choices.
The advice is centered on 12-team PPR leagues with relatively standard scoring and lineup settings (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex, 1 K, 1 D/ST), although I’ll often mention “shallow” or “deep” leagues for borderline starters. The charts show all players who have been projected for at least 6.0 fantasy points this week. “Matchup” is automatically determined using a proprietary metric that factors in raw and volume-adjusted fantasy points allowed to each position by the opposing defense this season.
For a closer look at this week’s top WR vs. CB matchups, check out this week’s Shadow Report cheatsheet.
(Editor’s note: Projections and rankings will align almost perfectly, but sometimes when a projection is close, a player might be ranked slightly higher or lower because of other factors, including upside or risk. This column is subject to possible updates during the weekend, though at the very minimum, rankings will get updated on the site and projections will always be updated inside the game leading up to kickoff.)
Patrick Mahomes under 278.5 passing yards (-115)
Believe it or not, Mahomes has been under 280 passing yards in 71% of his games this season. That includes each of his past three games, one of which was a 258-yard effort against these same Steelers in Week 16. The under hits often on passing yardage props, and that’s especially the case with Mahomes, as he has gone under in 12 of 17 games this season. That despite playing in the league’s second pass-heaviest offense. This line is his third lowest of the season, though the under hit both times when listed at 277.5 and 271.5. Pittsburgh has allowed the 11th-fewest passing yards this season and hasn’t allowed more than 278 yards in a game since Week 11. In fact, only four teams have hit the mark against the Steelers this season.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire over 40.5 rushing yards (-115)
Edwards-Helaire is expected back from injury this week and is likely to slide right back into lead back duties as he did the first two times he returned from an absence this season. “CEH” has played eight full games this season and has reached 41 rushing yards in six of them, averaging 59.6 yards per game during the span. Even if he’s limited to some extent, he has an outstanding matchup against a Steelers defense that allowed a league-high 5.0 yards per carry to running backs during the regular season. Twenty-one (or more than one per game on average) backs reached 41 yards against Pittsburgh. In the Week 16 game between these teams, Edwards-Helaire left with an injury, but Kansas City backs totaled 127 yards on 33 carries in the game.
Chris Boswell over 1.5 made field goals (+130)
We’re getting some pretty nice juice here for a player who has made at least two field goals in 59% of his games this season. That hit rate was stronger earlier this season (he made two-plus in five of his first six games), but he still mixed in four overs during his past 10 outings. Boswell projects at 1.8, so anything at plus money is worth a look.
Harrison Butker under 8.5 kicking points (-135)
Despite kicking for one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses, Butker has fallen short of nine kicking points in 75% of his games this season. That includes three straight — all games in which Kansas City scored at least 28 points. There have been 22 occasions in which a kicker has had a prop of 8.5 this season and 14 (64%) went under. Butker is responsible for five of the 22, and he went under in four of those five games.
Over/Under: 45.2 (fifth highest of wild-card weekend)
Win probability: Chiefs 83% (highest)
Damien Harris under 14.5 carries (-120)
Harris has failed to reach 15 carries in 60% of his games this season, and that includes five of his past six outings. New England played Buffalo twice during that six-game span, with Harris carrying the ball 10 times in a Week 13 game he left early and 18 times in the Week 16 loss. The Patriots went with an extremely run-heavy game plan in both games, including a historically run-first approach in the first meeting. That might be enough evidence to avoid this prop, but Harris’ recent string of low carry totals, the heavy usage of Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden and a game script that’s likely to lead to more passing (the Patriots as four-point underdogs) suggests we lean toward the under.
Devin Singletary over 59.5 rushing yards (-114)
The Bills made a major backfield adjustment prior to Week 14, promoting Singletary to feature back. He has played at least 71% of the snaps in all five of Buffalo’s games since that point, handling 16.0 carries and averaging 75.0 rush yards per game during the span. Singletary has reached 60 rushing yards in three of his past four games, though the exception is a notable one: It came against the Patriots in Week 16 (39 yards on 12 carries). Singletary had 36 yards on 10 carries when these teams played in Week 13, though Zack Moss was also a factor in what was a windy game Buffalo trailed throughout. Though New England slowed Singletary in the first two games, this is a defense that has allowed 4.5 yards per carry (sixth highest) and 1,738 rush yards (ninth highest) to backs this season. Ten running backs have reached 60 rush yards against the Patriots.
Josh Allen over 1.5 passing TDs (-110)
Allen has thrown at least two touchdown passes in 13 of his 17 outings (76%) this season. That includes four of his past five and seven of his past nine outings. He was limited to one in the windy game against New England in Week 13 but tossed three against the Patriots in Week 16. New England has allowed only 21 passing TDs this season (fourth fewest), though a very light schedule is a significant variable. The likes of Allen, Davis Mills (three), Dak Prescott (three), Jameis Winston (two) and Justin Herbert (two) threw more than one against the Patriots. The only standout QB to fall short of two against them was Tom Brady (zero in Week 4). It’s a tough matchup, but Allen will be throwing plenty in one of the league’s pass-heaviest offenses.
Over/Under: 45.2 (fourth highest)
Win probability: Bills 59% (sixth highest)
Josh Jacobs under 16.5 carries (-120)
Jacobs has been under 17 carries in 12 of his 15 games (80%) this season, including all of the seven losses in which he has been active. He averaged 11.7 carries during the seven losses. That’s notable as Las Vegas is a 5.5-point road underdog. Cincinnati has faced the sixth-fewest RB carries this season. In fact, excluding a Week 18 game played by backups, Week 4 (James Robinson) was the last time a running back reached 16 carries against the Bengals. That’s a streak of 12 straight games.
Derek Carr over 0.5 INTs (-135)
Carr ranks sixth in the NFL in interceptions (14) and has thrown at least one in 12 of his 17 games (71%) this season. The Bengals rank 15th in the league in INTs, and one of their 13 came via Carr when these teams met in Week 11. Carr throws a lot of passes (fifth in the NFL in pass attempts) and the Bengals are thrown on often (fourth in the NFL in pass attempts faced), which suggests plenty of opportunities for a mistake.
Zay Jones over 41.5 receiving yards (-115)
After playing a situational role early in the season, Jones has played 82% of the Raiders’ snaps since the Week 8 bye. He has been on the field for 83% of pass plays and is handling an 18% target share and 32% air yard share during the span. He has especially bloomed as of late, seeing at least eight targets and catching at least five passes in four straight games (he has out-targeted Hunter Renfrow in each game). The boost in volume has allowed Jones to reach 42 receiving yards in three of his past four games. Twenty-three receivers have hit 42 yards against a Bengals defense that has allowed the sixth-highest catch rate (66%) and 12th-highest YPT (8.1) to the position this season.
Daniel Carlson over 1.5 made field goals (+110)
Carlson has converted at least two field goals in 71% of his games this season. The high hit rate is a product of heavy volume and strong efficiency. Carlson leads the league in FG attempts (43) and conversions (40). His 93% conversion rate is fourth best.
Jessie Bates III over 3.5 solo tackles (EV)
Bates has at least four solos in 12 of his 15 games (80%) this season. That hit rate leaps to 12 of 13 (92%) 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 — something he has done in 10 games this season. His projection checks in at 4.3.
Chidobe Awuzie under 0.5 assists (+155)
Awuzie has failed to record at least one assist in nine of his 14 games (64%) this season. Even if we exclude three games in which he played less than 65% of the snaps, Awuzie came away with zero assists in six of 11 games (55%). Playing perimeter corner full-time, 83% of Awuzie’s tackles have been of the solo variety this season, so as we’ve seen, it’s very possible for him to produce a handful of tackles and still not record a solo. This one is worth it at generous vig.
Eli Apple under 3.5 combined tackles (-160)
The juice isn’t too pretty here, but Apple has fallen short of four total tackles in 75% of his games this season. That includes eight of his past nine outings. An interesting dynamic here is that Apple, Awuzie and Trae Waynes have been active together for only two games this season. In Week 5, Apple played a season-low 44% of the snaps, with Awuzie (100%) and Waynes (67%) the team’s top perimeter corners. In Week 16, Apple played 100% of the snaps, with Awuzie (79%) and Waynes (21%) trailing. All three are healthy for this week’s game, so there’s at least a chance that Apple won’t play every snap. Of course, even if he does, we’ve seen that he rarely reaches four in this category.
Over/Under: 46.6 (third highest)
Win probability: Bengals 71% (third highest)
Tom Brady over 281.5 passing yards (EV)
Brady has thrown for at least 282 yards in 10 of his 17 games (59%) this season. He hit the mark in eight of 13 wins (62%), which is notable with Tampa Bay an 8.5-point favorite this weekend. Tampa Bay beat the Eagles back in Week 6 and Brady threw for 297 yards on 42 attempts in that game. The Eagles’ pass defense is pretty good (10th-fewest pass yards allowed), but four quarterbacks (including Brady) have reached 282 yards against them this season. Volume will never be an issue for Brady, as Tampa Bay operated the league’s pass-heaviest offense during the regular season. The Bucs called pass 68% of the time, compared to an expected rate of 58%. As a result, Brady led the entire league in dropbacks, pass attempts, completions, pass yards and passing touchdowns.
Leonard Fournette under 100.5 rushing/receiving yards (-110)
Fournette will be activated from injured reserve and play this week. Considering he has missed three straight games, it’s reasonable to think he could be limited, which would obviously push us toward the under. Even if he’s not, though, Fournette has fallen short of 101 scrimmage yards in nine of his 14 games (64%) this season, averaging 90.4 per game. One of the overs came via a 127-yard effort against the Eagles in Week 6. However, the Eagles’ run defense has changed pretty drastically since then. Consider, running backs averaged 163 scrimmage yards per game against the Eagles during their first eight games but 101 per game in eight games since (excluding a Week 18 game in which Philadelphia rested its starters). The under is stronger here under normal circumstances, so it’s especially intriguing with Fournette coming off the injury.
T.J. Edwards over 9.5 combined tackles (+105)
After playing a situational role in the first half of the season, Edwards played more than half of the Eagles’ snaps (66%) for the first time in Week 8. He registered 13 total tackles in the game. He then played at least 92% of the snaps in eight straight games to finish the regular season. From Week 8 on, Edwards reached 10 combined tackles in six of nine games (67%), averaging 10.8 per game during the span.
Alex Singleton over 7.5 combined tackles (-140)
I love me some Eagles linebacker props. Singleton has played more than 60% of the Eagles’ offensive snaps in 12 games this season. He has reached seven tackles in all 12 and has at least eight in 11 of the 12 outings. That includes each of his past five games. Singleton isn’t an every-down player, but he’s not far off, having played at least 80% of the Eagles’ snaps in six consecutive games.
Over/Under: 50.6 (highest)
Win probability: Buccaneers 74% (second highest)
Deebo Samuel over 28.5 rushing yards (-120)
After totaling six carries during his first eight games this season, Samuel has at least five carries in each of his past eight games. He’s averaging 6.6 attempts and 42.3 rush yards per game during the span and has hit 29 rush yards in seven of the eight games. The Cowboys are midpack in rushing production allowed to running backs and, though perhaps there’s some selection bias in play here, they’ve also allowed the second-most rushing yards to wide receivers this season (144 yards on 19 carries). That production included a 33-yard run by Tyreek Hill and a 24-yarder by Greg Dortch. Regardless, Samuel’s recent usage and strong conversion rate in this category suggest the over is the place to be.
Over/Under: 48.9 (second highest)
Win probability: Cowboys 66% (fourth highest)
Kyler Murray over 255.5 pass yards (-115)
Murray has reached 256 yards in 64% of his games this season. He has hit the mark in three of his five losses, which is notable this week with Arizona a four-point road underdog. Murray threw for 268 yards when these teams played in Week 4 and put up 383 yards in the Week 14 meeting. Murray has had added success against zone-heavy schemes this season, averaging 285.1 yards per game in seven games against teams that are in zone at least 60% of the time. He threw for at least 239 yards in all seven games and at least 256 in five of the seven. The Rams have faced the sixth-most pass attempts this season and have allowed the ninth-most yards. Ten of their 17 opponents have thrown for 256 yards.
Matt Gay over 1.5 made FG (-125) and/or over 7.5 kicking points (-110)
Gay has converted at least two field goals in 71% of his games and has registered at least eight kicking points in 82% of his appearances. Gay has enjoyed plenty of opportunity (his 34 FG attempts rank ninth) and he’s been one of the league’s most effective kickers (his 94.1% FG conversion rate trails only Justin Tucker‘s). Additionally, Gay has converted all but one of his 46 extra points (97.8%).
Over/Under: 44.6 (sixth highest)
Win probability: Rams 66% (fifth highest)