Fantasy Football Playoff Challenge: Derrick Henry, underdog Titans hard to bet against on championship weekend

At the beginning of the NFL postseason, I told you the goal for any Fantasy playoff challenge was to pick a team that had the chance to play at least three games. And your best-case scenario was finding a team in the wild-card round that had the chance to play four games and make it to Super Bowl LIV.

I thought that team would be the Saints. I was wrong. The Titans have the chance to be that team.

My expectation was the Titans would lose as the No. 6 seed to the No. 3 seed Patriots. After that upset, I thought Tennessee would lose to No. 1 seed Baltimore. Can the Titans pull off one more surprise this week in the AFC Championship Game against the No. 2 seed Chiefs in Kansas City?

We'll find out, but kudos to you if you have been rolling with Derrick Henry. He's been the biggest star of the playoffs thus far.

Against New England, Henry had 34 carries for 182 yards and a touchdown, as well as one catch for 22 yards. That was impressive against the Patriots' top-tier run defense on the road. He was even better at Baltimore with 30 carries for 195 yards, as well as two catches for 7 yards, and he threw a 3-yard touchdown to Corey Davis.

The Chiefs will be another tough test, especially if Tennessee is chasing points against Patrick Mahomes and Co. But are you betting against Henry now? Not me, and I'll gladly start him if I'm allowed to change my lineup, depending on the format for your playoff challenge.

Now, unfortunately, Henry has really been the only standout Fantasy option for the Titans in their playoff run. Ryan Tannehill does have four total touchdowns in two games, but he's only passed for 160 yards against the Patriots and Ravens, with an interception. Rookie receiver A.J. Brown, who was a star in the regular season, also has just two catches for 13 yards on four targets in two games.

Tennessee and Kansas City met in Week 10, with the Titans winning 35-32 at home. Tannehill had 22 Fantasy points in that game, but Brown only had one catch for 17 yards on four targets. As you would expect, Henry was the star of the show with 23 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns, as well as two catches for 3 yards.

For what it's worth, I'm expecting the Chiefs to win this week and advance. I've been wrong on the Titans so far, but it would be a great story if they won again. And, for another narrative to follow, seeing Tannehill play in the Super Bowl in Miami the year after the Dolphins said he was no longer their franchise quarterback would be amazing.

Let's see if it happens.

Here are the updated playoff-challenge rankings for the AFC and NFC Championship Games:

Quarterbacks

1. Patrick Mahomes, KC
2. Aaron Rodgers, GB
3. Jimmy Garoppolo, SF
4. Ryan Tannehill, TEN

Mahomes reminded us of his greatness in the divisional round against the Texans with 321 passing yards and five touchdowns, as well as seven carries for 53 yards. He had 35 Fantasy points against the Titans in Week 10, and Tennessee has allowed four of the past six opposing quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points, with Lamar Jackson getting 28 points last week.

Rodgers had a solid game against Seattle in the divisional round with 243 passing yards and two touchdowns. He also ran five times for 14 yards. He was not good at San Francisco in Week 12 with 11 Fantasy points, but I feel like he has the second-highest ceiling of the quarterbacks left in the playoffs, especially if the Packers upset the 49ers this week.

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Jimmy Garoppolo SF • QB • 10
CMP%69.1
YDs3978
TD27
INT13
YD/Att8.36

Garoppolo didn't have to do much against the Vikings in the divisional round with 131 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. He did score 22 Fantasy points against the Packers in Week 12, but that is likely his ceiling. Now, I do like the 49ers to win and advance, so you can sign up for two games of Garoppolo over Rodgers if you want, but I like Rodgers better in a one-week scenario.

Tannehill should have his most passing yards in the playoffs after not having to do much against the Patriots and Ravens. But, as stated above, I expect his playoff run to end this week, so that's why he's ranked at No. 4 here.

Running backs

1. Derrick Henry, TEN
2. Damien Williams, KC
3. Aaron Jones, GB
4. Tevin Coleman, SF
5. Raheem Mostert, SF
6. Jamaal Williams, GB
7. Matt Breida, SF
8. Dion Lewis, TEN
9. Tyler Ervin, GB
10. Darwin Thompson, KC

The Chiefs will have their hands full with Henry this week, but their run defense improved since their first meeting in Week 10. Kansas City only allowed two touchdowns to running backs in the past seven games, including one to Brandon Bolden in Week 14. Still, I'm going with Henry at No. 1 here after what he did to New England and Baltimore in the past two weeks.

I'll take Damien Williams at No. 2, and you can make a case he should be No. 1, especially if you expect the Chiefs to play in Super Bowl LIV. In his past three games, Williams has six touchdowns, and he's clearly the lead running back for Kansas City. In Week 10, Williams had 19 carries for 77 yards, as well as five catches for 32 yards against the Titans.

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Aaron Jones GB • RB • 33
Att236
Yds1084
TD16
FL2

All Jones does is score touchdowns, and he had two more against Seattle in the divisional round. That gives him 21 total touchdowns for the season. Jones had a miserable game against the 49ers in Week 12 with 13 carries for 38 yards and no catches, and Jamaal Williams had 11 carries for 45 yards in that game, as well as seven catches for 35 yards on eight targets. I still like Jones better than Williams, but Williams could be a sneaky option in DFS.

The 49ers backfield just got messy again after Coleman's big game against the Vikings. He had 22 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns, while Mostert had 12 carries for 58 yards. This was the first time Coleman had double digits in carries since Week 12 against the Packers when he had 11 attempts for 39 yards and a touchdown, as well as two catches for 10 yards. That also was the last time Coleman scored.

Mostert suffered a cramp in his calf against Minnesota in the fourth quarter, but he's expected to be fine this week. The game against the Vikings snapped a six-game scoring streak for Mostert, but his 12 carries were the most for him since Week 15. Mostert also had six carries for 45 yards and a touchdown against the Packers in Week 12, along with one catch for 22 yards.

I'll lean toward Coleman with the hot hand, but I would not be surprised if Mostert is better. It's a tough call against the Packers, who have allowed three touchdowns to running backs in their past two games. Maybe Coleman and Mostert can both do well this week.

Wide receivers

1. Davante Adams, GB
2. Tyreek Hill, KC
3. Deebo Samuel, SF
4. A.J. Brown, TEN
5. Emmanuel Sanders, SF
6. Kendrick Bourne, SF
7. Sammy Watkins, KC
8. Allen Lazard, GB
9. Corey Davis, TEN
10. Mecole Hardman, KC
11. Demarcus Robinson, KC
12. Tajae Sharpe, TEN
13. Geronimo Allison, GB
14. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, GB
15. Kalif Raymond, TEN

I said Adams would be the No. 1 Fantasy receiver this year, and he clearly fell short of that mark, especially when he missed four games with a toe injury. But his past four games, including the divisional round win against Seattle, show his upside. He had eight catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets against the Seahawks, and he now has 35 catches for 472 yards and four touchdowns in his past four games on 53 targets. He also had seven catches for 43 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets against the 49ers in Week 12.

Mahomes had five touchdowns against the Texans, but Hill didn't do much with three catches for 41 yards on four targets. He's now gone three games in a row without scoring a touchdown, but I'm not shying away from Hill in a big game. He also had 11 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 19 targets against the Titans in Week 10, so keep that in mind. 

Hill is the only Chiefs receiver to trust, especially after Watkins had two catches for 76 yards on two targets. He's now gone 13 games since he last scored a touchdown, which was Week 1 against Jacksonville.

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Deebo Samuel SF • WR • 19
TAR81
REC57
REC YDs802
REC TD3
FL1

Like Garoppolo, none of the 49ers receivers posted big stats against Minnesota with the ground game dominating for San Francisco. But I'll still take Samuel as a quality play this week against the Packers, and he had two catches for 50 yards and a touchdown on two targets against Green Bay in Week 12.

Sanders only had one catch for 15 yards on one target against the Packers in Week 12, and Bourne had two catches for 27 yards on two targets in that game. Bourne has three touchdowns in his past four games and might be better than Sanders, who only has one touchdown since Week 10.

I wish Brown was doing more for the Titans, but their formula for success has been great with Henry. Still, he remains in this spot at No. 4 given his upside. And he's the only Titans receiver I would trust even though Davis scored against the Ravens. His touchdown pass, however, came from Henry.

Tight ends

1. Travis Kelce, KC
2. George Kittle, SF
3. Jonnu Smith, TEN
4. Jimmy Graham, GB

Kelce went off against the Texans with 10 catches for 134 yards and three touchdowns on 12 targets. He also had seven catches for 75 yards and a touchdown on seven targets against the Titans in Week 10. He should have the chance for another big game this week.

Kittle didn't do much against the Vikings with three catches for 16 yards on five targets, but he dominated the Packers in Week 12 with six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown on six targets. Don't worry about Kittle heading into the NFC Championship Game even though he struggled against Minnesota.

Smith scored against the Ravens with two catches for 12 yards on three targets, and he now has a touchdown in two of his past four games. He had four catches for 30 yards on six targets against the Chiefs in Week 10, and I'm hopeful his targets rise here against Kansas City in the rematch.

Graham had a quality game against Seattle with three catches for 49 yards on four targets, but he hasn't scored since Week 7. He also had one catch for 7 yards on two targets against the 49ers in Week 12, and he's not trustworthy in this game.

DST

1. Chiefs
2. 49ers
3. Packers
4. Titans

Kickers

1. Harrison Butker, KC
2. Robbie Gould, SF
3. Mason Crosby, GB
4. Greg Joseph, TEN

So what is the optimal NFL Playoff Challenge tournament lineup for Wild Card Weekend? Visit SportsLine now to see the full optimal lineups, all from a professional DFS player who has almost $2 million in career winnings.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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