Postseason Fantasy Football: Recapping the divisional round of the playoffs
Jamey Eisenberg looks at all four games from divisional round of the playoffs to see who improved -- or hurt -- their Fantasy value going into 2019.
We're one week and two games away from finding out who will be playing in Super Bowl LIII, and I hope everyone is excited for the AFC and NFC Championship Games. They should be epic.
We have the top four scoring offenses in the NFL from the regular season still alive with the Patriots at the Chiefs in the AFC and the Rams at the Saints in the NFC. Hopefully, we see lots of points.
Both of these games are rematches from the regular season, and the first matchups did not disappoint. The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in New England in Week 6, and the Saints beat the Rams 45-35 in New Orleans in Week 9. I'll be fine if we get those scores again, no matter the victor.
For what it's worth, I predicted a Patriots-Saints meeting in Super Bowl LIII before the season, so I'll stand by that now. But I'm fine with any matchup we get given what all four of these teams have done this season, as well as the playoffs.
But how did these teams advance to the championship round? And what happened in the divisional round that could impact the Fantasy value for any of the players involved?
Let's find out.
Chiefs 31, Colts 13
- Andrew Luck picked the wrong time to have one of his rare bad games of the season. He scored 13 Fantasy points at Kansas City, which was just the fifth time he's failed to score at least 20 points all year. Despite the loss and poor performance, Luck's comeback from his shoulder injury was a success. He enters 2019 as a top-three Fantasy quarterback, and only Patrick Mahomes and potentially Aaron Rodgers should be selected ahead of him on Draft Day.
- Marlon Mack ended his season with nine carries for 46 yards and no catches on just one target, as well as a hip injury, but he established himself as the lead running back for the Colts -- as well as a solid Fantasy option worth drafting in Round 3 or 4 in most leagues. Including the playoffs, Mack closed the season with a touchdown in five of his final six games, along with three games with at least 119 rushing yards. Mack just needs to prove he can stay healthy for 16 games -- he missed three games during the season -- but he's headed for potential stardom in his third season in 2019.
- T.Y. Hilton scored against the Chiefs to end a seven-game streak where he failed to find the end zone, and he had four catches for 60 yards on 10 targets. He battled through ankle injuries to end the season, and hopefully he'll be 100 percent healthy for the start of the 2019 campaign. Hilton, with Luck healthy, is back as a No. 1 Fantasy receiver, and he's worth drafting toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 in all leagues.
- Eric Ebron's first season with the Colts was a huge success despite a mediocre ending against the Chiefs. Ebron had five catches for 51 yards on nine targets in the loss, but he finished 2018 with 66 catches for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns on 110 targets in the regular season, as well as eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in the postseason. He established himself as a top-five tight end heading into 2019, and he should be drafted as early as Round 4.
- As for the rest of the Colts, keep an eye on where Dontrelle Inman ends up as a free agent receiver. He closed the year playing well with a touchdown in three of his final four games, including the playoffs. Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins will be late-round fliers in leagues next season, with Hines the better bet in PPR as a handcuff for Mack. And hopefully Jack Doyle (kidney surgery) will return at 100 percent to give Fantasy owners another tight end option with a late-round pick.
- Patrick Mahomes had a quiet day by his standards with 278 passing yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, but he ran for a touchdown. It's only the second time this season he failed to score at least 21 Fantasy points (he had 15 points against Jacksonville in Week 5), but he should rebound against New England in the AFC Championship Game. At the Patriots in Week 6, Mahomes had 352 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, and we'll see if he can help the Chiefs advance to Super Bowl LIII.
- Damien Williams was the story of the game for Kansas City with 25 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown, as well as five catches for 25 yards on six targets. This was his best game since taking over for Kareem Hunt, and he has either a touchdown or 100 total yards in five games in a row, including the playoffs. If he finishes the postseason strong, and depending on what the Chiefs do to add to their backfield this offseason, Williams could put himself in position to be a No. 2 Fantasy running back in all leagues. In our recent 12-team non-PPR mock draft, Williams was drafted toward the end of Round 2.
- Tyreek Hill was again productive with eight catches for 72 yards on 13 targets, and he scored on a 36-yard touchdown run. Against the Patriots in Week 6, Hill had seven catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns on 12 targets. And in two career games against New England -- both on the road -- he has 14 catches for 275 yards and four touchdowns.
- Travis Kelce had seven catches for 108 yards on 10 targets against the Colts. In the first meeting with New England in Week 6, Kelce had five catches for 61 yards on nine targets, and he has 18 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown in three career meetings with the Patriots.
- Sammy Watkins returned after missing the final five games of the regular season with a foot injury, and he had six catches for 62 yards on eight targets. He only had two catches for 18 yards against the Patriots in Week 6, but hopefully he can finish the postseason strong -- and stay healthy. Watkins should enter 2019 as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in all leagues, and you should plan to draft him with a mid-round pick.
Rams 30, Cowboys 22
- Dak Prescott closed the season on a high note with his performance with 266 passing yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and he ran for a touchdown. He scored 24 Fantasy points against the Rams and now has at least 21 Fantasy points in six of 11 games with Amari Cooper, including three in a row. Prescott has put himself back in the conversation as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and he's worth drafting with a late-round pick in all leagues.
- Ezekiel Elliott had a tough game against the Rams with 20 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown, as well as two catches for 19 yards. I've said it for the past few weeks since the regular season ended that I'm torn on Elliott vs. Saquon Barkley as the No. 2 overall pick in most Fantasy leagues next season behind Todd Gurley. I'm leaning Elliott for now in all formats, but it's something I'll go back and forth on all offseason, while likely changing my mind dozens of times.
- It happened again with Amari Cooper in this game against the Rams -- he got at least eight targets. He finished with six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown on nine targets, and the formula for success continues to work for Cooper. In 11 games since coming to Dallas in a trade from Oakland, including the playoffs, Cooper had eight games with at least eight targets, and he scored at least 13 PPR points in seven of them. That should be the norm for him in 2019, and Cooper is a borderline No. 1 Fantasy receiver in all leagues worth drafting as early as Round 3.
- Michael Gallup had a strong end to his season with the best game of his rookie year. He had six catches for 119 yards on nine targets, which were a season high for receptions and yards. He closed the season with either a touchdown or 100 receiving yards in three of his final four games, including the playoffs. Plan on drafting Gallup with a late-round pick in all leagues, and he should be considered a sleeper in his sophomore campaign.
- Jared Goff had his worst Fantasy game at home this season against the Cowboys with 186 passing yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and just 12 rushing yards. It's the second time he's scored 10 Fantasy points or less in his past three home outings and the fifth time he's been under 20 Fantasy points in his past six games overall. But he should rebound against the Saints in the NFC Championship Game since he had 34 Fantasy points at New Orleans in Week 9.
- Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson were the stars for the Rams against Dallas. Gurley came back from a two-game absence with a knee injury and had 16 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown, as well as two catches for 3 yards on two targets. Anderson had 23 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and he now has three games in a row with at least 120 rushing yards and a touchdown. We'll see what happens for the rest of the playoffs for the Rams, but I'm still drafting Gurley at No. 1 overall in all formats in 2019 as of now. Anderson is a free agent this offseason, and we'll see where he ends up next season. But even a return to Los Angeles will not make me concerned about Gurley since Anderson has struggled to stay healthy and be productive in his career. Gurley remains the centerpiece of this offense, which shouldn't change next season.
- Robert Woods had six catches for 69 yards on eight targets, and Brandin Cooks had four catches for 65 yards on six targets. Both should improve at New Orleans next week. Woods had five catches for 71 yards on nine targets against the Saints in Week 9. And Cooks had six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown on eight targets against the team that drafted him in 2014.
Patriots 41, Chargers 28
- Philip Rivers ended his season with 331 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception against the Patriots, and he's now 0-8 against Tom Brady in his career. The next time he would face Brady could only be the 2019 playoffs, so Rivers should be fine heading into next season, especially as a Fantasy quarterback. He should be considered a low-end starting option in all leagues, and he's the perfect quarterback to wait for on Draft Day with a late-round pick. Rivers scored at least 21 Fantasy points in 11 games during the regular season.
- Melvin Gordon scored for the third time in his past four games, but he also had fewer than 50 rushing yards in each game over that span. He had nine carries for 15 yards and the touchdown against the Patriots, along with one catch for 11 yards on two targets. Gordon has dealt with two knee injuries and an ankle problem since Week 12, but he should be 100 percent healthy for the start of next season. He remains a No. 1 Fantasy running back in all leagues, and he should be drafted in the first round of most formats.
- Austin Ekeler had a quiet postseason with 11 carries for 29 yards, as well as seven catches for 33 yards in two games against the Ravens and Patriots. He will enter 2019 as the preferred handcuff for Gordon, and that's what happened in our recent 12-team, non-PPR mock draft. The Gordon owner drafted Ekeler in Round 9 after selecting Gordon at No. 6 overall in Round 1.
- Keenan Allen only had two catches against the Patriots, but he made them count with 75 yards and a touchdown. He also landed on the 1-yard line to set up Gordon's touchdown in the second half. Allen finished the 2018 season as a standout Fantasy receiver, and he now has consecutive campaigns with at least 97 catches, 1,100 yards and six touchdowns. He's worth drafting no later than Round 3 in all leagues in 2019.
- Mike Williams will enter his third season in the NFL in 2019 as a breakout candidate, and he also played well in 2018. He had five catches for 68 yards on 11 targets against the Patriots, and he finished the regular season with 43 catches for 664 yards and 10 touchdowns on 66 targets. He could see a boost in value if Tyrell Williams leaves the Chargers as a free agent, and Mike Williams is a player to target with a mid-round pick in all leagues in 2019.
- We'll see where Tyrell Williams plays in 2019, but he ended his 2018 season on a positive note with five catches for 94 yards on seven targets against the Patriots. Williams only had four games with double digits in PPR in the regular season, but he can still be a viable Fantasy option in the right situation if he gets the chance for more targets. One destination I would like to see is Cleveland with Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken calling plays. Plan on Williams being at least a late-round flier in all formats next season.
- Hunter Henry didn't get a target against the Patriots despite being active for the first time all year after suffering a torn ACL in May, but he should be fine heading into next season. And he will be considered a No. 1 Fantasy tight end in all leagues if he's 100 percent healthy for training camp. We'll see if the Chargers bring back Antonio Gates, who had five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown on eight targets against the Patriots, but Henry will be the Chargers tight end to target with a mid-round pick.
- Tom Brady didn't have a dominant performance against the Chargers, but he did pass for 343 yards and a touchdown. He only has one game with multiple touchdowns in his past three outings, and we'll see how he does against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. In Week 6 against Kansas City, Brady had 340 passing yards and a touchdown, as well as a rushing touchdown for 23 Fantasy points. That's one of just nine games with at least 20 Fantasy points for Brady, who will likely be considered a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in 2019, depending on how this playoff run finishes for him.
- I thought Sony Michel would play well against the Chargers, and he far exceeded my expectations with 24 carries for 129 yards and three touchdowns, as well as one catch for 9 yards on one target. In the first game against the Chiefs in Week 6, Michel had 24 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns, but he's been better at home this season than on the road. He only has one game this year with more than six PPR points on the road in seven games, which was Week 12 at the Jets when he scored 22 points. We'll see how Michel does in the rematch at Arrowhead Stadium.
- James White had no carries against the Chargers but was still a force, especially in PPR, since he had 15 catches for 97 yards on 17 targets. White had six carries for 39 yards against the Chiefs in Week 6, as well as five catches for 53 yards on seven targets. Look for him to have a similar stat line in the rematch this week.
- Julian Edelman was again the leading receiver for the Patriots against the Chargers with nine catches for 151 yards on 13 targets, and he moved into second all-time in NFL postseason history with 98 receptions, passing Reggie Wayne (93). Only Jerry Rice (151) has more, and it's doubtful Edelman will catch him. In Week 6 against the Chiefs, Edelman had four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, and he's either scored a touchdown or had at least 90 receiving yards in 10 of 13 games this year, including the playoffs.
- There was a report prior to Sunday's game against the Chargers that Rob Gronkowski, 29, will consider retirement after this season. While Gronkowski was a force in New England's run blocking against the Chargers, he only had one catch for 25 yards on one target in the divisional round. We'll see how he finishes the postseason, but he doesn't look like the same Gronkowski we've come to love, especially as Fantasy owners. If the AFC Championship Game is his final game in the NFL, hopefully he goes out with a bang. And he had three catches for 97 yards on four targets against the Chiefs in Week 6.
Saints 20, Eagles 14
- If this was Nick Foles' last game for the Eagles, he was good, but not great. He passed for 201 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and he ran for a touchdown. His final interception late in the fourth quarter wasn't his fault as the ball deflected off Alshon Jeffery's hands into the arms of Saints cornerback Marcus Lattimore to seal the win. And now the fun begins with Foles to see if he returns to Philadelphia as Carson Wentz's backup again or, most likely, he lands a starting job with another team. He could emerge as a low-end starting Fantasy option with the right team, but Foles will likely be a No. 2 quarterback at best in most leagues. It will be a storyline to monitor this offseason. As for Wentz (back), he will be a low-end starter in most leagues if he's healthy for training camp as expected.
- The Eagles run game was non-descript against the Saints, with Josh Adams not playing, Wendell Smallwood leading the team in carries (10 for 33 yards) and Darren Sproles leading the running backs in receiving (three catches for 21 yards on four targets). With Jay Ajayi (ACL) a free agent and coming off a major injury, this backfield needs an overhaul -- or maybe Le'Veon Bell. Stay tuned to what happens this offseason.
- Even though Jeffery had the bad drop at the end of the game against the Saints, he battled through cracked ribs to finish with five catches for 63 yards on eight targets. Despite missing three games to open the year after shoulder surgery in the offseason, Jeffery still finished with more catches (65) and yards (843) on fewer targets (92) than he had in 2017 when he had 57 catches for 789 yards and nine touchdowns on 120 targets. He scored six touchdowns in 2018, and he should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all leagues in 2019. Look for him to be drafted in Round 5 in most formats if healthy.
- Golden Tate will enter free agency this offseason, and it would be a surprise if he stayed in Philadelphia. He had two catches for 18 yards on five targets against the Saints, and he was never a good fit after being traded from Detroit prior to Week 10. In 10 games, including the playoffs, Tate had just two games with double digits in PPR. Keep an eye on where he signs, but Tate could easily return as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in most leagues, especially PPR.
- Zach Ertz would like to see Wentz back as the starter for the Eagles instead of Foles. In six games with Foles to close the season, including the playoffs, Ertz had more than 10 PPR points just once, and he had five catches for 50 yards on eight targets against the Saints. But Ertz established himself as one of the best Fantasy tight ends in 2018, and he should be the second tight end drafted in most leagues in 2019 behind only Kelce. Ertz finished the regular season with 116 catches for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns on 156 targets. Plan to draft him in Round 2 in most leagues.
- Drew Brees had another productive game at home with 301 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Eagles, which was good for 22 Fantasy points. He's now scored at least 21 Fantasy points in seven of eight games in New Orleans, including Week 9 against the Rams when he had 38 points. Brees should be poised for another solid performance in the rematch against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game.
- Alvin Kamara had 16 carries for 71 yards, as well as four catches for 35 yards on four targets against the Eagles. He's now scored at least 14 PPR points in five games in a row, and he had a monster game against the Rams in Week 9 with 19 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns, as well as four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown on five targets. Kamara should have the chance for another big outing against the Rams this week.
- Mark Ingram ran well against the Eagles at 5.9 yards per carry, but he only got nine carries for 53 yards. He added two catches for 9 yards on two targets, but he's now scored single digits in PPR in five of his past seven games. And against the Rams in Week 9, Ingram was limited to nine carries for 33 yards, as well as one catch for 3 yards on two targets, with a fumble. This could be Ingram's last game with the Saints since he's a free agent going into the offseason.
- Michael Thomas was once again dominant against the Eagles with 12 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets. He's now scored at least 20 PPR points in three of his past five games, including the playoffs, and he had 12 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown against the Rams in Week 9 on 15 targets. Thomas has put himself in position to be a top-five receiver in all leagues heading into 2019.
- The Saints' secondary receivers of note didn't do much against the Eagles. Ted Ginn had three catches for 44 yards on seven targets, and Tre'Quan Smith had one catch for 15 yards on one target. Ginn didn't play against the Rams in Week 9 because of a knee injury, and Smith had two catches for 23 yards and a touchdown on three targets. We'll see how both do in the NFC Championship Game, and a strong performance from one could help them become a late-round flier in 2019.
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