2020 Season NFC Wild Card Fantasy Football and Handicapping Preview
We’re going to take a look at each wild card game from a handicapping and fantasy (playoffs version) perspective and then project/predict the full NFC bracket to the Super Bowl. Today we’ll look at the NFC, tomorrow we’ll preview the AFC.
Rams at Seahawks (-3.5)
How is this line only 3.5? I get that Seattle hasn’t been great the 2nd-half of the season, but the Rams have had the wheels falling off the last three weeks and with Jared Goff returning (?) from thumb surgery – it’s not a good set up.
Then you have the COVID issues for LAR cropping up as well.
Then you consider even if Goff is ‘fine’/healed – he’s a different QB in the colder weather…and it will be a dreary low 40s in Seattle. If Goff can’t go, I like John Wolford as ‘competent’ in general…but this is asking way too much of him in this spot.
Both teams at full strength, in dome conditions…I take the Rams. But under the current backdrop in colder, overcast Seattle…you have to lean Seahawks strong.
Seattle moves on and should cover the spread as the Rams roll over as they stumbled to the finish and have no momentum with Goff out or limited. I wouldn’t get too excited betting it, because if Goff does play and is fine – the Rams can cover or win this outright. The best thing about this game is the Rams defense – they can keep them in the game regardless.
For fantasy, you almost have to ignore all the Rams weapons – you don’t if Goff even starts/plays or how effective he will be. Cam Akers is overrated and banged up and Darrell Henderson is out. The deep sleeper option would be Tyler Higbee…that the Rams throw a wrinkle to Seattle and go heavy ’12’ personnel, like they did late last year, and Seattle is thrown off by it. When the Rams did that in late 2019…Higbee was epic in output for 4-5 games.
It’s not going to be a great set up for Seattle either. Teams have figured out how to cover D.K. Metcalf, and thus Russell Wilson’s numbers have slowly faded. This Seattle offense has struggled, somewhat, for the past 8-9 games, except an outburst against the Jets Week 14.
You assume Chris Carson could be in for a big workload day, but he has a foot issue. He usually has something/some kind of injury every week but plays anyway. He’s the one guy sure to get a workload here and produces results to some degree.
This feels like a low scoring/boring game in depressing weather. I like Seattle, but I wouldn’t bet a lot on it. If John Wolford starts this line will jump to minus 6-7-8, maybe? Betting Seattle -3.5/-4.0 early then taking the Rams +7-8 would be an interesting wrinkle, if it played out that way.
I don’t love much of anything in this game for fantasy or handicapping, except getting cute with the lines guessing Goff in/out. With no Goff, this game will be ‘under’ 42.5 points (Vegas line) as well you’d assume.
Tampa Bay (-8.5) at Washington
I’m very much intrigued by this game…betting Washington to cover with an eye on Washington win.
In their last 8 games, Washington is (5-3)…as is Tampa Bay (5-3) in that same stretch. Washington’s three losses…by 3 points, 5 points (with Haskins), 7 points (with Haskins). The last five times Alex Smith has started the game -- the team is (5-0).
Why is Washington undefeated with Alex Smith starting their last 5 games…because Smith is so great? No. Because their defense is the best in football now – and Alex Smith is the perfect game manager to not screw it up…like a Haskins or Kyle Allen might/did.
This surging Washington team is hosting Tampa Bay in ‘feels like’ 25-degree temps – weather that favors the defense. Tampa Bay has not played a cold weather game yet this season…not even close. Since Thanksgiving, the Bucs have played (in order): at TB, at TB, BYE, at TB, at ATL/dome, at DET/dome, at TB. Welcome to cold, cloudy Washington. Tom Brady has not been a great cold weather QB for the past few years. And he for sure does not like pressure – and Washington has the highest pressure front in the NFL now.
I think everything favors Washington here. Don’t let the (7-9) record fool you. Washington’s team goes as follows in 2020, by the starting QB…
(5-1) with Alex Smith
(1-3) with Kyle Allen
(1-5) with Dwayne Haskins
Tampa Bay is facing the Alex Smith brand of ‘The Football Team’.
I would not touch anything opposing the Alex Smith-led Washington defense for Fantasy…no Brady, nor the WRs, nor Gronk or Ronald Jones. The five wins-in-a-row-with-Smith Washington defense has allowed 9-16-17-15-14 points in a game (14.2 PPG).
Total net passing yards allowed in those five games: 202-187-305-236-98. Also 11 turnovers forced in those five wins.
Tampa Bay will be hard-pressed to score 20 points vs. Washington…and thus Washington needs to get to 12 or more points to cover, I’d project. As good as the Washington defense has been, the Bucs defense has been as bad. Washington will be able to score on Tampa…enough to keep it close/cover and win.
The way offenses have ripped through TB passing lately, Alex Smith is a sleeper play this week for FF – the Bucs have the top NFL run defense, so Washington is going to have to throw…a lot.
If that’s the case, J.D. McKissic (PPR) is a preferred play to Antonio Gibson.
Logan Thomas should lead the way, again. TEs have done well/solidly against TB. A risky play on Terry McLaurin because TB CB Carlton Davis was awesome to begin 2020, and then I think he played hurt and started getting burned and then missing games or coming out of games hurt. I’m not sure which Davis shows up this week. He’s had some chance to heal up lately.
If Washington wins this game, and then goes to Green Bay…it could be a wrecking ball to Aaron Rodgers and friends as well. Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, et. al. are great fun and super-weapons/an advantage – but Washington has its own super-weapon…its defense. Beware.
Chicago at New Orleans (-9.5)
I couldn’t make a case for the Bears winning this game if you paid me to concoct a fanciful plan/lie. If I was going to write a fictional tale, I would like to lean on weather issues and potential favorable turnovers therein, but this is being played indoors at New Orleans, not in blustery Chicago. This game in a dome is Chicago’s worst nightmare.
The Bears shouldn’t even be here. They lost seven of their last 10 games, beating only sad sack teams to get their three wins. The Bears do not have one advantage over the Saints in this game – not at QB, O-Line, RB, defense, special teams. I guess the Bears might have better WRs, but if Michael Thomas is back for this game…then not even that.
I take the Saints and lay the -9.5 without blinking. This is going to wind up a 20+ point win.
Of all the NFC games, this is where all the Fantasy Football points are. The Saints should get out to a big lead early and then push it to 20-25+ points and force the Bears to do an all-throw comeback effort. ‘Over’ 47 points has to be in play here.
I think the FF leaders from this game are going to be…
1) Alvin Kamara – the Saints will go with their best and get out and up early. Kamara will do damage for three quarters and then be pulled as the game is in-hand.
2) Mitch Trubisky – will probably out FF score Brees due to garbage time.
3) If Mitch is going to put up numbers, then Allen Robinson is always a safe bet…but Darnell Mooney had kind of a breakout game Week 17, so he’ll see a bunch of touches as the Bears go down in flames.
4) Taysom Hill should see good touches and might play some QB the last quarter to let Brees stay off the field/keep his ribs safe. Emmanuel Sanders might be in a good place after his Week 17 bonus get from the hand of Drew Brees.
I’d be wary of David Montgomery…assuming the Bears have to abandon the ineffective running game quickly. Michael Thomas could/should be back, but he might get pulled quickly if the game gets out of hand to allow him to be kept safe.
NFC Wild Card Top Projections at each position for FF…
QB = Alex Smith and Mitch Trubisky (but all with little confidence…but Russ and Brady have bad matchups, and Brees has been all over the place lately.) I would probably chicken out and go Brees, but wouldn’t be in love with that either. Maybe he gets cheap TDs to Kamara.
RB = Alvin Kamara
WR = Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Emmanuel Sanders
TE = Logan Thomas
Sleeper = J.D. McKissic
Deep Sleeper = Tyler Higbee
My NFC Playoff predictions…
SEA def. LAR
WSH def. TB
NO def. CHI
GB def. WSH
NO def. SEA
GB def. NO
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