2021 Season Wild Card Playoff Preview (Fantasy Tidbits and Game Picks to the Super Bowl)
A quick look at the playoff matchups for this weekend, plus some fantasy tidbits/musings/thoughts. We make our picks and then play it all out to the Super Bowl, for grins/fantasy playoff leagues/pick ‘em pools.
AFC Playoff Outlook
(#1) Tennessee (BYE)
-- I would expect Derrick Henry to start in two weeks and take a pretty normal workload, with some D’Onta relief.
(#5) Las Vegas at (#4) Cincinnati
Doesn’t everything here favor the Bengals? Even if I didn’t think they were the better team (but I do) and if I just saw them as ‘equals’ – doesn’t the circumstances around this game all favor Cincy?
To some degree, Cincinnati is coming off a BYE…no? They rested most all of their key players. Like 80%+ of their starters sat and of the ones that played they’re not ‘key’ or they were in to get a record and then ‘out’ (like Ja’Marr). Almost like an old-fashioned playoff BYE…took a week off and are playing at home this week.
Conversely, Las Vegas played to their last breath…in overtime…to the last seconds…on a Sunday night – and now they turn around and go on the road, California team in the cold, to Cincinnati…on a Saturday no less/’short week’! Coming off an emotionally draining game, short turnaround time, long road trip, into cold weather…not good.
I’ll take the Bengals to win big here, because they’re the far superior team anyway.
-- I assume everyone will chase after (Ja’Marr) Chase, but prior to his Week 17 outburst, it was Tee Higgins wrecking things for weeks with Chase not so hot. I love Tee as undervalued into the playoffs.
-- It’s going to be cold in Cincy (‘feels like’ 15-20 degrees). That stifles the passing games just a bit, but it’s not certain doom bad weather. Just annoying.
-- I’d be watching Joe Burrow’s practice reports…just to make sure he’s back practicing in full before the game. He might still be hindered a bit from that hit to the knee late in the game Week 17. Not that he won’t play, but just how healthy is he to move around effectively in the pocket…and will Cincy have to secretly mask that with more of a run game and short passing game? Should be fine, but something to watch as the week progresses.
-- The Cincinnati DST is one of the better options this week…facing a worn-out Las Vegas team with arguably the worst QB/O-Line combo to face in these playoffs…and the Bengals defense has been underrated/underappreciated all season.
(#6) New England at (#3) Buffalo
That clock has struck midnight for the upstart Patriots…they are turning back into a pumpkin. Mac Jones is the worst QB in the playoffs (him or Ben, but Ben has experience for this time of year), and that matters…a lot. Josh Allen may be the best QB in the playoffs, at least in the AFC he is.
This is a great matchup for Buffalo to start the playoff journey. I think the Bills cruise to victory…if it wasn’t for the bitter cold conditions again. The last time these Pats knocked off Buffalo was only due to extreme weather. It’s not as bad this week, but very cold. Buffalo ‘should’ win this regardless, but the weather helps the NE run game offense here.
-- Facing Mac Jones makes the Bills-DST, arguably, the best opening week DST of the week.
-- A must-win Week 18 game for Buffalo, where the starters went the whole way…and Gabriel Davis had 14 targets. Now, he only caught 3 of those 14 targets…but, still, it’s obvious Davis has moved into position as the #2 WR and 3rd choice (Diggs, Knox) for targets for Allen. Could be cold and/or crappy weather games all the way through for Buffalo, however.
With Diggs drawing J.C. Jackson, Davis should get good targeting again…even if Emmanuel Sanders returns. Sanders has been being phased out for weeks.
-- Devin Singletary has 6 TDs in his last 4 games, FYI. Finally, Devin is getting the workload he should have all along. You want to run at the Patriots vs. pass heavy on them.
-- Jakobi Meyers has reasserted himself as the #1 look for Mac Jones. His last five games: 5.8 rec. (8.8 targets), 68.8 yards, 0.20 TDs per game.
-- You run at the Bills to win, so likely a heavy dose of Damien Harris first and foremost with heavy Rhamondre Stevenson as well.
(#7) Pittsburgh at (#2) Kansas City
The Chiefs killed Pitt a few weeks ago, and they’ll do it again. The Steelers don’t belong in these playoffs. This is the easiest straight up pick on the board this week.
-- The Chiefs DST is probably the top DST you can run with in postseason FF. They get Big Ben this week, then presumably Buffalo (but maybe NE) and then probably Tennessee/Tannehill if the Chiefs make it that far. It’s all top teams/offenses/QBs mostly to face in the playoffs, but the Chiefs have the best potential for matchups of all the DSTs right now.
-- Byron Pringle the past 4 weeks: 4.3 rec. (5.6 targets), 47.0 yards, and 0.50 TDs per game. He’s become a top target WR outside of Tyreek for Mahomes, and Tyreek has been a ghost the past 7 weeks, mostly…just 1 TD in his last 7 games. Only one 100+ yard game in his past 13 games this season.
-- You know the Steelers are going to get down fast and throw the ball a thousand times in defeat. So, Diontae-Freiermuth-Ray-Ray all have one-week FF appeal.
-- Patrick Mahomes has 2 or more TD passes thrown in five straight games.
Mahomes also has just one 275+ yard passing game in his last 7 games. And just twice in his last 11 games.
The KC passing game is ‘not well’. Not it’s usual ‘self’ in 2021. Great job by Eric Bieniemy.
Playing the rest of the AFC out, as I see it…
AFC Divisional Round:
(#4) Cincinnati at (#1) Tennessee
At full strength, i.e., Derrick Henry healthy, I don’t know how you could bet against the Titans as the best team in the AFC. They beat KC, Buffalo, Indy 2x before Henry went down. They beat the Rams, the Saints, 49ers, and throttled a hot Dolphins team without Henry. The Titans defense keeps getting better, and Henry is the nuclear bomb that makes everything go.
I think the Bengals are just as good as the Titans, and maybe even better at this stage…but Tennessee with a week off and home field, I give the slight edge to Tennessee, but I really want to pick Cincy.
(#3) Buffalo at (#2) Kansas City
I don’t think the Chiefs are that good at all…no longer that ‘elite’ team. Their reputation is ahead of their reality. If Buffalo had Tre’Davious White, the Bills would have been the #1 seed in the AFC. Without him, I still think Buffalo can pull past a fading Kansas City team.
The Chiefs do not deserve a deep playoff run this season. But I’m not 100% convicted here on this outcome, because Sean McDermott chokes (so far) in these bigger games…you can see it on his face on the sidelines, like Brandon Staley, but Buffalo having already beaten KC this season might give them that little edge to get over.
AFC Conference Finals:
(#3) Buffalo at (#1) Tennessee
The Titans have the Bills’ number two years in a row now. You can run all over Buffalo, and that’s what the Titans are designed to do.
Honestly, I could see any combination of TEN-KC-BUF-CIN getting to the AFC Finals and winning it. But we’ll take Tennessee to be the AFC rep.
NFC Playoff Outlook
(#1) Green Bay (BYE)
-- I’d stick with Rodgers-Adams as a winning FF combo right through to the Super Bowl…two games on their homefield, likely against weaker pass defenses. Just one less game for tallies, however.
-- I wonder if this is the point where, with the money on the line, A.J. Dillon becomes ‘the man’ between he and Aaron Jones…and then that carries forward into 2022.
(#5) Arizona at (#4) L.A. Rams
I don’t believe in this Rams team…(2-5) vs. playoff teams this season. It seems the Rams are starting to have dissension on defense and Matt Stafford is getting figured out as the season goes (22 TDs/4 INTs his first 8 games, 19 TDs/13 INTs final 9 games). This team is SAWFT in general. Not that Arizona has been impressive down the stretch – the one time ‘best team in football’ stumbled to finish and blew a chance to win the NFC West by losing to Seattle last week.
I’m not locked in on either side as the obvious favorite, so I’ll default to – I think Kyler is better than Stafford, and Arizona is tougher all-around and can get this win. Maybe I’m just ‘wishful thinking’ here, as I do against the Rams in 2021.
-- Cam Akers will probably start and split with Sony Michel, if not out-touch Michel against Arizona. I’m not sure if you can trust either, but my money would be on Akers.
-- I bet we see a lot of running out of Kyler this game, as he puts it all on the line for a win here. The last time these two teams met, Kyler threw for 383 yards and rushed for 61 yards.
-- Five TDs in his last 7 games as a Ram for OBJ…good chance he gets one against a wounded/fading Arizona secondary focused on Cooper Kupp in this game.
(#6) San Francisco at (#3) Dallas
Dallas has the superior talent 1-53 on the roster, but I’m not sure they’ll dial it up against a very savvy, very HOT right now San Francisco team.
Dallas went (6-0) vs. the NFC East and (6-5) against everyone else. The Dallas run game has been fading away and the passing game has sputtered on and off. The Dallas defense is promising, but was beaten up by playoff teams…in 7 games against playoff teams this season, Dallas allowed: 31-21-29-19-36-25-26 points in those games with a (3-4) record against those teams…(1-4) taking out their Philly games.
San Fran went (4-4) vs. playoff teams this year, including a (3-1) record in the 2nd-half of the season with the lone loss a close loss (botched win) against Tennessee. I’m not strong for either team, but I think I’ll take San Francisco with the narrow win, outcoaching Dallas.
-- I don’t know how you have any confidence in Ezekiel Elliott in this game. Zeke has died to the finish with his last 12 games in a row of mediocre play/results. He doesn’t have ‘it’ right now (maybe doesn’t have ‘it; anymore).
-- I bet Dak Prescott will then have to throw a lot to try and win this game. You throw to beat SF, not run against them…but the Niners have gotten all their secondary back from injury and COVID in recent weeks and they have been playing much-much better on pass defense.
-- The key to beating Dallas is to run over them, which is just what the doctor ordered for Elijah Mitchell to have a 25+ carry, 125+ yard rushing game. And I’m sure Deebo keep up his hot results as a runner/receiver as well.
-- The 49ers are very good against TEs…no time to get cute with Dalton Schultz.
(#7) Philadelphia at (#2) Tampa Bay
When these teams last met, the Bucs handled them pretty well…but Philly scored a bunch of garbage late to make it closer than it was. This should be a no contest, but the Bucs are dealing with a lot of injured players in this meeting compared to their last one. However, many key injured players are expected back – Fournette, JPP, Shaq Barrett. This should be a safe Tampa win, but Philly is pesky and it could be raining all game in Tampa.
-- I suspect the Eagles won’t be as tolerant of any Miles Sanders issues in this game/the playoffs. Expect to see a healthy dose of Jordan Howard helping establish the run game as needed.
-- The Tampa WR group will probably look like…Evans-Perriman starting with Tyler Johnson coming in with 3-WR sets. If Cyril Grayson starts practicing in full…then it will probably be Grayson starting over Perriman (but Grayson looks more like he will be ‘out’ this game).
-- This matchup sets up VERY well for Gronk to have a huge game.
-- LONG shot WR play for DFS this week…Jalen Reagor. He’s been looking really good running the ball, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he saw 3-5 jets sweeps in this game plus 2-5 targets, and most of them bubble screen types to get the ball in his hands.
Reagor is playing poorly as a regular/normal WR but is showing flashes of a breakout/long play homerun hitter as on easy touches like jet sweeps and bubble screens. He could be a shock X-factor player here this week.
Playing the rest of the NFC out, as I see it…
NFC Divisional Round:
(#6) San Francisco at (#1) Green Bay
Green Bay has faced the 49ers twice the past two seasons (2020 and 20210, both at SF…and both wins by Green Bay. Make it three here for the first time SF has gone to GB in a while. The 2019 49ers crushing the Pack was two ‘at SF’ games with that hot/peak 49ers team that went to the Super Bowl. That team no longer exists, and the Packers have been thumping SF ever since.
The Packers getting Jaire Alexander, David Bakhtiari, and Za’Darius Smith back all for the playoffs is surreal how much talent infusion that is.
(#5) Arizona at (#2) Tampa Bay
The late season collapsing Cardinals (or the Rams) are no match for Tampa Bay, who would be one more week down the line getting more players back off the injury list for this game.
NFC Conference Finals:
(#2) Tampa Bay at (#1) Green Bay
Like most everyone will say/think, if this is the finals matchup – the home field, the likely weather in January is the difference for Green Bay. With the Packers getting back Jaire Alexander, David Bakhtiari, and Za’Darius Smith for the playoffs…the Packers are far and away the best team in the NFL.
(#1) Tennessee vs. (#1) Green Bay
The Packers are probably the best team in the NFL before they get Jaire Alexander, David Bakhtiari, and Za’Darius Smith back for the playoffs. With those guys back + playing at home through the NFC playoffs – I’m quite sure Green Bay will be here. Whether Tennessee can crawl through the gauntlet, we’ll see…but whether it is TEN-CIN-KC-BUF, the Packers are clearly better than all of them.
Only COVID to Aaron Rodgers can stop the Packers from getting to and winning the Super Bowl.
**College Football Metrics 2022…new season sign ups have begun**
The new season of CFM will be starting up in January, as always. A little different schedule this year as the NFL extended their season by a week and the Senior Bowl was bumped back a week as well. We should have a Senior Bowl, NFL Combine…it looks like it will be a normal scouting year!
The NFL Draft, Dynasty Rookie Draft, and regular season ahead rookie analysis all gets started through CFM in January with our usual season starter -- the past two years/2020-2021 Mock Rookie Draft re-do, along with in-depth Senior Bowl analysis, and full QB scouting reports and much more as we build towards the NFL Combine and all the other positional scouting reports. Football study never ends…
Thank you for your support of CFM for the past decade now…wow, time flies.
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