Every Saturday morning, I'll take a quick look at all the week's games, offering my own brief take on what I think will happen, as well as touching on significant injury news since our Weekly came out. I'll check in every so often over the course of the day to answer lineup questions, too.
What follows is a brief look at all the games with how I'd react in my own lineups to injury developments or other news. The official rankings are the ones in the Weekly. Those take precedence. But sometimes players are very close, and in those cases I'm glad to offer opinions on how I'd approach those situations. Sometimes I like certain players more or less than Ian, and sometimes I have different risk tolerance with injuries etc.
It's the playoffs, and there are only six games to write about. We took an in-depth look in the Weekly, and yesterday I wrote about some of the playoff leagues I'm doing. A final look now at the games themselves, which start just 4 hours and seven minutes from now. How are we feeling about having six games rather than four? Gotta feeling it's going to be wildly popular -- the NFL will dominate the weekend more than it ever has in the past. There's no putting this genie back in the bottle. Get ready for 14 playoff teams every year going forward (until they decide to bump it up to 16, anyway). Twelve playoff teams and just four games this weekend? That's over and done with.
Colts at Bills: I always feel bad for the two teams stuck playing the first playoff game. It feels like they put the ugly stepsister matchup here. Or that's what I tend to think, but this matchup feels more interesting to me than Browns-Steelers, which we've seen a billion times (oh including SIX DAYS AGO). Why that game is on Sunday night in primetime is beyond me, though I realize the Steelers have some national appeal. Anyway, the uncomfortable fact about this game is that Buffalo's defense is not very good. It's entirely possible that the Colts are able to run the ball often and well, as they did down the stretch, keep Buffalo's offense off the field, maybe force a Josh Allen mistake or two. If that happens, it will really screw a couple of my teams where I have Allen and Diggs on the possibility they play four games. And Diggs isn't 100 percent, so there's risk that this isn't one of his best games.
But the Colts defense isn't very good either. It's got some talent, but the better offenses it faced did fine, as discussed in the Weekly. I think the Bills will come out passing, as per usual, and wind up scoring often. Feels like a game they win around 28-20 -- too much Allen for Jonathan Taylor and Philip Rivers to contend with. I'm interested in Taylor and Nyheim Hines, but that's pretty much it for Indy players. Just can't see their offense keeping up.
Rams at Seahawks: This is another movie we've seen about a billion times. The Rams defense has a good feel for defending Russell Wilson, and Jalen Ramsey will be covering DK Metcalf, so hard to get too excited about the Seahawks offense. With the Rams we don't know for sure who the quarterback will be, and it's entirely possible one guy will start and the other guy will finish, so I'm not sure you can count on either player one. When we wrote the weekly we were leaning John Wolford. Today I'd lean Jared Goff. Either way, seems like Cam Akers will be the main player, only Seattle is better against the run than the pass. Tough matchup, and one I'm staying away from in fantasy leagues -- I'm not sure either team will have a top performer. Feels like a 20-17 game.
Buccaneers at Football Team: I enjoyed Ian's write-up of this game. Pointed out that sometimes these sub-.500 division winners do better than expected in these games. Everyone assumes the wild-card team will come in and kick butt, and that's how the point spread has gone. But Washington's defense is legit, and Chase Young and the pass rush can do some good things against old man Brady. And it's possible. But at some point everyone is going to step on the field and play the game, and at that point we're going to have either a hurting Alex Smith or -- what seems more likely today -- Taylor Heinicke trying to lead the Washington offense against what might be the best defense in the playoffs; it's certainly more intimidating, I think, than most of other ones. Tough pass rush, can stuff the run, will force the quarterback to carry the offense. It shut down Aaron Rodgers and company this season, so Smith or Heinicke might be in real trouble. I have some interest in McKissic and Logan Thomas, and to a lesser extent banged-up Terry McLaurin, because he's great and Tampa Bay tends to give up some passing production.
But realistically, how is whatever quarterback Washington puts out there going to move the offense up and down the field? And is their defense good enough to hold down a talented Bucs group for four quarters? Just doesn't seem likely. I see Tampa Bay winning this game something like 27-13. Just seems like the biggest mismatch of the weekend. I'm using Ronald Jones, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. Shying away from banged-up Mike Evans.
Ravens at Titans: This is also a matchup we've had multiple times in the past year, but it's a lot more fascinating to me than Steelers-Browns. Derrick Henry just rushed for 2,000 yards and finished with great numbers in the earlier meeting (and fueled the upset in last year's playoffs), but I'm wary of him here. Debating whether I should carry him in playoff leagues where rosters lock at all. Baltimore, more than most teams, has the potential to slow him down; did for a while in the regular-season meeting. I think Ryan Tannehill and company have earned the respect of believing they can move the ball even if Baltimore limits Henry, but Tennessee's defense has been pretty weak all along. Can they force punts in this game, or will Jackson and Dobbins and company just keep scoring, rending Henry moot before long.
The other reason this game is interesting to me is I believe one of these teams could make a deep playoff run. They have the ground games to maybe keep Patrick Mahomes and/or Josh Allen on the sidelines and advance. In general I'm avoiding Ravens and Titans in playoff leagues, but I'm not sure I should. Maybe one of these teams is the one that surprisingly plays at least 3 and maybe 4 games. I'm going with a 30-27 Titans win, but I don't have a lot of confidence in it. I'd take the points, at least.
Bears at Saints: The negative of expanding the playoffs to 14 teams is you get 8-8 franchises like Chicago. They had some good games down the stretch and I like David Montgomery and Allen Robinson, and will give credit to Mitchell Trubisky for putting some sort of game together lately. But this is not a very good team and not a very good coaching staff, and they're matched up here against a very good defense. In the alarming event they win this game, they'd be going to Green Bay to give the Packers essentially another bye into the NFC Championship game, which would really be unfortunate. I'd say there's no way they can, but that's what I thought about Saints-Vikings a year ago, and New Orleans blew that one, so who knows.
As long as Alvin Kamara is healthy and active and Michael Thomas is too, the Saints should be fine. Their defense is good enough to cause problems for Chicago, certainly its running game. Biggest concern is Drew Brees and the offense, which looked pretty suspect in a lot of games this year, yes injuries were a factor, but also Brees is damn old. But I'll call it Saints 26-17 and hope I'm right.
Browns at Steelers: I suspect by the time this game rolls around we might all be pretty sick of watching football. It does happen, and 18 hours of NFL games in a weekend, ending with an AFC North rivalry (sort of) that we see twice each year anyway is asking a lot. Browns don't have their head coach, which is very Browns. Steelers don't have a running game, so it should be Roethlisberger and his wideouts dealing. I love Nick Chubb, and Pittsburgh's run defense is down a couple of key linebackers, so maybe Cleveland sneaks away with a win.
More likely, though, Pittsburgh's passing game puts up good numbers against Cleveland's bad pass defense. Their defense has tended to cause problems for Baker Mayfield, and the lean is it will happen again. An upset is possible, but more likely we get the Steelers moving on. I'll call it 24-21.
Enjoy the games, and good luck in your playoff leagues.