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NFL.com Playoff Challenge Advice & Targets (2023 Fantasy Football)

Jan 25, 2023
NFL.com Playoff Challenge Strategy, Advice & Players to Target

Has the end of fantasy football season got you talking weather reports with co-workers? Have no fear because fantasy LIVES ON in NFL.com’s fantasy football playoff challenge. Draft players from the remaining playoff teams and rack up multiplier points by correctly predicting which teams progress furthest-a game of wit and strategy like no other.

NFL.com Playoff Challenge Strategy, Advice & Players to Target

Here are my 8 players to target for the Playoff Challenge optimal lineup. For this list, I include two WRs, two RBs, 1 QB, 1 TEs, 1 DST and 1 Kicker.

Joe Burrow (QB – CIN)

It’s really close between Burrow and Jalen Hurts as my favorite quarterback option this week, but I lean toward the Bengals quarterback with the superior matchup and that undeniable swagger. Since Week 10, the Chiefs are allowing the 5th-most fantasy points per game to QBs (19.9). And their defense has struggled mightily in the red zone all year ranking 31st in red-zone scoring touchdown rate. The Bengals offense ranks fifth in red-zone scoring offense. Burrow also already faced the Chiefs earlier this season, shredding KC for 286 passing yards and 2 passing TDs. He also rushed 11 times for 46 yards and scored en route to 30-plus fantasy points.

Christian McCaffrey (RB – SF)

CMC has been the must-own RB since the start of the NFL.com playoff challenge, and that won’t change on championship weekend even with his ailing calf injury. Because before he suffered the injury in the Divisional Round, Elijah Mitchell was an afterthought on offense. So although Mitchell out-carried McCaffrey 14 to 10, rushing for 51 yards versus CMC’s 35 rushing yards – 13 of Mitchell’s carries came in the 2nd half. 11 came on the final two drives of the game in the fourth quarter. And despite CMC’s limited snaps he still led the team with a 31% target share catching 6 balls for 22 yards on 8 targets. The Eagles rank 24th in DVOA vs RBs in the passing game and inside the top 10 in terms of receptions, targets and receiving yards to opposing RBs since Week 12. They are allowing 5 catches for 41 yards allowed per game. McCaffrey owns an 18% target share over the last 3 games.

Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)

If you are building a roster with Burrow at QB, you are betting on the Bengals coming away with a win at Arrowhead. And that means you want to litter your roster with Cincy players including RB1 Joe Mixon. Mixon was a battering ram that could not be stopped versus the Bills. He rushed 20 times for 105 yards and 1 TD playing 56% of the snaps. Mixon earned four goal-line carries which provide him massive TD upside in a matchup versus the Chiefs’ run defense that the Bengals should be able to take advantage of. KC allowed over 100 rushing yards to Samaje Perine when these teams last faced off in Week 13. They have allowed 4.5 yards per carry to RBs since Week 16 as the 24th-ranked run defense per DVOA. The Chiefs have also bled fantasy points to RBs in the passing game, allowing the most receptions to the position per game (6) this season.

Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN)

Coming as a surprise to literally no one, we have another Bengal in the optimal lineup with Ja’Marr Chase. The Bengals alpha WR owns a 32% target share since Week 13, averaging just 8 receptions, 84 receiving yards and 11.5 targets per game. And he was heavily featured when facing man coverage, which KC predominately deploys. Vs. man coverage, Chase owns a whopping 39% target share, 33% target rate per route run and 52% air yards share since his injury. Simply put, Chase is going to get the rock and make the Chiefs’ secondary pay. Kansas City ranks 31st in DVOA against No. 1 WRs this year allowing on average 81 receiving yards per game to opposing alphas.

A.J. Brown (WR – PHI)

There’s really no wrong answer to sliding in DeVonta Smith or A.J. Brown as the next WR in your optimal lineup. The two have seen nearly identical usage in the last two weeks with Jalen Hurts back under center with both commanding north of a 29% target share. And the matchup is salivating against a 49ers defense that has allowed the most fantasy points and 3rd-most receiving yards to WRs since Week 7 (186). However, Smith was more productive this past week, with Brown dealing with a hip injury. But before the Divisional round, Brown was Hurts’ go-to WR the three games beforehand, compiling an absurd 35% target share and 55% air yards share.

With both guys seeing seldom usage from the slot where the 49ers and safety Jimmie Ward bleed fantasy points, I side with Brown due to his role as the team’s primary deep threat. Smith has been used more underneath the last three weeks with aDOT no higher than 8 yards in any game. Meanwhile, Brown has almost been exclusively used downfield with six targets of 20-plus air yards and a team-high 14.2 aDOT. The 49ers have been devastated versus the long ball all year ranking 24th in DVOA versus deep passes up to 15 yards downfield. And it’s been No.1s doing the majority of damage considering they have allowed the fourth-most targets (8.9) and fifth-most receiving yards to opposing No. 1s this season. So yes, people. This week is AJB WR1 szn.

Travis Kelce (TE – KC)

The Bengals are allowing the most targets to TEs (nine per game) since Week 9 in addition to the second-most receptions (six) and 4th-most receiving yards (70). Ergo, it’s a strong matchup for Travis Kelce fresh off a game that featured 17 targets, 14 catches for 98 yards and a god-like 49% target share. Expecting these numbers for a second straight game is aggressive, but there’s no reason to think that the volume will get away from Kelce as a hobbled Patrick Mahomes‘ primary underneath option. Just last week we saw Bills tight end Dawson Knox haul in five of his seven targets for 65 yards leading Buffalo in both receptions and yardage.

Harrison Butker (K – KC)

Among the remaining playoff teams, three of the four defense rank inside the top 5 in the fewest field goals allowed this season. The one defense that doesn’t are the Bengals, who allowed the fifth-most field goals on defense this season and 2.3 field goals per game while playing on the road. Considering the Bengals’ top-tier red-zone defense and Mahomes’ ankle status, KC may be forced into converting more points with Harrison Butker‘s leg.

Eagles D/ST

Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy. One of these names is not like the others, and that’s why the DST to target is Philadelphia. Purdy is the worst remaining QB among the final four and will likely see a ton of pressure from the Eagles’ elite front. Per the 33rd Team’s Trenches Matchup Tool, SF’s OL is at the biggest mismatch disadvantage this week when they should drop back to throw. That ensuing chaos should put Purdy in a position to make some mistakes, and score points for the Philly DST.

If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

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