The opening round of the 2023 NFL playoffs are all set. The FullTime Fantasy Saturday Playoff Preview looks at both the Browns vs. Texans and Dolphins vs. Chiefs games from a fantasy and sports betting perspective.
Using our RDA* projections, we can break down each game to find the statistical edge that can give us a leg up in playoff fantasy and daily fantasy lineups. Also, we can determine the best bets to make.
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Cleveland Browns (11-6) at Houston Texans (10-7)
Time: 4:30 Eastern
Line: Cleveland -2.5
Money Line: Browns -145, Texans +125
Back in Week, the Browns went into NRG Stadium and throttled the Texans 36-22. The game wasn’t even that close as Houston piled on 15 garbage-time points. In that game, Joe Flacco completed 27-of-42 for 368 yards and three scores. Flacco’s 22.8 fantasy points in that game were the second-most allowed by a much-improved Houston defense all season.
In the rematch, Houston’s pass rush will be healthier. Additionally, the Texans will have more success moving the ball than they did with Davis Mills under center. Also, Flacco’s penchant for turnovers could make the difference in a close game.
View Flacco as a solid start this week. However, the floor makes him a riskier play than the other three signal-callers suiting up Saturday.
Houston’s run defense also made big strides in 2023. Jerome Ford was held to 25 yards on 15 totes in Week 16. Ford salvaged his day with a touchdown but was otherwise ineffective. Our RDA* projections call for Ford to get 16 touches, generate about 65 yards of offense, and is about a 50/50 bet to find the end zone.
Kareem Hunt (groin) returned to practice Wednesday. Hunt won’t see as many touches as Ford in this game. However, Hunt is the preferred option in short-yardage. This week, he’ll be a TD-or-Bust option. That gives him some DFS appeal.
Amari Cooper set a franchise record with 265 yards three weeks ago versus the Texans. However, Houston played without Will Anderson and Jonathan Greenard in that game, which led to no pass rush. Cooper won’t have a repeat of his gaudy Week 16 figures, but he still comes in as a top-5 fantasy wideout per our RDA* projections.
Elijah Moore didn’t do much in the previous game and is still questionable with a concussion. Cedric Tillman has also been ruled out, leaving David Bell as an interesting flier.
The Texans allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2023. David Njoku caught six passes including a TD in the previous matchup. He’s our No. 2 tight end for the slate.
It’s best to ignore the previous game from the Texans’ perspective. At least on offense. Houston didn’t accomplish much with Davis Mills and Case Keenum under center. However, with the return of C.J. Stroud, the Texans’ offense should be far more effective.
After missing two games with a head injury, Stroud returned in the season finale to post solid, but unspectacular numbers. Stroud has been one of the best QBs in football at home. However, facing the NFL’s No. 1 defense will be problematic. If Stroud can continue his stellar play at NRG, the Texans have a good shot.
Devin Singletary has taken over as the club’s feature back. Cleveland is far better against the pass than run, so expect Houston to make Singletary a big part of the game plan. Our RDA* projections have Singletary approaching 80 scrimmage yards. However, he is less likely to find to hit pay dirt.
Cleveland ranked 4th in the league in limiting fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Nico Collins is Houston’s undisputed top wide receiver. But the Browns limited Collins to 18 yards on four receptions. Collins did score in that game to somewhat salvage his day. But our RDA* projections predict another modest outing.
Robert Woods will return in this game and is likely to be Houston’s No. 3 with Noah Brown returning to practice Thursday. This is a tough matchup for Houston, even if the Texans have played much better at home. That makes all of their ancillary pass-catchers little more than DFS dart throws. Brown has more boom potential.
Tight end Dalton Schultz should fill the void as Houston’s top target. Back in Week 16, Schultz reeled in a team-high eight grabs for 61 yards. However, the matchup is worse for tight ends. Cleveland allowed only 9.7 fantasy points per game to the position- second-lowest in the NFL.
As much as Cleveland feels like the better team, eventually, the magic will run out, right? I’m on the home dogs.
Houston +2.5 WIN
Miami Dolphins (11-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (11-6)
Time: 8:00 PM Eastern
Line: Kansas City -4.5
Money Line: Dolphins +190, Chiefs -225
For most of the season, this would have looked like a premier matchup with unlimited offensive potential. However, the Chiefs and Dolphins stumbled to the finish line to damper the fantasy appeal. The opening line of 51.5 seems high for two teams that have not played well. Also, weather will be a factor. The forecast calls for a high of 7 degrees with game-time temps hovering around 0. Brrrr.
That will pose problems for Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins. In his last five road games, Tagovailoa averaged just 233.8 passing yards per game with seven touchdown passes. Meanwhile, facing Kansas City boasts a top-10 defense that surrendered the third-fewest touchdown passes in 2023.
Kansas City was also stout against the run. However, the Dolphins boasted the NFL’s No. 6 rushing attack. Raheem Mostert will return after sitting out the last two regular-season games. Mostert led the NFL in rushing scores, including seven rushing TDs in seven road contests.
De’Von Achane will also be heavily involved. Achane boasts enormous upside but has slowed down after eclipsing 100 rushing yards in three of Miami’s first four games. Since then, Achane topped triple-digits just once in his final seven. Our RDA* projections have Miami’s duo back-to-back this week, with RB1 numbers.
The freezing temperature won’t be an issue for Tyreek Hill, who played six seasons in KC. However, the Chiefs’ secondary will be. Only the Jets and Panthers surrendered fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than Kansas City. Regardless, Hill has more upside than any player playing this weekend and is still a top-3 wideout on our board.
Jaylen Waddle‘s return will bolster Miami. If the Chiefs can keep Hill in check, Waddle has the potential to make a big impact underneath. Even dealing with an ankle injury, Waddle will approach a half-dozen grabs, 80 yards, and is a strong contender to score.
The rest of the Dolphins’ pass-catchers can be ignored in playoff lineups.
Kansas City Offense
Considering the weather potential being a problem for Miami and that the UNDER has hit in KC’s last five home games, that’s the play in this game.
While it is easy to blame the lack of wide receiver talent for the Cheifs’ offensive decline, Patrick Mahomes has not played up to his usual standards. Mahomes threw a career-high 14 interceptions and had his touchdown total drop 34%. This was the worst fantasy performance for Mahomes since his rookie campaign.
However, help could be on the way. Miami’s defense is decimated by injuries in both the secondary and line. Miami also allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Our RDA* projections have him throwing for 297 yards with a good chance at three total scores.
Isiah Pacheco comes in as RB3 for the slate. The talented sophomore has eclipsed 11 carries in every game he’s played since the Week 10 bye. Also, during the stretch, Pacheco has averaged a healthy 19.9 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, Miami allows about 19 PPR points per game to running backs.
Rashee Rice is the only dependable wideout that can safely be started. Rice has scored six touchdowns since Week 7 and exceeded double-digit fantasy points in each of KC’s past six.
Justin Watson plays plenty of snaps but is boom-or-bust. Watson is a solid deep threat but is more likely to post a 2/24/0 line than his occasional 45 yards and a touchdown outing.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a forgettable season and Kadarius Toney and Justyn Ross are both questionable to play.
The obvious top target in this game is TE Travis Kelce. But, as any fantasy manager who used first-round draft capital on Kelce knows, this has been a poor season by Kelce’s standards. Still, Miami allowed 13.1 fantasy points per game to the position. That was the 10th-highest average in the league. Let’s fire up Kelce one more time and gamble he halts his six-game TD drought.
UNDER 51.5 WIN
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