The curtain has closed on the 2023 season for 18 NFL teams, but for the 14 teams that remain, the most consequential games of their season will be played in the coming weeks.
Pass catchers will be integral to these teams’ success in the postseason, and with DFS matches and tournaments available for fantasy football junkies, finding a way to differentiate your lineup with “sleeper” players who have favorable matchups could be the difference in blowing your holiday bonus check and earning a return on it. Take a look at these impact starts for your DFS lineup on Wild Card Weekend.
The elites outside – WR and TE matchups for Wild Card weekend 2023
Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans (Sat)
Dalton Schultz, TE
We saw a preview of this wild card matchup in week 16, a game in which Texans’ tight end Dalton Schultz received 10 targets (PFF), his second-highest total of the year. Schultz may see a similar volume with respect to his targets on Saturday. His matchup is more favorable than those of some of his teammates, with the Texans receivers up against three outstanding corners of the Browns.
Schultz took 51.9% of his snaps from the inline spot in 2023 (PFF). Expect the Texans to keep him up front more often than not in this game to draw matchups with the Browns’ linebackers. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah paced the Browns in box coverage snaps this season and carried a reception rate of 84.1% on the targets he defended (PFF). Owusu-Koramoah finished with an aDoT of just 1.4 in comparison to 8.2 for Schultz (PFF). Reception volume will be no issue for Schultz if he earns this matchup, and he will be stretching the coverage of a linebacker who allowed three touchdowns on the season (PFF).
Sione Takitaki will be the other Browns linebacker Schultz is likely to see in coverage. Takitaki posted stronger coverage numbers than his teammate Owusu-Koramoah but defended fewer targets. CJ Stroud seemed to like this look in the week 16 game, as Schutlz caught three of the four targets he received while being covered by Takitaki, one of which included 14 YAC (PFF).
Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Sat)
Rashee Rice, WR
While Rashee Rice has established himself as the Chiefs’ top threat at receiver, he may be overlooked in DFS tournaments compared to some of the bigger names at his position on Wild Card weekend. It appears the Dolphins will be without starting corner Xavien Howard this week, and with Jalen Ramsey stationary on the right side of the Dolphin’s defense; the Chiefs may be able to find favorable matchups for Rice on Saturday.
Rice has a near-even split playing from the slot and outside in 2023; he took 49.8% of his snaps inside and 49.3% of snaps on the exterior (PFF). Rice may see more action from the slot in this game with Kader Kohou in the nickel role for Miami. When Kohou was targeted this season, he conceded a colossal passer passer rating of 133.4 and allowed seven touchdowns (PFF). There were just five corners in the NFL who gave up more touchdowns than Kohou all year (PFF). When you pair this with a reception rate of 83.8% on targets Kohou defends, there is plenty of upside for Rice working out of the slot this week.
On the outside, Rice is likely to match up with Dolphins corner Eli Apple if the Chiefs are intentional about keeping him away from Jalen Ramsey. Rice out-grades Apple in receiving vs. coverage by a significant margin, and Apple conceded a passer rating of 104.3 and three touchdowns (PFF) in the regular season.
Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys (Sun)
Jayden Reed, WR
Jayden Reed falls in a similar category to Rashee Rice, being well-known but less likely to be used in DFS lineups.
Reed has been on fire recently, tallying 253 receiving yards and scoring three touchdowns in his last three games (PFF). As a slot specialist, Reed is likely to draw the most lenient of the three Cowboys corners, Jourdan Lewis. Reed finished 2023 with an aDoT of 10.2 in comparison to 7.3 for Lewis (PFF). Lewis will be asked to cover Reed longer than he is used to in order to make a play on the ball.
Lewis allowed four touchdowns on the season and conceded receptions on just under 70.0% of the targets he defended (PFF). Jordan Love could go back to the well with Reed in this game as Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson will be working against the excellent coverage duo from the Cowboys out wide, DaRon Bland and Stephon Gilmore.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Detroit Lions (Sun)
Cooper Kupp, WR
Cooper Kupp may seem like an interesting addition to an article highlighting undervalued fantasy players, but with the spectacular rookie year from Puka Nacua, he may be selected less in postseason DFS.
Kupp has the ability to play from the slot or outside, creating potential matchups with two corners in Detroit he should have advantages against. Kindle Vildor was brought in to replace Jerry Jacobs at corner late in the season for the Lions in an attempt to patch up the leaky Detroit defense. Since Week 14, Vildor has been asked to defend just 15 targets; on those plays, quarterbacks are carrying a passer rating of 143.8, with two of them going for touchdowns (PFF).
In the slot, Kupp will likely see the rookie Brian Branch, who grades out well in coverage but allowed five touchdown receptions on the season (PFF). Between the inexperience of Vildor, Branch being prone to giving up scores in the red zone, and his teammate Nacua drawing lots of attention, Kupp may be able to break loose.
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