2. Frank The Tank (9-5) vs. 3. Koo Kupp Klan (9-6)
Last week Nick put an end to Jay’s Cinderella run, mugging him in the street and coming away with a 117.9 to 104.6 victory. I hope he stole the carriage and the glass slippers as well, because he’s going to need them in this matchup against the defending champ. The books and projections have Frank as a sizable favorite in this one, and the reason starts at the top, with League MVP runner up Jalen Hurts sidelined, leaving Nick to turn to Gardner Minshew in this do or die matchup. Minshew certainly has the capability to put up a respectable or better outing, but doesn’t offer near the upside that Hurts did with his legs, turning what may have even been a slight edge for Nick in the QB matchup to a big advantage for Frank The Tank and Patrick Mahomes.
Where Nick is hoping and looking to make up ground is at the skill positions, particularly WR. If there’s been one weakness for the Tank this season, its been at the wideout spot. Devonta Smith and Adam Thielen have both been solid but ultimately unspectacular, ranking as WRs 18 and 27 respectively. It’s currently unclear how the move to Minshew will affect Smith, and Thielen has been largely TD dependent this season. On the flip side, Nick will run out Mike Evans and Terry McLaurin, who rank as WRs 17 and 23, but may offer a bit more upside than Frank’s crew; Evans in particular feels due for a big game.
The RB position is one that should see some sparks fly. Aside from QB, the ground game has been one of the strengths of Nick’s team this year, where he will be handing the ball off to the bellow duo of Rhamondre Stevenson and Kenneth Walker III. We talked about KWIII’s season after he was named Steal of the Draft, but Stevenson has been equally impressive in solidifying his spot in a Patriots backfield that has historically been near impossible to solidify, and ranking as the overall RB10 while doing so. Across the way though, Frank The Tank’s RB duo looks even more formidable than it did even just a few weeks ago. Of course Josh Jacobs has been an explosion waiting to happen every single week, and is the overall RB1 and MVP runner up. The pick in the 3rd round drew a few puzzled reactions, but has left Frank laughing all the way to the Semis and drawn a bunch of retroactive think pieces from so-called fantasy experts trying to figure out how they whiffed so badly. All that is well and good, but what has really put Frank over the top the last couple of weeks has been the emergence of Jerrick McKinnon not just as a Mahomes check down option but as one of the main drivers of the Chiefs offense. Rb2 was a weak spot for Frank as little as a month ago, and now it is one of his biggest strengths.
Of course, TE was a huge mismatch on paper coming into this one, as it is whenever Frank and Travis Kelce square off against anybody. But Nick rolled out Evan Engram on Thursday, who gave him one of his best TE performances of the season at 14+ points. Cutting into that perceived advantage for Frank is a great first step if Nick is actually going to pull off this upset. But of course, Kelce can drop a 30 burger on you in the blink of an eye.
So yes, this seems like an uphill battle for Koo Kupp Klan on paper. But Nick didn’t earn the How Are You Still Alive Award for no reason; he’s been as tough to kill as they come. This week, we’ll see if an actual Tank can do the job. A trip to the Championship Game awaits whoever is left standing when the dust settles.
1. Dear Leader (9-5) vs. 4. 2 Feets In (9-6)
Jack entered his Wild Card matchup with Meade as a huge favorite, and he exited that matchup with the world realizing why. He easily advanced, dispatching Meade while barely breaking a sweat in his 105.76 to 69.4 victory, setting the stage for a highly anticipated matchup with The Commish’s Dear Leader squad. The books have this one as a near toss up, with Dear Leader ever so slightly favored but one shift of the wind could blow that right back the other way.
Looking at the QB position, its tough to pick who has the advantage (which will be a theme in this matchup). Commish will likely send out Justin Fields in the frigid Chicago weather, while Jack will counter with Tua in the balmy Miami breeze. Weather wise you can say 2 Feets In has the advantage, but Fields always poses a huge threat on the ground.
Things don’t get any clearer at the skill positions, with both teams fielding the top WR trios in The League. 2 Feets In is powered of course by League MVP runner up Tyreek Hill, AJ Brown, and DeAndre Hopkins, while Dear Leader will trot out Ja’Marr Chase, CeeDee Lamb, and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Again, this one is a toss up that might have been decided by AJB and Hopkins playing with backup QBs, but they’re talented enough to overcome that and that weather will once again affect Chase and ASB for the Commish.
On the ground, both teams’ RB1 are near tops in The League, with Jack’s CMC squaring off against Commish’s Derrick Henry. On paper you might say the one clear edge in this matchup goes to Dear Leader at the RB2 spot, where he’ll feature Aaron Jones against 2 Feets In’s Rachaad White. But Jones has ceded his goal line work and a bunch of carries in recent weeks to AJ Dillon, while White has been solidifying his role in the Bucs backfield.
And finally at TE, Commish would seemingly have the advantage with George Kittle, inconsistent as he’s been, squaring off against Jack’s “tight end” Taysom Hill. But with the weather in the Saints matchup featuring 40 mph wind and well below zero wind chill temps, the Saints figure to be keeping the ball on the ground a ton, which of course is a recipe for success for “tight ends” like Hill.
The teams are as close as it gets on paper, and they seemed destined to meet in the postseason. And here it is, on Christmas weekend, yet there’s only a present for on of them under the tree. Who gets the gift of heading to the ‘Ship and who gets nothing but a lump of coal? We’ll find out in the hours to come.