Last Sunday went pretty chalk while Saturday felt like the “upside-down”. The Titans surprised us while giving Mularkey extended life as the head coach and Todd Gurley disappointed us all as Atlanta was able to shut him down in the passing and running games. While Sunday went as expected, there were some downers with Kamara being one of them,but hopefully this week we can clean up our looking glass into the future and benefit from it in DFS.
Tom Brady – $7000 vs Titans
Last week we did see Tennessee tighten up in the pass game in the second half, but we also know that Alex Smith is no Tom Brady. Recent history shows the Titans giving up the most points to opposing quarterbacks out of teams still chasing the championship. While Tom has had lower than expected numbers recently, New England doesn’t play around in the post season, therefore Brady is the only QB over the $6k mark to play.
Le’Veon Bell – $9600 vs Jaguars
Bell is the most obvious and most expensive running back play on the divisional slate. The Jags defense presents the 2nd most opportunity for running back fantasy points, and with the guaranteed volume on the ground and in the air it will be hard to pass on Bell. Looking at what McCoy was able to do against this defense on a bum ankle last week gives plenty of encouragement, as he was able to put up 119 yards of offense on 25 touches. There was one huge play by McCoy that was wiped away by a penalty as well. Just imagine what Bell will be able to do when the Jags have to worry about a legitimate passing threat in Roethlisberger. The only deterrent to playing Bell the price.
Derrick Henry – $7300 @ Patriots
Henry’s price has skyrocketed after last week’s 30-pt performance against Kansas City. If Murray continues to be sidelined as expected then Henry’s volume should stay the same. Just watching his speed on the field last week on longer runs still amazes me and with the number of opportunities he should see him break off another long run or two. The Patriots defense are only .3 fantasy points better than the Jags against fantasy running backs over the last 4 weeks so there is a possibility for Henry to do some damage. This may be a play that mostly hinges on Henry’s expected volume than anything, but its hard not to consider him even if he is in the upper tier of running back cost.
Leonard Fournette – $6900 @ Steelers
Initially, there was a hesitation about recommending Fournette, but after looking at Pittsburgh’s recent history regarding the running game it was time to reconsider. The Steelers gave up 6 rushing TDs over three of their last four games. Additionally, the Steelers have given up the most rushing TDs of remaining playoff teams during the regular season. If the Jags can hold down the Steelers offense like they did during their last meeting, we could expect Fournette’s volume to be near the top of the pack.
Dion Lewis – $6000 vs Tennessee
The Titans are the second worst team in fantasy points to running backs on this slate. Depending on Burkhead’s availability, Lewis could become a more popular option. He’s gotten plenty of touches (at least 29 in each of his last two games) as the focal running back in this offense. During Burkhead’s absence Lewis has had 4 TDs over his last two games, including two through the air. Given our expectations of Brady and his usage of Lewis to move the chains, this could be a great stack, albeit an expensive one. If Burkhead plays then this whole idea of a Lewis as a solid play goes up in smoke.
Julio Jones – $7900 @ Eagles
The Falcons offense is a far cry from where they were last season, but if you believe the numbers then the Eagles defense presents a great opportunity for Falcons pass catchers. If we buy into that, then Julio becomes a required piece in your lineups. Many will gravitate toward this pick, but there should be some caution here. Last season the Eagles were able to hold down the Falcons including Jones, and while the Falcons have faded a little in their offensive prowess, the Eagles defense is far improved.
Adam Thielen – $7600/Stefon Diggs – $6200 vs Saints
The Saints-Vikings matchup looks to be a hard one to call, but there is reason to believe that the Vikings will have some success in the passing game this weekend. Thielen will be sure to see some Marshawn Lattimore, but the Vikings have schemed into favorable coverages many times this season. The other corners showed how they could be had against the Panthers last week, and this week the will be picking their poison between Diggs and Thielen. Some may quickly point to the Saints pass rush success against Carolina, but the Vikings offensive line has been more consistent and better than the Panthers line.
Juju Smith-Schuster – $6000 vs Jaguars
In a “pay up” section many would expect to see Antonio Brown, but his price and situation call for a bit of a fade this week. Let us remember that Brown went down with a tear in his calf. I’m no doctor, but a tear in anything will have soreness and discomfort for a while and with the calf being so critical in sprinting and cutting, no one would be surprised if Brown looked a little less like himself. On top of that, Brown is sure to see the best corner of the Jaguars between Bouye or Ramsey. This makes Juju a really attractive part of the passing game for Pittsburgh. We have seen Juju’s upside and we have seen the Jaguars had a few times. Big Ben at home should be able to do enough to create 1-2 worthy receivers in this game. These options will be faded more than usually because of the recent history of this matchup. These options are potentially a little more contrarian than usual.
Rob Gronkowski – $7100 vs Titans
The Chiefs were blowing up the Titans over the middle of the field last week until Kelce was knocked out of the game. New England will likely follow suit even though their offensive options are much deeper. Belechick is all about shutting down your strength and exposing your weaknesses so it’s simply too difficult to pass on Gronk as your tight end option. The stack with Brady is almost 30% of our cap, but c’mon don’t we have to have at least one matchup with this core while finding value elsewhere?
Zach Ertz – $5800 vs Falcons
No recent data supports Ertz as a good choice in this price range except for the frequency with which Nick Foles will target him. These two go way back to 2013 when Foles had a season of insanity. For the Eagles to have hope in chasing this Super Bowl they will need Foles to conjure up that version of himself which included a lot of targets to Zach Ertz. While Alshon should be getting more involved, Ertz is the security blanket on which Foles will lean. Given the real world expectations of the game it appears all Eagles are on permanent fade which means all Eagles are now interesting contrarian plays.
Kyle Rudolph – $4700 vs Saints
Rudolph is the 4th most expensive tight end available, but based on the performance of the Saints defense against Carolina last week, Rudolph could have a better outing than Olsen. The Saints will have more to worry about his time around with two legitimate wide receiver threats and McKinnon out of the backfield, which should open up opportunities for Rudolph. Rudolph is tied with Antonio Brown for the 3rd most receptions inside the 10. If you aren’t paying for Gronk, Rudolph is the next best thing with the Saints giving the 3rd most points of remaining playoff teams to tight ends.
Atlanta Falcons – $3500 @ Eagles
This is mostly betting on two things to continue: Nick Foles to continue subpar Quarterback play and the Falcons defense continuing to play at a level that allowed them to shutdown one of the leagues best offenses in the Rams. We saw nothing of consequence from the Eagles offense over the last few weeks of the season so there is hardly a reason to set aside what our eyes and the numbers have told us. Best defense pick on paper!
Marcus Mariota – $5900 @ Patriots
Looking at the games since week 13 against bottom half pass defenses, Mariota has put up about 21 points which is right around 3.5x value based on his price. The Patriots had a good size stretch (8 games) of holding people to 17 points or less, but then they gave up a 27 points to a struggling Dolphins defense. Remembering back to that game, the Patriots seemed to have a lot of trouble with the run. We know Belechick looks to take away an offenses strengths which has been Derrick Henry lately. While they are trying to take that away (which could require extra men in the box) Mariota could have some otherwise unexpected opportunities. Mariota is a complete tournament play with the floor of the rushing yards (New England has given up the 2nd most QB rushing yards of remaining teams), but one with the possibility of doing some unexpected damages to a New England offense who boasts only the 21st passing defense DVOA and, of remaining playoff teams, has given up the second most passing TDs to passers.
Matt Ryan – $5700 @ Eagles
Ryan hasn’t been nearly as special a passer as he was last season yet the matchup here from a fantasy points allowed perspective is very attractive. The Eagles are the 2nd worst remaining playoff team against the quarterback. If Nick Foles only generates a bunch of 3-and-outs then that provides Ryan and the Falcons short fields and more opportunities to score. Of course the downside to this same scenario is that they just run the ball in the later part of the game, reducing Ryan’s opportunities.
Rex Burkhead – $5700 vs Titans
We already looked at the matchup potential for Patriots running backs in this game. If Burkhead plays then his reception and touchdown upside come attached which would be awesome at this inexpensive price. That upside comes from his goal line usage and occassional use in the passing game. Tennessee has given up the most receiving TDs to running backs of remaining playoff teams (2nd most on the season). Keep an eye on his status later in the week, and be ready to make last minute lineup adjustments.
Latavius Murray – $5400/Jerrick McKinnon – $4900 vs Saints
People may be scared off based on Carolina’s loss to the Saints last week that was partially due to a nearly non-existent Panthers rushing offense. Don’t let that scare you too much as the Saints defense had given up the most points of playoff teams to running backs toward the end of the season. Murray has been pretty solid with scores in his last few games. It’s not often that you can buy exposure to dependable goal line opportunities for this cheap. Murray should be a cog in the machine of lineups where you are paying up for Brady/Gronk or Big Ben/AB.
If this game goes the other way and Minnesota finds themselves chasing points, we could expect a heavy dose of McKinnon who provides solid upside against the Saints. We only have to look back as far as McCaffrey’s performance last week to see the upside of McKinnon. Who you select will depend on how you expect the game to go of course.
Jay Ajayi – $4600 vs Falcons
Ajayi is a total shot in the dark because of the uncertainty of his deployment, but he does come with an expectation of increased volume. Since he came to the Eagles, we have seen how dynamic he can be on the ground and through the air. Ajayi has the most targets of Eagles RBs and Atlanta has given up the most respections to running backs on the season. The Eagles know that they cannot possibly depend on Nick Foles to carry the team, but they do likely they believe Foles can be good with a strong rushing attack. There has to be a reason why they have been holding Ajayi back since receiving him in trade, and I’m betting it was to keep him fresh for playoff football. If he gets the expected volume, that’s volume you cannot buy at his price.
Mohamed Sanu – $5700 @ Eagles
For over $2k in savings, we can get access to a matchup in the passing game that looks the most attractive. On paper, the Eagles appear to be pretty well near impenetrable on the ground which means Atlanta will have to pass it. The Eagles have been susceptible to double moves in recent history, specifically the Slugo route, which I believe that Sanu has the skill set to perform. Someone has to score through the air in this game, and given Julio’s up and down season, why couldn’t the targets swing Sanu’s way against a weaker link in the Eagles passing defense?
Alshon Jeffrey – $5500/Nelson Agholor – $4800 vs Falcons
All the previous sections relating to any Falcons were written with a little dark sense of dread for me as an Eagles fan. Nick Foles hasn’t inspired a lot of hope in recent games, but if they are planning on doing everything necessary to have a chance at winning then Nick Foles is going to have to be more aggressive. If he can come through there then there is a lot of potential for both of these receivers. Alshon had two 10+ target games in a row, both of which had scores in weeks 13 and 14. He has had two duds since then, but one was a throwaway game against Dallas, and the other was that down offensive performance from the offense as a whole. As far as Nelson Agholor, in the 4 games before Dallas in week 17 he averaged 10 targets per game with a target floor of 7. These two are the playmakers in the passing game, and if Foles can be intelligently aggressive on Saturday, these two are sure to benefit.
Chris Hogan – $5200 vs Titans
It’s time for a Chris Hogan resurgence. He has been recovering from a shoulder injury, and it’s possible that everyone has forgotten about him. The Titans present an opportunity as they have given up the most TDs to receivers of any remaining playoffs teams. While people may look to Brandin Cooks in light of this data, it would simply be crazy to overlook Hogan. In the first half of the season he had the most red zone targets on the team, and he was converting those opportunities into scores at a better rate than other receivers on the team. What is also interesting is that Hogan still has the most targets (10) inside the opponent’s 10 yard line! It also helps that Tennessee has allowed the most TDs from inside the 10 of any remaining playoff team this season. Hogan is sure to be low-owned and presents almost a $2000 savings over other Patriots receiving options. He simply must be considered for tournament lineups.
Rishard Matthews – $4500/Corey Davis – $3400 @ Patriots
You may be scratching your head on these recommendations, but I am scratching my head on the prices as the Titans face the defense giving up the 5th most Draft Kings points on the season. Matthews has averaged 7 targets per game through week 15. While he has had two slow games, there is nothing to indicate the offense is moving away from him in any permanent sense.
The benefactor of Matthews targets being on the lower end in the last few weeks of the season has been Corey Davis. If this change in targets is a sign of things to come then we could have a slim window for a unique opportunity. Getting someone we expect to have WR1 potential at some point in his career at this low of a price is insane. He has averaged 7 targets per game when looking at recent games that weren’t against the Jags (weeks 15, 16 and Wild Card weekend). I’ll take the potential upside that comes with that target volume at a price less than $4k.
Trey Burton – $2700 vs Falcons
This is a thin play, but every time Burton has had a decent role in two tight end sets he has done some damage. He has 5 TDs so far this year and that is on extremely limited snaps. But what indicates that he will be in for a bigger role? The Next Level Podcast made a suggestion that the Eagles would do well to give “12” personnel more opportunities. Being that Burton would be the second tight end most often in these sets, there is an increased chance that he could see the field and see the targets with which he has been so efficient. The combination of team, Vegas odds against, questions at the quarterback position, and other factors working against this pick make it one of those crazy tournament plays that everyone, but the GPP winner plays. A play like this save you so much in salary over the top flight options giving you room for those other studs, and we have to take chances somewhere.
Minnesota Vikings – $2700 vs Saints
The Vikings are at home and boast the best defense on the slate in fantasy points versus all positions with the exception of tight ends (they have the second best defense against TEs). Remember the Vikings crushed the Saints at the beginning of the season as well. While New Orleans is clearly a different team than it was then, The Vikings are still just as good as they have been all season. This is the best option below the $3k mark, and based on history, worth a shot.