Aaron Rodgers ($8200/$8800) – It’s hard to argue against a quarterback as hot as Rodgers is, but here we go… I’m going to try. The price is the main negative with Rodgers, as you can save and take Tom Brady or Matt Ryan with the same ceiling. Yes, Rodgers has 22 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last eight games with 12 and zero in the last three and 336.3 YPG… wait, where was I going with this? Yea, it’s kind of tough to ignore those numbers, but hold on, there is still an argument against Rodgers. The Cowboys like to play ball control and run out the clock (literally), and they allowed the 13th fewest plays per game. In addition, Rodgers had 294 yards, one touchdown and one interception at home against the Cowboys earlier this year, and the Cowboys had nine games with one or none passing touchdowns allowed. Rodgers is amazing and a great play, just also easy to pivot off with the other options.
Tom Brady ($7600/$8600) – The Texans defense are the best remaining defense in the playoffs, but there is no stopping Brady. Obviously, Vegas agrees with the -16 spread for the Patriots. Brady only had three games without multiple touchdowns, and seven of his 12 games had three or four passing scores. In fact, in the six games started by Brady when the Patriots won by at least two touchdowns, Brady had 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions (26.2 FPPG on DraftKings).
Matt Ryan ($7000/$8300) – The simplest evaluation of Ryan is seen in his 335 yards and three touchdowns in Seattle earlier this year. The Falcons averaged 35.0 PPG at home this year, which is four points more than any other team (Saints 31.0 in second). That includes the second most passing yards and fourth most passing touchdowns per game at home. The Seahawks defense is not only weaker this year, but it only has one interception to Derek Anderson on his one pass attempt since Week 12. Ryan can easily duplicate his Week 6 performance against the Seahawks, and if so, he would be a value at this price.
Russell Wilson ($6900/$8200) – Wilson had a quiet game against the Falcons in the first matchup, but the Falcons are very weak against slot receivers. That’s where Doug Baldwin does most of his damage, and the Falcons don’t have Desmond Trufant to help cover Baldwin as much as he did in Seattle. Trufant covered Baldwin over 60 percent of the time in that game, which obviously boosts Baldwin’s value, but it helps Wilson’s outlook, as does Wilson’s health. Wilson wasn’t 100 percent in Week 6, and as we’ve seen in the last four games, he’s still quite dangerous. Nevertheless, the price is too close to Ryan to warrant using Wilson outside of tournaments, and even then, only at a low exposure.
Dak Prescott ($6000/$7700) – Prescott is my favorite cash game play, although more so on DraftKings. Prescott had just three games (outside the Week 17 rest) where he didn’t reach 18 Fantasy points, and two of those games were against the Giants (Vikings the other). The only drawback to Prescott is his ceiling, and that’s why he’s not a great tournament play. Prescott only hit 24-plus points twice, and neither of those reached 29 or more. Nevertheless, as much as the Cowboys like to drain the clock, Rodgers and the Packers will force the Cowboys to be more aggressive than usual.
Alex Smith isn’t the worst tournament play given the level of savings you get, but if Roethlisberger turns into Road Game Ben, the Chiefs offense won’t need to score much to win… Yes, Brock Osweiler surprised in the Wild Card round, but it’s the Patriots, not the Raiders. Give me your money instead of playing a lineup with Osweiler. It will go to better use.
Le’Veon Bell ($10500/$9900) – What really needs to be said at this point? Bell averaged over 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards per game and had over 22 points against the Chiefs back in Week 4. As for the Chiefs defense, it’s definitely a strong unit, but against the run, they have actually allowed double-digit Fantasy points in all but two games (Oakland Week 6, Panthers Week 10). If you can afford Bell, you use him, but with the next running back available this week, the extra cost might not be worth it.
Ezekiel Elliott ($8500/$8500) – Remember when people worried about Zeke facing the Packers back in Week 6? All Elliott did was torch them for 157 rushing yards on 28 carries. Heck, Elliott near 20 points without even scoring. The Packers let Jordan Howard and Zach Zenner top 20 points in their last three games with Jerick McKinnon even reaching 13-plus points. Elliott is a lock for cash and tournaments.
Thomas Rawls ($6900/$7500) – Rawls has more value if C.J. Prosise ($6900/$7500) can’t make it on the field. Even if Prosise is out though, I’d be wary despite the favorable matchup. Rawls admitted he felt all of the hits he took last week, and the last time Rawls was rolling and started talk about the wear and tear, he had 21 carries for 34 yards against the Rams. Those final three games of 56 yards on 37 carries have to be concerning, and while I might own a share if Prosise is out, I want no part of Rawls if Prosise plays. Don’t forget that the Seahawks offensive line is still an issue, and Prosise is the superior option in the passing game.
Devonta Freeman ($5900/$7600) – Freeman is intriguing on DraftKings, but I’m not as fond of his price on FanDuel. In fact, Freeman has one of the higher percent of total salary differences at running back. Need clarification on that? Okay… it was a bit confusing, wording wise. Freeman accounts for 11.8 percent of your budget on DraftKings but 12.7 percent on FanDuel. Most running backs account for a higher percentage on DraftKings, as Bell is 4.5 percentage points higher on DraftKings (21.0/16.5). Teammate Tevin Coleman actually intrigues me more with his 9.0 and 9.8 percent of budget prices ($4500/$5900). In fact, Coleman averaged 16.9 points in the Falcons nine wins that Coleman played.
LeGarrette Blount ($5800/$7300) – I referenced the Vegas spread for this game, and it’s important for another reason. In the Patriots wins of seven points or more (12 games), Blount averaged 75.1 yards per game, 16.1 (DK) points and had 14 touchdowns.
Blount, as with Prescott, isn’t the best tournament play due to his relatively low ceiling compared to others, but he’s a lock in cash and for double-digit points.
Others – There is no chance I risk Lamar Miller ($5600/$7000) against the Patriots. Miller’s four worst games came in loses and when the Texans scored 13 or fewer points (4.1 FPPG)… Ty Montgomery ($5300/$6000) is banged up and sees inconsistent usage. If he was $1000 less on both sites, I might be intrigued with a full practice on Friday… Spencer Ware ($5200/$6900) has double-digit points just once since Week 7… Dion Lewis ($3900/$5400) is going to find his way into a DraftKings lineup or two, as one of those big Lewis games is always a possibility, just less likely than it was in 2016.
Antonio Brown ($9600/$8800) – From NFL Research, Marcus Peters “faced seven of the Top 10 receivers by receiving yards and didn’t allow a touchdown to any.” To be fair, he doesn’t shadow receivers, meaning Brown will see him for about half of the game or less, and he even had two touchdowns in the first matchup. So there is an argument for and against Brown, but it really comes down to Roethlisberger’s horrid road numbers and that the Steelers run more on the road. If you are worried about either or both, I’d save the money and look elsewhere.
Julio Jones ($8400/$8300) – If you’re buying Ryan, you have to buy Jones. The Seahawks have allowed 19.4 FPPG to the opponent’s leading receiver since their bye week, and that includes Kenny Britt with Jared Goff at quarterback and Jeremy Kerley in Week 17. Oh, it also happens to include Jones putting up 26.9 points the first go-round. A healthy Jones is a near must for all lineups.
Doug Baldwin ($8100/$7900) – Baldwin does a lot of damage out of the slot, and the Falcons were one of the most forgiving teams to slot receivers. In addition, the team doesn’t have Desmond Trufant to help cover Baldwin at times, which means he should have a much better showing this time… especially if Russell Wilson and the Seahawks carry momentum over from last week. Both sites properly priced Baldwin up as a result, and I’d rather spend a few more for Jones or a few less for the next receiver.
Davante Adams ($7000/$7400) – With no Jordy Nelson, both Adams and Randall Cobb ($5700/$6500) will need to step up as they did last week, but I trust Adams more of the two. Adams is the better touchdown threat, despite last week’s game for Cobb (the Giants struggle against quick, middle of the field types, especially when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t there to help). Cobb actually had the best game of all Packers receivers in the first matchup, and he’s a strong play too. Cobb is a strong play for the savings, but recency bias will lead to his ownership being higher, and Adams has the same big play ability for a more differentiated lineup given his cost.
Julian Edelman ($6800/$7000) – For all of the talk about the Texans defense, they actually gave up six performances of 23.9 or more points over their last eight games with the other two being Amari Cooper at 15.7 and Brian Walters (Jaguars) with 4.6 in Week 15. While Edelman had just 9.2 points in Week 3, that was when the Texans were allowing just 13.9 FPPG to opponent’s top receiver… oh, and Brady didn’t play that game. That’s kind of important, isn’t it?
Edelman is a better play on DraftKings but a good option on both sites.
Dez Bryant ($6600/$7600) – The sites obviously are on different pages, and it will be hard to not have Bryant in all of my DraftKings lineups. The Packers had eight games of 20-plus points given up to the top opponent receiver this year with three over 33 points. They also had five receivers total at least 100 receiving yards with a touchdown against them, and the average was 161.4 yards with seven touchdowns in those. Even at the higher price on FanDuel, Bryant is a nice option… just not quite as pretty as that DraftKings price.
Others – DeAndre Hopkins ($5800/$7100) seems to be more in sync with Brock Osweiler since Osweiler’s benching, but he’s a risky play against the Patriots, even with the Texans likely being behind early… Cole Beasley ($5000/$6100) is an intriguing flier if looking to save at receiver, but I expect Elliott and Bryant to dominate this game… Eli Rogers ($3900/$5000), Tyreek Hill ($5500/$6600) and Taylor Gabriel ($4400/$5500) will be popular fliers, but I actually prefer Mohamed Sanu ($4000/$5400), as Ryan does look for him in the red zone and Jeremy Maclin ($4300/$5500), who showed some life in two of the last three games. Both are as risky as any in this price range, but I’m more confident in their targets… I’m off Paul Richardson ($4100/$4700), as recency bias will be a factor here too, and he’ll need to repeat last week’s performance (catch a touchdown) to be worth rostering with his expected ownership.
Travis Kelce ($6100/$7100) – Kelce found the end zone in the Chiefs first matchup with the Steelers, and given how hot Kelce has been of late, it’s a good bet that he will again. While Week 17 was a major letdown, Kelce had 15-plus points in all but one of the previous six games with all five of those including 100 or more receiving yards. It’s that kind of upside that makes Kelce the best tight end option this week, but given his price, he’s actually a contrarian play. Using Kelce nearly guarantees a lineup without Le’Veon Bell and/or an elite quarterback, and for that reason, you can differentiate yourself just by using him in a tournament. I don’t see a need to use Kelce in cash for that reason though.
Jimmy Graham ($4900/$6800) – Not only did Graham near 15 Fantasy points the first time, the Falcons held only five tight ends to single digits this year, and the names aren’t to fearsome (Coby Fleener, Lance Kendricks, Richard Rodgers, Antonio Gates, Jeff Heuerman). In fact, in the other game against Fleener, the Falcons let him put up 109 yards and a score. If you believe that the Seahawks can keep up in Atlanta, Graham will have to be a factor in that and is worth your money on DraftKings. On FanDuel, his price is a bit tough to swallow either way.
Jared Cook ($3900/$5400) – After Zach Ertz obliterated the Cowboys in Week 17, those Cowboys finished the season allowing a league-high 18.0 FPPG in PPR scoring. Even without Ertz (since the Cowboys were checked out), the team still had 16.6 FPPG allowed, which would have finished second. In four of the final five games before Week 17, the Cowboys allowed double-digit points to each tight end with the one exception being Will Tye. Cook took advantage of the matchup last week with 9.8 points and could have finished with more if not for a tough drop. At Cook’s price, he’s a terrific cash game play and even tournament option given those savings.
Others – Jason Witten ($3500/4900) is a solid if low-ceiling play if the Cowboys keep up with Rodgers and the Packers offense… C.J. Fiedorowicz ($3600/5200) is touchdown reliant, and while he’s a favorite of Osweiler, I don’t expect many touchdowns for the Texans in New England… Martellus Bennett ($4000/$5900) is always intriguing, but he too is touchdown reliant, he hasn’t seen more than five targets since Week 10 and the price is a bit too high.
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