For the playoffs, instead of breaking down the top four performers at each position, I will give you my “pay to play”, “stay away” and “value play” selections just like we feature on the @BlitzedPodcast.
Quarterback and Running Back are the thinnest positions this week. Wide receiver and tight end are both stacked but each is very top-heavy. You might as well spend up at WR and TE, because almost all the running backs are dart throws this week.
The Saturday-only slate is winners and losers. Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are solid plays, Nick Foles and Marcus Mariota not so much. The RB mix is much harder to discern. Deciding which Eagle will succeed is tough. Jay Ajayi is probably the safest, but he is hardly exciting. Of course, at Ajayi’s price he will be nearly 100%-owned. Especially when you consider the other options. New England will likely jump out to a huge lead taking Derrick Henry out of the game script for the Titans. Meanwhile, both Tennessee and Philadelphia have very good run defenses. Philly has struggled a bit recently, putting both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in play, but again neither is a sure-thing. As for the Patriots’ running backs, Dion Lewis is a safe play despite the Titans’ run defense. Lewis and James White both could have value thanks to their pass-catching ability. Wide Receiver is a much easier play. Every member of the Atlanta and New England pass offenses are in play. Atlanta’s pass defense is just ‘aight, so Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, and Alshon Jeffery are also all safe plays. In addition, Tennessee will be playing from behind putting Delanie Walker, Rishard Matthews, Corey Davis and Eric Decker also in play. Your best defense option is Atlanta and you need to forget the Titans.
The Sunday-only slate is full of question marks. Ben Roethlisberger at home is always a stud. Unfortunately, he is facing one of the best pass defenses in the league. Blake Bortles…is well Blake Bortles. Do you really trust him, even against a mid-tier pass defense? Sam Bradford lit up the Saints in Week 1, but that was before they got their defense in order. Besides, Case Keenum is not the same deep-ball threat that Bradford is. Keenum is still probably safe since weather won’t be a factor, and since New Orleans is still mistake-prone. Drew Brees is safe in terms of volume, and weather as well. However, Minnesota’s defense is elite, so don’t expect a repeat of last week’s numbers. At running back, open up your wallet and make it rain. LeVeon Bell will be 100%-owned (and rightfully so – despite his super-high price tag). In addition, Leonard Fournette had a great first meeting with Pittsburgh. Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray both are solid (reduced-price) options at the position. They face a mediocre New Orleans’ rushing defense. Then there are Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, they are facing a tough run defense, but they can dominate any game. Big dollar WRs: Antonio Brown and Michael Thomas will struggle with Jalen Ramsey and Xavier Rhodes. In addition, Marshon Lattimore will likely shadow one of the Vikings’ big-two WRs (I’m guessing Adam Thielen), effectively limiting his value. If you do choose WRs in this matchup, go with Ted Ginn, Brandon Coleman, Stefon Diggs or Jarius Wright. The other WRs that I would consider are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Martavis Bryant, DeDe Westbrook and Keelan Cole. I will likely have one of that foursome, but not more. Kyle Rudolph is the strongest tight end play. At his price, you might as well roster him. Both Josh Hill and Jesse James are nice alternates (and either could be used as DK-FLEX). Pittsburgh’s defense is the only safe play.
Prices indicated: Red = Negative Value and Black = Acceptable Value and Green = Great Value
Weekly Strategy – Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are the two safest plays. Ben Roethlisberger, Case Keenum and Drew Brees are acceptable options, but none is truly safe. Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota may have some value playing catch-up, and Nick Foles is the only guy to truly avoid.
Pay to Play
Tom Brady, Patriots vs. TEN ($7000 DK, $9000 FD)
Every upper-tier quarterback to face Tennessee this season has had a huge day against them. Four times this season the Titans gave up four passing touchdowns in one game. One reason opposing QBs beat them, is that their run defense is actually pretty damn good. The Patriots don’t run the ball much anyways. Tom Brady will just throw the ball all over the place against them. 300-3 is a lock, but don’t be surprised if Brady throws for four or more.
Drew Brees, Saints @ MIN ($6300 DK, $8000 FD)
Drew Brees had a pretty solid week last week because Carolina sold out to stop the run. Minnesota’s defense is more balanced. They are top-notch against both the run and the pass. Besides, Brees’ salary is 90% of Tom Brady’s salary and there is 0% chance that he finishes with 90% of Brady’s final point total. Brees will probably finish with around 260-2, which is good…but not $8K good
Matt Ryan, Falcons @ PHI ($5700 DK, $7800 FD)
Matt Ryan will face a Philadelphia pass defense that has been pretty solid this year. That said, they have been beatable recently, giving up multiple touchdowns in three of their last five games. What concerns me some, is that Ryan has not passed for multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 11.
Weekly strategy – LeVeon Bell is worthy of putting into as many lineups as fiscally possible. After that, it is a matter of mixing and matching among Leonard Fournette, Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray and Dion Lewis. If you are really brave, consider one of them as your DK-FLEX too. Although, the smarter play would be to trot out one of Jerick McKinnon, Jay Ajayi, Tevin Coleman or James White at that spot.
Pay to Play
LeVeon Bell, Steelers vs. JAX ($9600 DK, $9400 FD)
In Week 5, Jacksonville held LeVeon Bell to 93 total yards and zero scores. It was one of only two games this season that Bell failed to either score or top 100 total yards. Still, Jacksonville is elite at stopping the pass, so expect Pittsburgh to do everything possible to get the ball into Bell’s hands. He will top 100 yards and score this time around, but don’t expect the world.
Derrick Henry, Titans @ NE ($7300 DK, $7000 FD)
Derrick Henry won a lot of people, a lot of money last week. This is…this week. Don’t mistake the two. DeMarco Murray will not play this weekend, meaning that all the touches will go to Henry once again. That is a positive. The issue is how much will Henry be able to run the ball when the Titans are down three scores in the first half?
James White, Patriots vs. TEN ($4300 DK, $4900 FD)
James White should return from his injury this week, while both Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead remain questionable. Dion Lewis will remain the primary ball carrier for New England, but White will get the chance to return to the primary pass-catching back role. This is important because it is very hard to run the ball against Tennessee, but they are far-and-away the worst in the league in terms of yards allowed through the air to opposing running backs. They have also allowed the second-most RB receiving touchdowns.
|Ted Ginn Jr.||$5,800||$6,200|
Weekly strategy – You have probably spent a ton already at RB and QB, so you will be struggling to fit three WRs into your lineup. Brandin Cooks and Julio Jones are the best big dollar plays. I will likely have one of them, but not both. WR2 should come from this group: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ted Ginn, Mohamed Sanu, Chris Hogan, Rishard Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Danny Amendola. To fit everyone into your lineup, consider these value options at WR3: Eric Decker, Brandon Coleman, Jarius Wright and Torrey Smith.
Pay to Play
Brandin Cooks, Patriots vs. TEN ($7000 DK, $7600 FD)
Tennessee has fared miserably against opposing WRs when those WRs have a quality QB. Tom Brady definitely qualifies as a quality QB. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Kansas City have all posted huge WR numbers against the Titans during the last two months. Brandin Cooks gets to lead the next destruction of this defense. He will top 100 yards and score at least once. His numbers could be even higher if Chris Hogan doesn’t play.
Michael Thomas, Saints @ MIN ($7200 DK, $8100 FD)
Two words: Rhodes Closed. Xavier Rhodes has shut down several elite WRs already this season. Michael Thomas’ price tag is far too high for a wide receiver facing this defense. There is less than zero percent chance that he finishes with more points than Cooks (whose price is actually lower).
Eric Decker, Titans @ NE ($3800 DK, $5300 FD)
Playing from behind will keep the Tennessee passing attack in play against the Patriots. Eric Decker, Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews could all finish above value. The reason I feel most confident with Decker is that he scored last week and because he was targeted more often down the stretch.
Weekly strategy – None of the tight end options are bad this week, with the possible exception of Marcedes Lewis. It would be nearly impossible to afford Rob Gronkowski along with one of the high-priced WRs, so be ready to fade one or the other. I’d rather pass on Gronk, and take Zach Ertz or Kyle Rudolph instead at a savings. If I don’t choose a third running back at DK-FLEX, I will have one of the secondary TEs: Austin Hooper, Josh Hill, Jesse James or Vance McDonald fill that void.
Pay to Play
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots vs. TEN ($7100 DK, $8200 FD)
Travis Kelce still finished with 66 yards and a score despite getting knocked out of last week’s game early. Tennessee has allowed huge output to the position in five of their last seven contests. Things will be very much the same this week as Rob Gronkowski gets to humiliate the Titans further.
Delanie Walker, Titans @ NE ($5000 DK, $6300 FD)
Like I mentioned, there really isn’t an expensive tight end I dislike this week. There are a couple cheaper tight ends that might not produce a big line, but most of the mid-to-higher priced options will all reach value or better. Delanie Walker fits that description well. He should finish with a serviceable line, but I don’t like his chances of scoring because New England has not allowed a tight end touchdown since Week 6.
Austin Hooper, Falcons @ PHI ($3200 DK, $4800 FD)
Philadelphia is reasonably good against opposing tight ends. That said, elite pass-catching tight ends such as Evan Engram and Jimmy Graham have had recent success against them. Austin Hooper isn’t in their class, but he is consistent. You can count on 3-4 catches and 30-40 yards. That isn’t going to win you your game, but it won’t lose it for you either. I wouldn’t recommend him as your primary TE, but he could fill the role of DK-FLEX to save you some financial flexibility elsewhere.
Weekly strategy – Start any defense except the Saints, Patriots or Titans. The best option based on price is Atlanta. The safest and smartest option (also the highest salary) goes to Pittsburgh.
Pay to Play
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. JAX ($3800 DK, $5400 FD)
Blake Bortles was so bad against Buffalo, that he actually finished with more rushing yards than passing yards. In their earlier meeting, Bortles also failed to top 100 yards passing. Blake’s stat lines have looked more impressive down the stretch when he threw the ball more often. That said, he also threw a lot more picks in those games. Bortles will be under heavy pressure this week since Pittsburgh led the league in sacks per game.
New England Patriots vs. TEN ($3200 DK, $5200 FD)
New England’s price tag is way too close to that of Pittsburgh’s. There is no reason to spend this much for the Patriots when you can have the Steelers for just a little more. New England does get their fair share of sacks, but they are near the bottom in terms of takeaways per game. Plus, the Titans don’t allow that many sacks anyhow.
Minnesota Vikings vs. NO ($2900 DK, $4500 FD)
Don’t sleep on the Vikings’ defense this week against New Orleans. The Saints will have difficulty running the ball and passing the ball against the Vikings (especially without left guard Andrus Peat). Minnesota leads the league in fewest yards allowed and points allowed. Over the final three weeks, they gave up a total of 17 points. Not to mention, that in five of their last seven games, their opponent failed to top ten points.