Welcome to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs!
Sadly, I don’t think this weekend looks to be all it’s cracked up to be (as opposed to years past).
While the Titans and Falcons winning might’ve surprised a lot of people, I personally had some thoughts that either could win their contests. The Chiefs are one of the most infuriating teams for fantasy this year and not getting the ball into Kareem Hunt’s hands more is baffling. I know it basically took Marcus Mariota throwing a touchdown to himself to beat them, but still, there’s no reason that loss should’ve happened.
The Falcons were underestimated. Coming off a Super Bowl loss and facing a first-time playoff team, the experience (which we should be considering in DFS) of the Falcons showed and the inexperience and nervousness of the Rams’ offense was apparent.
The only surprises that could happen for me this week are if either of the Pats or Steelers lose. Otherwise, I can see any of the four NFC teams winning.
So with that said, I do think the Falcons and Saints win this week. They are the two best overall teams on offense and defense, in my opinion. The Falcons held the Rams to 13 points and now get to face a Carson Wentz-less Eagles squad manned by Nick Foles. While I believe the Falcons will win, the Eagles’ home-field advantage, rushing attack and defense could easily help them win.
I think the Pats blowout the Titans and I like the Steelers to get revenge at home on the Jaguars, who are still an inexperienced, untested road playoff team. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell still torched the Jags defense in a 30-9 loss back in the beginning of the season.
As for DFS purposes, I am disappointed in the tournaments DraftKings is offering this week. They are far inferior to last week’s playoff slate. And for it being the last slate with more than 2 games, they should’ve went all out. Instead, they have funneled monies to only a couple of large-field tournaments while the low-entry, single-entry tournaments (lower stakes) are almost trash.
My core this week will involve the following guys, but I will certainly have my fair share of other players to fill in the rest of my rosters. By the way, these guys will be who I am building around Le’Veon and Antonio Brown, who are clearly the top options on the slate. Brady is QB1 as well, so he too will be in a lot of my lineups.
And off we go….
Analysis: Gronk gronked us in Week 17. Or maybe the Pats really didn’t want him getting his bonuses. Or maybe it just happened that he goose-egged. Or maybe he was just a decoy and playing to keep in the routine but the Pats didn’t want to get him hurt. Who really knows why Week 17 sucked for Gronk owners. BUT the GREAT news is this is the playoffs. The Pats are rested. They are at home. They face the Titans, a run-funnel defense and the Pats are the projected highest scoring team on the slate. The Titans’ weakness is in the passing game and more specifically in the middle of the field. After a dud and a week off, I am riding or dying again with Gronk at the TE position, the weakest position this week.
Analysis: See what happens when you throw Julio the damn ball in the end zone and feed him relentlessly? You get results. Julio pasted the Rams, a stingy pass D en route to a Falcons’ victory. The Falcons are the favorites on the road in Philly, another team that is stout against the run but weak in the secondary, which gave up 8 touchdowns to wideouts in the last 5 games of the season. Julio is the top WR play this week for me (Antonio Brown coming off injury against the Jags? Ehhh). Sanu, his No. 2 counterpart also is in play, but if I am spending up at receiver it’s going to be Julio, who could see 10 or more targets. I am going to bet that the Falcons continue what they did last week with Julio and get him the ball!
Analysis: Mr. value play of the week is Jay Ajayi. While the Eagles are the underdog, they are still at home and have a defense that can help them stay in ballgames. The Falcons rarely blow anyone out, so I expect the Eagles to keep this one close coming off a week’s worth of rest and extra preparation. Ajayi saw the lions share of the carries out of the backfield for the Eagles down the stretch, and I am looking for the Eagles to unleash Ajayi in a home playoff opener with a backup quarterback that has shown his ineptness since taking over for Wentz. Ajayi has also seen at least 2 targets in his last 5 games and has anywhere between 12-16 touches in his last 4. I expect Ajayi’s usage to come up this week now that he’s got more time in the system and the playoffs are here. The Falcons’ weakness is stopping the run and allowed more than 7 yards per carry to RBs last week against the Rams.
Analysis: The Vikings and Saints meet in Minnesota, the two teams’ second meeting of the year. This is the second highest projected game of the slate and is the late game Sunday hammer. Both teams have stout pass defenses, and I would grade the Saints to have the better offense over the Vikings offense, but give the edge to the Vikings for their defense over the Saints.’ And the reason for that is the Saints’ lack of ability to stop the run. It is this defenses’ kryptonite and has been all year. They are tied for 5th overall in YPC allowed and have given up an average of 111 yards per game to RBS. This is a road game with the Vikings as the home favorite. Latavius Murray has been getting the lionshare of the carries the last three weeks with touches of 20, 21 and 20. The Saints have allowed 5 rushing touchdowns in their last 7 regular season games. Murray should be heavily involved once again here, especially with a week off.
Analysis: I think this slate has a lot of value that we can trust, moreso than last week. One of the value plays I like is Mr. Westbrook, who had 5 catches on 8 targets last week despite the return of Marqise Lee. If the Steelers are smart, they should take a page out of the Buffalo playbook last week and sell out to stop Leonard Fournette, who popped them for 30+ fantasy points in their meeting earlier this yea. This would force the Jags into making Blake Bortles beat the Steelers with his arm. The Jags are still a young team without much playoff experience while the Steelers have a Super Bowl winning QB with lots of weapons on offense. The Jags D has been good, but I fully expect Jacksonville to be playing from behind most of this game. The Steelers’ defense also has been getting shelled since Week 10, giving up 12 TD receptions to WRs and allowing well over 100 yards to receivers in all but two of those games. This is a spot where I think Westbrook, using his shiftiness and speed, can break a long one in a game I expect Jacksonville to throw a lot in.
Analysis: The other value receiver belongs to Agholor, who draws the best matchup in the Philadelphia passing game. Agholor runs a lot of his routes in the slot, and as we saw last week, and a lot of the time this season, the slot man is where Atlanta struggles whereas they are stout on the boundaries with Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant on the outside. Agholor saw 7 targets from Foles in his first start without Wentz. While I love Ajayi, I think this is a Falcons victory, meaning the Eagles will be throwing more when behind late in the game. Alshon is super cheap this week and is the No. 1 talent, but his matchup is much more difficult and would mean Foles would attempt longer more inaccurate passes whereas he can check down in the middle of the field on shorter to intermediate routes. Agholor is a safety net for Foles this week, much like Zach Ertz. I’ll take these types of guys more with lesser QBs.