As far as two-game slates go, this is a good one. Unlike a lot of two-game slates, there isn’t one obvious roster construction to take Sunday, there are close decisions at most positions and we have no trouble filling our cap.
The point of this column is to use the news, snap counts, usage, matchups and trends to both be a little contrarian and avoid whiffs. Note that I am discussing the DraftKings main slate only, aka the two Conference Championship games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Injuries to the Packers’ WR Corps
Aaron Rodgers will be playing without a full deck Sunday. Jordy Nelson (ribs) is questionable at best, while Davante Adams (ankle) and Geronimo Allison (hamstring) are tentatively expected to play at less than 100 percent. Coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that all three would likely sit if this were a regular-season game. However, the Packers aren’t going to change their gameplan, and they aren’t going to sign any new wideouts at this point. That means they’ll still take a pass-heavy approach all over the field while utilizing three-wide sets as a base. Over the last four games, Aaron Rodgers has dropped back 182 times while the Packers have called 71 running back rushes.
So the key is figuring out who will be getting all these targets from the white-hot Rodgers, who has 18 TDs vs. 1 INT over the aforementioned four-game stretch. The healthiest and therefore safest options are Randall Cobb and Jared Cook. A slightly sneakier option is former wideout turned running back Ty Montgomery, who set an 11-week high in catches last week with six. Adams and Allison will serve as low-floor, high-upside options if they’re active. If all of Jordy, Davante and Geronimo are surprisingly inactive, look for Cobb, Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis to be the Packers’ top-3 wideouts.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Matt Ryan Against the Packers’ Secondary
The biggest mismatch of the week is in Atlanta, where wildly efficient Matt Ryan is set to shred. It’s not too different from last week, when I highlighted Dak Prescott in this exact section as a home quarterback in ideal weather/dome conditions. During the regular season, the Packers were 31st in pass yards allowed, 32nd in YPA allowed and 29th in pass TDs allowed. They could be without every-down SS Morgan Burnett (quad) this week, who is PFF’s No. 9 overall safety. When these two teams met back in October, Ryan went 28-of-35 for 288 yards with three TDs and zero INTs. With the deepest WR corps left in the playoffs, Julio Jones (toe) seeming healthier than Jordy Nelson (ribs)/Davante Adams (ankle), elite pass-game RBs in Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman and a creative schemer in Kyle Shanahan, it’s a home run spot for Matty Ice.
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Jesse James (If Ladarius Green is Out)
The Steelers have the lowest implied team total of the week at just 22.25 points, well behind the Packers (27.75), Patriots (28.25) and Falcons (32.75). Additionally, everyone is acutely aware of Ben Roethlisberger’s road struggles over the last few years. So we have a spot where we can buy on the ceiling of the Steelers’ pass game at likely relatively reduced ownership. Note that the Patriots haven’t focused on stopping Antonio Brown in the last two meetings, allowing him to rip Malcolm Butler for 7-106-0 earlier this year and 9-133-1 in Week 1 of 2015. The Pats still won both those games. And while their linebackers are focused on attempting to slow down Le’Veon Bell, there’s an opportunity for Jesse James to run free, assuming Ladarius Green (concussion) remains sidelined. James has been in on 83.7 percent of the snaps over the last two weeks and remains one of the Steelers’ best goal-line options. The 6’7/261 mountain of a man ranked second on the team in red-zone targets during the regular season with 12 – double the number Eli Rogers saw.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is AdamLevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.