WATCH: MATCHUPS BREAKDOWN – DIVISIONAL ROUND
Although the Divisional Round is only four games, it’s a wildly interesting slate with a bunch of unique circumstances. White-hot Aaron Rodgers will be without his No. 1 WR in Jordy Nelson (ribs). The Patriots are favored by a whopping 15 points – only the fourth time in the last 40 years a playoff game has featured that large of a spread. We have the league’s highest-scoring offense in the Falcons facing the league’s No. 3 scoring defense in the Seahawks. And we have Ben Roethlisberger taking his long-time road struggles into Arrowhead, arguably the league’s most hostile environment. Figuring out the fantasy implications of these situations correctly will give us a huge edge.
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 four Divisional Round games.
SITUATIONS TO CAPITALIZE ON
1. Dion Lewis Underpriced Relative to Role
Yes, the Patriots are using three running backs right now. LeGarrette Blount is the inside hammer, Dion Lewis is change-of-pace runner and James White is the strict pass-catching back. Over the last three games, that’s resulted in 51 carries and 0 targets for Blount, 45 carries and 6 targets for Lewis and 6 carries plus 16 targets for White. With the Patriots favored by 15 points, Blount missing two practices due to an illness, and the Texans having a funnelish defense (No. 5 DVOA vs. the pass, No. 17 vs. the rush), we can expect a run-heavy gameplan throughout Saturday’s game. In other words, there’s enough room for Lewis to eat here even though he’s part of a three-headed monster. And given that 15.0 carry plus 2.0 target usage over the last three games, $3,900 is simply way too cheap.
Note that in Lewis’ first four games off the ACL tear, he never topped 23 snaps and averaged 20.2 per game. Over the last three games, the coddling stopped and he played 28, 27, 27 snaps. The Patriots are 14-0 when Lewis suits up over the last two seasons and Bill Belichick knows it. “It’s great to have him. He’s been a very productive player for us. The more of them you have, the better off we are,” said Belichick this week.
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
1. Dak Prescott Against the Packers Secondary
The Packers gave up the seventh-most fantasy points to QBs this year and the most to WRs. They were 22nd DVOA against the pass, 31st in pass yards allowed, 32nd in YPA allowed and 29th in pass TDs allowed. This week, they’ll be asked to cover for even longer in a road game against a dominant Cowboys’ offensive line which is getting All-Pro LT Tyron Smith (knee) back. It’s all great news for Dak Prescott, who has multiple TDs in nine of his last 12 full games. That run includes a Week 6 blowup at Lambeau where Dak went 18-of-27 for 247 yards with three TDs and one INT without an injured Dez Bryant. Most importantly, Prescott is priced way down at $6,000 even though he arguably has the best matchup on the slate, the highest rushing ceiling among QBs on the slate and is playing at home in the game with the highest total on the slate.
WATCH: THE CASE FOR MATT RYAN
CONTRARIAN GPP STACKS
1. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman
I think a large portion of our opponents will shy away from the Falcons this week because they’re facing the NFL’s No. 3 scoring defense from 2016, No. 1 from 2015 and No. 1 from 2014. That’s a mistake. The Seahawks have predictably sprung leaks without four-time All-Pro FS Earl Thomas. Since he broke his leg against Carolina in Week 13, Seattle has given up 38 points to the Packers, 34 to the Cardinals and 23 to the 49ers. When he missed the Week 12 game against the Bucs, Mike Evans went 8-102-2. They’ve grown increasingly susceptible to the deep ball, which is exactly where Matt Ryan and Julio Jones excel. Julio, who was limited at the end of the regular season by a toe sprain, has had two more weeks to get right and should be 100 percent for a matchup he already won even with a healthy Thomas. Back in Week 6, creative OC Kyle Shanahan moved Julio into the slot for 32.6 percent of his snaps, helping him get loose for a 7-139-1 line in Seattle. This week’s game is in Atlanta, where the Falcons averaged 35.0 points per game this season and never scored fewer than 24.
DraftKings has continued to adjust salaries for matchups, something we can take advantage of when we think a matchup isn’t as difficult as perceived. Devonta Freeman is $5,900, his lowest price since Week 7. Freeman actually correlates well with Ryan as he led the Falcons in red-zone targets this year with 17 and ranked third on the team in targets with 65. He has also handled 84.2 percent of his team’s rushes inside the 5-yard line this season, second only to Melvin Gordon’s 85.0 percent.
GPP LEVERAGE PLAYS
1. Paying Up for Travis Kelce
The last time we saw Kelce (Week 17), he was massive chalk at just $5,000 against the Chargers. He proceeded to spend the entire first quarter on the bench for undisclosed reasons and finished with one catch for eight yards. Now he’s up at $6,100 on a slate where every dollar counts and many of our opponents still have that bad taste in their mouth from Week 17. It will likely lead to greatly reduced ownership on a player who has five 100-yard games in his last seven outings. So while I love Jared Cook again this week from a price and matchup perspective, Kelce brings unique upside in a fine matchup. The Steelers let the underwhelming likes of Gary Barnidge go for 5-40-1 in Week 17, Dennis Pitta go for 8-75-0 in Week 16 and Charles Clay 3-52-1 in Week 14.
CASH GAME CONSIDERATIONS
(No particular order)
QB: Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot, Devonta Freeman, LeGarrette Blount (if healthy), Dion Lewis
WR: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Doug Baldwin, Davante Adams, Julian Edelman, Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, Paul Richardson, Geronimo Allison
TE: Travis Kelce, Jimmy Graham, Jared Cook, C.J. Fiedorowicz
D: Patriots, Chiefs, Falcons
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.