The Conference Championship games are here and thanks to DFS, we are still playing fantasy football. There are several of interesting options despite just four teams playing. Let’s go over some of those players to consider for the flex spot this weekend.
Jonathan Stewart ($5900) –The weather in Carolina is awful. It’s been snowing and conditions don’t appear to be getting any better. Even if it stops snowing, there is plenty of snow on the ground, so I’m expecting the Panthers to run the ball as much as possible. If that’s the case, Stewart could be in for a busy Sunday. Last week, he received 19 carries and rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, against a stingy Seahawks run defense. He was very efficient and much like the second half of the season, the Panthers fed Stewart. Prior to getting hurt in Week 14, Stewart received 20 or more carries in eight consecutive weeks. He offers a safe floor for amount of carries and with only four teams playing, that’s tough to come by. Another thing I like about him is that the Panthers are a three point favorite and have the highest implied point total.
C.J. Anderson ($4400) – If you ask me, the only way the Broncos are going to beat the Patriots is if they keep Tom Brady and company off of the field. That means that they will have to run the ball a ton. In Week 12 when the Pats went to Denver, Anderson ran for 113 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns. He has scored a touchdown in his last three games. He and Ronnie Hillman have been splitting the carries, but it has been Anderson that has been more effective. In the last seven games of the season, running backs averaged 106 rushing yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry against the Patriots, while scoring four touchdowns. The upside is limited here, but the opportunity should be there.
John Brown ($5200) – I’m expecting Brown to be the least owned wide receiver in Arizona. Michael Floyd closed out the season strong and scored two touchdowns last week, while Larry Fitzgerald has been a big factor in this offense for most of the season and also had a huge week last week. However, Brown has also been productive and even last week he quietly had a nice game. In the divisional round, Brown caught five of his nine targets for 82 yards and scored 13.4 fantasy points. During the season, he averaged 6.7 targets per game and was targeted 18 times in the red zone. He converted 39 percent of those red zone targets. The Cardinals averaged the second most points per game this season and I don’t think that stops this week. Brown could sneak into the end zone in a game where the Cardinals have a 22 implied point total.
Emmanuel Sanders ($6300) – The last time that Sanders played against the Patriots, he caught six passes for 113 yards. That was in Week 12 and Brock Osweiller was under center. This week it’ll be Manning leading this offense. Sanders caught five of his eight targets last week for 85 yards. The upside he offers is capped by Manning’s inability to throw the ball at this point in his career, but Sanders should see anywhere between 7-8 targets and potentially more if the Patriots get ahead early in this game. Bill Belichick is known to take away the opponents best weapon and in this case it’ll be Demaryius Thomas who only caught one pass for 36 yards in their last meeting. That leaves potentially more opportunity for Sanders and at a lower ownership.
Greg Olsen ($7100) – This is a weekend where I could see the merit in rostering two tight ends. Olsen offers a very steady floor and remains Cam Newton’s go-to guy. Olsen averaged 7.8 targets per game during the regular season. In the divisional round he caught six of his six targets for 77 yards and a touchdown. The game flow was not in Olsen’s favor, yet he still had a productive day. This week, the Panthers face a much better offense and the game flow should be better for Olsen. The matchup is also favorable as the Cardinals struggled defensively against tight ends in the second half of the season. In the last eight games, tight ends averaged 71.3 yards and 6.1 receptions per game against the Cardinals, while scoring five touchdowns.
Rob Gronkowski ($7600) – Gronk was dealing with knee and back injuries last week, and also faced off against a very good defense, but managed to score 27.3 fantasy points. He caught seven passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. This week he faces another good defense, but they are weakest in the middle. I’m expecting the Patriots to attack that part of the field and target Gronk often. The Broncos surrendered 56.75 yards and 4.9 receptions per game to tight ends during the regular season. They also gave up seven touchdowns. In Week 12, Gronk caught six passes for 88 yards and scored a touchdown against this Broncos defense. That performance was good for 20.8 fantasy points. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar outing this week. Gronk and Olsen in the same lineup makes a lot of sense as hey both offer high floors and plenty of upside.