Patriots @ Broncos

Point Total: 44.5
Spread: Patriots -3


DvP Ranks vs QB vs RB vs WR vs TE PPGA
Broncos 2nd 22nd 12th 17th 18.5
Patriots 15th 3rd 11th 5th 19.7

The Patriots are three-point road favorites and projected to score around 23.5 points, with the Broncos slated for about 20.5. The biggest question marks on either team are on defense where Chris Harris Jr. is listed as questionable for Denver with a bad shoulder and both Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones are nursing minor injuries sustained in last week’s game. All men should be monitored this week as a missed game by any of them could downgrade their D’s outlook significantly.

QB/D

At QB Tom Brady had a big bounce back game last week throwing for over 300 yards against a pretty tough KC team. The big news last week for Brady was the fact that he completed over 65% of his passes, something he had only done twice in his last 6 games before last week. With Gronk and Julian Edelman in the lineup Brady never failed to complete at least 60% of his passes this year and having the two healthy for this game will be a big factor. Denver’s defense has been one of the most elite units in the league this season but has given up multiple TD passes in four of its last seven games, and allowed 280 yards to Brady in their week 12 meeting—when he was without his best weapon in Edelman. The weather this weekend is actually slated to be fairly mild (for Denver anyways) and should be conducive to a good passing game. With only four QBs to chose from Brady will still be significantly owned (despite the poor matchup) but should still be less popular than either NFC QB, making him an interesting tournament play. Going back to 2009, Brady has now thrown for multiple TDs in 9 of his last 13 playoff games. He’s a proven performer and with his weapons healthy should have a chance at producing another big game (similar to last week) against Denver.

As for Peyton Manning, he was able to avoid turning the ball over last week, but still completed under 57% of his passes and recorded a meager 10.78 fantasy points against a very exploitable secondary. New England has given up some decent games to QB’s and WR’s this year but they held Brock Osweiler to 276 yards a TD and an INT in week 12. The bigger issue for using Manning in fantasy is the fact that he just doesn’t throw that much anymore. Since week 4 Manning has started 7 games and only thrown more than 40 times in a game once and been under 30 attempts 3 times. The Broncos gave 31 carries to their two RBs last week and I expect a similar strategy this week. I expect Manning will be quite low owned for a two game slate which, game theory wise, makes him an interesting target. However, game theory can’t fix the fact he hasn’t thrown a TD now in over 61 passing attempts and is extremely limited at this point in his career. He’s undoubtedly the shakiest QB play of the slate.

Defensively the Broncos have the advantage of playing at home and in the thin air of Denver. However, while we all love talking about the talent on the Denver offense the fact is they’ve only scored double digits in fantasy once since week 8. The Patriots have not been much better for fantasy but if Chandler Jones (best pass rusher) and Jamie Collins (best LB) are healthy I think they are in a good spot to take advantage of a weaker Denver Offensive line who allowed the tenth most sacks in the league this year. A sack fumble-TD or a pick 6 is very possible given Manning’s play in 2015 and I think New England is the more reliable play from these two this week.

RB

The Broncos gave nearly equal work last week to Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson with the two seeing 16-15 carries respectively. However, while the workload has been equal between these two lately the production hasn’t been as Anderson again badly outgained Hillman on the ground 72 yards to 38 yards and also scored the only TD between them. The Chiefs actually ran the ball quite well last week and I expect that the Broncos will attempt to do the same. Anderson was the star of the game in week 12 versus the Patriots as he rolled them for 15-113-2 and was the real reason the Broncos were able to come back in that game. While there’s been no mention of Anderson getting more carries a slow start by Hillman would logically leave him in a good spot for a big game. He makes for the logical target at RB for the Broncos and could be the main swerve play off of the two NFC RBs, who should be highly owned.

As for the Patriots the workload was actually weighted quite heavily in James White’s favour last week as the Pats went pass heavy and he saw over 70% of the snaps. Unfortunately, he saw fewer targets than normal with Edelman back and only caught two passes on three targets. While Steven Jackson could see a little more work my guess would be that White is used more as a passing option this week as the Patriots try and spread the field to negate Denver’s elite secondary. At $4600 he’s more than Anderson this week but carries similar upside in my estimation and makes for one of the best large scale tournament plays. While Jackson is cheaper and could also see work, White is probably the better target and could see a big bump in receptions.

WR/TE

Here’s the passing targets for the Patriots from their last game:


Player Divisional Round
Julian Edelman 16
Rob Gronkowski 8
Danny Amendola 3
Keshawn Martin 4
Brandon LaFell 5

Tom Brady wasted no time going back to his favorite target last week and even though Julian Edelman has a tough matchup against Chris Harris/Aqib Talib in this game don’t think for a second he won’t see a ton of targets once again. Denver had no answer for Pittsburgh’s quick hitting passing game the two times they played and watching Martavis Bryant/Antonio Brown go off against this defense in separate games makes me think Edelman can do the same. He should see a lot of targets and could be the key to a big lineup this week… Rob Gronkowski played through a small knee injury last week to post his best game since week 8. Gronkowski benefited greatly from Edelman being on the field and saw single coverage numerous times, including inside the red zone, which allowed him to visit the end zone twice. With TE being such a thin spot this week Gronk is one of two high end options at the position (and someone you have to consider). He may be the highest TE owned on the slate coming off last week. The matchup favours Olsen (in my opinion) but Gronk is always in play for a big game when Edelman is healthy, he makes for a very tough fade and someone I’d want exposure to in cash games…

As for the rest of the Pats receivers Brandon LaFell has been quite terrible this season and so if you’re looking for a sleeper sort of pick to differentiate your lineup with I’d look to Danny Amendola or Keyshawn Martin. Amendola played far more last week than Martin (76% of the snaps) even though he saw fewer targets. With Edelman and Gronk getting a lot of attention it’s quite possible Amendola reaps the rewards of seeing a lot of Denver’s third corner. He’s got more upside in my mind than LaFell or Martin and would be the Patriot I’d turn to if you want to differentiate yourself at WR or the FLEX in tournaments.

Here’s Denver’s passing targets from last week:


Player Divisional Round
Demaryius Thomas 8
Emmanuel Sanders 8
Owen Daniels 3
Virgil Green 2

It’s hard to trust any Broncos receiver at the moment, especially after last week where none of them were able to take advantage of the weak Pittsburgh secondary. Demaryius Thomas really has had a fairly average season and last week he again only converted 4 of his 8 targets—a 50% conversion rate. Both he and Emmanuel Sanders may be in a better spot to produce this week however as the Patriots offense should put more pressure on them to throw the ball later in the game. Of the two Sanders had the much bigger game the last time these two teams met which means of course the Patriots might try and slow him down this time around and force the somewhat struggling Thomas to beat them. I’d still view Sanders as the safer overall play simply because of his better overall play and the Patriots past defensive issues covering both him and another player with a similar skillset—former teammate Antonio Brown. Both Denver WRs will suffer from a lack of opportunity around the end zone, but have that big play ability to possibly be a difference maker this week… At TE the Broncos ran with a duo of Owen Daniels and Virgil Green for the most part in the Divisional Round and neither was big factor. I’d expect Daniels to again see over 70% of the snaps and actually think he makes for an intriguing FLEX play at only $2300. Manning could use him a little more this week if forced into throwing late and while he doesn’t have after the catch upside anymore PPR points can accumulate quick when a team is down.

Gameflow: If this game were in New England I’d probably have picked the Patriots without blinking an eye, however Denver is still a tough place to play and provides the Broncos with some hope. Denver’s run game will be crucial in keeping the Patriots offense off the field this week. I’d expect Denver to play for field position for the most part with a ball control style offense. The issue of course is that the Patriots will likely force Manning into throwing more at some point which could be the difference in this game. Ultimately I still think New England can do enough to get by here although I expect a hard fought, close and semi- low scoring game.

Patriots 23 Broncos 21

Primary Targets:

– Tom Brady $7400
C.J. Anderson $4400
– Julian Edelman $7500
– Rob Gronkowski $7600
– Patriots Defense $3100

Secondary Targets:

– James White $4600
– Emmanuel Sanders $6300
– Demaryius Thomas $7000
– Danny Amendola $4400


Cardinals @ Panthers

Point Total: 47.5
Spread: Panthers -3


DvP Ranks vs QB vs RB vs WR vs TE PPGA
Cardinals 13th 7th 18th 18th 19.6
Panthers 11th 13th 9th 12th 19.3

The Panthers are slated to score around 25 points this week with the Cardinals slated for around 22-23. Both of these teams are at or near 100% health however which should make for a pretty even, back and forth game.

QB/D

Cam Newton may have had a slow week in the divisional finals but a lot of that was created by game flow and the fact that Seattle’s offense was simply incapable of getting going until the game was out of hand. This week however Newton faces a faster-paced Arizona offense who can strike quick and should force him into more throwing situations later in the game. As a fantasy play there’s no doubting Newton’s upside in this game. Newton’s taken 6 or more carries in all but one of his last 7 games (a blowout win over the Falcons) and with the Super bowl on the line, and his RB possibly a little banged up, expect to see a ton of Cam-the-runner this week. While I do fear the opportunistic Arizona secondary, I think Cam’s legs make a huge difference and won’t be shocked if he finds the end zone more than once or even approaches 100 yards rushing. I think he makes a great play (regardless of ownership) and has to be considered for any cash game lineups you might enter this weekend.

One the Arizona side I like Carson Palmer in this game for fantasy purposes just as much (and possibly more for tournaments). Palmer had a slow start last week but came alive just in time to save Arizona’s season and get them to the Conference Championship. The Cards are underdogs this week which means it’s far less likely they’ll sit back and try and protect a lead here even if they do get up early. Even better is the fact that the Panthers have actually been quite giving to opposing QBs lately and have had trouble protecting leads all season. On top of allowing Russell Wilson to rack up 3 TDs and a 366 yards versus them in the second half last week, they’ve now allowed 3 straight 300 yard passers and have nearly blown big leads versus the Packers, Giants and Seahawks. I like this spot for Palmer who should be the lower owned option between these two and think he makes for a fantastic tournament play this week.

Defensively, this game has a higher over/under than its AFC counterpart and also features two very high scoring offenses. As such the defensive units represent much less appealing options but also have a little more appeal for tournaments. Arizona and Carolina have been two of the most opportunistic defenses in the league this season with Arizona taking in 19 INTs and Carolina 24 (to lead the league). I expect Carolina to be the more popular option since they are at home. The Panthers D has put up double digit fantasy points in their last 4 home games which makes them seem like a pretty reliable option. Arizona is not to be out done though as their D has scored 10 or more fantasy points in 4 of their 8 road games and is capable of making big plays as well. I like the Cardinals for tournaments but think the Panthers (along with the Patriots) are likely the safer options for cash games.

RB

Jonathan Stewart took a big workload last week and produced very well against a tough Seahawks front. He gets another tough test this week versus the Cardinals who have been solid against RBs all season, but who did allow similar power backs Christine Michael and Eddie Lacy to combine to produce a 6.5 ypc average against them in their last two games on a combined 29 carries. Stewart is a bit banged up with a twisted ankle but it doesn’t look serious. If he is fine and practices in full this week I think he makes for a fantastic play yet again and expect him to see an even bigger workload than last week in what should be a somewhat closer game. Watch the injury reports, but if he does play I think Stewart is a great option at RB and someone I’d not want to leave behind this week.

For Arizona David Johnson continues to be productive for fantasy regardless of if he’s running for a high ypc average or not. Johnson caught 6 balls last week on 9 targets, which really made up for his lack of efficiency on the ground. The Panthers run defense has been solid this year and gave up the fourth fewest yards on the ground in the regular season. However, passing wise it’s been a different story as they’ve given up the second most receptions to RBs. Johnson’s pass catching prowess makes him a solid play once again as, regardless of score, he’ll likely be counted on for big plays in the run and pass game. He’s the safest and likely highest owned RB on the slate… As for Andre Ellington, he only received 7 snaps last week and is generally the very distant backup to Johnson now. However, Ellington still carries breakaway speed and if the Cardinals need a spark late don’t be shocked if they deploy him a bit more in this game. At $2500 he’s a complete GPP punt (and only for large tournaments or if you’re making a ton of different lineups) but he’s still someone who could bust a big play and be a fantasy difference maker this week.

WR/TE

Here’s the passing targets from the Cardinals last game:


Player Divisional Round
Larry Fitzgerald 12
John Brown 9
Michael Floyd 7
David Johnson 9

Larry Fitzgerald really benefitted last week from playing out of the slot and thereby avoiding the Packers best CBs in crunch time. This scenario could once again work out in Fitz’s favour as the Panthers best CB (Josh Norman) is slated to cover either Michael Floyd or John Brown on the outside. With Fitz likely seeing a lot of the more burnable Cortland Finnegan this week his chances for a big game are magnified and once again—like last week—I see him as the best option at WR for Arizona in fantasy… As for John Brown and Michael Floyd, their targets have gone down a bit with David Johnson emerging as a weekly target but still hold big play ability. The Panthers will use Josh Norman in blitz packages meaning regardless of who Norman covers, that player will get his chances for a big play (Tyler Lockett did last week and took advantage). Of the two I think Brown is more likely to be overlooked and could be the one who pulls off a “Lockett” this week (and scores a long TD). I like him a lot for tournaments as a I expect Larry to be popular coming off his big game last week.

Here’s the passing targets from the Panthers last game:


Player Divisional Round
Ted Ginn 1
Philly Brown 5
Greg Olsen 6
Jerricho Cotchery 4
Devin Funchess 1

The big news form last week was of course was that Ted Ginn received almost no work. Ginn is still returning from a knee injury and might not be 100%, although game flow had a big factor in his usage, or lack thereof, last week. This week however Ginn should see a ton of stud coverage man Patrick Peterson which makes me think considering other Panther options over him is a good idea. It is interesting to note that Philly Brown played the most of any Carolina WR last week (74% of the snaps) and should be matched-up with Justin Bethel who is hurting and was limited in practice on Wed. With no Tyron Mathieu and Ginn a little banged up, Brown might be the man the Panthers push this week in the pass game and I really like him as a lower owned WR target… As for Jerricho Cotchery and Devin Funchess, either could see a little more work this week but it was Cotchery who saw more playing time last week (35 snaps to Funchess’ 22).

At TE Greg Olsen is the other big name to consider and should be slightly lower owned than Rob Gronkowski, who is coming off massive week. I like Olsen slightly more than Gronk this week for a couple reasons: the first being that the ARZ/CAR game has a higher game total and could see more passing and a faster pace of play. Olsen doesn’t score as much as Gronk but his PPR numbers and targeting should be better, so if he does find the end zone a huge game is possible. Secondly I think Olsen should benefit from Ginn’s injury and the fact he’ll be covered by Patrick Peterson. Expect Cam to look his way in crunch time even more than usual as a result. Ultimately both big name TE’s are in play this week and using the double TE power move in the flex spot isn’t a bad idea.

Gameflow: I have picked against Carolina one to many times to do it again here. Ultimately as much as I like the Cardinals and think these teams are actually mirror images of each other in some ways, I think the Panthers will prevail, mainly due to their QB. Cam Newton has played amazingly all season and should be able to move the ball somehow-someway against the Cardinals. The Cards come in reeling a bit with losses to Seattle and a near loss to Green Bay last week. Ultimately I could see anything happening but think Carolina just has a bigger edge in a couple areas and that should help them advance to the big dance.

Panthers 27 Cardinals 24

Primary Targets:

– David Johnson $6500
– Jonathan Stewart $5900
– Cam Newton $7200
– John Brown $5200
– Carson Palmer $6800
– Larry Fitzgerald $6900
– Greg Olsen $7100

Secondary Targets:

– Michael Floyd $5300
– Corey Brown $2800
– Panthers Defense $3500
– Cardinals Defense $3600 (Tournaments Only)