The Wild Card round didn’t disappoint, with some good games and some really good football, not always at the same time. With the top two seeds in each division getting in on the action, it should only improve. With just as many choices on the table as last week, you’ll still have some tough decisions to make. Here are a few players at each position you might want to target, or not.
Cam Newton vs. SEA ($7,500) – The presumptive MVP, the unquestioned leader and best player on a 15-1 team, at home, taking on the 6 seed. Some years, that would seem like a slam dunk, a no brainer. But this year, no one is convinced. I think it’s going to take a win against the NFC representative in the Super Bowl each of the last two years before people will start to believe in this squad, and for that to happen, Cam is going to have to put up some fantasy points. Whether or not you trust him, it makes perfect sense for him to be the most expensive player on the board, because he does it all for his team (30+ DK FP in four of his last seven games his year).
Tom Brady vs. KC ($7,400) – I think that some people are sleeping on the potential of the Patriots’ offense this weekend, but after watching the team go 2-4 over the past month and a half, it’s hard to blame them. And even if the offense rounds into form perfectly, it could still prove possible to match Brady’s production at a savings. This offense, when it’s working the way it should, could put up 28 points on 250 yards and two scores from Brady and win easily, even as your Brady-led fantasy team… doesn’t win. At a premium price, I am not sure what you’re paying for – upside or consistency – and to me that signals that he could prove overpriced.
Russell Wilson @ CAR ($6,800) – Even if Marshawn is back, against this front seven, it’s not going to change the recipe for success this team has had down the stretch: let Wilson make plays. As absurd as it was, the 48-yard completion on a fumbled snap was a play only he is able to make. He had eight carries for 53 yards when these two teams met back in week 6, and if you combine that kind of production on the ground with the uptick in their passing game’s efficiency of late, and you have as much upside as you’re getting with the more expensive options.
Carson Palmer vs. GB ($6,500) – I just really want pieces of this offense in general, and with Palmer coming in as a significant savings over a few other options, he seems like a logical place to start building a team. He had 265 and two scores for a 107 QB rating last time these two teams faced off (just a few weeks ago). He has the best healthy weapons available to him, and the best possible matchup left on the NFC side of the bracket. The Packers aren’t terrible, but with the quality of the other defenses playing in round 2, you can’t help but feel comfortable knowing your QB will be at home facing off against a beatable secondary.
David Johnson vs. GB ($6,000) – See: Carson Palmer. This matchup with Green Bay is the best match-up left on the board, with the possible exception of Denver’s matchup with Pittsburgh, but Arizona’s offense is so much easier to trust than Denver’s. First of all, who knows if Peyton will play well enough to keep the defense honest, and second of all, who knows who is going to get the ball, Hillman or Anderson? Here, you’ve got a passing game to keep Green Bay off balance, and you’ve got an explosive back getting almost all the work. Prior to the Week 17 loss to Seattle, he had tallied well over 100 total yards in four straight, with five total touchdowns over that span.
Charcandrick West @ NE ($5,500) – The Patriots under Coach Belichick, have a reputation for always taking away what an opponent does best. Therefore, in this case, please let West be representative of the entire Chiefs running attack. Not only are we not 100% sure who will be getting the carries, there is a good chance none of them are very productive. The Patriots have been gashed by the running game in a few matchups this year, especially lately, but they are supposed to have Hightower back for this one, a key cog in their ability to stop the run. Not only that, but Collins is healthy as well, and while those two were out, Mayo got lots of reps and starting looking a lot better by the end of the regular season. These linebackers and the rest of their front seven are going to concentrate on collapsing the entire middle of the field, and that could spell trouble for West and the rest of these backs.
James White vs. KC ($5,200) – Steven Jackson looked good in Week 17, and there is a chance he gets plenty of carries up the middle to try to soften up this defense, as well as any short yardage opportunities. But there is also a good chance the Pats just have no success running the ball against this defense. Combine that with the pass rush of the Chiefs and Brady could be looking to complete passes quickly and not far from the line of scrimmage all day long. White is just the kind of safety valve in the passing game who could thrive in that scenario. He has flashed great hands at times, as well as an ability to turn in long-gainers, so the upside for him this weekend is 100+ total yards and a score.
Fitzgerald Toussaint @ DEN ($4,200) – Toussaint and Todman both looked effective last week, once again reminding us that running backs just seem a lot more replaceable than other positions, and of the two, Toussaint got more of the work. That’s not a guarantee he does again this week, but it seems likely and you almost certainly don’t want to roster both of them, even if run defense is the one slightly softer spot in the Broncos’ defense. With DeAngelo expected to likely miss another week, if Big Ben and Antonio have any adverse effects from their injuries last week (and it is hard to imagine they don’t have any), the Steelers might have to lean even more heavily on these two. Last weekend Toussaint led the team in carries, as I mentioned, but just as importantly, he was also the only one of the two RB options with any action in the passing game, snagging four catches for 60 yards (zero catches for Todman).
Julian Edelman vs. KC ($7,100) – There is no reason to think Edelman is anything other than back and healthy right now, since he has been out practicing for three weeks now, at least. And when he is healthy, he is a key to this offense’s – or, to be more precise, Tom Brady’s – ability to neutralize the pass rush. This is the kind of defense against which you could see Edelman catch a dozen balls. Even if he doesn’t score, he could be a value at this price on sheer volume.
Demaryius Thomas vs. PIT ($7,000) – Everyone remembers the Peyton games from the beginning of the year as being a train wreck. And while that was true, in large part, Demaryius had 90+ yards five times in eight weeks with Peyton, including three games over 100 and at least seven catches six times. That kind of volume and ability makes him a solid option, and a single score would potentially make him a player who could help you take down a tournament.
John Brown vs. GB ($5,200) – In a way, this pick is just representative of the fact that there are three good options on this team, and it would prove difficult – and maybe even foolish – to build a roster without any of them. They’re good options. That doesn’t mean they will all be good choices, however. And I do actually specifically like Brown in this matchup, as he’ll have the freedom to move around, from the outside to the slot and back, taking advantage of a Packers defense that will have it’s hands full trying to contain the rest of the weapons Palmer has at his disposal.
James Jones @ ARI ($4,600) – With Adams looking like he might have to miss after coming through with a nice game this past weekend, Jones could be in line for more looks. And against this Cardinals defense, Rodgers could be working with only a little bit of time, tight throwing lanes and covered receivers. Trusting anyone from this offense in that scenario involves playing for upside and predicting touchdowns. Jones has as good a shot as anyone in this passing game, and he’s a lot cheaper.
Rob Gronkowski vs. KC ($7,500) – It’s not as if he isn’t the best TE in the game – he is. There is no one the Patriots would rather have, certainly. But KC has the kind of defense that could slow him down, even if it’s only by getting to Brady. I think he probably has the best chance of any TE of scoring a TD, but in all likelihood, that’s what your paying for here – a possible touchdown. Just like every other TE. The odds of that happening might be better with Gronk, but they are also not quite good enough for me to want to pay up.
Greg Olsen vs. SEA ($6,900) – Way back in week 2, he had 7 catches for 131 yards and a score against Seattle. It was forever ago, sure, but in a way it was a game that exemplified what happened for the rest of the season. And “what happened” was that Greg Olsen had the best season of his career as the #1 option on the Panthers offense, and the Seattle defense struggled against tight ends all season long (ending 21st against TEs in terms of DK FP allowed).
Travis Kelce @ NE ($5,100) – As I said before, Belichick’s defenses are famous for taking away what you do best. Another way to look at that is making you do what you do worst. And what the Chiefs do worst is throw to the outside. Belichick is going to try to make them do just that by collapsing the middle of the field, which would take out Kelce right along with the running game if successful.
Heath Miller @ DEN ($3,200) – Whether it’s Jones or 80% of Big Ben (and probably more like 50% by the second half), Miller could get his share of short, fluttering targets mainly because everyone else is too far away. The upside isn’t great, but there aren’t many great options and he could end up outperforming his small price tag in a PPR format, especially in a cash contest.
Broncos vs. PIT ($3,900) – This one is pretty obvious – but DeAngelo might not play again, Antonio Brown could play, but clearly got banged up, and same goes for Roethlisberger. If this offense wasn’t dealing with those injuries, this wouldn’t be the play, but unless Big Ben gets a lot better than he looked down the stretch in this past weekend’s game, the Broncos look to be catching this team at the right time.
Steelers @ DEN ($3,600) – The funny thing is, I don’t necessarily expect a low-scoring game. But Peyton Manning threw 17 picks in really only eight full regular-season games. The thing about him this weekend is that if the Broncos defense is dominating the way they should against the depleted Pittsburgh offense, he can win AND throw three picks. It should be interesting.