START: Tom Brady ($7800) – I know, I know, the Ravens have always played Tom Brady well. The Patriots biggest concern is their offensive line, and one of the Ravens biggest strengths is their pass rush. So why start Brady? First off, I had Rodgers as my must start this week, but this calf injury is a bit concerning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still rolling with Rodgers in some of my lineups, but feel much more comfortable with Brady. While Brady doesn’t have the impressive 25 touchdowns and zero interception stats that Rodgers does, he still threw 19 touchdowns and just three picks in Foxboro. Brady is one of those quarterbacks who elevates his game in the playoffs, and this year should be no different. He has struggled against the Ravens in their last playoff meetings, but this is not the same defense it once was. The Ravens allowed 21 passing touchdowns this season. Granted they ended the season on a high note by not allowing a passing touchdown in their last three games, but then again, they played against the Browns, Jaguars, and Texans. None of which have threatening quarterbacks. Brady has thrown 43 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in the post season. This is a man on a mission who is playing at a high level.
Other Starts: Aaron Rodgers $8900, Andrew Luck $8700, and Tony Romo $7600.
SIT: Cam Newton ($6700) – I can just tell you this game is at Seattle and that will pretty much sum it up. Newton actually played better on the road this season than he did in Carolina. However, he didn’t play at Seattle. The Seahawks gave up just 17 passing touchdowns this season. Only one quarterback threw for more than 300 yards against their defense. In fact, they only allowed two touchdowns and held all quarterbacks they face below 250 passing yards since Week 11. Another thing that caught my eye is that the Seahawks haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown by an opposing quarterback. This is the lowest over/under of the week. I’m thinking this is going to be a defensive battle just like it was the last time these two teams met in Week 8. In that game, Newton threw for 171 yards and one interception. He scored just 7,24 fantasy points. This is not the week you want Newton in your lineups.
Other Sits: Russell Wilson $7800
SNEAKY START: Joe Flacco ($6900) – Just like Tom Brady, Joe Flacco plays his best football in the post season. In his last seven post season games, Flacco has thrown 17 touchdowns and just one interception. He has five touchdowns and one pick in the last two playoff games against the Patriots, both of which were in Gillette Stadium. He’s a risky play, because at any given week he can come out flat. However, I’m going to play the numbers here and take him at this low of price. He’s a different quarterback in the post season and could be a great value if he plays to his potential.
START: C.J. Anderson ($7600) – Anderson caught the league off guard after becoming the starter for the Broncos. In the last four games of the season he scored seven touchdowns. He also totaled 100 yards in all but two games since week 10. To top it off, he is not the most expensive back of the week and has the best matchup. He is set to take on the Colts who gave up 14 rushing touchdowns this season. They allowed over 100 rushing yards per game. Not to mention they surrendered 75 catches for 787 yards and a touchdown to opposing backs. I point that out because Anderson scored two receiving touchdowns this season. No defense has really had an answer for Anderson since he became the team’s workhorse. It’s unlikely that a defense that allowed more the 100 rushing yards in seven games this season will be able to contain him. He should be fired up in almost all lineups.
Other Starts: DeMarco Murray $8800, Eddie Lacy $7200, and Daniel Herron $5300
SIT: Marshawn Lynch ($8000) – This has more to do with value than anything else. When I look at the backs in this price range, I tend to like everyone else besides Lynch. He is the second most expensive back this week, but doesn’t have that great of a matchup. The Panthers defense struggled early on in the season, but finished the year strong. They didn’t allow a touchdown in their last six games, and only yielded one, 100+ yard game in the time frame. Lynch closed out the season strong, but this is a week where I’m paying a tad more for a back like Murray or less for some of the other backs in his tier. This is a low over/under and it’s looking like it’ll be a grudge match between both defenses. Keep in mind, he played the Panthers earlier this season and rushed for 62 yards and scored just 7.4 fantasy points. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that type of game from him again this week.
Other Sits: Justin Forsett $5400 and Jonathan Stewart $4800
SNEAKY START: Shane Vereen ($4800) – The Ravens are stout against the run, but I’m not banking on Vereen to rush for a ton of yards. I am however, expecting him to catch some passes. As I mentioned above, the Ravens have a good pass rush. With that said, Brady will likely be looking for quick passes. Who better than Vereen for that? Not to mention, the Ravens allowed 78 receptions for 505 yards and two touchdowns against running backs this season. Despite a disappointing season based on expectations, Vereen still ended up catching 52 passes this season. In weeks like this one, where there are not many options, sometimes looking for that unique player with a high ceiling at a good price is what you need. That can be Vereen this week.
START: Dez Bryant ($8400) – Bryant had a disappointing game last week against the Lions. However, this week he plays the Packers who have been a tad more generous to wide receivers than the Lions were this season. The Packers allowed 22 receiving touchdowns this season, including 12 in their last seven games. Prior to last week, Bryant had scored six touchdowns in three games, scoring at least one in each game. The over/under for this game is currently 53, so this could potentially turn into a shootout. Byrant has the best matchup of all the elite receivers. I’m expecting a solid outing out of Bryant this week.
Other Starts: Demaryius Thomas $8500, Jordy Nelson $8300, Randall Cobb $7300, Julian Edelman $6400, and Brandon LaFell $6000.
SIT: Kelvin Benjamin ($5000) – Benjamin has the toughest matchup of all receivers this week. He heads to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. He has struggled in each of the last three games. He hasn’t scored double digit fantasy points or gone over 50 receiving yards in any game. The Seahawks have been stout against opposing receivers. They allowed just five receiving touchdowns this season, only two of those were in Seattle. They held opposing receivers to fewer than 100 yards in six of their last seven games. This is the lowest over/under of the week as I mentioned above. Benjamin is a high volume guy, but there’s a good chance he’ll be blanketed by Richard Sherman. There are better options out there this week, so unless you’re trying to go against the grain, Benjamin shouldn’t be on your radar.
Other Sits: T.Y. Hilton $7600, Steve Smith $5800, and Doug Baldwin $4500.
SNEAKY START: Donte Moncrief ($3600) – Here is a player that will likely find many lineups this week because of matchup, game flow, and price. This game has the highest over/under of the week. Points will be scored, so if you’re looking for a cheap flier with plenty of upside, Moncrief is just that. The Colts tend to spread the ball around plenty, but Moncrief did find the end zone last week. This is a huge risk and he should really only be considered in tournaments. With that said, if you’ve built the lineup you like and need to spend a small amount on a player that can give you a high ROI, invest in Moncrief. This game is expected to be high scoring and the Colts will likely rely heavily on Luck’s arm.
START: Rob Gronkowski ($7100) – You’re either paying for a tight end or you’re not this week. Gronk is clearly the best tight end available this week. He’s also the most expensive one. He sat out the final week of the season, but prior to that, he scored a touchdown in three consecutive games. When Gronk gets the ball in his hands, there’s no looking back. He’s the focal point of the offense and there’s no reason to think that changes this week. If you’re feeling like dishing out the cash and be ahead of the pack at the tight end position, he’s the guy to pay up for.
Other Starts: Julius Thomas $5300, Jason Wiiten $4800, and Dwayne Allen $3500
SIT: Greg Olsen ($5100) – The last time Olsen played the Seahawks he was nowhere to be found. He caught one pass for 16 yards. Mind you, this was when the Seahawks were struggling greatly to contain tight ends. Being the third most expensive tight end this week, I don’t see much value in Olsen. In his last three games, he has failed to eclipse seven fantasy points. The Seahawks improved defensively against tight ends towards the end of the season. They allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends this season, but only one of those came in the final eight weeks of the season. My expectations for this offense aren’t that high, so I’m steering away from Olsen this week.
Other Sits: Coby Fleener $4600 and Luke Wilson $3400
SNEAKY START: Owen Daniels ($3600) – If I don’t pay for Gronk, there’s a good chance that Owen Daniels finds my lineup. This is a low risk play because it’s not costing you much. The Patriots are one of three teams to allow more than 1,000 receiving yards to opposing tight ends this season. They also surrendered six touchdowns to tight ends. Daniels has recorded double digit fantasy points in two of the last four games. He’s also found the end zone once in that time span. The Patriots do a good job against receivers, but are more vulnerable defending tight ends. I’m expecting the Ravens to attempt to exploit that vulnerability and target Daniels early on in this game.