Divisional Round: DraftKings NFL Playoffs Picks, Sleepers, GPP Lineup Advice
No, it's not over yet.
Fantasy Football is still here if you want it. We talked about the different formats and sites that let you continue the fun, but now, most of those have left you with nothing to do but sit back and watch everything unfold. If you're playing on NFL.com, the Packers-Cardinals game has the highest over/under of 50.0 with the Steelers-Broncos matchup at a low of 40.5 (some locations even lower). That gives you a good idea of who to target if you lost a player from the Wild Card round, but if your player survived or you picked one with a bye, you're holding on to them for the bonus. So, what advice is really left? Just DFS of course!
If you want to go big, DraftKings is still giving away a million this week, but now it's $100 to enter instead of $20. The good news is that the pool size is "only" 33,333 compared to 800-900 thousand previously. If you want a free ticket into the Refer a Friend contest and still haven't signed up to DraftKings, you can get a spot here… but if you're reading this, you've likely been playing for weeks. FanDuel still has their $25 entry fee with a first place prize of $120,000.
As a general strategy reminder, you want to do two things with slates this small just as with Thanksgiving, etc. First, you want to find a stack you like. It doesn't even have to include the quarterback. The millionaire winner last week had Kirk Cousins at quarterback with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant at receiver. That's a small stack, and I had a similar one with Russell Wilson at quarterback, but James Starks at running back with Randall Cobb and James Jones at receiver. The point is, one of the eight teams will likely have multiple players with scores of 15-plus. The trick is finding the right combo.
Second, you have to take at least one "out-there" chance. The winner had Chris Thompson. His ownership percentage? Just 0.6! Playing chalk is not going to win you a million. On that note, though, don't go too crazy. Everyone else on his roster was 12 percent or higher. He did have two tight ends, which is not the norm, but A.J. Green, Jordan Reed and Antonio Brown had ownerships of 47.6, 54.0 and 66.2, respectively. You only need one, maybe two, contrarian picks. So… I guess that's really three, but you get the idea, now on to the breakdown!
DraftKings NFL Playoffs Picks
There are big names here, but plenty of concerns across the board. Cam Newton carries a hefty price tag atop the list at $7,500. He scored 21.76 (DraftKings) against the Seahawks during the regular season, but it could have been much worse. Through three quarters, Newton was 8-for-22 with 107 yards. Then he woke up (see: targeted Cary Williams more, who has since been released) and went 12-for-14 with 162 yards and a touchdown in the fourth. Russell Wilson fared no better with just 241 yards and a touchdown passing plus 53 yards rushing for 18.94 points. He sits at $6,800.
Tom Brady is the second-highest priced option at $7,400. He gets Julian Edelman back, but the Chiefs' pass defense has been tough in the second half and does a great job at shutting down tight ends. Ben Roethlisberger ($7,000) is a non-starter when talking lineups… unless you have multiple entries and want the contrarian play. Antonio Brown is questionable, and with Roethlisberger's 17 injuries, who knows if he plays even half the game… plus, it's the Broncos defense!
Aaron Rodgers had his best game since Week 14 and is just $6,700. However, he had just 10.94 points with 151 yards and one touchdown against the Cardinals in Week 16. Davante Adams looks to be out, and normally that would be a good thing for Rodgers (those hands! Imagine if Adams could catch.)
Now, Jared Abbrederis will man the slot when on the field and push Cobb outside on to Patrick Peterson's turf. In that same game, Carson Palmer is intriguing at $6,500, Kirk Cousins performed admirably last week and Palmer had a 265/2/1 line in Week 16 with 17.6 points.
Lastly, we have noodle-arm, super-noggin Peyton Manning and Alex Smith on the road in New England. That's a hard pass on Smith for me, and Manning is similar to Big Ben – if you are rolling out multiple entries, go ahead, but 1) will he play the entire game if struggling and 2) can his arm make half the throws?
Tom Brady – it's the playoffs, and over the past five years, he's averaging 294.3 yards, 2.3 TDs and 1.0 INT per game with a 64.3 completion percentage. In addition, the Chiefs did allow Jimmy Clausen to throw for 281 yards and two TDs with an average of 20.77 FPPG given up over their last six games. The Chiefs defense is good, but far from unbeatable. Palmer is a close second, and depending on your stack, I'd heavily consider him, especially if Sam Shields is out.
David Johnson, the end. I don't care your site or format, every lineup starts with DJ. Anyone following me knows how much I love this guy… although the bandwagon is already spilling over now. With the running back pool being a mess, Johnson is a must-own, and as with Brown, there will be no downside to an ownership percentage around 60. Don't worry, there will be plenty of players that try to go contrarian and hurt their lineups.
Even with his health in question, DeAngelo Williams is still the most expensive running back at $6,800. The Broncos defense is weaker against the run than the pass, but we don't know if DWill will play or how effective he'll be if he's out there. Heck, he only averaged 1.9 YPC in the first meeting, when a touchdown saved his day (16.6 points). Fitzgerald Toussaint would be intriguing if Williams sits, as he looked better than I expected against the Bengals and is only $4,200.
Marshawn Lynch is a question mark too, and even if we know he's starting, a price of $6,400 coupled with the question of shared touched with Christine Michael ($4,600) gives him little appeal. Reports are that Jonathan Stewart will start, and he did manage 78 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in Week 6. Stewart would be one of the safest bets. The Chiefs backfield is a minefield. Spencer Ware is banged up and Knile Davis saw work over Charcandrick West last week when Ware exited. The Patriots defense also hasn't allowed a running back to top 14 points since C.J. Anderson in Week 12 and allowed only three backs to top 15 points all year.
From Weeks 13-16, James White had 26 receptions and 252 receiving yards. However, it was rather up-and-down with games of 115 and 71 on the good side and 38 and 28 on the bleh side. In addition, White has one game over six yards rushing – a whopping 14 – since the opener in which he had eight… woohoo! On top of that, the Chiefs are a bad matchup.
Eddie Lacy did well against the Redskins, but it was the Redskins, and James Starks did just as well. You could risk a Broncos running back if you want, but more split time, a tough matchup and well, you know how I feel about C.J. Anderson after this year.
David Johnson and hopefully Williams or Lynch sits – You knew DJ would be here per above, but I'm holding out hope for Toussaint or Michael as my other back. I don't like either backfield with the lead guy playing due to workload questions. If both play, I'll go Stewart. He might not have 25-point upside, but the field is just awful.
As mentioned, Brown is questionable due to the concussion. Jeremy Maclin's status is up in the air and he could be a game-time decision, but you don't want to risk an early exit for someone on a lesser offense. Edelman and Danny Amendola should be ready to go with Davante Adams likely out.
After making his ballyhooed return, Peyton Manning targeted Demaryius Thomas twice and Emmanuel Sanders five times. Thomas caught one and Sanders two. Some will think that means Sanders is the better play this week, and in a pure matchup case, that would be true, as William Gay is better than Antwon Blake is. However, when comparing the Manning versus Brock Osweiler numbers, you see that Thomas has more upside with Manning under center. In Manning's starts, Thomas averaged 11.4 targets, 7.6 catches, 90.7 yards and had one TD. With Osweiler, it was 10.8/5.3/61.8 and four TDs. The lack of touchdowns was not Manning's fault, as it was more of an anomaly. As for Sanders, he went from 9.4/5.1/71 and four TDs to 8.8/5.0/79.4 and two TDs. Sanders' production was almost identical, while Thomas saw a significant drop. I'm tempted to roll out both in some lineups.
With Shields out, the Cardinals receivers get a boost. All three are quality options and worthy of pairing with Palmer or using individually, but they always carry the risk of too many mouths to feed. Floyd will be the main beneficiary of no Shields; he had a big second half and put up 111 yards against the Packers last time. He's also the cheapest at $5,100. I already talked about the impact of no Adams in this game, and it's why I don't like Cobb, even at $5,900. Abbrederis sees an enormous boost by starting in three-wide sets and with the Jerraud Powers matchup. At $3,000, he might top 50 percent ownership, though. James Jones is back to being rather productive with 17.2 and 15.1 points in the last two games. Plus, he's a constant red zone threat, and his $4,600 tag is attractive.
Speaking of matchups, you don't have to worry about Josh Norman for Doug Baldwin… you do with Tyler Lockett. Baldwin is a slot guy, and Norman doesn't cover the slot. Obviously, Baldwin is a great option, even at the third-highest cost of $6,800 with how he played in the second half. Staying in this game, Jeremy Lane has played well for the Seahawks, which could give Ted Ginn trouble, and with Richard Sherman covering Philly Brown and Ginn depending on formations, that leaves Jerricho Cotchery. I know many will chase Devin Funchess here, but I like the smart vet, who would see Deshawn Snead mostly, to be your boom/bust play.
Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Julian Edelman, James Jones, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Jared Abbrederis – You find the mix you like, but these nine will encompass the majority, if not all, of my lineups. Of those, I expect a heavier mix of Thomas, Floyd and Jones.
I'm going to keep this brief and easy for you… Greg Olsen. The end. It's that simple.
The Seahawks are actually quite weak against the tight end, and Olsen had 131 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets and seven catches the first go-around. The Chiefs are the toughest team against tight ends, allowing just three touchdowns all year and just two double-digit PPR scores (high of 13.6). Yes, Rob Gronkowski is matchup proof, but do you want to pay $7,500, when you can save $600 with a golden matchup and tight end with as much upside? The rest of the tight end pool is "use at your own risk." Sure, Travis Kelce could have another good game, but he's truly only dominated the Texans this year. Richard Rodgers is touchdown reliant. Heath Miller had a big game against the Pats in the opener, but the question is whether he will have Big Ben the entire game.
Greg Olsen – I already explained it away. Done.
Good luck this week. If you win the million, feel free to send some my way… or better yet, if you know the Powerball winner, tell him/her to give me a ring.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
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