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Fantasy Football: Who to start/sit in NFL divisional round?

Pete Davidson
January 13, 2018 - 12:59 pm

Welcome to the Divisional Round!  Of course, for you Patriots fans, this is sort of like round one, as first round byes and home playoff games are pretty much the norm around here. This is of one of those games where you can’t really win, you just want to get past it. That’s part of rooting for a team that hangs a lot of banners. There’s not much satisfaction when a team like New England beats a team as poor as Tennessee. Of course, the idea is not to score style points but to advance, and no team has advanced as consistently as the Patriots over the last 17 years. So, if you want to add a little extra fun to this week’s action, I am here to give you some ideas and recommendations for your DraftKings lineups.

Don’t forget to tune in to the Fantasy Football Hour, this Sunday morning on 93.7. Jim Hackett and I will take your questions (via text) and get you ready for Sunday. We’ll also get deep into reviewing the Patriots-Titans game from Saturday and look ahead to the AFC Conference Championship.

To keep pace with all of our fantasy football content, follow me on Twitter @Rotobahn. You can also follow Jim @RotobahnHacksaw.

QUARTERBACKS

Tom Brady, Patriots vs. Titans, $7,000

It’s really not about the money here. Yes, Brady is the premium option—costing 700 units more than the next man on the list, Drew Brees, but he’s worth it in my view. The main reason is the matchup. As I have said a lot this season, you throw to beat the Titans. It was that reality that hurt the Chiefs last week as they lost the ability to dictate through the air once Travis Kelce was forced from the game with a concussion. If he’d avoided that hit, the Patriots would be playing the Chiefs tonight almost assuredly. While I fully expect the Patriots to have some balance to the offense, I suspect that most of the big plays will be via the pass. I also expect them to throw it near the stripe. It all adds up to a nice day for Brady, and I am using him heavily in my DraftKings lineups. You can vary the way you stack him if you are playing multiple lineups, but my top choice this week is Brandin Cooks, who, I think, can take the top off the Titans’ defense.

Case Keenum, Vikings vs. Saints, $6,100

While Brady is my top choice, I think it makes some sense to hedge a bit if you play multiple lineups. I love Drew Brees and Big Ben (at home), but they are in seriously tough matchups. It’s hard to overstate just how nasty Jacksonville’s defense can be. It’s also undetermined as to how effective Antonio Brown (calf) can be or even if he will suit up. Brees is in a very tough road matchup and both teams like to run the ball a lot. This could keep the number of total plays down. You also have to factor in that, Michael Thomas, Brees’ top target by far, will be locked up with stud CB Xavier Rhodes. So, while Big Ben and Brees always have upside, I am leaning towards Keenum and the savings he provides. The best stacks are Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. While I love Stefon Diggs’ talents, he has the toughest matchup as he should see a lot of top corner Marshon Lattimore.

Nick Foles, Eagles vs. Falcons, $5,200

If you want to get a little crazy, it’s probably either Blake Bortles or Foles that you’ll want to turn to. You save big bucks and you get a player who will be exceedingly low owned. It’s a bit of a long shot, but somethings that’s how you get way ahead in a large tournament. So if you want to really swing for the fences, and if you are willing to take the risk, which is substantial, a Foles lineup could be a good idea. My preferred stack would be Zach Ertz and I might throw in Nelson Agholor as well. If Foles is to have any success through the air today, it’s going to be between the numbers and that’s where Ertz and Agholor do their work.

RUNNING BACKS

Dion Lewis, Patriots vs. Titans, $6,600

I’m not really on Lewis in this matchup though he’s a viable play at this price with both Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee expected to sit. The Patriots find the path of least resistance better than any team in existence, and, as I said earlier, I think they find most of their success by attacking the Titans’ secondary. They will need Lewis much more in the coming weeks—assuming they win tonight.

Le’Veon Bell, Steelers vs. Jaguars, $9,600

He’s easily my top projected back this week, but is he worth the cost? It’s a tough question, because I like the receivers this week and rostering Bell will cost you a lot in that area. It’s also tough to spend at tight end with Bell in your lineup, and if you don’t spend a little bit there, you are punting or at least playing a long shot. For the Steelers, Bell is the key to beating the Jaguars. He’s going to be heavily utilized—probably in both the ground game and as a receiver. My approach is to have some Bell lineups but probably not more than 50 percent exposure.

Derrick Henry, Titans at Patriots, $7,300

If there’s a chalk running back this week, it’s probably Henry. You save 2,300 units compared to Bell, and Henry’s volume is a mortal lock with Demarco Murray already ruled out. The big question is, how well will the Patriots defend him, and how long will it take for them to build a lead that forces Tennessee to the air? While I will certainly have some exposure to Henry, my money is on New England here. Bill Belichick is really, really good at taking away team’s top options, and by crowding the box this week, the Patriots can blunt both Henry and Marcus Mariota, who is exceedingly dangerous as a runner. In fact, if I didn’t feel so strongly that Belichick would try to take this away, I would be starting Mariota as my second option versus Keenum. Heck, I may still have a share or two depending on how many lineups I make. Lastly, with Henry being the chalkiest back this week, there is plenty to be gained by fading him. I’ll have less than 25 percent in my lineups.

Latavius Murray ($5,400) and Jerick McKinnon ($4,900), Vikings vs. Saints

These are the two backs I am rostering a lot this week—sometimes in the same lineup. To me, the costs allow for this. I think the Vikings will play well this week and they will stay competitive, though I do think the Saints can pull it out in the end. Murray and McKinnon will be crucial parts for the Vikings and how you choose to use them should have plenty to do with how you see this game playing out. If you think the Vikings can dominate, then you play Murray. If you think the Saints play from ahead, then going with McKinnon makes more sense. And, again, with certain lineup configurations, like playing Brady with Cooks and Gronk, you can actually roster both.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Brandin Cooks, Patriots vs. Titans, $7,000

The Brady/Cooks stack costs me 14,000 units and I am very willing to pay that. The upside is extreme to me as the Patriots set up the deep ball well. Cooks also has the wheels to turn short passes into long gainers. Cooks had a nice first year in New England though not spectacular. He may not be as highly owned as some folks expect. I’m going to have him in over 50 percent of my lineups this week. A lot more.

Adam Thielen, Vikings vs. Saints, $7,600

Stefon Diggs is a better player than Adam Thielen, but Thielen is pretty damn good in his own right, and he will have a clear matchup advantage versus the Saints because Marshon Lattimore tends to stay on the outside where Diggs lines up most often. Anything can happen, but the numbers favor Thielen by a solid margin this week. He’s worth the money and he fits the full PPR scoring on DraftKings.

Julio Jones, Falcons at Eagles, $7,900

There’s a lot of kibitzing going on with Julio. You hear a lot of complaints and concerns…. He’s past his prime and in decline. He’s not being used correctly—especially in the red zone. He’s playing at less than 100 percent. This is what happens when you are great but your stats are just very good. Here’s the reality. Jones is pretty much healthy. He’s in a play-or-go-home game. He’s easily his team’s best player. He’s not priced at his usual level. In fact, he’s 1,700 units below Le’Veon Bell. Jones is a player I want in a lot of lineups and I want him in most of my configurations—meaning that I want him in some of my Bell lineups but also in some of my Brady lineups. He’s a guy who can really help you this week. I suggest at least 50 percent exposure because his ceiling is way, way high.

Ted Ginn, Saints at Vikings, $5,800

Ginn may be my favorite play this week. Sure, he’s a bit hit or miss. Sure, he’s a an older guy who relies on speed. Sure, he’s facing a tough defense. The thing is, Xavier Rhodes should be on Michael Thomas most of the game. I would be shocked if the Saints didn’t take multiple shots downfield to Ginn in both halves of tomorrownight’s game. He’s cheap enough to get him into a lot of your lineups and he’s got enough baggage (age, drops) where some folks won’t play him. I’m going to embrace the risk here and I’ll have at least 50 percent exposure to him this week.

TIGHT ENDS

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots vs. Titans, $7,100

He’s the most expensive Patriot this week, but it’s understandable given his clear edge over the rest of the tight end field. Yeah, you could make an argument for Zach Ertz if he had Carson Wentz throwing him the ball, but that ship has sailed until next season. Gronk is a bit like Le’Veon Bell. He’s easily the top projection at his position, but he’s also, by far, the most expensive. The thing is, at 7,100 units, I can find more ways to get Gronk into my lineup, and that goes double if my QB is Brady. I plan on having about 50 percent exposure to maybe the best tight end in football history.

Zach Ertz, Eagles vs. Falcons, $5,800

This one is pretty easy. The Falcons take the receivers away pretty well, and they give up numbers to tight ends. Ertz is viable for sure, but his quarterback is less than helpful. I’ll have enough Ertz to hedge my Gronk shares but I am not going crazy.

Delanie Walker, Titans at Patriots, $5000

Here’s an interesting option. Walker is a veteran presence for the Titans. He’s got a good rapport with Mariota and he’s unlikely to get much special attention from the Patriots. If there’s a Titan I want to play this week, it’s probably Walker.

Josh Hill, Saints at Vikings, $2,600

If you need a toe hold at tight end, Hill gives you a chance. Last week I told you that Hill was the guy if you are punting tight end. He scored and had a solid overall day. I think he’s a good guy in that same role this week. You don’t get much ceiling, but you save a ton and get a shot at some production.

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