News & Analysis

Previewing the Conference Championships for fantasy

By Jeff Ratcliffe
Jan 19, 2018

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Nov 19, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Jay Ajayi (36) runs the ball against the Dallas Cowboys in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With so few options for fantasy players this weekend, it’s time for an in-depth look at each of this weekend’s games for the purposes of fantasy and breaks down just who you want in your daily and one-and-done leagues.

Jacksonville @ New England

Week 20 Quarterback Running Back Wide Receiver Tight End
Tm Opp Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU
JAX NE 7 16.1 + 12 22.4 3 34.7 + 21 10.0
NE JAX 32 9.3 – – – 26 19.8 32 23.0 – – 26 9.6

The breakout season for the Jaguars continued last week in a big road win over a potent Steelers offense. Jacksonville’s stout defense will certainly have their hands full with New England, who is making their seventh straight AFC Conference Championship appearance.

Predictably, Blake Bortles underwhelmed in the Divisional Round with just 214 yards and a score. Bortles hasn’t completed more than 15 passes in each of his last three games. Despite these checks in negative column, Bortles is actually a positive play in DFS this week thanks to his discounted price tags – he’s the second-cheapest option on both FanDuel ($7,600) and DraftKings ($5,000). The likelihood the Jags will be playing from behind is especially appealing for Bortles fantasy prospects this week. With the Jags heavy underdogs, those in one-and-done formats will want to load up on Jacksonville players, so Bortles is in play as a quarterback option this week.

The Jacksonville wideouts have been far from stable as fantasy options over the last several weeks, but every starter is in consideration with just four teams in play this week. Marqise Lee is the best bet to lead the team in targets, even in a relatively tough matchup against Stephon Gilmore. He’s the most expensive Jags wide receiver in DFS, but still won’t cost you much ($6,100 FD, $4,400). Dede Westbrook comes at an even bigger discount ($5,500 FD, $3,900 DK), but his inconsistencies make him a volatile fantasy play. Westbrook has recorded just one catch in two of his last three games.

Leonard Fournette was arguably the top fantasy running back play last week, and the same can be said yet again. He’s the most expensive option on FanDuel ($8,500) and second-most expensive on DraftKings ($7,200), but those price points are by no means outrageous. The Patriots have been a mid-pack matchup for running backs this season. While New England only surrendered five rushing scores to the position, they did give up 100-plus rushing yards to five of the last eight backfields they faced in the regular season. Fournette is chalk in DFS and is the top one-and-done running back of the week.

Is there trouble in paradise for the Patriots? Tom Brady reportedly injured his hand during practice on Wednesday. While reports suggest no structural damage, Brady did not practice on Thursday but returned on Friday. It’s really tough to envision a scenario where he doesn’t play, but Brian Hoyer under center is within the realm of possibility. If Brady is able to suit up, he draws a brutal matchup against the league’s best pass defense. However, all is not lost for Brady’s fantasy prospects. Ben Roethlisberger showed last week that Jacksonville isn’t invincible, posting a massive 469 yards and five touchdowns. Brady is very expensive ($9,000 FD, $7,700 DK), but he’s very much in play in DFS. Those in one-and-dones may want to save Brady for the Super Bowl.

Even though Rob Gronkowski almost always comes with a lofty price tag ($8,400 FD, $7,900 DK), he deserves consideration as a fantasy option any time he’s on the field. This week is no different for Gronk. Navigating the other Patriots pass-catchers is much trickier. Brandin Cooks offers the most upside, but he also has a low floor. Cooks caught just three balls for 32 yards last week. Meanwhile, Danny Amendola saw a season-high 13 targets, catching 11 for 112 yards. There’s a good chance we could see plenty of Amendola again this week. Better yet, he’s $600 cheaper than Cooks on both FanDuel and DraftKings.

The Patriots should be back to full strength at running back with Rex Burkhead slated to make his return. Dion Lewis will remain the lead back, but Burkhead’s presence puts a damper on Lewis’ overall upside. What’s worse is the fact that Lewis is the most expensive running back option on DraftKings at $8,100. Burkhead is more appealing at just $5,400. Lewis is still the better play on FanDuel, where their prices are much closer with Lewis at $7,700 and Burkhead at $6,000.

Minnesota @ Philadelphia

Week 20 Quarterback Running Back Wide Receiver Tight End
Tm Opp Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU
MIN PHI 23 13.9 29 18.4 10 31.7 17 10.8
PHI MIN 30 10.6 – – 32 16.5 – – 22 27.4 29 8.9 – –

The NFC side of the playoffs ended up being chalk in the Conference Championship with the Vikings traveling to Philadelphia to face the Eagles. The Sam Bradford Bowl should be an interesting contest with sneaky fantasy value to be mined.

Since the optimal strategy in one-and-dones is to save the Patriots this week, you’ll want to splice together players from the three other teams in your lineups. That means Case Keenum is in play. However, besides last week’s heroics, Keenum didn’t do much of anything. That’s more concerning in DFS, where he’s the second-most expensive quarterback this week ($8,000 FD, $6,600 DK). He’s worth some exposure in GPPs, but the Eagles have done a good job against the pass, allowing just one score through the air in each of their last three games.

While it’s tough to endorse Keenum in DFS this week, his receiver duo of Adam Thielen ($7,400 FD, $7,400 DK) and Stefon Diggs ($6,700 FD, $6,900 DK) are both squarely in play. Thielen’s matchup out of the slot against Patrick Robinson isn’t the most ideal, but he comes with a high floor having caught at least five balls in 15-of-17 games this season. Diggs doesn’t have the same floor, but his ceiling is enormous, as we saw on last week’s remarkable game-winning touchdown.

There are essentially three tight ends in play this week, and Kyle Rudolph is the cheapest ($6,100 FD, $4,500 DK). As such, he’s an interesting pivot off of Rob Gronkowski and Zach Ertz this week. However, it should be noted that the Eagles have done a good job against tight ends with just five receiving touchdowns allowed to the position this season.

Both Vikings backs found the end zone last week, but they face a much tougher matchup this week against the stout Eagles run defense. Philadelphia surrendered just six rushing scores to running backs in the regular season. Since there are so few players in this week’s pool, you’re likely going to have to use one of both of the Minnesota backs. In DFS, both are similarly priced. On FanDuel it’s wise to lean toward Latavius Murray ($6,900), whereas Jerick McKinnon’s pass-catching makes him a slightly better option on DraftKings ($5,100).

The Eagles were able to get by the Falcons last week, but the win wasn’t thanks to a standout game from Nick Foles. Sure, he completed 76.7 percent of his passes for 246 yards – though some of that came on an extremely lucky immaculate reception-esque play – but Foles was largely ineffective. He’s this week’s cheapest DFS quarterback, but that’s for good reason. He’s a risky play in all formats, and takes a backseat to Bortles as the preferred one-and-done option.

At wide receiver, Alshon Jeffery is likely to draw Xavier Rhodes’ shadow. The All-Pro corner did allow a touchdown in his coverage to Michael Thomas last week, but that was only the second receiver to find pay dirt against Rhodes this season. Jeffery is a risky play in all formats. The better pivot in this case would be Nelson Agholor, who is cheaper on both major DFS sites. Agholor took a major step forward this season, and was heavily involved down the stretch with 11 targets in both Week 13 and Week 14. He’s especially appealing on DraftKings where he’ll cost you just $4,800. Of course, Zach Ertz is in play in all formats.

The stars don’t necessarily align for Jay Ajayi this week, as the Vikings are the worst fantasy matchup for running backs in 2017. However, Ajayi is coming off a 15-carry outing in the Divisional Round and figures to see plenty of work again this week. His price point isn’t ideal ($7,200 FD, $5,200 DK), but he still is worth some exposure. Those who think the Eagles will lose should give strong consideration to using Ajayi in one-and-dones.

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