News & Analysis

Previewing the Super Bowl for fantasy

By Jeff Ratcliffe
Feb 2, 2018

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Feb 1, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; General overall view of U.S. Bank Stadium prior to Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is it. With the Super Bowl the last game left on the football calendar for the 2017-18 season, there’s one last chance to play fantasy this season. With that in mind, here’s a look at the fantasy options from every angle for this weekend’s championship tilt between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots.

Philadelphia vs. New England

Week 21 Quarterback Running Back Wide Receiver Tight End
Tm Opp Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU Rk PPG MU
NE PHI 23 13.9 29 18.4 10 31.7 17 10.8
PHI NE 7 16.1 + 12 22.4 3 34.7 + 21 10.0

The football masses have grown accustomed to the Patriots making to the big dance during the Brady/Belichick era, but the Eagles have been the NFL equivalent of Halley’s Comet when it comes to Super Bowl appearances. Of course, their last Super Bowl came against the Patriots, but that was an entire football generation ago. From those two teams, only Tom Brady remains.

Speaking of Brady, it’s really unbelievable with the veteran signal-caller has been able to accomplish in the twilight of his career. Father Time hasn’t been able to catch up with Brady, as he’s playing some of the best football of his career. He was one of just three quarterbacks to top 30 passing scores this season and posted the fifth-most passing yards of his career. The Eagles have done a good job against quarterbacks this season, but Brady showed against the Jags that he can excel in even the worst matchup.

It’s a unique week in DFS with both FanDuel and DraftKings opting for abridged formats. On FanDuel, rosters consist of five superflex spots with one of those spots getting double points. Brady comes in at a massive $17,000 on FanDuel. While using Brady makes it tricky to construct a roster under the cap, it’s very tempting to put him in the double-up spot. DraftKings is using their Showdown format, which consists of four offensive superflex spots and two IDP spots. Brady is also the most expensive here at $15,500, but again deserves strong consideration. Those fortunate enough to save Brady and the rest of the Patriots in one-and-dones should load up on New England.

So far in the playoffs, here’s how Brady has distributed his targets to his wideouts: Danny Amendola (22), Brandin Cooks (16), Chris Hogan (8). It’s pretty clear who Brady is favoring, but it wouldn’t be completely shocking if Hogan came up with a big game this weekend. He’s an intriguing contrarian DFS option ($10,000 FD, $6,400 DK). Amendola came up huge last week, and is the most expensive of the three ($12,500 FD, $9,500 DK). The touchdown productivity last week is appealing, but it’s never wise to bank on touchdowns. Amendola is more of a volume play, which makes him more appealing on DraftKings. Cooks possesses the higher ceiling, which is better suited to FanDuel’s scoring system.

Any concerns that Rob Gronkowski wouldn’t be on the field on Sunday were erased Thursday when the star tight end was officially cleared through the league concussion protocol. In his NFL career, Gronkowski has played in 12 playoff games. He averages 71.3 receiving yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns. Is that good? Yes. Yes, it is. Fittingly, Gronk comes in as the second-most expensive player on FanDuel at $14,500 and third-most expensive on DraftKings $12,400. Those price points make using a Gronk/Brady stack very difficult to keep your roster under the cap.

Patriots running backs only carried the ball 15 times against the Jaguars in the Conference Championship round. This was almost certainly the byproduct of game script, with New England playing from behind for essentially the entire game. However, this backfield has a tall task ahead of them against an Eagles defense that saw the fewest running back carries per game (17.6) and allowed the fourth-fewest PPR points per game to the position. But that doesn’t mean Dion Lewis and James White won’t be involved on Sunday. The duo combined for 17 targets against the Jags, so touches don’t need to come from carries for this backfield. Of the two, White may be the more intriguing DFS option. Lewis is the lead back, but White is $3,000 cheaper on FanDuel and $800 cheaper on DraftKings.

On the IDP side of things, Kyle Van Noy figures to play every down at linebacker. He’s the highest-priced option on DraftKings at $5,100. While Van Noy offers a high floor, keep in mind that the DraftKings scoring system only awards one point for solo tackles and a half-point for assists. However, sacks at five points, interceptions are six points, and passes defensed are 1.5 points. That’s what the kids call a “big-play” scoring system.

So instead of tackle producing linebackers like Van Noy, we may want to stack our lineups with big-play upside. Trey Flowers is coming off a breakout season and was very impressive against the Jaguars. He’s the Patriots best bet to record a sack and is $500 cheaper than Van Noy. Speaking of good seasons, Devin McCourty is coming off yet another one where he set a career high in tackles with 97. While McCourty only had one interception, his high tackle floor plus his upside in coverage is very appealing at $4,400.

Following Carson Wentz’s season-ending injury, few football pundits gave the Eagles a chance to make it this far. But make it they did thanks in part to an unlikely big game from Wentz’s replacement, Nick Foles. Following three ugly outings, Foles went nuts against a very good Vikings defense. New England certainly didn’t fare as well against the pass as Minnesota did in the regular season, but it’s important to remember that Belichick is one of the best game planners in the history of the NFL. Foles is a very risky play in DFS given his healthy price tag ($13,500 FD, $12,800 DK), but the contrarian crowd may to give Foles a look given the potential upside he displayed in the Conference Championships.

Here’s how the targets have been distributed among the Eagles receiving options in the playoffs: Zach Ertz (12), Alshon Jeffery (10), Nelson Agholor (7). It’s going to be tough to get much value from this group, but Ertz is the obvious play. He’s $700 cheaper than Jeffery on DraftKings and $500 cheaper on FanDuel. The Patriots were a mid-pack matchup against tight ends during the regular season, but Ertz is a good bet to lead the Eagles in targets. That’s especially true if Jeffery struggles against Stephon Gilmore. Agholor has a much better matchup out of the slot against Eric Rowe, but his lack of volume in the playoffs isn’t particularly appealing.

Philadelphia fed Jay Ajayi 21 touches in the Conference Championship, which is the most since he was acquired in the middle of the season. He figures to again be a big part of the Eagles’ game plan and draws a relatively favorable matchup with the Pats yielding the 12th-most fantasy points per game to running backs. New England did surrender a score to Leonard Fournette in the Conference Championship game, but also held him to just 3.2 yards per carry. Ajayi is $600 cheaper than Lewis on DraftKings and $1,000 cheaper on FanDuel, so there’s contrarian appeal to using him. However, it’s wise to steer clear of LeGarrette Blount. While the revenge narratives are fun, Blount’s role has steadily decreased and doesn’t figure to see enough volume to reach value.

On the defensive side of the ball, Malcolm Jenkins is the chalk play for the Eagles. He’s expensive ($4,800), but the fact that he’ll be covering Gronk all but assures ample opportunities to make plays. Those looking for upside without breaking the bank may want to consider Rodney McLeod. He’s $1,100 cheaper than Jenkins and flashed playmaking ability in the regular season with a pass defensed or interception on 25 percent of targets thrown into his coverage. While Ronald Darby is the second-most expensive defensive player this week, Patrick Robinson offers significantly more value. Robinson is coming off a breakout year where he racked up a team-high four interceptions and seven passes defense. Better yet, he’s $1,400 cheaper than Darby. Of course, Brandon Graham is also very appealing in this format. Graham recorded a sack, hit, or hurry on 13.8 percent of his pass-rush snaps, which ranked 16th among defensive linemen in the regular season.

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