Top Draftstreet Football Values for Conference Championship Sunday
And then there were four. Here we are, the NFL entering its championship weekend. We couldn’t ask for much more with the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning narrative going on in the AFC and Jim Harbaugh-Pete Carroll going at it in the NFC. The four best teams in the league during the regular year vying for a chance to play in the Super Bowl in New Jersey next month.
This week is especially difficult for those of us who are still playing in daily leagues. How can I even recommend starting a player against Seattle or San Francisco? Who do you choose from as receiving options in Denver? What about the three-headed running back monster in New England?
Don’t fret, we have you covered here.
For the purposes of these articles, I will utilize Draftstreet cap numbers and base them off total cap numbers of $100,000 per team. You probably already know the drill, so here goes.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots ($17,701)
I cannot possibly recommend either Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick as values for championship weekend. While the latter is playing much better football than his counterpart, his struggles in Seattle have been well documented. Kaepernick may have a better game than any of us expect, but he’s not a value at this point. For his part, Wilson’s in the midst of a five-game stretch that has seen him fail to tally as much as 200 passing yards and 15 completions or fewer four times. During that five-game stretch, Wilson boasts just four touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 74.7. He’s also going up against a defense that is playing better than any other remaining unit in the league.
By pure process of elimination, Brady has to be the value here. He’s priced at about $5,500 less than Peyton Manning and will be lining up against a Denver Broncos defense that yielded the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks during the regular year and will be without the services of cornerback Chris Harris, who tore his ACL against the San Diego Chargers last week. It also has to be expected that New England will have to put the ball up more than it did last week in order to hang with a Broncos offense that netted an average of 37.9 points per game in the regular season.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers ($9,969)
Gore against the Seahawks. Most of you must believe that I have gone and done lost it, right? Well, three of the five running backs priced higher than the Pro Bowler are on the same team. You don’t need me to indicate how that works out. Go ahead, pick one, and see what happens. The likeliest scenario is that you pick one that ends up fumbling in the first quarter, which will immediately be followed by a benching and a total of two touches. Marshawn Lynch is the No. 1 running back in Draftstreet leagues this week at $17,335 and is going up against a defense that has not yielded a 100-yard rusher in 22 games.
Despite having his struggles against an elite Seahawks defense, Gore did put up 110 yards on 17 rushes in San Francisco’s Week 14 home win against Seattle. For their part, the Seahawks have been vulnerable against the run, at least in comparison to other categories this season. Opposing teams went for 130-plus yards seven different times against Dan Quinn’s unit during the regular year.
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos ($6,881)
Let’s look at it logistically here for a second. There are six running backs priced ahead of Ball in Draftstreet leagues this week … only three of them are every-down backs at this point. Those being Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore and to a lesser extent Knowshon Moreno. If you decide to go cheap with your RB1 option or look to add a high-value “backup,” Ball could easily be your man.
Ball recorded 20 snaps last week against San Diego, going for 52 yards on 10 rushes. In fact, the rookie from Wisconsin has put up an average of 26 snaps per outing over Denver’s last five games. Taking out of account New England’s three-headed monster, Ball is the only non-regular running back to see consistent snaps recently. This is an indication that he should acquire the necessary touches to put up some decent fantasy points. That being said, it’s all about him getting in the end zone in a short-yardage situation. If you add a touchdown to his 52 yards last week, he would have been an upper-echelon fantasy option.
The good news here is that Ball did record a touchdown per 30 rush attempts during the regular year. If you buy into basic mathematics, he’s due to reach the end zone this week. Either way you put it, Denver should have success against a Patriots defense that has now been lining up for quite a while without the services of Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. The two interior defensive linemen replacing these veterans, Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, possessed a -24.3 grade according to our official metrics. Again, do the math.
Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots ($11,261)
This was a coin flip between Amendola and his teammate Julian Edelman. Considering that the focus here is value, I am going to go with the cheaper option. At just over 11 percent of your total cap room, Amendola is Draftstreet’s sixth-most expensive receiver. He sits behind three different Broncos’ receivers, all of whom could either put up great numbers or struggle receiving necessary targets based on Peyton Manning’s pass distribution. In reality, Amendola is only one of two consistent receiving threats for the Patriots right now.
It’s also important to note that Denver will be missing Chris Harris in this one. Harris has been its best cover corner over the past two seasons and does a good job working in both the slot and on the outside. One of his best attributes is lateral movement against receivers who tend to go over the middle on slants and hooks. Unfortunately for the Broncos, neither Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Quentin Jammer possess that same type of lateral ability. This means that both Amendola and Edelman should have decent outings come Sunday.
Zach Miller, TE, Seattle Seahawks ($4,372)
If there is one weakness on San Francisco’s defense, it has to be its ability to cover tight ends straight up. More often than not, Vic Fangio’s unit decides to line Eric Reid or a nickel guy up against tight ends, leaving NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis the ability to maintain their assignments or roam free inside the box. This is only going to be magnified with Seattle’s lack of top-tier wide receiver options, especially if Percy Harvin is unable to go. Without getting into too much detail and boring you in the process, Miller should see a ton of one-on-one coverage this upcoming weekend. If so, he could quickly become Russell Wilson’s most consistent receiving targets.