Week 3 in NFL.com Fantasy Playoff Challenge
Only three games remain in what has been an exciting – albeit controversial – postseason. Three of the four favorites are still alive, with the Indianapolis Colts playing the role of surprise underdog.
In past weeks, I’ve focused on crafting the best – and mostly conservative – roster for NFL.com’s Fantasy Playoff Challenge. Clearly, if you took guys like Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Rob Gronkowski, you’re pretty happy with where you stand.
This may be obvious but if you have players on 3x multipliers, hang onto them. The payoff is too large to switch to another player at this stage. The worst-case scenario is you have a 3x player for this round, his team loses and you have to pick up a new player at a 1x multiplier for the Super Bowl. The best-case scenario is they win and you get a 4x multiplier for the final game. Meanwhile, making a switch before Sunday gives you only a 1x multiplier and a 2x multiplier if they win (and a measly 1x and 1x if they lose).
Even if your player is only on a 2x multiplier – say, for example, you took Antonio Brown in the Wild Card round, then switched to TY Hilton last week – you’re still better off sticking with who you have: you’re getting a sure-thing 2x multiplier and the chance at a 3x multiplier if they win.
But if you have spots to fill – for example, if you rostered DeMarco Murray or Demaryius Thomas – then it’s likely that you’re going to be behind in your league and need a bit of a Hail Mary to pull out the win. Grabbing a more common player that your opponents already have rostered won’t help you because you’ll be starting at a 1x multiplier and your opponent will be getting 2x or 3x out of that same player. With such a short and simple fantasy game like this one, finding those outliers may be your only chance to pull out a win. So let’s look at who those may be.
Andrew Luck represents your best chance at accumulating a lot of points. Indy are the longest shot to win the Super Bowl (15/2), but if they were to pull it off, you can bet Luck would run away with the Super Bowl MVP trophy. He’s currently the playoff leader in attempts (87) and yards (641) but his three TDs to two INTs leave much to be desired. Regardless, if you’re trying to catch up to an opponent that has Wilson or Tom Brady, you need Luck to play out of his mind, which is the only way Indy is going to win twice more.
The obvious choice would be Dan Herron, who is first among RBs in playoff fantasy scoring thanks to 119 yards on the ground, 117 through the air and a pair of scores. The less obvious choice might be Jonas Gray, who demolished Indy in week 11 to the tune of 201 yards and four TDs. I’m not sold on Gray leading the way this weekend; after his big performance in week 11, the Pats still elected to sign LeGarrette Blount the following week and give him 60 carries to Gray’s 20 over the final six weeks of the season.
If you really need to swing big, I’d consider Robert Turbin. As Mike Clay pointed out this week, Turbin has 28 carries in his last three games, only 10 fewer than Marshawn Lynch. If Lynch were to get injured, Seattle isn’t built to revamp their offense so would stick with a run-first gameplan. Even without an injury to Lynch, Seattle will want to control the clock all game and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field; plus the Packers struggled against the run this season, with a minus-33 PFF run defense rating (28th worst).
If Luck is going to lead Indy to the promised land, he’s going to need some guys to catch the ball. Hilton has done his part, leading playoff receivers in targets (20) and yards (175). But he also has zero TDs, four drops and a PFF rating of -1.1 in the two games, good for seventh worst overall. Then consider that he’ll likely be matched up against two of the best cornerbacks in the game (top five in PFF pass coverage rating in 2014) in Darrelle Revis and (if Seattle advances) Richard Sherman, and I’m predicting a tough go for the diminutive pass-catcher.
So if Luck is to pull off a win or two, it might be someone someone like Donte Moncrief stepping up. The rookie wideout sits second on the team in targets and yards both since week 12 and over these two playoff games. With much of the attention on Hilton and even Herron, it might be Moncrief that emerges.
I’m beating the Colts like a dead…well, nevermind. But Coby Fleener is your hail mary pick at TE. If anyone can match up to Gronk, it has to be someone that can produce long plays and get into the end zone. Fleener does both exceptionally well. He led the league this season in targets (18), catches (9) and yards (291, over 100 more than the player in second) on plays over 20 yards. He also reached pay dirt eight times in 2014, which placed him tied for third overall. During these playoffs, he’s caught one of his two deep targets for 32 yards but has yet to score. Obviously, Dwayne Allen had a nice season as well (also with eight scores plus one these playoffs) and it would be great if Luck could devote all of his TE love to one guy. But if Luck needs a big play this weekend – and you as well in fantasy – then Fleener is the guy to key in on.
A Canadian living in Australia and writing about American football, Ryan McKee might be the only person on the planet to work in all three forms of football. In addition to writing fantasy football articles for Pro Football Focus Fantasy, Ryan works for the Aussie Rules football club Essendon FC in Melbourne and previously worked for Vancouver Whitecaps FC of Major League Soccer. He is the author of Trade Wins: The Final Untapped Advantage in Fantasy Football. He cannot understand why he’s still a Cowboys fan after all these years and can be followed on Twitter @ryanmckee.
That concludes this series on NFL.com’s Fantasy Playoff Challenge. Best of luck in your leagues and enjoy these last three games of the season.