Each week I search for the cheapest viable options for your FanDuel lineups at every position. The plays are geared toward cash games unless otherwise indicated and I do try to use a price ceiling of $6500 for QB, $6000 for RB/WR, and $5500 for TE insomuch as possible.
Alex Smith $7200: The only reason Smith appears here is his price. I’m not enthusiastic about him in New England this weekend. I think the Chiefs best plan to stay competitive in this game revolves around the defense and Charcandrick West (and maybe Spencer Ware if he plays). Smith, through the Chiefs’ golden second half of the season, hasn’t attempted more than 25 passes in six weeks. The advantage to Smith is that regardless of the caliber of defense he’s facing—and the Patriots are the second-best QB matchup this week—you know what you’re getting. His 13-18 fantasy points aren’t going to win you any tournaments, but if you think you can use the salary dollars to your advantage elsewhere, he probably isn’t going to kill you with turnovers either.
Peyton Manning $7000: A more “swing for the fences” play in the bargain bin is Manning. There are of course concerns that he hasn’t started a game in weeks and that Brock Osweiler is going to be his ready back-up should he get hurt or play ineffectively. There is also the possibility that he carves up the Pittsburgh secondary for four touchdowns and well over 300 passing yards. I love Denver this week and I think Manning is the kind of play that can win tournaments.
Charcandrick West $6300: As alluded to above, I think the Chiefs will try to control the clock and keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s capable hands. The best way to do that is by running West early and often. West had some amazing performances following Jamaal Charles’ injury but has been disappointing since mid-November as he dealt with his own injury (hamstring) and split time with Spencer Ware. Now that Ware has a high ankle sprain and is questionable for Saturday’s matchup, West could get 20+ carries. He’s a risk to make them into a valuable fantasy day—there are no easy run defenses in the playoffs—but I’m willing to take a chance on volume and he has done it before (vs. Denver, Detroit, and Pittsburgh).
C.J. Anderson $5900: One of the reasons I like Manning so much, aside from the Steelers’ generous pass defense and banged up offense, is that the Broncos can run the ball. Between Anderson and Ronnie Hillman (also $5900), Denver can put up decent rushing games (the two combined for 212 rushing yards in Week 17) and will likely commit to doing so to take some of the burden off of Manning. Neither back was effective in Week 15 when they visited Pittsburgh, but I think the Denver-based, post-season version of this game plays out very differently. I prefer Anderson, but the case can be made for Hillman, who probably gets slightly more carries, as well. It’s personal preference here.
Danny Amendola $6200: Even though the Chiefs defense has been amazing the past few weeks, they still allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. The cheap way to take advantage of a rested, playoff-experienced Patriots passing offense is through Amendola. I expect Brady to throw more like 40-50 passes this week, in contrast to the end of the regular season when he was lacking receivers and failed to exceed 35 attempts four weeks in a row. Amendola can easily get 8-9 quick, short catches and approach 100 receiving yards.
Long shots (NSFCG—not safe for cash games)
Albert Wilson $5400: Wilson would be the de facto WR1 if Jeremy Maclin is unable to play, but Wilson is dealing with a sore hamstring and the likely scenario is that the already low volume we’re dealing with from Smith is distributed, not concentrated on Wilson.
Chris Conley $4800: He had 18 total catches this season. The fact that one, for nine yards, went for a touchdown last week has Conley on the tip of everyone’s tongue for the Divisional Round. It’s very risky to assume the conservative Alex Smith will trust the unproven rookie if Maclin is out.
Darrius Heyward-Bey $4500: Heyward-Bey has had reasonable fantasy games when thrust into the WR3 role, which he would be in the likely scenario where Antonio Brown doesn’t play. If Ben Roethlisberger plays, he’s someone to consider, but it’s hard to imagine that Heyward-Bey is the guy that goes nuts against the league-best Denver secondary.
Jarred Abbrederis $4900: With Davante Adams looking doubtful, Abbrederis appears to be the next man up in Green Bay’s offense. Arizona is no picnic for inexperienced receivers, however, and I think the boost from Adams’ absence would go to Randall Cobb and James Jones. Note that I’m not enthusiastic about Green Bay at all this weekend.
Richard Rodgers, $5100, is the only name I’d mention here and he’s dealing with a hip strain and not practicing in full. Monitor his status if you really need to save at TE, but I think the much better play is to spend up on Greg Olsen and Rob Gronkowski.
New England Patriots $4700: My criteria for playoff defenses are that they are at home and I think their team is going to win—there are no juicy matchups to pick on here. That puts Carolina, Arizona, Denver and NE in play—I’m calling a home team sweep in this round. In their favor, New England has been underrated as a defense at home, this game has a pretty low total, with Kansas City having the lowest team total of the week, and the Patriots were second in sacks (49) for the most lost yardage. They also forced 24 fumbles, and though they recovered only nine of those, two went for touchdowns. It may be grasping at straws, but in a win or go home environment, Smith could take more chances than usual and more chances could lead to more mistakes than usual too.