Even though we’re through the regular season, FanDuel is still offering up plenty of NFL action this weekend as the playoffs get underway. The first 17 weeks absolutely flew by and I don’t think it’s sunk in that we now have to wait just about eight months for another full slate of football. Sundays are about to become very boring another month from now, so savor the four-game slates while they last!
Since we’re operating on a short slate, the format for this week’s primer will be a little different. We’ll still cover most of the usual departments, but I’ll to try frame things in a way that fits this particular set of games. First up is the RotoGrinders Defense vs. Position page, which gives you an idea of how well certain teams defend a particular position. It’s still worth taking each team’s opponents into account when evaluating DvP ranks, but this is one of the tools I value the most, especially with a full seasons worth of data at our fingertips.
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Here’s how each of the eight teams stack up against QBs on the year, including the average number of fantasy points they allow to the position.
Quarterbacks: Pittsburgh – 27th (18.51 FPAPG), Arizona – 23rd (17.80), Dallas – 20th (17.37), Carolina – 18th (17.09), Baltimore – 14th (16.87), Indianapolis – 13th (16.61), Detroit – 5th (15.43), Cincinnati – 4th (15.15)
Cam Newton vs. Arizona ($8,300) – When Superman gets it going on the ground, he’s a threat to top the position in scoring any given week. Newton has rushed for at least 50 yards and a TD in each of the last three games, and it’s no coincidence that the Panthers’ playoff hopes were in limbo during that stretch. They don’t have any excuse to hold him back this week, and while the Cardinals Defense is stout against the run, they’ve had some issues with stopping the pass. They rank 23rd against QBs and have allowed the 3rd most rushing yards to the position this season, setting the stage for another 20+ fantasy point performance from Newton. He’s a guy I’d prefer to target in GPPs, but with only four games to work with, he’s in cash game consideration as well.
I don’t mind Joe Flacco as a contrarian play against a Steelers Defense he’s played well against twice this year, but I won’t have exposure to him in cash games. Matthew Stafford is another potential GPP target against a Cowboys Defense that ranks 26th in passing yards allowed.
Running Backs: Cincinnati – 27th (24.24 FPAPG), Indianapolis – 21st (22.05), Dallas – 18th (20.74), Carolina -17th (20.70), Pittsburgh – 13th (19.25), Detroit – 4th (17.22), Arizona – 2nd (17.00), Baltimore – 1st (15.31)
Jeremy Hill vs. Indianapolis ($7,400 on FanDuel) – Hill’s price has risen in recent weeks, but so has his usage and production. He’s now seen at least 20 carries in each of the last three games and has exceeded 100 rushing yards in every one, something that should continue on Sunday. The Colts have struggled against the run for the majority of the season, and with A.J. Green banged up and Vontae Davis lurking in the secondary, the ground game should be Cincinnati’s focus. While the Bengals have the league’s 5th-best run blocking unit per Pro Football Focus, the Colts grade out slightly below the league average in terms of run defense.
Dan Herron ($5,400 on FanDuel) is an interesting punt play against Cincinnati’s spotty run defense, but he’s still stuck in the 10-13 touch range over his last five games. That total should be fine if he’s able to find the end zone, although he hasn’t contributed much in that department this year (just one total TD). The Bengals are stingy against QBs and Trent Richardson has looked awful, so I’ll at least have some GPP exposure to Boom Herron.
Wide Receivers: Baltimore – 28th (32.71 FPAPG), Pittsburgh – 24th (30.45), Carolina – 20th (29.24), Arizona – 18th (28.94), Detroit – 11th (27.18), Dallas – 7th (25.91), Cincinnati – 5th (25.32), Indianapolis (24.47)
Torrey Smith vs. Pittsburgh ($7,100 on FanDuel) – After an abysmal start to the season, Smith has finished 2014 strong, scoring double-digit fantasy points in eight of his last ten games (he went for 15+ in six of those contests). He’s likely to draw the toughest matchup in the secondary against William Gay, but I’m not sure that’s worth worrying about. Gay grades out as PFFs 31st best CB, but some of that may be attributed to the extremely poor play on the other side of the field (Cortez Allen, who spent much of the early season at LCB, grades out as PFF’s 6th-worst CB). Fire up Torrey Smith as a solid mid-range option at WR.
Martavis Bryant is worth a look as a tournament punt play at $5,600. His dependency on touchdowns and lack of targets (he’s seen 9 total over the last three games) keeps him out of cash game consideration.
Tight Ends: Indianapolis – 31st (13.05 FPAPG), Dallas – 29th (12.66), Arizona – 27th (12.24), Pittsburgh – 20th (10.38), Cincinnati – 19th (10.23), Detroit – 17th (9.91), Carolina – 14th (9.30), Baltimore – 12th (8.76)
Greg Olsen vs. Arizona ($6,400 on FanDuel) – The time tested method of playing tight ends against the Cardinals continues into the Wild Card round, where Olsen has a great shot to exploit them. Kelvin Benjamin should have a tough time with Patrick Peterson (who according to Mike Clay may shadow Benjamin) or Antonio Cromartie, leaving Olsen as a good bet to lead the team in targets. Cam Newton doesn’t have much in the way of secondary options in the passing game, so I’d expect Olsen to finish north of his average target number (7.50) on Saturday. Arizona has allowed the most receiving yards to TEs this season; everything is in place for Olsen to bust out of his two-game funk.
Onto the RG Targets page, where you’ll find a breakdown of touches, targets, red-zone targets and percentage of workload, among other stats. It’s an invaluable tool that can help you find players who are in the best positions to succeed; it’s no secret that you want players on your fantasy team who are heavily involved in the offense, especially those that are also key cogs in the red-zone.
Antonio Brown ($9,200 on FanDuel) – Do whatever is necessary to roster Brown this week. With Le’Veon Bell unlikely to suit up, the Steelers will be more reliant on the pass without a viable backup to take on his carries. Ben Tate joined Dri Archer and Josh Harris in the Steelers backfield on Tuesday, but he’ll have a very limited opportunity to prepare and likely wouldn’t take on many touches (he looked gassed this season anyway). The ever-consistent #84 finished 2nd in the league in total targets and managed to finish with 18 more receptions than the NFL’s target leader, Demaryius Thomas. Brown still ranks 2nd in red-zone targets and has finished with fewer than 16 FPs in just one of his last ten games. Fire him up with confidence against a Baltimore defense that allowed the 28th most FPs to WRs this year.
Calvin Johnson ($9,000 on FanDuel) – I understand it’s tough to roster two WRs in the $9K range, but you can make it work this week if you are willing to take some chances at RB/TE. Megatron missed a few games this year and therefore doesn’t rank notably high in total targets, but he’s 5th among WRs in targets per game at just under 10 (9.92). He’s seeing just over a red-zone target per game, and while Dallas hasn’t been friendly to opposing WRs, Calvin is a whole different animal. He’s matchup proof when healthy and is obviously one of the most talented players in football, so I don’t expect the Lions to go down without giving him plenty of opportunities to make plays.
Cash Game Targets
Here I’ll list my top two or three cash game plays at each position and provide a short explanation as to why I’m on them. You are typically shooting for safety in H2H-50/50 contests, but we’ll have to take a few shots in the dark on a short slate.
Ben Roethlisberger - $8,500: He’s my top target at the QB position for a few reasons. With Bell expected to sit, Roethlisberger will chuck it as many times as he wants. The Ravens are slightly above average against opposing QBs and they gave Big Ben trouble earlier in the year when these teams met in Baltimore. The good news for Roethlisberger is that he’s played much better at home this season, averaging just shy of 350 yards and 3 TDs per game. I’d love to roster Andrew Luck, but I’ve struggled to find the cap space for him early in the week.
Cam Newton - $8,300: Arizona has basically neutralized opposing RBs this year (while allowing the third-most rushing yards to QBs), which should put even more weight on Cam’s shoulders. If he’s able to accrue the rushing production, a big game should be in store.
Jeremy Hill - $7,400: Hill’s price is probably still a bit too low and he’s stepping into a favorable matchup with the Colts. I’m expecting him to see another 20+ carry workload, which should equate to 100+ yards and a solid shot at a TD.
Justin Forsett - $7,000: He’s a good bet for 17-20 touches and possesses decent upside for the price. There isn’t a whole lot that I’m comfortable with at RB; I’m hesitant to pay up for Murray and game flow is a concern for Joique Bell, while Jonathan Stewart is stuck in a brutal matchup. Game flow isn’t a huge concern for Forsett since he’s viable in pass protection and is a contributor in the receiving game.
Antonio Brown - $9,200: What can Brown do for you? He can provide you with a great anchor for your cash game lineups, and he always delivers on time.
Torrey Smith/Steve Smith - $7,100 and $6,400: Both Smiths are in play here, with Torrey being the more appealing (and more expensive) of the two. Each is available at a fair price tag and Pittsburgh’s secondary lacks any noteworthy talent.
Calvin Johnson - $9,000: The Cowboys will have boatloads of trouble trying to slow down Megatron and Matthew Stafford needs to feed his top target if he hopes to play again next week. Johnson averages just south of double-digit targets per game and is a great bet to exceed that total against Dallas.
Greg Olsen - $6,400: Olsen is far and away the safest bet at the tight end position this week. He’s priced close enough to the rest of the field for me to play him in 100% of cash game lineups.
Jason Witten, Coby Fleener (and potentially Dwayne Allen), Heath Miller and Jermaine Gresham are all in play for large-field tournaments, but I won’t be playing any of them in cash games. The tight end position is extra volatile this week.
Defense/Special Teams and Kicker
Carolina Panthers - $5,300: I surely won’t be rostering any member of the Cardinals Offense, since they’ve been a complete mess dating back to Carson Palmer’s injury. Playing any other D/ST unit in cash games doesn’t feel right.
I don’t have much of a preference with kickers this week, but it’s nice that Adam Vinatieri, Matt Prater and Shaun Suisham are all under $5K.
Thanks for taking the time to check out the Primer and best of luck to you all throughout Wild Card Weekend!