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Primer: Divisional Round

by Stephen Keech
Updated On: December 3, 2018, 6:01 pm ET

Even though we’re through the regular season, FanDuel is still offering up plenty of NFL action this weekend as the playoffs move into the Divisional Round. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that we now have to wait just about eight months for another full slate of football. Sundays are about to become very boring very soon, 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.

 

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $2 Million Fantasy Football league for the Divisional Round Weekend's games. It's only $25 to join and first prize is $200,000. Starts Saturday, January 10th at 4:35pm ET. Here's the link.

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 season’s worth of data at our fingertips.

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: Denver – 25th (18.22 FPAPG), Dallas – 20th (17.37), Carolina - 18th (17.09), Green Bay – 16th (17.03), Baltimore – 14th (16.87), Indianapolis – 13th (16.61), New England – 11th (16.42), Seattle – 1st (12.04)

Aaron Rodgers vs. Dallas ($9,700 on FanDuel) – The matchup for Andrew Luck is appealing as well, but give me Rodgers at home against a Cowboys secondary with some exploitable holes. Rodgers has an insane 25-0 TD-to-INT ratio at home (along with a 133.2 QB rating), and while temperatures may fall to the single digits on Sunday, wind and precipitation aren’t expected to cause any problems. Playing in cold weather isn’t anything new to the Pack (although it could give Dallas some trouble), so as long as Rodgers’ calf injury holds up, he’s a solid bet to lead the QB position in fantasy points this weekend. With the high-end QBs all priced similarly, Rodgers will be the guy I target most frequently in both cash games and GPPs.

Running Backs: Indianapolis – 21st (22.05 FPAPG), Dallas – 18th (20.74), Carolina – 17th (20.70), New England – 16th (20.48), Green Bay – 15th (20.03), Denver – 12th (19.07), Seattle – 5th (17.27), Baltimore – 1st (15.31)

C.J. Anderson vs. Indianapolis ($8,700 on FanDuel) – After dropping at least 23.8 FPs in six of his last eight games, Anderson’s price tag has finally climbed into the $9K range where it belongs. He’s scored 10 TDs over his last eight contests and will likely end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 touches, so he’s about as safe as it gets at the RB spot this week. Indianapolis has struggled with the run most of the year and they boast an impressive secondary (which is graded as the 5th best pass coverage unit, per PFF), anchored by shutdown corner Vontae Davis, so the Broncos should make the run game the focal point on offense. Game flow is also expected to work in Anderson’s favor, as the Broncos are 7-point favorites in a contest with a 54-point total. DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch and Eddie Lacy are also fine options, but Anderson is in the best spot among that group.

Wide Receivers: Baltimore – 28th (32.71 FPAPG), Green Bay – 21st (30.07), Carolina – 20th (29.24), Dallas – 7th (25.91), Denver – 4th (24.97), New England – 3rd (24.56), Indianapolis – 2nd (24.47), Seattle – 1st (19.07)

Dez Bryant vs. Green Bay ($9,000 on FanDuel) – Anyone who rostered Dez last week may be a little wary to go back to the well, but he’s in a much better spot this weekend. The Lions used Darius Slay with some help over the top to defend Bryant last weekend, but it’s been reported that the Packers won’t change their scheme to pay extra attention to him this week. The Cowboys are also expected to be playing from behind later in the game, which is great news for Dez’s fantasy numbers. Expect Romo to send double-digit targets his way against the combination of Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, neither of whom should be able to slow Dez down one-on-one. Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones have posted huge games against this secondary over the last month, giving me confidence that Bryant can follow up with a noteworthy game of his own.

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.

Dan Herron ($6,100 on FanDuel) – Herron wasn’t seeing a high number of carries or targets in the regular season, but he was able to rack up 10 catches on 11 targets in the Colts’ Wild Card round victory over the Bengals. Much like last season, the Colts went away from Trent Richardson in the playoffs and leaned heavily on their most talented back, giving Herron all the opportunity in the world to succeed. He has some ball-control issues and his two fumbles (only one was lost) cost him a chance at some valuable garbage points, but the Colts are reportedly going to stick with him, and rightfully so. Zurlon Tipton isn’t particularly skilled and we know Trent Richardson is washed up, so expect another high volume day for Herron as a receiver. The Broncos are a tough team to run against and the Colts are expected to be playing from behind, but Herron’s success likely won’t depend on game flow. Expect somewhere in the range of 18 touches for Boom, with upside for a few more.

Demaryius Thomas ($9,100 on FanDuel) – DT consumed far and away the most targets of any receiver left in play, but the big concern here is Colts cornerback Vontae Davis. Since the Broncos receivers move around in formations, it’s tough to tell who exactly will end up on Davis’ side of the field (he’s not a shadow corner - he lines up exclusively on the right side). Neither Thomas nor Emmanuel Sanders had a great showing in the Week 1 meeting between these teams (Julius Thomas went off for 100+ yards and 3 TDs), but it’s worth noting that DT didn’t see a ton of Davis in that matchup (he saw more of Greg Toler, PFF’s 99th ranked CB out of 108 players). Demaryius averaged 11.5 targets per game during the regular season, including a league-high 40 red-zone targets, so he’ll clearly be a factor for Peyton in the playoffs.

Rob Gronkowski ($7,900 on FanDuel)Julius Thomas is very appealing at $5,500, but Gronk is the safer cash game option and also has the highest ceiling at the position. Despite starting the season on a snap count, Gronkowski led all tight ends in targets (131 total) and averaged just over a red-zone target per game. The Ravens are above-average in terms of defending the tight end position, but it’s worth noting that Baltimore has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs, which should force New England into a pass-happy approach. I’m expecting at least one Gronk spike in this game and wouldn’t be surprised to see him find the end zone multiple times.

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.

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Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers - $9,700 on FanDuel – For all the reasons listed above. He’s playing at home (albeit in frigid temperatures), where he owns a 25-0 TD-to-INT ratio, and comes up against a Cowboys secondary that likely overperformed in the regular season. Even with some concern surrounding his calf, Rodgers is a safe option in cash games. He also possesses a high floor, assuming Eddie Lacy isn’t the touchdown maker on Sunday.

Andrew Luck - $9,600 on FanDuel – The Colts are touchdown underdogs in a game that features the weekend’s highest total in the NFL odds, so Luck should be throwing early and often. He hasn’t shown it much lately, but he’s also a threat to add a few points with his legs. The Broncos have an impressive set of corners, but Luck has a myriad of weapons that make him just about matchup proof.

Running Backs

C.J. Anderson - $8,700 on FanDuel – I fully expect the Broncos to heavily feed Anderson on Sunday, something they’ve done consistently since he’s taken over as the lead back. He’s been a force in the red-zone and is a nice receiving option out of the backfield, giving him a very high floor against the Colts.

Dan Herron - $6,100 on FanDuel – Price is the big factor here since the matchup isn’t as friendly, but he should see a nice workload, assuming he can hold onto the football. It’s really tough to pay up for two top-tier RBs this week, making Herron one of the top value plays at any position.

Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson - $9,000 on FanDuel – Assuming Orlando Scandrick roams the slot and covers Randall Cobb, Nelson has the better matchup against either Brandon Carr or Sterling Moore. The Cowboys likely won’t be able to shade much extra attention towards Nelson, with Cobb and Eddie Lacy also warranting attention of their own. There may not be a QB/WR duo with better chemistry than Rodgers and Nelson.

Dez Bryant - $9,000 on FanDuel – If the Packers don’t shade extra coverage towards Bryant, look out. You know he’ll want to follow up last week’s dud with a big game, and my guess is he’s able to do so. Dallas should be playing from behind late in the game and Romo will need to get Bryant involved if the Cowboys have any hope of hanging with the Packers.

Kelvin Benjamin - $6,400 on FanDuel – This play makes me nervous, but the price seems a little too low on Benjamin here. He’s not likely to see much of Richard Sherman’s side of the field, and the Panthers will probably be forced into throwing for the large majority of the second half. I don’t expect them to have much success on the ground, and while Seattle is elite against both QBs and WRs, Benjamin’s volume could make him worth the $6,400 price tag.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski - $7,900 on FanDuel – It’s admittedly tough to find the cap space for him, but Gronk is far and away the best cash game play at the tight end position. The Ravens are stout against the run, and while they do struggle with receivers, Gronkowski should still be the team’s target leader. He’s a force in the red-zone and led the position in targets, despite starting the year on a snap count.

Julius Thomas - $5,500 on FanDuel – This price is tantalizing, especially when you consider what Orange Julius did to the Colts back in Week 1 (7-104-3). He’s also stated that the bye week was huge for him from a health perspective, a very nice plus when you take into account how limited his production was late in the season. Virgil Green (the Broncos’ primary blocking TE) also should be at full strength, allowing Thomas to run more routes against a Colts Defense that surrendered the 2nd most fantasy points to TEs this season. While I’d prefer to roster Gronkowski, Thomas may end up in more of my lineups due to the big price difference.

Defense/Special Teams and Kicker

Seattle Seahawks - $5,200 on FanDuel – Most of the offenses taking the field this weekend are teams that you’d never want to take a D/ST unit against, but the Panthers don’t fit that mold. Add in the fact that Seattle plays at home and you have yourself a nice cash game option. If the Panthers are forced into a pass-heavy approach in the second half, expect a few turnovers along the way.

FanDuel did us a favor at the kicker position this week, as all of the options are priced at or under $4,800. I’d prefer Stephen Gostkowski or Connor Barth, but I’ll let the rest of my lineup dictate where I go at kicker. Justin Tucker is a nice option at $4,500 if you are forced into going even cheaper.

 

This is officially the last Primer of the season, so big thanks to anyone who took the time to check out this column dating back to Week 1. I’ve had a lot of fun writing this each week, and I hope it helped you guys win some cash along the way!

Stephen Keech
Stephen "SBK" Keech is a head-to-head specialist who has shot up to being ranked in the Top 100 for Overall, MLB, NBA, and NHL. SBK’s a lead contributor on RotoGrinders, and can be found on Twitter @StephByronKeech.