Welcome to the NFL Deep Dive
The NFL Deep Dive has been a weekly collaboration article from some of FanVice’s industry leading experts where they breakdown the week’s NFL slate from multiple perspectives!
For the NFL Playoffs, Dave Loughran aka Loughy_d and Peter Christensen aka the one and only DraftCheat are giving their thoughts for the AFC and NFC playoff teams after covering the AFC North and NFC North teams respectively, during the regular season.
Nowhere will you find a more in-depth, thorough, game-by-game analysis than here at FanVice this NFL season! With our projections, tools, live shows, podcasts and now with the NFL Deep Dive, we here at FanVice aim to be your one stop shop for all of your Daily Fantasy Sports needs!
Please click on any of the games below for a full breakdown:
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers
Quarterback — On a two-game slate, there is not a ton of need to break down all the individual matchups Aaron Rodgers will face in the NFC Championship game against the Falcons, particularly since Rodgers comes in as the number one DFS QB regardless of how you break it down.
He will be traveling to the Georgia Dome to take on Matt Ryan and the Falcons in what seems like an inevitable shootout and the Packers will once again rely on the cunning and rocket-like right arm of Aaron Rodgers to keep them in the game. While he is the most expensive QB on the slate, make no mistake, Rodgers is the guy to own in all formats.
Running Back — Ty Montgomery emerged from the Divisional Round of the playoffs as the best overall running back play, especially considering his moderate price point and relatively low ownership. He is certain to be a popular play in the shootout in Atlanta, but there is reason to be cautious here. Montgomery’s role did not seem to change much, and while he got into the end zone twice last week, both seemed somewhat fluky and are not opportunities we can necessarily rely on this week. Montgomery is a solid play, of course, and his goal line usage was encouraging, but given how highly owned he will be, he does make for a decent enough fade in tournaments this week.
Wide Receiver — While most people are certainly going to want exposure to the Packers’ receivers in this game, just who to focus on is a tricky question. Jordy Nelson missed last week and has been very limited in practice all week and remains questionable, while Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison (Jordy’s primary backup) have not yet practiced this week, dealing with injuries of their own (an ankle for Adams and a hamstring for Allison). It is very difficult to project at this time which of these three Packers’ receivers will play, and how effective/how many snaps they will play if they are declared active.
We are going to need to pay attention to the news and any reports we get all the way to Sunday. The Packers do have one key target off the injury report entirely, and that is Randall Cobb who should be a big part of the Packers’ offense regardless of the status of Nelson, Adams, and Allison. As far as individual matchups go, there is not a lot of variation in ability against the Falcons’ corners, so the individual matchup is much less of a concern than the health of the wide receiver in this case.
Tight End — Jared Cook was a hero last week and if you read this column hopefully you had a piece of that success. With all of the injuries to the Packers’ wide receivers and after making such a huge, game-winning catch, expect Cook to remain heavily involved in this offense and operate more like a wide receiver than a true tight end. His price has risen, but he is an excellent play in all formats against the Falcons on Sunday and is far and away the best tight end option on the slate.
Defense/Special Teams — While we do not have many DSTs to choose from on a two-game slate, the Packers unit makes for probably the worst of the bunch. Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense are going to pick them apart and a negative score seems at least somewhat likely for the Packers’ DST.
Quarterback — Matt Ryan continued his marvelous season against the Seahawks in the Divisional Round completing 26 of 37 passes for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Falcons controlled the game against the Seahawks. Expect more of the same this week against the Packers, whose defense has been poor all year and continues to deteriorate. The Falcons will be able to move the ball however they please on Sunday, and that perhaps takes a bit of the fantasy floor away from Ryan, as it is at least possible the Falcons could stick to a ground heavy attack should they find a lot of success there (which they should). Still, Ryan is clearly the second best QB play on the day behind only Aaron Rodgers and should be extremely efficient in this cupcake home matchup.
Running Back — As per usual, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman split snaps against the Seahawks with a slight lean toward Freeman, who saw 61% of the snaps to Coleman’s 40%. Both backs had big days, and both will be involved once again on Sunday vs. the Packers. While Freeman is the better bet to score in the red zone, do not overlook Coleman in your lineups, as he seems to go very low owned compared to his counterpart when both backs have similar upside. Against a crumbling Packers run defense, there should be plenty of opportunity for both Freeman and Coleman to have big days, and rostering them both on the same team is a perfectly viable strategy.
Wide Receiver — After a big first half against the Seahawks, Julio Jones re-injured his toe and caught just one pass in the second half on limited snaps. Jones has yet to practice this week, but says he will play on Sunday. How effective will he be? Jones has a history of not producing up to his expectation when playing hurt, and it seems very clear he will be at significantly less than 100% on Sunday. The Falcons may well use Julio as a decoy as offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan has certainly utilized that strategy in the past. Tread carefully with Julio this week. Mohammad Sanu and Taylor Gabriel would be the primary beneficiaries should Julio be limited or used as a decoy, and both had solid games last week. Both guys can play, and Ryan should be able to find them with ease against a terrible Packers secondary that Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant lit up last week. Sanu and Gabriel are two of the top options on the board at wide receiver considering all the question marks surrounding the Packers’ wide receivers and Julio Jones this week.
Tight End — It is very difficult to trust either Austin Hooper or Levine Toilolo as neither guy has done much all season and they are splitting snaps. Take a dart throw here if you must, but know that you are exceedingly unlikely to hit the bullseye.
Defense/Special Teams — The Falcons are 5.5 point home favorites here and certainly will get a lot of opportunity for sacks and interceptions against Aaron Rodgers who may very well have to throw the ball 50 times on Sunday. The Falcons’ DST is certainly in play in both cash games and tournaments and should carry a much lower ownership than the Patriots’ DST.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger is easily the least appealing quarterback option on this two-game slate. Not only has he struggled mightily on the road this season (1:4 TD/INT ratio over his last three road starts including last week’s win over Kansas City), but Roethlisberger’s Steelers own by far the lowest implied total (22.25 TT) of any of the four teams playing this weekend.
Anything goes on these short slates, though, which means Roethlisberger, who is by far the cheapest quarterback option on DraftKings, has tournament appeal based on low ownership alone. He’ll be forced to throw often in order to pace the Patriots’ fine-tuned offense, and should actually enjoy some success considering New England’s biggest weakness is their 23rd ranked pass defense. Keep in mind, however, that Roethlisberger, from a raw projected fantasy points perspective, is the least appealing quarterback of the four active signal callers this weekend.
Running Back – Le’Veon Bell should be projected to score more fantasy points than any running back in the championship round. His performance isn’t tied to Roethlisberger’s success, and he should be in line to see another 30 total touches against the Patriots. Having said that, Bell’s astronomical price point makes him a tough fit on many sites, but he is an easier fit on FanDuel where the pricing disparity between him and the next closest back isn’t nearly as wide as it is on DraftKings.
Simply put, Bell is a top option on sites where you can comfortably fit him, but isn’t a must play on sites where you’re forced to punt several positions just to make it work. The NFC Championship game between Atlanta and Green Bay owns an eye-popping 60-point total, providing us with plenty of appealing running back options at far depressed costs.
Wide Receiver – We all know what Antonio Brown offers on a weekly basis, and Sunday’s tilt with New England should be no different. The Patriots ranked 23rd in pass defense DVOA and 20th against WR1s this season, posing a rather appealing matchup for Brown this weekend. He’s always in play across every format, and will once again be relied upon to carry the load.
It’s worth noting that Julio Jones draws an even better matchup against the Packers’ putrid secondary and the Green Bay receivers, assuming one or more of them are healthy enough to play at full strength (Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Geronimo Allison are all nursing injuries heading into Saturday’s road tilt with Atlanta) will also draw an elite matchup with the Falcons, who ranked bottom-five in passing touchdowns (31) and yards (267 PaYds/G) allowed this season. Brown is a strong option across the board, but he isn’t the only top-tier option to choose from this weekend.
Eli Rogers saw seven targets last week, hauling in five of them for a pedestrian 27 yards and zero scores against the Chiefs. He’ll continue to be used as Roethlisberger’s second option in the passing game if Ladarius Green is unable to play, and is a viable punt on a slate that’s devoid of quality value. It makes some sense to target Rogers in lineups where you want to pay a premium at more than one position.
Tight End – Ladarius Green looks like he could return for this championship matchup with the Patriots. In the event that he’s active and not limited in any fashion, Green will make for a very appealing tournament play on a slate where most will load up on Jared Cook. Bill Belichick has always made an effort to stop opposing teams’ top skill players, so if he looks to limit Antonio Brown throughout the night, Green could see increased volume against New England’s middle of the road defense vs. tight ends.
Jesse James saw six targets against the Chiefs, marking the first time he’s garnered more than five looks in a game since week five. James would make for a desperation punt at a near minimum salary cost on DraftKings if Green is sidelined, but would need a touchdown to produce anything worth getting excited over. James isn’t going to rack up another 80-plus yards like he did last weekend, as he eclipsed the 50-yard mark only once all season prior to the playoffs. Let’s hope Green is healthy enough to play.
Defense/Special Teams – Tom Brady was picked off twice last weekend, but we shouldn’t bank on that happening again. He threw only four interceptions all season long and has always done a phenomenal job of protecting the football. Brady also has an offensive line that gives him ample time in the pocket, resulting in easier passes and fewer sacks. Our options are severely limited this weekend, but there’s simply no reason to consider the Steelers DST in a game where they’ll be 6-point dogs on the road.
New England Patriots
Quarterback – Tom Brady is a virtual lock to produce solid fantasy totals on Sunday, and believe it or not, he may actually be a contrarian option with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan taking part in a 60 O/U game. Brady surprisingly struggled against the Texans, completing only 47 percent of his pass attempts for two touchdown and two interceptions in a 34-16 Divisional Round win. Houston ranked fifth in pass defense DVOA and allowed the second fewest passing yards on the year, so it isn’t unprecedented to see a quality quarterback struggle to move the football.
The Steelers, however, sport a middle of the road pass defense and should cough up plenty of production to Brady in this AFC Championship game. As a 6-point home favorite in a contest owning a 50.5-point total at Gillette Stadium, Brady should be considered a strong tournament option on a week where the masses will flock towards Rodgers and Ryan.
Running Back – Dion Lewis was superb in last week’s win over the Texans, becoming the first player in NFL postseason history to score a rushing, receiving and kick return touchdown in the same game. He reportedly saw more carries than initially anticipated due to LeGarrette Blount still dealing with an illness, but Lewis certainly didn’t disappoint with his expanded workload.
There were a couple hiccups, though, as Lewis fumbled twice on the night, losing one that gave the Texans excellent field position that they converted into a touchdown on a botched kick return attempt. Bill Belichick has always been tough on his running backs when it comes to coughing up the rock, but Lewis didn’t lose any work as a result. Actually, Belichick continued to lean on him down the stretch, which should bode well for him on Sunday.
James White was on the field for only 12 snaps, but managed to parlay his one target into a 19-yard touchdown to put New England up 24-16 in an eventual route. White was uninvolved outside of his one big play, though, and can be avoided this weekend. Lewis played 33 percent of the Patriots’ snaps, racking up 13 carries (13/41/1) and two receptions (2/23/1) on seven targets, while Blount played 27 percent of snaps with eight carries (8/31/0) on the night.
Lewis remains firmly in play as New England’s jack-of-all-trades back, while Blount can be considered a tournament option with multi-touchdown potential against the Steelers. Pittsburgh allowed 15 rushing scores this season (18th) and ranked 19th in DVOA against pass-catching running backs.
Wide Receiver – Tom Brady isn’t afraid to spray his targets around when necessary, but Julian Edelman is New England’s clear top receiving option every single week. Brady completed only 18 passes against the Texans, but eight of them went to Edelman, who finished with 8/137/0 on the night. He was targeted a team-high 13 times while no other Patriots receiver or tight end saw more than four looks.
Brady will continue to lean on Edelman in a game where, unlike last week, the Steelers will actually force Brady to throw more in a high-scoring affair. He’s a lock to see double-digit targets against a Pittsburgh defense that ranked 32nd against WR 1’s in the regular season, and although Edelman’s touchdown upside is low, he makes up for it in PPR formats with elite reception totals. Over his last seven playoffs games dating back to 2013, Edelman has racked up 61 receptions for 660 yards and two touchdowns while recording 10-plus targets and 7-plus receptions in each!
Chris Hogan has been a potent deep threat of late and would be in play as a tournament punt if his ailing thigh doesn’t keep him out of action. Malcolm Mitchell has been utilized semi-frequently in the red zone and also possesses some modest GPP appeal if he’s healthy enough to play. Brady will take to the air more frequently than last week, so it isn’t unrealistic to think one of these secondary options could post solid fantasy totals against the Steelers.
Tight End – Martellus Bennett has now gone eight straight games with five or fewer targets, and that trend will likely continue against a Pittsburgh team that’s done a solid job of limiting opposing tight ends. Despite a small two-game slate, there are better options to choose from at the position. Having said that, Ladarius Green’s potential absence would make Bennett the second best tight end in the championship round. Assuming Green is healthy, however, he and Jared Cook would both be preferred targets over Bennett.
Defense/Special Teams – Normally, New England would not make for an appealing DST option, but with only four teams to choose from and both contests owning totals north of 50 points, the Patriots become our top option by default. The good news here, though, is that Ben Roethlisberger has been known to struggle on the road. A few turnovers and a couple sacks should do the job, but it’ll hardly matter when you consider the Patriots DST will be close to 100 percent owned across the industry.