Game of the Weekend Breakdown: Packers/Redskins

With only four games on the horizon this weekend, writing an article about the “safe plays” seemed a little ridiculous. The superstars are safe and chances are going to be necessary in order to separate one’s self from the pack. Instead of focusing on safe plays, I wanted to focus on the “safest game” aka my favorite game stack of the week. In order to win on a four game slate, microanalysis is absolutely necessary and the game I feel warrants the most attention is Packers/Redskins. Both that game and Steelers/Bengals sport identical over/unders (45), but I feel both offenses playing in Washington have the potential to put up big scores. One of the offenses in Cincinnati will unfortunately be led by A.J. McCarron which immediately disqualifies them from the potential game of the weekend. So with the focus being on the second NFC Wild Card game, my only question is: “You like that?

This game is a tale of two quarterbacks (QBs) with contradicting fortunes down the stretch. Aaron Rodgers failed to reach 20 fantasy points in any of his final four contests, while Kirk Cousins nearly reached that total on 12 completions in the first half of week 17 (a meaningless game). Their fortunes changed so much so during the tail end of the NFL season that Cousins actually finished with a greater overall average of fantasy points per game (20.52 versus 20.14 for Rodgers). In my opinion, Cousins will likely end up the highest owned QB of the weekend at around 30-40 percent ownership…and why not? He threw for 300 yards in four of his final five games (not including week 17 because the Redskins were not giving their all) and managed at least 25 fantasy points in each of those occurrences. Cousins is simply locked in and sometimes all it takes is for a team to get hot in order for them to make a deep run. On the other hand, Rodgers looks like the most over-priced QB of the weekend due to his recent poor play which could present an interesting buying opportunity. Look, the loss of Jordy Nelson clearly has had a larger impact than we all realized it could and even Randall Cobb is still battling soreness in his shoulder (as he has been all season). So with his two top targets hampered, it hasn’t been an easy road for him especially having to rely on James Jones, Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers as his next-best options. At some point, even with the mediocre options, Rodgers is going to have to snap out of this. In week 13 versus Detroit, Rodgers threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns (TDs) and added 27 yards on the ground and a rushing score…all with the same personnel. While it’s a long-shot, Rodgers is a fantastic contrarian option in my eyes as his price has probably tumbled as low as it’s ever going to be.

Both backfield situations look like full-blown committees heading into the wild card round of the playoffs especially because Matt Jones is expected to return for the Redskins. In two games sans Jones, Alfred Morris carried the ball 17 and 19 times after not carrying the ball more than 14 times in any of his previous three ballgames (week 13-15). In fact, Jones had carried the ball at least 18 times two times during the week 13-15 three game stretch. He would have out-touched Morris in week 15 as well but he suffered a hip injury in that contest (which then kept him out for the next two ballgames). Jones’ return likely diminishes any fantasy value Pierre Thomas had mustered up over the previous weeks and the backfield returns to a true two-man committee. Speaking of two-back situations, the Packers are stuck in one of those as well but Eddie Lacy appears to have emerged down the stretch as the true lead guy. Earlier in the season the coaching staff lost faith in him and James Starks produced 20-plus fantasy points twice in a three week span (week six and week nine). Since week 11, Lacy has received double-digit carries in all but one game and has eclipsed 14.50 fantasy points in four of seven games. The issue with Lacy is his outputs are truly all or nothing. In the three games he failed to crack double-digit fantasy points down the stretch, his best fantasy output was 6.10 fantasy points. Starks has scored a TD in one week since week nine so any score on the ground will likely come from Lacy. Not a single back in this game stands out but Jones is the preferred play on Washington and Lacy from the Packers. Neither score on a consistent basis nor have a predictable enough role to be used in cash but both are elite tournament options considering Jones’ 30.70 fantasy point outburst in week 10 and Lacy’s 24 carry, 124 yards performance capped off with a TD in week 14.

None of the receivers on either side of the field draw overly favorable matchups according to Pro Football Focus. Washington’s Breshaud Breeland rates as their best cornerback (CB) with a rating of 82. In the regular season, 82 would have ranked as a good but not great ranking and is the seventh best among any CB playing this upcoming weekend. The problem, as mentioned above, is the lack of talent among Green Bay pass-catchers. Adams drops too many passes, Cobb’s shoulder is hindering his ability to get open and Jones can’t get open so he’s best relied upon as a big target in the red zone. However I’m working under the assumption this game is going to stay reasonably close (the Packers are listed as one point favorites) and someone is going to have to catch passes in order for that to happen. Therefore, taking the shot on the inexpensive options (Adams and Jones) makes the most sense. Adams is slated to draw the matchup with Breeland most often because both line up on the right side of the formation a majority of the time. Considering Adams only lines up there 57 percent of the team, it’s not like Breeland will shadow him the whole game and he’ll still have plenty of opportunities to exploit more favorable matchups. Still Jones makes more sense to roster as he’ll have an easier time beating his man one-on-one on a consistent basis and he receives pretty regular red zone looks. Jones ended the season on a nice streak of three straight games with at least 11.60 fantasy points including a 100 yard game against Minnesota on just four receptions (RECs). Richard Rodgers caught a TD in three of the final five games but he also caught exactly one pass in three of the final five. He’s the classic GPP option as he’s either schemed heavily into the offense or totally forgotten about.

As for the Redskins pass-catchers, well, they start with the tight end (TE): Jordan Reed. Despite missing two games, Reed finished the season with 87 RECs for 952 yards and 11 TDs. By comparison, Rob Gronkowski finished with 72 RECs for 1,176 yards and 11 TDs in 15 games (one more game than Reed). No other receiver on the Redskins managed seven receiving TDs nor 780 yards so Reed obviously is the focal point of the passing game. As chalky as Cousins may end up, Reed will be even higher owned and I expect him to end up with the second highest ownership on the slate behind Antonio Brown. It doesn’t matter because Reed is an absolute must-play for me as above and beyond the best TE talent in play this weekend. Similarly to the Packers receiver situation, no individual matchup stands out for Redskins receivers either. Green Bay possesses two solid corners (Casey Hayward and Sam Shields) and a rather beatable one (Damarious Randall). I have a ton of faith in Cousins this week but not all of his passes are going to head in Reed’s direction. So if looking to mega-stack, or use two receivers with the same QB, look no further than DeSean Jackson who likely draws the matchup against Randall. Hopefully the general public forgets about him because his final two games of the season ended with a four REC, 40 yard dud before sitting out week 17. Prior to those two games, Jackson had scored in three of his previous four and Cousins clearly is locked in. Especially if the Redskins can establish the running game early, it’ll be impossible to guard both Reed in the middle of the field and cover Jackson over the top. I think both Reed and Jackson can provide plenty of value because Reed will see the volume and Jackson just needs one catch to make his day. Pierre Garcon makes sense as a cash option as he scored in each of his final three games and registered at least 10 fantasy points in each of his last five games. During that stretch, he only eclipsed 21 fantasy points once which is why I prefer Jackson as the tournament option.

It should be an interesting game but I think Washington pulls out ahead. The game is projected at approximately 23-22 Packers but I like the Redskins 28-25. Don’t be afraid to use up to five or so players from this game because, to reiterate, this is the game to target over the weekend slate. May the “You like that!” be with you.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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