Contrarian Plays: We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert

Similarly to last week, differentiating yourself from the pack becomes extremely difficult because the total number of games to choose from remains four instead of the 16 we became accustomed to in the regular season. By this point in the season, players have had enough time to establish their roles. With only eight teams to analyze, it’s very tough to come up with a name that will fly under the radar with a high probability of succeeding.

Google defines contrarian as “opposing or rejecting popular opinion; going against current practice.” Popular plays are going to emerge throughout the course of the week, as they do every week, based on talented players squaring off against the worst of the remaining defenses. Still, with so few choices, nearly every player with any sort of role in their respective offense will be rostered in GPPs this weekend. Therefore, a “contrarian” strategy in the playoffs tends to be extra risky as they tend to be more obscure than usual. The chalk will become even “chalkier” and distinguishing yourself becomes a low probability play but, if you hit, could be the key to running away with a big tournament victory.

Here are my best attempts at contrarian plays for the divisional round of the 2015-16 NFL playoffs:

Peyton Manning, Broncos, $11,300 – Do you have the cojones? The man accused of having nothing but a noodle left for a right arm will draw his first start since week 10 and it will take a true risk taker to use him. The case for Peyton Manning is simple: the Steelers allowed the 12th-most passing touchdowns (TDs) this season to opposing quarterbacks (QBs) with 29 and the 13th-most fantasy points. In other words, they rank as a below-average passing defense and they allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs (RBs). Denver is going to have a difficult time establishing the run against a stout Pittsburgh defense and Ben Roethlisberger already proved with his 380-plus yard, three-TD performance last time that he has the ability to torch the Broncos defense. If this turns into a shootout, Manning is going to have to throw the ball more than Coach Gary Kubiak is probably comfortable with. Nevertheless, the game flow could allow Manning to go out with one of his best performances of the season, and wouldn’t that be the most Peyton Manning thing ever?

Brandon Bolden, Patriots, $7,000 – Kansas City’s defense has been absolutely sensational down the stretch scoring at least 14 fantasy points in five of their last six games. They have also only allowed more than 100 yards rushing twice during that time period. However, there’s really no debating that Tom Brady is the best QB by far that they have seen in quite some time. Plus Coach Bill Belichick is certainly known for his creative play-calling and finding ways to pick apart nearly any defense. The Chiefs allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the RB this season and a big reason was that they consistently shut down pass-catching backs. They allowed the fourth-fewest receptions (70) to opposing RBs but allowed seven rushing TDs which tied for 19th. So if we’re applying the statistics to the skill sets in the Patriots backfield, this plays more as a Brandon Bolden game than it does a James White game. Due to the PPR scoring format, White will be the higher owned player, but is he really in a great position to succeed? With the Chiefs scheming to shut down Brady, Belichick may just find a way to get Bolden going and he presents a fair amount of upside for the price. If thinking outside the box, Bolden makes a lot of sense as a YOLO type shot in the dark.

James Jones, Packers, $9,100 – I seem to keep writing about this guy over and over because he gets written off as a sub-par talent (which he may be), but that almost doesn’t matter in an Aaron Rodgers offense. Hell, Davante Adams, the king of drops, was amidst a monster performance last week when he was forced to leave the game with a knee injury. It seems unlikely he suits up this week, so the target distribution will have to become even more concentrated among the staples in the offense: Randall Cobb, Richard Rodgers and Jones. We know Jones is a red zone threat considering he caught eight TDs this season, and nearly 10-plus in every other season with Rodgers, but lately the targets have been coming in bunches. He has been targeted at least nine times in each of his last four games and at least 11 in each of his last three. In a Rodgers-led offense at just $9,100, he simply possesses too much upside, especially considering Patrick Peterson shut down Randall Cobb in the last meeting to just three catches for 15 yards. With Cobb bottled up, Jones should be able to run reasonably free and rack up the targets yet again.

Albert Wilson, Chiefs, $7,400 – Luckily for Jeremy Maclin, the injury he suffered in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs did not turn out to be an ACL injury. Instead he suffered a high ankle sprain which almost always means a 1-2 week timetable minimum. Expecting Maclin to play is a not a fair expectation so other members of the receiving core will need to step up in his absence. For good reason, many will look to Travis Kelce who is one of my favorite plays of the weekend but it’s also possible Albert Wilson sees additional targets as well. At only 5’9”, Wilson relies on his speed as opposed to Maclin who possessed a combination of size and speed. The Chiefs will have to get creative in order to feed him that ball but don’t forget Alex Smith missed Wilson on what should have been a 58-yard TD last week. Smith overthrew a wide open Wilson down the left side of the field so, like many speed receivers, he only needs to make one big play to justify rostering him. Sans Maclin, I believe he makes at least one of those plays this week.

Heath Miller, Steelers, $6,300 – Here are a list of notable names in action this weekend at the tight end (TE) position: Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen and Travis Kelce. By name recognition alone, the majority of people will lean towards using one of the elite three-headed monster especially considering Antonio Brown may not play. Assuming Brown sits, spending money on one of the studs is recommended but I would say do not rule out using Heath Miller as a utility. In order to win playoff football, being different is a virtual requirement and not many will even consider going with a two TE set. Miller caught double-digit passes twice this season and would assuredly see an uptick in targets if Brown were to sit. Even if he did not, Roethlisberger tore up the Broncos last time and DeAngelo Williams was healthy in that game. Williams touched the ball 19 times in that game and only managed 56 total yards with a TD. With their third and fourth string backs carrying the load, it’s doubtful they even manage 50 yards on the ground. Therefore, they’ll have to use their short passing game as their running game which means Miller should be in for a busy day. At only $6,300, there is virtually no downside to rostering him.

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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