Weekend Review: Ginn’s Return Limited Funchess’ Snaps

Where do I start with the games from this weekend?

Tom Brady put in a vintage Brady performance, the Packers forced overtime on another Hail Mary (only to eventually lose), the Panthers almost blew a 31-point lead, the Broncos/Steelers game gave Seahawks’ fans a heart attack and the crying Jordans came out in full force. When the smoke cleared, the four teams that remained were the Patriots and Broncos out of the AFC and the Cardinals and Panthers in the NFC. In other words, the four quarterbacks (QBs) that remain are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer and Cam Newton. All the narratives will be thrown around this weekend but the ones you will find on TV will likely focus around Brady and Manning meeting for maybe the final time. Here on the FantasyDraft Locker Room, the focus always revolves around the daily fantasy implications so let’s delve deeper into this weekend’s games and see what subtle hints we can apply to our lineups in the Championship Round.

Here are my observations from an eventful Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs:

Peyton Manning, Broncos – In just Manning’s second game off after a lengthy absence from Nov. 15 to Jan. 3, he completed 56.8 percent of his passes (21-37) for 222 yards en route to a 23-16 victory versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. The good news is he did not throw an interception for the first time in any game this season with at least 10 passing attempts (he only threw nine attempts without an interception the game he relieved Brock Osweiler due to an injury). The bad news is he did not throw a touchdown (TD) pass for the fifth time amongst games he has started (out of 10 total). C.J. Anderson carried the Broncos offense (15 carries for 72 yards and a TD) while Manning mixed in just enough to set up Brandon McManus for five field goals. Against the Patriots, he is going to have to become more than a game manager in order to compete. In theory, Manning versus Brady should be an instant classic but I’m not sure this Broncos offense has enough firepower to compete. Unless Manning can turn back to the clock to a few years ago, which he has not shown the ability to do this season (has only thrown more than two TDs once and multiple TDs in three games), the Patriots should blow the Broncos out next week. Fortunately he still found a way to feed Emmanuel Sanders (five catches for 85 yards on eight targets) and to a lesser extent Demaryius Thomas (four catches for 40 yards on eight targets) so both will remain viable options next week. However, Julian Edelman remains a matchup nightmare and Brady is still playing at a high level so he remains the preferred option over both of Denver’s receiving duo if the decision comes down to that.

C.J. Anderson, Broncos – As mentioned in the tidbit above, Anderson was really the lone bright spot in an otherwise stagnant Broncos offense. Anderson was the only offensive player to find the end zone and he showed why he began the season as the workhorse back. In theory, Anderson and Ronnie Hillman complement each other well as Anderson is more of a power back while Hillman provides the speed. Down the stretch, Anderson’s production has remained consistent (at least 4.0 yards per carry (YPC) in each of his last nine games) while Hillman has accomplished four-plus YPC just once in his last six games (including the Divisional Round). Essentially Anderson is the back you want to roster moving forward because he is both more effective more often and has also has the better chance to score due to his goal line role (has scored in three straight games). Despite the fact he has carried the ball 30 times to Hillman’s 31 over the past two games, he is still an elite playoff option at the running back (RB) position. At this point, one cannot worry about the committees any longer as every single player on the field is a possible option with so few choices available.

Devin Funchess, Panthers – The Panthers’ second round pick Devin Funchess scored five TDs during the 2015 regular season but it took until week 17 for him to eclipse the 100 yard plateau (and he capped that performance with one of the five TDs). Essentially it felt like week 17 was Funchess’ breakout week but Ted Ginn Jr. did not suit up. Funchess was only playing additional snaps due to Ginn’s injury. With Ginn returning for the playoffs, using him required a leap of faith that he would continue to steal snaps on the outside due to his one big performance. Unfortunately, the Panthers offense is reliant upon Ginn’s presence as a deep threat even if he’s only used as a decoy. The snap count from this weekend’s game confirms the theory as Ginn played 42 snaps to Funchess’ 22 (out of a total of 65). Every defense schemes for Newton’s rushing ability, the running game and Greg Olsen but Ginn adds that extra spice that drives opposing teams crazy. Funchess will be a good player in the future but he’s not trustable moving forward as long as the rest of the receiving core (including Corey Brown) remains healthy.

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Okay so let me be the first one to admit I was dead wrong suggesting Larry Fitzgerald was fade-able last week. My point was any of the three Cardinals wide receivers (WRs) have the potential to go off any given game and the other two options were much cheaper. What I didn’t take into consideration was my initial thought: any of the three Cardinals WRs have the potential to go off any given game…and Fitzgerald is still one of the best. As I eat crow this week, I look at next week’s matchup and assume Fitzgerald will draw the one-on-one matchup against Josh Norman for a majority of the game especially coming off of a monster game (eight receptions (RECs) for 176 yards and a TD). Norman isn’t unbeatable but he graded as one of Pro Football Focus’ top cover corners this year and the top cover corner remaining in the playoffs. He shadowed a receiver in each of his final six regular season games before mostly maintaining his side of the field against the Seattle receivers. Despite Baldwin’s breakout season, Norman did not fully shadow him as he had to receivers before (aka Mike Evans in week 17). I think Norman gets back to basics and sticks to one talented man in the Conference Championship meaning my take on Fitzgerald this week will be even more applicable next week. Hey, I have to be right at some point, right?

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Similarly to Fitzgerald, there isn’t a whole lot of insight I can give to Rob Gronkowski’s greatness. When all said and done, Gronkowski is probably going to be the best to have ever played the position (yes he’s that good…sorry Tony Gonzalez). The issue here is whether or not to trust Patriots’ injury reports since many (including myself) were roasted by Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots beat writers yet again this week. News surfaced mid-week suggesting Gronkowski received a pain injection in his right knee. Considering he did not practice on Wednesday, this report surfacing on Thursday seemed reasonable. After the initial report, Ian Rappaport reported that Gronkowski did not actually receive the injection. As if this wasn’t enough, Field Yates reported Gronkowski was already dealing with a back injury before his knee situation. On Saturday, CSN New England’s Tom Curran followed up Yates’ report by saying quote “Gronkowski’s back injury is a greater concern than the knee.” Welp. With all this reporting, one was led to believe Gronkowski’s body was falling apart and there was absolutely no way he could play at a high level. Gotcha! As is customary with Patriots injury reports, we were all “Punk’d” as Gronkowski looked just fine on the field and caught seven RECs for 83 yards and two TDs. Moral of the story: if a Patriots player is active, forget the injury updates from earlier in the week. The final outcome is the only thing that matters so do not fall into the same trap yet again next week. If Gronkowski is active, Gronkowski is worthy of starting in daily fantasy football. Period.

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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