Last Second Decisions: Golden Tate or Michael Thomas?

On Sunday morning, fantasy owners will inevitably struggle through decisions of which similarly priced players to start. Let fantasy expert Ricky Sanders guide you through five difficult decisions many will dealing with heading into Week 17:

QB – Matt Ryan/Drew Brees – In a game projected to be by far the highest scoring of the entire weekend, at least one of these QBs feels like a lock to go off. Vegas implies a Falcons victory by the score of 32.3 to 24.8 but both offenses have the potential to go bonkers especially with the game being played in a dome. In fact, this is a matchup between the number one scoring offense (Falcons) and number two scoring offense (Saints) in the NFL. The first meeting between these teams resulted in 77 total points and the QBs combined for 616 passing yards and five TDs. Although Drew Brees has been more Dr. Jekyll than Mr. Hyde recently, he still showed his potential upside a few weeks ago as he dropped 33.40 fantasy points on a tough Cardinals secondary. Sure the team has nothing to play for but that just makes them dangerous as they will be motivated to play spoiler for their divisional foe. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan should benefit from the top option in his receiving core reverting back to full-go this week. Also, his team has something to play for as they will be playing for the number two seed in the NFC and a first round bye in the playoffs. On paper, the matchup is slightly more favorable for Ryan who will face a Saints defense that ranks 29th in passing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. Comparatively, the Falcons rank 24th. The biggest obstacle for both QBs is going to be the effectiveness of the running game as the backs have the potential to vulture TDs away from them. All-in-all, it is hard to overlook a motivated Ryan with his team implied to score the most points and facing a bottom three passing defense. Therefore, he gets the nod. Verdict: Matt Ryan

RB – Mark Ingram/DeAngelo Williams – Herein lies one of the biggest conundrums of the weekend: will DeAngelo Williams receive a full workload or not? Even without Ben Roethlisberger nor Antonio Brown active, Williams is still in an excellent spot against a Browns rushing defense that ranks 31st in DVOA. Williams only returned from a knee injury last week but ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler tweeted he could see a “healthy” workload this week after others speculated it could be Fitzgerald Toussaint dominating the touches earlier in the week. If true, Williams’ upside stretches far beyond his mid-tier $5,500 price tag as he would see a healthy amount of work in both the passing game and via the ground if the team commits to him. On the other hand, Mark Ingram is in a pretty fantastic spot as well against a Falcons defense that has allowed the 11th most fantasy points to opposing backs including the most receptions (RECs) to the position and 16 total TDs. Over the course of the last five games, Ingram has only failed to top double-digit fantasy points once including two 25-plus fantasy point explosions. Ingram managed 5.1 yards per carry (YPC) against the Falcons in the first meeting so everything sets up perfectly for him as well. Since there is slightly more risk to Williams’ matchup, Ingram’s safety should be enough to give him the slight edge. Verdict: Mark Ingram

WR – Jordy Nelson/Mike Evans – Two number one WR options with something to play for are both very much in play in Week 17. Mike Evans will square off against a Panthers defense that has allowed the ninth most fantasy points to opposing WRs while the Packers will face a Lions team that has allowed the third most to the position over the last two weeks. The injury to Darius Slay certainly has had a direct effect on the recent skid for the Lions secondary although he is expected to return this week. While his presence will give the secondary a boost, Jordy Nelson still lit up this secondary in the first meeting to the tune of 6-101-2…with Slay active. Sure the Panthers rank 24th in DVOA against opposing number one WRs but that number has been dropping for a while. There has been no WR more reliable than Nelson this year so relying on him one last time in the regular season makes a lot of sense in a must-win scenario for his team. Verdict: Jordy Nelson

WR – Golden Tate/Michael Thomas – Matthew Stafford has been having hand troubles in recent weeks but it has not affected the play of Golden Tate; he has been targeted at least six times in five straight games and has topped 11 fantasy points in every game during that stretch. The absence of Theo Riddick seems to have directly correlated with his uptick in targets as well and he has once again been deemed inactive against the Packers. For the season, the Packers rank 20th in DVOA against the pass so playing them at home certainly leaves him in a favorable spot. As for Michael Thomas, he will draw a matchup against the Falcons in the Georgia Dome where every game has ended with at least 55 points this season. In Week 3, Thomas posted a respectable game against the Falcons as he caught 7-11 targets for 71 yards and a TD en route to 20.10 fantasy points. In what should be a shootout once again, Thomas will have a solid chance to post a similar performance against a Falcons team that ranks 15th in DVOA against number one WRs. Instead of relying on a WR with a banged up QB, why not take the WR playing in a game that will undoubtedly result in one of the top yardage and point totals of the entire weekend. Even with the Saints having nothing to play for, Thomas is the move. Verdict: Michael Thomas

TE – Delanie Walker/Eric Ebron – Once again, the TE position is a mess this week and deciding who to start is no easy task. Delanie Walker is the bigger name of these two options but Marcus Mariota has been placed on injured reserve and will quite obviously miss this week’s contest. In his absence, Matt Cassel will draw the start at QB and that makes any and all pass catchers difficult to rely on. The price for Walker is excellent but it will not matter if the guy throwing the football is unable to consistently get him the ball. Eric Ebron will not have to deal with that same issue as Matthew Stafford is still a solid QB even with his recent injury issues. More importantly, the team will be playing for the division against a subpar Packers secondary so nearly all factors favor Ebron. Coming off his best performance of the season (eight RECs for 93 yards), it is time to go back to the well especially with him seeing additional looks sans Riddick. Verdict: Eric Ebron

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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