Last Second Decisions: Matt Ryan or Russell Wilson?

On Saturday 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 the Divisional Round of the playoffs:

QB – Matt Ryan/Russell Wilson – On paper, the matchup is vastly superior for Russell Wilson than it is for Matt Ryan as the Falcons allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing QBs this season. Yet, the Falcons are listed as 4.5 point favorites at home and implied to score the third most points of any team on the slate (behind only the Patriots and Cowboys). In the first meeting between these two teams, which was played in Seattle by the way, Ryan dropped 335 yards and three TDs against this very defense. In the same game, Wilson completed 25-37 passes for 270 yards and zero total TDs en route to 11.50 fantasy points. Although a one game sample does not paint the entire picture, it does show the Seahawks’ intimidating numbers (fourth fewest fantasy points allowed to QBs) are overblown. Actually, the Seahawks ranked 13th in pass defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric so even the fantasy point total allowed was a little misleading. Ryan plays on the superior offense, is listed as the favorite and has had success against this defense already this season so I am riding the home favorite over the struggling Wilson who heads into this game having produced a combined 31.40 fantasy points in his last two games. Verdict: Matt Ryan

RB – Le’Veon Bell/Ezekiel Elliott – Le’Veon Bell has proven to be virtually unstoppable regardless of the weather as he actually produced above and beyond his best game of the season in a blizzard. On Dec. 11 in Buffalo, Bell rushed a whopping 38 times for 236 yards and three TDs and he also caught four passes for 62 yards. This weekend’s tilt against the Chiefs has actually been moved back to 8:20pm ET due to an ice storm in Kansas City so the weather pretty clearly is not going to cooperate. Similarly to the Bills, Kansas City has struggled against the run as they ranked 26th in DVOA over the entirety of the season. On the other hand, Ezekiel Elliott will square off against a Packers defense that shut down the weaker rushing attacks they have faced but been dominated by the stronger running teams. Exhibit A: Elliott rushed for 157 yards in the first meeting and caught two passes for 17 yards as well. Over the course of the final four games, the Packers ranked as a neutral defense against opposing backs as they rushed for 350 yards, two TDs and caught 23 passes for 225 yards. All-in-all, both backs draw pretty solid matchups and the price difference settles the score. While Bell will cost you $19,900, Elliott can be rostered at a $3,800 discount. Verdict: Ezekiel Elliott

WR – Julian Edelman/Dez Bryant – Both players are the top receiving option on one of the two teams implied to score the most points this weekend so how can we differentiate? According to Pro Football Focus, Dez Bryant draws the greater individual matchup of the two as he squares off against Ladarius Gunter. To be fair, Julian Edelman still possesses a talent advantage over Kareem Jackson as well and Edelman may see an uptick in targets by default. Each of the Texans’ outside corners are incredibly tough so players such as Chris Hogan and Michael Floyd will likely have a difficult time getting open. Edelman is one of the most agile players in football and without Rob Gronkowski he acts as Tom Brady’s security blanket. In this matchup, the floor is incredibly high and yet Bryant is still worth the shot. As a whole, the Packers ranked 28th in DVOA against opposing number one WRs and they allowed 75.1 yards per game to the position. Also, they ranked seventh in DVOA against opposing TEs so they basically shut them down. In other words, Witten draws a difficult matchup so Bryant will probably get more looks than usual in a game expected to be both high scoring and close. This is enough to deem Bryant the superior option of the two. Verdict: Dez Bryant

WR – Randall Cobb/Tyreek Hill – Tyreek Hill has basically acted as the main weapon on the Chiefs offense since Nov. 13. In every game since that date, Hill has topped double-digit fantasy points due to his ridiculous big play ability as both a pass-catcher and a runner. Unfortunately, the weather is going to limit his big play pass-catching ability although he still should have a fair chance to break a long run. In the snow, it is a distinct advantage for the offense because he knows where he is supposed to run and the defense has to react. In tune, they may lose their footing, creating a positive situation for the offensive player. Even so, Randall Cobb’s role is set to increase now that Jordy Nelson already ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. Alongside Nelson last week, Cobb caught five passes for 116 yards and three TDs so the sky is the limit with even more targets likely headed his way. Instead of acting as the team’s third option in the passing game, he has moved up to option 1B (with Davante Adams) and he has an absolutely elite QB throwing him the ball. As the final icing on the cake, the weather will not make an impact in Cowboy Stadium so Cobb very easily gets the nod. Verdict: Randall Cobb

TE – Jared Cook/Jason Witten – As noted in the Bryant tidbit, Witten faces a difficult matchup against a Patriots team that allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to TEs over the course of the last month. During that span, they only allowed 15 receptions and 145 yards to the position with zero TDs. In the first meeting between these two teams, Witten only caught 4-8 passes for 42 yards so it is not like he took advantage of the Packers early on when they were struggling against the position. Jared Cook did not happen to suit up for that game but he has been suited up lately and seen at least five targets in four consecutive games. In three of the last four games, Cook has been targeted at least eight times and hauled in at least four passes. At 6’5”, 248 lbs, it should only be a matter of time before Cook experiences a positive regression in terms of TDs in an Aaron Rodgers led offense because he has only caught one so far this year. The Cowboys ranked 30th in DVOA against the TE position this season so this game would be a perfect time for the correction. Verdict: Jared Cook

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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