Instead of separating cash/tournament plays similarly to a typical week, this week’s NFL picks will just apply to all formats. With only two games on the slate this weekend, the plays are simply the plays and can/should be deployed in all formats. Here are players whose values stand out this weekend:
Aaron Rodgers, Packers, $15,300 – Of the two games, the projected total in the Packers/Falcons game (60.0 points) is vastly superior to the Steelers/Patriots tilt (50.5 points). In a battle between two of the league’s three highest scoring offenses, the high total makes complete sense and there should certainly be a healthy amount of point to come from this game. Aaron Rodgers is just on a ridiculous roll as he has thrown for 300-plus yards in four consecutive games including four-plus TDs thrice during that span and at least two TDs in each. He is hitting his stride at the right time and will now square off against a Falcons team that allowed 25.1 points per game (PPG) to opponents overall. In fact, the Falcons allowed 27.8 PPG at home this year so Rodgers and company should be able to put up points with ease. This game will probably come down to which offense has the ball last since both are just scoring machines. The game atmosphere legitimately could not get any better for Rodgers especially considering the Falcons allowed the second most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to opposing QBs this year. Expect a monster performance from Rodgers this week. Failing to pay up for him should prove to be a grave mistake.
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, $19,400 – There is no reason to get cute when Le’Veon Bell is above and beyond the best talent at the position and there are only three only teams in action. Over the course of the last two weeks, Bell has averaged a ridiculous 31.5 touches, 168.5 yards rushing and 1.0 rushing TDs to go along with exactly two receptions (RECs) in each game as well. No other back on the slate has any prayer of seeing that sort of volume and Bell is also the most talented of the bunch. More touches and more talent equals a must start even in a matchup against a reasonably tough Patriots defense. When these very two teams met in Week 7, Bell caught 10 passes for 68 yards, touched the ball 31 total times and finished with 24.90 fantasy points despite not scoring. On a two game slate, contrarian plays are going to be required to win tournaments but they need to be complemented with the staples…and Bell is certainly one of the staples.
Ty Montgomery, Packers, $10,500 – If starting Rodgers, pairing him with at least one WR is optimal in order to increase overall upside for a lineup but how about the strategy to pair him with a RB? By trade, Ty Montgomery is a receiver so he certainly possesses the necessary skills to potentially catch plenty of passes and/or a TD. For Montgomery, the matchup is ripe considering the Falcons allowed both the most RECs and receiving TDs to opposing backs this year to go along with the second most receiving yards allowed (3.0 yards behind the Saints). In other words, they are by far the most susceptible defense to backs catching passes out of the backfield and Montgomery is arguably the best receiving back since WR is his position by trade. Last week, Montgomery was targeted seven times so this week that could actually prove to be his target floor. At a mid-tier price tag, Montgomery is a lock.
Julio Jones, Falcons, $15,400 – After spending up on Rodgers and Bell, Antonio Brown is just a tad too expensive and he is clearly the lowest priority of the three. Therefore, the “pivot” to Julio Jones is one I am more than comfortable with especially considering he draws the second most favorable individual matchup of the weekend, per Pro Football Focus. Jones will be dealing with Ladarius Gunter although the Packers will almost assuredly shadow a safety over the top. When these two teams squared off on Oct. 30, Jones was only targeted five times and caught three passes but he should be able to produce over a larger sample size against a mediocre secondary. In the Divisional Round, Dez Bryant tore up this very defense to the tune of nine RECs (on 12 targets) for 132 yards and two TDs. If Bryant can do it, then Jones should be able to as well at home where he averaged nearly 4.0 more FPPG (22.0) compared to on the road (18.1).
Taylor Gabriel, Falcons, $9,800 – One Falcons receiver is simply not enough against a Packers defense that ranked 22nd in passing defense this season according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. They basically rated equally as poorly against opposing number one options (28th) as they did against number twos (29th) and beyond (26th) according to DVOA so all the WRs should be able to take advantage; not just Jones. The lone WR who draws the superior individual matchup to the aforementioned Jones is none other than Taylor Gabriel who is the epitome of a big play threat. Gabriel did not find the end zone prior to Week 8, meaning he scored all seven of his total TDs in an eight week span. Mohamed Sanu got it done last week but Gabriel has proven to be the superior talent and weapon of the two so it is only a matter of time until Gabriel steals the spotlight once again. Since Damarious Randall is legitimately the worst starting cornerback remaining in the playoffs, it is not farfetched to think Gabriel beats him early and often.
Eli Rogers, Steelers, $6,700 – On the FantasyDraft video podcast this week, RotoGrinders’ Grant Neiffer was nice enough to join and explain why Eli Rogers is a great option this week. He noted Antonio Brown has always had a complementary receiver to go off alongside him in important spots: Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Mike Wallace to name a few in recent memory. If Brown is going to be able to consistently get his on Sunday against a formidable opponent covering him (Maclolm Butler), he is going to need a separate receiver to prove they are a threat. In this case, Rogers fits the bill in an individual matchup against Logan Ryan with the Patriots looking to take away Brown. Both receivers are certainly in play but Rogers’ near minimum price is what should gravitate fantasy owners towards him.
Martellus Bennett, Patriots, $6,400 – All of a sudden, Martellus Bennett is a TD machine as he has scored in three of his previous five games. Give him a pass for his one REC, four yard dud against the Texans last week because the Texans ranked second in TE DVOA this year. Now, the Patriots will square off against a Steelers defense that was much more susceptible to the position (13th in DVOA) including five TDs allowed. Sans Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots have relied heavily on Bennett at the TE position and he played 93-percent of the offensive snaps once again last week. At a more than $3,000 discount to Jared Cook, Bennett’s upside should rate similarly this week especially if you believe in the “squeaky wheel” theory (where a player left out of the game plan from the week before is then incorporated the following week).
Patriots Defense/Special Teams, $7,800 – Ben Roethlisberger’s splits are well known by this point so he is clearly the weakest link amongst the QBs left in the playoffs. The other three are playing fantastic right now and taking a defense in a game with 60.0 point over/under makes me want to vomit. By default, the Patriots defense stands out as above and beyond the best play on the slate despite costing nearly double the other options. Instead of getting cute, just start the Patriots and sleep like a baby.