Last Second Decisions: Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan?

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 the Conference Championship Round of the playoffs:

QB – Aaron Rodgers/Matt Ryan – Of the two games, the tilt between the Packers and Falcons possesses the much higher projected total (60.0 point over/under) and features two of the three highest scoring offenses. Additionally, the game features two of the 11 most scored upon defenses in the league; both the Packers and Falcons defenses allowed 24.3-plus points per game (PPG) this season. Therefore, the likeliest outcome of this game is a shootout, especially in the George Dome where the Falcons allowed over 28 PPG to opponents in the regular season. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers has been on an insane run as of late, eclipsing 300 yards passing in each of his last four games with 14 TDs during that span. Sure the Falcons are listed as 5.5 point favorites but they rely more heavily on the run game than the Packers do; the Falcons attempted 26.5 rushing attempts per game this season (13th) while the Packers only attempted 23.1 (29th). The Packers are more reliant upon the passing game to gain yards and/or keep a possession going so the Falcons will inevitably see a large dose of Rodgers whereas Devonta Freeman could potentially anchor the Falcons’ attack. For that reason alone, Rodgers rates as the superior play despite the much more expensive price tag. Verdict: Aaron Rodgers

RB – Dion Lewis/LeGarrette Blount – Dion Lewis’ stock has been on the rise as of late because he has carried the ball at least 11 times in each of his last four games and caught at least one pass in every game during that stretch as well. Most importantly, he finally saw a positive regression in the TD department last week as he scored his first two TDs of the year (between regular and postseason). His recent ascension is likely to inflate his ownership percentage this week while LeGarrette Blount goes virtually overlooked even though he led the NFL in rushing scores with 18. When the two teams squared off earlier this season, Coach Bill Belichick decided to feature Blount to the tune of 24 carries for 127 yards and two TDs en route to 29.40 fantasy points. If there was one aspect where the Steelers defense struggled this year, it was against opposing RBs: they allowed 14 rushing TDs and the seventh most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to the position. Although Lewis received the all-important red zone touch that led to a score last week, it is more than likely Blount receives more of those looks moving forward. Consequently, he draws the nod. Verdict: LeGarrette Blount

WR – Antonio Brown/Julio Jones – Both of these elite receivers certainly possess the potential to go nuts in any given game but the individual matchup easily favors Julio Jones. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Malcolm Butler is the most talented corner remaining in the playoffs and is likely to shadow Antonio Brown for a majority of the afternoon. The two first squared off on Oct. 23 in Heinz Field where Brown averaged 22.2 FPPG this year compared to just 20.5 at home and Brown caught 7-11 targets for 106 yards. Last week’s game against the Chiefs was played on the road as well and Brown nearly put up an identical line: he caught 6-11 targets for 108 yards. Certainly Coach Belichick knows Brown is one of the two offensive players in which he needs to focus his attention on so he probably will help out Butler with a safety over the top as well. Meanwhile, Ladarius Gunter will definitely need safety help against Jones because Jones holds quite the talent disparity over him. In fact, PFF lists Jones as having the second most substantial individual talent disparity over the guy covering him this week behind only teammate Taylor Gabriel. For the season, the Packers ranked 28th against opposing number one WRs according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric and they allowed 75.1 yards per game to the position. Overlooking Brown is difficult because of the great that he is but Jones is a hell of player as well and just simply finds himself in a better situation this week. Verdict: Julio Jones

WR – Geronimo Allison/Eli Rogers – Sans Jordy Nelson (and Randall Cobb a few weeks ago), Geronimo Allison has found himself consistently playing over 70-percent of the team’s offensive snaps over the last month or so. After playing 73-percent of the snaps in Week 16, he followed that performance up with 81-percent of the snaps in Week 17, 58-percent in Week 18 (Nelson played until injury) and then 76-percent once again last week with Nelson on the shelf. In a game with an absurdly high total, and with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, Allison finds himself in an excellent spot. After discussing Brown’s difficult situation this week, it is easy to see Eli Rogers finds himself in a solid spot to produce as well. Brown is the clear focus of the defense’s attention and Brown has consistently had an opposing receiver to complement him with a big performance in his past explosions as well. Whether it was Martavis Bryant, Mike Wallace or Markus Wheaton, Brown always had someone opposite of him to alleviate the attention off of him somewhat. Rogers is going to need to prove his worth in order for Brown to find space himself and that makes Rogers a valuable fantasy asset especially after seeing seven targets last week. Values are difficult to come by this week but both players are firmly in play. Of the two, Rogers may actually possess more upside as he had topped 60 yards receiving in three straight prior to his recent two game skid. Verdict: Eli Rogers

TE – Jared Cook/Martellus Bennett – We have reached a strange point in DFS history where the oft-disappointing Jared Cook is now the most expensive TE on a slate. On paper, Cook’s matchup actually looks awfully enticing as he will square off against a Falcons team that allowed the sixth most fantasy points to the position this year. Furthermore, Cook is coming off one of the best games of his career where he caught 6-11 targets for 104 yards and a TD. Over the course of the last three weeks, Cook has been targeted at least eight times in each and has caught at least four passes plus he has gained at least 48 yards. On the other hand, Martellus Bennett is coming off a down week where he only caught 1-4 targets for four yards which ended a productive month-long streak for him. In Bennett’s previous four games to his flop against the Texans, he caught three TDs during that span and cracked 9.50 fantasy points in three of four games during that span. Most importantly, Bennett comes at a $3,300 discount to Cook so he allows you to fit the best players at multiple other positions. It should be noted his flop last week came against a Texans defense that ranked second in DVOA against the TE position this season and he now will face a Steelers team that ranked 13th. Since the matchup gets easier, there is a solid chance Bennett gets back to his scoring ways. That is a risk I am willing to take so sign me up for Bennett in an offense still missing Rob Gronkowski. Verdict: Martellus Bennett

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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