The Divisional Round of the playoffs offered two lopsided games on Saturday and two nail-biters on Sunday, including one all-time classic as Aaron Rodgers out dueled Dallas’ impressive rookie combo.
The Conference Championship games have the potential to be two more thrillers. The early game sees the scorching hot Rodgers take his talents into Atlanta to try to match the firepower of Matt Ryan and the NFL’s best offense. The late game sees another epic QB battle as the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the New England Patriots. While Rodgers and Ryan are playing the position the best at the moment, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady have six Super Bowl rings between them. That should be promotion enough for the AFC tilt.
With the Seahawks offense falling on its face last week in Atlanta, my fantasy chances stumbled as well. Russell Wilson and Thomas Rawls did next to nothing. Meanwhile, Jared Cook decided to live up to his playmaking potential, making my pick of Martellus Bennett look terrible. Cook’s upside makes him a solid option again for daily this weekend, but be warned, season-long owners know how big a heartbreaker he can be.
The rest of my ticket didn’t fare too badly; alas, it wasn’t good enough.
A lot of people use daily fantasy to spice up otherwise unappealing games and weekends. The Conference Championships don’t need any extra incentive to watch. But if you’re like me, you still have the general-manager itch. Here’s the lineup I’m fielding.
I made my picks based on DraftKings scoring and pricing. Lineups consist of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, 1 DST. Managers have $50,000 to spend on the nine roster spots. Whatever sit you use, be sure you know all the ins and outs of the roster structure and scoring system.
DraftKings Daily Lineup
Pos – Player/Team – Opponent Salary
QB – M. Ryan/ATL – GB $7,700
RB1 – D. Freeman/ATL – GB $7,200
RB2 – D. Lewis/NE – PIT $5,300
WR1 – A. Brown/PIT – @NE $8,800
WR2 – R. Cobb/GB – @ATL $5,900
WR3 – T. Gabriel/ATL – GB $4,900
TE – J. James/PIT – @NE $2,700
Flex – T. Coleman/ATL – GB $4,800
DST – Atlanta Falcons – GB $2,200
With an extra $500 to spend at the end of the day, I thought long and hard about taking Aaron Rodgers over Matt Ryan; the difference in price between the two is exactly $500. However, the Packer receiving corps is ailing so the scales were tipped in favor of the quarterback who leads the NFL’s highest scoring offense. Even with Ryan’s top target, Julio Jones, being hampered by his own foot ailment, the Falcon offense boasts enough talent to make Ryan the top QB for the week.
Out of the two games this week, the Packers/Falcons matchup has better potential for higher fantasy output for obvious reasons. (Just look at the O/U in Vegas, a ludicrous 61 points.) I like the Falcons for the win and centered my ticket around that premise. Atlanta has two running backs capable of putting up strong performances in the same week, which was proven once again in the Divisional Round as both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman rewarded owners with good return on investment. This week should be no different as the Packers’ 31st-ranked pass defense stumbles around trying to cover Julio and company leaving plenty of space for the Falcon backs to do some damage out of the backfield. The modest pricing for Tevin Coleman made him a must-own for me as his big-play potential (in both the run and pass game) should provide owners with good return.
Rounding out my Atlanta Falcon selections is Taylor Gabriel. Sure Mohamed Sanu scored a TD last week and had the better fantasy day, but that just means, at a similar price to Gabriel, he will be more higher owed. Call it recency bias. Sanu plays more snaps, but Gabriel made more plays down the stretch and has bigger play potential, evidenced by his 16.5 yards per catch compared to Sanu’s 11.1.
My highest priced player this week, Antonio Brown, has some making up to do with his coaches and teammates after breaking a sacred locker room rule. I expect Brown will be at his best Sunday in an effort to make amends. The Steelers other receivers gone MIA lately, meaning the pressure will be on Brown and fellow video participant Le’Veon Bell to carry the team once again. The Pats are known for taking away the other team’s best weapons, but when these teams met in Week 7, Brown reeled in seven catches for 106 yards, and that was with Landry Jones throwing the ball.
After Brown and Bell, Roethlisberger’s next best option might be unheralded tight end Jesse James. In the absence of Ladarius Green (concussion), the Penn State product caught five balls for 83 yards in the Divisional Round. Keep an eye on Green’s status leading up to the game; he has a chance to play, which would hurt James’ stock. But at this point in the week, Jones’s price tag is a bargain for his potential.
Dion Lewis provides a solid floor for an RB2 in this PPR scoring format. He also has tremendous upside since he is capable of doing damage as a runner, receiver, and returner. He proved that with a game for the record books last week, scoring a TD in all three ways. Lewis has out snapped teammate LeGarrette Blount three out of the last four weeks and the trend should continue as Lewis continues to showcase his game-changing potential. Unfortunately, it’s starting to show in the price as he is $900 more than Blount this week.
For my WR2, I’m going back to the potential high-scoring Packers/Falcons game. As previously mentioned, the Packer receivers are a wounded unit, so I look to the healthiest of the bunch, Randall Cobb. With Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Geronimo Allison all listed as questionable, Cobb should be a very busy man on Sunday. At $5,900, he is a steal. The downside is that a lot of people will recognize that and he’ll be highly owned.
With most of my money spent, I couldn’t afford the Patriot defense. I decided the best way to win millions is by riding the Falcon wagon. No, I don’t really think the Falcons have a good chance to stop Aaron Rodgers, but I don’t like the chances of the Packers stopping Matt Ryan or the Steelers stopping Tom Brady either. I’ll hope a hot Vic Beasley and company can put some pressure on the magical Aaron Rodgers and make a few big plays. Atlanta’s defense bleeds yards, but it actually tied for the league lead in defensive touchdowns this year.
And there you have it. My one-shot attempt at a winning DraftKings lineup for the Conference Championship. Fingers crossed and enjoy the show!