The days of labeling Byron Pringle as a sleeper are dwindling. As we get deeper into the playoffs, it’ll become harder to find diamonds in the rough. It will also be tough to name, say, a quarterback as a Start who may not be one. No need for me to waste time explaining why you should start Josh Allen, right? Instead, I focused more on why Quarterback A should be started over Quarterbacks B and C. I had a slightly different, more typical philosophy for running backs and wide receivers. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @ZachCohenFB with any more questions or comments!
Start: Aaron Rodgers vs. SF
Like I said in the intro, this isn’t supposed to be a bold pick. My explanation is more about why you should prioritize Rodgers over Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Tom Brady. First off, Rodgers is arguably having a better season than all three of them. Not only does Rodgers have fewer interceptions than them, but two of his four picks came in Week 1. Second, Rodgers gets home-field advantage. I don’t think I need to break down how important that is. Third, for as good as Mahomes, Brady, and Allen are, none of them have a matchup like Rodgers does. Here are the FPA rankings (Fantasy Points Allowed) for each defense the four quarterbacks are facing this weekend.
- Rodgers vs. SF - 15th
- Allen at KC - 11th
- Brady vs. LAR - 8th
- Mahomes vs. BUF - 5th
Depending on what DFS site you use, Rodgers may not even be the most expensive quarterback. If you want to get a bit bolder, Joe Burrow could stay hot against the Titans’ 12th-best defense in FPA to quarterbacks. But that may just be me predicting an upset in Nashville.
Other Players to Consider: Joe Burrow at TEN
Sit: Matthew Stafford at TB
Don’t let the Rams’ dominant win over the Cardinals distract you from Stafford’s recent struggles in fantasy football. Across his last four regular-season games, Stafford was the QB22 in points per game. Against Arizona, Stafford only logged 202 passing yards and two passing touchdowns, though he did score his first rushing touchdown as a Ram. Now, this isn’t to say Stafford is a player you must avoid—mostly since there are only eight passers to choose from. He does have a nice matchup on paper; the Buccaneers are 26th in FPA to quarterbacks. Stafford could also help to engineer another offensive explosion. But based on his production this season when compared with the quarterbacks I mentioned above, Stafford seems like a riskier bet. You shouldn’t be eager to slot him in your lineups.
Other Players to Consider: Ryan Tannehill vs. CIN
Start: A.J. Dillon vs. SF
With the skill positions, hitting on players with lower ownership rates is paramount to winning big. Translation: You can’t get first place if everyone in your pool or league has the same players. Duh! And Dillon is the perfect running back for this method. Everyone knows who Dillon is, but I’m willing to bet most people would prefer Aaron Jones to Dillon. Besides, Dillon is 6-foot, 247 pounds, while Jones is about 5-foot-9 and 208 pounds. Who do you think is tougher to tackle in sub-10 degrees temperature? That’s a real factor, folks. Just ask Derrick Henry toward the end of each season. Other factors to support Dillon’s cause include his red-zone usage. He saw seven more rushing attempts and one more rushing touchdown than Jones did inside the 20-yard line. Dillon maintained that edge over Jones inside the 10 and five-yard lines as well. All that makes Dillon a great value in all formats, especially if the Packers can build a big enough lead against the 49ers, whose defense is 15th in FPA to running backs.
Other Players to Consider: Jerick McKinnon vs. BUF, Giovani Bernard vs. PHI
Sit: Rams RBs at TB
In postseason fantasy, you need to swing for the fences a bit more than usual. That’s not the case with the Rams’ backfield. We simply don’t know how Cam Akers or Sony Michel will split the team’s reps. If it’s anything like Los Angeles’ wild-card game, then the two could each see 12-plus carries. That’s not bad, but the catch? It’s still a committee. It’s too risky banking on Akers or Michel to score, which neither did against Arizona. They both saw fewer than 60 rushing yards too, and that was in a positive game script. If the Rams fall behind the Buccaneers, Sean McVay may not be so eager to get the ball in the hands of his running backs. Tampa Bay’s defense is only 13th in FPA to running backs, so it’s not a horrendous matchup. Just don’t expect much out of either player. Instead of hoping for a big play or multi-touchdown performance, you should choose a running back who is assured a larger role.
Other Players to Consider: Ke’Shawn Vaughn vs. LAR
Start: Odell Beckham at TB
Like I said with running backs, it’s more important to hit on wide receivers who aren’t as prominent nor as expensive as the big names. This is the time to whip out your Spidey Sense. Feel like a certain wide receiver is going to break out? Smash the ‘play’ button for him. This week, that wide receiver could be Beckham. He’s scored in all but two of his last eight games since joining Los Angeles. He may not have trouble finding the end zone again in Tampa Bay this weekend, either. They’ve allowed the third-most points to fantasy wide receivers. In fact, they’ve averaged nearly a touchdown a game to wideouts. With how Beckham’s being used—five of his six touchdowns have come from inside the 10-yard line—you can bet on him producing well this weekend.
Other Players to Consider: Byron Pringle vs. BUF, Gabriel Davis at KC
Sit: Julio Jones vs. CIN
It has been a season to forget for the former superstar. Jones’ season has been littered with injuries, which has led to just one touchdown in 10 games—and that score came in Week 18. Could Jones catch fire and hit double-digit points? Sure, but he’s done it just twice all season. There’s no reason to suggest Jones can do it again versus Cincinnati. Yes, Jones’ matchup is favorable. The Bengals have allowed the eighth-most points to wideouts this season. If you’re looking for a good matchup, though, the Bills and Buccaneers also play bottom-half defenses in FPA to receivers. And if you’re looking for upside, Jones may not have much left, especially in the Titans’ run-heavy offense. He offers little value even if he saves you a couple of dollars in your lineups.
Other Players to Consider: Tyler Boyd at TEN, Mecole Hardman vs. BUF
Start: Tyler Higbee at TB
As the weather has gotten colder, Higbee has been on fire. He was the overall TE3 through the final three games of the season. While Higbee only saw 46 receiving yards on four targets in the Rams’ game versus the Cardinals, he was still tied for the second-most targets in the game because the Rams weren’t throwing the ball much. They had a huge lead throughout the entire game. I don’t know if that’s what happens against Tampa Bay, but it may not matter. Higbee has been way too involved in Los Angeles’ offense to keep on the bench, and he is much cheaper than Travis Kelce or George Kittle. The Buccaneers have also been pretty lenient to tight ends this season, as they’ve allowed the eighth-most points to the position. Higbee is a prime player to slot in your lineups.
Other Players to Consider: C.J. Uzomah at TEN
Sit: Anyone outside of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski, Dawson Knox, Tyler Higbee, and C.J. Uzomah
Shocking analysis, I know. Unless you have top-secret info or you’re Dr. Strange, then there is no way of knowing what tight ends will play well this weekend. While it’s certainly possible Cameron Brate or Anthony Firkser find the end zone again, don’t risk it. Take the safer bet on one—or more—of the above six tight ends. If you find yourself having no money left for any of them, you should probably rearrange your lineup.