Welcome to the playoffs. While less of you will read this than did in previous weeks, this is obviously the most important material I’ve written all year. (Until next week because obviously there’s more on the line in the finals!) My general rule for playoffs is play your best players, but there are some situations to avoid like running backs taking on Baltimore or Seattle and wide receivers going against Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis. Otherwise you’re not benching Peyton Manning because Denver’s gone more heavily with the running game in order to roll out Josh McCown at quarterback. The law of averages dictates as such.
Below is a list of guys I’m focused on for one reason or another this week. They’re especially important in daily fantasy sports (DFS) leagues like DraftKings. If you’re curious about guys you don’t see listed here, you can always find me on Twitter (@MrT_BroBible) to ask questions, but remember to mention league specifics like PPR.
You Know Who You Should Start?
Philip Rivers (QB – San Diego)
There are a lot of good quarterback options this week in that second tier, so I use Rivers more as a forum to tell who to look out for. Rivers is in a good spot because Denver has given up an average of 18.1 points to QBs in the last eight weeks and that number jumps to 20.3 when you remove games against rookie Derek Carr and Shaun Hill. Mark Sanchez lit up Dallas last time and will have success again. Jay Cutler should see success even without Brandon Marshall against New Orleans. Eli Manning gets to go against Washington, who has given up the most fantasy points to QBs this year. Pittsburgh can’t really rush the passer or stop the pass, so Matt Ryan should have success if Julio Jones suits up. Finally Johnny Football will do Johnny Football things in his first start. They’re ranked for me in that order.
Latavius Murray (RB – Oakland)
It appears as if the Raiders have finally taken the chains off their fast and strong running back because it’s such a novel concept. Murray banged out 112 yards and two touchdowns on four carries (four carries!) last time he took on the Chiefs. Kansas City has gotten much worse against the run in the last six weeks, allowing an average of 18.5 fantasy points to RBs.
Chris Ivory (RB – N.Y. Jets)
Ivory has been OK in recent weeks, but he hasn’t gotten into the end zone since Week 8. There will likely be some regression to the mean on this one as the Jets pound the rock down Tennessee’s throat. The Titans allow the second most fantasy points to RBs and have given up eight rushing touchdowns to RBs in the last six weeks.
Kelvin Benjamin (WR – Carolina)
You may be slightly worried about starting Benjamin since Cam Newton is out, but don’t be. Kelvin is clearly Carolina’s #1 wide receiver and Derek Anderson found him six times in Week 1 when he started for Newton the last time. Tampa Bay struggles against big receivers as we’ve seen the last five weeks against Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Calvin Johnson. They may be a step ahead in talent on Benjamin, but all these guys get heavy targets just like our boy from Florida State.
Marquess Wilson (WR – Chicago)
If you need to load up on a receiver this week in DFS or off the waiver wire, look no further than Wilson. He’s become Chicago’s #2 receiver since Brandon Marshall is missing the rest of the season. Chicago likes to throw and New Orleans likes to be thrown against since they’ve given up the sixth-most fantasy points to WRs this year. Alshon Jeffrey will likely see double coverage so Wilson will be able to do work in single coverage on the other side.
Charles Clay (TE – Miami)
We all know the tight end position has been terrible for fantasy owners this year, but let’s take a shot with Clay this week. New England gives TEs a chance to score points giving up 7 double-digit games to them so far this year. San Diego should’ve done a better job last week, but Rivers didn’t look Gates’ way a couple times when he was open. Expect Ryan Tannehill not to make the same mistake since he doesn’t throw downfield well and Mike Wallace will be blanketed. The opportunity exists for Clay to be a factor.
You Know Who You Should Sit?
Joe Flacco (QB – Baltimore)
You see Jacksonville visiting Flacco’s Ravens and you’re ready to dial him up, but let me talk you out of it. The Jaguars are better against the pass than you think. They’ve only allowed 15 or more fantasy points to QBs once in their last nine games. They also suck vs. the run, giving up the fifth most rushing yards in the league. Expect Baltimore to get the lead early, run a lot, and Flacco to be less valuable than all the options I listed above.
Frank Gore (RB – San Francisco)
If Gore couldn’t do it against the Raiders, he certainly won’t do it against Seattle. The Seahawks have been much improved against the run recently, having allowed more than 50 rushing yards to RBs in only one of their last six. They stuffed San Francisco to 47 rushing yards from RBs when they faced them a couple weeks ago and things aren’t expected to change too much.
Giovanni Bernard (RB – Cincinnati)
Cincinnati has moved on from Bernard and you should to. Forget the games he’s missed and focus on the games he’s played. He’s averaging less than four yards per carry this year. That’s worse than Chris Johnson for fuck’s sake. He’s not even being used heavily in the passing game anymore. Jeremy Hill is the Bengals’ starter in Week 15, so Bernard won’t get many touches and he’ll suck in the ones he gets.
A.J. Green (WR – Cincinnati)
It’s the playoffs and I’m telling you to bench Green. Yes, you read that right. Green’s last three games against Joe Haden, Cleveland’s shut down corner have produced a total of 12 catches for 81 yards and zero touchdowns. The best game he had was seven catches for 51 yards. You can’t really get on board with these kinda numbers in a game of this magnitude. I’d start both of my start suggestions over Green this week and I am in fact doing that in the two leagues I own Green.
Mike Wallace (WR – Miami)
You could talk about a couple different things when looking at Wallace this week in regards to benching him. For starters he’s only scored more than 10 points once since Week 7. Secondly, he hasn’t had a 100 yard game this year. Finally, there’s a man named Revis that will be shadowing Wallace all around the field this weekend. Don’t point to Week 1 where Wallace managed to put up his season high in points against New England because Revis wasn’t locked in to his old form at the time.
Antonio Gates (TE – San Diego)
It’s honestly hard to specifically tell you not to start a TE because most of them have been terrible. I’ll focus on Gates because he’s typically fallen off in the second half of the season. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 8 and his point totals are so dependent on the touchdowns because he can’t run like he used to. This is more advice to skip him in DFS because I don’t expect you to bench him in season-long fantasy when the options out there are so limited.