Before jumping headfirst into the whirlwind of fun that is Yahoo Daily Fantasy Football, be sure to differentiate between the variety of games offered. Since Head-to-Heads, 50/50s and Double Ups pay nearly half of entrants, your best bet for cashing is to target players with higher floors. Think heavily targeted No. 1 WRs, RBs who get the bulk of a team’s carries, and upper echelon QBs in matchups with a tight Vegas point spread and a high total.
Tournaments / Guaranteed Prize Pools (GPPs) require a bit more of your inner contrarian. Target offensive players with higher ceilings in advantageous matchups. Huge point totals can come from the most unpredictable of places, and the most obvious plays are not always the right ones. Though previous week’s performances should be noted, each new week of action should be considered its own season. Don’t chase last week’s stats.
The two conference championship games should make for a fun and exciting Sunday. Of course, we will have to get our DFS fix as it is our final opportunity. Nine months until Week 1 of the 2017 season is a long time to wait. A two-game slate means our focus must be razor-sharp, and projecting targets and game flow is essential. The NFC championship game features the league’s top two MVP candidates in what is expected to be an absolute barn burner (61-point projected total). The Super Bowl favorite Patriots are six-point favorites at home in a much lower projected total (51). Much of our decisions this week depend upon whether we intend to include Le'Veon Bell on our squads. Sure, Bell isn’t human, but he’s facing a locked-in Pats defense that has been stingy against opposing running backs all season (six total rushing TDs allowed) and will do all they can to stop him. We do have a handful of viable mid-priced running backs that allow us to have our pick of QB and WR, and that may be the way to go in GPPs. Since we have so few options as it is, I won’t be offering up ‘honorable mentions’. You don’t need me to tell you that Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are good. But with such a thin margin for error on a two-game slate, we’re going to have to nail the guys who score this weekend’s touchdowns.
TOURNAMENTS (GPP – GUARANTEED PRIZE POOL)
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT, $30)
It’s a strange world we live in where Big Ben is the contrarian pick among quarterbacks, but that’s where we’re at when the other three options include likely 2016 MVP Matt Ryan and the two best QBs of the past decade. Roethlisberger hasn’t faced the Patriots since Week 1 of 2015, when he threw for 359 yards (9.24 YPA), one touchdown and one interception (he missed their Week 7 game this season). He certainly has the lowest ceiling of the four options, but this is Playoff Ben we’re talking about. The Patriots pass defense ranked among the top 10 in YPA allowed (6.8) during the regular season, and allowed the eighth fewest passing touchdowns (21), but ranked 23rd in DVOA against the pass and play a bend-don’t-break style. The Steelers will likely keep this one competitive, but if they fall behind, Big Ben might see upwards of 40 passing attempts. It’s tough to justify playing Roethlisberger over the other three, but when you factor in cap space and what you can do with it, he becomes a much more intriguing option.
LeGarrette Blount (NE, $22)
It’s impossible for any player to fly under the radar on a two-game slate, but we can certainly expect to see low ownership for Blount on Sunday. Dion Lewis was unleashed on the world (three touchdowns last week) after Belichick declared before the game that he would see more action. Blount had missed practice earlier in the week, dealing with the flu. Between that, the way the game flowed and Lewis’ hot start, Blount saw just eight carries. Lewis is certainly more dynamic, but we will likely see more of the regular season rushing touchdown leader against the Steelers on Sunday. If you expect the Patriots to get off to a nice early lead, then Blount is the guy you want in your tournament lineups. Don’t let last week’s circumstances dissuade you.
Geronimo Allison (GB, $13)
Allison has the dreaded ‘questionable’ tag next to his name and had a mediocre 3-46 line last week, both of which should keep his ownership rate down. Preferably, we don’t want to dip below Mohamed Sanu’s $15 tag among receivers, but some of us may be forced to do so depending on how we construct our lineups. Allison is a no-frills UDFA rookie who had a strong finish to the regular season and is seeing his fair share of snaps lately. Though he missed practice Wednesday dealing with a minor hamstring injury, Mike McCarthy said holding him out was a precautionary measure. We shouldn’t be as worried about Allison this week as we should about Davante Adams being at full strength for the contest. Rodgers may not look to Allison as much as he will his other targets, but the rookie is the team’s tallest receiver and could find himself open in the end zone this weekend. We can’t get in a habit of trying to predict touchdowns, but he could very well be a sneaky play this week. An alternative would be New England's Chris Hogan ($14), as he should be fine following last week’s thigh injury. If you really want to go against the grain, you can try Eli Rogers ($11). Rogers has been quiet over the last few weeks, but with much of the Pats’ defensive attention focused on stopping Bell and Brown, Rogers could become the recipient of a few extra targets.
CASH GAMES (H2H, 50/50s and DOUBLE UPS)
Aaron Rodgers (GB, $41)
Rodgers is a magician, plain and simple. He ended the season with three straight four-touchdown performances, and threw for 355 and two TDs in a suspenseful 34-31 victory over the Cowboys to earn the right to face the Falcons in the NFC Championship game. Atlanta is playing at an incredibly high level with their offense firing on all cylinders and their defense gellin’ like Magellan over the last six weeks. Green Bay’s offense will certainly be handicapped without Jordy Nelson, and with Adams and Allison both dinged up. Hybrid back Ty Montgomery came through last week with a solid two-TD performance, and his continued effectiveness could help balance out their attack. Jared Cook and Randall Cobb will be Rodgers’ primary targets, and both deserve heavy consideration for our cash lineups as well as GPPs. A discounted Tom Brady ($35) and a $38 Ryan against a porous Packers’ pass defense are solid options, but I foresee a situation where the Patriots and Falcons running backs steal TDs at the goal line. Rodgers makes mountains out of molehills, and is the top QB play of the weekend.
Le'Veon Bell (PIT, $39)
At first glance, Bell did not feel like a must-start to me, but then I came to my senses. When playing around with lineups under the cap, we can certainly lock in Bell as our RB1 and still build solid teams around him. We can mess around with different structures in GPPs, but in cash games, you simply have to play him – tough matchup and all. Bell hasn’t been used much as a pass-catcher in the postseason thus far (four catches for three yards), but he has carried the ball 59 yards for an insane 337 yards (5.75 YPC) and should see a heavy workload yet again this week, regardless of game flow. That said, we should see him more involved in the passing game since the Patriots have been incredibly stout against opposing rushers. They did not allow a 100-yard game to a running back the entire season. Bell managed 149 yards from scrimmage (along with 10 receptions) against the Patriots in Week 7, though, and that was without Roethlisberger. Bell will be a bit less popular than usual, and that provides us with an opportunity to pounce.
Tevin Coleman (NE, $17)
Filling our second running back spot is tough, but Coleman has earned consideration for cash game lineups despite the fact he shares carries with Devonta Freeman. Coleman has crossed the goal line in each of his last three games, and had a near even split in carries (11 for Coleman, 14 for Freeman) against the Seahawks last week. The Packers were impossible to run on earlier in the season, but allowed some big games to opposing RBs (especially those who catch passes) and ended the year ranked 14th in DVOA against the run. Dion Lewis and Ty Montgomery could work as our RB2, and I’ll likely use one of these mid-range running backs in my flex spot. Lewis will likely be chalky in both cash games and GPPs following last week’s performance, but given their respective matchups, my lean this week is towards Coleman. If you plan to build some non-Bell teams, consider jamming three among Montgomery, Lewis, Blount, Freeman, and Coleman in your lineups this weekend.
Julian Edelman (NE, $24)
This play is the one that requires the least amount of thought. Edelman has now seen double-digit targets in seven of his last eight games, and double-digit fantasy points in 10 straight. He is Brady’s first read on drop backs and the Steelers simply won’t have an answer for him. Ironically, the last time Edelman had less than 10 FP was against the Steelers in Week 7, though he did catch nine of 10 targets for 60 yards. Only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are more expensive, but the $24 tag is still reasonable and easy to work with. Lock Edelman in as your first receiver and take it from there.
Randall Cobb (GB, $23)
Cobb is going to be the guy I want to pair with Rodgers this weekend. Nelson (ribs) is working his way back slowly and Adams (ankle) is taking time to heal as well, and likely won’t practice until Saturday. Cobb had that monstrous 32.1 FP outing (5-116-3) in the wild card round, and followed it up with a respectable 62 yards against the Cowboys, catching seven of eight targets last weekend. Adams should suit up, but may not be at full strength, so Cobb and Cook should be the primary beneficiaries, with Cobb seeing Edelman-like target volume in this one.
Mohamed Sanu (ATL, $15)
Sanu has been rather inconsistent as the Falcons' slot receiver, but he’s dealt with injuries and there are only so many mouths to feed in that offense. He has scored a touchdown in each of his last two games however, and led all Falcons’ receivers in snaps last week (49), though that was a result of Julio Jones aggravating his foot injury and spending some time on the sidelines. Taylor Gabriel is more spry and talented, but played just 24 snaps last week, though he did make the most of them (4-71). Gabriel is also dealing with a foot injury and could see limited snaps again, ceding some to Aldrick Robinson and Justin Hardy. Sanu offers the most bang for our buck among the Falcons’ WR corps in a game with a massive implied total.
Jared Cook (GB, $15)
Cook will be a simple plug-and-play for cash games after his 6-103-1 line last week, and the fact that our only other viable options are a banged-up Martellus Bennett and the Steelers’ Jesse James (if Ladarius Green can’t go). Cook should garner over 70 percent ownership in cash games and perhaps near those levels in GPPs as well. There’s very little reason to get cute and fade him, considering how injury-riddled the Packers’ offense is and how valuable Cook has become to Rodgers. Atlanta rookie tight end Austin Hooper could serve as a long shot dart throw in big tourneys like the $75k Baller, but we’d be really pushing the envelope there. Tight end is a good spot to keep simple this week. Play Cook in your cash games, and if you generally lean on the contrarian side, you can give Bennett a shot in GPPs if he’s healthy and ready.
New England Patriots ($15)
With only four options and the Patriots DST clearly looking like the best option, we are likely to see massive ownership levels. Roethlisberger had nearly as many interceptions in the regular season (14) as Brady (2), Rodgers (7) and Ryan (7) combined, and you know the Patriots secondary will be pick-hunting. Moreover, NE had seven interceptions in their last three games, including three against the Texans last week. We’re always looking for an edge in DFS, but this week, I can’t foresee any situation at DST that doesn't involve using New England.