Last week was a bounce back for me as Hunter Henry and Marshawn Lynch stole the show in the starters column (and I hope they pushed you over the top into your fantasy league playoffs). On the flip side, Matthew Stafford was definitely worth the sit as he struggled on the road in Baltimore against a pesky Ravens defense amidst concerns about his ailing throwing hand. Now, we get you set for the start of your fantasy playoffs and the margin for error is definitely slim and one mistake could cost you advancing to the next round. Let’s take a look at who should be starting and who should be sitting in the first round of your playoffs this week…
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (START)
DraftKings – $6,500 / Fanduel – $8,200
Traditionally these have been fairly high-scoring affairs between the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders and I expect that to continue this week with both teams sitting at 6-6 in the middle of the AFC West divisional conversation. In his last eight games against the Silver and Black, Smith is averaging 245.8 PY/G and has 18 total TD’s (17 through the air) and only three INT’s. The Raiders secondary has struggled at times this year and is surrendering the 11th-most FP/G to opposing QB’s. Plus, in their past two games they have faced Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith, both have combined for three passing TD’s and an average QBR of 114.8…I would think Smith is definitely an upgrade over these two.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (SIT)
DraftKings – $6,300 / Fanduel – $8,000
Talk about a slobberknocker of a matchup in the AFC North this week as two physical defenses square off between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. There is no love lost here between these two divisional foes and if you’ve been paying attention in the media this week, you know that Steelers safety Mike Mitchell is clear on where he stands on the physical brand of NFL football. This game screams kickers paradise — two of the best take the field between Chris Boswell and Justin Tucker — as both of these teams have playoff aspirations on their mind in what should be a defensive struggle. Big Ben has shared blows with the Ravens over his career (11-9 regular season record) and is averaging 233.3 PY/G with a 32:22 TD:INT ratio in 20 games against the birds. And, oh yeah, it won’t be any easier this week as the Ravens have given up the 2nd-fewest FP/G to opposing QB’s this year.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans (START)
DraftKings – $5,800 / Fanduel – $6,600
I might be beating the same old drum with this one, but, man do the Texans miss Deshaun Watson under center. Tom Savage has been anything but spectacular since Watson went down for the season, averaging 235.8 PY/G with a 5:6 TD:INT ratio and an average QBR of 69.9 in those five games. The Texans clearly don’t have a weapon at QB and are 1-4 since Watson suffered that torn ACL, so it has to start with getting Miller involved more out of the backfield. This is a perfect matchup to do so as the 49ers are giving up the 3rd-most FP/G to RB’s this season and are allowing an average of 164.6 Y/G from scrimmage to those same backs.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (SIT)
DraftKings – $7,000 / Fanduel – $8,300
I’m not touching Fournette with a 10-foot pole this week and you might think I’m crazy. But, here’s why. For as banged up as the Seattle Seahawks’ secondary is right now — no Richard Sherman and no Earl Thomas — their front seven has remained solid and not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 3 against DeMarco Murray. The Seahawks have also surrendered just eight rushing TD’s all year and are allowing the 3rd-fewest FP/G to RB’s. Fournette has struggled as of late, failing to eclipse the 60-yard mark on the ground in three of his last four games. The Jaguars may have the best defensive unit in the entire NFL, but the Seahawks are a veteran-laden team that wrote the book on defense for the better part of a decade and I think they expose the real Blake Bortles this Sunday.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders (START)
DraftKings – $6,700 / Fanduel – $7,100
This is a perfect spot for Crabtree to return from his suspension, facing a Chiefs squad that has been in an absolute downward spiral over the last six weeks. This defense is giving up the 2nd-most FP/G to WR’s, allowed 16 receiving TD’s to receivers and on top of that they will be without their best cornerback in Marcus Peters after he was suspended by management for his actions during last Sunday’s game in New York. It sure feels like the Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers have all the momentum right now in that AFC West and presumably without Amari Cooper in the lineup again, Crabtree could see plenty of targets from Derek Carr on Sunday afternoon.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks (SIT)
DraftKings – $5,400 / Fanduel – $7,400
Regardless of Russell Wilson’s MVP-caliber performance this season (and you better believe I’m first in line for his vote), I still don’t know that it will be enough to push Baldwin over the top this week as a fantasy stud. The matchup with the Jaguars is scary and he will likely be shadowed by budding star corner, Jalen Ramsey, plus the Jags have only yielded one 100-yard receiving game this season (Week 5 vs. Antonio Brown). They’re allowing the fewest FP/G to WR’s and have given up just three receiving TD’s all year long. Baldwin has struggled in recent weeks too, averaging just 61 REC YDS/G and has caught just one TD over his last four outings.
Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers (START)
DraftKings – $4,600 / Fanduel – $5,600
I’m going back to the old well one more time this week as Henry is featured in this spot in back-to-back weeks. Philip Rivers is definitely not shying away from targeting Henry (and Keenan Allen for that matter) with 19 targets in his last three games. There were some question marks about Henry’s availability for this one as he came up limping last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, but he’s not listed on the Chargers’ initial injury report, so I say throw him in your lineup with confidence. He made seven catches for 81 yards last week and now matches up with a Washington Redskins defense giving up the 4th-most FP/G and allowing 67 REC YDS/G to opposing TE’s (3rd-most in NFL).
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins (SIT)
DraftKings – $3,800 / Fanduel – $5,800
The mystery of Davis is a puzzling one as he’s gone rogue over the last two weeks in very favorable matchups against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, hauling in just two catches for 15 yards total. What might even be more bizarre is the fact that he costs an additional $200 more than Henry this week on Fanduel…WHAT?!?! We know how good that Chargers defense has been playing in recent weeks and I have concerns about Kirk Cousins’ time in the pocket without Morgan Moses at right tackle. His backup Ty Nsekhe was exploited last week by the NFL’s leading sack getter, DeMarcus Lawrence, and now Cousins might be getting hit by all angles has he faces the duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram this week — both have combined for 20 sacks this season. The Chargers are giving up the 5th-fewest FP/G to opposing TE’s and based on Davis’ ability to get down field and Cousins’ window in the pocket this week, it doesn’t look promising.