The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 10, 2014

2013 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet | Playoffs Week 2: Players to target and players to avoid

By Eric Pehowic
The Daily Item

— With an American dollar, most citizens can either go down to the overpriced vending machine in the break room and buy a 12-ounce Coke, or then can give up their parking spot and drive a couple blocks to purchase a 2-liter of some store brand drink or some other option in between.

What you do with your dollar will determine your experience.

When choosing a quarterback in the world of daily fantasy sports, you face a similar dilemma.

Peyton Manning, with his high floor and high ceiling, comes with an ultra-high price. He’s that $1 can of Coke.

Philip Rivers, who gets to throw in garbage time against Manning’s Broncos, is the store brand 2-liter. You can’t be sure of the quality until game day – three interceptions are possible – but in the end, you know soda is soda, so those 300 yards and 2 TDs, at a fraction of Manning’s cost, might be worth it. And if you luck out and that ends up being the best generic soda ever made, you’re cashing this week, brothers.

It all comes down to what sort of lineup your building. Do you need safety or upside? If you’re rostering a 50/50 team you want safety. If you’re playing in a 10,000-player tournament, you need a lot of upside at pretty much every position.

Both Manning and Rivers have value in each format, but in most of my lineups I’m going for someone other than Manning. If he’s not the highest-scoring player this week he’ll be a bad investment.

Odds are he’ll hit that mark, but after what we saw from Alex Smith last week, I’d rather roll dice on a less expensive option.

Of course, we’re using loaded dice in fantasy football because we’re scouring stats and compiling rankings to make educated guesses.

[UPDATE - Saturday, 12:04 p.m.]

Weather

Weather can play a huge factor in fantasy football outcomes. Blizzards and downpours can force massive shifts in game flow. But wind is probably the factor that has the most effect.

On average, teams show a decline in yards per passing attempt and a moderate decrese in pass attempts when wind speeds get up to 10 miles per hour. In a game where wind speeds exceed 21 miles per hour, teams lose close to 15 percent of their passing production, according to research done by daily fantasy guru Jonathan Bales.

Here are the forecasts for all four games this week, adjust your lineups accordingly:

New Orleans at Seattle, 4:35 p.m. Saturday: Winds at 20 miles per hour with gusts to 50. Rain and thunderstorms are expected during game time.

Indianapolis at New England, 8:15 p.m., Saturday: Heavy rain, winds at 20-25 miles per hour during the game. Gusts up to 50 miles per hour.

San Francisco at Carolina, 1:05 p.m., Sunday: Mostly sunny, 55 degrees. Winds at 6 miles per hour.

San Diego at Denver, 4:40 p.m., Sunday: Mostly cloudy, 41 degrees with temperatures dropping below freezing by the fourth quarter. Winds will be 20 miles per hour at kickoff and decline slowly to 15 throughout the game. There are no severe weather warnings at this time in Denver.

As you can see, there will be a lot of wind in play in the games with the juiciest quarterback matchups. I'll be starting Cam Newton and Greg Olsen in more matchups than I expected because of this news.

[END UPDATE]

Let’s get to those guesses for the 2013 Fantasy Football Playoffs Week 2 (or Week 19):

QUARTERBACKS

Peyton Manning – Talking about Manning feels a bit goofy at this stage. Like it said in the intro, he’s got the highest floor, ceiling and price in daily fantasy this week. What hasn’t been said: Based on averages of Broncos TD passes per game and the Chargers TD passes allowed per game, Manning should toss 2.4 scoring strikes. However, Vegas thinks the Broncos score 32 points this week. That’s four TDs and a field goal. The Broncos TD averages add up to 3.5, so there’s another half a TD for Manning to take. If he doesn’t surpass 300 and 3 TDs this week it might be the biggest shock of the week.

Philip Rivers – Again, we’re treading back to the intro, but Rivers feels like the best value of the week at QB. Those offense vs. defense averages mentioned above predict Rivers will be the QB2 this week. He’s also the cheapest starting quarterback of the week at FanDuel ($8,000). The stats also say the Chargers passing offense has the best probability of  scoring at least eight fantasy points this week – yes, an even better ranking than the Broncos.

Drew Brees and Tom Brady – If you play multiple lineups, you’re going to want more than just the Alpha and the Omega. I put Brady in a handful of my early lineups. He’s got a good mid-range price. Vegas likes the Patriots to score 4 TDs (30 points) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Brady gets all four. New Orleans is slated to score the least amount of points this week, just under 3 TDs. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brees throw for three. And, as my friend and former co-worker Damian said earlier this week, everybody else is going to look at last week’s performance and fade him.

*I’m not giving you a quarterback to avoid. The numbers all said to avoid Andrew Luck and Alex Smith last week. Everything is possible in the NFL playoffs.

RUNNING BACKS

Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount – I hate to put too much stock in any New England player not named Tom Brady. Bill Belichick hates us. But, based on the numbers, the Patriots should be able to run all over the Colts this week. There’s a beware of misuse sign here, but also a chance for a fantasy explosion.

Frank Gore – It’s a bad matchup for Gore, but Vegas thinks the San Francisco-Carolina game will be a close, low-scoring affair. That mean’s neither team should have to abandon the run. Bonus: Only LeVeon Bell averaged more red zone rushes per game than Gore during the regular season. Per game, Gore averages 3.56 carries, 10.06 yards and 0.50 touchdowns per game in the red zone. The 49ers are projected to score about 3 TDs.

Marshawn Lynch – Lynch is the most expensive running back this week. He’s right up there with Gore in red zone attempts (3.5) and has a better TD average (0.75 per game). He also has a much better matchup —  second only to New England’s – based on statistical averages.

*Just like with the quarterbacks, I’ve got no RBs for you to avoid because the prices seem fair … unless you were considering rostering Pierre Thomas this week. If you were, thanks for contributing to our bankrolls.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker – Let’s start with the avoid players. I’m only partially kidding. I just never know which of these guys to start on a given week. Welker’s the most targeted in the red zone, but he’s coming back from a concussion. Their numbers are like splitting hairs anyway. In the red zone, per game: Welker sees 1.77 targets and 0.69 TDs; Decker sees 1.44 targets and .44 TDs; and Thomas gets 1.19 targets and .44 TDs. Demaryius is the most expensive WR this week, Decker is seventh-most. Welker is 11th-most. Even with the concussion concern, Welker’s price and red zone usage give him a slight edge if you have to start a Denver wide receiver. Who am I kidding? Thomas is the most imposing, most explosive wide receiver left in the playoffs. He’s making at least one of my rosters.

Keenan Allen – Allen disappointed last week with just two catches for 21 yards in the win over the Bengals. His salary dropped to $6,700, which seems absurdly low considering the Chargers’ garbage time potential this week. I don’t think he’ll drop 50 points on us this week, but his salary and potential feel like T.Y. Hilton from last week.

T.Y. Hilton – Speaking of Hilton, his price skyrocketed after last week. I’m afraid to put much stock in Andrew Luck or Hilton this week because Belichick has had all week to figure out how to stop the Colts’ two best players.

Golden Tate – It’s a bad matchup for the Seahawks pass game this week, but look at what Tate did in the last game of the regular season (8-129-1), look at the 28 points the Seahawks are supposed to score and his paltry $5.300 salary, then click ADD PLAYER.

Julian Edelman – If we like Brady this week, we have to like Edelman, especially in a format like FanDuel, where he scores a half a point per catch. It’s even more pronounced at daily sites like Draft Kings or Draft Street where players get a full PPR. Edelman is averaging 9.67 catches per game in his last three.

TIGHT ENDS

Julius Thomas – Thomas makes trying to figure out which player will be Manning’s favorite each week even more difficult. He averages 1.21 targets per game in the red zone, slightly less than Welker and Decker and slightly more than Thomas. So we’re splitting hairs again? Not exactly. Thomas has scored four touchdowns in the last six games. He averaged more yards after the catch than Decker and Welker this year. More important than all of that is his price: $6,800. That’s $1,000 less than Welker, the cheapest of the Denver WRs. I know TE is one of those places owners look for value, but Thomas seems like the right play this week, especially if you fade the Broncos receivers.

Michael Hoomanuwanui – Yeah, right. I know. The Fantasy Pros have him as the 10th tight end this week – and there are only eight teams playing. They have San Diego’s backup (Ladarrius Green) and New Orleans’ backup (Benjamin Watson) ranked higher. None of the experts rank him higher than 8th. Still, there’s that whole Belichick hates fantasy players thing. This offense was built around the tight end. Hoomanuwanui also will probably be owned in less than 10 percent of your tournament league and costs the minimum $4,500. If he scores a touchdown – the Patriots are predicted to score four – he gives you an immediate value play.

Antonio Gates – If you’re looking for a safer minimum option, and one that will be played in a lot more lineups, Gates seems like an easy choice. However, after scoring two 100-yard games and two TDs in the first four weeks of 2013, Gates’ game log shows a steady decline in production. He scored a touchdown in the season finale against Kansas City, but that seems like a distant memory after his one catch for five yards in the Wild Card win over the Bengals.

KICKERS

Matt Prater is the most expensive kicker, but he’s probably the best option this week. Looking at the Vegas lines, every team but Seattle should score a field goal. Based on my highly scientific research over the last few weeks though, that probably means Steven Hauschka is the kicker to own this week. Alright, enough rambling. Pick Prater if you want to spend, Nick Novak if you’re on a budget.

TEAM DEFENSES

Just like in the Tate blurb above, I look at that Seahawks score and wonder where all of the TDs could go. Maybe a defensive or return touchdown is in the cards. That said, at a $500 discount, I’d probably still start the Panthers as a high end option. I’d also consider the 49ers at $6,200. I’m not liking any of the low-priced options this week. The Patriots, at $5,500, are as low as I’ll go and they still feel like a decent value at that price.

Vegas’ point predictions

Alright guys, before I go, I’m going to toss out the Vegas scores so you guys can make your own interpretations. I’m as fallible as the next weatherman/fantasy prognosticator, but trying to figure out who will be the best is half the fun:

Denver, 32 points

New England, 30 points

Seattle, 28 points

Indianapolis, 23 points

San Diego, 22.5 points

San Francisco, 22.25 points

New Orleans, 20 points.

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Good luck in all your leagues this week.