Many people regard this weekend as the finest one of the entire NFL calendar. You’ll certainly get no argument from me in that respect. We enter the weekend with eight teams still standing and will conclude it with only four remaining – hopefully after some close, competitive games. To add just a little more enjoyment to the weekend, we have a lobby full of games over on DraftKings just waiting for our perfect lineup. What’s not to love?
As we saw with last weekend’s games, playoff DFS can be just as challenging – if not even more challenging – than the regular season, despite the massive drop in the number of teams to dig into. This weekend is no different. With four seemingly solid matchups on tap, we’ll need to dig through each of them to find the chalk plays to key in on, as well as those that we may want to take a pass on. Before we get to the players that we may want to consider for our fade lists, let’s take a look at each game from the perspective of where we may find some solid fade opportunities.
Games at A Glance
Kansas City @ New England. Patriots -4 ½, 43.
Injuries abound for both teams in the weekend’s opening contest, which could lead to some increased interest in the healthier members of the Chiefs and Patriots. A questionable tag for Jeremy Maclin will point many DFSers to focus on Travis Kelce, who just so happened to have somewhat of a coming out party in Week 4 of last year against these same Patriots in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. One thing to keep in mind is that Bill Belichik does a pretty solid job of mitigating the opponents’ biggest threats while devising game plans.
It’s always hard to get a read on the Patriots just by the injury reports, but Rob Gronkowski has also been tagged as questionable and could be coming down to a game-time decision. We could fade Gronkowski due to the risk and the assumption that he will still have his share of supporters that believe the Patriots are just being coy. Julian Edelman is also listed as questionable, but he is fully expected to play. For the Patriots to find some success against a tough Chiefs defense, we may be looking at a healthy amount of short passes directed Edelman’s way – even more so if Gronkowski is in fact unable to suit up.
Green Bay @ Arizona. Cardinals -7, 49 ½.
The first of three rematches from the regular season kicks off on Saturday Night and we won’t need to look much further than the results of that game to find where there will be some heavy interest from the masses for DFS purposes. The Cardinals annihilated the Packers by the score of 38-8 and spread the wealth in terms of solid fantasy outings. Carson Palmer, David Johnson and Michael Floyd were the top performers on offense – and it just so happens that they look to be three of this week’s top chalk plays. The Cardinals defense had a large hand in the fantasy goodness as well by delivering 33.0 points.
On the Packers side of the ledger, Aaron Rodgers came to life last week against Washington and threw for two scores, pointing us to the possibility of some increased interest in Rodgers – in spite of his horrific performance back in Week 16 against the Cardinals. James Jones has been his top target of late and he could be in line for even more work this week due to the absence of Davante Adams. Outside of Rodgers and Jones, interest in the Packers should be relatively tepid in DFS circles – with the exception of those who are looking to strike gold with a low-priced GPP flier like Jared Abbrederis.
Seattle @ Carolina. Panthers -1 ½, 44.
Another rematch from the regular season helps to provide us with a few clues for DFS this weekend. The Panthers upended the Seahawks in Seattle by a score of 27-23 back in Week 6, a game that featured some solid outings from Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen. We can expect a stack of Newton and Olsen to be pretty popular this week, while enthusiasm might be a bit tempered for Stewart. He was one of the few running backs to have a solid fantasy outing against the Seahawks this season, but a Seahawks run defense that smothered Adrian Peterson last week might scare some people off.
For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson should find some support in DFS circles. Top target Doug Baldwin will be spending the day shadowed by Josh Norman, pushing Baldwin into the realm of a contrarian selection. Marshawn Lynch appears ready to return, but with the Seahawks offense functioning just fine in his absence – outside of last week’s freezer game against the Vikings - how much of a workload can we really expect him to receive? Tyler Lockett will likely be a popular choice for those that choose to roll with Wilson, based on the expectation that the Norman factor will limit Baldwin’s targets.
Pittsburgh @ Denver. Broncos -7 ½, 39.
Our final game of the weekend sees a severely banged-up Steelers squad head to the Mile High city to face off with the top-seeded Broncos. Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams are out for the Steelers, which would normally lead to some increased interest for Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Fitzgerald Toussaint. But with Ben Roethlisberger likely limited and a matchup with an imposing Broncos defense on tap, interest will likely hover in the middle of the pack.
This game checks in with the lowest projected total of the week at 39 points, pointing us to a tough, defensive-minded battle. Peyton Manning being back at the helm for the Broncos makes for a nice story and he comes in seventh-place on the salary scale for this week’s starting quarterbacks. He’ll find some support in GPPs, but probably not enough to warrant too much fade consideration. For fade purposes, we may want to look towards Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who combined for three scores in Week 15’s matchup between these two squads.
Let’s take a look at this week’s top fade candidates, starting with the quarterback position.
Carson Palmer, $6,500
The highest projected total of the week and the Cardinals domination of the Packers back in Week 16 points us to Carson Palmer as this week’s top fade candidate at quarterback. Many will be expecting a repeat from the Cardinals high-powered offense – and chances are pretty good that they’ll put some points on the board. As always, taking a pass on Palmer does not mean we have to pass on the entire Cardinals offense. There are plenty of other ways to gain exposure to their offense, including this week’s top fade candidate at running back.
Other Quarterbacks Deserving Fade Consideration
Cam Newton, $7,500: Newton had some success in Week 6 against the Seahawks and we all know the upside he brings to the table as a dual-threat. Look for Newton to be among the highest-owned signal callers of the week, which makes him a solid fade candidate.
Russell Wilson, $6,800: Another quarterback with dual-threat upside, Wilson closed out the regular season on a roll by scoring 20+ points in his last seven games. He ran into the elements last week and had a drop in productivity, look for him to bounce back this week and to find a decent amount of support in DFS circles.
David Johnson, $6,000
Bottom line, David Johnson looks to be the top play on the board for the Divisional Playoff round. We have a pass-catching back with a heavy workload in an offense that can put points on the board in what projects to be the highest-scoring game of the weekend – at a reasonable price to boot. Needless to say, his ownership percentage will be through the roof. However, just because he’s the top fade option at running back doesn’t mean we have to fade him. In fact, we’d really have to think long and hard to even come up with a valid reason to consider fading him outside of the uniqueness factor.
Other Running Backs Deserving Fade Consideration
Marshawn Lynch, $6,400: Similar to last week, there’s not too many ‘name’ running backs in play this weekend, which should lead to a pretty decent ownership percentage for the returning Lynch. We can take a pass here and find plenty of viable options further south on the salary scale.
Julian Edelman, $7,100: Tom Brady’s security blanket should be back in action this week and will find plenty of targets headed his way. Although he’s been out of action since Week 10, the Patriots do not have the liberty of easing him back into the swing of things. With Antonio Brown out of the picture for this week, many will look for the ‘sure thing’ at wide receiver and settle on the name right below Brown’s on the salary chart. We can save a little salary and gain some differentiation by passing on Edelman this week.
Other Wide Receivers Deserving Fade Consideration
Demaryius Thomas, $7,000 and Emmanuel Sanders, $5,800: Thomas and Sanders both found success against the Steelers in the regular season. It’s a toss-up as to which one will capture the most attention this week, but we can probably give a slight edge to Thomas due to people feling the need to spend up.
Greg Olsen, $6,900
Greg Olsen was a big part of the Panthers Week 6 victory over the Seahawks by hauling in seven passes for 131 yards and a score – good enough for a cool 29.1 points. With a questionable tag hanging over Rob Gronkowski entering the weekend, there’s a pretty good chance that Olsen will be the most popular choice at tight end, pointing us to the week’s top fade candidate at the position. He’s also pretty pricey at a salary of $6,900, giving us the added benefit of saving some needed salary cap space if we take a pass on him.
Other Tight Ends Deserving Fade Consideration
Rob Gronkowski, $7,500: If Gronkowski clearly looks like he’ll give it a go on Sunday, we’ll find plenty of DFSers willing to chase the potential of a vintage monster performance from Gronkowski.
Travis Kelce, $5,100: A lack of – or at the very least, a very limited – Maclin plus prior success against the Patriots will drum up plenty of interest in Kelce.
Denver Broncos, $3,900: The Steelers are severely banged-up and the Broncos are an elite-level defense. The Broncos appear to be the top defensive play of the week and will have the ownership percentage to match. If you’re looking for a defense to help you sneak up on people this weekend, you’ll definitely need to look elsewhere.
Other Defenses Deserving Fade Consideration
Arizona Cardinals, $3.800: The Cardinals will likely be right behind the Broncos due to their stellar 33.0-point outing just a few weeks back. Many will be hoping for a repeat, but we can take a pass and see if there’s a hidden gem that we can dig up at defense.
That concludes The Fade for the Divisional Playoff round. Best of luck this weekend and enjoy the games!