This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
- Quarterbacks from the Same Game
- Steelers Wide Receivers
- Return of the Cheat Code
- Exploitable Matchups
Quarterbacks from the Same Game
Which game (if any) are you targeting for the purposes of using both quarterbacks in one lineup? Are you targeting it because you see it as the highest-scoring or the best combination of value and contrarianism?
Justin Howe: The obvious answer here is the simplest one: a high-scoring game (per Vegas) with a high point spread almost always hints at major passing game value. That makes Carson Palmer and Aaron Rodgers a solid stack. Palmer belongs in lineups due to his sheer efficiency. He led the league in yards per attempt and net YPA amidst moderate volume. That kind of performance suggests a matchup-proof cash game play; even in the wrong game flow, he remains likely to hit his scoring marker. Rodgers is a tougher sell, of course. The worst season of his career has been just brutal, as he's topped 20 points just once in the last eight weeks and is nobody's idea of a cash play. But as seven-point underdogs, the Packers are likely throw the ball at the upper edges of their volume possibilities. The strength of the Cardinals secondary is on the outside, so Randall Cobb and Richard Rodgers should lead the charge and boost Rodgers the quarterback into a top-half quarterback performance.
John Mamula: The game that has the greatest chance of a shootout is the Packers-Cardinals, which has the highest total of the week at 50 points. The last time these teams met during Week 16, the Cardinals won 38-8. Palmer threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Consider that Palmer's floor for this matchup. The game was out of hand during the second half, during which Palmer only had five passing attempts for 27 yards. Look to stack Palmer with Michael Floyd, who has stepped up over the past 2 months. During that time frame, Floyd has five 100-yard games and four touchdowns. In Week 16 vs. the Packers, Floyd had six receptions for 111 yards.
Rodgers has struggled this season but he did have two passing touchdowns last week at Washington and 291 passing yards and one touchdown in Week 17 vs. Minnesota. The Packers will most likely be playing from behind, forcing Rodgers to air in out in this matchup. There is a good chance that Davante Adams will be inactive due to a high-ankle sprain. This will open up some additional targets for James Jones, who will be the most popular option to stack with Rodgers this weekend. Over the past four weeks, Jones' receiving targets (9, 11 , 13, and 11 last week) have trended upward.
Chris Feery: I agree with Justin and John that the Green Bay-Arizona game looks to be the most intriguing for purposes of using both quarterbacks in one lineup. We can place a check mark in the potentially high-scoring affair column with a projected total of 50 points. And with the Cardinals installed as a seven-point favorite, there is potential for a game script that works out favorably for both signal callers. There’s a pretty good chance that the Cardinals will be up in this game and if that comes to fruition, chances are that Palmer will have a large hand in that. The Packers could be playing catch-up for much of the second half, which bodes well for the chances of a solid return from Rodgers.
One other factor that we have to consider when looking at quarterbacks from the same game is price. If we roster both of these quarterbacks, can we field a competitive team around them? In this case, the answer is a resounding yes. By selecting Palmer at $6,900 and Rodgers at $6,550, we’re left with $36,550 worth of salary, which gives us an average of $4,568.75 per player to play with to fill the remaining eight roster slots on Fantasy Aces. There’s plenty of value to be found at each of the skill positions this week, which makes the decision to roster both quarterbacks from this game that much easier.
Steelers Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown is going to miss the game for Pittsburgh. Are you going to bump the other Pittsburgh receivers accordingly, or do you think they'll struggle to get open against Denver's excellent man-to-man defense?
John Mamula: The loss of Brown is huge for the Steelers offense. Vegas agrees, as the Broncos are currently a seven-point home favorite over the Steelers. Even more telling is the game total of 39.5 points.This game projects to be very different compared to the Steelers 34-27 Week 15 victory over the Broncos. Expect the Broncos to dictate the pace with the run and short passing game.
Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a shoulder injury that he suffered during last weekend's Wild Card game at Cincinnati. Also, Roethlisberger has struggled on the road this season. Here are his home/road splits:
- Home: 6 games, 348 passing yards/game, 16 touchdowns
Away: 7 games, 297 passing yards/game, 6 touchdowns
Without Brown and an injured Roethlisberger, the Steelers receivers will struggle to get open vs. the number-one ranked pass defense in the league. I will be fading Steelers receivers in this matchup.
Justin Howe: The only appeal here is a PPR-fest rooted in a Broncos blowout, in which the Steelers throw the ball maniacally (45+ times) and Martavis Bryant or Markus Wheaton racks up eight of more catches on underneath routes. And there is some of that brewing; the Broncos are solid home favorites, and Bryant has been a short-route guy over the last several weeks (a 66% catch rate since Week 14). So I see the desire to throw one or both into a deep GPP and hope for the best. If one can rack up six catches for 60 yards and add a touchdown, that would be fantastic uniqueness. But no, there's no safe cash game option there. If Brown is unavailable and the Broncos elite cornerbacks are able to tee off on everyone else, the floor for everyone is untenable, and I don't see any real upside at play.
Chris Feery: John makes a great case for taking a pass on the Steelers receivers this week, but I don’t think we can totally bypass them as fades. Obviously a limited Roethlisberger and the absence of Brown dampens the prospects for the passing game, but the Steelers were one of the few teams to find success against the Broncos back in Week 15. Granted, that game was in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers benefited from a fully functioning Roethlisberger and Brown, but it’s definitely some food for thought when digging into this matchup.
On the other hand, the Broncos will surely make the necessary defensive adjustments for this week’s matchup. Combine that with the absence of Brown and Roethlisberger’s projected limitations, and the Broncos corners look to be in a great spot to contain Bryant and Wheaton. Assuming Roethlisberger remains limited, we’ll likely see heavy doses of short passes directed towards his security blanket, Heath Miller. My enthusiasm is definitely tempered for Bryant and Wheaton, but I’ll give a slight bump to Miller for both value and a potential increase in targets.
Return of the Cheat Code
Last week, we talked about the "Cheat Code." Typically, that's a position player, but the Kansas City defense was a huge differentiator above the others at that position. Who do you see as this week's "Cheat Code?" Be sure to consider the defenses this time!
Justin Howe: I hate to apply this great principle to such a bunched-together position as running back, and on a bigger game slate I wouldn't. But David Johnson looks set up to separate from the pack. Most of the mid-tier options like Spencer Ware and the two Steelers backs are nice sleeper prospects but face matchups that just don't look likely to result in reaching a reasonable floor. Johnson, on the other hand, offers the best blend of explosivity and opportunity. He's ultra-productive and a seven-point home favorite, and faces no serious competition for backfield touches. Simply put, not even a rested-and-ready Marshawn Lynch offers this kind of dynamism.
John Mamula: I agree with Justin on Johnson at the RB position. His Fantasy Aces price ($5,400) is a few hundred more than the other RBs, but he has a ceiling that the other RBs do not have in their matchups.
The other "cheat code" that stands out to me is the Denver Broncos ($3,000) this week. The Steelers are limping into this matchup with Antonio Brown out and DeAngelo Williams questionable. Ben Roethlisberger is expected to play with his injured shoulder but will be far less than 100%. Prior to the injury, Roethlisberger had been struggling with seven interceptions over the final four weeks of the regular season. Throw in the probability that he will be playing without his number one target in Brown, and the Steelers will be facing a tough task on the road vs. the number one defense. The Chiefs defense was the "cheat code" that was needed to take down GPPs last weekend. This weekend, the Broncos defense has the potential for multiple takeaways and a trip to the end zone.
Chris Feery: I agree with John and Justin on the call for Johnson as this week’s "cheat code." He checks off all the boxes we’re looking for: a pass-catching back with a heavy workload in a potentially high-scoring game. Despite being the week’s most expensive running back, his salary of $5,400 does not break the bank and still affords us the flexibility to field a competitive team around him. Select Johnson for your lineups this week and spend your research time on filling in the other nine spots on your roster.
Talk about the most exploitable matchup from each game. We'll take them one-by-one and go in chronological order. So start with Kansas City at New England.
Justin Howe: It's hard to find a weakness as a high-volume offense takes on a suffocating defense, but I'll try. Dynamic rookie cornerback Marcus Peters will be wasted covering Brandon LaFell on the outside, where Tom Brady is loath to throw anyway (Brady doesn't challenge defenses downfield). Kansas City is comparatively mediocre on the inside, where Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have the best prognoses for production.
Chris Feery: I see some opportunity for Chiefs wideouts this week. The Patriots were thoroughly burned by Travis Kelce on a Monday night back in 2014. It’s pretty hard to envision Bill Belichick allowing that to happen again, pointing us to the possibility that Kelce is completely contained. Even without Jeremy Maclin (or with him relegated to decoy status), there could be some nice upside for Chiefs receivers. The Patriots are only three weeks removed from surrendering three scores to Jets receivers. Albert Wilson and Chris Conley come in at the low prices of $4,000 and $3,500 this week, which will provide us with a ton of salary cap flexibility.
Thanks, guys. Let's go to the Saturday night game, which is Green Bay at Arizona.
Feery: We don’t have to look much further than Week 16 to find some potential targets for this weekend in this contest. David Johnson and Michael Floyd both had solid outings and could be in line for more of the same in the Divisional Playoff round. We can, of course, expect the Packers to make some adjustments, and there’s no guarantees the Cardinals will have the same success, but I’ll be looking towards both their ground and passing games as a potential source of points this week.
Howe: The Cardinals have been hit-or-miss in the slot since Tyrann Mathieu, making Randall Cobb a fair GPP target. He's been nothing to look at for a while now, but the Packers' volume should be as high as it gets Saturday, and Davante Adams doesn't look healthy. At the very least, Cobb should see the opportunity for his ceiling. And it's not as though he and Aaron Rodgers are unknown qualities.
It seems like that game is the favorite to have some good fantasy production. Let's move on to one with two really good defenses facing off. Sunday's early game is Seattle at Carolina.
Howe: Good luck finding a real weakness here, but there is actual cash game opportunity in store for Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse. The Panthers are thin in the secondary due to injuries, so Seattle's secondary wideouts should see little of Josh Norman but plenty of castoffs and safeties in coverage.
Feery: As Justin mentioned, there aren’t too many exploitable weaknesses on either side. Lockett and Kearse are good calls, but I also might give a glance to Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart, both of whom found some success in the regular season matchup between the two clubs.
Last but not least, let's go to Denver, where Pittsburgh will bring its hobbled offense to town.
Feery: This is not necessarily the most exploitable matchup, but I’ll be looking towards Heath Miller this week. A limited Ben Roethlisberger may be relegated to short dump offs, pointing us to plenty of opportunity for his security blanket. The Broncos have allowed a few big games to opposing tight ends this season, and Miler should receive plenty of opportunity to be the latest to find some success.
Howe: Steelers cornerback Antwon Blake was surprisingly competent last week, but he's been exceptionally poor in coverage and a great target all year. If he sees a full complement of snaps, Demaryius Thomas should cash in solidly. The Steelers are much more solid in the slot, so Emmanuel Sanders' outlook is murkier than Thomas'.
Follow the contributors of this Staff Roundtable on Twitter using the buttons below!