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We're getting down to the end of the line. This week is the last big million dollar tournament from FanDuel. There will be more next week but it won't be the same and it won't involve more than two games. And then, it's all over until next September.
Unless you're big into basketball or baseball, in which case FanDuel can still satisfy your one-day league sweet tooth.
If last week taught us anything, it's that nailing the sleepers in the postseason is vital. You can't win without doing so. Lineups that cashed in the Top 10 included Dan Herron, Terrance Williams, Golden Tate and Martavis Bryant -- players you might have been on the fence about.
Of course, picking the right studs are important, too, but that's a given. I had Dez Bryant in my lineup and he didn't have a monster game. Ditto that for Jeremy Hill, Torrey Smith and Greg Olsen. Ergo, my team finished 32,309th, just barely outside the Top 40 percent. Gross.
I don't think you have to get crazy with the sleeper picks, and you shouldn't go overboard with ignoring studs. Going with one of the Seahawks backup running backs because it saves your budget might cost you a shot at finishing deep into the money. Ignoring Marshawn Lynch so you can overload on non-obvious talent might set your entry on fire, and not in a good way. The delicate balance you'll need between studs and sleepers is automatically included with the $60,000 budget parameter FanDuel sets.
Tweaking my strategy from last week, I will first cherry pick my defense, which really isn't a big deal since there's only a $700 difference between the cheapest option and the most expensive option. Then I'll look at every position, tag the guys I like who are expensive and inexpensive, then make our selections. Hopefully I've saved the best for last.
The tournament will guarantee $2 million in prizes including $200,000 for first, $100,000 for second and the Top 100 entries landing at least $1,000. In total, 17,475 entries will win a prize starting at $50. The buy-in is $25.
Last week I really wanted the Panthers defense but went against my gut to save some money. It wasn't a big mistake because there wasn't really a defense that dominated the wild card round -- the Ravens scored the most points with 12. But the Seahawks ($5,200) have had Cam Newton's number in each of the last three years in Carolina, holding the entire Panthers offense to 12, 7 and 9 points in each game. While the Seahawks might end up scoring just as many points as any ol' defense this week, it's pretty obvious they have the most upside to rack up sacks, take away the football and potentially score. Somehow, the Seahawks are $100 cheaper than the Panthers were last week and are only $200 more than the Patriots, who are the second-most expensive.
My pick: Seattle
Rodgers would normally be the safe way to go -- he's money at home and arguably has the best matchup of the week. But news broke Thursday that he has a small tear in his calf and isn't 100 percent. Could his passing be compromised? Surely his ability to move in the pocket would be compromised. But he could take a pain killing shot and play as normal. Besides, it's not like the Cowboys have a ferocious pass rush that will knock Rodgers around. As of now, it's not enough of a deterrent to get away from Rodgers, but it's worth keeping tabs on. Luck would be more of a consideration if he didn't cost $100 less than Rodgers. He'll pass a lot against the Broncos, just as he did in Week 1, so the volume should lead to Fantasy points. If the difference was closer to $500 then I could make that switch. As it stands, though, I'd just rather spend the extra coin for Rodgers. Manning appears to be an unnecessary risk since he hasn't produced a good Fantasy game since Week 12, though the week of rest should help him out and the matchup isn't too bad. Just how much will he actually throw? How many of those throws will be ducks?
The only other guy I'd feel good about starting is Wilson, who saves you $1,500 compared to Rodgers. Carolina has held opposing quarterbacks to under 20 Fantasy points for seven straight weeks, but they've faced just two legitimate passers in that span. The big fear is that the Seahawks run to victory, not throw. Wilson has posted multi-touchdown games in the playoffs twice in five tries and never in each of his first playoff games. If there's doubt, keep him out.
Mid-price running backs I like ($5,500 to $6,900):
Cheapos I'd settle for ($5,400 and less):
Big surprise, I only like the expensive running backs. They're the safest, and in the case of the three I listed, the matchups are good. Yes, even Lynch's ($8,900) -- the Panthers will play without defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Besides, Lynch usually plays well at home. But I think Anderson ($8,700) is a slam dunk for a big game. He's been the Broncos' best offensive weapon to end the season and he'll be leaned upon again versus a Colts run defense that managed to hold up well against the Bengals, who had no threats in the passing game whatsoever. It helps he's $200 less than DeMarco Murray and Lynch.
My other back will be Herron ($6,100), who pretty much everyone will take because of his price tag and potential. In this case it's a counter-intuitive pick since I'll have two backs in the same game playing against each other, but I don't want to splurge on Lacy ($8,400) and I don't like anyone else. Plus, if Herron proved anything last week it's that he can be a big contributor catching passes out of the backfield. He'll do a lot of it seems unlikely that the Colts will play with a lead. Denver has allowed a touchdown catch to a running back in three of its last five games and over 9.0 yards per catch to running backs in each of its last three.
The best receiver this week might wind up being Nelson, who typically plays his best football at Lambeau. The Cowboys did a nice job containing Calvin Johnson last week but Nelson is a different kind of threat. If he gets loose in the open field it might mean a long touchdown, sort of like Golden Tate had last week. He's expensive but is the same price as Dez Bryant and is within $500 of Randall Cobb and Emmanuel Sanders. He's worth it.
But the price to pay for taking Nelson is to struggle to afford other reliable receivers. Guys like Julian Edelman ($7,300) and Brandon LaFell ($6,800) are pricey. If I take one of them then my third receiver and tight end will be total dart tosses. But I think I can manage. LaFell makes my lineup knowing that the Patriots will end up having to throw against the Ravens, whose secondary has held up nicely through much of the last few weeks despite having a bunch of no-names at cornerback. The third receiver is a total shot in the dark -- Jermaine Kearse -- but with a $5,000 price tag and total boom-or-bust potential, he's worth a try for my cash-strapped lineup. I'm eased a bit knowing that he's scored in each of his last two playoff games.
Warning No. 1: Don't fall in love with Rob Gronkowski ($7,900). The Ravens have schemed to keep Gronk in check in three career meetings and the big fella doesn't have even 90 yards in any of three career games against the Ravens.
Warning No. 2: Don't fall in love with Greg Olsen ($6,200). Since the Seahawks secondary has gotten healthy, tight ends have struggled. Olsen has 56 yards or fewer in each of his last three against Seattle.
Everyone else on the tight end block is valued at $5,500 or less. That includes Julius Thomas ($5,500), who has been a complete dud since he got hurt in Week 11, and Coby Fleener ($5,400), who was a dud last week and basically has boom-or-bust potential. Actually, both of these guys do.
You're going to have to take a chance at tight end no matter what, especially if you're not going to settle on one of the stud tight ends because of their inflated value (which I can't afford) or because of their tough matchups (which I don't want to deal with). So taking one with supreme potential is the way to go.
I like that Thomas is practicing in full this week. I like that he was part of the Broncos onslaught of the Colts in Week 1. Indianapolis also has allowed 10 touchdowns to tight ends through 17 games -- the only playoff team to allow more scores to tight ends is Seattle, who has gotten hot defensively and should be able to contain Olsen.
I'll nervously take Thomas if only because I think he'll play a good amount and
The problem is that in order to afford Thomas, I need to find some wiggle room in my budget. I don't want to drop down from Rodgers to Wilson, or cheapen my running backs or receivers. So, I have to go back to the drawing board on defense ...
Defense, Part II
I can't afford my tight end and the Seattle defense. I mean, I could go with Allen, Moeaki or Rodgers, and keep the Seahawks. But I'll break the first part of my strategy -- cherry-picking a defense -- in order to afford Thomas.
The only defenses I can reasonably afford are the Packers, Colts and Cowboys. The only one playing at home is the Packers -- defenses on the road in the postseason spook me. I'm soothed that they've allowed 21 points or less in thee straight games and allowed 21 or fewer points in six of eight home games this season. So if I can't have Seattle, I'll take them.
My new defense: Green Bay (as I look at the Seahawks on the shelf, crying on the inside)
Normally I'd get into some analysis on kicker but since I'm strapped for cash on my budget I'm pleasantly surprised to see Justin Tucker available for exactly how much I have left -- $4,500. I can't remember a week where he was the cheapest kicker in the game. I consider this a gift from the FanDuel Gods.
My Divisional Playoffs team:
QB Aaron Rodgers ($9,700)
RB C.J. Anderson ($8,700)
RB Dan Herron ($6,100)
WR Jordy Nelson ($9,000)
WR Brandon LaFell ($6,800)
WR Jermaine Kearse ($5,000)
TE Julius Thomas ($5,500)
K Justin Tucker ($4,500)
DST Green Bay ($4,700)
Remaining salary: $0
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