Wild Card Weekend went through without any hiccups and thatís the goal for the rest of the playoffs. Once again, itís important to not get anyone that completely busts with four games in the Divisional Round. Similar to last week, it took some time putting together a lineup, but in the end decided to go with consistency, although somewhat of a surprise at quarterback.
Marcus Mariota, TEN at NE ($10,600): I had a spot for Tom Brady ($13,900), but his ineffectiveness over the last month wasnít worth the extra money. Mariota has been just as good in fantasy in recent weeks and his running ability only adds to his floor. With a healthy hamstring, he has 18 carries for 106 yards in the last two games and that could come into play here. I still donít trust the Patriots pass defense, which has ranked near the bottom for most of the season. Thereís a chance the Patriots will stack the box in order to stop Derrick Henry and that should leave numerous passing lanes for Mariota. And if the Patriots get out to a big lead, expect plenty of passing.
Dion Lewis, NE vs. TEN ($12,300): Lewis took over the backfield the last couple games and even if Rex Burkhead is healthy, Iím not sure it returns to the split reps it was for most of the season. Lewis has at least five receptions in three of his last four games and thatís only a bonus to whatever he gets on the ground. And while the Titans have a solid run defense, they rank last against running backs in the receiving game, according to Football Outsidersí DVOA.
Latavius Murray, MIN vs. NO ($9,900): I was slightly surprised to see Murray so cheap after totaling 61 carries in his last three games. I expect the Vikings to run the ball plenty against a team that ranks 23rd in rush defense (per DVOA), which will also keep the Saints offense off the field. Jerick McKinnon ($10,000) has more upside as a receiver, but he has just one reception in the last two games so that isnít a huge factor.
Julio Jones, ATL at PHI ($15,100): It was clear last weekend (nine receptions, 94 yards, one touchdown) that the Falcons are going to target Jones as much as possible in the playoffs. Phillyís defense is on the same level as LAís so Iím not worried about the stout defensive line or secondary. Jones has the talent to roast anyone in the league and if he gets more than 10 targets again, heíll produce.
Michael Thomas, NO at MIN ($13,000): In the same vein as Jones, Iím all in on using the best wide receivers this weekend. Again, this isnít a great matchup, but talent usually wins out in these situations. The Saints could have trouble running the ball against the Vikings similar to last week, which will mean more Drew Brees. Thomas only really struggled (three catches, 11 yards) against one top cornerback all season and that was Darius Slay back in Week 6 and he wasnít needed anyway in a 52-38 win. Thomas and the passing game will be needed to upset Minnesota on the road.
Kyle Rudolph, MIN vs. NO ($8,500): Thereís a decent chance Rob Gronkowski ($13,300) has another 30-point game, but Iíll take my chances with Rudolph, who should be healthy after nursing an ankle injury in the final few weeks of the regular season. His usage in the red zone is the main calling card with eight touchdowns this season. The Saints rank as one of the better defenses against tight ends, yet let Greg Olsen go for eight grabs and 107 yards last week.
Rob Gronkowski, NE vs. TEN ($13,300): I guess Iím not going away from Gronk after all. He was too good to pass up against a defense that is 24th-best against tight ends (DVOA) and let Travis Kelce do whatever he wanted in the first half of last weekís game. Gronk was easier to pick over someone like Brandin Cooks ($12,900) because not only does he have more upside, but heís also more consistent. He was spared in Week 17 in order to be healthy for the playoffs and before that had reached 17 fantasy points in the prior four games. Even at the high price, I decided heís a must-own as Bradyís top option in the passing game.
Dede Westbrook, JAX at PIT ($10,400): With the move to Mariota at quarterback I was able to upgrade my flex plays into players with actual upside. Westbrook could easily bust, but he was Blake Bortlesís favorite target last week (five receptions) and if the Jags go down early, a lot of passes could be headed Westbrookís way. The result of those may not be a positive for Jacksonville, but at least Westbrook will get targets.
New England Patriots vs. TEN ($6,800): I never go against the quarterback I pick, but itís how the cards fell for my team. I donít have the money for the Steelers and the Eagles have only nine sacks in their last six games. The Patriots have 10 sacks in their last two games and have reached double-digit fantasy points in four of their last six. Mariota could have some success, but the Titans arenít a threat to drop 30 points meaning New England should at least have a mediocre day in terms of fantasy.