Welcome to Round 3 of the playoffs! With such limited choices and some unusual pricing, you’ll have to find ways to save salary.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers at San Francisco
I’m pretty much riding and dying with Patrick Mahomes this week, unless I’m saving some salary and differentiating with Rodgers. He’s too good to overlook here, and is the only other QB that I trust to use volume passing to win his game. Tennessee and San Francisco are run-heavy, pass-efficient style offenses, while Rodgers has two games this season with over 50 passes, and two over 400 passing yards. He, too, has been efficient, with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions. It’s true that he has been slightly less prolific this year, with fewer 300-plus yard games, but I’m banking on it being just a little easier to pass on the 49ers than to run on them, giving Rodgers’ arm (and Davante Adams’ hands) the best chance to pull an upset and bump your lineups up the standing.
Raheem Mostert et. al., San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay
Mostert was a fade for me last week, which worked out ok…but the reason he was a fade is because I knew the 49ers would give everyone a chance to run the ball. They did so, and even before Mostert was struck with leg cramps, Coleman clearly had that undefendable something that the team ultimately rolled with all day. It could be Coleman again this week, though I’d bet against that outcome, or it could be Mostert or Matt Breida. I think they’ll all get their chance again, and one way to play it given the extremely tight RB pricing is to rotate them in around your core lineup. Prices have flip-flopped, with Coleman now the most expensive, Breida is super cheap, and Mostert is in the middle. I’ve even found it very easy to use two of the three in a single lineup (Mostert and Breida mostly, but some Coleman mixed in), which I think is justifiable because whomever it is that has the hot hand, it’s been VERY hot.
Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee
Cheap wide receiver is more about who not to pick this week...more about that on Friday. These are the two I’m rolling with. Watkins is a big play guy and that’s all I can ask at his price. He’s been pretty quiet for most of the season, but managed 76 yards on two catches in the Divisional Round.
Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay
If you’re not a big play guy, you should be a touchdown magnet, and that’s what we’re getting in Bourne. On eight red zone targets, he has six touchdown receptions this season, including the one in the Divisional Round. Bourne had five targets in that game, his most since Week 11. I like him because teams are forced to reckon with one of the league’s best run games and George Kittle, which leaves him the forgotten man sometimes.
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers at San Francisco
Travis Kelce and George Kittle are the top options, but I bet a lot of people will be off Kittle after his disastrous game last weekend. Paying up is hard to avoid, but Graham is more valuable than any of the other non-Adams receivers. That’s not saying a ton, but he did have four times the targets of any of them, and frankly out-targeted them all combined (his four to their combined three). It’s not great, but if you think Rodgers will throw a lot in this game, and I do, Graham’s value should rise to the point where he makes sense.
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans at Kansas City
No, my love of Jonnu Smith won’t die yet. He sparked the Titans with a first quarter touchdown and then as usual, they decided he had had enough. The athletic tight end is third or fourth cheapest this weekend, and that touchdown is what you’re looking for out of him for the price. Though the Chiefs were one of the worst WR matchups this season (second-fewest fantasy points allowed) they were one of the better TE matchups. Any time he’s seen even 4-5 targets, Smith has scored in the double-digits fantasy points. I’m hoping for something like 3-36-1 realistically.
Taking the cheaper of the two home defenses is my only strategy this weekend. I’m actually going to have some exposure to all four around my core lineup, since D/ST is both hard to predict, and can swing results on such a small slate. Of note, the Packers turned the ball over the second fewest times during the regular season, and Kansas City the third-fewest. San Francisco and Green Bay ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, in takeaways, and the 49ers ranked third in sack percentage. All of the remaining four teams brought pressure in the Divisional Round – each defense had between four and six sacks, and defense has been a big component of each teams’ advancing. There’s not one right answer here.