Hello, thanks for checking back with us on this first week of the 2014-15 NFL playoffs.
We have a four-game slate, that means things could get a little messy. Everyone’s going to own the top players. Everyone’s going to own the sleepers.
It’s going to take an almost perfect lineup to win a tournament this weekend.
As usual, our boom-or-bust projections help point us in directions we might not take if we were going by standard rankings alone. We use offense vs. defense averages, the Las Vegas lines and defense vs. position matchups to try to pinpoint the players who will rise from nowhere and lead us to victory.
Cam is No. 1
This week, crunching all of those factors gives us Cam Newton as our QB1. I love it. Here’s why: The Cardinals are middle of the pack against quarterbacks according to Football Outsider’s Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. However, over the last five weeks they’ve allowed 24.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. That’s the third highest total in the NFL.
The other big factor is Arizona’s penchant for giving up rushing yards to quarterbacks. Arizona has allowed 192 rushing yards to quarterbacks in the last five weeks, the most in the NFL. Their 350 yards allowed this season is third-most. So I ticked up both Cam’s passing and rushing stats to reflect these matchups.
He’s not as safe as Andrew Luck, he’s not as cheap as Ryan Lindley, but maybe Superman will be just right.
Speaking of Lindley, I don’t think I’ll own him in any daily fantasy lineup for more than .25 cents. I will put together at least one .25-cent lineup pairing him with Michael Floyd or John Brown. Carolina has been bad against No. 1 and No. 3/4 wide receivers this season. If Floyd or Brown turn in a couple long TDs, Lindley more than pays for his salary.
Another meltdown for Dalton?
Luck’s matchup with Cincinnati is another one we need to discuss. Cincinnati is a horrible matchup for quarterbacks and all receiver types except for running backs. Our projections machine says Cincinnati will be the No. 1 defense this week, picking off Luck at least once with a slight (10%) chance of a second interception. But the last time these teams played Andy Dalton had an utter meltdown and the Colts mopped up 27-0. Ahmad Bradshaw scored two touchdowns and T.Y. Hilton caught seven passes for 107 yards.
You may be wondering now if I adjusted Luck’s and Dalton’s statistics based on the matchup or on the previous game. I adjusted based on the matchups — that’s what we’ve been doing all season with these. Season long statistics are more reliable than a single game. That said, Luck is still the No. 2 quarterback after having passing yards and touchdown percentage points taken away. He’s probably the safest play of the week.
The Colts defense is middle-of-the-road against quarterbacks. Dalton’s numbers are dead-on with the offense vs. defense averages because Las Vegas is predicting an average performance from the Bengals.
Pig(skin)s will fly in Pittsburgh and Dallas
Ben Roethlisberger is my second favorite play of the week. He’s the favorite play for a lot of people in the industry for good reason. Without Le’Veon Bell the Steelers will probably sling it all over the field. Roethlisberger has shown 6-TD upside Week 9 against the Ravens, the same team they face this week.
Baltimore’s secondary hasn’t improved. They allow 84.1 receiving yards per game to WR1s, 60.3 to WR2s and 52.9 to WR3/4s.
Tony Romo is expected to throw the most touchdown passes this week. That may seem odd going against Detroit, and its 8th-best pass defense according to DVOA. However, a look at the game logs and fantasy points allowed tells a different story. They gave up 300-yard games to Drew Stanton and Teddy Bridgewater and they’ve allowed 18 passing touchdowns in the last 10 weeks.
Meanwhile, Romo’s counterpart for the Lions, Matthew Stafford, should test the Cowboys secondary constantly by lobbing passes to Calvin Johnson.
The only quarterback we haven’t discussed is Joe Flacco. Las Vegas is way down on him this week. I’ll have him in a lineup or two because his receivers have some great matchups to exploit against Pittsburgh. Despite excellent matchups, the Ravens are predicted to perform 14% below average this week.
UPDATE – JAN. 3
I have a few more notes from the Steelers-Ravens game that really need to be addressed.
1. Haloti Ngata is expected back for the Ravens which means their run-stuffing defense got stuffier.
2. Troy Polamalu is expected back for the Steelers, whose defense can use all the help it can get.
3. Weather is expected to be bad — 100% chance of precipitation with high winds. This is typically only a bad thing for kickers and for some passing games. Ben Roethlisberger is a mudder. Joe Flacco doesn’t like the Super Bowl being played in cold weather, but he did throw 13 TDs and only 5 interceptions with two rushing touchdowns in November and December.