Like some of you, a couple of us at MTS cleaned up in our 2014 fantasy football leagues.
Like the rest of you, however, most of us at MTS did not.
Eight teams are in action this weekend in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. Who should you be drafting? Everyone and their dog thinks that DeMarco Murray is primed for a big game against a porous Green Bay offensive line. We won’t waste your time with such popular prognostications.
With most playoff fantasy games allowing competitors to pick the same players (and using a salary cap-type system to ensure diversity), it’s imperative to find some non-popular picks to separate yourself from the masses.
Below, we take a look at some potential sleepers and high-risk/high-reward players that will help you separate from the pack (in one direction or the other).
Owen Daniels (TE, Baltimore Ravens)
Daniels had a very average season in Baltimore, finishing 16th among tight ends in receiving yards. Rob Gronkowski will be the popular TE pick heading into the Ravens/Patriots game, as he’s Tom Brady’s favorite target and the Ravens have a bad pass defense. However, Gronk will also cost you a good chunk of change in your playoff fantasy league (which are by-and-large salary cap-based).
Why is Daniels worth a look?
Most people don’t realize that the Patriots were actually in the bottom-half of the league against the pass (17th, surrendering 239.8 yards per game). The main reason? New England will give yards underneath to prevent the big play. (The longest passing play against New England this year was 50 yards, which was second-best in the league.) Guess who tends to catch a lot of underneath balls? Tight ends!
Daniel “Boom” Herron (RB, Indianapolis Colts)
Herron is likely a boom-or-bust guy heading into the Divisional Playoffs. He saw the bulk of the carries against Cincinnati, but he also fumbled once and, on the pass-first Colts, “the bulk of the carries” still only amounts to 12. At times against the Bengals, Indy demonstrated how one-dimensional the team can become – going long stretches without a single run play. (And that was against a Cincinnati team that was 20th in the league against the rush.) This weekend, the Colts will be facing the second-best rush-defense in the NFL, the Denver Broncos.
So why are we high on Herron? Because Chuck Pagano has access to tape, and will know that the last time the Broncos lost, they were torched for 207 yards on the ground by those very same Cincinnati Bengals. In short, establishing a ground game against Denver is a recipe for success. If the Colts’ resurgent offensive line can get the run game going early, Herron could have a big day.
In addition, Herron proved last weekend that he’s also a threat in the passing game. He caught ten balls – yes, ten – for 85 yards against the Bengals. Don’t expect the same production this weekend, but his receiving abilities could mitigate your losses if the Indy run game gets stuffed.
The other (main) reason we’re high on Herron: he’s likely to be cheap.
Green Bay Defense
All week, everyone has been talking about what a bad matchup the Cowboys are for the Packers due to Dallas’ strong running game and Green Bay’s bad rush defense. But the Packers have been absolutely dominant at home. The offense gets – and deserves – most of the credit, but the defense held everyone but Atlanta and the New York Jets to 21 points or fewer.
Not exceptional numbers, but certainly respectable.
The Packers were also top-ten in the league in both interceptions and sacks. If you watched the Lions/Cowboys game last weekend, you saw that Dallas QB Tony Romo has a penchant for hanging onto the ball way too long. The Dallas offensive line is very good, but can’t hold off the pass rush forever.
If Romo is keen to play back-yard-ball again this weekend, one of two things is going to happen; Clay Matthews and company are either going to sack him (which will get you points) or pressure him into making bad decisions (which will indirectly get you points).
So there you have it: three potential sleepers that could bring you fantasy glory (or yet more fantasy woe). Best of luck out there, friends.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)