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Heroes and Zeroes - Conference Championships


You may notice the flex is gone from this week's title. Mad Cobra would not approve but with just four teams playing it's not as if there are any sleepers left or depth charts to peruse. Pick the guy you think might blow up and cross your fingers. Am I going to recommend C.J. Anderson to compensate for the fact I didn't mention him last week? Absolutely not. If I'm going to miss a chance to identify a great lineup pick, at least let me have my stubbornness to cling to.

While I was dead-on with my Zero picks in the divisional round (hah, take that again Philip Rivers), I batted a mere .250 on the Hero picks which would have been more helpful. Notice the clever transition to decimals and the ensuing analogy of a hitter in baseball who can bat .250 and be an All-Star (Mitch Moreland!!!). So one in four isn't great but my misguided faith in the Colts was the driving force there. Now that only the top dogs are left, we know what we're dealing with. Another Patriots Super Bowl appearance probably... *sigh

Now, here are my fantasy "heroes" and "zeroes" at each position for the conference championship round of the NFL playoffs. These players are start considerations that I believe will perform unexpectedly well or that might fare poorly relative to expectations in this week's matchups. To see how our staff feels about every fantasy-relevant player in the known universe, look no further than our very own RotoBaller consensus weekly rankings. Good luck Ballers!

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

Conference Championship Round Lineup Heroes

QUARTERBACK

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Although a pro quarterback will never complain about a win, fantasy owners were probably grousing about his first playoff start. If you looked at the stat line with no name by it, you'd swear it was Dak Prescott. He threw for 278 yards and no passing TD, no INT but saved his day with a short rushing touchdown. That just won't hack it. Luckily, this matchup will call for more passing as the Pats are not going to be intimidated by a bunch of tomahawk-chopping fans and will laugh at the "cold" weather conditions in Kansas City. Mahomes doesn't have the best QB matchup on paper but he is a no-brain pick because his team is the one of the four remaining that has the least stable running game. My gut says that this game's score is higher than the NFC side, largely because the Chiefs won't hesitate to pull out all the stops in order to take down the defending AFC champs.

RUNNING BACK

Sony Michel, New England Patriots

Despite the prospect of a shootout, we should know the Patriots will try to get their backs as many touches as possible to control the ball. Forgotten from their first showdown in Week 6 amidst the 83 points and last-second dramatics, Sony Michel had as many carries as Brady had completions (24) and the Patriots were able to run for 173 yards. Michel was dominant in his first taste of the playoffs last week, averaging 5.3 yards per carry while hitting paydirt three times. He now faces the third-worst run defense of the season. Trusting a rookie running back over Gurley or Kamara might be tough, but trusting a Patriots running back is tougher. Trust the numbers and slot him as your RB1.

WIDE RECEIVER

Ted Ginn, New Orleans Saints

There are no sleepers and this isn't a flex article this week but we'll stray from the obvious to look at a lesser-owned option. Ginn's numbers (three receptions, 44 yards) were uninspiring but he could have had a much bigger day if Drew Brees hit his mark on the first play of the game that resulted in an interception. Ginn is a strong play this week, especially since he'll face Marcus Peters. The team just doesn't trust Tre'Quan Smith yet and there isn't any depth at WR besides Keith Kirkwood, who is battling a calf injury. You also can't forget the old adage - "When in doubt, Ginn for the win!"

TIGHT END

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

You've got two realistic options at tight end this week so it's either the chalk or Gronk. He disappointed again last week and could very well do it again but in this environment, it makes far more sense to take a chance on him. The Chiefs allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than anyone but the Bengals. The Pats may wind up needing to pass more often than last week. Unless you're playing a 50/50 league or somewhere that you need the safe play with Kelce, you are better off betting on Gronk and hoping he wants to go out in style. Yes, I'm already planning his retirement party. Dolphins fan here, remember?

 

Conference Championship Round Lineup Zeroes

QUARTERBACK

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Look, there probably won't be any zeroes this week, especially at QB. But it would make for half a column if I just claimed everyone was going to go HAM and I'm not going to waste space putting Teddy Bridgewater, Darrel Williams, or Matthew Slater here. I gave Goff too much credit last week, so let's reverse course here. Actually, I think I just didn't give C.J. Anderson enough credit but let's not revisit that again. We know Goff is not nearly as effective on the road as he is at home. Except for Week 9 in New Orleans of course, when he threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns. Still, that's really the only outlier on this year's schedule and you just can't count on history repeating itself. The Saints' pass defense woke up after that game, only allowing two 300-yard passing games over the next nine. If there's a quarterback to doubt this weekend, then it rightfully should be Goff.

RUNNING BACK

Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs

At this juncture, the notion that Spencer Ware will return to the lineup leads to indifference at best. Williams is already earning his paycheck on a recent contract extension, running for 129 yards in the divisional round with another touchdown. Ware will see a few snaps here and there, so that combined with my earlier notion of a pass-first Chiefs team just put a slight damper on my projections for him this week. Plus, he'll have a harder time reaching the end zone this week, though. The Patriots allowed just six rushing touchdowns to running backs all year, second only to Chicago. Truth be told, I was going to put C.J. Anderson here but am afraid my Fantasy Football Expert card will be revoked if he goes off for 100 yards again. I just got that thing laminated too.

WIDE RECEIVER

Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs

Watkins reminded us how good he can be when he's on the field, with a 34-yard catch and run five minutes into the game. He looked healthy and finished with 62 yards total on six catches. Enter cold water. Watkins will get the shadow treatment from All-Pro Stephon Gilmore, who held him to two catches for 18 yards the first time these teams met. I know I just said I love Mahomes but that doesn't mean I have to love all his receivers and neither does he.

TIGHT END

Benjamin Watson, New Orleans Saints

What possible reason could I have to convince you that I need to convince you not to start Watson in the first place? I mean, he hasn't scored or even reached 30 yards since Week 9. What if I told you that Week 9 game with 62 yards and a touchdown, which was his best of the entire season, came against the Rams?

Unless there's a glitch in the Matrix, we won't see any past Watson glory repeat itself. He hasn't been practicing due to an undisclosed illness so there's a chance he doesn't even play. At least that's what "they" want you to think.

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