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Flex Heroes and Zeroes - Divisional Round Playoffs


Does having fewer games on the schedule make your lineup decisions easier or harder? You'd think it would be the first choice, since the player pool is dwindled down to eight players at QB, realistically four at TE, and less than 20 at RB and WR. Stacking is almost a necessity and differentiating is hard to do. Well, you could start Tyler Higbee and say "that's different!" Your friends would agree.

More than any other week, you now need to really analyze how you think the game will flow and base your decisions less on Defense vs. RB stats or target trends and more on who you think is just going to touch the ball a lot because their team is going to win. Sorry to oversimplify things but you can throw out a lot of those regular season stats when the playoffs arrive, especially past the Wild Card round. So, you may get a strong sense for which teams I like this weekend (yay Colts!) and which teams I don't (sorry, second L.A. team that should have stayed in San Diego). It's not because I particularly care if they win, because I don't. I'm a jaded Dolphins fan, remember. It's just my Spidey Sense telling me that these teams are going to do better and I want the guys on those teams. Don't worry, I actually do the research - if you want the stats and science behind it all, without the snarky commentary, check out this week's matchups article.

Now, here are my fantasy flex and streamer "heroes" and "zeroes" at each position for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. These players are borderline 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!

 

Divisional Round Lineup Heroes

QUARTERBACK

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

If you aren't paying up for Mahomes or Luck this week, which you probably should, or are simply looking for a different angle, Goff is your man. That's right, ignore those three quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings. Oh yeah, don't forget to forget Philip Rivers too while you're at it. Goff has been on a roller coaster ride the last few games of the season even though he finished in style with a four-touchdown performance against the Niners. Does that mask the fact he had thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions in the previous four games? Kinda sorta.

See, even Goff's final stretch fits perfectly into my narrative about his home/road splits being the deciding factor on whether to start him. His biggest duds all season came on the road. He is just a different quarterback at home and now he'll have Todd Gurley back after missing the last two games. The Cowboys are known for their tough defense but that's mainly against the run. They are just OK against the pass and their defensive backs didn't seem to get enough time on the JUGS machine, as they came away with the sixth-fewest interceptions in the league. The matchup works in Goff's favor - he could perform above expectations and possibly as high as the QB3 this week! Seriously though, just start Andrew Luck and be done with it.

RUNNING BACK

James White, New England Patriots

We like to imagine that when the playoffs begin, Bill Belichick goes to a secret vault, says some magic words and unlocks the "real" playbook that features James White getting the ball in every way imaginable. Although he was robbed of a Super Bowl MVP two years ago, White isn't the super postseason player we think he is. White only totaled 132 scrimmage yards in three playoff games last year, good for an average of 33 YPG. He did score four touchdowns at least. Still, White isn't the automatic stud we may assume just because the postseason is here. That said, you definitely need to start him this week. His current opponent allowed more receiving yards to RB than any other (973 total - 6.7 receptions and 60.8 yards per game). White also figures to get the important looks near the goal-line in lieu of rookie Sony Michel. It's counterintuitive to trust a Pats RB in any situation, but White has proven he's part of Belichick's circle of trust and that's good enough for me.

WIDE RECEIVER

Dontrelle Inman, Indianapolis Colts

The way I've been talking about this game all week, I might be giving off the impression that the score will be in the 70s and every single offensive player on the Colts will be performing their choreographed dance routines in the end zone, to the point that the game runs past the end of the Cowboys-Rams tilt. I'll concede that the Colts might not win and they might not put up crazy points but you have to admit it's a nice idea unless you're a Chiefs fan. Indy is hot and while they didn't gain huge passing numbers last week, that was mainly because they didn't need to. In this projected shootout/Global Thermonuclear War, all eyes will be on T.Y Hilton and Eric Ebron as fantasy darlings. That would be correct but Inman might be the best value play. He hasn't put up big numbers but he's quietly scored in three straight games with at least four receptions in each. He's become a dependable WR2 for Luck and could be this week's version of Keke Coutee.

TIGHT END

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Gronk as a hidden sleeper doesn't seem to be a strong take but in my defense there are only eight teams playing this week. Considering Kelce, Ertz, and even Ebron could be higher-owned, Gronk kind of fits the bill, especially with the season he's had. The million dollar question is: do we believe in the Gronk from last year's playoffs who put up 16 catches, 218 yards and three touchdowns in three games or late-season 2018 Gronk who posted four catches, 45 yards, and no touchdowns over the last three games? Be as disappointed as you want (he doesn't care). Even though he's looked like a shell of his former self lately, he got a week to rest and might be motivated to go out on top. It's not like the party cruise is running in winter anyway, so he's got nothing better to do than to do football good. I think he does football real good this game.

 

Divisional Round Lineup Zeroes

QUARTERBACK

Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers 

Philip Rivers isn't a clutch playoff quarterback. There, I said it. We all want to give him the benefit of the doubt or placate him by awarding the label of "Best Quarterback Never to Win a Super Bowl" as if that's something he'll want on his bio when he's inducted to the Hall of Fame. Facts are facts though. He averages 232 yards per game and owns an 11/9 TD/INT rate in the postseason. But this is the best team he's been a part of, and the defense and the running game... OK, sure. They're going to go into Foxborough with freezing weather and upset the perennial AFC representative in the Super Bowl. Let me break out my wallet and put some dollars down on that.

Look, the Pats are smack dab in the middle of the defensive rankings vs QBs but they've got some really tough cornerbacks and you know they will play the ball control game as much as possible. It's not as if Rivers has been on fire to end the season either - he hasn't reached 200 passing yards and has a 1/4 TD/INT rate over the last three games. Sure, the Ravens account for two of those games so take it with a pinch of salt. I still won't trust my fantasy prospects to a QB with a shaky playoff history in a matchup like this when he's struggling.

RUNNING BACK

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

As Ingram potentially plays his last game as a Saint, we must sit back and realize that it may be a good thing for all involved. There is no committee here - he is the RB2 behind Kamara, so he may as well clear the way and let Kamara be a bell cow. Yes, I own Kamara in multiple dynasty leagues and that has nothing to do with this. Ingram has become a touchdown-dependent option and that remains the case in this matchup. Over the last five games, Ingram has averaged 51.1 total yards. Meanwhile, the Eagles are allowing 57.5 rushing yards per game since Week 15 when Foles became the starter again. Ingram always sounds like a better choice than he really is and that will be the case until next year when he's wearing a Ravens uniform (you heard it here first).

WIDE RECEIVER

Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams

I really don't get all the love for Reynolds. I know he plays for the Rams but so does Gerald Everett. So did Tavon Austin, and Pharoh Cooper last year. IMHO he's a sizeable-enough target to use in the red zone but not much beyond that. In a tough matchup, I just can't look his way. The Cowboys allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points and third-fewest touchdowns to WR, mainly thanks to budding star CB Byron Jones. It's not a shadow situation so Jones won't exclusively be covering Brandin Cooks. As mentioned above, I'm looking harder at Dontrelle Inman or even Chester Rogers before Reynolds this weekend.

TIGHT END

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

I must address the elephant in the room: Hunter Henry is a charlatan! He was supposed to be the next great tight end but he only scored four touchdowns last year and this year he didn't score even once! Did you know that he hasn't even been targeted in the last 20 games the Chargers have played? I'm not sure why he's even on the roster anymore if they won't use him. Antonio Gates might be a good pivot if he wasn't 78 years old but I hear the Chargers have a better weapon at their disposal - a tight end by the name of Kellen Winslow.

OK, here's the real take: even though Henry supposed to finally suit up, although it's almost sure that he'll be on a restricted snap count. Plus, we don't know if he's truly game ready or simply going to act as a decoy. I'm already fading Rivers, so Henry has to follow suit.

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