It’s wild-card weekend! For the first time, Yahoo is offering daily contests during the postseason. To keep frugal owners informed, I’ll be continuing my bargains article through the conference title games.
Last week three of my five sleepers delivered (TE Will Tye, RB DeMarco Murray and WR Markus Wheaton), closing out the regular season among the top 20 fantasy players at their positions for the week. This go around I’ll highlight a value pick at each position for managers trying to identify places to save money. Let’s do this!
AJ McCarron, QB, Cincinnati Bengals ($25)
While the Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed stack is sure to be a popular pairing this weekend, the McCarron and Tyler Eifert combo could be quite the contrarian play. Since taking over for Andy Dalton in Week 14, McCarron has admittedly underwhelmed, averaging fewer than 200 passing yards per outing over his last three games. In that time, however, he was without the aforementioned Eiftert, who has the most TDs among TEs in 2015. Their connection was illustrated in Week 17 when, back from a two-game absence, the breakout tight end found the end zone for the thirteenth time of the season.
Hosting the Steelers on Saturday evening, McCarron is likely to throw a lot. Pittsburgh boasts a top-five run defense, but its secondary has been one of the league’s most generous. It makes sense that the Bengals would attempt to exploit that defensive deficiency. Additionally, given that RB DeAngelo Williams is expected to sit, and noting the number of dynamic passing weapons on the Steelers’ roster, it makes sense that Roethlisberger will put the ball in the air early and often. The onus to answer will be on McCarron, who hasn’t thrown in a pick in any of his last three contests. Answering the call won’t be easy, but the Alabama product has shown both brevity and confidence when operating under center.
Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs ($13)
Either banged up, facing a brutal matchup, or in timeshares, none of the options at RB are optimal. Therefore, trying to identify which backs are most likely to find the end zone is exceedingly necessary. Fully healthy after suffering a rib injury three weeks prior, Ware dominated the Chiefs’ backfield in Week 17. While he carried the rock just three more times than committee-mate Charcandrick West, Ware was far-and-away the more productive back, averaging 4.8 YPC. A physical downhill runner, the former LSU Tiger also got the call at the goal line and scored his sixth TD of the season.
Ware will have his work cut out for him, as the Texans have only allowed one RB to score via the ground since Week 7. Still, the Chiefs are a run-first team that heavily features the running back position. West will absolutely see time, but Ware’s chances of falling forward for six are much greater. Racking up five scores in his last seven games (and he was dinged up for two of those), Ware is a sneaky flex or ultra-cheap RB2 option.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks ($14)
What this rookie offers on special teams gives him more upside than any other similarly priced receiver. Yes, he’s been held out of the end zone in back-to-back contests, but he also missed time in Week 16 with a knock on the noggin. Looking at the numbers, since Jimmy Graham’s departure Lockett has been on fire, averaging nearly seven targets per game and scoring three times. His connection with QB Russell Wilson in tandem with his versatility makes his appeal scads more boom than bust.
While the weather in Minneapolis on Sunday may be more conducive to running, it is worth noting that the Vikings are likely to welcome back DT Linval Joseph. The imposing tackle stuffed opposing rushers for the bulk of the regular season before missing time with a foot injury. Given that Marshawn Lynch has been away from the game for nearly two months, and acknowledging that Wilson has had so much success throwing the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him target the dynamic Kansas Sate product often. An efficient receiver who has converted 76 percent of the balls thrown his way, Lockett is – fittingly – a wildcard.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings ($12)
Meh… don’t love this one … and would recommend paying up for a TE (*cough* Eifert *cough*), but at just two dollars above the minimum price, Rudolph does hold potential value. A borderline TE1 through 2015, Rudolph and QB Teddy Bridgewater have, at times, connected brilliantly. Despite being second in team targets, however, the 6-foot-6 and 265-pound athlete’s usage has been inconsistent, making him hard to trust. Still with fellow TE Rhett Ellison on the IR, the Notre Dame product should reel in a handful of looks on Sunday.
Additionally working in Rudolph’s favor is the matchup. If the Seahawks defense has been soft anywhere, it’s been against the middle. Giving up the eighth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, Seattle surrendered eight scores to the position over the regular season. In a game that projects to be low-scoring, Rudolph may be the Vikings’ only chance at a passing TD.
Seattle Seahawks D/ST ($14)
The Legion of Boom is obviously not a sleeper pick, but at a middle of the road price this defense is a steal. The whole of the Vikings offense consists of Adrian Peterson. And while All Day is still a stud, his YPC has noticeably declined and his body has begun to show the wear of nearly a decade in the league. Exiting meaningful contests against division rivals in both Weeks 15 and 17 due to nagging injuries (ankle, shoulder, back), Peterson is unlikely to run over the best-ranked run defense in the NFL.
Furthermore, when these two teams met five weeks ago, Seattle held AP to just 2.3 YPC and sacked Bridgewater four separate times. Allowing the fewest rushing yards per game (81.5) and the second fewest receiving yards per contest (226.2), the Seahawks are poised to dominate defensively. No promo code necessary, this discounted defense is the best buy on the board.
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