Two more weeks of fantasy football remain in the 2015-2016 NFL season, and FanDuel and DraftKings players mostly have the pick of the litter for Sunday’s AFC and NFC Championship games.
Three of the four quarterbacks were among the five highest-scoring players in all of fantasy this season, one running back ranked in the top 10, two tight ends were in the top four, and three of the defenses (D/STs) were in the top four and the other was No. 11.
The only position that appears a little weak this week is wide receiver. Arizona Cardinals wide out Larry Fitzgerald remains the highest-scoring pass-catcher left in fantasy, ranking No. 11 among all receivers, followed by Denver’s Demaryius Thomas at No. 13 and teammate Emmanuel Sanders at No. 18, Arizona’s John Brown at No. 21 and Michael Floyd at No. 32, Carolina’s Ted Ginn at No. 26, and New England’s Julian Edelman at No. 37, according to FantasyData.com.
But that doesn’t mean receivers will be the quietest position of the week. In fact they could have the biggest impacts, with Denver’s top secondary by far the best of the four teams remaining, and No. 8 Arizona next, then No. 11 Carolina, and No. 17 New England.
And the fantasy stats break out the same way. The Patriots receivers will have a difficult time against Denver’s No. 1 ranked work against WRs, and Carolina faces a huge challenge in Arizona’s No. 7 unit. The Panthers could be just as effective against the Cardinals receiving corps with their No. 9-ranked unit, while New England’s way back at No. 20 versus opposing receivers.
Weekly fantasy owners have some hard choices to make ahead of the conference championship round, but our rankings, per usual, should help.
Here’s the top four picks at each position for DraftKings and FanDuel players.
1.Cam Newton, Panthers
2.Tom Brady, Patriots
3.Carson Palmer, Cardinals
4.Peyton Manning, Broncos
Following a sensational first half against Seattle, Newton’s tops because he’s the only QB left who can win with his arm and or legs, thus his fantasy potential has no ceiling, even though Arizona was No. 7 against fantasy QBs this season. But he’s an obvious choice, so maybe move down to Brady, who has the most difficult matchup with Denver’s secondary. However, the Broncos are banged up in the defensive backfield. Palmer will need more of those late game heroics against Carolina’s No. 4 unit against QBs, while Manning has the “easiest” matchup of the week except we don’t know what to expect from him or the rest of the Denver offense.
1.Johnathan Stewart, Panthers
2.C.J. Anderson, Broncos
3.David Johnson, Cardinals
4.Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
Our top two running backs have the most difficult matchups, with Stewart facing Arizona’s No. 8-ranked D against RBs and Anderson versus New England’s No. 9 group. Still, both of their teams’ success rides on their backs, so the carries will be there. Hillman’s down to No. 4, unless you’re in a PPR league, in which case he’s ahead of Anderson, who took most of the hand offs against Pittsburgh. Johnson has the strongest matchup with Carolina not so strong against opposing RBs, allowing 16.84 ppg in fantasy this season.
1.Julian Edelman, Patriots
2.Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
3.Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
4.Ted Ginn, Jr., Panthers
New England’s playmaker Edelman roared back from injury by burning a tough K.C. defense for 100 yards off 10 catches, so he has to be No. 1. But Denver has the best unit against WRs, so if we shift down to Thomas he has the better matchup and will likely be a cheaper option. Fitzgerald may draw Carolina’s Josh Norman, but he has John Brown and Michael Floyd to draw away some of that coverage and could blow up big time. Ginn’s been Newton’s best scoring option outside of Greg Olsen, and the Cardinals don’t have Tyrann Mathieu to chase him down if the speedy Ginn gets behind the secondary.
1.Greg Olsen, Panthers
2.Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
3.Owen Daniels, Broncos
4.Darren Fells, Cardinals
Olsen and Gronk are must-owns in any league format, but if they prove too expensive Daniels and Fells will garner some red zone targets in what figure to be very close games. If you’re choosing between Olsen and Gronk, the latter has the better matchup with Carolina No. 9 against TEs and New England No. 5. Daniels is a tough sell since he garnered only three targets last week and Manning targeted 10 different receivers, but Fells might be the key to the Cardinals success with Carolina too be preoccupied with Fitzgerald, Floyd, and Brown.
1.Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
2.John Brown, WR, Cardinals
3.Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
4.Steven Jackson, RB, Patriots
Josh Norman can’t be everywhere, which means Floyd and Brown could break open the game with one play, much to the joy of their fantasy owners. Sanders played very well against K.C.’s excellent secondary, catching five of his eight targets for 85 yards, and Denver’s receivers still had seven drops. And evidently, Jackson is New England’s only rushing threat, since it's attack rushed just 14 times despite owning a commanding lead throughout their victory.
Manning hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Week 9, or rather more than two months ago, and his propensity to throw interceptions this season makes New England the best choice. Carolina's next after how it contained Russell Wilson for the first 30 minutes, and he's far more dangerous overall than Palmer. Arizona’s weaker pass rush moves them down to No. 3, and because of Manning’s turnovers the Broncos DST may be on the field just a bit too long and will be gassed.