We're now in the divisional round of the playoffs. Eight teams remain in the hunt for a trip to the Super Bowl and this week trips to the AFC and NFC Championship are on the line. The latest and final round of eight teams brings us the best matchups with the return of four teams on a bye week, some of your favorite plays from throughout the season return to the fold.
Before we can put lineups together, we want to evaluate the options we'll have to choose from this week. We'll start with a quarterback evaluation, ranking and breaking down the eight quarterbacks on the slate, what tournament (GPP or cash) they are best for and how likely we are to use them.
Let's get started.
1. Tom Brady, TEN @ NE, ($8,800)
Perhaps there were some interesting nuggets of information in the ESPN story on the New England Patriots' power struggle, but more so than anything it seems like further fuel the Patriots will use to roll over opponents throughout the playoffs as the team pursues its sixth championship under Brady and Bill Belichick.
Brady comes at a significant cost and we'll likely look at him more for GPP contests, but he is certainly the top quarterback play on the slate. Set to face a Tennessee Titans defense that allowed nearly 21 FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks this season, Brady and the Patriots' offense should find a variety of areas to exploit Tennessee's defense. Early in the wild card round it became evident the Titans lacked any way to stop Travis Kelce and Kansas City's offense rolled to 21 points, it was only when Kelce left with a concussion that Kansas City's offense sputtered.
With two weeks to prepare and a great matchup for Rob Gronkowski and New England's pass-catching running backs, Brady will slice up the Titans' defense and should be in line for a 300-plus yard game with two-plus touchdown passes. Given some of the tough matchups other quarterbacks face, Brady is locked in as the best quarterback play in the divisional round.
2. Case Keenum, NO @ MIN, ($7,600)
Keenum and the Vikings are set to welcome the New Orleans Saints into town. New Orleans' defense allowed 20.7 FanDuel points per game on average to quarterbacks this season and while rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore shows plenty of shutdown abilities, he can only take away one of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. We also saw tight end Greg Olsen torch New Orleans' defense.
Minnesota boasts a strong core of weapons for Keenum to throw to and it should help boost his chances for fantasy success. New Orleans' defense struggled more recently with over 21 FanDuel points allowed per game and ranked as the sixth-worst defense against the pass since Week 12, making this a positive matchup to target in Keenum's favor. He may not be the most talented quarterback on the slate but matchup and supporting cast in a home playoff game paired with his price make him the second best option on the slate.
3. Matt Ryan, ATL @ PHI, ($7,700)
Ryan didn't deliver quite the performance we hoped for last week but he at least finished with 13 FanDuel points. Atlanta survived against the Rams, now travels to Philadelphia to face an Eagles' offense led by backup quarterback Nick Foles. Even with two weeks to prepare, Philadelphia's offense is a significant downgrade over the Los Angeles Rams unit and the Falcons' defense seemed to have very few problems last week.
The Falcons should be able to force some Foles' turnovers and give the Falcons' offense shorter fields to work with. Paired with the Falcons' offensive weapons, including Julio Jones and Ryan offers some real upside and a safe floor for 15-plus FanDuel points. While Philadelphia's defense is solid, we've seen countless times this year that when an offense constantly turns the ball over and goes three and out, it hurts the defense in the second half and will make things easier for Ryan.
4. Marcus Mariota, TEN @ NE, ($7,500)
Mariota is certainly a gamble play, thus he ends up more of a target for GPP-upside contests then the potential security we would look for with safe floor quarterbacks in cash contests. In his first playoff start, Mariota finished with 26.9 FanDuel points thanks to 45 rushing yards, 205 passing yards and a six-yard touchdown pass to himself on a freak moment we may not see again for another decade.
His placement above the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees is due to price and matchup. New England's defense is significantly better than at the start of the season, but it did allow the third-most passing yards (1,057) in the last four weeks of the season. Mariota's rushing ability also adds another factor that New England must account for and is a boost to Mariota's fantasy ceiling as he demonstrated last week with the additional 4.5 points on the ground.
Tennessee will likely need to play catch up in this game and that should mean plenty of opportunities for Mariota to throw and run, racking up yards in multiple ways. Mariota is sixth amongst quarterback in prices and offers the upside for 18-plus FanDuel points, a great potential return on investment given the opponents Big Ben and Brees will face and their limited potential upside as a result.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT vs. JAX, ($8,000)
While Big Ben may regain Antonio Brown this week, it still seems likely Brown will be at less than 100 percent just a few weeks removed from a partially torn calf muscle. A matchup against the same defense he threw five interceptions against is also a reason for concern, especially given the further strides made by Jacksonville's defense during the season and the pairing of strong cornerback play and an excellent pass rush.
However, for as strong as the pairing is for the Jaguars, this is a defense that allowed opposing quarterbacks to average 21 FanDuel points per game over the last four games, though much of that damage came from Russell Wilson and Jimmy Garoppolo alone. Pittsburgh should look to use Le'Veon Bell on the ground and via the pass in this game, similar to how the Buffalo Bills used LeSean McCoy.
Roethlisberger comes with risk as he's been prone to the interception in some tough matchups and Brown will be limited. At $8K with a tough matchup, he is pushed behind cheaper options and settles in as a GPP play.
6. Drew Brees, NO @ MIN, ($8,100)
While it's Jacksonville's defense that carries the best reputation, no defense in the NFL has stood up better against the pass since Minnesota's defense since Week 12. Over its past six games, Minnesota's defense allowed just 12.4 FanDuel points per game to opposing quarterbacks, the fewest touchdown passes (three) and the fewest passing yards (1,000) over that span of games. Now they've had two weeks to prepare for the Saints' offense.
Vikings' cornerback Xavier Rhodes will match up nicely against Michael Thomas to take Brees' top target away. Taking away the Saints' best receiver and forcing Brees to look towards his secondary targets with a pass rush in his face in a road playoff game, the surroundings are far from ideal. Brees upside is severely limited in this game and the chance for greater than 250 yards or two touchdowns paired with the potential for turnovers, makes Brees a player to avoid.