In the first entry to this series, I outlined some pivot options to consider if you were building lineups for the FFPC Playoff Challenge. Now that lineups are locked and the incredible Fantasy Mojo has posted the full set of ownership numbers, I figured I’d share the discussion Blair Andrews and I had about how our lineups fared over wild card weekend.
Blair: The first thing that jumps out is our 100 percent exposure to Tarik Cohen and 0 percent exposure to the Eagles. If you heard Shawn Siegele discussing Cohen and the Bears on the special episode of the Fantasy Football Report, you can understand our reasoning. The Bears were the most likely wild card team to make a deep playoff run, and were likely to be playing in a lot of close and potentially high-scoring games that would require Cohen to be involved. Not only did the Bears not win, they also didn’t put up a lot of points, and Cohen did relatively little. I still believe in the process that got us onto Cohen, but was it a mistake to not have some exposure to the opposite scenario with only three lineups? Looking back it’s easy to say we should have hedged, but do you think hedging was the right call at the time?
Hasan: As the great George Washington once said: hindsight is 20/20. To that end, I look at our lineups and am a little bummed that our Cohen play didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped. You mentioned on both the High Stakes Diaries and the Fantasy Football Report that the Eagles have a very good chance at winning this game. However what kind of baffles me is the team’s reluctance to utilize Cohen. Taylor Gabriel had one more rushing attempt than Cohen in this game, and Matt Nagy prioritized utilizing Gabriel over both Cohen and Anthony Miller in the receiving game. I don’t understand why the Bears continued to prioritize Gabriel in the passing game, despite his inefficiency.
Blair: Yeah, Cohen’s usage in this game was disappointing and confusing. There were a few times when it looked like Trubisky was about to go to him in the flat and he opted instead to throw downfield, which you can hardly fault a guy for, especially since his connection with Allen Robinson was working. What you would hope is that Nagy would scheme more touches for Cohen. For the record, I thought Chicago would win and said as much on the Repo. But I also thought Chicago’s defense wouldn’t be as effective as we’ve seen against Philadelphia’s offense, which has looked strong the last few games, even with Foles under center. I did not foresee Chicago’s offense struggling this much. Do you think the Eagles are a team the Saints — who’ve been held under 15 points in three of their last five games — need to be worried about?
Hasan: I wouldn’t include their Week 17 loss to the Panthers in there, but there’s still minimal cause for concern. The biggest benefit to the Saints being the No. 1 seed is that they’ll play all their games at home, which is an environment in which Drew Brees thrives. Besides, the last time these two teams met, the Saints blew out the Eagles 48-7. Brees attempted 30 passes and posted a 22-363-4 line. Although the Eagles’ cornerback group has been playing better of late, Robinson’s 10-143-1 line gives me some hope for our lone Michael Thomas lineup. Hopefully the Saints come out all guns blazing against the Eagles and both Thomas and Alvin Kamara can feast. I am a bit worried about Amari Cooper playing against the Rams though, since we were hoping for a Cowboys-Saints shootout in the Super Dome. How do you think Dallas fares in that game?
Blair: We both picked Seattle to win that game, which explains why we only have Ezekiel Elliott on one lineup and faded the Cowboys altogether on another. So I don’t necessarily like their chances anyway, but on paper, the Rams provide a matchup more conducive to offensive output than the Saints. They have been the more explosive offense much of the season, and also the far weaker defense. Only four teams allowed more yards per play on the season. That said, it looks like a much better matchup for Elliott than for Cooper, with the Rams ranked dead last in YPC allowed (a sharp contrast with the top-ranked Saints that the Cowboys would have played if Chicago had won). So yeah, I am worried about Cooper playing the Rams, but even more so that our Elliott fade is going to backfire. The silver lining is that the Dallas matchup looks better for Robert Woods than the alternatives.
Hasan: I did note that Tom Brady and Mitchell Trubisky make for decent pivot plays in my article, but I’d like to note that our sole Elliott play is in our Andrew Luck lineup. I didn’t write up Luck in the article because I was1 worried that the Colts will only play two games. However, we expected the Colts/Texans game to shoot-out, as evidenced by our Kai’imi Fairbairn inclusion. Unfortunately the Colts jumped out to a huge lead and opted to go run-heavy instead. We didn’t get enough points from Luck or Eric Ebron, so hopefully the Chiefs/Colts game provides us with a heavy dose of fantasy points. How do you see that one shaping up for our teams?
Blair: I expect big things from that game, as this potential matchup was one of the main reasons we decided to use a Luck lineup in addition to our two Mahomes lineups. As Shawn noted on the pod, because the Chiefs’ defense lets teams stay in the game even as their offense puts up points, Indianapolis has a good chance to win. Luck ended up with more ownership than we anticipated, as a lot of other people saw what we did: that the Colts’ likely first two games would give them chances to advance and to put up a lot of points. The worst matchup for them might be an eventual conference championship game against the Chargers, but the Colts are good enough to score a lot even against a good Chargers defense. If that game shoots out I think we’ll really wish we had swapped Mike Williams and Kenneth Dixon on our two lineups. I know you’re not as enthusiastic about the Williams play as I was — I like the idea of getting a guy with multiple TD upside at really low ownership, and maybe that play makes more sense on a DeAndre Hopkins lineup where we expect the Chargers and Chiefs to eventually meet in the conference finals after the Chiefs beat the Texans.2 But do you think Williams could have a big game against the Patriots and then possibly against the Colts? Or do you wish we had exposure to Melvin Gordon on two teams?
Hasan: I think I’m fine with our sole Gordon lineup. He picked up another knee injury yesterday, but it was heartening to see him grit through the game and score a TD. What I am mostly bummed about is that Dixon failed to waddle into the end zone, because our lineup could’ve used those points. If the Chargers are going to beat the Patriots, I think it’s going to need a big game from Williams anyway, which should hopefully offset our Chris Carson play. I do like that we have heavy exposure to Rob Gronkowski though, given his ownership. My question is: do you feel comfortable rostering James White over Julian Edelman, given the variable usage Patriots RBs have experienced since Rex Burkhead returned?
Blair: Yeah, the truth is the Patriots have been excellent at home this season — they’re 8-0 at Foxboro with a league-leading 16.2 average margin of victory. Some of that is due to the fact that they get to face the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins at home three times a year, but it’s still impressive. So yeah, the Chargers will need a big game. And I think we’ll see it, which is why White becomes so attractive. Since Burkhead returned, White and Edelman have nearly identical production when the game is close.3 Edelman found his way onto over 45 percent of FFPC Playoff Challenge rosters, while White is on less than 17 percent. So White is an obvious way to play the Patriots if you think they’ll be in a lot of close games. But he might not be the best way, as Gronkowski is rostered by less than 12 percent of teams. Our 67 percent exposure across these three rosters looks promising if he can reward us with at least a couple TDs. It would probably surprise no one if Gronk and the Patriots exploded in the playoffs after sandbagging the regular season.
Hasan: Let’s hope that the Divisional Round has some high-scoring games and our lower-owned pivot plays capitalize. I’m looking forward to the weekend!