Chargers at Patriots (-4) 48
DE Deatrich Wise
- Opponents have a slightly higher explosive pass rate and YPA, but much better on the ground against the Pats when Wise is on the field
TE Hunter Henry
The Chargers are the best defense remaining in the playoffs and this is the lowest total on the slate. Brady has not shown many ceiling games this season with only one game this season over 30 points, back in Week 5 versus Indianapolis. If you are looking to use Brady, the reason to do it would be the Chargers struggles in the passing game covering running backs. They allow 60.81 yards to backs per game on 8.38 targets. As Brady continues to defy age, one thing that has been impacted is his deep ball and he has looked to attack opponents underneath with backs, and the Chargers are one of the worst teams in the league stopping it. In the last four games, Patriots running backs are averaging eight targets per game and 25 percent of the total targets. I would rather get Brady exposure through his weapons and fade the quarterback with so many QBs with higher ceilings this week.
Philip Rivers has scored more than 15 DK points only once in his last five games and hasn’t scored over 30 points on DK since Week 1. With the league’s top offenses and quarterbacks on the slate, I keep bringing up 30 DK points because that should be your goal number from a quarterback if you want to take down a GPP. Rivers simply doesn’t have that upside. The Patriots defense, while extremely talented in the secondary, has forced opponents to pass 37.75 times per game, and Rivers only averaged 31.75 pass attempts per game, but I dont expect the Chargers to be in catchup mode all game in this one.
Michel needs 100 yards and a touchdown to pay off this price tag. He will likely see between 12-18 carries depending on game script and offers no pass game upside with no targets n the last four weeks. He has not topped 50 percent of the snaps this entire season and with Burkhead returning, it is a very crowded backfield. Michel is a GPP-only play if you think the Patriots win this game and control it, as that is his only path to success.
Even with Burkhead returning, White has led the Patriots in snap share every week since Week 12 (not including James Develin). I mentioned with Brady how I wanted my exposure to him through his weapons and that is James White. With how the Chargers are historically bad covering running backs, give me White, who should command 20 percent of the team’s targets in this game mixed in with 4-8 carries. The Patriots have leaned on White in his last four playoff games as well, as he has seven touchdowns in his last four playoff games with 34 total targets. Burkhead back raises slight concern, but at his price tag in this matchup White should be a lineup staple.
Pure punt play due to how bad the Chargers are at covering backs, but the limited snaps and opportunity take him out of anything but MME consideration.
Playing with two MCL sprains and a high ankle sprain, Melvin Gordon was a warrior last Sunday against the Ravens, but wasn’t his normal self and didn’t see his normal workload. He played only 44 percent of the snaps last week and saw just one target. In his three games since returning from injury, he has yet to eclipse 43 yards or four targets. The weekly volume floor for an injured Gordon simply does not exist. With so much value on the board at running back, the opportunity cost of playing Gordon is too high for me and I will be looking elsewhere.
Ekeler out snapped Gordon last week and is the perfect way to attack the Patriots. The Patriots linebackers struggle covering speed, and Ekeler is one of the most talented pass-catching backs in the league. The Patriots are allowing 49.25 receiving yard on 7.44 targets per game to opposing running backs. In the matchup, playing more snaps, Ekeler is a sneaky GPP play, but falls behind White and Damien Williams in raw point projections.
The Patriots always make it a priority to take away the opponents’ top receiving option and that is Keenan Allen, who has been on a cold streak in his last three games since returning from injury, failing to break six catches, 65 yards, or get in the end zone. The Patriots top corner, Stephon Gilmore, was named to the All-Pro team, and for damn good reason. He allowed only 36 of a possible 86 targets to be completed against him and kicked inside to the slot 15.6 percent of the time, where Allen runs 48.6 percent of his routes. Look for the Patriots to bracket Allen in the slot and have Gilmore on him when he is outside. They will make it as difficult as possible to get Allen the football, which makes Allen a fade for me at his price tag.
In 17 games this year, Mike Williams has scored 11 touchdowns and has become a dominant contested-catch receiver. He continues to makes strides each week, showing the reason the Chargers too him seventh overall. He has high value targets, dominating red zone target share of late and a 12.4 aDot in Weeks 13-17. The issue for Williams is the matchup. When Allen is inside, he will have a tough matchup versus a big physical corner in Stephen Gillmore. When Allen is outside, Jason McCourty is no slouch either. However, McCourty plays man coverage on 66.7 percent coverage targets, where Mike Williams has dominated, catching 12 of 17 targets for three touchdowns and a 139.2 rating. He is not a core play, but with his touchdown upside, I want some exposure to Mike Williams.
As long as the Chargers survive, I will continue to write the same thing. Williams is a low volume play, third in the pecking order at receiver in both snaps and targets, where you need a long bomb for him to pay off value. I am not going to count on a player that hasn’t seen more than four targets in a game Keenan Allen was healthy since Week 12.
This is as hard of a matchup as Edelman has had the entire season, as Desmond King is the best slot corner in the NFL, having not allowed a touchdown on the entire season. Brady loves to target Edelman on curl routes, 22 percent of his targets have come on a curl route. On the season, King has allowed just five completions on curl routes. King lacks long speed, but has the short area quickness to give Edelman problems in this matchup.
Chris Hogan sees 12.9 percent of the targets without Josh Gordon compared to just 6.9 percent when Gordon is off the field. Last week versus the Jets in a game needed for the division, Hogan saw 11 targets. Hogan will play both outside in the slot but should see Casey Hayward or King depending on who is on Edelman. Hogan is a fringe play for me.
He is fully healthy, wont see a ton of snaps, but when he is on the field the Patriots will find creative ways to get him the ball in his hands. He has the chance to break a big one and sub-five percent ownership. Strictly an MME play in hopes of breaking a long one on limited touches.
Of all the things I have been wrong about this year, Gronk is likely the one I have been most wrong about. Gronk is washed, he looks slow and will face off against all-world athlete Derwin James in this one. The price tag makes you consider him, but Gronk has been essentially a left tackle of late. James has allowed only 33 catches on the season, just over two per game and has the size to compete with Gronk. I will look to go in other directions.
Last week, we talked about how Hunter Henry might be in play because of the matchup and how thin the tight end position is. This week I can’t play a tight end who will be on a pitch count in the lowest total game with the top tight ends in the league on the slate and better punts who will play three times the snaps. Henry is a fade for me.
The Patriots have been turning teams over of late, forcing eight turnovers in their last three games and have 11 sacks in their last four games. Rivers is a statue back there and if they can create pressure they can wreak havoc. Rivers took care of the ball last week when they got up big and did not take chances, in his three previous games he threw two interceptions in each and from week 10-15 the Chargers gave up on average 3.33 sacks. The Patriots are a strong option this week.
In my opinion, there is no better defense left in the playoffs. They have two elite pass rushers and two elite corners. Outside of pass catching backs they are set up to stop what the Patriots do best. In his last five playoff games, Brady has just one fumble and one interceptions. Turnovers may be at a premium but with that rush, at a low price tag and deflated ownership, they are a strong play this week.
Eliot Crist is the Sports Product Manager for The Quant Edge.He is a fantasy analyst with a background in scouting, analytics, and fantasy research. Formerly he has contributed at PFF, 4for4, Bleacher Report, Powerhour, and NDT Scouting. Eliot combines watching tape with analytics to try and take angles that other analysts aren’t to gain an edge for you.