Welcome to NFL playoff DFS, where the slates are shorter and results are magnified. We've decided to change things up a bit here, breaking matchups into tiers rather than simply note who has good and bad matchups.
The tiers are straightforward -- three stars for great matchups, two stars for decent ones and one star for guys you might want to avoid. We've also taken some other factors into account like weather and potential playing time.
Let's dive in with this week's three-star plays.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI @ CAR ($8,000)
Miglio: Larry’s legend keeps growing in the playoffs. Though he did much of his damage in overtime last week, Larry Fitzgerald once again went over 150 yards and scored a touchdown. With Michael Floyd, John Brown and David Johnson all big-time threats -- not to mention Fitzgerald operating out of the slot -- he should be in line for another huge output this week.
Rudnicki: Fitzgerald showed once again last week that he is capable of rising to the occasion in big moments. As the primary slot receiver for Arizona, he should match up with Cortland Finnegan most of the time and remain a focal point of the Cardinals passing attack.
Julian Edelman, WR, NE @ DEN ($7,800)
Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE @ DEN ($8,900)
Miglio: Rob Gronkowski took our 1-star assessment from last week and spiked it in our faces. Twice.
We’re not sure what the Chiefs were thinking sticking defenders on an island with Gronk, but c’est la vie. Think Denver is a tougher challenge? Think again.
Rudnicki: Edelman looked strong last week against the Chiefs and should be in line for a great game again this week thanks to the injury to Chris Harris Jr. If he’s unable to play or limited like he was last week (which seems likely), Edelman becomes a great option. Gronkowski proved last week he can dominate regardless of matchup, but the Broncos have been vulnerable to tight ends. We may see cornerback Aqib Talib on Gronkowski when he lines up out wide this week, but that’s still a matchup that he should be able to exploit due to his size advantage. More likely, they will try to double team him with some combination of linebackers and safeties, but very few teams have been able to slow him down when he’s healthy.
Michael Floyd, WR, ARI @ CAR ($7,500)
John Brown, WR, ARI @ CAR ($6,500)
Miglio: Will he get stuck in the Bates Motel?
Michael Floyd scored a pair of touchdowns last week, and he seems to be the the best outside threat the Cardinals have. That would probably lead you to believe Josh Norman will be shadowing Floyd, given Larry Fitzgerald lines up in the slot so much.
Rudnicki: Josh Norman typically shadows the opponent’s best receiver, but he also doesn’t typically work in the slot. Given that the Cardinals have three very good receiver options, I expect the Panthers to keep Norman and fellow starter Robert McClain on their respective sides of the field. Since Floyd and Brown move around a lot but play mostly on the outside, that should mean they see Norman about half the time (bad) and McClain the rest of the time (good). If the game script allows for lots of passing as expected, either player is certainly capable of posting good numbers here.
Greg Olsen, TE, CAR vs. ARI ($7,000)
Devin Funchess, WR, CAR vs. ARI ($5,100)
Miglio: Bruce Arians said that stopping Greg Olsen would take away 40 percent of Carolina’s defense, but that it would be difficult to accomplish. That said, Arizona has had trouble stopping tight ends in recent weeks.
Devin Funchess, meanwhile, could be the beneficiary of all that defensive attention paid to Olsen. Between that and Patrick Peterson’s likely focus on Ted Ginn Jr, someone is going to need to step up to catch passes from Cam Newton. Granted, Funchess is a boom-or-bust prospect, but a potential difference-maker on such a short slate.
Rudnicki: After a strong start to the year, the Cardinals have struggled at defending tight ends over the past month or so. Olsen is the No. 1 passing target for the Panthers and the player that Cam Newton looks to in most key situations. This is a matchup that he should be able to take advantage of with most of the defensive attention being focused on slowing down Cam Newton and the Panthers running attack. Cotchery has been the primary slot receiver for the Panthers, and that suggests a great matchup for him with nickel CB Jerraud Powers this week. His usage has not been great lately (nine catches over last three games) as the Panthers don’t use three-receiver formations that often, but he could make a sneaky choice here if you believe the Cardinals will be able to keep it close.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN vs. NE ($7,600)
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, DEN vs. NE ($7,400)
Miglio: If Broncos pass-catchers didn’t drop every other pass last week, Denver would have blown out Pittsburgh. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders would have had much nicer fantasy scores, too, among others.
Peyton Manning’s top two options will have tougher sledding this week against New England’s secondary, but they should see enough volume to have a nice floor, assuming they don’t catch the dropsies again.
Rudnicki: The Patriots typically have Malcolm Butler shadow the opposing team’s No. 2 receiver, and that leaves Logan Ryan to match up with the No. 1 wideout with safety help over the top. So, even though Ryan has struggled at times down the stretch, he should get some added help to keep Thomas in check. Butler has played better than anybody expected him to this year and should pose a tough matchup for Sanders this week. In the last game, however, Sanders did have some success against him as he posted 6/113/0. If choosing between the two Broncos WRs, I’d probably lean a bit towards Sanders here.
Ted Ginn Jr, WR, CAR vs. ARI ($6,200)
Rudnicki: As the Panthers de facto No. 1 receiver, Ginn figures to see plenty of Patrick Peterson this week. He was a non-factor last week, and Peterson erased James Jones in the matchup with the Packers. While he’s always a threat for a big play, Ginn looks like a clear player to avoid this week.
Danny Amendola, WR, NE @ DEN ($6,000)
Brandon LaFell, WR, NE @ DEN ($6,100)
Miglio: This is less about Brandon LaFell’s matchup and more about the fact he can’t catch the damn ball. Much like with Thomas and Sanders, a higher target count could buoy his production. Unlike those two, however, LaFell will probably have cornerback Chris Harris Jr or Aqib Talib on him for much of the game.
Rudnicki: There is upside for Amendola if he lines up as the primary slot receiver this week (and Chris Harris Jr is out or ineffective), but he only managed two catches last week despite playing 76% of the offensive snaps. May be a solid contrarian play, but his usage with Edelman in the lineup has been minimal. LaFell figures to match up primarily against Bradley Roby, who is solid but not imposing. LaFell has just not been much of a factor of late, and it seems unlikely for that to change now.
Owen Daniels, TE, DEN vs. NE ($5,000)
Miglio: Barring injury or a late scratch at the linebacker position, Jamie Collins Sr and Dont’a Hightower should be a full go in Denver. That spells doom for both the running game and the tight end position. Collins in particular is a speedy linebacker capable of blanketing Daniels, who is not a strong play to begin with.
Rudnicki: The Patriots have done a great job at limiting the damage done by opposing tight ends all year. Last week, Travis Kelce caught six passes against them but only picked up 23 yards in the process. Daniels has emerged as the primary tight end in Denver, but he’s not a big part of the offense with just three catches for 25 yards over the last two games.