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Conference Championships: Fading the Arizona Cardinals
By Jen Ryan

(Lineup Tool: http://www.footballdiehards.com/fantasyfootball/dailygames/Lineup-Generator.cfm)

This weekend I am fading the Arizona Cardinals in their entirety. Am I crazy? Maybe, but hear me out. I have a feeling most of the playing pool will chase Carson Palmer and his receivers’ statlines from last week. Prior to the divisional round Palmer had not hit the 300-yard bonus in past three contests. Fitzgerald has scored a touchdown in his past three but the divisional round saw Fitzgerald hit the 100-yard mark for the first time in seven games. Michael Floyd scored twice last week on three receptions but in his six previous games he scored once. David Johnson has had three straight games with less than 40 rushing yards and has not cracked 14 fantasy points in his past two outings. What I am trying to say is the Cardinals had a ridiculous offensive output last week. I suspect we may have seen the best we will see out of these players. I do not anticipate them doing the same sort of damage against the Carolina Panthers than they did against the Green Bay Packers. To quote Mark Cuban, our latest DFS pioneer, “for that reason, I am out”. I could be completely wrong here (and the Vegas odds tell me as such), but when in doubt I go contrarian. Below is a lineup I constructed sans Cardinals.

QB – Tom Brady - $7,400
Brady is going against one of the stingiest defenses he has faced this season. The Broncos’ defense ranks 2nd overall in total defense. Brady will be fine, as he torched them for 280 yards and three touchdowns in their first meeting. I have all the confidence in the world that he will hit the 300-yard bonus again this week and throw for multiple touchdowns. Julian Edelman is back and Rob Gronkowski is a touchdown machine. He will have a difficult matchup in a difficult environment but he will get the job done.

RB – Jonathan Stewart - $5,900
I believed in Stewart last week and felt confident he would perform after a month of rest. I recalled his two-touchdown performance in his first meeting against the Seahawks and he went ahead and scored another two touchdowns in the divisional round. He did not quite hit 20 touches in notching 19 but he did hit the century mark. I am expecting the same this week. He rarely comes off the field and the Panthers have no hesitation using him in the red zone. Much of the field will be on Stewart this weekend and I too will be sticking with him.

RB – James White - $4,600
White did not contribute much last week but DraftKings has pointed out that he was “on the field for 42 of the Patriots’ 59 offensive snaps” last week. Of the New England running back corps he feels like the one to own. He is a threat to catch a few receptions and score and at under $5,000 he could be a huge bargain this weekend.

WR – Julian Edelman - $7,500
I took a wait-and-see approach to Edelman last week, as I wanted to see how his foot would respond to game speed. I waited, and I saw what I liked. Edelman resumed his role as Brady’s go-to receiver and took ten receptions for 100 yards. This week, he will have his work cut out for him against the 2nd-rated Broncos’ pass-defense but Edelman has proven in the past to be a sneaky receiver who can work from anywhere on the field. He will be peppered with targets and is worth rostering even at his price tag.

WR – Emmanuel Sanders - $6,300
It is never easy choosing between Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, however Sanders has more touchdown-upside than his counterpart. The Patriots are the 17th-ranked pass-defense and the opportunities will be there for Sanders. He has five receptions and at least 85 yards in his past two games. Drops were an issue for all Broncos’ receivers last week but if Sanders can secure his targets and hit the end zone he will hit value.

WR – Devin Funchess - $3,200
Funchess is a bit of a blindfolded dart throw but his low cost had me looking in his direction. Corey Brown very well may be the play here but I suspect between these two receivers Brown will have a higher ownership percentage than Funchess. He is a touchdown-dependent play this week and I view him as the true boom-or-bust player in my lineup.

TE – Rob Gronkowski - $7,600
There is little need for analysis at the tight end position for me this week so I will keep it simple: touchdowns. That is plural for a reason.

Flex – Ronnie Hillman - $3,900
Hillman and C.J. Anderson are virtually splitting carries evenly in the Broncos’ backfield. Anderson is out-performing him but he is also $500 more than Hillman and out of my budget. The volume will be there despite Anderson’s presence. The thing that will separate these two backs will be who gets the touchdown.

DST – Panthers - $3,500
Admittedly, this is my least confident play on my roster but if I am going to build with no Cardinals it makes sense for me to play the Panthers’ defense against them. I realize it is risky due to the high-octane offense they will be rolling out but this team is outstanding at generating turnovers. The score could run up but as long as they generate a few turnovers or Luke Kuechly finds his way into the end zone again, they could keep me above water. I can’t imagine most of the field playing the Panthers’ defense so in addition to this play being risky it also appears to be very, very contrarian.

This very well may be the zaniest strategy I have ever come up with while building a DraftKings lineup. I am avoiding the top-offense in the conference championships and even playing the defense against them. It is beyond against the grain but sometimes these gutsy, bold decisions pay off. If I am correct and the Cardinals already showed us the best of what they’ve got then I will have avoided expectations being let down. If I am wrong, it will blow up in my face. My choice, just like all the teams playing this weekend, is to go big or go home.