There's a reason Gurley is the highest-priced player on both the major daily sites this week. He led the NFC in combined rushing and receiving yards during the regular season, finishing with 2,093 total yards from scrimmage and a league-leading 19 touchdowns, despite sitting out the regular-season finale. Better still, Gurley gained over 100 total yards in 12 of the 15 games he played this season, and he gained more than 100 yards as both a runner and a receiver in the Rams’ Week 16 victory over the Titans, becoming just the third player in NFL history to accomplish such a feat (delivering fantasy championships to copious owners in the process). This weekend, he goes up against a Falcons' run defense that's been better over the second half of the season. After then Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi tore through them for 130 yards in Week 6, the Falcons gave up 162 yards to the Patriots the following week and 201 against the Panthers in their first meeting Nov. 5. Since then, opponents have found it difficult to move the ball on the ground. So even though their season-long numbers against running backs aren't impressive (they've allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to the position with an average of 27 per game), they're tied for fifth-best (22 points per game) over the last four weeks. But here's the rub: Gurley has developed into a dangerous pass catcher. He leads the Rams in receptions with 64 for 788 yards and six touchdowns and the Falcons allowed a league-high 110 catches to running backs in 2017. So I'm hoping the combination of high price ($9700 on DraftKings; $10000 on FanDuel) and the Falcons’ impressive work against opposing backs in recent weeks scare some DFS players off while Sean McVay and the Rams take full advantage of Atlanta's biggest weakness and Gurley's new-found strength.
As WTLV.com's Mike Kaye suggested this week, the Jaguars' offense could return to its roots against the Bills on Sunday. While Jacksonville finished as the top rushing offense in the league this year, its rushing production during the second half of the regular season was inconsistent. As a result, Blake Bortles had the strongest stretch of his career during a three-game home stint in December. But Bortles took a step back in the final two regular-season games, when he tossed five interceptions. So a move back to a more run-heavy attack makes sense on multiple levels here. While he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry, Fournette delivered 1,040 rushing yards in 13 games this season. He was also a factor in the red zone, scoring nine rushing touchdowns on the season. This weekend, he goes up against a Buffalo defense that's allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the league this season. They currently rank 31st against the run in DVOA. In fact, opposing offenses ran the ball roughly 29 times per game, the sixth-highest mark in the league. Better still, the Bills struggled noticeably against ball carriers in the red zone. Buffalo's defense allowed a league-worst 22 rushing touchdowns on the season. Fournette seems to match up well against Buffalo on paper. He is a bruising, physical back who can handle a large workload. With weather expected to be windy and Bortles' ball security a concern, Fournette's anticipated volume, matchup and upside all make him a solid play for me. And the price ($7400 on DraftKings; $8100 on FanDuel) isn't ridiculous.
If I'm paying up at running back, I'll need reasonably-priced talent to help, and Wilson ($3300 on DraftKings; $5200 on FanDuel) is an option. As NFL.com noted this week, when the Chiefs' offense was rolling earlier this year, much of it was due to the long-dormant downfield threat. Per Pro Football Focus, Tyreek Hill has the highest catch rate (52.2 percent); Travis Kelce leads all tight ends in receptions (9) and yards (266) on deep balls; and Alex Smith is the most accurate deep-ball passer in the league (56.5 percent) -- really (and who knew?)! But Tennessee has a counter for that. The Titans have allowed the second-lowest passer rating on deep attempts (42.1) and are the only club to allow fewer than 10 deep completions (7). With speed demons Hill and Titans rookie corner Adoree' Jackson and big bodies Kelce and free safety Kevin Byard, who intercepted an NFL-best eight passes during the regular season, locked on each other, look for Wilson to have a make-or-break day in the slot. In case you missed it, Wilson turned in a sterling performance against the Broncos last weekend, hauling in a career-high 10 catches on 11 targets for 147 yards, the first 100-yard receiving day of his five-year career. And he did that on just 28 snaps. Wilson left the game late in the fourth quarter with tightness in his hamstring, but head coach Andy Reid expects Wilson to play Saturday. Assuming that's the case, I'm going to have some shares.
I get it. Newton basically is the Panthers' offense at this point. As USA Today noted this week, of Carolina’s 5,179 offensive yards in 2017, Newton accounted for an overwhelming 4,056, or 78.3 percent. He led the Panthers in rushing in seven of their 16 games, winding up with 754 yards on the ground (most among NFL quarterbacks). So there is some appeal there. But it's limited to me and here's why: Against some of Carolina’s weaker opponents, relying on Newton was enough to get by. But as Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed pointed out, against a talented and aggressive defense, skill position players like Jonathan Stewart and fellow running back Christian McCaffrey, tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Devin Funchess need to step up. With all due respect to them, that doesn't happen on a weekly basis. Adding to the concerns this week, the noisy Superdome will make life even tougher on an offense that for much of the past two weeks has appeared broken. That was the case in Atlanta last Sunday and Newton was part of that. His quarterback rating of 31.5 in the 22-10 loss was the worst of his 109 career starts. He misfired on his first nine passes and had three second half interceptions. In addition, the seventh-year quarterback has been mediocre in the postseason to date. He's 3-3 all-time in playoff action and outside of a riveting performance in a 49-15 win over the Cardinals in the 2015 NFC championship game, Newton's statistics in post-season play have been average. He has completed just 59.7 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's run for only two TDs, both of those coming in the playoff rout of the Cardinals. While those numbers are pedestrian, Newton's price ($6500 on DraftKings; $8300 on FanDuel) is not. There are other mobile QBs that are more affordable and offer more flexibility with the rest of your lineup this weekend. Bottom line? Newton has been a boom or bust play all year and he could certainly go off this week. I'm just not paying to find out which it is this weekend.