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Dan's DFS picks: Divisional round

14 Jan 2016

By Dan Podheiser
I swear, if it weren't for two ridiculous plays in last week's Wild-Card playoff round, I would have won the Millionaire Maker on DraftKings.

My lineup was good enough to cash for $35 – my fourth straight week with a cash – but I'm sure I would have hit at least a four-figure score if Kam Chancellor hadn't illegally contacted Jerick McKinnon before he dropped a surefire touchdown pass, and if DeSean Jackson didn't step out of bounds instead of over the goal line for a touchdown.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda. That's the call of the lifelong degenerate.

Still, I had a great weekend. I picked the two highest-scoring players on DraftKings, as the Chiefs' defense lived up to my prediction (they actually shut out the Texans) and Jordan Reed had a hell of a game in a losing effort for the Redskins.

This weekend is going to be tough, but I promise I won't let you down. (OK, there's a good chance I'll let you down.) Let's get to the picks.

For a full explanation of the differences between DraftKings and FanDuel scoring, read this blog post by Daily Fantasy Sports 101.

Quarterback: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (DK: $7,500; FD: $8,700)

It's not often that the most expensive quarterback in a given week can also be a contrarian play in a GPP, but I'm betting that Newton, who faces a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense this weekend, will get far less attention than some of his peers. And that's why I'm going with Newton this weekend – I don't think he'll be heavily owned on DraftKings.

Carson Palmer, at just $6,500, is probably the best value play on the board (he's actually the most expensive quarterback on FanDuel this week, though), and is sure to be rostered more than any other quarterback. That means we're going with a full-blown Palmer/Cardinals passing game fade this weekend. I don't think the Green Bay Packers will be able to stop Palmer from putting up numbers, but they could potentially limit him to a mediocre performance, which is all I'm asking for.

But back to Newton, who is almost certainly going to win the NFL's MVP Award this season. Newton is an absolute beast who can beat you both with 40-yard bullets thrown off his back foot and with 40-yard gallops straight through the gut of a defense. I don't think he's afraid of the Seahawks, as evidenced by his epic two-score, fourth-quarter comeback in Seattle earlier this season — a game in which Newton both threw and ran for a touchdown.

And despite his rough matchup, at $7,500 Newton is a steal relative to his asking price during the regular season. I'm liking this pick for contrarian reasons, but I think Newton is as solid as it gets for fantasy quarterbacks.

Running Back (DK): David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals ($6,000)

In addition to being my favorite running back on the board this week (and at an amazing price on DraftKings), Johnson plays into my Palmer fade. Look, the Packers simply aren't going to stop the Cardinals from scoring this weekend. But if I want to make a run in the Millionaire Maker, I need to hope that it's Johnson who carries the load on the ground and into the end zone for a few scores, poaching touchdowns from Palmer and the Arizona wideouts.

Palmer fade into second gear.

Running Back (FD): James Starks, Green Bay Packers ($5,800)

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was destroyed by Cardinals blitzes when these two teams met in Week 16, a 38-8 rout by Arizona. The pressure will be back in the Packers' backfield again on Saturday night, but this time, I expect Rodgers to take a more cautious approach and check down a bunch of passes to his running backs.

That's where Starks comes in. Starks is a much better pass-catching option than his fellow running back, Eddie Lacy, and should see a ton of opportunities to pick up yards after the catch. I think Starks will be Rodgers' safety valve this weekend, and he'll be needed a lot.

Wide Receiver (DK): Ted Ginn Jr., Carolina Panthers ($5,000)

Look, I don't love this play, especially if Richard Sherman is going to be defending Ginn on the outside. But Ginn is so fast that it almost doesn't matter who covers him. The Panthers are going to try everything to make the Seahawks' vaunted secondary ineffective on Sunday, and that means Ginn could see opportunities to catch balls deep and short, and possibly out of the backfield as well.

Ginn is also the team's best big-play threat, and you can be sure that Newton will want to air the ball downfield to his speedy wideout at least once. One 80-yard touchdown catch is fine by me.

Wide Receiver (FD): Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos ($7,700)

Peyton Manning will be back throwing paper airplanes for the Broncos this week, and that means Sanders should be the most targeted Denver wide receiver on the field. Sanders started off the season red hot, but cooled off considerably towards the end of the year, especially when Brock Osweiler took over at QB for the Broncos.

Sanders did have one huge game with Osweiler, and it was against the Steelers, Denver's opponent on Sunday. He reeled in 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown in that game, and I think Sanders could easily repeat that kind of volume on Sunday with Manning back under center. If you're going to start any Broncos offensive player, Sanders has to be the guy.

Tight End: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (DK: $6,900; FD: $6,500)

No Panthers stack would be complete without Olsen, who was arguably the most important tight end for his team in the league this season outside Rob Gronkowski. Olsen is a catch machine, and he burned the Seahawks for a game-winning touchdown earlier this season, a game in which he also caught seven balls for 131 yards. Look for Olsen to be the most targeted Panthers player on Sunday.

Defense: Carolina Panthers (DK: $3,700; FD: $5,000)

Did you see Seattle's offense last week in Minnesota? Sure, it was negative 4 degrees outside, but the Seahawks' biggest play came on a botched snap. Russell Wilson and company put up big numbers in the second half of the season, but those were mostly against banged-up, subpar defenses.

Carolina is the real deal, and you can bet that defense, which is rested after a bye week, will be fired up and ready to go after Wilson on Sunday.
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