Advice for StatHero NFL Picks for the Conference Championship Games

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2021

Advice for StatHero NFL Picks for the Conference Championship Games

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    Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams should sustain their strong rapport in the NFC Championship Game.
    Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams should sustain their strong rapport in the NFC Championship Game.Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Few options lead to tough decisions when playing the NFL's conference championship clashes on StatHero.

    As four teams battle for Super Bowl bids, fantasy players can continue their grind through Rivals. The salary-cap contest pits your lineup in a winner-take-all bout against one created by StatHero.

    Gamers are presented with a crucial choice before even selecting a single player. They first must pick one of the house's seven lineups to face in the head-to-head event. All are captained in the MVP slot, where points automatically double, by either Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill.

    However, all of StatHero's squads avoid one monumental question looming over Sunday's action.

    As of Thursday evening, it remains uncertain if Patrick Mahomes will clear the NFL's concussion protocol and play in the AFC Championship Game. He was officially a limited participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday, so it's certainly possible he suits up for the Kansas City Chiefs.

    If so, contestants have a chance to gain an edge on StatHero by playing the superstar quarterback at a discounted $10,000. That's one-quarter of the budget allotted for six players, but it's $1,500 less than he cost last week and $1,400 below Josh Allen.

    That contrast would especially come in handy with such a small slate. Gamers can deploy up to two players from their opposing StatHero squad, adding a burdensome wrinkle to the process.

    After much tinkering, the following lineup leaves $200 on the table. That allows room to adjust—entries can't be changed, so wait until Sunday to submit—after receiving a final verdict on Mahomes and other key players on the injury report.

MVP: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs ($9,700)

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    Travis Kelce has a touchdown and at least 10 targets in each of his last five games.
    Travis Kelce has a touchdown and at least 10 targets in each of his last five games.Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    This will admittedly warrant a second thought if Mahomes can't play. As the most expensive skill-position player by a full $1,000 over Diggs, Kelce certainly isn't cheap.

    He's recently justified every penny in this scoring format.

    To even the playing field, particularly in their team survivor contests that don't feature a tight-end slot, StatHero awards 1.5 points per reception to the position but one to running backs and receivers. That's a major boost for one of the league's best pass-catchers.

    Kelce has tallied 73 catches in his last nine games with unprecedented consistency at the typically maddening tight end spot. The 31-year-old reeled in exactly eight in seven of those contests, tallying 10 and seven in the other two. He received double-digit targets all but once during that stretch.

    By those standards, his Week 6 line against the Buffalo Bills was a considerable letdown. Kelce caught just five of seven targets for 65 yards in a 26-17 victory with far less passing on both sides—Mahomes and Allen combined for 347 passing yards on 53 attempts—than expected for the rematch. 

    But he also scored two touchdowns. The Offensive Player of the Year contender has found the end zone in each of his last five games, giving him a dozen in 16 games.

    According to NFL.com, only the New York Jets allowed more receiving yards to tight ends than the Bills (993) during the regular season. Jack Doyle posted seven catches for 70 yards and a score against them on Wild Card Weekend.

    The way he's playing, another eight catches for 100 yards and a score would represent a normal line for Kelce. It'd yield 56 points from the MVP spot, so pay up if Mahomes gets the green light. Even if he doesn't, Chad Henne could target the 6'5" star just as much, if not more, on shorter looks.

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers ($9,700)

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    Including last week's postseason win, Rodgers has tossed 50 touchdowns in 17 games.
    Including last week's postseason win, Rodgers has tossed 50 touchdowns in 17 games.Associated Press

    In Week 6, Aaron Rodgers completed just 16 of 35 passes for 160 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    He hasn't had a bad game since.

    The MVP favorite has accounted for at least two touchdowns in each of his ensuing 12 games, totaling 37 passing and three rushing scores. He's failed to exceed a 108.1 quarterback rating in just one other contest, and his Green Bay Packers have averaged 31.6 points per game.

    Because of Tampa Bay's success against the run, only three teams saw more opposing pass attempts during the regular season. The Buccaneers ceded 306 passing yards to Taylor Heinicke before holding Drew Brees to 134 in his possible swan song.

    They also gave up the fourth-highest completion rate (69.0 percent) through the regular season. Including last Saturday's victory over the Los Angeles Rams, Rodgers has completed 70.3 percent of his passes this season. 

    A blend of high volume and efficiency should lead to a huge day from Rodgers. He's also just $300 cheaper than Mahomes, so they're easily swappable by making a change at the flex.

RB: Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs ($4,100)

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    Darrel Williams shined as Kansas City's starting running back in the divisional round.
    Darrel Williams shined as Kansas City's starting running back in the divisional round.Associated Press

    Among the four teams pursuing the Vince Lombardi Trophy, only the Packers finished the regular season inside the top 15 in rushing offense.

    So much for establishing the run.

    Aaron Jones is the top running back on the slate, and he's reasonably priced at $6,600. However, he's also facing the NFL's stingiest front seven. Including the postseason, the Buccaneers have allowed just 82.2 yards per game on the ground. Jones mustered a season-low 15 rushing yards in Week 6's encounter.

    Devin Singletary has 146 yards from scrimmage over his last four games, and there's no more maddening task than guessing if Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians prefers Leonard Fournette or Ronald Jones II on any given Sunday.

    Although Kansas City's backfield may be the diciest of them all, Darrel Williams is the cheapest of these options.

    After weeks of struggling to run the ball without Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Williams gave the No. 1 seed a spark in the divisional round. Playing 79 percent of the offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference, he turned 13 rushes into 78 yards and caught all four targets for 16 more yards.

    Per Charles Goldman of Chiefs Wire, head coach Andy Reid said he started Williams over Le'Veon Bell because "it was just the hot hand."

    "He's not maybe a household name, but maybe after this game, people will know him and respect the work that he does," Reid said of Williams. "He's a very intelligent football player and he plays, as you saw, a very physical game."

    Edwards-Helaire could return and crash the party, but the rookie hasn't played since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 15. There's little reason to rush him back into a significant role over a hand that caught fire last weekend.

WR: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers ($8,200)

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    Adams has scored a touchdown in 11 of his last 12 games.
    Adams has scored a touchdown in 11 of his last 12 games.Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Facing Jalen Ramsey and the Rams' premier pass defense last Saturday, Adams still caught nine of 10 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown. He'll now draw another elite cornerback in Carlton Davis, who silenced a significantly injured Michael Thomas to zero catches in the divisional round.

    Play Adams anyway.

    The 28-year-old has earned everyone's trust as a matchup-proof star. He now has a remarkable 19 touchdowns in 15 games, getting held outside the end zone in just three contests. Only the Carolina Panthers have accomplished that feat since Tampa Bay held him scoreless three months ago.

    If Green Bay throws as often as expected, Adams is going to receive plenty of opportunities. When on the field, he's drawn 32.0 percent of Rodgers' targets. That sizeable chunk of the pie should produce at least 10 more looks with a pass-heavy blueprint.

    Diggs is dominating enough to consider at even cost, but the Buffalo wideout is an additional $500. Whether StatHero is paying respect to Davis or remembering Tampa Bay's blowout win over Green Bay in October, Adams is affordable enough to utilize alongside Rodgers and Kelce.

TE: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($3,000)

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    Even with just one catch in two playoff games, Rob Gronkowski is always an end-zone threat.
    Even with just one catch in two playoff games, Rob Gronkowski is always an end-zone threat.Associated Press

    Every StatHero lineup features Rob Gronkowski. Despite his quiet postseason, let's copy its homework.

    The tight end has just one reception in two playoff games, while teammate Cameron Brate ($4,100) has hauled in eight catches for 130 yards. Those recent results tanked Gronkowski's price to the minimum $3,000. 

    Based on its lineups, StatHero seems to realize this was an overcorrection.

    Gronkowski is always at risk of tabling his pass-catching duties to focus on blocking. Including those recent playoff duds, the 31-year-old has fallen short of 15 receiving yards in six of 18 games with the Buccaneers.

    He's also a future Hall of Famer who scored seven touchdowns in the regular season. Having secured 12 touchdowns in the playoffs with the New England Patriots, he also has a long history of clutch moments with quarterback Tom Brady.

    Brady may need to lean more on his trustworthy tight end if any of his star wide receivers are out. Mike Evans (knee) and Chris Godwin (quad) have both been limited participants in practice this week, and Antonio Brown (knee) hasn't practiced at all.

    Scott Miller ($4,000) is another noteworthy bargain if at least one of those wideouts doesn't play, but Gronkowski only needs one end-zone spike to pay off his rock-bottom rate.

Flex: WR Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills ($5,100)

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    If active, Cole Beasley has a high ceiling at a relatively low cost.
    If active, Cole Beasley has a high ceiling at a relatively low cost.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Cole Beasley is not only a boom-or-bust pick but one who may not be healthy. After not garnering an injury designation for Wednesday's practice, he was limited Thursday with a knee ailment.

    This comes after posting a goose egg against the Baltimore Ravens, so any trepidation here is perfectly understandable. Fournette is a decent pivot at $5,000, which would also clear up the necessary amount to replace Rodgers with Mahomes. 

    However, that's not possible in every instance, as three of StatHero's lineups are riding Fournette at running back.

    The house, on the other hand, wants no part of Beasley given his uncertain status and divisional-round vanishing act. Yet the slot receiver averaged 5.5 catches for 64.5 yards per game during the regular season. Having hit or exceeded 100 yards five times, he also boasts week-winning potential.

    Beasley can still help without reaching triple digits again. Managers should be satisfied with a repeat of Week 6's four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City.

    If Beasley plays, this calculated risk can set a lineup apart from StatHero's squads.