Fantasy Football: James White A Must-Play in NFL Divisional Round

James White
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 30: James White #28 of the New England Patriots runs the ball for a touchdown as he is defended by Rontez Miles #45 of the New York Jets during the first quarter of a game at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Much like actual football, playing fantasy football during the month of January requires the highest level of skill. With so few teams left in contention, one needs to ensure they make every selection count when playing Daily Fantasy Sports. New England Patriots running back James White is available on FanDuel for just $7500. At such as affordable cost, White should be in your lineup come Sunday.

Fantasy Football: Play James White in DFS

Some may be wary of starting White based on the way he finished his season. After coming out of the gate as one of the best fantasy running backs in the league, White’s production took a serious nosedive in the second half. Over the last seven games of the season, White recorded just 34 carries for 190 rushing yards and one touchdown to go along with 26 receptions for 220 yards and one touchdown.

While White’s second-half slump was nothing to scoff at, there’s every reason to believe that the fifth-year running back will find his early-season form during the playoffs. A very specific series of events occurred to limit White’s production, and just about all those factors should be eradicated once the playoffs start.

He’s Finally Healthy

James White’s dip in production perfectly coincided with a midseason injury. Back in Week Nine, the pass-catching specialist suffered an ankle injury against the Green Bay Packers. While the injury didn’t force him to miss any game time, New England started using him differently. His snap count steadily decreased following the injury, which obviously impacted how effective he could be.

Fortunately, this issue should be in the past. White has recovered from his ankle injury and hasn’t been on the injury report in weeks. When he’s on the field, he’s as explosive and dynamic as ever. New England played it safe with him for the entirety of the second half, simply because they didn’t want him to re-aggravate it. Entering the season, White never received more than 125 touches in a single season. He eclipsed that mark by Week 10 this season.

New England knows just how valuable White is to their postseason success, and tried to preserve him for the final stretch of the season. The Patriots went 9-0 when White saw 13 or more combined targets and carries. When White saw 12 or fewer carries and targets, New England went 2-5. White’s arguably the most dynamic player on the Patriots offense, and New England didn’t want to risk his long-term health if they didn’t need to.

This conservation strategy is fairly uncommon in football, but New England has a history of doing similar things. Over the past four seasons, the Patriots basically used wide receiver Danny Amendola as a playoff-only weapon. Notorious for his injuries, the Patriots would only use Amendola situationally during the regular season before unleashing him in the postseason. They’re basically doing the same thing this year, but with White instead of Amendola.

There’s No (Good) Competition

Along with a clean bill of health, James White benefits from being the only good pass-catching back on the roster. Rookie Sony Michel has been fantastic on the ground but leaves a lot to be desired through the air. Michel finished 2018 with just seven receptions for 50 yards, with his last reception coming against back in Week 13 against the Minnesota Vikings.

The only other running back on the roster is Rex Burkhead, who is in the midst of a serious down year. The second-year Patriot suffered a neck injury early in the year and just hasn’t looked healthy at any point in the season. While he showed some promise with his 18-yard touchdown reception, Burkhead finished the year averaging just 3.3 yards-per-carry and 131 receiving yards.

While Michel will see his fair share of snaps, White should clearly be ahead of Burkhead in the pecking order. This will likely be a two-headed attack on Sunday with Burkhead only coming on when Michel or White need a breather. With Michel’s inexperience in the passing game, White should see the field for a majority of the game.

Matchups, Weather Favor White

Overall, the Los Angeles Chargers have one of the best defenses in the league. However, the unit significantly struggles to defend pass-catching running backs. Throughout the course of the 2018 season, Los Angeles allowed 110 receptions for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns to the running back position. Football Outsiders’ doesn’t tell a prettier story, as they rank the Chargers as the 23rd-best defense against running backs in the passing game.

The Chargers have a ferocious pass-rushing duo in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. New England has one of the better offensive lines in the league, but Ingram and Bosa are both capable of beating the best of the best. Quarterback Tom Brady is no stranger to dangerous pass rushers, and the 41-year old quarterback is one of the best at utilizing the short passing game to minimize a pass rush. Brady will probably try to get the ball out of his hands as quick as possible, which is good news for White. The Chargers don’t have a linebacker capable of covering him, and Brady will likely want to throw it to White early and often.

Even if the Patriots could successfully block Ingram and Bosa, they probably wouldn’t attempt too many deep shots downfield. It’s January in Massachusetts, which means the forecast calls for snow and freezing conditions. As of this posting, the temperature is expected to be just below freezing at kickoff. Additionally, there’s a 50% chance of precipitation, which likely means snow with temperatures that frigid.

This weather isn’t favorable to the deep passing game. White does his damage exclusively in the short portion of the field, and the weather report favors a short, quick-passing game. White thrives with these types of gameplans, which means these conditions should play perfectly to his skill set.

Last Word on James White in Fantasy Football

James White had a rough finish to 2018, but that shouldn’t scare you from putting him in your lineup this weekend. Now fully healthy, the pass-catching back is clearly the best receiving option New England has in the backfield and is set to dominate an incredibly favorable matchup.

The Los Angeles Chargers defense is susceptible to running backs in the passing game, and White can make even the most talented defense look foolish. Brady will try to negate the pass rushing duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa by looking for White early and often on quick dumpoffs. White should not only haul in these passes but also pick up significant yards after the catch. Even if Bosa and Ingram aren’t their dominant selves, the poor weather will encourage a short passing game.

New England held White back late in the regular season, but that won’t happen this time. The Patriots have a history of holding back some of their players and conserving them for the playoffs. They did it with Amendola for four straight seasons, and they did it with White following his ankle injury. Now that it’s the postseason, the Patriots won’t hold him back anymore. Quite frankly, grabbing him for just $7500 in FanDuel is a steal.

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