Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The most talked about factor during this fantasy WildCard weekend is likely to be the weather. Conditions in three of the four venues will not be conducive to offensive production.
The fourth game will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium, which has a roof overhead and that could be the biggest factor in your fantasy selections this weekend.
Before we get to the Colts game, lets look at the weather at the other three locations.
New Orleans, a dome team, travels to Philadelphia where the high on Saturday will be a balmy 28 degrees. The problem, however, is the game won't start until 8:10 PM leaving the teams to play in weather in the teens. The Saints have proven all season that they can win at home in the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but they are 3-5 on the road. All three wins took place in warm weather or indoors.
The failure to produce on the road could take away from the Saints' huge passing advantage over the Philadelphia defense. On a sunny September day, Drew Brees and his receivers would likely devour the Eagles secondary. But that may not be the case Saturday night and fantasy owners should temper their expectations.
Brees should still throw for around 300 yards and tight end Jimmy Graham has a huge advantage over anyone the Eagles use to cover him, but beware of overestimating the New Orleans production as they are averaging just 17.8 ppg on the road this season.
The Eagles shouldn't be much different than they have been for most of the season. They will feature LeSean McCoy running and receiving and Nick Foles passing. Both are solid fantasy options once again. DeSean Jackson is a hot and cold option. He's posted five 100-yard receiving games, but also five games under 50 yards. Do you feel lucky?
The early Sunday game, in Cincinnati, is expected to start in rain and finish with snow. The only good news I have for you is that at least it won't be windy. The visiting Chargers have won twice in temperature under 40 degrees this season, but haven't played in the "white stuff."
Running back Ryan Mathews will have to come up big in this one. Fortunately, he's been playing better than at any time in his four years in the pros, rushing for 473 and three scores over the past four games. You don't want to get behind on down and distance in cold and snowy Paul Brown Stadium so we are expecting close to 20 touches for Mathews.
The final game of the weekend will also be the most effected by weather conditions. The 4:40 PM start of the game between San Francisco and Green Bay will see temperatures as "high" as zero and by the end of the game should be around minus nine degrees. Add in winds of 10-15 mph with gusts to 20 mph (wind chill around minus 30) and this one will be a battle of mind over matter for the players. The team that can ignore, or at least fight through the pain, will win this latest version of the "ice bowl."
Don't be looking for a lot of long passing or trick plays here. Despite Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick's abilities to throw the ball, we like Eddie Lacy and Frank Gore to be the keys and the best fantasy values.
Which brings us to the opener this weekend in Indianapolis. Quarterbacks Alex Smith and Andrew Luck won't have to deal with rain, snow, freezing temperatures or wind gusts. For this reason, fantasy owners should add significantly to their fantasy value.
On the Kansas City side, obviously Jamaal Charles is a fantasy stud, but Smith has played well this season (23 TDs, 7 INTs).
Luck averaged 246.4 ypg at home this season with 12 touchdown passes and six interceptions. He passed for 241 yards and a score in a 23-7 win over the Chiefs just two weeks ago.
Given the weather around the league, Luck could easily finish among the top three, though if all eight of this weekend's starting quarterbacks were playing in the same perfect indoor conditions he might not be selected until sixth or seventh.
We also think that T.Y. Hilton has a chance to be a star. Coming off an 11- catch, 155-yard performance, Hilton is Luck's No. 1 receiving option and has averaged 102 ypg at home since Reggie Wayne's season-ending injury.