NFL Football Column: Post-Season Fantasy Football Guide
Wild Card Playoff Rankings
Don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet, significant others belonging to football-crazed fantasy owners. The 2013 post-season is here, which means your husband/girlfriend/"just friend"/etc. now has an opportunity to irritate you even more by participating in multiple playoff contests from across the web.
During the week leading up to each round of this year’s playoffs, I’ll be providing positional rankings and analysis at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, and team defense/special teams positions. Playoff contests tend to vary greatly in terms of format, so I won’t be getting too into specifics. Instead, I’ll just be providing one-week, standard-scoring player rankings. Feel free to use them as appropriate.
Check out Chris Wesseling’s annual playoff fantasy preview, which includes positional rankings for the entire playoffs.
1. Aaron Rodgers - GB (vs. MIN)
Despite an inconsistent season, Rodgers managed a 39:8 TD:INT ratio, which fueled him to a second place finish among quarterbacks in fantasy points. He put up 650 pass yards in two games against the Vikings this year, and is fresh off a four-touchdown game in Minnesota just a few days ago. The Packers are the league’s 11th-pass heaviest team and rank third with 81 percent of their offensive touchdowns coming through the air.
2. Robert Griffin III - WAS (vs. SEA)
The Redskins rank fifth in the NFL, averaging 2.9 offensive touchdowns-per-game. Griffin finished the regular season fifth at the quarterback position in fantasy points per-game (24.4). Although the ‘Skins ranked as the league’s No. 2 run-heaviest team, Griffin put up huge fantasy points thanks to 833 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns. Seattle has a tough pass defense, but RGIII will be a relatively safe play thanks to his ground production.
3. Russell Wilson - SEA (@ WAS)
Seattle sits as the league’s run-heaviest team, calling pass on just over half of its offensive snaps this season. That, however, includes a 56 percent mark on the road, where they’ve lost five of eight games this season. Teams have been averaging six additional drop backs per-game over their average against Washington over the last seven weeks. Considering it should be a competitive game, Wilson figures to be forced to throw the ball more than usual. The Seahawks are averaging an absurd 4.0 offensive touchdowns per-game over their last five weeks, which is easily tops in the league. Washington, meanwhile, is allowing 2.6 touchdowns per-game, which is highest among the 12 playoff teams.
4. Joe Flacco - BAL (vs. IND)
5. Andy Dalton - CIN (@ HOU)
6. Andrew Luck - IND (@ BAL)
7. Matt Schaub - HOU (vs. CIN)
The first three names on our list each fit on their own tier, but the next four are relatively interchangeable. The struggling Ravens don’t figure to build a commanding lead on the red-hot Colts, which will force Flacco to make plays with his arm...Indianapolis, meanwhile, has called pass two-thirds of the time on the road this season. The Colts' offense has found paydirt more often as Luck has progressed each week...Houston is allowing 20 fantasy points-per-game to opposing quarterbacks over the last seven weeks, which is worst in the league. The Bengals figure to trail quite often in this one, so Dalton actually has a plus matchup...Schaub could probably be on his own tier. The Bengals are only allowing 10 fantasy points-per-game to opposing quarterbacks over the last seven weeks, which is an NFL low. The Texans should be able to control this game, which will lead to a lot of carries for Arian Foster in the league’s fourth run-heaviest offense.
8. Christian Ponder - MIN (@ GB)
Ponder tossed three touchdowns against Green Bay in Week 17, but that marked the first time he eclipsed two touchdowns in a game this season. Additionally, he’s thrown for more than one touchdown only once since Week 6. The league’s seventh run-heaviest team, Vikings will lean heavily on Adrian Peterson in an attempt to upset Green Bay at Lambeau Field.
1. Adrian L. Peterson - MIN (@ GB)
As if Peterson’s 6.0 yards-per-carry mark wasn’t enough, the Vikings play-calling has helped him to huge fantasy production this season. Minnesota has called a run play on 53 percent of their offensive snaps in three straight games. In fact, during their current four-game win streak, the Vikings have called a run 56 percent of the time, which, extrapolated over the entire season, would easily makes them the league’s run-heaviest team. The Vikings may end up trailing quite a bit in Green Bay this week, but coach Leslie Frazier knows his best bet for a win is 25-plus touches for Peterson. He’s locked in as the best running back option this week.
2. Arian Foster - HOU (vs. CIN)
3. Alfred Morris - WAS (vs. SEA)
4. Ray Rice - BAL (vs. IND)
5. Marshawn Lynch - SEA (@ WAS)
As good as Foster is, he simply can’t be placed in a tier with Peterson right now. Fantasy’s No. 2 back averaged just over 4.1 yards-per-carry this season in what was a down year for him, at least relative to his career numbers. The Bengals, meanwhile, have arguably been the best run defense in the league over the last two months. Their last five opponents have combined for 361 yards on 116 carries (3.1 YPC). The Texans are the favorite to lead throughout this game, so while 20-plus touches is achievable, big production is unlikely…The Redskins have played seven games since their Week 10 bye. Alfred Morris has been below 20 carries in zero of those games. Since their Week 10 bye, the Seahawks have allowed six straight opponents to average no fewer than 4.0 yards-per-carry…It hasn’t been a banner year for Rice, but he still finished sixth among all running backs in fantasy points. His 83 targets ranked second at the position. The Indianapolis run defense, meanwhile, has been shredded by Houston (twice) and Kansas City over its last three games…Fourth in fantasy points at the running back spot this year, Lynch is just over 5.0 yards-per-carry and benefits greatly from the league’s run-heaviest offensive attack. Washington’s run defense isn’t anything for him to be concerned about.
6. Vick Ballard - IND (@ BAL)
7. BenJarvus Green-Ellis - CIN (@ HOU)
8. DuJuan Harris - GB (vs. MIN)
Ballard handled 58-of-69 snaps and all 29 carries by a running back for the Colts in Week 17. Although he may have his hands full with Ray Lewis back for Baltimore, 20-plus touches is probable for one of the league’s least-recognizable workhorses…Green-Ellis’ prospects are cloudy due to a hamstring injury that cost him Week 17. He’s expected to play, though, and figures to handle the bulk of the workload. Note that he’s the lowest fantasy scorer (19th) among running backs that ran for 1,000 yards this season. He’s a solid producer, but even in a career year with the Bengals ranking in the upper third of the league in offensive touchdowns for much of the season, he’s only a mediocre RB2…Harris (38 snaps) and John Kuhn (28) carried the load for the Packers in Week 17. Alex Green (zero) and Ryan Grant (five) were barely involved. Harris is an unspectacular talent, but is the favorite to lead the unit in snaps this week. The Packers have a 39:9 pass:run touchdown ratio this season, with four of those rushing scores coming in one game.
9. Robert Turbin - SEA (@ WAS)
10. Bernard Pierce - BAL (vs. IND)
11. Ben Tate - HOU (vs. CIN)
12. Ryan Grant - GB (vs. MIN)
13. Toby Gerhart - MIN (@ GB)
14. John Kuhn - GB (vs. MIN)
15. Evan Royster - WAS (vs. SEA)
16. Alex Green - GB (vs. MIN)
Our final tier of backs includes reserve backs that are expected to see only a handful of touches. Green didn’t play in Week 17 but is a sleeper for 10-plus touches if he works his way back into the lead back role. Potential in-game injuries aside, Grant is the only other back listed who has a real chance to lead his team in touches this week.
1. A.J. Green - CIN (@ HOU)
No playoff-bound wide receiver scored more regular season fantasy points than Green this season. Andy Dalton has looked Green’s way on 31 percent of his throws, which has resulted in 97 receptions and 11 touchdowns. Additionally, Houston has been very generous to opposing passing attacks over the last seven weeks. Green has the benefit of a high volume of targets, especially with the Bengals expected to have to throw the ball quite a bit, and a relatively soft matchup. He’s locked in as the top fantasy wideout this week.
2. Andre Johnson - (vs. CIN)
3. Reggie Wayne - IND (@ BAL)
4. Pierre Garcon - WAS (vs. SEA)
Over the Texans last three games, 42 percent of Matt Schaub’s throws have been directed at Johnson. Despite a slow start and only four receiving touchdowns on the year, Johnson finished eighth among all wideouts in fantasy points. The Bengals have allowed only one wide receiver to eclipse 100 receiving yards this season (Danario Alexander – Week 13), but Johnson is a safe (yet unspectacular) play thanks to a heavy volume of targets…Wayne has eclipsed seven targets in all but one game this season. He’s seen 34 percent of Andrew Luck’s targets over the Colts’ last four games. Despite being one of only five wide receivers to reach the 100-reception mark this season, Wayne ranks only 14th in fantasy points. A 12.8 yards-per-reception mark and only five touchdowns are to blame. Like Johnson, he’s solid, but his ceiling leaves something to be desired…Since returning from injury in Week 11, Garcon has seen just over one-third of the Redskins’ targets. Washington is the league’s No. 2 run-heaviest team, but Garcon sees near eight targets-per-game. He’ll have his hands full with Seattle corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, but Seattle allowed Titus Young, Davone Bess, and Brandon Marshall to reach 100 receiving yards during a five-game span prior to Browner’s suspension.
5. Randall Cobb - GB (vs. MIN)
6. Torrey Smith - BAL (vs. IND)
7. Jordy Nelson - GB (vs. MIN)
Cobb and Nelson have each missed action due to injury over the last month, but both figure to be 100-percent healthy in time for this weekend’s bout with Minnesota. Averaging 22 and 17 percent of Aaron Rodgers’ targets, respectively, when on the field this season, the duo figures to remain heavily involved despite the presence of James Jones and Greg Jennings. The Vikings defense has been thrown on a ton over the last month and a half. That doesn’t figure to change with Green Bay in town. Minnesota has allowed 320-plus passing yards in three of its last four games. Jennings (twice), Nelson, and Jones each found paydirt against the Vikings in Week 17. They’ve allowed 12 touchdowns to wide receivers over their last seven games…Smith has seen a respectable 20 percent of Joe Flacco’s targets this season, but calling his production volatile would be an understatement. He’s reached the nine-target mark six times, but has been at or below six targets in nine games. One of the game’s top deep threats, Smith’s 18.6 average depth of target is tops in the league among wideouts with 30-plus targets for the second year in a row. The Colts have allowed 200-plus yards to wide receiver units in five of their last nine games, including three of their last four.
8. Anquan Boldin - BAL (vs. IND)
9. Sidney Rice - SEA (@ WAS)
10. Greg Jennings - GB (vs. MIN)
11. Golden Tate - SEA (@ WAS)
12. James Jones - GB (vs. MIN)
13. T.Y. Hilton - IND (@ BAL)
Boldin actually finished the regular season four targets ahead of Torrey Smith, but found the endzone only four times…Despite not seeing a target in Week 17, Rice played 54-of-65 snaps and ran 28-of-33 possible pass routes. Twenty percent of Russell Wilson’s throws have gone his direction this season. Tate, meanwhile, matched Rice’s seven touchdowns and was only five behind the veteran in receptions with 45…In five games since returning from injury, Jennings has handled 23 percent of Aaron Rodgers’ throws. Jones leads the NFL with 14 receiving scores this season. Both have scored a pair of touchdowns against the Vikings this season. Going forward, however, full-time snaps will be hard to find with Cobb and Nelson back to full health…Hilton usually doesn’t play a full complement of snaps, but Indianapolis calls pass just under three-quarters of the time when he’s on the field. He’s seen one more target than Colts’ “No. 2” wideout Donnie Avery since Week 11.
14. Santana Moss - WAS (vs. SEA)
15. Donnie Avery - IND (@ BAL)
16. Doug Baldwin - SEA (@ WAS)
17. Andrew Hawkins - CIN (@ HOU)
18. Marvin Jones - CIN (@ HOU)
19. Josh Morgan - WAS (vs. SEA)
20. Jarius Wright - MIN (@ GB)
21. Jerome Simpson - MIN (@ GB)
22. Jacoby Jones - BAL (vs. IND)
23. Michael Jenkins - MIN (@ GB)
24. DeVier Posey - HOU (vs. CIN)
25. Leonard Hankerson - WAS (vs. SEA)
Like Hilton, Moss only plays about half the snaps, but sees a high percentage of the targets when he’s on the field…Avery has seen 19 percent of Andrew Luck’s targets this season…Baldwin’s workload has been on the rise as of late…Hawkins has reached the seven-target mark in three of five games since Mohamed Sanu went on injured reserve…Jones has seen 15 total targets over his last two games…Morgan still leads Washington in targets, seeing between three and four looks in each of the team’s last five games…Wright has seen 19 percent of the Vikings’ targets since Percy Harvin went on IR after Week 10…Simpson has yet to score a touchdown this season, but, like Wright, is seeing near 20 percent of the targets…Jones, and Jenkins are third in line for targets at the wide receiver position on their respective team…Posey is pushing Walter hard for snaps opposite Andre Johnson...Hankerson has played 25 total snaps over his last two games.
1. Dennis Pitta - BAL (vs. IND)
2. Jermaine Gresham - CIN (@ HOU)
Pitta has taken his owners on quite the rollercoaster ride this season, eclipsing six targets in six games, but failing to reach the five-target mark in six other contests. Still, he’s seen a solid 17 percent of Joe Flacco’s throws on the year. Powered by seven touchdowns, he finished the regular season seventh in fantasy points at the tight end position. Rob Gronkowski is the only tight end to reach 100 receiving yards against the Colts this season, but they’ve allowed seven touchdowns to the position…Gresham has seen 18 percent of Andy Dalton’s throws this season. He’s scored five touchdowns, which helped him to a 10th place finish in fantasy points at the position. The Texans have allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends this year, including at least one in four consecutive games.
3. Jermichael Finley - GB (vs. MIN)
4. Kyle Rudolph - MIN (@ GB)
Finley has seen 16 percent of Green Bay’s targets on the year, and 20 percent since Week 12. Unfortunately, his fantasy season has been a disappointment as a product of him finding the endzone only twice – the same number of times as teammates Donald Driver and Tom Crabtree. For perspective, despite playing six more games, Finley finished behind Aaron Hernandez in fantasy points during the regular season. The good news is that Finley combined for 132 yards and 14 receptions on 16 targets in two games against Minnesota this year…On the other side of the field, Rudolph had a solid 6-51-1 day against the Packers in Week 13, but managed only 20 yards on a pair of receptions in Week 17. Rudolph leads Minnesota in targets this season, seeing 22 percent of Christian Ponder’s throws since Percy Harvin went down in Week 9. Exactly half of the Vikings passing touchdowns have gone to Kyle Rudolph this season. Only Brandon Marshall has bested that mark (52 percent).
5. Owen Daniels - HOU (vs. CIN)
6. Zach J. Miller - SEA (@ WAS)
The Texans say they’ll get Daniels more involved in the offense, but the aforementioned tough Bengals’ pass defense won’t make it easy on him. Cincinnati has allowed only five touchdowns to tight ends this season and all of them came prior to Week 10. Daniels figures to see five or six targets in a game where Houston figures to go with a run-heavy attack…Since the Seahawk’s Week 11 bye, Golden Tate has seen 25 targets, Sidney Rice has handled 23, and Miller is quietly just behind with 21. Washington has allowed 10 touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season. Jason Witten (twice), Dennis Pitta, and Martellus Bennett have all enjoyed productive fantasy days against them over the last five weeks.
7. Dwayne Allen - IND (@ BAL)
8. Anthony McCoy - SEA (@ WAS)
9. Coby Fleener - IND (@ BAL)
10. Logan Paulsen - WAS (vs. SEA)
11. Garrett Graham - HOU (vs. CIN)
12. Ed Dickson - BAL (vs. IND)
Allen and Fleener are basically splitting the tight end targets in Indianapolis. Since Fleener returned to action in Week 13, the duo has combined to average 5.6 targets-per-game. Neither player has eclipsed three targets over the team’s last three games…McCoy has seen an expanded role in the passing game over the past few weeks, but isn’t close to fantasy relevance. Paulsen is the starter in Washington, but has seen only nine percent of the targets since Week 9. He has four one-target games since Week 11…Graham and Dickson are capable pass-catchers, but aside of an eight-target Week 17 for Dickson with the starters resting, neither has seen more than two targets in a game since Week 12.
1. Blair Walsh – MIN (@ GB)
2. Justin Tucker – BAL (vs. IND)
3. Josh Brown - CIN (@ HOU)
4. Shayne Graham – HOU (vs. CIN)
5. Steven Hauschka – SEA (@ WAS)
6. Adam Vinatieri – IND (@ BAL)
7. Mason Crosby – GB (vs. MIN)
8. Kai Forbath – WAS (vs. SEA)
Walsh ranked fourth in fantasy points among kickers in the regular season. Fellow rookie Tucker finished eighth, while Graham was fifth. In four games with the Bengals, Brown hit 11-of-12 field goals. He leads the position in fantasy points-per-game, albeit in a much smaller sample size.
Team Defense / Special Teams
1. Ravens (vs. IND)
2. Texans (vs. CIN)
3. Bengals (@ HOU)
4. Seahawks (@ WAS)
5. Packers (vs. MIN)
6. Vikings (@ GB)
7. Colts (@ BAL)
8. Redskins (vs. SEA)
Among the eight active teams this week, only the Bengals (sixth) finished as a top-seven team in fantasy points at the position. The Vikings, Ravens, and Seahawks rounded out the top 10, respectively. Baltimore and Houston are at home against inexperienced quarterbacks, which makes them the best plays this week.
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