Player Rankings – Week 2 – Divisional Playoffs
Baltimore @ Denver – Saturday, Jan. 12th – 4:30pm ET
Green Bay @ San Francisco – Saturday, Jan. 12th – 8:00pm ET
Seattle @ Atlanta – Sunday, Jan. 13th – 1:00pm ET
Houston @ New England – Sunday, Jan. 13th – 4:30pm ET
(Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 8 - 7:47PM CT)
1. Aaron Rodgers (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET) – Playing at home against an inferior Minnesota Vikings squad, Aaron Rodgers did just enough from the quarterback position for the Packers to win the game. He really wasn’t needed for much more than the 274 yards and one TD he threw for, but this weekend will be a whole different story. Back in the first week of the season, Rodgers managed to throw for 303 yards and two touchdowns against this 49ers defense, but it wasn’t enough to win as Green Bay lost 30-22 in front of their home crowd. This Saturday, Aaron will need to pull out all the stops for the Pack to advance in the playoffs, and I fully expect he will. Not only has Rodgers been a better QB playing on the road throughout his playoff career, but he actually put up better fantasy numbers away from home during the regular season this year as well. With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb well rested and healthy after barely playing last weekend, look for Rodgers to take to the air early and often en route to some serious fantasy numbers this weekend.
2. Tom Brady (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – I can’t find much of a reason why this weekend’s matchup between the Patriots and Texans would turn out any differently than their showdown back in Week 14. In fact, the biggest difference I can see favors New England in that TE Rob Gronkowski will be returning to the lineup after missing the previous game with a broken forearm. On the other hand, as it sometimes is with a dominant quarterback on a dominant team, Brady usually puts together better fantasy games on the road due to the team needing him more to win the game. By no means am I implying that Brady will have a poor game because I fully believe the opposite to be true. However, once the team gets out to a sizable lead (which I believe they will), they’ll turn to their also-dominant running game to seal the victory. Because of this, I can’t give Brady my top ranking this week.
3. Peyton Manning (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET) – Peyton Manning never ceases to amaze me and frankly, I hope the guy plays forever. Meaning I would rather watch this guy play at 70 years old than some of the other crap floating around the NFL nowadays. This Saturday will mark the 20th playoff game of Manning’s Hall-of-Fame career, just the sixth QB since 1960 to play in that many playoff games (Favre, 24; Montana, 23; Brady, 22; Elway, 22; S. Young, 20). It won’t be the greatest performance of his career going up against a Ray Lewis-induced rejuvenated Ravens defense, but he’ll come away with some nice fantasy numbers regardless. In fact, Manning has thrown exactly three touchdown passes in six straight games playing at home in Mile High Stadium, and while I’m not so sure he keeps that particular streak alive, at least a TD or two with some nice yardage numbers should be coming his way.
4. Russell Wilson (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Take away the first five games of Russell Wilson’s 2012 rookie season and he would have averaged enough fantasy points to be the fourth best fantasy QB in the league this year—right behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Basically, the kid is a bonafide stud and might be the best foresighted draft pick I’ve ever seen. It won’t be easy for him this Sunday with the Falcons giving up the fewest passing touchdowns and the eighth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, but his running ability should put him up real close to the top three QBs this week.
5. Colin Kaepernick (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET) – It was a major leap of faith for coach Jim Harbaugh to stick with Colin Kaepernick as his starting QB after Alex Smith went out with a concussion back in Week 10, but the decision seems to have paid off with the ‘Niners coming away with a first-round bye. From a fantasy standpoint, Kaepernick did well enough in his seven starts to average the eighth most fantasy points per game (18.9 per game), though this should come as no surprise with eight of the top 14 fantasy quarterbacks rushing for four or more TDs on the season. If some of the best QBs in the game weren’t still around this postseason, I’d have Colin ranked higher, though there’s still a very good chance he ends up higher than this regardless.
6. Matt Ryan (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – As was written on the wall before the season began, Matt Ryan proved to be a top-notch fantasy quarterback throughout the whole of 2012. However, not only did he average almost a full three fantasy points better during the first half of the season, but he also averaged almost nine points better on the road than at home. The hits keep on coming when you look at the fact that the Seahawks allowed less than one passing TD against them per game (one of only three teams to do so; Atlanta and Baltimore), so even though Ryan has become a legitimate QB1 this season, I wouldn’t expect too much this weekend.
7. Joe Flacco (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Like I said in my write-up for the Wildcard game against the Colts, the man is not flashy by any means, but Joseph Vincent Flacco gets the job done. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five years in the league and though his fantasy numbers might not be the most desirable, you have to respect his acumen. That being said, Joe’s first go-around with the Broncos this season (back in Week 15) wasn’t the prettiest of fantasy days for him, and I don’t expect it to get much better with this game being played on the road where Flacco is known to have struggled throughout his career. He might pick up some decent numbers in garbage time, but I wouldn’t take him on my fantasy team based on it.
8. Matt Schaub (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – Every once in a while, Matt Schaub can be a force to be reckoned with out on the field. However, he’s played in just one playoff game during his nine-year career (last week against the Bengals) and came away with just 262 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Going up against a Patriots pass D this week would normally give me a bit of confidence, but considering how he threw for just 232 yards, zero TDs and one INT against them back in Week 14, I’m having a hard time getting behind him this week. Andre Johnson might have a good week because he’s one of the best in the game, but don’t count on Count Chuckula to follow suit with nobody else to throw to. Also, let me just add that Matt Schaub (formally known as Glass Joe) has thrown for a grand total of ONE touchdown in the Texans’ last five games.
(Updated: Friday, Jan. 11 - 11:06AM CT)
1. Marshawn Lynch (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – What a disgusting display by Mr. Lynch last weekend. I mean the guy was running around like a bull in a vagina shop out there—pretty much bustin’ through every hole he saw in front of him. I can only imagine what he’ll do against a twice as penetrable Falcons rush D this Sunday. Now that opposing defenses have to guard against Russell Wilson running the ball almost as much as they do with Fugly McSkittles, you can essentially guarantee a top fantasy performance here.
2. Arian Foster (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – After carving up the Bengals defense for 174 total yards and a touchdown, I think it’s safe to say that Arian Foster and the Texans’ run game is back. However, the question this week is how often will they be able to use it? If the first matchup between these two teams is any indicator, the answer won’t be what fantasy fans will want to hear. Foster carried the ball just 15 times for 46 yards against the Patriots rush D back in Week 14, though he did have a touchdown and a season-high 39 receiving yards on four receptions. If New England gets out to an early lead again—which seems more likely than not—then the Texans will have to abandon the run game yet again. Foster should still be able to come up with some high-end fantasy numbers due to his abilities as a receiver out of the backfield, but don’t expect a monster game like last week.
3. Frank Gore (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET) – Frank the Tank is a much better player when he’s rested, as I would assume most players are in the NFL. Gore, however, has put up double-digit fantasy points each of the last four times he’s had a week off (after three regular season byes and one playoff bye) while scoring a touchdown in three of those games. This Saturday he’ll take on a Packers team that he put up 112 yards and a touchdown against back in Week 1. It will take a little extra effort, but can definitely see him hitting those numbers again with the ‘Niners playing at home this time around.
4. Stevan Ridley (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – Stevan Ridley came into the 2012 season a tad under the radar, but as usual, the Patriots run game turned him into a household name... at least in the world of fantasy. Ridley failed to get in the end zone just six times the entire season while compiling 12 touchdowns in all, including one against the Texans back in Week 14. Houston may be a top five team at defending the run, but with their main focus being on Tom Brady and the Patriots dominant passing attack, look for Ridley to sneak in some nice under the radar fantasy numbers once again.
5. Knowshon Moreno (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET) – Though Willis McGahee has indeed rejoined the team at practice this week, there’s no possible way he plays in the game this Saturday as he's ineligible to suit up before the conference championship game. So, as he did back in Week 15 against the Ravens, Knowshon Moreno will have the Broncos backfield pretty much to himself—which means at least 20 to 25 touches for the revived former first-round pick. In their matchup with Baltimore a month ago, Knowshon rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. If Peyton Manning gets his team out to a lead—which I believe he will—then look for Moreno to take on a large role and inflate his numbers down the stretch.
6. Ray Rice (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Ray Rice had his worst game of the season when facing the Broncos back in Week 15, but for the Ravens to have a chance in this game, they will have to do everything they can to get Rice going. Whether it’s handing the ball off to him or using him on screens, I can’t see Rice touching the ball fewer than 15 times this Sunday. Regardless of how much he gets the ball, the Denver defense has been one of the best against opposing running backs this season, so don’t expect too much out of Ray here.
7. Danny Woodhead (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – Would you believe me if I told you that Danny Woodhead ended up a top-25 fantasy back this season? Well, believe it, because that’s where 750 total yards and seven touchdowns will rank you. When the Patriots playoff positioning was on the line during the last three weeks of the season, Woodhead was at his best averaging 10 touches, 75.3 total yards, one touchdown and 13.5 fantasy points a game. In fact, because of his versatility, Woodhead is used more often against the league’s better defenses due to the Patriots tendency to go with the no-huddle offense in those situations. Houston has one of those defenses, so look for some heavy usage out of the Woody this weekend.
8. DuJuan Harris (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET) – The undrafted kid out of Troy University has really been making a name for himself these last few weeks. He’s shown above-average burst as a ball-carrier and good vision out of the backfield as a receiver, though I fear his three-week ride as a fantasy option may come to an end this Saturday. The 49ers don’t mess around when it comes to shutting down the run, so even though Harris may catch four or five dump-offs from Rodgers this weekend, I doubt he amasses more than 60 to 75 total yards on the day.
9. Michael Turner (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Michael Turner won’t be able to run for very many yards against the Seahawks this Sunday because you need speed to be able to do that. However, Turner’s fantasy worth doesn’t come from his yardage—it comes from his ability to put the ball in the end zone. The Centaur amassed double-digit touchdowns (10 rushing, 11 total) for a fifth year in a row this season and was one of just three running backs in the top 50 to have more total TDs than fantasy points per game (Arian Foster and Mike Tolbert were the other two). If the Falcons get the ball down inside the two-yard line with a couple of downs to spare, then Turner will have a fine fantasy day. If not, then he might prove worthless.
10. Bernard Pierce (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Pierce performed really well in his backup roll this season—especially in the last two games where he averaged 106 rushing yards on 18 carries and 10.8 fantasy points per game. Even in the Ravens playoff game against the Redskins last weekend, the coaching staff trusted him enough to give him 13 carries with which he put up 103 rushing yards. That being said, I can’t see Pierce receiving more than 10 touches this weekend or putting up more than five or six fantasy points against a Broncos top-three rush D.
11. Jacquizz Rodgers (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
12. Robert Turbin (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
13. James Starks (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
14. Jacob Hester (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET)
15. LaMichael James (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
16. Ronnie Hillman (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET)
17. John Kuhn (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET) –
18. Brandon Bolden (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
19. Michael Robinson (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
20. Lance Ball (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET)
21. Shane Vereen (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
22. Ben Tate (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
23. Vonta Leach (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
24. Anthony Dixon (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
25. Jason Snelling (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
27. Leon Washington (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Washington is really only being mentioned here on the slight chance he takes one of his rare rushing attempts or punt/kickoff returns to the house.
28. Justin Forsett (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – The only way I see Forsett getting any play in this one is if Foster or Tate go down to injury.
(Updated: Friday, Jan. 11 - 10:40AM CT)
1. Andre Johnson (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – Getting open against that airtight Bengals defense wasn’t easy last weekend, but Old Man Johnson still came away with four catches for 62 yards on the day. If the Texans weren’t having such success on the ground, I guarantee his fantasy numbers would have been more delectable, but a win is a win in the real world of the NFL. This weekend will be an entirely different story as I expect Houston to be playing from behind most of the day and Andre to be targeted twice, and maybe even three times as much as he was against Cincinnati (six targets). In their matchup about a month ago, ‘Dre caught eight of his 10 targets for 95 yards in a Houston loss. I expect slightly better numbers this time around with a 50-50 chance of a touchdown.
2. Eric Decker (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET) – Eric Decker was basically the 2012 version of Jordy Nelson last season… though without the insane 18.6 yards per catch. He was second in the league with 13 touchdown receptions (eight at home) while grabbing five of them in the last three weeks alone. This week he’ll face a Ravens squad that allowed him to put up eight receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown against them just less than a month ago, so my confidence in him is pretty high at this point. I doubt the Ravens lay off of Demaryius Thomas to pick up the slack against Decker this Saturday, so it stands to reason that Manning will be looking Decker’s way quite a bit again in their second showdown of the year.
3. Wes Welker (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – Wes Welker is still one of the most under-estimated wide receivers in the game today, both in fantasy and real life. Just once all season has he seen less than eight targets in a game and only twice has he caught less than five passes. He’s actually on a pretty nice hot streak right now being targeted 11.7 times per game in the Patriots last six games while catching four touchdowns and averaging 7.5 catches for 77.3 yards per game. He was held down pretty well by the Texans back in Week 14 catching just three balls for 52 yards, though things should open up for him quite a bit with Rob Gronkowski back in the mix. I have no doubt the Slot Machine grabs six or more passes (which he has done in every one of his seven career postseason games thus far) for at least 75 yards in this one, though his final fantasy ranking will be determined by his ability to put one in the end zone.
4. Michael Crabtree (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET) – Who is the hottest wide receiver left in the 2012 NFL playoffs? Yep, it’s Michael Crabtree. In fact, Crabtree had the most fantasy points of any wide receiver in the league during the last three weeks of the season while the only receiver to put up more points over the last five weeks was Dez Bryant. Supposedly it’s been said that some of it has to do with the extreme attention being paid to TE Vernon Davis, but I’m not buying it. Crabtree is a stud, and QB Colin Kaepernick knows it. Crabby didn’t have a problem getting open against the Packers back in the first week of the season when he caught seven of Alex Smith’s nine targets for 76 yards, so now that Kaepernick and his Crab-Apple love-fest is at the helm, I expect even more this weekend. Something inside me wants to put him higher in the rankings, but that’s all I’m saying here.
5. Demaryius Thomas (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET) – Demaryius had a terrible game against the Ravens back in Week 15 catching just four of his nine targets for 13 yards, but the cream usually rises to the top in the playoffs, and Thomas is every bit of a top-notch receiver in this league. Baltimore is one of the better teams at holding down the WR1 position on the opposing team, but Reggie Wayne caught nine balls for 114 yards last week with a rookie as his QB, so there’s no reason to think that Demaryius won’t be able to do the same. If he catches a touchdown like he did 10 other times this season, he could easily end up as the #1 fantasy WR this playoff weekend.
6. Julio Jones (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Will Julio Jones step up to the plate and deliver when his team needs him most? I’d be a little more confident if the game was on the road where he absolutely dominates, but the kid is a big-game player regardless, so I believe he pulls through in possibly the toughest matchup of the year for the Falcons. Seattle undoubtedly has one of the best pass defenses in the league, though Jones’ superior talent should rise above it for a couple of big plays this weekend, with (hopefully) one of them going for a touchdown.
7. James Jones (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET) – So I feel compelled to say this once again lest it be forgotten: Not only did Aaron Rodgers lobby for the Packers to re-sign James Jones this past summer, but he also went so far as to say that “We don't win the Super Bowl without him and we need him.” After leading the team with 14 touchdowns as well as overall fantasy points this season, it looks as though Rodgers knew what he was talking about. With Jones still being the forgotten man among defenses this year, I expect Rodgers to take advantage and get him at least a touchdown in this game.
8. Roddy White (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Roddy may have ended up in the top ten in fantasy points this season, but it wasn’t easy having to deal with the up-and-down season he gave his owners on a weekly basis. If he wasn’t kicking ass, he was handing you your ass. It was annoying to be kind, but at least for the first half of the season, you at least knew he would kick ass at home. This Sunday will be nothing short of a heart-attack for fantasy owners, but he’s caught a touchdown in two of his three career playoff games and averaged over seven catches per contest, so look for the veteran to take a bit of control this Sunday.
9. Greg Jennings (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET) – As usual, Greg Jennings saw the most targets from Aaron Rodgers this past playoff weekend, though he was only able to come up with four catches for 61 yards in the game. He looked great and should be targeted a ton again this weekend, though the 49ers can be pretty stingy against a team’s opposing WR1. Aaron Rodgers will be throwing all over the place in this one, so anything is possible here, but being the most talented wide receiver on the team, don’t be surprised to see San Fran keep an extra eye on him this Saturday.
10. Brandon Lloyd (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – I’ll say this right now just so people nobody forgets: Brandon Lloyd was the best fantasy receiver in the league two years ago. I’ll also say this: Brandon Lloyd caught seven passes for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Texans in Week 14. I’ll also say that Tom Brady has an innate ability to find the weak spots in a defense, which is exactly why he’s been able to succeed at the level he has despite the lack of a top-notch receiving corps. Brandon Lloyd bucks a few trends here and should be able to gain the attention of Brady for some big plays in this game.
11. Randall Cobb (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
12. Anquan Boldin (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
13. Jordy Nelson (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
14. Torrey Smith (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
15. Golden Tate (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
16. Randy Moss (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
17. Sidney Rice (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
18. Doug Baldwin (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
19. Jacoby Jones (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
20. Kevin Walter (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
21. Harry Douglas (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
22. DeVier Posey (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
23. Brandon Stokley (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET)
24. Deion Branch (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
25. Keshawn Martin (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
26. Tandon Doss (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
27. A.J. Jenkins (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
28. Lestar Jean (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
29. Ted Ginn (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
30. Donald Driver (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
(Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 8 - 11:38PM CT)
1. Rob Gronkowski (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – We’re all wondering how the best tight end in the game will perform this weekend after multiple weeks off due to a broken forearm, but believe you me, at least one touchdown is in the offing and if Tom Brady finds his confidence in him early, a monster game is coming as well. Houston has been terrible against tight ends this season giving up the fourth most fantasy points to the position, so to think that Gronk won’t pull through with top tier numbers would be absurd.
2. Aaron Hernandez (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – The possibility that Hernandez comes up with the best tight end numbers for the week are as good as any other guy in the playoffs at this point, so when you consider Gronkowski’s recent injury woes, Aaron wouldn’t be a bad bet to take. Tom Brady loves to throw to his tight ends no matter who they are so even though Gronk is back in the lineup this weekend, look for Hernandez to show his meddle with his versatility on Sunday.
3. Dennis Pitta (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Dennis Pitta caught just two passes against the Colts this past playoff weekend, though I have to admit I wasn’t too shocked knowing how good Indy is at defending tight ends. The difference, however, was that one of those catches went for a touchdown, which certainly made up for his lackluster fantasy day. This week he’ll be going up against a Broncos defense that let up the most touchdowns and second most fantasy point to tight ends this season. Back in Week 15 against Denver, Pitta was targeted in the double-digits for just the second time this season and put up seven catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. His chance of repeating those monster numbers are virtually nil, but Pitta should be able to contribute to the offense in a big way regardless—especially with the Ravens likely to be playing from behind most of the game.
4. Tony Gonzalez (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00pm ET) – Is Gonzo a God? I don’t know. Maybe? I’m not qualified to answer a question like that, but for a 36-year old to put up the numbers he did this past season, I’m not going to argue those who say that he is. The first half of the season was a better time for fantasy owners without a doubt, and I’d certainly like to have him playing on the road instead of at home (10.6 fantasy points on the road; 7.0 at home), but if this is the last game Tony Gonzalez plays, I’d rather say I took him on my fantasy team on faith than to say I denied him to save a few salary dollars.
5. Owen Daniels (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET) – Wow, that was not what I was expecting out of Owen Daniels this past playoff weekend. Cincinnati wasn’t considered a great team against tight ends by any means, but season highs in targets (11), catches (9) and yards (91) was far beyond my forecast for the week for Mr. Daniels. However, one game is only one game though this week, the numbers favor him a bit more than the last. In fact, the Patriots allowed the fifth most fantasy point to tight ends this season, though Owen was only able to manage two catches for 24 yards against them back in Week 14. Which way the lever will slide this week is anybody’s guess, though I can only assume Matt Schaub will give him a few more looks with the season on the line this Sunday.
6. Jermichael Finley (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
7. Zach Miller (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
8. Vernon Davis (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
9. Delanie Walker (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
10. Jacob Tamme (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET)
11. Joel Dreessen (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30pm ET)
12. James Casey (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
13. Garrett Graham (at NE; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
14. Ed Dickson (at Den; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
15. Anthony McCoy (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00pm ET)
16. Tom Crabtree (at SF; Saturday, 8:00pm ET)
17. Daniel Fells (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30pm ET)
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