Playoff Player Rankings - All Positions - Week 3
1. Aaron Rodgers (@ Chi) – Okay, you’ve got to be kidding me with this stat-line: 31 completions in 36 attempts, 366 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs and a 136.8 QB Rating. Now we all knew the Falcons pass D was their weak link, but to go into the Georgia Dome last weekend and completely demolish a team led by a QB that had lost only two games at home his entire career is downright scary. What’s even more insane is that in two road playoff games this year, Rodgers now has six TDs, zero INTs, 546 passing yards and a 134.5 QB rating! Even though he didn’t do nearly as well as that against the Bears this year, it’s hard to go against a guy on a roll like this.
2. Ben Roethlisberger (vs NYJ) – Roethlisberger is another QB that never ceases to amaze. After missing the first four games of the season (suspension) while dealing with injuries throughout the rest, once again he has led his team on a deep playoff run and now has a chance to go to (and win) his third Super Bowl in seven years. Unreal. Last week against the Ravens, Big Ben played well enough to win throwing up 226 yards and two TDs without an interception. Against the Jets back in Week 15, he also played pretty well throwing for 264 yards and a TD with zero interceptions, but couldn’t come away with a win. If the Steelers want to get by the streaking Jets this Sunday, Ben is going to have to pull the hero-card and beat Revis Island & Co. with some regularity. I expect a pretty good game, but whether or not his beat-up offensive line can give him enough time to throw will tell the story.
3. Jay Cutler (vs GB) – Cutler proved he can take the pressure of a playoff game last Sunday as he threw for 274 yards, two TDs while rushing for two more in his first ever post-season appearance. However, his foe this weekend won’t be the defensively-challenged Seahawks again… it’s the hated Packers. Does he have a chance of putting up a nice game? Sure, but don’t bet on it. His career stats as a Bear against the Pack are pretty poor as not once has he thrown for more TDs in a game than INTs against them (four games). OC Mike Martz will do everything he can to put Cutler in a position to succeed, but don’t expect him to do what he did to Seattle last week.
4. Mark Sanchez (@ Pit) – The Sanchize continues to surprise even his biggest supporters as this week, Sanchez becomes just the second QB in NFL history to lead his team to the Conference Finals during each of his first two years in the league (the other is none other than Ben Roethlisberger!!!). Basically, what the guy lacks in overall talent, he more than makes up for in charisma and leadership. When these two teams met in Pittsburgh back in Week 15, Sanchez had the kind of day you’d expect against a hard-nosed defense like the Steelers: 19 for 29, 170 yards, zero TDs and zero INTs. However, the Jets ended up winning the game due in no small part to a game-tying seven-yard TD run by Sanchez deep in the third quarter. The question for Sunday’s game is not whether Sanchez will put up great stats or not, because he won’t. The question is, can the kid from Long Beach, California play error-free ball once again and lead his team to a Super Bowl berth over the mighty Steelers? The answer is yes, but only if his teammates can follow suit.
1. Rashard Mendenhall (vs NYJ) – The Jets rush D is third in line behind the Steelers in terms of domination, so Rashard will have his work cut out for him again this weekend. He did just fine against them in their first matchup putting up 99 yards and a TD on 17 carries, and you know Pittsburgh won’t stray from using Mendy, so he’ll at least get the touches to produce. This could turn into a battle between the trenches, so how Mendenhall fares might just determine the outcome of this game. I expect his ferocity to step forward and answer the call.
2. Matt Forte (vs GB) – Forte had himself another solid game against the Seahawks putting up 134 total yards with 80 coming on the ground and another 54 yards on three catches. Mike Martz might be thought of as a passing offensive coordinator, but it’s clear at this point that the Bears offense runs through Matt Forte. In the final game of the regular season, Matt had 91 yards rushing and eight catches for 60 yards receiving against Green Bay. I’m not sure the Packers will allow that much this Sunday, but the Bears RB is looking as good as he has in his career right now, so I wouldn’t put it past him.
3. James Starks (@ Chi) – His second career playoff game wasn’t nearly as good as his first, but he still leads the league in playoff rushing yards (189), attempts (48) and first downs (8) this year. It’s not going to get any easier for the rookie this weekend as the Bears are one of the best in the league at defending the run and held Seattle to just 34 yards on 12 carries last Sunday. The Packers will use him quite a bit to set up the pass, but don’t expect too much.
4. Shonn Greene (@ Pit) – Shonn and his punishing style of running should end up with a good amount of carries and some decent final numbers this Sunday, but with the Steelers allowing so few yards on the ground this season, you can’t expect too much. If Pittsburgh decides to let Sanchez take his shot at winning this one, Greene will without a doubt be stuffed at the line more often than not. However, with the front seven all bunched in tight, we also could see a long run or two take place if he can sneak by the initial set of defenders.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson (@ Pit) – The offense still seems to be doing a good job of splitting the workload between Tomlinson and Greene, but like last year during the Jets playoff run, the edge in carries has swayed toward the bigger, more physical Greene. Expect more of the same against the brutish Steelers this week as the Jets will have to win the battle in the trenches if they want to take this game on the road.
6. John Kuhn (@ Chi) – Kuhn’s worth comes mainly along the goal-line as the Packers use either his 6’0”, 250-pound frame to bust in the one-yard TDs or his receiving ability to catch play-action passes in the flat. Other than that, he’s simply a blocker.
7. Chester Taylor (vs GB) – Even though Taylor was the one with a touchdown in the final statistics last weekend, Forte is still the man on this team. Chester will get a few touches here and there in order to give Forte a rest, but it won’t be enough to make a difference.
8. Brandon Jackson (@ Chi) – After receiving just three carries against the Eagles in the Packers first playoff win, Jackson found himself with just one carry on the final stat-sheet against the Falcons. It’s clear Brandon has been passed on the depth chart by the bigger, more talented Starks, and this time I think it’s for good. Jackson still might see a few carries and dump-offs on third down, but his chances of putting up fantasy-worthy stats are pretty slim.
1. Greg Jennings (@ Chi) – Jennings looked like the number one WR that he is last weekend against the Falcons, but he’ll have a tough time repeating his 101-yard, eight-catch performance against the Bears D. In fact, Chicago has had a pretty good bead on Greg throughout his career allowing him an average of just 3.8 catches for 55.6 yards a game. With Rodgers on the roll he is, I’d have a tough time betting against Jennings having a nice game, but don’t expect a repeat of the Atlanta game.
2. Mike Wallace (vs NYJ) – Wallace will likely have the undesirable job of toting Darrelle Revis around in his jockstrap all game this Sunday and with a matchup like that, there’s no doubt the rest of the sporting world will be eyeing them just as closely. Mike actually had a really good game in their first tilt putting up 102 yards on seven catches (10 targets), but you can’t really expect the same with Revis playing as well as he is right now. The fact of the matter is, Wallace really does have the physical gifts of the Gods, so even against this New York pass D, anything is possible.
3. Braylon Edwards (@ Pit) – If there’s one chink in this vaunted Steeler defensive armor, it’s in the passing game, particularly against the bigger, more physical receivers. Marques Colston, Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin all had nice games against the Steelers earlier this year, as did Edwards in their Week 15 matchup when he came away with team-highs of eight catches, 11 targets and 100 yards. If Sanchez has enough time in the pocket and strength in his arm to throw it Braylon’s way, watch for the ego-driven receiver to have something to talk about by game’s end.
4. Santonio Holmes (@ Pit) – Holmes is still seeing a good amount of passes come his way, but the amount of short slants and quick screens make it difficult for him to do any serious damage. Because Sanchez is still sporting a bit of a sore shoulder, Holmes will likely see much of the same this weekend leaving little room to make any real high-impact plays. However, Santonio has always been a big-game player, and given that this game happens to be against his old team with an added bonus of a Super Bowl berth on the line, all bets are off and anything goes.
5. Donald Driver (@ Chi) – Driver may not have a touchdown in the playoffs yet this year, but he’s leading the team in both catches and yards with 5.5 receptions and 66 yards per game. His veteran presence seems to be rubbing off on everyone around him right now as the Packer offense is clicking better than it has all year. He may not put up a bunch of yards, but five or more catches on Sunday is almost a given.
6. James Jones (@ Chi) – Jones’ size and athleticism always give him a chance to put up some nice numbers, but his lack of concentration is about as frustrating as it gets. He seems to have no trouble making tough, crazy catches, but throw him the ball with nobody around him and you’re in for a disappointment. His up-and-down play is hard to predict, so even though he has a TD in each of the first two playoff games, don’t look for a third in a row, especially against this Bears pass D.
7. Johnny Knox (vs GB) – Knox had a decent game last week catching four balls for 48 yards in the Bears win over Seattle. He might be able to produce a bit this Sunday as well as his speed can beat even the best secondary deep on occasion. If the Packers decide to throw Charles Woodson on him, he won’t be much of a factor, but he’ll still be able to stretch the defense and carry Woodson out of the play, so his worth might end up being as a decoy.
8. Hines Ward (vs NYJ) – Ward’s speed and skills have diminished to the point where he’s having a tough time getting open in space, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get the job done. In fact, Ward has crossed the goal-line two weeks in a row now for the Steel Crew while his TD last weekend ended up tying the game heading into the fourth quarter. Even though I don’t expect too much out of the seasoned vet this Sunday, I wouldn’t put it past him to make a difference when it counts. His best remaining qualities are his overall toughness and blocking ability, of which will be needed regularly come Sunday.
9. Jordy Nelson (@ Chi) – The Packers might actually have the best fourth wide receiver in the league in Jordy Nelson. Last week, Nelson caught all eight passes thrown his way for 79 yards and a TD, numbers most number one WRs would love to see in their stat-line. His 6’3”, 217-pound frame makes him a mismatch all over the field and since it looks like Rodgers has a ton of confidence in him, don’t be surprised to see Jordy have another nice game this weekend.
10. Earl Bennett (vs GB) – Bennett is a nice possession receiver who I’m sure Cutler will try to use this weekend. He should be able to haul in around four or five passes, but his lack of size (6’0”) doesn’t make him much of a red-zone target, so his fantasy upside is minimal.
11. Jerricho Cotchery (@ Pit) – Jerricho is still the most dependable wide receiver on this team, and he was used as such last week against the Patriots in coming out with team-highs in targets (7), catches (5) and yards (96). The Jets may have to turn to a ball-control type of game this Sunday, so look for Cotchery to be used wisely in the offensive game-plan once again.
12. Emmanuel Sanders (vs NYJ) – The electric third-round pick out of LSU seems to have taken over as Roethlisberger’s No. 2 receiver as his speed and play-making ability are simply too awesome to ignore. Last weekend he tied for the team lead with seven targets while hauling down four passes for 54 yards. Not too shabby for your playoff debut, and I expect it to be even better this weekend. In the Week 15 game against the Jets, Sanders had a whopping 13 balls thrown his way and turned them into seven catches for 78 yards. Even if for some reason the Steelers stick Cromartie on him, I can still see a good 6-7 catches out of Emmanuel this Sunday.
13. Devin Hester (vs GB) – Hester is still one of the most electrifying, game-changing players in the league and you can bet that with the Packers being in the Bears division, they know this all too well. If Green Bay decides to kick to him, his punt return duties combined with a few targets on offense will give him a chance to shine this weekend. If they don’t, then you can’t expect more than maybe a couple of wide receiver screens for minimal yardage.
14. Brad Smith (@ Pit) – Smith’s groin is still a bit banged up so he’s not expected to be used very often this weekend. If he’s able to return kickoffs, he’ll have a slight chance to create some havoc, but don’t expect him to do much out of the Wildcat formation.
15. Antwaan Randle El (vs NYJ) – Randle El isn’t used very much as a receiver in this offense, but if Pittsburgh decides to run a trick play or two, you can be sure Antwaan and his variety of skills will be involved.
16. Devin Aromashodu (vs GB) – Aromashodu was a huge disappointment this season and the only chance he has of doing anything in this game is if the Bears end up needing his size in the red-zone.
1. Greg Olsen (vs GB) – Last weekend was an awesome time for Olsen to come alive for Mike Martz and Jay Cutler, wouldn’t you say? Not only did he lead the team with nine targets and 113 yards, but he also kick-started the Bears offense by scoring a touchdown on the Bears first possession of the game. If the Packers have a weak link on D, it’s guarding a team’s opposing tight end. Olsen had five catches in each of their meetings during the year, so I’d expect at least that many once again with another possible touchdown coming his way.
2. Heath Miller (vs NYJ) – The Jets defense held opposing tight ends to the third least amount of catches per game this season, so Miller isn’t likely to be too much of a factor. He wasn’t available in Week 15 against the Jets, but his replacement, Matt Spaeth, did catch a TD pass against them, so Miller might be a decent red-zone threat this Sunday.
3. Dustin Keller (@ Pit) – Keller will likely be used as more of a blocker in this game to create some holes for the Jets backfield and to give Sanchez more time to throw the ball downfield. He’ll get a few dump-offs in the process, but don’t expect much as the Steelers have been pretty good all year in defending opposing tight ends.
4. Andrew Quarless (@ Chi) – Quarless has been a non-factor in each of Green Bay’s first two playoff games, and since the Bears are pretty darn good at defending tight ends, I don’t expect that trend to change.
5. Donald Lee (@ Chi) – Lee is a grizzled veteran who will certainly see his fair share of action this Sunday, but his skills are more as a pass-blocker than a receiver.
6. Matt Spaeth (vs NYJ) - Spaeth did a fine job filling in for Miller while he was out for a couple of games during the season and even caught a touchdown against this Jets D, but with Heath back in the lineup, he won’t be used as more than a much-needed blocker this weekend.