Fantasy Playoff Wild Card And Full Rankings
By Jake Ciely
No, you've heard wrong! No matter what the masses are telling you, the fantasy football season is not over. There are numerous ways to keep the dream and fun alive during the NFL playoffs. I'll be posting playoff rankings over the next three weeks (the championship round and Super Bowl combined) for just that reason... there is still fantasy fortunes at stake! Make sure you read completely through this first week's piece. I have also included the rankings for the entire playoffs, not just the Wild Card Round, at the end. Best of luck!
We've heard plenty about Drew Brees' and the Saints struggles on the road. However, it wasn't all bad. Brees did average 316.5 passing yards with 10 touchdowns in road games not involving the Seahawks or Panthers. In addition, no team allowed more passing attempts (670) or yards (4,907) than the Eagles.
Those factors for Brees, plus the Saints improved defense is what gives Brees the edge over Nick Foles, even with the amazing success of the Eagles offense. While the Eagles offense is averaging more touchdowns than the Broncos(!) since Foles took over, the Saints allowed the second lowest amount of passing attempts (505) and fourth fewest touchdowns (20). Foles and the Eagles are terrific, but Brees is the slightly better bet for the Wild Card Round.
It's a near coin-flip with Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick… this week. Rodgers is at home and few teams have the offensive firepower of the Packers, but Eddie Lacy is a true feature back who will see touches and the 49ers defense is still formidable. Meanwhile, the 49ers have abused the Packers defense. Over the last three games (all wins), the 49ers are averaging 36.3 PPG. Granted, all three games were at home, but one game saw Alex Smith at quarterback, and Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns to kick off this season against the Pack. Home, frigid weather, playoff atmosphere game for Green Bay? Edge to Rodgers.
Andy Dalton finished the season on somewhat of a tear, but it's those four interceptions last week that keep him from the top tier of options. While Dalton finished as the fifth best fantasy quarterback, he had more games with 15 or less points than he did with over 15 (nine to seven). Prior to the Week 16 Colts matchup, Smith had 14 touchdowns in five games, which included a 294-yards three-TD effort against the Chargers at home. Even though the Colts handled the Chiefs in Kansas City just two weeks ago with a 23-7 win, Andrew Luck still only threw for 241 yards and one touchdown. Philip Rivers could be forced to throw a lot in this game, but the Bengals defense against quarterbacks is the fifth toughest and they forced the fourth most interceptions (20).
Take your pick of studs here. Obviously, Charles has been the best fantasy option not named Peyton Manning this year, but LeSean McCoy isn't far behind. Last time Charles saw Indy, he rushed for 106 yards on 13 carries while scoring in his fifth straight game. With a week of rest in preparation for the WC game, Charles is the top choice. While Charles lit up the fantasy scoreboards, McCoy led the league in rushing and averaged nearly 20 carries per game (over two more than Charles). These two running backs should be the first ones off the board.
The next pair faces each other, and while Eddie Lacy faces the tougher defense, he's the superior running back at this point. The only thing that would derail Lacy at this point (or in the future for those looking ahead) is an (another) injury. Gore's expected workload allows for a high ranking, but it's about the time where I start thinking receiver instead. Ryan Mathews is having the season owners had wished for the past few seasons and is a solid bet even against the tough Bengals defense. Speaking of the Bengals, they're finally turning to Giovani Bernard more, as Gio is averaging nearly 13 carries since Week 10. While that's held steady, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis still saw plenty of work through Week 14, he dropped to four, 12 and 11 carries the last three weeks of the season. Bernard has more explosiveness and upside, while we hope BJGE can find the end zone for value. Although, that's a decent bet for BJGE, as the Chargers have allowed 1.3 rushing touchdowns per game since its bye – basically, all of their rushing touchdowns allowed happened after their bye. It's hard to know who to trust more in the Colts backfield, but Donald Brown has been more consistent and gets the edge. Danny Woodhead lost value as the season wore on and Mathews continued his great play; Woodhead obviously has more "real" value in a PPR format.
Back to the Chargers defense, check out what they allowed to receivers: the fourth most PPG, third most receptions, third most yards and fifth most touchdowns. A.J. Green finished fourth in PPG, sixth in receptions, fifth in yards and fourth in touchdowns. Hmm, think Green is set up for a huge game? After Green, feel free to wait a round or take the cheapest option for salary leagues with the next quartet of receivers. Both DeSean Jackson and Marques Colston have huge potential in a game primed for a shootout. Keenan Allen has an argument for rookie of the year and had 14 receptions and 215 yards in the two matchups with the Chiefs. Anquan Boldin has actually seen more attention and targets since Michael Crabtree returned, making him the better 49ers receiving option.
The next five receivers are similar to the previous four. Randall Cobb is the biggest boom/bust option on the list – his two touchdowns came on two targets – but another week of health is another week of Cobb nearing his early-season value. T.Y. Hilton is this year's Doug Martin. In five games (Weeks 2, 5, 9, 10 and 17), Hilton scored an astounding 72.7 percent of his points! That's right. In Hilton's other 11 games, he had just 36 points, or 3.3 per game. The same goes for Cooper. In four games, Cooper scored 63.8 percent of his points, led by his 32 and 22-point efforts in Weeks 9-10. Granted, Cooper didn't see much work or break out until Week 6, but it's still worth your attention. The next large group of receivers – from Dwayne Bowe to Jarrett Boykin – is largely touchdown reliant.
Bleh! That's all I can say about the tight ends for Wild Card weekend. After Jimmy Graham, it's ugly. That's UG-LY… emphasized and extended pause version. Since Crabtree's return, Vernon Davis has an average of 4.6 targets and 2.8 receptions. The touchdowns have been his only saving grace, and both that potential against Green Bay and the dearth of options after him rank him second.
Antonio Gates is the opposite of Davis in that he can't find the end zone. Maybe it's hiding with Manti Te'o's girlfriend? Sorry, had to ring in the New Year with one last Lennay Kekua reference. Zach Ertz has nice upside, but it's hard to know if Brent Celek or he will be the beneficiary of Foles' red zone targets. Coby Fleener fell off late in the season similar to Gates, and Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert will share targets once again, as both should return to the field.
|1||Kansas City Chiefs|
|3||San Francisco 49ers|
|5||Green Bay Packers|
|7||San Diego Chargers|
|8||New Orleans Saints|
Full Playoff Rankings
These always come down to which teams you believe will advance each round and play the most games. When you factor in the scoring multipliers on many sites, it becomes even more vital to pick as many Super Bowl players as possible. Of course, you want to hedge your bets a bit, as seen by Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy fourth and fifth at running back, even though I have the Eagles being one-and-done and the Chiefs winning just one game. If my picks don't come to fruition, I'm still in great shape with either of those should they advance further.
For reference, I'm sticking with my pick of a Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl, which should be fairly evident by the rankings. I can't bet against the Patriots, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the playoffs and have them losing to the Broncos. In the NFC, I believe the Packers make a similar run to their Super Bowl winning season, but fall just short in Seattle. Obviously, that means the 49ers are another one-and-done team along with the aforementioned Eagles, as well as the Colts and Chargers.
If you feel strongly that different teams will prevail, by all means, adjust my rankings for your fantasy squad. Again, more games mean more opportunity for fantasy production, meaning the last thing you want is a one-and-done player on your team.
|28||Ted Ginn Jr.||CAR|
|4||Kansas City Chiefs|
|6||San Francisco 49ers|
|7||New England Patriots|
|8||Green Bay Packers|
|9||San Diego Chargers|
|10||New Orleans Saints|