There are some incredible and intriguing matchups as the NFL postseason kicks off with Wild Card Weekend, but FanDuel, DraftKings, and other weekly fantasy league players shouldn’t be blinded by all the star power on display.
Much of the cream atop the fantasy crop will be represented by the likes of Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and DeAngelo Williams, as well as Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, Washington’s Kirk Cousins and DeSean Jackson, and, surprisingly to a lesser extent, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
It’s a cornucopia of fantasy points and potential, but the playoffs are a whole other animal and everyone’s stats are reset to zero as they hope to advance deeper into the tournament.
And as we’ve seen many times before, just because a guy shines in the regular season, doesn’t mean he’ll do the same in the postseason. Much of that has to do with how a player deals with pressure in a big game, but the fact that they’re playing the rest of the NFL’s best is the biggest factor.
There’s also the chance of some unexpected players galloping to top of the fantasy heap now that several of the league’s top defenses are either resting on a bye week (Carolina, Arizona, New England) or didn’t make the postseason (St. Louis). Quick fun fact: Nine of the top 10 highest-scoring fantasy defenses all made the playoffs this year compared to six last season.
Anyway, to help out weekly players we’re continuing our weekly rankings for every position, and we’re including some potentially lethal and cash-winning combos that could make all the difference in your leagues. Usually we have five players listed at each position but have reduced that to four for the postseason due to the smaller pool size. Here’s our full rankings for Wild Card Weekend.
1.Russell Wilson, Seahawks
2.Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
3.Kirk Cousins, Redskins
4.Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Bonus: Alex Smith, Chiefs
Wilson’s been an absolute revelation over the last seven weeks and he’s slapped together the best season of his career, with the Vikings No. 17 rushing and No. 12 passing defenses next up in the Wild Card round. Wilson struggled a bit with five interceptions in last year’s playoffs, but it’s clear he’s reached another level. Roethlisberger made up for a poor Week 16 by tossing three touchdowns in the regular season finale to sew up a playoff berth, but there’s reason to doubt him against Cincy. He’s tossed one touchdown to four interceptions against the Bengals this season, but that might drive Roethlisberger’s salary cap hit lower and make him a steal.
There’s also the fact that in four career road playoff games Roethlisberger’s fired off eight touchdowns to just two picks. Cousins, like Wilson, has reached a new level but he has a tough draw against Green Bay’s No. 6 ranked pass defense. But again, he’s a cheaper commodity in a week when owners have very few options. And basically since Week 12 Rodgers has looked average at best, and even though Washington was No. 25 against the pass during the regular season, spending so much on a QB1 who could seriously misfire with such a dilapidated offense is just too risky.
1.Christine Michael, Seahawks
2.DeAngelo Williams, Steelers
3.Spencer Ware, Chiefs
4.Alfred Blue, Texans
The NFL’s third-best rushing attack (Seattle) takes on the No. 17 rushing defense (Minnesota) and Michael will be a major beneficiary. He soared against Arizona’s No. 6 unit and will turn the Vikes into mincemeat. Despite a sprained ankle suffered in Week 17, Williams may have been Pittsburgh’s MVP this season and he’ll be much cheaper and potentially a savvier pickup than Adrian Peterson clashing with Seattle’s top ranked rushing defense. Also consider Williams has an average of 4.6 yards per rush in the postseason. Ware and even Charcandrick West will be a handful for the Texans No. 10-ranked rushing D, but the game will be slow as Blue also churns out major yardage in his postseason debut.
1.Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
2.Antonio Brown, Steelers
3.A.J. Green, Bengals
4.DeSean Jackson, Redskins
Baldwin’s excellent play has of course perfectly coincided with Wilson’s rise, and now he gets a Vikings D that allowed 12.3 receptions, 152.6 yards, and 1.1 touchdowns per game to opposing wide receivers. The presences of Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and Michael, will be too much for the Vikes and Baldwin will continue to excel. Brown’s matchup is much more difficult with the Bengals secondary allowing the 10 th fewest points to opposing receivers, but if you spend 15 to 20 percent of your budget on any player this week it should be the electric Brown. Green has the second-best matchup of the week against Pittsburgh’s No. 30 secondary allowing 27.09 points to receivers, but the risk is whoever’s under center for Cincy: a still-on-the-mend Andy Dalton or AJ McCarron in his first postseason start.
1.Travis Kelce, Chiefs
2.Tyler Eifert, Bengals
3.Jordan Reed, Redskins
4.Richard Rodgers, Packers
Bonus: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
Eifert’s here because of his stellar work this season and because of Cincy’s No. 5-ranked red zone efficiency, and he does have the second-best matchup of any TE with Pittsburgh the eighth-worst unit against TEs. Kelce couldn’t get much going against a Raiders D that owned the third-worst defense versus TEs this season, but that had more to do with Alex Smith’s recent turnover issues. Kelce also gets a Texans D that was No. 11 against fantasy TEs, so Rodgers might stand out to fantasy owners and Aaron Rodgers for some red zone targets. And if the Vikings were really serious about expanding the offense, Rudolph would get a ton more looks with TE defense Seattle’s only drawback. The Seahawks allowed nearly nine points a game to TEs this season, seventh-worst in the NFL.
1.Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
2.James Jones, WR, Packers
3.Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings
4.Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
Bonus: Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers
Lockett’s a big-time playmaker and if you’re in a league that includes punt and kick-off yardage he’s your man. Jones can set Green Bay’s pace but could fall flat like we’ve all seen this season, while Diggs may have Minnesota’s only touchdown of the day against Seattle. Peterson falls completely back to the FLEX rankings because of the Vikings limited options and Seattle’s defensive prowess. It sounds strange now, but the Packers’ playoff hopes will hinge on Lacy and the Redskins allowed nearly 18.5 ppg to opposing backs this season.
Much of the first postseason weekend will lay at the feet of inexperienced quarterbacks. Houston’s Brian Hoyer is too brittle and inconsistent, while Brandon Weeden could come in for the Texans offense against a Chiefs squad that was fourth in the NFL with 47 sacks, even with Justin Houston missing five games. The Steelers get McCarron, who hasn’t done enough to be trusted, while Teddy Bridgewater can’t handle Seattle’s secondary, and the Redskins are a sleeper that was ninth in the league with 26 takeaways.
First Second Third
QB: Wilson Cousins Roethlisberger
RB: Williams Ware Michael
WR: Brown Baldwin Jackson
TE: Reed Eifert Kelce
FLEX: Jones Lockett Peterson
D/ST: K.C. Seattle Pittsburgh
Here we tried to maximize salaries with the best possible matchups. Clearly we like Seattle’s chances to dominate Minnesota and Washington’s over Green Bay, as well as K.C. over Houston and Pittsburgh over Cincinnati.