Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
In case you fell into the trap the media seemed to set about Victor Cruz being the only big-play threat in New York, true No. 1 Hakeem Nicks has stepped up and put together back-to-back monster games in the playoffs.
This week should be a greater challenge for Nicks, though, since the 49ers tend to do a better job wrapping up (with an exception to the Jimmy Graham touchdown in the fourth quarter on Saturday) pass-catchers in the open field; the Falcons and Packers have struggled in that regard all year.
We saw Drew Brees throw for 462 yards passing while top receiver Marques Colston totaled nine receptions for 136 yards and a score in San Francisco. Coming into their first meeting with the 49ers in Week 10, Nicks was banged up and only totaled two receptions for 41 yards, but he did find the end zone.
Keep in mind that the Saints had perfect weather for game-time, and this week it's expected to rain on Sunday, but Nicks is still deserving of being the top-ranked fantasy receiver going forward in the playoffs. More than a possession receiver, he is one of the top five receivers in football, and he will continue to be a solid fantasy receiver for years to come.
Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Pay no attention to the Broncos' ineffective ways against the Patriots' secondary last week. We all know by now that when it comes to passing, Tim Tebow is like a power hitter who swings for the fences every time and hits .200. Sometimes he connects, and it's a game-changer—and other times, as was the case in Foxboro, he's an easy three-pitch strikeout.
Joe Flacco continues to earn little respect from fans and analysts for his play in the playoffs, and the Ravens are likely to be playing from behind in the fourth quarter. Even if Baltimore's defense shows up and Ray Rice is running well, it will come down to Flacco making plays in the passing game to win this game—much like Alex Smith had to do against the Saints.
Bottom line is that Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin are respectable plays this week, as the Patriots are still a bad defense against the pass.
Conference Championship Round Fantasy Rankings: Wide Receiver
|1.||Hakeem Nicks||at San Francisco|
|2.||Wes Welker||vs. Baltimore|
|3.||Victor Cruz||at San Francisco|
|4.||Michael Crabtree||vs. New York|
|5.||Anquan Boldin||at New England|
|6.||Torrey Smith||at New England|
|7.||Deion Branch||vs. Baltimore|
|8.||Mario Manningham||at San Francisco|
|9.||Kyle Williams||vs. New York|
|10.||Ted Ginn Jr. (I)||vs. New York|