Figuring out who will put up the best fantasy numbers in the playoffs is a little easier than doing so for the regular season, especially when you have only four games to look at. It is by no means simple, however, especially when you consider the defenses they all have to play against.
That's why those of us in the fantasy industry put together these lists—to give the reader a gauge of what to expect from their players during the NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend.
With that, here are the rankings for the big four offensive positions in the second round of the playoffs along with some detailed analysis on the top five guys at each:
8. Matt Schaub (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
7. Joe Flacco (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
6. Matt Ryan (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
The Top Five QBs for the Divisional Playoffs
5. Colin Kaepernick (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. 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 further up in the rankings, regardless, there’s still a very good chance he ends up higher than this.
4. Russell Wilson (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. 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.
3. Peyton Manning (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Peyton Manning never ceases to amaze me and frankly, I hope the guy plays forever.
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 postseason 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 will keep that particular streak alive, at least a TD or two with some nice yardage numbers should be coming his way.
2. Tom Brady (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. 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, which is reserved for...
1. Aaron Rodgers (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. 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.
28. Justin Forsett (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
27. Leon Washington (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
26. Jason Snelling (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
25. Anthony Dixon (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
24. Vonta Leach (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
23. Alex Green (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
22. Ben Tate (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
21. Shane Vereen (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
20. Lance Ball (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
19. Michael Robinson (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
18. Ryan Grant (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
17. Brandon Bolden (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
16. John Kuhn (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
15. Ronnie Hillman (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
14. LaMichael James (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
13. Jacob Hester (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
12. Robert Turbin (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
11. Jacquizz Rodgers (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
10. Bernard Pierce (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
9. Michael Turner (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
8. DuJuan Harris (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
7. Danny Woodhead (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
6. Ray Rice (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
The Top Five RBs for the Divisional Playoffs
5. Knowshon Moreno (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. 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.
4. Stevan Ridley (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. 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 fantasy numbers once again.
3. Frank Gore (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. 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.
2. Arian Foster (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. 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.
1. Marshawn Lynch (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
What a disgusting display by Mr. Lynch last weekend. I mean the guy wasn't just busting through every hole he saw in front of him, but was creating more than a few on his own as well.
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.
30. Donald Driver (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
29. Ted Ginn (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
28. Lestar Jean (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
27. A.J. Jenkins (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
26. Tandon Doss (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
25. Keshawn Martin (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
24. Deion Branch (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
23. Brandon Stokley (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
22. DeVier Posey (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
21. Harry Douglas (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
20. Kevin Walter (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
19. Jacoby Jones (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
18. Doug Baldwin (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
17. Sidney Rice (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
16. Randy Moss (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
15. Golden Tate (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
14. Torrey Smith (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
13. Jordy Nelson (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
12. Anquan Boldin (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
11. Randall Cobb (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
10. Brandon Lloyd (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
9. Greg Jennings (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
8. Roddy White (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
7. James Jones (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
6. Julio Jones (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
The Top Five WRs for the Divisional Playoffs
5. Demaryius Thomas (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. 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 defenses 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 top fantasy wide receiver this playoff weekend.
4. Michael Crabtree (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Who is the hottest wide receiver left in the 2012 NFL playoffs?
Yep, it’s Michael Crabtree.
In fact, Crabtree had more fantasy points than any other wide receiver in the league during the last three weeks of the season.
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 infatuation for Crabby is at the helm, I expect even more this weekend.
3. Wes Welker (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Wes Welker is still one of the most underestimated wide receivers in the game today, both in fantasy and real life.
Just once all season has Welker 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.
2. Eric Decker (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Eric Decker was basically the 2012 version of Jordy Nelson last season…though without Nelson's 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.
1. Andre Johnson (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. 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.
17. Daniel Fells (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
16. Tom Crabtree (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
15. Anthony McCoy (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
14. Ed Dickson (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
13. Garrett Graham (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
12. James Casey (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
11. Joel Dreessen (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
10. Jacob Tamme (vs. Bal; Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
9. Delanie Walker (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
8. Vernon Davis (vs. GB; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
7. Zach Miller (at Atl; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
6. Jermichael Finley (at SF; Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)
The Top Five TEs for the Divisional Playoffs
5. Owen Daniels (at NE; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. 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 and this week, the numbers favor him a bit more than last weeks'.
In fact, the Patriots allowed the fifth most fantasy points 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.
4. Tony Gonzalez (vs. Sea; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
Is Gonzo a God?
Honestly, I really don’t know. 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.
3. Dennis Pitta (at Den; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. 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 points 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.
2. Aaron Hernandez (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. 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 mettle with his versatility on Sunday.
1. Rob Gronkowski (vs. Hou; Sunday, 4:30 p.m. 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.
Time off or not, I believe at least one touchdown is in the offing and if Tom Brady finds his confidence in him early, a monster game will be 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.
For write-ups on every player, check out the: Pyro® Divisional Playoff Rankings.
For all the ins and outs to each playoff game, check out the: Pyro® Playoff Matchups.
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