Playoff Extra: Divisional Weekend Rankings
With four big games on this weekend's schedule, who should you roll out in your Playoff Challenge lineups? Our Jamey Eisenberg breaks down each position for owners in his Divisional Round preview.
The fun begins now for the Playoff Challenge because the teams previously on a bye are back in action for the Divisional Round. We finally get to use guys like Peyton Manning, Frank Gore, Julio Jones and Rob Gronkowski, among others.
The Wild Card round had some big performances (Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and Anquan Boldin) and some duds (Aaron Rodgers, Ray Rice and Andre Johnson). But now we have an influx of talent coming off a bye, and you have some great options to choose from.
The rankings here are for the Divisional Round only, and we'll look at who to start and sit for the matchups between Baltimore at Denver, Houston at New England, Seattle at Atlanta and Green Bay at San Francisco. It should be an exciting weekend as the pressure mounts as these teams get one game closer to the Super Bowl.
Editor's note: The units listed after each player's name is the value assigned to each player in the CBSSports.com Playoff Challenge.
1. Tom Brady, Patriots -- 81 units
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- 82 units
3. Peyton Manning, Broncos -- 80 units
4. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers -- 62 units
5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks -- 66 units
6. Matt Ryan, Falcons -- 74 units
7. Joe Flacco, Ravens -- 61 units
8. Matt Schaub, Texans -- 64 units
The last time Brady faced the Texans in Week 14 he passed for 296 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for 33 Fantasy points, and that was without an injured Gronkowski (forearm). The Texans allowed at least 19 Fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in three of the final four games of the regular season. ... Rodgers is getting hot at the right time with 12 total touchdowns and no interceptions in his past four games, including the Wild Card victory against Minnesota, and an average 318 passing yards over that span. In Week 1 against San Francisco at home, Rodgers had 26 Fantasy points, and the 49ers have allowed at least 26 Fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in two of their past three games. ... Manning has a tough matchup this week, but it's hard to avoid him based on his potential. He was held to 14 Fantasy points at Baltimore in Week 15, and the Ravens have allowed just one quarterback to top 15 Fantasy points since Week 10. Following that game, Manning closed the season with 59 Fantasy points in two home games against the Browns and Chiefs, and his worst game at home was Week 1 against the Steelers when he had only 24 Fantasy points. ... Kaepernick made three starts at home since taking over for Alex Smith in Week 11, and he averaged 21 Fantasy points over that span. The Packers have only allowed two quarterbacks to score at least 18 Fantasy points since Week 12, which was Matthew Stafford in Week 14 and Christian Ponder in Week 17. Still, Kaepernick has plenty of upside, and Smith had 21 Fantasy points against the Packers in Week 1 when he was still the starter. ... Wilson has a difficult matchup at the Falcons, who have only allowed two quarterbacks to score more than 18 Fantasy points all year, which were Drew Brees and Cam Newton. Otherwise, Atlanta has held down Tony Romo, both Manning brothers, Robert Griffin III and Stafford, among others. But Wilson is on an incredible roll with at least 20 Fantasy points in eight of his past nine games, with the lone exception being Week 14 against Arizona when he barely played in a blowout victory. He is hard to bench this week. ... Ryan could also struggle against the Seahawks, who have allowed one quarterback to score more than 17 Fantasy points since Week 8, which was Jay Cutler. But like Wilson, Ryan is hard to bench since he has at least 23 Fantasy points in three of his past four games. ... Flacco had 18 Fantasy points against Denver at home, and he has played well of late with at least 18 Fantasy points in six of his past eight full games, with the lone exception being two matchups against the Steelers (he also barely played in Week 17 at Cincinnati). We're leery of recommending Flacco on the road, where he has struggled for the most part this year with 14 Fantasy points or less in five games. And Denver hasn't allowed a quarterback to score 20 Fantasy points since Week 5. ... Schaub has been in a brutal funk with single digits in Fantasy points in four of his past five games, including the Wild Card victory against the Bengals. He had seven Fantasy points at New England in Week 14, and the Patriots have allowed just one quarterback to score more than 17 Fantasy points since Week 10.
1. Arian Foster, Texans -- 68 units
2. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks -- 67 units
3. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos -- 60 units
4. Stevan Ridley, Patriots -- 63 units
5. Frank Gore, 49ers -- 59 units
6. Ray Rice, Ravens -- 65 units
7. Michael Turner, Falcons -- 54 units
8. DuJuan Harris, Packers -- 7 units
9. Danny Woodhead, Patriots -- 35 units
10. Bernard Pierce, Ravens -- 24 units
11. John Kuhn, Packers -- 5 unites
12. Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons -- 41 units
13. LaMichael James, 49ers -- 9 units
14. Shane Vereen, Patriots -- 24 units
15. Ronnie Hillman, Broncos -- 16 units
16. Robert Turbin, Seahawks -- 23 units
17. Ryan Grant, Packers -- 19 units
18. Michael Robinson, Seahawks -- 3 units
19. Ben Tate, Texans -- 23 units
20. James Casey, Texans -- 14 units
Foster had double digits in Fantasy points in all but one game this year, including the playoff victory against the Bengals, with 18 total touchdowns. He had 15 carries for 46 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 39 yards against the Patriots in Week 14. Tate is useless because Foster is dominating the carries, and Casey is only worth using if you play in a deep PPR format. ... Lynch has six games in a row with double digits in Fantasy points, including the Wild Card victory against the Redskins, and nine of his past 10. The Falcons have allowed a running back to score in seven of their past eight games. We would avoid Turbin in most formats, but Robinson could be used in deep PPR formats since he scored on a 4-yard catch last week at Washington and has five catches for 56 yards in his past two games. ... Moreno has been awesome since taking over for the injured Willis McGahee (knee) with double digits in Fantasy points in five of his past six games, including four in a row. During that stretch was his Week 15 performance at Baltimore when he had 21 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 8 yards. The Ravens have also allowed a running back to score in three of their past five games. ... Ridley did a good job against the Texans in Week 14 with 18 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. He scored in seven of his past nine games, and the Texans allowed double digits in Fantasy points to five running backs in their past seven outings. Woodhead should be considered a sleeper since he closed the regular season with at least eight Fantasy points in each of his final three games. ... Gore closed the year with double digits in Fantasy points in six of his final eight games and had 16 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown at Green Bay in Week 1. The Packers did a nice job against Adrian Peterson in the Wild Card win last week by holding him to 22 carries for 99 yards, but Green Bay has allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in eight of the past 12 games, including the playoffs. ... We're not concerned about Rice losing too many touches to Pierce after he fumbled twice last week, but Pierce has played well of late with at least eight Fantasy points in his past three games. And Rice has a tough matchup against the Broncos, who held him to 12 carries for 38 yards and three catches for 3 yards in Week 15. Denver comes into this game having not allowed a running back to score on the ground since Week 9, a span of eight games. Darren McFadden scored on a reception in Week 14, and Jamaal Charles in Week 12 is the only running back to rush for more than 100 yards during that span. ... Turner needs a touchdown to help your Fantasy team, and he scored in six of his final seven games. But he scored double digits in Fantasy points in just three of those games, and Seattle has allowed just one rushing touchdown since Week 12, including the playoffs. Rodgers might be a better sleeper option since the Falcons could be throwing a lot in this matchup. ... Harris is going to struggle against the 49ers even if Justin Smith (triceps) is out. He was great against the Vikings with 17 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown and five catches for 53 yards. He now has at least eight Fantasy points in four of his past five games, but the 49ers should be able to contain him. Kuhn has to be considered a sleeper after two touchdowns against the Vikings in the Wild Card round, and he sees more time on passing downs than Harris.
1. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos -- 48
2. Eric Decker, Broncos -- 46 units
3. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 48 units
4. Julio Jones, Falcons -- 45 units
5. Michael Crabtree, 49ers -- 37 units
6. Greg Jennings, Packers -- 39 units
7. Andre Johnson, Texans -- 45 units
8. James Jones, Packers -- 40 units
9. Randall Cobb, Packers -- 44 units
10. Roddy White, Falcons -- 46 units
11. Jordy Nelson, Packers -- 41 units
12. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots -- 39 units
13. Anquan Boldin, Ravens -- 29 units
14. Golden Tate, Seahawks -- 32 units
15. Torrey Smith, Ravens -- 36 units
16. Randy Moss, 49ers -- 23 units
17. Sidney Rice, Seahawks -- 34 units
18. Brandon Stokley, Broncos -- 24 units
19. Harry Douglas, Falcons -- 5 units
20. Doug Baldwin, Seahawks -- 24 units
There are several rematches in this round of the playoffs, and in some cases the No. 2 receiver was better than the No. 1 option the first time around. ... Thomas and Decker faced the Ravens in Week 15 with Decker having the better game. He had eight catches for 133 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets, while Thomas finished with four catches for 13 yards on nine targets. Following that game, Thomas closed the season with 16 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns against Cleveland and Kansas City, and Decker had 13 catches for 141 yards and four touchdowns. Both have the chance for a big game this week, and the Ravens have allowed five receivers to score since Week 14. ... Welker and Lloyd faced the Texans in Week 14, and Lloyd had seven catches for 89 yards and a touchdown on nine targets, while Welker finished with three catches for 52 yards on nine targets. We still like Welker better this week because with Gronkowski back, Lloyd's production could be limited. Welker closed the season with 18 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 24 targets against Jacksonville and Miami. ... There is some concern for Julio Jones and White facing the Seahawks corners of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, and Seattle has allowed just two outside receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points this year in Brandon Marshall and Steve Johnson. Based on where they line up, look for Sherman to match up with White, and Browner to match up with Jones. We'll give Jones the edge in that matchup, but White could struggle. Still, both receivers are solid, especially White at home, and have the chance to succeed. But also consider Douglas a sleeper since he could do damage in the slot. Tony Gonzalez also has the chance to shine. ... Our weekly game of guess the best Packers receiver continues, and the reason we have them ranked Jennings, James Jones, Cobb and Nelson is health. Nelson is dealing with an ankle injury, which has limited him in practice, and Cobb also missed practice time with an illness. He also might still be bothered by the knee and ankle injuries which hampered him toward the end of the year. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Jones had the best game (four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown on six targets), but Cobb (nine catches for 77 yards on nine targets), Nelson (five catches for 64 yards on seven targets) and Jennings (five catches for 34 yards on nine targets) were all involved. It's hard to know who will do the best this week, so use health or player value as your determining factor. The good news is the 49ers have allowed a receiver to score at least 17 Fantasy points in each of the past three games. ... Johnson had eight catches for 95 yards on 10 targets against the Patriots in Week 14, but he doesn't have a great history against New England. In four career meetings, Johnson has yet to reach double digits in Fantasy points. The good thing is he had 10 or more targets in 10 of his final 12 games, and the Texans will likely be chasing points in this matchup. ... Moss got his 49ers tenure off to a good start against the Packers in Week 1 with four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown, but he's risky to trust. Crabtree had seven catches for 76 yards on nine targets in that matchup, and he closed the season on a tear with four games with at least seven catches in his final five outings, including four games with at least 93 yards and four touchdowns over that span. In their past 10 games, including the Wild Card win against Minnesota, the Packers have allowed 12 receivers to either score or reach 100 receiving yards against them. ... Get ready for the Dennis Pitta show again because the Ravens receivers could struggle. In Week 15, when Pitta scored two touchdowns against the Broncos, Smith was held to one catch for 14 yards on three targets, and Boldin had no catches on six targets. We like Boldin better than Smith because Champ Bailey will match up with Smith. And secondary receivers have had better success against Denver with six reaching double digits in Fantasy points this season. Boldin also is playing better with at least nine Fantasy points in four of his past five games, including the Wild Card win against the Colts when he had five catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. ... I'd avoid all the Seattle receivers if possible since the Falcons have allowed just eight receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points all year. Tate has just two games with double digits in Fantasy points in his past seven outings, and Rice has just one game with double digits over that same span.
1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- 44
2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots -- 37 units
3. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons -- 39 units
4. Dennis Pitta, Ravens -- 32 units
5. Owen Daniels, Texans -- 30 units
6. Jermichael Finley, Packers -- 22 units
7. Delanie Walker, 49ers -- 16 units
8. Zach Miller, Seahawks -- 12 units
9. Joel Dreessen, Broncos -- 23 units
10. Jacob Tamme, Broncos -- 23 units
11. Vernon Davis, 49ers -- 15 units
12. Anthony McCoy, Seahawks -- 7 units
Gronkowski and Hernandez are facing a Texans defense that has allowed five touchdowns to tight ends in the past five games. Hernandez contributed to that with eight catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets in Week 14 when Gronkowski was out. ... Gonzalez is trying to win the first playoff game in his 16-year career, and his play this week could be a determining factor. Seattle has only allowed three touchdowns to tight ends this year, but Gonzalez has two touchdowns in his past five games and has at least seven targets in nine games. This should be a game where Ryan leans on him. ... Pitta dominated the Broncos in Week 14 with seven catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets. For the season, Denver allowed 11 touchdowns to opposing tight ends and nine to reach at least eight Fantasy points. ... Daniels just had nine catches for 91 yards against the Bengals on 11 targets, but he was held to two catches for 24 yards against the Patriots earlier this year. New England has struggled with tight ends this year, allowing eight touchdowns and seven to reach at least eight Fantasy points, so hopefully Daniels can build off last week's performance. ... San Francisco has allowed four tight ends to score since Week 12, and Finley had seven catches for 47 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers in Week 1 on 11 targets. He has at least six Fantasy points in three of his past four games, and maybe he can close the season strong. ... We'll give Walker the nod over Davis because he has played better to close the regular season. Since Week 12, Walker has 34 Fantasy points compared to four for Davis. Even though Davis had three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown against the Packers in Week 1, it's hard to trust him.
1. Matt Prater, Broncos -- 31 units
2. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots -- 32 units
3. Shayne Graham, Texans -- 30 units
4. Matt Bryant, Falcons -- 30 units
5. Mason Crosby, Packers -- 28 units
6. David Akers/Billy Cundiff, 49ers -- 30 units
7. Justin Tucker, Ravens -- 27 units
8. Ryan Longwell, Seahawks -- no value assigned
1. Broncos -- 36 units
2. Patriots -- 35 units
3. Seahawks -- 32 units
4. Packers -- 82 units
5. 49ers -- 37 units
6. Falcons -- 30 units
7. Ravens -- 30 units
8. Texans -- 35 units
My Divisional lineup is as follows:
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- 82 units
RB: Knowshon Moreno, Broncos -- 60 units
RB: DuJuan Harris, Packers -- 7 units
WR: Greg Jennings, Packers -- 39 units
WR: Eric Decker, Broncos -- 46 units
TE: Delanie Walker, 49ers -- 16 units
K: Kai Forbath, Redskins -- 17 units
DST: Ravens -- 30 units
The total is 297 units, and I made three transactions from last week. I added Moreno for Foster because I expect the Broncos to advance farther, and Moreno's value is better. I added Decker over Smith because Decker has been on fire of late, and I like his matchup with the Ravens much better. And I went with Walker at tight end to replace Gresham. I decided not to use a kicker this week to save a transaction, which is also why I stayed with the Ravens DST. It's a risky move to lose points, but I'd rather have five transactions going forward.
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