The NFL playoffs are here, but that doesn’t mean your Fantasy Football season is over. There are a variety of playoff contests available across the web, which is why we’re going to continue providing player rankings and analysis all the way through Superbowl Sunday.
During the week leading up to each round of this year’s playoffs, I’ll be supplying you with positional rankings and tiers at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, and defense. Playoff contests tend to vary greatly in terms of format, so I won’t be getting too into specifics. Instead, I’ll just be providing one-week, standard-scoring player rankings. Feel free to use them as needed.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for the Wild Card playoff weekend. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Saturday at 4:35pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.
Be sure to check out Chet Gresham’s Complete Playoff Rankings, which include positional rankings for the entire playoffs.
1. Drew Brees – NO (@ PHI)
2. Nick Foles – PHI (vs. NO)
Much will be made about the Saints road struggles and rightfully so. New Orleans is averaging an elite 4.4 offensive touchdowns per game at home this season, compared to a miserable 1.8 on the road. On the other hand, Eagles’ opponents are averaging 46 drop backs per game this season, which is the most in NFL history. The Saints already throw it a ton (No. 5 pass-heaviest team during regular season), which should easily allow Brees to eclipse 300 passing yards. He’s our top-rated Wild Card weekend quarterback.
Since Foles returned in Week 9 against Oakland, the Eagles are averaging an NFL-high 4.1 offensive touchdowns per game. The Broncos are averaging 3.9 during that span. The highly-productive Chip Kelly offense will allow Foles to produce at a level near that of Brees, but the Eagles do like to run the ball. That limits Foles’ ceiling against teams with respectable defenses. Foles does make up for a limited number of attempts with his legs; He’s averaging 4.3 designed runs per game since Week 9. Opponents of the Saints averaged an NFL-low 59 offensive plays per game this season. Additionally, offenses are averaging only 1.9 scores per game vs. New Orleans, which is sixth-lowest in the league.
3. Aaron Rodgers – GB (vs. SF)
4. Colin Kaepernick – SF (@ GB)
5. Andy Dalton – CIN (vs. SD)
The 49ers’ strong defense has allowed only 19 passing touchdowns this season, which helps limit Rodgers to our second tier of quarterbacks. The Packers are averaging 3.0 offensive touchdowns per game this season when Rodgers plays the entire game. That’s exactly where Green Bay was in 2012. Of course, the Packers – once a team that exclusively threw the ball with the end zone in range – now like to run the ball with Eddie Lacy near the goal line. This will limit Rodgers’ ceiling a bit.
The 49ers’ offense went on a dominant early-season tear that saw them score 19 touchdowns over a five-game stretch spanning from Weeks 4-to-8. Since their Week 9 bye, however, the Niners have totaled just 15 offensive scores in eight games. Although that’s concerning for Kaepernick, it’s worth noting that a majority of that drop-off came at the expense of the team’s running backs. Kaepernick has four two-plus touchdown games over his last seven appearances. Additionally, he’s the best bet to lead all quarterbacks in rushing yards this weekend. Headed to frigid Green Bay, Kaepernick is a solid, but unspectacular play.
Fantasy’s No. 3 quarterback during the regular season, Andy Dalton was third to only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in passing touchdowns. The Bengals have been exceptional at home this year, averaging 34 points per game en route to an 8-0 record. The Chargers’ secondary isn’t very good, which should allow Dalton at least a pair of passing touchdowns. All that limits Dalton is the high likelihood of Cincinnati controlling this game early on. Cincinnati runs the ball a ton at home (no shocker considering their perfect record), which will mean plenty of running plays in the second half.
6. Andrew Luck – IND (vs. KC)
7. Philip Rivers – SD (@CIN)
8. Alex Smith – KC (@ IND)
Luck will have his hands full with the Chiefs’ tough defense, but the Colts figure to be throwing the ball quite a bit in this one. He’s a poor bet to eclipse two touchdowns, which makes him an unattractive play…The Chargers are playing well lately, but they’ve also been running the ball a ton. Playing from behind in Cincinnati, Rivers figures to get more pass attempts than usual, but note that the Bengals have allowed fewer than two passing scores in an incredible seven of their last nine games…The Chiefs’ offense was significantly better in the second half of the regular season, but it struggled badly against the Colts in Week 16. The Kansas City offense scored once in that affair and it was of the rushing variety. Not to be overlooked here should the Colts’ surging defense, which has allowed a total of two scores over its last three games.
1. Jamaal Charles – KC (@ IND)
With 1,981 total yards and 19 scores during 15 regular season games, Charles is the clear top fantasy tailback during Wild Card weekend. Obviously one of the more explosive talents in the league, Charles is also a fairly safe play when you consider that the Chiefs have at least one rushing touchdown in six consecutive games. Charles is also heavily involved as a pass-catcher, handling a position-high 104 targets en route to seven receiving touchdowns. Charles put up 144 yards and a touchdown on 18 touches when these two teams met in Week 16. A candidate for 25 touches this weekend, Charles is the top fantasy bet at the position.
2. LeSean McCoy – PHI (vs. NO)
Charles had the bigger fantasy season, but it was actually McCoy who easily led the NFL in rushing this year. The Eagles are No. 2 in the NFL in offensive touchdowns and are the No. 6 run-heaviest team in the league. This provides McCoy with a massive number of scoring and touch opportunities, respectively. Consider that McCoy has reached the 25-carry mark five times this season. That’s rare in today’s NFL. The Saints have allowed only 11 rushing scores this season, however, including two over their last five showings.
3. Eddie Lacy – GB (vs. SF)
4. Frank Gore – SF (@ GB)
Lacy was a fantasy star during the second half of the regular season and appears to be back near full health. Still, he’ll have hands full this weekend with a 49ers’ run defense that has allowed five rushing touchdowns since Week 5. In fact, the San Francisco defense has allowed only one rushing touchdown during its last seven road games. The Packers, however, have run the ball pretty well since Lacy took control of the backfield. They had at least one rushing touchdown in all but five games during the regular season. Lacy has 10 20-plus carry games and also has 41 targets to his name. The matchup is tough, but Lacy is your best bet once Charles and McCoy are off the board.
Gore figures to see near 20 touches in Green Bay this weekend, but the 49ers’ running game hasn’t been producing touchdowns as of late. Despite finishing the regular season as the league’s run-heaviest team, the 49ers totaled just three second-half rushing scores. They had 15 in the first half. On the other hand, the Packers defense allowed 46 total touchdowns during the regular season, which is seventh-most in the league. Even more promising for Gore is the 13 rushing scores the Green Bay defense has allowed since Week 8. With backs putting up a yards-per-carry mark a half yard higher than their season average against Green Bay over the last two months, Gore is a fairly strong play this weekend.
5. Giovani Bernard – CIN (vs. SD)
6. Ryan Mathews – SD (@CIN)
Progressively taking on a larger offensive role, Bernard averaged 13 carries per game over the team’s final seven games and actually had exactly 13 in each of the final three. BenJarvus Green-Ellis totaled 27 carries over those three games. Although Green-Ellis has been Cincinnati’s primary goal line back this season, Bernard has five carries within 5 yards of the end zone over the past three weeks. Green-Ellis has one. The Bengals are going to score a lot of points in this game and San Diego has allowed eight rushing touchdowns over their last seven games. Bernard is in for a strong game.
Ryan Mathews ran the ball on a massive 60.7 percent of his snaps this season. His late-season surge was helped by the Chargers ability to lean heavily on the run. They called 153 runs and 121 passes over their last four games (all wins). Of course, San Diego figures to have to pass it more than they’d like in Cincinnati. Add to that the fact that the Bengals’ defense has allowed only six rushing touchdowns this season. Touch volume shouldn’t be a problem for Mathews, but efficiency will be against a tough Bengals’ defense.
7. Danny Woodhead – SD (@CIN)
8. Donald Brown – IND (vs. KC)
9. Pierre Thomas – NO (@ PHI)
10. Trent Richardson – IND (vs. KC)
11. Darren Sproles – NO (@ PHI)
12. BenJarvus Green-Ellis – CIN (vs. SD)
With Mathews emerging, Woodhead’s role has slumped a bit over the past two months. He saw 3.5 targets per game in the second half after handling 6.9 per game in the first eight games…Brown and Richardson are working in a full-on committee in Indianapolis. It’s anybody’s guess who will lead the unit in touches this weekend, but we’re giving Brown a slight edge. Colts running backs are a perfect 5-for-5 on carries from one yard out this season. Richardson is responsible for two, Brown one, and Ahmad Bradshaw the other two…Thomas’ carries have dropped off dramatically as of late. He’s averaging only six per game over the Saints last five games. The Saints have two rushing touchdowns on the road this season. Yes, two…Sproles saw a massive 84 regular season targets, but only carried the ball 53 times. His ceiling is limited unless the Saints fall behind and abandon the run…To no one’s surprise, Green-Ellis has fallen behind Bernard on the tailback totem pole in Cincinnati. He’ll be touchdown-or-bust on 10 or so touches vs. San Diego.
13. Mark Ingram – NO (@ PHI)
14. Kendall Hunter – SF (@ GB)
15. James Starks – GB (vs. SF)
16. Bryce Brown – PHI (vs. NO)
17. Anthony Dixon – SF (@ GB)
18. Knile Davis – KC (@ IND)
19. Chris Polk – PHI (vs. NO)
20. Ronnie Brown – SD (@CIN)
21. Khiry Robinson – NO (@ PHI)