For those of you that are trying to cram in every morsel of fantasy football that the 2016 season must offer, playoff pools and DFS for postseason games are underway to fulfill our final fantasy needs. I’m going to take some space each week to rank the positions from the remaining teams as a guide to maximizing those final efforts.
The NFL is already an inherently volatile game weekly when we have 16 matchups to dissect, so when we cut the weekly player pool down to eight teams in four games, we’re inviting variance to run amuck. In DFS games, we can swerve into that variance to a degree by maximizing player exposure to cover as many angles as clairvoyantly possible. I typically avoid cash games for the NFL Playoffs, but want to run out as many different tournament lineups as possible in multi-entry fields over trying to hit a bullseye in single entry contests. If you’re someone doing a playoff pool, that is much tougher to do. My best advice in those pools is to try maximize player games as much as possible as Jeff Brubach suggested with his overall ranks.
Also, for the sake of finding as much middle ground as possible to cater to all scoring formats, I’m going to operate under the tent of .5 PPR scoring here. Before we run this intro too long, let’s roll into the ranks…
1. Aaron Rodgers (@ DAL): Rodgers has thrown four touchdown passes in three consecutive games, with over 30 fantasy points in each of those games. He’s the first player since Drew Brees in 2012 to throw at least four scores in three straight. His second lowest scoring game of the season (13.5 points) came against Dallas in Week 6, but since then he’s thrown 34 touchdowns to three interceptions while averaging 26.5 points per game. Dallas has a knack for slowing down the pace and limiting possessions, and Rodgers may be without Jordy Nelson, but he carved a hot New York defense without Nelson a week ago and is just too scorching to put anywhere else.
2. Matt Ryan (vs SEA): Ryan already touched up Seattle on the road for 335 yards and three touchdowns for 22.6 fantasy points in Week 6, and that was with Earl Thomas patrolling the back end. In the five games since Thomas was injured, Seattle has allowed 19 pass completions of 20 or more yards (tied for the most in the league) after allowing 35 through their opening 12 games of the season (ninth best in the league). Going downfield is what Ryan did best this season as he ranked second in completions (69) and touchdowns (15) on connections of 20 plus yards and led the league in passing yardage on such completions (2,210 yards).
3. Tom Brady (vs HOU): Brady has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three of his past four games, but he has shown us a few more floor moments than we’re used to seeing from him since the loss of Rob Gronkowski as he averaged fewer than 6.0 yards per pass attempt in three of those seven games. Houston has allowed a league-low 210.9 passing yards per game to opposing passers with no 300-yard passing games on the season. Still, the upper tier of quarterbacks found some success against Houston this season for fantasy. Andrew Luck (24.4 and 18.2 points), Derek Carr (22.6), Philip Rivers (20.7) and Aaron Rodgers (15.9) all threw multiple touchdowns against this defense. With New England a huge 16 point favorite, I believe Brady will be more of a touchdown dependent option this week, but still one of the top options on the board.
4. Dak Prescott (vs GB): Prescott scored fewer than 17.5 points in just three of his 15 full games and all three of those games (two versus the Giants) came against pass defenses in the top-10 of passing points allowed per attempt. Green Bay ranks 28th in that department (.487 passing points per attempt) and allowed at least 17.5 points to 11 quarterbacks this season, including a 19.5 points effort to Prescott himself in Week 6.
5. Russell Wilson (@ ATL): There’s some shootout potential here if Seattle can generate consistent offense, but that’s hardly something we can bank on given how Seattle performed on the road this season. Seattle scored just 10 touchdowns on the road this season, tied with Houston for the fewest in the NFL, as Wilson has thrown just eight of his 23 passing touchdowns this season away from home. That said, it will be hard to completely turn away from him against an Atlanta defense that allowed opponents to score a touchdown on 26.9 percent of their possessions, the fourth highest rate in the league. Wilson didn’t throw a touchdown pass when these teams met in Week 6 in Seattle, but still was strong, completing 25 of 37 passes for 270 yards during the stretch of the season when he was largely immobile with Desmond Trufant active on the Atlanta side.
6. Ben Roethlisberger (@ KC): Anytime we get six players deep in a small field and Roethlisberger is this low, we’re looking at a good quarterback slate. By now you’ve been bludgeoned with the home and road splits for Roethlisberger, so we won’t harp on those greatly, but he threw just nine touchdown passes in eight games away from home this season. Roethlisberger roughed up this Kansas City defense for 300 yards and five touchdowns in Week 4, but the Chiefs have gotten their act together as a pass defense, allowing just 221.4 passing yards per game to opposing quarterbacks over the final five weeks of the season to a group that included Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota and Philip Rivers.
7. Alex Smith (vs PIT): With so many quarterbacks in play, it will be hard to use Smith in spots outside of a variance play only. On the plus side, Smith did close the season with 23 plus points against both Denver and San Diego and had a rushing touchdown in each of the final three games to end the season. Smith also had 18.7 points in the first meeting between these teams, but needed a career-high 50 pass attempts to get there. I expect this game to be much tighter than that meeting and the Steelers allowed one or fewer touchdown passes in 10 of their 17 games this season with no more than two in any game this season.
8. Brock Osweiler (@ NE): As mentioned with Russell Wilson, the Texans have been anemic road offense, averaging just 14.8 points per game on the road (31st in the league). Vegas has them with a 14.3 implied team total this week, right in line with that output. The Patriots allowed a league-best 15.6 points per game and haven’t allowed more than two touchdowns in a game since Week 10. On top of all of that, Osweiler threw for just 4.8 yards per pass attempt when these teams played in Week 3, throwing for just 196 yards in a 27-0 loss.
1. Le’Veon Bell (@ KC): When these teams first played, it was Bell’s first game returning from his suspension to begin the season and he carried 18 times for 144 yards with five catches for another 34 yards. Bell has at least 23 touches in eight consecutive games while averaging 174.9 yards from scrimmage per game over that span.
2. Ezekiel Elliott (vs GB): Like Bell, Elliott is a set and forget option. He had double-digit points in every single game this season outside of Week 17 and his lowest output in yards from scrimmage outside of the opening two weeks of the season were 97 and 92 yards. The Packers allowed a season-high 191 yards rushing to the Cowboys when these teams met in Week 6.
3. Devonta Freeman (vs SEA): Both Atlanta backs totaled 67 yards from scrimmage on 21 touches when these teams last played, so handling Freeman at his high cost on DFS sites will be intriguing this weekend. Freeman is a tough player to go all in on since he doesn’t produce high-caliber yardage weekly, but his ceiling spots are big and he carries weekly touchdown upside. Freeman hit 100-yards from scrimmage just seven times but scored eight touchdowns over the final six weeks of the season. Seattle allowed just 3.38 yards per carry to opposing backs, the second best rate in the league, but has allowed dual threat backs to reach double-digit scoring output in three straight games played.
4. LeGarrette Blount (vs HOU): Blount banged up Houston up for 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns earlier in the season, but the Houston run defense heading into Foxboro this weekend is much improved. The Texans have allowed a league-best 71.1 rushing yards per game over their past 10 games played with three rushing touchdowns allowed to backs over that span. I don’t believe Blount will be a huge part of New England building their lead this weekend, but as a 16-point favorite, he’s still in play for clock crunching touches and still holds high probability for a rushing score as we love using Blount when the Pats are expected to win big. Blount led the league in rushing attempts (90) and was second in rushing output (357 yards) in the fourth quarter of games this season and failed to score in just three games all season.
5. Thomas Rawls (@ ATL): After rushing for 56 yards on 37 carries over the final three weeks of the regular season, Rawls exploded for 161 rushing yards on 27 carries against Detroit last weekend. Deciphering which guy you’ll get this weekend is a tough task with as Jekyll and Hyde this Seahawks offense has been. If this game can be a back and forth affair, Rawls is in a good spot, but that’s a big if. Atlanta isn’t a particularly strong rushing foe, allowing 4.28 yards per carry to opposing backs (21st), but because Atlanta frequently led on the scoreboard, teams ran just 34.9 percent of their offensive plays (30th) and just 33.5 percent while playing in Atlanta (also 30th). This is why backs averaged 6.8 receptions per game against the Falcons, the most in the league. C.J. Prosise still has an outside chance of being activated for this weekend, so then that could change those receiving prospects.
6. Lamar Miller (@ NE): If you would’ve told me that the Texans would score 27 points and Miller would have 31 touches heading into last weekend, I would’ve bet the farm that he was a player that swung contests. Instead, he disappointed under those circumstances, amassing just 73 total yards on 31 carries, which also included a 19-yard run. Miller still is a safe bet to push 20 touches this week and may tack on a bunch of receptions if the script tilts as expected. New England allowed 6.4 receptions per game to opposing backfields, trailing only the aforementioned Falcons, but we can’t get overly committed a running back that is a huge road underdog while attached to the lowest team total of the week.
7. Spencer Ware (vs PIT): Ware hasn’t hit 100-yards from scrimmage in a game since Week 7 and has had 10 or more points in just three of his eight games over that span. He’s still a good source for touches and the Chiefs will want to keep a neutral script going in this one, but the Steelers have allowed just 80.1 rushing yards per game to opposing backfields over their 10 games since their Week 8 bye with just two backs clearing 60-yards in a game versus them over that span.
8. Dion Lewis (vs HOU): Lewis had 33 first half touches over the final three weeks of the season compared to 20 for LeGarrette Blount and just five for James White as the Patriots appeared to be tuning him up for the postseason. As noted when discussing Blount, the Houston rush defense has gotten stronger as the season has rolled on, so Lewis could be a primary factor for how New England moves the ball early in this game. I’d expect the Patriots to come out and spread things out early on. The downside with Lewis is he doesn’t have strong touchdown potential and the game could get away from having to use him as a chess piece, but he’s my favorite lower tiered option of the weekend.
9. Tevin Coleman (vs SEA): Coleman is tricky because he’s cleared 12 touches in a game just once since Week 3, but he managed to score once every 13.5 touches on the season, trailing only Mike Gillislee (a touchdown every 12.2 touches) for all backs with over 100 touches on the season. As mentioned with Devonta Freeman, Seattle kept the Atlanta backfield in check the last time these times played and Coleman had just 2.2 points, his lowest scoring game of the season. He’s the type of all or nothing option that can tilt a small slate in your favor in DFS tournaments, but the floor is potentially really low here.
10. Ty Montgomery (@ DAL): Montgomery is an exciting player because we’ve had a taste of his potential, but there’s a low floor attached to him as well. Montgomery has scored just 6.0, 7.6 and 8.3 points the past three weeks. He did catch 10 passes when these teams first played, but hasn’t been used in the passing game a great deal since his opening transition to running back, seeing just 3.5 targets per game over his 10 weeks.
Final Tier: Aaron Ripkowski , James White, Alex Collins, C.J. Prosise, Charcandrick West, Alfred Blue, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Marcel Reece, Lance Dunbar, Jonathan Grimes, DeAngelo Williams Tyler Ervin, Christine Michael
Ripkowski has scored in four of the past six games but has cleared 18 total yards just once over that stretch… Prosise hasn’t been active been active since Week 11 with a fractured scapula, but Seattle was at their best him involved…White is averaging five touches per game over his past 10 games with a high of seven.
1. Antonio Brown (@ KC): Arguably the best floor for any receiver, Brown’s road splits weren’t as pronounced this season as he had 75-yards or more six times on the road this season. Brown also moves around the outside, something that Marcus Peters do. Per Pro Football Focus, Peters lines up at the left cornerback position for 92 percent of his snaps while Brown only runs 40 percent of his routes there.
2. Julio Jones (vs SEA): The Falcons were able to scheme Jones free from the clutches of Richard Sherman multiple times when these teams first played as Jones reeled in seven of nine targets for 139 yards and a touchdown. Seattle will surely counter punch this week and the Falcons have shown that they don’t have to force feed Jones targets like they did in 2015, but Jones is easily in the top tier of options this weekend.
3. Dez Bryant (vs GB): After getting out of the gates slow with rookie Dak Prescott, the pair found their rhythm once Bryant returned from injury. Bryant caught just 16 of his first 41 targets through five weeks, but secured 34 of his 55 targets to close the year with 70 or more yards in six of his final seven full games while running into a minefield of strong secondaries. As mentioned with Odell Beckham last week, the Packers have done a good job of limiting feature WR1 types, but with Green Bay forced to throw more ammunition towards stopping the elite Dallas run game, Bryant should be able to exploit the secondary that allowed the most points per target to opposing receivers on the season.
4. Julian Edelman (vs HOU): Edelman led the league in targets (88) and receptions (50) while posting the third most receiving yards (649) over the final seven weeks when Rob Gronkowski was injured.Also, Edelman runs 54 percent of his routes from the slot, where he can avoid the strong Houston boundary corners in A.J. Bouye and Jonathan Joseph. He may not score a touchdown, but Edelman is the one of the safest plays at the position.
5. Doug Baldwin (@ ATL): Baldwin had just five receptions for 41 yards when these teams met in Week 6, but Desmond Trufant followed Baldwin for nearly two thirds of his routes that day. Trufant is now on injured reserve, leaving Baldwin matched up with interior man Brian Poole. Baldwin has just as high of a ceiling as anyone listed ahead of him, but his floor is less stable. Baldwin has had 17 or more points in five games, but single digit output in eight games.
6. Davante Adams (@ DAL): With Jordy Nelson expected to miss this game or at best be limited, Adams steps into the lead role for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Adams holds high touchdown upside with seven touchdowns over his past seven games.
7. DeAndre Hopkins (@ NE): Hopkins has shown some life to close the season a he’s had 12.7 or more points in four of the past six games. The downside is that Hopkins has caught just nine receptions for 185 yards on 19 targets combined in three career games facing the Patriots and Houston’s overall outlook here is bleak.
8. Randall Cobb (@ DAL): The Ghost of Cobb returned last week with 116 yards and three touchdowns as he was the highest scoring player in the Wildcard Round. All of his receptions came after Nelson was injured and Dallas has been given fits by interior receivers on the season, including allowing seven catches for 53 yards and a touchdown to Cobb when these teams played earlier in the season.
9. Tyreek Hill (vs PIT): Hill has scored eight touchdowns over the past six games and has a touchdown of over 60-yards in four straight games. Hill is getting touches in all components of the game and has the bonus of being able to paired with the Kansas City defense in the event he produces a special teams score.
10. Jordy Nelson/Geronimo Allison (@ DAL): Nelson is likely going to be limited at best if he can play with his rib injury, but if he does suit up, will be a player that doesn’t have a lot of investment and touchdown potential even if used sparingly. If he is unable to go, Allison will get another spike in snaps and we’re always interested in an Aaron Rodgers target.
11. Jeremy Maclin (vs PIT): As I’m sure you have noticed, this is the area of the position that gets unreliable. Maclin has reached double-digit points in just four games with a season-high of just 14.7 points as he had no 100-yard receiving yard games with just two touchdowns on the season.
12. Taylor Gabriel (vs SEA): As mentioned with Ryan, Seattle has been prone to giving up splash plays in the passing game and that swerves right into how Gabriel scores his points. Gabriel hasn’t had more than six targets in any game this season, but has had five touchdown receptions of 25-yards or longer on the season. The secondary Atlanta receivers are solid hedge options on the even tof Julio Jones being neutralized in any capacity.
13. Chris Hogan (vs HOU): The ancillary New England targets are tricky because the Texans are stout on defending the boundaries. Houston has allowed just 136 receiving yards per game to opposing receiver units on the season, the fourth best rate in the league. Hogan is a volatile play as he’s had more than five targets in just two games all season with more than four receptions just once.
14. Malcolm Mitchell (vs HOU): Mitchell had more than 42 yards just twice all season, but was second on the team in red zone targets (12).
15. Cole Beasley (vs GB): Beasley had six receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns when the Cowboys throttled the Packers, but since Dez Bryant returned, Beasley averaged just 7.7 points per game with two games over eight points scored.
16. Eli Rogers (@ KC): Rogers had just one target last week as Pittsburgh threw just 18 passes last week, reminding us of the low floor he carries. He also doesn’t carry a very high ceiling, scoring just three touchdowns and reaching 60-yards in just four games.
17. Paul Richardson (@ ATL): Richardson has had 16 targets since Tyler Lockett’s injury and although he’s had just 42, 40 and 48 yards in those games, he’s scored two touchdowns inside of the 10-yard line over those games.
18. Mohamed Sanu (vs SEA): Sanu has stumbled to the finish line this season, catching just 27 passes for 311 yards over his final seven weeks of the season with just one touchdown, but he saw 10 targets when these teams played earlier in the season, catching five of them 50 yards and a touchdown.
19. Jermaine Kearse (@ ATL): Kearse hasn’t been a good fantasy option at all, scoring just one touchdown all season and averaging 32.8 yards per game, but he keeps getting looks near the end zone, with 16 targets in the red zone and eight inside of the 10-yard line.
20. Michael Floyd (vs HOU): Floyd played 49 snaps in the final week of the regular season with a touchdown, but Malcolm Mitchell was inactive that week, so it’s hard to predict how much playing time he’ll actually get against a formidable secondary.
Your final grouping of long plays in hopes of running into a touchdown. Williams had 75 yards against Green Bay in Week 6… Fuller has averaged just 31.7 yards per game over his past 11 games…Hester at least unique stacking potential for those trying to find a pot of gold.
1. Travis Kelce (vs PIT): Kelce closed the season with 100-yards receiving in five of the final seven games, but does have a five target and two target game mixed in there to keep us honest on where the floor of this passing game can lie. He had just five catches for 23 yards when these teams met in Week 4, but did manage to score of his four touchdowns on the season in that game. I don’t believe Kansas City will approach their pass attempt totals from that earlier meeting, but Kelce has been the main cog in the offensive success of Kansas City to close the season. He’s a touch too rich for me in DFS circles as a core play as Pittsburgh has allowed only one tight end to score more than 12.7 points in a game this season.
2. Jimmy Graham (@ ATL): Graham let us down with just 37 yards on four targets in the Wildcard Round, but the position is still thin for viable options, so he remains a top tier play. Graham had just two targets inside of the 10-yard all season and has just 11 receptions over his past five games, so he’s another tough trust, but Atlanta allowed the ninth most receiving yardage per game to opposing tight ends (60.9 yards) on the season and were tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed (eight) to the position.
3. Martellus Bennett (vs HOU): Keeping the theme of sketchy tight end performers going, Bennett scored in three of the final four weeks of the season but caught just 17 passes on 26 targets for 197 yards over the final seven games of the season. Houston allowed just 5.4 yards per target to opposing tight ends on the season, the second lowest rate in the league with just three touchdowns allowed to the position.
4. Jared Cook (@ DAL): Considering cost and upside, Cook is one of the more intriguing tight ends on the slate again. He had nine targets last weekend, giving him eight or more in three of his past four games. Despite the increased looks and Aaron Rodgers throwing touchdowns seemingly left and right, Cook has found the paint just once on the season. The Cowboys allowed the most the most receptions (7.5) and receiving yardage (75.4) per game to opposing tight ends on the season.
5. Jason Witten (vs GB): Witten has reached double-digit points in just three games this season and he has low probability for a touchdown, but he’s still on the board as a floor play and the Packers have allowed eight or more points to Will Tye (4-66), Eric Ebron (6-61) and Kyle Rudolph (6-53) over the past three weeks.
6. /7. C.J. Fiedorowicz/ Ryan Griffin (@ NE): Both Houston tight ends are in the same category as Witten except they slighlty cannabilize each other. Fiedorowicz has averaged 6.2 points per game over his past six games played and has been in the single digits in eight of his past 10. Griffin managed 52 yards on eight receptions and 10 targets when these teams last met.
8. Ladarius Green (@ KC): It’s hard to hold the faith with Green as he’s been held out of three consecutive games with a concussion and the Chiefs have been a tough draw for opposing tight ends for two years running, allowing just six total touchdowns to the position since the start of last season.
Toilolo had 69-yards and a score when Atlanta played Seattle in Week 6, but this is your touchdown or bust group of tight ends to round things out if you need to punt the position.
1. Stephen Gostkowski (vs HOU)
2. Matt Bryant (vs SEA)
3. Dan Bailey (vs GB)
4. Steven Hauschka (@ ATL)
5. Cairo Santos (vs PIT)
6. Mason Crosby (@ DAL)
7. Chris Boswell (@ KC)
8. Nick Novak (@ NE)
We’re largely chasing the team totals here. Gostkowski picked things up down the stretch, scoring 10 or more points in five of his final six games…Bryant had nine or more points in 13 games this season, but his lowest total of the year (six points) did come versus Seattle… Haushka has attempted 25 red zone field goals on the season, the most in the league… Pittsburgh has allowed 19 field goal attempts in the red zone, the fifth most in the league.
1. New England
2. Kansas City
6. Green Bay
New England is the main target here and it’s very rough if choosing to go away from them. Houston not only has the lowest implied total of the week, but New England has also been excellent on defense, allowing opponents to score on just 26.8 percent of their possessions, the fewest in the league…The Chiefs will be the most popular secondary option at home in conjunction with the stacking potential with Tyreek Hill…Targeting the Chiefs, Cowboys or Falcons has not been fruitful as they have surrendered more than six points just three times each on the season to opposing DST.. The last seven defenses to face the Packers have scored three total fantasy points…Atlanta is a wildcard given Seattle’s road issues and opponents have scored 13 or more DST points in three of their road games this season, but they still require a leap of faith and had one lone point when these teams last played.
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