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Post-Season Fantasy Football Guide

Wild Card Playoff Rankings

by Jeff Ratcliffe
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Fantasy football doesn’t end with the regular season. Playoff contests are becoming increasingly popular and offer the opportunity to compete in a variety of formats. To help you throughout the playoffs, we’re going to provide player rankings and analysis up to and including the Super Bowl. 

 

Each week during the playoffs, I’ll break down positional rankings by tiers for standard fantasy scoring, giving my thoughts along the way. Since there’s so much variety in playoff contests, I’ll try to be as general as possible. How to use them is up to you.

 

Be sure to check out Chet Gresham’s Complete Playoff Rankings, which include positional rankings for the entire playoffs.

 

As always, feel free to shoot me a tweet if you have any specific questions about start/sit dilemmas that I don’t answer here. If that's not your thing, you can also "like" me on Facebook

 

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $1.75 Million Fantasy Football league for Wild Card Weekend's games. It's only $25 to join and first prize is $175,000. Starts Saturday, January 3rd at 4:35pm ETHere's the link.

 

 

Quarterback

1. Andrew Luck – IND (vs. CIN)

2. Ben Roethlisberger – PIT (vs. BAL)

 

Luck comes in as our top-ranked quarterback for Wild Card weekend after he led the league with 40 touchdown passes in the regular season. While Luck finished as fantasy’s No. 2 quarterback in 2014, his numbers faded down the stretch. Over the Colts’ final four games, Luck topped 200 yards passing just once and managed a combined six touchdown passes. To be fair, Luck was without T.Y. Hilton in Week 16, which was his worst outing of the season. While we don’t expect a repeat of Luck’s massive Wild Card performance from last season, he should have no problem posting strong numbers against a Bengals defense that yielded 300-plus passing yards and two scores in each of their last two games.

 

Though he’s not a perennial elite fantasy quarterback, Roethlisberger emerged this season as a top fantasy option at the helm of the explosive Pittsburgh offense. The Steelers 411.1 total yards per game trails only New Orleans (411.4) for the league high. Baltimore hasn’t yielded a touchdown pass in the last three weeks, but that streak came against a string of cupcakes in Jacksonville, Houston, and Cleveland. Previous to that, the Ravens secondary struggled, yielding an average of 309.8 yards and 2.8 scores in the five games after Jimmy Smith was lost for the season in Week 8. The following week Roethlisberger threw for 340 yards and six touchdowns against the Ravens.

 

3. Cam Newton – CAR (vs. ARI)

4. Tony Romo – DAL (vs. DET)

 

Somehow Todd Bowles has managed to cobble together a defense that is very much greater than the sum of its parts in Arizona this season. But the Cards are by no means a shutdown unit. Arizona yielded a combined 151 yards on the ground over the last two weeks to Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. This bodes positively for Newton, who looks surprisingly spry despite being just two weeks removed from a scary car accident. He’s tallied 50-plus rushing yards and a score in each of his last two games.

 

No quarterback scored more fantasy points over the last month of the season than Romo thanks in part to his 12-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Detroit certainly isn’t a pushover of a matchup, but they’re a much stronger unit against the run. Interestingly, the Lions have yielded two touchdown passes in eight of their last ten games with opposing quarterbacks averaging 269 yards through the air during that span.

 

5. Joe Flacco – BAL (at PIT)

6. Matthew Stafford – DET (at DAL)

7. Andy Dalton – CIN (at IND)

8. Drew Stanton/Ryan Lindley – ARI (at CAR) 

 

Besides his Week 6 outburst against the Bucs, Flacco displayed a limited fantasy ceiling in 2014. That being said, he gets a strong matchup against a Steelers secondary that yielded the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. ... Inconsistencies plagued Stafford in the regular season, as the Lions quarterback posted four games without a touchdown pass. However, there’s upside here against an overachieving Dallas defense that ranks No. 26 against the pass. ... Dalton’s numbers regressed in 2014 with the Bengals becoming more of a power running team under offensive coordinator Hugh Jackson. Dalton’s 482 attempts this season was the lowest total of his four-year career. ... Arizona remains hopeful that Stanton will play, but it’s not sounding promising. Either Cards starter has an uphill battle this weekend on the road against a feisty Panthers defense that just held Matt Ryan in check.

 

 

Running Back

1. DeMarco Murray – DAL (vs. DET)

 

With Le’Veon Bell likely out of the picture, Murray stands alone as the top running back option for Wild Card weekend. On paper, this matchup stinks out loud. The Lions are the league’s No. 1 run defense, giving up an average of 69.3 yards per game. However, Detroit did just yield 126 total yards last week to Eddie Lacy. You can also bank on the Cowboys feeding Murray the ball. In fact, over the last ten years only five running backs have touched the ball more than the 449 times Murray posted this season. Couple that with the Dallas offensive line that graded out as the No. 2 run blocking unit Pro Football Focus, and it’s tough to fade Murray this week.

 

2. Jeremy Hill – CIN (at IND)

3. Justin Forsett – BAL (at PIT)

4. Joique Bell – DET (at DAL)

 

While preseason pundits were looking to Giovani Bernard, it was Hill who emerged as the stronger fantasy asset in Cincinnati. Since Week 9, Hill has averaged 101.3 total yards on 18.6 touches per game and found the end zone six times. He gets a strong matchup against a Colts defense that made Jonas Gray look like Jim Brown back in Week 11 when they yielded 201 yards and four scores to the Patriots running back.

 

Forsett began the 2014 season well off the fantasy radar, but he managed to cement himself as the Ravens’ feature back and became a strong fantasy option in the process. Baltimore has especially leaned on Forsett down the stretch, with the veteran averaging 18.8 touches over the last 10 games. Forsett topped 100 total yards five times over that stretch. That being said, this isn’t the easiest matchup. The Steelers have yielded just two rushing touchdowns in their last 10 games with opposing running backs managing just 62.9 yards on the ground during that span.

 

After a disappointing start to the season, Bell rebounded to become one of the strongest fantasy running backs down the stretch. Over the last seven games he’s topped 100 total yards in four times and scored five touchdowns. However, Bell’s upside is somewhat limited with the Lions getting Reggie Bush more involved in the passing game. Bush has 13 targets in the last two weeks will Bell seeing just three.

 

5. Jonathan Stewart – CAR (vs. ARI)

6. Dan Herron – IND (vs. CIN)

7. Giovani Bernard – CIN (at IND)

8. Josh Harris – PIT (vs. BAL) 

 

Over the last month, Stewart has ripped off two 100-yard performances. We have to go back to December of 2010 to find the last time he topped triple-digits. Ironically, that performance came against the Cardinals. Obviously, that defense was a very different unit than the 2014 incarnation that yielded the fourth fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. However, that stat is deceptive. Arizona held opposing rushers to fewer than 100 yards in each of their first 11 games. Since then the Cards have yielded 100-plus yards in 4-of-5 games. Stewart has good momentum entering the Wild Card round, but the looming potential for a rotation with DeAngelo Williams limits his fantasy value.

 

Herron could potentially be higher in our rankings if he served in more of a feature role. Herron’s touches over the last six games: 17 – 10 – 12 – 13 – 10 – 13. Richardson’s touches over the last six games: 13 – 8 – 7 – 11 – 4 – 7. Heron is averaging a healthy 4.9 yards per carry over that span compared to Richardson’s pedestrian 2.8 YPC. Cincinnati gave up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs in the regular season, so Herron makes for a solid play this weekend.

 

The aforementioned Bernard didn’t quite have the breakout season many were predicting after missing three games mid-season with hip and collarbone injuries. While it looked like he was going to take a back seat to Jeremy Hill, Bernard has come on down the stretch with scores in each of the last two weeks. While he’s only topped double-digit carries once in the last month, the Bengals have worked Bernard in more as a receiver feeding him 20 targets over that span. He’s very much become the lightning to Jeremy Hill’s thunder. While we prefer Hill, there’s enough meat on the bone for Bernard to get his fill this weekend.

 

One of these things is not like the other. With it looking very likely that Le’Veon Bell won’t play in the Wild Card round, Harris is the favorite to serve as the Steelers’ lead back. Pittsburgh did sign Ben Tate on Tuesday, but he’s a long shot to see more than a handful of touches. Admittedly, we don’t really know a ton about the rookie out of Wake Forest, as he played just 19 offensive snaps for the Steelers this season. His five carries for seven yards in relief of Bell last week doesn’t impress, but he did have 59-yard run called back due to a holding penalty. Harris showed good burst and nimble feet at the college level, so there’s certainly potential here. Unfortunately, Harris’ fantasy value is limited against the league’s No. 4 run defense.

 

9. Reggie Bush – DET (at DAL)

10. Trent Richardson – IND (vs. CIN)

11. Kerwynn Williams – ARI (at CAR)

12. Dri Archer – PIT (vs. BAL)

13. Stepfan Taylor – ARI (at CAR)

 

Bush had his best game of the season in Week 16, and looks to have some spring back in his legs. Expect in the range of 10-12 touches for the veteran. ... See the blurb on Herron above for Richardson’s recent resume. He’s a limited upside, low-floor fantasy play this week. ... Williams has emerged as Arizona’s primary running back with 15-or-more carries in three of the last four games. He’s an intriguing play, but Bruce Arians’ “hot hand” approach means we could easily see Stepfan Taylor lead the Cards in touches. ... Archer gets a bump in value due to the Le’Veon Bell injury. While he’s not a real threat between the tackles, Archer has explosive speed as should see a few targets out of the backfield.

 

14. Mike Tolbert – CAR (vs. ARI)

15. Theo Riddick – DET (at DAL)

16. Joseph Randle – DAL (vs. DET)

17. Bernard Pierce – BAL (at PIT)

18. DeAngelo Williams – CAR (vs. ARI)

19. Fitzgerald Toussaint – BAL (at PIT)

20. Marion Grice – ARI (at CAR)

21. Lance Dunbar – DAL (vs. DET)

22. Kyle Juszczyk – BAL (at PIT)

 

 

Wide Receiver

1. Antonio Brown – PIT (vs. BAL) 

 

Fantasy’s top receiver in the regular season, Brown posted a jaw dropping 129 catches for 1,698 yards. That’s the second-most catches and sixth-most yards in a single season in NFL history. With Le’Veon Bell likely out, expect the Steelers to lean heavily on the pass, meaning Brown is a near lock for double-digit targets. Brown should have his way with Rashaan Melvin, who has started the last two games after the Ravens lost Asa Jackson to a torn PCL. Brown is primed for a huge day this weekend.

 

2. Calvin Johnson – DET (at DAL)

3. Dez Bryant – DAL (vs. DET)

 

There’s only the slightest drop off from Brown to Johnson and Bryant, and it wouldn’t shock me at all if either player finished the week as the top fantasy scorer at receiver.

 

Johnson battled injuries early on this season, but he enters the playoffs in good form with five scores over the last five games. He’s seeing 10.4 targets per game over that span, so volume shouldn’t be a problem. However, as I mentioned earlier, Matthew Stafford’s up and down play this season is a slight hit to Johnson’s fantasy value. Still, you don’t need me to tell you that Megatron’s ceiling is massive. There’s no reason to fade him this weekend.

 

Only Odell Beckham has more fantasy points than Bryant over the last three weeks. With only 19 targets over that span, his volume hasn’t been massive. But Bryant has been extremely efficient catching 15 balls for 286 yards and six scores. That touchdown rate is essentially impossible to maintain, but you have to like the chemistry between Bryant and Tony Romo right now. While the Lions have been stout against the run, they’re susceptible to the pass. Over the last five games, they’ve yielded eight touchdown passes to wide receivers. This all bodes well for Bryant to continue his hot streak right into the playoffs.

 

4. A.J. Green – CIN (at IND)

5. T.Y. Hilton – IND (vs. CIN)

6. Kelvin Benjamin – CAR (vs. ARI)

 

As of this writing, Green is in the league concussion protocol following a fourth quarter hit from Steelers safety Mike Mitchell in the Bengals’ Week 17 loss to the Steelers. There’s no word on his progress, so be sure to keep a close eye on the Rotoworld newsfeed. Despite the Bengals increased reliance on the run this season, Green was just as efficient as ever, leading all receivers in yards run per pass route, which is a metric Pro Football Focus uses to determine the yards a receiver picks up on a per route basis. If he manages to suit up, Green will make for a strong play against this Colts defense that Cowboys receivers tore up for 154 yards and four scores in Week 16.

 

Hilton has battled a hamstring injury over the last three weeks, causing him to sit out the Colts Week 16 loss to the Cowboys. However, he did manage to get on the field for 27 snaps in Week 17. Hilton averaged 8.6 targets per game over the Colts’ first 14 contests topping 100 yards six times including a 223-yard outburst in Week 6 versus the Texans. While the Bengals did yield the second fewest fantasy points per game to receivers this season, they’re trending in the wrong direction yielding an average of 183.25 yards and a combined five touchdowns to opposing receivers over the last four games. 

 

This was a stellar year for rookie receivers, and Benjamin was among the top names from the 2014 class. The former Florida State standout topped 1,000 yards and caught an impressive nine touchdowns in the regular season, routinely displaying the ability to high-point passes over defensive backs. Over the last six games, Benjamin posted two of his three 100-yard performances and averages 10 targets. Of course, the Cardinals secondary has a good reputation, but Arizona has actually been a reasonably strong matchup for wide receivers this season. Both Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Peterson graded out negatively for their regular season performance at Pro Football Focus. While Benjamin does offer a high ceiling, his lower floor puts him a hair below the Top 5 options this week.

 

7. Golden Tate – DET (at DAL)

8. Steve Smith – BAL (at PIT)

9. Torrey Smith – BAL (at PIT)

 

Tate has been a revelation in Detroit this season, catching 99 balls for 1,331 yards and three scores. Of course, a lot of his damage was done when Calvin Johnson was banged up. Tate saw 11.5 targets per game in Weeks 4 through 10. Since then that number has dipped to just 6.9 targets per game. ... Steve Smith appeared to be on the decline following a hot start to the season in which he topped 100 yards in four of the first six games. Smith’s numbers then dipped and reached a low point in Week 13 when he managed just one catch for four yards. Don’t call it a comeback, but since then Smith has seen an average of 9.75 targets per game and finished the season strong with 90 yards in Week 17. While Smith isn’t likely to duplicate his early season success, he should see enough targets to make him a solid play this weekend. ... Torrey Smith surprisingly scored 11 touchdowns this season, but volume isn’t in his favor. The Ravens receiver only topped double-digit targets once this season and averages just 5.9 targets per game.

 

10. Martavis Bryant – PIT (vs. BAL)

11. Michael Floyd – ARI (at CAR)

12. Larry Fitzgerald – ARI (at CAR)

13. Mohamed Sanu – CIN (at IND)

14. Terrance Williams – DAL (vs. DET)

15. Reggie Wayne – IND (vs. CIN)

 

Bryant flashed major big-play upside this season, but he’s seeing just 4.8 targets per game. His opportunity will be limited and is more of a boom-or-bust play. ... Despite bookending the season with 100-yard performances, Floyd was a huge disappointment in fantasy circles. While he displayed some chemistry with Ryan Lindley last week, Floyd makes for a risky fantasy start. Likewise, Fitzgerald is far from a safe play. ... Sanu had an up and down year, but he did step up to post both of his 100-yard performances when A.J. Green was sidelined earlier this season. His stock will rise is Green is unable to go. ... Williams offers upside, but his season-high for targets is seven, and he’s seeing an average of three per game over the Cowboys’ last six contests. ... Wayne is one of the league’s all-time greats, but his play is very much on the decline. Couple that with a nagging groin injury, and Wayne offers limited fantasy upside.

 

16. Markus Wheaton – PIT (vs. BAL)

17. John Brown – ARI (at CAR)

18. Cole Beasley – DAL (vs. DET)

19. Donte Moncrief – IND (vs. CIN)

20. Philly Brown – CAR (vs. ARI)

 

Wheaton failed to emerge as the Steelers No. 2 option this season despite being given the opportunity to do so early on. He just doesn’t see enough volume to be a strong fantasy asset. ... John Brown is playing third fiddle in a limited passing offense. ... Sure, Beasley has four touchdowns in the last six games, but he only has 21 catches over that span. ... Moncrief has flashed loads of upside this season, but the crowded situation at receiver in Indy limits his fantasy potential. ... Philly Brown has become an unlikely downfield target for the Panthers. He isn’t likely to see more than a couple balls come his way, but he’s an intriguing Hail Mary play this week.

 

21. Hakeem Nicks – IND (vs. CIN)

22. Jerricho Cotchery – CAR (vs. ARI)

23. Marlon Brown – BAL (at PIT)

24. Kamar Aiken – BAL (at PIT)

25. Brandon Tate – CIN (at IND)

26. Lance Moore – PIT (vs. BAL)

27. Michael Campanaro – BAL (at PIT)

28. Dane Sanzenbacher – CIN (at IND)

29. Jeremy Ross – DET (at DAL)     

30. Corey Fuller – DET (at DAL)

 

 

Tight End

1. Greg Olsen – CAR (vs. ARI)

 

In a dud year at tight end, Olsen proved to be one of the more reliable fantasy options. Unfortunately, that dependability tapered off at the end of the season, as Olsen posted just three catches for 48 yards over the last two weeks. His three targets in each of those contests equaled his low for the season, which previously came in Week 8 against the Seahawks. The good news is that the Cards have recently struggled against the tight end, yielding big days to Travis Kelce (7 catches for 110 yards) and Luke Willson (3 catches for 139 yards and 2 scores). Olsen is your best bet at tight end this weekend.

 

2. Jason Witten – DAL (vs. DET)

3. Coby Fleener – IND (vs. CIN)

4. Dwayne Allen – IND (vs. CIN)

5. Heath Miller – PIT (vs. BAL)

 

Thanks in part to the Cowboys' reliance on the run, Witten’s target total dipped below triple-digits for the first time since 2006. He also posted his second-lowest yardage total of his career. That being said, Witten had his best statistical performance of the season in Week 16 and showed he’s still a capable receiving threat. Consider him a high-floor/low-ceiling fantasy play.

 

Allen missed last week with a knee injury, but is reportedly on track to play this weekend. If he’s unable to suit up, Fleener vaults up to the top tier with Olsen. In the six games Allen has either missed or played limited snaps, Fleener racked up 404 yards and four touchdowns. Of course, if Allen plays he’s the better bet for a touchdown while Fleener is more likely to see the most targets. 

 

While he offers limited touchdown upside, Miller does see his share of targets. Ben Roethlisberger peppered Miller with 14 balls over the last two weeks with the tight end catching 10 for 109 yards. The Ravens are a middle of the pack matchup for tight end, but it should be noted that Miller only managed a catch for 14 yards in Week 9 against Baltimore.

 

6. Owen Daniels – BAL (at PIT)

7. Jermaine Gresham – CIN (at IND)

8. Eric Ebron – DET (at DAL)

9. Darren Fells – ARI (at CAR)

10. Ed Dickson – CAR (vs. ARI)

 

Daniels flashed briefly for a strong performance in Week 15, but his fantasy upside is extremely limited at this point in his career. ... Gresham saw increased usage with A.J. Green out in Week 7 and banged up in Week 16. Even so, he’s at best a catch-and-fall-down option who is unlikely to rack up big yardage totals. ... Ebron has yet to materialize as a strong receiving option, though he did see five targets in Week 17. ... Fells has started the last four games for Arizona, catching five balls for 71 yards. He’s a very low ceiling fantasy play. ... The same can be said for Dickson, who averages one target per game in 2014.

 

11. Crockett Gillmore – BAL (at PIT)

12. John Carlson – ARI (at CAR)

13. Gavin Escobar – DAL (vs. DET)

14. Brandon Pettigrew – DET (at DAL)

15. Jack Doyle – IND (vs. CIN)


 

Defense

1. Panthers (vs. ARI)

2. Cardinals (at CAR)

3. Cowboys (vs. DET)

4. Lions (at DAL)

5. Bengals (at IND)

6. Ravens (at PIT)

7. Colts (vs. CIN)

8. Steelers (vs. BAL)

 

 

Kicker

1. Dan Bailey – DAL (vs. DET)

2. Justin Tucker – BAL (at PIT)

3. Adam Vinatieri – IND (vs. CIN)

4. Shaun Suisham – PIT (vs. BAL)

5. Matt Prater – DET (at DAL)

6. Mike Nugent – CIN (at IND)

7. Graham Gano – CAR (vs. ARI)

8. Chandler Catanzaro – ARI (at CAR)

Jeff Ratcliffe
Jeff Ratcliffe is a football writer and IDP analyst for Rotoworld as well as the Assistant Managing Editor of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He can be found on Twitter.