Ranking quarterbacks and running backs for Wildcard Weekend was a fairly simple task, with elite options facing appealing matchups in the opening week of the postseason.
Naming top wide receivers and tight ends is a slightly messier task, which much more room for all-out screaming matches on the Twitter Machine. So read on, and scream at me.
1. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals ($5.6 million) – This pick, after all that aforementioned bluster, was easy. Green has the physical tools to outrun, outmuscle, and outjump any cornerback or safety. Houston cornerback Jonathon Joseph will likely cover Green for most of Saturday’s game, while Kareem Jackson will take his turns on Mini Megatron, since the Texans’ corners don’t commit to one side of the formation. Joseph has been burned often enough this year to believe the Bengals will isolate Green on Houston’s top cover guy and let him go to work. This excellent piece from Football Outsiders explains just how Cincinnati can exploit one-on-one matchups. Expect a jump ball or three for Green, who caught 10 touchdowns in 2012’s first 10 games. Houston allowed almost 22 fantasy points per game to wide receivers over the season’s final month.
2. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts ($5.3 million) – The Colts do a great job of moving Wayne all around the offensive formation, helping the aged one avoid smothering coverage from a team’s best cornerback, or even worse, the dreaded bracket coverage. Wayne received the second most targets (194), just 11 behind Calvin Johnson; there’s no doubt that he will be force fed. Baltimore’s secondary has looked more than exploitable since early December, giving up 232 yards to Washington’s receivers a week before allowing 21 fantasy points from Denver’s pass catchers. Wayne is a bargain at his current price.
3. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers ($5.3 million) – Any one of Green Bay’s myriad pass catching dynamos could set the Vikings’ secondary aflame this week. Yes, even James Jones. If I’m playing a Packers pas catcher though – and I very much am – I’m rolling with Cobb. Percy Harvin Lite is borderline slump proof because the Packers have found so many ways to put the pigskin in his hands. Reports out of Packers’ practice have said Cobb is past the ankle injury that kept him out of Week 17’s game. Look for Rodgers to toss screen passes, quick slants and the occasional deep shot Cobb’s way. A-Rodg hasn’t forgotten who his best target is.
1. Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers ($4.5 million) – Remember when Finley was the apple of our collective eye? Remember when we didn’t speak of him with such venom? Well, those times are back, as the athletic freak has reasserted himself as a legit fantasy option in the league’s most explosive offense. Finley has five or more receptions in three of his past four. He posted his best game of 2012 against these same Vikings last week, snagging eight balls for 72 yards. Cobb’s return will likely cut down on Finley’s opportunities, but against a Minnesota team that allowed nine points or more to tight ends seven times this year – and at Finley’s very reasonable price – I have him penciled in as the unquestioned No. 1 tight end of Wildcard weekend. Embrace the head case.
2. Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens ($4.6 million) – The Colts, through large spans of 2012, have been nightmare matchups for tight ends. They’re 10th best against the position, giving up just 6.1 fantasy points per game. They have struggled, however, against teams that line up their tight ends in the slot, as the Ravens so often do with Pitta. The Lions and Patriots – teams that put their tight ends in the slot – massacred Indy to the tune of 240 yards and three touchdowns from their tight ends. And let’s not forget: Pitta ended the season on a tear, catching 18 balls for 178 yards and two scores from Week 15-17.
3. Owen Daniels, TE, Texans ($4.7 million) – Crazily the most expensive tight end of Wildcard weekend, Daniels limped to the finish line, hampered by a series of injuries. Head coach Gary Kubiak has committed to getting Owens more involved in the postseason, and if he heals up in time to play the Bengals, he could post a fine little line. Cincy allows the 13th most fantasy points to tight ends.
1. Green Bay Packers ($4.5 million) – Turn your eyes away from last week’s numbers. I promise that at Lambeau, with a gimpy Christian Ponder and the return of Charles Woodson, that the Pack will bring the proverbial pain. Adrian Peterson will still crack 100 yards because it’s now a law of nature, but I think the Packers are in line for a few sacks and a turnover or three. Green Bay is only the third most expensive defense on the board this week, making them even more appealing.
2. Seattle Seahawks ($4.8 million) – The Seabeagles, let’s remember, aren’t facing the Redskins of October and November, when RGIII was striking fear into the hearts of everyone who dared start a defense against him. The phenom is hobbled, either by his injury or his burdensome brace, and he’s not nearly the mobile threat he was pre-injury. The Seahawks sport a stout run defense that should be able to neutralize Alfred Morris. Their giant cornerbacks should muscle the Skins’ small-ish receivers all day. Even away from the friendly confines of their beloved Twelfth Man, the Seahawks are a solid play.
3. Cincinatti Bengals ($4.5 million) – One reason: Geno Atkins. Well, two reasons: Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. The linemen should stymie Houston’s struggling run game (one reason I don’t love Arian Foster this week) while the Bengals’ underrated secondary is left to limit Andre Johnson. Cincy gives up the first fewest fantasy points to receivers; if they’re able to apply pressure to Matt Schaub, I don’t see why that won’t continue. I could easily make a case for the Bengals’ defense over the Seahawks.