The fantasy football regular season is officially over, but we’re not even close to being done with fantasy football here at Daily Joust. We’ve got fantasy games lined up for the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and we will continue on after that, as well.
Each week of the NFL playoffs we’ll offer up a preview of each game, along with a pick and some fantasy insight. Let’s dive right into the first four games of the post-season, with two set to go off this Saturday:
Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans – 4:30 pm ET on NBC
The Bengals and Texans clash in the first game of the playoffs in a rematch of a wild card game from last season. Andy Dalton played poorly in that game and aims for revenge, while Matt Schaub welcomes Cincy to his own backyard as he debuts in his first ever playoff contest.
Cincinnati and Houston both have stout defenses at times, but it’s actually the Bengals who have been more formidable in that department in the second half of the season. Houston’s pass defense has been routinely shredded over the last six weeks, while Cincinnati is one of the top pass-rushing squads remaining in this year’s NFL tourney.
With that said, you still probably can’t sit Arian Foster. His rushing averages won’t be ideal in this one, but he should get a score or two, and you know the Texans will try to pound the rock at home. Andre Johnson is also a good candidate to go off, as Cincy isn’t elite at the back of their defense, and AJ seems to get his when the pressure is one.
I’m not really a believer in Schaub these days, but at just $126k, he’s a better value and risk than Dalton, who costs $20k more. I’ll roll with A.J. Green, but not Dalton or a banged up BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Ultimately, Houston has worked all year to get to this point and they’re at home with their fans backing them. I don’t think they come up short this early in the playoffs.
My Pick: Texans 27, Bengals 17
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers – 8:00 pm ET on NBC
Minnesota just handed the Packers a 37-34 heat-breaking loss in the week 17 season finale, and there’s little reason to argue they can’t possibly do it again. I’m not buying them as a winner over Green Bay in back to back weeks, but in what has been an insane season that has seen three rookie quarterbacks reach the playoffs, nothing can be ruled out.
With that said, Green Bay is usually a different machine, and being that it’s the playoffs, I am expecting Green Bay’s defense to pick up the intensity and not allow a generally average Christian Ponder pick them apart like he did a week ago. With that said, I think Ponder can find a needle in a haystack a couple times in this matchup, which for me makes Jarius Wright an interesting WR3 sleeper at $78k.
Minnesota knows they have to run to even stay close, so Adrian Peterson is probably one of the safer running back plays you’ll see throughout the playoffs. Is he going to live up to his crazy $220 price tag? Perhaps not. For that money, I might just roll with Arian Foster for $20k less. Still, you can expect 80-100 yards and a score off of 20+ total touches.
On the flip-side, I don’t think Aaron Rodgers will be held in check at home, and that likely means any number of his many solid weapons could go off. I know Jordy Nelson is regarded as less than 100% at the moment, but at $101k, he’s one of the better elite value buys for the opening round.
In the end, I don’t think Ponder and co. can go toe to toe with the Packers in back to back weeks. It’s extremely difficult to do that, and generally when a team beats an opponent in week 17 and faces them in the first round of the playoffs, they lose.
My Pick: Packers 34, Vikings 24
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens – 1:00 pm ET on CBS
I know the spirited story of the Colts and Chuck Strong is supposed to carry on, but I really don’t see it happening. In that same breath, I’m wide open to being proven wrong, as Indy has done time and time again in 2012. Not only has Andrew Luck been sensational late in games, but a terrible team a year ago is now in the playoffs. I just think Ray Lewis heading for the exits going up against an inferior team should give a better Ravens team the ammo they need to put the Colts away.
That doesn’t mean you won’t find any value in Indy. In fact, if the Colts are smart and try to use some better balance in this one, Vick Ballard (just $101k!)could find some success against a Ravens run D that is a shell of it’s former self. I’m not high on Luck due to his turnover potential with Ed Reed lurking and Lewis and Terrell Suggs returning, but I can roll with his weapons, such as Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. One thing is for sure – at some point and time, this Colts team will be throwing the ball.
For Baltimore, I can’t put much faith in Joe Flacco until I see something from him again, but there’s no denying this matchup has the potential to suit him very well. With that said, the only Ravens offensive player I trust is Ray Rice. Baltimore needs to finally start using him correctly to win in the post-season, and I think they do it. This is a great matchup for him and he should feast if he gets the 20+ touches we all know he should.
If Baltimore does how they should, I don’t see them dropping this one at home. Combine their balance with Luck’s inexperience, and the result should be a Ravens win.
My Pick: Ravens 30, Colts 21
Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Redskins – 4:40 pm ET on FOX
It doesn’t take much to hype up the final wild card game of the weekend, as we’ll for sure have a rookie quarterback getting his first career playoff win when this one is all said and done. And with that said, this one could go either way. Both Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III are worth using in DJ’s games, and both have big arms, accuracy and athleticism to bring to the table. Either one or both could light it up in a game that could easily be 10-6 or 34-31.
Both defenses have been playing very well, but logic suggests Washington’s is the one that will break first. They have by far given up more big plays in the passing game over the course of the season, and I’d take Seattle’s pass-rush and run defense first, as well. That means I’m downgrading RG3 and his pals a bit, and would prefer to use Marshawn Lynch (cheaper than Alfred Morris and Ray Rice) and Russell Wilson. I’m gladly using the more explosive Pierre Garcon ($114k) over any Seattle receiving options, however.
I know the Redskins are at home, but every year there is one team like the Giants or Steelers that has great coaching, solid balance, and simply makes big plays at the right time. It could still be Washington, but Seattle gives off that vibe a little more.
My Pick: Seahawks 23, Redskins 20