Last week started off going completely against my predictions and then turned around and went with them, and all was right with the world. This weekend we can probably expect something similar, so hold onto your spouses, mistresses, misteresses, and Tom Brady FatHeads, because we could be in for a bumpy ride. But before you strap yourself in make sure you join our FanDuel Leagues — League 2 and/or League 3 and our Weekly Contest. It will make you more of a man or woman.
The AFC has two division rivalries going at it and both have had some pre-game lip flapping and shirt wearing, but you know the hardest hitting game will be in Pittsburgh, not Foxborough. The NFC games don’t have quite as much vitriol, but both have a chance of being close, chair arm gripping affairs. I’ll take a look at today’s games which are primed and ready.
This game will once again bring out the murderous tendencies in their respective teams. It’s always hard to say any one player will shine in a fantasy way in this matchup. Both teams are nearly impossible to run on, but the Steelers just a little more mangling on opposing running backs. In the last 7 games they have given up 54 yards rushing a game and no rushing TDs. Ray Rice will have plenty of trouble running the ball, but can always hurt you in the passing game. He’s no lock, but it’s hard to drop him too far in the rankings. On the other side Rashard Mendenhall will also have trouble, but I do see the Steelers moving the ball a little easier than the Ravens which should at least give him a shot for a short TD tun.
The passing game favors the Steelers a little as well. The Ravens are no slouches, but in the last half of the season are giving up 1.25 passing TD to the Steelers .56. They also are giving up 221 passing yards to 190 for the Steelers. Roethlisberger and Flacco have very similar numbers. Big Ben has a slight edge in many of the categories, but nothing mind blowing. Joe Flacco has been getting the dubyahs on the road in the playoffs, but also has 8 interceptions on the road this season compared to 2 at home. Roethlisberger has 11 TDs to 2 interceptions at home. The weather is calling for snow, but the wind and temps aren’t going to be Donner Party bad. I think you can safely feel good about starting Ben and Mike Wallace. Wallace looked like he would be a boom or bust receiver in his second year, but instead he tied Stallworth’s Steeler record for seven 100 yard games and took over the #1 slot, ahead of Hines Ward. Ward has been shut down by the Ravens this season and Emmanuel Sanders has had more targets since week 9. If I were going to take a risk on a Pittsburgh receiver other than 60 Minutes it would be Sanders. The Ravens receivers are a little harder to decipher. Boldin, Mason and Houshmandzadeh all have a shot at a TD, but not all of them will get one. Mason and Boldin are the more likely of the three to get in the endzone, but choosing which one is tough. If you put a gun to my head I would choose Boldin (can’t believe you would do that). Todd Heap is the more fantasy relevant between himself and Heath Miller, but I would rather choose a tight end from a different game.
With these two teams there is no way to easily predict a winner. Their games are always close, but the Steelers are 9-2 against the Ravens in Heinz Field and have won their last 4 at home as well. I’m going with home field here, but expect it to be extremely close and fine inducing.
I’ve been on the Green Bay bandwagon here for a while, but there’s a lot to like from the Falcons at home with a week of rest. The Falcons will need to get Michael Turner going again like they did earlier in the season when he ran for 110 yards and a TD. Matt Ryan is 20-2 at home, but is still not a top tier QB every time out. The problem is, he really needs to get 3 TD passes to have a top fantasy game since he doesn’t rack up many yards, having surpassed 300 yards only once this season. Thankfully for fantasy purposes Roddy White gets the most looks week in and week out, which keeps him fantasy relevant no matter what. Michael Jenkins could put together an average game, but I wouldn’t trust him to get my neighbor’s paper while they are out of town. Tony Gonzalez has had a huge dropoff this season, but there aren’t any sure thing tight ends this postseason and Gonzo should get some red zone targets. His upside is low, but he’s probably the safest tight end.
The Packers already had a slightly higher octane offense and now they have James Starks to help out. The last time these two teams met, Aaron Rodgers was the Packers leading rusher. It should be Starks this week. The Falcons have given up 4.8 yards a carry in the last half of the season. Starks has fresh legs and showed he could break tackles against the Eagles. And any help from the running game will help the already efficient Rodgers. The Packers are the best passing team left in the playoffs, averaging 257 yards a game. Rodgers topped 280 yards passing in 8 games this season, while missing 2 games to a concussion. The Falcons are giving up completions on 62% of the passes thrown their way and Rodgers had a big game against them last time. Greg Jennings had a big game against them as well and after his dud in Philly I see a big bounce back game. James Jones is the wild card after dropping that long TD last week. He is the best bet for fantasy production after Jennings, but there’s a chance Nelson and Driver will see more looks after that drop.
Like I said in the beginning, I was feeling good about the Packers in this one, but they have a lot built in against them. If the Falcons can control the time of possession with Turner, they can keep the ball out of Rodgers hands. The problem with that theory is they will still have to stop Rodgers and I think they will have trouble doing so. Add Starks into the mix and you have an offense that is more balanced and ready to go deep in the playoffs.