DFS fantasy football rankings: conference championships

There are just two more games remaining in the NFL playoffs, so that’s just two more opportunities to play fantasy football. Here are my DFS fantasy football rankings for the conference championships. There’s not much difference between these and my NFL Playoff Challenge fantasy rankings with the season so close to an end. But there are a few differences and more options ranked here.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

NFL playoff fantasy football rankings: divisional round

If you’re playing NFL.com’s fantasy football Playoff Challenge it’s time to set your lineup for the divisional round of the playoffs. Last week we saw big games from Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Derrick Henry. If they were in your lineup, you might want to roll with them again for double the points. You’ll be rooting for their teams to win as their points would triple during the conference championships if you start them again. Whether they advance, however, is highly in doubt. The Titans are big underdogs against the Patriots in Foxboro and the Saints will have a tough time advancing past the Vikings in Minnesota.

Here are my rankings for the divisional round.

Quarterbacks

I’ve got Brady at the top of my list since his points double this week if you started him during the bye last week. All he has to do is have an average game and you’ll get caught up with any points you missed out on last week in the Playoff Challenge. You’ll also have his points tripled next week if the Pats win and you keep him in the lineup. I think the Falcons make their way back to the NFC championship with a win over the Eagles this weekend. That’s why I’ve got Matt Ryan ranked second. Brees might not make it past the Vikings this week, but if you started him last week you can have his points doubled this week.

1. Tom Brady, Patriots
2. Matt Ryan, Falcons
3. Drew Brees, Saints
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
5. Case Keenum, Vikings
6. Blake Bortles, Jaguars
7. Nick Foles, Eagles
8. Marcus Mariota, Titans

Running backs

I’ve got Le’Veon Bell at the top for the same reason I have Brady at the top of the QB position. Though the Steelers face a tough Jaguars defense, his versatility is a big value. Though Pittsburgh lost 30-9 to the Jaguars this year, it was early in the season and Roethlisberger had a nightmare game. Bell rushed for just 3.1 yards per carry, but only had 15 attempts. He also caught 10 passes in that game. Dion Lewis is another versatile back who I think has a productive day against the Titans this weekend. The Patriots should be able to do whatever they want against Tennessee. The Falcons may not have such an easy time against the Eagles, but I think Devonta Freeman logs a good performance. He’s my third-ranked running back as I see the Falcons getting by the Eagles.

1. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
2. Dion Lewis, Patriots
3. Devonta Freeman, Falcons
4. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
5. Alvin Kamara, Saints
6. Latavius Murray, Vikings
7. Mark Ingram, Saints
8. Derrick Henry, Titans
9. Tevin Coleman, Falcons
10. Jay Ajayi, Eagles
11. Rex Burkhead, Patriots
12. James White, Patriots
13. Jerick McKinnon, Vikings
14. LeGarrette Blount, Eagles
15. T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars
16. Stevan Ridley, Steelers
17. Corey Clement, Eagles
18. Chris Ivory, Jaguars
19. Zach Line, Saints
20. Corey Grant, Jaguars

Wide receivers

With the Falcons favored to win, I believe that Julio Jones has a big day against the Eagles. He had a solid performance against a good Rams defense last week. The Eagles have a tough defensive front, but the Falcons have protected their quarterback well this season. Antonio Brown will return to the field and I think he has to have a big game to advance over the Jaguars. I’m confident he can do it to avenge the loss the Steelers suffered early in the season. I’ve got Adam Thielen ranked third this week, thinking the Vikings will edge out the Saints. The last time he faced New Orleans he had nine catches for 157 yards.

1. Julio Jones, Falcons
2. Antonio Brown, Steelers
3. Adam Thielen, Vikings
4. Michael Thomas, Saints
5. Brandin Cooks, Patriots
6. Alshon Jeffery, Eagles
7. Stefon Diggs, Vikings
8. Mohamed Sanu, Falcons
9. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers
10. Ted Ginn, Saints
11. Rishard Matthews, Titans
12. Chris Hogan, Patriots
13. Nelson Agholor, Eagles
14. Martavis Bryant, Steelers
15. Dede Westbrook, Jaguars
16. Eric Decker, Titans
17. Keelan Cole, Jaguars
18. Danny Amendola, Patriots
19. Brandon Coleman, Saints
20. Corey Davis, Titans

Tight ends

I’m banking on Rob Gronkowski having a big day in the Patriots’ first playoff game. He missed last postseason due to injury so he’ll be itching to get going. Having him in your lineup last week felt like a must, given that the Patriots are favored to win the Super Bowl. Given that they’re likely to advance, you’re looking at triple points in the conference championship. I have Zach Ertz ranked second as he’ll look to solidify his connection with Nick Foles. Not counting the meaningless game against the Cowboys, the two have connected on 15 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in two games. They’ve had an extra week of reps as well. In that same game, I think Austin Hooper has a solid outing as the Eagles tend to give up double digits in fantasy points to tight ends.

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Zach Ertz, Eagles
3. Austin Hooper, Falcons
4. Delanie Walker, Titans
5. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
6. Jesse James, Steelers
7. Josh Hill, Saints
8. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
9. Vance McDonald, Steelers
10. Dwayne Allen, Patriots
11. Trey Burton, Eagles
12. Levine Toilolo, Falcons

Defense/Special teams

The Patriots defense has gotten better as the season has gone along. I’ve got them ranked first as they face a Titans team that somehow managed to get past the Chiefs in the wild-card round. I think the Steelers get some revenge on the Jaguars who struggle with the forward pass. Blake Bortles rushed for more yards than he threw last week. That’s not a good thing. The Vikings are third in my rankings because they’re great, but the Saints are hot.

1. Patriots
2. Steelers
3. Vikings
4. Falcons
5. Jaguars
6. Eagles
7. Saints
8. Titans

Kickers

Matt Bryant has been good all year and I think he and the Falcons put up some points on the Eagles. Stephen Gostkowski is second in this list since the Patriots should handle the Titans pretty easily. Wil Lutz will likely have to kick a few field goals as the Saints should move the ball, but struggle to get in the end zone against the Vikings.

1. Matt Bryant, Falcons
2. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
3. Wil Lutz, Saints
4. Kai Forbath, Vikings
5. Chris Boswell, Steelers
6. Caleb Sturgis, Eagles
7. Josh Lambo, Jaguars
8. Ryan Succop, Titans

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

NFL Playoff Challenge fantasy football rankings: Super Bowl

If you’ve been playing NFL.com’s Playoff Challenge, it all comes down to this Sunday.

The best piece of advice I could give you is if you’ve been starting a player since the first week of the playoffs, don’t change now. According to the rules, if you started a player like Julio Jones in every week so far, even though he didn’t have a Wild Card game, his points will be quadrupled. If you’ve started a player since the Divisional Round then his points will be tripled, and so on.

Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots works out during a practice session ahead of Super Bowl LI on February 2, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots works out during a practice session ahead of Super Bowl LI on February 2, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

It would be a bad idea to switch quarterbacks at this point, but if you were banking on a QB other than Matt Ryan or Tom Brady you’ll have to change it up. It’s a tough choice between the two quarterbacks if bonus points aren’t involved. On one hand you’ve got the potential MVP in Ryan facing the Pats defense and on the other you’ve got Brady against a Falcon’s defense that was 28th in passing yards allowed per game. I’d give the nod to Brady in this one, but just barely.

At running back there are a lot of options. It’s hard to find anything that really worked well against the Patriots this season, but I think their biggest weakness may be in defending running backs catching passes out of the backfield. They lost just twice this season and in both games they allowed opposing running backs to hurt them through the air. When the Seahawks defeated the Patriots 31-24 in Week 10 rookie C.J. Prosise caught seven passes for 87 yards and rushed for 66 yards on 17 carries. In their early loss to Buffalo LeSean McCoy had a touchdown reception.

Tevin Coleman #26 of the Atlanta Falcons scores a three yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Tevin Coleman #26 of the Atlanta Falcons scores a three yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

If the Falcons’ tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman can be effective out of the backfield, they have a real chance. I’d take Freeman as my top back in the NFL Playoff Challenge and go with Dion Lewis on the other side. Bill Belichick has taken his time with the dynamic talent since LeGarrette Blount has been very solid, but Lewis is a play maker and he could be unleashed against a middle of the road defense.

You’ve got to believe the Falcons’ Jones will show up in the biggest game of his life, double teams be damned. I’d make sure to start him.

Chris Hogan #15 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Chris Hogan #15 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The other side of the ball is harder to predict. Julian Edelman had just three touchdowns all year and eclipsed 100 yards receiving just twice. Chris Hogan had just as many 100-yard games and scored one more touchdown than Edelman and he’s been on fire lately. Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Floyd have combined for just four catches in the postseason, but who knows what Josh McDaniels has cooked up.

If you pass on Edelman and Hogan, you might be best served going with two Falcons in the passing game. Mohamed Sanu has scored a touchdown in three straight games and the Patriots are known for taking away a team’s best weapon (Jones). Another Falcons option is Taylor Gabriel who finished the regular season scoring six touchdowns in the final six weeks. He can make big plays and sometimes you need the lesser known players to have a shot at getting over on the more common picks. Gabriel hasn’t scored in the postseason so he may be due.

Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

People keep expecting Martellus Bennett to break out, and though he’s shown signs, he’s just not as reliable as you want out of the tight end position. That said, you might have to trust him more than his rookie counterpart in Atlanta.

Atlanta’s Austin Hooper has just three catches in the postseason for 33 yards. Bennett was held down by the Texans in the Divisional round of the playoffs but the Falcons have had bad games against tight ends. Travis Kelce lit them up for 140 yards in Week 13. Bennett is the better play among the tight ends.

NFL Playoff Challenge rankings:

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady, Patriots

Matt Ryan, Falcons

Running backs

Devonta Freeman, Falcons

Dion Lewis, Patriots

LeGarrette Blount, Patriots

Tevin Coleman, Falcons

Wide receivers

Julio Jones, Falcons

Chris Hogan, Patriots

Mohamed Sanu, Falcons

Julian Edelman, Patriots

Taylor Gabriel, Falcons

Michael Floyd, Patriots

Tight ends

Martellus Bennett, Patriots

Austin Hooper, Falcons

Kickers

Matt Bryant, Falcons

Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots

Defense/Special teams

Patriots

Falcons